National League Division Series: St. Louis v. Los Angeles

Coverage and Analysis by Ben Sherbacow, Contributing Writer

NLDS St. Louis v. Los Angeles Game 1

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STL

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8

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LAD

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9

16

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WP: Gonzalez

LP: Kershaw

SV: Rosenthal

Top 1st: St. Louis

Randal Grichuk homered (365 ft.) to deep left

STL 1 – LAD 0

Bottom 3rd: LA Dodgers

Hanley Ramírez singled to right, Yasiel Puig scored

STL 1 – LAD 1

Carl Crawford ground rule double to right, Hanley Ramírez scored

STL 1 – LAD 2

Bottom 4th: LA Dodgers

Yasiel Puig singled to left, A.J. Ellis scored

STL 1 – LAD 3

Matt Kemp singled to left center, Yasiel Puig scored, Adrián González to third

STL 1 – LAD 4

Bottom 5th: LA Dodgers

A.J. Ellis homered (410 ft.) to deep left, Carl Crawford scored

STL 1 – LAD 6

Top 6th: St. Louis

Matt Carpenter homered (405 ft.) to deep right center

STL 2 – LAD 6

Top 7th: St. Louis

Matt Adams singled to shallow right center, Matt Holliday scored, Jhonny Peralta to third,Yadier Molina to second

STL 3 – LAD 6

Jon Jay singled to left center, Jhonny Peralta scored, Yadier Molina to third, Matt Adams to second

STL 4 – LAD 6

Matt Carpenter doubled to deep right center, Yadier Molina, Matt Adams and Jon Jay scored

STL 7 – LAD 6

Matt Holliday homered (405 ft.) to deep left center, Matt Carpenter and Randal Grichuk scored

STL 10 – LAD 6

Bottom 8th: LA Dodgers

Adrián González homered (405 ft.) to deep right center, Yasiel Puig scored

STL 10 – LAD 8

Bottom 9th: LA Dodgers

Dee Gordon grounded out, second to first, A.J. Ellis scored, Andre Ethier to third

STL 10 – LAD 9

NLDS St. Louis v. Los Angeles Game 2

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STL

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LAD

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1

X

3

8

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WP: League

LP: Neshek

SV: Jansen

Bottom 3rd: LA Dodgers

Dee Gordon grounded out, second to first, A.J. Ellis scored, Zack Greinke to second

STL 0 – LAD 1

Adrián González singled to shallow right center, Zack Greinke scored

STL 0 – LAD 2

Top 8th: St. Louis

Matt Carpenter homered (403 ft.) to deep right center, Oscar Taveras scored

STL 2 – LAD 2

Bottom 8th: LA Dodgers

Matt Kemp homered (368 ft.) to deep left

STL 2 – LAD 3

NLDS St. Louis v. Los Angeles Game 3

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LAD

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7

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STL

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0

0

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11

0

 

WP: Lackey

LP: Elbert

SV: Rosenthal

Bottom 3rd: St. Louis

Matt Carpenter homered (414 ft.) to deep right center

LAD 0 – STL 1

Top 6th: LA Dodgers

Hanley Ramírez doubled to right, Yasiel Puig scored

LAD 1 – STL 1

Bottom 7th: St. Louis

Kolten Wong homered (395 ft.) to deep right, Yadier Molina scored

LAD 1 – STL 3

NLDS St. Louis v. Los Angeles Game 4

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LAD

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8

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STL

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0

 

WP: Gonzalez

LP: Kershaw

SV: Rosenthal

Top 6th: LA Dodgers

Matt Kemp grounded into double play, shortstop to second to first, Carl Crawford scored, Adrián González out

LAD 1 – STL 0

Juan Uribe singled to right center, Hanley Ramírez scored, Andre Ethier to third

LAD 2 – STL 0

Bottom 7th: St. Louis

Matt Adams homered (386 ft.) to deep right, Matt Holliday and Jhonny Peralta scored

LAD 2 – STL 3

In a rematch of last year’s National League Championship Series, the Cardinals have once again emerged victorious. They defeated an outmatched and flustered Dodgers team that had seemed so promising throughout the regular season. The Dodgers finished the season with the second-best record in the National League (94-68). They led the Majors in OBP (.333), and posted a team ERA of 2.65, which was third best in majors. Several of their players had landmark years;  Adrian Gonzalez led the major leagues in runs batted in (116); Dee Gordon led the major leagues in stolen bases (64) and Clayton Kershaw led the major leagues in earned run average (.177) and wins (21). Kershaw, whose career earned run average (ERA) (2.48) is the lowest among starters in the live-ball era with a minimum of 1,000 innings pitched, was hoping to prove that he was just as solid in the postseason as he was getting there, despite his extremely out-of-character postseason record (4.73 ERA, 1-3). The Dodgers’ rotation also had Zack Greinke, who began the 2014 season by setting an MLB record with 22 straight starts (dating back to July 2013) where he allowed two or fewer earned runs and finished the season with a 17–8 record and a 2.71 ERA in 32 starts, the highest win total in his career. They also had Hyun-jin Ryu, the South Korean lefty with a 2.80 career ERA, and a bullpen led by closer Kenley Jansen, who owns a respectable 2.25 career ERA.

