Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Cardinals in trouble after Greinke's gem
By David Schoenfield
There isn't a whole lot of analysis needed for the Dodgers' 6-4 victory over the Cardinals in Game 5. Zack Greinke scuffled early and then dominated his final four innings, the Dodgers hit their first four home runs of the series (two from Adrian Gonzalez), Joe Kelly pitched more like the guy with shaky peripherals than the guy with the 2.69 ERA, and Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen finished it up in the final two innings. (Well, Jansen didn't exactly finish with gusto, allowing two runs and allowing the go-ahead run to get to the plate, finally striking out Adron Chambers -- on a questionable call -- to end it.)
Greinke's final line looked like he cruised through seven innings: 104 pitches, six hits, even fewer instances of hard contact, and striking out four while keeping the Cardinals off-balance with his fastball that touched 94 and that slow curve -- he throws it, on average, a couple miles slower than Adam Wainwright's curve, but seems to vary the speed more than Wainwright does. But the Cardinals had two big opportunities against him. They loaded the bases in the top of the first with two soft singles and a walk, but Greinke fanned Matt Adams on a 2-2 curveball and induced Yadier Molina -- who would have a terrible game -- to ground into a 5-3 double play.
The one stretch where the Cardinals did damage could have been prevented with a little better luck -- or maybe better defense. After the Dodgers had taken a 2-0 lead in the second, Matt Carpenter grounded a single to right with one out in the third. The Dodgers don't shift much; with a shift, Mark Ellis makes that play, although to be fair Carpenter's hit chart on groundballs has enough spray to it that not going into a severe shift is defensible.
Carlos Beltran then tripled high off the wall in center field. A tough play to be sure, but the ball did have enough hang time that it could have been caught. Andre Ethier, an obvious liability in center, didn't come close to getting back on it, and when Yasiel Puig didn't back up the carom, Beltran coasted into third. Matt Holliday doubled to deep left-center, and while Dodgers fans on Twitter were calling for Ethier's head, I'm not sure Willie Mays catches that one. The Dodgers then did shift for Matt Adams, who broke his bat and hit a soft grounder to second, an easy play for Ellis in a regular alignment but an infield single with Ellis playing deep.
Game tied, runners at the corners with one out, four straight hits, the Cards' offense finally alive. Greinke then got what was the key out of the game. He fell behind 3-1 to Molina, but Molina bounced back the mound on a 93 mph two-seam fastball, an easy 1-4-3 double play. (Molina would strike out his other two plate appearances.)
Anyway, the Dodgers are alive and if we do a quick look ahead, they have a pretty good chance of winning this series, even though it returns to St. Louis for the final two games.
1. Clayton Kershaw starts Game 6. Don't have to say much about that. Yes, the Cardinals counter with Michael Wacha, who has allowed one run in his two postseason starts, striking out 17 in 14 innings. Still, the pitching edge has to go to the Dodgers.
2. Hyun-Jin Ryu would then start Game 7 against Wainwright. Yes, on paper the edge goes to Wainwright, but Ryu beat him with seven shutout innings in Game 3. Remember, the Cardinals hit much better against right-handed pitching -- .280/.343/.412 versus .238/.301/.371 against lefties, and that line against includes Allen Craig, who is out injured. Having two left-handers starting the next two games is a big advantage for the Dodgers.
3. Cardinals bats are still struggling. They did get 10 hits on Wednesday, raising their average for the series to .177. But several of the 10 hits were flares, one was an infield single and one came when Puig lost a ball in the sun.
4. The Cardinals' bench remains a huge weakness. With the game on the line in the ninth inning against Jansen, Mike Matheny had no better option than to leave in Pete Kozma, one of the worst hitters in the majors in the regular season. He kept the rally going with a little flare but pinch-hitting for the pitcher was Chambers.
The Dodgers have their own problems -- Ethier is a liability in center and hasn't hit and Hanley Ramirez certainly appears bothered by that cracked rib. St. Louis should still rate the favorite playing at home where they went 54-27, but it looks like a toss-up to me. I think this series goes seven and I think Game 7 is decided late -- don't be surprised if Greinke is used at some point -- and comes down to the bullpens.