Dodgers Report: Carl Crawford

Andrew Friedman said he'd deal inside the NL West

December, 8, 2014
Dec 8
7:17
PM PT


SAN DIEGO -- The Los Angeles Dodgers wouldn't hesitate to make a deal with a team inside their division, according to president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman.

That sentiment adds credence to recent rumors involving the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks trying to acquire the Dodgers' outfielders.

"For me, there are 29 other trade outlets, and to cut off four of them makes our job even more difficult," Friedman said. "It just makes it even more difficult to line up and do deals that make sense."

[+] EnlargeAndrew Friedman
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports"For me, there are 29 other trade outlets, and to cut off four of them makes our job even more difficult," Andrew Friedman said of dealing within the NL West.
Friedman, in fact, said he wouldn't necessarily require division rivals to pay a higher premium for Dodgers players than he would teams from other divisions or in the American League.

Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa said at the winter meetings Monday that his team discussed a deal that would have brought Andre Ethier to Arizona (his home state) and netted the Dodgers catcher Miguel Montero.

Friedman wouldn't confirm those talks, but he said he understands Ethier's desire to play every day.

"I'd feel the same way if I were him," Friedman said.

La Russa said it's "less likely" such a deal gets done now, but he didn't rule it out.

Meanwhile, the Padres continue to be linked in rumors involving Matt Kemp. A report in USA Today indicated the teams have discussed a deal involving Kemp and catcher Yasmani Grandal -- a switch-hitter who hit 15 home runs last season.

Dealing Kemp, in conjunction with having lost Hanley Ramirez to the Boston Red Sox, could create a massive hole in the middle of the Dodgers' lineup. Kemp led the Dodgers in slugging, and Ramirez was fourth in that category. One major league scout wondered, "Who would protect Adrian [Gonzalez]?"

To give up Kemp, the Dodgers would likely need to receive premium major league talent in return, but Friedman said it wouldn't necessarily require a middle-of-the-order bat to give one up. The Dodgers could simply go all-in on their pitching.

"Generally speaking, our ability to score runs is so intertwined with our ability to prevent them, there's a connection there," Friedman said. "I'd be OK if we gave up 100 runs if we scored 200, to go to the extreme example."

Hot stove primer: Outfielders

December, 3, 2014
Dec 3
11:22
AM PT
Matt KempJeff Curry/USA TODAY SportsMatt Kemp is reportedly drawing the most trade interest among the Dodgers outfielders.
After a nearly three-year spending spree, the Dodgers seem to be retrenching this winter. That’s in part because they won 94 games last season and return a roster that is largely intact. But it also seems to be part of a wider organizational philosophy to rebuild the minor-league system and, eventually, bring the payroll under $200 million. Thus far, the only major headlines they’ve generated since being eliminated by the St. Louis Cardinals in the playoffs involve the front office. With the winter meetings looming next week, let’s explore some areas the Dodgers might look to improve:

LOS ANGELES -- The way the Dodgers’ new executives are talking, they figure to be popular company at a downtown San Diego resort next week for baseball’s winter meetings.

“The one thing I’ll say is that, if you look at the landscape of baseball as a whole, one thing that’s really scarce is offense right now,” general manager Farhan Zaidi said Tuesday night. “We’re fortunate to have a surplus of really good offensive outfielders.”

One could bicker with Zaidi’s assessment of the surplus -- Andre Ethier, for example, batted .249 with scant power last year and the moveable parts are all in their 30s -- but events so far this winter have proven his assessment of the hitters market to be spot on. In fact, the Dodgers’ biggest loss this winter -- Hanley Ramirez -- has driven that point home while also muddying the Dodgers’ pursuit of a trade partner for one of their outfielders.

For the third time in four years, Ramirez’s 2014 season was ravaged by injuries and he didn’t provide the kind of offensive dynamism he did the previous season, but the Boston Red Sox still signed him to a four-year, $88 million contract, a deal that could balloon to $110 million over five seasons if an option vests.

Ramirez is the same age as Matt Kemp and, according to the Red Sox, will now -- like Kemp -- play a corner outfield position. They’re fairly good comparisons in terms of market value. They both are excellent athletes, with above-average speed, when they’re healthy. All you have to do is glance at some of the eye-popping numbers they have put up in past seasons to see that their upside is enormous. They have the rarest of all baseball commodities nowadays, right-handed power. They come with similar question marks in terms of clubhouse demeanor and defensive value.

Ramirez’s contract makes the remaining five years and $107 million left on Kemp’s deal less of an obstacle in trade talks. If Kemp were to hit the open market, given the precedents we’ve seen so far, he could probably command a similar deal to Ramirez’s, which just might cost Boston more in total dollars before it expires.

But can the Dodgers afford to trade the only remaining right-handed slugger on their roster, presuming Scott Van Slyke remains in a platoon role and Yasiel Puig's power remains of the doubles variety? Trading Kemp for younger, cheaper talent would be a major gamble right on the heels of losing Ramirez. It would be a particularly fraught move if the Dodgers view Kemp’s second-half power surge -- he led the majors in slugging -- was indicative of his return to good health and his truer self.

According to various reports, the Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres have all shown interest in Kemp, but there have been virtually no reports linking teams to Ethier or Carl Crawford. That could indicate the Dodgers are trying to move the players teams least covet.

To move Ethier, whose production has been in steady decline, the Dodgers could have to pay as much as half of the remaining $56 million left on his deal and, even so, they probably wouldn’t return much in terms of talent. Crawford had a solid .767 OPS and is the lowest-maintenance personality of any of the Dodgers’ outfielders, but the $62.25 million left on his deal, his age (33) and the fact he hasn’t played as many as 150 games since 2010 seem to be giving teams pause.

As if things weren’t complicated enough, the Dodgers added outfielder Chris Heisey in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday, but that move should be viewed as part of the team’s intention to fortify its organizational depth. Heisey, who could be optioned to Triple-A, also is a solid center fielder and a very good corner outfielder.

