Dodgers Report: Los Angeles Dodgers

Are Kershaw and Trout the faces of baseball?

February, 26, 2015
Feb 26
1:52
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TEMPE, Ariz. --The best pitcher and the best player on the planet spent an afternoon orbiting each other while filming a few TV commercials for Subway the other day in Arizona.

Mike Trout got there by 10:30 a.m. and left around 10 p.m., spending some of his down time in a trailer with his agent, Craig Landis, and visitors.

Clayton Kershaw, who finished a morning workout across town in Los Angeles Dodgers camp, arrived at about 1:45 p.m. and was on site for about five hours, then went to meet his wife Ellen and newborn daughter, Cali Ann, who flew in that evening from Dallas.

Over a long afternoon, Trout and Kershaw patiently took turns doing their voice-overs, still shots and social media obligations for the company, then were driven on golf carts to nearby Tempe Diablo Stadium for their on-field shoots.

Inside the Los Angeles Angels' minor-league weight room, baseball’s most transcendent talents greeted one another.

“I’m going to crash your photo shoot,” Kershaw said as he walked into the room.

Trout, gripping a bat, extended his hand to offer Kershaw congratulations on winning the National League MVP award. Kershaw seemed genuinely touched.

“Thanks dude,” he said.

They chatted for a few minutes, joking about the long, sometimes boring process of shooting advertisements. Trout joked that Kershaw could look forward to eating about 15 sandwiches over multiple takes. “You’re gonna eat,” Trout said. There was none of the tension one might expect from two of the game’s fiercest competitors, paid lavishly to make the other look bad. Then again, Opening Day was still months away, the earliest they could possibly face one another in a game that counts still five months out.

So, on a crystal clear, cool Arizona afternoon, they could let down their competitive guards.

“We both play baseball, so it’s not too awkward territory for us,” Kershaw said.

One of baseball’s narratives this spring is to wonder who becomes the face of baseball now that Derek Jeter, the New York Yankees’ iconic shortstop, has retired. Baseball is thriving at the local and regional levels while struggling to keep up with other leagues on the national stage, so it’s a fairly pressing issue for the game. World Series ratings have been in decline since the early 1990s. Last year’s series had the third-worst ratings on record, just beating 2012 and 2008. Yet some teams, including the Dodgers and Angels, are living large on 10-figure local media revenues.

MLB.com crowd-sourced the “Face of Baseball” question on Twitter and the winner was San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey. One could just as easily make an argument for Trout or Kershaw. The Subway commercials in and of themselves are proof of that since national TV advertising campaigns are rare for major-league players. Trout grew up watching the sandwich commercials of Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard.

Baseball’s star power hasn’t exactly migrated westward since Jeter’s retirement. It has taken a jet. According to the largest online retailer of officially licensed gear, Fanatics.com, the five best-selling names in baseball so far this year are all from California. In order, they are World Series hero Madison Bumgarner, Trout, Posey, Kershaw and Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig.

In 2013, the Dodgers finished with the highest road attendance in baseball. The Giants were second. Last year, the Dodgers were second to the New York Yankees. The influx of star power is benefiting West Coast teams.

“There’s a benefit when our players are popular,” Dodgers vice president for marketing Lon Rosen said. “Rivalries help baseball, high quality baseball helps. All of the things, you sort of put in a pot, you stir it around, it helps us and it’s good for baseball in general when the players become more high-profile.”

It could be that way for a while. Posey, 27, is signed through 2021. Kershaw, 26, is signed through 2020, as is Trout, 23. Kershaw and Trout are the reigning MVPs of their leagues. Posey won the award in 2012. Of course, there’s no saying that the nexus of star power doesn’t shift east again, perhaps to Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton if his team contends or to Jon Lester if the Chicago Cubs make their long-anticipated big move.

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Dodgers plan on day off for Ramirez

September, 17, 2014
9/17/14
11:46
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DENVER -- Hanley Ramirez, who has been dealing with a sore throwing elbow, was able to pinch hit Tuesday night, but Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he was hoping to stay away from using Ramirez entirely Wednesday afternoon.

Still, Mattingly said Ramirez’s elbow was feeling better and he hopes to have him back in the lineup Thursday in Chicago, where the Dodgers open a four-game series with the Cubs.

