An ugly series for the Dodgers had an especially ugly ending Thursday, with Yoenis Cespedes hitting a walkoff homer in the bottom of the ninth to give the A’s a sweep in Oakland.
Josh Lindblom, one of the NL’s best setup men this season, had a terrible ninth today. He walked Coco Crisp to start the inning and then allowed him to advance with a wild pitch. Jemile Weeks then dropped down the bunt everyone in the ballpark knew was coming, yet Lindblom, after picking it up, turned and looked to fire to third base with no one standing there. Juan Uribe was drawn way in on the play, and even had Uribe been back, it was a good enough bunt with a speedy baserunner that Crisp was likely to be safe anyway.
That made it first and third with none out for Cespedes. Had things gone as planned and the sacrifice been successful, Cespedes almost certainly would have been walked to set up the double play. As it was, the A’s pitched to him, and he ripped a line drive that barely stayed to the right of the foul pole in left, giving the A’s a 4-1 win.
Much credit should go to Travis Blackley. Coming off his first win in eight years last week against the Padres, Blackley matched Clayton Kershaw pitch for pitch in this one. Both threw eight innings and allowed one run on three hits. Kershaw struck out seven and walked two. Blackley fanned six and walked none.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers have to be wondering where their offense went. Despite having the DH available, they scored just two runs in being swept. Leadoff man Dee Gordon went without a hit or a walk for the third straight game today, yet still managed to get caught stealing (he reached on a fielder’s choice in the ninth). $85 million outfielder Andre Ethier is hitting .171 in 70 at-bats this month. They actually used Ivan De Jesus — a utilityman who hadn’t started a game in three weeks — as their DH today.
Madison Bumgarner isn’t the only Giants pitcher who can rake. Matt Cain crushed a three-run home run during Tuesday’s game against the Giants.
Cain stepped to the plate with runners on the corner and one out against Reds starter Cody Reed in the bottom of the second inning. Reed threw a 1-1 fastball down the middle and Cain hit it about 20 rows back in the left field seats.
It’s Cain’s first homer of the season, his first since 2012, and the seventh of his 12-year career. He still has some work to catch up to Bumgarner, who has two homers this year and 13 in his career.
On the pitching side of things, Cain got the win against the Reds on Tuesday night, giving up four runs on six hits and a walk with four strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. He currently holds an ugly 5.95 ERA.
The Nationals lost a heartbreaker on Tuesday night, as the Indians overcame a two-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat the Nationals 7-6. Closer Jonathan Papelbon faced five batters but was unable to record an out, yielding a leadoff walk, a double, a bunt that ended up very successful due to a Ryan Zimmerman throwing error, an intentional walk, and a single. Oliver Perez came in and eventually allowed one of his inherited runners to score, saddling Papelbon with the loss.
Papelbon also served up four runs in the outing before Tuesday’s, on Saturday against the Padres. The two clubs entered the top of the ninth tied 6-6, but a walk followed by three two-out singles and a bases-clearing double off of Papelbon allowed the Padres to take a 10-6 lead.
On the season, Papelbon is 19-for-22 in save chances with a 4.18 ERA and a 30/12 K/BB ratio in 32 1/3 innings. If the season were to end today, the right-hander’s 21.4 percent strikeout rate would be the lowest mark of his career and his 8.6 percent walk rate would be his highest mark since 2010.
Manager Dusty Baker didn’t indicate that he’s going to make a change at closer, but he sounded dissatisfied with Papelbon’s performance thus far. Via Mark Zuckerman of MASN, Baker said, “He doesn’t have his command, which is evident when you walk the leadoff hitter. But it’s like, what do you say? How does he look? Right now he doesn’t look like Pap. He doesn’t look very good. Usually he doesn’t walk people like that.”
The non-waiver trade deadline is on Monday, August 1. The Nationals, at 58-42, still have a four-game lead over the Marlins and a 4.5-game lead over the Mets. Tuesday’s loss has motivated the club to attempt to upgrade the bullpen, Jon Morosi reports. The Nationals were in the mix for Aroldis Chapman before the Yankees sent him to the Cubs. Perhaps Andrew Miller could be next on the Nats’ wish list.