Winning a game on the backs of your best players – that’s the way it’s supposed to work, isn’t it? You wouldn’t have thought a day that started with Vin Scully’s 60th anniversary and the long-awaited release of Russ Ortiz could get any better, but indeed it did.
Clayton Kershaw shook off his mediocre first two starts to make it into the 8th inning, striking out 9 and allowing 1 run - yet still nearly lost the game since Barry Zito took a shutout into the 8th himself. It was Kershaw’s second longest career start, behind only his outing last July in which he tossed 8 full shutout innings (in a game the Dodgers ended up losing). Remember, Kershaw didn’t get the win in either that game or this one (or his 13-strikeout game against the Giants last April). Do I really have to give you the line about “wins” again?
Of course, even though Kershaw made it that far into the game, it still didn’t even save the bullpen as much as you’d think, since after allowing Kershaw to start the 8th, Joe Torre used three pitchers to get an out apiece in the frame – Jeff Weaver, George Sherrill, and Ramon Troncoso. Jonathan Broxton followed with a perfect 9th, meaning that despite the starter going into the 8th, five pitchers had to be used. Still, with a day off tomorrow, that’s hardly a huge concern right now.
For a while, it looked like the Dodger offense would squander the starting outing they’d been waiting so long for, since the much-maligned Zito matched Kershaw for much of the game. That, of course, lasted only until Manny came off the bench to launch the second pinch-homer of his career (after the Bobbleslam last year).
Remember how down everyone was just 24 hours ago, after watching Charlie Haeger toss up duck after duck and the offense get shut down by Tim Lincecum? Amazing what a difference a day can make. Is there anything better than a pinch-homer from your biggest star, at home, against your biggest rival, on the last game of a homestand, on a day that already started off so auspiciously? I think not.