Originally posted on Fox Sports West
By MICHAEL MARTINEZ  |  Last updated 10/12/13
There will be a lot of complaining and second-guessing now that the Dodgers have lost the first two games of the National League Championship Series, but nothing should obscure this singular fact: The Dodgers aren't hitting. In two games, they've scored two runs. In two games, they've left 17 runners on base. In two games, they're 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position. They've gone scoreless in the past 19 innings. Now they're in trouble. They sent their two best pitchers, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, to the mound for Games 1 and 2 in St. Louis and lost both. Saturday's 1-0 defeat to the Cardinals rendered Kershaw's brilliant performance meaningless, just as Friday's 13-inning, 3-2 loss left Greinke with nothing to show. True, the Dodgers didn't have either Hanley Ramirez or Andre Ethier in the starting lineup because of injuries, but that doesn't explain how their Nos. 3 through 5 hitters Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig and Juan Uribe could combine to go 0 for 11 with nine strikeouts. Ramirez was a late scratch Saturday after taking a fastball to the ribcage Friday, but X-rays were negative and its possible he could play in Monday's Game 3. But one player isnt going to straighten out the Dodgers. Theyll need more than that. Here are three takeaways from Game 2: 1. Rattled rookie: Puig shouldnt carry the entire burden of the Dodgers' offensive woes, but he clearly appears overmatched in this series. How else to explain the fact hes hitless in 10 at-bats and struck out all four times he came to the plate Saturday? Manager Don Mattingly conceded afterward that Puig is frustrated, but he also credited Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, who has kept Puig off-balance by having his pitchers mix fastballs and breaking balls. "Yadier is doing a nice job as far as yo-yoing him back and forth and keeping him in the rocking chair," Mattingly said. "That's where I think we see his inexperience kind of come up, how to handle what's going on and what he's looking for." Puig never looked worse than in the sixth when he faced St. Louis starter Michael Wacha with the bases loaded and one out. With a full count, Wacha threw a fastball below the strike zone, and Puig took a half-hearted swing that missed badly. The Cardinals no doubt believed Puig would chase a pitch in that situation, and they were right. 2. Lost chances: Let's go right to the top half of the sixth inning, with the Dodgers trailing 1-0. A leadoff single by Kershaw was followed by a ground ball to the right side by Carl Crawford. Second baseman Matt Carpenter made a diving stop but threw wildly in an attempt to force Kershaw at second. Kershaw and Crawford advanced, and suddenly the Dodgers had runners at second and third with no outs. After Mark Ellis popped out, Wacha intentionally walked Gonzalez to face Puig and put a double play in order. But Puig and Uribe struck out in what was probably the turning point in the game. 3. Aced out: Kershaw, like Greinke before him, was superb, allowing just three base runners in six innings. He gave up a leadoff triple to Carpenter to open the game, escaped that jam, then hit a groove. He should have gotten out of the fifth unscathed as well, but after David Freese opened with a double, Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis let a fastball go off the tip of his mitt for a passed ball, sending Freese to third. John Jay then lifted a fly ball to shallow left, but Carl Crawfords throw was short and horribly off line, allowing Freese to score the games first and only run. That was all the Cardinals needed. The Dodgers can take comfort in the fact theyre returning home for Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Tuesday. If a fifth game is needed, theyll play it Wednesday, also at Dodger Stadium. But right now, they've got to hope Ramirez is healthy. If he's not, the best-of-seven series could be very short with a very sad ending for their fans.
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