In the three games of the NLCS, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, & Adam Wainwright — who are only three of the what, six or seven best starters in the NL? — have all pitched. They’ve all pitched well… and not a single one of those aces left the park after their starts knowing that he’d pitched his team to victory. Baseball is a weird, weird game sometimes.
In what was clearly the toughest matchup of the first three games for the Dodgers, Hyun-jin Ryu came up huge. He came up huger than huge; in what was unarguably the biggest game of the year to this point, Ryu was not only phenomenal, he was rarely even in trouble. With a fastball that occasionally touched 95 (higher than I’ve seen it all year) and taking advantage of what was a big strike zone for both sides, Ryu allowed three lone hits, at one point setting down 11 in a row.
The Cardinals didn’t have a man reach second until the fifth, when David Freese & Matt Adams led off with back-to-back singles. But even that led nowhere quick when Jon Jay flied out to left, and Carl Crawford easily doubled Daniel Descalso (running for the injured Freese) off of second. Ryu came back to get a 1-2-3 sixth and finish off his night by striking out Adams to end the seventh; he is the first Dodger lefty with seven shutout playoff innings since Jerry Reuss in 1981 (h/t Jon Weisman).
But we’ve seen good pitching before, obviously, and that alone doesn’t win playoff games. After 22 scoreless innings, the Dodgers finally broke through in the fourth, when Mark Ellis “doubled” — if you wonder what those quotes are for, you didn’t see Jay try to play center field tonight — and advanced to third on a Hanley Ramirez flyout. Adrian Gonzalez doubled in Ellis for the first run, and I shouldn’t be glossing that but I am because then (after Andre Ethier grounded out) Yasiel Puig came up and THAT BAT FLIP:
The best part, of course, is that this ball did not go out of the park, and so after a few steps Puig realized he was going to need to start moving… and he still turned the play into a stand-up triple without a throw. (Yes, as some will note, had he been running hard off the bat he may have had a chance for an inside-the-parker. Don’t suck our joy here.) I get why fans of every other team hate him; I do. But it’s not hard to get why we love him, is it?
The Dodgers tacked on an insurance run when Crawford came around to score on a Ramirez blooper in what was an extremely close play at the plate, and there was a dancing rally bear who got kicked out of the park, and Brian Wilson & Kenley Jansen nailed down the final two innings for the win.
Down 2-1, the Dodgers are still in a hole. But Matt Holliday is hitless in the series, and Adams has only one hit, and Freese may be hurt, and Carlos Beltran didn’t have a hit in Game 2 or 3, and the Cards looked pretty goofy on defense and the basepaths today. It won’t be easy, but it’s not over. With the win, Wednesday’s Game 5 (at 1pm!) is now guaranteed… and we wait to see if Ricky Nolasco really starts tomorrow in Game 4.