Understudies nail postseason audition in walk-off
Van Slyke steals third, scores on wild pitch in 12th inning
LOS ANGELES -- If the Dodgers are auditioning for playoff roles, then Saturday night was an extended tryout.
Director Don Mattingly had 12 innings to sort through a hefty stable of actors. And in the end, it was Scott Van Slyke who delivered the most Oscar-worthy performance. With one out in the 12th against the Rockies, Van Slyke singled, advanced to second on a hit-by-pitch, stole third base for his second steal of the game and then came around to score on a wild pitch by Franklin Morales for a 6-5 Dodgers win.
And Van Slyke didn't even start the game. Then again, at that point, Andre Ethier was the lone starter remaining.
In the penultimate game of the regular season, the Dodgers utilized almost every inch of the roster in a game that could've been played at Camelback Ranch. With the Dodgers looking to piece together a playoff roster, Mattingly continued his unofficial tryouts in Spring Training-like fashion.
"The last three games are to test the waters and see what decisions we're going to get to make before Friday," said Mattingly, whose team will begin postseason play Friday in the National League Division Series.
In his final regular-season tuneup, right-hander Dan Haren was limited to five innings by the coaching staff, allowing two runs on six hits on just 78 pitches. The first of two runs came on a Kyle Parker ground-rule double in the fourth; the second, on a Rafael Ynoa single in the fifth.
After the game, Haren left a note above his locker in lieu of a postgame interview, saying he felt good and was ready for the playoffs. That left his catcher, A.J. Ellis, to deliver an Oscar-worthy performance of his own.
"Do I need to be Dan for you?" Ellis joked, before providing a mock interview as Haren.
"[Haren] did a great job," Ellis said, finally, as himself. "It's kind of tough knowing you have an expiration date when you take the mound."
Haren wasn't the only one with an expiration date. Mattingly said before the game that he didn't plan on having his regulars play a full nine innings Saturday -- not in a game without playoff implications. But Mattingly also didn't plan on injuries. That's never the plan.
Second baseman Dee Gordon left the game after one inning with right hip irritation and is day-to-day after an MRI revealed no damage. And shortstop Hanley Ramirez left for a pinch runner in the fourth after fouling a ball off of his left knee -- also not considered serious. As a result, though the Dodger bench came in to play sooner than expected, but it held its own against Rockies starter Eddie Butler, tagging the rookie for five runs.
Darwin Barney manned second base and picked up a single in Gordon's stead. Van Slyke entered for Adrian Gonzalez -- who homered in the first -- and added an RBI of his own in the Dodgers' four-run fifth inning. And Justin Turner, filling in at third base for Juan Uribe, continued hitting at his torrid pace, picking up two hits Saturday.
By the sixth inning, every member of the Dodgers starting lineup had been removed from the game, with the exception of Ethier, who moved from left field to center and stayed there for the duration of the contest.
That left the bullpen to have its own auditions -- with varying levels of success.
"We've got four guys for three spots, or two spots," Mattingly said. "We're throwing guys out there in different spots."
Right-hander Jamey Wright allowed three hits and a run in 1 1/3 innings. Scott Elbert, vying for a left-handed spot in the playoff bullpen, recorded one out and walked one in his second appearance in as many days. Rookie Yimi Garcia allowed a home run in the eighth to catcher Michael McKenry, and left-hander Paco Rodriguez gave up the game-tying solo shot to Ben Paulsen on the very first pitch he threw in the ninth.
But right-hander Carlos Frias picked up the slack, delivering what Ellis called an "amazing" performance. He threw three hitless innings against the Rockies -- a team that tagged him for eight runs on 10 hits in just 2/3 of an inning in Colorado earlier this month.
"What I liked tonight as much as anything with Carlos is this is the team that knocked him around, and he came back with three scoreless," Mattingly said. "That's what we like about Carlos. After that game [in Colorado], he stood right in his locker with a good face and basically said he had a bad day. The next time he sees that team he bounces back and makes pitches and gets outs."
And he served as the bridge to the decisive 12th -- where Van Slyke stole the show.
"Scott Van Slyke single-handedly won the game for us right there," Ellis said. "Got a big base hit -- we hadn't had a baserunner in quite some time -- and he showed off not just his speed but his baseball savvy."