Detroit in 1968. Kansas City in 1985. Atlanta in 1996. San Francisco in 2012. As nice as a 3-1 lead is, if there is any team that realizes that it’s not completely the safe haven it’s made out to be, it’s St. Louis.
(I can’t help but to hear the title being said by Princess Leia. I wanted to work in Han Solo’s rejoinder: “It is for me, sister. Look, I ain’t in this for your revolution and I’m not in it for you, Princess. I expect to be well-paid. I’m in it for the money,” but it just doesn’t quite fit. However, I digress.)
That being said, it was surely nice to win last night’s game, as nerve-wracking as it was. Matt Holliday and Shane Robinson came up huge–many are still wondering if Holliday’s homer has landed yet–and it put them in the best possible position, needing to beat just one of Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-jin Ryu. While they may need every one of those chances, you’d much rather needing one win than two in that stretch.
Lance Lynn was his normal frustrating self last night. I get that the advanced metrics tell us that Lynn isn’t as bad as we think he is. There’s no doubt that he’s talented and can get outs, but it seems like it’s never a smooth outing. It looked like it might be last night, when he moved into the fourth with hardly a scratch. Given that Lynn had never gone more than three innings in a postseason start, this looked promising when coupled with a 3-0 lead.
That promise disintegrated quickly and when it was all said and done, Lynn left the inning clinging to a one-run lead. Surprisingly, given the fact that the bullpen is deep and you still have people like Shelby Miller and Edward Mujica out there (at least, I assume they are–are we sure they made the trip from St. Louis), Matheny didn’t yank Lynn when he ran into trouble.
Not only did he not yank him, he let him hit in the top of the fifth. Proving that Matheny gets more breaks than anyone, Lynn walked and wound up moving to third in a unique way before getting stranded.
(Pitcher walk, wild pitch, catcher’s interference, balk, runner picked off of second. All of that in one game? And the Cards being the beneficiaries of it all? That’s why every baseball game is a unique snowflake!)
Given the short bench and the fact nobody was on, I figured Matheny might let Lynn hit and then replace him on the mound. Instead, he pitched a fairly clean fifth. So that was all for him, right? Had to be and might have been, had anyone but Matheny been managing. Instead, Lynn went out there for the sixth.
To his credit, as soon as Yasiel Puig singled with one out, Matheny went to the pen and brought in Double Play Seth Maness. Which is what he did–three pitches, two outs. Maness is amazing like that, you know? I have no idea how long he can keep this up in his career, but it’s awesome to say, “Hey, we need a double play, get Maness” and have him deliver.
After that, it was pretty anticlimatic. Robinson’s home run helped, because I felt confident that this bullpen wasn’t going to give up three runs. The bullpen in 3.2 innings, counting Maness’s outing, gave up two hits. One was erased on a pickoff, one on a double play. That eases the heartburn of fans quickly.
We still haven’t seen much out of the bats in this series. A lot of us expected the Cards to tee off on Ricky Nolasco and maybe they would have had the Dodgers not pinch-hit for him in the bottom of the fourth. Then again, save that third inning, Nolasco didn’t look like he was struggling a lot.
You have a whopping three people hitting over .250 and one of them is today’s starter, Joe Kelly, who went 1-2 in his Game 1 start. Daniel Descalso and Robinson, both whom have had limited at bats in this series, are the other two. After that, Yadier Molina is the big hitter with a .231 average. Matt Adams, who I’m quite fond of, has struggled to a 1-15 mark. Bunch of lefties, sure, but that still hurts.
It seems doubtful that they are going to come out and blow the doors off today against Greinke. We saw him have one bad inning in Game 1 and that was enough for St. Louis to tie things up. Other than that, he cruised and, being that the Dodgers resisted throwing him last night, comes into today on full rest.
That said, there are some positives for the Cardinals. Hanley Ramirez left yesterday’s game with that cracked rib and you figure he’s doubtful for today’s outing. The Dodgers used a lot of bullpen guys last night, which may make them less effective today. (Granted, if Greinke goes eight again, this is more of a moot point.)
I also figure there’s a strong mindset in the St. Louis dugout to get this done today. They know the history of the 3-1 lead–they lived it just last year. They know that Kershaw would be a tough nut to crack in Game 6, so a loss today almost assures a winner-take-all Game 7 and strange things happen in one-game playoffs. There’s going to be a focus and a dedication today. Will it be enough? It’s notable that in the one game the Dodgers won, focus and dedication could have been questioned. When they’ve played like they usually play, they’ve won. Not handily, not with any sort of empathy toward us stressed-out fans at home, but they’ve won.
Ironically, I think I’m more optimistic during the regular season than the playoffs, just because there is so little time in October. Joe and Wes in the Bonfyre have accused me of being a bit pessimistic. Seven games isn’t much and things change quickly. Plus I hate to get overly up because, as we’ve said, baseball is a humbling game. Start thinking it’s over and you’ll quickly find out it’s not. With the stakes so high and so close, sometimes I want to cushion myself from getting too excited.
All that said, I think they win today. My thought is that Kelly will be settled in and the fact that the Dodgers have seen him recently will be countered by the fact that he won’t be as tight as he was in Game 1. Sure, he could send the team to the Series (which has pressure in its own right) but he also knows they play again on Friday if he doesn’t succeed.
I think the injuries and depleted roster finally do the Dodgers in as well. Not having Ramirez is going to be a tough thing for them to overcome, especially in a tight game. If the Cardinals get a lead, I have a lot of confidence that the bullpen will be able to shut it down. There are positives for the Redbirds and I’m hopeful they’ll play out that way this afternoon.
Besides, we are all trying to do our part to save the planet, right? Let’s have just one jet flying across the country today instead of two. That’s gotta be worth something!
Enjoy the game this afternoon. Here’s hoping we’re talking about World Series plans tomorrow morning!