Baseball, right? Having slept on it, I’ve come to the conclusion that what happened was always going to happen. To expect Clayton Kershaw, on short rest, to seamlessly hand it off to Kenley Jansen, was probably unrealistic. To expect Jansen to get six outs — a thing he’s never done — was hardly a guarantee. I thought that every single one of Don Mattingly‘s pitching decisions through the course of the NLDS were defensible, even though none of them, not a single one, worked out. That in itself is astonishing, that even through dumb luck none of those things worked in the Dodgers’ favor. I absolutely cannot say the same about his treatment of Yasiel Puig, both in benching him to start the game, then using him only as a pinch-runner to finish it. Maybe it would have mattered. Maybe not, not on a night where Kershaw is allowing a homer to a lefty off his curveball for the first time ever.
On Kershaw, obviously: Any talk about how the Cardinals “own him” or that he “can’t handle the postseason” is just foolishness. Twice in this series alone, once on short rest, he completely dominated St. Louis for 90% of his start. Twice, in his final inning, with a manager understandably hesitant to go to an atrocious bullpen, he tired and got hit by a good team. That’s not fear, or tipping, or any of the rest. That’s a great pitching being asked to do more than any pitcher should have to do.
But though it ended in failure, this was probably a good season, right? I guess it sounds crazy to fans of other teams to even ask that question after a second consecutive division title, which I guess says a lot about our expectations. We saw Kershaw continue his historic dominance, possibly even winning the MVP. We saw Dee Gordon break out, and Matt Kemp come back, and the massive surprise that was Justin Turner. We saw Juan Uribe and Adrian Gonzalez keep humming along, and we got our first, ever-so-brief looks at Joc Pederson and Alex Guerrero. We saw an incredible run from Zack Greinke, and we saw Hyun-jin Ryu proving his rookie season wasn’t a mirage. We saw signs of life from Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett (who announced his retirement after the game), far more than we could have expected when the 2012 Nick Punto trade was made. We saw Drew Butera pitch. Twice!
We also saw this team come back from 10 games down to overtake the Giants in the span of about five minutes, then hold them off through two huge September series when they had 2.5 starting pitchers. That’s a good season, you know? I know it doesn’t feel that way. It can’t, today. But there were certainly more ups than downs. Right? I keep telling myself that. I think so.
Tomorrow, we’ll reset the roster headed into the off-season. I don’t think it’s going to be a quiet one, for a lot of reasons.