Dodgers Report: Yasiel Puig

Coors Field takes Dodgers down a peg

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
10:34
PM PT
DENVER -- Say what you will about the Colorado Rockies -- and they are a beaten-down team at the moment -- but unless you can abide by the arcane rules at their highly skewed ballpark, they can easily beat you.

They might be the worst team in the National League, by a lot, but they've got as many home wins as the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers, who fell into the Coors Field trap in a major way Tuesday night, stumbling in their march to the postseason.

[+] EnlargeDan Haren
Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY SportsDan Haren allowed only five baserunners, but all five scored for the Rockies in the Dodgers' loss in Colorado.
Walking the leadoff hitter in the first inning and falling into an early hole, exposing the soft underbelly of your middle bullpen and having your worst at-bats just when innings are beginning to crescendo is not exactly the way to go at altitude, and the Dodgers did all of the above in a 10-4 loss to the Rockies.

Not all their wounds were self-inflicted. That aforementioned leadoff walk came on a pretty good 3-2 pitch, on the corner at the knees by Dan Haren, but plate umpire D.J. Reyburn called it a ball. Four innings later, he would call a nearly identical pitch a strike on Yasiel Puig to strand two runners. The inning after that, he would call a nearly identical pitch on Puig a strike again, this time stranding three runners.

"I don't think it does a bunch of good to talk about the umpiring, really," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "If one thing's going to cost you a game, you didn't play that good. I feel like we had our chances."

Said Haren, who threw out his hands after the walk: "The guy had a pretty generous strike zone for most of the night except for that one."

It seems as if that early noncall led to a cascade effect and a truly bad-luck loss: The Dodgers outhit Colorado 16-9.

"It was a kind of weird game, with how many hits we were getting, and they were able to capitalize on everything," Haren said.

But teams that lament their bad luck usually do so in the comfort of the offseason, and the Dodgers don't have time for self-pity. Not with only 11 games left, one of which starts bright and early Wednesday, and their fate still firmly in their clutches. They lost a game in the standings to the San Francisco Giants, who now trail by three, and got no closer to clinching a postseason berth since the Milwaukee Brewers won. They also lost a little ground in their secondary race, to the Washington Nationals for home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs.

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Dodgers' bats as hot as their tempers

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
11:40
PM PT
video
DENVER -- One way to look at the dust-up between Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ dugout is as another example of what several people have called a “dysfunctional” clubhouse. That could well be true.

Another way to look at it is as a step forward for the team, with one prominent player demanding another prominent player take accountability for his actions. That also could be true.

Nobody in the Dodgers’ clubhouse was offering much detail about the argument, and nobody at home would have even known about it if Root Sports' cameras hadn’t caught the disagreement and put it on the air. For all we know, it could be the 497th most heated discussion among Dodgers this season. It didn’t look particularly menacing, with Kemp just stalking Puig in the dugout and yelling in his direction, and then manager Don Mattingly breaking it up.

[+] EnlargeYasiel Puig, Matt Kemp
Dustin Bradford/Getty ImagesThings were hunky-dory between Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp on the field Monday at Colorado, but it appeared to be quite a different story in the dugout. 
What we do know is Puig probably should have gone to third on Adrian Gonzalez’s hump-back liner to right field right before Kemp hit that inning. Had he done so, he would have been on third with nobody out, thereby offering an easy RBI chance for Kemp to pad the Dodgers’ lead at a stadium where visiting teams can never have enough runs.

As it turned out, Puig scored anyway, on Hanley Ramirez’s double, so the Dodgers could laugh it off afterward.

Even so, Mattingly did compare these Dodgers to the early 1970’s Oakland Athletics, a team known as the Fightin’ A’s in part because they battled each other so famously. Exhibit A was Reggie Jackson and Billy North engaging in fisticuffs in 1974 at Tiger Stadium.

The point seems to be that nobody’s going to care how many times Dodgers players had dinner with each other as long as they win the World Series.

During the past three games, they’ve looked as dangerous in the batter’s box as they have all season.

