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By Jon Weisman
On Saturday in St. Louis, Michael Wacha carried a shutout (OK, a no-hitter) into the seventh (OK, the sixth) inning, then gave up a couple of hits and a huge home run. Sound familiar, anyone?
Sure, the stakes were different in the Dodgers’ 5-1 victory than Game 4 of the National League Division Series, but otherwise it was something of a mirror image of Clayton Kershaw’s final October downfall.
Judging by what he told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny left Wacha in the game mainly to try to get him the “W” next to his name in the boxscore.
“You’ve got that situation there with an opportunity to pitch (Gonzalez) tough, fouled off a lot of pitches and that did, no question, wear him down pretty good,” Matheny said. “At that point we’ve got to try and keep him in that game. Try and get our offense back out there and get him a win. The ball jumped for Grandal and that was the big game-changer.
“If it’s a 1-1 game, it’s Michael’s game.”
Said Yasmani Grandal, who blasted the three-run shot off Wacha, to David Cobb of MLB.com: “It just so happened that [Wacha] made a mistake, probably the only mistake he made all night, and I was able to capitalize on it.”
MLB’s Statcast took a look at Grandal’s tiebreaking homer Saturday and noted that Grandal “has an average exit velocity of 94.5 mph on balls Statcast™ has tracked, which leads all catchers.”
Grandal’s .492 on-base percentage in May is the second-best mark in the National League this month behind Bryce Harper, according to the Dodgers’ PR department, and he is third in slugging percentage (.698), behind Harper (.905) and Paul Goldschmidt (.720).
Grandal also provided benefits behind the plate for the Dodgers on Saturday. Grandal told Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles that starting pitcher Carlos Frias was trying to do too much too soon in his fruitless start a week ago against San Diego.
… “He wanted to use all four of his pitches from the beginning for some reason and I thought we could go with one or two pitches for the first three or four innings and all of a sudden mix in those other two,” Grandal said.
Frias talked about his trust with Grandal, saying he never shook him off Saturday. He was perfectly happy to cede the game plan to his catcher.
“If he’s thinking, he’s probably not doing his job right,” Grandal said. …
Despite an error by Howie Kendrick on his first batter and loading the bases before getting an out, Frias went seven innings and allowed only one run, unearned.
“Last time he was all over the place,” Don Mattingly told Cobb. “Tonight, he seemed to be hitting his spots. He used his slider some. As the game went on, he started using his curveball. That’s the key.”
Here are some more notes from the weekend …
- It’s possible that with their 42 consecutive scoreless innings on the road, the Dodgers only tied, rather than broke, their team record. Bob Timmermann shows his research here.
- Yasiel Puig is likely to give a minor-league rehabilitation assignment another go this week, according to Don Mattingly, as Cobb notes at MLB.com.
… Mattingly said Puig took swings on Saturday against Dodgers reliever Brandon League, who is on the 60-day disabled list with a right shoulder injury he suffered in Spring Training.
“He hit off of League today,” Mattingly said. “He ran curves today. I think Yasiel is moving forward.” …
- Alex Guerrero had an interesting conversation with Bill Plunkett of the Register about the potential arrival of fellow Cuban infielder Hector Olivera.
… “He was asking me how the baseball is here, what are the rules, what’s it like?” Guerrero said. “I told him the baseball here requires a lot of discipline, on the field during games and during your preparation. The best baseball in the world is played here. Fewer mistakes are made (than in Cuba) and you have to have 100 percent concentration from the minute you get to the ballpark.
“I think with our help he’s going to learn quickly and do very well.” …
- Jimmy Rollins spoke to Dylan Hernandez of the Times about being dropped to the No. 8 spot of the batting order and other issues.
… “It doesn’t shake you,” he said. “Being a veteran player, you already have a track record, you’ve already established you can play here. Yes, you still want everybody to know that you can still play here, but you also get that it’s a long season. You can’t get down, you can’t get discouraged.”
Asked whether he has thought he might be finished as a player, Rollins said, “Only on bad days. A bad day is when you have a bad game and your team loses. You have a bad game and your team wins, it’s not. When I say a bad game, you had no idea at the plate and you felt lost.”
How many days like that has he had?
“Maybe one,” he said, smiling.
Regardless of how he performs, Rollins said he recognizes that he’s a placeholder at shortstop, as the Dodgers will one day turn over the position to top prospect Corey Seager.
“It’s not a secret, is it?” Rollins said. …
- Since his 6-for-6 game for Triple-A Oklahoma City, Corey Seager is 0-for-8 with five strikeouts.
- Erik Bedard “made just 70 pitches in his six innings, none over 85 mph” in his latest rehab start for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga, reports Craig Minami of True Blue L.A.
The Dodgers getting Grandal from the Padres looks like a pretty good move.