NLDS Game 2: Electric Boogaloo

The official blog gives us the news that the lineup is going to be exactly the same today as it was yesterday.

I can already hear the complaining. “How can you keep Ronnie Belliard in over Orlando Hudson? Belliard botched the pop in the first inning, allowing a run to score! Belliard struck out twice against a mediocre version of Chris Carpenter! FREE ORLANDO HUDSON! BOOO! BOOO!”

broxtonshakesmartin.jpgTo which I say: shush. As I’ve been saying for a while, you have to start Belliard in this game. You can claim small sample size all you want, but there’s got to be something to Belliard having an 1.110 OPS in 11 at-bats against Adam Wainwright, while Orlando Hudson has just a .200 mark in 10 at-bats. In what’s become almost a second base time-share, Belliard always had to start this game.

Now, if you want to say that Hudson should have started Game 1 because neither could have been expected to do much against Carpenter and at least you’d get Hudson’s superior defense, I wouldn’t have argued that. I’d just ask you to remember that Belliard did get on base three times yesterday, and helped start a crucial double-play to short-circuit what could have been a big Cardinal rally in the first inning.

Besides, if this game comes down to the miniscule difference right now between Hudson and Belliard, we’re all in big trouble anyway. No, tonight is all about Clayton Kershaw on the main stage, blowing away Redbirds left and right. Hopefully, anyway.

Don’t forget to join us over at the MSTI Facebook page tonight!

Dodgers 5, Cardinals 3

kempethierfistbump.jpgBe
honest. If I’d come up to you before the game and said, “so, you know
how everyone’s all freaking out about how awesome Chris Carpenter is?
Yeah, well, Randy Wolf’s going to put 11 men on – five walks! – in just
3.2 innings, including loading the bases with zero out in the first,”
how would you have felt about tonight’s odds?

If you said anything other than “I’d feel like stepping in front of
a bus… that’s headed off a cliff… and is full of orphans… with
diseases,” then you’re a dirty, dirty liar, and it’s time to
re-evaluate your life.

Really, it’s Wolf’s struggles that were the story of this game. He
wasn’t good – far from it. (To be fair, saying “five walks” is pretty
misleading, as two were intentional jobs to Albert Pujols and he
was getting squeezed by home plate umpire Dana DeMuth all night.) But
despite clearly not having his best stuff, Wolf was able to
keep the messes he kept getting into from getting out of control, which
is more than Carpenter could say. Wolf’s two runs allowed came on a
ball that Matt Kemp probably should have had in the first, and a
cueball double by Skip Schumaker in the fourth.

Meanwhile, Carpenter was also not his usual self – even the outs
were hit hard – but unlike Wolf, wasn’t able to avoid the big play,
which was of course a two-run bomb by Kemp that put a point – as if
there was any question - onto his arrival on the national stage as a
big-time player.

Wolf’s line was terrible tonight, and I guarantee you’re going to
see a slew of articles in the morning about how the Dodgers rotation
issues are already rearing their head. In my book, I’m giving Wolf a
huge deal of credit for keeping this thing calm when he could have
easily left down 6-2. 

Heroes

Matt Kemp. He got a poor jump on that ball in the
first that could have prevented the first run, but more than made up
for it. If the Dodgers go quietly in the bottom of the first after the
Cards loaded the bases in the top, it could have changed the complexion
of the entire game. It’s amazing how different it feels to be facing a
Cy Young winner when you’ve just deposited a ball into the dead center
bleachers, doesn’t it?

Jeff Weaver. The man who I didn’t expect to even be
on the NLDS roster was put into an impossible spot when Wolf left in
the 4th inning. The Cards had loaded the bases with two outs, and had
just scored to draw within a run. A hit here blows the entire game
open; but Weaver got Ryan Ludwick to tap weakly back to the mound to
put out the fire, and then added a scoreless fifth on top of it.

Rafael Furcal. After a very mediocre season, Furcal
ended the year red-hot (.891 OPS in Sept/Oct). But who knew if that
would hold up into October? Well, how’s 3-4 with a triple and a
sacrifice fly RBI strike you? He could be a huge secret weapon this
month.

Every Dodger pitcher who faced Albert Pujols. When
you’re facing the absolutely-no-doubt-about-it, might-not-even-be-human
best player alive, and in five trips to the plate he comes away with
three groundouts and two intentional walks, you know you’ve done a good
job. That is how you beat the Cardinals. For the record, that’s
Wolf three times (two intentional walks and a groundout), Belisario
once (groundout), and Broxton once (groundout).