Because a trade is hard to consummate doesn’t mean it won’t happen. In fact, it’s starting to feel inevitable that the Dodgers will move at least one outfielder between now and Opening Day. Having a more functional clubhouse is part of the impetus. While Zaidi and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman are sometimes mocked for being numbers-driven, they both come from organizations that put a value on personality traits in evaluating players.

Zaidi said he and Friedman both asked around about the environment when they came to Los Angeles. One of the people they consulted was former GM Ned Colletti, who now advises president Stan Kasten. The scarce playing time and plentiful supply of ego among Dodgers outfielders was one source of tension and manager Don Mattingly complained about it periodically. The combination would be particularly flammable if it lingered into 2015, now that the numbers have swollen even further, with Joc Pederson expecting a role.

“We’re not trying to put together a collection of individuals. We’re putting together a team that functions well, with guys who can fill specific roles and all pull on the rope in one direction,” Zaidi said.

At least one Dodgers outfielder will be pulling on an entirely different rope next season.

2015 Position Outlook: Outfielders

November, 3, 2014
Nov 3
10:57
AM PT
Dodgers WinRichard Mackson/USA TODAY SportsThe Dodgers will probably be looking to move at least one outfielder between now and February.
LOS ANGELES -- Andrew Friedman had been on the job less than a week when somebody lobbed the question at him that his predecessor had been unhappily dealing with for the previous eight months: what to do with the surplus of outfielders?

“I’ve been asked that question as if it’s a problem. If it is, it’s a tremendous problem to have,” Friedman said. “There are a lot of really talented players who happen to play the outfield here. We have to look through it and figure out what roster puts us in the position to have the most success next year.”

It may not be a problem for either Ned Colletti’s regime or Friedman’s -- depth is one of the Holy Grails in baseball -- but it was a problem for Andre Ethier, who barely played in the second half, and for manager Don Mattingly, who said repeatedly he wasn’t crazy about the headaches of keeping the benched players from grumbling.

Plus, it’s getting more crowded, with younger players bumping their heads on a set outfield. After a season in which he had a 1.017 OPS at Triple-A Albuquerque, Joc Pederson will show up at spring training with every intention of making the major league roster. The Dodgers still have Scott Van Slyke, who slugged .524. Even Alex Guerrero, once groomed as an everyday second baseman, now plays some outfield.

Oh, and one of the Dodgers’ fastest-rising prospects, Scott Schebler, who hit 28 home runs at Double-A, also plays the outfield.

Pederson has played 13 games in the Domincan winter league and is batting .260 with a home run, two doubles and a .339 on-base percentage. He also has 21 strikeouts in 50 at-bats a few months after striking out 149 times in 445 minor-league at-bats. After a slow start, he is nine for his last 30.

So, unless Friedman thins the position, the Dodgers will have six players show up at Camelback Ranch in a few months with designs on playing three positions. So, whether Friedman admits it, everyone in baseball knows he’ll be looking to move at least one outfielder between now and February if for no other reason than to save dollars he could apply to another area of the roster.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Giants 5, Dodgers 2 (F/13)

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
11:26
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- In case the Los Angeles Dodgers needed a reminder of what the playoffs feel like, they got 13 innings to study up on it over the course of their 3-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants Monday night. They just hope things have happier endings as the pressure ramps up in the coming weeks.

The Dodgers had nearly as many errors (three) as hits (four) and yet played deep into the night before the Giants rallied for three runs off Kevin Correia to win it. Now the Dodgers have to win the next two games in order to clinch the NL West with their bitter rivals on the field.

The game drew an announced crowd of 53,500, the largest to see a major league game this season, slightly eclipsing the Dodgers’ Opening Day draw. The atmosphere was loud at times and quietly tense at others, giving the game a playoff-like feel.

How it happened: The Dodgers had some issues catching the ball and fell behind 2-0 after three innings, but veteran Dan Haren battled through it, allowing just one hit in seven innings, and Carl Crawford finally sparked the offense with a leadoff home run in the fifth inning. That was the first hit Giants starter Jake Peavy had allowed. The Dodgers added another run after Juan Uribe blooped a double and scored on Dee Gordon’s sacrifice fly.

Even as the teams failed to score late, the innings were filled with tension. The Giants threatened in both the 10th and 11th innings, but Brandon League got an inning-ending double play to escape one jam, and Yasiel Puig made an absurdly accurate throw to gun down Brandon Belt trying to score on Brandon Crawford’s single to center in the next.

After Puig’s throw, which reached catcher Drew Butera’s mitt on the fly directly in the path of Belt’s slide, the big crowd chanted, “Puig! Puig!”

Hits: When Pablo Sandoval hit a slicing fly ball to Crawford in the sixth inning, it gave Haren six innings pitched in the game and 180 innings pitched on the season. That triggered a player option for 2015 at $10 million. Haren has said he isn’t sure he’ll play next season. If he does, it’s far from an outrageous contract for a pitcher who has produced the numbers Haren has (13-11, 4.03 ERA). Despite the Dodgers’ poor defense behind him, Haren gave them every opportunity to win a crucial game.

Misses: In the third inning, Puig and Matt Kemp converged on Gregor Blanco’s high fly ball to right-center field. Both players appeared to call for it and neither backed off, so the ball ended up glancing off Kemp’s glove for a three-base error that led to a run. Kemp, who had been the Dodgers’ hottest run producer on the road trip, also cooled off at the plate, going 0-for-5, striking out twice against Peavy and ending an inning with a double play. The Dodgers were worried about communications issues when Puig moved over to center, but it hadn’t become much of an issue until Monday night. It’s something they’ll have to straighten out before the playoffs. The last time Puig and Kemp were seen speaking to each other in public, Kemp was yelling at Puig in Colorado for failing to take an extra base.

