The Dodgers had won fifteen straight road games coming into Busch III last night, while Joe Kelly had pitched almost fifteen scoreless innings since re-joining the starting rotation.
Immovable object, meet unstoppable force. Especially with Clayton Kershaw taking the ball for Los Angeles, Kelly would have to be great. The Cardinal offense would have to be equally strong. Inevitably, they got a little help from the bullpen and defense (and maybe a bit from Dodgers manager Don Mattingly too).
Kelly wriggled out of a couple of miscues behind him in the third inning before the Cards’ defense started to impact the game for the positive. The Redbirds doubled up the Dodgers four times on the evening, none more critical than in the top of the sixth, when “the ground-ball guy” Seth Maness induced an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded with Dodgers.
The top of the seventh began with another double, this time the threat neutralized by Tony Cruz‘ great play to pop out from behind the plate and gun down the runner at third on a Nick Punto sacrifice bunt. (Thanks Donnie Baseball!) Cruz has exhibited great defensive skill in replacing Yadier Molina, further emphasizing why John Mozeliak felt comfortable not making a move for a catcher at the non-waiver trade deadline after Molina went on the disabled list.
At this point, it’s still 2-1 Cardinals, a winnable game for either team, with Kershaw still doing Kershaw-ey things on the mound. Yet Mattingly opted to push his chips in, and opted for Skip Schumaker off of the bench. Mike Matheny responded with Kevin Siegrist and Schumaker was effectively neutralized. (And no one felt worse about it than Skip.)
In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Cardinals found ways to take advantage of the Dodger bullpen – namely Carlos Beltran and Matt Adams home runs off of Brandon League. (If you ever need a good chuckle, look up League’s contract.) 5-1 lead effectively put the game out of reach, and eliminated a save chance for Edward Mujica who came on to pitch a relatively uneventful ninth inning anyway.
So many options for hero in this game, from Beltran and Adams, to Cruz for his huge play cutting down the lead runner in the seventh, or Maness for ground balls. The clear choice though is the man who ran his scoreless innings streak to twenty in this start, before only allowing one.
Hero: Joe Kelly, 5.1 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 SO
The goat for the Cardinals, in a game that really was well-contested on both sides, put the Cards in a dire situation in the sixth, before Ground-Ball Guy came to the rescue.
Goat: Randy Choate, for allowing a hit to the only batter he faced, loading the bases with only one out.
Indeed, if you look at the WPA for the pitchers in this game, Choate’s -0.103 was barely worse than League’s -0.123. So he was almost as damaging to the Cardinals’ chances to win as allowing three runs was to the Dodgers’. Scary. Also the reason why Maness’ WPA was 0.240. All because of a well-timed ground ball.
Baseball, you guys (and gals!).