By Jon Weisman
The Dodgers went nearly 16 innings without the lead in their National League Division Series showdown with the Mets, and though their deficit was only a run entering the bottom of the seventh inning tonight, that run seemed like a mountain to climb.
After allowing solo home runs to Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto in the second inning, Zack Greinke did wonder if the Dodgers would scale the summit, as they ultimately did in a 5-2 victory.
“Instantly, it was just thinking (about) bad execution,” Greinke said of his fastball to Conforto. “Then afterwards, it was kind of like I — I mean, I knew I could keep him there (at two runs), but I didn’t know if I would. … The way things were going, it was like, ‘Maybe it’s too late. Two runs could be too late.’ But I think we’ve played a great game all the way around.”
Greinke struck out eight and walked none in his seven innings, and aside from that second home run was satisfied with his performance.
“I felt good starting the game off and was making a lot of good pitches,” Greinke said. “I threw more off-speed than normal because they were hitting my fastball, so I was trying out something else, and the off-speed was working.”
There was still the issue of scoring. Justin Turner has been the Dodgers’ best hitter in the NLDS, going 4 for 8 with three doubles, but facing Noah Syndergaard’s 101 mph pitches or 90 mph changeups was hardly a picnic or any other kind of R&R.
“Yeah, Syndergaard today, the only mistake he made was the first pitch changeup my third at-bat, and I was taking, because I had chased two pitches my previous two at-bats,” Turner said. “That was the only pitch he gave me at the plate. Everything else is either in the black or off speed looked like a strike and fell off the table.
Adrian Gonzalez, who struck out his first three at-bats tonight and six of his first seven in the NLDS, laughed when a reporter asked him if hitting Syndergaard was “kind of tough?”
“Kind of?” Gonzalez replied. “Don’t sugarcoat it.”
But for the second night in a row, Gonzalez came back from a rough beginning to deliver an RBI hit — in this case, the two-run double off Addison Reed that put the Dodgers ahead for the first time.
“For me, thank God, I can just focus on every at-bat at hand,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t think back to my previous at-bats. I was just focused on getting fastball middle, and he threw me three fastballs for strikes. And just luckily I was able to put it in play, thank God, and got it over Duda’s head and gave us the runs and gave (Justin Turner) a chance to come up with another big hit.”
Don Mattingly felt the Dodger hitters succeeded in persevering through Syndergaard’s eye-opening heat wave.
“Obviously, their guy was throwing the ball really well early in the game,” Mattingly said. “Early on it was just like it was dynamite, and we were able to get some better swings as the game went on a little bit. He uses more off-speed as the game goes. Then at that point, your game plan has to be to get him up a little bit. So I thought we did a pretty good job of hanging with him and kind of running his pitch count to a certain point. Then you get in their pen. It’s like everybody, you’re trying to get guys like that out of the game, but you still have to deal with the other guys.”
The series wouldn’t have been over had the Dodgers lost, but they’re happier to have gotten one of their wins before flying to New York on Sunday morning.
“The last thing I want to do is have our backs against the wall and being 0-2 going into New York,” Turner said. “So this was definitely a must-win. And we felt good about it. With Zack on the mound, we felt really good about it, and he did a great job keeping us in the game, giving us a chance to win, and really the pitch to Cespedes wasn’t even a bad pitch. It was about four inches off the plate. It’s just an unbelievable job of hitting he did. I think the one to Conforto he was trying to get in, and didn’t get it in as much as he wanted to, so really for him, one bad pitch tonight, and he pitched well enough to deserve to win, and we had a good seventh inning and got it for him.”