That wasn’t quite the five hour when-will-this-end-my-soul-hurts slog of Game 1, but it wasn’t a whole lot better, either.
Clayton Kershaw, of course, was everything. He was just fantastic, as good as you could hope for, really. He shook off a leadoff triple to Matt Carpenter to breeze through the first, then allowed only two more baserunners the rest of the way — one of which, Carlos Beltran, was erased with a double play. The only other man to reach was David Freese, who led off the fifth with a double… moved to third on an awful A.J. Ellis passed ball… and scored (after a Matt Adams whiff) on a Jon Jay sacrifice fly. That’s it. Even the one run allowed wasn’t even earned.
In 15 innings, he and Zack Greinke struck out 15 and allowed two earned runs. That’s how you draw it up. And yet the Dodgers have two losses.
That’s because Hanley Ramirez didn’t play, and Andre Ethier didn’t play, and Matt Kemp hasn’t played — we’ve seen this movie before — and Michael Wacha was just as good as Kershaw. Wacha struck out eight over 6.1 scoreless, and even managed to wriggle his way out of a fifth-inning mess where Kershaw’s single, followed by a Carpenter throwing error and an Adrian Gonzalez intentional walk loaded the bases with two outs for Yasiel Puig. In a tense, well-fought plate appearance, Puig worked the count full before striking out on ball four. (Arguably five.) Puig whiffed in all four of his plate appearances, after going 0-6 in Game 1. This is a problem. A big one.
For the sake of inclusion, I suppose we need to talk about Don Mattingly‘s decision to lift Kershaw after only six innings and 72 pitches, taking him out for Michael Young with Nick Punto on first base in the seventh. The firestorm this brewed among fans was immediate and direct, matching or exceeding the vitriol for anything Mattingly did in Game 1. And I get it, really; Young is terrible, and you’re taking out the best pitcher in baseball while he’s well on the way to a complete game.
That being said, the problem for me wasn’t really the call there, because I get it, even if I don’t love it. It’s almost as if people forgot the Dodgers were losing. You have only nine outs remaining to play with, and you don’t want a pitcher to eat one of those, especially against a tough lefty reliever. If anything, my problem with it is that Young is awful and that I would have gone with Scott Van Slyke — no, even though Kershaw is a good hitter for a pitcher, we’re not really going to argue that he’s a better hitter than an actual hitter — but the truth is, it’s not something that really made much of a difference. The Dodgers got shut out, remember, so when Kershaw left is really immaterial. (Ronald Belisario and J.P. Howell threw shutout innings behind him, anyway.)
If anything, the short day might make Kershaw available for some bullpen work in Games 3 or 4, which depending on Greinke and the panic level, might deprive Ricky Nolasco of a start. But again, now I’ve just spent 250 words on something that didn’t matter. This loss goes on the offense that couldn’t solve Wacha or the St. Louis bullpen, not Mattingly, not Kershaw (obviously), and not anywhere else. After scoring in the third last night, they’ve now gone 19 innings without a run. They ended today with five straight strikeouts.
You don’t score runs, you don’t win. Simple as that — and now the Dodgers head home down 2-0, with Kershaw and Greinke spent and Adam Wainwright waiting. Not… great.