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A Tale of Two Matts in the NLDS

From east to west, this has been a wild postseason. In the American League, the Orioles swept the Tigers and the Royals swept the Angels to set up an unexpected American League Championship Series. In losing to Kansas City, the Angeles made history: They are the first team to enter the playoffs as the best team in baseball and then get swept in a divisional series. History was made in the National League, too, when the Giants defeated the Nationals Sunday in 18 innings — the longest postseason game in MLB history — to take a 2-0 series lead.

But in the other NL series, the Cardinals and Dodgers are tied 1-1. On Friday and Saturday night at Dodger Stadium, the boys in blue faced the birds in red, splitting the first two games in the NLDS.  

The Dodgers-Cardinals series opened Friday, with two-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw was dominating on the mound. The Dodgers ace allowed only two hits, both home runs, in the first six innings. But then came the seventh inning, which was truly shocking.

Five of the first seven batters Kershaw faced got hits. Matt Carpenter, who already homered off Kershaw in the game, stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and LA up 6-4. Kershaw got ahead of Carpenter, 0-2, but Carpenter kept fighting, fouling ball after ball to stay alive. Kershaw kept throwing fastballs, and Carpenter, knowing what was coming, took a big hack, hitting a double, and bringing in three runs. At the end of the inning the Cardinals led, 7-6.

By the bottom of the ninth, St. Louis was up 10-8 thanks to a three-run from the Cardinals’ Matt Holiday and a two-run blast by the Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalez. LA got two quick hits and looked like it had seized the momentum. The Dodgers closed the gap, 10-9, on a put out to second base by Dee Gordon.  With Andre Either on third, YasilPuig stepped to the plate looking to drive in the tying run (or, hopefully, win the game). But Puig faced one of the best closers in the MLB, Trevor Rosenthal. Puig struck out swinging and the Cardinals took a 1-0 the lead in the NLDS.

On Saturday, the Dodgers were ready to battle the Cardinals in front of an electric crowd.  The Dodgers jumped out to an early lead with two runs in the third inning. LA relied on the pitching and hitting skills of Zack Greinke. He was dominant through seven innings, allowing only two hits and no runs.  When he came out of the ball game fans applauded him wildly.  J.P. Howell replaced Greinke in the eighth and quickly allowed a hit to the first batter, then a Matt Carpenter home run that tied the game, 2-2. 

In the bottom of the eighth, Mighty Matt Kemp saved the day for the Dodgers. He led off facing the excellent relief pitcher Pat Neshek.  Kemp was patient and brought the count to 2-1.  The very next pitch, with one swing of the bat, Matt Kemp hit a dinger to give the Dodgers a 3-2 lead.  Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen took the mound in the ninth and took total control.  He retired the side 1-2-3, evening the NLDS at one a piece.

The series moves to St. Louis tonight where both teams will look to get a crucial Game 3 win. Will the Dodgers maintain the momentum from their win on Saturday? Or will the Cardinals feed off the hometown crowd? We’ll know soon enough.

Photo courtesy Max Ferregur

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