WPS recap: NLCS, 10/14/2013by Shane Tourtellotte
October 15, 2013
The Dodgers sent in some of their walking wounded, to try keeping themselves from joining the walking dead by going down 3-0 to St. Louis.
A quick reminder for those coming into the series late. While WPS was an independent invention of mine, THT's Dave Studeman beat me to the concept by several years. He proposed a Win Percentage Added-based method of measuring game excitement in the 2007 edition of the Hardball Times Annual. That was, as they say, a little before my time, and I will keep apologizing for missing it as long as I keep using the WPS Index here.
Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 F Cardinals 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Dodgers 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 1 X 3 (Cardinals lead series 2-1) WPS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Cardinals 9 4 5 5 32 6 13 19 2 Dodgers 7 4 5 35 14 2 4 5 X WPS Base: 173.6 Best Plays: 36.8 Last Play: 0.2 Grand Total: 210.6
Another pitcher's duel well below the 305-310 median WPS score. Almost half the innings went 1-2-3, scoring the minimum possible. St. Louis made occasional threats once Los Angeles pulled ahead by two, but never converted, and the air slowly leaked out of the game.
Even if the Dodgers weren't healed, they acted as though they were. Hanley Ramirez had a CT scan confirm a cracked rib from his plunking in Game One that eluded X-rays, but he wrapped up and played. Andre Ethier, held out of Game Two for his barking ankle, was back in center field.
Ramirez showed slight ill effect, fielding without obvious trouble and rapping out two hits, though they were lucky loopers dropping in the right spots. Ethier was definitely slowed. He pulled up a bit running out a grounder in the second, and trapped a Yadier Molina hit to center in the seventh that he would have caught with a touch more speed.
The night was defined by players whose heads were not quite in the game. The key example of this came when Mark Ellis led off the Dodgers fourth with a fly to the right gap. Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran converged on it, but didn't communicate. Jay pulled up, and the ball dropped right where he would have been had he kept running. Ellis got a double, igniting an L.A. rally.
Yasiel Puig, as I've noted before, succeeds interestingly and fails interestingly. With one run in during the fourth, he did both at once. He drove a ball off the wall in right, but spent the first moment of its flight standing in the batter's box with arms raised, assuming a home run. Had he not done so, it could have been one. Puig ended up burning around the bases for an RBI triple, but had he been going right from the swing, he might have had a chance at an inside-the-park home run. Knowing Puig, he would have taken the chance, and the play would have been far more interesting, whether he succeeded or failed.
The next brain-freeze moment came soon after Puig made a valiant diving attempt at David Freese's single down the right-field line. Freese hurt his leg coming out of the box, and after Matt Adams drove him to second, he came out for pinch-runner Daniel Descalso. Descalso left his attention in the dugout. On a rather routine fly to Carl Crawford in left, Descalso ended up far down toward third, and Crawford's throw easily doubled him off second. That killed the best, and arguably only, St. Louis rally of the night.
The bottom of that inning saw one more mental miscue. A.J. Ellis led off with a long fly to right-center that went off Jay's glove. Beltran in right was slow in backing up the play, and by the time he ran to the ball and threw it in, Ellis was heading into third base. That should have cost St. Louis another run, but Adam Wainwright escaped the straitjacket with a comebacker from pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu, a whiff of Crawford, and Mark Ellis' groundout.
There was some fun baseball left to come—a Brooks Robinson-style play by Descalso on a Yadier Molina grounder, a close play at home with Crawford barely getting in under Yadi's tag—but once again, a moderate-sized lead in these playoffs felt nearly insurmountable with effective pitching as its foundation. Hyun-Jin Ryu left his NLDS clunker behind him and threw seven shutout innings, then let Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen do the rest.
I've commented now and again on umpires whose strike zones seemed shifted or amorphous, so it's right to say this time that Mike Everitt called a good game. His zone was strong and consistent, at least until it began to tighten in the final two innings.
I will also mention the psychic tactical call of the night. After Puig singled to begin the seventh, color man Ron Darling said "I like the hit-and-run here." About one second later, with the hit-and-run not on, Juan Uribe grounded into a 6-4-3 twin killing. Not saying there was any special insight, but it's fun to have the commentators be vindicated now and again.
After four one-run games, the League Championship Series round finally had a relative blowout. What will Tuesday bring? My confident prediction is: two baseball games. It's daring prognostication like this that keeps you coming back for more.
Shane Tourtellotte is a long-time, occasionally-nominated science fiction writer, currently living in Asheville, North Carolina. He will tell you all about the baseball novel he’s shopping if you give him an inch.