When facing a great pitcher such as Tim Lincecum, it helps to have patience and the discipline to have a plan of attack and stick to it. Today, the Dodgers used extreme discipline and patience to best the mighty Lincecum and the Giants, 6-2 before a sellout crowd at Dodger Stadium.
As was the case in the first two games of this series, the first batter of the game for the Giants scored. Today, Andres Torres homered to leadoff the game, giving the Giants an early lead. Torres, a career .221/.281/.333 hitter, homered again in the sixth inning. The 31-year old switch-hitting outfielder who was out of the majors from 2006-2008, has three home runs against the Dodgers over the last two Sundays.
An early lead for Lincecum usually spells doom for the opponent, so it was important for the Dodgers to stick to their plan of patience. Lincecum didn't allow a run in the first two innings, but the Dodgers made him throw 30 pitches to complete those frames. Then, in the third inning the Dodgers had their "Ivan Drago is cut" point of the game, when Lincecum walked Randy Wolf on four pitches. Two batters later, Andre Ethier launched his 31st home run of the season to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead. Ethier now has 101 runs batted in to go with his 31 homers, making him the 36th Dodger ever with a 30/100 season, and the first since Adrian Beltre in 2004.
Ethier now has 22 home runs at home, one shy of the Dodger Stadium record. Who knows, maybe True Blue LA day on October 3, one of only three home games left this season, will witness a record.
The patience continued into the fourth inning. The first 16 Dodger batters of the game took the first pitch from Lincecum, including Matt Kemp and James Loney, who began the fourth with a pair of groundball singles to right field. Casey Blake followed with his first sacrifice as a Dodger (after taking the first pitch, of course), putting runners in scoring position for Ronnie Belliard, in the lineup today because "he was swinging the bat well," according to Joe Torre. Belliard came through with a two-run single to widen the lead to 4-1. Belliard, who has started 14 of 19 games since joining the Dodgers, now has 14 RBI in his three weeks with the club.
In the fifth inning, Rafael Furcal and Ethier took 10 straight pitches from Lincecum, working two walks to start the inning. That's when Bruce Bochy came with the hook for his ace. The Dodgers took an amazing 59 of 87 pitches thrown by Lincecum, in one of the shortest outings of his brilliant career. The National League average is 45% of pitches swung at, and today the Dodgers only swung at 32% of Lincecum's offerings. Manager Joe Torre recognized the value of beating a great pitcher of Lincecum's caliber:
Tim didn't have his best stuff, but it was certainly a challenge when you face a guy like that. I thought we had good at bats, I thought we made him throw some pitches and he walked a couple of people, but obviously he wasn't as sharp.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Randy Wolf was great for the Dodgers. Outside of the two home runs to Torres, Wolf didn't allow a run over his six innings. With his outing today, Wolf passed the 200-inning plateau for the first time since 2003, and triggered the final incentive bonus clause of his contract, bringing his total 2009 salary to $8 million. Over his last eight starts, Wolf is 6-0 with a 2.41 ERA, and he has pitched at least six innings in 16 consecutive starts.
After Wolf, KuoGeoBro (Hong-Chih Kuo, George Sherrill, and Jonathan Broxton) shut the Giants down, retiring all eight batters they faced to seal the victory. Broxton has pitched 15.2 consecutive scoreless innings, striking out 26 of the 58 batters he has faced.
The Dodgers, now 90-60, will travel to Washington on tomorrow's off day, and start a three-game series in our nation's capital on Tuesday night, with Hiroki Kuroda facing Livan Hernandez. Torre isn't looking past that series:
This ball club is playing with a purpose right now and I think that is probably the most important thing. They understand first off what's out there and what's at stake, and they can't expect anyone else to do it for them. These guys are self-motivated. The last trip into Washington we didn't do too well, we got swept over there, we understand its not a push over.
WP - Randy Wolf (11-6): 6 IP, 5 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts
LP - Tim Lincecum (14-6): 4 IP, 4 hits, 5 runs, 4 walks, 3 strikeouts