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NLCS 2013: 4 keys to a Dodgers comeback against the Cardinals

by Jeffrey Hensiek

October 14, 2013 | 12:34 pm

Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu will need to work ahead of batters and limit pitch count tonight against a tough Cardinals squad. Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Cardinals delivered the painful first punch in their postseason fight against the Dodgers — winning games against the dynamic duo Kershaw/Greinke.

The Dodgers now need to recover, re-think and re-light the fire in their corner before stepping back into the ring tonight.

Coming back from an 0-2 deficit isn’t impossible — in fact, it has happened four times in Dodgertown: 1981 Division Series, 1955 World Series, 1965 World Series and 1981 World Series.

Deep breaths Dodger fans, here are four keys to a comeback:

No-decision or better

Hyun-Jin Ryu doesn’t have to beat veteran postseason god among men Adam Wainright — just match him.

This is easier said than done, of course, when you are going up against a guy who went 9 innings of 1-run ball in his previous start.

How good is Wainright in the playoffs? Here are his stats since 2006:

W-L: 4-0
ERA: 2.03
WHIP: 0.92
K: 57
BB: 7
IP: 48.2

Ryu, on the flip side, has pitched just 3 postseason innings. Those came facing the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS. The South Korean lefty gave up 6 hits and 4 earned runs in an uncharacteristically poor start.

Perhaps it was rust, it could have been a result of the wear-and-tear of pitching 192 regular season innings — but most of all it was his nerves that got the best of him.

“Yeah, I was a bit nervous [in Game 1], although I believe being completely nerve-free is also a bad thing as a competitor.” Ryu said, “I think it’s finding a good balance between how anxious and how nervous I need to be tomorrow.”

Dodger fans better hope Ryu can find his center in an absolute must-win.

FEEL-GOOD BONUS: 

Luck

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” — Lucius Annaeus Seneca

The guy must have watched some good October baseball in this time.

Luck — gimpy Gibson, bent-over Buckner, barging-in Bartman. Baseball has made a living on its flare for the dramatic. It is a game where so many things have to work perfectly on every play that there is always a chance of something going awry.

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The baseball gods blessed the Dodgers with such a moment while facing the Cardinals in 2009. Down 1 in the 9th inning with 2 outs and nobody on base, James Loney hit a fly ball to right field that Matt Holliday dropped. L.A. went on to win that game (and eventually the series) scoring 2 runs in the inning.

One unpredictable moment can swing a game, a series.

It is a game of inches in a series where L.A. looks to inch closer to a chance at the World Series.

Dee Gordon on the bases

He is on the roster to play the role of Dave Roberts in 2004. Steal a base; get his team into scoring position; race home.

So far in the postseason, Gordon has been called on twice. During the Atlanta series, Gordon had one stolen base attempt and was called out on a controversial call. (Replay anyone?)

Ever-fair all-around good guy Adrian Gonzalez gave the umpire the benefit of the doubt, "One replay you could say he's safe, one replay you could say he was out," Gonzalez said. "The question is where does [Simmons] have control of the ball? If control is when the ball touches the web of the glove, he was out. If control is when he squeezes, he was safe."

In Game 1 of the NLCS, Gonzalez was lifted in the 8th inning of a tie game for the speedster. Dee never attempted a stolen base and was called out on a force play grounder at second base.

Base running’s importance is often overlooked — but with the pitching quality found in this series, it will play a vital roll going forward.

The Dodgers will need Gordon to mix his raw speed with smarter base-running if they want to get back into the series.

Signature Moment: Yaisel Puig.

Let’s face it. Yasiel Puig has been downright terrible during the NLCS.

Entering Game 3, the “Wild Horse” is 0/10 with 6 strikeouts and no RBIs. Ouch.

Puig hit rock-bottom in the sixth inning — striking with the bases loaded and 1 out on a 3-2 fastball that nearly scraped the dirt. A walk in that situation would have led to a 1-1 tie in a game where it was harder to score than arrive on time to a Dodgers home game.

All-in-all, he has left 11 men on base in the first two games of a series where there have both teams have combined for a total of 6 runs

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He has clearly been pressing — which so far in his young career has proven to create problems at the plate and in the field.

Despite his early-series troubles, I still firmly believe Puig will leave a positive imprint on this series.

Some home-cookin’, “Mr. Criminal” playing as he walks up to bat and support from anxious but hopeful Dodger fans will be just what the doctor ordered for a guy who feasts on positive energy.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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My name is Jeff and I am an avid sports fan.

Follow my analytical, emotional and (sometimes) superstitious thoughts on the sports you and I love.

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