Van Slyke’s big night helps Dodgers

May, 20, 2012
5/20/12
9:26
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- The towel full of shaving cream to the face came from Matt Kemp, who is on the disabled list. The water bottle poured over the head came from Dee Gordon, who is coming off the bench these days. It all happened while Scott Van Slyke was attempting to give a live, postgame, on-camera interview to ESPN after playing the unlikely hero in the latest win by these ever-resourceful Los Angeles Dodgers, 6-5 over the St. Louis Cardinals before 44,005 on Sunday night at Dodger Stadium.

The shaving cream, the water, the interview that wasn't meant to be, what it all meant for Van Slyke was that he was officially a major leaguer now, less than two weeks after he was called up from Triple-A Albuquerque for the first time. Unquestionably a major leaguer, just as his father, Andy, was for 13 seasons, and the best part was that Andy was here, in the stands, when his son slammed his first big league home run. The three-run, pinch-hit shot off Marc Rzepczynski in the seventh inning turned a two-run deficit into the lead and, eventually, the Dodgers' seventh win in a row against the Cardinals dating to last season.

"I talked to a couple of guys, and [they said] when I got to first base, I just yelled,'' Van Slyke said. "I have no idea why. I just yelled.''

In a loud ballpark, not that many people could hear Van Slyke yelling. But the sound of the ball coming off his bat, well, that could be heard all the way back in the St. Louis area, where Van Slyke was born, grew up and still lived, and where his dad began his major league career back in 1983, three years before Scott was born.

"I had a couple of friends in the stands, and we're all from St. Louis,'' Van Slyke said. "So I'm sure a little piece of them was cringing. But whatever team it was against, it would have been just as thrilling.''

At first glance, it was somewhat surprising that Van Slyke was given the green light on a 3-0 count, what with him being a rookie and the Dodgers being down by two runs and in desperate need of baserunners. In hindsight, though, maybe it shouldn't have been. There were two outs, the runners were on first and second, and the Dodgers really were looking for one thing.

"At first, I looked down at [third-base coach Tim] Wallach, and he gave me the swing-away sign,'' Van Slyke said. "After that, I was just looking for something to drive. ... I don't think [manager Don Mattingly] pinch hit me to walk or get a little single. I think he wanted me to do some damage.''

Mattingly said after the game he would have gladly taken a gapper from Van Slyke that would have tied the game, but that he was thinking three-run homer when he sent Van Slyke to the plate. He clearly has power, as much as anybody on a Dodgers bench suddenly depleted by the trickle-down effect from a slew of injuries to frontline players.

Van Slyke, 25, has started just once for the Dodgers since his May 9 call up and gotten a grand total of 10 plate appearances -- the first of which saw him deliver a pinch-hit, RBI single off San Francisco reliever Travis Blackley to kick off his big league career. That in itself is a big adjustment for a guy who was not only playing every day at Triple-A Albuquerque but hitting .336 there with nine doubles and eight homers.

But in a small sample size, he is hitting .333 (3-for-9) and clearly has fit well into the clubhouse, for which he credits that second-generation status that he shares with no fewer than five teammates in Gordon, Jerry Hairston, Tony Gwynn, Justin Sellers and Ivan De Jesus.

"My experience just helps me to know how to act in a clubhouse,'' Van Slyke said. "Coming up and being the new guy, you just want to keep your mouth shut. You try to make some friends here and there, but you mostly try to stay low key.''

Staying low key is the one thing Van Slyke didn't do a very good job of on Sunday. And for that, his new teammates are eternally grateful -- even if some of them show that gratitude with shaving cream and cold water.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Zack Greinke
WINS ERA SO IP
11 2.90 130 124
OTHER LEADERS
BAY. Puig .308
HRA. Gonzalez 15
RBIA. Gonzalez 65
RD. Gordon 54
OPSY. Puig .916
ERAC. Kershaw 1.92
SOC. Kershaw 134