Dodgers 9 6 0
Pirates 8 9 1
WP- Jansen (2-0)
LP- Cashner (0-1)
HR- Venable (1), Headley (2), Kemp (3)
What a strange, ridiculous, incredible debut recap for yours truly. Not only did I get some history, but I got one of the weirdest games I’ve witnessed all season. In the end, the Dodgers move to 7-1 with their fourth win in five tries against San Diego in 2012, while improving to 4-0 at home. Kenley Jansen blew the save in the 9th since Javy Guerra had saved the previous three and was unavailable, but he still got the win on the stat sheet. Matt Kemp hit his third homer of the year, but that doesn’t even begin to get to the wackiness that ensued. Read on…
Aaron Harang started the game looking a little shaky, allowing a leadoff single to Cameron Maybin, who ends up stealing second before the inning ends. I was thinking here we go again with that start, but needless to say, Harang settled down. In order, the next three batters go down swinging. First, Will Venable cuts at high heat. Then down goes Chase Headley and Yonder Alonso is waving at a curveball. One inning, three strikeouts, and one hit for Harang.
In the bottom of the first, I watch is Tony Gwynn, Jr. leads off the inning taking a called strike three and wonder why not keep Dee Gordon there to work out the kinks in his swing. Benching him might not be the right call, even if it’s just a day of rest. Ellis goes down easily with a 5-3 groundout, and Kemp follows up with a swinging strikeout. Clayton Richard, the Padres’ starter, hardly has to do anything to get through the first.
Going to the second, Jeremy Hermida goes down on strikes to make it four in a row for Harang. Former Dodger Orlando Hudson comes up on his anniversary of hitting for the cycle in the Dodger Blue. Tonight will not be the same, as he goes down swinging against Harang too. At this point, I start to get excited. Five in a row? Who is this Harang? Didn’t the Padres JUST rip him five days ago? My cheers turn into jumping off the couch as John Baker goes down swinging to end the 2nd inning, marking six straight K’s for Harang.
Bottom two comes around, and the Dodgers go straight down in order again. Juan Rivera goes 5-3, Andre Ethier goest 6-3, and Juan Uribe pops up to shallow right field. Nothing doing through two, and it looks like we have an old-fashioned pitcher’s duel on our hands!
In the top of the third, Harang gets stronger. He’s getting ahead of everyone as Jason Bartlett strikes out leading off, Richard goes down easily like hitting pitchers should, and then he sits down Maybin in a similar fashion. That makes it nine in a row for Harang, setting a new Dodger record for consecutive strikeouts! Johnny Podres held the former record, striking out eight in a row in 1962, and Harang is just one away from tying a Major League record of ten, held by Tom Seaver. Harang has struck out every batter in the Padres’ starting lineup in succession at this point. A truly incredible feat!
As much as I loved the bottom of the third’s offensive output, did it hurt Harang by having him sit on the bench for so long? Justin Sellers starts the rally by walking to lead off the inning. A.J. Ellis comes up and reaches on an error by Bartlett, before Harang makes a pathetic attempt at bunting and strikes out. Gwynn, Jr. comes up and goes 4-3, but moves the runners to 2nd and 3rd. With two outs, the real fun gets started. Mark Ellis hits a two-run infield single (good hustle by A.J. and great call by Tim Wallach at third to send him!) to put the Dodgers up 2-0, despite having one hit. Kemp comes up and takes a four-pitch walk, before Rivera walks on a full count. Ethier continues to improve against southpaws by hitting a broken-bat, two-run single to make it 4-0. Both RBI hits in this inning traveled about 100 feet – but hey, who’s complaining? The Dodgers sent all nine players to the plate in this inning, as Uribe grounds out to second to end it.
