The Dodgers are starting the second half of the season in a continuously frustrating pattern. Again struggling with runners in scoring position (1-for-5 today), they dropped the second game against the Cardinals by a score of 4-2.
The day did not start well for Dodger starter Zack Greinke, who is usually so dependable. He walked lead-off batter Matt Carpenter after getting ahead of him 0-2. Kolten Wong reached on a Dee Gordon throwing error. Matt Holliday drove in two runs with a single, then Matt Adams pulled a two run homer down the right field line. Four batters, four runs, no outs. Moments like this can serve to remind us just how impressive Greinke’s long streak of allowing two runs or fewer was. It could have been broken at any time in an instant, just like what happened today.
Greinke didn’t allow any runs after the terrible start to the game, but he didn’t look quite like himself through the rest of his 5-2/3 innings of work. His control has been so good this season (22 unintentional walks in 118-2/3 innings before today), but he walked five today. He only struck out three. Greinke’s FIP this season was 2.92 before this start. His FIP for the game was 7.02, raising his full-season value to 3.11. It wasn’t a complete disaster, but it wasn’t pretty. If he wasn’t such a good fielder, it would have been even worse.
The best part of Greinke’s start was this play, which happened on the last pitch of his outing:
Greinke threw a 58mph eephus to the pitcher in an obvious bunt situation. The pitcher, not knowing how to square up the perfectly placed eephus pitch, popped it up. Greinke played it halfway, so the batters didn’t know if they could advance. He caught the ball and doubled off the runner at second. As minor as it was, it has to be my favorite play of the year.
Unfortunately, that play was pretty much the best thing to happen for the Dodgers today. Dee Gordon manufactured a run by himself (singled, stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch, scored on an “infield single” which should have been ruled an error), and that was as close as it came. Joe Kelly pitched seven innings and wasn’t amazing (4K, 1BB), and the Dodgers continued to struggle with situational hitting (1-for-5 with runners in scoring position). Temporary struggles with runners in scoring position will work themselves out with time (it isn’t a skill which players have shown an ability to permanently maintain) but it certainly isn’t fun now.
Oh, and Yasiel Puig is hurt. In the eighth inning, the Dodgers were staging a mini-rally against lefty Sam Freemon. After a Justin Turner walk and a Dee Gordon double, Carl Crawford came in to bat against a left-handed pitcher. In general, you have to pull Crawford for Matt Kemp in that situation. It’s the only thing which would make Crawford starting okay. But Kemp pinch-hit for Puig after a Crawford sacrifice fly instead. Puig was hit in the hand earlier in the game by Joe Kelly (of course it was Joe Kelly). The Dodgers reported to the media that Puig left the game with a “sore left hand.” Here’s hoping that the inevitable X-Rays are negative.
Puig’s removal also continued to cloud the picture of what on earth is happening in the outfield. Scott Van Slyke started the game in center. Once Puig was removed, instead of putting Kemp in right and leaving Van Slyke in center, Don Mattingly did the reverse. Kemp hasn’t played right field in a game yet, but if Van Slyke is better in center with Kemp in left, then it would stand to reason that he would still be better in center while Kemp is in right field… right? This is so convoluted.
Luckily, we’ll be treated to a Clayton Kershaw start tomorrow. He’ll be pitching against Carlos Martinez on ESPN in the evening. Even with the team sputtering, the thoughts of a Clayton Kershaw start makes things a little bit better.