Fear not Dodger fam. The Dodgers may be down, but they are not out. Remember this series is a best four out of seven, and you still have to win four games before you advance. It’s not over yet, but things certainly look bleak after the Dodgers dropped the first two games of their best of seven NLCS against the Cardinals.
The Dodgers had to start on the road with the first two games at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The Dodgers lost one of the most grueling postseason games we have ever seen last Friday night in the opening match. A 13 inning 3-2 loss marathon that got away in the bottom of the 13 inning. The Dodgers started Zack Greinke against a rookie Cardinal’s pitcher named Joe Kelly who wears dorky glasses while pitching. Both starters pitched well, with Grienke being dominant.
Greinke’s only mistake came in the third inning when he gave up a booming two-run double to Carlos Beltran, which tied the game at 2-2. The Dodgers had gotten a two-run single from Juan Uribe in the top of the third inning that originally put them in front.
Greinke pitched great, whiffing ten and walking one in seven frames, but he was nearly matched by Kelly. Despite the fact the Dodgers leaving hordes of runners in scoring position. The game remained tied until the 13, but the Dodgers had ample opportunities to score, including the inning where Mark Ellis was thrown out at home plate trying to score on a shallow pop fly to right. The Dodgers lost that game in the bottom of the 13, when Chris Withrow allowed a bloop single, a walk, and Kenley Jansen allowed a walk-off hit to Beltran.
The Dodgers didn’t say much after the game. What could you say? It was a kick in the balls. Losing a game like that during the regular season is awful enough, but to do it in the playoffs, and in the NLCS? It can be devastating. I was thinking about the club’s confidence being knocked a bit after losing a game like that. Not that I’m saying that it was, but the thought entered my mind.
With Clayton Kershaw on the mound in game 2, going up against another rookie pitcher (Michael Wacha), it looked like the Dodgers had a huge advantage to tie the series before it shifted back to Dodger Stadium. But the hitting totally gave out, and the club did nothing on offense in the second game. Kershaw once again pitched brilliantly, holding the Cardinals to just one measly unearned run on two hits over six frames. The Dodgers could muster only five hits (four of them singles) and lost 1-0 in game 2. They blew a great chance to tie or take the lead in the sixth frame of game 2, when they had runners at second and third with none out. Kershaw had singled, and a Carpenter throwing error on a Crawford grounder put two men in scoring position for the Dodgers. But after a pop-up to M.Ellis, an intentional walk to Gonzo, the Cardinals struck out both Puig, and Uribe to get out it. The Dodgers weren’t heard from the rest of the game.
The winning run scored on a David Freese double, a passed ball from A.J. Ellis, and a sacrifice fly. What a miserable first two games of the series. Hanley Ramirez was drilled by a pitch in the ribs during game 1, and was unable to play in game two. Andre Ethier also was sat again after playing his first game in center field since September 13. He played in all 13 innings, and his rest in game 2 was expected. He might be back in a pinch-hitting role again for games 3 and 4.
The club boarded a plane for Los Angeles, dejected, depleted, and down. With Cardina’s ace Adam Wainwright lurking in game 3 on Monday night against Ryu, odds seem to be heavily stacked against the Dodgers when returning home. But they are not out yet.
The offensive drought is what has really sunk them in this series. The major storyline for the club has been centered around the injuries, and Don Mattingly’s questionable removal of Gonzalez for a pinch-runner (Dee Gordon) in game 1. But the story really should be the pathetic offense. That’s what has really sunk the team in the first two games. They just shut down, and when faced with young pitchers they have never seen before, or seen very little of, they tend to give up at-bats. They swing at pitches outside the strike zone, and take balls right down the pipe. Mostly, they just hit into routine outs. Grounders, grounders, pop-ups, grounders galore. The worst nightmare you could have ever imagined. Grounders. Grounders again. More grounders. No! Ugh.
The club has batted .184 during the first two games, but even worse is their .264 OBP. That is atrocious and has to change. They’re not getting guys on base. That’s a big problem. The club was 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position during the first two games, and left 11 men on base in game 1. The clutch hits have dried up. The club whiffed 24 times in the two games, with Yasiel Puig leading the charge, picking up his first postseason golden sombrero in game 2. There can’t be anymore sombreros if the Dodgers expect to get back in this series.
