Grichuk takes Kershaw deep in first postseason at-bat
Rookie gets Cards off to fast start vs. Dodgers' ace, then works key walk in seventh
LOS ANGELES -- Maybe Randal Grichuk hasn't been around long enough to know what he's really supposed to be doing here.
Facing sure-thing National League Cy Young Award winner and probable league MVP Clayton Kershaw for the first time, in what happened to also be first postseason at-bat after spending much of 2014 in Triple-A? Coming up to bat with one out in the first inning after Kershaw blew a fastball past Matt Carpenter and got a sold-out crowd at Dodger Stadium bursting with delirium? Watching Kershaw throw two quick strikes at him to get the count to 0-2?
Apparently none of this was a big deal. Nor was the walk he drew in his team's eight-run seventh inning that led to the Matt Holliday three-run homer that provided the winning runs of the game.
But first, the homer.
Grichuk swung at Kershaw's third offering of the at-bat, a curveball, and blasted the ball into the left-field seats to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.
Given the fact that any run off Kershaw is a rarity these days, with the left-hander having led all Major League starters with a 1.77 ERA, it was as good of a start as St. Louis could have asked for in Game 1 of this NL Division Series.
It also was another red feather in the cap of Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, who has used the right-handed-hitting Grichuk -- the "other guy" in the David Freese trade with the Angles that brought Peter Bourjos to St. Louis last November -- in right field and against lefties down the stretch. Grichuk got the callup in late August when Shane Robinson was injured and got 110 big league at-bats, homering three times.
With that one loud swing, Grichuk made a bit of history, too, becoming the first Cardinals rookie to homer in a postseason game since Carpenter did so in Game 3 of the 2012 NL Championship Series against the San Francisco Giants.
But the at-bat in the seventh proved to be even more important. Grichuk did most of his damage against left-handers in his stint with the Cardinals this year, but after Carpenter cleared the bases with a double to give St. Louis a 7-6 lead and chase Kershaw, the rookie was greeted by right-handed Dodgers reliever Pedro Baez.
No problem. The kid worked a walk and Holliday followed with the blast that the Dodgers couldn't recover from. All in all, not a bad October debut for Grichuk.
"You look at the inning and it was just a real simple approach," Matheny said of the seventh. "Guys not trying to do too much and taking what has been given. ... Then you just trust that somebody's going to come up with a big hit. [Carpenter] does that, then Holliday comes back and gives us a little more room after a great at-bat by Grichuk.
"It's a tough league and there's some tough pitching. We faced one tonight, but the guys, they stuck with it, they believed in themselves and each other."