Nonetheless, it's do-or-die in the first round of the playoffs, and that isn't the way the Dodgers drew it up. But the National League Division Series is what it is, and the Dodgers face elimination with Kershaw on the mound for Game 4, just as they did a year ago in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series, and that turned into a nightmare for the Dodgers.
Here are three keys the Dodgers need to get to a Game 5 in Los Angeles:
1. A Kershaw rebound: When the Cardinals put a seven-run inning on Kershaw last year, he had all winter to think about it. This time, he gets another crack at them in the same series on short rest, so he's had only three days to beat himself up over Game 1. He's started on three days' rest only once, in last year's NLDS, and he allowed one unearned run in six innings for a no-decision against the Braves.
2. No bullpen: Three games, three homers off Dodgers relievers. This is not a good trend. Except for closer Kenley Jansen, there are no set roles because of inconsistent performance. Brian Wilson and J.P. Howell pitched in Game 3 with the Dodgers trailing, so it's not even possible to predict who Mattingly would use in the eighth inning to set up Jansen, if he even gets the chance.
3. A little offensive help: Hyun-Jin Ryu and friends would have needed to throw a shutout for the Dodgers to win Game 3, as the offense went a miserable 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Shelby Miller, who starts for the Cardinals, allowed the Dodgers six runs in five innings the only time he started against them this year. Three of the runs scored on a home run by Andre Ethier, who is starting on Tuesday in place of Yasiel Puig.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.