Sometimes, your massively expensive team that’s been crushing the ball all over the place runs into a guy they just can’t solve, even if that guy is mediocre veteran of 9 teams in 11 seasons like Chad Gaudin. Sometimes you just can’t do any better than one run and four hits while striking out nine times in seven innings against a guy who hadn’t started a game before this year since 2009, and who has been released by the Yankees, Athletics, & Nationals since then.
Kershaw matched Gaudin and then some, pitching at least eight innings in AT&T Park for the fifth time in his career while holding the Giants to a mere three hits over eight innings. (Though striking out only three, a low number for him.) For eight innings, Andre Ethier‘s second inning single and Andres Torres third inning sacrifice fly represented the entirety of the scoring, as neither side could solve the other.
In the ninth, Sergio Romo came in to relieve Javier Lopez, and here’s where the wheels began to fall off. Yasiel Puig singled to left, then made it to third after Buster Posey (playing first base) couldn’t cleanly handle an Adrian Gonzalez grounder, then awkwardly flipped it into short left field while trying to make a play on Puig that he had no shot whatsoever on. But after the red-hot Hanley Ramirez grounded back to Romo, and Juan Uribe struck out after Andre Ethier was intentionally walked to load the bases, Ellis stepped up with two outs… and ripped a liner to left-center field, clearing the bases and giving Kershaw (and Kenley Jansen, who finished it off) all the support the Dodgers would need.
Puig’s single — and fantastic diving catch in the eighth — somewhat obscured that he’s been a bit of a mess the last few days. After striking out four times yesterday, Puig whiffed twice more today, along with a fourth-inning caught stealing that absolutely everybody in the park knew was coming. Since hitting the wall in Colorado on July 3, it’s been a rough stretch for him. In 19 plate appearances since, he has just 5 hits and a walk to go with eight strikeouts.
The pessimist in me wonders if he’s “playing through pain” as so many others seem to, but there’s also so much more at play here. There’s the admittedly small sample size of 18 plate appearances. There’s the fact that no matter what people liked to believe, he was never, ever, ever going to keep up his smashing debut indefinitely, as we discussed weeks ago. And perhaps most relevant of all, there’s the fact that opponents have figured out his weakness, which is to feed him nothing but low-and-away breaking stuff — as you can clearly see by where San Francisco catcher Guillermo Quiroz is set up with two two strikes against Puig in the seven inning. Gaudin threw a junk ball in the dirt, and Puig missed badly. Honestly, it’s probably some combination of each of those things.
With the win, the Dodgers are now three games under .500 and 4.5 behind the streaking Diamondbacks, setting up a massive series as the Dodgers head into Arizona tomorrow night.