In the long line of unlikely post-season heroes of recent vintage, from Pete Kozma to So Taguchi to Anthony Reyes, Matt Adams isn't going to be ranked too highly in our memories on the shock scale. But when you add the factor that Clayton Kershaw was the opposing pitcher when Matt Adams hit his game-winning homerun early this evening, Adams seems a very unlikely hero indeed. The lefty first baseman hit .190/.231/.298 off all left handed pitchers this year, and Kershaw held all lefty batters to a .190/.225/.252 line on the season.
None of that mattered when Adams put a 73 mph Kershaw curve into the Cardinal bullpen.
The Dodgers scored their two runs in the sixth inning. Miller gave up a lead-off single to Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez singled through the right-side hole, moving Crawford to third. Crawford scored when Matt Kemp ground into a double-play, but then Shelby hit Hanley Ramirez' jersey and walked Ethier. Mike Matheny brought in Seth Maness, and Juan Uribe lined a single on the first pitch, scoring Ramirez and moving Ethier to third base. The next pitch got away from Yadier Molina a short way, but he recovered quickly and caught Ethier off the third base bag, ending the inning.
A remarkable thing about the Cardinals' seventh was that all three hits were barely hits. Holliday hit a moderately hard chopper up the middle, Peralta hit a moderately hard liner that Hanley Ramirez got leather on, but couldn't quite reach with enough of glove to reel it in, and Adams' homer barely cleared the wall. A few inches is no exaggeration; the trio of plays that gave the Birds the win were all very close to being something different.
Some key points:
- Shelby Miller pitched very well for five innings. He didn't throw a lot of curves, but he commanded his fourseam and twoseam fastballs, mostly dominating the Dodgers until the sixth.
- I thought Kershaw looked rough early despite great results, then settled down for several excellent innings. He batted for himself in the top of the seventh after throwing 94 pitches. Eight pitches into the bottom of the frame, the Cardinals had the lead and Kershaw was gone.
- In a series full of questionable managing decisions, game four was no different. I thought Maness was a poor call with two outs and a runner in scoring position, when contact was the last thing the Birds wanted. And of course Yasiel Puig did not bat tonight, and in fact he was used as a pinch runner while Justin Turner batted with one out in the ninth. That is utterly mind-blowing. And Carlos Martinez and Kenley Jansen, who I think are maybe and definitely the best relievers on their teams, respectively, didn't pitch in tonight's close game. They each had just a lone appearance in the series. It's somehow not surprising, but as irrational as ever, that the Dodgers had a shaky pen all series, yet they head home for the winter with their best reliever throwing just eighteen pitches in all of one inning.
- Trevor Rosenthal struggled with command, walking A.J. Ellis, and nearly walking Justin Turner.
- I feel like I need to mention that this was one of the worst broadcasts I've ever seen. There was poor camera work, an at-bat that was not televised in some markets, endless blathering by the announcers long after things were relevant (somewhere, Harold Reynolds is telling his dog about shadows), and a broadcast crew who failed to explain quickly that a missed call was not eligible for review (a Kolten Wong chopper that he contacted in the box and therefore should have been called foul, but was ruled in play). FSMW on an average day was significantly better, and that's not meant as hyperbole.
- But who cares? Cards win!
- Speaking of, this is updated pending the Giants/Nats series. The Cardinals are 10-2 all time in the NLDS, and will be making their ninth appearance in the NLCS since 2000.
There is plenty more to break down, but I have some celebrating to do. There will be more analysis up tomorrow, and a new team to think about when the Nationals and Giants finish their series. My initial thinking is that the Cardinals are slightly better than the Giants, against whom they would have homefield advantage, and slightly worse than the Nationals, against whom they would not. But the Dodgers were slightly better than the Cardinals, and here we are. Again.