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Dodgers Ugly Game a Gem for Youngsters

The scoreboard at Dodger Stadium in the middle of the ninth inning showing a scoreless game. (LAist/Jimmy Bramlett)
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There was not a whole lot of pretty going on in Dodgers ten-inning 1-0 victory over the Houston Astros. Throughout the night the Dodgers kept stranding runners on base, 12 in all, while going 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. The offensive ugliness climaxed in the bottom of the ninth inning when the Dodgers failed to score with the bases loaded and no outs. Despite the ugliness that abounded in the game, for several youngsters the game was a dream.

“I couldn’t really sleep the last couple of nights,” 25-year old Huntington Beach native Justin Sellers told reporters before the game. A mere 3 ½ hours after making that statement and years of watching the film The Sandlot, Sellers fulfilled the childhood dream of making a start at shortstop in place of the injured Dee Gordon for his hometown Dodgers.

“It’s overwhelming, and I’m excited to be here,” Sellers continued to gush.

The jitters didn’t seem to get in the way of his play. In the first ball hit in play, Sellers started the double play.

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“When I went on the field in the first inning, I kind of looked up at the crowd and just soaked it all in,” Sellers said. “I got that ground ball in the first inning, get that out of the way. It felt good.”

But perhaps the jitters got to him a bit as he stood in the batters’ box with the hundred family members and fans cheered him on along with the tens of fans in the Stadium. He wasted no time getting under a first-pitch slider and sent it into centerfielder Jason Bourgeois’ glove.

“He’s fine,” Manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s not going to be afraid. He’s going to be swinging.”

Sellers flew out to left in the fourth inning and flew out to center in the seventh inning before coming out of the game in a double switch in the eighth inning.

Another player living the dream was Dodgers’ 21-year old starter Nathan Eovaldi making his home debut. Seemingly without any nerves, Eovaldi pitched six shutout innings giving up only two hits on 86 pitches.

“I felt pretty comfortable out there,” Eovaldi said. “You try and stay focused on the game.”

However it was the four walks he issued, two to Carlos Lee with first base open, that got him in some trouble especially with the bases loaded in the fourth inning.

“I didn’t want to let him beat me,” Eovaldi admitted.

With a bunch of zeroes being put up on the scoreboard, Eovaldi managed to escape the fire each time. “You just try and get a good quality outing and giving my team a chance to win.”

“He was good tonight,” Mattingly said. “It’s a good sign that his pitch count was at a point where if he wasn’t going to be limited he could keep going.”

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And now for the nightmare part of the game: the offense.

Against starter Bud Norris, the Dodgers seemed helpless. For seven innings he also was pitching a shutout striking out eight batters in the process.

“He just kept throwing strikes,” Kemp said. “It’s just one of those nights offensively where neither team is doing anything.”

As stated in the beginning, the ninth inning was particularly painful for the Dodgers and whatever remained of the crowd of 33,642. Juan Rivera led off with a triple. Astros’ reliever Fernando Rodriguez intentionally walked James Loney and Dioner Navarro to load the bases and set up the force at every base.

After pinch hitter Tony Gwynn, Jr. struck out, the strategy worked to perfection. Jamey Carroll hit back to the box erasing pinch runner Eugenio Velez at home plate. Still with the bases loaded, Aaron Miles grounded to second to end the inning.

The scariest part about this for Mattingly?

“You worry about momentum because momentum changes.”

Fortunately the young Double-A guns have been working for the Dodgers all season long. Josh Lindblom, watching that ninth inning unfold as he was warming up in the bullpen, knew what he had to do.

“Our job is to keep us in the game,” Lindblom said. “It was a big inning, but you can’t really put too much emphasis on any one inning. Coming in and getting three outs is my biggest priority.”

Lindblom certainly is well aware of his priorities since he needed only ten pitches to retire the side in the tenth inning.

With the Dodgers 5-0 in extra-inning games coming into the game, the course was set for the heroics. Casey Blake doubled and Andre Ethier thoroughly exasperated reliever David Carpenter to force an intentional walk. The hero yet again was Kemp who lined a single down the first base line bringing Blake home.

“Winning a game is good,” Kemp said. “To get a game winning hit in and of itself is good too.”

And with Kemp’s heroics, Lindblom got his first Major League victory. For a kid with his priorities straight, there was no surprise in his response.

“I just happened to be out there on the mound when we scored the winning run,” Lindblom said. “Getting the win is good, but the team win is what’s important in this situation.”

LA Angels defeat Toronto Blue Jays 5-1. Just in case there were any doubts, Angels’ starter Ervin Santana wanted to make sure that his no-hitter on July 27 in Cleveland was no fluke. He followed up the no hitter with a one-run complete game against Minnesota and was two outs shy of a one-run complete game against Seattle. So maybe it shouldn’t have been surprising that he tossed another one-run complete game in Toronto.

Vernon Wells, in his return to Toronto, opened the scoring with a solo homer in the second inning off of Brandon Morrow. The Angels got three more in the third inning with a big assist to Jose Bautista’s throwing error on Alberto Callaspo’s RBI single.


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

Houston Astros at LA Dodgers. 7:10 p.m. FS Prime Ticket, AM 790 KABC.

Chivas USA at Seattle Sounders. 1:00 p.m. FS Prime Ticket, KWHY, AM 690 W Radio.