Last night, the Los Angeles Dodgers returned to Busch Stadium to face the St. Louis Cardinals. The two teams have a somewhat extensive postseason history, but for now, I want to focus on one of the more exhilarating games of the modern run of Cardinals success: Game 1 of the 2013 National League Championship Series.
The Cardinals had just survived a hotly-contested NLDS against their division rivals, the Pittsburgh Pirates. During the season, they had won 97 games; this was hardly the 2006 edition of the Cardinals merely limping into the playoffs. However, the Dodgers appeared to be a frightening opponent. In addition to having just defeated a very good Atlanta Braves team (life comes at you quick), the Dodgers had a 92 win season after having a 30-42 record at one point. In their final 90 games of the season, the Dodgers went 62-28. That's a 112 win pace. That's pretty good! Also, their top two pitchers were Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Ooooh boy!
Greinke started Game 1, while Joe Kelly, who was reaching his peak of his ERA outperforming his peripherals, took the mound for the Cardinals. Now, the prototypical (or perhaps stereotypical) Joe Kelly start involved many pitchers per inning, high-90s fastballs that somehow did not translate into many strikeouts, several walks and hits allowed, and yet not a ton of runs allowed.
Kelly had a good start, though not a great one. Six innings, two walks, five strikeouts, and two earned runs. Greinke had a better start, going eight innings, issuing one walk and ten strikeouts. But he also allowed two earned runs. Each allowed his two runs in the third inning, the Dodgers scoring two off of a Juan Uribe single and the Cardinals scoring two off of a Carlos Beltran double.
But the teams held serve from that point forward. For the Cardinals, Randy Choate, Seth Maness, and Carlos Martinez pitched a combined two innings of shutout baseball. In the 9th inning, the team's pseudo-closer, Trevor Rosenthal, took the mound. The top of the 9th went swiftly, with Rosenthal striking out two Dodgers swinging while inducing a third out on a fly ball. The Cardinals were unable to score in the bottom of the ninth, so extras came. The top of the 10th did not go as smoothly.
The second batter of the inning, future Cardinal Mark Ellis, hit a line drive triple into center field. Following an intentional walk to Hanley Ramirez, who managed an otherworldly 189 OPS+ during the regular season, Michael Young came to the plate and hit a fly ball to right field. Any outfielder in the world (not just in professional baseball) could have made the out, but the running on third scoring would have been devastating to the Cardinals. But before we relive what happened on that play, a few notes:
- Yes, Beltran "called off" Jon Jay, but that ball was Beltran's all the way. Jon Jay had a few defensive lapses during the 2013 postseason, but this was not one of them.
- You know, I don't even care, whatever, let's watch Carlos Beltran hunt down Mark Ellis like a ten-point deer (admittedly, my ruralisms need some workshopping, but I think this is an okay attempt).
Carlos Beltran, you beautiful man.
John Axford caused some concern with his 11th inning, after allowing a walk to Andre Ethier and a single to A.J. Ellis. But after another ex-Cardinal, Nick Punto, struck out, the Cardinals got another crack at it.
The Cardinals did not exploit these opportunities gifted to them. But Lance Lynn survived the 12th and 13th innings and yet again, the Dodgers were unable to capitalize. And in the 13th inning, following a Pete Kozma lineout, Daniel Descalso managed a single, and Matt Carpenter (because some things never change) walked. And then, the hero of the 10th inning for the Cardinals, Carlos Beltran, came to the plate.
My lungs are still sore from the 13th inning. My hand is still numb from high-fiving during the 10th inning. It was a fun Friday against the Dodgers.
And speaking of Fridays against the Dodgers, here's what happened yesterday.
The day after a huge home run against the San Diego Padres, I wrote about Stephen Piscotty's defense. After a 2015 season in which Cardinals right fielder Jason Heyward was lavished with praise for his defense, it only seemed fair to all parties involved to consider the entirety of Piscotty's baseball skills.
Speaking of Thursday night's heroes, Lil Scooter wrote a bit of Aledmys Diaz fanfic. And, as she has established from first-hand experience, Aledmys Diaz smells nice.
Ebo wrote yesterday's prospect report. If you only care about Alex Reyes (which, if you have to pick priorities, he's not a bad choice), he went 5 2/3 innings, walking four and striking out five. If you care about other guys, too, check the link.
Craig Edwards wrote about how the Cardinals should destroy the Dodgers (side note: seeing angry responses to the bi-weekly "Cardinals should destroy the..." posts is my favorite thing in the world since Sideshow Bob getting hit by the rakes: it just gets exponentially better as it goes). Later, after the game, a recap was written by mister_manager. Not spoil it too much, but the baseball was very good. Perhaps somewhat reminiscent of a late-inning affair three years ago with the Los Angeles Dodgers. See, this post went full-circle! It wasn't just a way to fill space.
This huge series continues tonight and tomorrow night. It should be fun. Enjoy it.