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The Cardinals visit L.A. & Clayton Kershaw on May 25th, in the year 2017

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A true pitcher’s duel can still only have one winner...

The Cardinals faced the Dodgers for the first time in 2017 on May 23rd. Each franchise had been slightly underperforming, with 19 wins a piece. However, the Dodgers have had 4 more matches under their collective belts this year, and had won each of those 4. Who would be the first team to reach 20 losses?

Many things had changed, namely Matt Adams gone, the poster boy for hitting Clayton Kershaw (at least in the postseason). How would the current Cardinals fare vs a starting pitcher throwing at 2.15 ERA and likely headed to the Hall of Fame some day? Well Kershaw was still for real, with all sabermetric rate stats below 3.0.

But Lance Lynn has been pretty effective post-surgery too, right? A 2.78 ERA seems real nice and also below the 3.0 threshold, but Lance’s traditional statline belies some scary FIP numbers and a not-so-shiny SIERA. Lance Lynn has been what they call real lucky this year so far (BABIP-wise). His strikeouts have been down a notch and his walk rate remains not-miniscule.

So far, the Cardinals have seemed to be a middling team on offense and definitely not truly effective at defense and/or run prevention. Meanwhile the Dodgers have been one of the best hitting teams in the National League, and also one of the elite hitting teams in all of baseball. L.A. also has been effective at defense, so the Cardinals definitely had their work cut out for them tonight.

The actual pregame mentioned the Dodgers Cody Bellinger... and also mentioned the words Rookie of the Year. His amazing hitting skills so far back up the idea, as he has had an elite combination of above average power and on-base percentage. Then the announcers showed Dexter Fowler, but I am not sure why as I blasted Don Caballero’s discography out of my speakers. Fowler has been a bit of a letdown, overall, so far. He is not getting on base as advertised, but in his defense he has had bad luck babip and has at least hit some home runs for a silver lining.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Los Angeles Dodgers
Lance Lynn is a good starting pitcher
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

To start the game, Kershaw mowed down a couple Cardinals, including Fowler. Then another. The best pitcher of our times. History in the making. Good luck, Cardinals.

Clayton K continued to mow down opposing batters, as he is wont to do. The postseason may not be his friend, but the regular season is his domain. He is the quintessential Ace. The Cardinals in the second inning actually looked a little better though, a tiny bit of progress perhaps.

Lance Lynn worked the zone a bit more and was able to retire the side to keep the game close and winnable. But then Kershaw showed his superiority again, the Cardinals average-ish offense not quite being able to connect.

Kershaw then acted like he really wanted to collect a hit vs Lance Lynn in the 3rd, with one out. Clayton battled verses Lance, not going away too quietly until he struck out for Lynn’s 4th K.

The game’s rhythm became set with this back and forth between the 2 pitchers. The innings were flying by as I drank my Kentucky bourbon from Trader Joe’s. Lynn walked Grandal in this inning, as Carlos Martinez looked on wistfully from the dugout, waiting for his next start.

With the help of a generous strike zone, the Cardinals were almost automatic outs against Kershaw. To try to gain a chance, the Cardinals contested an out call on Peralta, but he still looked possibly out to the eye, and this was confirmed by New York.

Well, the best part about this game was that Lance Lynn held his own vs the staunch Dodgers lineup. And Aledmys Diaz finally cracked the Kershaw shell in the sixth inning. I knew he was dialing it in vs Clayton. And it was a double, no less.

Good thing though, Lance Lynn was still bearing down on Dodgers hitters, that one mistake the only difference between him and a legend. And he continued to push the envelope, striking out more batters!

Kershaw got real mad after messing up one pitch against Matt Carpenter. After that, Carp sent it way out, and the Dodgers almost drubbed it, but they somehow made the weirdest catch, together. Bellinger winning that particular battle.

Lynn also got some help from the expansive strike zone at times. He was also throwing a deceptive fastball tonight, at times only 92mph but still very effective. Lance Lynn won the first battle of the 7th. Bellinger was the 2nd battle. To help the cause, newly reactivated Stephen Piscotty made a wonderful defensive running catch to retire the battle of Bellinger.

Kershaw threw his 8th strikeout vs Yadier Molina in the 8th. Clayton continued to throw impossible to hit pitches up there in the proper order. His latest victim Jhonny Peralta. Another K. Kershaw JUST missed vs Aledmys Diaz, going 2-2. Then he tried low, attempting to get Diaz to chase. No dice. But he did it again, and it worked... Diaz looking utterly confused against a sweeping curveball in the dirt.

