And thus ends one of the weirdest days in Dodger history.
On most nights, the out-of-nowhere news that Chad Billingsley was going on the DL approximately an hour before game time would be the only thing worth discussing.
On most nights, the best day of Rafael Furcal‘s Dodger career (five hits, two outstanding defensive plays) would be a great sign of hope that he could be the player we always hoped he’d be – and if not him, we’d be discussing James Loney‘s three doubles among four hits.
On most nights, an 12-0 laugher over the Reds would be more than enough to discuss and celebrate.
And on most nights, a rain delay of two hours and twenty-four minutes would be enough of an oddity that it would merit discussion of its own.
Yet, all I can think about are the beyond perplexing and downright disturbing decisions by Joe Torre. Not to focus on the negative in what was otherwise a fun game, but his choices here could have a far-reaching impact on the future.
Remember, Billingsley’s been on the DL for about six hours, long enough for me to write a post discussing how close the Dodgers are to a full-blown rotation emergency. That means it should be fresh in your mind that above all else, you protect your remaining starters, because if anything happens to any of them, this club is in enormous trouble. So while it was disappointing that Hiroki Kuroda‘s outstanding start was interrupted by the rain on a night you’d hoped he could give you innings, you happily take your 6-0 lead and you toss out a Justin Miller, or a George Sherrill, or a Jeff Weaver, and you run them out there until their arms fall off, knowing that you’ll need your important arms later this week and that Travis Schlichting is on his way to Ohio tomorrow.
What you absolutely do not do, under any circumstances, is run your 35-year-old starter with a history of injuries back to the mound after he’d been down for well over 2.5 hours (the delay was 2:24, but the Dodgers were batting before and after).
So Kuroda went back out for the fifth, and predictably loaded the bases on two hits and a walk. He managed to get out of it without allowing a run, but not before needing 27 pitches to do so and nearly letting the Reds back into the game.
Letting Kuroda go back out, at an enormous risk, bought the Dodgers… well, what, exactly? He pitched just one inning after the delay, so the argument that Torre wanted to save the bullpen for this week’s gauntlet doesn’t fly. No, the most likely scenario is also the most terrifying one: Torre wanted Kuroda to qualify for the win. You know, a “win”, an utterly meaningless statistic, but even less meaningful to a manager who’s only responsibility here should be to get his team out of this game without any major injuries.
It’s almost unspeakably reckless.
But wait! There’s more. So Kuroda gets his five innings, leaving with the 6-0 lead on a wet field. Now, it’s time for Miller. Or Weaver. Or Sherrill, of whom the Dodgers own website noted had barely received an opportunity to pitch since returning from the DL. Or hell, I don’t care, A.J. Ellis. Yet who comes in? That’s right, Ramon Troncoso of all people, whose overuse has been such a running joke that Dylan Hernandez has made a cottage industry of the #DrNeilElAttrache tag on Twitter.
Now, it’s not actually the fact that Troncoso came into the game that bothered me, as he hadn’t pitched since Saturday. I still think it was a bad idea, but, fine. No, the problem here is that in the top of the 7th Manny hit a two-run homer, increasing the lead to 8-0, and then the Dodgers proceeded to load the bases against the hapless Micah Owings. Remember, at this point, the Dodgers hadn’t used a single batter off the bench, bizarrely not even replacing Manny for defense with a big lead on a poor field. This is when you bring in Ronnie Belliard or Reed Johnson or Garret Anderson to face Owings.
But Joe Torre left Troncoso in to hit with the bases loaded. Troncoso took a walk and was forced to run the bases. Furcal plated two, and by the end of the frame it was 11-0…
…and Troncoso stayed in to pitch the bottom of the 7th. After already pitching an inning, and running the bases, in a blowout game. Of course he did.
Let’s not let all this overshadow the win, which was great for a team that had struggled on offense (to put it mildly) recently, and particularly for Furcal and Loney. It’s just that this one fun game could have major repercussions thanks to some inexplicable decisions. You hope Kuroda doesn’t break down, again. You hope this isn’t just one more nail in the Troncoso coffin. But that’s all you can do – hope – and I’d prefer to hope that the manager of the team wouldn’t be actively contributing to those possibilities.
Besides, Steve Lyons loved the idea to bring Kuroda back in. That’s all the proof I need to know it was a terrible idea.