Dodgers Report: Roberto Hernandez

Rapid Reaction: Cubs 8, Dodgers 7

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
2:05
PM PT
CHICAGO – The Los Angeles Dodgers had been scoring enough runs lately that it was easy to ignore their starting pitching, which has struggled uncharacteristically all week and placed a heavy burden on the bullpen.

But the Chicago Cubs pulled back the veil Saturday and rallied for six runs in the final three innings to beat the Dodgers 8-7. The Dodgers, who haven’t had a starting pitcher go more than five innings since this past Sunday in San Francisco, have a magic number to clinch the NL West that remains stuck on six.

How it happened: It looked like Adrian Gonzalez would give the Dodgers another blowout win on a trip full of them when he launched a pair of home runs and drove in five in the first three innings to give the Dodgers a big early lead, but Roberto Hernandez continued to struggle, and the Dodgers had to empty the bullpen on a drizzly day at Wrigley Field. The Cubs rallied for four runs in the seventh inning, with the big shot being Arismendy Alcantara’s three-run home run off J.P. Howell. Then Chris Coghlan hit a two-run shot off Brian Wilson in the eighth to complete the comeback.

Hits: Gonzalez leads the National League with 111 RBIs, and he leads the Dodgers with 25 home runs. He had a hot April and a cold May and June, and he has been steadily productive ever since. He is batting .328 with 18 doubles, 11 home runs and 50 RBIs since July 21. He’s also one of the best throwing first basemen in baseball. He picked up Matt Szczur's bunt and threw on the run to second base to retire the lead runner, John Baker, at what appeared to be a crucial moment in the eighth inning before Wilson gave up the long ball.

Misses: One of the reasons the Dodgers have ridden A.J. Ellis so hard -- starting him at catcher in eight of the first nine games of this road trip -- is they aren’t overly excited about their other catchers. Drew Butera got the start Saturday and struggled. He went 0-for-4 at the plate -- with two strikeouts with runners in scoring position -- and was a little rough behind it. Dodgers pitchers had three wild pitches with Butera in there. Dodgers catchers collectively have a .553 OPS, second worst in the majors behind Tampa Bay.

Stat of the game: Dee Gordon has had at least two hits in eight straight games. The only Dodger with a longer multi-hit game streak in the past 100 years is Pee Wee Reese, who had nine straight in 1949, according to Eric Stephen of TrueBlueLA.

Up next: The four-game series concludes Sunday at 11:20 a.m. PT. The Dodgers have not announced their starting pitcher. The Cubs will start Jacob Turner (1-3, 6.93 ERA).

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 11, Rockies 3

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
9:21
PM PT

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.

Stock watch: Kershaw in the clouds

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

RISING

Streaking

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

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

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

FALLING

Slumping

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

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

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

Dan Haren continues his surge

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
11:32
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- For a good part of four months, Dan Haren was the anti-Dodger starting pitcher, the source of fan frustration and the man likely to be left off a playoff rotation in the safe assumption this team gets to October.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Padres 6, Dodgers 3

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hyun-Jin Ryu takes another step forward

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
6:42
PM PT
PHOENIX – Hyun-Jin Ryu threw two simulated innings against Juan Uribe and Drew Butera and then spent some time practicing covering first base to test his strained buttock muscle. Afterward, the Dodgers said he is on track to be activated from the 15-day disabled list in the next four or five days.

“Everything seemed to go well,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “I think everybody was happy with the way it looked. Tomorrow, if he bounces back good, we’ll make a decision. At this point, it’ll either be Sunday or Monday.”

The advantage of using Ryu on Monday is that the Dodgers wouldn’t need to make a roster move to get him on the roster, because rosters can expand beyond 25 players on Sept. 1. The disadvantage would be that Roberto Hernandez would have to pitch to the San Diego Padres, against whom he has a 4.09 ERA. Hernandez has a 1.19 ERA against the Washington Nationals, the team the Dodgers face Monday.

Ryu said through an interpreter Tuesday that he felt no pain and his shoulder "feels fine and my arm feels good.”

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 9, D-backs 5

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
10:03
PM PT

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.

