Clayton Kershaw's brilliant start unraveled in a hurry Friday, as the 26-year-old squandered a late five-run lead that allowed the St. Louis Cardinals to complete an improbable comeback en route to a 10-9 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.
Kershaw's evening started inauspiciously when he surrendered a first-inning solo shot to Randal Grichuk, but the talented left-hander quickly settled in. Entrusted with a one-run lead in the third, extended to 6-1 in the fifth, Kershaw retired every batter he faced after Grichuk's home run until Matt Carpenter cranked a solo shot to right field with two outs in the sixth.
The Cardinals, however, cobbled together a rally in the seventh when they loaded the bases with nobody out, eventually whittling their deficit to 6-4 on a pair of run-scoring singles from Matt Adams and Jon Jay. The burgeoning comeback compelled Dodgers manager Don Mattingly to confer with Kershaw on the mound, but the skipper ultimately opted to leave his ace in the game.
Mattingly's faith was not rewarded, however, as Kershaw yielded a bases-clearing, two-out double to Carpenter that afforded the Cardinals a 7-6 lead and ended Kershaw's evening. Pedro Baez, who was summoned to relieve Kershaw, didn't fare any better, promptly surrendering a three-run home run to Matt Holliday that gave St. Louis a 10-6 advantage.
A two-run shot from Adrian Gonzalez in the bottom of the eighth trimmed Los Angeles's deficit to two runs, a comeback effort that extended into the ninth against a shaky Trevor Rosenthal. The 24-year-old closer put runners on second and third with just one out before Dee Gordon brought the Dodgers within one on an RBI groundout. But Rosenthal managed to strike out Yasiel Puig to end the game with the tying run at third, capping a wild comeback for the Cardinals.
The Cardinals' unlikely comeback negated an ugly start from right-hander Adam Wainwright, who labored after opening the contest with two scoreless frames. The 33-year-old ended up surrendering four runs through the first four innings and was lifted in the top of the fifth after yielding a two-run homer to A.J. Ellis, whose blast afforded the Dodgers a 6-1 lead.
Not only did Carpenter squash Kershaw's momentum with a sixth-inning solo shot, the 28-year-old also delivered the bases-clearing, two-out double in the seventh that afforded the Cardinals a 7-6 lead and chased the left-hander from the game.
Carpenter increased his team's win probability by 48.9 percent with his two massive hits on Friday. It was a promising series-opening performance for the Cardinals' third baseman, who managed a .553 OPS through 17 playoff games in 2013.
Starting pitchers' lines
Tempers flared in the third inning after Wainwright hit Puig in the shoulder with a pitch, prompting Gonzalez to confront catcher Yadier Molina, who did not take kindly to his opponent's comments.
Kershaw came within one strike of escaping the seventh inning with a two-run lead, but Carpenter managed to send his 95-mph fastball to the wall in right-center to give the Cardinals a 7-6 advantage.
Baez stumbled in his first career postseason appearance, serving up a three-run homer to Holliday that sailed well beyond the left-field fence mere moments after relieving Kershaw.
Quote of the Night
Zack Greinke will attempt to even the series when he takes the mound for Game 2 on Saturday evening at Dodger Stadium, where he crafted a 2.73 ERA with a 5.77 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 19 starts this season. The Cardinals will entrust Game 2 to right-hander Lance Lynn, who stumbled to a 9.00 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers during the regular season.