NLDS Game Two Notes And Highlights, and Oh Matt Kemp

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This has been a crazy series so far, and it’s only been two games. The Dodgers were able to even their best of five National League Division Series against the Cardinals at 1-1 with a clutch 3-2 win over the Cardinals on Saturday night at Dodger Stadium. Matt Kemp’s lead-off solo home run to left was the decisive blow for the Dodgers.

There were so many storylines going on during this series that it’s very difficult to cover this in any conventional sense. I will try to hit as many points as I can. Keep in mind that I am so relieved right now that this series is tied, that I can hardly type. (You’re probably going to say, but Scott that’s no excuse for any of your other articles….lolz come on now.)

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously we were all at our lowest after that crushing game one loss on Friday night. I think the feeling was that if we couldn’t beat the Cardinals at home with our best pitcher on the mound, then how were we going to beat them in the rest of the series? It was a valid concern.

The Dodgers had to win Saturday night to even the series. There was no way the Dodgers could go down 2-0 in the series and having to go back to St. Louis needing to win two games without Clayton Kershaw, or Zack Greinke starting. Well there is still a chance Kershaw could come back on short rest to start game four, but that’s another topic to discuss. The point was, the Dodgers needed a win badly. There was no question in anyone’s mind that game 2 was a must win.

Zack Greinke’s dominance

So the Dodgers needed a dominating performance from Greinke. That’s just what they got with him. From the onset it looked like he had his best stuff. This was the low scoring pitching duel that we thought we were going to get in game 1.

Greinke threw seven shutout innings, and allowed just two hits while whiffing seven and walking just two. He made 103 pitches, and came out of the game with a 2-0 lead. The Cardinals didn’t have a hit until a double from Kolten Wong in the fifth.

The Cardinal’s only two hits off of Greinke were both doubles in those middle frames. But Greinke had some truly great pitching to get himself out of it. Because in the fifth he whiffed Randal Grichuk, and Lance Lynn to get out of the fifth. Then after the sinister Dodger killer Matt Carpenter doubled, Greinke got a key ground out from Jay. And he came back to whiff Holiday and Peralta in between a walk to Matt Adams.

Zack Greinke’s bat

But it wasn’t just Greinke’s pitching that helped the Dodgers win. It was also hit bat. Because in the third inning after A.J. Ellis doubled off the wall, Greinke singled him to third by pretending to bunt and then pulling the bat back. He slapped the ball into shallow right field. It was perfect. Dee Gordon’s grounder would score A.J. to give the Dodgers their first lead of the game. The second run coming in on Adrian Gonzalez’s run scoring single.

Then in the bottom of the fifth Greinke got another hit. His single was followed by Gordon’s single up the middle. Unfortunately the Dodgers couldn’t cash anyone in on that rally. Greinke continues to show us that he is an all around great player.

I don’t know but it’s possible that it could be Greinke that leads the Dodgers this postseason alongside Kershaw. I think people sometimes forget how good Greinke is. Yes Kershaw is the best pitcher on the planet, but Greinke is also very very good. He has the Cardinal’s number like the Cardinals have Kershaw’s number. Baseball is crazy isn’t it?

Brandon League’s double play was key

Yes I know the Dodger bullpen hasn’t been very good, but it’s not as bad as everyone thinks. The top of the eighth is where everything seemed to fall apart again for the Dodgers. With Greinke still on the mound at the top of the inning, Mattingly waited until pinch-hitter Oscar Taveras was announced before hooking him for lefty J.P. Howell. Many people felt that was the right move, but I don’t agree. I felt like there’s a huge different between Kershaw giving up hit after hit after hit in game 1, and Greinke throwing a shutout on two hits. Greinke was dominant, and at only 103 pitches, you would think he could have thrown another inning. It’s about the situation going on and how the starter is pitching, not pitch counts.

But I had no problem with Howell coming in. He’s been the Dodger’s most reliable reliever all season long. A few bad outings doesn’t change that. At this point everything was going great. The Dodgers were leading 2-0. The bubbles were flying and the boys in blue were just six outs away from winning.