On Saturday, they steamrolled the San Francisco Giants in historical fashion -- 17-0 -- after one of their worst losses of the year the night before. They played a fundamentally sound, tightly pitched game Sunday to take a key series from the Giants. Then they avoided the letdown at a half-full Coors Field by pounding out eight runs in the sixth inning to beat the Colorado Rockies on Monday.

Now they’re getting close to punching their ticket to the playoffs and enjoying a four-game NL West lead with 12 left and a magic number to clinch a postseason berth at just five.

The Dodgers have averaged 6.7 runs per game over their past seven outings.

If what Kemp did in the dugout is an example of his taking a stronger leadership position on this team, it’s a welcome sight. A more welcome sight, though, is the 13 home runs he has mashed in the past 44 games.

“Just consistently working, grinding at-bats out and letting everything take its course,” Kemp said. “I struggled at the beginning of the season. But it’s not the way you start -- it’s the way you finish. I’ve always been a big believer in that. The season’s still not over with, so we’ve got to just grind it out.”

It’s not always the best teams that do well in October, but it’s almost always the hottest teams that go far.

Kemp’s power has added another dimension to what has been steady production from Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, along with shocking levels of production from Justin Turner and signs Puig and Ramirez could join the party soon. In other words, this could be a lineup on the verge of truly clicking for the first time all year.

“Everybody’s starting to come around,” Kemp said. “This is a good time to get hot, hopefully going into the playoffs, and we’ve got to keep grinding it out and keep getting those good at-bats.”

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 11, Rockies 3

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
9:21
PM PT
video
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 17, Giants 0

September, 13, 2014
Sep 13
9:20
PM PT


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).

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.

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 4, Padres 0

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
10:20
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- Dan Haren continued to give the Los Angeles Dodgers confidence in him, Yasiel Puig kept right on giving them fits and Carl Crawford again gave them reasons to slap his hands in congratulations.

Haren was marvelous in seven shutout innings against the San Diego Padres, pushing the Dodgers to a 4-0 victory Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium. The win was Haren's fifth in his last seven starts as he allowed four hits, struck out five and walked one.

Puig, hitting .210 since Aug. 1, was reinserted at the top of the order, but it didn't help. He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and left five men on base.

Manager Don Mattingly said before the game he was trying to move Puig around the lineup -- he hit seventh in two of the last four games -- to "get him going," citing a need for him to get on track not only before the playoffs, but before this weekend's series in San Francisco.

Crawford has been the on the other side of the spectrum. He collected a season-high four hits, three of them doubles, and drove in two runs to continue his run as one of the hottest hitters in the majors since Aug. 10. Those three doubles tied a franchise record for one game, last accomplished in 2010 by Matt Kemp.

How it happened: The Dodgers' bats stayed quiet for the first five innings, getting only a Crawford double in the second to score Kemp. But the offense picked up six hits over the next two innings, and while they managed to score only twice, it was enough for the night.

Hits: Kemp pushed his hitting streak to 16 games with a single to start the second inning. Kemp, now tied for the second-longest streak of his career, is 21-for-63 (.333) with seven doubles, four home runs and 13 RBIs during this stretch.

Misses: The Dodgers' season-long struggles with the bases loaded continued Wednesday when Puig struck out looking in the second inning on a two-out, full-count fastball on the outside corner. Puig is now 0-for-8 with the bases loaded, and as a team the Dodgers are 17-for-103 (.165).

Stat of the game: Crawford's three hits kept his hot streak flaming. Since Aug. 10, Crawford has hit .434 (36-for-83) with 20 runs scored, three home runs and 14 RBIs.

Up next: The Dodgers are off Thursday before starting a marquee series against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-6, 3.16 ERA) starts the opener against Madison Bumgarner (17-9, 3.02).

Mattingly trying to get Puig going

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
5:29
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Yasiel Puig has never been described as the first-to-arrive, last-to-leave type of baseball player, and the Los Angeles Dodgers have had issues with his punctuality in the past. So heads turned when Puig was the last one to arrive on the field for batting practice Wednesday, missing the team's designated stretch time.

