We’ll get to the frustrating parts of tonight’s 2-1 extra innings losses in a minute, but first, the positive.
Zack Greinke struggled mightily with his control two starts ago. Afterwards, it was revealed that his elbow was “tender.” His next start, pushed back by a few days, wasn’t easy either, though that time he was more hitable than anything else. Greinke is extremely important to any playoff success the Dodgers will have, and his elbow troubles combined with the recent issues mean that any start will be watched extremely closely.
Under the extra scrutiny, Greinke shined tonight. He made it through eight innings (so, so important given how much the bullpen worked yesterday and the extra innings tonight). He allowed just one run (annoyingly, driven in on an Ian Kennedy double). He struck out eight batters and walked two. He also benefited from two outstanding defensive plays as well. First, by Justin Turner:
This one is a particular favorite of mine because I love it when baseball players do extremely smart things. Hanley takes off towards third, gets Cameron Maybin to take a big secondary lead, then doubles back to receive the pickoff throw and get the out with a great tag. It was in a high leverage situation, too, a runner on second with no outs in a tie game in the eighth inning. The play reduced the Padres’ chance of winning by over 18% at the time.
Most importantly, Greinke looked like himself. Even with the loss, that’s important and something to hold onto. The Dodgers will not get far without him, and he was sharp and appeared to be unaffected by whatever is happening inside his right elbow.
Now, for the frustrating parts. Ian Kennedy was decent through his seven innings of work. He made it through the first four innings without allowing a hit, and in the second inning he struck out the side on ten pitches. Any nightmarish Ian Kennedy no-hit scenarios were broken up with a bloop single by Carl Crawford in the top of the fifth. In the following inning, Adrian Gonzalez made the second hit count more than the first, hitting a solo home run deep into right field, his 19th of the year. Yasiel Puig just missed a home run of his own two batters later; in most parks he would have had his first this month. Justin Turner and Zack Greinke added a couple of singles in the seventh and that was it. Kennedy struck out eight batters, but he walked three, none of which the Dodgers were able to cash in.
Being unable to cash in opportunities is becoming something of a theme over the past few days. Tonight, the Dodgers went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. Dee Gordon went 0-for-5 today, and currently is 0 for his last 14. At least Yasiel Puig got a hit after his long fly out, a single up the middle. Matt Kemp came oh so close to putting the Dodgers ahead in the tenth, doubling off of the left field wall (again, a PetCo special) but the Dodgers couldn’t drive him in. Hitting with runners in scoring position isn’t really a repeatable skill (and the Dodgers are actually hitting better with runners in scoring position than with the bases empty this year), but sometimes stuff like this clusters together for whatever reason. It’s maddening.
But, again, the bullpen management. After Greinke made it deep into the game, Don Mattingly used J.P. Howell and Brian Wilson in a high wire act of a ninth inning. In the tenth, he used Jamey Wright, who is not very good at pitching. Wright gave up a single to Will Venable, who stole second on a full count (Butera thought it was a walk and thus did not throw, though it appeared that Venable had the base stolen). Alexi Amarista singled to center, driving in Venable. The Padres walked off in extras for the second night in a row.
Kenley Jansen watched for the second night in a row.
Suddenly, the Dodgers’ lead in the NL West is down to 2.5 games. They will fight off a potential sweep tomorrow with Hyun-jin Ryu against Eric Stults, who is one of the worst pitchers in baseball this season. A win before the series against the difficult Nationals is important.