It has come down to this for the Dodgers, and stop me if you have heard this before. The team is one step away from elimination, turning to Clayton Kershaw in St. Louis, trying to stay alive and avenge a loss earlier in the series.
Only this time Kershaw will be starting on three days rest in Game 4 of the NLDS, needing a win not only to stave off the Dodgers' season ending but also to improve his own legacy.
I turn to a trusted ally in the late comedian Mitch Hedberg for help breaking down Tuesday afternoon's contest at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
"Last week I helped my friend stay put. It's a lot easier than helping someone move. I just went over to his house and made sure he did not start to load shit into a truck."
It's too early for the Dodgers to be packing up their lockers and heading home, not after getting to the NLCS in 2013 and spending all winter and spring talking about unfinished business. They need a win Wednesday to prove they're not finished, and to head home with a purpose, plus an actual game to play on Thursday night.
"I'd like to see a fork lift lift a crate of forks, it'd be so damned literal."
What if, instead of relief pitchers, the Dodgers' bullpen housed actual bulls? Perhaps a hard-charging animal with horns might not have an 8.53 ERA with three home runs and six runs allowed in 6⅓ innings. Small sample size? Absolutely, but nobody ever said life was fair.
"I got my hair highlighted because I thought some strands are more important than others."
You can't swing a dead cat without hitting someone talking about the eight strikeouts in the last nine at-bats for Yasiel Puig, wearer of the bright neon batting gloves. We are used to seeing Puig receive more attention than most, which is why it is also important to remember his triple and that he scored the only run in Game 3, and that he reached base four times in Game 1.
"I opened-up a yogurt, underneath the lid it said, 'Please try again' because they were having a contest that I was unaware of. I thought maybe I opened the yogurt wrong. Or maybe they were trying to inspire me. 'Come on Mitchell, don't give up!' An inspirational message from your friends at Yoplait, fruit on the bottom, hope on top."
There is no real reason for the Dodgers to make any changes to their starting lineup in Game 4. They should stick with Dee Gordon (2-for-13, walk) and Carl Crawford (3-for-12, double) against the right-handed Shelby Miller in Game 4. The best option is to try again with the same lineup that was so productive down the stretch, and hope the top of the lineup starts producing, including Adrian Gonzalez (2-for-12, home run), giving Kershaw some runs to work with.
"My belt holds up my pants and my pants have belt loops that hold up the belt. What the hell’s really going on down there? Who is the real hero?"
Kershaw needs to pitch well to win, but also needs the offense for run support. There is room for several heroes. Get in line.
"I'm against picketing, but I don't know how to show it."
There is no question the Dodgers think the Puig hit by pitch in Game 1 was intentional, but with such a small margin of error the playoffs aren't much of a time for a beanball war. Former Dodger and major league veteran Jerry Hairston articulates as indirectly direct as possible.
I'm not saying hit anyone, sometimes the threat has to be there. This isn't anything new. #dodgers— Jerry Hairston, Jr. (@TheRealJHair) October 7, 2014
The ultimate revenge is truly to get the Cardinals out and beat them, which brings us to ...
"When you go to a restaurant on the weekends and it's busy they start a waiting list. They start calling out names, they say "Dufrene, party of two. Dufrene, party of two." And if no one answers they'll say their name again. "Dufrene, party of two, Dufrene, party of two." But then if no one answers they'll just go right on to the next name. "Bush, party of three." Yeah, what happened to the Dufrenes? No one seems to give a shit. Who can eat at a time like this? People are missing! You f**kers are selfish. The Dufrenes are in someone's trunk right now, with duct tape over their mouths. And they're hungry. That's a double whammy. Bush, search party of three, you can eat when you find the Dufrenes."
The Dodgers have an open table for Kershaw, party of one, trying to avoid the saddest MVP presentation since Dirk Nowitzki in 2007.
Whether Kershaw is tipping his pitches - I don't think this is the case, because word gets around and more teams would have taken advantage by now - or simply has been ineffective in his execution against the Cardinals - this is more likely, especially in Game 1 if you watch how badly Kershaw was missing the targets set by A.J. Ellis in the seventh inning - the fact is Kershaw needs to turn things around against the Cardinals.
The good news in Kershaw's history is that every time he has allowed seven or more runs in a start he has responded with a vengeance in his next time out:
- 2009: allowed nine runs at Coors Field on Apr. 26; pitched seven scoreless innings against the Padres on May 1.
- 2010: allowed seven runs and recorded four outs against the Brewers on May 4, prompting this classic tweet from Jon Heyman; pitched eight scoreless innings against the Rockies on May 9.
- 2011: allowed seven runs in Anaheim on July 2; pitched eight scoreless innings against the Mets on July 7.
- 2012: allowed eight runs in St. Louis - uh oh - on July 24; pitched a five-hit shutout in San Francisco on July 29.
- 2014: allowed seven runs while recording five outs in Phoenix on May 17; struck out nine in six scoreless innings in Philadelphia on May 23.
That is five regular season starts allowing seven or more runs, and every single next time out Kershaw pitched scoreless baseball. He also allowed seven runs in four innings in Game 6 of the 2013 NLCS, his last start of last season, and responded with one of the great pitching seasons in recent memory.
So how will Kershaw, on three days rest, respond on Tuesday afternoon? The Dodgers' season hangs in the balance.
In the end remember:
"A severed foot is the ultimate stocking stuffer."
Time: 2:07 p.m. PT
TV: Fox Sports 1