The Cardinals made it to the series by winning 101 games and edging the New York Mets in the National League East. The Dodgers were led by Pedro Guerrero, and their talented pitching staff with a team ERA of 2.96. They beat the Cincinnati Reds by 5 1⁄2 games.
St. Louis won the series, 4–2.
Wednesday, October 9, 1985, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California
The opening contest in Los Angeles pitted Dodgers screwballer Fernando Valenzuela against the Cardinals' twenty one-game winner, John Tudor. The pitchers matched zeroes through the first three innings, but in the bottom of the fourth an error by Terry Pendleton allowed Bill Madlock to reach first. After stealing second, Madlock came home on a Guerrero single to give the Dodgers a 1–0 lead. In the Dodgers' sixth, Madlock struck again when he doubled and then scored on a single by Mike Scioscia. Prior to Scioscia's single, the Cardinals had intentionally walked Guerrero, who later scored on a bunt by Candy Maldonado. A double by Steve Sax scored Maldonado, and Tudor got the hook. Ken Dayley ended the inning with a strikeout of Valenzuela, but the Dodgers had a 4–0 lead en route to a 4–1 victory. The win gave the Dodgers a 1–0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Thursday, October 10, 1985, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California
In Game 2, another Cardinal twenty-game winner, Joaquín Andújar, squared off against the Dodgers' new ace, Orel Hershiser, who had compiled a 19–3 record during the regular season and had not lost at home. After two scoreless innings, the Cardinals scored first when batting champion (and eventual National League MVP) Willie McGee singled, went to second on a walk to Tommy Herr, and scored on a wild pitch by Hershiser to give the Cardinals their first lead of the series. In the bottom of the third, Sax singled for the Dodgers. Andujar had Sax picked off first, but a throwing error allowed him to scamper all the way to third with one out. He then scored on a single by Hershiser, who would score himself on Ken Landreaux's double. The hot-hitting Madlock then singled Landreaux home, giving the Dodgers a 3–1 lead.
In the next inning, Scioscia singled and scored on Greg Brock's two-run homer to give the Dodgers a 5–1 lead. They eventually won, 8–2, for a 2–0 series lead.
Saturday, October 12, 1985, at Busch Stadium (II) in St. Louis, Missouri
In past years, a 2–0 hole would have occasioned a must-win game, but the Cardinals still had a little breathing room due to the best-of-seven nature of the series. They did, however, need a win to get back on track in the series, and they got it with a 4–2 win behind Danny Cox to cut the Dodgers' series lead to 2–1. The Cardinals got roaring quickly when leadoff hitter Vince Coleman singled and stole second. After a walk to McGee, Dodgers starter Bob Welch seemed to have picked Coleman off, but a throwing error, reminiscent of Andújar's in Game 2, scored Coleman and put McGee on third. Herr then walked and promptly stole second to give the Cardinals runners on second and third with nobody out. After an intentional walk to Andy Van Slyke, McGee scored on Terry Pendleton's ground out to give the Cardinals a 2–0 lead.
The next inning, Vince Coleman again singled—and was again picked off base, only to advance to third on a throwing error. McGee singled Coleman home and was promptly caught stealing. Herr followed up with a homer to give the Cardinals a 4–0 lead in the second. The game was for all purposes over. The Dodgers scored single runs in the fourth on back-to-back doubles by Pedro Guerrero and Mike Marshall and in the seventh when Enos Cabell scored on Ken Landreaux's one-out single. Danny Cox got the win and Ken Dayley got the save with Bob Welch the losing pitcher. The victory cut the Dodger lead to two games to one.
Sunday, October 13, 1985, at Busch Stadium (II) in St. Louis, Missouri
The most important event of Game 4 occurred over two hours before the first pitch was thrown. Rainy conditions in St. Louis mandated deployment of the protective tarpaulin. The tarp in Busch Stadium was automated and came out of the ground. Standing next to it was Cardinal rookie Vince Coleman, the catalyst in the Cardinals' Game 3 win. Coleman was trapped under the tarp and several players had to lift the tarp so Coleman could escape. But the damage was done: Coleman suffered a broken ankle and would miss the rest of the 1985 postseason. The question entering the fourth game was whether the Cards could win with their catalyst on the bench. And the resounding answer from Game 4 was "No problem!"
The pitching matchup for this game was the Cardinals' Tudor against Jerry Reuss for the Dodgers. In the first, both pitchers allowed no hits, and Tudor continued his mastery in the top half of the second. But the bottom of the second saw the floodgates open on Reuss. Three straight singles by Jack Clark, Tito Landrum (Coleman's replacement) and César Cedeño gave the Cardinals a 1–0 lead. Back-up catcher Tom Nieto, starting his first game in the series, walked after a Pendleton ground out scored Cedeño. With the score 2–0 and runners at first and third, Tudor tried a squeeze play that worked beyond the Cardinals' dreams. A throwing error by Reuss put the Cards up, 3–0, and sent Nieto to second with Tudor on first. McGee's hit lined out to Mike Marshall in right, moving Nieto to third. With two outs, Ozzie Smith hit an infield single to the shortstop that scored Nieto, and when Herr followed with his own single, Reuss departed in a 5–0 hole.
Rick Honeycutt came in to put out the fire, but Clark's single scored Smith. Cedeno's walk loaded the bases, and an infield single by Landrum made it 7–0 with the bases still loaded. Pendleton then singled to score both Clark and Cedeño, and Tudor had a nine-run lead. Honeycutt was pulled in favor of Bobby Castillo, who struck out Tom Nieto to end the inning.
