A Dodgers Coach Won The Game – That’s How Desperate Things Are
I’ve written before about how much direct influence a manager actually has in the final win-loss record of a team over the course of a season, but I never actually believed the in-game decision of a Dodgers baseline coach could be THE factor in the outcome of a game.
That being said, we’ve all seen games where a third base coach will make a bonehead decision to wave home a lumbering catcher, only to have him thrown out at the plate by a mile, and later have to ultimately see the game lost by a run.
We’ve also seen the opposite, where a coach will send a guy racing home around third against an outfielder with a rubber arm, knowing it would take a perfect bang-bang play to get an out, winning the gamble at home, and eventually the game, by one run.
Most decisions, good or bad, made by third base coaches, almost never directly bring about victory or defeat in games that have multiple runs scored by both sides. Besides all that, those runs are usually scored during innings 1-8, with plenty of baseball action to follow, which can tip the scales either way.
That was not the case last night. Not by a longshot.
Zack Grienke was the starting pitcher, and he was his usual consistent self. He delivered 7 shutout innings – at one point pitching 4 consecutive innings using only 13 pitches each. As the great Vin Scully remarked at the time, “Consistency, thy name is Grienke.”
Unfortunately, the Dodgers offense is also consistent these days. Consistently quiet, that is – and boy did they ever hit a milestone in silence last night. Just as Grienke was keeping the Texas Rangers’ bats quiet, the Dodgers offense was shut down for 9 innings as well. That’s right, all nine innings, and the boys still won – by the grace of a gutsy call by third base coach, Lorenzo Bundy.
Here’s how it all played out:
It was a tough game. Neither team could score, and it was becoming clearer as the night wore on, that things could come down to ONE big hit, or ONE crucial mistake. It was the bottom of the ninth, still tied at 0-0, and the Dodgers were down to their last three outs.
The Texas Rangers brought in their 22-year old fireballer, Keone Kela, who had shut down the Dodgers just 24 hours earlier. Unfortunately for the Rangers, Kela couldn’t locate the strike zone and the first man up in the inning, Yasmani Grandal, walked. Manager Don Mattingly then inserted Kike Enrique Hernandez, he of Rally Banana fame, to pinch-run for Grandal.
Andre Ethier stepped into the box and Kela proceeded to walk him as well. The winning run was now in scoring position, thanks to two gift walks, and up came Alberto Callaspo. Being consistent with what the Dodgers had been doing all game long, he helped a struggling young pitcher and grounded into a double play. There were now two outs, but the winning run was 90 feet away at third base.
Up came Jimmy Rollins, who is barely hitting at the Mendoza line. Rollins quickly found himself with two strikes, and our unlikely hero, Lorenzo Bundy, took matters into his own hands. He told young Hernandez to “Just fake it”, and charge toward home as Kela came set.
"“That’s the way we roll in the Minor Leagues sometimes. I felt after the young pitcher got into trouble [walks to Yasmani Grandal and Andre Ethier], then he gets the double play [on Alberto Callaspo after he failed to bunt] and, in a tight situation, a lot of times they get the two outs and kind of relax. I figured with two strikes on Jimmy, I’d just take a shot.” – Coach Lorenzo Bundy"
Hernandez faked a sprint for home, Kela rattled and stepped incorrectly, resulting in a balk, which was immediately called by the home plate and second base umpires. The Rangers slipped on a rally banana peel, Hernandez happily walked home, and the Dodgers walked off with a stolen victory.