The next hit against Lance Lynn was by Chase Utley, and he had to battle for the single. And then a walk lead to dangerous territory and a Mike Matheny mound visit. Lynn convinced the team that he was still the go-to guy at the moment, so he faced Logan Forsythe. He threw a moving 92mph fastball around Forsythe’s bat. Maybe just with willpower alone.

Hope was rekindled with a Grichuk blisterer random on base hit, as he does sometimes with his laser liners, and things did progress... and, due primarily to Grichuk’s pretty ridiculous speed and baserunning, a run was scored as a result of a rare Clayton Kershaw wild pitch! Clayton Kershaw retired Piscotty to end the inning, but it was a whole new ballgame.

Rosenthal then entered the game, to keep things even. Jedd Gyorko made an impressive defensive play at second base to get that pesky batter out. Trevor pumped the zone with 99 mph fastballs, 99 mph fastballs, and 100 mph fastballs. It is so encouraging to see the guy back in form.

So, what we were dealing with was an extra inning game. And Kenley Jansen. The main point about this inning was that both Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig got roughed up to retire Yadier Molina after he hit a gapper out to right center.

Matt Bowman was brought in next for the 10th inning. Throwing offspeed pitches with movement and pummeling the strike zone works sometimes. But veteran voodoo artist Chase Utley was up. Bowman painting the black himself on the first pitch, throwing something unhittable. And then something just as unhittable but somehow more beautiful. I was a Matt Bowman skeptic for a while, but lately I have been convinced. He is a stellar addition to the bullpen.

Utley didn’t bite for strike 3. What looked to be strike 3 was a ball according to the questionable umpiring tonight. However, Matt Bowman further worked his bullpen pitcher magic and made Chase look the fool. On to more baseball, the 7th Cardinals extra inning affair in 2017.

Bowman remained in the game for the Cardinals, their first line of defense. He was still pretty good, being pushed to more work than usual, perhaps. And yet, he at times looked even better than the inning prior. Bowman faced some difficulty and was left in, with 2 outs. There was an errant pickoff throw by Molina involved, which made the game much tighter all the sudden.

The last hope for the 12th inning was the 0 for 4 Stephen Piscotty. Piscotty finally hit a lil’ squibbler in this inning, and he was able to beat it out due to a bad throw to first. The stage was set for reliever Avilan vs Carpenter. However, Avilan seemed to have Matt C’s number. And eventually it was yet another Cardinals hitter mowed down by Dodgers pitching.

Seung Hwan Oh started out in fine form, seeming more confident and accurate than usual in 2017. He made Bellinger look real bad while dealing the Cardinals 16th strikeout of Dodger hitters. By the time Seung Hwan Oh was done executing his final boss moves, he had 4 strikeouts in a row, and the Cardinals had tallied 18 Ks as a team.

Jedd Gyorko was also 0-4 on the night, but he battled to a full count. Then, he rapped one up the middle that he nearly beat out, but the Dodgers shortstop was able to get him out by a split second. Yadier Molina then had a chance to make up for some blunders earlier in the game, and... Unfortunately he didn’t, and neither did the other Cardinals hitters get on base.

The Dodgers then won it in 13 thanks to a Logan Forsythe hit. The 5th Cardinals extra inning loss in 2017. How frustrating.

WPA Graphs

Noteworthy

  • Logan Forsythe and Clayton Kershaw won the game for the Dodgers
  • Outside of Forsythe, the entire Dodgers lineup was negative WPA
  • 19 strikeouts for Cardinals pitching to 14 from Dodgers pitching
  • 4 Cardinals hits to 3 Dodgers hits, yet still a loss
  • the Cardinals are 2-5 in extra inning games in 2017
  • both Lynn and Kershaw struck out 10 batters!
  • the Cardinals walked 5 while the Dodgers walked none
  • there was a collision in the outfield that looked like we could find out that either or both of Pederson/Puig could be injured, but how bad? Or at all? Was tough to tell.

Tune in next time for better results? Another after 9pm start time coming at you from the west coast Wednesday night night night. I leave you with possibly THE great pitcher of our time, look at that magnificent bastard.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Los Angeles Dodgers
Ace
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports