MLB Playoffs 2016: Dodgers' Grandal breaks out of slump with big blast vs. Cubs
The power-hitting catcher was in a miserable slump, but had the game-changing HR in Game 3
One of the better hitting catchers -- notably when it came to power -- in baseball this season, Grandal was in a pretty big slump when he dug into the box against 2015 NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta with a man on and two out in the fourth inning.
This postseason, Grandal had gone 3 for 29 with zero extra-base hits and 13 strikeouts entering the game. In his first at-bat against Arrieta, Grandal struck out looking. What's more, Grandal had gone 1 for his previous 11 in the regular season with zero extra-base hits. So he was looking at 4 for his previous 41 with all the hits being singles. That's enough to try sacrificing a live chicken.
For Grandal, he says he isn't nearly as worried about his bat given that he's a catcher. For him, the primary job is to call a good game behind the plate.
"You've always got to turn the page, especially for me as a catcher," he said. "I mean, you've got to separate the offense from the defense, because you can't let one affect the other. I said it before, if I go 0-4 and I shut down a team, I'm sleeping tight that night. So no matter what would have happened tonight, if we came out with the same outcome and I wouldn't have gotten a hit, I would still be happy just because we're executing the plan, and that plan is built by a lot of guys here who put a lot of effort into a game plan. So once we're able to execute that and come out with the outcome that came out tonight, that's all that the matters."
Still, Grandal is no slouch with a bat in his hands. We're talking about a guy who hit 27 homers in the regular season. Sometimes all it takes to erase that from memory is one swing of the bat.
It happened for Grandal. He crushed a 3-2 Arrieta pitch into the right-center stands, turning a 1-0 lead into 3-0. With the way Rich Hill was pitching and the bullpen pretty well rested, that's a pretty big difference.
Grandal had fallen down 0-2 in the at-bat, too, working the count to 3-2 before getting a very good swing on a pitch that definitely wasn't a mistake. That was and the lower part of the zone, maybe even slightly below the knees. Grandal just went down and got it.
"Basically stay alive," Grandal said of his mindset when he reached 0-2 in the count. "We had a man on second, any contact, anything, you never know what can happen. So stay alive until you get a pitch that he gives you to hit. I mean, he's been so good for the last couple years just because he doesn't give in. So [I] fouled off a couple pitches. He still made a really good pitch down in the zone. I was just lucky to put a swing on it and hit it out."
The Cubs' bats remained dormant, but that was not the case for the Dodgers as Corey Seager collected an early go-ahead RBI and Justin Turner added a home run to make the score 4-0 in the sixth. There were two more tack-on runs in the eighth.
Make no mistake, though, the game-changer was Grandal's big two-out homer. Consider the slump busted as he gets to wear the hero badge for Game 3 -- even if he's more worried about his defense. And now the Dodgers are only two wins away from their first World Series since a few weeks before Grandal was born in 1988.
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