Stat of the game: When Hanley Ramirez hit a double Sunday at Wrigley Field, he became the fourth Dodger this season to reach the 35-double mark. It’s the first time in franchise history that four players reached 35 doubles in a season. Adrian Gonzalez has 40, Yasiel Puig has 37 and Matt Kemp has 36.

Up next: The series continues Tuesday at 7:05 p.m., with Zack Greinke (15-8, 2.76 ERA) pitching for the Dodgers and Madison Bumgarner (18-9, 2.91) going for the Giants.

Dodgers' bats as hot as their tempers

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
11:40
PM PT

DENVER -- One way to look at the dust-up between Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ dugout is as another example of what several people have called a “dysfunctional” clubhouse. That could well be true.

Another way to look at it is as a step forward for the team, with one prominent player demanding another prominent player take accountability for his actions. That also could be true.

Nobody in the Dodgers’ clubhouse was offering much detail about the argument, and nobody at home would have even known about it if Root Sports' cameras hadn’t caught the disagreement and put it on the air. For all we know, it could be the 497th most heated discussion among Dodgers this season. It didn’t look particularly menacing, with Kemp just stalking Puig in the dugout and yelling in his direction, and then manager Don Mattingly breaking it up.

[+] EnlargeYasiel Puig, Matt Kemp
Dustin Bradford/Getty ImagesThings were hunky-dory between Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp on the field Monday at Colorado, but it appeared to be quite a different story in the dugout. 
What we do know is Puig probably should have gone to third on Adrian Gonzalez’s hump-back liner to right field right before Kemp hit that inning. Had he done so, he would have been on third with nobody out, thereby offering an easy RBI chance for Kemp to pad the Dodgers’ lead at a stadium where visiting teams can never have enough runs.

As it turned out, Puig scored anyway, on Hanley Ramirez’s double, so the Dodgers could laugh it off afterward.

Even so, Mattingly did compare these Dodgers to the early 1970’s Oakland Athletics, a team known as the Fightin’ A’s in part because they battled each other so famously. Exhibit A was Reggie Jackson and Billy North engaging in fisticuffs in 1974 at Tiger Stadium.

The point seems to be that nobody’s going to care how many times Dodgers players had dinner with each other as long as they win the World Series.

During the past three games, they’ve looked as dangerous in the batter’s box as they have all season.

On Saturday, they steamrolled the San Francisco Giants in historical fashion -- 17-0 -- after one of their worst losses of the year the night before. They played a fundamentally sound, tightly pitched game Sunday to take a key series from the Giants. Then they avoided the letdown at a half-full Coors Field by pounding out eight runs in the sixth inning to beat the Colorado Rockies on Monday.

Now they’re getting close to punching their ticket to the playoffs and enjoying a four-game NL West lead with 12 left and a magic number to clinch a postseason berth at just five.

The Dodgers have averaged 6.7 runs per game over their past seven outings.

If what Kemp did in the dugout is an example of his taking a stronger leadership position on this team, it’s a welcome sight. A more welcome sight, though, is the 13 home runs he has mashed in the past 44 games.

“Just consistently working, grinding at-bats out and letting everything take its course,” Kemp said. “I struggled at the beginning of the season. But it’s not the way you start -- it’s the way you finish. I’ve always been a big believer in that. The season’s still not over with, so we’ve got to just grind it out.”

It’s not always the best teams that do well in October, but it’s almost always the hottest teams that go far.

Kemp’s power has added another dimension to what has been steady production from Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, along with shocking levels of production from Justin Turner and signs Puig and Ramirez could join the party soon. In other words, this could be a lineup on the verge of truly clicking for the first time all year.

“Everybody’s starting to come around,” Kemp said. “This is a good time to get hot, hopefully going into the playoffs, and we’ve got to keep grinding it out and keep getting those good at-bats.”

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 11, Rockies 3

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
9:21
PM PT

DENVER -- Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly mentioned before the game that he expected the NL West race to go down to the final series.

He might be right, but that would require the Dodgers to cool off some.

They beat the Colorado Rockies 11-3 on Monday for their third straight win, and it got them another step closer to their goal. Any combination of five Dodgers wins and Milwaukee Brewers losses will get them to the postseason.

Any combination of 10 Dodgers wins and San Francisco Giants losses would give the Dodgers the NL West title.

How it happened: The Dodgers were locked in a tense game until their biggest inning of the season, an eight-run sixth, put it away. Twelve batters came up in the inning, with RBI swats from Dee Gordon, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Juan Uribe and pinch hitter Justin Turner. Roberto Hernandez has been struggling lately, and Mattingly didn’t give him much of a chance to clean up his own mess, as he pulled him with two outs and the bases loaded in the fourth inning. Paco Rodriguez, just activated from the disabled list, got a big out, and the Dodgers’ bullpen restored some order to what had been a typical Coors Field game.

Hits: Matt Kemp is again becoming a force to be reckoned with. He homered for the second straight game and is among the top 10 in the National League in slugging percentage. He has been the Dodgers’ steadiest power bat since the All-Star break and has bashed 13 home runs and driven in 41 runs in those 53 games. Root Sports, the Rockies TV station, caught Kemp yelling in the direction of Yasiel Puig during the Dodgers’ long sixth inning, with Mattingly stepping in between them and Kemp eventually going into the tunnel. No one would say afterword what the issue the. Mattingly called it "family stuff" and implies it stays in house.

Misses: It’s not that Hernandez has been an awful acquisition. He gave the Dodgers two good starts after they got him from the Philadelphia Phillies in early August, and L.A. has won three of his seven starts. It’s just that he has put a heavy burden on the bullpen in recent starts. Hernandez hasn’t gotten as deep as the fifth inning since Aug. 26. The Rockies walked twice and had six hits by the time Mattingly came out to relieve Hernandez. He’s looking like a dicey possibility for the playoff roster.

