This year’s NLCS has certainly had its share of drama. You can usually count on at least one one-sided blow out per playoff series, but it just hasn’t happened here yet. Don’t look for it to start today.
The Dodgers need a win today to keep their season alive, and they’ll look to Zack Greinke for a repeat of his masterful 8 inning performance in Game 1. If the Dodgers are going to win, they’ll need lights out pitching to overcome their injury stricken lineup’s inability to hit and Don Mattingly’s inability to manage.
But let’s be fair, Mattingly has not done everything wrong this series, just most things. One of the scant few decisions he’s gotten right is riding Greinke for 8 innings in Game 1, after an entire season of pulling starters not named Kershaw after 6 innings and inserting the ghost of Ronald Belisario. Greinke will be going on regular rest today so there is no reason to think fatigue will play any factor.
The question is, can they manage to scratch a couple of runs together off of the talented Joe Kelly? The answer to that question is, most likely not. To give themselves the best shot of doing so, Mattingly will have to change the batting order, which would be a good decision, so you can bet every last penny you have in the bank that it won’t happen. But, because I’m a masochist, I’ll throw it out there anyway. Step one, move Yasiel Puig to the two spot in front of Adrian Gonzalez. That way, the youngster is protected a little bit. That moves Mark Ellis down to the 7th spot, not as a demotion, but because that’s where his and AJ Ellis’ plate discipline will be best served. Draw some walks and turn that lineup around to give the big hitters more chances.
It all, of course, goes out the window if Hanley and Ethier are unable to go. But in the case that they aren’t, Mattingly should go with Scott Van Slyke and Michael Young rather than Skip Schumaker and Nick Punto…which of course he won’t because he’s incapable of making a smart call by anything other than luck. Van Slyke and Young are the superior offensive players in this equation, and while you’re sacrificing defense, defense is not what the problem has been for the Blue Crew this series.
Am I being too hard on Mattingly? I don’t know, you tell me. He’s the guy who made Brandon League his closer the first quarter of the season.
What do the Cards need to do to win? Well, getting a repeat performance from Kelly would be a good start. He’s young and a bit excitable, but doesn’t cave under pressure so another 6 solid innings isn’t a stretch. Offensively, they’ll need to make Greinke work harder than they did in Game 1. Greinke has a mechanically sound, repeatable delivery, resulting in good command and a lot of first pitch strikes. They swung at a lot of first and early count pitches in Game 1, allowing Greinke to breeze through 8 innings.
If they can work some counts early, even if it means passing on some hittable pitches, they might run his pitch count up to where he could be out of the game after 6 innings. That will put Mattingly in a spot where he’ll have to make important decisions, tilting the scale hugely in favor of Matheny and the Cards.
What’s ultimately going to happen? Heck, I don’t know. I may be going with my heart over my head here, but I think the Dodgers take a close one 3-1. Greinke will be excellent and the bullpen will bend but not break for an inning or two. Meanwhile, a solid effort by Kelly will be just not quite enough, and the series goes back to Saint Louis for Game 6.
Oh, and while I’m at it, we take Game 6 also. I’m unbelievably impressed by what Michael Wacha has been able to do for the Cards down the stretch and in the playoffs, but I don’t think he’ll out duel Clayton Kershaw twice.
Sorry, Dodger fans. That’s where the fairy tale ends. The Cards will take Game 7, as I also don’t think that Hyun Jin Ryu can out duel the brilliant Adam Wainwright twice.
What do you think, did I get it right? If not, I’ll say Shaun spiked my Sprite.