Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Dodgers a step behind in falling to 3-1 hole

On a night where the Dodgers celebrated the 25-year anniversary of Kirk Gibson's dramatic home run in the 1988 World Series, and where they grabbed back momentum from a big 3-0 win the previous night, they were looking to even up the NLCS.

Then they went out and laid an egg.

One miscue after another was too much for the Dodgers to overcome, and a mammoth 423-foot two-run shot by Matt Holliday put the Cardinals in control for an eventual win, 4-2.  The Cardinals are up 3-1 in this series, with the Dodgers getting one last game at home on Wednesday afternoon with Game 1 starters Zack Greinke and Joe Kelly taking the hill.

If the Dodgers were looking for a positive sign from Ricky Nolasco, then they got it with a great first inning including two popups in foul territory and a grounder to first.  Then he got through the second with only a walk and a couple strikeouts.  Too bad this positivity didn't last.

The start of the frustration for the Dodgers began in the second, when they couldn't capitalize with the bases loaded.  Andre Ethier singled, Yasiel Puig walked (yes, walked), and A.J. Ellis walked with two outs.  The problem was that this meant Nolasco was up next, and Lance Lynn easily struck him out.

Sure enough, the Cardinals made the Dodgers pay in the third.  Daniel Descalsco singled leading off, and Lynn sacrificed him over to second on a great bunt.  The ice cold Matt Carpenter hit an RBI double to left center for the 1-0 lead.  Carlos Beltran grounded out for two down.

Had Nolasco kept the deficit at only one run, then things would've been fine.  But, Holliday took a flat inside fastball and just unloaded on a two-run bomb to left, going up 3-0.  You had a feeling that that could be a dagger.

The only time the Dodgers managed to get runners not only on but in was in the fourth.  It started when Adrian "Mickey Mouse" Gonzalez doubled to right.  Ethier then walked, which set up an RBI single up the middle from Puig to make it 3-1.  Juan Uribe flied out to deep right, which advanced Ethier to third, and Ellis's RBI single made it 3-2.

Don Mattingly then called upon Skip Schumaker to hit for Nolasco in the big spot, even this early in the game.  It didn't work.  Schumaker bounced into an easy double play to end the inning.  Looking back, having Nolasco lay down the sacrifice bunt would've been better, or maybe calling on Scott Van Slyke to swing for the fences and at least getting a sacrifice fly.

Chris Withrow pitched the fifth and sixth, and the bottom line is that he didn't give up a run.  It wasn't pretty, as he had three walks and a balk.  Even Ellis got nailed for catcher's interference.  A double play from David Freese ended the sixth.

The double play ball struck again in the sixth, as Uribe grounded into one to the end inning, wasting Puig's one-out single.

The most unlikely sight took place in the seventh, as the Cardinals added a solo home from Shane Robinson on a ball that bounced off the top of the wall in left and into the crowd.  How unlikely was it?  Robinson has five home runs in 342 career at-bats, and then this happened.  Unbelievable.

Nick Punto took over for a clearly hurting Hanley Ramirez to start the seventh, and in his first at-bat, doubled with an out in the bottom of the inning.  That was great, right?  Well, it was until he was picked off of second in a truly pitiful sight.  It wasn't even close.

Nothing happened for the Dodgers in the eighth, but Ethier greeted closer Trevor Rosenthal with a single in the ninth.  Puig came up next, already looking like a new man after a disastrous first two games.  Here, though, he hit into... you guessed it, a double freakin' play.  Uribe struck out to end it.

There are quite a few ways the Dodgers could've at least tied the game, but time and time again, they came up short.  Nolasco was a bit of a mixed bag, as he certainly wasn't awful, but not very good either.  He lasted four innings for three hits, three runs, one walk, and four strikeouts. 

The middle relief only gave up one run in five innings, even if it was a bumpy ride along the way.  J.P. Howell was the one who gave up the homer to the weak-hitting Robinson, not that it mattered in the end since the Cardinals had enough of a lead anyway.  Carlos Marmol saw his first playoff action by getting five outs and only allowing one walk, striking out three.

So while the pitching ranged from decent to good, the offense was terrible again.  They simply are not doing what it takes to win games at this level.  They gathered eight hits, which is actually two more than the Cardinals.  But, they grounded into three double plays, which were just killer.  Schumaker's and Uribe's both ended innings, and Puig's came in the ninth.

What's even more interesting is that the Cardinals are hitting .148 this series, yet are in full control.  The Dodgers aren't much better at .223, so it's safe to say both teams have been pretty bad at the plate.  Yet, when the big play has to be made, there's the Cardinals executing, and the Dodgers not.

All the Dodgers can now ask for is to win three straight games, which they're certainly capable of doing.  If Mattingly was given the choice of lining up his three best pitchers for a situation like this, he would definitely choose Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, and Hyun-Jin Ryu.  That's who we'll see as they desperately try to stay alive.

A win on Wednesday would also start to put some doubt in the Cardinals' heads about blowing a 3-1 lead to the Giants last year.  But if that's ever going to happen, the offense has got to score more than the 1.8 runs they've averaged through four games.  If they can't support their pitchers, then the season will be over.

No comments: