What happened in a disastrous Dodger third inning

The Dodgers and their fans weren’t having a nightmare. It really happened.

In the third inning of tonight’s National League Championship Series Game 6, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw got in a jam he couldn’t dig out of. Here’s what went wrong:

Prelude
Kershaw had a stressful second inning, when he gave up a single to first-time postseason starter Shane Robinson, who previously hurt the Dodgers with a pinch-hit homer in Game 4. Kershaw threw two wild pitches to allow Robinson to advance to third, and only struck out No. 8 hitter Pete Kozma on a 3-2 fastball that was above the strike zone.

Carpenter with the wood
With one out after retiring opposing pitcher Michael Wacha, Kershaw could not put Matt Carpenter away. The Cardinal second baseman took ball one, then fouled off seven pitches in a row. It’s the ability to put away a hitter that helps separate Kershaw from other pitchers, but it was nowhere to be found in this at-bat. After ball two arrived, Carpenter fouled off another pitch, then drilled a no-doubt double to right field on the 11th pitch of the at-bat.

Beltran’s belt and run
Kershaw fell behind 2-1 in the count to Carlos Beltran, then gave up a solid single to right field that scored the game’s first run. Yasiel Puig’s off-balance throw was dropped in the middle of the diamond by Adrian Gonzalez, eliminating any chance the Dodgers had of throwing Beltran out trying to advance to second base.

Letting them off the hook
Kershaw’s next five pitches were strikes – three to fan Matt Holliday (the final one looking) and then two more to Yadier Molina, to put him within a strike of escaping the inning down by only a run. But the next two pitches missed badly, and then Kershaw came in with a hanging, shoulder-high pitch that Molina lashed up the middle for the second run of the game.

Freese framed
David Freese came to the plate with Kershaw having thrown 27 pitches in the inning already. The first pitch was strike-worthy but called a ball, the second was way high and the third was fouled off. The next pitch stayed up and was grounded between Kershaw’s legs and up the middle to put runners on first and second.

Squeeze play
Matt Adams, 3 for 20 in the NLCS, swung and missed at a 1-1 pitch, and once again Kershaw was one strike away from escaping with reasonable damage. But then, the 1-2 pitch just missed – Kershaw wanted that one – the 2-2 pitch was a bit outside and the 3-2 pitch was a hair low, angering Kershaw even more. Home plate Greg Gibson certainly did Kershaw no favors in this at-bat.

The big blow
Robinson took a called first strike that was no worse than the two key balls called for Adams. But the next pitch – the 39th of the inning – was a fastball in the middle of the plate that drove home two runs and emphatically made the bottom of the third a disaster for Kershaw and the Dodgers.  Puig’s throw home was wild, allowing the runners to advance to second and third, but the damage was already done.

The merciful end
Kozma was walked intentionally, bringing the inning’s leadoff hitter, Wacha, back to the plate. By this time, no hitter could be considered an easy one for Kershaw. Wacha took ball one, then fouled off three pitches before taking a called third strike on the 48th pitch from Kershaw in the bottom of the third.

Heaven will wait
The TBS announcers were like wild animals in on the kill going after Puig for his two shaky throws, and though he didn’t help the Dodgers, neither play really mattered on a night that Kershaw, at the worst possible moment, just didn’t have it. Robinson, in his first start of the series, beat the upcoming Cy Young winner in consecutive innings. Carpenter had the at-bat of the game in putting Kershaw on the ropes. Molina came off the hook after being behind 0-2 in the count.

You can blame Adams’ walk on the umpire if that makes you feel better, but the bottom line is that Kershaw had three other chances to minimize the damage against him in the bottom of the third, and he couldn’t convert any of them. He couldn’t catch a break, but except for Holliday, he didn’t make his own breaks either.

It was an inning that was in such contrast to Kershaw’s performance this year and our expectations for him tonight. But our hero was human.

 

 

  • Bob_Hendley

    These things happen. We had four fairly well pitched games this series. What didn’t happen was the hitting.

