It turns out that James Loney didn't bring enough bats on the road trip, so once his bat broke on this single, he didn't have any suitable lumber with which to swing. Hence his two sacrifice bunts.
Dee Gordon's speed was on full display in the 10th inning, as he scored the winning run on a scoring fly ball by Juan Rivera, giving the Dodgers a 2-1 win over the Braves, their first six-game winning streak of the season. The Dodgers have now won 11 of their last 12 games.
Gordon led off the 10th inning off Anthony Varvaro with what looked like a single to center field. However, Gordon somehow got a standup double out of it. This led manager Don Mattingly to have James Loney sacrifice...for the second straight plate appearance. That led to the inevitable walk of Matt Kemp, then Rivera followed with a line drive to center fielder Michael Bourn. Gordon easily beat the throw home for the winning tally.
In the 10th inning, Mattingly played for one run, and got it. Two innings earlier, Mattingly made a similar decision, which was ill-advised.
In the top of the eighth inning in a 1-1 tie, Justin Sellers led off with a single and was replaced by Gordon as a pinch runner. Loney came to the plate, he of the 25 hits in his last 54 at-bats, including a single and a double tonight. Mattingly chose to have Loney sacrifice bunt, which he did, advancing Gordon to second base. However, with first base open, the Braves opted to intentionally walk Kemp.
I understand that hot streaks come and go and you never know when they will end, and that Loney even with his hot streak is still hitting just .279/.329/.388 on the season. But having him bunt in front of Kemp effectively removed the bat out of the hands of the Dodgers' hottest hitter (Loney) and more importantly, their best hitter (Kemp).
At least in the 10th, with Gordon already on second base, there is some general idea that Kemp would have been walked anyway with first base open no matter what Loney had done.
Ignoring for a moment the decision to willingly give up an out for a marginal increase, if any, in run expectancy, Mattingly chose Rivera and Russ Mitchell over Loney and Kemp. That is not a winning strategy. Rivera and Mitchell both struck out to end the inning.
But in the end, the Dodgers won anyway. Because that's what they do now.
Nathan Eovaldi was wild in his sixth and final start of the season -- 52 strikes, 44 balls on the night -- but he did allow just one run on three hits in his six innings of work. The lone run he allowed was a solo home run by Dan Uggla, who hit his second home run in as many nights. Eovaldi walked a career-high five batters, but also had five strikeouts, and was helped by three double plays.
The game was chock full of aesthetically pleasing defensive plays. Justin Sellers and Jamey Carroll took turns starting and turning double plays in the second and third innings, and James Loney showed off some fancy footwork in the fifth inning to get the out at first before firing a perfect strike to second base for a twin-killing.
But the highlight play of the night was turned by the Braves in the bottom of the sixth, a broken bat grounder to short scooped with the glove by shortstop Alex Gonalez to second baseman Dan Uggla, who received the throw with his bare hand, then threw to first to complete the double play, but not before Freddie Freeman made a nice stab of the low throw.
A.J. Ellis went nearly three years in between home runs before going deep in Albuquerque on July 22, and he has been on fire ever since. Ellis hit two home runs in Triple A, and has hit two more with the Dodgers, including a solo shot tonight. Since July 22, Ellis had four home runs in 27 games and has hit .318/.458/.482 with 22 walks during that span.
The Dodgers got some excellent relief work tonight, most notably from Kenley Jansen, who shook off a balk to strikeout four of the six batters he faced. Hong-Chih Kuo pitched two-third of an inning and faced three batters after throwing two full innings the night before. That's nearly uncharted territory for Kuo, who rarely pitched on back-to-back days or in multiple innings in the last few years.
Mike MacDougal, who unleashed three consecutive sliders on poor, unsuspecting Brooks Conrad in the bottom of the ninth inning, picked up the win. Javy Guerra pitched a clean tenth inning for his fourth save in five days.
The Dodgers go for the sweep against Randall Delgado and the Braves on Sunday morning, and there is no team more confident than one who has won six straight and heads into battle with Clayton Kershaw on the hill.
WP - Mike MacDougal (2-1): 1/3 IP, 1 hit, 1 strikeout
LP - Anthony Varvaro (0-1): 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 run, 1 walk
Sv - Javy Guerra (15): 1 IP, 1 strikeout