Dodgers Report: Hanley Ramirez

Coors Field takes Dodgers down a peg

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
10:34
PM PT
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.

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Rapid Reaction: Rockies 10, Dodgers 4

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
8:45
PM PT
video


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).

Stock watch: Kershaw in the clouds

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
6:00
AM PT

RISING

Streaking

Clayton Kershaw, LHP: He’s been in the “rising” category so long, you wonder if he’s still confined by the earth’s atmosphere. Is he? This season is turning historical, on par with Pedro Martinez in 2000 and comparable to Sandy Koufax in 1964 and Bob Gibson in 1968. Kershaw has three more starts in the regular season (unless the Dodgers are forced to play a one-game playoff or a wild-card game), and if he keeps right on trucking, they probably won’t have to. He hasn’t lost a decision since Aug. 16 and, before that, May 28.

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B: Don Mattingly said in late August that he would find out which of his players thrives in pressure situations and those answers are beginning to emerge. Gonzalez had a long slump in May and June or he would be in the middle of the National League MVP discussion. He has been the one consistent power source in the middle of the Dodgers’ order and his knack for coming up with hits in clutch situations has stood alone much of the season. He’s a walking argument for why RBIs do, in fact, matter in a team context.

Matt Kemp, RF: For the rest of his career, that tremendous 2011 season will follow him around. It’s hard to measure up to something like that, but Kemp has shown signs of approaching that form lately, minus the 40-stolen base potential. Earlier this week, he sliced a ball into the right field stands. When the Dodgers see opposite-field power like that from Kemp, they know his swing is working the way it was designed.

FALLING

Slumping

Roberto Hernandez, RHP: The question a couple of weeks ago was whether he will pitch well enough to withstand a late charge by Dan Haren and make the Dodgers’ postseason rotation. Now, it’s more about whether he’s a better option as the team’s No. 5 starter for these final few weeks of the regular season. He followed up a 4 1/3-inning start with a three-inning start. It wasn’t his fault Hanley Ramirez made a couple of errors that led to three unearned runs -- Hernandez relies heavily on his defense as a sinkerball pitcher -- but it was his fault that he gave up all those hits after the first error, including a line-drive double by the pitcher.

Yasiel Puig, CF: The worry with Puig isn’t so much that he’ll lose confidence. It’s whether he’ll lose interest. He is batting .189 in his last 28 games and hasn’t homered since July 31. On Tuesday, he barely bothered to go through pregame practice with his teammates, spending most of batting practice chatting with friends in the seats near the dugout. The Dodgers have tried to motivate Puig by showing him there’s confidence for his spot, starting Joc Pederson a couple of times in center field, but it doesn’t seem as if that stick has worked.

Hanley Ramirez, SS: The Dodgers have lived with his poor defense for more than two seasons now. If anything, they’ve tried to protect themselves from it by using glove man Miguel Rojas for the final two innings of close games. Ramirez still might be the best-hitting shortstop in baseball, which is why the Dodgers are willing to endure his mistakes in the field. At times, that’s not easy. Ramirez made three errors in the span of six innings between Monday and Tuesday’s games, helping usher in five unearned runs. As he ages, his lack of range and iffy footwork become bigger problems, but the Dodgers only have to endure them for another month or so. If they do keep him beyond this year, it won’t be to play shortstop.

Dodgers still waiting on Hanley and Puig

September, 9, 2014
Sep 9
11:37
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Yasiel Puig spent at least 30 minutes visiting with friends in the stands while the rest of his teammates were either taking batting practice, fielding ground balls or shagging fly balls before the Los Angeles Dodgers' 6-3 loss to the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night.

[+] Enlarge Yasiel Puig
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesYasiel Puig is batting only .189 in his last 28 games and has not homered since July 31.
When Puig's batting practice turn came up, he got to the cage in time to see Hanley Ramirez launch a ball over the left-field bleachers, off the metal roof and out of the stadium. How the Dodgers would love for one of those shots to come in an actual game.

Puig is often the last player to arrive in the Dodgers' clubhouse and he is rarely seen on the field for early batting practice. Nobody, least of all manager Don Mattingly, seems to be willing to make it an issue, at least not publicly. The lax management style of Mattingly and the rest of the organization with Puig is an in-house matter, after all. He's their player. Maybe they have a better idea how to get the most out of him than others might.

