Pirates 6, Dodgers 3: Should We Be More Frustrated Or Angry?

puig_pittsburgh_2013-06-16

If it feels like I’ve typed “Yasiel Puig did his job with three hits but almost no one else stood up to support him,” before, well, I probably have. It seems to the be story of Puig’s short career so far, though at least Andre Ethier knocked in a pair today.

Puig had three hits, all singles, but other than Ethier’s pair of hits no one could solve Pirates rookie Gerrit Cole, who really outpitched Zack Greinke on the day. Greinke never really looked good, not getting a 1-2-3 inning all afternoon and throwing 104 pitches in five innings.

The best chance the Dodgers had probably came in the top of the sixth inning, a frame that began rather innocuously when Skip Schumaker and Nick Punto each failed to get on. Adrian Gonzalez hit a ground-rule double and advanced to third on a hard-hit Puig single, then scored when Ethier followed with a single of his own. Tim Federowicz walked to load the bases for Luis Cruz… and Don Mattingly allowed Cruz to hit. No Hanley Ramirez, no Juan Uribe, no Jerry Hairston, no Mark Ellis, just the worst hitter in baseball in the biggest spot of the game. All too predictably, Cruz failed to get the job done, striking out on questionably low pitch.

For three innings, I wondered if Ramirez just wasn’t available to hit, because we know he’s not fully healthy and we don’t have complete insight into his day-to-day status. But then he came out to hit for Alex Castellanos with two outs in the ninth inning, and so it appears he had been available all along. So from where it stands now, Mattingly just simply chose not to replace the atrocious Cruz in a huge spot, and I simply can’t say a word to defend him on that. That’s really not putting your team in the best spot to win.

It should be noted, of course, that simply making a move was no guarantee of success. Ramirez did strike out in the ninth, and it’s not like Uribe or Hairston are terribly appealing options themselves. But games all too often turn on little decisions, and that one stings badly.

The Dodgers have now lost six of eight, as they head into the Bronx after tomorrow’s day off. But hey, that brawl against Arizona totally turned the season around, right?

A Brawl With No Winners Whatsoever

I’m not sure how many of you are hockey fans, but for many years, the NHL has had an ongoing divide on the subject of fighting. Some consider it absurdly dangerous and point out that it would never be allowed in any other sport — seriously, imagine, say, Miguel Cabrera facing off against Joe Mauer, and the umps standing aside to simply watch? — while others consider it a vital part of the game that allows two men to, I don’t know, prove they are men. (Obligatory “what makes a man, sir?” reference here.)

But you know why the NHL hasn’t legislated it out? Because that league is starving for relevance, and fans love it. They absolutely love it, and hockey is in no position to remove anything that stokes fan interest.

That being the case, it’s perhaps not surprising that much of the Dodger fan reaction out of last night’s brawl was overwhelmingly positive, ranging from “the team is finally showing some heart” to “good on Zack Greinke for standing up for Yasiel Puig” to even as far as “this fueled the team to victory,” as though Tim Federowicz wouldn’t have delivered his big hit were he not fueled by some sort of rage.

This is, of course, ridiculous, and even moreso considering that it was Greinke on the mound. Have we forgotten so quickly just how his season was ruined in the first place? We have Puig & Clayton Kershaw, basically the two most important men on this team right now, both potentially throwing punches. (Eric & Chad have your full wrap-up and GIF-fest already taken care of.) They’re risking suspension; worse, they’re risking injury.

That’s not to say that none of this should have happened, because it didn’t end after Puig was hit and Greinke followed up by getting Miguel Montero. That should have been that; Ian Kennedy, who is probably now at a Gerardo Parra and Carlos Quentin level of hate among Dodger fans, had to go after Greinke’s head. That’s unforgivable, will likely earn him a long suspension, and makes the Dodger reaction more than understandable.

But to see Greinke back out there in the middle of another fight, to see Kershaw & Puig risking their health on this, to see Ronald Belisario & J.P. Howell losing it… even if no one gets hurt, this is a roster that is already down to the bare bones, and is likely to lose some incredibly vital pieces shortly.

Sure, it may have been fun to see some “heart” & “life”. No, no one wants their team to simply roll over and die, and like I said, Kennedy’s actions demanded a response. But for the small amount of respect that may have been earned, what’s left of an entire season — careers, maybe — got risked. The math simply doesn’t add up there, does it?

Dodgers 8, Angels 7: A Memorial Day to Remember

greinke_hernandez_2013-05-27Sometimes, you’re just not sure where to start.

But I suppose that’s what’ll happen when you’ve just witnessed what may have been simultaneously the ugliest game of the season and the most uplifting victory of the year, right?

Really, it’s kind of miraculous we’re even bothering to recap the game, because this thing got off to the kind of start that had televisions switching off across the Dodgerland area. Zack Greinke looked terrible from the beginning, allowing two hits in the first — they both scored on this Ramon Hernandez mess, which I’m not going to embed here for all of our sanity — and bright spot Nick Punto looked for all the world like he was injured after getting taken out by Erick Aybar on a tough slide. (Punto later left with a stiff lower back. Of course he did.) What can you do, at that point, but throw your hands up and laugh?

Despite a Scott Van Slyke RBI double in the second, it just got worse from there. The Angels put up a run in the third and three more in the fourth, and Greinke was gone after four innings (plus two men on in the fifth) and ten hits. If you’d stepped away from the game at that point, you wouldn’t be blamed. The Dodgers were down 6-1, the bullpen had been handed yet another long night, and the laughably bad defense continued to struggle, taking over the MLB lead in errors despite being gifted with hits on some plays that clearly could have been called miscues.

