Proceeds in Orderly Fashion
Blackjack players change tables. Slot machine patrons pull a different handle. Baseball managers shuffle the lineup.
Anything to catch a smile from Lady Luck.
Call Jim Tracy’s move the Hee-Seop Flip-Flop. It had the desired result, changing the fortunes of snake-bit slugger J.D. Drew in a 6-2 Dodger victory over the Angels on Sunday before 53,839, the third consecutive sellout at Dodger Stadium.
Drew and Hee-Seop Choi switched places in the lineup, with Tracy batting Drew second and Choi third. Benefiting immediately were Drew, whose line drives had been finding gloves for weeks, and the Dodgers, who were in dire need of a victory before setting off for National League West Division series at San Francisco and Arizona.
Drew drove in runs with the kinds of cheap hits that end a slump. In the third inning he lofted a pop fly that landed behind shortstop and tied the score, 2-2. In the seventh, he hit a ground ball through a hole created by Darin Erstad’s holding a runner on first base.
“It’s good to have a change every now and then,” Drew said. “I think altering the lineup is a good idea.”
Not for Choi, though. The three-hole was the same black hole it had been for Drew, who bumped up his average to .253. Choi entered the game batting .404 with five home runs and 14 runs batted in his last 22 games, but he was 0 for 4 despite hitting the ball hard every time up.
For his part, Choi isn’t the least bit superstitious.
“I don’t think about that,” he said. “I’m OK, batting two or three or eight. I don’t care. I am the same as I was yesterday.”
Dodger starter Derek Lowe took a different approach from his last start, but with the same result -- a victory. Before defeating the Florida Marlins on Tuesday he was uncharacteristically solemn, conserving energy because he felt sick.
On Sunday he was his normal ebullient self, joking with reporters and making off-color remarks to teammates an hour before the first pitch. His concentration was impeccable once he took the mound, where he worked seven innings and threw 65 strikes in 79 pitches, giving up two runs and nine hits, walking none and striking out seven.
The Angels (25-18) had drawn 10 walks in defeating the Dodgers (23-20) the first two games of the series, but Lowe never had a three-ball count. And he threw off the Angels by paying attention to baserunners -- something he often is guilty of not doing.
“Lowe did some things that were effective in controlling the running game,” Angel Manager Mike Scioscia said. “We hoped to put some more guys in motion but he made adjustments -- a slide step, throwing over, varying [his delivery].”
Adjustments were necessary after Chone Figgins led off the game with a bunt single that Lowe didn’t field cleanly, then stole second. Adam Kennedy singled, sending Figgins to third, but Jason Phillips threw out Kennedy attempting to steal.
Figgins scored on a ground out by Erstad, but a big inning was thwarted. Juan Rivera, filling in for the injured Vladimir Guerrero, homered to lead off the second, giving the Angels a 2-0 lead.
The Dodgers answered with Ricky Ledee’s home run into the right-field pavilion in the second, Drew’s RBI single in the third and a single by Cesar Izturis against a drawn-in infield that scored Antonio Perez in the fifth.
The Angels squandered an opportunity in the sixth. Erstad and Garret Anderson led off with singles, but after fouling off a bunt attempt, Rivera popped up. Lowe struck out Dallas McPherson and got Orlando Cabrera to fly out.
“If Rivera gets that bunt down it’s a good play,” Scioscia said. “It was a great chance to get a hit or move two guys over.”
The Dodgers added to the lead when Phillips homered to lead off the seventh. Drew brought in Oscar Robles later in the inning and Robles had an RBI single in the eighth that denied Eric Gagne his first save opportunity.
The Angels have their own three-hole problem as long as Guerrero is sidelined. Erstad, Anderson and Rivera probably will share the spot. In the Dodger dugout, Tracy must decide whether to utilize the platoon of Choi and Olmedo Saenz or eventually elevate Milton Bradley from fifth to third.
Or, Drew could return to the spot he batted in 39 of the first 42 games.
“We’re trying to find the key that will unlock the safe,” Tracy said.