Dodgers Report: Dan Haren

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

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22

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.

W2W4: Dan Haren vs. the Giants

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
LOS ANGELES -- To prepare for tonight’s start, his first against the San Francisco Giants this season, Dan Haren studied video of right-handers Odrisamer Despaigne and Josh Collmenter pitching to the Giants' lineup over the past few days to see what worked and what didn’t.

The video guy, John Pratt, offered Haren footage of Andrew Cashner pitching to San Francisco, but Haren didn’t bother with it.

“He throws too hard,” Haren said.

It says something about Haren that he is in this spot, with the first crack at trying to help the Los Angeles Dodgers eliminate the Giants from the NL West race, given how his season has gone. In July and early August, Haren felt like he was on the verge of being shuffled off to the bullpen, but in his past five starts he is 3-2 with a 2.03 ERA. Haren’s Twitter account -- @ithrow88 -- tells you all you need to know about his velocity these days, but he has found ways to make it work for him.

He is six innings from activating a player option that would allow him to return next season at a salary of $10 million. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Monday that no one in the Dodgers' front office -- not general manager Ned Colletti, not team president Stan Kasten -- has told him to limit Haren’s innings to avoid triggering the option. Frankly, Haren’s numbers -- 13-11 with a 4.14 ERA -- are probably about in line to justify that kind of one-year deal anyway. Haren, who recently turned 34, has said he isn’t sure he wants to play in 2015.

He has ingratiated himself with the coaching staff with his perseverance and competitiveness.

“It’s easy to want him to do well, because he’ll do anything for you,” Mattingly said. “He says, ‘Hey, I’ll pitch whenever you want.’ You don’t have to worry about him if you want to push him back a start or push him back a day.

"I talked about the one time he got roughed up in the first or second inning and the next day he offered to pitch. That’s the kind of guy you love having on your staff. He’d walk in front of a car for you.”

Series preview: Giants at Dodgers

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
LOS ANGELES -- Jake Peavy is excited about the chance to put his mark on the most vibrant rivalry in baseball. He told San Francisco Giants beat reporters earlier this week, "I'm not going to lie to you. I was just in the shower thinking about Dee Gordon."

Peavy, it's seems safe to assume, was thinking about how to get Gordon out, but the Los Angeles Dodgers had a little fun with it. Adrian Gonzalez, who played with Peavy in San Diego, took a picture of the Dodgers' speedy leadoff hitter in a towel holding a bottle of shampoo and texted it to Peavy.

Starting Monday, the fun and games are over and by 7:05 p.m., the jocularity between the teams will be, too. The Giants are desperately trying to claw their way back in the division race to avoid the perilous wild-card path to the World Series, and the Dodgers are intent on clinching the division some time over the next three days, then celebrating in front of their rivals for the first time in 10 years.

"If we clinch against them, of course that'd be great," said veteran pitcher Dan Haren, who will oppose Peavy on Monday. "I've been clinched on many times and it's not a good feeling. So, it'd be something fun to do against your rival, that's for sure."

The teams have circled each other on the schedule all season, but the pivotal point -- at least from the perspective of the moment -- was the late-July series at AT&T Park. The Dodgers had lost seven of 10 head-to-head matchups and were trailing by 1½ games going into it. They were coming off mediocre series at St. Louis and Pittsburgh, but they rose to the occasion and played one of their best series of the year behind their three best pitchers. They won all three games and haven't spent a day outside first place since.

Because the Dodgers swept that series, the only thing they have to do is avoid being swept in this series, it would seem. They go into it with a 4½-game lead with only three games left after it against the last-place Colorado Rockies.

"I didn't pitch that series, but the feeling in the clubhouse was that we needed to sweep them and we did," Haren said. "We understood the magnitude of the series even a few months ago and now we've played good enough baseball to put ourselves in a really good position. We don't have to go out and sweep them or do something crazy. We just have to play good."

