The Yasmani Grandal we’ve come to know
It just wasn’t a good at-bat.
Swinging strike on a Jake Arrieta curveball. Another flailing effort on another curveball. Short salvation came in the form of a high fastball. But then Arrieta hit the inside corner with a called strike three to end the second inning.
Yasmani Grandal turned and did the one thing a catcher shouldn’t do. He argued the call with home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom.
It was the equivalent of spilling some coffee on your shirt and having a disagreement with your boss — all before 10 a.m.
Ah, but there were innings left and hours left in the work day. And if we’ve come to know anything about Grandal, it’s that one stain need not ruin his day.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Arrieta got ahead 0 and 2 on Grandal, but the Dodger catcher worked the count to 3-2, also fouling off a couple of Arrieta’s offerings. And on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Grandal dug a fastball from below the strike zone and drove it out 398 feet to left center field for a two-run homer — the biggest hit in the Dodgers’ 6-0 win over the Cubs on Tuesday night in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series.
Grandal, who struggled to find a rhythm at the beginning of the year and ended up being one of the top hitting catchers in baseball in the second half, came into Game 3 of the NLCS having gone 2 for 20 at the plate. He had the one hit on Tuesday, but more importantly for him, his pitchers pitched a shutout — the second in a row for the Dodgers.
“You’ve always got to turn the page, especially to me as a catcher,” Grandal said. “You have to separate the offense from the defense because you can’t let one affect the other. I said it before, if I go 0 for 4 but if I shut down a team, I’m sleeping tight that night.”
Sweet dreams, Yasmani.
Dodger starter Rich Hill threw six shutout innings, and was in trouble just once — a second inning in which he walked two batters before getting the second out. He struck out Addison Russell and then induced a groundout from Miguel Montero to get out of the jam. He gave Grandal credit for helping him navigate through the Cubs’ lineup and sticking with his curveball, which admittedly wasn’t his best, despite appearances that it was on point.
“Yas continued to call a great game back there and stuck with the breaking balls and the fastballs,” Hill said. “I’m not going sit here and say that (the curveball’s) not a major part of my game. Tonight it was and it proved very effective because Yas kept calling it.”
If there was one frame of beauty in Game 3 from the catcher so known for his pitch-framing ability, it was in the top of the fourth inning. Hill went to a full count on Jorge Soler then slung a curveball that fluttered to the outside edge of the plate. Grandal’s glove covered a sizable portion of the strike zone and he caught the ball on the outside edge of his glove. If he caught the baseball in the center of his glove, it could have been a walk. At the time the Dodgers led 1-0.
“In the playoffs, and I think going back in the season, his defense has been remarkable,” said Dave Roberts. “Yeah, he had his struggles early on but really had a great second half and put together a nice year. In the postseason, what he’s done with the pitching staff — the starters, the guys in the pen has been remarkable. I can’t say enough about his growth — just going through the struggles offensively but understanding his primary responsibility is to control the pitching staff. And today, that at-bat he put together, getting behind in the count, fouling some pitches off and getting a fastball in his nitro zone and driving it out of the ballpark, obviously a huge at-bat.”