Playoff baseball tends to evoke the memories of great pitching duels. To aces matched-up, throwing BBs for eight innings, demonstrating how and why the two competeting teams made it this far.
Despite David Price‘s gutty effort in the tiebreaker game, we were yet to be treated to such pitching prowess. Until last night, that is.
Clayton Kershaw put on a postseason pitching performance to remember, a far cry from the guy who appeared near tears in the Dodgers dugout in the 2009 NLCS, having just walked five Phillies in just 4.2 innings.
Clayton Kershaw pitched exactly how one expects an ace and Cy Young shoo-in to pitch. He seemed to get strong as the game went on, striking out 12 Braves — recording eight of his last nine outs by strikeout — while allowing just one run on three hits and three walks.
Early in the game, Kershaw didn’t have good feel for his curveball, it appeared. But as the game went along, Kershaw broke out Uncle Charlie with increasing frequency, going to this strikeout pitch (one of his many) heavily as he worked his way through the order a second time.
The Braves did themselves no favors in the early going, particularly slugger Evan Gattis. Gattis couldn’t come up with a sinking liner in left field and made a major gaffe on the bases, thanks in no part to some sneaky deception by Yasiel Puig in right field. Talented players making differences. It’s sort of the Dodgers whole MO.
It almost defies reason at this point. Carlos Beltran hits the living crap out of baseballs in October. He is, of course, a borderline Hall of Famer based solely on his regular season merit alone, let alone a great hitter. But Carlos Beltran’s history of delivering hits and walks and home runs and stolen bases in the playoffs has grown to legendary status.
|4 Yrs (8 Series)||35||156||40||46||10||0||15||28||11||0||25||18||.357||.462||.783||1.244|
15 home runs! 25 walks! 11-0 in stolen bases! Beltran, man. I don’t even.
The Cardinals didn’t rely just on the contributions of baseball’s greatest postseason performer, as the Cardinals did their patented “send a dozen guys to the plate and count a half-dozen runs” thing, knocking A.J. Burnett out of the game after recording just six outs.
Burnett has a bad rep as a playoff pitcher, despite pitching well in Game Two of the Yankees 2009 World Series triumph. Yesterday, Burnett was awful and the Cardinals took full advantage.
Wainwright bends the Pirates to his will
Not awful? Adam Wainwright and his hypnotic curveball. Many pointed out how the Pirates struggled against curveballs this season while Wainwright’s is one of the best in the game. Marlon Byrd explained to the Pittsbrugh Tribune just how tough a task it is to take on Waino’s curve.
“He’s unbelievable at locating it,” Byrd said. “You have to make sure you’re able to pull it. If you can’t pull, you shouldn’t swing at it.”
But seeing it at all is the hard part.
“You don’t see spin,” Byrd said. “That’s what makes the breaking ball so good. It’s so tight. … It has no spin; it kind of looks like a fastball.”
Unlike Kershaw, Wainwright had his good curveball early, offering the flailing Pirates a steady diet of breaking balls right from the start of the game.
Like the Braves after going down to Kershaw, the Pirates have to hope they can bounce back after the opposition’s ace showed just what made him so acey. The Braves now much deal with Zack Grienke, unfortunately. At least Lance Lynn gives Pittsburgh a little bit hope.