Nationals 8, Dodgers 5: The Game That Broke Baseball

You probably already know that this game was crazy-pants insane. I could, and perhaps should, just throw this all away and start from scratch, focusing on the high points rather than a more chronological review. But I wrote it, damn it. You’ll read it, I hope, and probably easily find the points where I thought I was done but was so clearly not done. It’s more fun to read a stream of consciousness mental breakdown.

It’s a short week, because of Labor Day, which means that people are working or away on vacation, but not at home blowing a day off of work on a Wednesday. School is fully in session. You weren’t by a television, and if you were, plenty of you are still dealing with the SNLA blackout. Judging by pictures from the park, just about no one was inside Dodger Stadium, either, quite understandably for the reasons outlined above, plus the fact that Carlos Frias is hardly a compelling reason to drop everything and get to the park. There’s no way to find “total eyeballs on a game,” but if there were, I imagine this one would rank pretty low.

Maybe that’s for the best, really, because this one hurt, a lot, at least in the late innings. Frias was spectacular, really more than you could have possibly asked for, throwing six scoreless innings at a very good Washington lineup and needing only 77 pitches to do it. Frias allowed only four hits and a walk; I’m not sure if this will be the high point of his entire career, but if it is, it will be a good one. He’s earned another start. We’ll see if he actually gets one. Either way, good on him.

Frias was all but perfect and still wasn’t in line to get the win, because pitcher wins are incredibly, unarguably stupid, and because when the Dodgers finally broke through against Jordan Zimmermann, who was very good himself, it was in the seventh inning as opposed to the first or fourth or sixth. By that point, Frias was out and J.P. Howell was in, and that shouldn’t diminish Frias’ day in any way.

It’s all good though, because the Dodgers have Justin Turner, who had singled in the second, and who came up in the seventh after Carl Crawford contributed a max-hustle double. Zimmermann pitched inside, with Turner insisting the ball had hit him. He was wrong. Thankfully. Because the next pitch went straight out to dead center field for Turner’s fifth homer, and..


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Turner’s BABIP for the entire season is .400. I hardly need to tell you how unsustainable this is. I’m terrified to see him hit .218 next season. It doesn’t matter right now. He has been absolutely phenomenal, and he’s basically “Mets status: LOL” all by himself.

After Howell’s scoreless seventh, Brian Wilson came in to strike out Nate Schierholtz and Anthony Rendon around a walk to Denard Span. That was enough for Don Mattingly to bring in Kenley Jansen for a four-out save, and while he walked Jayson Werth, he also got Ian Desmond to end the eighth with a fly out to Joc Pederson (who walked once and struck out three times, never putting the ball in play until a sacrifice bunt in the 11th).

…and then he allowed a single to Bryce Harper and a game-tying daytime homer to Adam LaRoche, who looked as shocked as anyone that the ball actually made it out of the park over the left field wall. You can argue, maybe, that Crawford could have set himself up at the wall to make a better jump at it (he seemed to bang into the wall as if he didn’t know where it was), but that’s unlikely at best. There’s just no way that ball goes out at night.

But wait! It gets worse. Jansen got Asdrubal Cabrera to foul out, then after a single and a stolen base, had a bad-hop two-out Span single get past Adrian Gonzalez to bring in the go-ahead run. Gonzalez had a chance at it; on the other hand, the ball was smoked. Since August 1, before today, he’d pitched 11.2 innings, allowing one earned run, and with a 22/2 K/BB. He is unquestionably an elite reliever. If you are expecting absolute, untouched perfection every single time out, it’s just not going to happen. Even Mariano Rivera blew up now and then. It’s hard to watch, but it’s reality, and while Jansen did pitch last night, before that it hadn’t been since last Wednesday. He wasn’t overworked; he’s just a baseball player who got baseball’d.

Anyway, the Dodgers had a shot in the bottom of the ninth, but Gonzalez flew out to right, Andre Ethier existed, by which I mean he walked, Crawford struck out, and our hero Turner flew out to right field to end the game… OR DID HE?

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Bless you, Werth, you bearded weirdo. No, the other bearded weirdo. No, the other one. Instead of ending the game, that allowed Ethier to score the tying run. After Pederson struck out again — his fifth time in seven plate appearance — we were tied after nine. Everything that happens from here on out is Werth’s fault.

On to extra innings. This is going to get stupid.

