I know everyone’s going to want to blame tonight’s loss on Don Mattingly. It’s the way baseball works, is it not? Managers get way too much credit for wins and far too much blame for losses, and Mattingly didn’t do himself any favors in tonight’s crucial seventh inning.
So let’s get right to it: Josh Beckett was more than effective through six two-run innings, but ran into some trouble in the seventh. After a single, a walk, and a sacrifice bunt, Beckett was faced with men on second and third with one out. Mattingly ordered the intentional walk to red-hot Angel Pagan to load the bases, and with Brandon League ready to go, the manager walked out to remove Beckett.
Except, no. He didn’t. Or as I recapped it in real time:
League is up. League is ready. League has been outstanding.Beckett stays w/ bases loaded. This is terrifying.
— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) September 8, 2012
Remember, this is September, the time of expanded rosters. You have something like 39 pitchers down in the bullpen, so you never have to worry about pulling a pitcher too early because it might exhaust your bullpen. You especially never need to worry about pushing your luck with a veteran pitcher who had given you more than you probably had a right to expect.
Beckett stayed in, of course, and in what may have been the most predictable outcome ever, Marco Scutaro popped a single to right field, scoring two and basically putting the game away. It’d be sad if it weren’t so clearly apparent that this was going to happen. Scratch that: it was still sad.
The most depressing thing of all? Mattingly was right on the precipice of a brilliant move that would have earned him endless praise. League is ostensibly this team’s closer right now, and he’s been excellent lately. For years, we’ve all railed against the usage of the traditional “closer”, nailed to often low-leverage ninth-inning duties, and if Mattingly had put his closer into the game when things were really on the line, we’d have all loved him for it. He did, eventually, bring in League, but only after it was too late.
So close, yet so far.
Got that out of our systems? Good. Now let’s get to the real reason that the Dodgers lost this game, and stop me if you’ve heard this before: the 2-6 “heart of the order” of Shane Victorino, Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, & Andre Ethier combined to go 0-20 with three walks. That is, safe to say, atrocious. You can blame “jelling“. You can blame Mattingly for refusing to move A.J. Ellis up from the eight spot. (And on Ellis, even if he was hitting higher right now, he’d just be getting stranded by these guys.) You can blame it on whatever you like. But it’s a simple equation: these guys don’t hit, the team doesn’t score.
The even more infuriating part about this was that Tim Lincecum wasn’t that good. This wasn’t vintage Timmy mowing guys down left and right; despite occasional flashes of a wicked split-fingered fastball, this was the 2012 “I’m going to walk seven dudes!” version. Until the ninth inning, there wasn’t a single frame where they didn’t get at least one runner on, but they just could not either get the big hit or string enough smaller ones together to make it matter.
Where’s your loss? There’s your loss.
All that being said, I can’t let Adam Kennedy‘s night go by. Here’s the thing about Kennedy: even when you happen to stumble upon the rare positive contribution from him, like the 6th inning home run that barely cleared the right field wall and put the Dodgers up 2-1, he’s still Adam Kennedy. It just usually takes a little longer for that innate Kennedy-ness to come out than it did tonight, when he allowed a two-out Hunter Pence single to bounce under his barehanded attempt in the bottom of the inning. (Though it was charitably labeled an infield hit, most good third basemen would have had a play on it.) Not only that, he ended up getting pulled the very next inning after injuring his groin on that bad play. So in the span of less than two full innings, he went from “potential hero” to “likely goat” to “oh right, he’s old & busted.”
So if we had to sum up Kennedy’s night from start to end in less than five seconds, well, this is the only way you can: