Call it a game of missed opportunities. The Cardinals and Dodgers left a combined 30 runners stranded on base, which is a post-season record, but the Dodgers did enough to come away with a 5-3 win to take game one of this NLDS series on a night when Chris Carpenter wasn’t his sharpest.
Not coming through in the clutch has been a concern for the Cardinals of late who have been an up and down team at times during the season at the plate. The Cardinals had an opportunity to jump out to a big lead off Dodgers’ starter Randy Wolf. They loaded the bases thanks to a lead-off walk to Skip Schumaker, a ground rule double by Brendan Ryan and an intentional walk to Albert Pujols. Wolf, then struck out Matt Holliday who never lifted the bat off his shoulder in his first plate appearance. Ryan Ludwick battled Wolf and floated a soft pop up into short center field that was misplayed by second basemen Ronnie Belliard that put the Cardinals on top 1-0. However, Wolf got out of the inning when Belliard made a nice play up to middle to turn a double play and end the threat.
I was concerned the 32 pitch first inning may actually hurt Chris Carpenter who had to wait quite awhile after warming up in the bullpen. Carpenter was not sharp early on. Leadoff hitter Rafael Furcal singled (he would end up with three hits) and scored on Matt Kemp’s two run homer on a pitch belt high over the plate. The Dodgers were up 2-1.
The Dodgers had a shot to blow the game open in the bottom of the third, when Carpenter hit Andre Ethier and walked Manny Ramirez on four pitches. Ethier moved to third on a sac fly and then scored when Casey Blake lined one of third base where Mark DeRosa made a great back hand diving stop, but got up and overthrew second base. It was a split second decision, but had DeRosa held the ball or looked home, he may have caught Ethier too far off of third. Carpenter got out of that jam leaving the bases loaded getting the pitcher Wolf to pop up. In fact, the Dodgers loaded the bases three different times against the Cardinals.
Wolf was chased in the fourth, when Skip Schumaker doubled a run in to cut the lead to 3-2, but four relievers held the Cardinals scoreless until the ninth, including former Cardinal and 2006 World Series hero Jeff Weaver pitched an inning and a third to pick up the win.
Another walk led to another solo run for the Dodgers in the fifth as Carpenter was not sharp…not the same pitcher who went 17-4 on the year. He gave up nine hits and walk four in his five innings over work and left trailing 4-2. The Dodgers added another run in the sixth, when Dennys Reyes gave up a lead-off double to Ethier and two batters later, Kyle McClellan gave up an RBI single.
In the ninth, the never say die Cardinals made one last run at Dodgers’ closer Jonathan Broxton. With two outs, Mark DeRosa doubled in Ryan Ludwick who singled, but Rick Ankiel struck out. Broxton picked up the save going 1.1 innings while striking out two in the ninth to close the Dodger’s win.
After the game, Carpenter reflected on his start saying, “They didn’t miss anything in the middle of the plate, and when I wasn’t in the middle of the plate, I wasn’t on the corners, I didn’t make very many good pitches all night.”
This series is not going to be about Albert Pujols. It’s going to come down to Matt Holliday. I got the feeling last night, this was Scott Rolen, part 2. Pujols was intentionally walked twice when he came up with runners in scoring position. He was 0 for 3 with three ground outs in the at-bats where the Dodgers pitched to him.
It was Holliday who didn’t deliver. He was 1 for 4 with two strikeouts and he left the bases loaded in the first looking at a called third strike. However, it’s a short turnaround as the Cardinals and Dodgers are the middle game of a triple-header of playoff baseball.
The Cardinals will rest their hopes on the arm of Adam Wainwright and hope they can leave L.A. with a split which is essentially all you ask for when you start a series on the road, yet I can’t help thinking the Cardinals felt they let an opportunity get away from them last night in game one.