The Dodgers snapped a season-worst 5-game losing streak comfortably by a 5-1 score in Cincinnati on Tuesday night, but the game wasn’t without some manufactured drama. More on that shortly.
First, the Dodgers scored five runs. It was the first time since Aug. 15 they had accomplished such a feat. They did so on the strength of two 2-run home runs by Jimmy Rollins and Justin Turner (with a Yasiel Puig RBI double to start things off). Rollins finished with a couple hits, while no other Dodger had more than one. The offense was able to make Reds’ starter John Lamb work, as he threw 108 pitches in five innings of work. Getting into a bad team’s bullpen is usually a good thing (as long as they don’t have to face Aroldis Chapman).
On the hill, Alex Wood was his Alex Wood self: 5 2/3 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 88 pitches, 50 strikes, 7/1 GO/AO. Not dominant, but good enough. But in the sixth inning, Don Mattingly went straight to the Jim Tracy book of over-managing. After a 2-out single by Brandon Phillips, Mattingly lifted Wood from the game in favor of Chris Hatcher. He threw a hittable 3-2 slider to Todd Frazier, and Frazier hit it for an RBI double. If A.J. Ellis is able to catch Scott Van Slyke‘s throw, Phillips is out. But he didn’t. With Jay Bruce due up, Mattingly brought in J.P. Howell, who retired Bruce.
The issue here is Mattingly managed this situation like it was a 1-run game in the eighth inning and Wood had thrown 120 pitches. It was a 5-run lead and Wood at 88 pitches. Worst-case scenario is Frazier hits a home run and the Dodgers are down up by three. Even if that happened, I’m betting Wood would (heh) have stayed in to face Bruce. Instead, it took two additional pitchers to get one out in the sixth inning. If the Dodgers’ bullpen had been lights out and Wood had been laboring, OK, I can see it. But I just didn’t understand this decision.
Then came the eighth inning. Juan Nicasio, fresh of a disabled list-stint, got the first two outs without consequence (and a nice pick by Adrian Gonzalez on a bad throw by Turner). Then he walked Joey Votto — not a crime by any means. A first-pitch single by Phillips and walk to Fraizer loaded the bases. Instead of Kenley Jansen, Luis Avilan came in to face Bruce — not the worst decision, but still a little stressful. Avilan got Bruce to strike out swinging on a curveball that might have been the best he’s ever thrown. Ever. Jansen pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning on 11 pitches to finish the game.
The Dodgers improve to 68-56 on the season and hold a 2-game lead on the Giants as of press time. Brett Anderson (7-8, 3.52 ERA) takes on David Holmberg (1-3, 6.57). First pitch from Cincinnati is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. Pacific time.