Matt Carpenter's homer, Lackey being 'Lackey in October' give Cards 2-1 NLDS lead over Dodgers
The Dodgers-Cardinals matchup Monday night was different from Game 3 in all of the other division series for this reason: no one's season was on the line. Los Angeles and St. Louis, which split the first two games of the NLDS, shifted to Busch Stadium for Game 3.
On the mound for LA was lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu, who entered having pitched one inning since Sept. 12 due to a balky shoulder. Right-hander John Lackey (3.82 ERA, 1.28 WHIP) got the ball for the Cards, his first postseason appearance since pitching against St. Louis in Game 6 of the 2013 World Series.
Dee Gordon's fast feet helped him get to third before Lackey even recorded a second out. Matt Kemp's flyout, though, helped Lackey settle down and escape the inning without giving up a run.
It stayed scoreless until the third, when Matt Carpenter (who else?) homered (what else?) to right-center. It was the third baseman's third homer in as many games.
Matt Carpenter hit two HRs in 218 PAs against left-handers this season. He now has three HRs against lefties in the last three games.- Paul Casella (@paul_casella) October 7, 2014
Lackey seemingly got sharper as the game went on, but faltered in the sixth. Hanley Ramirez's two-out double to right scored Yasiel Puig from third to knot the game at 1.
St. Louis went ahead for good an inning later. Kolten Wong, who a year ago was a World Series goat when he got picked off first base to end Game 4, sent a no-doubter into the Cardinals bullpen.
Closer Trevor Rosenthal worked himself into a jam in the ninth - runners on first and second, one out and a 2-0 count to Juan Uribe. Manager Mike Matheny came out of the dugout because the mound needed some tending to, and Rosenthal took the opportunity to settle down a bit. And settle down, he did:
The Game Changer
The #STLCards are finding out that home runs are a much more efficient way to score runs.- Jenifer Langosch (@LangoschMLB) October 7, 2014
The Cardinals can hardly be considered a homer-happy team -- they hit just 105 during the regular season, the second fewest in the Majors -- but they have already hit six in three games against the Dodgers.
By comparison, the Dodgers owned a middle-of-the-pack 134 long balls in the regular season and have gone yard three times in the NLDS.
Safe to say, Carpenter speaks for the entire St. Louis organization and fan base:
So four of the Cardinals' six homers in this series are lefty-on-lefty. They had eight such homers during the whole regular season.- Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) October 7, 2014
Other Key Players, Plays
Lackey's scoreless second inning might not have remained that way if not for Jon Jay. The center fielder tracked down Uribe's drive for a nifty grab.
Before Ramirez's game-tying double, Puig snapped his streak of seven consecutive strikeouts with a triple into the right-field corner.
Lackey was very, very good (one run in seven innings), but it's October and it's Lackey, so that's not all that surprising.
The Dodgers bullpen was in danger of imploding in the eighth when J.P. Howell did his best hockey goalie impression on Wong's comebacker.
This time, the Dodgers' season will be on the line. They go to Clayton Kershaw on short rest in Game 4 at Busch Stadium at 5 p.m. ET Tuesday. The Cardinals rocked the left-hander for eight runs in 6 2/3 innings in Game 1 on Friday.
With a 2-1 NLDS lead in hand, St. Louis will turn to talented righty Shelby Miller to close out LA for what would be its fourth NLCS bid in a row. This will be the first postseason start for Miller, who the last two Octobers was relegated to the bullpen.