This came a day after Puig chatted up some people in the stands for about a half hour before his turn to hit during batting practice on Tuesday.

But the Dodgers were fine with Puig's lateness this time as manager Don Mattingly made it clear to a few reporters that his center fielder had an excused tardy this time.

Puig had to take his mother to the doctor, clearing it with the team in advance.

Regardless of when Puig arrives at the ballpark or makes his way to the field, the Dodgers need him to hit better than the .210/.304/.539 clip he has been on since Aug. 1. Puig does not have a home run in that time and only five RBIs.

Yet there he was Wednesday, hitting in the leadoff spot against the San Diego Padres.

"We need him," Mattingly said before the game. "There is stuff going on. Guys always have stuff going on with mechanics and things, those are things they work on. But Yasiel basically has gotten us to this point. Everything we've tried to do so far has been trying to get him going. We're trying to put him in a different spot [in the lineup] to get him going, or to take pressure off of him. We know we need him, and when he's going, we're a better team.

"It's time for him to get on a roll. Sink or swim."

Mattingly said it was not only Puig the team needs to have producing. The Dodgers want to keep utility infielder Justin Turner sharp and, in the same way the offense needs Puig, get second baseman Dee Gordon back into All-Star form. That is why Turner started at second base Wednesday and Gordon, who has a .285 on-base percentage from the leadoff spot since Aug. 1, got the night off.

"We have a big series coming up [this weekend in San Francisco]," Mattingly said. "We need to get guys in line."

Dodgers lineup vs. San Diego Padres
CF Yasiel Puig
2B Justin Turner
1B Adrian Gonzalez
RF Matt Kemp
SS Hanley Ramirez
LF Carl Crawford
3B Juan Uribe
C A.J. Ellis
P Dan Haren

Padres
LF Cory Spangenberg
3B Yangervis Solarte
RF Seth Smith
2B Jedd Gyorko
1B Yasmani Grandal
C Rene Rivera
CF Will Venable
SS Alexi Amarista
P Ian Kennedy

Dodgers still waiting on Hanley and Puig

September, 9, 2014
Sep 9
11:37
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Yasiel Puig spent at least 30 minutes visiting with friends in the stands while the rest of his teammates were either taking batting practice, fielding ground balls or shagging fly balls before the Los Angeles Dodgers' 6-3 loss to the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night.

[+] Enlarge Yasiel Puig
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesYasiel Puig is batting only .189 in his last 28 games and has not homered since July 31.
When Puig's batting practice turn came up, he got to the cage in time to see Hanley Ramirez launch a ball over the left-field bleachers, off the metal roof and out of the stadium. How the Dodgers would love for one of those shots to come in an actual game.

Puig is often the last player to arrive in the Dodgers' clubhouse and he is rarely seen on the field for early batting practice. Nobody, least of all manager Don Mattingly, seems to be willing to make it an issue, at least not publicly. The lax management style of Mattingly and the rest of the organization with Puig is an in-house matter, after all. He's their player. Maybe they have a better idea how to get the most out of him than others might.

It just looks a bit funny when he's batting .189 in his last 28 games and hasn't homered since July 31 -- plus when he sparks the team's most embarrassing defensive sequence in years with a bad throw, as he did Monday night.

The Dodgers have lived with Ramirez's shoddy defense all season. He has made 16 errors. Only two shortstops in the National League -- Brandon Crawford and Ian Desmond -- have made more, and both of those guys have played at least 31 games more than Ramirez at shortstop. Both have higher fielding percentages than Ramirez. And, by the way, the advanced defensive metrics have far less-flattering things to say about Ramirez's play at shortstop.

Ramirez made two errors in the second inning Tuesday that ushered in three more unearned runs and made life even harder on struggling starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez. He is sometimes a sulking presence in the clubhouse. For weeks, he has refused to speak with inquiring reporters, often brushing past them without acknowledging their existence.

(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.

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 9, Padres 4

September, 8, 2014
Sep 8
10:13
PM PT
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.

