If you thought that Zack Greinke against Mat Latos was going to be a matchup of two of the National League’s best pitchers, you might have been considerably surprised by how this game got started. Latos allowed four to reach in the first inning and two more in the second, including Yasiel Puig‘s 15th homer of the season; Greinke gave up four singles to the Reds in the bottom of the first, scoring two.
But for both starters, that was really it. Greinke pitched through the sixth, and Latos through the seventh, without allowing any further damage, with Greinke adding nine strikeouts against just a single walk. For Greinke, that runs his streak of allowing two runs or fewer to eight in a row and 11 of his last 12.
Unfortunately, Greinke was replaced by Paco Rodriguez, pitching for the sixth time since last Friday, and again it didn’t go well. Rodriguez squandered the lead by allowing a single and then a double to Cesar Izturis — yes, that Cesar Izturis — before being saved by Ronald Belisario. Rodriguez has been wonderful all season, and carried a .182/.265/.318 line against since August 1 into this game, so it’s not like he’s turned into Russ Ortiz or anything, but he’s had a tough enough last few outings that I think we can all agree a nice long rest is exactly what he needs.
By the way, as much as some like to complain about Don Mattingly, thank whatever deity you prefer every single day that Dusty Baker is not your manager. In the bottom of the ninth, J.P. Howell walked leadoff man Chris Heisey. Baker then took the bat out of Shin-Soo Choo‘s hands (and gave the Dodgers a precious out) by having him sacrifice in order to get to Izturis, of all people. When Izturis failed to reach, Joey Votto was intentionally walked, so Baker successfully avoided having either of his two best hitters swinging the bat. Thanks, Dusty!
Of course, Mattingly isn’t without his own negatives, and the entire tenth inning showed exactly why. After Adrian Gonzalez led off with a single to center, he came out for a pinch runner, as you’d expect. But it wasn’t Dee Gordon, who exists on this planet for no other reason than to pinch run, it was Nick Punto. (Gordon was not suffering from the effects of being hit by a throw yesterday, as some suggested.) With expanded September rosters, you don’t have to worry about using extra players if you didn’t want to let Gordon field, because you could still put Punto in at third base and move Michael Young to first, as Mattingly did. Punto ended the inning standing on first as none of the three hitters following were able to move him, wasting a great chance for Gordon to attempt to steal and generate some fastballs.
In the bottom of the tenth, Brian Wilson — who looked absolutely atrocious, to the point that Mattingly and the trainers came out to check on him — walked Ryan Ludwick to start the inning. Baker countered by sending out his own speedy guy who can’t do anything other than run in Billy Hamilton, who immediately stole second. That ended up proving crucial once Todd Frazier singled to right, where even a strong throw by Puig wasn’t close to preventing Hamilton from scoring the winning run.
That’s now three losses in a row, and no, no matter what you hear elsewhere, it’s not time to panic or anything close to it. But I would like it if the bats would decide to start hitting again, because great pitching will take you only so far. Fortunately, there’s still three weeks until the playoffs, so time enough to work that out.