Dodgers Report: San Diego Padres

Dodgers claim Padres infielder Ryan Jackson

November, 3, 2014
Nov 3
LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Dodgers claimed infielder Ryan Jackson from the San Diego Padres on Monday.

Jackson, 26, got a bit of playing time for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012 and 2013 and hit .083 in 24 at-bats. Over six minor league seasons, Jackson, primarily a shortstop, has hit .268 with 27 home runs and 203 RBIs. He was drafted by the Cardinals out of the University of Miami in the fifth round in 2009.

The Dodgers still have four spots left on their 40-man roster. One opened Monday when lefty reliever Scott Elbert elected to become a free agent rather than accept a minor league assignment.

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 9, Padres 4

September, 8, 2014
Sep 8
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.

Don Mattingly likes Dodgers' energy

September, 8, 2014
Sep 8
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers had lost two straight series before they swept the last-place Arizona Diamondbacks over the weekend, but Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly had an unusually sunny disposition when he met with reporters before Monday night’s game against the San Diego Padres.

“I’m happy with everything right now,” Mattingly said.

Of course, most managers would be in a good mood if Clayton Kershaw were about to pitch a game for their team, but Mattingly said the reason for his optimism was a new sense of urgency around the team. Before Wednesday's game, the Dodgers had gone 0-50 when trailing after seven innings. The Dodgers twice rallied to tie it late, but that game turned into a 14-inning loss to the Washington Nationals.

“I like the fact guys are talking about the right things, like having good at-bats, and I can feel the energy on the bench,” Mattingly said. “We’ve been more competitive in games we’ve been down. Right now, it’s that time of year. We’re in a pennant race. We know every game is important, every at-bat is important, every play you make on the field is important. Guys know where we’re at.”

The Dodgers go into Monday’s game with a three-game lead over the second-place San Francisco Giants with 19 games to play, including six against the Giants. The Giants are idle Monday.

Mattingly said he has liked the way the Dodgers have responded so far to September baseball with a division title on the line.

“When you’re at Game 100 or Game 90 and you know you’ve got 70 games to go, you try to push, push, push, and that’s what we try to do as coaches," he said. "But it’s just harder at that time of year. As you get later and you see there are X games left and every game can cost you, I just think there’s more of a sense of urgency, naturally. That’s why I like this time of year: You get every guy’s best concentration.”

This series against the Padres could be a good test of the Dodgers’ concentration, as their next series comes against the Giants.

Series preview: Padres at Dodgers

September, 8, 2014
Sep 8
LOS ANGELES -- Every Clayton Kershaw start between now and the end of the season will be heavily scrutinized.

If he can pick up 20 wins, it would be a bit easier for National League MVP voters to elect a pitcher and it just might be enough to get the Dodgers their second straight NL West title.

After facing the San Diego Padres Monday night, going for his 18th win, two of Kershaw’s next three starts will come against the second-place San Francisco Giants, on Sept. 14 and Sept. 24. If he has another regular-season start after that, it would come against the Giants yet again, in a one-game playoff to decide the division on Sept. 29.

In other words, the Dodgers plan to bet heavily on winning the division in order to avoid the crap shoot of a one-game wild-card playoff.

The Dodgers have chosen the luxury of giving their pitchers extra rest for weeks now, but they’re getting to the point of the season where they’ll look to unleash as heavy a dose of Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu on the league as they can. Those three will each pitch in both Giants’ series.

Kershaw leads the majors in ERA (1.70), WHIP (0.83), batting average against (.191) and complete games (six) and he’s in a four-way tie for wins, despite missing six weeks with a back injury. The Padres have been a relatively tough matchup for Kershaw, but not this season. He has gone 2-0 with a 1.06 ERA against them in two 2014 starts. Less than three weeks ago, he held San Diego to a run on three hits over eight innings.

The time before that, he pitched a complete game, allowing three hits and striking out 11. In that July 10 game, the Dodgers managed just seven hits and two runs against San Diego right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne, a rookie who is 3-5 with a 3.06 ERA this season.

