As far as “pitchers helping themselves” go, I’m not sure you’re going to do much better than Clayton Kershaw hitting a homer to break a 0-0 tie while pitching a shutout on Opening Day last year. (Well, recently, anyway. If we’re going back into history, Tony Cloninger driving in nine on two homers and a single while pitching a complete game in 1966 is pretty much the best thing ever.) But Hyun-jin Ryu sure did his best today, even though it sure looked like this was going to be a nondescript Dodger loss after he allowed a two-run homer to Ryan Raburn in the fourth inning to open the scoring.
In the bottom of the fifth, Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer, who had more or less been cruising to that point, having allowed only singles to A.J. Ellis and Ryu, retired Scott Van Slyke and Carlos Triunfel around a Miguel Rojas single. Ryu stepped in, and on the second pitch he saw, doubled to left center, scoring Rojas. As Vin Scully repeatedly reminded us, had Bauer merely retired his opposite number on that pitch, he’d have been through the fifth on a tidy 12 pitches. Instead, the floodgates opened. Dee Gordon walked. Ellis walked. With the bases loaded, Andre Ethier — poor, unloved, unproductive Andre Ethier — singled in Ryu and Gordon, putting the Dodgers on top 3-2. Ryu would go on to pitch seven effective innings, making just the one mistake.
But! The bullpen still exists, and you best prepare yourself for a slew of “Brian Wilson is the worrrrrrrrrrrst” reactions from your friends and co-workers, even though that’s not, you know, accurate. Yes, he had some tough games early in the season. Yes, a 4.66 ERA entering today looks bad, as though we don’t already know that ERA for relievers is useless. Here’s the actual facts: in his last 19 games (yes, arbitrary endpoints, though aren’t they all?), stretching back six weeks or so, he’d pitched 16.2 innings with an 18/7 K/BB and one single earned run. No, that doesn’t mean he’s “fixed,” no, that doesn’t mean he’s obviously the right choice, but it does mean that when you hear people talking about cutting him or DFA’ing him or whatever, they’re just uninformed.
Not that the eighth inning went well, of course.
From the ESPN game log:
- M Brantley walked.
- M Brantley stole second.
- C Santana walked.
- Y Gomes struck out swinging.
- D Murphy hit for R Raburn.
- D Murphy singled to left, M Brantley scored, C Santana to second, C Santana to third, D Murphy to second on throwing error by left fielder M Kemp.
- L Chisenhall intentionally walked.
- M Aviles singled to right, C Santana and D Murphy scored, L Chisenhall to second, L Chisenhall to third advancing on throw.
- N Swisher hit for B Shaw.
- J Howell relieved B Wilson.
- M Aviles stole second.
- N Swisher struck out looking.
- J Kipnis flied out to left.
So there’s a lot happening there, of course, namely that walks are bad. (Do note that one was intentional, when you see “3” in the box score.) Neither of the hits were particularly crushed so much as they were well-placed; the throwing error didn’t help either, though that’s just as much on Carlos Triunfel as it is on Matt Kemp. (Triunfel couldn’t be bothered to turn around to look for the throw from the outfield, and could have easily been charged with three errors today, including dropping a great Ellis throw on Aviles’ steal, rather than the one he got.) So no, Wilson wasn’t good. I’m not pretending he was. Let’s just keep some perspective there.
Really, the bigger issue I had was that Wilson was left to pitch as long as he did. J.P. Howell has been outstanding, and he hadn’t pitched in a full week, throwing 11 pitches last Wednesday in Kansas City. Michael Brantley is a lefty hitter who isn’t great against lefties. Carlos Santana is a switch-hitter who hits all pitchers, though he’s slightly better against lefties, so fine. Yan Gomes is a righty with a traditional platoon split. So okay, maybe you give Wilson those three hitters. But David Murphy and Lonnie Chisenhall are lefties with huge difficulties hitting lefties, and it’s difficult to understand why Howell wasn’t brought in right then and there. I’m really, really hoping that Don Mattingly didn’t look at Murphy being 2-5 against Howell — with one of those singles coming in 2008 — and thinking it was a bad fit. I’m terrified that’s what it was.
Scott Van Slyke continued his great season by hitting a solo homer to cut the deficit to one in the bottom of the inning, as well as throwing out a runner at the plate earlier in the game, but that just cut the deficit to one.
At least the ninth inning was interesting.
It didn’t end up working out, obviously, but the ninth is worth mentioning too. Yasiel Puig flew out to right on what was pretty clearly ball four, and then Cody Allen got Dee Gordon swinging. Down one, Hanley Ramirez hit for Ellis, which I suppose is defensible in that you are down one with two outs and Ramirez is more likely to put the ball out of the park. But of course, Allen isn’t dumb, so Ramirez walked, and here’s where things became… weird. Ramirez, of course, is not healthy. He clearly isn’t able to run at full speed. Yet with only backup catcher Drew Butera on the bench and apparently no interest in calling on a pitcher to run, Mattingly had to leave him in. So when Ethier doubled, watching Ramirez do his best to motor around to third was alternately exhilarating and terrifying. (Mostly the latter.) Unfortunately, with the tying run 90 feet away, Kemp flew out to the warning track in right center to end it. Ramirez’ return from his inevitable DL stint has now been pushed back by a day.
We should remember that despite the two bad losses in the last 24 hours just how far the Dodgers have come in the last few weeks. We’d all be thrilled to think they’d be a game out at this point. Things are still looking very good. Of course, they now move on to Colorado, where nothing bad ever happens. How frustrating.