Each night, former MLB manager and current DodgerTalk co-host Kevin Kennedy has a segment on his radio show in which he identifies three or four moments during the just-concluded game that were momentum changers. I have to admit that when Kennedy, who also managed in the Dodgers minor league system, first added this segment to his show, I thought that it was kind of corny – but the more I listened, the more I realized that he was right.
A momentum changer can be anything from a great defensive play that saves a run to a clutch hit (or at bat) that extends an inning, or anything else that has a direct impact on the outcome of the game. Kennedy points out that momentum changers can occur at any time during the game but adds that there is usually one in the beginning, middle and towards the end of every game.
One thing that I have noticed about Kennedy’s and co-host David Vassegh’s DodgerTalk show is that they do not take many calls during their broadcasts. Now whether this is by design or simply because they do not receive as many calls as did their predecessors Josh Suchon and Ken Levine (and later Joe Block) did is uncertain, but I suspect that potential callers may feel a little more intimidated about calling in because of Kennedy’s tremendous baseball knowledge and experience. Now this is certainly not to say that Suchon, Levine or Block were lacking in baseball knowledge, not at all; but Kennedy clearly has more actual baseball experience than they do. Whatever the reason for the fewer number of calls, those that do call in to Kennedy’s and Vassegh’s show seem to have a better knowledge of the game than those on previous DodgerTalk shows. Regardless, the addition of Kennedy’s momentum changers segment has added a refreshing and entertaining new angle to the show and his nightly assessments are usually spot-on.
Because the Dodgers lost on Tuesday night (which upset me to no end), I did not listen to DodgerTalk on my drive home from the stadium as I normally do. As such, I have no idea what Kennedy’s momentum changers were, but I suspect that one of them was Matt Kemp’s incredible lead-off at bat in the bottom of the 9th inning. During the at bat, Kemp worked Brewers fireball-throwing closer John Axford to a 3-2 count and then fouled off three pitches. On the ninth pitch of the at bat, Kemp laced a double into the gap in right/center and the momentum had clearly swung in the Dodgers’ direction in a 2-1 ballgame. Moments later, Andre Ethier was hit by an Axford fastball (ouch) to put the potential game winning run on first base. In spite of a history of bad blood between these two teams, I have a hard time believing that Axford hit Ethier intentionally but was simply trying to stay off the middle of the plate and came inside too much; although I suspect that Ethier may not see it this way… or tonight’s starter Clayton Kershaw – but that remains to be seen (my pick would be Braun or Aramis Ramirez – if you get my drift).
But hands down the most significant momentum changer of the night was actually a non-moment – it was Jerry Hairston’s inability to lay down a sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the 9th with no outs and runners on first and second. Everybody in the stadium (or the world, for that matter) knew that Hairston was going to bunt, especially pitcher John Axford. Why Hairston did not square to bunt while Axford was in his stretch will always remain a mystery to me. Trying to hide a bunt attempt until the last second in an obvious bunt situation against a guy who throws a 100 MPH fastball is (was), well, …stupid. In both of Hairston’s bunt attempts he was not square to the pitcher and his bat was not out in front of his body, and he fouled off both pitches, thus taking away the bunt possibility. Hairston then grounded into a 4-3 double play and essentially eliminated any possibility for a tie, let alone a win. Loney followed with a chopper to short which undoubtedly would have scored Matt Kemp from third base but ended up being the final out of the inning and the game.
To be fair, I have to give Jerry Hairston a pass on his momentum-changing inability to get the sac bunt down on Tuesday night as he has been directly responsible for several wins (momentum changers) in the past three or four weeks with his stellar defense and impressive offense, including his 5 for 5 day this past Sunday. That being said, I hope that Dodger first base coach Davey Lopes and former Dodger great (and bunting extraordinaire) Maury Wills spend a little time working with Jerry Hairston on his bunting skills so that the next momentum changer falls in the Dodgers direction.