Skip Schumaker was undoubtedly the team MVP today in Pittsburgh, if not for this entire season to this point. He started the scoring on the Dodgers’ side today with an RBI single. He saved Clayton Kershaw’s bacon by robbing Russell Martin of a three run homer to left in the bottom of the sixth. And to put the icing on the cake, Schumaker’s running grab to end the Bottom of the 11th gave Brandon League a save after the defense let League down on three different plays in the bottom of the 11th, resulting in the tying run getting to second base.
If the Dodgers all played like Skip Schumaker, bringing that same heart and intensity and serious approach to the game, wins like the 5-3 extra innings affair in Pittsburgh would become a more common affair. If the Dodgers all hustled like Juan Uribe has this year, run scoring opportunities would create themselves. If the Dodgers took on Yasiel Puig’s excitement for the game (while avoiding colliding with Andre Ethier, who has to be getting a little wary of watching balls go toward the gap in right-center after a slight hit and a near-miss with Puig the last couple of games,) the energy level on the field, in the dugout and in the stands at Dodger Stadium could be enough to get the Dodgers back in the playoff race in and of themselves.
As it stands, the Dodgers stand 9 games under .500 and 8 games back of the division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks, with a chance to gain a half-game if the San Diego Padres’ mid-game lead over the Diamondbacks holds up. The margin is not impossible and could certainly be overcome in the 3 1/2 months remaining in this baseball season.
For it to happen, the team is going to have to define who its leaders are and what roles they play. Guys like Skip Schumaker might not have the greatest talent or hold the greatest star-power, but they remind us that the little things in a game of baseball make a big difference.
Perhaps it’s time for the Dodgers to follow Schumaker’s lead. Locking up Clayton Kershaw to a long-term contract might help matters as well.
As for the game, Clayton Kershaw was brilliant, allowing an earned run and striking out eight batters in seven innings, including striking out the side in the seventh inning. Andre Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez all contributed to a two run sixth inning that gave the Dodgers a 3-1 lead. Ethier and Yasiel Puig had a near-collision in right-center field that caused anyone watching the game to hold their collective breaths. (Puig made a great-but-terrifying catch, a sharp throw to first, then appeared to get a scolding from Ethier who clearly appeared to be calling for the ball as the outfielders ran toward one another.) The bullpen antics of Chris Withrow, Paco Rodriguez and Kenley Jansen led to a tie game. Peter Moylan pitched a rocky tenth, but emerged from the inning with a zero on the board. The eleventh inning saw a big leadoff double from Andre Ethier, a well-executed sacrifice bunt from Mark Ellis, a single from Juan Uribe that scored Ethier, a wild pitch that moved him to second, and a booming double from Nick Punto (who’s performance this year has been, in many ways, comparable to Schumaker’s) gave the Dodgers a 5-3 lead.
Defensive lapses in the bottom of the 11th made what should have been a solid outing by Brandon League become shaky. A hard chopper to first base that Adrian Gonzalez handled turned into an infield single when League, racing to the bag, was forced to break stride due to a somewhat-errant throw by Gonzalez. Hanley Ramirez was unable to get enough juice on a throw to execute a double play. A mis-play by Juan Uribe on a grounder that should have gotten at least one out resulted in runners on first and second with only one out. A wild pitch put runners on first and second. But then another grounder to Uribe resulted in a failure of the runners to advance, and a fly ball down the left field line that wound up in the glove of a sprinting Schumaker gave the Dodgers a 5-3 victory and allowed them to breathe a sigh of relief.
The two teams face off one more time in the series. Zack Greinke will take the hill for the Dodgers against rookie hurler Gerrit Cole, with first pitch from PNC Park in Pittsburgh at 10:35 a.m. local time.