Russell Martin's "why are they pitching to me?" RBI single with two outs in the 13th inning gave the Dodgers a 4-3 win over the Nationals, in a game that was far too nerve racking for an April contest. The Dodgers played their third straight game featuring a pitcher getting his first major league win, but this time they came out on the positive side of that ledger, as Carlos Monasterios pitched the final 2 2/3 innings to record the victory.
The effort by Monasterios capped off a resurgent day for the Dodger bullpen. Six different relievers combined for seven innings, allowing one unearned run, while walking nobody and striking out five. The one unearned run came in the eighth inning, after a stolen base and a throwing error put Adam Kennedy at third base with two outs against Jonathan Broxton, asked to get a four out save. As we have learned with the 2010 Dodgers, nothing ever goes according to plan, and Broxton allowed a single to Cristian Guzman to tie the score. Still, entering the day with a 6.00 ERA and 36 walks in 54 innings, the Dodger bullpen had a much-needed good day.
Before the season, Joe Torre mentioned he thought the role for Monasterios would be similar to that of Ramon Troncoso at the start of 2009, specifically as a multiple-inning guy. One can't help but see the similarities between this game by Monasterios and Troncoso's four-inning save in Colorado (one year ago tomorrow) as a trust-building performance.
Clayton Kershaw was wild early, walking three batters in his first three innings, pushing his major league leading total to 18 bases on balls this season. However, he battled through several two-out rallies to pitch six innings, and didn't walk a batter in his final three innings. He left with the game tied, and was lucky to not be trailing, as Nyjer Morgan hit a double to left field in the sixth inning, the fourth two-out double by the Nationals against Kershaw, but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple. Morgan was called out before Craig Stammen touched home plate with the go-ahead run, so the run didn't count.
With one out in the 11th inning, Joe Torre made the choice to make a double switch, bringing in Monasterios, his sixth and final reliever of the day. Ramon Ortiz pitched 2 2/3 innings Friday night, and was deemed unavailable for tonight's game. Monasterios needed to pitch multiple innings, and Matt Kemp happened to be the guy who made the last out in the top of the 11th, so Reed Johnson replaced Kemp in center field while Monasterios entered into the cleanup spot in the batting order. It's a tough call, and probably not one I would have made (removing one of Kemp or Andre Ethier), but was either that or have Monasterios bat for himself earlier than needed.
Fast forward to the 13th inning, and Russell Martin batted with Rafael Furcal on second base and two outs in a tie game. Andre Ethier was on deck, but Monasterios followed him, with only A.J. Ellis available to hit and really nobody available to pitch the bottom of the inning. An argument could be made to walk both Martin and Ethier to force Torre's hand, either to have Monasterios make his first major league at-bat or to have a tired Ramon Ortiz or perhaps even a starting pitcher pitch the next half inning. Instead, Nationals' manager Jim Riggleman decided to pitch to Martin, and Martin delivered with a run-scoring single to give the Dodgers what would be the final margin of victory.
- After the game, the Dodgers placed Vicente Padilla on the disabled list (per Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times), and recalled Jon Link, only a few days after being sent down. I'm not sure who will join the starting rotation in Padilla's place, but it almost has to be Ramon Ortiz unless another move is made. Link sounds like a temporary solution as a bridge to get to Padilla's turn in the rotation, which will come Tuesday in New York. The next three scheduled starters for the Isotopes after tonight are Josh Lindblom, John Ely, and Josh Towers, all non-roster players. Scott Elbert, who is on the 40-man roster, was scheduled to pitch tonight, but he is instead with his wife who is about to give birth to their second child. I think Elbert is as good a bet as anyone to start Tuesday against the Mets
- Casey Blake was the star of the "first half" of this game, hitting two home runs to account for the Dodgers' first three runs. Blake also had two assists to nail runners at home plate, including Ivan Rodriguez in the 13th
- The Dodgers were fortunate Rodriguez was running the bases in the 13th; otherwise the game might have been tied. Rodriguez, nursing a tight back, got a pinch-hit single in the 13th, but was running very gingerly to first base. Other than Ryan Zimmerman, nursing a bad hamstring himself, the Nats were out of position players to pinch run for Pudge II. When Morgan doubled to the right field corner one batter later, Rodriguez was forced to hold at third base.
James Loney picked up his 500th career hit in the second inning
- Rafael Furcal is eight for nine in stolen base attempts this season
Chad Billingsley faces Scott Olsen in the series finale, tomorrow at 10am
WP - Carlos Monasterios (1-0): 2 2/3 innings, 2 hits, 2 strikeouts
LP - Miguel Batista (0-2): 3 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 1 strikeout