Then disaster struck again, or should I say the Cardinal’s evil October mojo. How the hell they keep doing this is beyond my comprehension. First Tavares singled down the first based line. Then postseason Dodger killer, and ruiner of hopes and dreams Matt Carpenter crushed a two-run home run into the right field pavilion. Within minutes Chavez Ravine was stunned and the Dodger’s season was on the brink. How could this happen again? I could barely watch I was so frustrated and heartbroken. Can we stop pitching to this guy! For sanity sake!

And Howell himself was so frustrated he allowed an infield single to Jon Jay. Ok that wasn’t really Howell’s fault, it was just bad luck. But you could feel the tide turning again. It appeared the Cardinals were doing it again, and I feared that this time there would be no stopping them. As I said in the recap, how could the same crap happen to the same team twice? I felt like Lt. John McClain in die hard.

But then Mattingly did something good, in that he brought in Brandon League. Say what you want about League, but he doesn’t give up home runs anymore. He allowed exactly zero in the regular season. He got Matt Holliday to hit a grounder to short, which allowed Jay to go to second because the Dodgers couldn’t execute a double play. Then League was ordered to intentionally walk fatty Matt Adams. It setup his beautiful double play of Johnny Peralta that got the Dodgers out of the inning. Say what you want about League, but at least he’s not serving up 430 soul crushing home runs.

Yasiel Puig’s sombrero

Lost in all of this was that Puig had a horrible game at the plate. Puig went 0 for 4 whiffing all four times. In the bottom of the third after Greinke had singled, and runners were at first and third, he whiffed. In the bottom of the fifth with two men on he whiffed again. Then he whiffed in the bottom of the seventh when facing Marco Gonzales. I can’t remember the last time a Dodger struck out four times in a playoff game. I would have to check the books on that one. Let’s hope Puig can bounce back in St. Louis in game 3.

Matt Kemp’s clutchness

In the bottom of the eighth after League got that key double play, the Cardinals brought in Pat Neshek. We saw him briefly in game 1. Now the game was tied, but at that point it felt like we were losing. It seemed like the Cardinals were just one more inning away from scoring again and putting the Dodgers in a hole that they would probably not be able to come out of. But Kemp just wasn’t going to let that happen.

The Bison led off the eighth inning, and crushed a Neshek offering deep into the left field Chavez Ravine night. It curled inside the foul pole to give the Dodgers a 3-2 lead. Finally the good vibes were back again. The Dodgers had new life and it was all thanks to Kemp. Bison pumped his fist while rounding the bases, and immediately hugged Howell in the dugout. Howell must have felt so much relief after Kemp hit that home run. At that point we knew it was probably over because the Dodgers had Kenley Jansen to close it out in the ninth. It’s important to note that that was just the sixth time and the fourth Dodger in the last 30 years to hit a go-ahead postseason home run in the eighth inning or later for the Dodgers.

Matt Kemp 2014 NLDS

Juan Uribe 2013 NLDS

Kirk Gibson 1988 World Series

Kirk Gibson 1988 NLCS- (twice)

Mike Marshall 1085 NLCS

Kenley Jansen closes out game 2

The Dodgers needed Kenley to get them a shutdown inning. (Credit TBS, shadow updates coming next) Kenley had no problems at all. He got yadier Molina to ground out, and then easily whiffed Wong and Grichuk to end the game. The Dodgers won and evened the series.

Momentum

I think it’s safe to say that if there is anything we’ve learned from watching these first two games, it’s this….momentum. In the postseason momentum is extremely important. If you don’t have it and you don’t play with energy, then you will be knocked out easily. Ask the Giants and Royals what they think about momentum. Not only are these games one game swings, but sometimes the momentum can shift from inning to inning, or at-bat to-at-bat. Everything is on the line. These games are very intense.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The series shifts to St. Louis for games 3 and 4 on Monday and Tuesday night. Game 3 will feature Hyun-jin Ryu versus John Lackey. The Dodgers were the best road team in Baseball during the regular season, but you can throw all that out the window when they have to win at least one game of two in the heart of a sea of screaming red colored fans. It’s going to be a mad house, and won’t be easy at all.

But Matt Kemp gave the Dodgers their momentum back. He gave us one last bubble filled celebration and got us back in the series. I’m thankful for that. For tonight, the Dodgers have the momentum back on their side. Let’s hope they can use that to shove some blue bubbles in the Red Bird’s faces. The Dodgers need some blue bubble momentum on Monday evening.

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