Sunday, September 8, 2013

A rare 3-game skid as offense goes cold

The blueprint was the same as Friday night: score early to grab a lead, cling to that lead all game, then lose it at the end.  And with that, the Dodgers have their first three-game losing streak since early June.

Yasiel Puig's two-run shot in the second gave the Dodgers a lead they would hold onto until late, but the Reds made all the big plays again in winning in 10 innings, 4-3.  The win means a lot more to the Reds than the loss does to the Dodgers, as the home team is trying to win the NL Central, or at least get a home Wild Card game.  The Dodgers still have an 11 game lead in the NL West.

The headline coming into this game was a pitcher's duel between Zack Greinke and Mat Latos, who each had 14 wins and ERAs under three.  But, as is the case many other times, each had a bit of a rough time in the beginning.

The Dodgers got to Latos first, though they could've done much more damage, which hurt them in the long run.  Puig was beaned with one out, then Adrian Gonzalez hit one of his four singles next.  Hanley Ramirez, who hit a two-run homer the previous day, hit an RBI single for the 1-0 lead.

The downside is that after Andre Ethier took a walk to load the bases with one out, the Dodgers failed to do anything with it.  Michael Young grounded back to the mound for what should've been a double play, but Latos bobbled it and only got the out at home.  Skip Schumaker flew out to right, and the bats wasted a big chance to at least get one more run in.  It would cost them in the end.

Greinke had a solid day on the mound with his only blemish in the first.  Cesar Izturis (yes, he still plays) singled with one out.  Joey Votto followed with another, which led to two straight RBI singles from Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick to go up 2-1.

The Dodgers got the lead right back in the second, and this game sure had the makeup of an offensive battle.  A.J. Ellis led off with a single, and Puig's homer with two outs gave them a 3-2 lead.

Both Greinke and Latos settled down from there, as even the small threats were quickly extinguished.  The Dodgers really screwed up in the fourth by running into the last out.  With Greinke on second and Carl Crawford on first, Gonzalez singled to right.  Crawford must have though Greinke would try to score, but he held up at third, causing Crawford to be caught in a rundown between second and third.  Greinke ended up getting tagged out, and it was another opportunity blown.

Greinke stepped up big in the fifth by striking out Bruce and Ludwick with the bases loaded to end the inning.  After getting through the sixth in order, he retired for the night with a final line of eight hits, two runs, one walk, and nine strikeouts.  Latos lasted seven innings and gave up three runs, striking out three.

Paco Rodriguez must not like pitching in Cincinnati for some reason, because one night after loading the bases without getting an out, he again ran into trouble in the seventh.  Shin-Soo Choo singled with one out.  Izturis, who I swear didn't know was even in the majors anymore, lined an RBI double to left to tie the game at three.

The offense for LA couldn't get much going in innings 8-10, and the Reds took advantage of that in the 10th.  Brian Wilson made a huge mistake of walking Ludwick leading off, which meant it was time for Billy Hamilton.  Well, the umpires may as well have called time and just told Hamilton to go to second, because he easily stole it anyway.  Todd Frazier's walk-off single to right ended it, as even Puig's strong arm couldn't beat Usain Bolt... I mean Hamilton at home.

There's a couple of ways to look at this game from the Dodgers' perspective.  On one hand, it's disappointing to drop a second straight game after getting an early lead.  The offense lacked the proper punch as the game wore on, which is something I discussed in my previous post about missing Matt Kemp.  The Reds have a very good pitching staff, but leaving nine men on, one day after only getting five hits, is a concern against any team.

The flip side is that even with the offensive lull, they still only lost by one run in both games on the road against a good team.  A hit here, a play there, and it's a different story.  During their incredible summer run, those were they plays they made night after night.  It wasn't realistic to always be the team making those plays, so this is nothing to freak out about.

There's no other guy the Dodgers would rather see on the mound than Clayton Kershaw, as he's in the strange spot of trying to avoid a sweep.  He goes up against Homer Bailey, who has another no-hitter this year and a very good 3.42 ERA, so expect another close game on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball.

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