Monday, July 8, 2013

Keep calm and watch A.J. swing

Bases loaded, two outs, ninth inning.  Which Dodger would you like to see at the plate?

If you said A.J. Ellis, then go ahead and pat yourself on the back.

After Hanley Ramirez and Juan Uribe failed to drive in runs earlier in the inning, Ellis took a slider from Sergio Romo and cleared the bases with a double, lifting the Dodgers over the Giants, 4-1.  The win gives the Dodgers sole possession of second in the NL West, 4 1/2 behind the Diamondbacks.  Guess where the Dodgers go next for three?  That's right, Arizona.  It should be fun.

Whenever the Giants see Clayton Kershaw's name etched in as the starter, they know they're in for a long day, and this was no different.  Kershaw is awesome, but it's hard to believe that a team that's won two of the last three World Series would literally have no clue against the same pitcher over and over.  But then again, Kershaw is no ordinary pitcher.

Ramirez got things going in the second, as he lined a leadoff triple into "triple's alley" in right center.  Andre Ethier found just enough room in shallow center for a bloop RBI single, making it 1-0.

The Giants tied it up in the third.  Guillermo Quiroz, the #8 hitter, doubled leading off.  A wild pitch soon sent him to third, where he scored on Andres Torres's sac-fly RBI, making it 1-1.

That score would hold up for quite some time, as neither Kershaw or the returning Chad Gaudin gave an inch.  Kershaw ended up going eight innings for three hits, one run, one walk, and three strikeouts.  To his credit, Gaudin was just as good, giving up a run in seven innings, striking out nine.  The Dodgers didn't have many answers for him.

Thankfully he was pulled after seven, and the always way-too-cocky Romo pitched the ninth.  Hey, the guy is good, but celebrates as if he's winning the World Series every game.  Relax!  His arrogance burned him in this one.

Yasiel Puig led off with a single, flipping the bat in the process and staring bullets through Romo.  I love it!  Adrian Gonzalez lined a sharp one to Buster Posey at first, who booted it, then threw it into left, allowing the always hustling Puig to get to third.  Ramirez had a big chance to end the game here, but very questionably swung at a 3-0 count and only bounced back to the mound.  Not a good decision.

Ethier was given the intentional pass to load the bases and pitch to Uribe.  He was great on Friday, but not so much here with a strikeout.  That left it all up to Ellis, who smashed a high fly ball that bounced to the wall in center for the three-run double.  I don't think Ellis ever smiled about it, but he should.  It was an awesome swing.

Kenley Jansen picked up his ninth save, only allowing a single to Posey, who pretty much can get a hit off of anybody.  In other words, it was a job well done.

This was one of those games where you couldn't help but believe the Dodgers would not have won earlier in the season.  So much is going their way right now, and they've earned it.  Winning 12 of the last 15 is a run I never thought would happen even a month ago.

Puig had a very rough Saturday with the "Golden Sombrero," striking out four times.  We saw the best and worst of him on Sunday.  He had two singles, including the one that started the rally in the ninth.  He stole second, which is good.  But, he got nailed trying to swipe third with Ramirez at-bat in the same inning, which is not good.  His speed can lead to bad judgment at times, as you saw there.

But, Puig also had an awesome diving catch in the eighth.  The guy just continues to make his mark in one way or another, whether it's on offense or defense.  Of course, it helps that he's already had multi-hit games in 16 of 32.  That's just crazy.

The big swing was obviously from Ellis, who ended up being the perfect guy for the tense situation.  He continues to do his thing, as his average is a modest .267, but his OBP is a nice .360.  He also has 12 doubles and 23 RBIs, so he's getting the hits when he needs them.  Tim Federowicz homered on Saturday, so hopefully this means Ned Colletti won't need to make silly trades for scrubs like Ramon Hernandez anymore.  Enough of that.

No matter what happens in this three-game set in Arizona starting Monday, the DBacks will still be in first.  All the Dodgers can do is put some pressure on them heading to the All-Star break.  Zack Greinke and his misleading 6-2 record gets the call in the first one.  It's another big start for him, who simply needs to pitch better.  Hopefully this is the game he starts to do so.