Jackson settles, Freese shines as Cardinals force Game 5

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“I knew I couldn’t let the game overwhelm me,” Cardinals starter Edwin Jackson told a reporter a few minutes after the conclusion of Wednesday night’s 5-3 NLDS Game 4 victory over the Phillies.

Whether that mindset came to the right-hander in hindsight or he truly felt mentally calm after allowing a double, triple and single within his first five pitches, Jackson indeed responded and settled in. After that rough first frame, he retired 17 of the next 20 batters he faced before exiting to a three-run lead.

Cardinals third baseman David Freese hit a two-run go-ahead double in the fourth inning, then launched a towering two-run homer to the center field lawn in the bottom of the sixth. A product of the west St. Louis suburbs, he was granted a chill-inducing curtain call by the Busch Stadium faithful after his blast.

This five-game NLDS will come down to Game 5, Friday night in Philadelphia. Chris Carpenter vs. Roy Halladay. Two old friends and former teammates, both on normal rest. It should be a heck of a finish.

Notes

* The sun caused some issues in the first inning when Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay failed to get a good initial read on a leadoff hit by Jimmy Rollins. The Phillies scored two in that opening frame.

* The Phillies also experienced problems in center field during the first inning, when Shane Victorino’s front foot slipped out from under him while he was trying to throw a ball back to the infield. The outfield grass at Busch Stadium had to be completely replaced after a U2 concert in July and hasn’t fully recovered.

* Freese was 2-for-13 with six strikeouts in the series before his double and heroic home run.

* Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols made one of the best defensive plays of this postseason, picking off Chase Utley as he tried to advance from first to third during a sixth-inning infield hit by Hunter Pence.

* A squirrel dashed across home plate while Phillies starter Roy Oswalt was delivering a pitch to Skip Schumaker in the bottom of the fifth. Oswalt tried to argue for a do-over on the pitch — called a ball — but home plate umpire Angel Hernandez appeared to laugh off that suggestion. Schumaker then flied out. A squirrel (possibly the same one) also reached the playing field in Game 3 Tuesday evening.

* Phillies slugger Ryan Howard went 0-for-8 in both games back in St. Louis, his hometown.

* Placido Polanco, still being bothered by a sports hernia, is 2-for-16 so far in this five-game series.

* Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday (finger) was 1-for-3 with two runs scored in his return to the lineup.

Sandy Koufax to be honored with statue at Dodger Stadium

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Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports that Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax will be honored with a statue at Dodger Stadium, expected to be unveiled in 2020. Dodger Stadium will be undergoing major renovations, expected to cost around $100 million, after the season. Koufax’s statue will go in a new entertainment plaza beyond center field. The current statue of Jackie Robinson will be moved into the same area.

Koufax, 83, had a relatively brief career, pitching parts of 12 seasons in the majors, but they were incredible. He was a seven-time All-Star who won the National League Cy Young Award three times (1963, ’65-66) and the NL Most Valuable Player Award once (’63). He contributed greatly to the ’63 and ’65 championship teams and authored four no-hitters, including a perfect game in ’65.

Koufax was also influential in other ways. As Shaikin notes, Koufax refused to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series to observe Yom Kippur. It was an act that would attract national attention and turn Koufax into an American Jewish icon.

Ahead of the 1966 season, Koufax and Don Drysdale banded together to negotiate against the Dodgers, who were trying to pit the pitchers against each other. They sat out spring training, deciding to use their newfound free time to sign  on to the movie Warning Shot. Several weeks later, the Dodgers relented, agreeing to pay Koufax $125,000 and Drysdale $110,000, which was then a lot of money for a baseball player. It would be just a few years later that Curt Flood would challenge the reserve clause. Koufax, Drysdale, and Flood helped the MLB Players Association, founded in 1966, gain traction under the leadership of Marvin Miller.