At this point, the game was effectively over. Madlock homered off Tudor in the seventh, the only run he permitted, but by that point the Dodgers were trailing 11–1 en route to a 12–2 loss that tied the series at two wins apiece. Tudor went seven innings for the win while Castillo hung around until the ninth.
In past years, this would set the stage for the clinching Game 5, but the new format gave leeway to each team's pitching arrangement.
Monday, October 14, 1985, at Busch Stadium (II) in St. Louis, Missouri
High drama unfolded when the Dodgers and Cardinals met for Game 5 tied at two victories apiece. The Dodgers sent Valenzuela for his second start of the series against the Cardinals' number four starter, Bob Forsch. Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog felt comfortable starting Forsch to give extra rest to his pair of twenty-game winners, Andujar and Tudor. Prior to the game, Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda declared, "If they can beat Valenzuela and Hershiser, then we're not as good as we thought." Dodger/NBC announcer Vin Scully repeated this several times during the broadcasts of Games 5 and 6.
As in Games 3 and 4, the Cardinals got the ball rolling quickly. McGee and Smith led off with walks, and then Herr doubled, scoring both runners. At second with nobody out, the Dodgers—for the fifth time in the series—picked a runner off base, Herr in this case, only to see him advance on a throwing error by Valenzuela. With Herr at third and nobody out, Valenzuela masterfully got out of the jam with no further damage, and the Cardinals led, 2–0.
In the fourth inning, Landreaux singled and Madlock homered for the second time in the series to tie the game at two. Ken Dayley replaced Forsch and got out of a two on and nobody out jam. And that ended the scoring until the ninth.
Tom Niedenfuer came in to hold the Cardinals at bay in the ninth. After inducing McGee to pop up to third, Ozzie Smith came to bat from the left side of the plate. Never before in his career had Smith homered from the left side—until now. He golfed a Niedenfuer fastball down the right field line and over the fence for a home run, ending Game 5 as a 3–2 Cardinal victory. The ball hit the front facing of the lower deck and bounded back onto the field, but it was clearly above the home run line and Smith scored the winning run. Reliever Jeff Lahti got the win and Niedenfuer took the loss. The home run was voted the greatest moment in the history of Busch Stadium in 2005, and was the source of Jack Buck's famous call "Go crazy, folks, go crazy".
This was the game where a fan blew water from the top of the visitors dugout into the eyes of Steve Sax as he came back after making an out. Sax attempted to enter the stands and was halted by security. Sax later pointed out that the water was mixed with beer and hurt him. The fan was evicted by security with no further incident.
Wednesday, October 16, 1985, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California
The St. Louis Cardinals won their second National League title in four years by beating the Dodgers, 7–5, in what many consider to be one of the most exciting playoff games ever played. The Dodgers returned to Los Angeles trailing three games to two, but comfortable knowing the last two games would be played in Chavez Ravine. For Game 6, it was Hershiser for the Dodgers against Andujar for St. Louis.
Unlike the previous three games, it was the Dodgers and not the Cardinals who got the scoring started quickly when Mariano Duncan's double and Madlock's single put the Dodgers ahead, 1–0. An inning later, a walk to Greg Brock and singles by Hershiser and Duncan scored Brock to give the Dodgers a 2–0 lead.
Both pitchers helped themselves with hits. After Hershiser's single in the second, Andújar led off the third with a double off the wall and scored on Herr's single to cut the lead to 2–1. But Andújar hurt himself with a throwing error in the fifth that put Duncan on base. Duncan promptly stole second and went to third on a ground out by Landreaux. He then scored on Pedro Guerrero's deep fly to center field. Madlock homered for the third time in the series, and the Dodgers led, 4–1.
In the top of the seventh, Darrell Porter singled, as did Tito Landrum. Steve Braun pinch-hit for Andújar and grounded out, but moved the runners to second and third. McGee's single then plated both runners, leading Tommy Lasorda to call on reliever Tom Niedenfuer. Niedenfuer's last pitch had landed in the seats to end Game 5, and the first batter he faced was the same—Ozzie Smith. Ozzie drilled a triple that just barely missed being a second left-handed homer, but Niedenfuer struck out Jack Clark on three fastballs to end the threat. But the Cardinals had now tied the game at four.
In the bottom of the eighth, Mike Marshall lifted a towering fly ball to right off of Todd Worrell. It looked like a routine out, but the wind carried the ball just out of the reach of Andy Van Slyke and behind the wall for a home run. The Dodgers were now just three outs from forcing Game 7.
In the ninth, Niedenfuer struck out César Cedeño, but McGee singled and stole second. With Ozzie Smith's prior success against Niedenfuer—a homer and triple in his last two at-bats—the Dodgers walked Smith and induced a ground out from Tommy Herr. With runners at second and third and two out, the obvious question faced Lasorda: "do you walk Clark to the open first base or do you pitch to him?" Niedenfuer had struck out Clark in the seventh. By contrast, the next two hitters in the Cardinal line-up, Van Slyke and Pendleton, were having miserable series. But Lasorda opted to pitch to Clark, and he drilled Niedenfuer's first fastball 450 feet into the left field stands for a pennant-winning home run. Demoralized, the Dodgers went down in order in the bottom of the ninth, with Pedro Guerrero popping up for the final out.
The Cardinals had won and would eventually lose in 7 games to the Kansas City Royals in the World Series.
1985 NLCS (4–2): St. Louis Cardinals over Los Angeles Dodgers