The Dodgers are still looking for some more offensive continuity. Lately, when they’ve scored runs it has usually been because Matt Kemp or Adrian Gonzalez do something dramatic. Gonzalez hit a pair of three-run home runs Sunday and broke through the 100-RBI mark for a fifth straight season (he had 99 in 2009, or it would be eight). Kemp is batting .307 with a .960 OPS in the second half, reminiscent of his 2011 season minus the stolen-base element.

The Dodgers would love to finish this three-game series with at least a three-game lead over San Francisco, meaning they could get swept at AT&T Park and still be in a tie heading into seven straight road games against the woeful Colorado Rockies and Chicago Cubs. The Dodgers haven’t quite dominated San Diego as they have the other bad teams in the NL West. They have gone 10-6 against the Padres and just lost two of three in San Diego. The Giants, meanwhile, are 8-5 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the team they play starting Tuesday.

Two pitchers who might be vying for a postseason roster spot, Roberto Hernandez and Dan Haren, both will pitch in this series. Hernandez, who pitches Tuesday, has been struggling while Haren has been impressive in his last three starts. The Dodgers will face big right-hander Andrew Cashner, who typically pitches well against them, on Tuesday and then face Ian Kennedy for the sixth time this season.

Series preview: Dodgers at Padres

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
SAN DIEGO – Clayton Kershaw had a good response when somebody asked him about dominating the team that has been one of his more difficult matchups in recent years, the Arizona Diamondbacks, on Wednesday.

“It’s a totally different team,” Kershaw said.

That goes, too, for the San Diego Padres, another NL West team the Dodgers have had their way with that rebooted through midseason trades and by calling up prospects. The Dodgers took two of three from San Diego last week, but the Padres had a very different feel with Rymer Liriano and Yangervis Solarte in the lineup.

Like a lot of young teams, the Padres are unpredictable. Since the teams’ last series, San Diego lost two of three in third-place Arizona and took two of three from the first-place Milwaukee Brewers. Overall, the Dodgers have won nine of the 13 meetings with San Diego, part of their domination of the bottom-feeders in the NL West. The Dodgers are 30-12 combined vs. the Padres, Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.

Friday is another big start for Dan Haren, who has pitched well this month, since San Diego is sending Andrew Cashner to the mound. Cashner has good stuff and has been tough on the Dodgers in the past. He’ll be making his second start after missing two months with shoulder soreness. He went five innings against Arizona, giving up two runs on seven hits and, interestingly, striking out just one batter.

Haren has won three of his last four starts, including strong outings against potential playoff teams in the Angels and Atlanta Braves. His bounce-back has been key for the Dodgers, who are dealing with injuries to Josh Beckett, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Zack Greinke, through Greinke is pitching through elbow discomfort. They’ve also had uneven performances lately from the two pitchers they traded for, Roberto Hernandez and Kevin Correia.

Greinke (13-8, 2.79 ERA) will pitch Saturday evening for the Dodgers, who will face Ian Kennedy (10-11, 3.75). On Sunday, the Dodgers will start either Hernandez or Ryu, who would be returning from a relatively short stint on the disabled list for two strained buttocks muscles. The Dodgers on Sunday will face soft-tossing lefty Eric Stults, who baffled them in his last outing at Dodger Stadium.

Hyun-Jin Ryu takes another step forward

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
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.”

Series preview: Dodgers at D-backs

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
PHOENIX -- The Los Angeles Dodgers are in first place in the NL West in large part because they play in the NL West.

They have gone 33-19 against teams in their division and 27-12 against teams other than the San Francisco Giants in their division. The good news for Dodgers fans is that the team’s next five games and 23 of its last 30 are inside the West, starting with a strange, five-game trip (with two off days) to Arizona and San Diego.

The Dodgers are 10-4 against Arizona and 9-4 against San Diego.