Down 6-1, with Matt Guerrier on the mound in the fifth to deal with two inherited runners from Greinke, it hardly seemed like the remainder of the game was worth watching. Even when Guerrier got three outs on nine pitches to strand the runners, it seemed like a tiny silver lining that would be quickly forgotten.

But… there’s the dynamic duo of Luis Cruz & Juan Uribe, who led off the fifth with singles. (Cruz later drew an unintentional walk, his first in 199 plate appearances dating back to last year. For all the oddities we saw tonight, I’m not sure anything tops that.) After a Punto fielder’s choice advanced the runners, Mark Ellis doubled in both; he came in on an Adrian Gonzalez single, and he came in on another Van Slyke double.

Let’s pause here to point out three things that come to mind from that inning:

1 — Gonzalez is just unstoppable. Despite a second inning error that just added to the comedy of miscues, he ended up making several excellent defensive plays around going 4-4 with two doubles. In his last three games, he’s been up 14 times and made exactly three outs.

2 — Matt Kemp is extremely stoppable. He struck out in between the Ellis & Gonzalez plate appearances, one of four times tonight in an 0-5, while also having defensive difficulty in the first inning. I’m not even sure what to say about him at this point, other than that it’s just making me sad. He’s not right, obviously. Will time off help? I can honestly say I do not know, but this is a serious issue.

3 — Two more doubles for Van Slyke, who has been a huge boost to this team. I’m not convinced this is a long-term thing for him, but so far, he’s been outstanding, and I’m glad he’s here.

All of that tied it up at six, which became seven after the teams traded single runs in the bottom of the sixth and top of the seventh. In the bottom of the seventh, newly-activated Jerry Hairston looked to be the hero by pushing across Gonzalez with the eighth run, but even then it wasn’t quite safe; in the top of the eighth, Kenley Jansen and Mike Trout engaged in a long at-bat with a man on first. Trout flew out to Andre Ethier in right, and while Ethier was able to double Aybar off first… it was far from clear that Gonzalez had really managed to get his glove on the runner. But hey, this team deserves some luck and then, don’t they?

With all of that in the books, I’m really not sure what might have happened had Brandon League blown another game. But he retired the heart of the Angel order with relative ease, capping off five innings of what was really excellent relief from Matt Guerrier, Guerra, Ronald Belisario, Jansen, and League.

So to recap: Greinke was terrible, Dodger Stadium saw a record 11 doubles, but also great bullpen work and heroics from Cruz & Uribe. Just what you’d have expected, right?

Brewers 5, Dodgers 2: More of the Same

greinke_onbase_2013-05-21Well, so much for all that “Zack Greinke is a god in Milwaukee” business, beaten out by “Greinke is basically in mid-March form after missing so much time this year”. So while allowing 12 baserunners and needing 90 pitches to get through four innings is decidedly ugly, I won’t really worry about it too much so long as he’s healthy.

Despite Greinke’s poor start, the bullpen managed to pick him up for once with four scoreless innings out of Matt Guerrier, Ronald Belisario, & Javy Guerra. But while Greinke did at least collect two singles tonight, and while I like the idea of having starting pitchers like Clayton Kershaw, Greinke, & Hyun-jin Ryu who might not be total black holes at the plate — that’s Dee Gordon‘s job, no? — we’re once again talking about a Dodger loss thanks to a total inability to score.

Remember, as lousy as Greinke was, he still lasted longer than the 3.1 innings Milwaukee starter Hiram Burgos put forth. But despite 10 hits, not a single one went for more than a lone base, and the Dodgers ending up leaving 14 men on. The middle of the order — that’d be Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, & Andre Ethier — combined to whiff seven times, and given that Greinke drove in one of the two runs, the only hitter who managed to drive home anyone was Nick Punto. They did at least manage to bring the tying run up against Jim Henderson in the ninth, but the Milwaukee closer blew away pinch hitter Scott Van Slyke to end the game.

So here we are yet again, saddened by an impotent offense and little indication of change to come. Don’t forget that they get back right at it with a 10:10am PT matinee tomorrow, followed by a merciful day off on Thursday. Will we get some inevitable news that day? Well, the stories about the axe falling on a certain manager just won’t stop…

Zack Greinke Returning Way, Way Ahead of Schedule?

greinke_dodger_debutZack Greinke will make his first rehab start since breaking his left collarbone tonight for Rancho Cucamonga in Lake Elsinore. (As you’ve probably heard, Scott Elbert will make his debut in that game as well, recovering from two elbow surgeries.)

That’s just under four weeks since he had surgery, and we’re already hearing rumblings that if tonight goes well, he may only need one rehab start and could be in line to start on Wednesday against the Nationals. That puts him on the same timeline as Matt Magill, which could make tonight’s Magill start against Miami the last we see of him for a while — and as much as I like Magill, that would be a very good thing.

Considering that the original diagnosis for Greinke was around eight weeks, or mid-to-late June, this would be a phenomenally quick recovery. Is it too soon? I don’t know, and neither do you; we aren’t doctors and don’t know the specifics of his health. We’ve heard that he’s already thrown two bullpen sessions of 60 pitches where he’s reached 90 MPH, and that all sounds great.

My hope, however, is that he’s nearly ready to come back because he’s nearly ready, and not because the team has lost seven games in a row. We’ve seen that be attempted and fail far too many times — looking at you, Matt Kemp from last year — and it’s the last thing this club needs.

As noted in an MLB.com story on the subject…

“I feel more than you would with a normal arm, but not anything major,” said Greinke, whose start on Friday would come at Lake Elsinore.

I’m cautiously optimistic, and I’m not trying to be the voice of negativity. But I also know that if there’s anything that could go wrong with the 2013 Dodgers, it will. Here’s to hoping Greinke is ready because he’s ready, and nothing more than that.