Hyun-Jin Ryu, Hanley Ramirez help Dodgers cut Cards' advantage to 2-1

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu celebrates

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu celebrates after getting the last out to end the seventh inning of Game 3 of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals. (Oct. 14, 2013) (Credit: AP)

LOS ANGELES - The Dodgers found themselves with their backs pressed against the wall because they somehow had squandered two of the surest things in baseball.

Though they had received gems from aces Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, it was the Cardinals who led two-games-to-none in the National League Championship Series.

But in Game 3, the Dodgers finally reaped the rewards of their outstanding starting pitching, beating the Cardinals, 3-0, Monday night behind seven shutout innings by lefthander Hyun-Jin Ryu.

"All I was thinking about was the fact that we were down 2-0,'' Ryu said through a translator. "And I told myself this could potentially be the last start I ever pitched here this year.''

Perhaps that was motivation enough for the Dodgers, who for the first time in this series looked like themselves.

Yasiel Puig ignited a packed Dodger Stadium with his stand-up triple to knock in a run. Adrian Gonzalez already had done the same, clapping his hands wildly as he stood on second base after a run-scoring double.

Indeed, the Dodgers needed to pull out all the stops to climb back into this series

Shortstop Hanley Ramirez played through a cracked rib and finished with two bloop hits, including an RBI single in the eighth that gave the Dodgers an insurance run. Centerfielder Andre Ethier returned to the lineup, playing through a troublesome ankle injury.

"I couldn't be better,'' Ramirez said on the field after the game, much to the delight of a crowd that roared every time he came to the plate.

The Dodgers snapped a scoreless streak that had reached 22 innings, tagging Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright for a pair of runs in the fourth inning. It was enough for the Dodgers to send Wainwright to his first career postseason loss.

"We're a better club than this,'' said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, whose team has been held to a .134 average in the first three games.

The Cardinals remain in strong position. Only two teams in history -- the 1985 Dodgers and the 1984 Cubs -- have gone on to lose the NLCS after taking a two-games-to-none advantage.

Yet in falling to the Dodgers, the Cardinals made uncharacteristic mistakes that ultimately swayed the outcome.

The worst blunder came in the pivotal fourth, when centerfielder Jon Jay and rightfielder Carlos Beltran slowed up on Mark Ellis' fly ball to right-center. The ball fell between the two outfielders, Ellis pulled into second base and the Dodgers were in position to rally. Gonzalez then lined an RBI double to rightfield.

"Driving him in was a big boost for us,'' said Gonzalez, who was helped by more protection in the lineup.

Two batters later, Puig tripled home Gonzalez, snapping what had been an 0-for-11 skid.

Wainwright limited the Dodgers to two runs, but it wasn't enough against Ryu, who did not allow a hit until David Freese's leadoff single in the fifth.

The rookie lefthander had been battered in his lone NLDS start against the Braves, during which he admitted to battling a case of nerves. Before his start, Ryu spoke of "finding a good balance'' regarding his emotions.

Against the Cardinals, he seemed to strike that balance. With his team in desperate need of a win, Ryu bounced back, allowing three hits with four strikeouts in his seven innings.

"I focused from the very first pitch,'' Ryu said. "I just zoned in and fortunately I was able to get a good result out of the game.''

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