Jay's hesitancy, Descalso's eagerness help give Dodgers upper hand
LOS ANGELES -- The Cardinal Way went oddly astray Monday night, giving the Dodgers renewed life in the National League Championship Series.
Jon Jay, Daniel Descalso and other Redbirds were feeling blue after a 3-0 Dodgers win in Game 3 that turned on Jay's defensive indecision in the bottom of the fourth inning and Descalso's baserunning error in the top of the fifth. Cards manager Mike Matheny succinctly summed up a most un-Cardinal night.
Matheny's club still leads the series, 2-1, but the Cardinals missed a chance to take a commanding lead behind ace right-hander Adam Wainwright because of a series of mistakes, the likes of which St. Louis famously avoids.
In the spotlight once again was Jay, who was tough on himself for misplaying a triple in Game 1 before Carlos Beltran's heroics bailed him out, and for fouling off a suicide squeeze bunt attempt in Game 2 before delivering the winning sacrifice fly.
Jay found reporters at his locker again after Game 3, mostly because of a Mark Ellis fly ball in the bottom of the fourth inning. Wainwright and Hyun-Jin Ryu were dueling in a scoreless tie at the time, and the fly ball appeared manageable. Jay and right fielder Beltran converged, but neither caught the baseball. Ellis was awarded a double and scored what stood up as the winning run when Adrian Gonzalez pulled a one-out double over first base.
Andre Ethier followed with a groundout that could have provided the final out of a scoreless inning had someone caught up to Ellis' fly ball. Instead, the inning continued for the game's signature moment: A stand-up triple for Yasiel Puig, the fiery rookie outfielder who celebrated his first hit of the series as if he believed it were a home run. It caromed off the right-field wall instead, for a triple that gave the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.
Jay and Beltran agreed: Ellis' ball should have been caught, and Jay should have caught it.
"I think he hesitated," Beltran said. "It's a play that, as a center fielder -- and I was a center fielder before -- you have to take charge. He knows that."
"I'm the center fielder," Jay said. "That's my ball. I have to catch the ball. I have to take charge and catch the ball."
Crowd noise was no factor, Jay said several times.
"I have to make the play there, and it came back to haunt us," he said. "It's definitely tough to swallow this loss, but we have to come back ready for [Game 4]."
Jay had two other chances to make highlight-reel plays and came up short. In the fifth, an A.J. Ellis triple ticked off Jay's glove, and in the eighth, Jay tried to make a diving catch in left-center field to rob Carl Crawford, but he just missed. After the resulting single, Crawford wound up scoring from second on a bloop single.
Again, a small thing loomed large. Cardinals rookie Kolten Wong, who had pinch-hit in the top of that inning and remained in the game to play second base, quickly gobbled up the baseball but did not recognize Crawford rounding third. By the time a relay throw reached the plate, Crawford was safe, and the Dodgers owned a 3-0 lead.
"I can understand that happens to Wong, because he just started to play in the game," Beltran said. "It's not in his mind that Crawford is going to go to home plate. He's thinking probably that ball is going to land and the runner is at third base. I think if [starting second baseman Matt] Carpenter were there, it wouldn't have happened, because he's more into the game. You come from the bench sometimes, it takes you a couple of innings to get into it."
"It wasn't very characteristic of how we played all season," Matheny said. "Our team has done a great job of improving defensively. We just had a lot of balls in the air tonight that hit the ground that normally don't."
The mistakes were not limited to the field. In the fifth, the Cards had a chance to cut into a 2-0 deficit when David Freese and Matt Adams led off with successive singles. Freese developed right calf tightness and was replaced by Descalso, who broke for third on Jay's fly ball to left field. Descalso thought a single would drop in front of Crawford, who instead made a routine catch with plenty of time for a throw to second base for a double play.
When Ryu retired Pete Kozma on a fielder's-choice grounder, a promising inning was over.
"I never looked at Jose [Oquendo, the third-base coach]; I just made my decision a split second too soon," Descalso said. "I thought it was going to jam him a little more, and by the time I realized he was going to catch it, I was too far."
Descalso and Jay will look for better results in Game 4 (Tuesday at 7 p.m. CT on TBS).
"It's all about getting wins, and we lost today, and I was a big part of the loss," Jay said. "It's something that I'm probably going to think about a little bit, but I know we have a game tomorrow."
"We made a few mistakes we don't normally make," Descalso said, "and when you do that, you're going to lose."