A balk-off? Seriously? As best as I can tell, that’s the 12th time it’s happened since 1954 (here’s the list. I thought the first game in CitiField last year counted, but as was pointed out to me, it wasn’t a balk-off since the Padres still had to retire the Mets in the bottom of the inning.) Talk about anti-climactic, but I’ll chalk that one up to the Power of the Beard regardless, since Casey Blake was on third and it was his wild gesturing which caught the attention of the umpire.
If I’d have told you that not only would Chad Billingsley pitch into the 8th inning today in front of a holiday crowd, but he’d do so while striking out double digits and walking zero, and at one point setting down 13 in a row, you’d have been jumping for joy. Of course, since he gave up three homers in the first two innings, Billingsley left the game on the hook for a 4-2 loss.
Still, if the incompetence of the Diamondbacks (more on that in a second) didn’t help get Billingsley a no-decision, the headlines would likely have read “Billingsley gives up three homers in Dodgers loss”. Even so, I’m taking this as a success on the pitching side. After a start like that, this could have gotten out of hand incredibly quickly, yet Billingsley was able to keep things under control. None of the homers were no-question-about-it bombs, and on another day or in another park it’s possible that none of them make it out. This all lead to Chad having one of the most bizarre starts to a game I can ever remember, as I mentioned on Twitter at the time:
Billingsley has 6 strikeouts and 3 HR allowed in two innings. He laughs at your “three” true outcomes.
After that third homer (to Chris Snyder with one out in the second), Billingsley didn’t face more than three batters in an inning until seeing four in the 8th. Utter domination, and for anyone who’s complained or joked about his supposed mental weakness, just remember this start – where he could have snuck away with his tail between his legs, but instead took command and kept the team in the game, directly contributing to the win.
I know we’re supposed to be focusing on the Dodgers here, but good lord, are the Diamondbacks a train wreck. Zombie Rodrigo Lopez actually threw out a pretty heroic effort in allowing only two runs through seven innings, and then he even retired the first two in the 8th. Yet after allowing Rafael Furcal to reach on an infield single and Matt Kemp to double Furcal to third, up stepped Andre Ethier with the tying runs on, and you’d think there’d be help coming from the bullpen. While Lopez was great, he’s still Rodrigo Lopez, and we all know how much better Ethier is against righties than lefties. But not only is the Arizona bullpen awful (the worst in baseball, by a lot), they don’t even have a lefty pitcher currently on the roster. In fact, of the 447 innings they’d thrown entering tonight, only 3 came from a lefty – and even those came from a rookie who hasn’t been with the club in six weeks. How in the world do you operate a pitching staff like that?
So Lopez is left out to dry against Ethier, and still manages to induce a grounder to second baseman Kelly Johnson to end the inning with the two-run lead – and by “end the inning”, I of course mean “bobble the ball, throw it away, and get charged with two errors on the same play as both run score.” Lopez came back to whiff Manny Ramirez to end the inning with the game tied, to his credit, but its no surprise this team is in last place, right?
Look, this was a fun win, so I won’t focus on the negative too much. That said, when your bench is constructed in such a way that when your slow first baseman draws a leadoff walk in a tie game in the bottom of the 9th, and you can’t get anyone out there to run for him, then your roster needs to be fixed. Whether or not Loney stayed in because Xavier Paul was no longer around, or because there’s no obvious backup 1B once Ronnie Belliard was used as a pinch-hitter, there’s something just not right here. Loney, of course, foolishly got caught trying to run to third and nearly blew the entire inning.
I know they’re for a good cause, and I’ll admit they are better than last year’s red ones, but those white caps are still ugly. Just stick to the blue, please.