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Playoff Pinch Hits: Kershaw And Dodgers Can't Get Past Cardinals Yet Again

By Sam McPherson

The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers, again, in the postseason, eliminating them in four games with a comeback win over Clayton Kershaw on Tuesday. Kershaw posted a 21-3 record in 2014, along with a 1.77 ERA, but the Cardinals beat him twice in a week to advance to their fourth straight National League Championship Series.

Now, St. Louis will play the San Francisco Giants, who dispensed with the Washington Nationals in the other NLDS matchup.

For the Dodgers, it's another playoff disappointment for the team with the highest payroll in baseball. The organization hasn't reached the World Series since 1988, and despite winning two straight NL West division titles now, the Cardinals have blocked the L.A. pathway to the Series.

Kershaw was 0-2 in the NLDS, with a 7.82 ERA. Last year against St. Louis in the NLCS, the Dodgers ace was 0-2 with a 6.30 ERA. It's safe to say the Cardinals own Clayton Kershaw in October.

When your ace goes down twice in four games, you're not going to win too many playoff series; that's a fact.

Cardinals Are Model of Consistency

St. Louis has made the postseason 11 times in the last 15 seasons. In nine of those Octobers, the Cardinals have played in the NLCS. It doesn't get any better than that. Players have changed, and St. Louis switched managers after its last World Series win in 2011, but nothing really changes for the Cardinals. They just keep winning.

The NL's model franchise now will play for the chance at its fifth World Series appearance in 11 years, and that's Yankee-like consistency.

The Cards often fly under the radar until they suddenly are one of the last teams left — maybe because we take them and their success for granted. Baseball fans should know better by now.

Albert Pujols is gone, of course, but it was his replacement at first base — Matt Adams — who delivered the knockout punch to the Dodgers in Game Four on Tuesday. That's emblematic of what the St. Louis organization does: restock, reload and repeat.

It works for the Cardinals, and they have the financial resources to make it work thanks to a loyal fan base in one of the best baseball cities in America — if not the best.

On the field, they have no rivals, really.

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Another Long Offseason in La-La Land

Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly will have to answer a lot of questions about this Game Four loss. Should he have left Kershaw in for the seventh inning on short rest? Why didn't he start one of the most dynamic players in the game? Los Angeles had nine outs to go in order to force a Game Five back at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, but it didn't happen.

By any measure, the Dodgers underperformed in 2014. They finished with the second-best record in the NL, sure, but with that payroll, the expectations are higher: World Series or bust. That's unreasonable in this wild-card era of playoff insanity, of course, but don't tell that to the Los Angeles organization or its fan base. Their expectations are set.

There's no reason to think the Dodgers won't do their own version of what the Cardinals do: restock, reload and repeat. Los Angeles just wants better results in October next time around. The Dodgers were close, again, but Kershaw actually will have to win some postseason games in 2015 if L.A. wants another championship.

Get the odds on all the MLB Playoff matchups.

Check out other Playoff Pinch Hits.

Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A's. His work can be found on

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