Signs point to Ryu returning Monday

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
5:44
PM PT
PHOENIX – Pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu threw a light bullpen session before Tuesday night’s game in Arizona to test his strained right buttock. If all goes well in the coming days, it appears he will return from the disabled list to pitch Monday against the Washington Nationals.

“I felt no pain,” Ryu said through an interpreter.

The next step is to throw to hitters Wednesday and simulate resting between innings and getting back up to pitch. The Dodgers already have starters lined up for Friday and Saturday -- Dan Haren and Zack Greinke. They could use Ryu on Sunday in San Diego. But indications are they’ll go with Roberto Hernandez there and use Ryu on Monday when 25-man rosters expand, avoiding having to make a roster move. The Dodgers are intent on getting Clayton Kershaw an extra day to rest after his Wednesday start, so they’ll need both Ryu and Hernandez to pitch in those two games in some order.

Mattingly said the Sept. 1 roster situation could affect Ryu’s return date.

“It could be this weekend, but we’re not putting any kind of artificial timetable on it until he comes through tomorrow,” Mattingly said.

Ryu has had two stints on the disabled list. The first was due to a sore left shoulder, so perhaps the 18 days of rest this time could benefit his arm for the stretch run.

“My shoulder feels fine and my arm feels good,” Ryu said.

Back end of Dodgers' rotation remains in flux

August, 24, 2014
Aug 24
6:27
PM PT
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.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Mets 11, Dodgers 3

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dan Haren has another good day

August, 22, 2014
Aug 22
11:45
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- It's all about the now for Dan Haren. He looks back on the past few years and sees disappointment. He looks ahead and can't see much of anything, just a haze of unknowns. So, what else does he have to lean on but the day at hand?

The Los Angeles Dodgers are hanging on tight in these touch-and-go times for a starting rotation that was a shining beacon three weeks ago and, at the moment, has only one bright light, Clayton Kershaw. It's going to take more than one bankable starting pitcher, great as he is, to get them where they thought they were heading.

[+] EnlargeDan Haren
Richard Mackson/USA TODAY SportsDan Haren needs only 30 innings this season to trigger a $10 million contract option, but he'd rather the Dodgers win the division.
So, getting Haren straightened out would be nice. And he'd love nothing more than to be that guy again. He'd love nothing more than to help the Dodgers reach the playoffs and, after that, who knows?

It has been a grind of a season for Haren, 33, but three of his past four starts have been strong, leading to the suggestion, however fleeting, that he can be a part of this team's final drive. He might have to be, with Zack Greinke trying to pitch with a sore elbow and two other starters on the disabled list.

Ask Josh Beckett about pitching for the moment. He was among the best starting pitchers in baseball for three months. Now, after a serious hip injury flared up, his season is probably over and his career just might be, too. Beckett is only one year older than Haren, and Haren has actually pitched about 100 more innings in his career.

"I have to be able to step up," Haren said. "I've been one of the five guys all year and, however many starts I have left, they have to be as good as they can be."

Two seasons ago, Haren was on an Los Angeles Angels team that had just signed one of the game's greatest players, Albert Pujols, and was a heavy World Series favorite. They finished third. Last year, Haren was supposed to be the final piece of a starting pitching puzzle that would make the Washington Nationals perhaps the most dominant team in the National League. They finished second, 10 games out, and went nowhere in October.

Don't you think Haren would love a chance to help get his hometown team into the playoffs? Oddly, if he does just that he might find he has the option of continuing the run for another year. Haren went seven strong innings in the Dodgers' 6-2 win over the New York Mets on Friday night, cruising after Curtis Granderson's leadoff home run.

(Read full post)

A most valuable moment for Kershaw

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
11:56
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- If Clayton Kershaw really is the most valuable player in the National League, this would be as good a time as any to prove it.

On Saturday, the Los Angeles Dodgers trailed 2-0 by the time they batted in the fourth inning. The next day, they trailed 2-0 by the time they came up in the first inning. The day after that, they trailed 3-0 before they came to the plate in the first. And, en route to Wednesday's 4-1 loss to the San Diego Padres, they trailed 3-0 in the second.

[+] EnlargeDon Mattingly
Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY SportsDodgers manager Don Mattingly knows Clayton Kershaw is bound to struggle at times, but that he also "seems like he's a guy who's always there to pick us up."
Anyone sense a pattern here? Generally speaking, falling behind by multiple runs early in games isn't a recipe for cruising into October.