Having an awesome bullpen.
Belisario in the 6th! Kuo in the 7th! Sherrill in the 8th! Broxton in
the 9th! That’s just the scariest foursome of fireballers around, and
you haven’t even used Ramon Troncoso yet.

Including Weaver, the
five relievers combined for 5.1 innings of 5 hit, 1 run ball, a line
which could have even been better if Kemp hadn’t misplayed that hit in
the 9th. We’ve been saying it for months around here – it doesn’t
matter if your starters go deep into games in a short series with lots
of off-days when you have a pen like this.

Joe Torre. No hesitation to pull Wolf in the 4th
before things got out of hand, inevitable complaining that he’s
overworking the bullpen be damned. Clearly, you can’t ask the pen to
work 5-6 innings every night, but few things are more important than
winning a Game 1.

Brendan Ryan.
This was probably common knowledge to a lot of people, but I had
absolutely no idea he was rocking such an epic pornstar/child molester
‘stache. The sheer cojones it takes to wear such a thing puts
him squarely in the “heroes” category, and probably gets him on the
offseason list of “guys we need to trade for.”

Just look at it. Look at it. It’s glorious, horrifying, and ingenious all at the same time.

MSTI fans on Facebook. What? You’re not a fan yet? What are you waiting for? We had a pretty good conversation going on over there tonight. It’s what the cool kids are doing.

Goats

Tony LaRussa. Come on, Tony. I know you’re
notorious for this, so I can’t be surprised, but do you have any idea
how painful it is to watch you stride to the mound 12 times a night?
Did we really need to go through 3 pitchers in the 6th inning? I’m
watching this game from the East Coast, friend-o. Help a brother get
some sleep. This game didn’t need to be 3 hours, 52 minutes.

Mark DeRosa. It didn’t mean much in the course of the game, but there’s throwing errors and then there’s throwing errors. That ball he airmailed into right field from third base was at least 25 feet off the ground. Hey, keep it up, fella!

Matt Kemp.
Hey, Bison, you can hit awesome dingers off Cy Young Award winners all
you want. That’s enough to look past a bad jump that probably cost a
run in the first inning. And while not getting to the possible
game-ending ball was bad enough, allowing it to bounce past you to
allow a run to score is unacceptable. Fortunately, Broxton was able to
end it, but it should never have come to the tying run being at the
plate. That said, it was good to see him mouth “my bad” during the
fistbumps at the end.

Cashing in opportunities. This is on both teams; an
NLDS record 30 men left on base. You could say “well, that’s good
pitching not letting runners score,” but remember – you have to get 30
men on base in the first place.

TBS. I know it’s probably hard to get used to live events when you’re mostly showing reruns of Family Guy
and “Con Air”, but you realize how bad things are when the fact you’re
subjecting us to the Corpse of Dick Stockton isn’t the worst offense,
right? Because I know when I think of “playoff baseball,” I think “Dick
Stockton”. Actually, when I think of “Dick Stockton,” I think of
“Grizzlies! Timberwolves! It’s meaningless December basketball!” Or at
least I would if I gave a dick about the NBA. Which I do not. Anyway,
it’s all well and good that you point out that you realize you’re
having technical difficulties, but could you, I don’t know, FIX IT? I
was seeing jumpy video and losing audio for the entire game. Oh, and
Dick – Carpenter wasn’t “gritty” tonight. He was just lousy.  

Bill Plaschke. It goes without saying that he’s
always a goat, but I’m starting to wonder why the grumpy old man agrees
to cover a team he so clearly hates. What were your thoughts in the
first inning? Mine went something along the lines of “Crap, Wolf
doesn’t look great/Phew, he got out of it/MATT KEMP IS A GOLDEN GOD!”

Billy’s thoughts?

First error on Joe Torre, for playing
Ronnie Belliard at second base, fly ball falls between Belliard and
Matt Kemp for first Cardinal run..

Don’t
forget, tomorrow’s a 3:07pm Pacific start. So skip work, cut class,
break out of jail, do whatever you need to do. Kershaw! Wainwright!
Dodgers lead, 1-0!

NLDS Game 1: It’s Go-Time

You better believe that the playoffs are the time that the MSTI Golden Rule of “No game threads, no game recaps” goes by the wayside. It’s on.

SS Furcal
CF Kemp
RF Ethier
LF Manny
1B Loney
3B Blake
2B Belliard
C Martin
SP Wolf

Hey, remember when Matt Kemp was our 8th place hitter? Yeah, me neither.