The fear of disaster, though, is never far away from a team trying to lock up its postseason positioning, especially not for its manager, who is inevitably blamed for his team's failings. Should the Dodgers and Giants somehow finish in a tie, they would play a 163rd game on Sept. 29, most likely at AT&T Park, even though both teams are assured of postseason berths. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he thought about the magnitude of this series as far back as last season, when the 2014 schedule came out.

"When you see the schedule and you see those games are there and you know what kind of club they have, I think you feel like those games are going to be important, they're going to count," Mattingly said. "I think it's better for baseball and better for the fans. I think everybody likes seeing those matchups. There's a history there. It's good for the fans to see two quality organizations butting heads. You never know what happens. I think the energy level is always going to be up when you play them. I think that's just natural and I don't think you have to push that, especially when they're meaningful games."

Just as they did in July, the Dodgers tweaked their rotation to get their three best pitchers in line to face the Giants. They withstood a "bullpen game" Sunday in Chicago so that Haren could pitch Monday night. With Hyun-Jin Ryu out because of a sore left shoulder, Haren has emerged as the Dodgers' No. 3 starter. If Ryu can't pitch in the playoffs, Haren figures to play a big part of the Dodgers' World Series push. He hasn't been to the postseason since 2006, when he was 26 years old and playing with his second of six teams, the Oakland A's. He's eager for the chance to contribute.

"They had asked me how I felt about it and I'd like the opportunity to pitch against them, so I was excited," Haren said.

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 8, Cubs 5

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21

CHICAGO -- The intermission is over.

The Los Angeles Dodgers' side trips to Colorado and Chicago were just biding time between the two series that will decide the National League West, one last weekend in San Francisco and the next three days at Dodger Stadium. Lucky for the Dodgers, they paid enough attention in the interim to win four of the seven games, including Sunday's 8-5 victory over the hapless Chicago Cubs at breezy, cool Wrigley Field.

The Dodgers reduced their magic number to win the division to four games, meaning they could clinch as soon as Tuesday.

How it happened: Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was nervous before the game even though he had made the call to push Dan Haren's start back to Monday to face the Giants. The "bullpen game" worked fine in the end, though it would have been dicey if the Dodgers hadn't scored so many runs, tallying in six of the nine innings. Jamey Wright started for the Dodgers and got them through the first two innings before giving the ball to Carlos Frias, who struck out five and gave up three runs, an improvement over his disastrous start last week at Coors Field. The Dodgers also got a big outing by Pedro Baez, who bridged the gap to closer Kenley Jansen. He gave up a Welington Castillo home run but held the lead. Jansen punctuated the "bullpen game" with his 43rd save, a shaky one.

Hits: Matt Kemp has hit more home runs in September (seven) than any player in baseball, but he has been swinging a hot bat since well before the start of the month. He has hit 15 of his 23 home runs since the All-Star break and slugged .575 since then. Like the 2011 version of Kemp, it has looked like effortless power at times. He hit one into the right-field stands, through a cool, brisk wind that was blowing in, to give the Dodgers a 4-1 lead in the third inning. Those were two of Kemp's four RBIs on the day. The Dodgers are glad they didn't trade Kemp in July because their offense would be nowhere near as potent without him.

Near misses: The wind played tricks on Kemp in right field in the seventh inning. Javier Baez sent a high fly ball soaring toward right-center, but the wind carried it sharply in and toward the right-field corner. Kemp drifted then went sprinting and got to it, but the ball popped out of his glove. He caught it in the air, making for an eventful experience on what is normally a routine out. Later, Yasiel Puig drifted over and caught one underhand.

Stat of the game: It's a little misleading since this was a rare four-game series, but the Dodgers scored more runs at Wrigley Field in this series than they had at any time since the team relocated from Brooklyn in 1958. The Dodgers piled up 37 runs. The previous high was a 1974 three-game series in which they scored 33.

Up next: The Dodgers have a chance to clinch the NL West during a three-game series against the second-place Giants that starts Monday. Haren (13-11, 4.14 ERA) pitches for the Dodgers as San Francisco goes with Jake Peavy (6-4, 2.16). The game starts at 7:10 p.m. PT.

