St. Louis, MO (SportsNetwork.com) - Rookie Michael Wacha outdueled former Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw with another stellar postseason performance, and the St. Louis Cardinals took a commanding lead in the National League Championship Series with a 1-0 Game 2 edging of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Busch Stadium.
Five days after taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning to keep the Cardinals alive in Game 4 of the NLDS, Wacha (1-0) limited a slightly depleted Dodgers lineup to five hits while striking out eight over 6 2/3 frames in his second career playoff outing.
Four St. Louis relievers preserved the shutout, with Trevor Rosenthal striking out the side in the ninth to nail down St. Louis' second narrow victory over Los Angeles in as many days.
The Dodgers, playing without a pair of banged-up regulars in shortstop Hanley Ramirez and center fielder Andre Ethier, didn't muster a hit against the Cardinals' bullpen and have failed to score in 19 consecutive innings. They'll next have to deal with St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright when the series shifts to Los Angeles for Monday's Game 3.
"We're in a hole now but we're not out of it yet," said Kershaw. "We've got three games at home to get right back in this thing and that's the plan."
Ramirez, who was hit in the ribs by a pitch during Friday's 3-2, 13-inning setback in Game 1, was scratched from the lineup. Ethier is still bothered by an ankle sprain that has sidelined him for most of the past month.
Kershaw (0-1) was every bit as good as Wacha, but a passed ball by catcher A.J. Ellis in the fifth inning led to an unearned run that proved to be the difference. The All-Star southpaw permitted only two hits and a walk while fanning five before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the top of the seventh.
"It hurts to be down 0-2 after the way [Kershaw and Game 1 starter Zack Greinke] threw the ball," said Ellis. "It was a couple of tough ballgames. Now we will see what we are made of."
The second straight one-run decision in this series didn't quite deliver the drama of Friday's marathon, though the anticipated pitcher's battle between Kershaw and Wacha certainly lived up to its advanced billing. Both hurlers held the opposition scoreless until St. Louis broke through with what turned out to be the game's only run in the bottom of the fifth inning.
David Freese laced a leadoff double into the left-field corner and was soon standing on third after Ellis failed to handle a Kershaw breaking pitch for a passed ball. Jon Jay then lifted a fly ball to medium-range left in which Carl Crawford's throw home was off the mark to stake the Cardinals to a 1-0 lead.
Kershaw had surrendered just one hit, a triple by Matt Carpenter on his initial pitch of the afternoon, prior to Freese's double. The Dodgers' ace left him stranded, however, getting Game 1 hero Carlos Beltran to pop up in the infield and fanning Matt Holliday in front of Yadier Molina's inning- ending groundout.
Wacha yielded only two hits through the fifth and set down 13 consecutive Dodgers at one point, but got into a major jam during Los Angeles' half of the sixth.
Kershaw started things off with a ground-ball single and Carpenter threw errantly after fielding Crawford's infield hit to give the Dodgers runners on second and third with none out.
Wacha kept his composure, however. Following an intentional walk to Adrian Gonzalez that loaded the bases, the impressive young righty struck out Yasiel Puig and Juan Uribe in succession to put out the threat and keep it a 1-0 game.
"Unbelievable, being able to pitch the way he did today," said Beltran of Wacha. "He put himself in a couple of jams and being able to get out .... that was incredible."
A two-out single by Nick Punto, Ramirez's replacement at shortstop, in the seventh put an end to Wacha's 112-pitch effort, but fellow rookie Kevin Siegrist induced a flyout by pinch-hitter Michael Young after throwing two wild pitches that put the tying run just 90 feet away.
Los Angeles didn't put a runner on the rest of the way, with Carlos Martinez and Rosenthal combining to strike out the game's last five hitters.
"Our bullpen is clutch and they've been clutch all season," Wacha remarked. "I knew it was in good hands when I came out and they shut it down for me."
Game Notes: In the two previous times the Cardinals won the first two games of the NLCS (1982 vs. Atlanta, 2004 vs. Houston), they went on to advance to the World Series ... Counting his final regular-season assignment, Wacha has allowed just one run and seven hits over a span of 22 2/3 innings, during which he's notched 26 strikeouts ... The Dodgers finished 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position after going 1-for-10 in such situations in Friday's opener ... Uribe had hit safely in each of Los Angeles' first five postseason games prior to Saturday's 0-for-4 effort ... The Dodgers will send out Hyun-Jin Ryu opposite Wainwright in Game 3.