Stat of the game: The Dodgers are one of three teams (the Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals are the others) with four players -- Adrian Gonzalez (37) , Kemp (36), Puig (35) and Ramirez (32) -- who have hit at least 30 doubles. Three of those four doubled in the game, and the one who didn’t, Kemp, homered.

Up next: The series continues here at 5:40 p.m. PT Tuesday, with Dan Haren (13-10, 3.99 ERA) going for the Dodgers and Tyler Matzek (5-10, 4.23) pitching for Colorado.

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 4, Padres 0

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
10:20
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- Dan Haren continued to give the Los Angeles Dodgers confidence in him, Yasiel Puig kept right on giving them fits and Carl Crawford again gave them reasons to slap his hands in congratulations.

Haren was marvelous in seven shutout innings against the San Diego Padres, pushing the Dodgers to a 4-0 victory Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium. The win was Haren's fifth in his last seven starts as he allowed four hits, struck out five and walked one.

Puig, hitting .210 since Aug. 1, was reinserted at the top of the order, but it didn't help. He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and left five men on base.

Manager Don Mattingly said before the game he was trying to move Puig around the lineup -- he hit seventh in two of the last four games -- to "get him going," citing a need for him to get on track not only before the playoffs, but before this weekend's series in San Francisco.

Crawford has been the on the other side of the spectrum. He collected a season-high four hits, three of them doubles, and drove in two runs to continue his run as one of the hottest hitters in the majors since Aug. 10. Those three doubles tied a franchise record for one game, last accomplished in 2010 by Matt Kemp.

How it happened: The Dodgers' bats stayed quiet for the first five innings, getting only a Crawford double in the second to score Kemp. But the offense picked up six hits over the next two innings, and while they managed to score only twice, it was enough for the night.

Hits: Kemp pushed his hitting streak to 16 games with a single to start the second inning. Kemp, now tied for the second-longest streak of his career, is 21-for-63 (.333) with seven doubles, four home runs and 13 RBIs during this stretch.

Misses: The Dodgers' season-long struggles with the bases loaded continued Wednesday when Puig struck out looking in the second inning on a two-out, full-count fastball on the outside corner. Puig is now 0-for-8 with the bases loaded, and as a team the Dodgers are 17-for-103 (.165).

Stat of the game: Crawford's three hits kept his hot streak flaming. Since Aug. 10, Crawford has hit .434 (36-for-83) with 20 runs scored, three home runs and 14 RBIs.

Up next: The Dodgers are off Thursday before starting a marquee series against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-6, 3.16 ERA) starts the opener against Madison Bumgarner (17-9, 3.02).

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 9, Padres 4

September, 8, 2014
Sep 8
10:13
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw’s season for the ages continued its relentless march and got the Los Angeles Dodgers another half-step closer to the playoffs.

With the second-place San Francisco Giants idle, Kershaw became the first pitcher in the majors to reach the 18-win mark, and the Dodgers clobbered the San Diego Padres 9-4 on Monday night. They now lead the NL West by 3 1/2 games with 18 left, including three this weekend in San Francisco.

How it happened: The first time the Dodgers faced Odrisamer Despaigne, their best line of defense was Kershaw, who outpitched the Padres rookie. This time, they had Kershaw -- and a more finely tuned offense. Despaigne was knocked out in the fifth inning. Juan Uribe and Carl Crawford homered, and the Dodgers gave their ace his first stress-free outing since early July. Kershaw (18-3) wasn’t at his most dominant, but he still cruised through eight innings in 89 pitches, struck out eight batters and allowed three hits. Seven of the first nine Padres batters were retired on ground balls. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly pulled Kershaw shy of his seventh complete game, despite the manageable pitch count, likely with an eye to his final three regular-season starts, which will come on four days of rest. Two of those starts are against San Francisco.

Hits: Puig’s struggles since the end of July have forced Mattingly to continue to slide him down in the lineup. That could have created a void in the middle of the Dodgers’ order, but it has been obscured in part by hot hitting from Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp and Crawford. Kemp had an RBI double to extend his hitting streak to 14 games, a season high. Crawford clubbed a three-run homer and is 9-for-21 (.429) on this homestand. Gonzalez, who drove in six runs Sunday, walked and doubled. The Dodgers’ offense doesn’t have the sizzle it did in 2013 behind Puig and Hanley Ramirez, but it is more balanced, and that might be better in the long run.

Misses: Puig put one of his best swings on a pitch in weeks when he singled up the middle to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning. Ramirez had four hits (two bloopers) and two RBIs. That was the good news for two of the Dodgers’ key players. On the other hand, Puig and Ramirez had a play in the sixth inning that would have embarrassed some T-ball teams. After Puig caught Rene Rivera’s shallow fly ball, he tried to double up Rymer Liriano off first base, but he didn’t set his feet and skipped the throw past Gonzalez and off the railing of the Padres dugout. A.J. Ellis picked it up and threw it into center field, where Ramirez retrieved it and chucked it 20 feet wide of home plate. The comedy of errors resulted in two unearned runs. When Kershaw got the ball back, he disgustedly flipped it in the air to no one in particular, and the ball thudded in the dirt.

Stat of the game: Before that three-error play in the sixth inning, the Dodgers had made just two errors in their previous 91 innings, per Dodgers blogger Jon Weisman.

Up next: The series continues at 7:10 PT Tuesday with Roberto Hernandez (8-10, 4.00 ERA) pitching for the Dodgers and Andrew Cashner (2-7, 2.39) going for San Diego.

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 4, Nationals 1

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
9:50
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- When Clayton Kershaw walked off the mound Tuesday night, fans near the Los Angeles Dodgers' dugout and elsewhere chanted "MVP!" for the first time this season. They just might know what they're talking about.

With the Dodgers struggling a bit over the past week and the rival San Francisco Giants on a roll behind them, Kershaw was there to rescue his team again with a fairly routine dominance, at least by his standards. He shut down the National League-leading Washington Nationals, and the Dodgers got a 4-1 win to keep their division lead at two games with 23 left.

