It wouldn’t be a 2014 Dodger game without some stress. This game was close as well, but the ending overshadows everything else. With a runner on third and two outs in a tie game in the ninth, Jeff Baker sent a fly ball to left over Yasiel Puig‘s head. With the game on the line, Puig jumped for the ball. He missed the catch by inches and the Marlins won. More importantly, Puig was injured on the play. The ball, caroming off the wall, hit Puig in the face. He also crashed into the narrow padding strip of the wall shoulder-first. As the Marlins were celebrating their victory, Puig was helped off the field by trainer Stan Conte. The specific injury (head, shoulder, etc) was unclear at the time of the play. There will be more on this to come, I’m sure.
UPDATE: Per Ken Gurnick, concussion tests on Puig were negative. He also landed hard on his ankle and hit the wall hard with his leg. Puig is currently being listed as day-to-day, but it’s almost guaranteed that he will sit tomorrow.
The game’s end overshadowed what was a surprisingly good match-up between Stephen Fife and Jose Fernandez. Tasked with an emergency spot start, Fife looked okay on the mound today. His biggest issue was the long-ball. He allowed three, including two to Giancarlo Stanton. It turns out that you shouldn’t throw fastballs down the middle to Stanton. Weird. The second home run left Stanton’s bat at 114 MPH, per the Marlins’ broadcast. Christian Yelich also hit one to the second deck in right. Fife lasted six (plus) innings. He struck out five batters and walked one.
The “plus” part wasn’t without its controversy. Fife hit for himself leading off the top of the seventh after throwing 97 pitches in his first six innings. In a vacuum, the decision was puzzling, but the bullpen threw 102 pitches yesterday and 172 pitches two days before that, so it’s hard to fault Don Mattingly too much for trying to squeeze some additional outs from his starter. Fife didn’t make the decision look better in hindsight, walking Adeiny Hechavarria and hitting Reed Johnson before being removed for J.P. Howell, who got all three outs without allowing the inherited runners to score.
Jamey Wright contributed a scoreless eighth before allowing the winning run to score in the ninth. Kenley Jansen would probably have been a better choice to pitch in the ninth, but if the game went into extra innings only getting one inning from the long man would have shortened the game considerably. It was potentially still the wrong choice, but at least it was defensible.
On offense, the Dodgers actually hit Fernandez pretty well. All three of the runs against Fernandez were scored with two outs. Two runs scored in the third, including Puig on a passed ball. In the sixth, Carl Crawford doubled in Adrian Gonzalez, and after an intentional walk to Juan Uribe, Drew Butera was left to bat with the bases loaded and two outs. Nearly all managers in baseball would leave in Butera in that situation, but one can’t help but think about Andre Ethier‘s chances in that situation instead, especially since the Dodgers pinch-hit for Butera in the ninth. After all was said and done, Fernandez lasted seven innings, striking out 10 batters but walking 4.
There was a bit of a subplot between Hanley Ramirez and Fernandez during the game as well. In the first inning, Hanley hit a comebacker. Fernandez knocked it down with his bare hand, then stared at Hanley before throwing him out. Ramirez seemed to take a bit of offense to the stare, yelling something at Fernandez before returning to the dugout. Hanley singled against Fernandez in the third, driving in the Dodgers’ first run. The pair faced off again in the top of the sixth. Fernandez struck out Hanley looking on a nasty outside slider. The pair smiled at each other as Hanley walked back to the dugout.
After Fernandez was removed, the Dodgers failed to score against Mike Dunn in the eighth, but they tied the game up in the top of the ninth. Against A.J. Ramos, Chone Figgins walked. Ethier blooped a ball into right field. Stanton dove for the ball, but missed. The ball got past Stanton and Figgins scored from first. Unfortunately, the Dodgers couldn’t bring in the go-ahead run from second base with no outs and the game ended with Puig crashing into the fence in the ninth.
In random procedural news, Nick Buss was claimed off waivers by the Athletics today. If he ends up at the big league level, he’ll get to unite with hitting coach Chili Davis, who inspired Buss’ middle name. It’d be a cool moment, if nothing else.