    • Bob_in_Vegas

      Which, more often than not, was the story of the losses this year — at least once League was no longer the closer.
      Next year should be better, with Matt back!

      • Bob_Hendley

        To my mind, these guys, with Hanley and Puig have little to do with the early season team.

        • Bob_in_Vegas

          Good point. But look at the postseason losses — other than tonight, they came from lack of clutch hitting (and even tho it was early before the implosion, the writing on the wall was that tonight was going to be lack of hitting, period).

          • foul tip

            At times a shaky pen caused grief too.

  • 4d3fect

    Well said, Jon, but Clayton can’t score runs, that’s up to the offense (I use the term loosely here).

  • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

    The early season offense returned at the worst possible time.

    • RBI

      Gotta tip the hat to Wacha, though. Be interesting to see how he does against the next team he faces.

      • Bob_in_Vegas

        I agree with both of you — this offense had the talent of making mediocre pitchers look great, but even tho I’m just listening, Wacha appears to be much more than “mediocre.”

        • rumped6

          Certainly for this prime-time run. Will be interesting to watch him get better. Wow!

  • RBI

    Watching TBS but listening to Vin. He comes back on and says “Dodgers must feel as if the St. Louis arch fell on them.” No one like him!

    • Bob_in_Vegas

      I’m with your earlier post, RBI — a silver lining to this fiasco is the absence of nerves . . . and the chance to enjoy Vin a final time this Fall.

    • rumped6

      Too true, too awfully true:-)!

  • Spence

    This Wacha kid is ridiculously good. Might not have mattered even if Kershaw was at his best.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      Agree with the first sentence.

    • rumped6

      That was my take going into this contest. Turned it off after the clinic by Carpenter.

      Clayton was not put in the best of positions by the Balzac Boys upstairs.

  • das411

    this one’s on me guys…i actually went and dug up the LAD hat i bought last year…and gave Frank and wahtshername $40 for…and wore for the first 4 innings…sorry :(

    • RBI

      Stand in line. I washed my t-shirt.

      • Bob_in_Vegas

        I wore the LCS shirt instead of the Jackie Robinson one. . . . And I’d venture to guess there are no DTers in Busch Stadium.

      • Bob_Hendley

        and I didn’t paint my toenails blue.

        • 4d3fect

          There ya go.

    • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

      You rat, you!

    • Blue-eyed Gal

      If we can forgive Kersh for being human at the worst possible moment, we can forgive you for wearing the wrong hat.

      for that matter I’m not wearing my opening day ’08 tee tonight that I wore fore most of the wins this October. I’m just wearing my hat. So you can blame me, too.

    • rumped6

      Hope you’ve learned a lesson!!!:-).

  • Spence

    Kershaw made 4 starts vs Cardinals this year. 0-4.

    • RBI

      So strange how some teams just have a pitcher’s number, and vice versa.

  • Blue-eyed Gal

    Apparently the bad luck is catching. I went to my favorite sushi cafe tonight with the bigscreen TVs since mlb tv doesn’t do the post season. (Then I listen to Vin with headphones.)

    My bill for $222.39 just arrived.

    Typo. ;) (They’ll fix it, but it seems to fit the way tonight’s been going.)

    • kngoworld

      Deuces wild!

  • RBI

    Not loving this home plate ump. Doesn’t matter, but still irritating.

  • Adam Luther

    Scully’s season summary happening now…

    • Resistor

      Soothing, really proud of this team listening to Vin. What perspective, so lucky to have him in 2013 and hopefully as long as it takes for our next championship to appear

  • http://farinella.com/ David Farinella

    One of the billions of reasons I love my daughter: as the game was slipping away she went upstairs, grabbed the Hello Kitty Dodgers blanket I got her for her birthday and a book, came down and cuddled up next to me.

    • RBI

      Awww. I love that!

      • http://farinella.com/ David Farinella

        About 15 minutes later my wife came down and said, Okay, it’s time to leave Daddy alone. Because she knows me all too well.

    • Bob_in_Vegas

      Great story — thanks!

