It should be remembered that Reds lefty Tony Cingrani got the first two outs of the fifth inning, getting Chone Figgins to ground out and Hanley Ramirez to strike out looking. At the time, the game was 3-2 in favor of the Dodgers, though they’d put up two in the previous inning thanks to two hits, a walk, a wild pitch, and a sacrifice fly. But Cingrani fell apart right then and there, walking Yasiel Puig, then putting him on second when he threw away a pickoff attempt. He followed that by walking Matt Kemp, but managed to get two strikes on Scott Van Slyke, who had already crushed a ball into the seats in the second inning.
One more strike, and the inning is over. It’s a different game. Cingrani never did get that strike. Instead, he got this:
The home runs were the 14th and 15th of Van Slyke’s career, the second time he’s had two in one game (the first, last May 17 in Atlanta, was a Paul Maholm start), and a stark reminder that hey, the Dodgers don’t have four outfielders in the major leagues. They have five. Van Slyke, who also walked twice and singled, now has a season line of .278/.435/.625.
I’m legally obligated to remind you that he’s done this in fewer than 100 plate appearances, and that his damage is almost entirely against lefties (he has six hits, all but one a single, in 33 plate appearances against righties), so let’s try to slow the roll on any “he should be a starter” talk. But what he’s unquestionably done is prove his value on this team. For years, we’ve been bemoaning the lack of bench quality on this team, and considering that Miguel Rojas and Jamie Romak still exist, that time hasn’t exactly passed. This team didn’t even have a backup first baseman entering last year, remember. This is much, much better.
This somewhat overlooks the rest of the game, but what the hell, this is Van Slyke’s night. Puig, back in the lineup after his hip injury, reached twice and didn’t look at all limited when running after Cingrani’s error. Dee Gordon, pinch-hitting in the ninth after his hip injury, beat out an infield grounder to shortstop, before getting caught stealing. Like Puig, he looked fine. On the mound, Dan Haren was perfectly fine in making it through 5.1 innings, though he allowed a homer for the sixth start in a row. Special notice probably needs to go to the bullpen, since J.P. Howell, Brandon League, and Kenley Jansen combined to throw 3.2 scoreless innings to finish it off, with League pitching his way out of a terrifying “bases loaded, none out” situation in the eighth by inducing a Ryan Ludwick double play and a Brayan Pena grounder.
Oh, and Kemp, who we spent so much time talking about earlier today? He merely doubled, walked twice, and scored two runs. I think it’s going to be okay.