Clayton Kershaw was holding up his end of the bargain. His curve was dazzling, the fastball
electric. It was tough not to argue with Joe Torre’s decision to start the youngster in Game 1 of the NLCS. He looked like he belonged. He was composed. He was focused.
Then came the 5th. What is it we harp on here at YH? Big games aren’t really big games… until those middle innings. The pressure ratchets up. The intensity and desire of the hitters reaches a new level. They’ve seen most of what the opposing pitcher brought to the plate and they’re making adjustments.
Kershaw was caught in the moment. He had just gotten through the “danger” portion of the Phillies lineup to end the 4th… barely. He threw two fantastic pitches to Ryan Howard. One that looked to have caused Howard to strike out on a check swing. One that caught the edge. Randy Marsh though, thought different. Howard walked. And the pressure mounted on young Clayton. He escaped… but barely… when Jayson Werth crushed a ball to deep left field for the 3rd out.
So, it was no surprise that Raul Ibanez touched him up for a single to lead off the fateful 5th. He walked Pedro Feliz and then struggled with Carlos Ruiz before Ruiz powered a ball up and out of the park for a 3 Run HR..
Charlie Manuel must have read those words of wisdom from Hall of Fame Manager Earl Weaver. He followed the wisdom to a tee.
“If you play for one run… that’s all you get.” – Earl Weaver
The Phillies were not playing for one run. Not after they watched the young Kershaw have his mini implosion. He was rattled. His command was gone. His focus was gone. He’s 21.. it’s hard to maintain mental discipline under the spotlight of millions of people across the country. In his defense, it would have been nice to see Joe Torre take the controls at that point. He didn’t hesitate with Wolf in the NLDS. He yanked him in the 4th. Kershaw completely disintegrated in front of us. Managerial decison.. I understand. It is what it is.
Unfortunately, Kershaw’s spiral led to two more base runners and a 2 out double by Ryan Howard that plated two more runs. It turns out. . . it was those 2 runs the Dodgers needed back. A 5 run fifth for the Phillies.
Sure, the Dodgers are no quitters. They fought, they clawed, they made a game of it. They came right back with 3 runs of their own in the bottom of the 5th. Then in the 6th they filled the bags and threatened to take the lead. They just could not get that big hit though.. it just wasn’t there. I kept waiting for some magic from #23 (yesterday was the 21st Anniversary of Kirk Gibson’s heroics in Game 1 of ’88 World Series) .. but Casey just wasn’t at the bat.
The Dodgers had their chances. The Phillies just capitalized on theirs. It was a very good game. Today is a new day. A very important day for both squads.
But… Yesterday was a great day for Carlos Ruiz. His big time 3 Run HR sparked the Phillies to a win. Carlos was 2 for 3 with 3 RBIs, a walk and a run scored.
Congratulations Carlos Ruiz. You are Yesterday’s Hitter!