Dodgers Report: Josh Beckett

Stock watch: Kershaw chasing Hershiser

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
6:00
AM PT

RISING

Streaking
Clayton Kershaw, LHP: On June 13, the Arizona Diamondbacks' Aaron Hill doubled to left field to drive in Chris Owings and cut the Los Angeles Dodgers' lead to 2-1 in the third inning. It didn't seem all that remarkable at the time, but in retrospect, that was the last time anyone had a meaningful hit off Kershaw. His next game was a near-perfect no-hitter (with 15 strikeouts) against the Colorado Rockies and, entering Thursday night's game against the San Diego Padres, Kershaw is riding a 36-inning scoreless streak, the longest by a Dodger since Orel Hershiser set the major league record of 59 in 1988. How good has Kershaw been over those 36 innings? Put it this way: He has 45 strikeouts and five walks.

Dee Gordon, 2B: In an era when many veteran players look for every excuse not to attend the All-Star Game, Gordon couldn't be more thrilled to have received the invitation. In fact, he told reporters he felt like crying when manager Don Mattingly told him. You've got to love that, and you’ve got to love the fact that Gordon got himself into the game with a late push that was all his doing -- not a campaign by the PR staff. He is batting .367 in July. St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, who will manage the NL team, will be glad he has Gordon if the game is close late, because if Gordon gets on base -- or is used as a pinch runner -- he could decide the outcome by stealing a base or two and scoring a key run.

Yasiel Puig, RF: Another Dodgers All-Star, Puig is showing signs of pulling himself out of the desperate power outage he endured in June. Perhaps he was just trying too hard to make it to Minneapolis? He seems to have settled down, to be chasing fewer pitches out of the strike zone and to be making better contact. After going all of June without a home run, Puig is batting .272 with four doubles, a triple and a home run in eight games in July. Most likely he will be the only Gillette Home Run Derby participant who has one home run in his past month-and-a-half, but he will be hitting batting practice, after all.

FALLING

Slumping
The veteran starters: Josh Beckett, 34, resurrected his career in the first half and, just a couple of weeks ago, looked like an All-Star lock. Dan Haren, 33, had kept the Dodgers in every game he started until things started getting a little wobbly a couple of weeks ago. Now, the Dodgers don't know what they can expect from either one of them in the second half, sending general manager Ned Colletti scurrying to drum up trade talks for starting pitchers. Beckett is on the 15-day disabled list because of a left hip impingement and Haren has a 5.40 ERA in his past seven starts.

Matt Kemp, LF: Carl Crawford is soon to return from the disabled list -- maybe Thursday -- and Kemp, once again, will have to compete for playing time. His at-bats have been all over the map lately. He was 0-for-16 going into the final Colorado game, then went 7-for-9 in the next two games, but came back down to earth Wednesday in Detroit with some unproductive at-bats. Overall, he's batting .242 in his past eight games and Mattingly figures to feel some pressure to get Crawford into games. Both players are confined to left field for now, so it's pretty obvious Kemp will be the odd man out from time to time. The Dodgers, after all, aren't going to pay Crawford $21 million and never play him, will they?

Hanley's health: Is he ready to go, or isn't he? Hanley Ramirez has gotten more than three plate appearances in a game only four times since June 23 -- a span of three weeks -- and two of those were as the designated hitter in Detroit. He has generally hit well enough to support his playing time, but are the Dodgers better off just putting him on the disabled list, letting his shoulder and calf heal and trying to get by with Miguel Rojas' limited offense for a while -- say, through the All-Star break? It seems like a relevant question, particularly since Rojas is a major upgrade defensively.

Dodgers first-half MVP: Rick Honeycutt?

July, 7, 2014
Jul 7
11:26
AM PT
Rick HoneycuttMark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsRick Honeycutt is rapidly gaining a reputation for helping prolong aging veterans' careers.
Clayton Kershaw is Clayton Kershaw. He might be the only truly great pitcher this generation of Dodgers fans is lucky enough to see pitching in his prime. Zack Greinke is Zack Greinke. He’s one of the elite pitching talents in the game, a cerebral, athletic guy who is totally in command of his arsenal right now.

Those are the Dodgers All-Star pitchers. Hyun-Jin Ryu is well above average and in the discussion of best No. 3 starters in baseball.

Those three are young enough and savvy enough that they could thrive, most likely, working with any pitching coach under the sun or even with no pitching coach at all. But as the All-Star break approaches, providing a much-needed respite for the aging back end of the Dodgers’ rotation, it’s worth pointing out that neither Josh Beckett nor Dan Haren did this alone.

They had a little help from a man, pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, who is rapidly gaining a reputation for helping prolong aging veterans’ careers. That makes perfect sense since one of Honeycutt’s earliest mentors, Dave Duncan, once had that reputation in the game.