I was looking though to see how many teams have come back from an 0-2 deficit to win the league championship series. It’s happened before. First there were quite a few instances of teams coming back from 0-3 deficits to force a game 6. Meaning they won two in a row, before losing the sixth game. There were the 1998 Braves, and if you remember the Giants last year overcame an 0-2 deficit in the NLDS, and an 3-1 deficit in the NLCS against these very same Cardinals. I hate to mention the Giants here, but it does prove that the task is possible.
But we’re talking about an 0-2 deficit. So I looked further. It actually happened in both League Championship series and the World Series in 1985. The Cardinals did it against the Dodgers in the 1085 NLCS. The Dodgers won games 1 and 2 at home, and then went on to lose four in a row to the Cardinals. Hey look the Royals did it against the Blue Jays in that year’s ALCS, and then it happened again in the World Series. It’s not impossible, it’s happened before, and this club is very capable of putting something together at home. However the task looks daunting with Wainwright lurking for game 3. Can the Dodgers pull together a miracle? Here are a few reasons why the Dodgers will overcome their poor start to the NLCS.
1. The Cardinals are not hitting either
The Dodgers aren’t the only ones not hitting the ball. The Cardinals only scored four runs in the first two games. All three of them in the opening game were driven in by Beltran. The Cardinals are batting just .134 with a .203 OBP, and have just nine hits in the entire series. Both clubs have great pitching, but the bats have fallen silent. The Dodgers didn’t get the clutch hits in games 1 and 2, and the Cardinals did. But both clubs are struggling offensively.
2. Wainwright’s numbers at Dodger Stadium aren’t very good.
Ok I’m kind of grasping at straws here, but it’s true. Wainwright has a 1-2 record, and a 5.14 ERA pitching at Dodger Stadium. He’s never been very comfortable pitching in Chavez Ravine, and the Dodgers have been able to beat him at home. That’s the one saving grace for the Dodgers here. Luckily the Cardinals had to come back from their own 2-1 series deficit in the NLDS against the Pirates, and they had to burn their ace in game 5. Otherwise you have to face him at home, and that’s where he is dominating. Wainwright has given up 17 earned runs, and 30 hits in 29 frames at Dodger Stadium. He’s walked 14 batters, which is rare for him. He usually never walks anyone. Against the Dodgers in his career, he is a mortal 4-4 with a 3.10 ERA.
3. The Dodgers play well against the Cardinals at home during the playoffs.
The Dodgers have played the Cardinals in the playoffs at home seven times. In those seven games the Dodgers have won five of them. They eve beat the very same Wainwright in the 2009 NLDS. I’m trying here guys.
4. Home cooking
The club is returning home, and I am hoping that by getting out of St Louis and coming back home to Los Angeles will help. Hopefully it will put them at ease, and they can relax, and get back to the way they were hitting during the NLDS against the Braves. And the home crowd will certainly help, so make sure to buy Dodgers tickets from Barrystickets.com.
5. They now have a sense of urgency.
Tomorrow technically isn’t an elimination game, but the Dodgers basically have to win, or go down an almost insurmountable 3-0 in the series. Sometimes teams can play better when they know their backs are against the wall. At least I’m hoping that’s the case with the Dodgers.
6. They still have Kershaw and Greinke available for games 4 and 5.
The Dodgers still can use either Clayton Kershaw, or Zack Greinke, or both for games 4 and 5. Kershaw only threw 72 pitches in game 2. Kershaw has a 0.47 ERA in the postseason this year, with a 0.6 8 WHIP. Greinke has a 2.57 ERA and a 0.64 WHIP. Kershaw has limited hitters to a .125 average, Greinke, .163. The two have 36 combined whiffs against just 6 walks. If these two are pitching, the Dodgers still have a chance.
Gonzalez relayed a message to the fans about hanging in there, and not losing faith. Things may look bleak at the moment, but the team made a comeback 25 years ago, and they made a comeback during the regular season. They can make a comeback in the NLCS.
I really hope returning home and having Hanley back in the lineup, and the home crowd can help them dig out of this hole. Don’t lose hope just yet Dodger fam. It’s been a wild fun ride, but it may not be over just yet.