It’s aces up again in the National League Championship Series, with Clayton Kershaw facing rookie phenom Michael Wacha. Something had to give, if only their pitch counts as they got hooked with the game still scoreless. That turned out not to be a problem. WPS Recap brings the game to you, this time with the real-time FanGraphs numbers back. Those of you with microscopes, you will notice the difference.
Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 F Dodgers 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Cardinals 0 0 4 0 5 0 0 0 X 9 (Cardinals win series 4-2) WPS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Dodgers 12 5 5 9 2 1 0 0 0 Cardinals 13 11 49 1 7 0 0 0 X WPS Base: 115.0 Best Plays: 33.5 Last Play: 0.0 Grand Total: 148.5
The WPS Index doesn’t have to explain itself here. A game blown open in the third, then blown up in the fifth, is going to have a lousy excitement score for anybody not in Cardinals gear of some kind. To give you insight into just how boring this game ended up: the last play of the fifth for the Cardinals rated a 0.0. The entire sixth inning for the Cardinals rated a 0.0. The seventh through ninth innings total, for both teams, rated a 0.1.
With a game like this, you have to find your interesting elements where you can. A delightfully silly moment developed just before the game, when Cardinal Joe Kelly and Dodger Scott Van Slyke both stayed out on the field, hats over hearts, after the finish of the National Anthem, in what amounted to a nationally televised staring contest. Kelly made a fake move or two toward his dugout, but kept his pivot foot planted so he wouldn’t be called for traveling. Eventually home-plate umpire Greg Gibson had to order them off the field. Kelly went first, and Van Slyke got high-fives all around for winning the contest.
It would be the last celebrating the Dodgers would do this season.
Yasiel Puig made a valiant attempt to become the goat for this game. His throw home on Carlos Beltran‘s single that drove in the first run was too aggressive, letting Beltran take second. Later, on Shane Robinson‘s bases-loaded single, Puig airmailed his throw to the plate, letting runners take extra bases to second and third. In the fifth, with the game almost out of control, he whiffed at Yadier Molina‘s leadoff single, giving him an extra base.
But for all that, the misplays didn’t amount to much. No runs came home that wouldn’t have been driven around anyway by the respective rallies. There’s no hanging this drubbing on Puig. That sad fate rests on Clayton Kershaw’s shoulders. A 48-pitch disaster of a third inning was all he needed to lose this game, and three hits in the fifth without getting an out sealed it.
Michael Wacha, on the other hand, continued one of the greatest late-season runs in memory. He has given up one run on nine hits in his last 29.2 innings, stretching back to his final regular-season start when he missed a no-hitter on the final batter he faced. It may be beginner’s luck; the league may figure him out next year. But it’s happening now, and his Cardinals are riding it (and 24 other players’ performances) to the World Series.
The broadcast crew dropped a fact I had not previously known: when the Cardinals let Albert Pujols go to the Angels in free agency, they used the compensatory draft pick they received to select Michael Wacha. Without knowing that, I would have said that, with the Cardinals reaching the World Series again two years after Pujols departed and Albert struggling in Los Angeles, they had proved themselves right in waving good-bye. With Wacha in the mix, it now has the potential to be one of the best front-office moves ever made. Sometimes you have to take the pitch.
I’ll insert one more gripe about a Dodgers misplay, to fill out space and to show how fundamentals can still get messed up at the highest level. Second and third in the St. Louis fifth, no outs, Shane Robinson hit a grounder that was thrown to A.J. Ellis at the plate. David Freese was hung up partway to home, and retreated toward third, where Matt Adams had already arrived and was on the bag. Ellis would throw to third baseman Juan Uribe, who tagged Freese out.
There was no need for the throw. Adams had third occupied. All Ellis had to do was run him back to the base and tag him. While Ellis was making a throw that risked going astray and letting Freese home, an alert Robinson was making second. This didn’t have much effect—at most, Robinson if held on first might not have scored the Cardinals’ ninth run—but it’s something Ellis needs to work on. He will have ample time for that.
Whatever fear the Cardinals had of repeating last year’s NLCS collapse to the Giants itself collapsed. Perhaps fittingly, they won the pennant by the same 9-0 score by which they lost it in 2012.
And before departing the NLCS, let me thank Michael Wacha once again for how quickly he pitches his game. His quick pace helped bring this blowout in at an even three hours. His relievers, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal, emulated his rapidity, though at that time it was at least as much so they wouldn’t have to stay out in the rain by then coming down at Busch Stadium. Had it gotten hard enough to force a rain delay, their fellow players and the fans would not have been forgiving. Neither would I.
With the NLCS complete, Saturday’s Game Six in the ALCS will be a late start: 8 p.m. on the East Coast, 5 on the West. I will see you there, even if the Fenway Park organist is playing the Doors again.