In a game that saw Cy Young favorite Zack Greinke face off against reigning World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner on the mound and at the plate, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants got the pitchers’ duel they expected. But they also saw a couple of young Dodgers do their best to steal the show.
Jose Peraza, whom the Dodgers acquired from the Atlanta Braves in the three-team trade that also brought Mat Latos and Alex Wood to the Dodgers and sent Hector Olivera to the Braves, was called up to the big leagues a day before the rosters expanded on September 1 after Kiké Hernandez ended up on the disabled list with a strained hamstring. On the day the rosters expanded, he started at second base and had a huge impact on the game.
In the bottom of the third inning, Peraza got a two-out single off Bumgarner, then moved to second base on a walk to Justin Turner to bring up Adrian Gonzalez. The first pitch to Gonzalez was a fastball on the outside part of the plate, and he went with it and drove the ball into left field. Newly acquired Giants left-fielder Alejandro De Aza charged hard and came up firing, but his throw was too late to get the speedy Peraza at the plate. There may not be another Dodger on the active roster who would have scored on that hit, and one run is huge in a Greinke/Bumgarner matchup.
Watch the video of Peraza scoring on Gonzalez’s hit, which is not yet embeddable.
Later, in the bottom of the seventh inning, Joc Pederson led off against Bumgarner and worked the count full. Pederson’s first two at-bats had ended in flyouts, which was actually a pretty promising sign, considering Pederson’s struggles to make contact and that he was facing one of the toughest lefties in the league. On a 3-2 count in the seventh inning, Pederson did this:
Pederson, who has been working with hitting coach Mark McGwire to try to solve his struggles, sprinted around the bases, then gave McGwire a big hug as soon as he got into the dugout. Watching his face on the replay as the ball cleared the fence, you can very much see a 23-year-old youngster who is relieved and elated to hit such a big home run in such a big spot.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly noticed it too. “You feel good when you see success with a guy that’s been struggling,” Mattingly said, “especially when a guy who’s been working on something. When that starts to take hold, when you have a little success, it breeds confidence in what you’re doing. I think the fact that he’s starting to see some results, … that has a chance to put a true belief in what he’s doing.”
Pederson’s homer padded the Dodgers lead to 2-0, which ended up being very important. Greinke, who had thrown 106 pitches through seven innings, surprisingly came back out to pitch the eighth. He got pinch-hitter Nori Aoki to fly out to Justin Ruggiano in left, but he then allowed three straight singles to Gregor Blanco, Angel Pagan, and Matt Duffy to cut the lead in half.
With runners on first and second and one out, Mattingly brought in left-hander Luis Avilan to face Brandon Belt, who had seen 22 of Greinke’s 114 pitches in going 1-for-3 up to that point. Belt worked Avilan hard, too, and on the seventh pitch of the at-bat, he hit a 94-MPH fastball up the middle. Then this happened:
Flying to the rescue was Jose Peraza, who made a nice backhanded stop and glove-flipped the ball to shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who threw to first to complete the inning-ending double play. Greinke described the play as “probably the best play of the game at the most important time.”
When reporters asked Peraza after the game what he was thinking on that play, his response was simple: “I was looking to get it over to Jimmy. Thank God it worked out.”
Some of Peraza’s understated demeanor is surely due to a language barrier, as the Venezuelan has only been in the United States for about four years, but his response when asked if he feels pressure was longer but similarly calm: “Maybe I do, but it basically comes down to me doing my job, and thank God things turned out well.”
Greinke and Bumgarner were both excellent. Noted run-producer Gonzalez drove in a run. Star closer Kenley Jansen earned his 28th save of the season with a perfect ninth inning. No surprises there.
But 23-year-old Joc Pederson and 21-year-old Jose Peraza were the difference in this game, and considering that neither of them would have even been in the game if not for hamstring injuries to Hernandez, Yasiel Puig, and Howie Kendrick, that’s not the way anyone drew it up. But the Dodgers, who now lead the Giants in the National League West by 5.5 games, will take it.