This is exactly where the Dodgers didn’t want to be.
Yes, it’s better than being down 3-0, but being down 3-1 isn’t really much of a comfort. The Cardinals have them on the ropes, and with Joe Kelly next in line to start, Michael Wacha on deck and Adam Wainwright poised to provide a finishing touch if needed in Game 7, the Cards are exactly where they want to be.
It’s a bad position to be in for the Dodgers. While they do have Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw lined up for the next two games, and possibly could ask Greinke to step up again for Game 7, the margin for error is razor thin.
And you could see the pain on Hanley Ramirez’s face as he played in Game 4. While he masked it well in Game 3, it was far too obvious that he is hurt and hurt badly. Every time he took a hack in Game 4 the agony was visible on his face. And Andre Ethier is a shadow of himself too.
Cardinal pitching has exposed a offense with some gaping holes. And while Ethier will play today, based on what we saw from Ramirez, I suspect he’ll start the game on the bench.
That suits the Redbirds just fine. For today the only obstacle in the Cardinals path to the World Series appears to be Zack Greinke -- a great pitcher who’ll spend the whole day walking on a tightrope unless the weakened Dodger offense can get to Joe Kelly.
And it’s an offense that has to be discouraged. Not only are they missing some of their best hitters, and not only do they have some of their best hitters hobbled, but it’s a great offense which has essentially been stifled by St. Louis’s pitching. They’ve scored a grand total of seven runs over four games. Not exactly inspiring, especially for a team that essentially coasted to an NL West title based on both offensive prowess and on dominating pitching.
And being outpitched isn’t something that the Dodgers are used to. Between Kersaw, Greinke, Ryu and Nolasco, they played the bullies from June on within their own division. They came into this series thinking they were essentially invulnerable, especially after picking apart the Braves.
Getting pushed around by Cardinals pitching at this point has to be rattling them mentally. And while some of them have come to terms, and started to come around, the majority of the Dodgers haven’t.
The Dodgers are going to have to play this day to day. There no longer is a margin for error. They can’t even afford to give their aces the opportunity to bail themselves out if they get into trouble early. It’s about survival and just what Greinke can give them today.
While he has the advantage of home field, a place he’s pitched exceptionally, he’s looking across the field at a guy who beat him in Game 1. And while Greinke is a great pitcher, you have to ask if he’s ever really faced a game with this much pressure on him? The answer is probably not.
Kelly, who faced all the pressure in Game 1, when he was asked to carry the team, has no pressure on him at all this time. He knows that even if he fails, he’s got Wacha and Wainwright behind him, and the Cards have two more chances to put the Dodgers away.
Kelly also knows that the Cardinals are coming off of their best offensive game of the series and that the Cardinals bats may finally be awakening. That has to be a good feeling for him. He knows just what he needs to do: pitch without fear and just be good enough to keep his offense in the game.
If he can do that the Cards will be celebrating late this afternoon.
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