Before we get into it, we should at least note that Atlanta starter Mike Minor was outstanding tonight, taking advantage of a large strike zone that worked for both starters to hold the Dodgers to a single run over 6.1 innings, inducing two big double plays. Hanley Ramirez doubled twice, pushing across Mark Ellis with the first run of the game, and then homered later, but for the most part the Dodger offense was quiet. When you talk about why they are going back to Los Angeles tied at one instead of possibly up 2-0, don’t forget about the fact that the non-Hanley offense didn’t do the job.
What, what, what happened in the bottom of the seventh? It’s such a mess that I had to show the full listing over to the right, because the decision-making that went into what was at the time a 2-1 deficit is just indefensible.
…and then it got weird. Jose Constanza came on to hit for the pitcher. He’s a lefty, and he is terrible, so Don Mattingly brings in lefty Paco Rodriguez. Fine. Fredi Gonzalez counters by bringing in righty Reed Johnson. Rodriguez, it should be noted, doesn’t really have platoon splits. I mean, he does in the sense that he’s death on lefties, but over his career he’s .196/.292/.337 against righties, so it’s not like he’s a typical LOOGY, and Johnson is old and busted.
And Mattingly sends out the intentional walk sign. With Jason Heyward on deck… who is only one of the most talented young hitters in baseball. Now I get it, Heyward is less effective against lefties than he is on righties, but at a certain point common sense overwhelms the book. Reed Johnson with two on, or Jason Heyward with the bases loaded. This isn’t even a conversation. It shouldn’t be. Why are we even having to talk about this?
This isn’t second guessing, either. Before a single pitch was thrown, my entire Twitter feed exploded in a sea of “WTF” fury. When I said this, again before a pitch was thrown, it resulted in more retweets than I think I’ve ever had on Twitter:
— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) October 5, 2013
Why? Because it’s so unbelievably obvious that the fact that a major league manager should never even have considered such a thing. This shouldn’t be complicated. Heyward, predictably, smacked a hard grounder right up the middle, scoring two. I couldn’t even be mad at Rodriguez about it, because how could you be?
Down 4-1, Ramirez then came back and hit a two-run homer in the top of the eighth, so if you think that those extra runs in the seventh didn’t matter, well yeah, they did, especially with Craig Kimbrel coming out to finish it off.
Again, the double plays hurt, the lack of offense hurt, and there’s not at all a guarantee that Johnson doesn’t get a hit himself and drive in runs. But when you make a call that pretty much everyone knows is going to be a terrible idea before it happens… and then it ends up being terrible, it’s pretty hard to defend. (Especially when he’d previously failed to hit for lefties Carl Crawford or Skip Schumaker in big spots against lefties earlier.)
All of this was a prelude to the ninth inning, when A.J. Ellis managed a walk off Kimbrel, then was run for by Dee Gordon. Pretty much everyone in the 50 states knew that Gordon was going, and he did… only to be thrown out. Maybe. I’m sure you’ll see a billion replays, and my heart says that he was safe, but if I’m being honest, it was far from as clear of a mistake as many are making it out to be. Did the tag come down on Gordon’s hip? I think it might have. The ump disagreed, though I had to wonder why Mattingly wasn’t out there melting the ump’s face off.
That loss is more of a stomach punch than I think we’ve had in some time. It’s not all on Mattingly. But it’s a lot on Mattingly, and that’s never good.
With the loss, there’s now guaranteed to be a Game 4 on Monday, and suddenly Hyun-jin Ryu‘s Game 3 start on Sunday looms just a bit larger. I’ll be there to see it. Let’s hope it’s a win.