It’s going to be easy to blame Dee Gordon & Don Mattingly for squandering a ninth-inning rally – fun, too! – that squashed any chance they might have had of avoiding a sweep at the hands of Oakland, and we can also look at the defensive confusion between Juan Uribe & Josh Lindblom which allowed a bunt ground ball with men on first and second and no outs to turn into bases loaded with no outs in the bottom of the ninth.
Those are each valid concerns, but while they may be the “sexy” takeaway from this game, let’s not let them overshadow the real issue here: that 29-year-old Travis Blackley, who hadn’t pitched in the bigs prior to this year since 2007, who returned to the bigs this year with San Francisco only to be DFA’d after four lousy relief appearances, who hadn’t pitched more than 5.2 innings in a start before last week since 2004, shut down the Dodgers on just three hits and 87 pitches over eight one-run innings. If you can’t hit off a guy like that, well, you don’t deserve to win.
And believe me, the Dodgers did not deserve to win this game, in no small part thanks to Gordon. After Matt Treanor led off the ninth with a walk against Oakland closer Ryan Cook, Gordon entered. He attempted to bunt, and while it may shock you, that’s a decision I’m fine with; Gordon isn’t a good hitter, and the likelihood of him successfully managing a hit – he went 0-12 in this series – was so low that bunting Treanor to second for Elian Herrera & Andre Ethier made sense. Here’s the problem, however: Dee Gordon, for all his speed, cannot bunt. His first attempt was foul. His second attempt was foul. His third attempt was fair, but wasn’t placed well enough to allow Treanor to advance, as third baseman Brandon Inge gunned down the backup catcher at second. With Gordon now on first with one out, everyone in the state knew he’d be attempting to steal; his jump, however, was poor, and Oakland catcher Derek Norris – in his MLB debut, no less – threw him out. As I joked on Twitter, it felt like Gordon was responsible for 42 outs and -274.228 WPA in the inning alone.
If there’s a silver lining, it’s that Clayton Kershaw was excellent, also allowing one run and three hits over eight innings. But if this team can’t hit – and Andre Ethier, A.J. Ellis, Jerry Hairston, Tony Gwynn, Juan Rivera, & Juan Uribe are all absolutely not hitting – it’s really not going to matter. So long, Oakland. See you in hell.