As with any extra-inning game, yesterday’s Brewers 3-2 victory over the Dodgers contained its fair share of dramatic moments. Prior to the Brewers’ rally in the bottom of the tenth inning, the biggest moment came in the top of the eighth inning as the Dodgers tried to grab the lead. With Dee Gordon at second base and Mark Ellis at first, Matt Kemp stepped to the plate with a chance to give the Dodgers the lead against Francisco Rodriguez — just hours removed from allowing a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning of Tuesday night’s game.
Rodriguez and Jonathan Lucroy had a clear plan against Kemp: stay away. Rodriguez peppered the outside corner of the plate and used Lucroy’s excellent pitch framing ability to place two of his first four offerings — all fastballs — close enough to the corner to draw called strikes.
Specifically, it was the fourth pitch which set up Rodriguez for success. He stayed with the outside fastball on the 2-1 count and hit a near perfect spot. From my point of view, it seems like he got a bit of help from Jonathan Lucroy as well. Pitch Trax saw it, and I think you’ll see it too:
All of which leads us to the ultimate pitch of the at-bat and the inning. Rodriguez went back to the same exact pitch, and Kemp swung through it for the strikeout. Just prior, Bill Schroeder suggested Kemp would likely be looking off-speed, and for good reason: Rodriguez only throws his fastball (two or four-seam versions) about 60 percent of the time, and likely far less often when he has the chance to record a strikeout.
Lucroy and Rodriguez played on this, and Lucroy’s excellent receiving ability widened Rodriguez’s margin for error just enough for him to retire one of the league’s best and hottest hitters. It was far from an easy task for the duo, but a necessary one: the Brewers wouldn’t plate a run until the 10th inning, and a Kemp single (or worse) almost certainly would have plated a run given Dee Gordon’s speed.
In the light of the controversy surrounding Nyjer Morgan’s game-winning run, this moment — the biggest of the regulation nine innings — may get lost in the shuffle, but don’t let it. This sequence of pitches was absolutely instrumental in setting up the Brewers’ second walk-off victory in a row.