Dodgers Report: Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: Cardinals 3, Dodgers 1

October, 6, 2014

ST. LOUIS -- The Los Angeles Dodgers’ bullpen has been exactly as bad as the team worried it would be when the postseason began, or, for that matter, when the trade deadline came and went.

Dodgers relievers have allowed a home run in every game of this National League Division Series. The only surprising thing is that the St. Louis Cardinals finished last in the National League in home runs.

Kolten Wong provided the jolt in Game 3, homering in the seventh inning to beat the Dodgers 3-1 on Monday night and give the Cardinals a 2-1 edge in this five-game series. St. Louis can close it out Tuesday afternoon, while the Dodgers will be fighting to take the series back to L.A. behind ace Clayton Kershaw on short rest.

How it happened: Both starting pitchers were strong, but the Dodgers aren’t set up to win bullpen games. After Hyun-Jin Ryu’s pitch count crept up after six innings, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly had to cover three innings with his relievers and, often, two innings are too much for these guys to handle. The first man out of the bullpen was lefty Scott Elbert, who had a 4.91 ERA at Triple-A Albuquerque and has had multiple elbow surgeries. It didn’t go well. Yadier Molina led off with a double and Wong connected for a two-run home run. Mattingly could have gone with the other Dodgers lefty reliever (two left-handed batters were due up in the inning), but J.P. Howell had allowed the game-tying home run in Game 2. It’s kind of a systemic problem. Brian Wilson nearly gave up a run but was relieved by Howell, who later made an amazing stop with his back to the plate on a sharp grounder up the middle to start an inning-ending 1-2-3 double play.

The Dodgers got two runners on with one out in the ninth inning, but Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal got out of it.

Hits: Ryu didn’t factor in the decision, but he gave the Dodgers about all they could ask, making his first start in more than three weeks. He got through six innings despite a pitch limit in the low 90s (he made 94), allowing just one run on five hits. If this series goes five games and the Dodgers can win it, Ryu would be the presumptive Game 1 starter of the NLCS, and this was his second straight strong postseason start. All of it is an encouraging development for the Dodgers’ World Series hopes. But, of course, those are dangling by a thread, largely because of the bullpen.

Misses: Matt Carpenter is a good player, but he’s not as good as he has looked in this series. While his at-bats have been as tough as they usually are given his keen eye and ability to spoil good pitches, he also has been feasting on some fat pitches at times. Carpenter’s slugging percentage was down 100 points in 2014, but it has been off the charts in this series. He homered off Ryu leading off the third inning, giving him three straight games with a home run. The only other Cardinal to accomplish that in the postseason is Albert Pujols, who has more than 20 times as many career home runs as Carpenter.

Stat of the game: A.J. Ellis had a second-inning single, his sixth hit in the three games of this series. Ellis, who batted .191 in the regular season, had 12 hits in all of September.

Up next: The series continues with Game 4 here on Tuesday afternoon at 2:07 p.m. PT. Kershaw (0-1) starts for the Dodgers on three days’ rest, while Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said he will go with Shelby Miller, who will make his first postseason start.

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 6, Rockies 5 (F/12)

September, 27, 2014

LOS ANGELES -- Scott Van Slyke scored from third on a wild pitch in the 12th inning, and the Los Angeles Dodgers found another way to win a game Saturday night, as they beat the visiting Colorado Rockies 6-5 in the penultimate game of the regular season.

The No. 1 concern for the Dodgers has to be the health of starting second baseman Dee Gordon, who left the game with irritation in his right hip after he grounded out in the first inning.

Hanley Ramirez also gave many in the stadium a scare when he went down after fouling a ball off his left knee in the fourth inning. He finished the at-bat with a walk but was quickly replaced by a pinch runner.

How it happened: The Dodgers had seen 19 straight batters retired before Van Slyke singled off Colorado left-hander Franklin Morales to right with one out in the 12th. Tim Federowicz then was hit by the first pitch from Morales, and Van Slyke stole third on the next pitch home. Miguel Rojas stepped up, and Morales bounced a pitch to the backstop, which brought Van Slyke home with the winning run.

