The Dodgers finally scored first against the Cardinals, but unfortunately for them St. Louis scored last. In between was nearly five hours of a wonderful baseball game, packed with just about every emotion possible. The Cardinals won, yet again, 3-2 in 15 innings, on a rocket single to center by the great Albert Pujols, but there was plenty to take away from this game from a Dodger standpoint.
Clayton Kershaw was amazing tonight, throwing a career-high eight scoreless frames, the first time he has ever recorded an out past the seventh inning in his short yet blossoming career. He threw 112 pitches, 73 for strikes, and allowed only four hits and two walks, while striking out seven.
Part of the reason the Cardinals didn't score was thanks to an amazing catch by Manny Ramirez to end the seventh inning. With runners on first and second, human vacuum Brendan Ryan put a charge into a Kershaw slider and nearly hit it over the left field wall. However, Manny jumped -- a bit early, by the way -- and caught it at the wall, robbing the Cardinals of two runs.
Kershaw left with a 1-0 win, and Jonathan Broxton got the first two batters out in the ninth inning, but Ryan Ludwick singled, then advanced to second base on a wild pitch, and scored on a broken-bat single by Colby Rasmus to tie the game. That means Kershaw's two best games this year have resulted in 15 scoreless innings and 20 strikeouts, and zero wins.
The Dodgers scored another run in the 11th, when a Matt Kemp sacrifice fly scored Casey Blake thanks to a throw up the line by Ryan Ludwick. However, with James Loney on second and two outs, Joe Torre chose to bat Ramon Troncoso, who struck out, rather than pinch-hit for him to try to score another insurance run. Troncoso, and not Guillermo Mota, started the 11th and ended up giving up the tying run on a Ludwick RBI single. The decision by Torre was defensible -- after all, Troncoso has been very good all year -- but the Dodgers ended up getting the worst of both worlds in this decision.
Hong-Chih Kuo came in to get the final two outs of the 11th, another positive sign of his comeback from injury.
The Cardinals appeared to have a golden scoring opportunity in the 12th inning, when Old Friend Joe Thurston doubled with one out. However, the Dodgers appealed to first base, thanks to an attentive James Loney, and Thurston was called out for missing the bag. No double for him, and eventually technically another 1-2-3 inning for Mota. This was at least the third game I can remember that the Dodgers greatly benefited from an appeal play.
Jeff Weaver entered the game in the 13th, and retired the first six batters he saw, including back-to-back strikeouts of Pujols and Matt Holliday in the 13th. After allowing a leadoff triple in the 15th inning, Weaver almost got out of it, getting two outs before giving up the game-winning single to Pujols. The Cardinals won the game because their best player was allowed to bat, unlike the Dodgers' threat one inning earlier.
In the 14th inning, Rafael Furcal singled to leadoff the inning, bringing up Orlando Hudson with Ramirez on deck. Hudson laid down a sacrifice bunt, moving Furcal to second base, but more importantly leaving first base open, a spot quickly filled when Manny was intentionally walked. I don't want to jump on Torre for this, because Hudson has bunted on his own at times this year, but this was just a bad play. You have to give Manny the chance to hit in that spot. Andre Ethier is a good hitter, but he's not Manny Ramirez.
This game was too good and far too enjoyable, even in losing, to worry about such decisions. Tonight was a great and wonderful baseball game, but the Dodgers just didn't happen to come out on top.
In other news, Scott Elbert was scratched from his start in Albuquerque tonight, but not because of a pending trade, reports Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times. Speculation is that Elbert might be recalled to replace the struggling Brent Leach in the bullpen, or perhaps as an alternative to start Friday in case Jason Schmidt can't make his scheduled start.
Cardinals' starting pitchers have given up two runs in 23 innings this series. Hiroki Kuroda will face Kyle Lohse trying to avoid a sweep tomorrow night.
WP - Blake Hawksworth (1-0): 3 IP, 2 hits, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts (first MLB win)
LP - Jeff Weaver (5-4): 2.2 IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts
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