Well it’s simple really. You negate the top threat in the lineup and then go after the lesser bats. It’s a simple yet effective way to shut down a high-flying offense. The Cardinals figured this out. The Dodgers were just not prepared. The Cardinals planned ahead.
The Dodger pitching staff has shut down the Cardinal’s lineup as well. Neither team has hit much in this series. The Cardinals came into game 4 of the NLCS hitting just .134 as a team. The numbers show the Cardinals at a .148 team average during this NLCS, and the Dodgers are at .223 with a .280 OBP. Neither club has an OPS of over .600 in the NLCS. Runs have been at a premium the entire series, as pitching has dominated. So why do the Dodgers find themselves on the brink of elimination if they’ve pitched so well?
The Cardinal pitching staff has just done a better job at mitigating threats. They’ve done it just a little bit better than the Dodgers have, and that’s what’s been the deciding force in the series. The Dodgers have done the same, but just not enough to come away with the victories. The Dodger offense has let the team down. Poor hitting and base running has doomed the Dodgers thus far in the 2013 NLCS.
After the Dodgers lost both of the first two games in St. Louis by scores of 3-2, and 1-0, it became apparent what the Cardinal’s plan was. Mitigate the top threats in the lineup and go after everyone else. With Hanley Ramirez taken out of the equation with an injury, the next biggest run producing threat in the Dodger lineup is Adrian Gonzalez, and the Cardinal’s have negated him. Gonzo has a target on his back the rest of the way, and the Cardinals pitched very carefully to the big first baseman.
After Hanley was hit in the ribs by a Joe Kelly fastball in the first inning of the opening game, the talented shortstop has been taken out of the equation. Hanley is just 2 for 9 in the series with 1 RBI. He was playing in obvious pain in games 3 and 4, and struck out three times in last night’s game 4 4-2 loss. After having to come out early in game 4 because of the extreme pain, Hanley isn’t much help right now as he is unable to swing a bat without excruciating pain. Hanley has been playing with a fractured rib, and obviously he is not 100% right now. With Hanley ailing, the Cardinals turned their attention to stifling the next biggest threat in the Dodger lineup, Adrian Gonzalez. The Cardinal staff that consists of mostly rookies, has held Gonzalez to a .231 (3 for 13) line in the series. Gonzalez has driven in just one run, and has been walked three times. They either walked him, or pitched around him. They just didn’t give him anything good to hit. The one game where they did come right at him, he got a big hit, (RBI double in game 3). I’m thinking that’s probably the last time they pitch to Gonzalez for the rest of the series.
With Hanley hurt, and Gonzalez taken out of the equation, the rest of the lineup was easy to quiet. The Cardinal’s catcher Yadier Molina, and their long time ace Adam Wainwright sat down with their young staff and went over game plans. They studied video tapes, and came up with a cohesive strategy to stifle the Dodger hitters, or so I read. It worked. Did the Dodger hitters get into the video room and come up with some kind of plan on how to hit these Cardinal rookie pitchers? Doesn’t look like it.
The rest of the plan was simple. Aleviate the next two threats which are Yasiel Puig, and Juan Uribe. They’ve kept Puig off-balance the entire series. They’ve come inside with brush back pitches, and then low and away with breaking stuff. Puig has been limited to a .250 (4 for 16) line with just two runs driven in. And as for Uribe, well they just challenge him with inside and rising fastballs. Four-seamers and cutters, and Uribe’s bat was not able to catch up. Uribe has been held to a 2 for 17 line during the series. That’s a miniscule .118 average against. Uribe’s only offensive contribution was his two-run single in the third inning of the opening game.
That is precision pitching and planning. This is why the Cardinals are one win away from the World Series, and the Dodgers could be going home after this afternoon’s game 5. Nobody else in the Dodger lineup is much of a threat. Carl Crawford, both Ellis’s, and the bench have little to no power. The Dodgers have just nine extra base-hits in the series. The Cardinals have just six. Yet, the Cardinals are still winning the series. The Dodgers are hitting .182 ( 6 for 33) with runners in scoring position during this NLCS. This is another big reason why the Dodgers are losing the series.
The Cardinal’s pitching staff, a staff dominated by rookies, has effectively neutralized the Dodger lineup. They did it through careful planning and strategy. The Dodger’s have struggled to make contact throughout the series (36 strikeouts against only 10 walks.) The Dodger offense has not been able to come up with any sort of cohesive game plan. They just come up to the plate and swing, and or guess. Or not.
This is why the Cardinals are a tough team to beat in October. The Cardinals are a thinking team. They plan. They come up with strategies. They go into the video room and watch tape of opposing players. I’m not sure the Dodger hitters do that at all. The Dodgers just come up to the plate and guess, most of the time. They’ve guessed wrong this entire series. Being prepared goes a long way in October.
The Dodgers are a talented team. But winning in October takes more than just talent. Sometimes it takes careful preparation and planning. The Cardinals planned accordingly, the Dodgers didn’t. This is why the Dodgers find themselves trailing 3-1 in games in this year’s NLCS. It’s as simple as that.