The Dodgers wasted another stellar pitching performance in game 2 on Saturday afternoon thanks to a sleepy offense. Clayton Kershaw allowed just one unearned run but that was enough to get hooked with the 1-0 loss as the Cardinals took control of the National League Championship Series with a second straight one-run victory at Busch Stadium.
St. Louis leads the best-of-7 series 2-0.
The Dodgers have scored just two runs in two games and have been held scoreless in their last 19 innings.
That offensive ineptitude was on display in the sixth inning, when the Dodgers were given a rare gift. Kershaw singled, then Carl Crawford grounded into the hole between first and second base, a single that was made worse by this decision by second baseman Matt Carpenter.
But Mark Ellis popped out in the infield, then after Adrian Gonzalez was walked intentionally to load the bases Michael Wacha struck out both Yasiel Puig and Juan Uribe to end the Dodgers' only real threat. Puig's strikeout, one of four for him on the day, was particularly bad:
That offensive ineptitude made Nick Punto's two-out single in the seventh look like a huge rally. Kershaw was due up, cruising on the mound and with only 72 pitches, but was pinch hit for in favor of Michael Young.
With Kershaw in complete control on the mound the move was puzzling, but given that only seven outs remained in the game and the phrase "good-hitting pitcher" does not necessarily translate into "good hitter," it was at the very least defensible and likely necessary.
Kevin Siegrist tried to help out with a pair of wild pitches to advance Punto to third base, but Young flew out to right field to end the inning. In a perfect world the distance of Young's fly ball would have easily scored Ellis from third base in the eighth inning of Game 1, but instead the Dodgers find themselves in quite a hole heading back to Los Angeles.
The only run of the game came in the fifth inning, when David Freese led off with a double. But unlike the first inning when Kershaw escaped a leadoff triple with no damage, he was unable to keep the Cardinals off the board in the fifth. Freese advanced to third base on a passed ball by A.J. Ellis, then scored on a fly ball to left fielder Carl Crawford, who combined fielding the ball in improper position with a terrible off-line throw.
Counting the playoffs, Kershaw has a 1.73 ERA in 256 innings this season. And 10 losses. For only the second time in 30 chances this season, the Dodgers have lost back-to-back starts by Kershaw and Zack Greinke.
The only upside of Kershaw being pulled so early on a day he seemed able to pitch extras is that it would be an absolute shock now if he doesn't pitch on short rest in his next start. If the series lasts that long.
The Dodgers are down 0-2 and they still haven't faced the Cardinals' ace? Oy. Adam Wainwright gets the call in Game 3 on Monday night at Dodger Stadium, facing off against Hyun-Jin Ryu for Los Angeles.
Game 2 particulars
Home runs: none
WP - Michael Wacha (2-0): 6⅔ IP, 5 hits, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts
LP - Clayton Kershaw (1-1): 6 IP, 2 hits, 1 unearned run, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts
Sv - Trevor Rosenthal (2): 1 IP, 3 strikeouts