Hits: Justin Turner continues to make a bid for heavy playing time in the postseason. He delivered two more hits in his two plate appearances to bump his average up to .338. If Gordon is out for any length of time, at least the Dodgers know they have a solid replacement in Turner. L.A. first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was just as efficient in his two plate appearances. He hit a towering solo home run deep into the Colorado bullpen in the first inning, then walked in the third before he was replaced by a pinch runner. Good thing the Dodgers had rookie right-hander Carlos Frias in the bullpen, as he came on to retire the first eight batters he faced in the 10th, 11th and 12th innings and struck out five. Frias was especially zeroed in on the strike zone and threw 26 of his first 30 pitches for strikes.

Misses: Dodgers starter Dan Haren looked to be a beneficiary of the four-run fifth, which put him in good position to win his 14th game of the season, but the bullpen gave away the three-run cushion in slow-drip fashion. Jamey Wright gave up a run on three singles in the sixth, Yimi Garcia was tagged for a solo home run by Michael McKenry in the eighth, and Ben Paulsen led off the ninth with a solo shot off Paco Rodriguez, the second straight night the left-handed-hitting first baseman went deep.

Stat of the game: Haren might not have earned his 14th win of the season, but he pocketed an extra $500,000 by making his 32nd start of the season.

Up next: Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke (16-8, 2.74 ERA) will get his final tune up before the postseason when he faces off against Colorado right-hander Christian Bergman (3-4, 5.29) in the season finale at Dodger Stadium. First pitch is at 1:10 p.m. PT.

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 7, Rockies 4

September, 26, 2014

LOS ANGELES -- Just as they did in their NL West-clinching victory 48 hours earlier, the Los Angeles Dodgers seized control Friday night with a thunderous sixth inning, then marched on to a 7-4 victory against the visiting Colorado Rockies in the opener of a three-game series.

How it happened: The Dodgers trailed 3-1 entering the sixth and were already replacing their starters, when pinch-hitter Darwin Barney led off with a broken-bat single up the middle. Dee Gordon followed with a bunt single. One out later, Scott Van Slyke laced a single to left, driving in Barney with a head-first slide as Gordon and Van Slyke moved up to second and third. Up stepped Justin Turner, who started in the cleanup spot for the first time this season, and he rolled a grounder up the middle that Rockies second baseman D.J. LeMahieu backhanded in shallow center field. Gordon scored easily from third and Van Slyke continued home, as well, beating LeMahieu’s throw for a 4-3 lead. Another single and a walk loaded the bases for Juan Uribe, who delivered a two-run single that skipped off the mound for a 6-3 lead. Barney finished off the six-run inning with a sacrifice fly.

Hits: Gordon was hitless in his last 16 plate appearances coming in to Friday’s game, but he doubled in his first two at-bats before his bunt single in the sixth. Carl Crawford was one of the few regulars who played the entire game for the Dodgers, and that’s probably because he has been so hot at the plate. Crawford collected two more hits, giving him eight in his last 17 at-bats. He also threw out a runner at the plate after the Rockies loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh. Yasiel Puig drove in the first run for the Dodgers with a sharp single to left in the first inning. Puig was caught looking in his only other plate appearance before getting lifted in the top of the sixth. But Puig is 22 for his last 68 (.324) since he was dropped to seventh in the batting order in a Sept. 6 game against the visiting Diamondbacks, the lowest he has batted as a starter in his career.

Misses: Teams typically don’t use a fifth starter in the postseason and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said before the game that he plans to stick with that trend. The Dodgers are still trying to work No. 3 starter Hyun-Jin Ryu back into the rotation after he missed the last two weeks because of a sore throwing shoulder. But should he make it back for the playoffs, it would leave Mattingly to choose from Dan Haren and Roberto Hernandez as his fourth starter. Haren had a clear lead in that competition heading into Friday’s game and Hernandez did little to prove otherwise, walking four batters and hitting another in 5 2/3 innings. He also surrendered a leadoff double to the opposing pitcher in Colorado’s three-run third. Hernandez was spared a loss, thanks to the sixth-inning comeback by the Dodgers, but it’s unlikely he’ll pitch again for L.A. this season.

Stat of the game: With his go-ahead, two-run single, Turner improved his major league-leading batting average with runners in scoring position to .419.

Up next: Haren (13-11, 4.03) will try to finish off his best regular season since 2011 when he faces off against fellow right-hander Eddie Butler (1-1, 5.56 ERA) in the middle game of the three-game series at 6:10 p.m. PT on Saturday.