How it happened: Kershaw never looked threatened, with no base runner reaching second base until Bryce Harper caught a low, 94-mph fastball and cranked it into the right-center stands in the seventh inning. It wasn't Kershaw at his most dominant, but it was another step on the MVP path: eight innings, three hits, one run, eight strikeouts. He has four or, possibly, five more starts to pick up three wins and reach the 20-win mark despite missing six weeks with a back injury.

The Dodgers benefited from a comedy of errors by Washington infielders during a strange fifth inning. It looked like Kershaw had picked the wrong outfielder to run on when Bryce Harper’s throw from center field appeared to beat him to third, but Anthony Rendon inexplicably threw to second and Dee Gordon slid headfirst under Asdrubal Cabrera’s tag. Later, when Adrian Gonzalez hit a slow roller to shortstop Ian Desmond, Desmond bobbled it and then threw it over catcher Wilson Ramos’ head to allow two runs to score.

Juan Uribe later jumped on Doug Fister’s first pitch to him in the sixth inning and clubbed a two-run home run.

Hits: Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt deserves some credit for spacing out the rotation so Kershaw will pitch in the Dodgers’ biggest games this month. After facing the San Diego Padres on Sept. 8, two of Kershaw’s next three starts will come against the Giants. And if the teams haven’t decided the division by Sept. 28, Kershaw would be lined up to pitch in a one-game playoff the next day, or a wild-card game the following day. That’s a pretty good safety net.

Misses: The Dodgers got away with some questionable baserunning decisions because of Washington’s sloppiness, but not all of them. Matt Kemp got thrown out at the plate trying to score from second on Carl Crawford’s bunt single in the fourth inning. Fister fielded the ball and threw it away. Kemp broke for him even though the ball never reached the outfield grass. It was a costly mistake as the Dodgers would have had first-and-third with nobody out, instead of a man at first with an out. They didn’t score.

Stat of the game: Kershaw is unbeaten in his past 19 starts against NL East opponents, going 15-0.

Up next: The series continues with a rare midweek day game at Dodger Stadium. Carlos Frias (0-0, 5.65 ERA) will make his first start for the Dodgers after eight relief appearances. He’ll be opposed by Washington ace Jordan Zimmerman (10-5, 2.93) in a game that starts at 12:10 p.m. PT.

Dodgers win a war of replay

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
11:37
PM PT
PHOENIX – When Don Mattingly jogged out to ask the umpires to take a second look at whether catcher Miguel Montero had improperly blocked the plate while attempting to apply a tag on Carl Crawford in the fourth inning Tuesday night, he had a hidden agenda.

Mattingly later admitted he had no idea whether Montero was in violation of Rule 7.13, the one put in place this season to protect catchers and baserunners from serious injuries during collisions. For that matter, does anyone understand that rule or its interpretations?

“We’ve seen the same play and one guy’s safe, one guy’s out,” Mattingly said.

[+] EnlargeDon Mattingly
Christian Petersen/Getty Images"We've seen the same play and one guy's safe, one guy's out," manager Don Mattingly said of testing replay in the fourth inning.
What Mattingly really intended was for the umpires examining the play in New York to notice what the Dodgers’ replay guy already had: Montero had the ball in his bare hand and applied the tag with his mitt. So, he asked the crew chief to review it knowing full well his initial argument was flimsy.

“We knew in spring training that, once they look at that, everything becomes open to being looked at,” Mattingly said.

New York saw what the Dodgers saw and awarded the Dodgers a run that helped spark their six-run outburst in the fourth inning en route to a 9-5 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field Tuesday night. Mattingly (and replay official John Pratt) were on a roll. They later got an out call on Roberto Hernandez’s bunt single overturned amid the same rally.

They nearly got a tick-tack call later, too. Had the umpires taken a longer look at David Peralta’s leg, they might have awarded the Dodgers a double play in the fifth. After reaching the bag safely, Peralta appeared to lift his foot off the bag while Dee Gordon was applying the tag after a throw from Adrian Gonzalez.

The Dodgers will take the 2-out-3 day in the replay department. They’ll gladly take another win against another hapless NL West opponent, too. The Diamondbacks are one of those teams this season whose right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing many times. Lucky for the Dodgers, the rest of their season could be largely about standing back and letting the other team beat itself.

The Dodgers are playing .707 baseball so far against the Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies. Sixteen of their final 29 games are against those teams, who are a combined 66 games under .500. Presuming the Dodgers can maintain a modicum of good health and don’t go into some bizarre tailspin, it’s hard to imagine them not reaching the playoffs at this point. They have a five-game lead on the San Francisco Giants, but a 6 -game lead on the team currently just out of the wild-card picture, the Atlanta Braves.

The Dodgers didn’t exactly play flawless baseball Tuesday. Starter Roberto Hernandez labored early, allowing five base runners and two runs in the first two innings. The late-inning relievers nearly took a blowout and made it a save situation – closer Kenley Jansen even had to start warming up though the Dodgers led 9-2 going into the eighth.

But the Dodgers and the rest of the NL West is a bit reminiscent of the AL East in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the New York Yankees reigned and the Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays were still all lousy. They won their division with 87 wins in 2000. That ended working out pretty well. They won their final World Series under Joe Torre.

For teams with expectations like the Dodgers’, it’s all about setting up the big finish. If they reach their ultimate goal, nobody’s going to nitpick a soft schedule. Nobody's going to remember why they called for a replay.

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 9, D-backs 5

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
10:03
PM PT

PHOENIX – The Los Angeles Dodgers continued their demolition job on the bottom-feeding teams in the NL West -- a pretty good method for reaching the playoffs -- on Tuesday.

They defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks 9-5, which gives Los Angeles 11 wins in 15 games against the Diamondbacks this year. They are 9-4 against both the San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies, which means they’re playing .707 baseball against the three worst teams in their division.

The San Francisco Giants also won, which means the Dodgers remain five games up in the NL West.

How it happened: Roberto Hernandez wasn’t particularly sharp, judging by the five baserunners he allowed in the first two innings and the constant trouble he dodged, but he trudged through six innings and managed to confine the damage to three runs. Arizona tied it 2-2 in the second inning on Ender Inciarte’s two-run single, but the Dodgers staged a long fourth inning, bunched five straight singles and knocked Trevor Cahill out of the game.

Hits: It might be difficult for Andre Ethier to take, given that he’s the odd man out virtually every game, but the Dodgers seem to have found the right alignment of outfielders. Yasiel Puig has settled in and played strong defense in center field, for the most part, and everybody is hitting to varying extents. Crawford stayed hot with two hits and ignited the Dodgers’ big fourth inning with an RBI single to left. Kemp hit a two-run home run in the first inning to get the team off to a fast start, and Puig walked twice. Scratch one item (at least for now) off manager Don Mattingly’s things-to-stress-about list.

Misses: Hanley Ramirez is a big addition to the Dodgers’ lineup, but only if he hits. He snapped an 0-for-7 skid since his return from the disabled list when he hit a fly ball to left field that landed safely between the third baseman and left fielder, so maybe that will ignite him. He also had a nifty glove flip to nearly start a double play, but it’s well-documented that he’s not the Dodgers’ best defensive option at shortstop. How Ramirez performs these final weeks are crucial to his future and crucial to the Dodgers’ postseason fortunes.

Stat of the game: The most recent time Clayton Kershaw pitched at Chase Field, he -- amazingly -- allowed seven earned runs and was yanked in the second inning. That was back in mid-May and was just Kershaw's third start since coming off the disabled list.

Up next: If you remove that start from Kershaw’s season, he has a 1.42 ERA -- Bob Gibson-type stuff. He can’t remove it, of course, but he can make everybody forget about it with a good outing Wednesday night. Kershaw (15-3, 1.82 ERA) will be opposed by Arizona’s Wade Miley (7-9, 4.29) in a rematch of Opening Day. The game begins at 6:40 p.m. PT.

Don Mattingly is managing his finest season

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
11:15
AM PT
Don MattinglyAP Photo/Jae C. HongDon Mattingly is on track to once again lead the Dodgers to a better record than the previous year.


LOS ANGELES -- He works with a clubhouse full of players that more than one person who works in the room has termed “dysfunctional,” though the results would seem to indicate otherwise. He has been juggling egos all season long, with four multi-millionaire outfielders for three spots.

His best player, Yasiel Puig, is, by some accounts, the worst base runner in Major League Baseball. His slugging shortstop, Hanley Ramirez, is, by many accounts, the league’s worst fielder at his position. His starting rotation, the heartbeat of the club, has been under duress lately, with three pitchers out injured and another pitching hurt.

With all of that, the Dodgers could finish with their best season yet under manager Don Mattingly by going a manageable 19-11 in these final 30 games. In his fourth season as a manager, Mattingly seems to be growing into the job primarily by being himself.

Under Mattingly, the Dodgers will have improved in each of his four season, from 82 wins, to 86 wins, to 92 wins to whatever they manage this year. If the Dodgers win the NL West -- and they have a 4 game lead with a favorable late schedule -- it would be the team’s second season in a row atop the division.

If late-game pitching moves aren’t his greatest strength, then being in touch with the emotional and mental state of the club might be. Mattingly seems to fight himself at times after games, reminding himself to be less publically critical of his players. Some of those frustrations would seem to come with the territory for a man who won an MVP trophy and a batting title, was picked for six All-Star Games and finished with a .307 batting average. It was a career just one notch below Hall of Fame standards.

The two times his frustrations did bubble over, it seemed to have a positive impact on the club.

The Dodgers were foundering under their first season of astronomical expectations two Mays ago, just 18-26 going into an afternoon game in Milwaukee. Fueled largely by a national column speculating that his end was near, Mattingly’s job status was the hot story of the day. Mattingly benched Andre Ethier and told reporters that morning he needed a lineup that would fight harder for wins.

“We're in last place in the National League West," he said. "Last year at this point, we played a lineup with nobody in it, but they fought, they competed and battled every inch. I felt like we got more out of our ability.”

Some Dodgers fans viewed Mattingly’s outburst as the act of a man desperate to save himself, but it worked. The Dodgers went 74-44 after that. While correlation shouldn’t be confused for causation (and Puig’s arrival didn’t hurt), none of his players ever complained about his comments openly. The team seemed to play with more passion in the ensuing months. Uninspired teams don’t rattle off 42 wins in 50 games, as the Dodgers did at one point.

Mattingly had a similar nadir, and a similar outburst of candor, this past June, after watching two mediocre Chicago White Sox pitchers shut his team down at home. In this case, the team was basically treading water, one game over .500, but Mattingly had grown tired of the relentless questions about which of his star outfielders he would bench and the sense that personal agendas were taking over the club.

Before that June 4 game, Mattingly summoned the spirit of longtime manager Tommy Lasorda and said he sensed a lack of “all pulling in one direction.” A couple of hours later, soft-tossing lefty John Danks held the Dodgers to two hits in 7 1/3 innings and the Dodgers fell eight games behind the San Francisco Giants. And Mattingly wasn’t as diplomatic. In fact, he wasn’t even close to diplomatic.

The more angry Mattingly gets, the quieter he seems to become, a departure from Lasorda. In a quiet interview room, Mattingly sounded at times sarcastic, at times disgusted, discussing the state of his team that night.

"I mean, I really think you should talk to them. I’m tired of answering the questions, honestly,” Mattingly said. When someone asked him if it was a matter of playing at home, where they have struggled all season, Mattingly said, “Well, home, away, whatever, I don’t know that that’s got anything to do with it. It’s just being basically s----. We’re just not that good."

