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Three Times Was the Charm for the Sweeping Dodgers
Nothing much about the Dodgers worries manager Don Mattingly these days, supposedly. Against the Cubs, why would they? Despite trailing 2-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning and 5-4 into the bottom of the seventh and Kenley Jansen blowing his sixth save of the season, the Dodgers emerged with a 7-6 victory over the Cubs for their first sweep of the Cubs at home since April 24-26, 1998.
"It's good to come out on the right end of that," Mattingly exhaled after the game. "It was one of those games, back and forth."
The Dodgers had some unlikely heros in the game that helped them from suffering an embarrassing loss against a team that was 19 games under .500 heading into the game.
Trailing 2-1 into the bottom of the sixth inning, Juan Rivera tied the game getting a bases-loaded walk off of reliever Scott Maine. Up came Luis Cruz who came into the plate appearance batting .071 (1-for-14) during the homestand.
"In that second at-bat, I figured out what I was doing wrong," Cruz explained. "I tried to go back to my old stance."
The old stance worked as he lined a two-run single to left field to give the Dodgers the 4-2 lead. "I feel very happy that I was in that situation and was able to hit the ball."
The Cubs responded in the top of the seventh with three runs of their own off of Brandon League, Randy Choate and Javy Guerra to retake the lead 5-4.
In came Andre Ethier with Mark Ellis and Matt Kemp on base with one out.
Andre Ethier had been batting .180 (11-for-61) in the seventh inning or later and batting the team tied, ahead by one or the tying run at least on deck. In addition since July 1, Ethier had been hitting .108 (7-for-65) against left-handed pitching.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum put in left-handed reliever James Russell, and the hope was that Ethier wouldn't ground into an inning-ending double play.
"It seems whenever there are runners on or anything like that, I'm always facing lefties for some reason," Ethier joked. "Every bullpen now has three or four lefties we face. On the Dodgers we only have one, but every other team has three or four."
But despite the history, the stats, Ethier found a pitch to hit and sent it to right-centerfield gap for a double scoring Ellis and Kemp for the 6-5 lead. Ethier didn't want to admit that finally coming through against a lefty sent him through the roof.
"No. Just going up there, battling and getting a hit in that situation. You're just trying to square up the ball and have a good at-bat."
Coming back from two deficits just wasn't good enough for the Dodgers it seemed. Jansen led off the ninth inning giving up a homer to Anthony Rizzo that tied the game. But that didn't matter especially since the Dodgers had Hanley Ramirez at the plate with Kemp on third and Ethier on first.
All Ramirez did was stroke a single to left field ending the game.
"When I got to home plate, I tried to be nice and easy and just look for a pitch," Ramirez said. "When you play in front of your home crowd and you hear the noise, that pumps you up. That's something I was looking forward in coming to Los Angeles in front of the fans here.
All of that capped off Joe Blanton's first start as a Dodger. For all the talk of his strike throwing, he led off the game by walking David DeJesus. But Blanton didn't use the eight days of rest or the cross-country trip as an excuse for his atypical three walks.
"Sometimes you get the call, sometimes you don't," Blanton said.
While things might look nice for the Dodgers with their sweep of the Cubs, some perspective may be needed. The Cubs are 43-63 and have gutted their roster for rebuilding mode. But that didn't phase Mattingly.
"I think we're good enough," he said before Sunday's game. "It's just going to play out, so there's not a whole lot that worries me."
Mattingly did admit the lack of depth in his starting rotation give him some cause for concern. "If we have any injuries, we're down into the guys we weren't really counting on this year and guys without that experience that tells you that they'll keep you in games."
The bullpen and the defense were bright spots for Mattingly, and he figured that offense would bring up the rear.
"You've got to score. But for the most part if we pitch it and keep ourselves in games, we're going to win our share."
Fortunately for the Dodgers they have series against the struggling Colorado Rockies and Miami Marlins to get themselves in order before have a tough stretch with the Pirates, Braves and Giants to contend with.
Numbers Game. A total aside. When Shane Victorino arrived with the Dodgers, manager Don Mattingly graciously gave him the no. 8 jersey.
"I don't really care," Mattingly told reporters on Wednesday. "I get the thing with the players, they like their number and stuff like that. For me, I usually have a jacket on anyway, so nobody's worried about my number."
Mattingly initially took Justin Sellers' no. 12 before settling on 88, "double dog balls" as it was referred to.