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Flair or foul? Dodgers downplay theatrics as some Cardinals take offense

Los Angeles Dodgers' Yasiel Puig celebrates after hitting

Los Angeles Dodgers' Yasiel Puig celebrates after hitting an RBI single during the first inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals. (Oct. 15, 2013) Credit: AP

LOS ANGELES - Adrian Gonzalez popped out of his slide on Monday night, extended his arms, and let out a yell as he reached second base. Not long after that, Yasiel Puig jumped on top of third base then raised his arms while celebrating a stand-up triple.

Moments earlier, he had flipped his bat and jogged to first, believing he had hit a home run.

A day later, the Dodgers remained unapologetic about their theatrics while beating the Cardinals in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. Before Tuesday's Game 4, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly downplayed some of the fallout.

"To me, if you don't get excited, it means you don't care," said Mattingly, whose team celebrated clinching the NL West last month by jumping in the Chase Field pool in Arizona. "So our guys aren't trying to show their guy up. They're excited they got a hit."

A pair of Cardinals groused about the Dodgers' conduct. Outfielder Carlos Beltran told reporters that he wasn't a fan of Puig's celebration and pitcher Chris Carpenter accused Gonzalez of taunting him while standing on third base. Gonzalez denied the charge.

Mattingly insisted he had "zero problems" with his players' conduct. Nor has he had any issues with examples of the Cardinals celebrating on the field.

In his team's defense, Mattingly brought up an example from earlier in the series in St. Louis. When 22-year-old rookie Michael Wacha worked out of a bases-loaded jam, which proved to be the critical point of a Cardinals victory, he bounded off the mound and let out a few fist pumps. But that outburst was tame compared with the theatrics displayed by Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, who was animated in his celebration until he reached his own dugout.

From his spot in the Dodgers dugout, Mattingly noticed Molina's reaction. "Yadi wasn't trying to show us up," Mattingly said. "He was excited they got out of a jam, and I look at it simply as that."

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny struck a familiar chord. He played down the idea of frayed sensibilities when it comes to the on-field celebrations during what has been a tense series.

"Where I stand and where our guys stand is that we take care of our own self," Matheny said. "We take care of our business. We go out and play the game that we think we should be playing in a way that we think it should be played. Anything outside of that is not our responsibility."

In a series that has been dominated by outstanding pitching -- which has only been accentuated by generous strike zones by the umpires -- perhaps the celebrations should be expected. Both offenses have been snarled like traffic on the 405 freeway.

The teams have scored just nine combined runs through the first three games of the NLCS, which according to the Elias Sports Bureau is a new low. The previous low of 12 runs was set in 1970, when the Reds and Pirates staged their own ode to the Dead Ball Era.

The Cardinals lead two-games-to-one in the series, even though entering play Tuesday night they have hit just .134. Of course, the Dodgers haven't exactly torched Cardinals pitching, hitting just .213.

Gonzalez's run-scoring double on Monday night snapped what had been a 22-inning scoreless streak.

The relief of breaking through -- not the desire to show up the Cardinals -- was at the root of Gonzalez's celebration at second base. The hit drove in the Dodgers' first run in a must-win game.

"They've been stopping us and shutting us down," Mattingly said. "Adrian gets a big hit for us."

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