Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is greeted by Manager Don Mattingly… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
For five innings Saturday, Don Mattingly did everything right.
He started a pitcher in Ted Lilly who hadn't appeared in a major league game in more than three weeks — and Lilly gave up only two hits in 51/3 innings, retiring 14 in a row.
He batted Nick Punto leadoff for only the second time this season — and Punto keyed two rallies.
He hit Adrian Gonzalez in the third spot in the order against a left-handed pitcher — and Gonzalez responded with three hits, including a home run, and three runs batted in.
But then in the span of eight sixth-inning pitches it all came undone, with the St. Louis Cardinals wiping out a two-run deficit on two ground balls and a flare off the end of the bat.
“You're just sitting there shaking your head, going, ‘Can just anything work out'?” Mattingly asked himself. “But then the game ends the way [it] should.”
Which is to say it ended in a 5-3 Dodgers victory — a victory the embattled manager badly needed after losing five of his last seven. And that might explain why he managed the game as if it were the deciding game of the World Series, pulling two double-switches — one putting Matt Kemp on the bench — and emptying his bullpen by using five pitchers.
“It really was a baseball game,” Mattingly deadpanned.
It started like a lot of other baseball games, with the Dodgers falling behind in the first inning. But unlike a lot of other games, they didn't wilt this time.
Lilly steadied, which allowed the Dodgers to build a 3-1 lead with Gonzalez driving Punto in twice, then driving a solo home run into the right-field pavilion in the fifth.
An inning later Mattingly made another move, going to his bullpen, and that's when his luck ran out, as Ronald Belisario gave up the lead while getting only one out. The other part of that decision proved to be a good one, though, because Belisario came on in a double-switch that also put Carl Crawford in left field. And in the bottom of the sixth Crawford reached on an error, then raced home with the go-ahead run on Mark Ellis' double to left.
Mattingly made another double-switch in the seventh inning, replacing Kemp in center field with Skip Schumaker. Kemp had struck out twice, drawing boos from the crowd of 49,368, and when he got to the dugout after being removed he made his anger known, yelling toward the manager, then flipping his glove against the wall before heading for the clubhouse.
The tempest comes a day after another All-Star, Andre Ethier, expressed unhappiness over comments Mattingly had made about his play.
“If that's the case, then we'll talk about it,” said Mattingly, who said he didn't know at whom Kemp was yelling. “There was nothing personal there. It was a baseball move. I try to make baseball moves all the time that give us the best chance to win.”
Kemp also tried to downplay the incident. “I was just frustrated,” he said. “It was a bad day for me.”