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

September, 22, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 8, Cubs 4

September, 18, 2014

CHICAGO -- The Los Angeles Dodgers went into Thursday’s game against the Chicago Cubs with a .018 winning percentage when trailing after six innings.

Make that .036.

They rallied from a three-run deficit in the seventh inning to beat the Cubs 8-4 Thursday night and accelerate their pursuit of the NL West title.

The win padded the Dodgers’ division lead to 2 1/2 games over the idle San Francisco Giants and reduced their magic number to eight. And since the Milwaukee Brewers lost on Thursday, the Dodgers could clinch at least a wild-card berth as early as Friday.

How it happened: For the third game in a row, the Dodgers got into trouble right away -- not the easiest formula for success. Zack Greinke gave up a hit to leadoff man Chris Coghlan and the first four Cubs reached base, leading to two first-inning runs. The difference between Thursday and the previous two games was that Greinke was able to keep a lid on things for the most part and the Dodgers eventually rallied. The hinge play in the seventh was Juan Uribe’s sharply hit grounder to second baseman Logan Watkins that looked like a surefire inning-ending double play. Instead, Watkins overran it for an error, Andre Ethier sliced an RBI double and the Dodgers went on to add four unearned runs. They’ll take whatever they can get at this time of year.

Hits: The Dodgers are getting good energy at the top of the lineup. Yasiel Puig is beginning to hit rockets again and Dee Gordon is finding ways to hit his way on base. Gordon bunted for a hit in the fourth and nailed an RBI double during the seventh-inning rally. Puig also drove in a run in the seventh and singled to left. Gordon is batting .363 during his 11-game hitting streak, and Puig is hitting .379 on this road trip.

Misses: The Dodgers got Greinke off the hook with their error-aided seventh-inning rally, but it was far from their No. 2 starter’s most artful performance. Pitching efficiency in general has been an issue for Greinke lately, and he has struggled to pitch deep into games. Cubs rookie Jorge Soler singled to left field on Greinke’s 100th pitch in the fifth inning, and Greinke didn’t come back out for the sixth. He allowed four runs on nine hits. Just once in Greinke’s last four starts has he pitched as deep as the seventh inning.

Stat of the game: Thursday was the eighth anniversary of the back-to-back-to-back-to-back home run game against the San Diego Padres. Jeff Kent, J.D. Drew, Russell Martin and Marlon Anderson homered consecutively to send the game into extra innings, and Nomar Garciaparra, now a Dodgers broadcaster, homered in the 11th to win it.

Up next: Clayton Kershaw (19-3) tries to become the majors’ first 20-game winner. The Dodgers will face Edwin Jackson (6-14, 6.09 ERA) Friday in a game that begins at 11:10 a.m. PT.

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 11, Rockies 3

September, 15, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 4, Giants 2

September, 14, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO -- After trading blowouts in the most anticipated series of the year, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants returned to what they most frequently do when they meet. They fought each other hand to hand for nine innings.

But the Dodgers had Clayton Kershaw, which means they normally win those fights. Their ace went eight strong innings again to become the majors’ first 19-game winner in a 4-2 Dodgers win that padded their NL West lead to three games with 13 left.

How it happened: The Giants battled Kershaw in their at-bats and drove his pitch count up, so he was in jeopardy of having his streak of going at least eight innings snapped at six. Then he talked his way into staying on the mound in the eighth and cruised, striking out Buster Posey and quickly dispatching Joe Panik and Hunter Pence. The Dodgers used a couple of singles and a couple of Giants errors to score two runs in the second inning, but the game was tense until Matt Kemp launched a high, two-run homer to left-center field in the sixth inning.

Hits: Given the standard he set in 2011, Kemp’s season has been widely viewed as a bit of a disappointment. And yet his home run was his 20th and the RBIs were his 73rd and 74th. That means he has tied Posey in home runs and is just 10 behind him in RBIs, and Posey is viewed as a league MVP candidate. Since the All-Star break, Kemp has been the Dodgers’ most dangerous hitter, tallying 12 of his home runs.

Misses: It’s not often that a catcher will work a night game and then catch the following afternoon, but A.J. Ellis and Kershaw are a tandem. That meant the Dodgers’ No. 1 catcher went another tiring nine innings. He has started seven of the Dodgers’ past eight games, a reflection of the time of the season. Ellis might be wearing down. He drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, but had another oh-fer day at the plate. Late as it is, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly might want to mix in a day off here or there for Ellis to keep him fresh for the playoffs.

