Dodgers go back to back to back
Arrive in the third inning most nights, and you miss two innings.
If you arrived in the third inning Tuesday, you missed history.
You missed back-to-back-to-back home runs -- not just by three batters, but on three pitches.
Wilson Betemit, Matt Kemp and Hong-Chih Kuo did the honors, powering the Dodgers to a 4-1 victory over the New York Mets. The Dodgers climbed back into a first-place tie, sharing the top spot in the National League West with the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks.
Kuo hit his first major league home run -- and the first for any Taiwanese-born player, pitcher or otherwise. He punctuated his blast with flair, with a bat flip worthy of Barry Bonds.
“I didn’t mean to do that,” Kuo said.
He hadn’t hit a home run, after all, since high school.
But he did mean to pitch well, and he was outstanding. He scattered five singles over seven innings for his second major league victory, both against the Mets. He has scrapped his windup in favor of working exclusively from the stretch, enabling him to tame his often-erratic control by limiting his walks to one and his pitch count to 89.
And the thrills continued to the very end, with Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito (18th save) wrapping up the victory by striking out four of the last six batters.
You might remember the last time a major league team hit three home runs on three pitches. The Dodgers did it, last September, for the final three of four consecutive home runs in the ninth inning against San Diego.
The home run derby was not as dramatic this time, not with the pennant stretch still months away, but it was still plenty of fun. Except, that is, to John Maine, the Mets pitcher who gave them all up -- to the Nos. 7, 8 and 9 hitters in the Dodgers lineup.
Betemit went first, with a seemingly routine home run to left-center, estimated at 408 feet, on an 0-1 pitch.
Kemp went next, on the next pitch, and he went deep down the left-field line and into the second deck. The home run, estimated at 447 feet, made him the first player in two years to hit one into the Dodger Stadium loge level.
“I kind of looked on the JumboTron to see where it landed,” Kemp said.
And then came Kuo, completing the trifecta with a 412-foot shot, a fastball redirected into the all-you-can-eat bleachers in right field.
Kuo said he was surprised. Kemp said he was not, noting that Kuo regularly hits batting practice homers beyond the center-field fence.
After Kuo came Rafael Furcal, and the crowd buzzed over the possibility of four home runs on four pitches. Furcal killed the buzz by taking the first pitch from Maine.
“He didn’t come with a fastball there,” Furcal said.
He did to Kuo, in the moment that will resonate from this game.
The pitching story can be told another time. This is a hitting story, about the pitcher who crushed the fastball and flipped the bat, a slugger on the replay if you didn’t know any better.
Kuo said he was not concerned about future retaliation for the flip that followed his home run.
“I don’t worry about that,” he said. “I might not hit another one.”
Said catcher Russell Martin: “He can do whatever he wants when he hits one like that. He’ll probably get some sliders next time.”