NLDS Game 1: Pain, Brutal, Brutal Pain
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
The Dodgers started NLDS game 1 with a ton of anticipation coming into this game. Tommy Lasorda threw out the first pitch, the excitement was real as everybody was on their feet, making more noise in a span of 30 seconds than Anaheim made the entire game on Thursday. The revenge was about to begin upon the Saint Louis Cardinals which everybody outside of the Midwest loves to despise so much.
Randall Grichuk had different plans. Grichuk took eventual Cy Young/ likely MVP Clayton Kershaw deep in the first inning as the second batter of the afternoon, and all of Dodger stadium was shellshocked. Kershaw left a hanging breaking ball up in the zone, and the Cardinals rushed out to a 1-0 lead.
The Dodgers had a great opportunity in the second inning after Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp both singled to set up Hanley Ramirez with two outs who lined out to Matt Carpenter at third base.
Kershaw regained his confidence and retired the Cardinals in order in the second inning which set up the Dodgers a chance to see Adam Wainwright again.
One of the best regulars of the past Carl Crawford lead off the second inning as Harold Reynolds engaged in too much “shadows” talk for my taste. He struck out, but the Dodgers got another chance when Juan Uribe and A.J. Ellis singled back to back. After a Clayton Kershaw bunt, he set up Dee Gordon with a chance to drive in at least one. After a Matt Carpenterian plate appearance, he struck out. But getting Adam Wainwright up to 44 pitches was a success in and of itself.
Kershaw settled in after the first inning dinger, retiring the Cardinals in order again in the third striking out one, and getting two can of corn fly balls to left, getting to the end of the third at just under 40 pitches.
Things got heated in the bottom of the 3rd when Adam Wainwright gave the Dodgers a baserunner by hitting him on the shoulder. That obviously brought back memories of game 1 of the NLDS last season. Tempers flared as Yadier Molina and Adrian Gonzalez met in the batters box. After some yelling, the benches emptied, tempers flared, it was a hotly contested affair. It ended with Yasiel Puig making up with Adam Wainwright, but Yadier Molina continuing to be an absolute nut. It should be noted that Molina ran to Gonzalez, screamed at him, and shoved an umpire before things were over with.
Revenge would eventually come, after a Gonzalez groundout to move Puig to 2nd, Hanley singled him home to tie the game 1-1. There was a weight that was lifted, the Cardinals felt beatable, much more than at any point last season.
Hanley tempted Molina, attempted a steal, and made it without a throw as Molina could not even get a throw off. It was clear that Molina was rattled, and Wainwright was not entirely himself. Waino grooved a pitch to CC, and he turned on it delivering a ground rule double, giving the Dodgers, and the best pitcher on the planet a lead to work with in the postseason for the first time since the 2013 NLDS.
Clayton Kershaw then game back and was his absolute dominant self, he struck out the side and gave the Dodgers an opportunity to tack on some runs, and that’s exactly what they did. AJ Ellis started it off with single, and later came around on a Yasiel Puig single that was a foot off of the ground. The Vladimir Guerrero in him is real. After an Adrian Gonzalez walk, Matt Kemp drove Puig in with a single, and caused this photo to exist.
Kershaw came back and struck out the side like his normal self to bring up the bottom of the 5th inning where we saw Carl Crawford single, and playoff MVP AJ Ellis hit a long home run to left, knocking Adam Wainwright out of the game, and everything was coming up rosy for the Dodgers.
But that’s not how things are with team. Oh no they aren’t. Matt Carpenter hit a long, seemingly inconsequential home run making it 6-2, and nothing of note happened until the top of the 7th. where the Cardinals pulled some legitimate Cardinal devil magic on Clayton Kershaw, Matt Holiday singled, Jhonny Peralta singled, Yadier Molina singled, Matt Adams singled, and everything was terrible, the score was 6-3 with no outs. But I can attest to this:
Thank god for Pete Kozma. He struck out, unfortunately Jon Jay single in another run which put the hands in superprospect Oscar Taveras to potentially tie up the game.
He struck out.
