Hanley Ramirez: The Dodgers are 55-28 when he is in the starting lineup this season. They are 41-45 when he is not.
Ramirez did not play in Game 2 of the NLCS because of a hairline fracture in his ribs, but he managed the pain well enough to get back in the lineup for Game 3. Ramirez collected two bloop singles and an RBI in four at-bats as the Dodgers defeated St. Louis 3-0 Monday night to cut the Cardinals' lead in the series to 2-1.
Ramirez's presence helped the Dodgers, sure, but the main storylines from this game were poor St. Louis defense and outstanding pitching from Los Angeles starter Hyun-Jin Ryu.
The Dodgers had failed to score a run in their previous 22 offensive innings before breaking through with two tallies in the bottom of the fourth inning off St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright. Both runs were gifts. Cardinals center fielder John Jay and right fielder Carlos Beltran had a miscommunication on a fly ball to right-center off the bat of Los Angeles second baseman Mark Ellis. Jay should have made the play; Beltran could have made the play. Neither man did, and Ellis was credited with a gift double. He would later score on a softly hit double by Adrian Gonzalez.
Yasiel Puig finished the rally with a two-out RBI triple. The hit broke and 0-for-11 slump (with seven strikeouts) for Puig. None of that would have happened if Jay had made the catch on Ellis' ball. It was a poor defensive night for Jay overall. He had four misplays out there, and was fortunate Wainwright was able to pitch over a couple of his other gaffes. Ramirez added his bloop RBI hit in the eighth inning to cap the scoring, after Jay let a Carl Crawford blooper fall in front of him.
Ryu, a rookie left-hander, couldn't have pitched any better against the most prolific offense in the National League. He fired seven shutout innings, striking out four and allowing just three hits. That performance was exactly what the Dodgers needed. They couldn't afford to go down 3-0 in the series. They had to find a way to beat Wainwright, who had never lost in the postseason previously. Thanks to that performance by Ryu, they are back in the series.
Game 4 is Tuesday night, and both teams will be using their weakest starting pitcher. Lance Lynn, who picked up a win in relief in Game 1, is going for the Cardinals. Ricky Nolasco gets the ball for the Dodgers. St. Louis needs to get its bats going against Nolasco. The Dodgers will be able to throw their pair of aces, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, in Games 5 and 6. St. Louis won Games 1 and 2, which were started by Greinke and Kershaw, respectively. I don't know if the Cardinals will be able to pull that off again, so I feel like it would behoove them to win Game 4. That way, they'll have a little cushion before facing the Dodgers' top two guys again.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Friday, October 4, 2013
The St. Louis Cardinals scored seven runs in the third inning and went on to an easy 9-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Los Angeles Dodgers also got out to an early lead and coasted to a 6-1 win over the Atlanta Braves. In each of these two games, you knew who was going to win by the fourth inning.
The highlight of the day was definitely the performance of Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw. After Adrian Gonzalez hit a home run in the third inning to put the Dodgers up 4-0, you had a feeling Kershaw was going to shut the door. He's 36-0 lifetime when Los Angeles scores four or more runs for him. Shut the door he did, striking out 12 Atlanta hitters and allowing just three hits over seven innings. At one point, Kershaw fanned six consecutive batters.
If you're the Braves, this isn't what you wanted to see in Game 1. Atlanta has the reputation of an all-or-nothing offense. The Braves led the National League in home runs this year with 181. They also tied for the league lead in strikeouts with 1,384. All-or-nothing was nothing on this night, and the Braves won't have it easy in Game 2, either, as they must contend with Los Angeles right-hander Zack Greinke, who has a 1.85 ERA since the All-Star break.
Meanwhile in St. Louis, Carlos Beltran hit a three-run homer off Pittsburgh's A.J. Burnett during that seven-run outburst, and that was your ballgame. Adam Wainwright pitched seven innings of one-run ball and remained unbeaten in his postseason career (3-0, 2.27 ERA). This one was a real snoozer unless you are a Cardinals fan.
We'll see if the action heats up on Friday, with four Division Series games on tap around the country.