The Cardinals lost, but so would you against Clayton Kershaw.
It's been a roller coaster of a season for Shelby. Today was no different.
Shelby's fastball and curveball were both very strong pitches most of the day, and his command was as good as Shelby's command ever is--that's to say, in five innings he struck out four and walked three. He allowed no hits to the Dodgers the first time through the order, and the fact that I bring that up will--if I'm doing this right--telegraph to you that he did NOT pitch so well the second and third times through the order.
Let's take a look at Shelby's three PAs versus Yasiel Puig, for example:
- First inning: Shelby threw fastball (swinging strike), curveball (swinging strike), fastball (ball outside), fastball (strikeout looking).
- Fourth inning: two curveballs that Puig swung through, three more curveballs for balls (the second of which probably should've been called a strike), and a fastball low for a walk.
- Fifth inning: pitchout (Yadi threw Dee Gordon out stealing), and curveball that Puig jumped on for a double. There were two outs at this point. The Dodgers would score four more runs in the inning.
So how can a pitcher with a great fastball and a very good curveball (today, anyway) end up allowing six runs? The problem, as I see it, was that Shelby had no third pitch to show hitters. In that third at-bat Puig guessed curve--and why not? It was absolutely going to be either a curveball or a fastball. And the curve that Shelby threw was actually pretty good! It should've been a bit farther outside, but it was low in the zone. So while the double was in part a good piece of hitting by Puig, Shelby made it much easier for him by dint of his limited arsenal. That's not a new criticism of Shelby, of course, but it's worth noting that it's still valid, and it's still keeping him from becoming a good starting pitcher.
Incidentally, the only changeup Shelby threw all day was hit for a three-run homer by Andre Ethier. So that's why he doesn't throw many changeups.
Having said that, it really wasn't a terrible performance by Shelby at all, at least not until Ethier's home run put the game entirely out of reach. Like Lance Lynn's start last night, his team did not support him on offense or defense.
The Fourth Inning
Shelby walked Puig to start off the inning. Adrian Gonzalez then bunted for a single down the third-base line, as the Cardinals were shifted to the right side. (And while yes, that bunt was made possible by the shift, Gonzalez also had a hit taken away by the shift in the seventh inning, when he hit a hard liner that bounced in front of Ellis in short right field, who threw Gonzalez out at first.)
Matt Kemp then bloop-lined a hit over Mark Ellis's glove and to Peter Bourjos in center. Bourjos decided to throw home--it was the wrong decision, because the runner rounding third when Bourjos was winding up to throw was Yasiel Puig, the Yasiel Puig who is one of the fastest baserunners in the majors. A better throw than the one Bourjos made would've gotten him, but Bourjos's throw was up the third-base line, where, for some reason I can't grok, Shelby was himself standing, thus blocking Yadier Molina's view of the throw and preventing him from catching the ball and throwing to third--where Gonzalez was now headed on account of Bourjos's decision to go home. Here:
I mean, get out of the WAY, Shelby. All-star catcher at WORK HERE.
The next batter blooped a would-be hit to center that Bourjos raced to and caught for the first out of the inning. Juan Uribe hit a sac fly to deep center, Shelby walked A.J. Ellis, and Miguel Rojas popped out to second to end the inning.
The fifth inning (Shelby's last) was more of the same, with a mix of poor luck and Dodgers hitters figuring out his arsenal. The Dodgers took a 6-0 lead, which is how it ended.
The Cardinals Offense Clayton Kershaw
Forget everything above, because truly it hardly mattered at all. Not in this game, not against the best pitcher in the world at the height of his powers. Kershaw's devastating curveballs described an arc that spelled out lasciate ogne speranza.
7.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 13 K. Kershaw dropped his ERA to 2.04, which is half a run ABOVE his fielding-independent numbers. He has produced 3.2 fWAR in 79 innings, which is more than what Adam Wainwright has produced in almost forty more innings. Adam Wainwright is one of the best pitchers in the world.
Clayton Kershaw is phenomenal, he is the best and he is without weakness really--EXCEPT!
Carpenter went single-single-double-strikeout against Kershaw today. So now you know what "owning Clayton Kershaw" looks like.
Another curious thing, though: when Carpenter doubled with two outs in the fifth inning--the game was still close, so a runner reaching second base was cause for celebration--he turned to the Cardinals' dugout and made one of those hand signals that now seem to be de rigeur. But this one was new and different:
I mean descríbame loco but is that possibly an...El Gallo signal?
Behold the birth of the RALLY COXCOMB.
- Yadi threw out Dee Gordon again, this time on a pitchout.
- Seth Maness relieved Shelby in the sixth. Jason Motte pitched the eighth. Neither allowed a run.
- Jorge Rondon made his major-league debut, with a scoreless seventh inning. Welcome to the bigs, Jorge! Please don't walk Matt Kemp again!
- With the Dodgers' win and the Giants' loss, those two teams are now tied for the NL West lead, which is bananas considering the Giants had a 9.5-game lead exactly three weeks ago. It kind of makes the fact that the Reds and Pirates are about to overtake the Cardinals in the Central seem less impressive, right?
The Cardinals have Monday off but start a series in San Francisco Tuesday at 7:15 central, Marco Gonzales opposing Tim Lincecum.