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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
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From Start to Finish, A Dodger Night (Groins Not Included)
2003-06-18 07:59
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

Top 1
With one out and J.T. Snow on first, No. 3 hitter Ray Durham sacrifices. This is an immediate gift for the Dodgers, an indefensible move by the Giants. Do you think the Dodgers care that a runner is on second base instead of first with Barry Bonds coming up? Are the Giants expecting Durham to hit into a double play? It makes no sense to give up an out against Kevin Brown so easily.

Bonds smiles as, after three pseudo-attempts to pitch to him, Paul Lo Duca comes out of his crouch to take the fourth pitch as an intentional walk. The broadcast cuts to a Giants fan in the crowd holding a rubber chicken brought for the occasion.

Rich Aurilia whiffs at a tailing fastball for strike one, but from Tuesday's research, I know that an 0-1 count doesn't bother him. He then takes a change for 0-2, but fouls off pitches and takes a couple of close ones to work the count to 2-2. Vinny: "You can tell the intensity of the series. ... This crowd is groaning in the first inning, just like it's the ninth." After fouling off the seventh pitch, Aurilia grounds into a 6-4 force play to end the inning. Opportunity wasted for the Giants.

Bottom 1
Pedro Feliz replaces Snow at first base - we don't yet know how Snow was hurt.

Giants starter Jesse Foppert gets leadoff hitter Dave Roberts down 0-2, then makes a great pitch that could easily have been called for strike three. Roberts survives, but then grounds out 4-3 on the next pitch. Vinny takes the opportunity to tell us that the Giants have 31 errors, the fewest in the National League.

Lo Duca comes to the plate with his 23-game hitting streak. Vinny adds the relevant information that it's a 26-game on-base streak, then puts it in further context by noting that Bonds is at 38.

Lo Duca fouls two high-inside pitches that he might best take. But after another foul on an outside pitch, he blasts a home run to left field. "Boy - this crowd is pumped," Vinny says with a continued trace of surprise. But again, he doesn't get carried away. He notes how rare home runs have been for the Dodgers this season, just as slumping Shawn Green grounds out. Brian Jordan's routine fly to center ends the inning.

Top 2
Edgardo Alfonzo has only 14 strikeouts in 280 plate appearances, which leads me to believe that his poor batting average will recover.

Daryle Ward, activated from the disabled list and playing first base for a groin-injured Fred McGriff, makes a nice backhanded play on a grounder by Jose Cruz, Jr. Perhaps the Giants' hottest hitter in April, Cruz has been dropped to eighth in the order.

Vinny has built up Foppert as a potential hitter because he is a converted infielder, but Foppert enters the game only 1 for 17, and becomes Brown's first strikeout victim.

Bottom 2
Ward gets a leadoff single. Adrian Beltre is retired but moves Ward to second. On a 3-1 pitch that looked like ball four, Alex Cora grounds out but moves Ward to third.

The Giants make their second tactical error - not for the first time this season, if memory serves. They intentionally walk perhaps the poorest hitting starter in the National League, Cesar Izturis. Again, even if the pitcher's on deck, you're just setting the table for more trouble. The fact that Brown grounds a sharp single up the middle, making the score 2-0, is great for the Dodgers but irrelevant to the poor decision.

Top 3
Vin introduces us to the fans of the night: a couple, the man a Dodger fan, the woman in a Giants jersey. "Interesting that the fellow is wearing a windbreaker, but the woman must be from San Francisco - no windbreaker for her," Vinny says.

Vin is also quick to note that Brown is not fooling many people - Marquis Grissom singles for the Giants' third hit.

As Feliz comes to bat for the first time, Vin surprisingly misses a nice gambit. He uses the phrase "sadder but wiser" in the same spoken paragraph in which he talks about Feliz' wisdom teeth being removed. Vin then also makes a flub, referring to J.T. Snow as "Jack" - the ex-Ram popping into his head. Snow has a groin injury - what's with all the groin injuries?

A 2-2 sidearmer pitch from Brown freezes Feliz. The angle of the pitch simply shocked him.

Durham reappears in the same situation as the first inning - one out, man on first. This time, he's swinging and singles. How about that?

Bonds is swatting at gnats as he comes to the plate. The gnats also surround Brown on the mound. Brown challenges Bonds, who hits a sharp grounder to second base. Cora justifies his placement in the game by starting a huge 4-6-3 double play.

Bottom 3
Bonds is still swatting at gnats in left field. Vinny's line of the night, delivered matter-of-factly: "So the dreaded infield fly has moved to the outfield."

Lo Duca comes up for the second time and hits a 3-1 fastball off the short fence in left field. I've often derided Bonds' fielding, but he gets the ball back into the infield quickly. Lo Duca has a double.