"I'm not saying it's frustrating, but it's not a place you want to be, that's for sure," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.

Seems like as good a time as any for the best pitcher in the National League to take the mound, does it not? It's not as if Kershaw can't afford to mess up when he pitches on Thursday -- a day earlier than originally planned, so Zack Greinke's aching right elbow gets a couple of more days of rest -- but it's not recommended. The Dodgers still lead their division by three games, but it's a shaky-looking three at the moment, with the starting rotation battered behind Kershaw and with the Giants suddenly on tap for two games at Wrigley Field on Thursday, albeit trailing 2-0 in one of them, Tuesday's suspended game.

Greinke is hurt, how badly we probably won't know until the season is over. The Dodgers have kept a tight lid on injury news all year and Greinke acknowledged his elbow probably isn't going to feel 100 percent sound the rest of this season. The good news is he says he's going to make Saturday's start. Hyun-Jin Ryu is hurt, out for at least another 10 days or so, at a minimum. Paul Maholm and Josh Beckett, most likely, are out with season-ending injuries.

Mattingly has been forced to go to his bullpen heavily for a week. So, yeah, this is one of those moments when a starting pitcher can look an awful lot like an MVP. Kershaw is the Dodgers' stopper, and right now the challenge isn't so much to stop a losing streak as to stop a relentless stream of bad news.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Padres 4, Dodgers 1

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
10:23
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers had a bad day Wednesday. Even before they lost a game in the standings to the San Francisco Giants by dropping a 4-1 decision to the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium, they found out the Giants won their appeal of Tuesday's rainout.

The Dodgers' lead is now three games, and the Giants have a shot at making up another 1½ games on Thursday when they finish their suspended game and polish off their series at Wrigley Field.

How it happened: Roberto Hernandez, like Kevin Correia the night before, took a small step back after a promising start to his Dodgers tenure. Hernandez was erratic, giving up eight hits over five innings, and the Dodgers fell in an early hole for the third straight game. They were behind 3-0 by the time they batted in the second inning. Scott Van Slyke bobbled a ground ball single, allowing one of those runs to score. The Dodgers made headway against soft-tossing lefty Eric Stults (6-13) but couldn't come up with the key hit and then were faced with the difficult task of rallying against San Diego's solid bullpen.

Hits: There wasn't a lot to celebrate after another listless start by a Dodgers pitcher, but for a team that's always on the lookout for bullpen pieces, there was a bit of good news. Pedro Baez might be a better solution than any of the pitchers the Dodgers could acquire who passed through waivers. He pitched two more scoreless innings, touching 98 mph, and has now thrown seven scoreless innings since the Dodgers brought him back from Triple-A. It looks as if he might stay put this time.

Misses: People tend to think the Dodgers have more power than they do. The reality is they entered Wednesday's game 12th in the National League in home runs. Granted, most of their middle-of-the-order bats have excellent gap power, but they have only three healthy players with double-digit home run totals. It's fair to say the lack of long balls has been a major disappointment. Only three pitchers in the league had given up more home runs than Stults coming into the game, but the Dodgers' power stayed dormant.

Stat of the game: Tuesday night, Dodgers prospect Jose De Leon struck out 14 batters in a Class-A game for Great Lakes. The total broke the franchise record, which was previously held by some guy named Clayton Kershaw, who had 12 in a 2007 game.

Up next: The Dodgers haven't won a home series since July 29-31, so they'd like to take Thursday's game to win this one. The good news is they'll line up behind Kershaw (14-3, 1.86 ERA) Thursday night at 7:10 p.m. The bad news is they'll be facing San Diego's best starter, Tyson Ross (11-11, 2.70).

Battered pitching staff doesn't sink hopes

August, 19, 2014
Aug 19
11:54
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Zack Greinke politely refused to talk about it, shaking his head and smiling before he walked off.

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly wouldn't offer much more detail about whatever is ailing Greinke's pitching elbow.

Asked if Greinke would make his scheduled start Thursday, Mattingly said after the Dodgers' 8-6 win over the San Diego Padres, "It's nothing that we would talk about right now. It's a possibility."