Ramirez has missed 32 games this season with a variety of injuries a year after being limited to 86 games with thumb, hamstring and shoulder ailments. Mattingly said he thinks the frequency of injuries to Ramirez has affected his production when he has been healthy. A year ago, Ramirez led the National League in OPS when healthy, but in 2014 his numbers are well off his career norms. He is batting .277 with 13 home runs and an .805 OPS.

“I think it’s hardest on him,” Mattingly said. “When you get into that grind mode of at-bats, at-bats, at-bats, is when you start to feel in sync. When you’re not getting them consistently, it’s just hard to get a rhythm for an everyday player.”

The Dodgers went with their best defensive infield with Carlos Frias pitching. Darwin Barney got just his second start at second base and Miguel Rojas replaced Ramirez at shortstop.

Back end of Dodgers' rotation remains in flux

August, 24, 2014
8/24/14
6:27
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LOS ANGELES -- If there is one constant in the way Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti explains the building of a championship roster, it’s that you can never have too much pitching. And when it comes to the playoffs, those arms are particularly precious commodities. The starting arms, even more so. Matchups on the mound can swing the course of a series, and there’s no such thing as being too flush with riches. Obviously, there’s more to a win or loss than who takes the hill first, but the potential advantage marked by a team’s respective starters can be huge.

[+] EnlargeDan Haren
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesThough he's been inconsistent since the All-Star break, Dan Haren's showing against the Mets on Friday bolstered his case to remain in the Dodgers' rotation.
With that in mind, by declining to surrender coveted prospects such as Joc Pederson, Corey Seager and Julio Urias in a deadline deal for the likes of Jon Lester or David Price, the Dodgers’ front office was implicitly expressing strong faith in the team's chances throughout the playoffs with the (presumably healthy) trio of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, plus a fourth starter.

Which fourth starter will that be? For now, no idea.

For most of this season, that role was Josh Beckett’s to lose, but a likely season-ending hip injury threw that plan for a loop. It’s ultimately manager Don Mattingly’s call to make, but to a large degree it’s also “dealer’s choice,” a choice made by the pitcher who proves himself most likely to deal when it matters most.

The field, for the time being, consists of Dan Haren, Kevin Correia and Roberto Hernandez, a trio that come Tuesday will have started three times over the Dodgers’ past four games. Their recent time on the mound also reflects the crapshoot nature of this situation.

Haren, whose post-All-Star-break showing has been turbulent enough to induce motion sickness, made a statement on Friday against the New York Mets, showing the Dodgers they should hold off on burying him just yet.

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Rapid Reaction: Mets 11, Dodgers 3

August, 24, 2014
8/24/14
5:00
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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.

Dodgers not ruling out Beckett return

August, 17, 2014
8/17/14
12:51
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers aren’t the healthiest group at the moment with key contributors Juan Uribe, Hanley Ramirez and Hyun-Jin Ryu all landing on the disabled list over the last ten days. No one in that trio, though, is expected to miss significant time. Good depth on the roster and a 4.5 game lead over San Francisco in the NL West heading into Sunday’s game against Milwaukee allow the Dodgers to be safe before sorry.

Whether Josh Beckett returns to the mound this year, though, is a far dicier proposition.

[+] EnlargeJosh Beckett
AP Photo/Jae C. HongThe Dodgers and Josh Beckett are still working toward him returning to the mound this season.
Beckett was placed on the disabled list Aug. 9 (retroactive to Aug. 4) with a recurrence of the left hip impingement shelving him in July. While his season-long numbers (2.88 ERA in 115.2 IP) are strong, Beckett pitched poorly in his first attempt to come back from the injury, allowing 11 earned runs, including five home runs, in 12 innings over three starts. He has since been replaced in the rotation by Roberto Hernandez, acquired on Aug. 7 from Philadelphia.

Sunday, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said there’s still a chance Beckett might return. At the very least, the team is working towards it.

“I’ve not heard anything about him getting shut down for the whole year or anything like that,” Mattingly said. “We’re going to do everything we can to have him have the opportunity to pitch again this year.”

The Dodgers, said Mattingly, have no deadline in mind by which Beckett would have to get healthy. For Beckett, it’s a matter of whether he’ll recover in time to make a contribution. A surgical option would end his season, but Mattingly didn’t give any impression Beckett was rushing towards it.

