There is only one occasion on which it is not a big deal if a team loses the first game of a playoff series.
And that is when it's the team you're rooting for and you're making excuses to make yourself feel better.
It was absolutely huge that the St. Louis Cardinals managed to grab an opening game win with their fifth starter on the mound against the highly-paid ace of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Because of the fact that LA closed out their division series against the Atlanta Braves early while the Redbirds went the full five games in their series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, LA was able to reset its rotation while the Cardinals won't have ace Adam Wainwright available until game three on the road. That really changes the dynamic of a series because the home field advantage is mitigated by the unfavorable pitching match-ups for St. Louis.
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Joe Kelly, making his first post season start, seemed overly excited early in the game. He hit a batter and threw a wild pitch in the first inning. But with runners all over the bases in the first three innings, he worked out of trouble each time except one. In the third inning he surrendered a ground ball up the middle with two outs that was able find a hole.
After that, to his credit, Kelly settled in and managed six innings of work with two runs allowed.
Grienke pitched eight innings and allowed only two runs scored on a two-out double to Carlos Beltran a foot from the top of the right centerfield wall. The two runs came in the bottom of the third as an answer to the Dodger's run.
The teams traded multiple scoring opportunities for the next nine innings. The most spectacular denial came in the top of the 10th inning when the Dodgers had runners on first and third with one out. Michael Young hit a short fly ball to right centerfield where Beltran called off Jon Jay, caught the ball with his momentum going forward and pegged a perfect, one hop throw to catcher Yadier Molina for a double play at the plate.
Beltran secured his spot as player of the game in the bottom of the 13th with a slashing line drive to the right field corner that drove home Daniel Descalso from second base to win the game 3-2.
Hopefully the Cardinals can steal another win Saturday with rookie Michael Wacha -- who flirted with a no hitters in the last two starts -- faces likely 2013 Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw.
The bright side is that the Redbirds have a winning record against Kershaw. The Bad news is that they'll be without slugging righty Allen Craig against the Dodgers southpaw and the Birds might not be able to lean as hard on the bullpen as they did the night before because of all of the extra innings that it had to throw Friday.