Are we having fun? Seriously? Is this fun? Is it? A day after Clayton Kershaw‘s Game 1 implosion, we had this:
That’s a nice walk in the park, interrupted by a thunderstorm that spits bees, and the bees spit thumbtacks. That’s a world class five-course meal, except that the fourth course is month-old milk served in a lead-painted cup made of asbestos. I realize now that this doesn’t actually work, because even if that fifth course is the most delicious dessert you’ve ever had, you’re already dead, or at least dying. Then again, maybe that works perfectly.
But we’ll get to that, I promise, because first: Zack Greinke! Zaaaaack. Greinke. He was so, so good, shutting out the Cardinals over seven innings, and to merely focus on his pitching is to sell him short as a baseball player. Over seven innings, Greinke had as many hits of his own as he allowed the Cardinals: two. His third inning single put A.J. Ellis into position to score on Dee Gordon‘s groundout; he then came around to score the second run on Adrian Gonzalez‘ single. His fifth inning single was mostly notable because he went first to third on Gordon’s single. And in the sixth, when Ellis was intentionally walked to load the bases with two outs? Greinke grounded out, but the point is that he wasn’t hit for, and very few people had a problem with that.
Really, there’s just not enough to be said about Greinke tonight. I mean, just watch this ridiculousness…
… and this is going to be the problem.
This ended up being a win. You know it, obviously, so I don’t want to dwell on the down part. I can’t ignore it, though, so let’s get to it. Greinke had thrown 103 pitches through seven. He was absolutely flying by. It appeared he would be staying in. I said on Twitter that I thought it was the right move, also saying that there needed to be an immediate reliever ready.
When Oscar Taveras was announced, Don Mattingly came out to get Greinke in favor of J.P. Howell. As I also said at the time, either move was defensible. Greinke could have easily remained in, at least for the first batter or two. But with three lefties in a row, Howell makes sense too. You know how that ended. Howell allowed Taveras to single, and then Matt Carpenter — of course, of course — to crush a game-tying homer.
Predictably, the sports world exploded. Fire Mattingly, mostly, judging by endless emotional tweets. (And those were the understandable ones. I had people complaining that Brandon League wasn’t brought in (?), that Jamey Wright wasn’t brought in (??), and that this failure was on Ned Colletti for not upgrading the bullpen… which would have made sense if Chris Perez or Kevin Correia or whomever had given up the homer, not one of the two relievers we all agree are the team’s best two.)
My take: I would have kept Greinke in, knowing what we knew at the time. (As usual, we didn’t know everything — it appears now that Greinke agreed that his night was over.) I understood the move to get Howell. Ultimately, the problem was not what Mattingly chose it was that his veteran lefty reliever, who has been very productive for nearly two full seasons now, couldn’t get the job done. (And, you know, that Carpenter is forged from the darkest parts of Cardinal Hell. That too.) Really, a manager ends up being damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Take out Greinke, and you’re awful. Leave Kershaw in, and you’re awful. Trust me when I say that I don’t love Mattingly as a manager. Trust me more when I say that the players on the field need to actually get the job done — especially someone like Howell, a veteran, asked to get lefties out.
Anyway! Enough of that. (For now. I’m sure we’ll discuss it a lot further.) As we all screamed at each other about it, it got kind of lost that the game was tied, not a 123-2 deficit, and League entered to get a much-needed, never-remembered double play.
HIS NAME IS MATT KEMP.
Look, I don’t want to short-change Kemp. He’s a superstar again. We’ve been saying it for a while around here. But I have to tell you, when I think back to the end of this game, I’m not going to remember that so much as I am Kenley Jansen in the bottom of the ninth. I don’t think I, personally, could have stood what might have happened to the world if Jansen didn’t lock that down, and easily. With a grounder and two strikeouts, he did. It was, without hyperbole, the most important three outs anyone has ever gotten in the history of baseball.
There’s so much more to be said about this. I’m spent. You might be too. We’ll say more things tomorrow. Right now: the NLDS is tied 1-1. Game 3 is in St. Louis on Monday. Has it really only been two games? Good lord. Oh, good lord.