LOS ANGELES – There haven’t been many games like this, not for the Dodgers, and not this season.
A five-run deficit in the fourth inning would have buried them. Last week, last month, they never would have found a way to come back. They didn’t just lose these kinds of games; they surrendered them.
But here’s what happened Monday at Dodger Stadium: The Dodgers rallied. They got big hits, overcame an awful defensive start and ended the Angels’ eight-game winning streak with an 8-7 victory in front of 49,953.
One game isn’t going to reverse a horrible start to their season, but maybe it can.
“We hope,” manager Don Mattingly said. “You say maybe, I say yes.”
The Dodgers need something to kick-start their season. It has been so dreadful that even one win, coming after they lost six of their previous eight games and still sit in last place in the National League West, rates as a major event.
They fell into a 6-1 hole in the fourth, tied the game in the fifth, took a 7-6 lead in the sixth, were tied 7-7 in the top of the seventh, then scored the go-ahead run again in the bottom of the inning on a single by Jerry Hairston Jr., who was activated from the disabled list earlier in the day.
They hadn’t rallied from more than a three-run deficit at any time this season, but for once, they showed a resilience that winning teams must have.
“That was the key, the way we did it,” second baseman Mark Ellis said. “We didn’t start out the game very good, but to score runs and show some fire and string hits together, it was good to see.
“To come back against anybody and win a game like that is great. It’s a good way to start the series.”
The Angels came in as one of the hottest teams in baseball, sweeping a four-game series at Kansas City and winning eight in a row. This should have been nine, but starter C.J. Wilson gave up four runs in the fifth and couldn’t hold the lead.
The Dodgers, though, were far from perfect. In the first two innings, they committed two errors and gave up two unearned runs. Starter Zack Greinke, facing his former Angels teammates, struggled from the start. Every ball they hit seemed like a laser.
“They’re hot,” Greinke said of the Angels. “I made some mistakes obviously, but overall I did as well as I could. I felt like I was going to get them out.”
The Dodgers and Angels combined for 11 doubles, a record for Dodger Stadium, but it was the Dodgers who delivered the key hits. Adrian Gonzalez was 4 for 4 and scored four runs, and the Dodgers were 4 for 15 with runners in scoring position. That’s not bad for a team that has failed continually in its situational hitting.
Then there was Matt Kemp, who struck out four times, was booed after each one and saw his batting average fall to .253.
“He’s definitely not a guy that deserves to get booed,” Gonzalez said.
Mattingly may have to consider dropping Kemp in the batting order at some point, but he was reluctant to consider that option after the game.
“Honestly, we’re going to need Matt,” he said. “I’m not going to give up on Matt, and Matt’s going to get going. Obviously, at certain times I’ll hit him in different spots trying to maybe take a little pressure off of him.”
This time, the Dodgers could live with Kemp’s struggles. They won a game, and that was all that mattered.