In a battle of squandered opportunities, the Cardinals squandered one fewer. Between the fourth and the twelfth innings, the Cardinals and Dodgers traded zeroes — one part effective pitching, one part curious managerial decisions, one part offensive futility.
Beltran was the heart and soul of the Cardinals tonight. His two-run double in the third inning tied the game at two. His tenth inning throw home from right field to nail Mark Ellis at home preserved a 2-2 tie. And his 13th-inning line drive RBI single to right sent the Cardinals home with a 1-0 lead in the NLCS.
By Win Percent Added (WPA), a statistic that shows exactly how much a player contributed to his team’s chance of winning, Beltran’s two hits and his throw combined for .853 WPA:
- 3rd inning two-run double: .235
- 10th inning catch and assist: .318
- 13th inning RBI single: .300
Mattingly’s decision to save Kenley Jansen for the very end is one that will be second-guessed for quite some time. There were plenty of opportunities earlier in the game for Jansen to come in, but Mattingly opted for inferior arms such as Ronald Belisario and J.P. Howell. And rather than let Jansen start an inning from the wind-up, Mattingly brought him in after Chris Withrow had put runners on first and second with one out. Jansen struggled out of the stretch against his first batter, Beltran, falling behind 3-1 before giving up the game-winning hit.
The Dodgers certainly had their opportunities. Michael Young came to the plate twice after replacing Adrian Gonzalez at first base and was responsible for four outs. He hit the fly ball to Beltran when he made the great throw home, and grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play in the 12th. That was a direct result of another questionable Mattingly decision. Carl Crawford led off with a single, and Mattingly had Mark Ellis bunt him to second. With first base subsequently open, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny had Lance Lynn intentionally walk Hanley Ramirez — a vastly superior hitter — to bring up Young, who has historically been very prone to grounding into double plays.
Game 1 was by no means a pristine game of well-played baseball. Rather, it was chock full of mistakes, but in the end, it was an entertaining, tense affair that sets up the NLCS well. If the rest of the games are as competitive as Game 1, we’re in for a treat.