Depth issues keep sinking Dodgers

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
DENVER -- Carlos Frias pitched one of the worst games in the history of the worst place to pitch in the major leagues. Then, he had to answer questions about it, which he did, dutifully and with a smile on his face. And then, he had to squeeze into a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costume for the flight to Chicago because it was that time of year, the sometimes-ill-timed rookie hazing trip.

So, if he can handle all that with grace, what's to say he can't bounce back from Wednesday? Then again, will he get another chance?

[+] EnlargeCarlos Frias
Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY SportsCarlos Frias said his confidence would not be shaken after giving up 10 hits in the first inning of a rout loss to the Rockies.
The Los Angeles Dodgers made history in Wednesday's 16-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies, the worst kind. Frias, whose sinkers certainly weren't sinking, became the first pitcher in the modern era to give up 10 hits while getting fewer than three outs in a game. The Dodgers were down 8-0 in the first inning, it kept getting worse and Major League Baseball has yet to institute a mercy rule, so it just kept going.

"It was just a bad day," Frias said through an interpreter. "My confidence isn't rattled."

Afterward, manager Don Mattingly said the Dodgers are considering a "bullpen" game the next time injured starter Hyun-Jin Ryu's spot in the rotation comes up. They could do it Sunday in Chicago, start Paco Rodriguez or J.P. Howell, say, with all hands on deck, and pitch Dan Haren in Game 1 of their most pivotal series remaining, which starts Monday against the San Francisco Giants.

That plan sounds as if it's under serious consideration, but the void at the back of the rotation is looming as a considerable obstacle to winning the NL West. The Dodgers' lead over the second-place Giants is just two with 10 games left, three of which are against the Giants at Dodger Stadium.

For the first time since mid-May, the Dodgers just played a series in which none of their top three starting pitchers pitched. Things didn't go well. Dodgers relievers wound up pitching 17⅔ of the 27 innings over three long, draining days at mile-high elevation. They got blown out in back-to-back games by the Rockies, who can, on occasion, do that in this ballpark.

So, what could have been a relatively leisurely weekend in Chicago turns into a must-win series at Wrigley Field. The good news is Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke are scheduled to pitch.

(Read full post)

Coors Field takes Dodgers down a peg

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
DENVER -- Say what you will about the Colorado Rockies -- and they are a beaten-down team at the moment -- but unless you can abide by the arcane rules at their highly skewed ballpark, they can easily beat you.

They might be the worst team in the National League, by a lot, but they've got as many home wins as the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers, who fell into the Coors Field trap in a major way Tuesday night, stumbling in their march to the postseason.

[+] EnlargeDan Haren
Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY SportsDan Haren allowed only five baserunners, but all five scored for the Rockies in the Dodgers' loss in Colorado.
Walking the leadoff hitter in the first inning and falling into an early hole, exposing the soft underbelly of your middle bullpen and having your worst at-bats just when innings are beginning to crescendo is not exactly the way to go at altitude, and the Dodgers did all of the above in a 10-4 loss to the Rockies.

Not all their wounds were self-inflicted. That aforementioned leadoff walk came on a pretty good 3-2 pitch, on the corner at the knees by Dan Haren, but plate umpire D.J. Reyburn called it a ball. Four innings later, he would call a nearly identical pitch a strike on Yasiel Puig to strand two runners. The inning after that, he would call a nearly identical pitch on Puig a strike again, this time stranding three runners.

"I don't think it does a bunch of good to talk about the umpiring, really," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "If one thing's going to cost you a game, you didn't play that good. I feel like we had our chances."

Said Haren, who threw out his hands after the walk: "The guy had a pretty generous strike zone for most of the night except for that one."

It seems as if that early noncall led to a cascade effect and a truly bad-luck loss: The Dodgers outhit Colorado 16-9.

"It was a kind of weird game, with how many hits we were getting, and they were able to capitalize on everything," Haren said.