That evening, several of the team’s veteran position players declined interview requests. After initially declining to talk, shortstop Hanley Ramirez said, “I don’t know what to say. I still go out, hustle, do the best I can. Of course you’ve got to be mad. We’re not doing nothing right now, so we’ve got to start playing better. Everybody should be angry the way we’re playing right now."

Once again, the team’s results improved after Mattingly’s eruption. The Dodgers won four of their next five games and 17 of their next 24. They’ve played 12 games better than the Giants in the intervening weeks.

Mattingly has adjusted his style over the years to fit his teams. With better hitters, he now bunts less. With a disappointing lack of power (the Dodgers are 26th in the majors in home runs), he runs more (they lead the majors in steals).

Mattingly seems to have learned to insulate himself better from the whims of public opinion. Many fans were frustrated with Mattingly’s faith in left fielder Carl Crawford earlier this month. Crawford was hitting .234 on Aug. 9 and many Dodgers fans, partial to the homegrown outfielder, Ethier, wondered why Mattingly kept putting Crawford in the lineup. Mattingly trusted his knowledge of hitting and said he could see that Crawford had a chance to break out of his slump because his swing was sound. The numbers were skewed, Mattingly thought, by a number of hard-hit balls that went right to fielders.

In the 12 games since, Crawford has been the Dodgers’ hottest hitter, batting .459 with six stolen bases and 11 runs scored.

The Dodgers still haven’t qualified for the playoffs, of course, and there figure to be crises large and small for Mattingly to navigate between now and whenever this season ends. Pitcher Clayton Kershaw may have raised the stakes for Mattingly and the team a bit when he declared it was “World Series or bust,” during a national radio interview.

Because of the Dodgers’ payroll, Mattingly figures to get scant credit for whatever the Dodgers achieve and much of the blame if they come up short of the World Series. Mattingly has a pretty good idea how things work in a market this demanding. His mentor, Joe Torre, finished third and fifth, respectively, in Manager of the Year balloting in his final two championship seasons.

But there are challenges, largely unseen, in managing teams brimming with talent and filled with bloated salaries. It takes a certain patience and the occasional lack of it, to keep things going smoothly.

Clayton Kershaw's MVP case gets an unlikely assist

August, 21, 2014
Aug 21
11:05
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw’s left arm was packed in ice and wrapped up tight in a towel, but that was no obstacle.

When Justin Turner’s deep fly ball cleared the left-field fence, Kershaw sprinted the length of the dugout, both arms pumping wildly. The two-run shot in the eighth would make a winner out of the Los Angeles Dodgers and of Kershaw, who was in danger of dominating again and losing

“That ball goes out, that’s pretty awesome,” Kershaw said.

Turner called it “one of the biggest hits” of his career, which seems like an understatement considering he spent the bulk of his career with the New York Mets, who never won more than 77 games while he was there. It was the biggest hit, so far, of this Dodgers season. Indeed, despite their recent rash of injuries, the Dodgers still have World Series aspirations.

[+] EnlargeClayton Kershaw
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillClayton Kershaw on Thursday struck out 10 batters, gave up just three hits in eight innings and lowered his ERA 1.82. And that the Dodgers' bats gave him a late victory only improves his MVP chances.
The victory kept the San Francisco Giants from creeping within 2 1/2 games of the Dodgers’ lead for the first time in more than two weeks, but it also erased a very dark narrative. Outside of Kershaw, the Dodgers’ starting rotation is in shambles, with three starters down with injuries. If the Dodgers wasted eight brilliant innings from Kershaw -- as they were about to do before Turner’s dinger -- they would have had to wait at least five long days for their ace to try to get them right again.

Kershaw said he didn’t go into Thursday thinking it was any more important than any other regular-season start, even though the Dodgers had fallen in early holes during each of their previous four games and the bullpen was on fumes.

“Not really,” he said. “We need wins no matter what. The Giants are playing better right now, and we just need to keep winning games.”

In a way, Turner’s clutch moment preserved Kershaw’s MVP hopes. Though Kershaw (15-3) has participated in just 21 of the Dodgers’ 129 games, the case seems to grow stronger by the week that he is, in fact, the National League’s most valuable player.

“Yeah, why not? When he has the ball, he’s the best player on the field,” Turner said. “He’s got my vote.”

Turner, in fact, doesn’t have a vote. Those all reside with members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, who will cast their ballots before the end of the regular season and wait with everyone else for the winners to be announced sometime in November. Kershaw doesn’t seem to be thinking about winning his third Cy Young in four years or being the National League’s first MVP pitcher in 46 years. He doesn’t seem to think about anything except how to make sure the Dodgers win the game on the day he pitches.

“I don’t know how to explain it. I don’t think I’ve seen anybody like this guy,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “We’ve talked about it so many other times, but he’s just constantly driven. It’s start-to-start. Tomorrow will be on to the next one, and he’ll be on a mission for that one. He’s a guy with just a huge motor as far as wanting to compete. Again, I don’t know how much more I can talk about him without saying the same things over and over.”

They all seem to blend together at this point, one brilliant Kershaw start after another.

The relevant details Thursday were these:

• He didn’t give up a hit until opposing pitcher Tyson Ross singled off him with two outs in the sixth inning.
• He struck out 10 batters and gave up just three hits in eight innings.
• When one comes into a game with 1.86 ERA, it’s not that easy to improve on it. But Kershaw (15-3) did, chipping it down to 1.82.

And none of it looked like it was going to matter, because Ross was just as good, holding the Dodgers scoreless until Carl Crawford smacked one off his glove for an infield hit leading off the eighth. Turner had done his homework. He had been watching Ross all game, and when the tall right-hander fell behind in the count, he tended to throw his slider.