Series preview: Diamondbacks at Dodgers

September, 4, 2014
Sep 4
11:45
AM PT
LOS ANGELES -- After this weekend’s series, the Dodgers will bid the Arizona Diamondbacks farewell (they don’t see them again until 2015) and good luck (six of Arizona’s next nine games are against the San Francisco Giants).

The fourth-place Diamondbacks have gone 5-8 against San Francisco and 4-12 against the Dodgers, but they could have a big impact on the NL West by playing spoiler for one of the teams.

Not that this should impact the race, but when asked about playing spoiler at the All-Star Game, plain-spoken Arizona catcher Miguel Montero, who has clashed with Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, told ESPNLosAngeles.com, “I don’t know. I really like the Giants a little better than the Dodgers.”

That comment aside, if the Dodgers don’t make the playoffs, they can’t blame the schedule. The Giants are the only potential playoff team left on their schedule and the Chicago Cubs are the only non-division opponent left to play.

It would be helpful if the Dodgers could continue their mastery of Arizona. The bad news is this is one of those series in which Cy Young near-lock Clayton Kershaw won’t pitch. The good news is Zack Greinke (13-8, 2.72 ERA) and Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-6, 3.18) will.
It took a while for Arizona to announce its rotation for this series, but it will go with youngsters Chase Anderson (8-6, 3.75) on Saturday and, on Friday, Vidal Nuno (2-9, 4.46), the pitcher they got from the New York Yankees in exchange for Brandon McCarthy.

On Sunday, the Dodgers will face Trevor Cahill (3-10, 5.06), who has pitched well lately as long as he’s not facing the Dodgers, who roughed him up for eight runs in 3 1/3 innings on Aug. 26 in L.A.

The Dodgers pushed back Dan Haren's start, meaning he wouldn’t face one of his former teams (the Washington Nationals) but will face another one of his former teams (Arizona). Haren has pitched well against both Washington and Arizona, so the motivation appears to be simply a matter of allowing Haren extra time to recover. The 33-year-old is coming off back-to-back quality starts against two of the weaker-hitting teams in the league, the San Diego Padres and New York Mets.

Haren is 24 innings shy of giving himself the option of returning to the Dodgers next season at a salary of $10 million, but he has said he hasn’t decided if he will play in 2015 and that the vesting option is not a motivating factor for him in these final weeks. What will motivate Haren is trying to help the Dodgers get to the playoffs. His previous two seasons were with Washington, which disappointed mightily in 2013 and the Angels, who were World Series favorites after adding Albert Pujols in 2012 and finished in a distant third place.

Stock Watch: Clayton Kershaw stands alone

September, 4, 2014
Sep 4
11:19
AM PT
Clayton KershawStephen Dunn/Getty ImagesThe Dodgers are 15 games over .500 this season in games Clayton Kershaw starts.

RISING

Streaking

Clayton Kershaw, LHP: The Dodgers are 15 games over .500 when he pitches and one game over .500 when he doesn’t. Sounds like an elegant argument for the MVP award, doesn’t it? The way things are going, the Dodgers almost have to win each of his starts to sew up the division. Kershaw held the Washington Nationals to a run on three hits over eight innings and that was the only win of what could prove to be a playoff series preview. Every Kershaw start will be gripping theater in this final month. Next up is Monday vs. San Diego, and then two of the next three are against the second-place San Francisco Giants. If he wins three or four more starts this month, there will be a groundswell of support to get him the MVP and the Dodgers will probably be in the playoffs. They go hand in hand, of course.

Pedro Baez, RHP: If the Dodgers go with experience in sorting out bullpen roles, they will continue to use Baez in low-pressure, middle-of-the-game situations. That could prove a fatal mistake, because they have no reliable eighth-inning options with experience aside from lefty J.P. Howell. It would be unwise to use Kenley Jansen repeatedly to get four-out saves, particularly if he is pitching frequently in September. Brian Wilson inspires scant confidence with his high-wire innings and Brandon League has proven unusable in clutch situations. So, the Dodgers might be forced to try Baez in the eighth. Why not? He throws 98 mph and he has blown away some of the best hitters in baseball lately. In two outings over the last week, Baez worked 3 1/3 scoreless innings, struck out four and allowed just one base runner. If they go with a Baez-Jansen combination, it would be a converted third baseman getting the ball to a converted catcher, a 5-2 putout of sorts.

