As planned, Junior hit a sharp grounder into the teeth of the defense. Olmedo Saenz, playing first, made a terrific stop of the ball, and threw it to Betemit coming all the way over from midway between second and third to cover second. Betemit, who has a cannon for an arm, then threw on to Maddux covering first, just like it's drawn up in the playbook. 3-5-1.
Of course, the gimmicky defensive alignment is the main reason the play was even possible. This kind of alignment is being used more and more against powerful left-handed hitters. Ortiz sees variations of it a lot, as does Jason Giambi, and Grady used it against both Griffey and Dunn in the Dodgers-Reds series. When it works, like on the 3-5-1, it's brilliant. I just don't know if it works often to be a smart play.
The 3-5-1 wasn't actually the big story of the game. That was brand new Dodger Greg Maddux throwing a no-hitter for six innings in Cincinnati's bandbox of a ballpark. Then the rain came. When they finally took the tarp off some 45 minutes later, Maddux had stiffened enough that he and Grady thought that it would be better for the team if someone from the bullpen took over. It was a good decision. Beimel, Broxton, and Saito closed the door, and the Dodgers won 3-0.
It's a shame really. For all his accomplishments and 328 wins, Maddux has never thrown a no-hitter, at least, not since he was in Little League. (For that matter, neither has Roger Clemens, which is even stranger.) Jon Weisman did a nice piece on Maddux's decision, and the tradition of not mentioning a no-hitter in progress for fear of jinxing it, over at Dodger Thoughts.
As a side note, lost in all the pluses and minuses discussed regarding Maddux's acquisition is that he is probably the finest fielding pitcher of his generation. Now, it's true that a pitcher's fielding ability is never considered when evaluating his worth to the team. Still, a good fielding pitcher can help, especially in the National League where pitchers sacrifice bunt a lot. Every little bit helps.
Another thing Jon mentions in today's DT is an interview Takashi Saito did recently in the OCRegister. Nobody expected much from Saito when he was signed. He was 36, and his last couple of seasons in Japan weren't all that great. He has been a godsend this year, though, stepping in and pitching brilliantly in the closer's spot when it became clear that Baez couldn't cut it.
Anyway, here's Saito on how to avoid the agony of da feet:
Dodgers reliever Takashi Saito revealed the secret to his success - his socks.
The Japanese right-hander said balance is "the most important thing" in his delivery. Maintaining that balance starts at the bottom.
"That's why I'm wearing five-finger socks," Saito said through his interpreter, giggling when he lifted his foot for verification. "I use them to grip the ground better."
Saito said many Japanese pitchers wear the socks that have separate tubes for each toe. He laughed when asked if he would try to persuade other Dodgers pitchers to wear them.
Using pantomime, Saito pointed at Jonathan Broxton and Mark Hendrickson and indicated they were large enough for staying grounded not to be a problem.
I think the cool thing is not so much that Saito wears toe socks, but that he can giggle about it.