“This is not like he feels like he’s got 10 more years to play and needs to do surgery now so he’s able to get ready for spring training,” he said.

Were Beckett to return, it would be as a starter, Mattingly said. “I don’t think Josh is a guy who is going to come out of the bullpen for us.”

In 335 career appearances, Beckett has appeared in relief three times, all coming in 2002 and 2003 with the Florida Marlins.

Top stats to know: Dodgers at Braves

August, 11, 2014
8/11/14
2:08
PM PT

AP Photo/John BazemoreJustin Upton is hitting .417 with a home run and three RBIs against the Dodgers this season.
The Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves begin a four-game set Monday at Turner Field (7 p.m. ET/ESPN and WatchESPN).

The Dodgers lead the NL West by 4½ games over the San Francisco Giants, the largest lead by a division leader in the league.

The Braves, who were swept by the Dodgers at the end of July (the start of an eight-game losing streak) -- trail the Washington Nationals by 3½ games in the NL East and are two back in the wild-card standings.

Correia makes debut for Dodgers
On Saturday, the Dodgers traded for Kevin Correia, who will take the mound tonight.

Correia is the second starting pitcher the team has acquired in the past week, joining Roberto Hernandez, who was added from the Philadelphia Phillies.

This will be Correia’s ninth career start against the Braves (3-3, 4.24 ERA), but his first since May 20, 2013.

The Dodgers’ fielders should be prepared to make plays tonight. Among all qualifying starting pitchers, Correia has the lowest strikeout rate.

However, Braves batters have a lot of strikeouts (their 22.4 percent strikeout rate is 27th in baseball) while their swing-and-miss rate (25.8 percent) is 29th in the majors.

The Braves will send Julio Teheran to the mound.

Teheran has made incremental improvements this season, compared to 2013, but one of the more noticeable changes has been his performance against left-handed batters.

Upton getting to like home cooking
Justin Upton, who homered in Atlanta's 3-1 win over Washington on Sunday, is 5-for-12 with a homer and three RBIs against the Dodgers this season.

He's batting .364 (16 for 44) with four doubles and a home run against Correia.

At Turner Field, Upton is hitting .315 with a 1.013 OPS this season, with 14 homers (in 56 games). He hit .264 with a .775 OPS -- and 13 homers in 73 games -- at home last season, his first with Atlanta.

Sum of little mistakes Dodgers' new plague

August, 4, 2014
8/04/14
11:55
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LOS ANGELES -- The last time the Los Angeles Dodgers were in a series with a lot at stake in a stadium filled with revved-up fans stoked by a rivalry, they played their best baseball of the season, outscoring the San Francisco Giants 17-4 over a three-game sweep at AT&T Park two weekends ago.

Where did that team go?

A sloppy weekend against the last-place Chicago Cubs seemed pretty easy to explain, as the back of the Dodgers’ rotation continued to sputter in two of those games.

But the lights were bright again Monday night, the steamrolling Los Angeles Angels were in town and it felt as if it would once again bring out the Dodgers’ best. Their second-best starting pitcher, Zack Greinke, was on the mound.

[+] EnlargeCarl Crawford
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsCarl Crawford misjudged a ball off Mike Trout's bat that led to an RBI double in the first inning. It was one of several miscues for the Dodgers on Monday.
Instead, it brought out their bad habits. They fumbled the ball around at times, paid scant attention at times and made, according to the man who threw it, “one of the worst pitches ever thrown.”

Of course, there’s always tomorrow. The Dodgers are still in first place -- by a dwindling 1½ games -- and they have three more cracks to capture Southern California bragging rights for their fans over the next three nights, one of them behind Clayton Kershaw.

But the sloppiness that plagued the Dodgers in April and May has crept back into their play over the past four games. And it has begun to get on some peoples’ nerves. Some people who matter.

“You look at this game as a playoff-type game from the standpoint of the type of team you’re playing, and you make mistakes, you pay,” said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. “It’s as simple as that.”

Hanley Ramirez, who had a -1.0 defensive WAR entering the game, according to Baseball Reference, made two throwing errors, one of which led to an unearned run in the first inning. The end of the half-inning saw the Dodgers in a quick 4-0 hole. Carl Crawford made two failed attempts at sliding catches, one of which was hit by Mike Trout -- one of the fastest players in baseball -- and it got by Crawford and went to the wall for an RBI double.