Taveras hit in the 9th spot. Which means, yep you guessed it, Matt Carpenter came up. He did exactly what you expected him to do, had a long AB (8 pitches), doubled in the go-ahead run, and the Cardinals celebrated all over the Dodgers turf
I don’t know what happened in that 7th inning, but Kershaw was rocked and the Cardinals devil magic was alive. I don’t subscribe to the possibility that Kershaw can not pitch in big games, that’s a fallacy. The playoffs are much more of a crapshoot than not, but the Cardinals, and more specifically Matt Carpenter have Kershaw’s number right now.
Is it fair to place this on Clayton Kershaw? He was given a 5 run lead to protect at home, and he exploded. There will be people who scream “BABIP”, “LUCK”, etc, etc, but the best pitcher in baseball was given a 5 run lead to protect, inexplicably forgot that he had more than just a fastball at his disposal in the span of 7 batters gave up 5 singles, a double in a single inning, allowed a team that absolutely annihilated him in the last game he pitched in the postseason back in the game. Clayton Kershaw blew it, and it’s okay to say that. Can he be better? Of course. Will he be better? I think so. But he’s given up fourteen fourteen earned runs in the last 2 playoff starts.
If Dan Haren were on the mound, you would expect, demand to win a game like this. The performance was simply unacceptable and I don’t have any answers to that.
The Cardinals, man.
Anyways, Pedro Baez showed us that maybe he’s not the 3rd best reliever on the staff and not ready for a setup rule, as he gave up a three run home run to Matt Holiday that put the game comfortably out of reach. Or so we thought.
The Dodgers went down in order in the bottom of the 7th inning, but the offense picked it back up, Yasiel Puig walked, and Adrian Gonzalez hit a home run off of a leftie, no less, and the Dodgers had something brewing. Down by 2 Hanley blooped a single and setup the clutchiest player to ever clutch for the Dodgers (not named Kirk Gibson obviously).
He struck out.
That was the kind of night the Dodgers had. J.P Howell came in and faced Matt Carpenter with a man on second. He got him to popout to left field. Brandon League followed him, got a ground ball.
Those two outcomes would have been perfectly acceptable in the 7th inning, but nope.
Trevor Rosenthal was wild during the regular season, and you thought that possibly the Dodgers could get something going. Juan Uribe- K But then suddenly signs of life- AJ Ellis went the other way with a Trevor Rosenthal fastball, Andre Ethier doubled, and Dee Gordon came up in a massive spot, he grounded out to second base scoring Ellis, putting AJ on third. So Yasiel Puig came up in the biggest spot of his young career, and through no real fault of his own he struck out. Overmatched, overpowered. Puig had an amazing game, you can’t expect to get a hit in every AB.
That game was your first middle school mile. That game was knowing you had a 12 minute time limit to beat. That game was free sprinting the first quarter of it. That game was realizing “dammit. dammit. dammit. dammit” after 40% of the way through it you realize you burned out. That game was putting your hands on your knees 3/4ths of the way through it shaking your head muttering “no no no no no no no” to yourself. That game was making the final turn with 100 meters to go and hearing the official timer yell “10 MORE SECONDS”. That game was involving yourself in a very shaming sprint to try to beat the allotted time. That game was missing the time by 2 seconds, and having to do the exact same thing tomorrow. That game was collapsing on the roadbump that signified the finish line dejected, feeling that inevitably you’re going to find a way to not make it tomorrow.
This game sucked. It was the worst game I could remember, at least tied with whatever Matt Stairs pulled out of his bat in 2008, the 2009 Jonathan Broxton meltdown, it was worse than last season because the Dodgers couldn’t hit Michael Wacha so you never had a feeling they could come back. They TORCHED the Cardinals pitching staff today, and with the best pitcher in the world they just needed to hold them to under 7 runs to win. They didn’t. My frustrations are rooted in the fact Clayton Kershaw just finished the 2nd or 3rd best season of any pitcher of the 21st century, and he comes out and drops a performance like that. Frustrating’s the word i’ll go to.
There are positives, the Dodgers have Zack Greinke on the mound tomorrow, they beat the tar out of the Cardinals pitching staff, they very arguably have the advantage in the rest of the pitching matchups, they aren’t eliminated, but man you can’t blame me or anyone else if they feel terrible after a game like that.
So many emotions. So. So. So. So. Damn Close.
Game time 6:30 tomorrow, lest hope for a better showing.