As Matt Magill‘s first major league inning grew interminably to 30 pitches, I think we just hoped that the night wouldn’t turn ugly. I know I did. There was clearly talent there — blowing away Carlos Gomez on a high fastball was nice — but a leadoff walk, a deep flyout to center, an infield single, a stolen base… it just felt like the night was going to be a struggle.
Six innings later, Magill’s night ended with one of the more impressive debuts by a Dodger starter in decades, and it’s not unfair to wonder if Stephen Fife ought to invest in an autobiography of Wally Pipp. (Look it up, kids.) Over 6.2 innings, Magill struck out seven and walked just two — Norichika Aoki twice — becoming the first non-import Dodger starter to go that long in his major league debut since Pedro Astacio tossed a complete game shutout in 1992. (Hiroki Kuroda went seven in 2008, but he of course was not a traditional rookie.)
Magill’s only real trouble came in the third when he allowed two runs, and even then it was due to some extenuating circumstances. With two on and one out, Magill’s own fielding difficulty while attempting to throw to second allowed the bases to be loaded; after a run-scoring hit, a second run came in when Juan Uribe went for the fielder’s choice instead of an arguably simple play at the plate.
All in all, an immensely successful night for the newest Dodger starter, even if he’s likely heading back to Albuquerque sooner than later — perhaps as soon as later tonight or tomorrow morning, if the Dodgers want to reclaim the roster spot he clearly won’t be using for the next few days. (We heard Alex Castellanos did not play in ABQ tonight, though no word on any possible move there.)
You’ll notice the post doesn’t end here with a happy celebration of Magill’s first major league victory. That’s because Matt Guerrier exists. For now, anyway.
After two quick outs in the top of the seventh with the game knotted at two, Don Mattingly came out to lift Magill in favor of Paco Rodriguez with Aoki coming to the plate. I know many would have preferred that Mattingly just left Magill in there, but I didn’t have a huge problem with that; Magill had allowed Aoki to reach twice and was over 100 pitches by that point, so no reason to push your luck with the rookie when you lift him while he can leave with a positive feeling. Besides, Rodriguez is an effective reliever, so, fine.
Aoki dragged a bunt to second, which Skip Schumaker promptly threw away. I’m not sure if even a great throw would have had the speedy Aoki, but the error allowed him to take second base. Mattingly immediately came out to replace Rodriguez with Matt Guerrier, and here’s where the problems began. Rodriguez isn’t your typical LOOGY; he’s effective against hitters from either side of the plate. Guerrier, on the other hand… is Matt Guerrier. He’s the guy we’ve been complaining about since the day he was signed. No, really.
So of course, Guerrier goes out and gives up a two-run blast to Carlos Gomez, giving Milwaukee a 4-2 lead. That was only compounded when Guerrier returned in the eighth and gave up another two-run dinger, this time to Martin Maldonado — and neither was ever in question, because they were crushed. I’ll give Mattingly some amount of understanding for having Guerrier back out in the eighth, because with Ronald Belisario & Brandon League both unavailable and Kenley Jansen serving as the evening’s fill-in closer, his usual eighth inning options were gone. But having him out there in the first place in a close game was a sizable mistake, one that ultimately cost the Dodgers the game.
On offense, the highlights were few and far between for a game that actually had four runs come across. Andre Ethier‘s no-doubt blast in the eighth off John Axford was nice, Matt Kemp had two more hits to get his line up to .271/.326/.365, and even Juan Uribe got on base twice more. (His line of .200/.429/.440 is just perfect in every way.) But Adrian Gonzalez flew out with the tying run on in the ninth, and A.J. Ellis grounded out to shortstop to end the game with the tying and winning runs on — though he did drive in the first run of the game with a single to right.
It’s also worth nothing that Luis Cruz went 0-4 with more pop-outs to bring his line down to an unfathomable .098/.130/.098, along with a booted grounder that charitably was not marked as an error. I imagine we won’t be seeing him again the lineup soon, especially with Hanley Ramirez‘ rehab stint kicking off tonight. One would hope, anyway.