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Dodgers 7, White Sox 6: Duel ends with self-inflicted wounds

Clayton Kershaw was resigned to a loss. He almost picked up the win.
Clayton Kershaw was resigned to a loss. He almost picked up the win.

With Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw squaring off, surely a pitchers' duel would be in order, right?

Maybe not.

With Sale working with a 5-1 lead in the sixth inning, surely the White Sox would rediscover interleague success, right?

Again, no.

The Dodgers surged back with five runs in the sixth to take the lead, and even though Alex Rios tied it up with his second solo homer of the game, the Dodgers prevailed thanks that classic Matt Thornton bad luck/bad pitching combination.

Beyond Thornton, this game featured failures on multiple fronts.

Starting pitching: Sale might have been too excited to use Kershaw as a measuring stick. He looked way too amped in the first inning, overthrowing all his pitches -- especially his slider. While he sort of settled down, he never could find a consistent release point with his breaking ball. That led to too many walks, then too many pitches, setting up his wall-smash in the sixth.

Third base defense: Sale started his own problems by walking Jerry Hairston Jr. for the third time in the game to start the sixth, but Orlando Hudson compounded them. A soft liner by A.J. Ellis escaped his reach on a leap (not so much Hudson's fault, but he's shorter than most third basemen). But it was his inability to snag -- or at least smother -- Juan Uribe's hot shot that really escalated matters. A good third baseman turns it into a double play. An adequate one gets one out. Instead, it ramped off his mitt into left field for a double, bringing the tying run to the plate.

Managing: Given how rocky Sale looked, Robin Ventura should have had somebody warming up well before Sale put the tying runs on base. Maybe he should have even pinch-hit for Sale in the top of the sixth, but then again, look what happened to the...

Relief pitching: Jesse Crain entered the game with a 5-3 lead, runners on the corners, and two outs. On a 2-2 count to Elian Herrera, his backdoor slider attempt instead ended up down and in to a left-handed hitter, and Herrera roped it into the right field corner to tie the game. Then, on an 0-2 pitch, Crain threw Juan Rivera a knee-high fastball over the outer half. Rivera shot it into right field, giving the Dodgers the lead.

Rios restored some hope in the eighth with a leadoff homer off Ronald Belisario, but when Thornton came in, the momentum slipped away. He struck out Tony Gwynn Jr. to start the inning, before a weak seeing-eye single by James Loney scooted past a diving Eduardo Escobar (who replaced Hudson).

There was your Thornton Luck. Then came the Thornton Suck. He walked Dee Gordon to put Loney into scoring position, and he advanced to third on Herrera's fielder's choice to short. Don Mattingly called on Bobby Abreu to pinch hit, but it didn't matter. Thornton spiked a 1-0 fastball past a backhanded stab by A.J. Pierzynski, giving the Dodgers their winning run. My first instinct was to blame Pierzynski for not blocking the pitch, but when Thornton throws a 58-foot fastball after Pierzynski asks for it under the hands, Pierzynski would have been luck to stop it.

Either way, the White Sox dropped their third straight game, and this one hurts more than the others. Adam Dunn started the game with a first-inning, two-run homer, taking the league-lead in that department.

They then added single runs int he third, fourth and fifth, thanks in part to Dodger help. Kershaw walked Dunn with two outs, threw a wild pitch to move him to second, and then gave up an RBI single to Paul Konerko to make it a 3-1 game.

One inning later, the Wild PItch Offense morphed into Wild Throw Offense. Alexei Ramirez reached on an infield single when Gordon's spinning throw sailed on him. That didn't cost the Dodgers a base, but Kershaw's ensuing wild pitch did. Ramirez moved to second, then scored when Gordon committed another errant throw on Hudson's soft bouncer.

Alex Rios then tacked on anther run in the fifth with a no-doubt shot to left. Rios looked terrific all game long -- he hit a flyout to deep right in his first at-bat, followed by a double off the wall in center, and two majestic home runs to left.

Bullet points:

  • Dunn continued his dominance over Kershaw. After tonight's game, he's 8-for-13 with four homers and a walk against the L.A. lefty lifetime.
  • Beckham had a great game defensively. He saved one run when he made a diving stab-and-throw on Andre Either's two-out grounder to the right side in the fifth. In the sixth, he spared Sale additional damage by catching Gordon's popped-up bunt ... with his bare hand ... after it glanced off Konerko's mitt. The rare 3-4 popout kept runners on the corners, but unfortunately, they did not stay there.
  • Vin Scully on Sale: Boy, if you're a left-handed hitter, and Mr. Bones out there comes by way of first base, as Roy Campanella would say, it’d be tough not to get that jelly leg."

Record: 34-30 | Box score | Play-by-play