- Mark Saxon, ESPN Staff Writer
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LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Dodgers first-base coach Davey Lopes was not at Tuesday’s workout at Dodger Stadium as he had some personal business to take care of, but at this point of his career, Dee Gordon probably doesn’t need any final tips on base stealing.
“As the year went on, I got better as a base stealer,” Gordon said.
That much is evident by Gordon’s 64 stolen bases, most in the major leagues. But the threat of Gordon’s speed, which could be an important factor in a series with two dominant pitching staffs, is a question considering the St. Louis Cardinals have the best-throwing catcher in baseball, Yadier Molina. He threw out 48 percent of the runners who tried to steal, leading the majors for the fourth time.
Gordon’s challenges in this series go beyond Molina’s powerful right arm. Gordon has been dealing with tightness in his hip and Cardinals pitchers are adept at holding runners and delivering Molina the ball quickly to give him a chance to throw out runners.
“There are some catchers who don’t throw at all and you can run on them,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “But the Cardinals have a lot of guys who get the ball to home plate. They’re pretty well-schooled on being quick, using slide steps, all those types of things. Usually, a pitching staff will neutralize the running game more than the catcher himself.”
Regardless of how many bases he steals, Gordon’s presence in the lineup will be important to the Dodgers. He played 148 games at second base, batted .289 and led the league with 12 triples. He makes their lineup more versatile and takes pressure off the middle-of-the-order hitters if he’s able to take extra bases and score on singles rather than putting pressure on them to produce extra-base hits.
A year ago, after spending most of the season at Triple-A, Gordon made the Dodgers’ postseason roster as a pinch runner, but was a non-factor. He was thrown out by Atlanta Braves catcher Gerald Laird in his only stolen base attempt of the NLDS. He never attempted to steal on Molina after pinch running for Adrian Gonzalez in Game 1 of the NLCS.
Gordon said he won’t let Molina’s reputation take away his aggressiveness on the bases.
“No, man, got to play my game the way I play my game,” Gordon said.