Nationals bullpen denies Dodgers the comforts of home

Carlos Ruiz
Dodgers catcher Carlos Ruiz rounds the bases after hitting a pinch-hit two run homer in the fifth inning.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers were 53-28 at Dodger Stadium during the regular season, tied with Texas and Cleveland for the second-best home record in the major leagues, behind the Chicago Cubs, who were 57-24.

Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts was asked before Monday’s game about the upside of playing at Dodger Stadium.

“When we were there in Nationals Park, it was loud. Those guys fed off that emotion. Those fans were great, “ he said. “And we’ve got the same thing here.”

The crowd at Dodger Stadium on Monday was announced at 53,901, though fan support goes only so far. But the Dodgers’ manager said there were other advantages to playing at home.


“Having to find your closer or certain guys in the pen on the road, that’s tougher as a strategic thing, as opposed to being able to hit last at home, “ Roberts said.

“And also, you’re just more comfortable with the background, the drive to the ballpark, the clubhouse, the routine of playing at home. I think that players typically enjoy playing at home.”

In Game 3, that was all negated by a Nationals bullpen that combined for 4 2/3 shutout innings.


Another homecoming

The crowd didn’t give much of a welcome home to native son Dusty Baker, who grew up in Riverside and spent eight productive seasons as a Dodgers outfielder.

A smattering of applause.

Earlier, Baker said Chavez Ravine still feels a little like home, even though it’s been 32 years since he played there.

“It’s the same Dodger Stadium that I came to as a kid, you know, even before I got into professional baseball. This is always one of my favorite stadiums.

“… They have taken great care of it. They have changed the seats. They have added the Tom Lasorda whatever it is out there in right field —  a restauranté.”

Lasorda was in his first full season as Dodgers manager in 1977 when a dramatic home run by Baker earned a place in baseball history.

In the sixth inning in the last game of the regular-season, Baker hit his 30th home run to join Steve Garvey (33), Reggie Smith (32) and Ron Cey (30) in forming the first foursome from one team to each hit 30 homers or more in the same  season. “Memories do come back,” Baker said. “You try not to dwell on them, but you know, I have some very pleasant memories here and the town was good to me. I think in a small way, I was pretty good to the town.”


What’s in a name?

Baker, whose given first name is Johnnie, was asked how he got the nickname. It stems from his family’s mostly grass backyard in Riverside.

“It was like a football field, and then there was one dirt spot in the middle and that’s where I seemed to like to play,” Baker explained. “My mom didn’t want to call me Dirty, so she called me Dusty.”

The nickname makes it easy to determine who really knows him. “Everybody in my family, the only thing they have called me is Dusty my whole life. The only guys that call me Johnnie are guys that I went to elementary and junior high school with, that the teacher won’t call you by your nicknames.

“So if somebody calls me Johnnie B, it kind of gets my attention. If they call me Dusty, I just wave.”

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