Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY Sports and KSDK Sports
LOS ANGELES - If the St. Louis Cardinals won the lottery, they'd lose the ticket on the way to the office.
If the Cardinals drove a Rolls-Royce off the lot, the transmission would blow at the first traffic light.
There's something about prosperity they just can't stand.
The Cardinals, given the chance to end the National League Championship Series and pull the plug on the Los Angeles Dodgers' season, instead gave them oxygen Wednesday and invited them back to St. Louis.
The Cardinals, who lost 6-4 to the Dodgers, still lead the NLCS 3-2 with the series headed to St. Louis.
They are in magnificent shape.
BOX SCORE: Dodgers 6, Cardinals 4
The trouble, you see, is the Cardinals have been in this identical situation three times since 1996.
The other two times didn't go so well.
In fact, they were utter disasters.
The Cardinals blew a 3-1 lead last season against the San Francisco Giants, just like they did in 1996 against the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS.
They didn't just lose, they got bulldozed.
Here's a stat that will sends shivers down the spine of Cardinals Nation.
The Cardinals, when up 3-1 in the NLCS, have proceeded to lose seven games in a row.
The combined score: 58-6.
That's not a baseball score.
That's Alabama vs. Chattanooga.
"There can be a little panic on their side," says Dodgers reliever Brian Wilson, who was with the Giants last season, "but this is the same particular situation they were in last year. They remember."
But, oh, so valiantly trying to forget.
"I don't know why you guys continue talking about last year," says Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, who killed two huge rallies in the first three innings. "It's different. We're facing another team this year.
"We're not thinking about that."
Maybe not, but certainly everyone else keeps bringing it up, particularly those guys in the blue uniform.
"We get it to Game 7, those things will creep in their heads over there," said first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who hit two of the Dodgers' club record-tying four home runs.
Oh, the Cardinals can be lethal at elimination time, winning seven of their last eight win-or-go-home games, but it didn't stop Gonzalez from acting like Dr. Phil. It wasn't just the words, but the antics, hitting the go-ahead home run in the third inning and making a Mickey Mouse ears gesture on his way to the dugout.The crowd of 53,183 roared. His teammates laughed. The Cardinals seethed.
"I was just having fun with the comment that was made earlier," Gonzalez said. "Nothing against them. It was just to have fun."
Gonzalez, of course, was responding to Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, who told news reporters he didn't care for Gonzalez's "Mickey Mouse antics" in Game 3. Wainwright accused Gonzalez of yelling at him from the bases. Gonzalez denied it.
And no one will back down, setting up perhaps a TMZ moment in Game 7 when Wainwright is scheduled to pitch Saturday at Busch Stadium, if necessary.
"We've kind of become America's team, because everyone wants to see a seventh game," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said "Probably even the fans in St. Louis would like to see a seventh game, so I figure that everybody's (rooting) for us to win on Friday night.
"I feel pretty good about having Clayton (Kershaw) pitching on Friday night and our chances of getting a seventh game."
Yes, just like that, it's open season on the Cardinals' psyche. The Dodgers not only are reminding the Cardinals of their NLCS failures, but also that if they think they have problems now, wait until they see Kershaw.
Yes, the same Kershaw who will be announced in November as the Cy Young Award winner.
Kershaw, after all, is one of the best pitchers in baseball.
"Not one of the best," Gonzalez interrupted. "The best."
The Cardinals' 2012 pratfall was uglier; the Giants needed wins from Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong to reach Game 7 in San Francisco.
The Dodgers? Zack Greinke came through already; now they have Kershaw, though he must beat electrifying rookie Michael Wacha.
So is the year that the Dodgers win their first pennant since 1988, coming back from a 3-1 series deficit for the first time in franchise history?
"Can't predict anything, that's for sure, but I'd definitely take Kershaw and (Hyun-Jin Ryu) the final two games of the series, absolutely," Gonzalez said.
Ryu, of course, happens to be the rookie left-handed pitcher who shut down the Cardinals in Game 3, beating Wainwright.
"We do have the best pitcher in baseball going," Wilson said. "But we can't rely on that.''
Yet, this is a team that just tied its postseason franchise record with four homers. This is a team yielding a 2.09 ERA. This is a team that has limited the Cardinals to a .178 batting average.
And, yes, after winning 42 of 50 games during the summer, what's a meager three-game winning streak?
"We're still climbing the mountain," said catcher A.J. Ellis, who guided Greinke through seven innings and hit a home run. "But we are closer now than we were at the beginning of the day. It's been a wild season. We'd love for this ride to keep going. We don't want it to end."
Who knows, after their pool celebration in Phoenix and mock re-enactment of the division title celebration in Los Angeles, maybe they'll be plotting a ride up the St. Louis Arch next?
"You're in the playoffs," Gonzalez said, "you've got to have fun. If you're not having fun in the playoffs, then you don't deserve to be here."
Yet, Gonzalez insists, the Mickey Mouse gestures will be retired.
"He probably got caught up in the moment a bit," Ellis said. "I'm happy he didn't do it the second time he went around the bases. The playoffs bring out different emotions."
If the Cardinals don't close out this series, they might cringe knowing what might happen next.
Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @BNightengale