Dramatic walk-off pulls LA even for Wild Card

Dramatic walk-off pulls LA even for Wild Card

Dramatic walk-off pulls LA even for Wild Card
LOS ANGELES -- It's not often a midseason callup from the Minor Leagues gets his own jersey sold at stadiums.

But in the middle of the Dodgers game against the Cardinals on Saturday, a shipment of Luis Cruz jerseys and T-shirts were put on sale and an announcement was made letting the 41,417 fans in attendance know.

One night after hitting a winning homer, Cruz proved worthy of his own merchandise with a tying RBI double with two outs in the ninth that paved the way for a Juan Rivera walk-off single and a 4-3 Los Angeles victory. Most important, the win moved the Dodgers into a tie for the second National League Wild Card spot with their opponent.

With two outs in the ninth on the same day it was revealed ace Clayton Kershaw will miss Sunday's start and possibly more, Andre Ethier got the rally started with a single into right, which was followed with a steal by pinch-runner Dee Gordon. Cruz then doubled home Gordon to tie the game and Rivera laced a ball past the leaping glove of Daniel Descalso to score pinch-runner Elian Herrera.

"I had Ethier 0-2 and tried to go cutter in," St. Louis closer Jason Motte said. "It was in. He just did a good piece of hitting. Then the one Cruz hit and even the one Rivera hit was a good pitch. But he got enough of it."

For the Dodgers, they are making a habit of these sorts of wins, and Cruz has been a big reason why.

Batting behind players in a lineup that features All-Stars Shane Victorino, Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Ethier, Cruz has been the Dodgers' most consistent hitter. He is batting .304 in September and he's the only regular Dodgers position player with a mark over .300 this month.

"Three months ago, I was in Triple-A," said Cruz, who may need to buy one of those jerseys with his name on the back after Ramirez dumped a bucket of Gatorade on him.

"It's like a dream come true -- I'm just happy to be here. It's my dream come true and I don't want to wake up. I just want to keep dreaming."

Prior to the ninth-inning rally, it seemed like it would be the Dodgers' eighth loss in their last nine.

The team had managed only three hits before Ethier's single with two down in the ninth and the heart of the lineup struggling -- most notably, Matt Kemp. The center fielder went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and he's now 2-for-18 without an RBI and just one run since missing two games against the Giants last weekend.

Despite his slump at the plate, Kemp came up huge in the ninth defensively on a ball hit off the wall by Yadier Molina that led off the inning. The outfielder raced to the wall in straightaway center and just missed making the catch before crashing into the wall. He immediately picked himself up, sprinted about 75 feet to pick up the ball and made an off-balanced throw on the run to get Molina out at third and prevent him from possibly scoring with no outs.

"You talk about great players," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "There's a lot of ways to win a game. That play tonight, it really choked me up. Just unbelievable. That's a play that doesn't get national attention if we lose. You just think about him not getting any hits."

Just like Friday, the Cardinals got on the board early and first. This time it was a two-run homer by Allen Craig off Joe Blanton with two outs in the first.

But for the second straight game, Los Angeles erased an early deficit. Adrian Gonzalez hit an RBI single that scored Shane Victorino in the first and a Mark Ellis solo homer in the third tied it up.

"I didn't even remember," Ellis said about his homer. "But I remember the last play. It was awesome.

"It was a great win for us and a lot of things happen that are easy to overlook. Andre was down, 0-1, and got a huge hit. Matt's play. So many key plays and at-bats. Just a great win."

Another overlooked performance was that of Blanton, who calmed down and got his next 13 batters out after the first-inning homer. He ended up striking out six before getting into trouble in the sixth inning.

The righty walked opposing pitcher Jaime Garcia, who wound up scoring on an RBI single by Craig that ended Blanton's night.

But with Kershaw meeting a hip specialist in New York on Tuesday and out indefinitely, Blanton answered the call by keeping the Dodgers in the game. Relievers Jamey Wright, Paco Rodriguez, Randy Choate and Ronald Belisario then came in to throw 3 1/3 shutdown innings.

"If you make it more pressure, you are going to start struggling and start making a lot more mistakes," Blanton said about possibly losing Kershaw. "You've got to stay relaxed and throw your game. You can't do anything extra because he is out and miraculously start doing something you're not capable of doing."

Alex Angert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.