Padres 3, Dodgers 2: Defense Is Important

Before tonight’s game, I talked about PetCo Park being a potential boon to Dan Haren. And, for the most part, it was. But tonight’s game showed the value of defense as the Dodgers fell to the Padres by a score of 3-2 in 12 innings.

So many things happened tonight, but we’ll start from the top. Dan Haren allowed two runs, but both of them were (partially) responsibility of the defense. In the second inning, Haren walked Yasmani Grandal, the leadoff hitter. However, the next batter (Jedd Gyorko) hit a tailor-made double play ball to Dee Gordon. Gordon threw the ball well behind Hanley Ramirez and it skipped all the way to the third base line. Grandal ended up on third and Gyorko ended up on second with nobody out instead of bases empty with two outs. Haren allowed a weak sacrifice fly to Rivera, then got the next two outs pretty easily. There isn’t much more he could have done in that situation, but the run still scored.

The second run was also somewhat the fault of the defense, though not nearly to the same degree. After getting the first two outs in the fourth inning, Haren allowed three consecutive singles to Rene Rivera, Rymer Liriano, and Alexi Amarista. However, on the third single, Andre Ethier bobbled the ball in center. Rivera, a slow catcher, would not have scored if not for the bobble.

Even with the good results, two runs (one earned) in six innings pitched, Haren was pitching in the same method that made people so nervous after his April run. He wasn’t really missing bats (6 swinging strikes, 95 pitches) and two of his three strikeouts were looking. At least he didn’t allow any long fly balls tonight, so it wasn’t really PetCo Park that saved him. He wasn’t great, but the results were fine. 24 innings until his 2015 option vests.

On the other side of the ball, Andrew Cashner flashed some big time stuff. He struck out eight batters (including four in a row at one point) and didn’t walk any. The only run he gave up was after Justin Turner and A.J. Ellis singled and Hanley Ramirez doubled down the right field line. He was fantastic, and hasn’t allowed more than two runs in his last 15 starts at PetCo.

Like Haren, Cashner’s night also hinged on an important defensive play. After Justin Turner doubled off of Seth Smith‘s glove in left to lead off the fifth inning and advanced to third, Dee Gordon came to bat with two outs. Gordon hit a fly ball to very deep right field (seriously, it would have been a home run in many other stadiums. I didn’t know Gordon could do that), but Rymer Liriano made a spectacular leaping catch at the wall to rob Gordon of at least a triple. In such a tight game, moments like that matter a lot.

Looking past the defense and the starters, the biggest story tonight was clearly Hanley Ramirez. He had a great night on offense (a single, a double, and homer), but his physical condition is more concerning. Ramirez was spiked in the ankle by Cashner fielding a force play, and it got worse from there. In the sixth inning, Hanley hit a single to left-center. He was running aggressively, trying to stretch the play into a double or draw a throw. However, as he did so, he tripped on the top of the base and rolled his ankle on the next step. He was in very obvious pain, hopping up and down as he returned to the base (and as he was tagged out, after challenge).

Ramirez stayed in the game while in obvious pain, something which nobody wants to actually see. The decision did pay off, at least in the short term. In the top of the 8th inning against Dale Thayer, Hanley hit a solo home run to the second deck of the Western Metal Supply building (somewhat reminiscent of him hitting the third deck last season at the beginning of the 42-8 run). The home run tied the game at two. Ramirez was limping very visibly as he jogged around the bases and he was pulled before the bottom of the inning. After the game, it was revealed that Hanley had a stiff quad, counter to the appearance of the injury. We’ll know more about the severity of the injury tomorrow.

After Haren’s (and Hanley’s) departure, the bullpen really stepped up. Jamey Wright, J.P. Howell, Brian Wilson, Pedro Baez, Carlos Frias, and Brandon League combined to pitch five scoreless innings, getting the game through eleven innings. Unfortunately, that’s when new long man Kevin Correia was used out of the bullpen for the first time in two years. Correia was greeted with a first pitch single by Amarista, then proceeded to load the bases with one out. That’s when the Dodgers used the infield alignment in the header, with Seth Smith batting. He hit it straight to Dee Gordon, whose throw to the plate was offline. A.J. Ellis managed to step on the plate, but the extra time handling the throw cost them an inning ending double play. Defense, still important. Grandal came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs, and after an excruciating plate appearance which made it to a full count, he singled through the hole between first and second to win the game.

All the while, Kenley Jansen sat in the bullpen. He would have prolonged the game, giving the offense another chance to score. It’s annoying, maddening, but also almost universal. I hate it, you hate it, but managers all do it. Blame Don Mattingly if you must, but know that Joe Maddon does the same thing. Ultimately, you can also blame the offense (which had the bases loaded in the ninth and a runner at second in the eleventh) and more importantly, the defense for getting the team into the situation to begin with.

Tomorrow Zack Greinke‘s elbow gets another test against old nemesis Ian Kennedy at 5:40PDT. At least the odds of the game going this late are extremely slim.

About Daniel Brim

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Daniel Brim grew up in the Los Angeles area but doesn't live there anymore. He still watches the Dodgers and writes about them sometimes.