LOS ANGELES — His pursuit of postseason immortality lasted longer Friday than anyone would have dared dream.
Finally, Taijuan Walker buckled, striking out Curtis Granderson and ending his bid for an imperfect game.
Before that deflating development, the Dodgers were 4 for 4 with a walk against Arizona’s starter, who, let’s be honest, in Game 1 of this National League Division Series was more of a finisher.
By the time Walker was done – he lasted only one inning, one inning that required him to make 48 pitches en route to surrendering four runs – the Diamondbacks were done, too.
The Dodgers eventually won, 9-5, Arizona unable to overcome its early bottomless pit despite eventually hitting four homers off Clayton Kershaw, something that never before had happened to a Dodgers pitcher in the postseason.
For a team that will be dissatisfied closing with anything other than a World Series championship, the Dodgers certainly opened with a flourish, a game that lasted 3:37 essentially over in mere minutes.
“It’s just nice to jump on them early,” shortstop Corey Seager said. “It’s nice to get Game 1, get the momentum and move on from there.”
In an ideal world, Walker wouldn’t have been the Diamondbacks’ first choice to start this game. Or second choice.
No, in an ideal world, former Dodger Zack Greinke would have drawn this spot opposite Kershaw in a showdown of genuine No. 1s.
But, in an ideal world, Arizona wouldn’t wear uniforms that look like George Jetson’s pajamas, either.
As it was, Greinke started the game that brought the Diamondbacks here, their wild-card victory over Colorado.
Unfortunately for Arizona, Robbie Ray also was needed in that game in relief, leaving this start to Walker, who entered Friday without having as much as a winning regular-season record.
“That was a huge positive,” Seager said. “They had to throw their guys to advance. We got to heal up, rest and get ready.”
Walker was 9-9 in 2017 and, for his career, 31-31, the absolute picture – and, for that matter, pitcher – of mediocrity.
At age 25, he also was making his postseason debut, going up against a veteran who who has done just about everything in baseball except during October, a month that mostly has done onto him.
Still, having Kershaw in this matchup represented a monumental advantage for the Dodgers, one they seized so quickly and aggressively that they risked 50 simultaneous hamstring pulls.
“It’s hard to pitch to our lineup,” rookie Cody Bellinger said. “When we come out with a plan and we execute it, then good things happen.”
Loud things happen, too.
After Chris Taylor singled and Seager walked to start the bottom of the first, Justin Turner ripped a three-run homer estimated to have traveled 424 feet to left-center, holding his post-swing pose like a satisfied golfer.
It’s normally considered a bad sign for a starting pitcher to have more mound visits from a coach than outs recorded.
But suddenly, just three batters into the game, there was Arizona’s Mike Butcher, counseling Walker. Or perhaps just stalling, killing time hoping Dodger Stadium would stop swaying with raucous delight.
“That’s a big homer,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Big homer. We had a great offensive night. Obviously, you feel pretty good when Clayton’s on the mound.”
Up 3-0, Bellinger followed with a single and then scored on a double by Yasiel Puig, igniting more noise, burying Walker and the Diamondbacks under even more decibels.
Upon reaching second, Puig, apparently caught up in the chaos he had just helped create, executed what I believe is known as a double crotch-chop.
I do know the NFL once fined Carson Palmer for making a similar gesture. I’m not sure, however, where baseball stands on the matter.
Let’s just all agree, though, that it’s probably not a bad thing that, by the time Puig was self chopping, it was already approaching 11 p.m. for television viewers on the East Coast.
It also was getting awfully late for Walker, who didn’t secure his first out until his 38th pitch. By comparison, Dodgers reliever Brandon Morrow later would get four outs on seven pitches.
Speaking of later, Puig punctuated a seventh-inning head-first slide on a triple by holding his mouth agape and wagging his tongue in the direction of the Dodgers’ dugout, a visual captured by cameras in graphic super slow-motion.
It was somewhat reminiscent of Michael Jordan’s famous tongue cameos, only with much more passion and far less grace.
For Dodgers fans, however, the moment was equally as signature, Puig and his teammates enjoying a playful romp over an opponent that, on this night especially, entered as overmatched and exited the same way.
“When I slide, that’s my reaction,” Puig explained. “I don’t know why. I feel maybe ice cream in front of me or something like that.”
Ice cream or a cream puff? Whatever, the Dodgers took full advantage and ate it up in Game 1.
What could be a long postseason feast started Friday with dessert.
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