This pinch-hit Dodger Thoughts post is dedicated to Dave Hansen.
After having nearly nothing go right for them in Friday’s 5-2 loss to the Giants, the Dodgers, despite their best efforts, pulled out a 3-2 win over the Giants Saturday afternoon at AT&T Park. And now they are back to where they were Friday afternoon, 4 1/2 games behind the Giants.
It looked like it would be a game like just about every other game the Dodgers played this week when the Dodgers failed to score in the first after getting the leadoff man and then the Giants pushed across a run with three hits to take a 1-0 lead. Chris Capuano looked to be headed for yet another disappointing start.
Then, Capuano started mowing down Giants hitters, retiring 12 in a row at one point.
Still, there was the small matter of the Dodgers scoring runs off of Matt Cain. The Dodgers hadn’t been able to score much off of anybody. And Matt Kemp was out of the lineup with a sore shoulder that required an MRI.
The luck then started to change a bit for the Dodgers. Gregor Blanco reached first on a bunt single in the fifth, although replays indicated he was out. Cain sacrificed Blanco to second. Blanco then took off for third seeing the base uncovered, but AJ Ellis hustled up the line to take the return throw and tag Blanco. Who was called out. We’ll leave it at that.
Capuano had a one-out single in the sixth. Mark Ellis singled Capuano over to third. With the Dodgers in desperate need of either a sacrifice fly or a wild pitch, they got the former. Shane Victorino’s fly ball to center was plenty deep enough to score Capuano to tie the game.
But, like a typical Dodgers-Giants game, it would not be easy the rest of the way. Buster Posey led off the seventh with a double off of Capuano. Hunter Pence sacrificed Posey to third. Brandon Belt then belted the ball, but right at Capuano’s glove. Instead of line out, it turned in to a 1-3 ground out and Posey scored to make it 2-1 Giants.
The Dodgers got up off the deck in the eighth however. Juan Rivera hit a drive to right that Pence fielded like a guy who is new to AT&T Park. Rivera ended up at second with a double. AJ Ellis sacrificed Rivera over to third, and then Rivera departed for pinch runner Alex Castellanos.
Don Mattingly then called on Bobby Abreu to bat for Capuano. With Adam Kennedy likely done for the year, the Dodgers choices for pinch hitters from the left side, pretty much begin and end with him. (Unless you really like Nick Punto, who is a switch hitter.)
With visions of a 1997 Eddie Murray batting against Rod Beck, Dodgers fans hoped for a sacrifice fly or a wild pitch. This time, they got the latter. Cain’s ball four pitch to Abreu went to the backstop to allow Castellanos to score the tying run, making Charlie Steiner go crazy on radio and starting Rick Monday on a scolding lecture of Posey’s pitch-blocking technique.
The Giants got two on with two outs in the eighth against Ronald Belisario, but Pence fanned to end the inning.
Now, the stage was set for one of the Dodgers most exciting and annoying innings of the season. Adrian Gonzalez hit a drive to deep right that was so far away that even he could get a triple. Hanley Ramirez doubled to give the Dodgers a 3-2 lead. Then, on a ball four to Andre Ethier, Ramirez tried to steal third. He was … not safe. With Luis Cruz up, Ethier tried to steal second. He was … not safe. The Dodgers took a 3-2 lead into the ninth.
Enter Brandon League, the Dodgers closer du jour. He retired Joaquin Arias and Belt, but then gave up a double to Blanco. Pinch hitter Hector Sanchez had a chance to make the Dodgers day miserable. Sanchez hit a line drive, but it ended up in Cruz’s glove, and, for a day, the Dodgers had moved their NL West pennant status from “grave” to “critical.”
The race for the second wild card spot is still going on. The Pirates are playing the Cubs and the Cardinals are taking on the Brewers as this is being posted.
Sunday evening the Dodgers turn to Clayton Kershaw to give them a series win and a level of hope that is slightly above that of “glimmer.” Barry Zito will pitch for the Giants. ESPN will carry the game, so expect lots of discussion about how Terry Francona got along with Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez.
Update: Dylan Hernandez of the Times tweets that Kemp is out with shoulder inflammation and a fraying of the labrum. He may return to the lineup Tuesday.