It just looks a bit funny when he's batting .189 in his last 28 games and hasn't homered since July 31 -- plus when he sparks the team's most embarrassing defensive sequence in years with a bad throw, as he did Monday night.

The Dodgers have lived with Ramirez's shoddy defense all season. He has made 16 errors. Only two shortstops in the National League -- Brandon Crawford and Ian Desmond -- have made more, and both of those guys have played at least 31 games more than Ramirez at shortstop. Both have higher fielding percentages than Ramirez. And, by the way, the advanced defensive metrics have far less-flattering things to say about Ramirez's play at shortstop.

Ramirez made two errors in the second inning Tuesday that ushered in three more unearned runs and made life even harder on struggling starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez. He is sometimes a sulking presence in the clubhouse. For weeks, he has refused to speak with inquiring reporters, often brushing past them without acknowledging their existence.

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Rapid Reaction: Padres 6, Dodgers 3

September, 9, 2014
Sep 9
10:13
PM PT


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.

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 2, D-backs 1

September, 5, 2014
Sep 5
9:54
PM PT


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.

Hanley Ramirez gets late clearance

August, 30, 2014
Aug 30
5:09
PM PT
SAN DIEGO – When Los Angeles Dodgers bench coach Tim Wallach posted the original lineup in the visiting clubhouse here Saturday afternoon, Miguel Rojas was playing shortstop and batting seventh. Then trainer Stan Conte put Hanley Ramirez through a workout on the field, and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly re-wrote his lineup.

Ramirez, who injured his left leg slipping on the first-base bag and falling Friday night, was inserted at shortstop and batting second against the San Diego Padres.

“He looked really good. Everything was easy,” Mattingly said. “Early in the day, I don’t think Stan thought he was going to be able to go, but as he got here and got moving around, if we wouldn’t have known anything had happened, you couldn’t tell.”

Mattingly dropped Yasiel Puig, mired in an 0-for-19 slump, to the fifth spot in the batting order -- the first time all season Puig has hit lower than third. Mattingly said he wanted Ramirez batting second to get him an extra at-bat. He said Ramirez’s timing was the best it has been since he came off the disabled list Sunday. Ramirez had three hits Friday, including a towering home run.

  • When rosters expand Monday, Mattingly said the Dodgers likely will have “five or six” extra players called up from the minor leagues. One of those players will be outfielder Joc Pederson, 22, who has hit 33 home runs for Triple-A Albuquerque this season.


  • Mattingly said he won’t hesitate to use Pederson as a power left-handed hitter off the bench, though it is a role with which Pederson is unfamiliar. Interestingly, New York Yankees manager Clyde King used Mattingly as a pinch hitter when he was called up in September 1982. Mattingly got his first major league hit off Steve Crawford in the 11th inning of an Oct. 1 game after he replaced Graig Nettles at first base in the 10th. Mattingly was 21.

    “I just think you look at him, you know what he can do, you know he can play and you use him however you want to use him,” Mattingly said.

    Stock Watch: Kershaw still going strong

    August, 28, 2014
    Aug 28
    6:00
    AM PT

    RISING

    Streaking
    Clayton Kershaw, LHP: Just give him the MVP already! Kershaw’s week was pretty much reminiscent of each of his other weeks. He dominated two opponents and got the Dodgers two games closer to winning the NL West. Seems like what an MVP does, right? Kershaw held the San Diego Padres to a run on three hits Thursday, then held the Arizona Diamondbacks to one unearned run on six hits Wednesday. Combined, he pitched 16 innings with 20 strikeouts.

    Kenley Jansen, RHP: It’s a pretty good thing when a Dodgers starter can go eight innings, because that means Don Mattingly can just hand the ball to Jansen, who tends to strike out everybody he faces lately. Since June 21, Jansen has struck out 38 batters while walking only four. It’s no wonder Jansen has saved 18 of his past 19 chances. Wednesday night in Arizona, he picked up his 100th career save. It looks like he’s going to have a good career pitching the ninth inning, and the Dodgers will ride their homegrown closer as far as he can take them.

