Soft bats and a big mistake prove costly
July, 31, 2013
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
LOS ANGELES -- Games had been so exciting around here the past few days, it was easy to overlook an intruder sneaking up on the Los Angeles Dodgers' party, step by stealthy step.
The bats stayed in Canada. There was the 20-strikeout game Sunday, the feeble effort against aging and inconsistent Andy Pettitte on Tuesday. And Wednesday, it finally caught up to them in a 3-0 loss to the New York Yankees at Dodger Stadium.
The Yankees' ninth-inning rally started like so many have over the past couple of decades: with Derek Jeter getting on base. The captain walked and his pinch runner, Eduardo Nunez, scored the winning run on pinch hitter Lyle Overbay's single off Paco Rodriguez.
Then, the Dodgers got sloppy, with Yasiel Puig colliding with Mark Ellis, who dropped a fly ball to allow two more Yankees runs to score. In spring training, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Puig still hadn't mastered the ability to call for a fly ball.
That put the Dodgers in a bad spot: between Mariano Rivera and his 642nd career save, which he earned in fairly crisp fashion.
It was another dominant outing by Clayton Kershaw and another one not rewarded with a win. Kershaw lowered his ERA to 1.87 with eight dominant innings but remained stuck on 10 wins. In nine of Kershaw's 23 starts, he has left the game with the Dodgers having scored no runs or one run. In five others, they scored two.
Most of that lack of support came before the All-Star break. The Dodgers' offense ignited in July, but it has stalled since coming back from Toronto. The Dodgers have scored four runs in their past 29 innings.
The Yankees made the mistake of missing an opportunity early and that's a bad idea against Kershaw. New York had runners at first and third in the second inning after Brent Lillibridge's single up the middle.
The rally started when Puig made an ill-advised dive for Vernon Wells' sinking liner near the right-field line, but somehow caught it on a bounce any way, got to his knees and made a strong throw to Hanley Ramirez to hold Wells to a single. In fact, had Ramirez not bobbled it, he might have thrown Wells out scrambling to get back to first.
Kershaw got Jayson Nix to line weakly to Ramirez and Chris Stewart to ground out to third and cruised for the next six innings.
The Dodgers' problem was trying to figure out a former teammate, Hiroki Kuroda, a pitcher they made an offer to in the free agency period last fall. Kuroda, as he has been all year, was hard to handle. The Dodgers were lurching at his split-finger pitch all night.
The Dodgers got just one runner to second base in the game's first six innings. They might have had a bigger rally in the seventh, but Adrian Gonzalez was thrown out -- by a lot -- trying to stretch his hit down the right-field line into a double. Andre Ethier and A.J. Ellis had back-to-back hits with two outs, but Skip Schumaker struck out to end the threat.