Mattingly’s mound of trouble for Dodgers
LOS ANGELES – They call him Donny Baseball, not Donny Rulebook.
Filling in for an ejected Joe Torre on Tuesday night against the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers hitting coach Don Mattingly fueled a ninth-inning comeback by the Giants when he was charged with two visits to the mound on the same trip.
Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton(notes), who has 19 saves and a week ago finished off the National League’s win in the All-Star Game, by rule was forced from the game with one out, the bases loaded and the Dodgers holding a one-run lead. Against George Sherrill(notes) and Travis Schlichting(notes), the Giants rallied to win, 7-5.
It was a game-changing blunder by the man Torre would like to eventually replace him as manager.
”It cost us a chance to win,” Mattingly said after the Dodgers’ sixth consecutive loss.
Mattingly had gone to the mound to arrange the defense. As he turned to the dugout, Dodgers first baseman James Loney(notes) asked one more question about where he should play. By then, Mattingly had stepped on the infield grass.
Rule 8.06 of the Official Baseball Rules stipulates a trip to the mound begins when a manager or coach crosses the foul line and ends when he leaves the 18-foot dirt circle surrounding the pitcher’s rubber. Returning to the dirt constitutes a second trip, at which point the pitcher must be removed.
Mattingly stopped and walked back onto the dirt below the mound, giving further instructions to Loney as he went.
”No, no, no!” Mattingly heard plate umpire Adrian Johnson shout. ”You can’t go back.”
By then, however, Mattingly had covered the two steps back onto the mound.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy came out of the first-base dugout, pointing.
”He can’t do that!” Bochy yelled.
This time, Broxton trudged from the mound.
”I really didn’t realize I was off the dirt,” Mattingly said. ”Rules are rules, you know? Obviously at that point it’s my responsibility not to take a step off.”
Mattingly also had an embarrassing snafu when he filled in as manager during spring training while Torre was in Taiwan. The lineup card posted in the clubhouse didn’t match the one given to the umpires, and the Dodgers batted out of order. This mistake, however, involved footwork, not paperwork.
“I’ve had to catch myself a few times on that,” Bochy said of fighting the urge to return to the mound after walking away.
Nearing the end of a game in which Giants starter Tim Lincecum(notes) hit Matt Kemp(notes) with a pitch and Clayton Kershaw(notes) retaliated in the seventh inning by hitting Aaron Rowand(notes), bringing automatic ejections for Kershaw and Torre, Mattingly summoned Sherrill. On Sherrill’s second pitch, Andres Torres(notes) doubled home two runs.
Even that carried intrigue.
Sherrill had come in cold, having thrown two warm-up pitches in the bullpen. Mattingly claimed crew chief Tim McClelland promised Sherrill all the pitches he’d need to face Torres.
”Yeah,” Mattingly said McClelland told him, ”I wouldn’t do that to a guy.”
Sherrill warmed accordingly. After seven pitches, plate umpire Johnson signaled to Sherrill he’d be allowed one more, for the standard eight. By rule, because Broxton technically was removed from the game by Mattingly’s visits and not ejected or injured, Sherrill would be allowed eight pitches. However, the umpires can grant more if they feel the situation warrants.
”I took it easy on the first few [warm-up tosses],” Sherrill said.
Mattingly said he was strategizing with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, turned back to the field and saw Sherrill preparing to pitch to Torres. Torre said afterward that the Dodgers would consider protesting over the shortage of warmup pitches, but it appeared the umpires followed the rules.
And Mattingly didn’t.
”A crazy game,” Sherrill said.