The opening game of the National League Championship Series got off to a start that many predicted, with the St. Louis Cardinals defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 in 13 innings. We told you yesterday that it would be a low-scoring affair. We told you pitching would be a major factor. And we also told you that Don Mattingly would be an x-factor. All of those came true. And with a little help from a missed call at home plate, Carlos Beltran cemented his place in postseason history with yet another prolific performance.
If you stayed awake until the wee hours of Saturday morning, you saw a great finish. And, as mentioned, you saw Carlos Beltran continue to mark his spot in postseason history. Beltran made the most of his 6 at-bats with two perfectly-timed hits, including the game-winner off the Dodgers’ stud closer Kensley Jansen. In total, he knocked in all three Cardinals runs and made one stellar play in the outfield, gunning down Mark Ellis in the top of the 10th on a play that didn’t look controversial at first.
As the ball reached Yadier Molina at home, Ellis was 3 or 4 feet from home plate as Molina braced for the collision. When Ellis reached home, Molina turned just enough away from Ellis that he never actually tagged him with the ball or glove. On a bang-bang play, that would be hard to tell. In a world where the home audience has dozens of camera angles to choose from, it was clearly visible. Although Ellis claimed after that game that he even knew that he should have been out, that is not the point. It was a missed call, and unfortunately, could have swung the game’s outcome in their direction. Here’s a breakdown of the entire series of events of that play at the plate.
What also could have assisted the Dodgers throughout the evening was Adrian Gonzalez, the Dodgers’ $22 million slugging first baseman. Replaced by Dee Gordon in the 8th inning at Mattingly’s behest, Gonzalez sat and watched as Gordon was promptly forced out by a fielder’s choice just three pitches later. Mattingly’s strategy – if you want to call it that – was clearly a backfire. Two innings later, with men on 1st and 3rd, Gonzalez’s replacement, Michael Young, came up and hit the weak pop fly to right that resulted in the play at home detailed above. Two innings later, Young came up again with two men on and hit into another double play. Two at-bats and four outs. Don Mattingly’s asinine calculated moves definitely assisted in the Cardinals victory – but the outcome wasn’t his fault entirely.
The Dodgers missed a lot of opportunities to take Game 1. Zack Greinke’s stellar performance went to waste, and he no doubt will remember that the next time out – whether it’s a positive or a negative. The Dodgers left a lot of runners on the bases, with Yasiel Puig and Young leading the way in futility. And the bumbling move by Mattingly in the 13th, bringing his closer in with two men aboard already – which is statistically the worst thing you can do with a closer – did not help. But it was Beltran who brought the most positive outcomes to the game.
Beltran’s two clutch hits and throw from right to gun down Ellis were the highlights. But, more over, Beltran further cemented his spot as one of the greatest – if not the greatest – postseason hitter of all-time. In only 40 postseason games, Beltran has a .345 average, 16 HRs, 34 RBIs, 42 runs, 11 SBs, and is top five all-time in both OPS and Slugging. He has similar numbers to Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth in as many at-bats and it’s time to acknowledge his badassery. With last night’s showcase, it looks like the world has.
Game 2 is tonight and the Dodgers are countering with Clayton Kershaw, who aims to tie this series at one game each. Kershaw is their ace and stump card and badly need another stellar pitching performance on his part, especially if they are without Hanley Ramirez for the game. As of this morning, there were rumors circulating that Ramirez might be a late scratch due to an injury he sustained in an at-bat last night. With Don Mattingly as their manager, the Dodgers will need as much help as they can get.