Los Angeles – The Dodger Stadium denizens let him hear it Friday in his first start here since the infamous May 18 game when he missed third base. But he had the last laugh.
To refresh for those who might not recall the incident, Church was with the Mets on May 18 when he scored from first on an Angel Pagan triple for the lead in the 11th inning.
He missed third base headed for home, and the Dodgers appealed and Church was out. Replays showed he missed the bag. Stepped beside it.
Dodgers won in the bottom of the 11th. Mets manager Jerry Manuel didn’t exactly Bobby Cox it in terms of protecting his player.
No, Manuel said: “It’s hard to miss third base. I don’t know if I ever remember seeing anyone miss third base in a situation like that. I don’t have any explanation for it.”
Not a high point in Church career.
Then came Friday, his first start back at Dodger Stadium. Fans shouted “thanks” to him and told him he was going to miss third base again.
Well, he didn’t miss third. Not when he walked and scored on Kelly Johnson’s two-run homer in the seventh, and not when Church hit a three-run homer that drove the final nail into Mannywood in the 12th inning of the Braves’ rousing, come-from-behind, 9-5 win.
”I touched third base,” he said, laughing as reporters approached him after the nearly 4-1/2-hour marathon. “It does feel good to come up with a decisive blow like that.”
He added: “I always like hitting against the Dodgers.”
Particularly at Dodger Stadium, where Church has a .423 average (22-for-52) with five doubles, three homers and nine RBIs in 16 games, with a .508 OBP and .692 slugging percentage.
He had three hits and four RBIs in the Braves’ 12-inning win, then moved to center field Saturday and hit leadoff as Cox decided to give Nate McLouth a day to rest his aches.
It was Church’s first start leading off since May 6, 2006.
(Saturday was a good night to rest any lefty hitter, given Dodgers lefty starter Clayton Kershaw entered with a microscopic .174 average, .252 OPB and .228 slugging percentage by lefty hitters. Yes, a .480 OPS by lefties. Yikes.)
Church had three hits Friday and nearly had four, as Manny Ramirez made an awkward (and lucky) catch with his glove extended straight overhead on the warning track, nearly toppling backward as he somehow managed to hang on.
♣ Hot since break: Braves hitters entered Saturday with a league-best .360 OBP and .286 average (second to the Dodgers) since the All-Star break, and Church was one of six active Braves hitting .307 or higher in at least 35 at-bats in that period.
Adam LaRoche has a team-best .423 average (11-for-26) in seven games, and Kelly Johnson was 7-for-22 (.318) with five extra-base hits since the break. But of the guys with at least 35 at-bats, only Yunel Escobar (.371) had a higher average than Church (.343) since the break.
Church was 12-for-35 with two homers, 11 walks and a .500 OBP in 15 games since the break.
Garret Anderson had a .337 average with five doubles, four homers and 12 RBIs in 21 games since the break, and Escobar had four homers, 15 RBIs and a robust .600 slugging percentage in 19 game since the break.
♣ Aussie workhorse on a roll: Couldn’t believe it when I looked it up Saturday and found that Peter Moylan pitched in 21 of 33 Braves games through Friday, when he worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the 11th inning pitching in his third consecutive game. He told me today when I asked him about the workload — he’s got a majors-leading 62 appearances and was on pace for a franchise record 91 — that his surgically repaired elbow feels fine and that if it doesn’t, if he has any problem at all, he’d tell Cox. He was adament about that when I asked him.
Pete said he actually throws best when he’s working all the time, because he gets into a rhythm and can “hone his craft.” After posting an 8.44 ERA and .435 opponents’ average and blowing three saves during a seven-game stretch through July 12, he’s allowed no earned runs and a .196 opponents’ average in 13 innings over his past 13 appearances.
– Yunel Escobar led the NL with a .419 average with runners in scoring position before Saturday, including 14-for-28 with 20 RBI in those situations since since June 25….
– The Braves had a string of four consecutive games with double-digit hits entering Saturday. They had batted .338 with five homers and 28 runs in that 3-1 stretch against the Padres and Dodgers….
– Brian McCann got a day off Saturday after catching six consecutive games and all 12 innings Friday. He was 3-for-23 (.115) with no extra-base hits and seven strikeouts in his past seven games.
“GREY IN L.A.” by Loudon Wainwright III
When it’s grey in L.A. I sure like it that way
Cause there’s way too much sunshine round here
I don’t know about you I get so sick of blue skies
Whenever they always appear
And I sure love the sound of the rain pouring down
On my carport roof made out of tin
If there’s a flood then there’s gonna be mudslides
We all have to pay for our sin
And I suppose that they’ll close canyon roads
And the freeways will all start to clog
And the waters will rise and you won’t be surprised
When your whole house smells like your wet dog
When it’s grey in L.A. it’s much better that way
It reminds you that this town’s so cruel
Yeah it might feel like fun when you’re sportin’ sunglasses
But really you’re one more fool
And I’m just a chump
And this whole town’s a dump
We came out here to dump all our dreams
Of making it big but we’re stuck in a sig alert nightmare
That’s just how it seems
And I suppose Laurie David sure knows
All those cars we drive heat up our earth
And sea temperatures rise and those constant blue skies
And brush fires can sure curb your mirth
Brad Grey’s in L.A. yeah OK I should stay here
There’s no place that’s better i know
For a wannabe star stuck in a car
On a freeway with nowhere to go