By Jon Weisman
Bud Norris began his Dodger career July 1 by throwing six innings of two-hit shutout ball. That seemed like a nice thing to do, so why not a sequel?
Tonight, Norris threw 6 1/3 innings of two-hit shutout ball — facing the minimum from the third through the sixth — and notched his 1,000th career strikeout in the Dodgers’ 3-2 victory over Tampa Bay.
No Ray advanced past second base against Norris, who struck out six with two walks.
The Dodgers took a 2-0 lead in the third inning against Chris Archer on two Tampa Bay errors and RBI singles by Corey Seager and Justin Turner, who became the first Dodger with back-to-back 20-RBI months since Adrian Gonzalez in July-August 2014.
That score held through the seventh-inning stretch, thanks to Norris and Pedro Baez, who extricated the Dodgers out of a one-out jam created via walks by Norris and J.P. Howell. Opposing hitters are 1 for 37 against Baez in July.
In the bottom of the seventh, Yasmani Grandal put the first earned run of the game on the board by himself with his 14th homer of the season — half of those in his past 16 games.
That run proved critical. Tampa Bay broke through in the eighth inning for two runs on three hits off Joe Blanton and a disputed wild pitch by Luis Avilan. To be clear, no one disputed that there was a Avilan pitch that bounced past Grandal, but the question was whether baserunner Logan Forsythe touched home plate on his finger-first slide. Home-plate umpire Jim Joyce ruled that he did, and replay officialdom backed Joyce.
But Avilan retired two batters with the tying run on third base to preserve what was left of the lead. Like Baez, Avilan is having a quite fine July. Opposing hitters are 0 for 17 with nine strikeouts against him this month (three walks, plus an HBP).
Despite allowing a single and hitting a batter (with a pitch, that is), Kenley Jansen withdrew three ninth-inning outs from his ATM, and the Dodgers improved to 43-42 in games not started by Clayton Kershaw.
With San Francisco leading Cincinnati by five runs in the seventh inning, the Dodgers likely would go to bed 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Giants in the National League West. Interestingly, however, Los Angeles pulled to within three games of the Chicago Cubs for the best record in baseball. The Dodgers have gained 8 1/2 games on the Cubs since June 14.