Resilient Dodgers escape near disaster with 3-2 win over Cardinals

Written By kolimtiga on Minggu, 05 Oktober 2014 | 12.56

Another dreadful Dodgers collapse has become a thunderous Dodgers memory.

Moments after a Dodgers bullpen collapse Saturday, Matt Kemp took a freshly tied score and knocked a pitch deep over the Dodger Stadium left-field fence for an eighth-inning leadoff home run against the St. Louis Cardinals' Pat Neshek to give the Dodgers a 3-2 victory in Game 2 of a National League division series.

It was a loud cheer after a long boo.

All those fans who questioned Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly for not replacing a tired Clayton Kershaw in the seventh inning Friday night were given a loud and definitive answer.

It was an eight-inning, score-tying, two-run home run blasted over the left-field wall by the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter on Saturday night against reliever J.P. Howell. It was potential devastation for a Dodgers team whose season was hanging in the balance.

At the start of the eighth inning, Mattingly replaced the brilliant Zack Greinke after 103 pitches even thought he was throwing a two-hitter with his team leading, 2-0.

A night earlier, in the series opener, Mattingly had left ace Kershaw in the game in the seventh inning after several hours of 90-degree heat because the Dodgers ace was better than any of the team's wildly inconsistent middle relief options. Kershaw proceeded to blow a five-run lead and the Dodgers lost, 10-9, amid some criticism of the Dodgers manager.

He was not criticized in this space. It was obvious he had no choice but to leave Kershaw in the game, just as it should have been obvious that he should have left Grienke in this game at least until Kenley Jansen could have shown up for a four-out save.

It was a despairing turn in a game that the Dodgers had been winning with sucessful desperation.

Greinke pitched like the ace that Kershaw was not Friday night, and pitched like most pitchers never hit. He gave up only two hits in seven innings, had two singles, scored a run, and his teammates fell in line.

A.J. Ellis kept slugging like Babe Ruth. Adrian Gonzalez kept slugging like, well, Adrian Gonzalez. And one of the biggest bashes of the night didn't even come from a player, but instant replay officials in New York.

In all, it was a survival test that at least began as a survivors' party, until Carpenter at least momentarily ruined it, and dread fell across Chavez Ravine like a mist.

A successful night wasn't just needed, it was absolutely necessary. A day earlier, the Dodgers had lost a five-run lead with baseball's best pitcher on the mound, and not only were they fighting feelings of devastation, but also history.

In 38 division series before this season, only eight times have teams come back from a two-games-to-none deficit to win the series. Only the San Francisco Giants in 2012 did it with more road games than home games remaining. So with a loss, the Dodgers would have been statistically toast.

On Friday night, Ellis reminded the Dodgers of their two comebacks from awful opening games to win each of their September three-game series against the Giants this season.

"I think we have done a good job of being resilient all season long … this team has always bounced back well,'' Ellis said before the game. "I stared at the ceiling last night, but when I woke up this morning, I moved on today,''

Then his team proceeded to move on, beginning with a parade of champions. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a six-time NBA champion, announced the lineups. Maury Wills, a three-time World Series champion, threw out the first pitch.

Then Greinke started throwing pitches for real, and the focus became real serious, real quick.

In the top of the first inning, John Jay found himself on second base with one out after being hit in the foot and advancing on a wild pitch. But, in an eight-pitch plate appearance that the Dodgers actually won, Matt Holliday struck out, then Matt Adams grounded out to end the inning.

Greinke built off that little victory, not giving up a hit until Kolten Wong's double with one out in the fifth inning. He then stranded the second baseman on second base by striking out Game 1 home run hero Randal Grichukand pitcher Lance Lynn. Carpenter doubled to start the sixth inning, but Greinke stranded him there in an inning that included strikeouts of Holliday and Jhonny Peralta.

Every time Greinke needed a big pitch, he found one. And every time the Dodgers needed him for a big hit, he created one.

The Dodgers offense started, as it usually does against the Cardinals, with somebody being offended. Yasiel Puig glared at Lynn after being nearly hit in the ribs with an inside fastball by Lynn in the first inning.

Lynn's strategy worked, as Puig struck out diving and flailing on the next pitch, and then became so upset with the situation that he jawed at catcher Yadier Molina before being led off the field.

Tempers calmed, and Greinke sharpened his bat for the third inning, which started when Ellis had his fifth hit in six at-bats in this series with a double off the right-field wall. Grienke then set up to bunt … backed off for ball one … set up again .. then backed off to swing, connecting on a line drive single to right field.

Greinke, a .former 328 hitter who later added a single to left, now has more five more career postseason hits than the Angels' Mike Trout.

With runners on first and second, the stage was set for the game to briefly move to New York after Dee Gordon hit a grounder to Wong. With Greinke running to second, Wong appeared to tag him and throw to first base for the double play that scored Ellis.

But with Dodgers bench coach Tim Wallach screaming from the dugout for a challenge, the replay showed that Wong had tagged Greinke with his glove after already transferring the ball to his throwing hand. A hidden glove trick? Whatever it was, the Cardinals made a rare mistake and the Dodgers capitalized.

With Greinke returned safely to second, Gonzalez fought off a two-strike fastball to knock it into center field to score him for the second run of the inning.

With the way Greinke was pitching, many thought it was going to be the clinching run. As with Friday night, many thought wrong.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

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