Tuesday the Dodgers have to survive what might be an unfavorable pitching matchup, with Roberto Hernandez on the mound against Trevor Cahill, who has come back from the minor leagues on a bit of a roll, going 2-0 with a 2.33 ERA since the demotion. Hernandez had a slow, grinding start against the Padres in his last time on the mound, but has generally been a nice post-non-waiver trade deadline pickup for the Dodgers.

Wednesday will be a chance for Clayton Kershaw to exorcise whatever demons are left from one of the worst starts of his career at Chase Field earlier this season. It was an aberration in what looks like another Cy Young season for Kershaw, but he has never had much fun pitching in Arizona. He is 3-6 with a 4.10 ERA lifetime there.

Wednesday will be the same pitching matchup as Opening Day in Australia, with the Dodgers facing lefty Wade Miley, who has a 1.83 ERA in his last three starts though he walked six Washington Nationals batters in his last start.

Arizona is doing some late-season experimenting, with manager Kirk Gibson telling reporters recently he will try Aaron Hill at third base in coming games in order to get some of the team’s middle infielders onto the field at the same time.

When the Diamondbacks, playing without star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, took two of three from the Padres over the weekend, it was their first series win since taking two of three from the last-place Colorado Rockies Aug. 8-11. The Dodgers will get their first look at rookie third baseman Jake Lamb. The Diamondbacks called him up Aug. 7 and he hit his first major-league home run on Saturday.

Clayton Kershaw's MVP case gets an unlikely assist

August, 21, 2014
Aug 21

LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw’s left arm was packed in ice and wrapped up tight in a towel, but that was no obstacle.

When Justin Turner’s deep fly ball cleared the left-field fence, Kershaw sprinted the length of the dugout, both arms pumping wildly. The two-run shot in the eighth would make a winner out of the Los Angeles Dodgers and of Kershaw, who was in danger of dominating again and losing

“That ball goes out, that’s pretty awesome,” Kershaw said.

Turner called it “one of the biggest hits” of his career, which seems like an understatement considering he spent the bulk of his career with the New York Mets, who never won more than 77 games while he was there. It was the biggest hit, so far, of this Dodgers season. Indeed, despite their recent rash of injuries, the Dodgers still have World Series aspirations.

[+] EnlargeClayton Kershaw
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillClayton Kershaw on Thursday struck out 10 batters, gave up just three hits in eight innings and lowered his ERA 1.82. And that the Dodgers' bats gave him a late victory only improves his MVP chances.
The victory kept the San Francisco Giants from creeping within 2 1/2 games of the Dodgers’ lead for the first time in more than two weeks, but it also erased a very dark narrative. Outside of Kershaw, the Dodgers’ starting rotation is in shambles, with three starters down with injuries. If the Dodgers wasted eight brilliant innings from Kershaw -- as they were about to do before Turner’s dinger -- they would have had to wait at least five long days for their ace to try to get them right again.

Kershaw said he didn’t go into Thursday thinking it was any more important than any other regular-season start, even though the Dodgers had fallen in early holes during each of their previous four games and the bullpen was on fumes.

“Not really,” he said. “We need wins no matter what. The Giants are playing better right now, and we just need to keep winning games.”

In a way, Turner’s clutch moment preserved Kershaw’s MVP hopes. Though Kershaw (15-3) has participated in just 21 of the Dodgers’ 129 games, the case seems to grow stronger by the week that he is, in fact, the National League’s most valuable player.

“Yeah, why not? When he has the ball, he’s the best player on the field,” Turner said. “He’s got my vote.”

Turner, in fact, doesn’t have a vote. Those all reside with members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, who will cast their ballots before the end of the regular season and wait with everyone else for the winners to be announced sometime in November. Kershaw doesn’t seem to be thinking about winning his third Cy Young in four years or being the National League’s first MVP pitcher in 46 years. He doesn’t seem to think about anything except how to make sure the Dodgers win the game on the day he pitches.

