Don Mattingly helps Dodgers find new way to lose

Los Angeles Dodgers hitting coach Don Mattingly watches the action against the St. Louis Cardinals in the second inning at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on July 18, 2010. St. Louis won the game 5-4. UPI/Bill Greenblatt Photo via Newscom

You know things are going badly for your club when Bruce Bochy does something to get the best of you.

During the ninth inning of the Dodgers-Giants game last night, L.A. hitting coach Don Mattingly walked out to the mound to talk to closer Jonathan Broxton, who had once again gotten into trouble for the second time in three days. With the Dodgers leading 5-4, Broxton allowed an infield single by Juan Uribe to start the inning, then walked Edgar Renteria before recording the first out when Aaron Rowand laid down a sacrifice bunt.

After Aubrey Huff was intentionally walked to load the bases, Mattingly came out to the mound to lay out the plan of attack with Broxton and his infield. But when he stepped off the mound and into the grass, then went back onto the mound to answer a question from first baseman James Loney, it counted as two visits. Bochy, or “Eagle Eyes” as his drinking buddies like to call him, noticed the gaffe and immediately complained about it to home plate umpire Adrian Johnson.

After the umpires huddled, they determined that Mattingly’s trip to the mound did count for two visits and Broxton had to be pulled from the game. It was a great move by Bochy, because then the Dodgers had to insert a cold pitcher from their bullpen into a bases loaded situation. George Sherrill was that cold pitcher, who promptly gave up a double to Andres Torres to surrender the lead. The Giants tacked on one more run during the inning to go up 7-5, which turned out to be the final.

What’s interesting is that the only reason Mattingly was handling the mound visits at the time was because manager Joe Torre and bench coach Bob Schaefer were both ejected earlier in the night after Tim Lincecum, Clayton Kershaw and Denny Bautista played a rousing game of pitcher’s retaliation. (Lincecum hit Matt Kemp in the fifth, Bautista brushed back Russell Martin in the sixth, which led to Schaefer’s ejection, and Kershaw intentionally hit Rowand in the seventh, which led to Torre’s ejection.)

The loss was absolutely stunning for the Dodgers, not only because it was their sixth straight, but because they a) blew a 5-1 lead and b) lost on a technicality. Mattingly was three inches away from keeping his feet on the dirt of the mound, but as soon as he stepped into the grass and then back onto the mound, it counted as two visits. He looked towards the Giants’ dugout with a, “You can’t be serious,” look on his face, but credit Bochy for using the rules to give his club the best chance to win. That’s the manager’s job and Bochy did that for the red-hot Giants last night.

On the flip side, teams that aren’t playing well will find ways to lose, which is exactly what the Dodgers are doing now.

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