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By Jon Weisman
So, you’re about to hit publish on a story that says the Dodgers’ eighth-inning magic has disappeared. And then, at the last moment, you look up — and in comes the magic, nearly past deadline but better late than never for Los Angeles.
With the Dodgers trailing by a run and two outs remaining, pinch-hitter Howie Kendrick reached first on a single. Yasiel Puig came up and lined a single to left field that — absolutely stunningly — went past Washington center fielder Michael Taylor, for a two-run Little League home run that gave the Dodgers a 4-3 victory over the Nationals.
Technically, it was a single plus a three-base error — plus that irresistible dash of Puig — that extended the Dodgers’ winning streak to six games.
It’s the fourth time the Dodgers have come from behind in the eighth inning or later during the streak. And it was the fourth completely bizarre play to take place at Dodger Stadium tonight.
Washington had taken the lead an inning earlier — but first, some context.
In the top of the eighth Tuesday, in pursuit of the Nationals’ third run of the game, catcher Wilson Ramos was thrown out at home by the Dodger left fielder.
In the top of the eighth inning tonight, in pursuit of the Nationals’ third run of the game, Ramos made it much easier on himself, launching a 421-foot homer over the Dodger left fielder and taking his time to circle the bases.
That shot broke a 2-2 tie that had lingered since the third inning and put the Dodgers in jeopardy, until Kendrick and Puig turned things around with the help of Taylor, whose night was a complete nightmare. In the top of the ninth, Taylor became the sixth player ever to earn a platinum sombrero against the Dodgers by striking out five times in a game.
While their teenage pitcher Julio Urías worked on the mound, the Dodgers’ youngest and oldest position players scored two runs, the first of them momentous. When 37-year-old leadoff hitter Chase Utley crossed home plate on a wild pitch by Nationals pitcher Joe Ross, it was the 1,000th run of his career.
Completing the Chase … pic.twitter.com/qBZ6lflP1y
— Dodger Insider (@DodgerInsider) June 23, 2016
Then, 22-year-old Corey Seager followed in the third inning with a homer to center, his 16th of the season and seventh of June.
Pitch counts and a couple of long innings again limited Urías to five innings, but once more, he inspired confidence. Only the second inning gave Urías serious trouble, when he allowed back-to-back RBI doubles to the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters, shortstop Danny Espinosa and Ross.
It was in this inning that the first of the wildly fluky plays tonight benefited Urías. With Ryan Zimmerman on second base after a single and wild pitch, Espinosa’s fly to left went over the outstretched reach of Trayce Thompson, bounced off the top off the fence, and then with some gnarly backspin, came back into the field of play.
Three innings later, Ross hit a pop foul down the right field line. Utley ran for it, and it went off his glove. Adrian Gonzalez, backing up the play, nearly smothered the carom between his glove and bare hand, had it slither off his uniform pants, and then snagged it at ankle height for the 4-3 foul out.
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Overall, Urías allowed six hits, walked one and whiffed six, throwing a career-high 94 pitches in five innings, while lowering his ERA to 4.33. He became the seventh pitcher in Los Angeles Dodger history — and by far the youngest — to strike out at least 35 batters in his first six games. Hideo Nomo has the most with 49, followed by Hyun-Jin Ryu (46), Kaz Ishii (41), Don Sutton (36), Eric Gagne (35), Kenta Maeda (35) and Urías.
Two of those strikeouts were at the expense of Bryce Harper, who also provided the escape hatch after Urías allowed a two-out, fifth-inning double to Jayson Werth, getting him to hit two foul balls near the Dodger dugout, the second of which was caught by Justin Turner.
Against Clayton Kershaw and Urías this week, Harper went 0 for 6 with five strikeouts — a fine how-do-you-don’t for someone who was so gracious after meeting Vin Scully today.
Oh, and the third fluke? It was a foul ball by hit by Werth directly back into Scully’s booth.
Legend has it… if Vin throws you a ball, you'll have good luck for 20 years!
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) June 23, 2016
Some lucky fan just got a foul ball dropped by God from the heavens — that is, by Vin Scully from his booth. https://t.co/74Gc8AFtP1
— Jon Weisman (@jonweisman) June 23, 2016