But I suppose that’s what’ll happen when you’ve just witnessed what may have been simultaneously the ugliest game of the season and the most uplifting victory of the year, right?
Really, it’s kind of miraculous we’re even bothering to recap the game, because this thing got off to the kind of start that had televisions switching off across the Dodgerland area. Zack Greinke looked terrible from the beginning, allowing two hits in the first — they both scored on this Ramon Hernandez mess, which I’m not going to embed here for all of our sanity — and bright spot Nick Punto looked for all the world like he was injured after getting taken out by Erick Aybar on a tough slide. (Punto later left with a stiff lower back. Of course he did.) What can you do, at that point, but throw your hands up and laugh?
Despite a Scott Van Slyke RBI double in the second, it just got worse from there. The Angels put up a run in the third and three more in the fourth, and Greinke was gone after four innings (plus two men on in the fifth) and ten hits. If you’d stepped away from the game at that point, you wouldn’t be blamed. The Dodgers were down 6-1, the bullpen had been handed yet another long night, and the laughably bad defense continued to struggle, taking over the MLB lead in errors despite being gifted with hits on some plays that clearly could have been called miscues.
Down 6-1, with Matt Guerrier on the mound in the fifth to deal with two inherited runners from Greinke, it hardly seemed like the remainder of the game was worth watching. Even when Guerrier got three outs on nine pitches to strand the runners, it seemed like a tiny silver lining that would be quickly forgotten.
But… there’s the dynamic duo of Luis Cruz & Juan Uribe, who led off the fifth with singles. (Cruz later drew an unintentional walk, his first in 199 plate appearances dating back to last year. For all the oddities we saw tonight, I’m not sure anything tops that.) After a Punto fielder’s choice advanced the runners, Mark Ellis doubled in both; he came in on an Adrian Gonzalez single, and he came in on another Van Slyke double.
Let’s pause here to point out three things that come to mind from that inning:
1 — Gonzalez is just unstoppable. Despite a second inning error that just added to the comedy of miscues, he ended up making several excellent defensive plays around going 4-4 with two doubles. In his last three games, he’s been up 14 times and made exactly three outs.
2 — Matt Kemp is extremely stoppable. He struck out in between the Ellis & Gonzalez plate appearances, one of four times tonight in an 0-5, while also having defensive difficulty in the first inning. I’m not even sure what to say about him at this point, other than that it’s just making me sad. He’s not right, obviously. Will time off help? I can honestly say I do not know, but this is a serious issue.
3 — Two more doubles for Van Slyke, who has been a huge boost to this team. I’m not convinced this is a long-term thing for him, but so far, he’s been outstanding, and I’m glad he’s here.
All of that tied it up at six, which became seven after the teams traded single runs in the bottom of the sixth and top of the seventh. In the bottom of the seventh, newly-activated Jerry Hairston looked to be the hero by pushing across Gonzalez with the eighth run, but even then it wasn’t quite safe; in the top of the eighth, Kenley Jansen and Mike Trout engaged in a long at-bat with a man on first. Trout flew out to Andre Ethier in right, and while Ethier was able to double Aybar off first… it was far from clear that Gonzalez had really managed to get his glove on the runner. But hey, this team deserves some luck and then, don’t they?
With all of that in the books, I’m really not sure what might have happened had Brandon League blown another game. But he retired the heart of the Angel order with relative ease, capping off five innings of what was really excellent relief from Matt Guerrier, Guerra, Ronald Belisario, Jansen, and League.
So to recap: Greinke was terrible, Dodger Stadium saw a record 11 doubles, but also great bullpen work and heroics from Cruz & Uribe. Just what you’d have expected, right?