If not for an awful throwing mistake by Hanley Ramirez in the first inning, Clayton Kershaw would have been working on a shutout today. Ramirez airmailed what looked to be a relatively simple throw, but wasn’t charged with an error because “you can’t assume a double play” and no runners advanced.
Then again, if not for Skip Schumaker robbing Russell Martin of a three-run homer in the seventh inning, as you can see above, Kershaw wouldn’t even have left with a lead… so I think Kershaw would be happy to call it even, right?
But Kershaw didn’t get the shutout, and he didn’t even get the win, because after Chris Withrow & Paco Rodriguez combined to allow a run in the eighth, new closer Kenley Jansen came in to strike out Garrett Jones and… give up a game-tying blast to Travis Snider on an absolute meatball. And that’s the danger of insisting someone must be closer, isn’t it? They’re still humans, and they’re still imperfect. For whatever reason, closers are held to standards that no other players are, and while Jansen is unquestionably the best Dodger reliever, today wasn’t a great day for him.
Jansen got out of the inning without losing it entirely, and after the Dodgers went down easily in the top of the tenth, the Pirates managed to get Martin to first with two outs against Peter Moylan. Neil Walker doubled to deep right field, and the Dodgers caught a break for once if only because of the reputation Yasiel Puig already has. Puig had to slide to get the ball and threw it far up the third base line from deep in the corner, but Martin had already stopped at third, not daring to test Puig’s arm. Moylan intentionally walked Pedro Alvarez, but managed to get Mike McKenry to fly out to end the threat.
That brought up the eleventh, and fortunately we didn’t have to wait all that long to see Jansen get bailed out. Andre Ethier kicked it off with a double to right; after a Mark Ellis sac bunt — which I didn’t love, but I’ve seen worse — Juan Uribe was the hero by knocking in the go-ahead run with a single. Nick Punto added an insurance run with a double, and the lead was 5-3.
But the lead still needed to be held, and that gave Don Mattingly the unenviable choice of keeping Moylan in for a second inning or going to Brandon League, Matt Guerrier, or Ronald Belisario. I can absolutely not think of a less appealing set of options for the embattled manager there, and there’s really just no right answer.
Mattingly went with League, and… well, it wasn’t pretty. He allowed Snider an infield single when he failed to either cover or touch first base in time — replays showed Snider was probably out, but by an eyelash at most — and then when he induced a grounder to second that Ellis flipped over, Ramirez couldn’t get enough on the throw to turn two. After yet another infield single, A.J. Ellis couldn’t handle a pitch in the dirt — it has not been a good season on defense for A.J., I must admit — moving the runners up for the dangerous Andrew McCutchen… who mercifully grounded to Uribe.
With two outs, Gaby Sanchez hit one to deep left, and for a brief second I’m sure I was thinking what you all were… but Schumaker managed to track it down for the victory.
Moylan with the win, League with the save. Just… how we all drew it up?
Lost in all of this is that as we all pretty much expected, rookie Brandon Cumpton completely confused the Dodger offense, striking out the first three and five of the first six. When you’re making your major league debut, and you can say that you whiffed Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, & Ramirez in your first two innings, you can probably be satisfied with your day. But the Dodgers eventually did get three runs off of him, on a few singles and a sacrifice fly, setting up the fireworks in the late innings.
In other news, per a tweet from Peter Gammons and confirmed by Dylan Hernandez, catcher John Baker has been claimed by the Dodgers. Baker was Nick Hundley‘s backup in San Diego until May 28, when he was optioned to Triple-A to make room for Yasmani Grandal‘s return from suspension. He played just four games with Tuscon before being DFA’d on Monday when the Padres needed a 40-man spot for Logan Forsythe.
Baker hit .150/.261/.150 in 46 plate appearances for the Padres in 2013, and has a .258/.342/.364 line in parts of six seasons for the Marlins and Padres, who acquired him after 2011 for pitcher Wade LeBlanc. He’ll take the open 40-man spot vacated by Ramon Hernandez and report to Albuquerque, helping to avoid some of the depth issues that we discussed the other day. The reign of Matt Wallach is held off for a little longer. Interestingly enough, Baker was at first thought to be the cause of Jerry Hairston‘s mad dash across the field during the infamous Zack Greinke / Carlos Quentin brawl in April, though Baker was strenuous in his objections that he hadn’t done anything wrong.