There are only eight pitchers in the National League who are older than 32 and have thrown more than 100 innings this season. The Dodgers have two of them. Beckett and Haren have combined to go 14-10 and the team has gone 18-17 in games they have pitched. Those numbers might not be eye-popping, but they are when you consider that they’re coming from the Nos. 4 and 5 starters. In spring training, most people viewed the back of the rotation as one of the Dodgers’ few weaknesses.

It’s not the first time the Dodgers have seen Honeycutt’s act. They saw it with Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang, who were worse the year before they arrived in L.A. and worse the year after they left. They saw it with Jeff Weaver in 2009. His career was teetering on over and the Dodgers somehow got 79 serviceable innings out of him.

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Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 8, Rockies 2

July, 6, 2014
Jul 6
5:24
PM PT


DENVER -- The Los Angeles Dodgers weren’t hitting the long ball through the thin air of Coors Field, merely exhausting the opposing pitcher with single after single.

L.A. piled together 12 singles and two doubles on a toasty, then overcast afternoon in Colorado. It scored five runs in the fifth inning and three more in the eighth. And starter Josh Beckett (6-5, 2.26 ERA) went five scoreless innings to fuel the Dodgers to the 8-2 win over the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.

How it happened: Beckett was solid, not great. And the offense was a constant pest for the Rockies.

For the second consecutive game, the Dodgers put up a five-spot in one inning against Colorado’s young and unimpressive pitching staff -- albeit this one ending on a better note than Saturday, when they scored five in the seventh and still lost 8-7.

Beckett led the charge in the fifth with a one-out double down the right field line -- tying his career high with three doubles in a season -- and was later brought in by Adrian Gonzalez’s two-run single. Eventually the Dodgers’ bats chased out the Rockies starter Yohan Flande, then Matt Kemp, Juan Uribe and Miguel Rojas drove in three other more to close the fifth.

Hits: Each one of his hits had to feel that much better for Kemp. He broke an 0-for-18 slide when clubbed four sharply-hit singles in Sunday’s affair. Kemp eventually finished the day 4-for-5, improving his average from .259 to .268.

The last thing the Dodgers want to see is Kemp’s bat to disappear again, unless it’s because of a trade. The left fielder hit .317 and the Dodgers went 18-10 in June following a two-month stretch where Kemp hit a middling.248.

Misses: Rojas left the game in seventh inning with what was described as a right forearm contusion. X-rays were negative, but he’s listed day-to-day.

With Hanley Ramirez on limited playing duty and Erisbel Arruebarrena on the 15-day disabled list, we’ll probably be seeing quite a bit of Carlos Triunfel, who was called to Colorado late Saturday night.

Stat of the game: The last time Beckett walked more than two batters in a game was when he threw a no-hitter to beat the Philadelphia Phillies. So, it certainly can’t be too much of a worry that the 34-year-old gave free passes to a trio of batters on Sunday.

It did, however, effectively end a streak of 39 consecutive games during which the Dodgers did not walk more than two batters. The streak was the longest in the modern era.

L.A. walked six on the day.

Up next: In their last pair of road games before the All-Star break, the Dodgers will head to Detroit to face the top of the AL Central in the Tigers. Hyun-Jin Ryu (9-4, 3.04) will square off against Justin Verlander (7-7, 4.71) on Tuesday, before NL All-Star Zack Greinke (11-4, 2.66) opposes AL All-Star Max Scherzer (10-3, 3.47) the following day. Greinke and Scherzer were announced as part of their respective All-Star teams Sunday evening.

Can Dodgers continue to rely on Beckett?

July, 2, 2014
Jul 2
12:02
AM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Don Mattingly said Tuesday night's 10-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians "just shows us that we've still got a lot to continue to work on." He mentioned a plethora of "teaching opportunities."

Such opportunities probably include explaining to Dee Gordon that taking off from third base on a shallow fly ball to left with nobody out might not be the smartest base-running play and that attempting to swipe second with nobody out in the sixth with your team trailing by four also might not be the right call.

[+] EnlargeJosh Beckett
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonJosh Beckett had his worst start Tuesday since his season opener in a 10-3 loss to the Indians.
While he was in a teaching mood, Mattingly probably pointed out to Yasiel Puig a couple of overeager running plays, one of which proved successful, the other turned into the tail end of a bizarre triple play.

But what Tuesday really showed the Dodgers is how tenuous life can be when you're relying on two aging starting pitchers to hold up the back of your rotation.

Granted, every start Josh Beckett and Dan Haren have made this season for the Dodgers has ranged between "serviceable" and "historically brilliant." Without their contributions, the Dodgers would still be flopping around many games out of first place and dogged by the "underachiever" label.

But earlier this season, Haren, 33 and with a chronic bad back, said, "I feel discomfort 24 hours a day, seven days a week pretty much, at this point of my career," and the 2,000 career innings suddenly seem to be catching up to Beckett, 34.

