If it feels like I’ve typed “Yasiel Puig did his job with three hits but almost no one else stood up to support him,” before, well, I probably have. It seems to the be story of Puig’s short career so far, though at least Andre Ethier knocked in a pair today.
Puig had three hits, all singles, but other than Ethier’s pair of hits no one could solve Pirates rookie Gerrit Cole, who really outpitched Zack Greinke on the day. Greinke never really looked good, not getting a 1-2-3 inning all afternoon and throwing 104 pitches in five innings.
The best chance the Dodgers had probably came in the top of the sixth inning, a frame that began rather innocuously when Skip Schumaker and Nick Punto each failed to get on. Adrian Gonzalez hit a ground-rule double and advanced to third on a hard-hit Puig single, then scored when Ethier followed with a single of his own. Tim Federowicz walked to load the bases for Luis Cruz… and Don Mattingly allowed Cruz to hit. No Hanley Ramirez, no Juan Uribe, no Jerry Hairston, no Mark Ellis, just the worst hitter in baseball in the biggest spot of the game. All too predictably, Cruz failed to get the job done, striking out on questionably low pitch.
For three innings, I wondered if Ramirez just wasn’t available to hit, because we know he’s not fully healthy and we don’t have complete insight into his day-to-day status. But then he came out to hit for Alex Castellanos with two outs in the ninth inning, and so it appears he had been available all along. So from where it stands now, Mattingly just simply chose not to replace the atrocious Cruz in a huge spot, and I simply can’t say a word to defend him on that. That’s really not putting your team in the best spot to win.
It should be noted, of course, that simply making a move was no guarantee of success. Ramirez did strike out in the ninth, and it’s not like Uribe or Hairston are terribly appealing options themselves. But games all too often turn on little decisions, and that one stings badly.
The Dodgers have now lost six of eight, as they head into the Bronx after tomorrow’s day off. But hey, that brawl against Arizona totally turned the season around, right?