10/08/09 3:17 AM EST
Cards, Dodgers break left-on-base mark
Teams strand 30 combined runners, setting playoff record
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
And yet, for all the LOB-ing back and forth, St. Louis' Ryan Ludwick came within the width of a duck's webbed foot of clearing the bases in the fourth inning, his drive into the left-field corner coming that close to possibly reversing the outcome of the Cardinals' 5-3 loss."Yeah, that could've been a game-changing moment right there," agreed Skip Schumaker, the lead runner on third base in that situation. The Dodgers had a 3-2 lead, but the Cardinals had just chased their starter, lefty Randy Wolf. Jeff Weaver came on with two outs and the bases loaded to face Ludwick, who had already singled for a first-inning run and walked in the third. The lefty-hitting Ludwick swung late on a Weaver heater, but that simply resulted in an opposite-field liner that kissed off the low box-seat fence tantalizingly to the left of the foul line. "Yeah, wish that ball had been an inch-and-a-half to the right," said Ludwick, who would also score the Cardinals' final run in the ninth after singling off Los Angeles closer Jonathan Broxton. "Guess that's why they say it's a game of inches." Ludwick eventually pulled a little dribbler that a lunging Weaver snared in his glove's webbing and flipped to first to end the inning. "We didn't catch a break there," Ludwick said. "It would've been nice, but it didn't happen. I did take a look [on video], and it looked really close. It hit right there by the line. But it's past us. We've got to look forward to being ready [Thursday]." Ludwick, at least, seriously threatened to clean the bases. Batters for both teams posed no such threat most of the night. The teams needed only the first six innings to break the record of 22 men left on base set in the inaugural Division Series, in 1995, turning the first two-thirds of Game 1 into an exhibition of missed opportunities. Or, for the cup-is-half-full set, of clutch pitching. "You have to give credit to the pitchers for getting out of jams when they had to," Schumaker said. Showing the way there was Wolf, who started off in a bases-loaded, none-out fix in the first and limited the Cardinals to just one run, on Ludwick's flared single into short center. "We had a chance to silence the crowd and steal some momentum, start off on the right foot," said St. Louis shortstop Brendan Ryan. "It just didn't work out. Given the opportunities we had, we would've liked to have had a few more runs." So would have Chris Carpenter, whose own uncharacteristic struggles did not match up well with the halting offense. "But I don't concern myself with what goes on with the other side," Carpenter said. "That's not my job. My job is to execute outs." Carpenter executed 15 of those -- 11 of them with men on base, making his own contribution to the records. Yes, plural -- the Dodgers wound up stranding 16 runners, breaking the single-team Division Series record of 14 set in 2006's Game 3 by the Padres -- against the Cardinals. When pinch-hitter Jim Thome struck out in the sixth to leave the bases loaded with Dodgers, the teams' LOB tote board reached 23 -- breaking the record of 22 accomplished four previous times. It is not easy to average nearly four men left on base for six innings, but these teams managed it by leaving the bases loaded three times, twice by the Dodgers, and misfiring on numerous other scoring chances. The Red Sox and Indians stranded 22 runners on Oct. 6, 1995 -- a mark that was first matched the next day by the Yankees and the Mariners. The Braves and Cardinals also combined for 22 men left on base on Oct. 3, 2000, as did the Dodgers and Mets on Oct. 7, 2006. Through six innings in Wednesday night's game, pitchers for the two teams had faced a total of 66 batters -- and got to pitch out of a windup to 11 of them. Getting hits with men in scoring position translates to MISP hitting. Wednesday night, the Dodgers and Cardinals displayed MISS-hitting, combining to go 5-for-28 with men in scoring position. Rather, on this occasion, men in stranding position.