Even though it rained relatively hard for about 10 minutes during the 6th inning of Wednesday night’s Braves/Dodgers game at the Ravine, the forecast of a possible rainout never materialized. Unfortunately, the forecast of the Dodgers finally being tested by teams better than the Padres, Pirates and Astros did materialize. For the second time in as many nights and the fourth time in the last nine games, the Dodger yanked defeat from the jaws of victory in their opponent’s final at bat as the Braves pulled out a 4-2 win over the Dodgers thanks primarily to a freak line drive off the side of Javy Guerra’s face.
As they had done all night long, the Dodgers employed an infield shift in the top of the 9th inning against Braves catcher Brian McCann with a runner on first base and one out. The shift had worked to perfection in previous McCann at bats and would have worked perfectly in the top of the 9th inning too, had McCann’s line drive not hit Guerra and deflected to Dee Gordon (who made a great play of the ricocheted ball between second and third to keep it in the infield). Had the ball not struck Guerra it would have gone straight to Dodger third baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. who was playing directly behind second base in the shift and who would have undoubtedly turned a game-ending double play.
After being struck by McCann’s blazing line drive and in what will undoubtedly be questioned by many, Dodger manager Don Mattingly allowed the pleading Javy Guerra to remain in the game, a decision which proved fatal to the then leading (by a thin 2-1 margin) Dodgers, as the next three batters Guerra faced got hits which led to the Braves scoring 3 runs and the eventual 4-2 victory. Nary a sportscaster alive (well, at least those covering the game and later on DodgerTalk) could understand why Mattingly allowed Guerra to remain in the game after being struck by McCann’s liner. When questioned after the game about this, Mattingly told reporters “I would have (removed Guerra), honestly, but (assistant trainer) Greg Harrel was talking to (him), making sure his jaw lined up and nothing was broken. Javy was clear-eyed when he looked at me. Twice he said he was OK.” Let’s be real here, what else is Javy going to say when asked if he is ok or not, even if he wasn’t? That’s what professional baseball players do. Even though Guerra (thankfully) was not seriously hurt, Mattingly should have realized that such a blow to the head would have rattled him, even if only slightly.
Unfortunately, the real victim of McCann’s liner off of Guerra’s face was left-hander Ted Lilly, who pitched yet another gem and was well deserving of his third win; a win which was set up by a monster home run by Matt Kemp in the 6th inning. It was Kemp’s MLB-leading 10th home run of the season and his second to left field. Kemp’s blast traveled an incredible 454 feet and most likely would have cleared the Left Field Pavilion roof (or at least hit it) had it not been raining at the time. (Author’s note: As a front row season ticket holder in the LFP, I was in absolute awe of Kemp’s blast, which was a good 50 feet over my head as it flew by).
Even though the Braves are (thankfully) leaving town, the Dodgers are not out of the woods, not by any means. After a day off on Thursday, they host a three-game series against the Washington Nationals who bring with them a 14-4 record, the best in the National League.