You ever watch one of those games where you could just tell from the very beginning that it was going to be extremely tough to walk out of there with a victory? That was this game. The Los Angeles Dodgers fell to the hated San Francisco Giants tonight, but not all hope was exactly lost in this one.
There were two stories in this game. The first being that Scott Kazmir struggled. And by struggled, I mean that he had trouble commanding anything of consequence. That led to issues. The second story is the dominance that Johnny Cueto displayed throughout his entire 7.1 innings of work. So, let’s get to the takeaways.
Takeaway #1: Tip your hat to Johnny Cueto, and just keep moving on from this night. Johnny Cueto pitched 7.1 innings this evening, but he was rarely ever in trouble. He only gave up one run, three hits, and two walks while striking out seven batters. He had a perfect game through 4.1 innings before Yasmani Grandal broke it all up with a double to right-center. Cueto commanded both sides of the strike zone, and he used his infinite methods of delivery to confuse a lot of batters at the plate. At the end of the day, you really do have to tip your hat to him.
It’s very rare that you see a pitcher look as in control as Cueto was all night long, but that’s what happened and the Dodgers really had no answer for him. They did get him into trouble in the final two full innings that he pitched, but they only were able to scratch across one run in the process. If you let a pitcher get into a groove early on in the game, it’s exceedingly difficult to get him out of it as the game goes along. Cueto was masterful throughout the evening, and whether or not you truly want to, you kind of have to give him all the credit in the world.
Takeaway #2: Scott Kazmir was shaky all night, but there was maybe one positive out there. The left-hander had a tough start for the second straight outing, and people were justifiably freaking out throughout the evening. Kazmir went four innings, gave up seven hits, four runs, walked four, only struck out three batters, and threw just 59 of his 93 pitches for strikes. He was often behind in the count, couldn’t get enough swinging strikes, and never was able to tightrope in and out of trouble. Kazmir only had one 1-2-3 inning, which came in the second, but there was at least one positive.
Throughout the majority of the game, Kazmir was working between 91-94 miles per hour. That’s a huge plus for him since he was averaging about 91 miles per hour on his fastball for most of the first two starts that he had. If this velocity uptick is legitimate, then it could conceivably give his changeup just that much more potential as a monster pitch due to the huge degree in difference when it comes to speed. Kazmir’s changeup, in the first two starts, was hovering around 75 MPH. We’re talking a near 20 MPH difference out of this. Could be massive. Just needs to command all of his stuff better than he did tonight or else it’ll all be for naught anyways.
Takeaway #3: After struggling for a little bit, we got to see Corey Seager do a good thing. Going into the bottom of the eighth inning tonight, Corey Seager was 0-for-his-last-11 with four strikeouts. It honestly looked like he was completely flummoxed up there for a lot of those at-bats. He would swing wildly, and he would swing often. However, in the bottom of the eighth inning this evening, he had a measured approach. Facing left-hander Javier Lopez with a runner on first and one out, Seager was patient. He saw seven pitches before drilling the eighth one over the wall in center field for a two-run home run that cut the deficit down to just one run.
In the at-bat, Seager took three balls, including one on a 2-2 count, and managed to foul off four pitches. He looked composed, into it, and that mentality paid off in a huge way as he helped give the Dodgers a fighting chance late in this contest. It was Corey’s first home run of the season, and first of many more this year to come. Hopefully that one at-bat and that one swing can propel Seager towards a nice little stretch here as Los Angeles gets ready to play games against the beleaguered Atlanta Braves, the hot-and-cold Colorado Rockies, and the dismal Miami Marlins. This could be a good sign.
Takeaway #4: It’s time to talk about how good the bullpen has been over the last four games. Everyone freaked out about the bullpen after the four-game series in San Francisco and the home opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks, but there is zero reason to not be praising them right now. Over the last four contests, the Dodgers bullpen has pitched 12 innings, given up just two hits, three walks, and one hit batter while striking out 13. They haven’t given up a single run. They’ve been lights out, and you have to love that right now.
Will this run continue? Of course not. No bullpen goes from the middle of April until the end of October without giving up a single run. However, they do seem like a much more confident bunch. Kenley Jansen talked about this group getting their confidence back, and that certainly appears to be what’s happening. This little run is wonderful to watch, and they’re all doing their part in making sure that the team has a fighting chance late in games despite whatever opposition they might be facing. Hats off, bullpen. You’re doing great right now.
Takeaway #5: The team never, ever, gave up. And you have to absolutely love that fighting spirit. The Los Angeles Dodgers were down 4-0. Scott Kazmir was yanked, nothing seemed to be going well, and they could have rightfully packed up shop and just rode this game out. Except they didn’t. They fought, they clawed, and they gave themselves a chance to tie this game in the bottom of the ninth. After Corey Seager’s two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth cut the deficit to just one, Yasmani Grandal had a leadoff hustle double in the bottom of the ninth. Kiké Hernandez then grounded out which allowed Grandal to move up to third. Joc Pederson popped out, and Yasiel Puig flew out to end the game.
While the final score and end of the game were less than ideal, the sheer fact the team had a chance to even tie, or win the game if there was a two-run home run, is quite remarkable considering just how well Cueto was pitching and just how poorly the game started out for the Dodgers. The team genuinely left their heart out on the field tonight, and you have to admire that. Rather than put together worthless at-bats, they put together good ones, and ultimately put themselves in a position to tie or win. Against a team that they’ll be battling with all season, even coming back in a game like this could mean something when it comes to situational matchups in later games against the Giants. Kudos for staying with it, guys.