Dodgers’ bullpen nearly coughed up the lead in 7-5 victory over the D-Backs

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Diamondbacks starter Trevor Cahill couldn’t overcome his control issues and the Dodgers took advantage in the second and final game played at the Sydney Cricket Grounds in Australia, winning 7-5. They fly back home having swept the D-Backs in the two-game overseas set.

The Dodgers rallied for a two-out run in the first inning when Andre Ethier hit a line drive single to right-center to drive in Yasiel Puig.

In the top of the third, Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu singled to lead off the inning, then advanced to third base on a Dee Gordon double to right-center that was just a few feet short of the fence. Puig then singled Ryu home, but got caught in a rundown for the first out of the inning. After Hanley Ramirez walked to put runners at first and third, Adrian Gonzalez brought Gordon home on a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0 in favor of the Dodgers.

Cahill was finally chased in the fifth inning after walking Gonzalez and Ethier consecutively to start the frame. Manager Kirk Gibson brought in reliever Josh Collmenter, but he too issued a walk to A.J. Ellis, loading the bases with no outs for left fielder Mike Baxter. Baxter grounded into a double play, but Gonzalez scored to make it 4-0. Juan Uribe followed up with a double to make it 5-0. Cahill’s final line: four innings pitched, five earned runs allowed on eight hits and four walks and a hit batsman, while recording only one strikeout.

Collmenter took the mound in the sixth inning, but the Dodgers continued to score. Leading off, Gordon bunted in front of catcher Miguel Montero, who made an error attempting to throw out Gordon, who scampered to second base. Puig doubled to left to drive in Gordon. Finally, Collmenter walked Hanley Ramirez before Gibson took him out for lefty Joe Thatcher. Thatcher stopped the bleeding, striking out Adrian Gonzalez. Puig was thrown out trying to advance on a wild pitch, then Ethier lined out to end the frame.

Meanwhile, Ryu was nearly unhittable on the mound. The Diamondbacks were only able to scrape together two singles and a walk over five innings. The lefty struck out five in the effort.

Dodgers reliever Chris Withrow took over in the sixth inning, but immediately got into trouble, issuing a walk to Aaron Hill and a single to Paul Goldschmidt to put runners on first and second with no outs. Martin Prado killed the momentum, however, grounding into a 6-3 double play. Montero grounded out to end the inning.

The Dodgers kept the pressure on, scoring their seventh on the seventh when Dee Gordon hit a sacrifice fly to center with the bases loaded. In the bottom half, Paco Rodriguez and Jamey Wright teamed up to load the bases, but narrowly escaped with the shutout intact as Hill lined out to right field to end the inning. Wright stayed in for the eighth, got into trouble, and couldn’t escape. A one-out walk followed by two consecutive singles by Montero and Mark Trumbo led to the D-Backs’ first run. Lefty J.P. Howell came in and extinguished the fire.

The Dodgers asked Jose Dominguez to close out a 7-1 ballgame but the young right-hander got himself into trouble with back-to-back walks of A.J. Pollock and Hill. Paul Goldschmidt then hit a fly ball to deep right-center that would have been out of most MLB parks, but Ethier caught it on the track with but a couple feet to spare. Pollock advanced to third. With Prado at the plate, Hill took second base on defensive indifference. Prado knocked both runners in with a single to right-center, chasing Dominguez from the game with a 7-3 score. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly brought in lefty Paul Maholm, who struck out Montero. Don Mattingly then made his seventh and final pitching change of the night, bringing in Kenley Jansen, who immediately served up a two-run home run to Trumbo to make it 7-5. Jansen struck out Gerardo Parra at long last to seal the deal.

Dee Gordon finished 3-for-4 with a double, walk, and a hit-by-pitch, along with an RBI and a run scored.

Adrian Gonzalez went 0-for-2 with two walks. In the fifth inning, Gonzalez stole second base off of Cahill and advanced to third on Montero’s throwing error. It’s just the sixth stolen base of his career, but he’s five-for-five in stolen base attempts since the start of 2010.

After a tough 0-for-5 game in the opener, Yasiel Puig went 3-for-5 with a double, two RBI, and a run scored.

Cuban rookie Alexander Guerrero made his Major League debut as a pinch-hitter in the top of the ninth, but D-Backs closer Addison Reed struck him out.

Juan Uribe went 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI.

Paul Goldschmidt singled twice in five at-bats.

Mark Trumbo went 2-for-5 with a homer and three RBI.

Overall, the game featured 12 runs, 21 hits, 16 walks, and four errors. The two teams combined to use 14 pitchers.

The Dodgers will fly back home and resume spring training with three games against the Angels before traveling to San Diego to open up the regular season in the United States on the 30th.  The Diamondbacks will play three against the Cubs as well as split-squad games against the Reds and Indians before their home opener against the Giants on the 31st.

Something needs to change to avoid future incidents like Machado-vs.-Welke

Denis Poroy/Getty Images
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On Monday, Major League Baseball announced that Padres third baseman Manny Machado was suspended one game and fined an undisclosed amount for “aggressively arguing” and making contact with home plate umpire Bill Welke after a controversial strike three call in the fifth inning of Saturday’s game against the Rockies in Colorado. The clip of the incident is below, showing that Welke’s call was poor. Machado’s behavior was also poor, as he indeed made contact — inadvertently or not — with Welke and repeatedly swore at him. Machado also threw his bat, though it was not in anyone’s direction and no one was put in harm’s way.

