West Coast games do have a certain intrinsic charm, at least on the face of them. You are watching baseball at hours that you normally don’t, seeing some teams that aren’t overly familiar. That charm usually fades away about 11:00 or so, when the length of the day begins to grab at you. So what do the Cardinals do? They decide to do their favorite 2017 thing–play extra innings!
I’ll admit up front I saw the beginning of this game and what should have been the end, but everything else I’m going by box scores and recaps, which really isn’t that much different than a lot of my posts. The entire reason this was actually a game is due to the pitching staff of the Cardinals, most notably Lance Lynn. Lynn made a mistake in the first inning, allowing a solo shot to Yasmani Grandal, but put a lot of the current “hit a wall” fears to rest by going eight innings and allowing a total of two hits, the second of which game in the eighth along with one of his two walks. So that mean from the homer with two outs in the first to Chase Utley‘s single with one out in the eighth, only one Dodger batter reached base.
An impressive feat, of course, but when you are going up against Clayton Kershaw, one mistake could be the difference in the ballgame. For all of Kershaw’s vaunted failures against the Cardinals, that’s pretty much been confined to the postseason. The regular season, he’s pretty much the same pitcher that’s considered the best in baseball. Through eight innings, he had matched Lynn with allowing just two hits and had walked no one. Unlike Lynn, however, he came out for the ninth and made his mistake. Which cost a number of Cardinal fans some hours of sleep.
I’ll be honest–I had the TV and was watching to see how the game ended. I had almost tweeted out an inning earlier that this might be the rare West Coast game that ended not long after a regular game, since both pitchers were mowing folks down. (Glad I didn’t make that mistake!) Randal Grichuk singled, but my eyes were getting heavy. They opened to see Tommy Pham ground out, but closed again. The next time they bounced open, Grichuk was scoring and I was really confused. It took the replay to show that Grichuk had scored from second on Kershaw’s wild pitch, which is an incredible play helped by the generous foul ground at Dodger Stadium. You wonder how much his commitment to score there was influenced by that game in New York against Aroldis Chapman, where he stopped at third and was stranded.
While it wound up working out in multiple ways, both the fact that Lynn got out of the jam and that you saved an out on a bullpen that was going to need it, I still think leaving Lynn out there in the eighth was a questionable call. He started the frame with 99 pitches, I believe, and I understand him going out there given the way he was throwing. He got an out, then allowed the single to Utley. The bullpen was warming and while I wouldn’t necessarily have wanted to see Brett Cecil, Matthew Bowman was out there next to him.
He gets Yasiel Puig to ground out, but then walks, on four pitches, Kershaw. At this point, he’s around 120 pitches, which is a load for anyone, but most especially someone coming off Tommy John surgery. Walking the pitcher there would seem to indicate that he’s about out of gas. Mike Matheny goes to the mound and I expect he’s going to bring in Bowman. Instead, he leaves Lynn out there. Lynn strikes out Logan Forsythe for his 10th strikeout and it all works out, but I’m not sure if that’s not an example of bad process, good results.
For as much praise as you can give the pitching staff–save maybe Jonathan Broxton, who got the first two he faced before a walk and a walk-off double, but when you get to the 13th, that’s going to happen I think–you can scorn the offense. I get it, Kershaw’s tough. You don’t expect to get much off of him. However, to go four extra innings and manage one hit? One single hit? And no walks? Again, I didn’t watch it–after Grichuk scored I knew I had to get some sleep–but was everyone going up there trying to end it in one swing? That’s a pretty miserable showing. I mean, I guess the Dodgers did basically the same thing, so maybe it was just a night where all the pitchers ate their Wheaties, but still, seems unlikely you are going to win if you can’t get runners on base.
We’ll give the Hero to Lynn (even though I was tempted to reward Grichuk’s, well, heroics) and the Goat will go to…man, when three guys have an 0-5 night, it’s not easy. However, our typical rule of thumb here is that the leadoff man breaks ties, so we’ll give it to Dexter Fowler. Fowler didn’t go last night–whether that was reflected in the rest of the outing or it wouldn’t have mattered, I don’t know.
(Can I also say it’s interesting–understandable, but interesting–to read our friend Scott saying the Dodgers can’t do anything with left-handers and not see any of the three lefties on the staff get into the game last night? Again, I don’t question any choice of personnel Matheny made, save maybe Broxton, because that would seem to be a place to use Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons since he can go multiple frames, but it’s just an interesting point to make.)
Also, this was the seventh extra-inning game of the season, a season that is just over seven weeks old. For a frame of reference, last year’s squad also played seven extra-inning games….in the ENTIRE YEAR. Perhaps the 2015 season is more relevant, though. They played 16 extra inning games that year. That team had outstanding pitching, which kept the score low enough, but not enough offense to really take advantage of it. This year isn’t that good, of course–no way this team wins 100 games–but you can probably blame the fact that this is the third 13-inning game this week on that. Man, maybe MLB did know what they were doing when they put in all those off days!
You had to expect to lose the Kershaw game, but the Cards can still take the series. That means that they’ll need a good start out of Mike Leake, which they’ve been fortunate to get most every time out this season. Leake’s not gone less than six innings in any of his starts and gone seven four times, including his last outing against the Red Sox where he gave up two runs in his last inning of work. Historically, he’s done pretty well against these LA hitters also.
Rich Hill, whose full name may well be “oft-injured Rich Hill”, goes for the Dodgers. Hill’s only made three starts this season and his last time out was his first after returning from the disabled list. He limited the Giants to one run in five innings, so odds are he’s going to be good but also that the Cardinals will be getting into the Dodger bullpen pretty early. We’ll see if that makes a difference!
For a guy that’s been around the league a long time, the Cards don’t have much experience with him. Surely that won’t be a problem, though, right?