Wait, that is what happened, right?
How about this: Jerry Sands was not the star of tonight’s game. How could he be, when Ted Lilly – off several poor starts – tossed seven shutout innings at a quality Atlanta lineup? When whipping boys James Loney, Juan Uribe, and Aaron Miles all got hits, with Loney and Uribe actually collecting two, along with Loney’s great grab of a hard liner at first? When Miles and Casey Blake – perhaps the most unorthodox 1-2 lineup pairing I can ever remember – started the game off by reaching against Tim Hudson, putting Matt Kemp in the unfamiliar position of having men on base, helping to stake the Dodgers to a quick 4-0 lead? When every starter got a hit, including Andre Ethier‘s 7th inning single that extended his hitting streak to 15?
Ah, who am I kidding. You give the people what they want, and what they want is SANDS, because he was getting ovations just for catching routing fly balls or even for striking out in the bottom of the 6th. His plate appearances went double, RBI sac fly, strikeout, and strikeout; he even made a nice diving catch in left after losing a ball in the lights, and the crowd ate up every second of it. The strikeouts are going to be a concern, particularly on breaking balls away, though we’ll save that worry for another day, because today really couldn’t have gone better for him. There’s certainly an argument to be made that he was recalled too quickly, but there’s no arguing the fact that this was a team that needed a jolt. Kemp’s Sunday walkoff aside, this was a flat team that had stagnated on offense, and the entire team seemed different today. Sands or not, a change needed to be made, and the options were somewhat limited. (I don’t want to put too much stock into motivation, but Loney in particular seemed to have a skip in his step. Of course, that could just be from the rare appearance of him being on the basepaths.)
Honestly, what was most impressive about Sands – and yes, I’m the guy who’s always bagging on people for saying they can read Jonathan Broxton‘s mind through a television set as though they were a certain Boston-based Russian faith healer – was that he looked comfortable. He looked like he belonged. That wasn’t something you could say, for example, about Ivan DeJesus when he was getting a lot of playing time the first week of the season. It looked like the game was still a bit too fast for DeJesus, but that wasn’t the impression I got from Sands. Even when Hudson brushed him back in the 6th (and let’s be clear, Hudson was trying to get him off the plate, but the ball going behind his head was an accident), Sands got right back up like nothing had phased him. My favorite part of that sequence, by the way, was Kemp rushing to the top of the stairs to bark at Hudson for the pitch. Matt Kemp: what can’t he do?
Speaking of Kemp, he went 1-4, but even when he’s “only” going 1-4, it’s impressive; though he did strike out once, his other two outs were a rocket to short and a flyout to the warning track in left that was described by Vin Scully off the bat as “looking like it was headed to outer space.” He continues to impress in every facet of the game.
Finally, yes, Jonathan Broxton had a poor 9th, allowing three hits and two runs before finishing the game out with two strikeouts. It was an odd outing, as his velocity increased by about 6-7 MPH as the inning went on. Still, it’s hard to make much of a defense of his performance tonight, and so I won’t; besides, I’m sure this will incite more of the usual “Broxton doesn’t have it any more” talk. That said, I’d like to ask a different question, if you’re of the opinion that Broxton should be replaced (which I don’t agree with – yet), who would you use instead? Hong-Chih Kuo‘s on the disabled list. Kenley Jansen hasn’t exactly been as impressive as he was last year. You can’t possibly tell me that you want Matt Guerrier and his superficially-nice-but-generally-misleading 0.00 ERA (just 4 K in 28 batters) back there. So tell me. If not Broxton, who?