A New Hero Every Night: Juan Rivera Edition

Andre Ethier, walking tall

For seven innings, most of the people I know watching tonight’s Dodgers/Angels matchup were playing a rousing rendition of “why does Adam Kennedy exist, and I just mean on this planet, not even in baseball,” and we may yet get back to that tomorrow. Yet in the span of two pitches over about 90 seconds in the eighth inning, we were reminded once again why whatever it is that’s driving this club to continue to find news ways to win just can’t ever be counted out.

Tonight’s hero? None other than the much-maligned Juan Rivera, of course. And why not? He did little before being injured, he missed a good chunk of the season, has done little since returning, so in the new reality that is the 2012 Dodgers, it makes all the sense in the world that he’d be the star of the game – it’s basically his turn, after all.

Entering that eighth inning, the Dodgers looked to be slowly circling the drain against surprisingly effective journeyman Jerome Williams, having collected just four singles – three of which had come consecutively in the fourth inning, driving in the first Dodger run. Thanks to some hilariously bad defense by Kennedy with some help from Dee Gordon, the Dodgers had allowed two unearned runs, and as Williams set down two of the first three hitters on groundouts, little seemed likely to change. Then Gordon stole second, his third theft of the night. (He was… probably safe. Let’s go with that.) A.J. Ellis walked, because that’s what A.J. Ellis does. Andre Ethier stroked a single to drive in Gordon and tie the game…

…and then Rivera stepped up and drove Williams’ first pitch into the left field bleachers, breaking the tie and putting the Dodgers up 5-2. What had been a sadly depressing outing against the local rivals instantly turned into a raucous Dodger Stadium; Kenley Jansen struck out two to finish it off. I’ve almost run out of ways to describe how this team continues to find ways to win, and win they have: they’re the first team in baseball to reach 40 victories.