With Clayton Kershaw on the mound, the Los Angeles Dodgers appeared to be well on their way to taking an early series lead over the St. Louis Cardinals through six innings of Game 1 of the National League Division Series,
The Cardinals then rallied for eight runs in the seventh to earn a come-from-behind win that placed plenty of pressure on the Dodgers in Game 2. Although it was essentially a must-win game, Zack Greinke said he didn’t feel any additional pressure, via Mark Whicker of the LA Daily News:
I didn’t go in thinking I had to do a lot better because of what happened. My game plan is always to lower expectations, because I don’t want to go out there and do too much. The way our offense is playing, I think we could come back from being down by two games. The offense and the defense has been so good, and it’s like our pitching has been the weak link, which it hasn’t been all season.”
In control of his emotions and expectations, Greinke was sharp as he buzzed his way through the Cardinals’ lineup, carrying a no-hitter into the fifth inning. The right-hander attributed the success was to his slider:
I felt like my slider was really good. A.J. said it was better than usual. I struck out (Jhonny) Peralta with a two-seamer in the sixth (with two Cardinals on) and that one felt pretty good.”
Although Greinke didn’t earn a win as J.P. Howell gave up a base hit and game-tying home run in the eighth inning, and the Dodgers needed a Matt Kemp eighth-inning home run to win, Greinke has not suffered a loss since Aug. 9.
The elbow issue he dealt with appears to be long behind him, which is key considering he may be needed on short rest in the NLDS.
Saturday’s win ensured the Dodgers a Game 4 in St. Louis. Should they manage to win just one of the next two games, it will ensure the series returns to Los Angeles for Game 5, where Greinke may be needed if Clayton Kershaw takes the ball in Game 4.