The Los Angeles Dodgers are the first team into the League Championship Series round, the St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays staved off elimination in thrillers, and the Oakland A’s put themselves in control. TheSportsNotebook’s MLB coverage takes a quick tour of the four games that went down on Monday…
LA Dodgers 4 Atlanta 3: Don Mattingly took a massive risk with his surprise announcement that Clayton Kershaw would pitch last night’s game on three days rest and it was set to blow up in his face, when the Dodgers trailed 3-2 in the eighth inning.
Kershaw pitched very well, allowing just three hits and two runs, but as you would expect from someone making his first start on short rest, he made an early exit after six innings. Atlanta got the lead in the seventh and was in position to go back home for a Game 5 and the Dodgers no longer having a rested Kershaw as an insurance policy.
Then Juan Uribe saved the day. Atlanta’s bullpen has been great all year, but Uribe took Dan Carpenter deep for a two-run blast in the bottom of the eighth and the Dodgers win 4-3. Carl Crawford also hit two solo shots off Freddy Garcia, the veteran Braves starter who turned in an admirable job and had his team in position to win.
I don’t like the decision to use Kershaw. I feel like Los Angeles had a good situation with a home game against Garcia and a rested Kershaw in reserve. Keep in mind, #4 starter Ricky Nolasco is better than Garcia and there’s every reason to think the Dodgers might have won this game anyway, and then Kershaw would have been available on Friday to open the NLCS. If you want to try him on short rest, then do a Games 1/4/7 run.
Of course as it is, Mattingly can throw Zack Greinke in the opener and have Kershaw ready for Game 2. Great talent can make almost any decision look good, but I really think the Los Angeles manager opened the door for Atlanta to win this series and they came close to knocking that door down .
St. Louis 2 Pittsburgh 1: Michael Wacha came within an out of a no-hitter in his last regular season start, and he took another no-no into the eighth inning of this game, before Pedro Alvarez ruined the no-hitter, shutout and nearly the season when he hit a solo home run. Trevor Rosenthal’s relief performance didn’t inspire confidence, but he got Andrew McCutchen with a man aboard in the ninth to close the game.
For Pirate fans, Alvarez’s home run–his third of this Division Series–almost made it a worst-case scenario. It wasn’t enough to win the game and trigger a celebration and it cost them the chance to see just the third postseason no-hitter in baseball history (Don Larsen in 1956 and Roy Halladay in 2010 being the others). Then again, I don’t think anyone in the Steel City was complaining when the ball left the yard.
Tampa Bay 5 Boston 4: This was a great baseball game that ended with Jose Lobaton as an unlikely hero when he hit a two-out solo home run off Boston closer Koji Uehara in the ninth. I also have to say that when a normal nine-inning game takes over four hours to complete, MLB has to do something. Clay Bucholz takes an interminable amount of time between pitches and as one who follows and roots for the Red Sox, I’m tired of it. Pitch the damn ball.
Bucholz didn’t pitch all that well, but was in position to escape it when he had a 3-0 lead and two outs in the fifth with two men on. Then Evan Longoria hit a three-run shot to save the Tampa Bay season. I’m sure Boston manager John Farrell will get some heat for pitching to Longoria with first base open and slumping Wil Myers on deck.
If anyone was first-guessing the manager, they have the right to crow. I just felt like it wasn’t an ideal situation. Slumping or not, Myers is a threat and you don’t want to put the tying run on first base. If Longoria beats you with a two-RBI single you can live with it. There’s only one way it really blows up in your face and it’s what transpired. On balance, the bigger lesson is that when you put two runners on base in front of the middle of the order, good things are likely to happen. Shocking insight, I know.
We also need to note that Tampa Bay closer Fernando Rodney blew a 4-3 lead in the ninth and while the Red Sox didn’t hit him hard, this continues problems for Rodney this season. We’ll see if that issue comes up again tonight or a potential Game 5 back in Fenway on Thursday.
Oakland 6 Detroit 3: Anibal Sanchez had nothing for the Tigers. Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss and Seth Smith all took him deep in the first five innings and this was only briefly a game, after a three-run Detroit outburst in the fourth. That’s the only inning Detroit has scored in the last two games.
AMERICAN LEAGUE TUESDAY
It’s travel time in the National League, as the Pirates and Cards travel to St. Louis for their Game 5 date on Wednesday night. The Red Sox and A’s look to clinch tonight, with each knowing they have home games in reserve.
The Tigers can point to at least having Max Scherzer available for a Game 5 back in Oakland. It would seem that the Rays would turn to David Price on short rest if they can make it back to Boston. Although if that’s the case, I’m curious as to why Joe Maddon wouldn’t just go with Game 1 starter Matt Moore tonight on short rest, given how much Jeremy Hellickson has struggled this year.
I suppose the manager still might–it was about this time yesterday that we learned of Mattingly’s decision to go with Kershaw, but as of 1:30 PM ET, it’s still Hellickson listed as the Game 4 starter in Tampa.
Both games are on TBS, starting at 5 PM ET, with Oakland-Detroit going first and then Boston-Tampa Bay in the nightcap. The Red Sox send Jake Peavy to the mound, while it’s Dan Straily-Doug Fister in the first game.