But teams that lament their bad luck usually do so in the comfort of the offseason, and the Dodgers don't have time for self-pity. Not with only 11 games left, one of which starts bright and early Wednesday, and their fate still firmly in their clutches. They lost a game in the standings to the San Francisco Giants, who now trail by three, and got no closer to clinching a postseason berth since the Milwaukee Brewers won. They also lost a little ground in their secondary race, to the Washington Nationals for home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Rockies 10, Dodgers 4

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16

DENVER -- The Los Angeles Dodgers had one of those games in which all the breaks went the other way and most of their clutch at-bats went badly.

Lucky for them, they have built up a enough of a cushion in the standings that they could withstand a rash of bad luck and, then, a rash of bad pitches. They lost 10-4 to the Colorado Rockies despite outhitting them 16-9 and, thus, were in danger of dropping a game in the standings to the San Francisco Giants.

How it happened: It figured to be a bit of an uphill battle, as Dodgers starter Dan Haren carried a 5.29 career ERA at Coors Field coming into it, and it was. A borderline call went against Haren on the first batter of the game, with a 3-2 pitch at the knees called a ball and Charlie Blackmon taking the walk. Colorado would score two in the first and keep tacking on. The Dodgers had plenty of opportunities, but two more borderline calls -- both involving Yasiel Puig -- cost them. Puig took a called third strike at the knees to waste a first-and-third, one-out opportunity in the fifth. Then, he took a virtually identical pitch in the sixth to leave the bases loaded.

Hits: Justin Turner's magical season continues. He was a late addition to the lineup when Hanley Ramirez was scratched because of a sore throwing elbow, and he drove in the Dodgers' only runs, lacing a double to left-center. Turner was a .260 career hitter coming into this season. He's batting .335 and he has the fourth-highest WAR (3.3) among position players on the team. Not bad for a guy who signed a minor league deal shortly before spring training.

Misses: How is that three-year, $22.5 million contract for Brandon League working out? Well, according to Baseball-Reference, League has a minus-0.9 WAR in the first two years of the deal. Having been demoted from closer to setup man to middle reliever, he's pitching in fairly harmless circumstances for the most part these days, but he still seems to get the Dodgers in trouble when he takes the mound. League walked the first batter he faced, Drew Stubbs, giving him his 26th walk of the season (one shy of a career high). Later, he fielded a Charlie Culberson dribbler near the line, and, rather than get in position to make a good throw, he tried to shovel it to Adrian Gonzalez and it went for an error that cost the Dodgers a run.

Stat of the game: Haren was an All-American utility player at Pepperdine, and you can tell. He had two hits, and he's a .213 career hitter. That's the third-best mark among pitchers with at least 300 plate appearances since 2000.

Up next: The series wraps up Wednesday afternoon at 12:10 p.m. PT. Carlos Frias (0-0, 3.91 ERA) will make his second major league start for the Dodgers against Rockies ace Jorge De La Rosa (13-11, 4.28).

Series preview: Dodgers at Rockies

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
DENVER -- It’s probably not going to be the most electric atmosphere when the Dodgers get to Coors Field for a three-game series with the last-place Colorado Rockies starting tonight, which is exactly what manager Don Mattingly fears with his team fighting hard to hold onto the NL West lead.

“Leaving here is the tough one,” Mattingly said while seated in the AT&T Park dugout, where his team just played its second-to-last series with the second-place San Francisco Giants.

“It’s just natural and it happens all year long. Any time you play a series with these guys and go on to the next one, it’s always a little bit of a flat spot,” Mattingly said. “You hope it’s not that way, but it’s what we continue to talk about all the time, play this one game today, that’s all you worry about and tomorrow you get ready to play. Fight it.”

The Dodgers are in the midst of their final road trip of the season, which begins with a roar -- in San Francisco -- and quiets down considerably, with consecutive series at the Rockies and last-place Chicago Cubs.

