Sunday, May 26, 2013

Gonzo provides the hits, Kemp provides the frustration

Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Punto had three hits apiece, Ted Lilly pitched strong into the sixth, and the Dodgers actually got the big run late.  Add it all up, and it was a win for the Dodgers over the Cardinals, 5-3.

That should be the story, but we know all that's probably not the case.  Instead, Don Mattingly's decision to yank Matt Kemp in a double-switch in the seventh was what got people talking.  Kemp was certainly one of them, as he was visibly upset and yelling once he reached the dugout.

More on that in a bit.  The story in the first inning was another unearned run given up by the Dodgers.  Matt Carpenter singled leading off the game, but Lilly got the next two.  A grounder to Punto at third by Allen Craig was booted, and Yadier Molina cashed in with an RBI double, making it 1-0.

The Dodgers responded right away against young John Gast, who was making his third career start.  Punto hit leadoff for the resting Carl Crawford and walked.  An out later, Gonzalez launched an RBI double off the wall in center to tie the game.

Gonzo gave his team the lead in the third.  Now hitting against Joe Kelly, who relieved Gast because of a sore shoulder in the second, Gonzo singled to center to drive in Punto and make it 2-1.

In the fifth, it was all about Gonzo again, who deposited a solo shot leading off, his fifth of the season, and it was 3-1.

At this point, the story then turned to the bullpen, and the age old question of whether or not they'd hold the lead.  Simply put: no.  Ronald BeliSUCKio relieved after Lilly walked Matt Holliday with one out.  The Cardinals soon tied it up on a double by David Freese and infield single by Pete Kozma.  Paco Rodriguez had to come in to get the final out.

This is also the time when the Dodgers' offense goes into hibernation, but thankfully not on this night.  The Cardinals gave that error from earlier right back when Crawford pinch-hit and reached on one with one out.  Mark Ellis delivered with a two-out RBI double, and it was 4-3.

The eighth is when Kemp was now on the bench and Juan Uribe up in his spot with runners on.  Rather than striking out like Kemp would have (you know it, don't deny), Uribe hit an RBI double to go up 5-3.

Brandon League went through the Cardinals in order to record his 10th save.

Before getting back to the Kemp drama, let's recognize the grizzled veterans who came through.  Gonzalez has been struggling of late, but he drove in three runs with some big hits.  Punto has a .427 OBP this season, and reaching base four times and scoring twice shows how well he's been playing.  Lilly gave up one earned run (two total) in just over five innings, lowering his ERA from 5.63 to 4.05.

Now back to Kemp, who got to watch the last few innings from the bench thanks to another miserable day at the plate.  He went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a walk.  He left five men on base, and all three outs were with men in scoring position.  He's now hitting .261 with a .313 OBP, 2 homers, and 17 RBIs.

In other words, he hasn't been anything close to what a superstar needs to be.  It's not like he's not trying, because he certainly is, but the end results are not good.  So he shouldn't have found it surprising that he was part of a double-switch late in the game that allowed Kenley Jansen to pitch another inning.  Mattingly said that was his only reason for yanking Kemp, and it had nothing to do with his struggles.

Ya, right.

Look, I'm sure Mattingly is telling the truth, or at least a half-truth.  But there's no way Kemp gets pulled if he's even hitting decent.  He's not, so it was the right call to bring in Skip Schumaker.  And it ended up working out, as Uribe doubled in a run, and Jansen got all four outs with K's.

I appreciate Kemp's fire, and hope he continues to play with that.  Faces of the franchise should be upset when they're not playing, and it's a natural reaction to be ticked.  I get that.  And I also think he should be commended for downplaying the incident after the game, even though I doubt he meant anything he said.  Good move by him in trying to put it behind him.  Hopefully it stays that way.

What Kemp needs is a big Sunday.  A couple homers, a couple doubles, a couple steals, maybe even a couple of diving catches would do the trick.  Plus it would support Clayton Kershaw, who gets practically no run support.  Young Shelby Miller, another fantastic Cardinals' arm, will oppose.  Should be fun.

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