Carlos Beltran tormented the Dodgers on several occasions Friday night, culminating in a walk-off single off Kenley Jansen into the right field corner in the 13th inning to give the Cardinals a 3-2 win in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
Daniel Descalso singled and Matt Carpenter walked against Chris Withrow, pitching in his second inning, with one out in the 13th, leading to Beltran's heroics. Beltran was 2-for-6 on the night an drove in all three Cardinals runs.
Any postseason loss is crushing, really, but Friday night's felt even more so thanks to a series of questionable decisions by Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.
Adrian Gonzalez was removed for pinch runner Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, yet Gordon didn't run. The replacement at first base, Michael Young, had two plate appearances and hit into four outs, though one of those outs was a combination of Beltran's arm and third base coach Tim Wallach's decision in the 10th. But more on that in a bit.
Mattingly also called for a bunt in the 12th inning from Mark Ellis, leaving first base open making it easier for Mike Matheny to order an intentional walk to Hanley Ramirez, taking the bat out of the hands of the Dodgers' best hitter with no Gonzalez there to follow. Young, who grounded into 21 double plays during the regular season, did so again to end the inning.
Mattingly also waited to use his best reliever, Jansen, hoping for a save situation that never came. It took four other relievers, who admittedly pitched well for four innings, before getting to Jansen, who was brought in with two runners on base, not an ideal situation. Because baseball is cruel, of course when Jansen came in he allowed the critical and final hit.
The real shame was the waste of Zack Greinke's start. Greinke was brilliant on Friday, but like in his NLDS Game 2 star in Atlanta, the Dodgers provided little run support.
Greinke allowed just two runs and four hits in eight innings, the first Dodgers pitcher to pitch at least eight innings and allow no more than two runs since Jose Lima pitched a shutout in Game 3 of the 2004 NLDS, also against the Cardinals.
Greinke also struck out 10 on the night, the 10th double-digit strikeout game in Dodgers postseason history. Clayton Kershaw also accomplished that in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Braves in Atlanta.
It was the 14th consecutive start allowing two or fewer runs for Greinke, who hasn't allowed more since July 25.
The Dodgers had their chances early against Joe Kelly. They put two runners on with one out in the first inning, but Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig struck out to end the frame.
In the third the bases were loaded with one out and Puig tapped a potential double play ball back to the box, but a bobble by Kelly meant only one out at home and the inning was extended. Juan Uribe made them pay with a two-run single.
Uribe was 2-for-6 on the night, his third straight game with at least two hits and two RBI. He matched Keith Hernandez (1982), Ruben Sierra (1992), Bernie Williams (1996), Fred McGriff (1996) and Jim Edmonds (2000) for the longest such streak in MLB postseason history.
That 2-0 lead was short-lived though, thanks to a brief loss of command by Greinke. After retiring the first eight batters of the night, he allowed a single to the pitcher Kelly, then walked Matt Carpenter. Greinke's struggles continued with a 3-1 count to Carlos Beltran, who made him pay with a game-tying double to center.
The two runs were all the Dodgers could muster against Kelly, who settled down in his final three innings. In their last two games the Dodgers have scored two runs in six innings against both Freddy Garcia and Kelly. That's more than a little troubling.
The teams traded double plays in the seventh and eighth innings, the first of which a highlight-reel stab by Puig, who threw to first base to nab Jon Jay to end the inning (thanks to Chad Moriyama for the GIF):
In the eighth inning Gonzalez walked but was then removed Gordon. But Gordon didn't run and was forced out at second base. Uribe followed with a grounder to second base for a twin killing to end the pseudo-rally.
The Cardinals put a scare into the Dodgers in the bottom of the ninth with a pair of two-out walks against Brian Wilson, but Jay popped out to end the inning and send the contest into extra frames.
The Dodgers had a golden opportunity in the 10th inning when Jay misplayed a drive by Mark Ellis into a triple. With Gonzalez already out of the game, Young batted and flew out to shallow right center field. Jay moved out of the way in favor of Beltran, who threw to the plate to get the tagging Ellis (thanks to Chad Moriyama for the GIF).
It was shades of the classic play by Joe Ferguson in the 1974 World Series, stepping in front of center fielder Jimmy Wynn to throw home for the out.
"It's a four-hour game and well worth every minute of it," said Vin Scully on the radio broadcast during the 11th inning. He was completely right, but just didn't end the Dodgers' way.
All in all, the game lasted 4:47, and the Dodgers trail the best-of-seven series 1-0.
The Dodgers will send ace Clayton Kershaw to the mound in Game 2 on Saturday afternoon, this time on a full four days rest. The Cardinals will counter with Michael Wacha, who has taken no-hitters deep into each of his last two starts, settling for one-hitters in each case.
Game 1 particulars
Home runs: none
WP - Lance Lynn (1-1): 2 IP, 1 hit, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
LP - Chris Withrow (0-1): 1⅓ IP, 1 hit, 1 run, 1 walk, 1 strikeout