Pedro Baez looked plenty nasty in getting through the top of the 10th, cleanly, and then things got weird. Let’s go through it. Alex Guerrero, hitting for Baez, grounded out, and then A.J. Ellis walked, because that’s what Ellis does, and it’s why focusing on his batting average and not his on base percentage is silly. Dee Gordon singled Ellis to second and… look, you know I’m a huge fan of Ellis for a lot of reasons. I also don’t think he’d be offended if he saw me write something like “is possibly the slowest man in baseball.” He’s a catcher who has had multiple leg injuries this year. He’s… so… slow.

And yet, with the benefit of expanded rosters, including third catcher Drew Butera on the bench, Mattingly chose not to run for Ellis. That backfired immediately when Yasiel Puig singled to right and Werth bobbled it; while there was no guarantee that a faster runner could have scored on the play, there was a total guarantee that Ellis wouldn’t, and he (smartly) didn’t bother to try, stopping at third. But *then* Mattingly decided to send out Erisbel Arruebarrena to run for Ellis, because… because I have no idea why. It’s incomprehensible. So when Juan Uribe, hitting against Aaron Barrett, struck out, it made a bad decision loom even larger.

Hey, this guy gets it

Look, if we’re going to get weird, let’s get weird. You think I’m writing 2,000 words about this ridiculous game and not including this guy? Of course not.

Jamey Wright managed to not get himself killed in the top of  the 11th — barely — and then Mattingly managed to outdo himself. Crawford and Turner each singled, making for first and second with none out. Pederson was asked to sacrifice bunt, which he did. This was a horrible mistake. It’s not that I have a problem taking the bat out of Pederson’s hands — after all, he’s been a whiff machine — it’s just that what happened next was so, so, so obvious. Matt Kemp, hitting for Wright, was intentionally walked, putting the game in the hands of Butera, who is an atrocious hitter, and as the last catcher, couldn’t really be replaced. (Scott Van Slyke reportedly had left early to attend to his pregnant wife, anyway.) Mattingly exchanged an out and a huge difference in hitting quality for one base. He decided that instead of Pederson or Kemp swinging, he wanted Butera swinging. This is indefensible.

Butera, to his credit, worked the count full, but he eventually popped up. Gordon struck out. Opportunity, lost. Kemp, lost. Game… lost? Well, yeah. Brandon League put four men on. Two scored. I should be mad about that, but I’m not. The game should have never made it to that point. Tyler Clippard got two outs in the 12th, along with a Uribe single, and got two strikes on Crawford…

Oh my god Crawford hit a home run

I don’t even know if anyone is still reading this recap. Are you? Am I? What is reality, anyway?

When Crawford’s game-tying ball just barely cleared the left field fence, the few thousand fans still at the game cheered. I laughed. I mean, how could you not? The game that had seen so much awesome and stupidity and awesome stupidity would keep going. It wouldn’t die. Like we all will.

The funny thing is, that wasn’t even the weirdest thing that happened in the next few minutes. Kevin Correia getting easily and cleanly through the 13th was. So, on to the bottom of the 13th, and Pederson finally getting the bat on the ball to single to left. Correia did his best to sacrifice — he looked awful doing it — but a Nationals error allowed Pederson to advance to second, then to third on a Butera groundout. Then, with two outs, Gordon bunted. He didn’t beat it out. That sounds crazy, I know, a bunt with two outs, but Gordon has been so bad over the last few weeks that I can at least see the thought process there, that he’s at least got a chance to beat out a bunt for a hit. It didn’t work, but I get it.

You can’t count on Correia for that long, though. Fueled by a Turner error and a wild pitch of his own, Correia allowed the go-ahead run to come in when LaRoche grounded out, then two more for good measure when Asdrubal Cabrera absolutely destroyed a ball into the right field bullpen. 8-5.

One final comeback?

At this point, delirium has set in. Maybe Clayton Kershaw would come in to hit a three-run homer with nobody on base, because he’s that damn good. Maybe Puig would hit lefty, because why not. Maybe Mattingly would call bunt after bunt after bunt no matter the situation or the personnel, and it would work. No such luck, though; Blake Treinen got Puig to ground out, and while Gonzalez finally singled for his first hit of the day, Uribe struck out and Crawford grounded out to finally put this thing to bed.

This one hurt. This one hurt a lot. To watch, of course, but also to lose. It’s important to forget that the players aren’t blameless, obviously. They’re the ones who must perform, and they really didn’t, in a lot of big situations (not just Jansen, but the endless runners in scoring position not cashed in). It just hurts more when they aren’t put in the best position to do so by their own management.

In total, this mess went five hours and 34 minutes. The Dodgers used 25 players, the Nationals 26. Here’s how silly this one was:

Source: FanGraphs

What a game. Baseball the worst. Baseball the best.

About Mike Petriello

Mike writes about lots of baseball in lots of places, and right now that place is