Monday, September 9, 2013

Reds again walk-off on the Dodgers

On a night where Clayton Kershaw battled tooth and nail to give the Dodgers seven innings and two runs, the offense again failed to get that big hit they so desperately needed.

The result?  Another Reds' walk-off and a sweep.

This time it was an RBI double by Ryan Hanigan in the ninth that scored Zack Cozart from first, and the Reds took another close one, 3-2.  The Dodgers won three of four in Dodger Stadium back in late July, so home field means a heck of a lot to these two teams.

Kershaw was coming off a couple of un-Kershaw-like performances, especially in his last game in Colorado on Labor Day in which he gave up five runs but still managed to get the win.  Sure enough, his location was again an issue in the early going as he walked Shin-Soo Choo leading off.  Choo was then picked off, and that was that.  Foolish boy.

There's lots of amazing stats that accompany every Kershaw start, and one of them was not allowing a home run to a left-handed hitter this year.  Well, that all changed thanks to Jay Bruce.  In his first couple of at-bats, he absolutely crushed solo shots to right on pitches that found too much of the plate.

In between both of those homers was the first hit of the game by the Dodgers in the fourth.  Homer Bailey was hitless and struck out six straight before Adrian Gonzalez's two-out single.  Hanley Ramirez then gapped one to left center that scored Gonzo, as Ramirez was tagged out in a rundown.

With the Reds up 2-1, the Dodgers really blew a big opportunity in the sixth.  Carl Crawford doubled with one out, and Yasiel Puig was hit on the foot.  Gonzalez had a perfect 2-0 count to do some damage, but instead grounded into the 4-6-3 double play.  Ouch.

Ramirez tied the game with a solo blast leading off the seventh, his 17th of the season.  Then Don Mattingly made an interesting decision that I believe was the wrong one.  Juan Uribe reached on an error and A.J. Ellis singled.  With two outs, Mattingly allowed Kershaw to hit, rather than sending in someone like Michael Young for the RBI chance.  Kershaw struck out, and the Dodgers wouldn't reach base the rest of the way.

Kershaw did get through the seventh to finish with four hits, three walks, and seven strikeouts, as his ERA went up just a tick to 1.92.  Chris Withrow fanned two in the eighth in some solid work.

Ronald Belsario ended up taking his seventh loss, as after he retired Todd Frazier on a popup, Cozart singled and Hanigan's double ended things.

Back to the decision not to pinch-hit for Kershaw in the seventh.  I can understand Mattingly wanting to reward his workhorse for all he's done.  Plus, Kershaw does have 10 RBIs this season, tops for all pitchers.  But, I really would've liked to have seen Young or even someone like Nick Punto hit in that spot.  The Dodgers' offense obviously struggled to string together runs all weekend, and I thought that was a great chance to give them some momentum.  Not a big deal, but not the right call in the long run either.

As I stated before, what really has stood out to me about these two teams was how much they need home field advantage against each other.  Right now the Dodgers have a three-game advantage in the loss column, so if they do lock horns in October, it would start in LA.  Since it's football season, it's just like saying the last team to get the ball will probably win.  Whichever team gets to hit in the bottom of the ninth will get the edge.

It has to be somewhat disappointing that the Dodgers didn't win either of Zack Greinke's or Kershaw's starts.  You'd like to think you can pencil in at least one win from them, and usually two.  But, the Dodgers also lost by three runs combined in three games, so little things here and there made a big difference.

If the Diamondbacks have any thoughts at all of getting back into the NL West race, they have a great opportunity in front of them.  They get to take on the bottom three of the Dodgers' rotation on the road, starting with Ricky Nolasco on Monday night.

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