“I don’t know how to explain it. I don’t think I’ve seen anybody like this guy,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “We’ve talked about it so many other times, but he’s just constantly driven. It’s start-to-start. Tomorrow will be on to the next one, and he’ll be on a mission for that one. He’s a guy with just a huge motor as far as wanting to compete. Again, I don’t know how much more I can talk about him without saying the same things over and over.”

They all seem to blend together at this point, one brilliant Kershaw start after another.

The relevant details Thursday were these:

• He didn’t give up a hit until opposing pitcher Tyson Ross singled off him with two outs in the sixth inning.
• He struck out 10 batters and gave up just three hits in eight innings.
• When one comes into a game with 1.86 ERA, it’s not that easy to improve on it. But Kershaw (15-3) did, chipping it down to 1.82.

And none of it looked like it was going to matter, because Ross was just as good, holding the Dodgers scoreless until Carl Crawford smacked one off his glove for an infield hit leading off the eighth. Turner had done his homework. He had been watching Ross all game, and when the tall right-hander fell behind in the count, he tended to throw his slider.

Kershaw wasn’t sure whether Turner would be instructed to bunt to move Crawford into scoring position to represent the tying run. Turner hadn't been, so the third baseman jumped on a slider that lingered a millisecond too long in the strike zone and drove it over the left-center fence.

That prompted another bubble party. The Dodgers continue to ignore Major League Baseball’s gentle admonition and party with bubbles after one of their players hits a home run. It was a first for Turner, who had hit all three of his previous home runs before the bubble-making toy entered the scene.

“I think I’ve got a concussion, the guys pounded my helmet so hard,” Turner.

It seemed like that moment released a lot of built-up tension.

Series preview: Padres at Dodgers

August, 19, 2014
Aug 19
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.

Giants rivalry gets a jolt after the break

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
It is fair to say that Miguel Montero is not a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Arizona Diamondbacks catcher, whose locker was – awkwardly – right next to Yasiel Puig’s for two days at the All-Star Game in Minneapolis, is kind of blunt about it.

Montero was asked to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the two teams vying for control of the NL West and, in the middle of his answer, he blurted out, “I don’t know. I really like the Giants a little better than the Dodgers.”

[+] EnlargeYasiel Puig; Miguel Montero; Ian Kennedy
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesYasiel Puig and Miguel Montero, who were locker room neighbors at the All-Star Game, have a history of bad blood that includes a collision at home plate last season.
The Dodgers can only hope the rest of the division doesn’t feel that way or, if it does, that those three teams don’t play any harder against them than against the Giants, because their playoff hopes could hang in the balance.

The Dodgers, who lead the Giants by one game, have only 65 games remaining, including 12 head-to-head games with San Francisco, starting July 25 at AT&T Park. The Dodgers have 20 games left against the three other teams in their division, teams they have dominated to climb into first place.

Montero, it should be noted, has a history of bad blood with the Dodgers. Puig collided with him at home plate last season and appeared to glare in his direction afterward, prompting a finger wag from Montero, who criticized Puig to the media. He was in the middle of the teams’ fight at Dodger Stadium in June of 2013.


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Montero said he has a fondness for San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy and prefers San Francisco’s style of play to the Dodgers’. He does give the Dodgers an edge over San Francisco in terms of offensive firepower, but would award “intangibles” to the Bay Area team, it’s fair to say.

“They kind of respect the game. They go out there and play the game really hard,” Montero said of the Giants, before gesturing in the direction of some Dodgers' All-Star game lockers. “These guys, too… They’ve got a great pitching staff. One to five, you can’t go wrong and they’ve got a really good offense. I don’t know, I just like the Giants better, just me personally. They’re a sneaky team, quieter.”

With Puig on their team, nobody has called the Dodgers “quiet” lately, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good. They just haven’t been particularly good when they play the Giants so far, going 3-7 in head-to-head matchups. On the other hand, they have gone 26-10 against the three sub-.500 teams in their division while the Giants have gone just 18-18 against those teams. It’s that disparity, largely, that allowed the Dodgers to make up 10 games in the standings in about four weeks.

