ST. LOUIS – Pitching was the key Saturday afternoon as Michael Wacha and Clayton Kershaw locked in an arms duel of over the first six innings of play in front of a sellout crowd of 46,872 at Busch Stadium. In the end, it was Wacha and the Cardinals beating Kershaw and the Dodgers 1-0 to take a 2-0 advantage in the National League Championship Series.
"We don't deny what's happened here the last two days," Cardinals' skipper Mike Matheny said. "Those were two very good wins, two very tough wins when you face starters like that. When you go into the game today the way their pitcher was throwing and we get two hits, we end up leaving one guy on base, and that was the first guy of the game. Those situations typically come back and bite you.
"But (we) did a lot of little things right," the Cardinals' manager continued. "Made some good defensive plays, but this game came down to pitching. It came down to Michael (Wacha) being pretty good. Then, after that, a few young kids coming in and getting some big outs in a big situation."
Wacha (2-0) and Kershaw matched zeros over the first five innings of play. The only difference between the two was the number of pitches it took each starter. While Wacha struck out six and allowed a pair of doubles, he did so while throwing 80 pitches. Kershaw on the other hand allowed a triple and a walk while throwing just 40 pitches over the first four innings.
St. Louis finally got to the Dodgers' ace in the fifth.
David Freese led off with a double and moved to third on a passed ball. Following a strike out, Jon Jay flew out to left field, but the play was deep enough that Freese was able to tag up and score the game's first run.
"Well, it felt good," Jay said. "Yesterday was yesterday and today was a new day, so I was happy to come through in that moment right there and (it) ended up being a big run. So that was big."
By the time the bottom of the fifth ended, the Cardinals had forced Kershaw to jump his pitch count from 40 to 57 pitches.
The Dodgers almost came back in the top of the sixth though.
Kershaw (1-1) singled to left and Carl Crawford followed with a single to short right field that Matt Carpenter made a play on. However, instead of throwing Crawford out at first, the Cardinals' second baseman tried to throw out Kershaw at second and the throw sailed wide, allowing Kershaw to go to third and putting Crawford on second with no outs.
After Mark Ellis popped out, Adrian Gonzalez was intentionally walked to load the bases. That brought up Dodgers rookie phenom Yasiel Puig. Wacha struck Puig out, for the third time before setting down Juan Uribe on strikes to end the inning and the Dodgers' threat.
"Well, I mean, it was a 1-0 ball game at that point in the sixth," Wacha said. "I got myself in a little jam there with the bases loaded and no outs and then one out there.
"I was just trying to get locked in with Yadier (Molina) back there," Wacha continued. "We took some time in between batters, a lot of mound visits, just to make sure we were on the same page. I was pretty pumped up after I got a couple of strikeouts there to end the inning and keep our team in the lead there."
Even with 101 pitches on the day, Wacha came back out for the seventh. He retired the first two batters before Nick Punto singled up the middle. That was it for Wacha as Matheny went to the pen. Wacha walked off the mound to a standing ovation.
Kevin Siegrist came in and with the help of two wild pitches, Punto advanced to third before the Cardinals' pitcher got pinch hitter Michael Young to fly out to right to end the inning and maintain the Cardinals' lead.
"(My heart rate) wasn't too bad," Siegrist said. "I had to make a pitch right there and it was fine. I am always excited to pitch. In that situation, with 40,000 fans, it is more fun."
For the day, Wacha scattered five hits over 6.2 scoreless innings of work. The rookie struck out eight and walked one (intentionally).Over his last three starts, Wacha has allowed just seven hits and one run over 22.2 innings of work with 26 strikeouts.
"I feel like just confidence in myself just pitching out there, just attacking the strike zone, just working down in the zone as well," Wacha said of his recent success. "And that's whenever I would get in trouble, I'd leave balls up in the zone and people would crush them all over the place. So I've been trying to work down in the zone and really, I guess, it works to my advantage."
The Cardinals' bullpen picked up where Wacha left off, throwing up zeros on the board. Siegrist, Randy Choate, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal secured the win by closing out the shutout. Rosenthal was credited with the save. Over the last 9.2 innings of work, the Cardinals' bullpen has not given up a run while scattering three hits. During that time, the Cardinals' relievers have also struck out 11.
"Obviously (Friday) night we took it out to the 13,th" Choate said. "Today we were able to come in and get them out and keep the zero on the board. We are pitching with some confidence right now and getting ahead of hitters while able to ride that wave."
Rosenthal struck out the side in the ninth. The Cardinals' closer caught Puig looking while retiring Uribe and pinch hitter Andre Ethier swinging.
"I was pretty locked in," Rosenthal said. "But (there) was a lot of energy in the stadium at that time. I think just that game was electric from start to finish. How close of a game it was, from being a one-run game and how great the pitching was on both sides, just trying to come in there and keep my composure. Yeah, but it was definitely exciting."
St. Louis had just four base runners all day. The Cardinals drew a pair of walks to go with Carpenter's triple and Freese's double.
Both teams will be off today as they travel to Los Angeles. Game 3 will be played on Monday at Dodger Stadium with Adam Wainwright (2-0) matching up against Hyun-Jin Ryu (0-0).