One of the most… let’s say, “interesting” parts about writing about every game is that you try to have about 90% of the story written by the time the game is over. For most of the afternoon, my game recap was going to include mention of Dee Gordon‘s up-and-down day, pointing out that while he scored the game’s first run and had two stolen bases, he also had just one hit, struck out to leave the bases loaded in the 7th, and hurt Clayton Kershaw with one error & at least two more plays that probably should have been counted as such.
…and then Gordon finished off the Dodgers’ second consecutive series sweep with a walkoff single with two outs in the bottom of the 9th on Jackie Robinson Day, and all seems right in the world.
Kershaw may not have had “it” on a sunny Sunday afternoon against San Diego, but whether it’s just because the Padres are atrocious or that 80% of Kershaw is better than 100% of most other pitchers (or both), it rarely seemed to matter – at least until the sixth inning. Though Kershaw had allowed seven hits through the first five innings, it seemed like all of them (save a first-inning Chase Headley double) were of the “BABIP gods are evening things out” variety; well, that, and some interesting defensive work by Gordon. If Kershaw wasn’t what he normally is, nor was he going out there and making it impossible for his team to win despite the lack of his best stuff.
But the wheels started to fall off for Kershaw in the sixth inning in every way imaginable. Working within umpire Dale Scott’s tight strike zone, he walked three of the first four batters around a Will Venable sacrifice that loaded the bases with one out. Orlando Hudson came up and hit a grounder to the left side, potentially setting up an inning-ending double play, but Gordon was unable to come up with it, with the ball charitably being called a base hit. That was enough to call in Josh Lindblom from the pen, and Lindblom did little to help out Kershaw by allowing Jeremy Hermida to tie the game by driving in two on a single. (As Vin said when Kershaw left the game with a two-run lead, the bases loaded & one out in the sixth, Kershaw could still get a win, a loss, or a no-decision – even after he was in the showers. Pitcher wins are the best.)
Kershaw may not have had his best stuff today, but Matt Kemp always does. Kemp crushed his sixth homer of the year in the third inning – all six having come against San Diego, by the way – and reached base four times on three hits and a walk. He’s now hitting .487/.523/1.026. I don’t even know what to say about him anymore. In fact, the only time that Kemp made an out today may have been on his hardest hit ball, other than the homer. With the game tied in the bottom of the 8th, Mark Ellis led off with a single. Ellis broke for second with Kemp up – which is a conversation for another time, but can we please stop him from ever doing this, ever? – and that drew second baseman Hudson to the bag to cover… which just so happened to be exactly where Kemp ripped a grounder into what became a rally-killing double play.
But while that may have been the luckiest double play the Padres will get all year, it hardly compares to whatever the hell happened in the top of the 9th. Javy Guerra came in and promptly allowed the first two men to reach. Jesus Guzman attempted to bunt – because why wouldn’t you want your cleanup hitter to bunt with two on in a tie game? – which proved difficult when Guerra’s pitch nearly hit him in the face. Guzman, maybe more out of self-preservation than anything else, got the thinnest part of his bat on the ball, which seemingly landed behind the plate. Though umpire Scott seemed to clearly wave the ball foul, A.J. Ellis alertly jumped on it and threw it around the horn for the triple play. San Diego manager Bud Black argued vociferously – and correctly, to my eyes – but was ejected for his troubles.
Judge for yourself…
That kept the game tied headed into the bottom of the ninth, where Juan Rivera walked and James Loney singled. Juan Uribe sacrificed – because why the hell not, he’s not going to help you doing anything else – and A.J. Ellis was intentionally walked. Jerry Hairston hit for Javy Guerra with an opportunity to be the hero, but popped out. With two outs, Gordon ripped a single into left field to complete the victory.
What an afternoon. What a game. What a… really, really, lucky break.