03 July 2007

The View From Wood'ys

by Joshua Worley

We watched innings 3 through 6 of last night's game while eating at a local restaurant named Wood'ys. Yes, the apostrophe is in the correct place, or it's in the wrong place but that's where they put it.

The game was tight the entire time we were at Wood'ys. For the first half of our meal it felt like the game would end up one of those frustrating losses where the Dodgers get runners on but can never score them, one of those games that makes one feel as if the team just isn't going anywhere, even though they truly have done well this season. Even with this negative energy hovering around the outcome of the game it was still great to be at a restaurant and watch the Dodgers. The game was more like a garnish than the main event, and that was fine. There was no sound, and the TV screen was up high. Even if the Dodgers didn't play well, there was good food to be had.

Lowe seemed to be laboring all night, from the very first out caught near the outfield wall. I really liked this performance from Lowe, to limit the damage when he clearly didn't have his best stuff, when the easy ground balls just weren't coming and it took him about 20 pitches to get out of any given inning. I think Lowe has found a wonderful mental maturity this year that keeps him in the game even when his best stuff just isn't there.

The feeling of the game turned when Martin doubled in Furcal. I loved the way the fielder glided over and then immediately had to give up on catching the ball in the air. That's a great moment, when you can see the fielder give up on an out and prepare to play it off the wall. It's even better when the ball then goes over the wall, but one can't have everything. I really think Martin should get a day off during this series, but I'm not going to dwell on it. He did go 4 for 5 yesterday, after all. I'm torn, really. I'm always disappointed when he doesn't start a game, because he's such fun to watch and so vital to the Dodgers, but I do recognize that he does need some rest.

I agreed with Grady's decision to pull Lowe after two hits to lead off the sixth inning. And yet I was shocked by it. I've become so accustomed to Lowe pitching deep into games, especially those times when the Dodgers struggle to score runs for him. I wasn't even considering the possibility that Lowe might come out of the game, until I looked up and saw Grady Little walking to the mound with purpose.

I wasn't so happy with what came next, though. I want to have confidence in Beimel, but well ... I just don't. And yet he mostly gets by. Mostly. He did last night. So it all worked out. But I have to say that I had a problem with the way the whole Beimel experience worked last night.

I can see the argument that Beimel is one of the 12 best pitchers the Dodgers have, that he fills a needed role in the 'pen. So I'm not saying he shouldn't be on the team. Once I acknowledge that he has a case to be on the team, I can't then say he should never be used, even in a tie game. This wasn't the eighth or ninth inning, after all. It was the sixth, and the Dodgers might need to use many pitchers. Very well, then use Beimel in a tie game, but only in a very narrow set of circumstances. Use him against lefties, or maybe weak hitting righties. Never against a tough right handed batter.

I couldn't believe it when Beimel was left in the game to pitch to Saltalamacchia. Let me first say that his strikeout of Kelly Johnson just before with the bases loaded was great. I didn't know he had it in him. That was some seriously clutch pitching. But after that ... there's no reason for the Dodgers to push their luck. Bring in someone else to get the last out, to pitch to the tough right handed batter. Now it did end up working out, but I think I was right. Salty ripped the first pitch he saw, to the hole between second and first, but "range of a rosebush" Kent made a lovely dive and made the throw for the last out. I wasn't happy with Beimel pitching to Chipper Jones in the seventh, either. At the time Jones was the go ahead run at the plate. It just seemed that the Dodgers were introducing an unnecessary degree of difficulty into winning the game. Sure, Beimel can get Chipper out, and he did, but there are much better candidates for the job going unused in the bullpen.

The last thing we saw at Wood'ys was Matt Kemp's at bat in the sixth inning. We had paid the bill, our leftover food was all boxed up, and we were ready to go. But there was no thought of leaving. Not yet, not while Matt Kemp was up. I got all excited about Kemp about a week ago when he took a walk in the ninth inning from an 0-2 count. Since then he's sometimes looked lost at certain times, swung at pitches down and away, and I wondered if I was wrong. Maybe I had only seen what I wanted to see, and Kemp really hadn't made any strides in learning to control an at bat, to focus his incredible talent with discipline and timely restraint. But in the at bat last night he was the master. When Kemp swung at the 3-1 pitch I couldn't even follow the ball off the bat. Maybe it was the high TV, but for a moment I thought he had missed the pitch. Only for a moment, because Kemp didn't look like someone who had just swung and missed. He looked like someone who had just seen a lot of hard work and discipline pay off. Because I hadn't seen the ball leave the bat, I wasn't prepared for how far the ball went. I couldn't believe it when it landed in the back of the bullpen. My reaction was less, "Woot, the Dodgers lead" and more "I can't believe how far he hit that ball".

We left Wood'ys right after the Kemp home run. It just seemed fitting that it would be the last thing we saw there: it was the perfect dessert.

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