The Dodgers got everything they could've hoped for out of Game 3 of the NLCS: a resurgent Hyun-Jin Ryu, a returning Hanley Ramirez, and an offense that finally got some clutch hits.
Add it all up, and it's a 3-0 victory for the Dodgers, who are now down 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. Game 4 will be Tuesday night in Dodger Stadium.
The odds were certainly stacked against the Dodgers for a variety of reasons, but none bigger than having to go through Cardinals' ace Adam Wainwright, who went the distance in finish off the Pirates in the do-or-die Game 5 of the NLDS. Throw in an anemic offense that went 22 innings between scoring, and Ryu not even lasting into the fourth his last start, and winning would be tough.
Fortunately for the Dodgers, Ryu more than brought his stuff. He walked Carlos Beltran on a full count in the first, then proceeded to retire the next 11 in a row. His location and velocity were a complete 180 degree turn from a week ago against the Braves.
The Dodgers were also being held in check before mercifully breaking through in the fourth. It started on a "double" to right center by Mark Ellis, though in fairness, it should've never happened if John Jay or Carlos Beltran even bothered to take control. Nonetheless, it was a break the Dodgers happily took.
Ramirez, who hit a bloop single in his first at-bat, flew out to right, advancing Ellis to third. Adrian Gonzalez then lined an RBI double to right, and it was 1-0. A groundout by Andre Ethier advanced Gonzo to third with two outs. The much maligned Yasiel Puig finally got a hit, and a big one at that, as his RBI triple made it 2-0. He certainly thought it was a home run when he first made contact, raised his arms in triumph, realized it wasn't, and still got to third. Unreal.
Ryu didn't give up a hit through four, but David Freese and Matt Adams greeted him with singles to start the fifth. Freese then had to be lifted for a pinch-runner, as he strained his calf during the at-bat. That runner turned out to be Daniel Descalso, who inexplicably ran way too far on a soft lineout to Crawford in left, causing him to be doubled up. A fielder's choice by Peter Kozma ended what would be the final true threat of the night for the Cards.
Brian Wilson relieved Ryu in the eighth, and after a single up the middle by Jay, nothing else came of it. That's now five scoreless postseason appearances for Wilson without allowing a run, as he also picked up his first hold.
The bottom of the eighth brought another insurance run thanks to some gutsy baserunning. Crawford and Ellis both singled with an out. Ramirez blooped another single into center, and Crawford aggressively ran home and just beat the tag of Yadier Molina on a close, but correct, call.
Kenley Jansen mowed through the heart of the Cardinals' order, getting Molina to ground to short to end it for his second postseason save.
The Cardinals are still the team in control of this series, but visions of last year's collapse could be dancing through their heads. If you recall, they flat out blew a 3-1 series lead against the Giants, who ended up sweeping the Tigers in the World Series. Maybe yes, maybe no, but it's natural to at least somewhat think about it.
Ryu was signed this past offseason for starts like this, as injuries to Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett meant he was the true #3 starter. He lasted lasted seven innings for three hits, no runs, one walk, and four strikeouts. Like I said before, his location was fantastic, and the Cardinals never could find any rhythm against him.
The story of the game for the Cardinals was all of their mental mistakes on both sides of the field. As pointed out by the TBS guys on the postgame show, Mike Matheny looked seething angry in his press conference, and with good reason. Two balls that landed in the outfield were costly, especially the one from Ellis that started the rally in the fourth. Then Descalso getting doubled up in the fifth, which was pathetic, quite frankly.
With the win, Don Mattingly can give the ball to Ricky Nolasco with much more breathing room than being down 3-0. Win or lose, he has to like his chances with Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, and Ryu slated to go in Game 5, 6, and 7, respectively.
Or, Mattingly can throw everything out of whack by pushing Greinke on short rest, just like Kershaw last round. I doubt it will happen, but you never know...
For now, we'll say it's Nolasco starting Tuesday night against Lance Lynn, who pitched the final two innings of the Cardinals' 3-2 win in 13 innings in Game 1. Nolasco hasn't pitched since tossing an inning of relief in the last regular season game on September 29, and hasn't started since getting pounded by the Giants on September 25. If anything, he's well-rested.