Tuesday's start was Beckett's worst since his season opener, with the Indians jumping on some hanging breaking balls to score three times in the first and twice more in the third inning. In the days leading up to Tuesday, the Dodgers had tweaked their Triple-A rotation so Red Patterson would line up on Beckett's pitching days, just in case they need to skip one of Beckett's starts.

"I think, 'OK,' is a good word with Josh," Mattingly said. "Again, without overplaying it, at this point of his career, I think he feels like it's a battle in between starts."

On Monday, Mattingly mentioned that Beckett has been feeling something in his hip. He looked a little ungainly running to second on a pair of doubles that he hit Tuesday night.

"Is that running?" Mattingly joked.

But Beckett wasn't elaborating on whatever he's feeling, probably because he didn't want to seem to be making excuses.

"We're all dealing with stuff. You could go all the way through this clubhouse and you're not going to find anybody who's feeling great right now," Beckett said. "That's just the way it is. Keep working."

Asked if what he's feeling could best be described as "general soreness," Beckett laughed a bit and said, "I don't know. Yeah, I'm generally sore."

Rapid Reaction: Indians 10, Dodgers 3

July, 1, 2014
Jul 1
10:32
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers lost their wackiest game of the season, making for a short stay atop the NL West: one day.

And a wild streak remains intact: Despite their generally hot play, the Dodgers still haven't won four games in a row this season. They're 0-for-7 after winning the first three.

The Cleveland Indians beat L.A. 10-3 Tuesday night, thanks in part to a fourth-inning triple play that went, improbably, 7-2-4, and prompted two replay reviews.

Michael Brantley caught Adrian Gonzalez's shallow fly ball in left and threw out Dee Gordon at the plate. After Yasiel Puig took off for second amid the confusion, catcher Yan Gomes gunned him out. Both plays were challenged, but the upshot was the first triple play at Dodger Stadium in more than two years.

The loss, combined with the San Francisco Giants' 5-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals, put the Dodgers back in second place, a half-game out. (The Dodgers had grabbed sole possession of first place for the first time since April the night before.)

How it happened: It was a promising game for the Dodgers' offense in that it produced action, including 10 hits. But it was a miserable game for clutch hitting. In addition to the triple play, the Dodgers wasted a second-and-third, nobody-out situation in the second inning and a bases-loaded, nobody-out chance in the fifth. Pinch hitters Hanley Ramirez and Clint Robinson both struck out in the fifth.

Beckett, who according to Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has been dealing with general soreness, had a come-down-to-earth start, giving up five runs and six hits in five innings.

Hits: Gordon had a nice night at the plate, bolstering his All-Star chances. But he may have taken an unnecessary risk in the sixth inning. After reaching base on his third hit of the night -- a chopper to the third baseman -- Gordon was thrown out trying to steal with the Dodgers trailing by four runs in the sixth inning. In Gordon's first 37 attempted steals, he was caught three times. In his last 12 tries, he has been caught six times.

Misses: Matt Kemp heard some boos after his third strikeout of the night. Seemed a bit harsh. Kemp may have had a rough night at the plate -- and he also looked a bit lost hauling in Brantley's fly ball in the third inning -- but he was batting .354 with a 1.015 OPS in his previous 23 games.

Stat of the game: Since season’s start of 2010, the Dodgers were 35-2 when an opposing starter didn't last longer than three innings. Now they are 35-3 in such situations. The Dodgers managed seven hits off Justin Masterson and Indians manager Terry Francona relieved him of the ball with nobody out in the fourth inning. Then came the triple play, and things got worse from there.

Up next: The Dodgers can still win their fifth straight series if they can beat the Indians on Wednesday afternoon. Hyun-Jin Ryu (9-4, 3.12 ERA) will oppose former UCLA pitcher Trevor Bauer (2-4, 4.39) at 12:10 PT.

Josh Beckett dealing with general soreness

June, 30, 2014
Jun 30
6:44
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Pitcher Red Patterson had his start at Triple-A Albuquerque moved from Sunday to Tuesday in case the Los Angeles Dodgers need him to step in for Josh Beckett, according to manager Don Mattingly.

Beckett, 34, has not missed a start since he was activated April 9, but he has had to skip between-starts bullpen sessions at times because of overall soreness.

Mattingly said Monday the team expects Beckett to be able to make his scheduled start Tuesday, but the Dodgers wanted Patterson to be lined up in case Beckett needs to sit out a start in the coming weeks.

“Josh is always the guy that, in between starts, we worry about, because he battles every time to get ready for the next one,” Mattingly said.

Beckett has pitched two consecutive seven-inning shutouts and has thrown 93⅔ innings this season. He pitched the season's first no-hitter on May 25. His 2.11 ERA trails only Johnny Cueto and Adam Wainwright among qualified NL pitchers.

“He’s got 2,000 big league innings,” Mattingly said. “Obviously, he’s a guy who’s got a little bit of mileage on him.”