Justin Turner, INF: Since Juan Uribe came back, the Dodgers’ hottest hitter has returned to the bench. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since Uribe has had some big hits already and played his usual unorthodox but reliable defense. The one game Turner started, he showed the lack of playing time hasn’t cooled him off. He had one of two huge hits on an otherwise frustrating day Wednesday, smashing a two-run home run that looked like it would be the game-winner until Jansen blew the save. As long as he keeps swinging this well, it’s going to be Don Mattingly’s job to find ways to get him on the field.

FALLING

Slumping

Dee Gordon, 2B: Overall, his emergence as a productive everyday player has been a big positive for the Dodgers this season and his base running has been fun to watch, but he doesn’t profile as a leadoff hitter over the course of his career. Gordon hasn’t walked in nearly three weeks and when he’s struggling to get hits he becomes a non-factor in the lineup. He batted .115 over the past week and was thrown out in his only stolen-base attempt (after he hopped up after sliding in safely and was tagged out). The six strikeouts are also a bit of a concern.

Yasiel Puig, RF: The lack of power -- one extra-base hit in the past three weeks -- is what has really hurt the Dodgers’ offense, but it’s a product of him abandoning the approach that made him such a force in May. He has struck out twice as many times as he has walked over those three weeks, a good indication his patience is wearing thin. That’s a good description of Mattingly’s patience as well, as he has benched Puig three times in the past two weeks during this protracted slump. He had a couple of singles Wednesday and walked the day before, so maybe those are small signs that he is about to have a productive month. The Dodgers could sorely use one from him.

Brandon League, RHP: He has a 2.95 ERA, so that means he’s having a good year, right? That only shows how deceptive ERA can be in assessing a reliever’s value. League has nearly as many walks (25) as strikeouts (31) this season, which makes him dangerously dependent on luck to survive his innings unscathed. His WHIP (1.527) is nearly as unsightly as it was last year, his worst season since 2007, when he had a 6.17 ERA. He also hasn’t done his teammates any favors: For the second year in a row, League is allowing half his inherited runners to score. It’s pretty clear that he’s only an option in blowouts and when the Dodgers are losing.

Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig, together again

September, 3, 2014
Sep 3
11:13
AM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Apparently, Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig aren’t an either-or proposition, or at least they weren’t on Wednesday afternoon.

Both young outfielders were in the lineup against the Washington Nationals, with Dodgers manager Don Mattingly calling it an “energy day,” an opportunity to rest Matt Kemp and get two of the organization’s most athletic players in the lineup at the same time. Puig shifted back to right field, an indication the Dodgers prefer Pederson’s glove over Puig’s in center. The two played together at Double-A Chattanooga last season.

Pederson, 22, made his first major-league start Tuesday night and picked up his first major-league hit, going 1-for-3 with a walk. With Clayton Kershaw dominating the Nationals, no balls were hit to center field. Mattingly said he would like to get back to the set lineup that has Puig playing every day in center field, but the team needs to see signs of progress in Puig’s batting to do so. He is hitting .210 with just three extra-base hits and 24 strikeouts since Aug. 1.

If Puig continues to struggle, Pederson will continue to get opportunities.

“I’ll just see how it goes,” Mattingly said. “Obviously, we’ve got to try to get Yasiel going. That’s really the wild card. If we get him going, then things stay the same.”

Rapid Reax: Padres 2, Dodgers 1 (10)

August, 30, 2014
Aug 30
9:15
PM PT

SAN DIEGO -- The Los Angeles Dodgers have made the mistake of entering the San Diego Padres' world the past two nights, and it might wind up costing them dearly.

