SERIES: NL division series; Cardinals lead 2-1.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are pinning their hopes of playing again this season on a pitcher who couldn’t get out of the third inning in the opener of their best-of-five NL division series with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Odalis Perez will look to shake off Tuesday’s brutal performance when he takes the mound for the rejuvenated Dodgers in Game 4 at Chavez Ravine.
Perez didn’t have much in Game 1 as the Cardinals pounded him for six runs and five hits, including three home runs, over just 2 2-3 innings en route to an 8-3 win.
The performance was somewhat perplexing to Dodgers manager Jim Tracy, considering Perez was coming off two excellent starts against San Francisco and Colorado in the season’s final days to help Los Angeles win its first NL West title since 1995.
The 27-year-old left-hander was often the victim of poor run support during the regular season as the Dodgers managed just 3.3 runs when he was on the mound, but Perez didn’t give his teammates a chance to build a lead Tuesday as he served up home runs to Albert Pujols, Larry Walker and Jim Edmonds.
“I think, you know, if you look at Odalis’ performance the other day, I think it boils down to what we’ve seen a lot of in this series, and that is the fact that when you get two outs against (the Cardinals), you’re only two-thirds of the way there in any one given inning,” Tracy said. “You have to put this team down for the third out.”
St. Louis will counter Perez with Jeff Suppan, who will be making his postseason debut. Suppan, who has played for five different teams during his 10-year career, is coming off posting a career-high 16 wins in the regular season.
The 29-year-old right-hander said he’s studied the Dodgers from top to bottom.
“They’re definitely a very strong lineup,” Suppan said. “I haven’t faced them this year personally, but I have in the past. And they’re the type of lineup where they’re capable of doing a lot of things. You know, getting on, they have some tough hitters, (Cesar) Izturis and (Alex) Cora will batter you. They also have power and good situational hitters.
“It’s definitely a lineup that is tough to go through,” he added. “They have a lot of comeback wins. That shows a lot, you know, about them, always getting those good at-bats.”
St. Louis manager Tony La Russa has to be confident sending Suppan to the mound, considering he’s a remarkable 10-1 with a 3.55 ERA in 14 road starts this season.
“He’s been very, very consistent in every way,” La Russa said of Suppan. “Every day at the park, every day he pitches, he looks exactly the same. Sometimes when he’s out of whack, he’s a little bit different. But as far as mentally, he’s into it. He’s been very solid, very consistent.
“His road record is one of those crazy stats, because he’s looked good at home, too,” La Russa added.
“I don’t know that you can do it much better,” Tracy said of Lima. “That’s not bad for someone who came to spring training not guaranteed a job.”
St. Louis led the NL with a .278 batting average and 855 runs scored during the regular season, but got only one runner to third base, in the first inning.
Los Angeles had lost eight postseason games in a row since beating Oakland in the 1988 World Series. The Dodgers were swept 3-0 by Cincinnati in 1995 and by Atlanta the following year, then didn’t get back to the playoffs until this year, when they twice lost in St. Louis.
No NL team has won the division series after falling behind 0-2 since the expanded playoffs began in 1995.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Dodgers - NL West champion. Cardinals - NL Central champion.
PROJECTED LINEUPS: Cardinals - 2B Tony Womack (.307 avg., 5 HRs, 38 RBIs, 26 SBs), RF Walker (.298, 17, 47 in 258 at-bats with Colorado and St. Louis), 1B Pujols (.331, 46, 123, 51 2Bs, 133 runs), 3B Scott Rolen (.314, 34, 124), CF Edmonds (.301, 42, 111, 38 2Bs), 2B Edgar Renteria (.287, 10, 72, 17 SBs), LF Reggie Sanders (.260, 22, 67, 21 SBs), C Mike Matheny (.247, 5, 50). Dodgers - SS Izturis (.288, 4, 62, 25 SBs), LF Jayson Werth (.262, 16, 47), CF Steve Finley (.271, 36, 94), 3B Adrian Beltre (.334, 48, 121, 104 runs, 200 hits), 1B Green (.266, 28, 86), RF Milton Bradley (.267, 19, 67, 15 SBs), 2B Cora (.264, 10, 47) C Brent Mayne (.221, 0, 15).
CARDINALS PROBABLE STARTING PITCHER: Suppan (16-9, 4.16 ERA in regular season). Suppan, who followed a six-start winning streak by losing three of four to close the season, is 0-3 with a 5.82 ERA in three career starts against the Dodgers.
DODGERS PROBABLE STARTING PITCHER: Perez (0-1, 20.25 ERA). Perez made 31 starts during the regular season and posted a stellar 3.25 ERA, but managed just seven wins and a team-record 18 no-decisions. He is 2-1 with a 9.64 ERA in four career starts against the Cardinals.
SEASON SERIES: Cardinals, 4-2.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Cardinals - 1B Pujols and 3B Rolen are hitting a combined .571 (12-for-21) with four homers and 12 RBIs against LHP Perez. … Pujols, Rolen and OF Edmonds finished 2-for-12 with two strikeouts against RHP Lima on Saturday. … C Matheny singled in the fifth on Saturday to extend his postseason hitting streak to 12 games—the longest active postseason hitting streak. Dodgers - 1B Green is the first Los Angeles player to homer in consecutive postseason games since Kirk Gibson accomplished the feat in the fourth and fifth games of the 1988 NL championship series. … 3B Beltre and Green are hitting a combined .125 (3-for-24) with no RBIs against RHP Suppan. … 2B Cora was hit by pitches 18 times this season—the most by a Dodgers player since they moved to Los Angeles in 1958.
REGULAR SEASON ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Cardinals - 52-29 on the road. Dodgers - 49-32 at home.