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Dodgers Sacrificial Fifth Inning Gives Them Some Insurance

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Sometimes it’s easy to think you’re too big for your own britches after watching baseball games day after day. Saturday night’s Dodger 6-1 victory over the Houston Astros humbled me a bit, but not because of anything big.

In fact the game was probably already decided by the bottom of the fifth inning with the Dodgers having the 2-0 advantage and Clayton Kershaw on the mound. Tony Gwynn, Jr. and Justin Sellers hit back-to-back singles to lead off the inning, the single by Sellers his first Major League hit.

“It took the fourth at-bat,” Sellers joked. Having gotten the hit out the way, Sellers feels he can completely relax during the game. “That’s how I feel. It feels good.”

With Gwynn on third and Sellers on first, it was at that point the Dodgers decided to play Press Your Luck with sacrifices.

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First was Kershaw which was a given, especially after he grounded into a double play his first time up in the second inning. With Gwynn on third base, Kershaw laid down the bunt mere feet from the plate. Gwynn broke down the line on the bunt and just deked away from Astros’ catcher Carlos Corporan’s tag to score.

“Third base was crashing each time I bunted, so Tony was just reading it,” Kershaw said insisting his bunt wasn’t a squeeze. “He saw the ball down, felt like he could make it and he did it. That’s just good base running by Tony.”

Next up was Jamey Carroll who showed bunt. Looking like an inevitable Whammy, Carroll got the bunt down the third baseline. Third baseman Jimmy Paredes overthrew first baseman Carlos Lee causing him to come off the plate landing Carroll safe on first, bases loaded, no outs.

“Jamey actually makes a good bunt,” Mattingly said with the qualification that the Dodgers “caught a little bit of a break there.”

Then came Casey Blake who actually did attempt to bunt in the first inning only to see it pop up into the glove of Lee. This time in the fifth inning, Blake lined a sacrifice fly to right fielder Jason Michaels which scored Sellers. So if you’re scoring that at home that was three sacrifices, two runs, one out, no Whammies.

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Despite the good fortune of scoring the two runs, Mattingly thought it was the Astros who caught the break.

“They’re lucky to get out of that,” he said. “If that ball gets in the gap, that’s three [runs].”

However despite playing for the out, Mattingly was confident in one thing: “We know we got Kersh, so every run we get is double-trouble for them.”

As for Kershaw, what superlatives about him haven’t been said? The fact that an eight-inning, one run outing is pedestrian for him is quite remarkable.

“You see that consistency with him,” Mattingly said. “What we always talk about with Clayton is that he continues to work, he continues to get better.”

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And that work now has Kershaw in second place in the National League with a career-high 14 wins, although that’s not what he’s focused on.

“Wins are the most important thing, not necessarily my individual record, but this team’s win-loss record. It’s nice to get some wins individually, but at the same time when you’re winning it doesn’t matter what my record is.”

Having said all of that, it was clear the game was over when Friday night’s walk-off hero Matt Kemp led off the scoring with a two-run bomb in the first inning.

“It’s always satisfying,” Kemp said. “We’re confident that if we get Kershaw a couple of runs, he won’t give the lead up because he has some great stuff. He’s dominating especially here at home.”

Now the challenge for the Dodgers will be if they will give starter Hiroki Kuroda any run support.

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Toronto Blue Jays defeat LA Angels 11-2. It seems suspension doesn’t suit Angels’ starter Jered Weaver well. In his first start since sitting out for six games, the Blue Jays went Maple Leafs on him. The Edwin Encarnacion two-run homer in the first inning was bad enough. But Adam Lind hit for all the marbles with a grand slam in the fifth inning. And just to add insult to injury, Mark Teahen hit a solo shot later in the inning prompting Manager Mike Scioscia to pull Weaver. The eight runs Weaver gave up was his worst outing since giving up eight in 3 1/3 innings in Baltimore on August 14, 2009.

Chivas USA tie Seattle Sounders 0-0.

TONIGHT’S ACTION

LA Angels at Toronto Blue Jays. 10:07 a.m. KCOP, AM 830 KLAA.

Houston Astros at LA Dodgers. 1:10 p.m. FS Prime Ticket, AM 790 KABC.