Dodgers stay alive with NLCS Game 5 win over Cardinals

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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.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