After pummeling the San Diego Padres 25-0 over the season opening series, the Dodgers traveled to My ‘Hood to take on the hated Giants. And, how did that work out for us, you ask? Let’s talk about it. It helps to talk about it, right?
APRIL 7, 2016 Giants Home Opener, Game One of Series
Woke up to a gorgeous day on the banks of McCovey Cove, perfect for baseball. Or so I thought. Even though the Dodgers placed their 11th player (Carl Crawford) on the DL that morning, they were coming off a three-game sweep of the Padres. Like James Brown used to say, “I feel good!”
My wife, who works next to AT&T at the Public Safety Building (which is why we live so close to the ballpark) was attending the game with a few co-workers. Now, her co-workers have never been quite sure what to make of her revelation that she was a (gasp!) Dodger Fan. Truth is, she’s really an Angels Fan, but for the sake of our marriage (and the kids) she agrees to root for my Beloved Bums whenever they aren’t playing the Angels. So, her friends got her a ticket. If you ask me, everything that happened after the fourth inning that day is her fault. But, in 36 years she’s never really been guilty of anything I’ve blamed her for, so maybe take my accusation with a grain of salt.
Things started on a bright note, Our Bums got to Jake “I’m Not A Mental Case I’m Just Intense” Peavy for four runs and it looked like we might have a shot at spoiling the Giants’ party. After all, Dodger pitchers entered the game with a scoreless streak of 27 consecutive innings, which was extended to 31 before Alex Wood got to the fifth. I wish I drank because now I want wanted to get to the fifth. But, I don’t, so I was sober when the Jints nicked Wood for three runs to give the Dodger staff an E.R.A. and put the Orange & Black Scourge back in the ol’ ballgame.
After he put the first two guys on in the fifth we brought in Pedro Baez who loaded the bases … and then unloaded them … and the Giants took a 7-4 lead. A very welcome Joc Pederson bomb brought the Dodgers to within a run at 7-6, but the bullpen imploded and the Jints won the opener, 12-6.
OK, we were due for a let down. We’ll get ’em tomorrow.
April 8, 2016, The Stripling Game, Game Two of the Series
Ross Stripling won the fifth spot in the Dodger rotation because Ryu, McCarthy and Anderson are on the DL and Mike Bolsinger, the obvious replacement, got hurt. Sure, they could have gone with promoting Zach Lee or one of the phenoms, Urias or DeLeon, or maybe opt for a guy like Carlos Frias who has major league experience. But they elected to go with Stripling because Carlos Frias had a terrible Spring and they really don’t want to rush the Phenoms.
So, Stripling gets the call to take on Matt Cain on a cool, damp, drizzly San Francisco night. Good luck, kid. Have at it!
Well, all Mr. Stripling does is no-hit the Giants into the eighth inning … then, all heck breaks loose.
When Stripling walks a batter with his 100th pitch, new manager, Dave Roberts channels his inner Don Mattingly and leaps from the dugout to pull Ross and cheerfully hands the ball to Chris Hatcher. Guess what happens next? Well, pretty much the same thing that used to happen to Mattingly when he handed the ball to Chris Hatcher …the Dodgers lose.
Did Roberts make a mistake by pulling Stripling? Depends on how you look at it. Consider this:
- Stripling had Tommy John surgery in 2014.
- Stripling had never, never, ever thrown one hundred pitches in a game in his life.
- His command and velocity were obviously waning. He lost 3-4 mph on his fastball over the last five batters and was starting to miss his spots.
- The Dodgers had a three-run lead with five outs to go.
- The kid had never pitched in a game above Class AA.
- For what it’s worth, Stripling’s dad confronted Roberts after the game and, with teary eyes, thanked the manager for protecting his son.
- Ross himself agreed with the move.
Regardless of how you feel about the decision to pull a guy pitching a no-hitter, the failure of the bullpen made this one of the most disappointing losses I’ve ever witnessed. Stripling, and Dodger fans, deserved better.
April 9, 2016, Kersh vs. MadBum, Shootout on the Embarcadero, Game Three of Series
This was the first ballgame I’ve attended of the 2016 season. I went with my wife (who left after the first inning because she’d already been there an hour and wanted to take a nap), and our son, Nick. We were all fired up for what promised to be a great pitching matchup. And, like every game Kershaw starts, we were also expecting a Dodger win. However, it wasn’t all Hot Dogs and butterflies, the dreary San Francisco weather continued to gloom the place up. It rained all night Friday night and the forecast was for showers on and off all day Saturday. We actually thought the game might be postponed, but after a forty-minute rain delay, the AT&T ground crew removed the tarp. So, we pulled our hoods over our Dodger caps and hunkered down in Section 302, Row 9, seats 1, 2 and 3 and put our game faces on. We were pleased to see the Dodger Booster Club, Pantone 294, occupying the upper half of the right center field bleachers. It’s always nice to see plenty of Dodger Blue at the ballpark in China Basin. It helps to neutralize the otherwise sinister vibe.