After a hard-fought October last year, in which they fell to the now-defunct Red Sox in a six-game World Series, the Cardinals were looking to win against a team that they had met four times in the post-season in the last ten years. The Cardinals boasted excellent starting pitching, led by Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn, both of whom have sub-3.00 ERAs, and John Lackey, who provides a veteran option in the third rotation spot. They have a formidable bullpen, led by closer Trevor Rosenthal, who posted an MLB-leading 45 saves in the regular season. They also have exceptional offense in Matt Carpenter, who had a home run in three of the four games in the series, as well as Matt Adams, who hit the go-ahead homer in Game 4 to eliminate the Dodgers, veteran slugger Matt Holliday, who posted 90 RBI’s in the regular season, and rookie Kolten Wong, who hit the go-ahead home run the night before in Game 3. The Cardinals are team known for posting excellent postseason numbers and coming up with big hits in clutch situations, a feat that many analysts scoff at. But they need only to look at Carpenter, a player who hit 8 home runs over 162 regular season games, and has already posted 3 home runs in the four postseason games played. That’s the mark of a player who knows how to come up with big hits in important situations.

Game 1 was hailed as a low-scoring pitchers’ duel, as it was the first post-season matchup of 20 game winners (Kershaw v. Wainwright) since Curt Schilling faced Roger Clemens in Game seven of the 2001 World Series. However, like so many aspects of October baseball, nothing ever quite turns out as expected. Both pitchers had uncharacteristically bad outings. In the top of the first inning, the Cardinals’ Randal Grichuk hit up Kershaw for a solo home run. In the third inning, the Dodgers struck, with a pair of RBI’s by Hanley Ramirez and Carl Crawford. The Dodger’s lead quickly extended to a 6-1 lead at the end of the fifth, with a pair of RBI’s from cuban slugger Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, as well as a two-run bomb by A.J. Ellis, who went 4-5 in the game. Then, it all fell apart in the seventh, an inning that would continue to plague the Dodgers throughout the series and ultimately spelled out their demise. Kershaw, after giving up a solo-shot to Matt Carpenter in the sixth, completely unravelled in the seventh inning, giving up four straight singles before Carpenter hit a three-run double, putting the Cardinals in the lead. Reliever Pedro Baéz was put in to stop the bleeding, but even he couldn’t hold it together, giving up a three-run homer to Matt Holliday, marking an egregious eight-run inning and putting the Cardinals ahead 10-6. Despite an effort to rally in the eighth and ninth, the Dodgers fell after coming within one run of sending the game into extra innings.

After the embarrassing loss they suffered in Game 1, Zack Greinke had an exceptional outing, striking out seven while allowing no runs and two hits in seven innings. The Dodgers pushed ahead two runs off of Cardinals’ starter Lance Lynn in the third to take the lead. Carpenter worked his postseason magic yet again, as he hit a two-run homer off J. P. Howell in the top of the eighth to tie the game. It didn’t last long, however; Matt Kemp hit a solo homer in the bottom of the inning to put the Dodgers back ahead and Kenley Jansen shut the door in the ninth to even up the series, 1-1.

Game 3 saw Hyun-jin Ryu starting for the Dodgers at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium, in his first appearance since suffering an injury in mid-September. Despite the time off, Ryu turned in a quality outing, allowing only one run to Carpenter in the third inning. He went six innings and allowed just four hits, striking out four and walking one. But where the Dodgers were good, the Cardinals were better. They had veteran John Lackey on the mound, who had bounced back from a dismal 2011 season and Tommy-John surgery in 2012 to post an exceptional year in 2013, finishing the regular season for the Red Sox with a 3.52 ERA. He even pitched the final game of the 2013 World Series against his current team. He has established himself as one of the most reliable pitchers and most valuable veteran presences in the Majors, and he proved himself yet again, going seven innings and giving up one run and five hits, striking out eight. Just as the previous two games, Game 3 was decided in the bullpen; this time it was Scott Elbert who allowed a two-run homer to Kolten Wong, the difference maker in the 3–1 Cardinals win.

Game 4 saw Kershaw, hoping to redeem himself, back on the mound for the Dodgers, only this time, he was only pitching on three-days rest. Dodgers’ manager Don Mattingly made the controversial decision to bench Yasiel Puig, who was one of the team’s strongest offensive forces and quickest members, in favor of Andre Ethier, who was having a career-low year (.249 BA for the 2014 regular season as compared to a .285 career BA). Perhaps if Mattingly had started Puig, if he had ignored the nine postseason plate appearances without a hit, despite a full and productive season, we might have seen a Game 5, but no one really stepped up to the plate in Game 4 to make up for Puig’s temporary absence. The Dodgers took the lead in the The Dodgers took a 2–0 lead on a double play grounder by Matt Kemp and an RBI single by Juan Uribe in the sixth, but in a manner that was eerily similar to Game 1, it all fell apart in the seventh for Kershaw. Despite pitching six solid innings, he gave up a three-run home run to Matt Adams, which proved to be enough to topple a quiet Dodgers lineup and send the Cardinals to their fourth straight National League Championship Series.

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Ben Sherbacow is a sophomore at Gettysburg College. He is from Avon, Connecticut, and aspires to be a sports writer for the Boston Red Sox someday. He covers baseball and baseball-related topics.

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