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ST. LOUIS (Reuters) - Baseball's highest-paid team succumbed to another seventh-inning disaster and another failed outcome from pitcher Clayton Kershaw as the Los Angeles Dodgers had their season ended on Tuesday by the St. Louis Cardinals.
A 2-0 lead turned into a 3-2 defeat when ace left-hander Kershaw hung a curve to Matt Adams, who blasted it over the fence in right field for a three-run homer in the seventh as the Cards ousted the Dodgers in the best-of-five Division Series.
Kershaw, the top performer on the team's $241 million payroll, had failed to hold a 6-2 lead in Game One of the series when the Cards erupted for eight runs in the dreaded seventh.
"The season ended and I was a big part of the reason why," a subdued Kershaw told reporters at his locker after the game.
"It doesn't feel good regardless of how you pitched. I can't really put it in words right now. Just bad deja vu all over again."
The left-hander had completely shut down the Cards through the first six innings, allowing one hit with nine strikeouts, and struck out the side in the sixth.
Although he had thrown 94 pitches, about his limit given he was pitching on three days' rest -- one short of his usual complement -- manager Don Mattingly wanted to coax three more batters from Kershaw before turning to his suspect bullpen.
Mattingly got the go-ahead from Kershaw before sending him out for the seventh.
"I think Clayton, where he was at, the way he was feeling, the way he was cruising along ... I know it’s short rest but at that point it’s three hitters. Get through Adams and turn the ball over," he said.
Eight pitches later, two singles and the Adams blast sent the Dodgers into the off-season.
Kershaw continued his regular season dominance this year with a 21-3 record and led the major leagues in earned run average for a fourth successive year with a 1.77 mark.
He also continued a head-scratching lack of success in the postseason, dropping to 1-5 with a 5.12 ERA.
Last year he gave up seven runs in four innings to lose the deciding Game Six to St. Louis in the league championship series, one step from reaching the World Series.
Battery-mate A.J. Ellis said the team would have to pick themselves up.
"You don't know how many times you're going to be in this situation. There's no guarantees in life and there's no guarantees in baseball, that's for sure," the catcher said.
"We've got to let it motivate us and fuel us, and next year set up the same goals -- win the division and roll the dice when we get in the playoffs."
Writing by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Ian Ransom