Dodgers Bullpen, Fielding Falter to Padres


When I was growing up, my father had a friend who loved baseball. “You can keep Opening Day and the play-offs,” the grizzled old man would tell me. “I’ll take everything in between.” With the pomp and circumstance of Opening Day behind us, we can now get down to the real business of the season.

The Dodgers took on the Padres in Game 2 of their opening series the other night at Dodger Stadium on a chilly Tuesday evening. Everything that Opening Day was, Game 2 was not. Dark clouds drifted ominously overhead Dodger Stadium after prompting a 40 minute rain delay. The breath of the batters could be seen as they exhaled at the plate. The Ray-Bans were gone. The long sleeves were out.

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Zack Greinke had the nod for his first start of the young season. The Padres countered with Tyson Ross and similar to the previous day, the starters held their own for the first several innings. The lone blip for Greinke was at the start, giving up a hit to Matt Kemp followed by Justin Upton’s triple that skipped by Carl Crawford on what would be a precursor for Dodger fielding woes on the night.

Upton’s ball skied lazily, searching desperately to find an empty patch of grass to land on. Crawford sprinted in quickly in an attempt to make a circus catch, but instead missed the ball, allowing it to trickle past him towards the wall. Kemp scored with ease. The Padres wouldn’t get another hit off Greinke. The right hander got his act together after that, at one point retiring a dozen Padres in a row. He was lifted after six strong innings, his slider and fastball doing most of the grunt work.

Ross did his share of damage to Dodger hitters as well. The 27-year-old Berkeley native also pitched 6 innings allowing 2 runs on 6 hits. Half of those hits and both runs came in his final inning. Yasiel Puig led off the 6th with a double followed by the surging Adrian Gonzalez who doubled in Puig to tie the score at 1 apiece.

Apr 7, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Howie Kendrick (47) is tagged out at third base during the sixth inning against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Howie Kendrick then singled a daisy-cutter between Ross’s ankles scoring Gonzo. The Dodgers took their first lead, 2-1. The potential of a big 6th inning was cut short, however, when Kendrick was thrown out trying to steal third after advancing to second on a Yasmani Grandal fielder’s choice. The Dodgers are showing good aggression on the base paths in these first two games, but sometimes discretion is the greater part of valor. Attempting to steal third with one out and a one-run lead seems a little too risky, but hindsight is 20-20 and all that.

Unlike Opening Day, the 7th inning onward was a nightmare for the Dodgers bullpen. Relievers filed out of the pen like clowns from a circus car. Pedro Baez, Paco Rodriguez, Yimi Garcia, and on and on. J.P. Howell, Chris Hatcher, and finally Juan Nicasio. A mix and match of pitchers used by Don Mattingly countered by Bud Black’s choice of pinch hitters. Bud got the upper hand on this night, spoiling Mattingly’s chess moves at nearly every turn.

Going into the season, the bullpen was (and still is) most Dodgers fans primary concern. The optimists saw their glass-half-full mentality vindicated on Opening Day with 3 shutout innings shared by three relievers. The pessimists saw their glass-half-empty (or completely empty) view proven with Game 2.  Six relievers combined for 3 innings, 9 hits, 6 runs, and a big L.

If there is any counter argument to the pessimists, it would be that the entirety of the blown save cannot be completely pinned on the pen. For the other part of the equation we look at the fielding. After a perfect game of fielding on Opening Day, Game 2 brought a virtual horror show of miscues.

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  • The typically dependable Jimmy Rollins bobbled a grounder by Alexi Amarista in the 2nd inning which didn’t amount to anything. In the 7th he wouldn’t be so lucky. Rollins appeared to have a bead on a shallow pop fly by Yangervis Solarte. There were two outs, runners on first and second. Catch this ball, and get out of the inning with that 2-1 lead. Instead, Rollins lost the ball in the wind-in the lights-in the ether-who knows. The ball fell to earth like a dead pigeon landing inches from Rollins’s shoes. Yonder Alonso scored from second making it 2-2.

    In the 9th inning, with Clint Barmes on first, pinch-hitter Cory Spangenberg (man, I love baseball names) bunted and reached when he was hit in the back by the throw to first by Grandal. Barmes reached third, no outs. Wil Myers came up next and promptly singled, scoring Barmes and the game was effectively over.  I’m not even going to discuss the global force that is Craig Kimbrel (he struck out the side in the bottom of the 9th on 16 pitches, generating enough wind power from Dodger hitters to light up the Wilshire Grand Tower).

    Tuesday night was a difficult loss with the potential weaknesses of the team on full display. But it’s only one game. As the famous scout for the Kansas City Royals Art Stewart once said after a tough loss, “Gentleman, just forget about it. Come back tomorrow and get them. Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint.”