San Diego Steals a Game, Dodgers Lose Division Lead
It had been a while since Kenley Jansen had been tested. In his last nine appearances, he only walked two batters and struck out 14 in nine innings pitched. So perhaps he wasn't used to seeing men on base when he gave up singles to Yonder Alonso and Will Venable to lead off the ninth inning?
"That doesn't have anything to do with today," Jansen defiantly told me.
The Dodgers had the 6-5 lead heading into the top of the ninth. Jansen gave up back-to-back singles to Yonder Alonso and Will Venable to lead off the ninth with runners on the corners. The speedy Everth Cabrera replaced Alonso as a pinch runner.
The tension mounted even more during Cameron Maybin's at-bat as he fouled off pitch after pitch. Jansen finally got Maybin to whiff on the 11th pitch of the at-bat. During pinch hitter Mark Kotsay's at-bat, Venable stole second base before Kotsay popped up to second.
This set the stage for the strangest of strange events.
With Alexi Amarista in the box, Jansen just needed one more strike to get the save. He started kicking the mound.
"I got dirt stuck in my shoe," Jansen said. "I can't throw like that obviously with dirt stuck on my shoe."
The big mistake by Jansen — he forgot to call timeout. Cabrera broke from third base charging for the plate.
"I wanted to try something different," Cabrera told reporters.
Jansen's throw got past catcher A.J. Ellis towards the backstop.
Home plate umpire Greg Gibson initially called Cabrera out which would have signalled the end of the game. It took Gibson four seconds before he called Cabrera safe. By that time Venable was charging towards the plate. Jansen tried to cover the plate but couldn't get there in time for Ellis' throw.
"I saw the umpire call [Cabrera] out," Jansen said. "I froze from there and tried to go back into it."
Ellis didn't pay attention to Gibson's call. "I was too busy trying to find the ball," Ellis said. "I knew I didn't have it in my glove so I had to go and get it."
From a 6-5 lead, to a dirt-clod cleat to a 7-6 defeat. Jansen knew he messed up big time.
"I should know better to call timeout," Jansen said. But he repeated the same mantra he tells reporters every time he blows a save or has a bad outing.
"This can only make me better. I'm going to be a better closer from now on."
Ellis tried to deflect the blame off of Jansen.
"I had my head down. Big mistake. You never drop your head. I need to be more heads up. I need to be paying more attention with a guy on third base who can make plays happens. It's nothing Kenley did — I've got to be more responsible. It's on me."
Mattingly tried to find the positive in this. "It's better it happens now than happens in the playoffs or in the last game of the year when everything's on the line," he said.
By the way, Amarista grounded to second on the next pitch.
All of this took away from Andre Ethier's four-RBI night including a go-ahead two-run homer that looked like it would hold up before the eventful ninth inning. In fact the returning triumverate of Mark Ellis, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier went a combined 8-for-14 (.571) with a walk.
One thing Mattingly poignantly said after the game was the Dodgers had their chances to blow the game away early on. Padres starter Edinson Volquez had a rough third inning need 35 pitches to get out of the inning. Despite giving up two walks and three singles to lead off the bottom of the third, Volquez only gave up two runs in the frame keeping the Padres in the game.
"We have them on the ropes," Mattingly said. "We only get two [runs] out of that bases-loaded situation."
Just to add insult to injury, the Giants won in 12 innings 3-2 over the Houston Astros. So the Dodgers trail the Giants by a half-game in the division.