Yasiel Puig put his head down and allowed Albert Pujols -- far from one of the fastest players in the game -- to tag up and take second base.

It was the kind of effort that would get you beaten by a team like the Cubs. Against a team like the Angels, who play strong defense and are 23 games over .500 in the powerhouse AL West, it’s a good way to get embarrassed.

It was not the way the Dodgers wanted to start off this interleague series, especially in front of more than 53,000 fans.

“We’ve had three games [in the past four] where we basically lost in the first inning,” Mattingly said.

That trend is beginning to bother Greinke, too. Like fellow starter Dan Haren, many of his worst starts have seen him labor early. He has a 5.87 ERA in the first inning.

“It seems to be the problem too often,” Greinke said. “I was not even close to hitting the spot to Trout and Pujols, and they did what they should have.”

His sixth-inning changeup to Josh Hamilton was thrown too hard and right down the middle, and Hamilton pummeled it over the right-field wall.

“That was probably up there with the worst pitches ever thrown,” Greinke said. “I just couldn’t believe I could throw that bad a pitch at that important a time.”

The Dodgers described Angels starter Garrett Richards as “electric,” and he certainly was that, touching 96 mph in the ninth inning and striking out nine batters to get the shutout. But he mostly just piled up ground balls, 12 in all. The Dodgers got only four balls airborne off Richards.

There are games when the opposing pitcher is simply going to be better than you. It hurts more when you make it that much easier for him.

Dee Gordon on fast track all way to ASG

July, 6, 2014
7/06/14
8:04
PM PT


DENVER -- Nothing ever seems to slow down “Flash” Dee Gordon, the fastest man on a diamond. Not pitchers, not catchers and certainly not adversity.

Gordon, with offensive and defensive production limited by a seemingly unorthodox and untranslatable game, appeared to hit his ceiling in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ organization after last season.

Flash-forward a year later, and the shortstop-turned-second baseman is an All-Star.

Gordon was told by his manager Don Mattingly about the selection on Sunday, following the team’s 8-2 win in Colorado.

“I can’t put it into words,” said Gordon, who is hitting .301 with a league-lead 42 stolen bases through 84 games. “I couldn’t sleep last night and I probably won’t be able to sleep tonight, either. I felt like crying when I heard; I didn’t actually cry, almost did, but I kept it together.”

[+] EnlargeDee Gordon
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images"I can't put it into words,"  Dee Gordon said of his first All-Star Game selection. "I couldn't sleep last night, and I probably won't be able to sleep tonight, either."
No one would have blamed him if he did.

With the look of a 2-iron stuffed inside a hot air balloon of a jersey, Gordon certainly hasn’t intimidated many in his young pro career. He’s an irritating player, who just kind of buzzes around your head. But even he’ll admit he probably isn’t seen as the biggest fear on most team’s opposing lineup cards.

“It drives me,” he said with a smile. “It definitely fuels me.”

It’s made him all the more dangerous because of it.

Gordon, who never has had the strongest arm or bat (totaling just four home runs in 950 career at-bats), instead relies on a tap-and-go swing that counts squarely on his lightning speed.

For three years that got him farther than most in this game. He was caught in a revolving door between the minors and majors, and for a while that appeared to be as far as he’d go.

But Gordon never slowed down. He quickly flipped from shortstop to second base, twice, improved his contact swing on the fly and learned everything he could along the way.

And soon the pesky and irritating player you saw back then, became the peskiest and most irritating player today you see in the game today.

In 2014, Gordon already has more hits (99), runs (49) and RBIs (27) than he did in 135 games the past two seasons.

“Yeah, it’s frustrating when [when he hits]. It’s frustrating when it’s not hit hard and you can get him out,” said Rockies pitcher Jorge De La Rosa, who watched Gordon go 7-for-15 in the teams’ four-game series at Colorado -- with most of those hits barely reaching the mound.

After receiving the news and a shaving-cream bath from his teammates Sunday, Gordon made his first call to his father, Tom, a former player himself and the original “Flash” in pro baseball.

Gordon’s eyes lit up talking about the call. This was the moment they’d both been dreaming about.

“He had to walk out of church to take my call,” Gordon said. “When I told him, he was so happy.”