Mattingly also said Hanley Ramirez, who strained a calf muscle Sunday, doesn’t appear to be headed for the disabled list. Ramirez, who also is dealing with an arthritic right shoulder, has played just three innings in the past week. The Dodgers are 5-1 in that span.

Beckett's season is beyond a comeback

June, 26, 2014
Jun 26
11:20
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- For a while, it was a fun little narrative, the aging pitcher reinventing himself and resurrecting a career gone adrift.

It made for a nice newspaper article or blog post. Then, when Josh Beckett just kept doing it, his ERA remaining stuck week after week among the National League elite, it started seeming more like a feature-length magazine profile. You could expand on the nuances of pitching sequences, the weird surgery he underwent and the evolution -- or is it devolution? -- of the curveball in modern baseball.

Now, who knows, maybe it's a movie.

[+] EnlargeJosh Beckett
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsJosh Beckett is starting to show that his resurgence this season is more than merely a comeback.
Just don't call it a comeback any longer. He's simply back. Judging by Beckett's 2.11 ERA, third in the National League, and the fact he just stared down the man who might be the best right-hander in the league, Adam Wainwright, the facts say Beckett is now the guy other teams don't want to face.

He pitched another seven shutout innings in the Los Angeles Dodgers' 1-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday, giving him 14 shutout innings in a row, which paired with that no-hitter back in May and the fact he didn't buckle as Wainwright breezed through the Dodgers' lineup most of the night, gives you a pretty good indication he's up to the task of keeping this thing going for a while. He might not be an ace since the Dodgers already have two, but he's a lot more than a three.

"He's like himself of old, I think," Wainwright said. "He threw a no-hitter. That doesn't happen by chance."

Of course, Beckett isn't quite like Beckett of old, or rather young. He can't reach back and throw his fastball 98 mph when he gets a runner on third base. It has been well-documented by now. He pitches backward nowadays, throwing his curveball more than just about any starter in baseball, about one-third of the time, which makes a 92 mph fastball look as if it's a bit feistier than that.

You can wax on about Beckett for a while. He must have wanted to re-establish himself pretty badly to be pitching this well less than a year after an unpredictable surgery, in which doctors removed a small rib from the vicinity of his right shoulder to relieve pressure on a nerve. But there's also a simpler explanation to all of this. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly just blurted it out at one point in his postgame comments.

"To be honest with you, guys just don't hit the curveball anymore," Mattingly said.

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Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 1, Cardinals 0

June, 26, 2014
Jun 26
9:42
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- If you have an evening free and you'd like to take in a magical pitching performance, you might want to swing by Dodger Stadium one of these nights. Lately, they have been a relatively common occurrence.

The last time the Los Angeles Dodgers were in town, Clayton Kershaw threw one of the most brilliant no-hitters in history against the Colorado Rockies. The mound stayed warm after a week's hiatus, with Josh Beckett and Adam Wainwright hooking up in a battle of wills Thursday, pitching scoreless baseball deep into the night before the Dodgers pulled out a 1-0 win.

How it happened: One of the most electric moments at Dodger Stadium this year came in the seventh inning, when Matt Kemp threw out Allen Craig at the plate as he tried to score from second on Jon Jay's single. That's how good Wainwright was. One run there might have been the end for the Dodgers.

Instead, they kept it scoreless and finally got to Wainwright in the eighth inning. The guys at the bottom of the order did the damage. Juan Uribe, Miguel Rojas and pinch hitter Justin Turner bunched singles to finally break the ice against Wainwright, who looks like a lock to start the All-Star Game for the National League.

The Dodgers didn't come up with their first hit off the Cardinals ace until the sixth inning, when Rojas lined a single into left field.

Beckett does it with a different array of weapons, but he nearly matched Wainwright's dominance. The only thing he couldn't match was his longevity. Beckett's night was over after the seventh inning, having thrown 107 pitches. He gave up four hits and two walks, and struck out four.

Hits: The way Beckett pitched -- and given the fact the Dodgers handed out 48,624 Brian Wilson bobblehead dolls -- it would have been a shame if the eighth inning had gone poorly, but Wilson breezed through it, striking out two batters. After a poor start, Wilson is looking a little more like the dominant setup man he had been in 2013. He has given up one run in his last 15⅔ innings.

Misses: Andre Ethier has been playing with a nasty blister on his right palm, something he dealt with for a while last year as well. Thursday he fouled a ball off the inside of his right knee. Those ailments probably aren't going to help him break out of this prolonged slump he has stumbled into. Since May 24, he's batting .194. At what point will Dodgers manager Don Mattingly start using Scott Van Slyke more frequently when the Dodgers are facing right-handed pitchers? We could find out soon.

Stat of the game: Wainwright has pitched seven games this season in which he went at least five innings and gave up no earned runs. Beckett also has done so seven times. They lead the National League.

