ST. LOUIS -- The Dodgers threw their two aces in Games 1 and 2 of the National League championship series and got just the kind of games they would hope to get.
Zack Greinke allowed four hits in eight innings of Game 1 and other than a three-batter blip in the third, faced just one batter over the minimum the rest of the way. In Game 2, Clayton Kershaw, who's even better than Greinke, allowed just two hits over six innings and no earned runs.
But if that was the best they could ask for, the results couldn't have been worse, The Dodgers lost both games, falling 1-0 in Game 2 on Saturday at Busch Stadium to trail the best-of-seven series 2-0. They go home for three games starting Monday, having played their best cards and lost and now coming up against the Cardinals' ace, Adam Wainwright.
"We knew it would be tough here," said catcher A.J. Ellis, whose passed ball in the fifth inning became the turning point in the game. "I think we're more disappointed that we wasted those two starts. With those two starts, you definitely feel you should walk out of here with no worse than a split."
The reason again was clear. The Dodgers ran into a tough pitcher in Michael Wacha, but they had a few chances and squandered all of them. They had a runner on second with one out in the first and didn't score. They had runners on second and third with no outs and the bases loaded with one out in the sixth and got nothing. They had a runner on third with two outs in the seventh and missed again.
On the heels of going 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position in Game 1, the Dodgers went 0 for 6 in Game 2. And five of those at-bats were strikeouts.
"I don't think we're pressing, I think we're not coming through," said first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. "We didn't create enough opportunities today. Part of the job is to have opportunities. As far as myself, I didn't do a good job of having good at-bats to be able to create them."
As for wasting two outstanding pitching performances, Gonzalez said, "It's extremely tough. It's frustrating for us as an offense and we have to do a better job."
Gonzalez's day -- 0 for 3 with two strikeouts -- was nothing compared to rookie right fielder Yasiel Puig's day. Puig, who hit .319 this season with 19 homers, struck out all four times he came to bat. He struck out to end the first and is struggling so much that the Cardinals intentionally walked Gonzalez to load the bases to face Puig in the sixth. The move paid off when Puig struck out for the third time.
Puig went 8 for 17 (.471) in the division series with the Braves, with his eight hits in four games tying Jim Gilliam for the franchise record for most hits by a rookie in a postseason series. Against the Cardinals, he's 0 for 9 with six strikeouts.
"It seems like they're pitching me similarly (to the Braves)," Puig said through an interpreter. "They have really good pitchers who are making their pitches and a catcher who really knows what he's doing. Right now they're the ones that are executing.
"It happens in the game. It's happened before. The pitchers were good today and they struck me out four times."
"Obviously, he's frustrated, I think," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Yadier (Molina) back there does a good job of yo-yoing him, showing him enough breaking balls and showing him the fastball. And it's back to the breaking ball. ... That's where I think we see his inexperience kind of come up, how to handle what's going on and what he's looking for. But any moment, any swing has a chance to tie that game up or be a big hit. They did a nice job with him."
"I think just like everybody," said Gonzalez, "he's chasing pitches when they're out of the zone, just like myself. I wouldn't say he's doing anything different. I didn't come through today either."
Kershaw pitched out of first-inning trouble after Matt Carpenter's leadoff triple, which was helped along by Puig slipping, by retiring Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday and Molina. And he very well may have gotten out of his other jam, after giving up a leadoff double to David Freese in the fifth. But Ellis committed a passed ball -- "It was down the middle. I just missed it," he said -- which put Freese in position to score on a sacrifice fly by Jon Jay. Ellis had six passed balls this season after having 11 in 2012.
It didn't help that the Dodgers were playing without center fielder Andre Ethier, who needed a day off to rest his sore ankle after returning to the lineup in Game 1, and shortstop Hanley Ramirez, whose ribs were sore after getting hit by a pitch in Game 1. X-rays were negative, raising the Dodgers' hopes that he can return.
"I think games like this, one-run games, it's tough to not overanalyze stuff," Kershaw said. "We made more mistakes than they did, that's the bottom line. ... (The pitchers) kept them at bay a little bit. We did our job for the most part. But at the end of the day, a loss is a loss."
"We have to go home and win one game at a time," Ellis said. "It's going to be a tough battle with Adam pitching Game 3. They beat our aces. We'll have to beat theirs."
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