St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams celebrates after hitting...

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams celebrates after hitting a three-run home in the seventh inning of Game 4 of the NL Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014, in St. Louis. Credit: AP / Jeff Roberson

Clayton Kershaw will be seeing that spinning, hanging curveball in his nightmares. Long after he collects his third Cy Young trophy in a few weeks. Well into spring training. Probably all the way to next October, if the Dodgers are lucky enough to get back to the playoffs again.

Kershaw believed Tuesday's Game 4 at Busch Stadium would be the scene of his redemption. The chance for the Dodgers' ace to make up for his inexplicable seventh-inning meltdown in the NLDS opener.

Instead, Kershaw relived it.

The Cardinals, silenced for six innings, chipped at Kershaw in the seventh with a pair of singles before Matt Adams, the burly first baseman, launched an 0-and-1 curve deep into the St. Louis bullpen. Kershaw spun around and put his hands on his knees to watch the ball sail over the rightfield fence. Adams' feet barely touched the ground as he skipped to first base.

Kershaw -- and the Cardinals -- had done it again.

Adams' three-run homer lifted the irrepressible Cardinals to a 3-2, series-clinching victory that sends them back to the NLCS for a fourth consecutive season. For Kershaw, the loss dropped him to 1-5 with a 5.12 ERA in the postseason. He failed to hold a 6-2 lead in Game 1 at Chavez Ravine -- giving up six runs in the seventh inning alone -- and couldn't protect a 2-0 edge in Tuesday's Game 4, a loss that eliminated the Dodgers.

"The season ended and I was a big part of the reason why," said Kershaw, still in uniform as he stood outside the visitors' clubhouse. "I can't really put it into words right now. Just bad déjà vu -- all over again."

Kershaw went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA during the regular season, pretty much guaranteeing him a third Cy Young at age 26. But if Kershaw is Superman against the rest of the league, then St. Louis is like kryptonite to him. Kershaw lost both of his NLCS starts to the Cardinals last October, and it happened again a year later, only a round earlier.

"It just seems like one inning gets me every time," said Kershaw, who is 0-4 with a 7.15 ERA in his last four playoff starts against St. Louis. "I feel like I have the ability to get these guys out. But give them credit. They just beat me."

That was the remarkable thing about Tuesday's defeat. No one could have seen it coming. Even after seeing Kershaw's implosion back in Game 1, what were the odds of a repeat performance? Although Dodgers manager Don Mattingly did take a calculated risk in bring Kershaw back on three days' rest, the decision paid off for six innings.

Kershaw was brilliant up to the seventh, allowing only a fourth-inning single to Randal Grichuk, who also was the lone Cardinals player to reach second -- on a wild pitch. After the Dodgers handed him a 2-0 lead in the top of the sixth on Matt Kemp's double-play grounder and Juan Uribe's RBI single, Kershaw struck out the side in the bottom half on 15 pitches.

The seventh, however, was trouble from the start. Matt Holliday punched a leadoff single up the middle that a diving Dee Gordon barely got his glove on. Jhonny Peralta followed with a liner that just flew over Hanley Ramirez's outstretched glove. Still, Adams shouldn't have been the problem. He batted .190 against lefties this season. But Kershaw, with pitch No. 102, made his biggest mistake in the most crucial spot.

"I saw it pop out of his hand," Adams said, "and knew it was going to be a good one to swing at."

Adams crushed the hanging curve, and there was no doubt where it was headed. The Busch crowd of 46,906 went crazy. Kershaw, hunched over on the mound, felt like he had been punched in the gut. Again.

"I feel like I should get most lefties out," Kershaw said. "That's kind of my job. I don't know. I can't explain it. Sometimes hits are going to happen. Obviously the Adams one is the one that can't happen."

But it all did happen. Again. By now, when it comes to Kershaw and the Cardinals, everyone should just expect it.

More MLB news

Newsday Logo

ONE-DAYSALE5¢ a week for 5 6 months

Get Unlimited Access

Cancel anytime