Up next: The teams continue the four-game series Friday night at 7:10, with Hyun-Jin Ryu (9-3, 3.06 ERA) pitching for the Dodgers and converted reliever Carlos Martinez (1-3, 4.33) going for the Cardinals.

Josh Beckett continues improbable rebirth

June, 21, 2014
Jun 21
11:53
PM PT
SAN DIEGO -- Baseball players are so constantly confronted with failure, it can be difficult to discern whether the best way out of it is through perseverance or change.

Sometimes, stubbornly sticking it out is the best plan. Other times, it’s a good way to find yourself sitting on your couch watching other guys play in August and September.

Josh Beckett was smart enough to know it was time for something radical.

[+] EnlargeJosh Beckett
Denis Poroy/Getty ImagesJosh Beckett upped his propensity for curveballs to roughly a third of his arsenal. Batters now know to expect them, but that doesn't appear to be any kind of benefit.
The Detroit Tigers had started his season out on a bad footing back in April, knocking him out of the game by the fifth inning, having scored five times. Nick Castellanos took him deep.

Out of Beckett’s 85 pitches that day, eight were curveballs. When things got hairy, he did what he always had done: reached back and tried to find a little more fastball. Only this time, at the age of 34 and after having had a rib surgically removed near his pitching shoulder just 10 months earlier, he couldn’t find it.

Instead of pulling out 96 mph, he was finding a lot of 91s and 92s. That’s pretty much the happy zone for many major league hitters.

So when catcher A.J. Ellis approached him with the novel idea of using his curveball -- always one of the most effective in the game -- as the centerpiece of his game plan, he was in a receptive mood.

Beckett, having improbably become one of the most effective starting pitchers in the game at an age when most are seeing their careers slipping away, sees it all in crystal clarity from this vantage point.

After another seven dominant innings in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 4-2 win over the San Diego Padres on Saturday, Beckett is third in the National League with a 2.28 ERA.

Who could have seen that one coming?

“I had to do it. It wasn’t an option,” Beckett said. “I know the Tigers’ lineup probably wasn’t the ideal measuring point for my first start, but it was kind of like, ‘We have to make this adjustment or you don’t pitch again. That’s pretty much it. That’s just what I have to do.’”

Beckett is throwing his curveball roughly a third of the time. By now, opposing teams know it’s coming; but that doesn’t make it any easier to handle for their hitters.

Dodgers catcher Drew Butera saw it as a hitter in an intrasquad game this spring and has seen a lot of it from behind the plate, including the day he caught Beckett’s no-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies.

He said Beckett’s arm angle when he releases the pitch makes it look like a fastball and that Beckett can throw it at different speeds and to different locations. You’re expecting something in the 90 mph area and you get something at about 73 mph.

“It’s hard to stay back,” Butera said.

Sometimes it’s a strike. Sometimes it’s in the dirt. Beckett’s transformation reminds Butera of another veteran pitcher who lost his fastball and had a vibrant career thereafter: Carl Pavano.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly admits he had no inkling Beckett was primed for this kind of bounce-back season. Last year while pitching with numbness in his fingertips caused by thoracic outlet syndrome, Beckett was laborious on the mound and ineffective in his results. On Friday against a watered-down Padres lineup, he looked barely challenged. He threw one curveball on a 2-and-0 count and several on 1-0 counts.

Watching the Dodgers in the playoffs last year reawakened Beckett’s love for the game. You can’t blame him for having lost some of it after the drudgery of his final couple of years in Boston, his bad 2013 and the surgery.

“I wanted to compete. That was part of what I missed,” Beckett said. “When I came back for those playoff games, I missed the way the guys competed. I wasn’t expecting to go out there and throw the ball the way that I probably have, but I think some of the adjustments I’ve made have been a big key.”

He might think he had to make the changes, but the transaction wires are littered with players who refused to give in.

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 4, Padres 2

June, 21, 2014
Jun 21
10:18
PM PT


SAN DIEGO -- The Los Angeles Dodgers got the good feelings back after Friday night’s maddening ninth-inning meltdown here. They beat the San Diego Padres 4-2 Saturday night behind another remarkable performance by the dean of their starting rotation, Josh Beckett.

How it happened: Beckett just keeps throwing his curveball, and people just can’t hit it. The pitch has remade him into one of baseball’s best pitchers at an age when most are in steep decline. If not for scant run support, he would be a lock for the All-Star Game. Beckett, 34, struck out eight batters over seven shutout innings and allowed just four scattered hits. The Dodgers scored enough early off Tyson Ross to give Beckett (5-4) something to work with against a truly awful Padres lineup, which was bad to begin with and now is beset with injuries. Beckett’s 2.28 ERA is the third-best in the National League.

After blowing a two-run lead the previous night, closer Kenley Jansen got back in action, faced some of the same hitters as the previous evening and pitched a scoreless ninth for his 21st save.