    Matt Kemp, RF: It’s not just the numbers, though those have been good enough. Kemp is batting .295 and has hit eight of his 16 home runs since the All-Star break. What’s more encouraging is that the Dodgers think he is moving better, a good sign that he's emerging from a long period of decline caused by injuries. After playing pretty awful center and left field, he seems to have found a home in right, and the Dodgers’ defense is better for it.

    FALLING

    Slumping
    Yasiel Puig, CF: On Wednesday, Mattingly said the team is concerned that Puig sometimes loses focus in center field. Maybe that’s because he’s in a miserable funk at the plate and thinking too much about it? Puig’s season has swung like a pendulum month to month. He batted .398 in May and .248 in June. He led the majors in slugging in July and has two extra-base hits all of August. The Dodgers are fairly functional offensively right now, but they’re largely doing it without their first-half MVP.

    Kevin Correia, RHP: He had a nice first start after the Dodgers acquired him from the Minnesota Twins, leading to hope that he simply needed to be in a winning environment to thrive. Since then, he has been even worse than his 4.94 Twins ERA suggested, giving the Dodgers just eight innings combined in his past two starts. He has also given up 15 hits and nine earned runs in those starts. Now, it looks like he’s headed for the bullpen, and it’s unclear how much value he can bring as a long man.

    Hanley Ramirez, SS: Since coming back from the disabled list, he’s 1-for-12 with five strikeouts. The Dodgers have to put him back in the lineup because his bat is such an upgrade over Miguel Rojas’, but Dodgers pitchers might soon be missing Rojas’ glove, especially if Ramirez doesn’t start hitting.

    Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 3, D'backs 1

    August, 27, 2014
    Aug 27
    9:36
    PM PT


    PHOENIX -- Clayton Kershaw kept his MVP campaign marching along quite steadily.

    Kershaw (16-3) became the majors’ first 16-game winner -- though he missed six weeks with an injury -- and the Dodgers won for the fifth time in their past six games by defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-1 on Wednesday night.

    How it happened: Kershaw wasn’t at his most dominant in the early innings, but he stabilized and pitched eight strong innings in one of his least favorite stadiums. Kershaw hasn’t pitched fewer than seven innings since June 8, and that game was cut short by rain. He came into Wednesday with a 4.10 ERA at Chase Field and had allowed seven runs in 1 2/3 innings the most recent time he pitched here, in May. Wednesday he reversed that mojo by striking out 10 batters and holding Arizona to an unearned run on six hits. He lowered his ERA to 1.73.

    The Dodgers rallied for all their runs off Wade Miley in the third inning. Scott Van Slyke homered the inning before spraining his right ankle while playing left field.

    Hits: Matt Kemp is slugging .120 points higher since the All-Star break than he did before it. The Dodgers also feel like he’s running better and playing better defense. Whether the uptick is a simple matter of improving health or increasing confidence, the Dodgers aren’t asking too many questions. Kemp sliced a two-run double to right-center field and was thrown out trying to stretch it to a triple. He has eight doubles and eight of his 16 home runs since the break.

    Misses: The Dodgers are sticking with the plan of inserting Miguel Rojas into games for the eighth and ninth innings in order to give themselves better shortstop defense. That will give Hanley Ramirez fewer at-bats in these final five weeks of the regular season. So far, he hasn’t exactly come off the disabled list on a roll. Ramirez has one hit and five strikeouts in 12 at-bats. The Dodgers will give him time to get his timing back, but it’s not an easy thing to do given the defensive sacrifice they’re making.

    Stat of the game: For the second year in a row, the Dodgers are leading the majors in road winning percentage (.618). Before 2013, it had happened just four times (1962, 1963, 1974 and 1985) since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958.

    Up next: The Dodgers have Thursday off before starting a three-game series in San Diego Friday night.

    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.

    Rapid Reaction: Mets 11, Dodgers 3

    August, 24, 2014
    Aug 24
    5:00
    PM PT


    LOS ANGELES -- The goal at the outset of any series, even against a team now nine games below .500 such as New York Mets, is to simply come out ahead. Obviously, it’s best to get the sweep, and I imagine the Los Angeles Dodgers didn’t arrive at Chavez Ravine collectively content to rest on their laurels. Nobody enjoys being on the business end of a lopsided loss, and the Blue got handed a lulu.


