Cardinals knock off another Dodgers ace
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha reacts after retiring the Los Angeles Dodgers during the sixth inning in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium. (Scott Rovak/USA TODAY Sports)
Nobody saw this coming, I mean nobody.
The Los Angeles Dodgers went with their two ‘aces’ to open the NLCS and despite the best efforts of Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw they came away with zero wins at Busch Stadium.
In Game 1 Greinke went eight innings and allowed two runs. On Saturday Kershaw went six and allowed one unearned run. It added up to two LA losses.
Thanks to a gutty performance by Cardinals rookie right-hander Michael Wacha who went pitch-for-pitch with Kershaw, St. Louis would emerge with a 1-0 victory to take an iron grip on the series.
St. Louis now heads to la-la land leading 2-0 in the best-of-seven NLCS with their own ‘ace” Adam Wainwright the starter for Game 3.
“We don’t get too far ahead of ourselves,” Cards manager Mike Matheny said of being up 2-0 against Greinke and Kershaw. “We don’t deny also what has happened here the last two days. Those were two very good wins, two very tough wins when you face starters like that.”
Offensively the Cardinals managed just two hits and scratched out the win as hard as that is to believe for Dodgers fans.
“When you go into the game today the way their pitcher was throwing and we get two hits, we end up leaving one guy on base and that was the first guy of the game,” Matheny said of good fortune riding with his club. “Those situations typically come back and bite you.”
But not this day.
Then there’s these stats to mull over.
In NLCS history, teams that open a 2-0 lead have gone on to win the series nine of 10 times. On top of that, going back to Game 1, it marked the 13th time a Game 1 in a League Championship Series has gone to extra innings. The 12 previous Game 1 extra-inning winners went 12-0 in those series.
So, history says the Dodgers are cooked even though they will be the host of the next three games scheduled for Monday and Tuesday and if necessary, Wednesday.
Offensively, the Dodgers just haven’t got it done. After the two games they are 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position. On Saturday they were without the services of centre fielder Andre Ethier (left ankle) and shortstop Hanley Ramirez (ribs) and that hurt.
“I think you could see early on it was going to be a tough day to score,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “Obviously we had a couple of chances, the bases loaded situation and weren’t able to capitalize there. Didn’t have a whole lot of chances but we had a few. So I give them some credit and also we’ve just got to be able to execute with men on third.”
Wacha was once again sensational and the former Texas A&M Aggie has been on quite a roll.
In his final regular-season game he lost a no-hit bid against Washington with two out in the ninth. He came back in the NLDS against Pittsburgh and lost both his no-hit bid and shutout in the eighth.
This game he went 62/3 scoreless innings, gave up five hits, walked one and struck out right.
It was the sixth inning where the game shifted in the Cards favour for good and when Wacha was at his best.
With the bases loaded, one out and clinging to a 1-0 lead, he struck out both Yasiel Puig and Juan Uribe to end the inning.
“It comes down to a young pitcher being put on the big stage in high leverage situations and making pitches,” Matheny said. “The way this kid has gone about it has been — it’s really hard to describe. I don’t want to keep describing it because I’d like to watch it happen a few more times.
“But he is going about it the right way, there is no question. Just watching him continue to improve is pretty impressive.”
If, indeed, the sixth inning was a test for Wacha’s poise he passed with flying colours.
“We’ve been talking about the ultimate test here for quite a while,” Matheny said of Wacha. “We pitch him down the stretch he gets one out away from a no-hitter with the fans going crazy and we throw him in Pittsburgh and he continues to answer.
“Throw him in the National League Championship Series and he continues to throw the same way. I hope he sees it as a test and continues to go about it like a test if that’s what it takes, because whatever he’s doing, we don’t want to change anything.”
The lone run of the game came in the fifth when Jon Jay, after fouling a suicide squeeze bunt lofted a shallow fly to left to the player with the worst arm in baseball — Carl Crawford.
Freese tagged and raced home and Crawford’s weak throw fluttered to the mound.
The Dodgers will use Sunday’s off day to regroup.
“We need to go back home,” Mattingly said. “What do they say in the NBA, the playoffs don’t start until you lose one at home. We’re hoping to be able to regroup.
“It doesn’t get any easier for us in Wainwright but our guy’s (Hyun-Jin Ryu) pretty good too, so we’ll try to regroup and put it back together in L.A.”
The Los Angeles Dodgers are struggling offensively and topping the list is their flashy rookie right fielder Yasiel Puig.
Puig came into the post-season with plenty of well-earned fanfare off his regular-season stats and his contributions in the NLDS against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
But after the opening two games of the NLCS, Puig has done absolutely nothing, going a combined 0-for-10 with six strikeouts. In Game 2 he struck out in all four of his at-bats and looks to be both pressing and confused.
“Yeah, obviously he’s frustrated I think,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said of his struggling rookie. “Yadier (Molina, the Cards’ catcher) does a good job back there of yo-yoing him, showing him enough breaking balls and showing him the fastball and it’s back to the breaking ball. So Yadier is doing a nice job as far as yo-yoing him back and forth and keeping him in the rocking chair.
“That’s where I think we see his inexperience kind of come up, how to handle what’s going on and what he’s looking for.”
Do you think the Dodgers can come back to win the NLCS?