Hits: Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez have begun producing runs more consistently. It is opportune timing, as Yasiel Puig and Adrian Gonzalez have slowed down in various degrees during recent weeks. Ramirez drove in two of the Dodgers’ runs Saturday with a shallow sacrifice fly (Dee Gordon was running from third) and a single. He is hitting .342 with three doubles, two home runs and nine RBIs in his past 11 games. Kemp is batting .429 since June 12.

Misses: What is one to make of Gonzalez’s slide? He hasn’t homered in a month and is batting .195 in his past 22 games. He continues to hit ground balls -- he had three more Saturday -- and with his lack of speed those are rarely going to be base hits. On the other hand, he's still a dangerous hitter with runners in scoring position because he simplifies his approach. Gonzalez drove in the Dodgers' fourth run with a single up the middle. He is hitting .288 with runners in scoring position, 80 points better than without men in scoring position.

Stat of the game: Gordon stole a base and created a run in the third inning. It was his 39th steal in the Dodgers’ 76th game, putting him on pace for 83 stolen bases this season. It would be the most prolific base stealing in a season by a Dodger since Maury Wills had 94 in 1965. No one has stolen as many as 80 bases in the majors since 1988, when Rickey Henderson (88) and Vince Coleman (80) made the mark.

Up next: The Dodgers haven’t lost a series since June 4. They can keep that trend up with a win Sunday behind Hyun-Jin Ryu (8-3, 3.13 ERA). The Dodgers face lefty Eric Stults (2-9, 5.76) in a game that starts at 1:10 p.m. PT.

Will Dodgers pull off first no-hitter trifecta?

June, 19, 2014
Jun 19
9:39
AM PT
LOS ANGELES -- If you happened to be watching the Dodgers on TV last night, or you can truthfully say you were one of the 46,069 fans at Dodger Stadium, rest assured: You will never see a better-pitched game than Clayton Kershaw's 15-strikeout no-hitter against the Colorado Rockies.

Such a game might not exist. Kershaw’s dominance may have been the best-pitched game of all time, Hanley Ramirez's throwing error the only blemish on what would have been a perfect game. Only one man, Nolan Ryan, had ever struck out as many batters in a no-hitter. Ryan walked between two and eight batters in all seven of his no-hitters.

[+] EnlargeClayton Kershaw
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsClayton Kershaw struck out 15 in his no-hitter Wednesday night.
But if you weren’t there -- or, like 63 percent of Southern Californians, couldn’t watch the game on TV -- there’s always this: Maybe you’ll get another chance. No team has ever thrown three no-hitters in a major-league season, but by knocking off two in their first 74 games (Josh Beckett's came on May 25 in Philadelphia), the Dodgers have given themselves a fighting chance.

One team hadn’t thrown the first two no-hitters of an MLB season since the 1972 Chicago Cubs, when Milt Pappas and Burt Hooton pulled it off. The year after that, Ryan pitched two for the California Angels. In 2010, Roy Halladay pitched two no-hitters for the Philadelphia Phillies, but the second came in the playoffs.

The Dodgers hadn’t had two no-hitters in a season since 1956, when they were still in Brooklyn and Carl Erskine and Sal Maglie pulled it off.

But if you’ve watched the Dodgers rotation in action this season, you know there’s a chance. The Dodgers have the third-best starters ERA in baseball and, now that Kershaw is healthy, they’re improving fast. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly interrupted his postgame comments and openly wondered what the single-season record for no-hitters is by a team.

“I figure [Zack] Greinke's got one in him and [Hyun-Jin] Ryu may,” Mattingly joked.

Mattingly certainly has a point. Ryu took a perfect game into the eighth inning against the Cincinnati Reds the day after Beckett’s no-hitter. In 2009, Greinke set the Kansas City Royals record for strikeouts in a game, 15, and pitched a one-hitter later that season. He certainly has the stuff and the focus. Who knows, if Beckett can throw one at 34, Dan Haren might have one in him at 33.

And, of course, there’s this: Every time Kershaw takes the mound, there’s always a chance.

Dodgers validate consistency concerns

June, 15, 2014
Jun 15
5:45
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Without taking the brain power to think too deeply about it or the antacids to digest the complex reasons for it, this is simply how the Los Angeles Dodgers’ season has gone lately.

Right as the clubhouse starts to get good vibes, just as the fans start to buy in all over again and around the time when the team they are chasing starts to collapse, things go haywire, and the promise that was poking through morphs right back into concern.

That is what happened Sunday. Again.

The Dodgers had a chance to sweep with one of their better starters, Josh Beckett, on the mound against a quite hittable Bronson Arroyo and an Arizona Diamondbacks club they had rolled through this season. That sweep never happened in the 6-2 Father’s Day loss.

[+] EnlargeAdrian Gonzalez
AP Photo/Jayne Kamin-OnceaGonzalez's struggle to find sustained production at the plate is symbolic of the Dodgers as a group thus far.
Instead, doubt once again raised about this team’s ability to find consistency.