Machado chose to appeal his suspension, as is his right. While that matter is in the process of being resolved, the Major League Umpires Association put out a lengthy statement on Facebook and a shorter but hashtag-laden post on Twitter. The statements were problematic for a number of reasons, chiefest being that the union is publicly commenting on an ongoing matter. MLB can keep Machado’s suspension at one game, which seems likely, or it can reduce his suspension to zero games. The league can also choose to reduce or remove the fine as well. Once the matter is resolved, the MLBUA should feel free to comment publicly on the matter.

MLBUA’s statement was also poorly proofread, hyperbolic, and creates a very legitimate argument for bias against Machado and/or the Padres going forward. The MLBUA described Machado as “violently” throwing his bat “with no regard to anyone’s safety.” It continued, “It is NOT okay to throw a temper tantrum and physically touch someone of authority, just because you don’t agree.”

MLBUA then moralized, asking, “What does this teach the MLB’s immense and ongoing influential youth movement trying to attract young fans to the game? Major League Baseball has to always lead by example in all cases of violent behavior, on and off the field.” It closed out, saying that the union was “extraordinarily disappointed” in MLB’s “inaction.”

Among the hashtags MLBUA used on Twitter were “#TemperTantrum,” “#RepeatOffender,” and “#Nonsense.”

Major League Baseball then released a statement on Tuesday night, saying, “…we do not believe it is appropriate for the union representing Major League Umpires to comment on the discipline of players represented by the Players Association.” The league added, “We also believe it is inappropriate to compare this incident to the extraordinarily serious issue of workplace violence.”

Whoever put out the message on behalf of the MLBUA should have asked themselves, “What is my purpose here and for whom am I posting this?” The entire purpose of a trade union is to create a cohesive unit, establishing bargaining power on behalf of labor versus capital. So, MLBUA is not writing this for fans, for players, or for MLB executives; it is publicly commenting for umpires. An ancillary benefit might be to engender public support for umpires vis-a-vis Welke.

It must then ask itself if the statement creates solidarity among umpires. And I think that’s a solid no. Machado is not the first player and will not be the last to make contact with an umpire and to throw a “temper tantrum” of that magnitude. So why single Machado out and die on this hill today? I would be shocked if more than a handful of umpires outside of Welke and his closest confidantes appreciated the MLBUA reacting the way it did. It doesn’t help them achieve any union-specific goals and might actually hurt them. Repeatedly referring to Machado’s actions as a “temper tantrum” and “nonsense,” and calling him a “repeat offender” is unprofessional. It’s something an Internet commenter would write in the heat of the moment, not the representative of a trade union in one of the most profitable industries in the country. Furthermore, in singling out Machado, Machado himself as well as his teammates have a legitimate reason to believe Welke and his crew might be biased against them not just for the remainder of the season but for the foreseeable future.

On a more pedantic note, the MLBUA wrote that it is not okay for players to act the way Machado did against “someone of authority.” It’s not the power that should shield umpires from workplace violence; it’s their humanity. Machado should no more or less scream and yell at an umpire than he should anyone else in any walk of life. However you rank umpires, coaches, front office executives, teammates, opponents, fans, etc. — they should all be treated equally.

All of this being said, there was one part of MLBUA’s statement that rang true. As mentioned, Welke did suffer violence in the workplace. I disagree with MLB that the comparison was inappropriate. There is nuance to what constitutes “workplace violence.” Is it a mass shooting? Of course not. But in no other employment setting would it be appropriate for one person to scream, curse, and throw items across the room during a disagreement. The union correctly wrote, “Physical contact simply cannot be tolerated.” The crux of all of this is that Major League Baseball doesn’t discourage altercations between umpires and players/coaches. Things have gotten better since the implementation of instant replay, but some instances — especially ball/strike judgment — can turn into very heated altercations.

MLB needs a flat rule instructing players and coaches not to argue with umpires. The team of the offending person(s) would incur an in-game penalty as well as a potential fine and suspension. In exchange for this loss of power on the part of players and coaches, the umpires should be subject to actual oversight. As it stands, umpires are almost never punished in any way for any kind of behavior towards players and coaches, nor are they often punished for poor results in terms of correct calls made. The umpires already have the advantage with their authority; their lack of oversight puts that advantage on steroids, which is why there’s often so much frustration. Umpires instigate confrontations a non-negligible amount of the time. If they felt like they would actually be held accountable for it, they might be much more reluctant to act, for example, the way Ron Kulpa did towards the Astros in early April.

MLBUA helped gain that power imbalance for its members, so it isn’t likely to give it up very easily. I don’t see my utopian dream coming to fruition anytime soon. But that’s the crux of every umpire-involved confrontation: authority. Umpires and players/coaches need to be on a level playing field in that regard, and the rules need to be crystal clear on what kind of behavior is allowed from both sides. Until that happens, we’ll be seeing a Machado-vs.-Welke incident once or twice every year ad infinitum.