LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers are back in postseason business. And the National League Championship Series once again looks like a competition rather than a walkover.
The Dodgers rebounded from two difficult losses in St. Louis to turn the tables on the Cardinals on Monday night at Dodger Stadium. The winning formula for the first three games has not wavered: While the other guys pitch extremely well, you pitch even better.
This is what the Dodgers' Hyun-Jin Ryu did on Monday night, shutting out the Redbirds for seven innings. This had been a game that many had all but conceded to the Cards, because their ace, Adam Wainwright, got the start.
But what looked like it could be a 3-0 series lead suddenly became a much more manageable 2-1 deficit for the Dodgers because Ryu pitched so well. Wainwright pitched very well himself, but he was not helped when a catchable fly ball to right-center was not caught and fell in for a double, opening the door for two Dodgers runs in the fourth inning.
Now Game 4 beckons on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on TBS. We're beyond the aces level now, into the fourth postseason starter range. Lance Lynn will go for St. Louis against Los Angeles' Ricky Nolasco.
Lynn made a successful relief appearance in Game 1 of this series, picking up the decision in a 13-inning victory. Nolasco did not make his scheduled Game 4 start in the Dodgers' NL Division Series victory over the Braves, because Clayton Kershaw pitched on short rest.
There has been considerable speculation that the Dodgers might opt for the short-rest, higher-profile starter again, this time using Zack Greinke. When manager Don Mattingly was asked on Monday night who was starting Tuesday, he responded:
When Mattingly was asked what went into that decision, he responded:
"He's been set up the whole time for Game 4. As of right now, Ricky Nolasco will be pitching tomorrow."
That still sounds like Nolasco pitching, but stay tuned.
Cardinals: Lynn hoping to keep bats quiet
Beyond the staple question of what's it going to look like on Tuesday night, 2-2 or 3-1, the other question circling the NLCS is this: When will somebody start scoring runs? The Dodgers have scored five runs in three games. The Cards have scored four runs in three games. We all know that pitching takes on even greater importance than usual in postseason baseball, but this is looking like postseason baseball from the dead-ball era.
Lynn had a small smile on Monday when asked how he reacted to the pitchers' domination of the first portion of this series.
"You have two really good offensive teams that haven't done much so far, and I've never been one to be naïve to the fact that somebody's probably due," Lynn said. "But when it's all said and done, you have to concentrate on all you can take care of, and that's just one pitch at a time. Whoever's in the box, you just try to execute your game plan against them.
"We have two great offenses here that haven't done anything yet, so there could be a couple good games here offensively. But as a starting pitcher, you don't want to see it."
Theoretically, both of these teams could break out offensively, but the way the first three games have been played, it would be something of an upset if even one of them did.
Dodgers: Momentum swings to home team
At the moment, the Cardinals have the series lead. But the Dodgers have at least a sense of momentum since they were able to win Game 3, and win it with St. Louis ace Wainwright on the mound.
"Obviously, this guy is a big-game pitcher that's got quality stuff, and he's a handful every time you face him," Mattingly said. "So the significance for us is being able to get on the board, grab a little momentum on our side of the field. They're still up, 2-1, on us, but it puts a win on our side of the board.
"If we can go play tomorrow night and continue to pitch the way we have, put some runs up, then it just keeps coming our way. Once you get the momentum, you just like to hang onto it."
Mike Bauman is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.