Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Close games (and close calls) go the Dodgers' way

After sweeping the Rays in a big three-game series this past weekend, it was only natural for the Dodgers to face somewhat of a letdown when the Mets came to town.  The Mets played very well against the Diamondbacks and had a young stud on the mound in Jenrry Mejia, so this would be the definition of a "trap game."

Through five innings, it certainly looked like it would not be the Dodgers' night, as the Mets had a 2-0 lead and Ricky Nolasco had been playing with fire the whole night.

And then the Dodgers remembered they were the Dodgers, and the Mets remembered they were the Mets, and things quickly turned around.  It also helped that maybe some questionable calls went the home team's way in the seventh, but still...

After posting a three-run seventh, the Dodgers held on to get the 4-2 win, making it six in a row.  Just as Kenley Jansen was striking out Juan Lagares for a four-out save, Adam Eaton hit a walk-off solo shot in Arizona to keep the NL West at 7 1/2 games.

Right away, the Mets made it known that they were ready to play, as Eric Young began the game with a single up the middle.  Lagares grounded into a double play, which was the Dodgers' best friend (along with the umps...) in this one.  Daniel Murphy reached on a bad throw from Mark Ellis, stole second, but was stranded right there.

The Mets came through in the second for a couple runs.  Ike Davis and Wilmer Flores hit singles to start the inning, and John Buck continued it with an RBI single.  Omar Quintanilla did just the same, as Nolasco sure wasn't fooling anyone in being down 2-0.  Once again, the Mets grounded into a double play to really prevent them from doing more damage.

Nolasco let two more reach in the third, but after Flores grounded back to the mound for the last out, he settled down to retire the next 10 in a row.  He was pretty lucky not to have been KO'd in the early stages, and at least took advantage of a second wind.

The offense got things going in the sixth, and the Mets' gloves helped them along the way.  Carl Crawford reached on an infield single to Murphy at second.  It was probably the correct call, though a clean play by Murphy might have gotten him.  Ellis singled to right, and the Dodgers had something going.

Adrian Gonzalez then lined a single to left, and as Crawford was hustling around to score, the throw to third skipped away and into the dugout, allowing Ellis to score as well and make it 2-2.  Gonzalez moved up to third on the play, and a sac-fly RBI by Yasiel Puig made it 3-2.

The seventh was a long and frustrating one for the Mets, who definitely felt like they were robbed of at least tying the game.  Nolasco was chased after Quintanilla singled and Mike Baxter walked with an out.  Ronald Belisario entered, and Young greeted him with a little dribbler that he was able to beat out, loading the bases.

With Lagares up in a big spot, he took a questionable strike one call on a check swing with the count 2-0.  Soon the count was full, and Belisario appeared to fire one wide of the strike zone... only it was a called strike three for two outs, not a walk to tie the game.  Murphy lined out to Puig in deep right, and the Mets came up empty.

If there's one thing the Dodgers still don't do much of, it's hit home runs.  It's actually pretty amazing that they still manage to win game after game when they have to work so hard to score.  Nick Punto, of all people, hit a solo shot to right to make it 4-2.  It was only his second of the season.

The Mets kept playing hard, to their credit, probably frustrated by the lack of calls in the seventh.  They put two on in the eighth on singles by Marlon Byrd and Buck off of Paco Rodriguez.  Jansen came on with two outs and struck out Justin Turner looking.

The ninth was much less dramatic, as only Josh Satin made contact on a lineout to right before Jansen struck out the final two for his 18th save.

Whenever a team goes through an unbelievably hot stretch like the Dodgers are in (38-8), they have to feel like they can win in any situation.  Last Friday it was after being down 6-1 in the eighth, and on Monday it was sleepwalking through the opening few innings.  Once again, it all came down to making the big plays when needed, and turning two double plays helped.

What also helped?  The umps in the seventh.  Hey, who knows what would have happened if Lagares walked to tie the game, but obviously the Mets would have had a much better chance of winning.

Nolasco scuffled through three innings, but ended up with a good line of 6 1/3 innings, seven hits, two runs, two walks, and two strikeouts.  In seven starts with the Dodgers, he's 4-1 with a 2.97 ERA and 1.35 WHIP.  He's only gone seven innings once, so he can definitely improve on that, but it's hard to argue with his overall numbers.  It's been a good trade by Ned Colletti.

Maybe it's a good thing the Dodgers won on Monday, because on Tuesday it's Matt Harvey time.  As much fun as it was watching Clayton Kershaw dominate the big stage on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, part of me wishes he was matched up with Harvey instead.  Hyun-Jin Ryu will get the call, and at 11-3 with a 2.99 ERA, seems more than ready for the challenge.

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