After a long inning, the excitement mounts for Harang to take the hill and look to tie the MLB record for consecutive strikeouts. The jitters are obvious, as Venable goes to 3-0, then eventually hits an opposite-field bomb to make it 4-1 Dodgers. After the pressure is off, Harang settles down, but isn’t out of trouble. He looks good, but the Padres are putting great swings on the ball. Headley walks on a questionable 3-2 call, before Alonso battles back from an 0-2 count to get a solid RBI double to right-center and cutting the score to 4-2. Hermida grounds out 4-3, and Hudson goes 6-3, but gets an RBI. Sellers absolutely could have gone home and nailed Alonso, but chooses to go to first instead. The score is now 4-3, and I’m starting to get worried. Baker comes up and continues the rally by hitting a nice two-out double, before Bartlett K’s to end the inning, giving Harang ten strikeouts through four!
In the bottom of the fourth, Sellers puts a great swing on a leadoff double, before A.J. Ellis hits an RBI double that gets past an ugly dive from Hermida in right. Now it’s 5-3 Dodgers. Harang finally lays a good bunt down to move Ellis to third. Gwynn, Jr. laces a single past the drawn-in infield to make it 6-3 Los Angeles. Mark Ellis flies out to straightaway center before Kemp comes up and hits a two-run bomb to right-center field. His opposite field power is incredible! And boy did he know that was gone as soon as he hit it. Rivera makes the last out on a 5-3 on the first pitch.
As we go to the top of the fifth, I start to wonder how possible it is that Harang can reach 15 strikeouts. My money is on the under, but not by much! Turns out, I’m right – Richard leads off with a strikeouts to give Harang 11 (out of 13 total outs…ridiculous!). Maybin grounds out to short on an awesome swipe tag by Rivera at first. And on the first pitch to Venable, he gets him to pop out to short.
In the bottom of the fifth, the long innings we’ve been having come to a stall as Ethier walks, Uribe grounds into a double play 6-4-3 on the first pitch he sees, and Sellers goes down swinging.
Going to the top of the 6th, Headley takes a called third looking for Harang’s 12th strikeout of the game (only the second non-swinging strikeout), Alonso flies out to left, and Hermida gets to 3-0 before going down swinging three strikes later. Harang has now tied his career high of 13 strikeouts! His location in this sequence was impeccable!
Now the home half of the 6th, where the Dodgers go down in order for the second straight inning. A.J. Ellis lines out to center on a well-hit ball, Harang flies out to right, and Gwynn, Jr. goes 3-1 on a groundout. During the inning, they show a montage of Harang’s strikeouts, and the first five or six are just fastballs blown by left-handed hitters. Very impressive stuff.
In the top of the 7th, Hudson grounds out back to Harang and Baker walks. Harang is yanked at this point in favor of Todd Coffey, who comes sprinting in from the ‘pen. You’ve gotta love the big guy’s hustle, even if he isn’t the best reliever (foreshadowing).
Harang’s final line is beautiful: 7.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 13 K. If we can get half that production out of the strikeouts every game, we’ve got ourselves a solid back of the rotation pitcher. And even better, if he can return to his ace-like days from when he was a Red, the Dodgers rotation is looking great!
After Coffey comes in, Bartlett hits a single and Chris Denorfia comes on to pinch hit, lacing an RBI double into the gap and cutting the lead to 8-4. Maybin is hit by a pitch to load the bases. Coffey is yanked after a disappointing appearance, to say the least. Scott Elbert, the bullpen’s lone lefty, comes in to face pinch hitter Angel Guzman. Elbert promptly walks in a run to make it 8-5. Headley turns around to bat right-handed and drives in a run with a sac fly on the first pitch he sees. Gwynn, Jr. almost collided with Kemp on the catch. Alonso barely misses hitting a double down the right field line, before striking out on a nasty pitch from Elbert. Mercifully, the scare is over.
In the bottom of the seventh, Brad Brach comes in to pitch for the Padres. Mark Ellis laces one to center but it’s caught for the first out. Kemp walks for the second time tonight but is caught leaning and is picked off first. With two down, Rivera strikes out on three good pitches. You get the sense the Dodgers are losing their momentum.