You don’t have to go back far to find the last time this happened. It was last week when the Dodgers went into Cincinnati and dominated the first two games against the Reds and still had Hyun-Jin Ryu and Zack Greinke to handle pitching duties in the final two games. At least a series win seemed inevitable, but the Dodgers lost both games and were right back to an 8½-game deficit in the National League West.

“It’s too warm for Christmas,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said before Sunday’s game when asked if he felt the team was starting to click after two wins against Arizona. Mattingly also noted he was asked a similar question in Cincinnati after those first two wins.

Entering Sunday, the Dodgers trailed the San Francisco Giants by 6½ games in the division, and, up until the eighth inning in San Francisco, it looked like the lead would increase. Fortunately for the Dodgers, the Giants had another bullpen fiasco and the lead kept at 6½.

Still, what looked like a week that could've been a turning point ended up as just OK at 5-3.

"That’s what happens in this game," Mattingly said. "It looks bad at one point, and then 10 days later, you feel like you’re getting momentum, but only time will tell if it’s true momentum where we can sustain it over time."

Momentum has certainly come at the expense of Arizona. The Dodgers are 10-4 against the Diamondbacks, the last-place team in the NL West, but they are 3-7 against the Giants. Think about that. The Dodgers are three games over .500 because they’ve played the Diamondbacks 14 times, not really because they have proven to be a quality team.

The Dodgers play the Diamondbacks only five more times this season, and they don’t play the Giants again until July 25. There are only nine games remaining against them.

That could cause some scoreboard watching from the Dodgers' dugout.

"I watch the scoreboard all year around, not necessarily during the game," Mattingly said. "But it’s too early for all that. We have to take care of ourselves."

While a solid week could have been better, the Dodgers are showing small signs of playing better ball lately, such as a bad defense not committing an error in seven games before Sunday and being able to win on the road.

"If we can try to gain a game every series or not lose ground, come a month, we’ll be in a really good spot," first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said. "We’re starting to play better baseball. We can’t realistically think we’re going to win every game. Today was a game where you tip your hat to the other team. They flat out beat us."

Stock watch: Pitching still going strong

June, 12, 2014
Jun 12
11:27
AM PT

RISING

Streaking
Clayton Kershaw, LHP: The five weeks he spent on the disabled list with a strained muscle in his upper back could be a good thing in the long run. Should the Dodgers qualify for the postseason, his arm figures to be in better condition than it was by last October after piling up more innings than ever in his career. Kershaw figures to be particularly fresh going into Friday night’s start since he only had to go five innings and throw 73 pitches to get his last win in Colorado. The final four innings were rained out. Since a clunker in Arizona, Kershaw is 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA and opponents are hitting .170 off him. The Dodgers have their ace back, primed for the shorter season.

Josh Beckett, RHP: He’s 34, so you would have expected a big drop-off after his May 25 no-hitter, especially after he needed 128 pitches to pull it off. Instead, the Dodgers have monitored his pitch count and Beckett has found a way to be just as good since the no-hitter as before. He only has one win to show for it -- the Dodgers have not scored for him this season -- but he has a 2.12 ERA since the no-hitter. His 4-3 record will obscure the kind of season he is having, but it’s one of the more remarkable stories of the Dodgers’ first half.

J.P. Howell, LHP: He has become the escape artist of the Dodgers’ bullpen, equipped with a heavy sinker that allows him to pile up double plays. He got two that ended innings to preserve the Dodgers’ win Monday night. He pitches in the middle innings and has a fastball that just scrapes the upper 80s, but he’s also really good and has been valuable. The first batter Howell has faced has gone 2-for-26.

FALLING

Slumping
Yasiel Puig, RF: It hasn’t been a bad week for the Dodgers’ best player in some regards. He experienced snow for the first time in Colorado. He met race car driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. in Cincinnati. He went to the zoo for a TV segment and held a big snake. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that he has appeared tired on the field at times lately and he hasn’t been able to maintain his hot hitting, which is understandable. Puig has gone 4-for-19 on this road trip, striking out three times Wednesday night.

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B: He had a couple of doubles Tuesday night and another Wednesday, but extra-base hits -- or any kind of hits -- have been few and far between for the Dodgers’ cleanup hitter. Gonzalez has four hits in 35 at-bats this month. He is hitting too many balls on the ground and falling victim to overshifts, but the strikeouts have been more surprising since he is typically a contact hitter. Gonzalez has 14 strikeouts this month. He had 24 in all of March and April.

Dodgers continue on their merry road ways

June, 10, 2014
Jun 10
11:26
PM PT
CINCINNATI -- When the Los Angeles Dodgers were scraping hard to produce runs against bottom-tier pitching last week, Don Mattingly was so sick and tired of watching it he could barely stand to answer questions. He must have been tempted to daydream about what was coming.