Asked what the next step of his already improbably career might be, Gordon just smiled.

“I want to keep going,” he said. “There’s a long season ahead, and I want to keep going and get better with this team.”

No, he never slows down.

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 8, Rockies 2

July, 6, 2014
7/06/14
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.

Dodgers' infield injury woes continue

July, 6, 2014
7/06/14
1:51
PM PT
DENVER -- The Los Angeles Dodgers again are feeling the pinch at the shortstop position.

On Sunday, a sunscreen-necessary one at that in the Mile High City, the Dodgers placed Erisbel Arruebarrena on the 15-day disabled list with a right hip flexor and recalled infielder Carlos Triunfel from Triple-A Albuquerque before the team’s series finale against the Colorado Rockies.

[+] EnlargeErisbel Arruebarrena
AP Photo/David ZalubowskiErisbel Arruebarrena was placed on the 15-day disabled list after injuring his right hip Friday.
After coming in for Hanley Ramirez during Friday’s contest here, Arruebarrena apparently injured himself running on an eventual ground ball out during his first at-bat in the sixth inning. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly let Arruebarrena finish the game though, saying the shortstop felt fine until he woke up Saturday morning.

“Yesterday, when he came in, he just wasn’t able to do anything,” said Mattingly, who played Ramirez, a health concern in his own right, for all nine innings in Saturday’s 8-7 loss to Colorado.

Arruebarrena, who is 5-for-16 at the dish for L.A. this season, will head to Arizona to get a MRI on his hip later this week. His replacement, Triunfel, is 2-for-13 and has a home run in 10 games with the Dodgers this season.

The Dodgers gave Miguel Rojas the start at shortstop Sunday, with Ramirez getting the day off.

Who’s in the ASG?

The All-Star teams will be announced at 4 p.m. PT Sunday. The Dodgers will most likely send Yasiel Puig and Clayton Kershaw, while Dee Gordon, Zack Greinke and Kenley Jansen also are in the running.

“One thing I will say about the All-Star Game, making it as a young player, you come back with a lot of confidence,” Mattingly said. “You come back into the season, the second half of the season, with a different confidence.”

Asked if he really believed Puig would come back from the ASG in Minneapolis feeling “even more confident,” Mattingly had to retract a bit.

“He may be an exception; he’s pretty confident already,” Mattingly laughed. “He doesn’t seem to lack in confidence.”

Down Under understanding

Mattingly wouldn’t blame the early series in Sydney, Australia, for team’s rough start.

“I can’t go back and guess that,” Mattingly said. “I think we have a rhythm now, definitely. But I can’t be guessing about Australia and blame it on that.”

Haren surprisingly human in L.A. rotation

July, 5, 2014
7/05/14
7:16
PM PT
DENVER -- Dan Haren is no slouch, as Rockies outfielder Drew Stubbs pointed out, but he’s nothing like what Colorado had seen the past two days in the Mile High City.

Los Angeles Dodgers super-starters Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke almost made us forget Coors Field is a hitter’s sanctuary, a pitcher’s version of a slasher movie. They were that good here Thursday and Friday.

[+] EnlargeDan Haren
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images"Baseball is a humbling game," Dodgers starter Dan Haren said Saturday after giving up eight runs on 10 hits to the Rockies.
“We just couldn’t hit off them," Stubbs said. "Few teams can as of late."

Over the first two contests in this four-game series between the surging Dodgers and slumping Rockies, Greinke and Kershaw did to the Rockies what they’ve done to most of the league: blew right past them.

They were dominant for eight innings apiece and nearly untouchable throughout.

On Saturday afternoon, however, it was suddenly quite different with Haren on the mound. He was nothing more than human in the Dodgers’ 8-7 loss to the Rockies.

“I think the starting pitchers here are held to a higher standard,” said Haren, who gave up eight runs in 5 1/3 innings. “At this point in my career, I’m not the eight-inning-no-runs guy anymore. But for the most part, I can keep us in the game and give us a chance to win.”

It didn’t seem like he did, given that he left his team in an 8-2 hole after the sixth inning.

But Haren did so against the worst relief pitching staff in the league, and the Dodgers were able to make it close with a big seventh inning.

In the end, it was just a little too deep of a hole, and Haren knew his performance was to blame.

