Sunday, August 11, 2013

Not even the hidden ball trick can slow the Dodgers

Zack Greinke pitched strongly into the seventh inning, Adrian Gonzalez smacked a two-run homer in the first, and the Dodgers cruised over the Rays, 5-0.  The Mets beat the Diamondbacks, so the lead in the NL West continues to climb at 6 1/2 games.

Despite all of that, perhaps the most memorable moment from this game will be Juan Uribe falling for the hidden ball trick.  Hey, when you're winning like the Dodgers, you can afford to have a gaffe like that and come out laughing.

Greinke worked around a double by Matt Joyce in the first to strikeout Wil Myers and Evan Longoria.  In the bottom half, Nick Punto beat out an infield single to second.  Gonzalez has been great for the Dodgers this year, but the days of 30-40 homers are long gone.  He turned back the clock on this swing, as his two-run shot just got over the wall in right, making it 2-0.

Punto was responsible for another run in the third.  Greinke already has the reputation of a good hitting pitcher, and he drew a walk leading off as Roberto Hernandez careful dealt to him.  A double by Carl Crawford put runners in scoring position, and Punto's two-run single made it 4-0.

The following inning is when the Dodgers scored again, but the Rays had the last laugh.  The bases became loaded on singles by Andre Ethier, Uribe, and Skip Schumaker.  A.J. Ellis hit a sac-fly RBI to center to make it 5-0.

This is where the Rays pulled a fast one on Uribe.  With Uribe tagging and going to third, James Loney took the cutoff on the mound and threw to Yunel Escobar at short, who tossed to Longoria at third.  Uribe actually was on the bag but took one brief step off, allowing Longoria to make the tag from behind.  Thankfully that play didn't matter in the end, but it's not something you see everyday, that's for sure.

Greinke got through the sixth with a couple strikeouts of Loney and Escobar, though he got a little help on those calls.  He was chased in the seventh when Jose Molina singled with an out, and his pitch count over 100.  J.P. Howell got his old mates out for the second straight night.

Gonzalez continued his big day by actually stealing second in the eighth.  That's his first stolen base since September 19 of last season in Washington.  Chris Withrow threw the final two innings perfectly to lower his ERA to 2.45.

One night after the comeback of the year, the Dodgers wasted little time in putting away the Rays.  Coming into this series, the clear pitching advantage was to the Dodgers in both weekend games.  Greinke didn't disappoint, lasting 6 1/3 innings for six hits, no runs, one walk, and seven strikeouts.  He's now 10-3 with a 3.21 ERA and 1.23 WHIP.  Most importantly, he looks like he's getting better and better each start.

The big blow for the Dodgers came early with Gonzo's 16th homer, but let's not ignore some of the other role players.  Schumaker was perfect on the day by going 4-for-4.  His average is now up to .276 after being at .241 through June.  Punto had two hits and two RBIs. 

Uribe added two hits as well... and still fell for the hidden ball trick.  Ouch.

Coming into this week, I said the Dodgers should be satisfied if they went 4-3 against the Cardinals and Rays.  Here we are entering the final game, and they're at 5-1.  I was trying to be somewhat realistic that the Dodgers might not be as fortunate against better competition, but it hasn't slowed them at all.

Now Clayton Kershaw is taking the mound on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, and he'll give the Dodgers a chance for a sweep of the Rays.  Not only is Kershaw the clear front runner for the Cy Young, but there's been some whispers of being in the MVP race as well.  It's really hard for a pitcher to win that award, but a dominating performance on the big stage will only help.

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