But what, exactly, will that dramatic June charge set up? Could this be the great Giants-Dodgers pennant race the teams’ fans have been missing for the last 10 years, or are the Dodgers in the midst of sailing right on by the Giants? Is the balance of power about to swing dramatically in the Giants’ favor once again?

“Baseball is exciting when there are close races. As a competitor you live for that,” said San Francisco’s Hunter Pence. “We’ll see. It can go a lot of different ways. The future is yet to be told, and that’s why we play the games.”

(Read full post)

Series preview: Padres at Dodgers

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
LOS ANGELES – The Dodgers could use some wins after a rough two-game series in Detroit and with the looming All-Star break lulling them into some bad habits lately. Carl Crawford is back, possibly tonight, but apparently with nowhere to play.

There are plenty of storylines, but the start of this four-game series with the San Diego Padres is really all about one thing: Clayton Kershaw’s scoreless streak. He is 23 innings short of Orel Hershier’s major league-record streak of 59 consecutive scoreless innings and he is facing a lineup that has been shut out 11 times already this season.

Kershaw hasn’t yielded a run since the third inning of his June 13 start against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Mixed in between, Kershaw threw one of the greatest no-hitters in baseball history and has struck out 45 batters while walking only five. So, yeah, he’s pitching pretty well lately.

“If you were to ask, ‘If you had one guy to start a game, who would it be?’ it would probably be him,” Padres manager Bud Black told reporters this week. “It’s just a dominating package of pitches.”

That, of course, begs the question of whether National League manager Mike Matheny will name Kershaw to start Tuesday’s All-Star game. But the Dodgers – who were outscored 18-6 in Detroit – would rather see the focus on tonight’s start.

They’ll be facing rookie Odrisamer Despaigne, who has started his career off on solid footing with three straight starts allowing no more than one run over at least six innings. Despaigne gave up just two hits to the San Francisco Giants last week.

After Kershaw’s start, the Dodgers will face plenty of uncertainty. On Friday, Dan Haren makes his final start before the break, and he has been uneven of late, having pitched to a 4.87 ERA and given up 16 home runs since the end of April. The last time he faced San Diego, he gave up two home runs to Seth Smith.

Then, on Saturday, the Dodgers have to pick a starter to fill in for Josh Beckett, who is on the disabled list with an impingement in his left hip. Manager Don Mattingly has said the choices are lefty Paul Maholm and Triple-A right-hander Red Patterson.

And Crawford’s return could create a bit of drama in the clubhouse, as Mattingly told reporters this week he is happy with his starting outfield of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig and doesn’t anticipate making any changes. The Dodgers are paying Crawford $20.25 million this season and they owe him another $62.25 million beyond this season, making him a rather expensive fourth outfielder.

Bullpen needs fixing for more 'June Zoom'

June, 22, 2014
Jun 22
SAN DIEGO -- Maybe the Los Angeles Dodgers have found their identity. They’re the team that wakes up in June and suddenly goes on a mad dash. Call it the “June Zoom.”

A year ago, the Dodgers went 42-8 starting June 22, which makes Sunday the one-year anniversary of that ridiculous joyride. This year they started a little earlier -- and more modestly. It’s not bad, though. They are playing .688 baseball since June 4, the night manager Don Mattingly called them “basically s-----.”

If you’re not prone to accept this notion -- that they’ve begun the move that will make them the juggernaut we thought they were -- your best piece of evidence might be what they do with the late innings. Can they count on this bullpen?

[+] EnlargeKenley Jansen
Jake Roth/USA TODAY SportsKenley Jansen's mixed results in San Diego epitomizes the Dodgers' bullpen concerns.
Their starting pitching is smothering and simply filthy. When the 34-year-old you weren’t counting on -- Josh Beckett -- is third in the league in ERA, your ace just might have thrown the greatest game in baseball history and Hyun-Jin Ryu -- who pitched six solid innings in the Dodgers’ 2-1 win Sunday over the San Diego Padres -- is clearly your fourth best starter, well, you’re pretty set there.

