I’m sure the stories today will read, “Clayton Kershaw implodes”. Which he did. Unfortunately, there was plenty of blame to go around for the depressing end to what was really an excellent game.
Kershaw. After sailing through the first four innings allowing just two baserunners, the wheels came off in the 5th. And by “wheels came off,” I clearly mean “the goddamn plane crashed into the mountain!” (Man, only took two paragraphs back at the old home to break out Lebowski jokes again! It’s good to be back.)
We’re not talking about a “bad inning”. We’re talking about a completely epic meltdown. It’s one thing to give up three hits, because at least two of the trio of Raul Ibanez, Carlos Ruiz, and Ryan Howard are excellent hitters. But three walks – including one to the pitcher – and three wild pitches, which might have been four if not for Russell Martin? That is a disaster, the likes of which we haven’t seen in the playoffs perhaps ever.
The upside here is that, at least outwardly, Kershaw’s not letting this breakdown affect him.
Randy Marsh. I realize how homer-iffic this is going to sound, but his strike zone was an embarrassment. It’s hard enough to get three strikes on major league hitters, but four? Sometimes, five? An absolute joke, and while the Dodgers did enough other things wrong that you can’t pin this loss on him, he sure didn’t help.
Joe Torre. If it’s May, you let the kid work through control issues. If it’s August, you let the kid work through control issues. In Game 1 of the NLCS, when your 21-year-old has just walked the pitcher and is throwing wild pitches with frightening consistency? And when you’ve got the best bullpen in the game? You have to pull him.
I didn’t even mind that Kershaw stayed in after the Ruiz homer. With the pitcher up, that’s the perfect time to get things back on the rails. But when you walk the opposing pitcher on four pitches, that’s a pretty good sign that you’re rattled. Then when, the next three batters, you throw two wild pitches and walk another guy, that’s a pretty definite sign that it’s time to take him out.
But no, Kershaw stays in to face Ryan Howard. And I know I’ve been saying constantly that Howard can’t hit lefties, and that’s all well and good, but now that Scott Elbert’s replaced Jeff Weaver, you’re carrying three lefties in the pen. You don’t have to keep in an obviously-shaken Kershaw just because he’s a lefty; you can afford to bring in Elbert for just this opportunity. Isn’t that the entire reason he’s on this roster?
(Yes, I know Plaschke said the same thing. Yes, I hate myself for agreeing.)
George Sherrill. I had to step away from the television for about five minutes to go unlock the door for the ladyfriend. I came back to three IM’s and two texts, and I knew nothing good had happened. And so it was, unstoppable relief machine George Sherrill melted down even worse than Kershaw had by turning a 5-4 nailbiter into an 8-4 laugher on two walks and a homer to Ibanez.
Casey Blake. The Bearded One might fly under the radar a bit because of everything else that happened, but the Dodgers had some great opportunities to get back into this game, and the Most Interesting Man in the World came up with an 0-5 debacle, including stranding Andre Ethier at 2nd in the 7th and hitting into a double play in the 9th. Just brutal.
I don’t want to pretend that this was all bad, all the time – as I said, this was a fantastically interesting game, which included plenty of Dodger highlights, none bigger to me than the offensive exploits of James Loney & Manny Ramirez.
It’s just that, this was one of those games where you can’t point the finger at any one player. This was a team loss, and the Dodgers had more than enough opportunities to capitalize.
One good thing about baseball, though – no time to dwell on this. Game 2 starts in just 5 hours.