Well, Zack Greinke was really good, because Greinke is always good. (And also because the plate umpire had a pretty wide zone, though that was pretty consistent for both teams.) He even got two hits! The Dodgers only scored two runs for him, but since he’d allowed just one back, a solo homer to Jhonny Peralta, it seemed like it’d be enough. For a while.
And then everything else happened. Let’s dig into that. As you’d expect, most people are killing the manager for his bullpen choices. And as you’d expect, most people are wrong!
With two out and a man on in the top of the seventh, Adam Liberatore came on to strike out Kolten Wong. He then stayed out for the eighth to face lefty Matt Carpenter, but walked him. At this point, Mattingly came out to bring in Juan Nicasio, which made sense to me, because Nicasio has been great. 1.48 ERA! 2.09 FIP! A lot of people, I think, wanted Kenley Jansen for a six-out save, but that was never going to happen. In part, that’s because that never happens, even when it should. But mostly, it’s because Jansen pitched last night too, and the Dodgers are in the midst of 34 games in 34 days, and if Mattingly had gone to Jansen and it hadn’t worked out, well, I guess the manager is just always damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
Anyway: Nicasio threw a good pitch to Matt Holliday, low and hard and away, that Holliday put just past Adrian Gonzalez into the right field corner. So that was bad, and then it got worse when Yasiel Puig totally whiffed on the ball and allowed the tying run to score and Holliday to get to third. Peralta then singled past a drawn-in infield — it’s almost certainly an out had Jimmy Rollins been playing his regular position — and the Cards were up 3-2.
At this point, Nicasio was getting hurt by bad batted ball luck, bad defense, and some bad pitch selection. (Way too many fastballs.) Nothing that couldn’t have happened to Jansen; of course, then he allowed Mark Reynolds to crush a run-scoring double, and there’s no talking around that. Bad pitch, hit hard. That ended his night; Yimi Garcia ended the inning.
So there’s a difference between bad choice and bad performance. Though it wasn’t entirely his fault, Nicasio didn’t get the job done. That’s totally on him. Was it unreasonable to think that a pitcher who’s been outstanding all season long should have been able to get through an inning? I don’t think so. Would any manager on the planet bring in his closer for a two-inning save after he’d pitched the night before? Of course not. Do I sound like Jim Tracy now? I think I do.
Of course, look at us, talking about the bullpen and not giving nearly enough importance to the fact that the non-Greinke offense managed only five hits off Lance Lynn and friends. That feels like a reason for the loss, you know. Runs are good. Get some. Please.