The offense? Not quite as overwhelming, but it’s third in the National League in runs scored, and now that Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez are hitting, it’s reasonable to expect better things to come. At some point, when the weather gets warmer, this team will score in bigger chunks. That’s just the way it feels.

Ahh, but the bullpen. Dodgers relievers are 13th out of 15 NL teams in ERA, 11th in batting average against and 13th in WHIP. Just Friday night, the team witnessed a depressing example of their relievers’ foibles, with closer Kenley Jansen coughing up three ninth-inning runs. Otherwise, they would be carrying a six-game winning streak into Kansas City, their next stop.

Is the Dodgers’ bullpen fixable? Well, there is the July 31 trade deadline, and general manager Ned Colletti isn’t likely to let the glut of guaranteed contracts in his bullpen stop him from landing a bankable setup guy.

But there are also some signs of internal progress, just in case Colletti finds the market skewed toward sellers, as it tends to become lately.

Lefty J.P. Howell has been the heart and soul of this group lately. He got four key outs Sunday after Ryu admitted to Mattingly that he was gassed. Jansen apparently made a key mechanical tweak before Saturday’s game; pitching for the third straight day for the first time this season, he looked as dominant as he ever did in 2013, when he was among the best in baseball.

Maybe it was the Padres, who have the most anemic offense in baseball (and it’s not close). But it probably wasn’t only that.

Jansen needed just 13 pitches to strike out the side -- Tommy Medica, Rene Rivera and Cameron Maybin. He was pumping 94 mph cutters and one 84 mph slider. Those hitters didn’t even look close to making contact.

“Today was as good as I’ve caught him all season long, the way his ball was moving,” catcher A.J. Ellis said. “When you’re throwing balls pretty much down the middle of the plate, and you’re getting swings and misses, it shows you’re pretty dominant. That’s what Kenley was doing today.”

Jansen is a hulking man, and precision has never been his thing. But Dodgers pitching coaches Rick Honeycutt, Chuck Crim and Kenny Howell got together with him in the bullpen Saturday and worked on getting the parts of his delivery in better sync. After that, Jansen -- pitching to many of the same hitters -- recorded two saves and helped ensure the Dodgers’ feel-good stretch continued. Indeed, they haven’t lost a series since that June 4 clunker to the Chicago White Sox.

“For him to make a quick correction -- sometimes you don’t even realize this stuff is going on -- tells you how good he is,” Mattingly said.

It seems we’re entering the stage of the season in which this Dodgers bullpen needs to make a series of corrections, or Colletti might make them for them. It seems unlikely the Dodgers would take any chances with the one area of the team that continues to cause them headache.

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 2, Padres 1

June, 22, 2014
Jun 22
SAN DIEGO -- Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of the start of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 42-8 run and they were at the place where it all began, Petco Park.

So far, they haven't staged anything all that spectacular this June, but there are certainly signs of forward progress. After Sunday’s 2-1 win over the San Diego Padres, the Dodgers have gone 11-5 since the night manager Don Mattingly said he was tired of answering questions about his team and said it was “basically s-----.”

How it happened: Hyun-Jin Ryu (9-3) was solid again, but it was another tense win for the Dodgers as they had to get some key outs from their often-shaky bullpen. The Dodgers’ hitters couldn’t do much against Eric Stults, a pitcher who has allowed more earned runs than all but three National League pitchers. But this time the bullpen held on, with J.P. Howell, their most reliable reliever, getting four outs. Kenley Jansen pitched in a third straight game for the first time all year and struck out the side in just 13 pitches.

Hits: Ryu hasn’t been the Dodgers’ best starting pitcher this season. He has been their fourth-best starting pitcher. But on this staff, that’s actually a compliment. Ryu has been as consistent as virtually any pitcher around since an up-and-down first month. He cruised through three perfect innings, then navigated some trouble in the middle innings to give the Dodgers six strong innings again, allowing only a run on four hits. Ryu is 6-1 since the beginning of May.

