Tuesday, October 2, 2012
3 up, 3 down: Giants 4, Dodgers 3
By Mark Saxon
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers fought stubbornly against stiffer and stiffer odds, but the law of averages caught up to them in the end.
Their six-game winning streak came to a halt -- and so did their postseason aspirations -- with Tuesday night's 4-3 loss to the San Francisco Giants in front of 42,475 fans at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers had an opportunity to make Wednesday a thrilling final day of the season when the St. Louis Cardinals lost 3-1 to the Cincinnati Reds earlier on Tuesday. The Dodgers saw the final in the top of the fourth inning, but they couldn't take care of their end in a frustrating loss.
The defining moment was Mark Ellis desperately trying to stretch a double and getting thrown out at third base by 10 feet with one out in the seventh inning. That might have proved the tying run had Ellis been more cautious, as Shane Victorino followed with a triple.
Battling back. A.J. Ellis took a fastball down the middle from Guillermo Mota for strike two. Then he did what he does. He took a few borderline pitches, got the count to 3-and-2, then got a pitch to hit. This time, he pulled the trigger, hitting a towering fly ball to center field that narrowly cleared the fence for a two-run home run to cut San Francisco's lead to one in the seventh inning. It was an outstanding at-bat, in a big spot, for a player who has been among the Dodgers' best players this season.
Lockdown. When the Dodgers have gotten the ball to their key relievers lately, it has been over. The combination of hard throwers Ronald Belisario, Kenley Jansen and -- if they can re-sign him -- Brandon League could give the Dodgers an excellent bullpen in 2013. Belisario worked his fourth straight game -- fourth! -- and got a crucial out. Jansen was the most impressive, though. The Giants' best hitters all struck out swinging against his lively fastball in the eighth. Jansen needed only 13 pitches to strike out Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey and Hunter Pence.
Live wire. Much like Adrian Gonzalez, Victorino got off to a sluggish start as a Dodger but quietly he has been coming on lately. Victorino had a double and a triple, though he was stranded both times. He's batting .429 with five extra-base hits in the five games of this homestand. Victorino was stranded in scoring position both times when Matt Kemp made the final out of the inning.
Capuano's capers. He has had a solid -- borderline good -- season, but he'll probably be remembered for Tuesday night's start, his shortest of the season. With the importance of the game, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly wasn't going to give Chris Capuano much of a leash, and Capuano didn't seem to merit one. Even the outs he was getting were loud and he gave up deep home runs to Buster Posey and Joaquin Arias to put the Dodgers in an early hole. Capuano hurt his left shoulder taking batting practice when the doughnut on the bat smacked him near the shoulder blade. Put it all together and you have the makings of a memorable pennant race pitching meltdown.
Intentional talk. There will be some discussion of Mattingly's decision to intentionally walk Angel Pagan in the fifth inning to face Marco Scutaro, who was riding a 19-game hitting streak. It will be warranted, of course, but one fact to consider: In 19 at-bats against Jamey Wright, Scutaro had two hits. Make that three. He ripped a double into the right-field corner for the key hit. Scutaro just isn't the kind of guy you want to face when all the other team needs is a base hit.
Missing piece. Matt Kemp swung at a slider in the dirt in the seventh inning and chucked his bat. The Dodgers best hitter had a great week, but in the Dodgers' past two games, with the season in the balance, he was virtually silent. He went 0-for-4 in Monday's win and came up in the key at-bats of the game -- with runners at first and second and two outs in the fifth and with the tying run at third in the seventh -- and came up empty. He's batting .393 with four home runs and nine RBIs in his past seven games, but looked a little jumpy Tuesday.