I wondered yesterday whether the Rangers runners would continue to test Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.
For most of Game 2 they avoided Molina, attempting zero steals, but that all changed in the ninth inning.
Ian Kinsler was gunned down by Molina in the first inning of Game 1, at which point the Rangers put on the breaks, but last night Kinsler led off the ninth inning with a single, stole second base off Jason Motte despite a great throw from Molina, and came around to score the game-tying run on Josh Hamilton’s sacrifice fly.
Molina is one of the best-throwing catchers of all time, erasing 44 percent of attempted steals for his career, so the Rangers were smart to keep the running to a minimum until they really needed it. For many teams it would make sense to completely shut down their running game against Molina, but the Rangers had the league’s fourth-most steals during the regular season and manager Ron Washington has remained aggressive on the bases throughout the playoffs.
And it also helps that Kinsler is one of the best, most efficient basestealers in the league, swiping 30 bags in 34 attempts during the regular season to improve his career success rate to 86 percent. Of course, if Rafael Furcal somehow gets that tag down a split-second sooner Washington and Kinsler would probably be getting criticized all over the place today.
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw entered Wednesday night’s start against the Marlins without having issued a walk in his previous three starts. In fact, his last walk came on April 3 when he issued a free pass to Paul Goldschmidt with the bases empty and two outs in the bottom of the first inning. All told, Kershaw was on a streak of 26 walk-less innings before he took the mound at home to take on the Marlins.
Kershaw started off Wednesday in character, striking out the side in the first inning. He issued a walk in a tough second inning, but escaped without allowing a run. Kershaw walked two more in the third and again danced out of danger. In the fourth, Kershaw walked Lewis Brinson to load the bases with no outs and — you guessed it — didn’t end up allowing a run. His errant control finally came back to bite him in the fifth when Kershaw issued back-to-back two-out walks, then served up a three-run home run to Miguel Rojas down the left field line. His night was done when he completed the inning. Five innings, three runs, five hits, six walks, seven strikeouts, 112 pitches.
The six walks Kershaw issued over five innings marked his first six-walk outing since April 7, 2010 when he issued six free passes to the Pirates in 4 2/3 innings. The only other time he walked as many was on August 3, 2009 against the Brewers in a four-plus inning outing. Kershaw hasn’t even walked five batters in an outing recently — the last time was September 23, 2012 against the Reds.