It took Matt Kemp’s heroics to save the Dodgers bullpen from an ignominious defeat, and now the Boys in Blue head to St. Louis with winning on their minds.
Make no mistake about it, the Kemp home run saved the Dodgers hyde. They don’t blow two home games against the Cardinals and rescue this series. The bison emerged and now the Dodgers look to find their traction in St. Louis. The Game 3 pitching match-up looks like a good one. Hyun-Jin Ryu takes the ball for the Dodgers after nursing a sore shoulder for the past three weeks. He is the Dodgers best option even though he may not be 100 percent. He takes on seasoned veteran John Lackey, who was a mid-season acquisition from the Boston Red Sox.
I see more question marks than certainties as we approach Game 3. For Ryu its his health. When he is on, he has an assortment of pitches that keep hitters off-balance. He doesn’t overpower, but knows how to pitch to hitters weaknesses. He misses barrels and the Dodgers need him to miss a few on Monday night. Lackey is a big game pitcher, having beaten the San Francisco Giants as a rookie in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series. He was the ace of the Angels staff for several seasons before signing a lucrative contract with the Red Sox and helping them win a World Series last year. Lackey is the Cardinals version of Josh Beckett in terms of mentality. He is what I like to call a red-ass. I mean this in the most complementary of ways.
Lackey can be cantankerous, grumpy and angry on the mound and it seems to serve him well. When he goes on tilt (poker term) he can be his own worst enemy and we have seen a lot of that over the last five years. I don’t expect Lackey to give in, which means Ryu needs to be dialed in.
The reason the Dodgers should have some optimism is their 49-32 road record this year. They were considerably better on the road then at home this season. The 49 wins was the best in major league baseball and that is why I think the Dodgers have a real good shot at making some noise in St. Louis. The loss in Game 1 could have ruined a weaker team, but the Dodgers rode Zack Greinke’s great outing, Adrian Gonzalez’s leadership and Matt Kemp’s tie-breaking home run to even the NLDS at a game apiece.
The Dodgers should also be happy that they most likely will have Clayton Kershaw ready to go on three days rest in Game 4. Nothing officially has been said, but if the Dodgers were going to pitch Kershaw on three days rest UP 2-games-to-1 last year against Atlanta, it stands to reason they would pitch him either up or down 2-to-1 on Tuesday.
As much as the Dodgers need Kershaw to take the mound in this series, I believe he needs it for his psyche just as much. His aire of invincibility has been dented by the St. Louis Cardinals beat-downs in the last two post-seasons. His disastrous 4 inning 10 hit 7 earned run outing in last years NLCS is merely a footnote to his colossal collapse on Friday night. Whether he missed his spots or the Cardinals deciphered the pitch sequence and sat on pitches doesn’t really matter. Kershaw and the Dodgers need to fix it. I am stunned that the Dodgers didn’t rectify an issue that the Cardinals were able to exploit last year. I think the Dodgers and Kershaw fix the problem and he pitches well in Game 4 against Shelby Miller.
This promises to be an exciting few days as the Dodgers try to exorcise the Cardinal-demon and set up a likely NLCS for the ages against their bitter rivals, the San Francisco Giants.