The Dodgers got caught up in low-scoring games decided by bullpens, and that is pretty much the only way to lose to the worst-hitting team in baseball. On Saturday, the Dodgers lost a second consecutive walk-off game to the Padres at Petco Park 2-1 and dropped another game in the standings. They lead the San Francisco Giants by just 2 games now.

How it happened: As usual when these teams play, pitching ruled the day. Zack Greinke and Ian Kennedy were both in sync, and that meant very few hitters looked comfortable. The Dodgers struck out eight times in the first four innings against Kennedy, whom they were facing for the fifth time this season. Greinke was just as good, if not better, an encouraging sign considering he has been pitching with a sore elbow.

Padres catcher Rene Rivera was Greinke’s only problem. He hit a pair of leadoff doubles. The first time, he scored. The second time, in the eighth, Cameron Maybin pinch ran and Drew Butera picked him off second base. The throw bounced, but it somehow scooted past Maybin, and Hanley Ramirez was able to apply a quick tag for a huge out.

The Padres got Greinke out of the game and almost beat the Dodgers’ most consistent middle reliever, J.P. Howell, but Howell somehow snared a wicked line drive from Yasmani Grandal and doubled Abraham Almonte off second base to diffuse the rally.

The Padres won it in the 10th when Alexi Amarista singled off Jamey Wright to score Will Venable from second base.

Hits: The No. 1 upside from Saturday’s game is that it appears the Dodgers’ rotation is far healthier than it appeared just days ago. Hyun-Jin Ryu is scheduled to come off the disabled list to pitch Sunday, but even more encouraging was Greinke’s efficient work Saturday. He got in a spot of trouble in the third when Rivera ripped a double into the left-field corner and scored, but otherwise Greinke appeared to be in command of all his pitches. The fact he could breeze through eight innings with eight strikeouts and just four hits was a huge boost to the Dodgers’ pennant hopes.

Misses: It looked like Yasiel Puig's frustrations -- and the Dodgers’ problems scoring at Petco Park -- had ended in the sixth inning. After Matt Kemp walked, Puig took a big cut and hit a massive, soaring drive to center field. It probably would have left all but a few parks in baseball, and this isn’t one of those. Center fielder Almonte caught it on the warning track with his back pressed against the wall. That means Puig’s slump lived on. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly slid him to the fifth spot in the lineup for the first time all season. The good news was his 0-for-22 skid ended with a single up the middle in the eighth inning, but Puig struck out three times on the night.

Stat of the game: Mattingly insists he’ll go with Juan Uribe at third base every day when the veteran returns, perhaps as soon as Sunday. That could be, but Mattingly would be taking his hottest hitter out of the lineup on many days. Justin Turner is batting .374 since May 23, best in the majors for players with a minimum of 175 plate appearances.

Up next: Ryu (13-6, 3.28 ERA) returns from the disabled list, where he spent about two and a half weeks resting his strained buttock muscles, to pitch Sunday's 1:10 game. The Dodgers will be facing former teammate Eric Stults (6-14, 4.63), who has been tough on them in the past.

Justin Turner proves invaluable to Dodgers

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
11:00
AM PT
SAN DIEGO -- It was Jan. 25, two weeks before the Dodgers’ pitchers and catchers were due to report for spring training, and Justin Turner was growing a bit nervous.

He had been non-tendered by the New York Mets two months earlier, and the offers hadn’t exactly flooded his agent’s cell phone. Turner had two offers for minor league deals, one with the Boston Red Sox and one with the Minnesota Twins, but he had his heart set on playing for the Dodgers. Not only were they his hometown team -- he grew up in Long Beach and has lived in North Hollywood the past two years -- but there appeared to be a golden opportunity at Dodger Stadium.

National League teams use bench players far more frequently than AL teams, and Turner knew that the Dodgers had lost all their reserve infielders, with Skip Schumaker and Nick Punto signing elsewhere and Jerry Hairston Jr. and Michael Young retiring.

That’s when Turner ran into Dodgers bench coach Tim Wallach at the Cal State Fullerton alumni game. Turner would soon be a Dodger, albeit a Dodger with no guarantees. The Dodgers had been negotiating to re-sign Young, but turned their attention to Turner when Young informed them he was calling it a career.

