Down 2-0 in NLCS, Dodgers appear doomed

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Not even 24 hours into a seven-game series, the Dodgers’ World Series hopes are already on life support. By failing to secure either of the first two games with Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw on the mound, they’ve become huge long shots to defeat the Cardinals in the NLCS.

If there’s any reason for the Dodgers to take heart, it’s that the matchups haven’t dictated the series so far. The Dodgers figured to have the edges in the first two games, even with the series in St. Louis, because they had their big two going and the Cardinals were starting Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha. Obviously, it didn’t work out as they’d like. But they can psyche themselves up by claiming their own underdog status now, especially against Adam Wainwright in Game 3.

Unfortunately, the Dodgers now have to beat Wainwright once if they’re going to win the series. And Hyun-Jin Ryu didn’t appear up to that kind of task during a shaky NLDS start against the Braves. Rumored to be battling elbow and/or back problems, he gave up four runs in three innings in that one.

But Monday’s Game 3 will be practically a must-win game against a pitcher who is 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA and a 57/7 K/BB ratio in 48 2/3 career innings in the postseason. A victory will be even more improbable if Hanley Ramirez, the Dodgers’ best hitter, can’t go after injuring his ribs on a HBP in Game 1 and missing Game 2. Ramirez’s absence played a huge role in Saturday’s 1-0 loss; he’s performed as well as anyone in the National League when healthy this season.

Without Ramirez, the Dodgers could well go down quietly from here. Yasiel Puig seems lost at the plate, Andre Ethier is limited and Game 4 starter Ricky Nolasco was a disaster at the end of the regular season. Things couldn’t possibly have broken better for the Cardinals.

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.