June 3, 2009 – Tony Jackson’s Blog – Watching the Dodgers these days reminds me an awful lot of watching those New York Yankees teams that Joe Torre used to manage. Granted, the Dodgers don’t have four World Series rings, or even one (yet) for that matter. But they approach the game almost exactly the same, that methodical hitting approach that can be absolutely maddening to opposing pitchers because they have to work so hard for each out — and because no matter what the score, it seems like the Dodgers are just never, ever out of a game.
Tonight was a perfect case in point. Living as I do in Phoenix, I caught the game on the Diamondbacks TV affiliate. Darin Sutton and Mark Grace were practically foaming at the mouth over the performance of Dan Haren, and well they should have been. Haren absolutely dominated the Dodgers, made them look silly through those first seven innings, while the Diamondbacks built what they apparently thought was a comfortable, 5-1 lead
They should have made it more comfortable, of course. Because as soon as Haren was out of the game, here came the Dodgers. And you almost had a feeling all along that they would.
Last night was a perfect case in point, as well, even though the boys came up a run short. Again, they had sputtered all night offensively against Billy Buckner and relievers Clay Zavada and Juan Gutierrez, all of whom combined to shut out the Dodgers through eight. But they woke up in the ninth, and it was almost enough to erase the three-run deficit.
The game ended with Rafael Furcal, the potential tying run, on third base.
Torre likes to talk about the importance of playing for nine innings. That, to me, is a key difference between baseball’s elite teams and its also-rans, and right now, the Diamondbacks clearly fit into the latter category. Even though they had been dominated all night tonight, even though they were down by four runs heading into their half of the eighth inning, the Dodgers never let go of the notion that they were still in the game and that they still had every intention of winning it.
Conversely, the Diamondbacks entered the ninth trailing by only one run — but their body language clearly suggested they were a beaten bunch. They had no chance against Jonathan Broxton. After striking out on a ball in the dirt for the second out, a ball that bounced a few feet away from catcher Brad Ausmus, Gerardo Parra simply turned and walked back toward the dugout, not even trying to run to first base and force Ausmus to make a throw that might have been errant and might have given the Snakes a flicker of hope.
Instead, Parra simply conceded the out. And that is a prime example of a team NOT playing for nine innings. It also is a prime example of why the Dodgers, for now anyway, are so much better than the Diamondbacks.
Dodgers go to 36-18, and the lead is back to nine, matching the season high. In case you were wondering, the last time the Dodgers led the division by 10 games was at the end of the 1977 season, when they won it by exactly that margin over the second-place and two-time defending world champion Cincinnati Reds. Man, that was a LONG time ago.
Interesting anecdote about Daniel Schlereth, the D-Backs reliever who took a hardluck loss tonight after giving up James Loney’s game-tying double and Casey Blake’s game-winning single. Many years ago (maybe 10), when your humble correspondent was still covering the Rockies and Daniel’s dad, Mark, was an offensive lineman for the two-time Super Bowl champion Broncos, I remember Mark bringing a young (maybe 12) Daniel to a game at Coors Field. They were down in the dugout during batting practice, and I remember Mark telling someone in a Rockies uniform (for the life of me, I can’t remember who) something like he never respected baseball as a game until his kids started playing and he saw how difficult it was to excel at.
I also remember John Madden used to refer to Mark during NFL broadcasts as “Stinky” Schlereth. Not sure why. But does that mean we can refer to Daniel as Stinky Junior? Or how about Little Stink?
By the way, opposing hitters are now batting .064 (3 for 47) against Jonathan Broxton this season at Dodger Stadium, where he has yet to allow a run. They are hitting .096 (8 for 83) against him overall. And the first batter he faces is now 0 for 22 (three walks) in his 25 appearances this season.
Finally, this has nothing to do with baseball, but does anyone else out there hate those new environmentally friendly Aquafina bottles as much as I do? They are so thin and flimsy, and they dent so easily on the bottom that they don’t even stand up right. And if you leave a half-empty one sitting around for a while, the plastic starts popping and snapping.
Screw the environment, I say. Bring back the old bottle.