This is what it's become for the Dodgers offense: On a night when the bullpen didn't have its best three options available, when starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw had thrown 85 pitches through five innings, manager Don Mattingly pulled his best pitcher with the bases loaded and one out.
And he sent Juan Castro to the plate.
Castro, hitless in two at-bats this year and a career .228 hitter, hit a flyball to center field that wasn't close to deep enough to score a runner from third base.
The move looked peculiar at the time and came back to haunt Mattingly later.
The Dodgers didn't score any of those runners but somehow scored three runs in the eighth off Giants closer Brian Wilson to tie the game. Problem was, their only pitcher remaining was Lance Cormier, and he gave up a three-run homer to Cody Ross in the ninth for a devastating 8-5 loss.
"At that point, we're (losing) 4-1 and we've got the bases loaded. We've got to take a shot at scoring a run to get back in the game," Mattingly said of the situation where he had Castro hit. "I didn't really want to take Kershaw out. But we had to. We had to take a chance to get back in the game."
But why Castro?
"He's 2-for-3 against (Giants starter Matt Cain)," Mattingly said. "At that point, he's the best option."
Mattingly used Scott Elbert and Javy Guerra to pitch scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh. Mike MacDougal began the eighth, allowed a run to make it 5-2, and Mattingly took him out -- with Cain due up.
That brought in Cormier. He was the last pitcher available because Kenley Jansen (four appearances in the last five days) and Matt Guerrier (two straight days) were not available. Vicente Padilla is having his forearm examined by doctors, and tests are likely due next.
Cormier got the final out in the top of the eighth, and the Dodgers staged their stunning rally to tie the game in the bottom of the inning. If they had scored a fourth run, Mattingly said he'd have rolled the dice with Guerrier to save it in the ninth.
Instead, Cormier, who is basically the "take one for the team" guy in lopsided games, now had to pitch the ninth in a 5-5 game. Ross, the former Dodger, took Cormier deep -- one batter after a slowly hit grounder couldn't be turned for an inning-ending double play.
Kershaw wasn't happy to get removed and summed up his feelings perfectly.
"It sucks being in the National League," Kershaw said. "I understand it. We need runs. I get it. I'd have just loved to stay in there longer. I felt great. I wish I could have redeemed myself -- stay in there a couple more innings and redeem myself."
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