Green swings at a bad 2-0 pitch, down and inside. He's having problems. The next pitch, in about the same location, is wild - in fact, it's so wild that it blasts through the word "PARTS" in the behind-the-plate advertisement for KRAGEN AUTO PARTS. Never seen that before. Lo Duca takes third, and the infield moves to play halfway in a 2-0 game. Momentum now on his side, Green works out the walk.

Vin notes that cars are still in the parking lot trying to get to the game. He urges the drivers to be careful and not to rush. Does Vin do three innings on radio now, or is he talking to people that can't hear him?

Jordan's sacrifice fly makes it 3-0.

Shawn Green's left ear looks as big as the ear flap covering his right ear.

Green steals second uncontested off a preoccupied Foppert - only Green's second steal of the year. Ward flies out. Beltre is up. When will Foppert pitch away to retire Beltre, I wonder? Instead, Foppert leaves a fat pitch over the plate, which Beltre uses to single in the fourth Dodger run. Vin says, "It didn't look like Green was running as well as possible," which has been my point all season. He just doesn't run well any more, period.

Top 4
Santiago has a solid one-out single. Brown is definitely hittable.

Vin sometimes repeats his stories, but the first time you hear them, they're pretty good. Maybe it's because I've been spending too much time looking at stats, not at player bios. Anyway, Vin tells us something I didn't know about Santiago's terrible car accident from a few years back. The passenger lost a leg, and won $2.6 million from Santiago in a lawsuit.

Alfonzo hits into the second 4-6-3 double play in two innings for the Giants.

Bottom 4
The AFLAC trivia question, well-tailored for this game, tells us that Santiago has the longest hitting streak ever by a catcher. The implication is that Lo Duca might catch him, but perhaps not as quickly as we might think, I realize. After all, as recently as Saturday, Lo Duca played not catcher, but first base.

Izturis gets a single - no doubt again putting the fear of God into Giants manager Felipe Alou. But the Dodgers try a hit-and-run with Brown, and it fails, with Brown whiffing at the pitch and Izturis erased by Santiago. "So the Dodgers, I guess, feeling a little cocky ..." says Vin.

Many cuts to the Giant-Dodger fan-couple this game, but no cuts to the kids. A small cadre of anti-Vinny people on Baseball Primer's message boards get on Vin for going overboard on the kids, but he really doesn't do it as much as they say.

Roberts is retired to end the inning. He looks impotent at the plate.

Top 5
Grissom comes up with two outs, and I learn much about him. His .384 batting average in the leadoff slot leads the majors. Perhaps more interestingly, he is the 14th of 15th children, his father was one of 10 and his mother was one of 13. Marquis was named after the Mercury Marquis his father drove to the hospital, on Marquis' birthday, from the night shift at an auto factory.

Grissom then walks - the 500th of his career, matching Bonds' 2002 total.

Feliz follows with a single. Vin again puts Brown's shutout in perspective: "Every inning Brown has been pitching from a stretch. He has three strikeouts, two of three the opposing pitcher."

With Bonds on deck, Durham hits a slow grounder to Cora, who almost mitigates his fine play thus far by ballooning an underhand throw to first. Durham is out by half a step.

Bottom 5
Lo Duca leads off and singles off a high floater over the middle. He needs a triple for the cycle - inconceivable except that he just hit an inside-the-park home run nine days ago. I can just hear my dad, who is at the game, asking, "Tell me again why he was in the minors for eight years?"

Green comes up and just like in the third inning, a low-and-inside wild pitch sends Lo Duca to third base. Santiago then saves another similar pitch from bringing Lo Duca home.

Green lines to Durham for an out. Bad luck for him that Lo Duca got a single and he got an out? Or irrelevant to the more important concern that Green is not hitting homers?

Jordan is retired, and then Chad Zerbe replaces Foppert to face Ward. A pitch hits Ward in the elbow and ricochets directly off Santiago's toe. Vin tells the story of a Dodger pitcher named Pete Mikkelsen who described making the perfect pitch - "it hit the batter, the catcher, and then the umpire in the neck."

Ward is spitting gushers at first base.

Beltre gets an 0-1 curve that he jumps on, but smashes foul. The Giant pitchers then come to their senses, and strike him out on an outside pitch. Is there an Outside-Pitches Anonymous that Beltre can join?

Top 6
Vin begins the inning by sending best wishes to Darren Dreifort, "who I'm sure feels very alone right now," on the eve of his knee surgery. Not maudlin - just a nice gesture.

Bonds, leading off the inning, pops out. The Dodger boyfriend smiles ever so quietly to his Giants girlfriend.

Brown gets his first 1-2-3 inning, needing only eight pitches. He's thrown 73 for the game - on pace for 109.

Bottom 6
The first kid camera shot of the night shows a young boy eating peanuts.

Wilson Alvarez is warming up in the bullpen - just to get his work in, I theorize.

