The Dodgers have had a magnificent start to their season, with the number three figuring prominently on Sunday. Matt Kemp had three hits and homered for his third straight day, Clayton Kershaw had three walks and three strikeouts in his third start of the season, and the Dodgers got three surprising outs on a sacrifice attempt by San Diego.
The result was a 5-4 win and a third three-game winning streak for the Dodgers, with the last two three-game winning streaks just happening to come back-to-back.
The Dodgers were in trouble in the top of the ninth, with two Padres on base with nobody out in a tie game. What happened next was one of the most bizarre plays you will ever see. Jesus Guzman tried to bunt, but the pitch from Javy Guerra sailed up and in and Guzman tried to get out of the way.
The ball hit Guzman's bat, and the rest is history. The Dodgers turned their first triple play since June 13, 1998.
"Javy was trying to pop him up there, up and in, and breaks his bat and the ball just kind of rolls out in front. At that point everyone just assumed the ball was foul but it's laying there in fair territory," manager Don Mattingly said. "A.J. [Ellis] really, heads up on that play. Good for us."
There were three key questions, two of which were answered by home plate umpire and crew chief Dale Scott:
1) Did the ball hit Guzman?
"We didn't have the ball hitting the batter. We talked on the field, my 3 partners and I, and we never had the ball hitting the batter," said Scott, who spoke with pool reporter Tony Jackson of ESPN LA.
2) Was the ball fair or foul?
"I didn't see where the ball was. I saw it trickle in front of the plate. Without having seen it hit, I have to assume that's a fair ball," Scott said.
3) Did Scott call foul ball?
In the video that is certainly what it looks like as Scott threw his hands up, though unfortunately this was not addressed after the game by Scott, though it seemed clear that Scott at least did not audibly call foul.
Guerra said it reminded him of a similar game last year, also against the Padres, on July 8. In that game, Guerra allowed two runners on to leadoff the inning, then came up and in on Rob Johnson, who was trying to bunt. In that case, the ball hit Johnson and the bases were loaded with nobody out. Guerra wiggled out of that jam for the save, and on Sunday was the benefactor of the 2-5-6-3 triple play.
Were the Dodgers incredibly fortunate? Absolutely. But the Padres decided to sacrifice with their cleanup hitter, and that's a decision they have to own.
The Ups And Downs Of Dee
Shortstop Dee Gordon had an up and down day. On one hand he had the game-winning hit, one of his two knocks, and two stolen bases. But he also had one error and really a second one that was called a base hit on Orlando Hudson's potential inning-ending double play ball in the sixth. Then again, Gordon also made a great over the shoulder catch in the top of the eighth in left center field.
"Dee was a little rough today, but that's alright," Mattingly said. "He's young. He's a kid. We're not worried about him."
Clayton Kershaw lost his control in the top of the sixth inning with three walks, prematurely ending his day. He gave up four runs, including three earned runs, and eight hits.
"They battled Clayton all day long. He was on the ropes pretty much every inning. They kept the pressure on," Mattingly said.
Kershaw through three starts has a 2.35 ERA but no wins to show for it, which is weird since the team is 9-1. But Kershaw isn't concerned.
"I don't care about winning individually. I want to pitch better. I didn't pitch that well today," Kershaw said. "Wins will come with pitching better, and getting deeper into games and doing some of those things that right now aren't coming so easily."
Beast Mode Updates Never Sleep
Matt Kemp had three more hits today, including his fourth home run during the three-game series. It was the sixth of the season for Kemp, who has hit all of his home runs against San Diego pitching this year. Kemp joined Don Demeter (1959) and Wally Moon (1961) as the only Los Angeles Dodgers to hit six home runs in the team's first 10 games, per ESPN Stats & Info.
Through 10 games, Kemp is hitting .487/.523/1.026 with six home runs, 16 RBI, and 13 runs scored.
"If you get a home run every game and getting hits every game, and multi-hit games, not to say we don't expect for him to be like that, but it's unbelievable what he's doing," Kershaw said of Kemp. "He's the best player in baseball, and probably the world right now. It's pretty ridiculous."
The Dodgers are off Monday, but open a six-game road trip on Tuesday night in Milwaukee. Chad Billingsley starts the series opener against the Brewers, facing Yovani Gallardo.