Now that I've finally cleared off my DVR...
FRIDAY, JULY 27
Packed house at AT&T Park. Second-place Dodgers back for their first dance since being shut out in three straight in June. Injured Dodgers Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier back in the lineup, ready to team with new mate Hanley Ramirez to avenge that embarrassing sweep. And did they ever.
Matt Cain took on rookie Stephen "I get the irony that I made the majors right as Andy Griffith died but don't call me Barney" Fife in the first game. I'd later learn Fife is the first MLBer to ever make his first two starts against perfect game pitchers (having opposed Roy Halladay previously). I wonder if any pitcher has ever made two straight starts vs. perfecto pitchers. Not enough to look it up, though.
SF had Fife teetering early but a Ryan Theriot double-play grounder negated a leadoff walk to Nate Schierholtz; subsequent singles by Melky Cabrera and Buster Posey went to waste. Three runners, no runs. Second inning: Schierholtz's hustle on a would-be GIDP scores an SF run—the only luck in an inning where Cain singled too hard to score Brandon Belt from second and Theriot's would-be RBI rocket to right was caught by Dodger first baseman James Loney. Six runners, one run.
In a series where pitchers from both sides had bunting issues, Cain's failure to help himself in the fourth helped preserve a 0-0 fifth-inning tie, by which time the G-Men were up to nine runners—but only one run. With two outs, Fife dumped an odd-angled double up the RF gap that took Schierholtz 17 full minutes to cut off—slight exaggeration—and soon scored their second run (by the eighth, LA led 3-1).
Cain, removed after six, would not win No. 11 tonight, but thanks to Belt's two-run single off of Ronnie Belisario in the eighth, he wouldn't lose No. 4 either. Clay Hensley, Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla held the Dodgers at bay; Casilla's two-on, full-count strikeout of Jerry Hairston, Jr. on a slider in the dirt was especially riveting.
Bottom of the ninth: LA brings in No. 38 Shawn Tolleson. I incorrectly assumed Tolleson's dad was ex-Yankee IF Wayne Tolleson, but apparently Shawn is the rare 2012 Dodger not directly descended from a big leaguer (Dee Gordon, Scott Van Slyke, Tony Gwynn, Jr., Ivan DeJesus, Jr., Hairston). He puts the Giants down in order, with Theriot angrily slamming his bat upon popping up a Tolleson heater. With two inning-ending lineouts and a GIDP preceding that at-bat, one can empathize.
Then came Hanley, who I feel shouldn't have even batted in the 10th. Sergio Romo had Ethier struck out with a gorgeous full-count frontdoor sinker. It was pretty. Romo doesn't face many lefties and it's unknown if Ethier even knew he had that pitch. He sure didn't act like it—he was frozen in place. The Giants fans in attendance roared. Nice work, Sergio!
So why was Ethier trotting to first base moments later? Romo's sinker was inexplicably ruled ball four. On the CSN broadcast, Mike Krukow half-heartedly defended the call, but the truth is: The home plate ump was as equally fooled as Ethier. Go ahead and excoriate me, Dodger fans—we each have our own takes but I'll go to my urn believing Romo caught that inside corner. Hanley then bought himself at least a weekend's worth of "Han-Ram" Dodger love when he launched a Romo slider out of AT&T Park, putting LA back up 5-3.
Now, you often hear regrettable stories about today's stars lacking knowledge of MLB history, such as the Washington National who was unaware that his manager Frank Robinson had once played—let alone landed in the Hall of Fame.
But I'd like to think Ramirez, a career Marlin, is not so obtuse as to be unaware of a Giants/Dodgers rivalry that goes back to before his grandparents were even born, if not longer. Sadly, it seems he may be. Why else would he perform such idiotic theatrics guaranteed to unnerve his opponents as he rounded the bases? Perhaps he is aware of the rivalry and feels secure that in this post-Brian Stow era, a permanent truce is in order? I can't pretend to know. Any Marlins fans with insight—I'd love some.