For the second straight time, the lefty generally acknowledged as the best pitcher in baseball was no match for a team that's made a habit of coming alive at this time of the year.
A home run by the St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Adams Tuesday sent Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers packing and the Cards to the National League Championship Series.
The San Francisco Giants also advanced to the NLCS, edging the Washington Nationals 3-2 Tuesday night.
While celebrating the 3-2 victory in Game 4 that put their team in the NLCS for the fourth straight year, Cardinals players bathed in champagne said they'd counted on Adams, a burly first baseman nicknamed Big City.
"We were jumping around, hitting our heads in the dugout, going crazy," ace Adam Wainwright said. "I just had a feeling the big fellow was going to come through. I called it."
Adams could barely contain his enthusiasm after his first homer against a lefthander since July 7, this one against a pitcher who was 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA during the regular season. Adams thrust both arms in the air while still in the batter's box and added a couple of big hops that made for an entertaining trot around the bases.
"Definitely the highlight of my career," he said. "I will never, ever forget this."
The Cardinals have home-field advantage against the Giants and a rested pitching rotation for the best-of-seven NLCS that starts Saturday at Busch Stadium. San Francisco is in the NLCS for the third time in five seasons; they overcame a 3-1 series deficit against the Cardinals in 2012 en route to a World Series title.
"Just to be a part of all this is amazing," said Cards hurler Shelby Miller, who made his first career postseason start and allowed two runs in 5 2-3 innings. "The way we came out and finished this game, you couldn't ask for anything more."
Before surrendering three straight hits and a two-run lead to open the seventh, Kershaw had shut down St. Louis. Stunned by Adams' drive, he bent at the waist with his hands on his knees.
The Cardinals sent the Dodgers home for the second postseason in a row with a win over Kershaw. Last year it was in Game 6 of the NLCS.
Kershaw, who was pitching on three days' rest Tuesday for just the second time in his career, couldn't hold a 6-1 lead in Game 1 of this series when he took a beating, also in the seventh.
"The season ended and I was a big part of the reason why," Kershaw said. "I can't really put it into words, Just bad deja vu all over again."
Kershaw dropped to 1-5 with a 5.12 ERA in 11 postseason games, including three relief appearances early in his career. He has lost four straight starts to St. Louis over the past two postseasons.
"I've had success against them, too," Kershaw said. "It just seems like one inning gets me every time. And obviously that's not success."
While the steady Cardinals advanced to their ninth NLCS in 15 years, the defeat was a huge disappointment for the NL West champion Dodgers, who finished the regular season with a $256 million payroll that was $40 million higher than any other team.
"Once again, it was Cardinals magic over Dodgers' money," writes CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.
Los Angeles remains without a pennant since winning the 1988 World Series.
"It's awful," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "It's devastating. It just kind of rehashes those old memories."
In San Francisco, Joe Panik scored the go-ahead run in the seventh inning on Aaron Barrett's bases-loaded wild pitch.
The wildcard Giants, with their cast of rookies and homegrown stars, won three-games-to-one in the best-of-five Division Series by also scoring on a walk and a groundout. Hunter Pence turned in a defensive gem in right field that helped hold the Nationals at bay as San Francisco won for the 11th time in its last 12 postseason games.
"It's been a remarkable journey. I wouldn't trade it for the world," Pence said. "If it was easy, it wouldn't be as fun."
Santiago Casilla walked Bryce Harper with two outs in the ninth, then retired Wilson Ramos on a grounder to end it. Casilla was mobbed on the mound as fireworks shot off from the center-field scoreboard.
"I just talked about their will. These guys, they're relentless," Bochy said. "They were warriors on the road. We had to win at Pittsburgh, we got two in Washington."
Harper splashed a tying home run into McCovey Cove in the seventh, but Washington's season ended with three one-run losses, including that excruciating 2-1 defeat in 18 innings Saturday in Game 2.
The Nationals' offense never got on track, lacking the power that carried them to an NL East title and the best record in the league at 96-66.
"It's tender and it's bitter and all of those things, but I'm proud of them," rookie manager Matt Williams said.
Star Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner, hat on backward, took off from the dugout and ran along the left-field fence and all the way around AT&T Park to lead a victory lap of Giants players slapping hands.
San Francisco fans cheered when the rival Dodgers were eliminated by St. Louis earlier Tuesday.
The crowd went crazy once the Giants clinched another chance to play for the pennant, and the city is counting on the team's every-other-year trend of winning it all.
San Francisco won the World Series in 2010 and again 2012. The club's 10-game postseason winning streak, a record for NL teams, was snapped with a 4-1 loss to the Nationals on Monday.
The Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals will square off in the American League Championship Series.
The winners of the NLCS and ALCS will play in the World Series.