Kershaw wasn’t sure whether Turner would be instructed to bunt to move Crawford into scoring position to represent the tying run. Turner hadn't been, so the third baseman jumped on a slider that lingered a millisecond too long in the strike zone and drove it over the left-center fence.

That prompted another bubble party. The Dodgers continue to ignore Major League Baseball’s gentle admonition and party with bubbles after one of their players hits a home run. It was a first for Turner, who had hit all three of his previous home runs before the bubble-making toy entered the scene.

“I think I’ve got a concussion, the guys pounded my helmet so hard,” Turner.

It seemed like that moment released a lot of built-up tension.

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 2, Padres 1

August, 21, 2014
Aug 21
9:33
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- The bubbles were floating out of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ dugout way before Justin Turner hopped down the steps. When he got there, the party really roared to life, the players bobbing and dancing around Turner.

The Dodgers continued to celebrate their home runs in their own unique style, with their in-dugout bubble machine, and this was probably the most rollicking one yet. Turner’s two-run home run in the eighth inning of the team’s 2-1 win over the San Diego Padres on Thursday evening may have been the biggest hit of the Dodgers season thus far.

It made a winner of ace Clayton Kershaw -– who was certainly deserving in another dominant performance –- and kept the San Francisco Giants from creeping closer in the race for the NL West. The Dodgers, in fact, gained a half-game and now lead by 3 1/2.

How it happened: Kershaw, who entered the game with a 1.86 ERA, locked up in a brilliant pitchers’ duel with Tyson Ross, who came in with a 2.70 ERA. The matchup lived up to its billing, and more. Both lineups were unplugged, though in different fashions. Ross relied on the ground ball, piling up nine outs with them, while Kershaw was his normal dominating self. Neither team scored until fatigue began to creep up on both pitchers by the late innings.

Hits: There wasn’t much more Kershaw could have done to bring this one home. He struck out 10 batters over eight innings and gave up only three hits, the first of which came off Ross’ bat with two outs in the sixth inning. Kershaw breezed through the first five innings, giving the game a lively pace. Kershaw (15-3) had won 10 straight decisions until taking a loss Saturday. He got back on track Thursday to keep his Cy Young and MVP candidacies in good stead.

Misses: Kershaw can’t do it alone. He got tagged with the loss Saturday, even though he gave up only five hits (two home runs) and pitched a complete game. The Dodgers' offense needs to heat up now that the starting rotation is wobbling under the weight of injuries. Instead, it has been in a funk for the most part. The Dodgers have scored three runs or fewer in six of their last eight games. Ross is a very good pitcher, but he hardly had to work Thursday, cruising through his first six innings in only 63 pitches.

Stat of the game: Before Thursday, the Dodgers were 0-46 when trailing after seven innings. They're now 1-46.

Up next: The Dodgers open a three-game series with the New York Mets on Friday at 7:10 p.m. PT at Dodger Stadium. Dan Haren (10-10, 4.59 ERA) goes for the Dodgers opposite Jonathon Niese (7-8, 3.50).

Stock watch: Crawford continues fast pace

August, 21, 2014
Aug 21
6:00
AM PT

RISING

Streaking
Carl Crawford, LF: Dodgers manager Don Mattingly takes a heavy dose of criticism, even from many Dodgers fans. I wonder how many of them will give him credit for sticking with Crawford even when he was batting .240 not that long ago? Crawford has rewarded that patience by batting .485 with five multi-hit games since Aug. 10. His emergence, of course, means Andre Ethier's role gets even further diminished, but it's the point of the season when you just go with your best nine.

Justin Turner, INF: The Dodgers' bench is better than it has been in years and Turner is the primary reason why. He has stepped in twice for injured Juan Uribe and, while not quite living up to Uribe's defensive abilities, has actually hit better than they could have expected from their regular third baseman. According to Baseball Reference WAR, Turner (2.7) is second to Yasiel Puig (4.1) among Dodgers position players. That tells you all you need to know.

Yasiel Puig, CF: Other than Crawford, Puig has been the only real sign of offensive life on this homestand, but the Dodgers knew he could hit. They weren't so sure how well he would play center field. So far, he has not seriously injured any of the team's corner outfielders, he has made some great catches up against the wall and he has discouraged other teams from taking extra bases with his arm. He looks like a more complete player, mostly because center field allows him to show off the full range of his game.

FALLING

Slumping
Zack Greinke, RHP: The Dodgers pushed his scheduled start back two days to give him extra rest for his sore right elbow. Greinke admitted he probably won't feel 100 percent the rest of the season. That, clearly, is a bit worrisome considering the Dodgers' primary World Series hopes ride on the arms of their two Cy Young winners, Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. The best-case scenario is Greinke can pitch with some pain and Hyun-Jin Ryu returns from the DL in fairly short order. The worst-case scenario is too dire to even bring up at this point.

Dee Gordon, 2B: A good series and a bad series are literally a matter of inches for the Dodgers' leadoff hitter. It's all about infield hits. Lately, he has been getting thrown out by a hair frequently at first base and his offensive numbers have suffered for it. Gordon is just 2-for-16 on the homestand and hitless in his past 12 at-bats. He's a .196 career hitter against the San Diego Padres. What's that old line about you can't steal first?

Miguel Rojas, SS: The Dodgers love his glove, but he just couldn't hit enough to hold onto the shortstop gig while Hanley Ramirez was out. In an 0-for-9 slump, Rojas was replaced by Erisbel Arruebarrena, who very well could be the Dodgers' Opening Day shortstop next season. Rojas looks like a nice candidate to hold a bench role the rest of this season and going into next, so at least he has established himself to that degree.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Clayton Kershaw
WINS ERA SO IP
21 1.77 239 198
OTHER LEADERS
BAY. Puig .296
HRA. Gonzalez 27
RBIA. Gonzalez 116
RY. Puig 92
OPSY. Puig .863
ERAC. Kershaw 1.77
SOC. Kershaw 239