Stat of the game: Kershaw went into Sunday’s start with a 0.32 edge over Chris Sale for the major league ERA title. If he wins it, and it’s hard to imagine he won’t, he would be the first pitcher ever to win four straight major league ERA titles. Sandy Koufax led the National League five straight seasons but was edged out by the Angels’ Dean Chance in 1964.

Up next: The Dodgers head to Colorado for a three-game series with the Rockies. Roberto Hernandez (8-11, 4.04 ERA) goes for the Dodgers opposite Christian Bergman (2-3, 4.89) in a 5:40 p.m. PT game on Monday.

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 17, Giants 0

September, 13, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Los Angeles Dodgers took out all of their frustrations from the previous night and then a little bit more.

They set an AT&T Park record in a 17-0 pounding of the San Francisco Giants Saturday night that evened the series at a game apiece and guaranteed they’ll get out of town in first place. No opponent had ever scored so many runs in this 14-year-old stadium, a cool-weather pitchers' park.

The Dodgers lead the Giants by two games with 14 left.

How it happened: By the time the pitcher’s spot in the Giants’ lineup came up, Tim Hudson was long gone, the Dodgers had scored nine runs on 11 hits and Matt Kemp had three run-scoring hits. That was a lot more than Zack Greinke (15-8) needed. In fact, Greinke himself provided all the offense he needed with a long double and a two-run home run. The Dodgers set season highs in hits (24, one shy of the L.A. record) and runs. It was a welcome bit of stress relief after Friday night’s 9-0 Giants beatdown, in which pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu left with a shoulder injury.

Hits: One happy coincidence for the Dodgers is that their two best starting pitchers match up well with their biggest rival. Greinke can’t quite equal Clayton Kershaw’s lengthy track record of dominance over the Giants, but he’s starting to move in that direction. In six career starts against the Giants, Greinke is 4-0 with a 1.97 ERA. Three of those wins have come this season, and Greinke has one more start remaining against San Francisco.

Misses: Things appeared to get a little chippy, unnecessarily, in the third inning. As usual, Yasiel Puig was in the middle of everything. He was awarded first base after a Tim Lincecum pitch was deemed to have grazed his right elbow. When Adrian Gonzalez hit a slow roller to Joe Panik, Puig slid well off the bag in an effort to take out Brandon Crawford and break up the double play. He succeeded, but Crawford seemed to glare at him as Puig walked slowly back to the Dodgers’ dugout. The teams’ tempers will bear watching in the final four head-to-head games of the season.

Snapshot: There was a legacy moment in the seventh inning involving the sons of three former major league players. Scott Van Slyke, son of Andy, homered off Brett Bochy, son of Bruce, scoring Dee Gordon, son of Tom.

Up next: Kershaw (18-3) tries to become the majors’ first 19-game winner in the series finale at 1:10 p.m. PT. The Dodgers will face Yusmeiro Petit (5-3, 3.62).

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 9, Padres 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 4, Nationals 1

September, 2, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 7, Padres 1

August, 31, 2014

SAN DIEGO -- Their bats finally warmed up after 29 innings in a deep freeze, and the Los Angeles Dodgers managed to avoid a costly sweep with a 7-1 win over the San Diego Padres on Sunday afternoon.

The San Francisco Giants kept the heat on the Dodgers by winning their sixth game in a row, but the Dodgers were able to maintain a 2½-game lead in the NL West going into the season’s final month.

How it happened: Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-6) pitched seven strong innings after being activated from the disabled list before the game. But good pitching hasn’t been the problem here. Instead, big hits have been in short supply. The Dodgers finally got plenty of those during a four-run eighth inning that blew the game open and ended nearly three days of frustration at Petco Park. Juan Uribe stroked an RBI single to right and Darwin Barney drove in two more by going the other way, too. Entering the eighth, the Dodgers were 1-for-20 with runners in scoring position and had scored just four runs in 29 innings during the series.

Hits: Matt Kemp’s power is back, and it has given the Dodgers a major lift with Hanley Ramirez in and out of the lineup and Yasiel Puig struggling. Perhaps it’s simply a matter of Kemp getting healthier, which suggests he could have further room for improvement, a tantalizing possibility. On this road trip, Kemp is 8-for-20 with three doubles, a home run and five RBIs. The Dodgers needed someone to step up and help them emerge from their offensive funk here, and Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez (4-for-5) did so. Kemp had an RBI single and a ringing double off the left-field wall.

