Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball with the NLCS field now set. The Cardinals stomped the Braves 13–1 in a game which made up yesterday’s theme. Meanwhile the Dodgers gave away a game that should have been theirs, with the Nationals taking it in 10 innings on a Howie Kendrick grand slam.
Following Facebook today, it looks like everybody wants to lay the blame for last night’s debacle in Los Angeles squarely on Clayton Kershaw’s shoulders. A handful of the most hard core Dodgers’ fans went as far as to burn one of his souvenir uniform shirts. That put me in mind of the people who tried (without success thanks to Rick Monday) to burn an American flag during a Dodgers’ game. Burning a flag is one thing. Burning a souvenir shirt is just a waste of good money. It sends no message, so if you’ve got whatever outlandish amount of money the Dodgers charge for a Kershaw shirt, burn that cash. Other equally irate Angelinos ran over Kershaw shirts with their cars. Again, whoever did that watched hard-earned loot go up in smoke.
While Kershaw’s postseason failures going back to 2013 are too numerous to spell out without writing a column as long as “War and Peace,” there isn’t just one scapegoat for the Dodgers’ fans to blame. While Kershaw at 31 isn’t the pitcher he was and never will be, he’ll keep pitching. Give manager Dave Roberts a portion of blame for sending Kershaw to the wolves in the 8th inning, after the lefty had gotten him clear of the 7th. Kenta Maeda was ready, and in fact came in to lock the barn door after the horse was stolen. Give Roberts plenty of responsibility and maybe send him to the unemployment office because this isn’t the first time he’s torpedoed his team in postseason play. In 2017 he used an exhausted Yu Darvish in game 3, and after that worthy thoroughly earned a place on the bench, Roberts trotted him out in game 7 to get slaughtered. Yu hasn’t been the same since. Roberts had to know he was pushing his luck asking for anything out of Kershaw in the postseason, especially in a relief role he doesn’t play during the year. Roberts can’t say he didn’t know the odds he was playing against. At age 31, Kershaw is who he is. He won’t change now. He’s a full house in the regular season and a pair of eights in the postseason.
Enough of Kershaw and Roberts. Responsibility spreads in other directions. Has anybody considered that the Dodgers might have put up more than 3 runs before Kershaw came unglued? In what league in 2019 is a 3–1 lead safer than a locked bank vault? maybe in 1919, maybe against Koufax or Drysdale at Chavez Ravine in the sixties, definitely not in our century. The Dodgers got their 3 runs against Nationals’ starter Stephen Strasburg. In these days when starters may be gone after an inning or two for no good reason, his performance last night was well above average, and his performance in the series has been exemplary. Last night he gave up 6 hits and 3 runs while giving his team 6 strong innings, walking 1 and striking out 7. His series ERA was 2.40, which is microscopic in today’s world and especially on his team. The Dodgers weren’t facing the 1975 Reds’ bull pen of McEnaney, Eastwick, Carroll and Borbon. They scored no runs between the 7th and 10th against Tanner Rainey (9.0 ERA in the series) Patrick Corbin (7.88) Daniel Hudson who should have a purple heart for all the operations he’s had, and Sean Doolittle who was ordinary at best as a closer.
If there’s one Dodger who can and should hold his head high, it’s their starter Walker Buehler. At 25, you can’t quite_ call Buehler the right-handed Kershaw, but if God holds his elbow together, and his luck holds, you might call him that during the next decade or so. He held down what is obviously a very good Nationals offense, giving up 4 hits and a run, walking 3 and striking out 7, lasting until there were two outs in the 7th. For the series, his ERA was 0.71. Can anybody say Jacob DeGrom?
The Nationals aren’t getting much credit as Dodger fans hang Kershaw out to dry. His playoff reputation didn’t propel the Nationals into the NLCS. Back-to-back home runs on back-to-back pitches by Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto did that. It wasn’t enough that Joe Kelly was at best an average Joe in the Dodgers’ bull pen. The Nats had to take advantage of that mediocrity, and so they did. Howie Kendrick, who has never hit a grand slam home run in a 9-inning game, managed to unload one for the second time in an extra-inning affair. So while you ruin your Kershaw shirts and flay Roberts on social media, remember it took two teams to make what we saw last night happen.