“Baseball is a humbling game,” said Haren, who told reporters pregame that his confidence couldn’t have been higher following his gem against the Cleveland Indians earlier in the week. “Five days ago, I couldn’t have felt any better, and today I just wore it, basically, out there.”

Haren has to be more consistent. After a string of mostly strong outings in the beginning of the year, Haren has gotten to the sixth inning just once in his past four starts.

“I’ve got to be better,” he said.

Better, but not unrealistic.

Nobody around the organization, especially Haren, honestly believes he can pitch like Greinke on a consistent basis. And certainly nobody on the planet expects him to toss like Kershaw.

But Mattingly and the Dodgers genuinely believe they can continue to build a lead in the NL West as long as Haren keeps the Dodgers from completely drowning in his starts. "Just give them a chance" is the motto.

"I think Danny kind of always gives up a few runs, but he always seems to keep us in games," Mattingly said, perhaps assuring himself of Haren’s future.

Despite Haren’s awful performance Saturday, there were two positive takeaways:

--He helped extend the team’s streak of walking two batters or fewer to 39 games. (Haren struck out eight and walked none, which improved his strikeout-to-walk ratio to 5.09.)

--Haren’s next start is against the worst offensive team in baseball, the San Diego Padres.

So, yes, Haren can succeed from here. Maybe not like a couple of his rotation buddies, but enough to get the Dodgers where they want to go.

Rapid Reaction: Rockies 8, Dodgers 7

July, 5, 2014
7/05/14
5:05
PM PT


DENVER -- Before his start, Dan Haren said trying to follow the strong performances of Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw would be a tough task for anyone on any staff.

And he proved as much on Saturday.

The previously ice-cold Colorado Rockies smashed the ball all over Coors Field against Haren, and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ ensuing rally came up just short in an 8-7 defeat.

In what appeared to be the Dodgers’ best chance to overcome a big deficit and take the lead, Juan Uribe grounded into a double play, and A.J. Ellis struck out to limit the Dodgers’ damage in the seventh inning.

How it happened: The Dodgers’ offense and Rockies’ relief pitchers were on the same page when it came to dissolving Colorado’s 8-2 lead. The Dodgers came up with four hits, and the Rockies surrendered four free passes and two passed balls before an out was recorded in the top of the seventh inning. Clint Robinson, Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig each drove in RBIs to cut the lead to 8-6 before Uribe’s bases-loaded double play put another run on the board to close the deficit to 8-7. Ellis, who led off the seventh with a ground-rule double, struck out swinging to end the inning five runs later.

Before that, Haren struggled with consistency, while Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa settled down to pitch six solid innings after giving up two runs in the first inning.

Hits: Ramirez looked fine after he was plunked on the left shoulder by Jair Jurrjens’ 89 mph fastball on Friday. Although it’s understandable to be worried about the health of Ramirez -- who was nearly put on the disabled list Thursday -- he looked healthy swinging the bat and running the bases on Saturday. He went 2-for-5 and drove in two runs in the loss.

Misses: Matt Kemp certainly didn’t help his pitcher’s cause with his bat or glove. He remained hitless in July (0-for-16) and went 0-for-4 Saturday. With two outs in the bottom of the third inning, he made a series of head-scratching defensive plays that helped the slumping Rockies grab three quick runs.

First, Kemp appeared to be in slow motion and couldn’t catch up to a blooper down the foul line hit by Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau, who turned the shallow shot into a double. Catcher Wilin Rosario followed with a line single that Kemp bobbled, thus allowing Morneau to score easily. Outfielder Drew Stubbs hit a two-run home run before Haren was finally able to get the last out of the inning.

Stat of the game: Haren’s ERA rose to 4.07 with the eight earned runs he gave up in 5 1/3 innings against the Rockies. Why is that important? Each pitcher on the team’s starting staff had a sub-4.00 ERA before Saturday.

Up next: The Dodgers will be with Josh Beckett (5-5, 2.37) against Yohan Flande (0-1, 6.10) in the series finale at 1:10 p.m. PT Sunday. They finish their six-game road trip with two games at the Detroit Tigers. After that, they’ll go home for a four-game series against the league’s worst offense, the San Diego Padres, before the All-Star break.

