Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 1, Padres 0
July, 12, 2014
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers fell into the trap of playing the only kind of game the San Diego Padres can win, games in which nobody scores many runs.
But they interrupted a night of lifeless at-bats at an opportune time, the bottom of the ninth inning. Adrian Gonzalez led off with a hustle double to center field and scored on an A.J. Ellis sacrifice fly to give the Dodgers a 1-0 walk-off win Saturday night, putting them alone once again in first place.
How it happened: The Dodgers couldn't have expected more from lefty Paul Maholm, who was making his first start since May 14. Maholm held the Padres to two hits and no walks over six innings. Granted, he was facing the worst-hitting team in baseball, but Maholm's strong outing could buy him another start after the All-Star break if Josh Beckett isn't ready to go.
Problem is, Ian Kennedy pitched just as well and for longer. The veteran right-hander cruised through eight innings. When the Dodgers mounted a threat in the seventh, Matt Kemp was thrown out stealing and Kennedy escaped a two-on, one-out jam by inducing popups from Ellis and Miguel Rojas. The Dodgers managed only three hits off Kennedy, who struck out eight.
Hits: It wasn't a hard decision to pull Maholm from the rotation when Clayton Kershaw got healthy, back in mid-May. Maholm had a 5.40 ERA after his first seven starts. He actually pitched pretty well in relief at times since despite sporadic work and the Dodgers decided he was a better option for a spot start than Triple-A right-hander Red Patterson. Maholm rewarded their faith. He had a good pace going and he worked efficiently. Of course, bear in mind the Padres had scored 279 runs coming into the game. The next-worst offense in the majors is the Atlanta Braves, who had scored 341.
Misses: Yasiel Puig has a habit of arguing with umpires, which makes it a bit surprising that Saturday night was only his second career ejection -- the other coming in the brawl with the Arizona Diamondbacks last year. The umpire, David Rackley, might have given Puig the benefit of the doubt if he hadn't stood at home plate while making his points in the third inning. By refusing to budge, Puig showed Rackley up in front of the big crowd and the ejection wasn't a surprise. Unless Puig homers Sunday, he heads into Monday's Gillette Home Run Derby with only one long ball since May 28, not ideal momentum for the showcase. Then again, it is batting practice, not game-speed pitching.
Stat of the game: Kemp has fallen back into a bad habit: chasing pitches out of the strike zone. After going four straight games without a strikeout, he has nine whiffs in his last five games.
Up next: The Dodgers can head into the All-Star Game on a solid roll if they can take the series by winning Sunday behind Hyun-Jin Ryu (9-5, 3.65 ERA), who is opposed by San Diego's Tyson Ross (7-9, 2.93). The game begins at 1:10 p.m. PT