The NLCS is headed back to Busch Stadium.
Zack Greinke found trouble early but settled in late as the Dodgers rolled to a 6-4 defeat of the visiting Cardinals in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series on Wednesday afternoon in Los Angeles. Greinke loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the first inning before making a great escape and gave up two runs in the top of the third. But that’s all the damage the Cardinals could muster, with Greinke finishing his seven solid overall frames by retiring 13 straight.
Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford both hit solo blasts to deep right field off Cardinals starter Joe Kelly, who had a good outing in Game 1 of the NLCS but looked much more hittable Wednesday in Game 5. Gonzalez then added a second homer off Cards reliever John Axford in the bottom of the eighth inning. A.J. Ellis also went deep, slugging a solo shot off Edward Mujica in the bottom of the seventh.
Los Angeles hadn’t homered in this NL Championship Series before Wednesday’s big power outburst.
Dodgers setup man Brian Wilson pitched a clean eighth inning and Kenley Jansen closed the victory out despite a shaky ninth inning that saw the Cardinals score two of their four total runs in the game.
Game 6 of the NLCS will be on Friday night — 8:30 p.m. ET — back in St. Louis. Clayton Kershaw will start for the Dodgers and Michael Wacha will be on the hill for the Cardinals in a rematch of NLCS Game 2.
The Cardinals hold a 3-2 lead over Los Angeles in the best-of-seven Championship Series.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.