I was going to put up a post after this game that served as a quick season recap before we get into offseason business, but after everything that’s happened tonight, that’s going to have to wait until tomorrow. Who, myself included, could honestly focus on the relatively meaningless Dodger game tonight, even though it was the final one of the year?
Sure, I had it up on MLB.tv on my computer, and I cheered when Matt Kemp hit his 39th homer of the year. But I also had the Red Sox / Orioles game sharing half the screen, with Phillies / Braves & Yankees / Rays (once the Yankee bullpen started to fall apart) sharing time on my television. As if having four must-win games with vital playoff implications wasn’t enough, three of them were nailbiters, with two going into extra innings. I absolutely cannot remember a night of baseball more entertaining than this, to the point where the “OH MY GOD” I posted on Twitter when Dan Johnson completed the Tampa comeback with a 2-2, two out dinger in the 9th was matched by a similar verbal exclamation in my living room, even though it was a game I had absolutely no vested interest in.
Honestly, part of this has to be the times we live in. Simply watching 3-4 amazing games on multiple devices simultaneously (plus the Dodger game) wasn’t enough, because the magic of Twitter meant that I was watching them with about 150 of my closest friends. As I joked at the time that Johnson’s ball hit the foul pole, I wish I could have printed out the last 200 or so tweets and framed them.
And then it got even better. The Braves choked away their game in the 13th inning in Philly. About 15 minutes later, Jonathan Papelbon gave up the tying and winning runs in Baltimore. Less than five minutes after that, Evan Longoria was walking off in Tampa. Is that even all accurate? Who can tell – it all happened so fast, and so hilariously, because in the span of about 20 minutes we witnessed the two worst collapses in baseball history.
I loved every minute of it. Seriously. I can’t remember the last time watching baseball was so absolutely joyful, and I’m not sure we’ll ever see anything like it again.
And the Dodgers? Yeah, that happened. Ted Lilly threw seven solid shutout innings, and five Dodgers had two hits, including James Loney‘s 12th homer of the year. Really, the game was in no way as close as the 7-5 final would indicate, because it was 7-0 until Ramon Troncoso decided it was time to allow a grand slam and then a solo homer in the ninth. Oh, and we saw another kind of history: when Eugenio Velez grounded out weakly to second, it was his 46th consecutive hitless at-bat, a new major league record. So, uh, congrats there, Eugenio.
But let’s not pretend any of that is more important than this, Rod Barajas holding Gordon in some sort of bizarre baby cradle before the game. For a guy who writes hundreds (or more) words about the Dodgers every day, I am, for once, speechless:
Back tomorrow with the farewell to 2011 post. For now, I’m breathless from an absolutely outstanding night of baseball.
I tried really hard to be bummed out about this, but just couldn’t. This game means basically nothing, and I was almost amused by the statistical oddity of overcoming a win expectancy that high. Plus watching Ryan Roberts making fun of Kirk Gibson was pretty great.
It’s true. In previous, more competitive seasons – or lord help us, if it had been Jonathan Broxton on the mound – we’d have heard untold doomsday predictions and suicide pacts after this one. But now, in the penultimate game of a generally mediocre season after they’ve already clinched a winning record? It’s definitely more of an “wow, that happened” sort of feeling.
I mean, look at the FanGraphs WPA chart and try not to laugh:
And “happen” it did, somewhat disappointingly for Hiroki Kuroda, if this was indeed his final start as a Dodger, since he was outstanding through six shutout innings. Just look at the hijinks that took place in the top of the 10th, when the Dodgers scored five to bust open a one-run game. Dee Gordon “doubled” on what was really a well-placed (though well-struck) ground ball through the right side, then when Jerry Sands did his best to sacrifice himself with a foolish bunt (don’t get me started), Micah Owings gifted them a run by throwing the ball away attempting to get Gordon at third. That was followed by another error – Chris Young kicking around a single by Matt Kemp - and then after a groundout, single, and a walk, A.J. Ellis tripled in two runs. And by “tripled”, I of course mean, “he blasted a ball off the right field fence that ricocheted back into Justin Upton‘s face,” which is the only way Ellis is hitting triples. (When I first saw that, my initial throught was, “Chad Moriyama‘s going to gif that.” Yep, and it’s glorious.) Owings retired Jamey Carroll and Justin Sellers to finish off his nightmare frame, but the damage was done. (And more on him in a second.)
As fun as it was to see the Dodgers take such a lead in the top of the tenth, it didn’t come without a large amount of Arizona assistance, particularly Owing’s throwing error, so when Blake Hawksworth made his own mistake by failing to cover first on what would have been a game-ending bouncer to James Loney it almost seemed poetic. But still, that only put one man on, and he was still able to come within one strike of ending the game against Miguel Montero… and he couldn’t do it. Montero singled. Young walked. Aaron Miles booted a grounder to third – and I don’t want to hear any more about Miles, who’s a brutal third baseman and who is hitting .234/.292/.313 since the All-Star break – and that was it for Hawksworth.
Javy Guerra, who’d already been up and down at least once, entered as the eighth Dodger pitcher of the night. I don’t need to tell you what happened after that. But I do find it entertaining that no one is asking if Guerra has the “ice in his veins” or the “guts” to be a closer, right?
As Paul says, this was an embarrassing but ultimately meaningless loss. If anything, I think it illustrates much of what we talked about earlier yesterday as far as the bullpen goes: 1) relievers are inherently volatile; 2) veteran relievers don’t automatically mean superior performance, since even though Guerra gets the loss, it was Hawksworth who really choked this game away, and Matt Guerrier allowed the first run by failing to record a single out.
It probably says a lot about this season, I think, that on the list of “awful things that happened,” this can’t be higher that 15th or 20th on the list. Ted Lilly tries to end it on a high note later today.
Reason #1390138910 why pitcher wins and losses are stupid: Kuroda entered the game 13-16, and he didn’t factor into the decision. That record represents a career high in both wins and losses. So, he’s had both the best and worst season of his career? Got it.
Reason #1390138911: I mean, Owings allowed five runs in one inning before heading off to the showers. He got the win. I can’t believe I still have to argue with people about this. (Jon Weisman amusingly pointed out that since Owings had a 45.00 ERA in the game but won, that must mean the ERA stat is flawed. Ha.)
Good news: Ned Colletti noted that the entire coaching staff is expected back in 2012. You know what a big proponent I’ve been of this group, particularly after the ineffectiveness of Joe Torre’s crew, so this is a big win.