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Lefty specialists: Southpaw matchups go batters' way

Carpenter hammers Kershaw, A-Gon connects off Choate in NLDS opener

LOS ANGELES -- The league average for left-handed batters against left-handed pitchers in 2014 was .240. Over the last five years, it's hovered between .232 and .242.

But you wouldn't know it watching Friday night's National League Division Series opener between the Cardinals and the Dodgers.

Left-handed hitters on both sides combined to hit 6-for-14 (.429) with two home runs, eight RBIs and two walks. And one of those southpaw hurlers was NL Cy Young Award favorite Clayton Kershaw.

In what was arguably the biggest at-bat of the game, Matt Carpenter knocked a two-RBI double against Kershaw to give the Cardinals a lead they would never relinquish. Carpenter also had a solo homer in the sixth and is now 9-for-28 (.321) with three doubles, a triple and a home run in his career against the Dodgers ace.

"I was like, come on Carp, we need a hit. Something big," Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday said. "He does it, he's done it ever since he's come up to the big leagues. He's battled and had great at-bats in big spots, and I'm sure he's going to have lefties around the league calling for a game plan against Kershaw, because I don't think anybody else really hits him. But Carp's hard a lot of success off him."

That double was one of four hits -- two singles, a double and a home run -- the St. Louis left-handed batters had against Kershaw on Friday (4-for-10). The Cardinals had eight home runs hit by left-handed batters against left-handers in the regular season, averaging one per every 77.9 plate appearances. Dodgers southpaws surrendered just six homers in 535 plate appearances in 2014 (one per 89.2 PAs).

"[Kershaw] is our guy; he's our horse," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "A left-hand hitter's coming up, who Clayton dominates. In that situation, you just have to give Matt Carpenter a ton of credit there and all the Cardinals credit for that seventh inning and the swings they put on Clayton."

The Cardinals, with a comfortable four-run lead in the eighth, brought in their lefty specialist Randy Choate to face Adrian Gonzalez with a runner on and one out. The plan quickly backfired as Gonzalez launched a 1-1 slider into the stands, bringing the Dodgers to within two.

"I just basically hung it on the inner half; I'm pretty sure he was sitting on it," Choate said. "I made a bad pitch, he's a really good hitter. He takes advantage of that mistake and got under it, got a lot of backspin on it, the ball just kept going, kept going. When you make pitches like that in the playoffs, good hitters like that are going to exploit it."

Chad Thornburg is a reporter for
Read More: Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, Clayton Kershaw, Adrian Gonzalez, Randy Choate, Matt Carpenter