The Dodgers needed that. The fans needed that. The ANNOUNCERS needed that. After playing so many ~4:00 hour games that it started to feel like standard practice, the Dodgers played a relatively tidy but nevertheless drama-filled 1 run game- that’s “1 run game,” as in 1 TOTAL run for the entire game. Adrian Gonzalez’s home run provided the Dodgers with the only one they’d need, against starting pitcher Kyle Kendricks.
The reason why this paltry offense was adequate for the entire game was largely due to the pitching heroics of Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen. In Game One’s recap, this blog said the following–
“It’s impossible- not nearly impossible, but completely impossible- to imagine the Dodgers advancing, without at least decent performances from Kershaw and Jansen, throughout the rest of the series.”
Ask, and ye shall receive. Far from being decent, Kershaw and Jansen were downright dominant, hitting their spots, and for the most part, keeping the Cubs off balance. To be sure, there were a few good swings against Kershaw in the later innings, but in some respects, it seemed part of his game plan- he’d been used so much recently, he needed to keep his pitch count down, meaning that he had to pitch to contact more than usual. Trusting his defense, combined with a little bit of luck- and a LOT of luck, on that final warning track shot from Javy Baez- Kershaw was masterful, and gave the Dodgers a much needed win, with a huge assist from Kenley Jansen.
And how about that Jansen? Not even three full days after he’d thrown the last of a career high 51 pitches to the Washington Nationals in Game Five of the NLDS, Jansen looked as dominant as he had all year for TWO full innings of work, and had done so against one of the best offenses in all of Major League Baseball. Even more incredibly, he was getting ready to throw in the seventh inning, before Kershaw talked Dave Roberts out of taking him out of the game- which brings us to where the rabbit’s foot comes into play.
Jerry Hairston Jr. mentioned on Twitter how Kershaw would always “win” arguments with Don Mattingly to remain in the game. It’s completely understandable why the best pitcher in baseball would have the right to stay in, if he felt he could get the job done. And of course he always believes that he can, because if he didn’t, he wouldn’t be the best pitcher in baseball. On the other hand, it puts the manager in a really difficult position. If the job gets done, we sing Kershaw’s praises. If it does not, it’s the manager’s fault for not doing his job, in seeing how “obvious” it was (after the fact) that Kershaw had nothing left in the tank. Game 2 of the NLCS initially looked no different than a few other recent postseason shockers, only this time, Javy Baez’s rocket launch towards the outfield did not land in the gap, or over the wall, but safely in Joc Pederson’s glove. The baseball gods were in Dave Roberts’ favor, and with the maniacal laugh that he let out at the end of the inning, it was clear that he knew it.
Back to LA
To the extent that there is such a thing as a “must win” Game Two in a Best-of Seven series, this was it for the Dodgers. The Dodgers going back to L.A. down 2-0, knowing that Clayton Kershaw wouldn’t be pitching for at least two games (even with short rest), would have been a next-to-impossible task, with a starting rotation that has not been particularly effective so far. But now that the series is tied and they’re going back to their home turf, there is a real chance this turns into an all-time classic, poised to eventually head back to Chicago. But at Dodger Stadium, the Boys in Blue better get more out of their starting pitching, as it’s unlikely they can win more than one bullpen-by-committee game against the team with the most wins in Major League Baseball. They’ll also need some middle relief to step, as Kenley Jansen will not be able to go for six out saves every night. Then again, with all the improbable outcomes we’ve seen over the past few months since Kershaw initially went down, it’s foolish to dismiss anything at this point. I’m half-expecting Mickey Hatcher to circle the bases at some point.