Baseball is a wonderful game. Unless you're a Dodgers fan. Sorry, Dodgers fans. The unexpected happened again as the Cardinals head to the National League Championship Series after a dramatic 3-2 win over Clayton Kershaw. Five moments:
1. MATT ADAMS.
The setup: Dodgers lead 2-0, bottom of the seventh. Kershaw at 94 pitches, having struck out nine, including all three batters in the sixth. He'd allowed one hit. Matt Holliday led off the inning -- just like Game 1. This is why baseball players are superstitious.
Holliday grounded a 1-1 curveball up the middle, off the glove of diving second baseman Dee Gordon. Jhonny Peralta bounced a 1-1, 91 mph fastball for a base hit off the glove of leaping shortstop Hanley Ramirez.
Oh boy. Our colleague Jonah Keri tweeted this:
Zero managers out of 30 would do it. But with season on the line right here, this should be Kenley Jansen.
— Jonah Keri (@jonahkeri) October 7, 2014
Kershaw was at 100 pitches on three days' rest. When he started Game 4 against the Braves in last year's division series on three days of rest, Don Mattingly pulled him after 91 pitches.
This time, Mattingly left him in. He's the best pitcher in baseball. Neither hit had been struck hard. A left-handed batter who hit .190 against lefties was up. The Dodgers' bullpen ... we know about the Dodgers' bullpen. Having lost faith in J.P. Howell, Mattingly was basically down to closer Kenley Jansen as someone he trusted. But as Jonah indicated, managers don't play that game.
Adams swung through a 93 mph fastball up in the zone. Kershaw came in with his famous curveball, regarded as maybe the most unhittable pitch in the game. In the regular season, batters hit .122 against it with one home run. Over three seasons they hit .101 against it with one home run. It's unhittable.
Except it isn't.
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 7, 2014
I don't care who the pitcher was or what team was batting, that was absolutely awesome.
— Corinne (@Ut26) October 7, 2014
Well, Kershaw can pitch six innings against the Cards in October. Now we know.
— Howard Cole (@Howard_Cole) October 7, 2014
Ten run-scoring hits for the Cardinals this series. Eight of them by LH batters against LHP.
— Michael Baumann (@MJ_Baumann) October 7, 2014
— Nick W. Schaller (@NeastWS) October 7, 2014
2. Matt Adams celebrates.
@dschoenfield Dave, it's Matt Adams 3rd hit off of a curveball from a LHP in his career. All 3 were HRs. First Kershaw's given up on curve.
— Justin Russo (@FlyByKnite) October 7, 2014
Just wanted to show that "leap" from the guy they call Big City, a one-time bad-bodied 23rd-round pick out of Slippery Rock. It was the first home run Kershaw ever allowed to a left-handed batter off his curveball. Our numbers show this pitch to Adam Dunn in 2010 as a curve (the second home run), but at 82 mph it was probably a slider.
So, tip your cap to Big City. That was pretty awesome. And worth that celebration.
3. Clayton Kershaw walks off the mound.
— MLB (@MLB) October 7, 2014
— Kevin Millar (@KMillar15) October 7, 2014
Maybe the Cardinals do own Kershaw. Look, I wrote this before the game. There's going to be a lot of talk about Kershaw's intestinal fortitude or whatever after losing yet another lead to the Cardinals. That's probably unfair. But the results are the results and Kershaw's postseason results have been disastrous. In this age of numbers and stats and data, we try to explain everything. Some things can't be explained. The Cardinals beat the best pitcher in the game. Again. What a story.
4. Yasiel Puig doesn't start and gets into the game ... as a pinch runner.
When A.J. Ellis walked with one out in the ninth with the pitcher's spot coming up, Mattingly inserted Puig into the game ... at first base. He pinch hit Justin Turner (who did have a good year at the plate, but struck out on a 3-2 99 mph fastball) for the pitcher, but that meant Puig couldn't hit for light-hitting Dee Gordon. Anyway, Gordon got a hit to extend the inning. Still weird. Some of this gets to roster construction. The Dodgers carried 12 -- TWELVE! -- pitchers in this series. They used nine of them, one for one out. Carry a real pinch runner so you don't have to waste Puig in that situation.
5. Cardinals celebrate after Carl Crawford grounds out.
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) October 8, 2014
The Cardinals came back from deficits of five runs and two runs to beat the best pitcher in the world twice. They deserve this series.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 8, 2014
From ownership on down, the Dodgers failed their fans and themselves...changes, big changes, are surely coming...
— Bill Plaschke (@BillPlaschke) October 8, 2014
Umm, yes, congrats to the Cards. As for that other tweet ... I'd say that's just a bit of an overreaction. Kershaw had leads and couldn't hold them. That's your story. You going to get rid of him?