Dodgers, Kershaw quite calm about streak

July, 4, 2014
7/04/14
11:37
PM PT


DENVER -- It’s hard to realize greatness in the moment, let alone historical greatness. But if you’re following Los Angeles Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw, soon you might be able to say you witnessed one of the most impressive streaks the game of baseball has ever seen.

“This is just Clayton being Clayton,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said, perhaps not sure if he was trying to convince the reporters around him or himself.

But if you are watching this, how could you believe that? This streak is too good for a make-your-bed, brush-your-teeth routine.

This is amazing, a baseball delicacy at its finest.

What Mattingly should have said, but didn’t, is to enjoy this. Don’t spoil it.

[+] EnlargeClayton Kershaw
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

"It's great," Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw said after extending his career-best scoreless streak to 36 innings. "You never want to give up a run, so I guess that's the goal."

In Kershaw’s latest outing, the 26-year-old hurler was nearly untouchable at a usual hitter’s refuge, Coors Field, as he extended his career-best streak of consecutive scoreless innings to 36 in the Dodgers’ 9-0 win Friday against the Colorado Rockies.

It was so good, even some of the Rockies players had to sit back and admire what they’ve seen from Kershaw, who went eight innings and struck out eight while allowing just two hits and walking one on -- just more than two weeks removed from his no-hitter against them June 18 at Dodgers Stadium.

Take Colorado outfielder Drew Stubbs. He resembled one of the bright-eyed children watching postgame fireworks just outside the teams’ locker rooms when talking about Kershaw. He even called the lefty’s slider the best pitch in the game.

Colorado pitcher Jair Jurrjens seemed caught up in the moment, as well. The Rockies’ newly acquired pitcher seemed so focused on watching Kershaw pitch in the third inning, he must have forgotten he was on first base and was promptly thrown out because of it.

Kershaw, meanwhile, was a little more nonchalant about it all.

“It’s great,” Kershaw said casually. “You never want to give up a run, so I guess that’s the goal.”

If he can accomplish that goal for another 24 innings, he’ll break MLB’s 59 consecutive scoreless innings mark set by Dodgers great and current color commentator Orel Hershiser, who during the Dodgers’ broadcast on Friday called Kershaw the best pitcher he’s ever seen.

Is that true, though? Could Kershaw be the best left-handed pitcher the game has ever seen? Or is this just a phenomenal streak, one we can all enjoy and admire?

With the best view of it all, A.J. Ellis -- L.A.’s veteran catcher -- talked about the streak that has fans and batters alike baffled.

“I think the biggest thing for me has been the consistency of the breaking balls,” Ellis said. “You know usually he’ll have his A slider but his C or D curveball, or visa-versa, where his slider isn’t working but his curveball is. But during this run, I mean, he’s had an A curveball and an A slider this entire time.

“And they are both electric strikeout pitches, which is why I think you’re seeing him have pretty good strike out totals that have been unmatched in his career. When he gets two strikes, he can do either way he wants to go.”

And because of Kershaw’s two dominant strikeout pitches, hitters are swinging early, which is keeping his pitch count low and allowing him to go deep into games.

After the eighth inning on Friday, Kershaw felt like he had even more in the tank, but he was denied by Mattingly to finish the game.

And after throwing 96 pitches Friday and surrendering no runs in 36 consecutive innings, Kershaw found, perhaps, the one thing he wasn’t good at on the field as of late -- lobbying.

“I guess my arguing skills aren’t any good,” he said with a smile.

Kershaw’s next chance to extend his scoreless streak is Thursday, when he faces the San Diego Padres as the Dodgers return home after a six-game road trip.

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 9, Rockies 0

July, 4, 2014
7/04/14
8:54
PM PT


DENVER -- What’s worse than facing Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw?

Watching Colorado Rockies pitcher Jair Jurrjens run the bases, for starters.

But it probably wasn’t fun, either, when the Rockies had to toe the line against the game’s best left-handed pitcher with a patched-up lineup and an early 3-0 hole from which to dig out.

In the Dodgers’ eventual 9-0 win over Colorado on Friday, their offense hit for the cycle in the top of the first inning, then batted around the lineup in the fifth. And Kershaw (10-2, 1.85 ERA) blanked the host team for eight innings to extend his streak of scoreless innings to 36.

