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Hernandez's pirouette slide walks off Dodgers

June 13, 2018

LOS ANGELES -- As complex as its rules can be, the essence of baseball still is to touch home plate, even if you do it like Enrique Hernandez.Capping off their wildest game of the year, the Dodgers beat the Rangers on Wednesday night in 11 innings, 3-2, on a walk-off

LOS ANGELES -- As complex as its rules can be, the essence of baseball still is to touch home plate, even if you do it like Enrique Hernandez.
Capping off their wildest game of the year, the Dodgers beat the Rangers on Wednesday night in 11 innings, 3-2, on a walk-off throwing error by pitcher Matt Bush that allowed Hernandez to pirouette his way around catcher Carlos Perez's tag and score from third base on a one-out, bases-loaded comebacker by Austin Barnes.

Perez didn't start the game, but that's another story revolving around home plate. Perez took over after the third-inning ejection of Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos and Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, who bowled over Chirinos while being tagged out trying to score from second base on Hernandez's two-out single. The pair came up pushing and shoving, triggering a benches-clearing scrum, and were ruled off for fighting.
That was about the only negative for the Dodgers on a night filled with positive boxes checked. Kenta Maeda returned from the disabled list with five solid innings, Justin Turner pulled a home run to left-center and the bullpen pitched six scoreless innings. It added up to the Dodgers' 19th win in their last 25 games, as they pulled within two games of first-place Arizona in the National League West and three games above .500 for the first time this season.

Hernandez led off the 11th with a walk against former Dodger Jesse Chavez. Hernandez hustled to second base when he tagged up on Cody Bellinger's flyout to left field. Yasiel Puig was walked intentionally. Matt Bush relieved Chavez and walked John Forsythe to load the bases for Barnes, who struck out three times and hit into a double-play in four previous at-bats.
On a 3-2 pitch, Barnes' tapper had double-play written all over it. Bush grabbed it, whirled and threw home, but he pulled Perez off the plate as he futilely tried a swipe tag.
"Little things that help you win baseball games, he's doing it," manager Dave Roberts said of Hernandez.
An umpires review confirmed that Hernandez was safe, one run on three walks, an error and some merengue.
"Just my Latin moves," said Hernandez, a native Puerto Rican. "My job is to try and slide and maybe make contact with [Perez], break up the double play. The bat was right in the way. So it's don't get hurt, don't get tagged and touch the plate. It was a weird game. Tempers flared a little bit, a little old-school baseball. Your job as a player is to score the run. What happened, happened."

What happened was the Rangers couldn't get one out when they had a chance to get two and escape the inning.
"Yeah," said Hernandez, "I was surprised."

What didn't happen was clutch hitting. The Dodgers went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position, and on the only hit their No. 3 hitter was thrown out at the plate and out of the game. They stranded a dozen.
Having displayed the long ball by Turner in the first inning, the Dodgers went with little ball in the second inning.
Rangers starter Cole Hamels issued back-to-back walks, and with one out, Puig and Forsythe took off on a double-steal. Catcher Chirinos' throw to third base couldn't have been any better, but former Dodger third baseman Adrian Beltre uncharacteristically whiffed on the catch for an error, the ball sailing between his legs as Puig walked home.

The dustup between Kemp and Chirinos at the end of the third inning might have disrupted Maeda, who coughed up the lead in the top of the fourth inning when a one-out double by Beltre was followed with singles by Jurickson Profar and Joey Gallo for a 2-2 tie.
Roberts said he was pleased with Maeda's comeback start and expects him to go deeper in his next start.

In their past 25 games, the Dodgers' bullpen has pitched 110 innings and gone 9-4 with a 2.95 ERA.
"I was on the [clubhouse] couch, chillin.'" -- Kenley Jansen, when Kemp asked what Jansen did when the benches cleared

While the Dodgers were celebrating what they believed was a most unlikely walk-off win, the Rangers were filing a challenge with the umpires on Hernandez's game-winning "slide," hoping that Perez's swipe tag hit something besides air. After viewing all relevant angles, the replay official definitively determined that Perez failed to tag Hernandez prior to the runner touching home plate and confirmed the safe call.
Thomas Stripling opposes Derek Holland and the Giants in the 7:10 p.m. PT series opener on Friday night at Dodger Stadium. Stripling is the healthiest and most consistent of Los Angeles' starters, even though he was a reliever in April. Now, Stripling is in the All-Star conversation and his confidence is growing to match his effective four-pitch mix.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for since 2001.