Two years in making, Schmidt wins for LA
Righty lasts five innings in first outing since June 2007
LOS ANGELES -- After a two-year medical ordeal and a blooper-reel first inning that prolonged the agony, Jason Schmidt pitched the Dodgers to victory Monday night.
And who thought that would ever happen again?
Schmidt's first Major League start since June 16, 2007, turned into a 7-5 Dodgers comeback win over the Reds, matching his previous total of Dodgers victories. This one included Manny Ramirez's 537th career home run, moving him past Mickey Mantle and into sole possession of 15th place on the all-time list, and a solo shot by Andre Ethier, his club-high 19th.
In five innings, Schmidt struck out two but was wild enough to walk three and hit one. All three runs were scored in the first inning and he allowed only one batter as far as second base after that.
Manager Joe Torre reiterated after the game what he said before the game, that Schmidt figures to remain in the rotation at least for another start.
"The consideration is to send him back out there again," said Torre.
Schmidt made 91 pitches against the Reds, none faster than 89 mph, most of his fastballs hovering around 87 according to MLB.com's pitch tracker (the readings on the Dodger Stadium radar gun were erratic all night).
Yet, Schmidt said the decreased velocity is only partly the result of two operations on a 36-year-old shoulder, but also his intentional adjustment to the mysterious workings of his body.
"If I aired it out from pitch one to 100, I could get to 91 or 92, but when I try to throw harder even a little bit, I can't control it," Schmidt said. "So, I have to pitch like it's an easy bullpen [session]. I don't like doing it that way, but it's the only way that works and I've been getting people out during the rehab like that and I'm living with it.
"Winning tonight is very exciting. But it's still a little frustrating knowing what I used to be able to do. I feel like I'm kind of handicapped. I want to challenge hitters with every pitch. That was my intimidation before, that I could blow it by anybody, and it doesn't work that way anymore. I was a bull in a china shop. Now I have to be cool and collected, throwing breaking balls with two strikes when I used to throw fastballs. It's like night and day."
But it can be effective. Schmidt was charged with three first-inning runs, two of them tainted by defensive betrayal. He allowed hits to the first four batters he faced and only one after that, but two of the first-inning hits would have been outs with better defense.
"It was like, 'You've got to be kidding me,'" Schmidt said he thought on the mound. "Definitely not the way I wanted it to go. But the guys got me four runs right back and I settled down."
Schmidt conceded that if he hadn't made it back in the coming weeks, he probably never would. He said he was inundated with voicemails and text messages from friends and well-wishers the past two days but was able to focus on the mound.
"I was nervous before the game, I'll admit that," he said. "I had a lot of anxiety, the fear of the unknown, dealing with the stuff I had and I didn't know what was going to happen. But once I got on the mound, I had no butterflies. Which was weird, because in the bullpen I was all over the place. I actually felt too loose."
Schmidt beat his former Giants manager, Dusty Baker.
"He was a nasty, man," Baker said. "When Jason Schmidt was in his heyday, it was win day when he was out there. He had an upper 90s fastball, a good slider, an excellent changeup and he hid the ball well. I'm pulling for him, just not against us."
The game was peculiar from the first batter, Willy Taveras, who appeared to hit a home run on a 3-2 pitch. But after viewing a replay, umpires ruled Taveras had tripled. Jerry Hairston doubled home Taveras.
After Ramirez let a Jerry Votto foul ball drop untouched, Votto singled Hairston to third off the right-field fence. Hairston scored on an errant throw from catcher Russell Martin. Outfielders Matt Kemp and Ethier then let a Brandon Phillips fly drop between then as a third run scored.
Fortunately for the Dodgers, Reds starter Micah Owings was worse than Schmidt. The Dodgers scored four first-inning runs on five hits, including doubles by Rafael Furcal (a bunt), Ethier and Casey Blake. Ramirez slugged a two-run homer in the second and Ethier hit his in the fifth.
The Dodgers got three hits from Martin, a third save in as many days from Jonathan Broxton and another scoreless inning of relief from Ramon Troncoso (17 consecutive scoreless innings).
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.