September 12, 2012
What You Need to Know
Wednesday, September 12
The Tuesday Takeaway
The Dodgers went first behind Clayton Kershaw—who was scratched from Sunday’s series finale against the Giants with a sore hip—but they might as well have put 76-year-old Sandy Koufax on the mound. After all, you can’t win if you don’t score.
Facing Ian Kennedy, Brad Ziegler, and David Hernandez, the Los Angeles offense went 5-for-30 with no walks and eight strikeouts in the 1-0 loss. The top five hitters in Mattingly’s order combined for a 2-for-18 performance. And because the eighth-place hitter, A.J. Ellis, grounded into two double plays, Kirk Gibson’s pitching staff faced only three batters over the minimum.
If this was the Dodgers’ first feckless effort with Kershaw on the mound, it might have been forgivable. But they are just 5-4 in the 24-year-old lefty’s last nine starts, all of them quality outings, and 1-4 in the most recent five. On Aug. 20, Madison Bumgarner stymied Los Angeles in a duel for the ages. On Aug. 30 and last night, Ian Kennedy outdueled Kershaw, tossing 13 2/3 innings of shutout ball. And perhaps worst of all, on Sept. 4, Eric Stults—whom the Dodgers sold to the Hiroshima Carp in March, 2010—matched Kershaw step-for-step, enabling the Padres to win a battle of attrition with three runs in the 13th. Each time, Kershaw allowed no more than two runs. And each time, his effort went unrewarded.
But all of those wasted Kershaw outings may not rival the Angels’ inability to cash in when it mattered most last night. Down 6-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Halos were on the verge of defeat, but A’s closer Grant Balfour administered CPR. A walk to Chris Iannetta and another to Mike Trout brought the middle of the order up with the tying run at the plate and nobody out.
Torii Hunter singled to make it 6-4, putting a struggling Balfour on the ropes and sending the A’s bullpen into a frenzy. Albert Pujols singled to make it 6-5, leaving Los Angeles Times beat writer Mike DiGiovanna to wonder if this might be his signature moment. The tying run was 90 feet away, and Peter Bourjos, one of the fastest players on the roster, represented the winning run at first.
But this was not Pujols’ signature night—it was Jerry Blevins’. The lanky lefty came in and promptly fanned Kendrys Morales for the first out of the inning. Runners at the corners, one out, Howie Kendrick up; time for a squeeze, right? Nope. Time for a game-ending, 5-4-3 double play, capping Blevins’ second career save, the epitome of what a save should be.
Few managers have as many tricks up their sleeve as Mike Scioscia, who can play small ball with the best of them. He gave himself a wealth of options with Bourjos at first. A steal. A hit-and-run. A squeeze. Yet instead of playing for the tie, Scioscia saw the A’s on life support and went for the jugular. Had Morales or Kendrick doubled and Bourjos come all the way around from first, the skipper’s aggressiveness would have been celebrated. But now, after their failures, both Scioscia and the Angels are left with more questions than answers.
Both of those losses may prove insignificant in the grand scheme of things, and neither is debilitating with 20 games left to play. The Dodgers are still just one game back in the National League wild-card race, and they host the second-place Cardinals for four this weekend. The Angels face a more precarious scenario, sitting 2 ½ out on the American League side and needing the Tigers to push ahead of the White Sox—whom they host next weekend—to gain more control over their own destiny. Still, they were red-hot coming into this series and have the talent to regain that momentum at any time.
Then again, both teams dug themselves into these holes. And if Tuesday’s games don’t sound the alarm, they may not wake up in time to dig themselves out.
What to Watch for on Wednesday