David Freese was the first man to touch home plate in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday. He was an unearned run, getting to third base on a passed ball by Los Angeles Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis and subsequently scoring on a fly-out by teammate John Jay.
It was the only run that either team would score in the game. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw would finish the day with six innings pitched and zero earned runs against him, yet still saw his name get penciled in for the loss as his team fell behind 2-0 in the series.
Kershaw hasn’t been the only pitcher in the series that dominated in a game his team would go on to lose. On Sunday night, Detroit Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer left the game after seven innings of work against the Boston Red Sox in which he allowed just one run on two hits while striking out 13. Scherzer even exited the game with a comfortable 5-1 lead.
He couldn’t have expected to spend the next inning watching his team’s lead evaporate with the bullpen in the game, and the following inning watching the other guys smack a walk-off single to tie the series.
This is the reality hurlers are exposed to when they are locked in a pitchers’ duel in the biggest games of the season. Both of Saturday’s games posted final scores of 1-0. In Friday’s NLCS game, both teams went 10 innings without scoring a run. Both the Cardinals’ Joe Kelly and the Dodgers’ Zack Greinke turned in great outings, only to sit through multiple innings of being totally irrelevant in affecting the outcome of the game.
It’s a part of the game that is inherently unfair to one of the two guys getting the ball to start the contest. But, that’s not to say that the other guys didn’t earn their respective Ws. Kershaw got the loss because his counterpart, Michael Wacha, was just a little bit sharper, tossing 6.2 shutout innings. Boston’s Jon Lester fired a one-run gem and lost because the Tigers’ Anibal Sanchez didn’t allow so much as a single hit in his six innings on the mound.
Every pitcher feels the pressure in these games, but so far, they’ve all responded. In the four total LCS games that have been played, pitchers have a combined ERA of 1.86 and have held opponents to just a .176 batting average. When singling starters out, they’ve been even stingier, with a combined 1.77 ERA.
As the games become more significant, the pitching battles will only grow more intense. It’s just a part of the time we’re in, where even when Prince, Miggy, Papi and Puig are handling the bats, a guy named Wacha can stand above them all.