The Rockies are returning from a winless road trip, having been swept by the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals. That in itself is some consolation, considering the Rockies are four games over .500 at home and 35 games under .500 on the road. They have an .890 OPS at home, best in the majors, and a .633 OPS on the road, worst in the majors.

The idea, of course, is to out-score the Rockies at home. Their collective ERA at Coors Field is 5.12 and opponents are hitting .283 against them there. That’s considerably easier with Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez out for the season and Justin Morneau, who is pursuing the NL batting title, day-to-day with a strained muscle in his side.

It’s hard to predict the future, but the numbers would suggest this could be a high-scoring series, with the Dodgers sending Roberto Hernandez (8-11, 4.04 ERA), Dan Haren (13-10, 3.99) and Carlos Frias to the mound. Haren is coming off four strong starts, though his worst start of the season came at Coors Field on July 5. Hernandez is struggling badly, but throws a sinker, which can be an advantage at altitude. Frias, who is filling in for injured starter Hyun-Jin Ryu, also is a sinkerball pitcher, but he’ll be paired against Colorado’s best starter, Jorge De La Rosa (13-11, 4.28).

The Dodgers are 9-4 against the Rockies this season and they’d love to stay hot against them, because this scenario will play out again in another 10 days. The Dodgers’ schedule ends with consecutive series against the Giants and Rockies, so it’s all about avoiding the trap series.

Dan Haren continues his surge

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
LOS ANGELES -- For a good part of four months, Dan Haren was the anti-Dodger starting pitcher, the source of fan frustration and the man likely to be left off a playoff rotation in the safe assumption this team gets to October.

It was all warranted. The majority of Haren's first 22 starts were near disastrous, especially when compared to guys like Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and even Josh Beckett for a time. Haren had a 4.76 ERA and opponents were hitting .304 on balls put into play against him, and most importantly, the team was below .500 (10-12) when Haren took the ball.

[+] EnlargeDan Haren
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesDan Haren improved to 5-1 with a 1.70 ERA in his last seven starts after Wednesday's win over the Padres.
That has changed rapidly, and Haren has now become one of the rotation's reliable starters when, for a time, it appeared the team was riding the Kershaw-or-bust jalopy. He was reliable again, throwing seven shutout innings at Dodger Stadium in a 4-0 win against the San Diego Padres on Wednesday night.

Since an Aug. 1 start against the putrid Chicago Cubs in which he gave up seven runs -- six earned -- in 4 1/3 innings, Haren has suddenly become the Dodgers' second-best starter. In his last seven starts, including Wednesday's, Haren is 5-1 with a 1.70 ERA, 34 strikeouts and seven walks in 42 1/3 innings. His batting average on balls in play has also dipped dramatically to .227, suggesting he ran into some bad luck before this run and into some good luck since starting it.

The success in small samples isn't new to Haren this season. He started the year 4-0 with a 2.39 ERA in his first six turns. That was soon followed by a 14-start stretch in which he posted a 6.04 ERA, and the team lost 10 of those games.

"This really has been more of his season than that stretch in the middle," manager Don Mattingly said. "Other than that, he's been like this.

"He got into a couple jams early and he got out of that. ... This is a guy who knows what he's doing."

Haren has been reluctant to give many details on why he has been so much better over the last five weeks, giving vague responses like, "some real small mechanical changes," when asked.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 4, Padres 0

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10

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: Padres 6, Dodgers 3

September, 9, 2014
Sep 9

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers would love to go into this weekend's pivotal series in San Francisco with a four-game lead so that even a sweep wouldn't prove disastrous. It doesn't look as if that's going to happen.

The Dodgers played more shoddy defense and got another bad start from Roberto Hernandez to lose 6-3 to the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night. Meanwhile, the Giants soundly defeated the last-place Arizona Diamondbacks, 5-1, to trim the Dodgers' NL West lead to 2 1/2 games.

