With two dominant pitching staffs battling for the pennant in a best of seven playoff series, momentum is key. As Don Mattingly said the playoffs can be one game momentum swings. So getting an early lead is crucial. In a lot of these games the club that gets an early lead ends up going on to win, or has the best chance of winning.
In the first inning of NLCS game 5 was a big momentum push for the Dodgers. The Club was on the brink of elimination and falling behind in the first inning may have been the final nail in the coffin. It almost went that way when Zack Greinke’s nerves flared up in the top of the first inning of game 5. The birdman began the frame by allowing two bloop singles and a walk to load the bases with nobody out. Matt Carpenter dunked a single to center, and after a walk to Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday singled.
The Dodgers were in the worst possible scenario we could have imagined at that point, and I thought that it was over. I wanted to shield my eyes from the impending doom that was going to follow. You now how much I dislike first inning runs allowed, but in the playoffs, in an elimination game? That was my worst nightmare I tell you. Fortunately that didn’t happen and Greinke and the Dodgers got out of it.
Greinke settled down, and settled in and recorded a huge strike out on Matt Adams. A 2-2 pitch was called strike three for the first out. Next up was the struggling Cardinal’s catcher Yadier Molina. The right handed backstop had just three hits in the series, was hitting .174, and had been ice cold. Greinke took advantage by getting Molina to bounce into a 5-3 double play. Juan Uribe pounced on the grounder, and stepped on the third base bag for a force and then fired across the diamond for the third out. The Dodgers escaped!
The crowd went crazy when the Dodgers got out of that inning. Greinke performed like a David Copperfield by making that Cardinal rally disappear. It was a critical moment in the game. It allowed the Dodgers to take a breath and then get going on offense to get in front.
Greinke found his groove and pitched seven strong innings. He got another key double play on Molina in the third inning, and the Cardinals stranded 11 runners on base. The Dodgers won game 5 by a 6-4 score to force a game 6 on Friday night.
These emotional swings in the postseason can change the pace of a game. That first inning high wire act was the most important moment of the game for the Dodgers. If the Dodgers can capitalize and win the next two games, then that game 5 first inning may wind up being the most important moment of the series.