ST. LOUIS — Clayton Kershaw was long gone. Michael Wacha kept Dodgers hitters down, ignoring the surprisingly big lead and pitching as if the opposing ace was still dealing.
The rookie left no doubt in a 9-0 rout Friday night that put the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series for the second time in three years and kicked Los Angeles’ high-dollar roster to the curb.
“Yeah, anytime you’re going to face Clayton Kershaw, you’re probably going to have to match zeros against him,” Wacha said after getting the best of Kershaw for the second time in the series. “You know, our guys just battled out there today. It was so much fun to watch in the dugout.”
Matt Carpenter’s double capped an 11-pitch at-bat that got a sellout crowd for Game 6 into the spirit of things and triggered a four-run third, and the St. Louis offense didn’t let up. He’d been just hoping to put the ball in play after striking out in the first.
“I don’t remember how many it was, but I just kept fouling them off,” Carpenter said. “He finally made a mistake with the slider out over the plate.
“From then on, really, you’ve got to give all the credit to our offense.”
Carlos Beltran’s RBI single put the Cardinals ahead, his latest postseason contribution. The Cardinals batted around in the third, then added five runs in the fifth.
Kershaw is the majors’ ERA champion three years running and is the front-runner for the NL Cy Young Award. He pitched the division series clincher against Atlanta but never recovered from the epic Carpenter at-bat.
To get out of the third he needed 48 pitches — most in his career.
“I don’t think you really think about it during the inning,” Kershaw said. “You’re just trying to get outs. I just didn’t enough of them fast enough.”
Wacha was named MVP of the series. He threw seven innings of two-hit ball in the clincher and totaled 13 2-3 scoreless innings.
The Cardinals rebounded from a Game 5 loss and early on removed tension from last fall when they squandered a 3-1 NLCS lead and faded badly against the Giants.
They won their 19th NL pennant and will try for their third World Series title since 2006. The opener is Wednesday at the winner of the ALCS between the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers.
“It just adds to the legacy of this franchise,” chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said during the champagne celebration in the clubhouse. “It’s a thrill to be involved with it, and to see these guys perform the way they did.”
The Dodgers have the second-highest payroll in baseball at $220 million but haven’t been to the World Series since winning it all in 1988.
“Going through spring, the long season, and then it just comes to a crash,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “So, it’s disappointing for all of us.”
It was 52 degrees at game time, a 23-degree drop from the previous Kershaw-Wacha matchup in Game 2 six days earlier, and Kershaw never warmed up.
The lefty wasn’t in the mood to talk about a season in which he had a majors-best 1.83 ERA, either. For the first time all season, he failed to finish the fifth.
“If you don’t win, what’s the point?” Kershaw said. “It doesn’t really matter. All this stuff.”
Beltran, 36, had three hits and two RBIs, giving him 37 RBIs in 45 career postseason games, and made a nice catch in right field. He’s about to play in the World Series for the first time in his 16-year career.
Rookie Yasiel Puig also had a rough Game 6 for the Dodgers with two errors in right field to go with two strikeouts and was booed throughout the game. Hanley Ramirez, a last-minute addition to the Dodgers’ lineup, went 0-for-3 while playing with a broken rib.
Wacha has a minuscule 0.43 ERA in three postseason starts, one of the gems coming in Game 4 of the division series at Pittsburgh to keep the Cardinals alive. In his last regular-season start and the NL Central up for grabs, he no-hit the Nationals for 8 2-3 innings.
Beltran was the star of the Cardinals’ 3-2, 13-inning Game 1 victory, driving in all three runs plus making a perfect throw home to keep it tied in extra innings.
Kershaw was charged with seven runs on 10 hits in four-plus innings Friday and has lost five straight starts against the Cardinals.