St Louis' Matt Holliday bungled a potential game-ending catch that eventually allowed the Los Angeles Dodgers to snatch a 3-2 win on Thursday. The left fielder dropped James Loney's hit with two outs, nobody on base and the Cardinals leading 2-1 with closer Ryan Franklin pitching.
Four batters later, pinch-hitter Mark Loretta hit a single to shallow centre-field that gave Los Angeles an unlikely victory and moved them within one win of advancing to the National League (NL) Championship Series. "It's tough to swallow. I mean, obviously, I just feel terrible," said Holliday. "It wasn't from lack of effort. I just missed the ball. It hit my stomach. I mean I think I can catch a ball hit right at me."
Holliday, who hit a home run in the second inning for the Cardinals, had made just one error in 62 games for St Louis since coming over in a mid-season trade with Oakland. "All of a sudden, we got a break," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "It looked like the ball got in the lights on Matt in left field. It's a break: being on second base puts an enormous amount of pressure on Franklin, because all it takes is just a single to score a run."
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said the only consolation was that the series was not over, though the win gave Los Angeles a 2-0 lead with the best-of-five shifting to St Louis tonight. "We have another opportunity. It was a tough loss, very tough loss. Very disappointing," he said. "But we're not discouraged. There's a big difference in the two. We can win a game, so we have to wait until Saturday.
"But right now I think it's important to get upset about the game that got away. We did a lot to win that one and didn't win it. Turn the page too quickly, means you don't care." In the night's other game, the visiting Colorado Rockies grabbed a 4-0 lead and held on to beat the Philadelphia Phillies 5-4 to level their NL Division Series at 1-1, while in the American League Division Series, the Los Angeles Angels capitalised on a strong performance from pitcher John Lackey to take their opener against the Boston Red Sox 5-0.
Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels, last season's World Series MVP, allowed four runs and seven hits in five innings. He left the stadium after being pulled for a pinch-hitter, heading to the hospital to join his wife, who was in labour with the couple's first child. Manager Charlie Manuel said: "He was concerned about his wife and his child. It's an exciting time, something you look forward to. It was probably on his mind."
Torii Hunter hit a three-run homer for the Angels as they ended a run of six consecutive home play-off losses. * With agencies