Sunday, April 29, 2007

Post-Game 25 Thread: Dodgers Win a Marathon (Dodgers 5, Padres 4)

The Dodgers' marathon 5-4 win over the Padres today gave Los Angeles the series victory over a divisional opponent and kept the Dodgers in first place, a half-game ahead of the Diamondbacks and two games ahead of the Padres and Giants. And the 17-inning game, the longest the majors has seen this year, was notable because it boiled down to the Dodgers' strategy going into this season: win with pitching, not with hitting.

Sure, Rafael Furcal and Juan Pierre each went 2-for-7 at the top of the lineup, and Nomar Garciaparra went 3-for-8 and Jeff Kent went 2-for-7 with an RBI to boot (off a solo home run). And Luis Gonzalez even contributed a solo home run of his own with a 1-for-3 day before being lifted for Brady Clark, who went 1-for-6. But oh, that one hit was sweet, knocking home Wilson Valdez from first off a double down the left field line for what would be the game-deciding run.

Say what you will about Valdez (who went 0-for-1 on the day having reached base on an error), he has scored some timely runs for the Dodgers, and his speed on the basepaths is infectious. His slide at home, about a half-second ahead of the tag, catalyzed a chorus of joyous shouts at my house, where many had collected to watch the later innings of the game.

But the real winners of this game were the Dodgers' bullpen pitchers, who filled in admirably when Derek Lowe went out in the seventh to pitch 10 2/3 innings of no-run ball, allowing only one hit (a single) throughout. Joe Beimel, Jonathan Broxton, newly-activated Chin-hui Tsao, Rudy Seanez, Takashi Saito, and Chad Billingsley all did an amazing job down the stretch keeping the Dodgers in the game during game-deciding bottom-halves of innings, during a key away game.

Billingsley was especially amazing in the 17th and final inning, having watched Mike Cameron get on base thanks to a Ramon Martinez error, and subsequently walking Geoff Blum. Billingsley then struck out Rob Bowen and Kevin Kouzmanoff, the latter on a wicked fastball having just been denied a called strike three on a beautiful pitch. The ump missed that call, but Billingsley did not crumble, and reared back to uncork a high fastball that Kouzmanoff could not handle.

Let's hope that this gives Billingsley (who earned the win with two innings pitched) some confidence as he will clearly play an important role for the Dodgers' pitching staff, either starting or relieving. He is young and his 5.93 ERA belies his flashes of brilliance and latent potential. Here's hoping that he gets back on track after a well-deserved victory today.

As for the Dodgers' offense, it can't expect to win after it stops scoring after the third inning, taking the next 13 innings off. We're lucky we got to the 17th, but many chances were wasted in between (the Dodgers left 15 men on base, relative to the Padres' 9). We still need that elusive power bat.

But for now, let's savor the series victory over the Padres, and look forward to our short three-day homestand vs. the Diamondbacks. Go Blue.

UPDATE: ESPN channels Elias Sports Bureau Inc. to say Sunday afternoon's Dodger victory was pretty special:

The Dodgers outlasted the Padres for a 5-4 victory in 17 innings at San Diego with the bullpens combining to allow only one run, unearned, in 22 2/3 innings pitched. The last time relievers totaled that many innings pitched in a big-league game without allowing an earned run was on Aug. 15, 1980, when the Astros won a 3-1 decision over the Padres in 20 innings (also at San Diego) with the bullpens combining for 27 2/3 innings and no earned runs.

In franchise history, the Padres have played six home games of at least 17 innings and they've lost all of them. No other team in major league history has lost as many as five straight home games of that length, although both the Cubs (dating back to 1982) and Dodgers (since 1973) have lost each of their last four such games.