Going into the 8th, we see James Loney take over at first base for defensive purposes. Hermida goes down 0-2 vs. Elbert before hitting a leadoff double. Josh Lindblom comes in to further impress Don Mattingly – he shouldn’t be demoted when Ted Lilly is activated. He’s been dominant out of the bullpen this year. Our most reliable reliever besides Javy Guerra. Lindblom looks great right from the get-go, when Hudson pops out to short. Baker comes up (side story: I played high school ball with Baker’s younger brother, Willy and their father, Dave, was my coach!) strikes out on a nice tailing fastball. Bartlett swings at the first pitch and flies out to right. What a fantastic appearance for Lindblom, stranding Coffey’s inherited runner at second.
In the bottom of the 8th, Ethier swings at a 3-0 pitch and pops out. There is no excuse for that. You don’t swing 3-0 unless it’s perfect. Uribe flies out to right, and the announcers are apparently JUST realizing that he steps in the bucket when he swings. Sellers works out a walk, and his having himself a damn good game filling in for Gordon. We all know he’s a favorite of the Lasorda’s Lair crew, and proving why! A.J. Ellis flies out to center to end the inning unfortunately, but he’s looking great at the plate today.
We head to the top of the 9th, and welcome back old friend Kenely Jansen to lock down the save. Guerra pitched three straight games and wasn’t available. Jansen has been in this situation before, so I’m expecting no trouble. Instead, Denorfia works a 3-2 walk. I’m immediately curious about why Jansen’s velocity has dropped to about 90 MPH. Is he hurt? Please say no…please, baseball Gods! Andy Parrino pinch hits and strikes out on three pitches. Big Kyle Blanks pinch hits and also strikes out on three pitches. Much better…I take a deep breath. This game is in the books, right?
Think again. After Denorfia takes second on defensive indifference, Headley hits a two-run bomb when the Dodgers were two strikes away from securing the win. Unbelievable! Poor Harang, who pitched a gem but will be rewarded with a no-decision. I hope this blown save doesn’t mess with Jansen’s head. The last thing we need is another Jonathan Broxton-like head case in our ‘pen. Alonso hits a double that barely misses clearing the left-field fence. If the outfield relay had hit the cutoff man, they had a shot at Alonso. Fans are getting frustrated at the lack of communication. This is very unlike the Dodgers. Hermida is intentionally walked before Hudson goes down on a tough at bat with a strikeout.
In the bottom half of the ninth inning (which never should have happened anyway), the Padres bring in flame-throwing Andrew Cashner. He rocks back and throws an easy 98 miles per hour to pinch hitter Dee Gordon, who goes down on a dirty sequence of pitches. I can’t blame Dee for that strikeout. Cashner would have fooled any hitter in baseball with that stuff! Gwynn, Jr. goes 6-3, and I think we’re heading for extras. I just have one thought for Mark Ellis – GET. ON. BASE. With Kemp up next, I like our chances if Ellis can just…walk! And he does! Then he steals second without a throw. Kemp works a 3-2 walk, before Loney comes up with a huge chance to redeem himself and his slow start. He doesn’t get a walk-off hit, but the next best things is a walk to load the bases. This two-out rally has now turned into bases loaded with the clutchest man alive, Andre Ethier, striding to the plate.
Cashner is clearly rattled, and Bud Black plays the numbers, bringing in a sidewinding lefty by the name of Joe Thatcher to face Ethier. But Thatcher must not have had enough warm-ups, because he goes ball one, ball two, ball three and ball four to Andre, walking in the winning run for your 7-1 Dodgers!
What a great start for Dodger Nation! Tomorrow night, first pitch is at 6:10 p.m., with Lilly making his first start of the season against a rookie named Joe Wieland. Let’s keep up the winning streak, Dodgers!
That’s a wrap!