Culver City Observer -

Cardinals Continue to Dominate Dodgers

 

By Steven Lieberman

Observer Reporter

The Cardinals made a stop at Chavez Ravine for a four-game series against the Dodgers and continue to dominate them as the Redbirds, now with the best record in the major leagues at 38-19, took the series, 3-1.

Their rivalry has become one of the best and most exciting in professional sports and this series did not disappoint, providing the fans with playoff-atmosphere action.

The only bright spot for the Dodgers was their pitching ace Clayton Kershaw (5-3) and his stellar performance pitching the third game of the series and getting the shutout win (2-0) with eight innings pitched, 11 strikeouts, two walks and allowing only one hit.

Kershaw has won his last three starts. Closer Kenley Jansen got the save (6) by freezing Matt Holliday to end the game.

"When I got the first batter of the game out, that's when I knew I felt good and was going to pitch a good game," Kershaw said. "My fastballs away and my slider/curve-ball combination were effective."

Catcher A.J. Ellis thought Kershaw pitched his best game of the seson and manager Don Mattingly praised Kershaw for getting ahead in the count and his ability to cover both sides of the plate.

Yasiel Puig - playing in his first game on Saturday since coming off of the disabled list - made an immediate impact for the Dodgers as he doubled in a run on Saturday and scored a run. Then on Sunday, the final game of the four-game series, he hit two singles and scored a run.

The only downside to Puig's performance was a fielding error in the eighth inning on Matt Holiday's double to right field scoring Matt Carpenter, and allowing Holliday to reach third base - also on Sunday. Puig is shaking off the rust from is rehab stint.

"I feel great," Puig said, aided by a translator, after the Dodger win on Saturday and spoke about his double that drove in a run. "(Jaime) Garcia (Cardinals pitcher) was all over the plate and the umpire was calling a lot of balls. He was throwing low on me so I waited for a pitch to come higher over the plate."

This season, both clubs have adjusted well after losing starting pitchers to injury. The Cardinals lost Adam Wainwright, their top pitching ace for the season, but still have managed to have one of the best, and arguably the best starting rotation in the majors led by Michael Wacha and John Lackey.

Wacha (8-1) picked up his eighth win on Thursday as the Cardinals won, 7-1. He allowed just one run on seven hits in seven strong innings. He remained unbeaten on the road this season and is the first Cardinals starter to begin a season 6-0 or better on the road since now retired Chris Carpenter (12-0).

"He had a good game plan," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said about Wacha's performance. "He has the whole package, mixing up his cutter, change-up and fastball...working counts deep."

The Dodgers were also dealt misfortune when ace starters Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy went down with season-ending injuries. They have also managed to rally with a rotation steered by Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

A bright spot during the series for the Cardinals was shortstop Jhonny Peralta. On Sunday, he finished a triple shy of the cycle, going 3-for-4 with two runs, a double, a homer and two RBI. His three hits tied a season high for the third time (twice against the Dodgers) and raised his batting average to .440 (11-for-25) with three doubles, two homers and eight RBI in seven games against the Dodgers this year.

Matheny sang the praises of Peralta after the game.

"He is consistent on defense and is getting the big hits for us batting in the cleanup spot," he said.

Something noteworthy about the Cardinals style of play this year is their ability to manufacture runs, reminiscent of the days when former skipper Whitey Herzog ("The Great White Rat") was running the show, and is arguably the architect of that strategy.

Matheny has been wise in letting Herzog consult with the team during spring training and also stays in touch with him during the season.

We witnessed the utilization of that strategy, especially in the magical eighth inning in three out of the four games. On Thursday, Yadier Molina walked, pinch-hitter Randal Grichuk doubled and then Kolten Wong doubled in both runners. On Friday, Molina walked again to lead off the inning, Jason Heyward hit a single, pinch-hitter Tony Cruz hit a sacrifice-fly scoring Molina and then Wong singled in Heyward.

Then on Sunday, more magic in the eighth – Matt Carpenter walked to start off the inning, Matt Holiday tripled him in, Peter Bourjos pinch-ran for Holliday, Peralta doubled in Bourjos, and then Mark Reynolds doubled in Peralta.

Not only is Herzog still a presence, but so is Cardinals living legend Red Schoendienst, 92, who still consults with the players during spring training and is available in the clubhouse during every home game. Cardinals first-baseman Mark Reynolds says that he taps into Red's knowledge every chance he gets.

Reynolds got the nod at first when starter Matt Adams went down with a season-ending quad injury and has been showing his paces in fine fashion.

As for the Dodger and what needs to be done to improve on their inconsistent performance, Mattingly had this to say.

"We haven't been nearly as consistent as we were early (in the season)," he said of his bullpen. "We've had some games that we've let get away from us, and we've got to find a way to get the ball to Kenley (Jansen)."

The Dodgers are 11-14 since May 13 and have seen their lead in the National League West shrink to a half-game over the Giants.

 

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