LOS ANGELES -- Their best-in-baseball, best-start-by-the-franchise-in-31-years record notwithstanding, these Dodgers still fall somewhere between good and great when it comes to overall talent. They can pound you to death on occasion, but not often. They can shut you down on occasion, but not always. And so, there are going to be times when they have to improvise, to take advantage of the odd twist in order to win.
One of those twists came in the top of the ninth inning Sunday, allowing the Dodgers to preserve a tie and set the stage for Dee Gordon's first career walk-off hit in the bottom half, giving the Dodgers a 5-4 victory over the San Diego Padres before 38,359 at Dodger Stadium and their first 9-1 start since that memorable 1981 season.
Did the Dodgers benefit from a controversial call by the umpiring crew? You make the call.
This much, we know: the umpires, after viewing several replays, don't think so.
They think the triple play the Dodgers turned to get out of that first-and-second, nobody out jam in the top of the ninth was legit, that although the ball that Padres cleanup hitter Jesus Guzman tried to bunt initially went foul, it rolled back into fair territory without being touched and therefore was a fair ball, and the catcher-to-third-to-second-to-first triple play that happened as Guzman and both Padres baserunners stood in frozen confusion was the right call.
"(Watching replays), we didn't see the ball hit the batter at all,'' said Dale Scott, the umpire crew chief who was working the plate and made the call. "It was off the bat and then straight down. We saw several angles, including the replay here and we also called in and asked for the replay from New York and looked at that. The ball went straight down, and I thought it hit the bat. I heard bat.
"I moved out of the way of the catcher, and now, all of a sudden, I have two bodies in front of me. I didn't see where the ball was. I saw it trickle in front of the plate. Without having seen it hit, I have to assume that's a fair ball." ...
Matt Kemp went 3 for 4 with a walk, two infield singles and his fourth home run of the three-game series, and he could be looking at a rare, second consecutive National League player of the week award after going batting .545 (12-for-22) with four homers, eight RBI and seven runs scored. Overall, he is hitting .487 for the season with a ridiculous .523 on-base percentage, with home fans chanting M-V-P almost every time he steps onto the field. ...
Speaking of rare, Clayton Kershaw had a rough outing. From the beginning, he was far from dominating, but through the first five, he was able to pitch around that, allowing only an unearned run after an error by Gordon. But Kershaw began the sixth by walking three of the first four batters, his only walks of the afternoon, and he didn't stick around much longer.
"I don't care about winning individually,'' Kershaw said, something he still hasn't done after three starts this season. "I want to pitch better. I didn't pitch that well today. Wins will come with pitching better and getting deeper into games and doing some of those things that right now aren't coming so easily.''