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    NPUT

  • rumped6

    Our hero was rode hard and put away wet more than once this season, and then taken out of his normal rest in a panic against the Braves. Short-eyes, bad dreams, America now.
    He had nothing left for Carpenter (the kind of player the Dodgers haven’t drafted and nurtured in eons).

    The over-used and injured stars failed, predictably. The lack of imaginative guts in the hierarchy is telling. In August, I thought there were other teams who would do little things better than the Ds, and a bit more consistently.

    Team did a nice job in difficult circumstances; might have been even more competitive with a few home-grown position players they could trust to sub for Hanley, Andre, Matt et al. But Logan has loved him some pitchers too many years, too many top picks, with the irony that the Cards had far and away the best young pitcher for these playoffs.

    Gotta chuckle at fans who are saying wait ’til next year when Hanley and Andre and Matt and Carl are all healthy at the same time. Uh, when, exactly will that be, and for how long? Remember, some of us disagree with the conventional wisdom that decision-makers are totally without responsibility for in-jured players, to say nothing of training and medical staffs).

    As for the Self-Chosen Magnificence, another bad game in right, how ’bout something bold? Trade him now, at high value, for three everyday, solid, dull-but-reliable and pressure-proof position players, in their good years, and provide less splash and much-needed depth, the way Boston went about it this time? Teams win championships, with useful pieces from one to twenty-five.
    And the Ds don’t have nearly enough of them, though they are a tad better than in the Philly matches of a few years ago.

    Congrats to Juan and Mark and Carl for way better years than expected. Nice work by AJ.
    Skip was very disappointing to me, Thought he would supply some of that second-line production.
    Ouch!

    Wait ’til the year after next!

    • Casey Barker

      Are you a Giants’ fan?

  • Casey Barker

    It looked like the Dodgers could’ve scored two or three in their half of the fourth – there were some well-hit balls.

  • Casey Barker

    It’s amazing how close this series was from being 3-2 in favor of the Dodgers, coming in to tonight. Maybe Kershaw has what it takes in that circumstance.

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    great season but not the finish I wanted…
    Thanks for all the shared experiences this year
    We’ll get them next year

  • hldc1

    Sorry, but Beltran getting to second had absolutely nothing to do with Adrian Gonzalez. If Yasiel Puig made the correct baseball play by throwing the ball to Mark Ellis instead of his lame attempt to try to throw the runner out at home–off-balanced mind you–Beltran would not have advanced to second. By the time the baseball got to Gonzalez, it was too get Beltran at second. If Puig wants to continue playing in the bigs, he’s going to have to decide that listening to coaches and what they teach might actually be beneficial to his game. Talent and ability don’t mean anything of you can’t play baseball the right way, and sadly, these mistakes he’s making are little league mistakes. There really are no excuses, and for the sake of all Dodger fans, I hope he or his teammates don’t try to make any.

    • http://www.chadmoriyama.com/ Chad Moriyama

      You’re inferring that he hasn’t gotten better since his recall, which is just not true.

      His defensive misplays, baserunning errors, and swinging at pitches outside of the zone all decreased with time. Have a ball at FanGraphs if you don’t believe my eyes.

      Take a breath and get a grip.

      • hldc1

        Baseball, like all sports, is a game of “what have you done for me lately.” The only thing that matters is what you did or didn’t do to win or lose the last game. If you don’t understand that, you don’t understand sports in general.

        This is like people talking about how great the 116-win Mariners team was back in 2001. Is a 116-win season an amazing accomplishment? It sure is, but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t mean a thing when you don’t win a championship.

        Did Puig do some great things for the Dodgers this year? Absolutely. He doesn’t deserve a break here though because he made several of the completely stupid mistakes he made all season in one game. It doesn’t matter that his mistakes have decreased with time. He made fundamental baseball mistakes, and there are no excuses for that.

        • http://www.chadmoriyama.com/ Chad Moriyama

          The last game only matters if you are a short-sighted idiot.

          So Clayton Kershaw doesn’t deserve a new contract because of his last game? Genius. Please run the Dodgers.