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Cardinals heading to World Series

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(CNN- BR) - For much of the 2013 season, Clayton Kershaw was the foundation that held the Los Angeles Dodgers' pitching staff together. Unfortunately, Kershaw picked the worst possible time to start showing cracks.

The St. Louis Cardinals offense pounded Kershaw for seven runs and Michael Wacha turned in yet another stellar performance, as the Cardinals defeated the Dodgers, 9-0, to advance to their second World Series in three seasons.

St. Louis won the best-of-seven series 4-2, celebrating their triumph on the mound as rain fell onto the Busch Stadium field.

With ghosts of their collapse in the 2012 NLCS staring them in the face, the Cardinals returned Friday night on a mission. Los Angeles had staved off elimination on Wednesday, bringing the series to 3-2 with the likely NL Cy Young award winner taking the mound for them in Game 6.

But it was clear from the outset that Kershaw would not be repeating his excellent Game 2 outing. He made it through the first two innings scoreless, but had thrown two wild pitches and allowed a runner into scoring position in both frames.

By the time the third inning came around, the Cardinals were locked in. They tagged Kershaw for four runs in the third, batting around the order and hitting a succession of lined shots up the middle. Carlos Beltran hit an RBI single, Yadier Molina knocked him in two batters later and Shane Robinson concluded the wreckage with a two-RBI single to right with the bases loaded.

As noted by the Baseball Tonight Twitter feed, it was the first time in four years a team batted around on the 25-year-old ace:

Kershaw would right the ship in the fourth, but it'd be a temporary reprieve. The Cardinals again sent nine men to the plate in the fifth, adding on five runs to take a 9-0 lead. They started off with three successive hits by Molina, David Freese and Matt Adams, whose RBI double ran Kershaw out of the game for good.

He gave way to Ronald Belisario, but things only got worse before they got better. Belisario allowed two more runs be credited to Kershaw's name and allowed two of his own in 0.1 innings of work before J.P. Howell came in to mop up the damage. By the end of the fifth, the Cardinals were ahead 9-0 and Kershaw had allowed seven runs in an outing for the third time in his career.

 

That was more than enough room for Michael Wacha, who again had no problems with this vaunted Dodgers lineup. Carl Crawford began the game with an infield single for Los Angeles, but that would represent half of the club's offensive production. Wacha forced Mark Ellis to ground into a double play immediately after Crawford's at bat, en route to retiring 14 of the next 15 Dodgers he faced.

Locating about two-thirds of his pitches for strikes, Wacha was in complete command of the mound. He went seven innings without giving up a run, striking out five and allowing only three baserunners—just one of which reached scoring position.

Wacha has now given up one run in his last 29.2 innings dating back to the regular season. He's given up two or fewer hits in three of his past four starts.

 

The Cardinals bullpen took over with the hefty cushion and finished the job. Carlos Martinez threw a 1-2-3 eighth and Trevor Rosenthal closed it out.

Kershaw wasn't the only Dodgers star who had a rough night. Outfielder Yasiel Puig, whose arrival coincided with Los Angeles' regular-season turnaround, struck out twice and committed two fielding errors. ESPN's Buster Olney suggested a creative way for Puig to relearn the fundamentals on defense:

Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier also combined to go 0-for-9.

The Cardinals will now have a somewhat extended break before facing off against the American League champion on Oct. 23. The Boston Red Sox currently hold a 3-2 lead over the Detroit Tigers as they head back to Fenway Park for Games 6 and 7.

Boston and St. Louis have met three times in the World Series, most recently when the Red Sox broke their 86-year title drought in 2004. The Cardinals and Tigers have also met three times, with St. Louis' 2006 triumph being the most recent.

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