[+] EnlargeDodgers
Richard MacksonThe Dodgers provided enough offense to win Tuesday's game, but that might need to be the norm if their pitching staff keeps taking injury hits.
So, there is a "possibility" that the Dodgers' second-best pitcher will be healthy enough to stay on his regular turn in the rotation.

If that possibility doesn't pan out and Greinke misses a start or goes on the disabled list, the Dodgers' pitching rotation will be: Clayton Kershaw, best pitcher in baseball; two guys who cleared waivers before being traded to L.A.; an unnamed pitcher from Triple-A who will take Greinke's spot; and Dan Haren, a banged-up veteran clinging to his spot.

In other words, get used to more of what the last two games have brought. The Dodgers were behind 2-0 after nine Haren pitches Sunday and lost. They were behind 3-0 after 16 Kevin Correia pitches Tuesday and won.

It's going to take some offensive resiliency to weather this storm of pitching injuries.

Greinke's elbow is easily the Dodgers' biggest worry if it indeed proves to be an injury that keeps him out for more than a start or two. But Dodgers trainers have been busy trying to get enough healthy bodies and arms onto the mound lately.

The Dodgers now are all but conceding that Josh Beckett (hip) is lost for the season. Hyun-Jin Ryu (strained gluteus) has begun playing catch, but his return date remains a mystery. Paul Maholm is out for the season after knee surgery. So, if Greinke goes on the DL, that would be four of the Dodgers' top six starters on the Opening Day depth chart out of action.

(Read full post)

Series preview: Padres at Dodgers

August, 19, 2014
Aug 19
6:00
AM PT
Kevin CorreiaDale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsKevin Correia gave up one earned run over six innings for a win in his Dodgers debut on Aug. 11.
LOS ANGELES -- A lot was made of the fact the Dodgers hadn’t won more than three games in a row until they rattled off a six-game winning streak to end July. But the flip side was the fact they also hadn’t lost more than three in a row.

They still haven’t, but a loss Tuesday night to the San Diego Padres -- and they’re relying on Kevin Correia, who amounts to their No. 6 starting pitcher -- would make it four losses in a row. With the San Francisco Giants playing better lately, this would be an inopportune time for the Dodgers to go on a lengthy losing streak.

It would also be surprising, considering they won’t face a team with a winning record until Labor Day. In fact, the Dodgers have just three series left against contending teams and two of them are against the Giants, who they lead by 3 games for the NL West lead.

The Padres, who shipped out several of their highest-paid veterans before the trade deadline, had actually won five straight games and nine of 11 before dropping three of four to the St. Louis Cardinals in their last series. They also recently hired a new general manager, former Texas assistant GM A.J. Preller. The Padres fired their last GM, Josh Byrnes, when the Dodgers were last in San Diego, in June.

It’s not out of the question the Padres could be a team the Dodgers have to look out for in upcoming seasons. But for now the Dodgers just need wins to rebuild what not long ago felt like a fairly comfortable lead. They have won seven of the 10 meetings with the Padres this season.

Correia pitched six strong innings, allowing just one run, in his Dodgers debut in Atlanta, which came right after his Aug. 9 trade from the Minnesota Twins. The former Padre will be pitching on seven days’ rest as the Dodgers initially moved him to the bullpen, but then needed him as a replacement for injured starter Hyun-Jin Ryu.

The Dodgers didn’t fare well against the pitcher they’ll face Tuesday, Ian Kennedy, the last time they saw him. Kennedy, a former USC Trojan, pitched eight scoreless innings July 12 although the Padres lost 1-0. He’s also the pitcher who, last season, helped spark an ugly benches-clearing brawl when he grazed Yasiel Puig's nose with a 92-mph fastball. Kennedy, who was the subject of trade rumors but never moved, is 4-1 with a 2.57 ERA over his last eight starts.

Some of the Dodgers’ pitching issues could be exposed in this series. In the second game, they’ll send Roberto Hernandez, another one of their acquisitions after the non-waiver deadline, to the mound against soft-tossing lefty Eric Stults. On Thursday, they’ll rely on Zack Greinke, who has been dealing with some elbow soreness and walked five in five scoreless innings in his last outing. They’ll have to contend with All-Star right-hander Tyson Ross, who matched a San Diego record with his 11th quality start last time out.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

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