Defense in seventh crucial on Kershaw's historic night
Hanley's error costs Dodgers ace perfect game while Rojas helps preserve no-no
LOS ANGELES -- After Hanley Ramirez threw away Clayton Kershaw's perfect game, Miguel Rojas saved his no-hitter and shutout.
Start with Rojas, the fourth-string third baseman who keyed a five-run fourth inning with a bases-clearing three-run double. For a lifetime .234 hitter in eight Minor League seasons, that at-bat should be a career highlight.
|7/10/09||Jonathan Sanchez||For Giants vs. Padres|
|8/15/90||Terry Mulholland||For Phillies vs. Giants*|
|6/27/80||Jerry Reuss||For Dodgers vs. Giants|
|7/19/74||Dick Bosman||For Indians vs. A's|
|9/3/47||Bill McCahan||For A's vs. Senators|
|7/1/20||Walter Johnson||For Senators vs. Red Sox|
|6/13/05||Christy Mathewson||For Giants vs. Cubs**|
But it's Rojas' glove that finally got him to the big leagues and he showed it off in the seventh inning, robbing Troy Tulowitzki to preserve Kershaw's historic achievement in an 8-0 victory over the Rockies on Wednesday night.
The play came two batters after Corey Dickerson reached on Ramirez's two-base throwing error leading off the inning. With Dickerson on second and no outs, Kershaw struck out Brandon Barnes, but Tulowitzki pulled a two-hopper that required Rojas to range behind the bag for a back-hand stop, then fire across the diamond, with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez scooping the long throw.
"Through my mind, I was like, 'I gotta make this play for him because he'd be doing great,'" said Rojas, who held one of the lineup cards that will become a lifetime souvenir. "So I just catch the ball and try to make a good throw, and Adrian made a great pick. After he hit the ball, and a guy like Tulowitzki who's hitting the ball hard ... After I made that play, I felt great."
With Dickerson on third base, Kershaw caught Wilin Rosario looking at a called third strike, one of his career-high 15 strikeouts on the night.
"A great play by Miggy," said Kershaw. "I thought it was foul. It was definitely huge for me."
Rojas, 25, said he wasn't nervous with history in the making.
"Not really. Not today," he said. "I can't be nervous when something like that is happening. For me, it's take advantage of every opportunity, show everyone I can be here, and I can help the team to win."
He said he was aware the no-hitter was on the line.
"Especially in that situation, when the game wasn't on the line. For me, it was like a challenge every ground ball, because it could be just one. You've got to make the play."
It followed by two plays the error committed by Ramirez, whose defense has been shaky all year. Manager Don Mattingly said he considered replacing Ramirez at shortstop with defensive specialist Carlos Triunfel, as he did in the ninth inning Monday night, and as he did with Rojas in the eighth inning Friday night. Replacing Ramirez for defensive purposes has become routine when the Dodgers lead, the only question being when.
Ramirez wasn't even certain of starting this game, Mattingly said during batting practice, as the shortstop suffered a bruised ring fingertip on his throwing hand when it got in the way of fielding a smash the previous night. The injury drove Ramirez from that game in the seventh inning.
But Ramirez remains the starting shortstop and he was in that spot, and on the spot, when Dickerson led off the seventh inning. After viewing a replay, official scorer Don Hartack ruled a two-base error rather than an infield hit and error. After the game, Mattingly was asked if he thought about removing Ramirez earlier.
"Yeah, we considered it," Mattingly said of switching shortstops for the seventh inning. "But not at that point. We feel good about the game [with an eight-run lead], but anything can happen. Wanted to wait another inning," which is when Mattingly made the change."
On the ball chopped by Dickerson over the mound, Ramirez charged to glove the ball cleanly and threw quickly, pulling the throw into the ground to the right-field side of first base. It got past Gonzalez and bounced into foul territory as Dickerson continued to second base.
"I thought Hanley looked good tonight," Mattingly said. "The ball that (Drew) Stubbs hit (in the fifth inning). That was a tough play. It looked like the throw wasn't that far off."
Kershaw immediately motioned to Ramirez to shake it off.
"And he came up to me and said that's part of the game," said Ramirez. "He said, 'Great play, you made a great effort. Don't worry about it.' That's the kind of person he is. He's got a great heart and he knows we give everything we have every day on the field. He knew right away I was mad, and he told me, so that definitely made me feel better."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.