As if losing five games in a row wasn't enough, the Dodgers found a more devastating and bizarre way to lose tonight, giving up three runs in the ninth, losing 7-5 with a little help from Giants manager Bruce Bochy.
With one out and the bases loaded in the top of the ninth, up by a run, acting manager Don Mattingly made a visit to the mound to discuss strategy with Jonathan Broxton and the infield. However, as he was leaving the mound, Mattingly got to the grass, then turned around after James Loney asked a question. Bochy noticed this rule:
VISITS TO THE MOUND BY A Manager or coach are covered under rule 8.06 in the Official Baseball Rules and section 7.12 in the Major League Baseball Umpire Manual. A trip to the mound begins when a manager or coach crosses the foul line. It ends when the manager or coach leaves the 18-foot circle surrounding the pitcher’s rubber.
Technically, Mattingly made two visits to the mound, meaning Broxton had to be removed from the game. At that point, nobody was warming up, naturally with their closer on the mound, so the Dodgers had to scramble to find relief. George Sherrill was brought in to turn switch-hitter Andres Torres around, but the embattled reliever allowed a two-run double and the lead was gone.
This isn't even the first time Bochy has noticed this rule against the Dodgers. Four years ago, when Bruce Bochy was managing the Padres, he noticed the same technicality by Grady Little, which meant Brad Penny had to be removed from the game.
Put another notch in the managerial belt of Mattingly, who turned in an incorrect lineup card during the spring.
The Dodgers let this turn into a pissing contest in the middle of the game, putting the importance of retaliation ahead of the game itself. Both benches were warned in the fifth inning, when Lincecum hit Matt Kemp with a pitch. In the sixth inning, Denny Bautista threw inside to Russell Martin, angering the Dodger bench so much that coach Bob Schaefer was ejected.
Clayton Kershaw was through six innings having thrown 103 pitches, but was allowed to bat in the bottom of the inning. Even stranger, as Kershaw was batting, Hong-Chih Kuo was warming up in the bullpen. Then, to start the seventh inning, in a one-run game mind you, Kershaw hit Aaron Rowand with his first pitch. That pitch earned him and Joe Torre an immediate ejection, and more importantly put a guy with a .284 on-base percentage on base as the tying run.
How fortuitous that the Dodgers had the foresight to have a reliever warmed up and ready to enter the game at that very moment! All Kuo did was retire all six batters he faced, in a very economical 20 pitches. Then, all hell broke loose.
I'm sure the decision to have Kershaw plunk Rowand will be seen as a team morale booster, and I'm sure that is partially true. After all, every time I watch that documentary on the 1984 Padres all I hear about is how well the team came together after a long, drawn-out brawl with the Braves. I am not denying the impact of such a move on team unity, or even confidence. I just think winning the game itself matters more, and that there is no better morale boost than a win. Now, the Dodgers don't even have that.
The one saving grace tonight was that Jonathan Broxton got a hold. Long live stats!
Chad Billingsley faces Barry Zito tomorrow night, trying to avoid another sweep.
WP - Santiago Casilla (3-2): 2 IP, 1 hit, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
LP - Jonathan Broxton (3-2): 1/3 IP, 1 hit, 3 runs, 2 walks
Sv - Jeremy Affeldt (3): 1 IP, 1 hit, 2 strikeouts