Matt Kemp homers late, sends Dodgers to NLDS Game 2 win to even the series at 1-1

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The Dodgers experienced a bit of deja vu when Matt Carpenter again turned the game on its head with a game-tying two-run home run in the eighth inning. It was only a day prior when Carpenter flipped the script, giving the Cardinals a 7-6 lead with a bases-clearing double to right-center off of Clayton Kershaw.

Game 2 starter Zack Greinke had tossed seven shutout innings and took the mound to begin the eighth inning. However, manager Don Mattingly opted to play the match-up when lefty Oscar Taveras was announced as a pinch-hitter. Mattingly strode to the mound, called on southpaw reliever J.P. Howell, and took the ball from Greinke. In a span of about one minute, Taveras ripped a single down the right field line and Carpenter smashed a two-run home run to right-center to tie the game at two apiece.

Just as quickly as Carpenter turned Dodger fans’ smiles upside-down, Matt Kemp fixed the frowns with a go-ahead solo home run to lead off the bottom of the eighth against sidewinding reliever Pat Neshek. The Dodgers were held scoreless from there, giving way to flame-throwing closer Kenley Jansen for the top of the ninth.

Jansen was able to get Yadier Molina to ground out before striking out Kolten Wong and Randal Grichuk consecutively to end the game, evening out the NLDS at 1-1.

The Dodgers scored their first two runs in the bottom of the third inning against Cardinals starter Lance Lynn. A.J. Ellis led off the frame with a double and moved to third on a bloop single to right field by Greinke. Ellis scored on what appeared to be a ground ball double play, but after replay review, was changed to a simple 4-3 ground out. The review helped the Dodgers, as Greinke was on second base and scored on a two-out single by Adrian Gonzalez.

Greinke was outstanding not just on the mound, but at the plate — something he’s well-known for doing. The pitcher went 2-for-3 at the plate. On the mound, the right-hander limited the Cardinals to two hits and two walks while striking out seven in seven innings.

Lynn’s performance would have been good enough to win on most nights. In six innings, he allowed seven hits, walked two, and struck out eight. Carpenter aside, the rest of the Cardinals’ lineup was 3-for-28 (.107) with one extra-base hit (a Wong double). If you’re the Cardinals, it’s hard to blame the pitching for Saturday’s loss when Carpenter was the only one doing any hitting.

Game 3 of the NLDS will take place on Monday in St. Louis as Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu will oppose Cardinals right-hander John Lackey.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.