Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright gathers himself after giving up a walk to the Dodgers in the fourth inning Friday evening at Dodger Stadium in Game 1 of the NLDS.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers center fielder Yasiel Puig is hit by a pitch from Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright in the third inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright throws against the Dodgers during the first inning of Game 1 of the National League division series.(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)
For the first six innings of Friday’s opening game of the National League division series, Clayton Kershaw never pitched from the stretch. And he dominated the St. Louis Cardinals, striking out eight batters and giving up just two hits, both solo home runs.
Then Matt Holliday opened the seventh with a single and everything changed. After Kershaw ditched his windup, the Cardinals pounded him for six hits in the span of eight batters, the final one a three-run double by Matt Carpenter that turned what was left of a once-comfortable Dodgers lead into a one-run deficit in a game the Cardinals went on to win, 10-9.
So what changed? Some suspected the Cardinals may have been stealing signs when they got runners on base. Or perhaps Kershaw was tipping his pitches from the stretch.
The Cardinals angrily denied both those theories.
“C’mon!” Holliday said. “I’ve been playing 11 years and I’m stealing signs?”
Molina said talk of sign-stealing and tipped pitches stole credit from the people who deserved it: the Cardinals hitters.
“We had a bunch of good at-bats against him,” said Molina, who singled and scored against Kershaw during the eight-run rally. “He started leaving the ball in the middle, up. And we [had] some good at-bats. We put the ball in play.”
Holliday agreed it came down to the Cardinals’ talent and not acts of skulduggery.
“He apparently doesn’t do it too often. The guy can get hit a little bit,” Holliday said of Kershaw, who led the majors with 21 wins and a 1.77 ERA during the regular season. “I mean he has to throw it over the plate. He’s a great pitcher. We put some good at-bats together.”