Three things: Kershaw unravels as Dodgers ousted
No one figured this would happen.
A close game, yes. A pitchers' duel, of course. But not this.
Clayton Kershaw was supposed to push the Dodgers to a deciding seventh game in the National League Championship Series. Instead, he imploded like never before.
Whether it was a matter of too many innings this season or too many pitches in this game, Kershaw – arguably the best pitcher in the big leagues – endured the ugliest start of his career.
So now the Dodgers are done, eliminated 9-0 by the Cardinals, who are headed to their second World Series in three seasons. How anticlimactic.
Here are three takeaways from a game that won't soon be forgotten:
1. Aced out: You could have predicted a lot of things about this game, but none of them would have included Kershaw performing a pratfall in the biggest start of his life.
Let's get this out of the way first: Combining regular season and postseason, the left-hander and presumed NL Cy Young Award winner threw a combined 259 innings this season. His previous high was 233 in 2011.
He's a gritty, hard-nosed pitcher, but it may have taken its toll. Kershaw clearly labored in the third inning when the Cardinals scored four times – the first time this season he has given up that many runs in an inning. The key at-bat: Matt Carpenter worked him for a double after an 11-pitch at-bat, fouling off seven consecutive pitches at one point.
The floodgates opened. Kershaw threw 48 pitches in the third and had 81 in the game. He was unable to survive the fifth, marking his shortest outing this season.
2. Learning on the fly: It's been said many times this season, but it's worth repeating. Yasiel Puig is enormously talented, but he is far from being a finished product.
The rookie made two throwing errors – and three defensive mistakes overall – to tie a league championship series for an outfielder. He'll spend a lot of time this offseason and next spring training learning some basics.
The one play in which Puig wasn't charged with an error might have been the most costly. It came on a single by Carlos Beltran in the third that scored Carpenter. Puig, rather than throw to second base, instead tried to throw home. The ball was cut off by first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who knew Carpenter would be safe, but by then Beltran already had taken second. He scored on a single by Yadier Molina, making it 2-0.
Later in the inning, Puig threw wildly to the plate on a single by Shane Robinson, allowing the base runners to advance. And in the fifth, he let a single by Molina glance off the tip of his glove.
Bottom line: Puig is going to be good one day, but he still needs schooling right now.
3. Kid with a dream: It makes no sense to break down this game without acknowledging the performance of Cardinals rookie starter Michael Wacha, who went 2-0 against the Dodgers and won the series MVP.
Wacha was almost unhittable, throwing a two-hit shutout over seven innings. He gave up an infield single to Carl Crawford to open the game, retired 14 of the next 15 batters, then surrendered a double to A.J. Ellis in the sixth. And that was it.
In two starts against the Dodgers, Wacha allowed seven hits and no runs in 13 2/3 innings. His fastball, mixed with a tough-to-hit changeup, kept the Dodgers on their heels. In fact, he best-hit ball of the night (other than Ellis' double) was a shot to the gap in right-center by Juan Uribe in the fifth -- but Beltran flagged it with a leaping, diving catch to end the inning.
Wacha, 22, is going to be very good – perhaps at least as good as Kershaw.
But in this game, he was better.