When the Cardinals loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning Wednesday night, it was hard not to think about Cliff Lee, who gave up six hits and one run in the Phillies' victory over the Rockies earlier in the day. The Phillies got last year's American League Cy Young Award-winning pitcher in a mid-season trade--a pickup the Dodgers could've used.
The Dodgers ended up winning the first of their five-game series against the Cardinals, but they were actually lucky to come away with the victory. This is what they survived:
--That near-disastrous first inning when the Cardinals ended up scoring just one run. Un-freakin'-believable.
--Starting pitcher Randy Wolf getting off to another shaky start (32 pitches in the 1st inning), and being yanked after throwing 82 pitches in 3.2 innings. Pray this series doesn't go to a fifth game, when he's slated to pitch again.
--Leaving 16 runners on base! Six-freakin'-teen.
--Manny Ramirez having another unspectacular game, going 1-for-4, with only a meaningless double and no RBIs. A Santería cleansing ritual may be in order.
But the Dodgers prevailed because Cardinals' Cy Young candidate Chris Carpenter wasn't his usual sharp self, the Dodgers' bullpen did its usual stellar job, and seven of the eight starting position players got at least one hit--led by Rafael Furcal, who went 3-for-4 with a triple and two singles. But the other MVP for the Dodgers was Rafael Belliard. He only went 1-for-3 (with two walks), but his leadoff single in the 5th inning led to his scoring the run that would provide the margin of victory. Most importantly, Belliard snagged a hard hit ball and started the double play that got the Dodgers out of their 1st inning mess.
The Dodgers were also helped by the Cards leaving 14 men on base, and their pitching staff giving up eight walks. And the Cards couldn't deliver after Joe Torre twice ordered intentional walks to Albert Pujols. And when the Cards slugger came up in the 8th with a man on base, Torre brought in Boss Hogg (aka Jonathan Broxton), who got Pujols to ground out. (Torre shills for Bigelow Green Tea, but it must be decaf, right?)
But an injury to Hiroki Kuroda and the second-half meltdown of Chad Billingsley will force Torre to start another left-hander, phenom Clayton Kershaw, in Thursday's afternoon game (3 p.m., PST). The Cardinals will likely load their lineup with six right-handed batters as they did in Game 1. (The Cards did amass 11 hits, including four doubles.) Torre used five pitchers out of the bullpen Wednesday. Hopefully they'll be ready if called upon again Thursday.
--With his creepy mustache, Cardinals shortstop Brendan Ryan resembles the creepy child molester character played by Will Forte on Saturday Night Live.
--With TBS airing all four first-round series, the announcing talent is stretched pretty thin. Dick Stockton and Bob Brenly have a tremendous, cliché-ridden grasp of the obvious. Making matters worse: Vin Scully only did the first three and the last inning on the radio Wednesday. If that continues to be the plan then it's Stockton/Brenley or the insufferable Charley Steiner/Rick Monday: Pick your poison.
--Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, wearing a Dodgers jacket, looked a little lonely in his front row seat in the owner's box. I guess it would've looked bad to invite along former DWP chief David Nahai.
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