    But at the end of the day, they’ve maintained a healthy lead in the division despite a slew of recent injuries, and are getting progressively healthier. All things considered, life could be much worse.

    How it happened: After a promising three-up, three-down first inning for starter Kevin Correia, the floodgates opened quickly, and the metaphorical water escaping could have capsized Noah’s Ark. Correia was hit hard and often to the tune of seven hits, which doesn’t sound like much, until you consider he lasted only three innings … and three of those seven hits left the yard … and Lucas Duda’s homer looked like it was shot from a cannon into right field. Coors Field was impressed by that dinger.

    To be fair, some spotty fielding also hurt Correia, and only five of his seven runs allowed were earned. But again, that whole “dude was only on the mound for three innings” thing. For all intents and purposes, the righty threw batting practice for New York, and put his team in a deep hole from Jump Street.

    Hits: Despite being 41, Bartolo Colon continues to chug along. He rendered the Dodgers largely helpless, but Adrian Gonzalez clearly didn’t get the memo that Colon was a riddle to solve. Gonzalez notched three hits in as many at-bats against the big righty. Two went for extra bases, and the single sent Dee Gordon across the plate.

    Matt Kemp capitalized on Gonzalez’s first-inning double and drove in the first baseman to create an early, if ultimately fleeting, lead.

    Carlos Frias can never really anticipate entering a game, much less as early as the fourth inning, to spell the shellacked Correia. The middle reliever was undoubtedly surprised to hear his number called so early, but answered the bell in mostly strong fashion. His tired (and incomplete) fourth inning of work clearly reflected one too many, but on the whole, he did a nice job.

    Misses: Hanley Ramirez’s return meant, in theory, two things: more pop for an inconsistent Dodgers offense, and a left side of the field more defensively vulnerable. Take a wild guess which hypothesis came to fruition.

    With men on first and second and no outs, Kemp grounded into what should have been a double play. Except it wasn’t. Suddenly, Yasiel Puig opted to round third and try to score. Maybe he forgot how many outs the Dodgers had. Maybe he was aggressively trying to cut a deep deficit. What’s for certain, however, is Puig had virtually no chance of actually being safe. Thus, the Mets’ first triple play since May 19, 2010.

    Scott Van Slyke stumbled and landed on his butt while fielding Juan Lagares’ seventh-inning sacrifice fly. Who knows whether he could have otherwise gunned down Daniel Murphy, and in the grand scheme of things, does it really matter if the Dodgers lose by seven or eight? But Van Slyke looked decidedly annoyed by the mishap.

    Stat of the game: 1,248 feet, otherwise known as the combined estimated distances Correia’s three allowed home runs traveled. For those doing the math at home, that’s a lotta ball flight. Although if you’re gonna get touched up, might as well go big.

    What’s next: A day of rest, followed by a three-game set in Arizona against the Diamondbacks. Roberto Hernandez will open the series for the Dodgers, and he’s slated to match up against Trevor Cahill.

    Puig sits it out; Ramirez still on track

    August, 23, 2014
    Aug 23
    5:06
    PM PT
    LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers, already without regular shortstop Hanley Ramirez and third baseman Juan Uribe, are short another significant bat in their lineup Saturday night against the New York Mets. Fortunately, it's an expected absence. All-Star outfielder Yasiel Puig, who has only four hits -- all singles -- in his last 24 at-bats will take the night off.

    "We knew before the game yesterday," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "We knew he was getting beat up. I [asked] how he was doing, he said he was tired and we thought today was the right day. So give him a day today, he'll play tomorrow, and then he'll get another off day [Monday], hopefully get his legs back underneath him a little bit."

    Andre Ethier, making only his third start since Aug. 6, replaces Puig in center field, and will bat fifth.

    Mattingly said the changes in Puig's game weren't drastic but still fairly easy to spot.

    "He just gets dragging. You don't see the same energy," Mattingly said. "More than anything, you see the lack of energy. Just little things you see on the field. Body language, and then at-bats get shorter, and you don't see the same patience."

    Also granted an off night Saturday is infielder Justin Turner, who has been filling in for Uribe. While Turner has been red hot, going 7 for his last 13 including a game-winning home run Thursday against San Diego, the Dodgers have made it a point to limit his workload in an effort to preserve his health.

