Andre Ethier and Adrian Gonzalez made outs in the sixth inning Sunday, but impressed Don Mattingly in the process. (John McCoy/Staff photographer)
The Dodgers hit four home runs Sunday against the San Francisco Giants, but that’s not what had Don Mattingly
Hanley Ramirez can hit home runs. That’s no revelation. Even Matt Kemp, Mattingly said, had his power swing on display from the time he reported to camp, with his high follow-through leaving many pitching machines in Glendale, Arizona with stratospheric ERAs.
No, what had Mattingly excited was the sixth inning.
Ramirez led off with a double into the left-field corner. Adrian Gonzalez was next up, and he hit a ground ball directly into the Giants’ shift. First baseman Brandon Belt fielded the ball and tossed to pitcher Matt Cain covering first base for the out. That didn’t matter to Mattingly, because Ramirez advanced to third base, then scored on a deeply hit sacrifice fly by Andre Ethier.
“That was a big run for us,” Mattingly said. “They cut it to 4-2 with a couple homers there. Hanley starts the inning with a double, Adrian gets him over with the ground ball, Andre gets him in. Sometimes last year we didn’t get that done very well. I was encouraged by that tonight.”
Indeed, the biggest complaint about the Dodgers’ offense for the first six weeks of 2013 was its lack of situational hitting. On June 14, the Dodgers were 10 games below .500 and averaging 3.5 runs per game. From June 15 on, they averaged 4.3 runs per game. The arrivals of Yasiel Puig and Ramirez were integral. They added two dimensions the offense lacked, speed and power. More importantly, they didn’t make as many outs as the men they replaced. By extension, the Dodgers had more runners on base and had more success moving them over. Their situational hitting improved.
The Dodgers might never have another inning like the sixth this season. But if it becomes a trend, that’s one less way a lineup full of superstars can fail to score.
Some bullet points for an International Beaver Day: