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A Huge May Win for the Dodgers
This series against the reigning World Series champs is a test for the Dodgers. Much has been made of their Major League-best 25-13 record and how the record was a bit of a mirage due to the inferior competition.
Now comes the chance for the Dodgers to prove it, and what better way to do so with the club's top offensive weapon shelved for two weeks. The Cardinals came into Friday's game leading the National League with a .290 batting average while their starters were fourth in the Majors with a 3.25 earned run average.
"They're more like an American League club, kind of up and down the order they've got power," Dodgers' manager Don Mattingly told reporters before the game. "They can go right-left on you. Their pitching has been good. They're a tough club."
But the Dodgers are second in the Majors with a 2.87 ERA among starters and fifth in the National League with a 2.61 batting average. They're pretty evenly matched with the pitching edge to the Dodgers and the offensive edge to the Cardinals. Pitching vs. offense.
"It ought to be a good series," Mattingly said. "I look forward to it."
It was a tightly contested game, but the Dodgers finally needed a walk-off walk by catcher A.J. Ellis in the bottom of the ninth to get the 5-4 victory.
"That was a big win," Mattingly said after the game.
Strangely enough it was the Dodgers who struck first using two doubles, a single and triple to score three runs in the second inning against the Cardinals' starter Lance Lynn. An A.J. Ellis overthrow on a pickoff to first base in the top of the third unleashed a chain of events that eroded the good feeling in Stadium.
Shane Robinson struck out, but a wild pitch allowed him to reach first base safely. A sacrifice fly by Rafael Furcal scored one run, a single by Matt Carpenter scored another. Then the topper, a Matt Holliday homer that landed halfway up the left field bleacher seats giving the Cardinals the 4-3 lead.
In between the Cardinals' rally, Mattingly started chirping from the dugout to the home plate umpire Tom Hallian about a check swing by Carpenter that Mattingly thought should have been a strike. Hallian immediately ran Mattingly from the game prompting him to rush out from the dugout.
"I was frustrated really," Mattingly said remarking about the inconsistency in calling the check swings. "You get tired of it after a little while. They're not paying attention down there. It's not even close."
Mattingly admitted that his anger got the best of him.
"I know I need to keep my shut in a game like this. We won the game. At the end of the day it doesn't really matter, but you get tired of it."
Like the Dodgers have been doing all season when facing adversity, they came together and found ways to win. This time it was the bottom of the lineup, namely Adam Kennedy and James Loney, who got the job done. Kennedy went 4-for-4 with a walk, RBI and a run scored and was crucial in keeping rallies going.
"The guy has been scuffling, then all of the sudden when you need him he found his swings," Mattingly said.
Kennedy's RBI single in the bottom half of the third inning got the run back for the Dodgers tying the game 4-4.
"It feels good to square the ball up two times tonight which I haven't been doing," Kennedy said.
The Dodgers had another rally after the seventh-inning stretch with James Loney's RBI single.
Of course with the offense the Cardinals have, they never say die even when they're down a run with one out left. Out trotted out Lance Berkman off the bench, and the 0-1 fastball by closer Kenley Jansen went into the right-centerfield bleachers tying the game.
"You give Lance Berkman a pitch to hit, he knows what to do with it," A.J. Ellis said.
Again, the Dodgers started another rally in the ninth inning when A.J. Ellis worked that bases loaded walk. A.J. Ellis wasn't ready to take all the credit for the win.
"Just a different person contributing everyday," A.J. Ellis said. "That's the mark of a good team, especially when your superstar is out. Guys are having good at-bats up and down the lineup. We've got to step up and try to carry things for as long as we can until Matt's back."
Ted Lilly did another masterful job going seven innings giving up only the four runs in the third inning although none of them were earned.
"He was good," Mattingly commented also noting how his healthy offseason allowed him to have the success of having a 1.79 ERA so far this season.
"I think he was healthy through the winter for the first time in a couple of years. He was able to do a lot more work, he said, during the winter, get off the mound. And it shows. His stuff has been sharper all year."
Meanwhile the other Ellis, second baseman Mark Ellis, got hit hard by a sliding Tyler Greene in the seventh inning while trying to complete a double play. Despite how severe the play looked as Greene slid into his lower left leg, he initially stayed in the game lining out to first base in the bottom half of the inning. He was taken out of the game after the at-bat and took X-rays which came back negative.
"It feels sore," Ellis said. "We'll see how I feel tomorrow."
Like Mattingly said, this was a big game for the Dodgers. While it might not prove anything to the 25 players and coaches on the field, having won against a quality opponent somewhat validates that record in the minds of the public. It's one game of a three-game weekend series, but perhaps the Dodgers are on their way of legitimizing their claim as National League favorites.
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