The Dodgers still haven’t figured out this whole playoff-berth-cinching thing in the Don Mattingly era.
Their magic number is still two, and the division title could be theirs by this time tomorrow — before any other team in the majors wraps up a playoff berth — but the Dodgers endured a frustrating evening Wednesday in their first opportunity to clinch the National League West.
A poor start by Stephen Fife, some questionable calls on the field and in the dugout, and a bullpen implosion in the eighth inning conspired to make the Dodgers’ fate look worse than it was.
With one out in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Dodgers were trailing 4-2 when Michael Young appeared to score on a double by Adrian Gonzalez. Jim Joyce, the first base umpire who had rotated to watch the play at home plate on Gonzalez’s hit to left-center field, ruled Young out on the tag by catcher Miguel Montero. Replays showed that Young was safe — that he tagged home plate with his left hand before Montero tagged Young’s jersey. Gonzalez did not like the call and was ejected.
Adrian Gonzalez ejected. Yelled inside dugout, "I'm ok with umpires rotating, but hustle and be in position."
— Pedro Gomez (@pedrogomezESPN) September 19, 2013
The call mattered quite a bit in the moment. Juan Uribe pinch-ran for Gonzalez and had to hold at third base when the next batter, Matt Kemp, singled to left field. Mark Ellis then lined out for the third out of the inning and the score held at 4-2.
A successfully executed sacrifice bunt by Skip Schumaker (a strategy whose drawbacks we recently discussed here) advanced Federowicz to third base with Yasiel Puig due up. Puig reached on an error, Federowicz held at third, and pinch hitter Scott Van Slyke grounded into a 5-4-3 double play.
Puig had an interesting game, a breakthrough in some ways and a step backwards in others.
His first-inning double off Diamondbacks starter Brandon McCarthy broke an 0-for-8 skid, but he was subsequently picked off second base. This also might have cost the Dodgers a run. It was the first time Puig has been picked off in his rookie season.
In the fourth inning, Puig hit a deep solo home run to break McCarthy’s shutout:
The Dodgers’ delayed gratification can be boiled down to luck, as always, and a few decisions: The decision to start Fife (2 ⅓ innings, 4 runs) and push Clayton Kershaw back three days. The decision to bunt. Gonzalez’s decision to pipe up after Joyce decided to call Young out at home plate.
All decisions that will be swept aside if the Dodgers win tomorrow. Game time is 12:40 p.m.
A few bullet points:
• In the quest for the National League’s best record, and home-field advantage until the World Series, the Atlanta Braves are 2 ½ games ahead of the Dodgers. The Braves (90-62) have 10 games to play; the Dodgers (87-65) also have 10. The St. Louis Cardinals are 89-63, while the Pittsburgh Pirates (87-65) and Cincinnati Reds (87-66) are also in the picture.
• The box score is here.
• Federowicz went 2 for 4 with a home run and a double.
• The Dodgers issued 10 walks, including three by Belisario. He was charged with all five runs that scored in the eighth inning. His earned-run average is 4.13.