Monday, October 02, 2023

At-Game 161 Thread: Into The (Baby) Lions' Den

This is how close we were at Oracle Park. Wow.

Saturday night, I went up with a friend to Oracle Park to see the Dodgers fall to the Giants, 2-1. The game itself was kind of a bummer of an evening, with the only redeeming takeaway being Mookie Betts registering his 107th and final RBI of the 2023 season, driving in David Peralta in the top of the fifth to momentarily tie the game at 1-1.

But even though starter Clayton Kershaw was cruising (having given up only a solo HR earlier), he was undone by Max Muncy's ineptitude at third base on two consecutive plays in the sixth. First, with two runners on and no out, Muncy is hit a ball that he foolishly decides on which he can try to pull a 5-4-3 double play (he didn't), so the runner on first is safe and the lead runner, whom Muncy could have either tagged out or just raced to the third base bag, is now safe at third. The following batter, Wilmer Flores, again hits a ball to Muncy, who promptly botches the play and allows the runner on third to easily score. Michael Grove came in to escape the jam, but the damage was already done--and worse off, Clayton Kershaw, in what could be his final appearance as a pitcher let along possibly as a Los Angeles Dodger, was on the hook for the loss, his first since May 21.

Also want to call out that many Giants fans--and the crowd was about 50-50 from where we were sitting--applauded as Kershaw left the mound for the dugout in the sixth. That might be his last regular season start, as a Dodger or as a player in total. I was excited to be there to see it, even if the result wasn't what I had hoped.

Kershaw, grabbing some food before his start.

Muncy also went 1-for-4 and I know his OPS is over .800 and his WAR is 2.6 (ahead of JD Martinez and Jason Heyward, for example). But he's a three-outcome hitter and more often than not, it's a strikeout (his 153 Ks on the year is second only to James Outman) or a weak fly out to the infield. And his defense is a disaster, as evidenced by this debacle Saturday night.

The Dodgers ultimately ended up losing when, having just reached on a two-out single, Chris Taylor was thrown out trying to advance to second. Upon exiting the stadium, I heard another Dodger fan (and there were plenty of them at this game, which was great) mutter about how Taylor shouldn't have been running with David Peralta at the plate. But with Austin "Automatic Out" Barnes batting behind Peralta, Taylor really didn't have another option. It was then or never. He had to try to get into scoring position for Peralta.

And anyway, the game was meaningless for the standings, and it felt like a low-stakes game in kind. The Giants' season ended the following day, and they go into the offseason having shed themselves of smarter-than-everyone-else manager Gabe Kapler and a lot of pressure to make a bold move after striking out on both Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa last offseason. The Dodgers rest up during the Wild Card round and prepare to face either the Brewers or Diamondbacks next week in the NLDS.

We move on. The Giants stay home.

On Saturday, the Dodgers didn't get their 100th win of the season (though they did on Sunday afternoon). Nor did Mookie get his 40th HR or Freddie his 30th HR or 60th double (none of which happened on Sunday, either). So from that perspective, it was a bummer.

I end up the season 5-5, counting this road game.

That said, my friend (who invited me to the game) had incredible seats, first row right down the first base line. And even with the quicker pace of play, the game gave us enough time to talk and reminisce about the rivalry, how we got into our respective NL West fandoms. We shared perspectives on empty nest syndrome as well as the difficulties of aging. And we got to watch some great athletes and a stadium full enough to keep the seagulls away for one evening. It was a great night.

I noticed that the Oracle Park scoreboard seems sharper than our Diamondvision screen at the Stadium. The Giants also have more quiet time between innings and pitches, a stark contrast to the aural barrage that happens at Dodger Stadium. And they have stupid between-innings traditions--namely, a sing-along set to Vanessa Carlton's "A Thousand Miles" (because nothing strikes fear in one's opponent like a 90's one-hit wonder from the Dawson's Creek soundtrack)--but at least it wasn't as insipid as the Food Truck dot racing animation that they've been running this year at Dodger Stadium. But overall it was a good night.

Actually, it's always a good night at a ballpark. This year, I got to a game at Yankee Stadium (my first at new Yankee) as well as here at Oracle Park. I also got in a game at the Dayton Dragons (the Reds' High-A affiliate) as they hosted the Lansing Lugnuts.

Man, I do love baseball.


QuadSevens said...

Sounds like a fun night. And I absolutely love minor league baseball team names! Long ago I saw a game for the Salt Lake Buzz and bought one of their caps. The Lugnuts are a solid team name.