The (Not So) Secret to the Dodgers Success...
The Dodgers keep doing it. Thanks to A.J. Ellis' walk-off homer the Dodgers beat the Houston Astros 6-3.
Just when they seemed to plummet back to the ground losing two consecutive games, they went back to defying the odds. The lineup that helped this one along:
1. Tony Gwynn, Jr. - CF
2. Elian Herrera - 2B
3. Bobby Abreu - LF
4. Andre Ethier - RF
5. Adam Kennedy - 3B
6. James Loney - 1B
7. A.J. Ellis - C
8. Dee Gordon - SS
9. Chad Billingsley - P
It's easy to be lazy and fall back to mysticism and religion to explain things we cannot understand. It's fate that the Dodgers are doing so well. The Dodgers are having a magical season. The new ownership group is restoring the karma of the team.
All of the romanticism aside, one of the big reasons the Dodgers have a Major League-best 31-15 record is the discipline at the plate for the hitters.
Manager Don Mattingly preaches to his team to try and get the starting pitcher out of the game as quickly as possible.
"You'd like to take your chances if you can get into their bullpen for four or five innings," Mattingly said. "You feel like you'll be able to put some runs up there somewhere. We really didn't, but we hung around there until the end."
And they did it against quite a formidable opponent in Bud Norris who had only given up one earned run over 26 innings in his four starts in May. If you do the math that is a 0.35 earned run average in that span.
Between Bobby Abreu, Elian Herrera and Ellis, they worked the count full seven of their nine plate appearances in the first four innings. And the persistence paid off.
In the third inning after Elian Herrera walked, Andre Ethier doubled him home to cut into the Astro's lead 2-1.
And then there was the fourth inning that seemed like it would never end. James Loney led off with a single and A.J. Ellis saw eight pitches before flying out on the ninth. After Dee Gordon doubled sending Loney to third base and Billingsley struck out for the second out, things got really interesting.
Tony Gwynn, Jr. singled to right-centerfield giving the Dodgers the 3-2 lead. 43 pitches and the damage was done.
"This guy has been pitching pretty good," Mattingly noted. "He works quick. We tried to slow him down a little bit. The first part of the game was a little weird — guys kept having at-bats. We saw his pitch count building, and we were hoping to run him out of there."
A two-out walk to Ellis and a single to Dee Gordon in the fifth inning forced Astros' manager Brad Mills' hand and went into his bullpen.
The Dodgers gave up the tying run in the eighth inning when the strike zone seemed to have went AWOL, three walks sandwiching Jason Castro's RBI double. But that only set the stage for the heroics.
After Ethier was hit by Wesley Wright's pitch, Scott Van Slyke laid down a sacrifice bunt on Wilton Lopez's pitch getting Ethier to second base. Lopez intentionally walked Loney to get to Ellis.
After a ball, a foul and three hours, 50 minutes, Ellis found the pitch he wanted.
"I was just trying to put a good aggressive swing on it and drive the ball into the outfield," Ellis said.
With Ellis being the hero tonight, Van Slyke another, Gwynn another, and so forth, Ellis pinpointed one person in particular as the source of this astonishing run.
"One thing that's huge was having Bobby Abreu joining this team. His at-bats rub off on everybody else, the way he works the count, works the pitcher and then his ability to put a good solid swing on it. I think that's rubbing off on all of the guys."
Whatever it is, it's working more often than not. While I brought up a question Friday night wondering if the Dodgers stroke of good fortune was over, they are continuing to prove that luck has nothing to do with it. They preach about having good at-bats, getting the starting pitcher out of the game and staying disciplined.
That's a pretty good formula for winning games.