If I get this stressed out about a regular-season game with a 4 1/2 game lead, I can’t imagine what a Dodger-Giant playoff series would do to me. The Dodgers dropped the first game of this 3-game series by a 5-2 score.
Dan Haren pitched extremely well — well enough to have his 2015 option vest, thus becoming a player option. Translation: Haren will be a Dodger in 2015, barring an unlikely trade. Haren’s contract for 2015 will be for $10 million with the same performance incentives he had this season: $250,000 each for 24, 27, 30 games started, and $500,000 for 32 games started. He also could earn $250,000 each for 150, 160, 170 innings pitched and $500,000 each for 180, 190 IP. As long as he’s pitching well, who cares?
Haren threw one of his best games of the season at just the right time: 7 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 1 HR, 100 pitches, 65 strikes. He allowed a leadoff home run to Gregor Blanco (I still can’t believe that one went out, but the one Adrian Gonzalez hit in the bottom of the first didn’t) and after an error by Matt Kemp in the third inning, Joe Panik dragged a bunt up the first base line to allow Blanco to score, hence the somewhat odd line Haren posted.
The eighth inning was stressful, but not nearly as stressful as the ninth. In the eighth, J.P. Howell, who struggled mightily in Chicago over the weekend, got the first two outs of the inning before allowing a soft line-drive single to Panik. That brought Buster Posey to the plate and Don Mattingly out of the dugout. He summoned Brian Wilson, because why not? After a 5-pitch walk to Posey, Wilson fell behind 3-0 to Pablo Sandoval and surely looked like there’d be a bases loaded showdown with Hunter Pence. But, Wilson battled back and got Sandoval to ground out harmlessly to shortstop. Sergio Romo got Yasiel Puig, Gonzalez and Kemp to go down 1-2-3.
In the ninth, minus his plus-command, Kenley Jansen issued a leadoff walk to Hunter Pence. After a battle with Brandon Belt that ended with a strikeout and a harmless popout by Juan Perez, a hard ground ball by Crawford got under the glove of Dee Gordon at second base. It was a ball he absolutely should have gloved. Thankfully, Jansen struck out Travis Ishikawa to end the threat.
Ramirez led off the bottom of the ninth with what looked like a walk-off home run, but the marine layer gobbled up that fly ball (as well as three fly balls hit by Gonzalez tonight).
Every inning got more stressful, as the 10th brought Scott Elbert into a big spot. He got a ground out before giving up a single to Panik. In came Brandon League to face Posey. League allowed a ground ball single to Posey and Don Mattingly left League in to face Sandoval. Lefties destroy League, but not this time, as he got the inning-ending double play. Yet another sigh of relief.
Onto the 11th, which — you guessed it — was really stressful. I’ll spare you the details and just show you this:
And Gordon’s reaction.
But it was short-lived, as the Giants took advantage of the fact the Dodgers have Kevin Correia on their roster. In the 13th inning with Brandon Belt at second base with one out, Mattingly opted to intentionally walk Crawford (because when does that ever not come back to haunt a manager) and pitch to Andrew Susac. He promptly singled to left and Carl Crawford uncorked a bad throw. But that wasn’t even the worst part. Blanco doubled down the right field line. Crawford scored and Susac got held at third. Blanco thought Susac would be running, so he got about two-thirds of the way to third base before slamming on the brakes. Gordon received the throw from Kemp and lobbed the ball into Erisbel Arruebarrena at second base. While that happened, Susac scored and Blanco was tagged out. Gordon had about the worst defensive game a second baseman could have tonight, and he didn’t fare much better at the plate.
The Dodgers miss a chance to cut their magic number to one. It sits at three as they send Zack Greinke (15-8, 2.76 ERA) to the mound to take on Madison Bumgarner (18-9, 2.91). First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. Pacific time. If they can somehow win, I like their chances of clinching the NL West on Wednesday with Clayton Kershaw pitching. But that’s a big if.