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Don Mattingly Takes Bat Out Of Matt Kemp's Hands, Has No Regrets

This bunt was a good decision. The other bunts by the Dodgers on Tuesday? Not so much.
This bunt was a good decision. The other bunts by the Dodgers on Tuesday? Not so much.

To understand the frustration emanating from the Dodgers' 2-1 loss to the Giants on Tuesday night, one does not need to be sabermetrically inclined. This doesn't have to be an argument of newfangled stats versus old school gut trusting.

It is simply a matter of logic that has Tuesday welded into our heads.

There were two sacrifice bunt calls made late in the game by the Dodgers tonight, but I will completely ignore the seventh inning attempt by Juan Uribe that turned into a double play, other than to say that manager Don Mattingly had no regrets about either decision to bunt.

"Neither one of those decisions I would look back and change," Mattingly said after the game.

The call in question, however, came in the eighth inning. When Mattingly made the wrong choice.

With Bobby Abreu on second base, Dee Gordon on first base, and nobody out, the Dodgers had Mark Ellis at the plate. Sitting in the on deck circle was Matt Kemp who has simply been the best player in baseball this season, though Josh Hamilton and his four Tuesday home runs might beg to differ.

Mattingly had Ellis bunt, moving Abreu and Gordon to second and third base. The only problem is that first base became open, and Kemp was walked intentionally, and left-hander Javier Lopez was brought in to face Andre Ethier.

"They have to pick between Matt and Andre, and if I can get Andre up there with the bases loaded, I'll take it every day. He's leading the league in RBI," Mattingly said.

But the Giants didn't have to pick at all. Mattingly knew that with first base open there was no way Kemp was going to see a pitch. The Dodgers' best player had the bat taken out of his hands, and it wasn't Bruce Bochy making the call. It was Mattingly.

After Ethier, the Dodgers had left-handed batters Tony Gwynn Jr. and James Loney on deck, essentially the perfect setup for the southpaw Lopez, who retired all three, including Ethier on a double play to end the eighth inning without a run scoring.

"I wouldn't really change anything. We just have to execute, that's all," Mattingly said. "First and second nobody out we have to try to get runners over and get them in scoring position. With Mark [Ellis], I do it all the time."

All year long, the Dodgers' offense has essentially been Kemp and Ethier, with a nod to the Ellis brothers and their stellar OBP. At that point in the lineup, the Dodgers had two credible offensive weapons and Mattingly's maneuvering took one of the options, the best option, away.

Given the relative lack of offense directly after Ethier, I asked Mattingly why he chose, knowing what would happen with Kemp, one shot with the bases loaded for Ethier rather than two shots with two runners on for Kemp and Ethier.

"I'm still giving two guys a chance, but I don't even need a hit. I just need to get a ball in the air," Mattingly said. "I have two guys that are basically leading the league in RBI and they have to take their pick."

Only the Giants didn't have to make a choice. It was already made for them by Mattingly.

Rivera Ailing

Juan Rivera left the game after the bottom of the seventh after feeling something in his left leg while sliding into third base. Rivera said he felt no pain in his leg, but felt a sensation he described as "needles" near the back of his left knee. He said he didn't think the injury was serious, but the Dodgers will have Rivera take an MRI exam on Wednesday to be sure.

Kershaw Streak Ends

Clayton Kershaw had a pair of streaks end on Tuesday. His 10-game winning streak is now gone, as is his 12-game home winning streak.

"I don't care about that," Kershaw said of his personal streak. "It's frustrating to lose. You never want to lose."

Kershaw allowed just two runs on five hits in his eight innings, but there are two pitches he remembered, the single by Buster Posey in the second inning that was followed by a two-run home run by Brett Pill.

"This is one of the better days I have felt this season," Kershaw said. "They made me pay for two pitches I missed spots with, one to Posey, one to Pill."

Up Next

Chad Billingsley starts on the mound Wednesday night for the Dodgers in the rubber game of the series, against a fellow named Tim Lincecum for San Francisco.