Post-season legend Carlos Beltran helps the Cardinals walk off victorious in the 13th

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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.

Clayton Kershaw might return to the Dodgers’ rotation next week

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Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw is nearing his return to the mound, according to club manager Dave Roberts. Both Kershaw (left biceps tendinitis) and fellow lefty Rich Hill (left middle finger blister) are scheduled to toss simulated games on Saturday; depending on the outcome, Roberts says Kershaw could forgo a minor league assignment and slot back into the rotation by Thursday.

Kershaw, 30, was diagnosed with biceps tendinitis as the team closed out their Mexico Series at the start of the month. He has not made a start in several weeks, but was finally able to resume throwing on Sunday and managed to get through two successful bullpen sessions. Though Dodgers’ ace hasn’t been completely injury-free over his 11-year career in the majors, this is the first significant issue he’s had with his pitching arm so far. The team is expected to take every precaution with the lefty, and will likely limit him to just four innings during Saturday’s simulated game.

Prior to his injury, Kershaw was working on another dominant run with the club, sporting a 2.86 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 9.8 SO/9 through his first 44 innings of the season. While Kershaw, Hill and left-handed starter Hyun-Jin Ryu served their respective terms on the disabled list this month, the Dodgers utilized a combination of relievers Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart, both of whom impressed during their limited time in the rotation.