Saturday, September 14, 2013

Bad late inning execution dooms the Dodgers

With Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner on the hill, you knew that runs would be hard to come by.  So when Juan Uribe hit a two-run homer in the sixth for the game's first runs, the Dodgers were looking good.

And then Kershaw coughed up the lead, the injuries piled up a little more, and the bats left way too many men on base.  Add it all up, and it was a Giants' victory in Dodger Stadium, 4-2.

The only good news was that the Diamondbacks lost again, so the magic number shrunk to four.  At least it wasn't all bad.

Still, the Dodgers really did waste a great opportunity to get a win on a night Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez were sitting out, though the latter two did appear late in the game.  And the news on Ramirez is a mixture of good and bad, as he's been diagnosed with an irritated nerve in his back and won't return until sometime next week.  We hope.

As for this game, neither offense could put much together through five.  There were some hits here and there, and both teams stranded a pair in the second, but that's it.  The only extra-base hit was by Angel Pagan in the third, but that's because the ball landed in between three guys who didn't take charge, and it bounced away from Andre Ethier in center.  But, he was stranded anyway.

On the Dodgers' broadcast, the great Vin Scully was discussing the resurgence of Uribe, and how he has a very realistic shot at winning a Gold Glove at third.  After recording all three outs in the fourth, he showed how hot his bat has been of late.  Michael Young reached on little dribbler along third, and Uribe cranked a two-run shot to left center, his 11th of the season.

Just when you thought the Dodgers behind Kershaw would cruise from there, it all fell apart in a very frustrating manner.  Pretty much everything went wrong, as Kershaw went from looking like he might throw a complete game shutout to leaving after seven.

Hunter Pence led off the seventh with a single just past Kershaw's glove, then Pablo Sandoval singled as well.  Joaquin Arias hit an RBI single to score Pence, and Scott Van Slyke's bobble in left put both runners in scoring position.  Sure enough, a two-run by Brandon Pill gave the Giants a 3-2 lead seemingly out of nowhere.

The rest of the game saw the Dodgers threaten, only to not deliver with runners on.  In the seventh, Mark Ellis walked, and Skip Schumaker struck out on three pitches as he pinch-hit for Kershaw.  Yasiel Puig singled, but Nick Punto grounded into a forceout.  Gonzalez pinch-hit in a big spot, but struck out.

A two-out solo shot by Pence in the eighth off of Chris Withrow pushed the Giants' lead to 4-2.  The Dodgers again put two on, but did nothing with it.  Uribe's single leading off went nowhere when Crawford pinch-hit and grounded into a double play.  It was pathetic.

Ethier kept the inning going with a double, then had to leave the game with a sprained ankle.  A.J. Ellis grounded out to end the inning.

Two straight singled greeted Sergio Romo in the ninth, who stayed on after getting the final out in the eighth.  With Mark Ellis on second and Jerry Hairston on first, Puig flew out, Punto grounded into a forceout, and Gonzalez struck out again to call it a night.

Maybe I'm overreacting some, but I have to say that Kershaw's lack of control is a bit concerning to me.  Yes, he still had a great line of seven innings, eight hits, three runs (two earned), no walks, and six strikeouts.  But, he seems to be having trouble putting people away with two strikes.  His breaking ball is very sharp, but it was almost too sharp as A.J. Ellis had to block it in the dirt countless amount of times.

Look, when it's Game 1 of the Division Series, I obviously want to see Kershaw on the mound.  I'm just saying that even with a 1.94 ERA, a 4.26 ERA in three September starts has given the opposition a glimmer of hope.  Maybe that's all it is, a glimmer, but it's something more than they had through August.

Of course, when you fail to deliver at all with runners in scoring position (0-for-9 overall), it really doesn't matter.  How important is Ramirez's injury after a game like this?  Thankfully Don Mattingly can afford to rest him anyway with the NL West title almost sealed.  Make no mistake about it, though, the Dodgers need their big gun at shortstop.

The red hot Ricky Nolasco, who's 8-1 with a 2.07 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 12 starts with the Dodgers, will give it a go on Saturday.  He'll go up against Tim Lincecum, who very well could be playing out his Giants' career.

(By the way, this is post #1500 for me.  Not too shabby!  Thanks for reading!)

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