The Kershaw v. MadBum saga continues to perplex me. I don’t like Madison Bumgarner. For one thing, Madison is a girl’s name, period. For another thing, he’s a yahoo from North Carolina. North Carolina sucks. It’s a regressive Southern state, friendly to bigots and their obsession with Tar Heels basketball is unhealthy at best. Oh, and Madison Bumgarner comes from there. Also, the Giants play the Charlie Daniels Band’s “Fire On The Mountain” for MadBum’s walk-up music. The only good thing about Charlie Daniels is that he played bass on some great Leonard Cohen records, other than that, he sucks too. Be that as it may, MB is the Giants ace … and arguably, their best hitter. So, when he came up in the second and homered, I wanted to puke. The stench of ballpark garlic fries didn’t help, but I was literally ill. I later learned, while watching the replay and reading Kersh’s lips, the he and I had uttered the same exact thing when the ball left Bumhumper’s bat, “You’ve got to be F#$@ing Sh&!ing me!”
Kershaw’s incredulity would be further tested when the number nine hitter, shortstop Ehire Adrianaza also took him yard. It wasn’t a typical Kershaw start … he gave up a lot of fly balls and wasn’t striking hitters out at his usual clip, but even off-his-game Kershaw is better than 99% of other pitchers in the league.
Kershaw wasn’t destined to be the star of this game anyway. The player that saved the Dodgers’ bacon in this contest was journeyman infielder, Charlie Culberson.
Culberson barely made the Opening Day roster because there’s no real shortstop available to back-up Seager. Charlie proved his worth by making a nice 360 degree spin move to throw out Denard Span in the fifth. After Seager entered the game, Culbertson moved to left field. He hadn’t played the outfield all Spring. So, naturally, the first batter lines a shot to left. It was an “Atom Ball” (right at ’em) but Culbertson held his ground and made the play. But, with two out Angel Pagan lined a Kershaw pitch to the gap in left center, from Section 302 it looked like extra bases for sure … but … wait!!! … is that a bird? … is it a plane? … no! It’s Charlie Culberson laying out to make a sliding catch just as the ball was about to skip off the outfield grass! Whatta play, whatta play!
Culberson wasn’t finished. After the Dodgers caught a break in the ninth when Giants’ second baseman, Kelby Tomlinson bobbled a potential game-ending double-play ball and Utley was able to score from third. So, we move to the 10th … the two Dodger shortstops teamed up with back to back doubles with Culberson’s hit scoring Corey Seager and giving the Dodgers a 3-2 lead. Kenley Jansen held the Jints in their half of the inning and the Dodgers got away with a soggy, but much needed, win.
My son and I, and Pantone 294, left the ballpark feeling a little bit better about life.
April 10, Kazmir vs. Cueto, Game Four of Series
I had a ticket for Sunday’s finale, but it wasn’t in my usual spot. This time I was parked in Section 330 (notice how I’m always in the nosebleeds?) Row 1, Seat 24 … end of the aisle! Pretty cool. It was cloudy and cool but not nearly as uncomfortable as Saturday.
The Dodgers jumped all over new Giants acquisition, Johnny Cueto, scoring five times in the first! All right! I’m settling in for what looks like a laugher! The Dodger offense has been pretty good this first week and there’s no reason to believe we shouldn’t cruise to an easy win this afternoon. After all, we’ve got Scott Kazmir pitching and his 2016 ERA is 0.00 so far this year! Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy, let’s go Blue!
Kazmir gives back two runs in the bottom of the first. He gives up three more in the third and we’re tied, 5-5. The young lady sitting next to me blushed at the foul language she heard sputtering from the old, pot-bellied bald guy in the Dodger gear. Poor kid had found herself sharing tight quarters with a curmudgeon in Blue. Sorry, girlie, life is hard … get used to it. At least I wasn’t eating nachos … those really give me gas … count your blessings, sweetheart.
Suffice to say the day went downhill from there … we’d lose the game big and the stupid Jints would come away with a third win in the four games.
But, let’s think about it a little bit. It’s the first week of the season, nobody died. There were some things I took away from the series …
- The Dodger offense isn’t a problem so far. Seager, Gonzo, Puig and the boys are hitting the ball hard.
- The Giants starters didn’t do all that well in the series. Bumgarner was fine, but we beat up Peavy and Cueto. I would think the Jints would be at least a little concerned with Cueto. He’s been a real off and on guy the last season or two.
- Corey Seager is a stud.
- Ross Stripling was waaaaaaaaaay beyond what we could have reasonably expected in his first start against an arch rival.
- The Dodgers start the season 4-3 against division foes. Given the injury situation (no excuses, just a fact) we have to be happy to be treading water. I mean, 11 guys on the DL, not to mention losing Van Slyke with back soreness in game three, come on, that’s tough.
So, my Bums go back to L.A. for their Home Opener against the D-Backs tomorrow. Kenta Maeda will make his first start in font of the home crowd and things are always interesting against the D-Bags. Greinke back at Dodger Stadium and all that jive. It should be fun.
I’ll be making my pilgrimage to Chavez Ravine for Jackie Robinson day against the Giants and will hang around Saturday for the 6 p.m. game as well. I’ll tell you all about it next time!
Let’s go BLUE!!!