Ah, the open road.

[+] EnlargeJosh Beckett
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesJosh Beckett had to wait around a while during a rain delay, but he threw his best game since his no-hitter in a win over the Reds.
The Dodgers have looked far more lively in humid locales, in front of fans who disdain them, than they have at their beautiful home ballpark, where the weather is virtually perfect and the fans are looking for any little hint of life to celebrate them.

Even in the midst of the most dispiriting homestand of the season, Mattingly said he never started fantasizing about getting on a plane and leaving LAX in its tailwind.

“I was just frustrated at the end of the homestand, but I’m happy right now,” he said. “We’re playing good. We’ll try to figure out home when we get home.”

That will, barring more dreadful weather, be late Thursday night, right before they open a six-game homestand against two sub-.500 division opponents in the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.

Who knows, maybe the Dodgers will even wrap those six games up with their first winning homestand of 2014. Maybe they’ll finally share the good feelings with their fans.

But for now, they’re doing everything they can to enjoy the moment. After Tuesday’s 6-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds, a win Wednesday means they would have their first four-game winning streak of 2014.

They have gone 8-3 in their past 11 road games.

Funny thing is, it has been grueling travel. They have had to sit through more than nine hours of rain delays since they started traveling east of the Rockies at the end of April. Tuesday, they had to sit two hours and five minutes as thunder and lightning shook Great American Ballpark.

Antsy to get started, Josh Beckett, the team’s oldest starting pitcher, found himself pacing around the clubhouse, then seeking a little solitude in the weight room. Like the team, he seems impervious to the annoyances of the road. He went out and pitched his finest game since his May 25 no-hitter, which, you guessed it, came on the road, in Philadelphia. Beckett held the Reds to two hits over six innings.

“Just sitting around today for two hours and trying to stay loose,” Beckett said. “I’m not 23 anymore.”

It might be the start of something big.

The Dodgers finally took a little chunk off the San Francisco Giants’ big lead the past two nights, cutting it to 7 1/2 games. Or, it might just be another three-game winning streak. They’ve seen those before only to slide back.

One thing is reasonably certain: To get to where they want to go, they’re probably going to have to win more than their current pace of 40 percent of their home games. Their fans, many of whom have no way to see them when they’re on the road because of the TV dispute, certainly hope that’s the case.

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 6, Reds 1

June, 10, 2014
Jun 10
9:49
PM PT


CINCINNATI -- It is possible to buy a ticket and watch the Dodgers team you thought you'd see this season. It's just going to cost you a plane ticket, a hotel room and an umbrella.

The Dodgers continued to perk up when they hit the road with a 6-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night that was delayed by rain for 2 hours, 5 minutes. The Dodgers get rained on constantly when they leave sunny Southern California, but it doesn't matter. They have won eight of their past 11 road games, and they still haven't had a winning homestand this season.

How it happened: Josh Beckett pitched six innings without giving up a run, and the Dodgers continued to look like a different team on the road, one that is capable of scoring runs. They kept up the offensive pressure all evening, with Dee Gordon, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier all coming up with clutch hits.

Hits: When an 84 mph changeup hit Zack Cozart in the head in the fifth inning, Beckett immediately looked horrified. He cringed when the ball slipped out of his hand and he squatted near the mound as he peered in to see whether Cozart was going to be OK. Cozart was, and he even took first base, meaning Beckett could enjoy another step in his remarkable late-career renaissance without feeling guilty. Beckett has had quality starts in six of his past nine outings, including a no-hitter. This was better than quality. Beckett cruised, giving up only two hits and striking out seven.

Misses: Paul Maholm has been a lot better in relief than he was as a starter this season. In fact, going into Tuesday all six of his innings had been scoreless since he lost his rotation spot to Hyun-Jin Ryu. But his role is now marginal, and Maholm looked rusty making his second appearance since May 30. Maholm faced four batters, and three of them got hits.

Stat of the game: There is some debate about whether it can be said that Yasiel Puig has reached base safely in 40 straight games, since in one of those games he got on only because of an error. But the Dodgers continue to sell the stat, so we'll go with it for now. We can safely say he has been a baserunner in 40 straight games, and that's pretty good.

Up next: If the Dodgers win Wednesday, they would have their first four-game winning streak of 2014. They'll have to get by Johnny Cueto and his 1.97 ERA, but the good news is Ryu will take the mound for them and he is 5-0 with a 0.95 ERA in six road starts. Ryu has dominated the Reds both times he has faced them, going 2-0 with a 2.51 ERA. The game starts at 4:10 p.m., though more rain is in the forecast.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Zack Greinke
WINS ERA SO IP
11 2.73 127 118
OTHER LEADERS
BAY. Puig .307
HRA. Gonzalez 14
RBIA. Gonzalez 60
RY. Puig 53
OPSY. Puig .911
ERAC. Kershaw 1.78
SOZ. Greinke 127