Game 1 of the NLCS was a microcosm of how this series is likely to unfold.
Zack Greinke was brilliant, allowing just four hits and a walk in eight innings. Joe Kelly wasn’t quite as good, allowing exactly double that total (eight hits and two walks in six innings) but was just as effective in terms of runs allowed. Each pitcher allowed two apiece before the game was passed into the hands of stingy bullpens that took the game into extra innings.
The Cardinals threatened, the Dodgers threatened, but both teams avoided giving up the go-ahead run until the Cardinals version of Mr. October, Carlos Beltran, singled to drive in Daniel Descalso in the bottom of the 13th inning. It was Beltran’s second hit of the night and those two hits drove in all three of St. Louis’ runs.
That should be worrying for Dodgers fans, though not depressingly so, but of all the pitching matchups in the first three games in this series, this was the one the Dodgers should have felt most sure of. But it’s way too early for the Dodgers or their fans to get worried.
That changes if the Dodgers lose Game 2. Being down two games to none and having to face Adam Wainwright in Game 3 would be a grim situation.
Luckily the Dodgers are turning to their ace to start today’s game. Clayton Kershaw, the inevitable 2013 NL Cy Young winner, has consistently been the best starter in the National League. He’s a guy who could be perfect on any given day. Over his last two starts, over 13 innings, Clayton has struck out 18 and allowed just one earned run.
Of course if Cardinals Game 2 starter Michael Wacha pitches the way he has the last two games he’s started, then maybe the Dodgers should worry. Wacha has given up just two hits and one run over his last two starts spanning 16 innings and also struck out 18.
It’s a matchup that on the surface screams pitching duel, maybe even one for the ages. That’s provided neither pitcher makes a mistake or stages a collapse as the game goes on, and in this often unpredictable game of baseball even aces get shelled occasionally.
Still based on their recent histories, a pitching duel seems far more likely. In that case the game may not hinge on the pitchers, but on the defense behind them and the ability of the hitters to capitalize on the one mistake that one hurler or the other, or their bullpen, will finally surrender.
Even with the series shifting to Los Angeles after this game, the Dodgers can’t afford to put themselves behind the eight ball so early the series, not when the Cardinals ace hasn’t yet had a turn. You hate to call Game 2 of a seven-game set a must win, but the truth in this case is that it’s awfully close.
The Dodgers need a hero, ideally two or three tonight in St. Louis. Eyes will be on their stars, Hanley Ramirez, Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, but remember it was Uribe who was the star in Game 4 of the NLDS against Atlanta. Maybe the little guys will be the key again tonight.
Someone better be or the Redbirds will be sitting pretty.
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