How it happened: Hernandez is pitching so poorly that he's opened the door for Dan Haren to make the Dodgers' postseason rotation. In his last two starts, Hernandez has given up 10 runs (seven earned) and 10 hits. More to the point, he has been draining the bullpen. He went 4 1/3 innings Sept. 1 against the Nationals and only three innings Tuesday. The Dodgers made two errors in the second inning to fan the flames of San Diego's generally inert offense. The Dodgers, as usual, struggled against Andrew Cashner, but this time he got a little run support.

Hits: Adrian Gonzalez has been streaky this season, with long cold stretches and long hot streaks. Through his first 29 games, he was batting .321 with nine home runs. In his next 68 games, he batted .220 with three homers. In the 69 games since, he is batting .307 with 11 long balls. Add it all up and he's having a very solid season as a run producer in the middle of the Dodgers' order. He launched a line-drive two-run home run in the sixth inning that was about all the offense the Dodgers could muster against Cashner, who pitched seven good innings.

Misses: The Dodgers have had back-to-back games with blooper reels embedded in them. Monday, they had the infamous three-error play, and Tuesday Hanley Ramirez made two errors in a span of three batters to allow three more unearned runs to score. Ramirez missed Rymer Liriano's grounder for the first error. Then, when pitcher Cashner laced a double to left-center field, Ramirez missed Yasiel Puig's throw for the second miscue. Ramirez has 16 errors. Only two NL shortstops have more and they have both played at least 31 games more than Ramirez. Wherever Ramirez is playing next season, it would benefit that team to have designated hitter at-bats at its disposal.

Stat of the game: Spanning the last four innings of Monday's game and the first two of Tuesday's, the Dodgers gave up five unearned runs and made five errors in six innings.

Up next: The series concludes Wednesday evening with Haren (12-10, 4.17 ERA) pitching to San Diego and Ian Kennedy (10-12, 3.75) making his sixth start this season against the Dodgers.

Series preview: Padres at Dodgers

September, 8, 2014
Sep 8
LOS ANGELES -- Every Clayton Kershaw start between now and the end of the season will be heavily scrutinized.

If he can pick up 20 wins, it would be a bit easier for National League MVP voters to elect a pitcher and it just might be enough to get the Dodgers their second straight NL West title.

After facing the San Diego Padres Monday night, going for his 18th win, two of Kershaw’s next three starts will come against the second-place San Francisco Giants, on Sept. 14 and Sept. 24. If he has another regular-season start after that, it would come against the Giants yet again, in a one-game playoff to decide the division on Sept. 29.

In other words, the Dodgers plan to bet heavily on winning the division in order to avoid the crap shoot of a one-game wild-card playoff.

The Dodgers have chosen the luxury of giving their pitchers extra rest for weeks now, but they’re getting to the point of the season where they’ll look to unleash as heavy a dose of Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu on the league as they can. Those three will each pitch in both Giants’ series.

Kershaw leads the majors in ERA (1.70), WHIP (0.83), batting average against (.191) and complete games (six) and he’s in a four-way tie for wins, despite missing six weeks with a back injury. The Padres have been a relatively tough matchup for Kershaw, but not this season. He has gone 2-0 with a 1.06 ERA against them in two 2014 starts. Less than three weeks ago, he held San Diego to a run on three hits over eight innings.

The time before that, he pitched a complete game, allowing three hits and striking out 11. In that July 10 game, the Dodgers managed just seven hits and two runs against San Diego right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne, a rookie who is 3-5 with a 3.06 ERA this season.

The Dodgers are still looking for some more offensive continuity. Lately, when they’ve scored runs it has usually been because Matt Kemp or Adrian Gonzalez do something dramatic. Gonzalez hit a pair of three-run home runs Sunday and broke through the 100-RBI mark for a fifth straight season (he had 99 in 2009, or it would be eight). Kemp is batting .307 with a .960 OPS in the second half, reminiscent of his 2011 season minus the stolen-base element.