Misses: When the Dodgers got on a roll last year, it was due in large part to hot hitting from Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig, but it became contagious for nearly two months. While the Dodgers have seen signs of offensive depth -- Ramirez and Matt Kemp have been the most consistent run producers lately -- they haven’t had great offensive continuity night after night. Their pitchers still walk a tightrope most games. The Dodgers have scored four runs or fewer in seven of their past 11 games. After taking a called third strike in the eighth inning, Ramirez slammed his bat to the ground in disgust and shattered it.

Stat of the game: Right before Chris Denorfia scored the Padres’ first run in the sixth inning, Ryu’s ERA slipped below 3.00. For that one inning, four of the Dodgers’ five starting pitchers had ERA’s under 3.00. The National League could take four Dodgers starters for the All-Star game and nobody would raise too big a fuss.

Up next: The Dodgers are off to Kansas City for their second interleague road series, having swept the Minnesota Twins in their first. On Monday night, Zack Greinke (9-3, 2.57 ERA) will take on the team that drafted him, while the Dodgers face Jeremy Guthrie (4-6, 3.86) in a game that begins at 5:10 p.m. PT.

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 4, Padres 2

June, 21, 2014
Jun 21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rapid Reaction: Padres 6, Dodgers 5

June, 20, 2014
Jun 20

SAN DIEGO -- The Los Angeles Dodgers can't quite get over the hump.

Just when they were about to win their fourth consecutive game for the first time all season, closer Kenley Jansen gave up a couple of RBI doubles and blew a two-run save in the ninth inning. L.A. lost 6-5 to the San Diego Padres after Everth Cabrera hit a deep fly ball to right field to drive in the winning run.

The Dodgers missed another chance to eat into the San Francisco Giants' rapidly diminishing lead. They remain four games back after being behind 8 1/2 back eight days ago.

How it happened: Dan Haren pitched a solid game once again, although long fly balls continued to torment him. Seth Smith homered twice off Haren, who now has given up 12 home runs in his last eight starts. Haren seemed to have some harsh words for umpire Paul Schrieber in the sixth inning shortly before he was removed. Otherwise, Haren kept the Dodgers in the game while L.A.’s hitters harried another veteran starter, Ian Kennedy, for five runs.

The biggest hit was Yasiel Puig’s well-placed hard hopper that glanced off third baseman Alexi Amarista’s glove and carried into shallow left field to bring in a couple of runs. Puig took third on Amarista’s throwing error and scored on Adrian Gonzalez’s sacrifice fly.

Everything fell apart for the Dodgers in the ninth, however. San Diego’s big hits were doubles by pinch hitter Carlos Quentin and Will Venable.

Hits: Dee Gordon has been erratic with his bat lately. He went 4-for-4 Monday, but was otherwise 2-for-20 on the Dodgers’ last homestand. It’s still a delight to watch him hit one in the gap. On Friday, he pulled Kennedy’s seventh pitch of the game into the gap in right-center and just kept running. The relay throw hit Gordon as he slid into third, allowing him to score easily. It was the second time this week he had circled the bases on a triple-and-error combination. Gordon puts pressure on defenses like few players in the game. He also stole his 38th base in the second inning.

Misses: The Dodgers’ outfield situation has stabilized considerably with Carl Crawford on the disabled list. Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke have generally provided a solid platoon in center field, playing better defense than anyone would have predicted in spring training. Lately, however, Ethier’s contributions at the plate have been few and far between. He went 0-for-4 Friday and is batting .208 since the day he hit his last home run on May 27.

Stat of the game: Smith has played in four games against the Dodgers this season and hit four home runs against them.

Up next: The series continues in San Diego on Saturday night at 7:10 PT, with Josh Beckett (4-4, 2.49 ERA) opposing Tyson Ross (6-6, 3.27).



Yasiel Puig
.296 16 69 92
HRA. Gonzalez 27
RBIA. Gonzalez 116
RY. Puig 92
OPSY. Puig .863
WC. Kershaw 21
ERAC. Kershaw 1.77
SOC. Kershaw 239