Grandal does things big and small for Dodgers
Catcher bunts to beat shift, hits two homers, guides Anderson to win
LOS ANGELES -- Yasmani Grandal did the most amazing thing in his first at-bat Sunday night against the Giants. He dropped a bunt leading off the second inning against Tim Lincecum and legged it out for a single. In a matter of moments, Lincecum was five runs down.
"If guys are giving you a hit, he's capable of taking it," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said in approval of Grandal's decision and execution. "I'm surprised more guys don't do it."
Grandal beat the shift, and the Dodgers were on their way to beating up Giants pitching in a 10-2 decision that pushed their National League West lead to 1 1/2 games over the reigning, charging World Series champions. The Giants had taken nine of the first 11 and five in a row in the season series.
"I had 19 sacrifice bunts my first year in college [at the University of Miami]," Grandal said. "I could always bunt. When it got to two balls and no strikes, they gave me a straight shift ... and I've been looking for it.
"It's just a matter of putting it in the right place. I'd rather go up and use my best three swings, use my power."
Getting back to his normal approach, Grandal lifted solo homers to right field in the third and fourth innings off Yusmeiro Petit. The big right-hander had come on in relief of Lincecum, who got only four outs in his briefest big league start, yielding seven hits and five runs.
"I think he's been throwing pretty good against us," Grandal said of the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner. "Last game he shut us out for seven innings. To get him out of there was clutch.
"I don't think there's a game plan against him. He's been very good for a long time. It was just one of those days he had an off day."
Petit was thumped for eight hits and five runs in 3 2/3 innings.
"He has that invisible ball he throws on the bottom of the zone," Grandal said. "It was another one of those days when he was leaving balls up. He made a couple of mistakes and we capitalized."
It was a highly productive day all around for Grandal, the Cuba-born, Miami-raised switch-hitter acquired from the Padres as the lead character in the Matt Kemp swap last December.
Grandal called and deftly handled Brett Anderson's arsenal through six rock-solid innings. The lefty, having yielded one run, turned it over to Daniel Coulombe and Matt West for the final nine outs.
He's still relatively new to it all, but Grandal recognizes that aches and pains are part of the hazardous occupation of catching.
"If you're a catcher, you never really feel good," he said. "You give 100 percent that day. Mentally, you have to be in a grind from Day One."
Grandal woke Sunday feeling better than in recent days. The home runs, giving him 10 in 170 at-bats, were a form of celebration.
"I've been battling little back spasms the past two or three days," he said. "Today was the first day I felt good. I did some acupuncture two or three days ago and it did a good job of getting the pain away."
Grandal has been among the most consistent of the Dodgers. His .276/.386/.494 line is pure gold for a catcher.
Only Joc Pederson among teammates has drawn more walks than Grandal's 31 against just 37 strikeouts. Those are old-school numbers.
Having played in 54 of the team's 70 games, he yearns to be an old-school player, one you can count on every day. He appeared in 128 for the Padres last season, getting 76 starts behind the plate and 37 at first base.
"I've never played 80 games in a season [as a catcher]," he said. "I'm still young [at 26], figuring things out.
"My target is always 130, 135 games. You've got to aim high. A lot of it is luck, and a lot of it is learning and knowing yourself -- what you have to do for maintenance."
Grandal wasn't buying the popular notion that lashing four homers -- Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Turner also went deep -- among 16 hits was a major psychological breakthrough for the Dodgers.
"Psychologically, we were fine," he said. "Once line drives started falling, we had better at-bats. That changes everything. All of a sudden, you're leading by five runs -- home run, double. That's how it came out today."
His job done, Yasmani Grandal was feeling about as good as a catcher can after a hard day's night.