LOS ANGELES — After a season filled with dramatic comebacks and game-breaking hits, the Los Angeles Dodgers had no big finishes left for Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

And the Dodgers’ inability to do the improbable left them on the brink of playoff elimination.

After the Cardinals scored three runs in the third inning off Ricky Nolasco, St. Louis made its lead stand up all the way to a 4-2 victory Tuesday night, taking a 3-1 series lead.

That’s a deficit the Dodgers have never overcome in their lengthy postseason history.

Yasiel Puig had two hits and drove in a run, after Cardinals starter Lance Lynn buzzed his chin with a pitch in the fourth. But not even the Dodgers’ emotional leader could prevent a first home playoff loss in four games this month.

With Andre Ethier on first base and nobody out in the ninth, Dodger Stadium was buzzing, but Puig grounded into a double play against closer Trevor Rosenthal.

With every methodical inning, the playoff-tested Cardinals showed the Dodgers how to beat their playoff emotions.

The Dodgers had eight hits, two more than St. Louis, and generated a regular stream of baserunners, but two potential rallies were killed by inning-ending double plays. Another ended with the bases loaded when Nolasco struck out with a bat on his shoulder.

And even when Nick Punto delivered an unlikely double in the seventh inning to get the crowd stirring, the backup utilityman got picked off second base before Carlos Martinez even threw his next pitch.

The Dodgers couldn’t overcome the club’s first mediocre starting pitching performance of the series. Los Angeles had allowed just four runs in the first 33 innings of this series before Nolasco gave up three more in the third.