The Dodgers would love to finish this three-game series with at least a three-game lead over San Francisco, meaning they could get swept at AT&T Park and still be in a tie heading into seven straight road games against the woeful Colorado Rockies and Chicago Cubs. The Dodgers haven’t quite dominated San Diego as they have the other bad teams in the NL West. They have gone 10-6 against the Padres and just lost two of three in San Diego. The Giants, meanwhile, are 8-5 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the team they play starting Tuesday.

Two pitchers who might be vying for a postseason roster spot, Roberto Hernandez and Dan Haren, both will pitch in this series. Hernandez, who pitches Tuesday, has been struggling while Haren has been impressive in his last three starts. The Dodgers will face big right-hander Andrew Cashner, who typically pitches well against them, on Tuesday and then face Ian Kennedy for the sixth time this season.
LOS ANGELES -- At around 4 p.m. Friday afternoon, just about the time the rest of the team wandered out to the field to stretch, Dan Haren was resting on a couch, alone in the Los Angeles Dodgers' clubhouse aside from Josh Beckett and the dozen or so reporters surrounding him.

The topic, Beckett's season-ending hip injury and the chances he'll retire next offseason, couldn't have been lost on Haren, who, at 33, is about a year younger than Beckett but has piled up 200 more innings in his career. For pitchers at this stage in their careers in the post-PED era, the end comes quickly.

[+] EnlargeDan Haren
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillDan Haren battled through rough stretches this season but has since bounced back to go 4-1 with a 2.04 ERA in his last six starts.
About one month ago, Haren's career wasn't on the rocks, but it was getting uncomfortably close to the reef.

"Absolutely, I lost my confidence," Haren said. "Any pitcher would, having the stretch of games that I had. I've got how many starts left here -- three or four? And I've got to make them as good as I can for the team. Basically, every game, I'm just treating like a playoff game here on out."

If Friday's game had been a playoff game -- and that's hard to imagine since the Dodgers were facing an Arizona Diamondbacks team that is 23 games under .500 -- it would have put the Dodgers one step closer to their first World Series in 26 years. Haren (12-10) pitched six strong innings in the Dodgers' 2-1 win, giving up only one bad-luck run, the product of a dribbler off the bag and a ball squirted into left field against the shift.

Haren is 4-1 with a 2.04 ERA in his past six starts. And so, for now, his career is alive and well. Whether he is part of the Dodgers’ playoff plans or not, he says he has no idea. Whether he will pitch in 2015, he says he is undecided. But his goal is to exert as much focus and attention on every pitch to make them all open questions in the coming weeks.

It seems like a while ago that Haren was losing five starts in a row and giving up long ball after long ball, but it was July 5 through Aug. 1, a blink of an eye in baseball terms.

"When he's out of sync, his ball doesn't have that late life and the movement turns flat and then it gets hit," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He's been working on a few things, and tonight and for a few starts now he had that life."

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 2, D-backs 1

September, 5, 2014
Sep 5

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers kept their lead in the NL West intact and might have figured out a new bridge to closer Kenley Jansen along the way.

Young reliever Pedro Baez got four key outs in the seventh and eighth innings of the Dodgers' 2-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night. Jansen, who blew a two-run lead during a four-out save chance Wednesday, handled the ninth inning exclusively this time and breezed to nail down his 40th save.

The Dodgers remain two games up on the San Francisco Giants with 21 left to play. The Giants withstood a long rain delay to beat the Detroit Tigers 8-2.

How it happened: The Dodgers are in a bit of a hitting rut, but so are the Diamondbacks and a couple of far-from-dominant pitchers, Haren and Arizona's Vidal Nuno, made the game into an improbable pitchers' duel. The Dodgers scraped a run across in the second inning on Hanley Ramirez's RBI single and another in the third when Matt Kemp sliced a solo home run to right, but they were otherwise stymied by the Diamondbacks' lefty. Arizona could do even less with Haren over six innings.

