A series that had classic written all over it lived up to the billing in game one as the Cardinals took the marathon contest over the Dodgers 3-2 in 13 innings. The two storied clubs took different routes to the post-season. The Cardinals built their roster from within, with 18 of their 25 players acquired through the draft or signed as amateur free agents. The Dodgers wrote big checks. That contrast, coupled with the more than 100 years of competition between the franchises, heightened the anticipation for this best-of-seven showdown. In fact, Cardinals vs. Dodgers is now one of the best matchups in baseball. Yet, the teams are limited to meeting just seven times per season because of interleague play. Can’t wait to see the Cardinals-Dodgers battling on the field next year? You’ll have to show some patience, since the teams don’t play each other until June 26. By that time the Dodgers, for example, will have played 11 games against AL squads (Tigers, Twins, White Sox, Royals).
The addition of a wild-card team makes even more of a mockery of the interleague schedule, since the teams who are directly competing for those post-season berths go head to head with their non-division foes very few times. In the epic Cardinals-Dodgers season of 1942, the clubs met 22 times. The Cardinals overcame a 10-1/2 game Dodgers lead in mid-August by winning 43 of their last 51 games to win the flag. The Cardinals finished 106-48, the Dodgers 104-50. Head-to-head play was key, as the Cardinals took their series from the Dodgers 13 to 9. Would have been a shame if the clubs met just seven times that season, while filling out their schedules against the likes of the AL’s Washington Senators, Philadelphia Athletics or Cleveland Indians, all of whom were dreadful that year.
GAME ONE NOTES:
* I know that Carlos Beltran didn’t fit in for some reason with the Giants when they traded for him in the stretch drive of 2011. He was injured, though some questioned whether he should play through it. He did not deliver the big hits. Fans were booing. I know all that, but let’s review Beltran’s NLCS opener: hits two-run double, throws out runner at plate in 10th and wins game with RBI single in the 13th. I know that Beltran seemed as if he didn’t want to stay a Giant, but suppose S.F.’s lineup had Hunter Pence in left and Beltran in right. Beltran is hitting .345 with 16 homers and 34 RBIs in his post-season career. Calling him Mr. October is not showing enough respect. He’s got an advanced degree in the subject. From now on, he should be addressed as Dr. October.
* During his post-game interview with TBS, no one thankfully shoved a shaving-cream pie into Beltran’s face. Somehow, the dignified way Beltran carries himself just makes him the type who teammates would not target in this lame baseball ritual.
* More Giants: Juan Uribe drives in both Dodgers runs; The Beard pitches a scoreless, though eventful inning. If the Dodgers win the World Series, Wilson would have three championship rings in four years, one more than his old Giants teammates. Ouch! Dodgers might start mapping out how Wilson will be given his ring, since that part could get ugly. Ask The Baer about that one.
* Analysts debated whether Don Mattingly should have removed slugger Adrian Gonzalez for a pinch-runner in the eighth with the score tied. There is no gray area here. This game had the feel of one that was going into overtime. Cardinals relievers should text a thank you to the skipper for removing his game-changing threat from the contest. That was a blunder by an inexperienced manager, and could stick in the minds of Dodgers brass when it considers Mattingly’s future at the helm.
* Yasiel Puig was swinging wildly in his 0-for-6 post-season debut, but it’s hard to believe he won’t impact this series with his bat before it is over.
* The Cardinals Yadier Molina must have missed all that post-Buster Posey collision discussion about how catchers should avoid bone-jarring hits. Molina, an obvious student of the Mike Sciosia School of Plate Blocking, made the old Dodgers catcher proud by giving absolutely no lane to Mark Ellis as he tried to score from third on the fly ball to Beltran. Molina never really tagged Ellis out, but the body-to-body smashup was good enough for the ump to signal the runner out. Good call.
* Kudos to the TBS post-game show for using Vin Scully’s radio descriptions for two key Dodgers highlights. I was standing up when I first heard it, but then I pulled up a chair and replayed it. Even better the second time.