Cliff Lee is very, very, very good at pitching. He demonstrated that fact today, fanning 12 batters through 7 2/3 innings. Chad Billingsley is also pretty good at pitching, depending on who you ask and depending on what time you ask it. He was very, very good today, allowing only 1 run while striking out 3. You can count me among Chad’s fans (what can I say, I love the drop and drive) but his performance thus far this season has been somewhat…infuriating.
Not, however, as infuriating as some people find Don Mattingly’s penchant for small ball. Tonight, in the 8th inning, the first two baserunners of the inning, Matt Treanor and Tony Gwynn, Jr., were thrown out at 3rd. Gwynn was gunned down by a particularly great throw by Hunter Pence in right field. However, Matt Treanor was thrown out at third after Tony Gwynn bunted to the 3rd base side. Bunting as a concept has not been greeted kindly by Dodger fans as of late, and because Treanor was thrown out as a result of one, people were seemingly irate. Here’s the thing, though: Treanor got an inarguably awful jump from 2nd. He was still around 2nd base when the ball left Gwynn’s bat, and gritty as he may be, Treanor isn’t going to be winning any races.
The worst part is that when Dee Gordon singled to right field to move Gwynn over (and subsequently get him thrown out), people believed that if Treanor had not run on the bunt attempt and stayed put on 2nd, then he could have scored on Dee’s single. Because apparently, and this is important, Matt Treanor would be able to go from 2nd to home faster than Tony Gwynn with a good jump can go from 1st to 3rd.
I don’t presume to know everything about baseball, nor do I really understand the nuances and intricacies of small ball. However, I do know that if you have a terrible jump off the bag on a play that has its entire success predicated on the fact that you are already running where you need to be, then you’re probably going to fail, and fail hard. Yes, a truly successful bunt would have been up the first baseline. Barring some major defensive errors, Gwynn would not reach 1st in this scenario and it’s likely that the Dodgers would have put up more runs in the 8th inning. But sometimes, I think people are already pre-inclined to hate bunting without really looking beyond the fact that someone is showing bunt in the batter’s box.
But that’s just my opinion; I could be wrong.
The Dodgers have a chance to sweep the Phillies in their game tomorrow, rebounding from several losses to both the Milwaukee Brewers and division rivals Colorado Rockies.