After the first two games of the NLCS, Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke can probably start to identify with professional athletes like Dan Marino and Ted Williams.
Williams is one of the greatest hitters in the history of Major League Baseball, winning the MVP and Triple Crown awards in multiple seasons. But guess what? For all of his clutch hitting, Williams never won a World Series.
Marino is an NFL Hall of Famer who set numerous passing records, including throwing 48 touchdown passes in one season. Although he led the league in passing many times, Marino never won a Super Bowl.
Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw pitched their fannies off for the Dodgers in games one and two of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals. The pitchers combined to throw 14 innings over the first two games of the NLCS, allowing only six hits and two earned runs (both by Greinke).
In addition, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw struck out 20 hitters over those 14 innings. However, the Dodgers’ bats picked a fine time to go into hibernation. As a result, the Dodgers’ chances are slimmer than a New York runway model before a photo shoot.
Are the Dodgers dead? Well, not technically. The Cardinals still have to win two games. And the Dodgers are returning to their Pacific time zone in Los Angeles and the comforts of Chavez Ravine.
But it ain’t gonna be easy!
Prior to this series, the Dodgers were in the driver’s seat because they had their aces going in the first two games. The Cardinals had to use ace Adam Wainwright in the game-five clincher of the NLDS against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Oct. 9.
After stellar pitching performances by youngsters Michael Wacha and Joe Kelly, St. Louis is not only in the driver’s seat in the NLCS, they have locked the doors and have the car warmed up.
Further complicating things for Los Angeles is the fact that Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier had to sit out the second game of the series Saturday because of injuries. Even if they return for game three on Monday, it remains to be seen whether they will do so at full strength.
Adding extreme name-calling to injury for the Dodgers, they must now use rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu next and roller-coaster hurler Ricky Nolasco in game four. Ryu readied himself for the playoffs by going 1-3 in September. In his NLDS start against the Atlanta Braves, Ryu only lasted three innings, allowing six hits and four earned runs.
If you think Ryu was shaky over the final month of the season, you should have seen Nolasco. Over his final four starts of the regular season, Nolasco went 2-2 with a 6.66 ERA. Nolasco was so undependable for the Dodgers that manager Don Mattingly felt more comfortable with Kershaw on three days’ rest over a fully recharged Nolasco.
Where, oh where, have the Dodgers’ bats gone? Oh, where, oh where can they be?
Over the first two games of the NLCS, the Dodgers are 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position. Yes, you have to tip your cap to Cardinals pitchers. They have done an amazing job.
However, when you have 16 chances in two games to drive home a run, that is proof that the Dodgers have had opportunities. Missing out on scoring against a team that has made four-straight NLCS appearances is a recipe for disaster for the Dodgers.
Game three is a must-win contest for the Dodgers. It is also imperative that the Dodgers beat the Cardinals in game four. Why? In MLB history, only 10 of the 70 teams that have faced a 3-1 playoff deficit have come back to win a series. In case you’re not a mathematician, that gives the Dodgers a 14 percent chance of coming back if they win game three, but lose game four.
It all starts with Ryu on Monday. But it also continues with the ice-cold Dodger bats that must try to warm up against Wainwright and his sick curveball.
After Monday’s third game of the NLCS, we will have a much better idea of whether Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke will begin to empathize with players like Ted Williams and Dan Marino.