Misses: Puig is lost. The box score credits him with a double, but that was a soaring fly ball to right field that both the second baseman and right fielder lost in the sun. Puig has completely abandoned the patient approach that helped him so much in May and is swinging at virtually everything. He struck out on a breaking ball in the dirt in the fifth inning and another breaking ball in the eighth, then hit another fly ball to right in the third. Puig’s batting average has quietly slipped under .300 for the first time since May 1. He hit .212 with just two extra-base hits in August. His confidence is a major issue for this team going into September. Perhaps he can flip the switch as he has done in previous months?

Stat of the game: The reason the Dodgers decided to use Ryu on Sunday rather than waiting until Monday -- when they wouldn’t need to make a roster move -- is that Ryu came into the game with a 2-0 record and 0.47 ERA against the Padres this season. Now, he’s 3-0 with a 0.69 ERA. Not too shabby.

Up next: The Dodgers open a three-game series against the first-place Washington Nationals at Dodger Stadium on Monday evening at 5:10 PT. Roberto Hernandez (2-1, 3.52 ERA) goes for the Dodgers, while Gio Gonzalez (6-9, 3.86) takes the mound for Washington.

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 3, D'backs 1

August, 27, 2014

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.

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 9, D-backs 5

August, 26, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 2, Padres 1

August, 21, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 8, Padres 6

August, 19, 2014

LOS ANGELES -- With injuries beginning to tatter the Los Angeles Dodgers' pitching staff, the bats bought them a little breathing room with an 8-6 win over the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night.

How it happened: Normally, when the Dodgers and Padres play, somebody usually wins 1-0 or 2-1. Tuesday looked more like a game played at Wrigley Field or one of the other extreme hitter's parks. The teams kept going back and forth, with few pitchers capable of keeping a lead safe. In his second start for the Dodgers, Kevin Correia looked a lot more like the guy with the 4.94 ERA that he'd been in Minnesota than the guy who pitched six four-hit innings in his Dodgers debut. Correia lasted five innings, giving up four runs and nine hits.

But the Dodgers had little trouble with Ian Kennedy, brushing aside a 3-0 first-inning deficit and continuing to pile on runs throughout the game. It was an encouraging sign that the Dodgers have the offense to weather this steady stream of injuries to their pitchers. Carl Crawford had an RBI single, a two-run home run and scored three runs.

Hits: According to Baseball Reference, Justin Turner (2.7 WAR) is the Dodgers' second-most valuable position player after Yasiel Puig (4.1). That seems a bit extreme, but Turner probably gets nowhere near the credit he deserves this season. He has excelled in virtually every role the Dodgers have asked of him. He has played solid defense at three positions. As a pinch hitter, he is batting .409. With runners in scoring position, he is batting .383. Since May 11, he's hitting .361 with 11 doubles and 22 RBIs. Normally, you would argue that Juan Uribe is a significant loss, but Turner has made it a lot easier to forget about him now that Uribe is on the disabled list again. Turner ripped two RBI doubles off Kennedy.

Misses: In some ways, A.J. Ellis is more valuable than ever. The Dodgers need all the help they can get now that injuries are starting to ravage their pitching depth. Since his major league debut in 2008, Ellis has the lowest catcher's ERA (3.32) in the major leagues. On the other hand, Ellis has become close to an automatic out in the lineup. He had a sacrifice fly but is now 1-for-9 on the homestand. His batting average is .186 and he has only one home run and 12 RBIs.

Stat of the game: The Dodgers are 33-18 against teams in the NL West this season. Last year, they were 37-39.

Up next: The series continues Wednesday, with Roberto Hernandez (7-8, 3.72 ERA) making his third Dodgers start since a trade from the Philadelphia Phillies and the Padres going with lefty Eric Stults (5-13, 4.64). The game starts at 7:10 p.m. PT.



Clayton Kershaw
21 1.77 239 198
BAY. Puig .296
HRA. Gonzalez 27
RBIA. Gonzalez 116
RY. Puig 92
OPSY. Puig .863
ERAC. Kershaw 1.77
SOC. Kershaw 239