Wallach called manager Don Mattingly and Mattingly called general manager Ned Colletti.

“He asked me what was going on, like, ‘Why haven’t you signed with the Dodgers yet?’ “ Turner said. “I was like, ‘I haven’t heard anything yet,’ and then, some-odd days later, I get a phone call and the next thing I know, I’m a Dodger.”

As well as that worked out for Turner, it has worked out better for the Dodgers in the intervening months. Turner, who went into camp fighting for a roster spot, has, by one important measure, been the Dodgers’ second-most important position player this season. He has filled in at four positions while batting .321 overall and .420 with runners in scoring position. According to Baseball-Reference’s version of wins above replacement (WAR), Turner has been the Dodgers’ second-most valuable position player behind Yasiel Puig.

Better than RBI leader Adrian Gonzalez, better than spark plug Dee Gordon, better than superstar shortstop Hanley Ramirez.

“I don’t even know how you calculate [WAR] or what, exactly, it means,” Turner said. “I know sabermetrics is a big part of it nowadays and I know that’s a big sabermetric number, but I don’t really pay attention to it. Any time you have success, it’s gratifying, especially when you know how difficult the game is.”

It goes beyond those numbers, though. For the second time this season, Turner has filled in for one of the Dodgers’ most unsung players, Juan Uribe, and made his absence virtually invisible.

[+] EnlargeJustin Turner, Yasiel Puig
AP Photo/Alex GallardoJustin Turner and Yasiel Puig are the Dodgers' top two position players in wins above replacement.
“Shoot, to be honest with you, I’m not sure where we’d be if he hadn’t been here,” Wallach said.

If anything, the Dodgers feel like Turner has been more valuable to them than his WAR suggests. He has seen 4.17 pitches per plate appearance, putting him just behind catcher A.J. Ellis, one of the game’s most patient hitters, in that category. It’s Turner’s ability to grind out at-bats that first made him such a good fit for the Dodgers in Wallach’s mind.

“Every time we saw him, he’d always take a good at-bat. It didn’t mean he always got a hit, but it was never an easy at-bat for the pitcher,” Wallach said. “To me, there’s a lot of good in that. I think it always takes a little out of what they’re trying to do, gets you a little closer to that hit you’re going to need.

“When we look at our pitchers, especially our starters, you look at how many tough innings they have. If they have two or three tough innings early in the game, usually you’re going to be careful with how long you’re going to let them go. So, tough at-bats are important.”

Last weekend was one to savor for Turner. The Mets were in town and, each time he came up, the scoreboard indicated he was hitting .318 for one of the league’s best teams. The Mets’ front office, no doubt, took note. After the Mets non-tendered Turner, they leaked information to ESPNNewYork’s Adam Rubin that they had grown tired of seeing Turner not run hard to first base, a charge Turner finds ridiculous.

“It felt good, obviously. That’s one of the last reasons it feels good for me, but obviously when the team that lets you go comes in, you always have that little extra hunger or drive to want to do better and to want to prove them wrong,” Turner said.

When Uribe comes back from his hamstring injury, which could be a matter of a week or so, Turner will return to his previous role: filling in for Uribe, Ramirez, Gordon and Gonzalez. The Dodgers will upgrade the left side of their infield a bit since Uribe is one of the league’s best third baseman, but they will be taking a small step back offensively. In a way, it’s the reverse of what they’re going through transitioning Ramirez back to everyday shortstop.

“Is he Juan Uribe? Probably not, but he’s done a very good job wherever we put him,” Wallach said. “He’s done a good job at all of them and those guys are invaluable.”

Of all the Dodgers people figured to be calling “invaluable,” back in February, Turner might not have cracked the Top 25.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Yasiel Puig
BA HR RBI R
.295 14 62 79
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Gonzalez 23
RBIA. Gonzalez 106
RD. Gordon 87
OPSY. Puig .862
WC. Kershaw 19
ERAC. Kershaw 1.70
SOC. Kershaw 219