Hits: Haren (12-10) has had some rough stretches this season, no doubt. From May 18 to June 3 and from July 5 to Aug. 1, for example, he lost every game he pitched. But the Dodgers kept him in the rotation and Haren kept going. Now he has become a reliable back-of-the-rotation starter at a time when the Dodgers need one. After pitching six strong innings, giving up only one bad-luck run and four hits, Haren is 4-1 with a 1.98 ERA over his past six starts. He also has pitched 162 innings, meaning he has a good shot at getting to 180 this season and having a $10 million option for next season vest. That's a little worrisome since Haren will be 34 next season and has already pitched more innings than another 34-year-old (Josh Beckett), who is mulling retirement, but Haren is helping the Dodgers' playoff pursuit in a big way lately.

Misses: Coming into Friday, A.J. Ellis was batting .200 in his past 22 games but had a .329 on-base percentage. That's Ellis for you. He drew another walk and scored the Dodgers' first run in the second inning. There have been nice signs of progress for Ellis lately and the Dodgers hope those continue, because their catchers have produced scant offense all season. As a group, Dodgers catchers are hitting .186 and have driven in 34 runs.

Stat of the game: In his past 16 1/3 innings, Baez -- a 26-year-old converted third baseman -- has given up one earned run.

Up next: The series continues Saturday with Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-6, 3.18) opposing Arizona's Chase Anderson (8-6, 3.75) in a game that starts at 6:10 p.m.

Series preview: Diamondbacks at Dodgers

September, 4, 2014
Sep 4
LOS ANGELES -- After this weekend’s series, the Dodgers will bid the Arizona Diamondbacks farewell (they don’t see them again until 2015) and good luck (six of Arizona’s next nine games are against the San Francisco Giants).

The fourth-place Diamondbacks have gone 5-8 against San Francisco and 4-12 against the Dodgers, but they could have a big impact on the NL West by playing spoiler for one of the teams.

Not that this should impact the race, but when asked about playing spoiler at the All-Star Game, plain-spoken Arizona catcher Miguel Montero, who has clashed with Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, told, “I don’t know. I really like the Giants a little better than the Dodgers.”

That comment aside, if the Dodgers don’t make the playoffs, they can’t blame the schedule. The Giants are the only potential playoff team left on their schedule and the Chicago Cubs are the only non-division opponent left to play.

It would be helpful if the Dodgers could continue their mastery of Arizona. The bad news is this is one of those series in which Cy Young near-lock Clayton Kershaw won’t pitch. The good news is Zack Greinke (13-8, 2.72 ERA) and Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-6, 3.18) will.
It took a while for Arizona to announce its rotation for this series, but it will go with youngsters Chase Anderson (8-6, 3.75) on Saturday and, on Friday, Vidal Nuno (2-9, 4.46), the pitcher they got from the New York Yankees in exchange for Brandon McCarthy.

On Sunday, the Dodgers will face Trevor Cahill (3-10, 5.06), who has pitched well lately as long as he’s not facing the Dodgers, who roughed him up for eight runs in 3 1/3 innings on Aug. 26 in L.A.

The Dodgers pushed back Dan Haren's start, meaning he wouldn’t face one of his former teams (the Washington Nationals) but will face another one of his former teams (Arizona). Haren has pitched well against both Washington and Arizona, so the motivation appears to be simply a matter of allowing Haren extra time to recover. The 33-year-old is coming off back-to-back quality starts against two of the weaker-hitting teams in the league, the San Diego Padres and New York Mets.

Haren is 24 innings shy of giving himself the option of returning to the Dodgers next season at a salary of $10 million, but he has said he hasn’t decided if he will play in 2015 and that the vesting option is not a motivating factor for him in these final weeks. What will motivate Haren is trying to help the Dodgers get to the playoffs. His previous two seasons were with Washington, which disappointed mightily in 2013 and the Angels, who were World Series favorites after adding Albert Pujols in 2012 and finished in a distant third place.



Yasiel Puig
.296 16 69 92
HRA. Gonzalez 27
RBIA. Gonzalez 116
RY. Puig 92
OPSY. Puig .863
WC. Kershaw 21
ERAC. Kershaw 1.77
SOC. Kershaw 239