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Friday, May 16, 2008

Dodgers Drowning In a Sea Spilled From A Cup An Ex-Phillie*: Angels 4, Dodgers 2

In case you can't tell, I was hoping and praying that Gary Bennett, who had spent his entire career in the National League, had spent some time in Chicago, as it would have made the headline that much funnier. As it was, Bennett's fourth-inning, two-out throwing error on Erick Aybar's strikeout (about ten feet over James Loney's head) proved to be the Angels' first run, and emblematic of the kind of night the Dodgers, and Hiroki Kuroda in particular, were having. Kuroda pitched well in front of a full house (the Angels' fifth sellout), but two things really hamstrung the Dodgers offensively:
  1. Joe Torre's lineup construction. No, really:
    1. Juan Pierre, LF
    2. Andruw Jones, DH (!)
    3. Matt Kemp, CF
    4. Jeff Kent, 2B
    5. Russell Martin, 3B
    6. James Loney, 1B
    7. Andre Ethier, RF
    8. Luis Maza, SS
    9. Gary Bennett, C
    This is a lineup? Three of the one-through-four hitters are all struggling. This is giving up outs at the top of the lineup. This is believing your own press releases. This is simply inexcusable.
  2. Where was Delwyn Young? Bad enough that Andruw Jones was put in as the designated hitter, good God, but ... can't Torre read? I mean, he was an American League manager for so many years, certainly he must have heard about this. The second word — hitter — means someone who can hit. Not someone who used to be able to hit.
All of which is to say that, even despite Mike Scioscia spotting Torre a friendly Gary Matthews, Jr. in the two hole (who actually did surprisingly well, going 2-for-4) and a dubiously effective Vlad Guerrero in the three hole (reaching only on a wild, scoring fielder's choice in the seventh, about which more presently), and the apparently now-mandatory presence of Robb Quinlan (who had a decent night at the plate, 1-for-3 with a walk) — even despite all these things, the Angels won anyway. I don't know if you call that being outmanaged, but it sounds awfully similar to that to me.

Russell Martin, impressed into service at third, made his major league first error at that position, allowing Robb Quinlan to reach and ultimately arrive at second as Martin threw one away on a tough play he would have better kept in his pocket. It was impressive to see Martin reach the ball at all, testifying to the kind of exceptional athleticism he brings to the game. The two-out error in the sixth proved harmless, as Kuroda got Mike Napoli to fly out to left to end the frame.

More evidence for Torre being outmanaged came in the seventh. Kuroda was clearly tiring: not only did he walk leadoff man Maicer Izturis, but he uncorked a pair of 50-foot wild pitches during Gary Matthews, Jr.'s at-bat that easily got Izturis to third. Matthews bounced out harmlessly to second on a weird play that went 3-4 at first, but then Vlad's turn at bat came up. Vlad pasted a ball over the third base bag that third base umpire Bruce Dreckman ruled foul; Terry Smith in the Angels radio booth claimed that replays showed it fair over the bag, and the crowd howled its displeasure. So did Mike Scioscia, who argued vigorously for several minutes.

In the end, it didn't matter, because Vlad bounced the ball to Martin, who threw a dart to Bennett, waiting just on the third-base side of home plate. Izturis set himself for a low slide and knocked the ball loose from Bennett, which not only allowed him to score but Vlad to reach. It was an ugly play, and one that should have been unnecessary had Dreckman made the right call, but it probably worked out for the best for the Dodgers anyway, since Vlad probably would have scored from second on Garret Anderson's ensuing single. That single came off Joe Beimel against the only batter he faced, and marked the first time this year he has failed to get at least one out in any appearance.

It's more of a guideline†

The rest was denoument to Joe Saunders' excellent game; aside from the two-run jack he allowed in the seventh to Andre Ethier, no Dodger got past second base in his successful bid to become the Angels' first seven game winner, and, unless I'm wrong, the first in the AL as well. He walked a couple and only struck out one, predictably Andruw Jones; you could tell the Dodger fans in the audience by the boos when Jones came up to bat. Jones was also involved in one of the most boneheaded baserunning blunders I've ever seen, reaching on Erick Aybar's bad throw to lead off the fourth. He then turned left toward second, making him fair game for Casey Kotchman — who had alertly picked up the baseball and tagged him out as he slowly wandered back to the bag. First base umpire Sam Holbrook didn't see it that way initially, and so Mike Scioscia got them to call for an umpire's conference — which resulted in the out being duly recorded, and a fury of boos erupting from the blue-clad fans in attendance.

What a wild game. Tomorrow's should be equally interesting.

Postscript: One more thing about Bennett's bad throw before I go: prior to that, Rex Hudler noticed in the radio broadcast that Bennett was standing before each return throw to the plate, and that he was short-arming it. Could Bennett be injured?

More on Bennett's mechanics at Inside the Dodgers; apparently this took up a great deal of time at Torre's postgame press conference.

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*Help for Dodger fans who may not get this reference. It's the song they play at Angels Stadium before every game.
Photo lifted whole cloth from Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness. Hope you don't mind, boys.

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Hah.. no problem at all. Glad you liked it enough to show it. Thanks!

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