Clayton Kershaw stuck out ten Braves today without walking a single batter, the third time in his career he’s struck out double digits without allowing a walk. He allowed just two earned runs over seven innings, not at all helped by Aaron Miles‘ poor throw to second on what might have been an inning-ending double play ball before any runs had scored, and even chipped in two hits of his own at the plate.
By almost anyone’s standards, it was an excellent outing… and yet, it still felt disappointing. That’s how high our expectations are for Kershaw right now, because any time he pitches and the Dodgers don’t come away with a win, it feels wrong, even if it’s not entirely his fault. Through six scoreless, he was nearly untouchable as the Dodgers built a 3-0 lead on Matt Kemp‘s 32nd homer of the year, a three-run job in the third. Unfortunately, that was all they could do against Atlanta rookie Randall Delgado and three relievers, and Kershaw ran into trouble in the seventh, allowing two singles before Miles’ throwing error. A wild pitch and a Brooks Conrad single later, and the game was tied at three.
Blake Hawksworth took the loss by allowing the Braves to walk off in the ninth thanks to a Jose Constanza single, wild pitch, and Martin Prado single. For Hawksworth, that’s the fifth consecutive game in which he’s allowed at least one earned run; in each of the previous three, he let in two. Since the All-Star break, he’s allowed 14 earned runs in 19 innings – I’m not sure what’s going on with him, but he may just be pitching himself into a DFA following the season.
Despite the loss, it’s hard to be too disappointed that the Dodgers only won two of three against the likely NL Wild Card team, seeing their winning streak end at six. They head up to Washington for another day game tomorrow, a series which will see the return of Stephen Strasburg on Tuesday.
For the third time in two days, Don Mattingly had James Loney attempt to sacrifice bunt, and it’s absolutely killing me. Did we not learn anything yesterday? It’s bad enough to try to give up Loney, who’s only the hottest hitter in the league right now, but then it also effectively gives up Matt Kemp, because with first base open he’ll inevitably get walked. Just because it worked out in the end yesterday doesn’t make it the right play, and we saw that again in the seventh today. With Kershaw on second and Dee Gordon on first with no outs, Mattingly asked Loney to bunt Gordon over, which probably would have led to the Braves walking Kemp – who had already homered – in favor of the increasingly ice-cold Juan Rivera. The last thing you want to do there is take the bat out of the hands of your two hottest hitters; Loney was unable to get the bunt down and struck out, as did Kemp. The Dodgers came away with nothing, thanks in large part to a call that made absolutely no sense.
Last year, we had a good time keeping track of Ryan Theriot‘s TOOTBLAN count, i.e., “Thrown Out on the Bases Like a Nincompoop”. I’m starting to wish we’d had a running count of the times Steve Lyons referred to Andre Ethier as a “Gold Glove caliber” outfielder, which is of course laughable. To Ethier’s credit, he made a very nice play in the bottom of the ninth to possibly save the game, though to my eye it took him so long to get to the ball that it probably didn’t need to look as spectacular as it ended up being.
Unlikely first impression alert: in a continuation of the phenomenon I’ve previously discussed regarding guys like Rod Barajas, Jay Gibbons, and Orlando Hudson, people haven’t really noticed what’s happened to Rivera. Through August 15, he hit .341/.385/.512 with two homers in 91 PA, which is excellent. Including today’s 0-4, he has just 12 hits in his last 71 PA, which, not so much. I’m open to the idea of giving him a shot as a bench piece next season, let’s just cool it on the idea of extending him right now or guaranteeing him any sort of regular job. Toronto’s run by smart people, and he was DFA’d for a reason.
Earlier today, I noted that an under-the-radar reason for the Dodger hot streak may have been that Kemp was moved from cleanup to third in the order at precisely the time the streak got going. I neglected to mention that friend of the blog Howard Cole had been calling for the move at the OC Register since at least July. As I mentioned I do think that the run has been a team effort – who knows what might have happened if James Loney hadn’t finally woken up – but getting Kemp more at-bats and Ethier fewer absolutely makes sense.