Puig and Kemp Fuel Dodgers to Six Straight Wins
Things really are looking up for the Dodgers. Despite Zack Greinke having a subpar start, the Dodgers still managed to win their sixth straight game in a 6-4 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.
It didn't look good for the Dodgers despite a hot start against Phillies starter Jonathan Pettibone when they knocked him around for three runs in the first. Pettibone recovered in the second and went on to retire 15 consecutive Dodgers.
"He started throwing his slider," Matt Kemp noted. "He made his adjustments. He did what he had to do to win the game."
Things came to a head in the seventh inning when the Phillies trying to protect a 4-3 lead. They went to their depleted bullpen who had to labor through 13 innings in San Diego on Wednesday night. A.J. Ellis led off with a walk and Juan Uribe bunted a single off of Justin De Fratus.
Then came the questionable decision. With Hanley Ramirez on the on-deck circle, Mattingly had Nick Punto lay down a bunt. Mattingly purposely took the bat out of one of his hottest hitter's hands for the sake of "moving the runners over" or a "productive out".
The sacrifice worked and predictably the Phillies intentionally walked Ramirez to load the bases and face Skip Schumaker who came into the game batting .253 and was 0-for-2 to that point.
Fortunately Schumaker didn't ground into a double play — he struck out which put all of the onus on Yasiel Puig. Of course the pressure didn't faze Puig. Neither did De Fratus' sliders low and away. Puig reached out and barely got his bat to the third slider. While to most mortals that ball would have fallen into the glove of the shortstop, not Puig.
No, Puig's weak grounder got past shortstop Jimmy Rollins and into leftfield which gave the Dodgers the 5-4 lead. Even he was relieved about the outcome. "Sliders are what they've been throwing at me lately," he said.
So despite a mindless bunt, despite sliders down and away, the Dodgers had the lead.
Kemp then proved to the world that his hamstring was fine in the eighth inning. After leading off with a single off of reliever Antonio Bastardo, he stole second and third base with one out.
"I've got to test it out," Kemp said about his legs. "I can't play timid. I've got to be aggressive. That's the way I've always been. That's the way I have to play.
"If I go out there being scared if a hamstring going to go, then I'm not going to be a successful baseball player."
A.J. Ellis hit a fly ball to right field that allowed Kemp to score the insurance run.
"That was a good run," Mattingly said. "It gives you a little breathing room."
Kenley Jansen only gave up a single in the ninth inning recording his seventh save of the season.
Of course there was Greinke's struggles. He led off the game with a fastball, changeup and fastball to get Ben Revere looking. As promising as that start was, it didn't hold up.
Domonic Brown led off the second inning with a solo home run, his 21st of the season, this one on a full count. Delmon Young followed with a single, then Greinke couldn't locate the strike zone. Kevin Frandsen walked, and Humberto Quintero and Jonathan Pettibone each had three-ball counts in their at-bats. With the benefit of a pick off of Young, Quintero flied out and Pettibone struck out looking to limit the damage to that one run.
Greinke's troubles caught up again in the fifth inning when consecutive singles by Pettibone, Revere, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins tied the game.
Then came a two-fold scary moment in the seventh. Greinke's changeup hung out over the plate for Utley who blasted it to right field. Puig chased it and tried to jump up to rob Utley of the homer. Instead Puig caught an armpit full of wall.
"They checked the wall," Mattingly said. "It's fine."
Puig just shook the dirt off of his uniform after the collision. "I feel good," he said. "The shoulder feels good."
Did he feel sorry for the wall?
"It's gotten me twice." Translation: no.
When the Dodgers were in the middle of their eight-game losing streak in the beginning of May against NL West teams, that the Dodgers could run off six straight seemed like a mere fantasy. But here the Dodgers are. When their pitching is off, the bats bail them out. When the bats fail, the pitching keeps them in games.
The Dodgers look like a winning team. Sure they are six games under .500 and six games behind Arizona in the NL West. But these are the first steps in keeping October a hope and not an illusion.