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By Jon Weisman
It’s not much of a secret — something that anyone might assume with any amount of time spent thinking about it — but covering a live event, you start crafting your thoughts in advance, in anticipation of what seems probable, or even possible.
Even if you’re never going to use them.
So there’s Brandon Beachy on the mound in the bottom fourth inning for the Dodgers. After allowing a two-run homer (the first of the year by Nick Markakis) in the first inning, and despite some control problems, he’s on a bit of a roll. He’s retired his last (let me count) one, two, three, four, five, six, seven hitters, he’s got a 1-2 count on No. 7 hitter Eury Perez, and he’s one strike away from “Beachy has settled down to retire eight Braves in a row.”
And then Perez lays his bat on a 70 mph curveball and directs it to the gap in left center.
Many a baseball pitfall has been born of the words “one strike away,” and sadly, this would be no different. Seeking merely to get Beachy out of the inning, the Dodgers walked the No. 8 hitter, great-field/low-hit Andrelton Simmons, to jump through the escape hatch of pitcher Matt Wisler at the plate. But the hatch wouldn’t open. Beachy would throw three straight fastballs out of the strike zone to the 22-year-old with one career Major League hit, and before long, there was the bases-loading walk.
One strike away. Beachy and the Dodgers were still down by a modest 2-0 score. Maybe Beachy would just do this the long way ’round.
His next pitch was a changeup to lefty leadoff hitter Jace Peterson, who laid his bat on the ball and sliced it onto — yes, onto — the left-field foul line, roughly a triple-jump beyond the infield dirt. Two runs scored on the two-run double.
The next two scenes with Beachy depict him getting that elusive third strike on Cameron Maybin, and then sitting on the dugout bench, talking to himself in anguish.
“The stuff’s there,” Beachy told Dylan Hernandez of the Times. “The stuff feels good. It’s just a matter of executing. It’s frustrating.”
That might have been the end of our story altogether, except the Dodgers mounted a rally, then fell behind again, then mounted another rally (sort of), then another, then … watch the game end with a 7-5 defeat.
In the top of the fifth, a two-run double by Howie Kendrick, followed by a two-run homer by Adrian Gonzalez (his eighth this month, giving him the team lead over Joc Pederson for the first time since May 13), tied the game just like that — only for the Braves to score three times against relievers Adam Liberatore and Joel Peralta.
The climax to the game was one that I wouldn’t have dared write in advance at all. Los Angeles hit no fewer than six singles in the final two innings (that’s 37 singles for the Dodgers in their last three games), but only one scored. Gonzalez was mistakenly waved into an out at home by third-base coach Lorenzo Bundy in the eighth, and Kendrick grounded into a run-scoring double play in the ninth.
Each inning, Atlanta got the last outs it needed. And so we go to try to craft a different tale tomorrow.