    Miguel Rojas replaces Turner in the lineup, batting eighth.

    Mattingly said Ramirez, eligible to come off the disabled list Sunday, will do so barring any unexpected setbacks.

    On the mound, the Dodgers start Zack Greinke after allowing the All-Star right-hander two days of extra rest to help relieve elbow soreness. Greinke threw a bullpen session Thursday without incident. Mattingly said he won't treat Greinke any differently Saturday night than he normally would, but that the team will watch him closely Sunday and through his off days.

    "What we'll look for is hopefully he comes out of it. I don't think tonight is really the worry, it's really more how he bounces back. So we'll see," Mattingly said.

    The pluses and minuses of Hanley Ramirez's return

    August, 22, 2014
    Aug 22
    5:35
    PM PT
    LOS ANGELES -- All signs point to Hanley Ramirez coming off the disabled list on Sunday, exactly 15 days after he landed there because of a strained muscle in his right side.

    Ramirez's return is a good thing for the Dodgers' lineup, which has struggled to score runs in its past nine games. It comes with a tradeoff, however, and an appreciable one.

    Ramirez's primary replacement, Miguel Rojas, couldn't come close to matching Ramirez's offensive impact. Rojas is batting .203 with a .520 OPS. Ramirez, though he hasn't been as electric as he was in 2013 at the plate, still has an .822 OPS, which is good at any position and elite for a shortstop.

    The defensive metrics indicate that Ramirez is a major liability at shortstop. His defensive WAR is the worst in the majors aside from Tampa Bay's Yunel Escobar. According to Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), Rojas has been 20 runs better than Ramirez at shortstop. The Dodgers' other option at shortstop, Erisbel Arruebarrena, is also a strong defender though he hasn't played enough in the majors to establish reliable numbers.

    Dodgers manager Don Mattingly ruled out Ramirez playing any other position when he comes back. Third baseman Juan Uribe currently is on the DL and Ramirez took some ground balls there earlier in the week. Mattingly said the team will continue to sub Rojas or Arruebarrena in the final two innings of close games, but Ramirez's offense is simply too important to the team to leave on the bench, no matter how badly he struggles with the glove.

    "When you get the kind of offense that Hanley gives you out of that position, it's a bonus," Mattingly said. "Early in the season, Hanley wasn't moving as well. As the season has gone on, he has moved better. I don't want to say it as a negative, but we're still willing to defend those last couple innings. We have a couple guys that are outstanding defensive shortstops. If you get the lead, then you try to do it."

    Ramirez, 30, is a free agent after this season and it appears the Dodgers are grooming Arruebarrena as his replacement. The Dodgers signed him to a five-year, $25 million contract in spring training.

    Mattingly fearing worst with Hanley injury

    August, 9, 2014
    Aug 9
    4:19
    PM PT
    MILWAUKEE -- As the Los Angeles Dodgers continue to wait for an official diagnosis on Hanley Ramirez's injured right side, manager Don Mattingly has started to fear the worst.

    "Obviously it didn't sound good," Mattingly said. "When you're getting an MRI, it's usually not a good thing."

    The MRI exam was scheduled for Saturday evening, about two hours before game time and Mattingly figured he might not know any details until after the game.

    Miguel Rojas started at shortstop Saturday against the Milwaukee Brewers, and could be a fixture there for a while if the injury is as serious as Mattingly assumes. The Dodgers have only announced a side injury, but Mattingly used the word "oblique" Saturday.

    "They're pretty serious as far as I'm concerned," he said. "They're not like really anything. If that's the area ..."

    Even the standard oblique injury can cause downtime longer than 15 days. The issue is that even when the side feels better, more rest is needed to avoid reinjuring the area.

    "The MRI will give us a good indication of severity and if there is swelling or bleeding or any of that stuff," Mattingly said.

    SPONSORED HEADLINES

    TEAM LEADERS

    WINS LEADER
    Clayton Kershaw
    WINS ERA SO IP
    19 1.70 219 185
    OTHER LEADERS
    BAY. Puig .295
    HRA. Gonzalez 23
    RBIA. Gonzalez 106
    RD. Gordon 87
    OPSY. Puig .862
    ERAC. Kershaw 1.70
    SOC. Kershaw 219