I don’t even know what to tell you, honestly. That was one of the longest, most painful games I’ve ever seen in my life. You’d think having your team in the NLCS would be fun, but that was not fun. That was excruciating. It was like having a root canal done, except that your regular dentist was replaced by a far inferior backup who used to be great, while the best dentist around just hung out in reception.
That wasn’t fun. That was 4 hours and 47 minutes of awful.
I suppose we have to at least acknowledge Zack Greinke, who was outstanding, striking out 10 in eight innings — innings which may have been shutout baseball if Andre Ethier had managed to come down with Carlos Beltran‘s two-run double in the third. (An admittedly very difficult play, to be sure.) That’s the 14th consecutive start (and 17th of 18) that Greinke has allowed two or fewer ER, dating back to July, and you can’t ask for more. And of course Juan Uribe drove in the first two runs of the game, and Yasiel Puig made a wonderful inning-ending double play and…
…lord, I don’t even want to think about this. I mean, I write this site, so here I am, but know that I hate everything about tonight, because while I usually defend Don Mattingly, how is that even possible?
There was the bizarre scenario in the eighth, when Adrian Gonzalez walked to lead off the inning… and was immediately replaced by Dee Gordon. Now don’t get me wrong, Gonzalez is an atrociously slow runner. It’s just that in a tie game, in the eighth inning, with the runner not even in scoring position, the chances of Gonzalez’ spot coming up later in the game in a big spot seemed pretty good. The move becomes even more confounding when you realize that having Yadier Molina behind the plate makes stealing all the more difficult, and if you’re not going to try to steal there, well, what’s the point?
Gordon didn’t go, and was forced out when Puig bounced to second, leaving the game tied while the Dodgers had burned both one of their top hitters and their best pinch running threat. As Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register noted, “it’s not second-guessing if we said something right away, is it?”
That of course left Michael Young in to play first, and — surprise, surprise — his two plate appearances both ended in double plays, only making this one of the most damaging appearances in playoff history. Which is exactly what you’d expect.
I’m kind of glossing over the tenth inning play here when Mark Ellis tripled with one out, then was thrown out by Beltran on a Young fly to right, because there’s so much else to get to, but know this: no umpire in the world calls him safe when the ball beats him by that much, and it’s especially hard to complain since Molina arguably did get the tag on.
It just never stopped. In the 12th, Carl Crawford reached base, and (as we all knew he would) Mattingly ordered an Ellis bunt. Think pushing Crawford into scoring position isn’t so bad? Well, it is when the entire world knew it would take the bat right out of the hands of Hanley Ramirez, which it did when he was intentionally walked, and instead give it to Young, and you know how that ended.
And of course, the endless “save your closer for a save situation” choices, and while we shouldn’t gloss over the fact that the bullpen was actually good enough to get this to the 13th, waiting until Chris Withrow had put himself in a huge amount of trouble before calling on Kenley Jansen to face future Hall of Famer Beltran is just asking for a loss.
As usual, I’d like us to remember the other reasons why this goes down as a defeat, from Puig going 0-6 to the team as a whole leaving endless men on base to Nick Punto (and others) failing to do the job to get runs home. Not scoring for the final 10 innings is a pretty great way to lose the game, and almost certainly when taken as a whole is more to blame here than anything Mattingly did.
But after all that, am I going to really defend the man? Absolutely not. Not when that was so painful, and not when it was far from good choices that just didn’t go our way. Bad decisions, poorly thought out, which ended negatively.
And we get to do it all again in, oh, 14 hours. Can’t wait.