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Van Slyke's Debut Spices Up a Sluggish Dodgers-Giants Game
It's funny how the Major League's third oldest ballpark celebrating its 50th birthday throughout the season has been the setting of the wave of the future. First there were the Major League debuts of the Washington Nationals Bryce Harper and Tyler Moore. Then last Wednesday there was much hoped announcement of the Guggenheim ownership era. On this Wednesday night came the debut of Scott Van Slyke for the Dodgers against the San Francisco Giants.
With Juan Rivera being placed on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, the Dodgers brought in their best hitting outfielder and first baseman from Triple-A Albuquerque, the son of legendary Pittsburgh Pirate Andy Van Slyke.
Arriving at the Stadium right before first pitch, Van Slyke just had time to get dress and get settled in watching the game. But soon he would be pressed into service.
"I wasn't expecting that, but it's cool," Van Slyke the Younger said.
Van Slyke came in as a pinch hitter in the sixth inning after A.J. Ellis hit a one-out triple with the Dodgers leading 4-2.
"Ever since Double-A, every time I pinch hit I don't like to hit in the cages," Van Slyke explained. "I just kind of get loose and watch the pitchers, get my swings on the on-deck circle."
After fouling off the first two pitches he saw from Giants' reliever Travis Blackley, Van Slyke grounded a single up the middle scoring Ellis for his first Major League hit and RBI.
"It felt good," Van Slyke said right as Aaron Harang got him with the shaving cream pie to the face. "It felt good to help out the team."
Van Slyke became the first Dodger to get a pinch-hit RBI in his first at-bat since Carl Warwick on April 11, 1961 against the Phillies.
James Loney added an RBI single in the eighth inning to make it the 6-2 lead that would be the final score.
Van Slyke's debut spiced up what had been a slog of a three hour, 17 minute game. What could have been a great pitchers' duel between Chad Billingsley and Tim Lincecum saw them struggle just to get out of innings much less hitters.
For Billingsley despite coming onto to the field serenaded by AC/DC's "TNT", like Wile E. Coyote things exploded in his face.
"Everything felt good, but my fastball command was a little bit off," Billingsley said. "I fell behind the hitters and wasn't being agressive when I needed."
Case in point were the second and third innings. Two walks and two singles scored one run in the second, and a one-out triple followed by three singles plated another run for the Giants giving them the 2-0 lead.
By the fourth inning, Billingsley had made 85 pitches. With one run in and the bases loaded with one out in the fourth inning, Mattingly pulled Billingsley for pinch hitter Tony Gwynn, Jr.
"It's a 2-1 game," Mattingly noted. "We've got a chance to score a run. At most he's got another inning. It was a no-brainer."
Billingsley was notably upset in the dugout slamming his bat to the ground and throwing his batting gloves.
"I was mad at myself and I wanted to stay in the game," Billingsley said. "I sort of beat myself up."
It was also a weird spot for Gwynn who didn't have as much time as usual to warm up in the batting cages. "That's the first time I've been up in the fourth inning," he admitted.
Whatever the circumstances, it worked. Gwynn laced a triple down the right field line, all the while jogging thinking about one thing.
"My legs weren't really warmed up," Gwynn explained. "The whole time I was thinking about not blowing out [a hamstring] because we already got enough guys who are hurt right now."
That gave the Dodgers the 4-2 lead.
Jamey Wright bounced back from giving up the winning run in the 11th inning in Chicago on Sunday, picking up the win by pitching perfect fifth and sixth innings.
"His two innings were huge," Mattingly said. "We were able to grab the momentum there, and Jamey Wright was able to shut the door."
The Dodgers with a 20-11 record pull to a five-game division lead over the Giants, the largest lead amongst division leaders in the Major Leagues.