The stars aligned Saturday night in Dodger Stadium, and not a moment too soon.
With the Dodgers struggling to beat the NL's elite this season, it was time for the best players on the team to step up and lead the way. Clayton Kershaw, Yasiel Puig, and Kenley Jansen did just that. Kershaw pitched eight brilliant innings, Puig broke open a scoreless tie with an RBI double, and Jansen slammed the door shut in the Dodgers' 2-0 win over the Cardinals.
Let's take a look at all three of their performances:
* Kershaw (8 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 11 K). If you were looking for a "vintage Kershaw" start, then you got just that. With a sharp breaking ball and perfectly located fastball, the Cardinals were left off-balance all night. He's now won his last three starts, lowering his ERA nearly a full run to 3.36.
The key has been that he hasn't beaten himself. Earlier in the year, he could barely throw a fastball without it sailing over the fat part of the plate. Last night he was spotting it perfectly, mostly on the outside corner vs. right-handed hitters. He was just what the team needed on a night where the offense was mostly MIA... again.
* Puig (1-for-3, RBI double, run, 2 K's). The first couple of at-bats were ugly, as he struck out on barely any pitches. That all changed in the eighth. After Chris Heisey shockingly (and I do mean SHOCKINGLY) led off with a double, Puig hit a laser into right center for an RBI double, and the 1-0 lead. He soon scored on a single from Justin Turner for the game's only runs.
When Don Mattingly released his lineup for the night, it basically consisted of Joc Pederson, Puig, and a bunch of other names that did not include Adrian Gonzalez, Alex Guerrero, Andre Ethier, or Yasmani Grandal. It was definitely a head scratcher. Well, the offense only managed two runs on seven hits, but at least it was Puig showing his value already with the big blow. Who knows where he'll end up hitting with the way Donnie switches the batting order, but #3 looks good for now.
* Jansen (1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K). After going through a bit of controversy when he was unavailable during the collapse in Colorado on Wednesday, Jansen was at his best in the ninth for his sixth save in as many chances. He got two straight pop-ups to start the inning, then struck out Matt Holliday looking to end it. He hasn't given up a run yet this year. I'm pretty sure that means his ERA is 0.00. Yup, it does.
While Jansen is not a worry, the biggest issue for the Dodgers will be bridging the gap to him. Last night, it was Kershaw doing it himself, as he got through eight innings with a pitch count over 100. Do we start to see Jansen extending himself for more four-out, possibly even five-out saves? I wouldn't be against it as long as he's on the proper rest. Beats the heck out of watching some of these other clowns blow the lead.