Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Stars align in another Dodgers' walk-off

The stars were everywhere in Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night.  In the crowd there were the likes of Mel Brooks, Jack Nicholson, George Lopez, Magic Johnson, Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Chris Paul.  On the field, Zack Greinke and Andy Pettitte dueled, and Yasiel Puig, Hanley Ramirez, Derek Jeter, and Alfonso Soriano took their hacks.

Leave it to the bland, no-thrills Mark Ellis to steal the show.

Ellis's walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth scored Andre Ethier, as the Dodgers beat the Yankees, 3-2.  Each game these incredible numbers get bumped up by one, so it's now 10-1 since the break, 19 wins in July (one short of a team record), and 27-6 in the last 33.

Most importantly, thanks for the Rays taking apart the Diamondbacks 5-2, it's a 3 1/2 game lead in the NL West.

Early on, it looked like both offenses would put up big nights, but that changed after the second inning when Greinke and Pettitte got locked in.  In the first, Puig came just short of homering to dead center, settling for a double off the wall.  He moved to third on a flyout and scored on Ramirez's RBI single up the middle.

The Yankees came right back in the second.  The theme of this Yankees' season has been finding old guys or unknowns to replace stars like Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, and Jeter.  Lyle Overbay is one of those replacements, and he hit a solo homer to right to start the inning, making it 1-1.

No worries, said Juan Uribe, who left his mark in the bottom of the frame.  With one out, he absolutely unloaded on a solo shot to left, traveling 426 feet for a rare upper deck shot, and the Dodgers were back up 2-1.

Overbay was again responsible for tying the game, as the Yanks made it 2-2 in the fourth.  It started on a leadoff double by Soriano, who then went to third on a wild pitch.  Overbay scored him on a groundout to deep short on a long throw by Ramirez.

That was the way the score would remain for much of the way, as neither offense could get anything going after the fourth.  Pettitte ended up tossing seven innings of two-run ball, striking out three and not walking anyone.  He hasn't been the same Pettitte as we're used to seeing in the past, but his change of speeds and location kept the Dodgers off-balance for the most part.

The game came down to a battle of the bullpens, as both Ronald Belisario and David Robertson were flawless in the eighth.  Kenley Jansen was summoned on the ninth, and once again, he was practically untouchable with two K's.  He continues to just blow through the competition.

At this point, the Dodgers hadn't put anything together since the third, and that's when Ichiro nailed Ramirez at home trying to score on A.J. Ellis's single to end the inning.  In fact, in innings 4-8, the Dodgers only had two hits as Pettitte and Robertson had their way.

So here we were in the ninth, as the Dodgers had yet another chance to send the fans home happy.  With Shawn Kelley in, Ethier singled to left with one out.  Uribe swung about as hard as he possibly could, but struck out for the second out.

Don Mattingly knew that with the bottom of the order up, he'd have to get a little creative to get that winning run.  So, he decided to let Ethier steal second, which is exactly what happened.  Well... I think it should be pointed out that if Yankees' catcher Chris Stewart made even a decent throw, Ethier would've been out by four miles.  But he didn't, so Ethier was in scoring position.

Next thing you know, Ellis gets the winning hit, and that was all she wrote.

This was just your latest example of how right things have been for the Dodgers since the end of June.  Simply put, they can barely do anything wrong.  Need a big start on the mound?  Check.  Need some innings from middle relief?  Check.  Need the bottom part of the order to get big hits?  Check.  Pretty much anything else that's been needed has been check, check, check.

Greinke was a bit off at first, but ended up putting together a solid night.  He lasted seven innings for five hits, two runs, no walks, and seven strikeouts.  Six starts ago he had a 4.30 ERA.  Now it's down to 3.43, and he definitely looks like the ace the Dodgers wanted to pair with Clayton Kershaw.

Speaking of Kershaw, the Cy Young front runner will get the ball on Wednesday.  It will be a great game as he faces his old mate, Hiroki Kuroda.  Usually when you see two studs starting on the mound you expect a low-scoring game, and then the opposite happens.  I'd be shocked if that occurred, as both guys are at the top of their games.

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