With the National League Division Series tied at one game apiece, the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals relied on starting pitchers at vastly different points in their careers.
John Lackey, in his 12th season and first with the Cardinals after being traded in August, made the 17th postseason start of his career. Whereas the Dodgers sent Hyun-Jin Ryu to the mound in just his second season in the Majors and third career playoff start.
Furthermore, Ryu started for the first time since Sept. 12 when he managed to throw just one inning due to shoulder irritation. Both pitchers were sharp with neither surrendering a run until the Cardinals scratched in the third inning.
Some of their success came as a result of home plate umpire Dale Scott’s wide and at times, inconsistent strike zone. Lackey was the primary beneficiary as he lived on the outside corner when facing right-handed batters and collected eight strikeouts across seven innings.
Following the Dodgers’ loss that’s left them in a must-win situation Tuesday, Matt Kemp openly expressed his disdain for Scott’s calls, via ESPN LA’s Mark Saxon:
Terrible. Terrible strike zone. I’ve never seen anything like it. That’s disappointing because you’ve got guys out there battling. You know, this is two good teams going at it, and it’s supposed to be the teams, not the umpire, and I just feel like the umpire took the bat out of our hands today. He had a very generous strike zone. It’s hard to face good pitching when you’ve got a guy throwing a ball in the other batter’s box, and it’s called strikes.”
Kemp struck out in his final two at-bats of the game, which came in the sixth and ninth innings. In the sixth, he fell behind in the count 0-2 with the second called strike a borderline fastball on the outside corner.
Kemp finished the at-bat by chasing a pitch low for the second out and left the Dodgers in danger of stranding Yasiel Puig at third base after his leadoff triple. With the Dodgers trailing by two runs in the ninth, Kemp led the inning off and was called out on strikes on an outside fastball.
Seemingly frustrated with how the night unfolded, Kemp got into a heated argument with Scott before returning to the dugout. While there were instances where Ryu may have gotten the benefit of the doubt, he seemed to have trouble getting strikes called on the inside corner when facing right-handed batters.
While Scott may have made the Dodgers’ night more of an uphill battle than it should have been, they must now regroup as they face elimination Tuesday with Shelby Miller set to start for the Cardinals.