Saturday, September 15, 2012
3 up, 3 down: Dodgers 4, Cardinals 3
By Mark Saxon
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers got the kind of stirring victory that can turn a pennant race.
They rallied for two runs in the ninth inning to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 4-3 and pull into a dead heat in the race for the second wild-card berth with 16 games left. Pinch hitter Juan Rivera singled off Daniel Descalso's glove to drive in the winning run off St. Louis closer Jason Motte.
It helped ease the sting of bad news before the game about ace Clayton Kershaw, who could be out for the season because of a hip injury.
Señor Clutch. If the Dodgers actually get to the playoffs, Luis Cruz will have played as big a part in it as anyone. When you consider where his career stood three months ago, that is stunning. Cruz hit a huge home run Friday and had a two-out, RBI double to give the Dodgers life Saturday. He may be 28, he may have spent virtually his entire career in the minor leagues, but he's proving to people he can play. It has saved this season for the Dodgers.
Thievery. The Dodgers got Shane Victorino thinking he could add life to the top of their lineup. Instead, like the rest of the players they acquired in trades, he has been just so-so. He hadn't gotten on base enough to make a difference with his feet, but Saturday he added some energy. He didn't get any hits, but he got on base twice, stole two bases (off Yadier Molina) and scored a run thanks to one of his steals. Victorino's not the main culprit, but if he could get going it might help stir some things to life.
Señor Clutch 2. It's not as if Adrian Gonzalez is having a great year, certainly not by his standards. But what he has done consistently all year is get guys in. Lately, he has been generating the Dodgers only early offense. He singled to right to drive in Victorino in the first inning and he's batting .394 with runners in scoring position. That's the best in the majors. As long as you can get a guy to second in front of Gonzalez, you're usually in good shape. If only that were happening more often.
Kemp's slide. This Dodgers cold stretch is becoming more and more about Matt Kemp. He is in one of the deepest slumps in his life, as he's batting .116 this month with 12 strikeouts, one walk and two RBIs. Saturday may have been rock bottom -- at least the Dodgers hope so. Kemp struck out in his first three at-bats, twice swinging at sliders and once looking at one. Is it because he hit that wall in Colorado and hurt his shoulder? Who knows, but he says he's healthy and you have to take him at his word.
Up the middle. Whether it's rust or lack of focus or anything else, the Dodgers have not been getting good defense from Hanley Ramirez at shortstop. He didn't make an error Saturday, but he didn't charge Matt Holliday's grounder in the sixth, made a weak throw to Mark Ellis and it cost the Dodgers a double play. The next batter, Allen Craig, put St. Louis ahead with a single to left. Before the trade, Ramirez told the Dodgers he would play either third or shortstop. It may be time to take him at his word.
Bottom third. A.J. Ellis has started 11 straight games and caught every inning of them. Two of those went 11 innings. Several of them were in brutal heat. He figures to get Sunday's day game off, but you wonder whether he's beaten down by the workload. Ellis went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and the rest of the bottom part of the lineup did nothing either. The Dodgers, when Kemp wasn't hitting, actually had some nice flow at the top of the lineup, but it fell off a cliff beyond Ramirez.