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.
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.