Look, this isn’t going to be easy. Chris Carpenter is one of the best pitchers in baseball no matter how you slice it, and no Dodger has had much success against him. Just remember the positives here: the Cardinals can’t hit lefties, and almost all of their offense is in the hands of just two players.

Now go find yourself a frosty beverage, alcoholic or not, and enjoy seeing the Dodgers in the playoffs for the 3rd time in 4 years, and the 4th in 6th.

NLDS Roster Announced

Hot off the presses…

The Dodgers will carry 11 pitchers and 14 position players. The roster is as follows:
 
Pitchers (11)
Ronald Belisario, RHP  
Chad Billingsley, RHP 
Jonathan Broxton, RHP
Jon Garland, RHP    
Clayton Kershaw, LHP  
Hong-Chih Kuo, LHP      
Vicente Padilla, RHP
George Sherrill, LHP
Ramon Troncoso, RHP
Jeff Weaver, RHP
Randy Wolf, LHP

Catchers (2)
Russell Martin
Brad Ausmus

Infielders (8) 
Ronnie Belliard    
Casey Blake                                         
Juan Castro
Rafael Furcal (S)                                  
Orlando Hudson (S)
James Loney (L)
Mark Loretta
Jim Thome (L)

Outfielders (4)
Andre Ethier (L)
Matt Kemp
Juan Pierre (L)
Manny Ramirez

Quick thoughts:

1) Surprised – pleasantly – to see 11 pitchers rather than 12. With Thome only a pinch-hitter, flexibility would have been strictly limited.

2) Jeff Weaver makes the cut, and James McDonald doesn’t. He was an afterthought down the stretch – just 7.1 innings since August 30th – so it’s a surprise to see him making the squad.

3) We just can’t shake the corpse of Mark Loretta, can we?

What the What?

belliardhits.jpgLineups for Game 1 of the NLDS are in: (hat tip Dodger Thoughts)

Rafael Furcal, SS
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, LF
Manny Ramirez, LF
James Loney, 1B
Casey Blake, 3B
Ronnie Belliard, 2B
Russell Martin, C
Randy Wolf, P

Wait, Belliard over Orlando Hudson? They had basically shared the job for the month of September, so on the surface that shouldn’t be all that surprising. But what is surprising is that you absolutely have to start Belliard in Game 2 against Adam Wainwright, just based on what I wrote in my “reasons to be happy to face the Cardinals” post a few days ago:

3) The Dodgers have a great history of hitting Adam Wainwright.

Six Dodgers have had eleven or more at-bats in their careers against Wainwright, and five have had great success – and the one who hasn’t is Brad Ausmus, who won’t be facing him anyway.

dodgersstatsvswainwright.jpgLook at those OPS numbers! What will be really interesting will be the second base decision in that game; as you can see, Ron Belliard has done very well against Wainwright, but Orlando Hudson, who would have been next on this list, has just one hit in ten at-bats against him. 

There’s no way you don’t start Belliard against Wainwright in Game 2; not only has he hit him in the (admittedly small sample size) past, but Hudson has had terrible luck against him. That being the case, are you really going to start Belliard the first two games and relegate Hudson to a full-fledged bench player? Neither one can hit Chris Carpenter a lick (combined 1 single in 14 tries), so there’s no sense in playing the numbers there.

I suppose this also means the Dodgers are confident in Belliard’s hamstring, despite his missing a week and getting just one at-bat in the season finale. Or maybe it was just the fact that Hudson ended the season on a 1-13 tear that caused them to make that call. So I’m okay with this, as long as Belliard starts in Game 2 as well.

In other news, a bit of a surprise comes with Vicente Padilla being named the Game 3 starter over Chad Billingsley, with Billingsley going in Game 4. You’d think I’d be mad about this - the veteran retread picked up for free getting the nod over the talented young star who I’ve advocated for.

But you know what? I’m not. Billingsley still gets a start – this isn’t Padilla and Jon Garland over Billingsley – and Padilla was so dominant against the Rockies on Sunday that it’s hard to not want to see that again. Besides, Padilla’s had great success against these Cardinals, allowing just one homer in 73 plate appearances (and that to Troy Glaus, who might not even play) and has been especially crushing to Mark DeRosa, who’s hitting just .182 in 24 shots against Padilla.

So I get it. And I don’t mind it that much. I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that Vicente Padilla is the Game 3 starter in the NLDS. Not Chad Billingsley. Not Hiroki Kuroda. Vicente Padilla. Face=melt.

God, I love the playoffs.