Another shot of kids comes - and Vin articulates his fascination with them. "Aren't they great to see taking in the excitement of the game, and at the same time, in their own world?"

The Dodgers go 1-2-3 themselves. The busted hit-and-run in the fourth seems to have doused their offensive fire. Just coincidence, probably. That fire was bound to be doused.

Top 7
A shot of Giants pitcher Jason Schmidt in the dugout, which his small eyes, round face and sharp rectangular tuft of beard, evokes Ziggy as a ballplayer.

Brown will extend his streak of allowing two or fewer runs to 11 starts, but a nightmare is brewing. The trainer has come to the mound, and Brown is coming out. And perhaps Dreifort is thinking he won't be alone.

I switch quickly to Baseball Tonight on ESPN - they're talking about the game. Bobby Valentine has some interesting comments. He says that Brown has thrown nothing under 90 - fastball, slider or sinker. He notes that Brown sometimes stands off the rubber, which is illegal. Says Brown doesn't need to do it. And then ESPN shows a replay of Brown grimacing and limping after his sixth-inning groundout. Their collective breath-holding speaks for all of us.

Paul Shuey strikes out Cruz, then faces Neifi Perez. Perez is somehow batting .417 as a pinch-hitter, and then augments that with an RBI double. The Giant fan cheers for the first time all night.

Grissom grounds out. And on a 2-0 pitch, Feliz smashes one to Ward's right at first base. Ward smothers it for the inning-ending out - this is his best game as a Dodger.

Bottom 7
After a meek out by Roberts, Lo Duca makes a valiant bid for the cycle, driving one to the right-center-field gap. "Don't tell me," Vin says - and there's a little bit of consternation in his voice, believe it or not, as if he's saying that Lo Duca is making the game look too easy. But Cruz cuts the ball off in the gap and holds Lo Duca to a single.

Green gets just under a 1-2 curveball and misses hitting a home run.

The preliminary report comes in on Brown. A strained left groin - the epidemic continues. I have to assume that Brown is going to miss his next start. The last thing you want is for him to compensate for the injury and wreck another body part.

Jordan strikes out to end the inning. The Dodgers are counting on four runs being enough.

Top 8
Bonds sends one to right-center himself, and Roberts makes a poetic diving catch. It is truly the Dodgers night. A replay shows the Giants fan cheering, then covering her mouth in shock. The Dodger fan exults. To me, I think it's great that the production crew has devoted a camera to telling this ongoing story. Certainly, anyone who can read this overblown account of my view of the game can get behind watching the emotional roller coaster of this couple.

Bottom 8
Ward's single leading off the inning confirms this is his best game as a Dodger. Beltre, unfortunately, grounds into a double play. So depressing.

Top 9
"Bienvenue, Monsieur Gagne ..."

Facing Santiago:
0-0 high 94 mph fastball, fouled off
0-1 96 mph fastball in the northwest corner of the plate, taken for a strike
0-2 outside pitch pulled foul
0-2 A slow curve, 68 mph, whiffed. Vinny, in awe: "That is absolutely a killer! You can see that thing if you're in the last row of the bleachers!"

Facing Alfonzo:
0-0 95 mph on the outside corner, taken for a strike
0-1 high and outside
1-1 85 mph sinker or change, whiffed
1-2 high pitch off the tip of Lo Duca's glove. Vin: "That thing took off for Mars."
2-2 95 mph - whiff

Facing Cruz:
0-0 85 mph - whiff
0-1 95 mph, middle of the plate, taken for a strike
0-2 K

12 pitches, 10 strikes, 1-2-3.

Postscript
It was a good victory for the Dodgers, but certainly nothing to get cocky about. Even against Brown, the Giants had more opportunities to score than the Dodgers did. The Dodgers made some good plays, the Giants made two bad decisions, and otherwise, things kept breaking the Dodgers' way.

This morning's Times brings the most coverage the Dodgers have gotten since Opening Day. Isn't it interesting that Bill Plaschke wrote more columns about the Dodgers in March than he has written since? Though I've missed the attention, I haven't particularly missed him. But his point today is legit: if only Green played to his potential, the Dodgers might have all the offensive kick they need.

The prognosis for Brown is positive - he may not miss a start, but I'm still not sure he should. For one thing, he's next scheduled to go on Sunday against the Angels. If they hold him back, Alvarez could take that start and Brown could pitch on Monday - against the Giants. I don't know if that would knock Brown out of his groove, or whether the Dodgers would do better not to have Alvarez pitch to a familiar AL opponent. It's just something to think about. But by all means, let's not rush Brown again.

With 67 strikeouts, Gagne has moved within one K of the National League Top 20. He's pitched 37 innings this season.

Lo Duca now has 22 of the Dodgers' 100 hits in June. That's, um, hang on, 22 percent!

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