How it happened: Yasiel Puig put L.A. up 2-0 when he went yard on Jurrjens’ 1-1 pitch to straightaway center. Andre Ethier made it 3-0 after he tripled in Hanley Ramirez. The Dodgers’ offense wasn’t done from there, but they might as well have been, with, you know, Kershaw on the mound.

Kershaw faced a battered Colorado lineup -- one without All Stars Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Cuddyer -- and strolled through his eight innings of work, allowing just two hits and no runs while walking one.

Colorado’s best chance to break through against the southpaw came in the third inning. Following a throwing error from Kershaw, the Rockies had men at the corners with only one out. Not surprising with a team that has lost 16 of its past 18 games, however, Jurrjens fell asleep at first base and was thrown out on a horrid steal attempt. Then outfielder Charlie Blackmon stuck out to end the threat.

In his past two games against the Rockies, which includes his June 18 no-hitter, Kershaw has thrown 17 spotless innings and struck out 23 while allowing just two hits.

Hits: The Dodgers had plenty of them. After a bit of an offensive lull these past few games, the Dodgers cranked out 19 hits and scored nine runs behind their trusty hurler. Dee Gordon, Andre Ethier and A.J. Ellis each had three hits, and Scott Van Slyke added a three-run home run in the fifth inning. Kershaw also got into the offensive mix, lining two singles and driving in a run.

Misses: Ramirez was hit by an 89 mph fastball on the left shoulder from Jurrjens in the fifth inning and was taken out at the end of the inning. Although Ramirez looked fine, and his departure went hand-in-hand with Mattingly’s stated plans on Thursday, another sore muscle or bruise doesn’t seem to bode well for the injury-prone, 30-year-old shortstop.

Stat of the game: Every Dodger had a hit by the fourth inning. They came in all sorts. Puig and Van Slyke crushed no-doubters into the seats, while Gordon got aboard three times on hits that couldn’t have gone more than 20 feet -- combined.

Up next: Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he’d like to see his team go on a run and take a decent lead in the National League West. And with the second-place Giants struggling nearly as much as the Rockies, who the Dodgers face two more times this weekend, the possibility seems very real. Dan Haren (8-4, 3.57) will go against Colorado’s ace, Jorge De La Rose (8-6, 4.86), at 1 p.m. PT Saturday.

Mattingly believes Kershaw can get better

July, 4, 2014
7/04/14
5:44
PM PT
DENVER -- If expectations weren’t high enough for Los Angeles Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw, his manager might have added a little bit to them.

Before Kershaw took the mound Friday at the hitter’s haven that is Coors Field -- with 28 consecutive scoreless innings on the line -- Don Mattingly threw more onto his 26-year-old pitcher’s plate when he said he thought the reigning National League Cy Young winner hasn’t yet hit his ceiling.

Asked if he thought the game’s best left-hander could get even better, Mattingly answered without hesitation.

“Oh, I think he will,” the Dodgers manager said in the visiting dugout.

It will be tough for Kershaw to improve -- at least numbers-wise -- on what he’s already done, though. He has a 2.04 ERA this season and an MLB-best 2.19 ERA since 2011. He’s struck out at least nine batters in eight of his 12 starts this year and has given up more than three earned runs only once.

Mattingly, however, still thinks there is more to his All-Star pitcher.

He has seen Kershaw improve from a great pitcher to a historically great pitcher in just a few years. He remembers when the Texas native came into the league, with only two pitches to his arsenal and consistently struggling to hold on runners.

But things progressed quickly, and Kershaw grew up and got better. Today, he has four pitches and proven control with all of them, having walked more than two batters only once this season.

Indeed, it might only get better, his manager said.

“He still doesn’t use his changeup probably as much as he could,” Mattingly said. “That pitch is still there and developing. I still think there are times when the more he gets the ball to the opposite side of the plate, it’s lights out. If he gets the ball to the outside of the plate as much as he is able to get the ball in on righties and away to lefties, it will [be good].”

Kershaw faced the Colorado Rockies on Friday after striking out 15 in a no-hitter against them a couple weeks ago at Dodgers Stadium.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Yasiel Puig
BA HR RBI R
.296 16 69 92
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Gonzalez 27
RBIA. Gonzalez 116
RY. Puig 92
OPSY. Puig .863
WC. Kershaw 21
ERAC. Kershaw 1.77
SOC. Kershaw 239