Aug 23

Ex-Marlins 2, Red Sox 0: Dodgers win behind Nolasc00000000

This was the Dodgers’ No. 4 starter?

On a spectacular night of pitching, Ricky Nolasco absolutely stifled the Boston Red Sox, 2-0, pitching the Dodgers to their second consecutive shutout and a 10 1/2 game lead in the National League West, their biggest margin since 1977.

Nolasco matched Clayton Kershaw’s Thursday performance and then some, pitching eight shutout innings on 101 pitches, allowing two hits and no walks (hitting one batter) while striking out six.

With Carl Crawford (2 for 3 with two steals) on second base, two outs and a 1-2 count, fellow ex-Bostoner Hanley Ramirez hit a towering two-run home run to center field off John Lackey in the bottom of the fifth. Lackey allowed no hits to the remaining seven Dodger starters.

In the top of the next inning, Juan Uribe got Nolasco out of his biggest jam, fielding a grounder with runners on first and second and throwing from one knee to second base to start an inning-ending double play. Nolasco followed that with three perfect innings to finish his night, and then Kenley Jansen came on to retire the side in order to wrap up the team’s 46th victory in their past 56 games. The Dodgers are 29-5 since the All-Star break.

The game hadn’t passed the two-hour mark when the ninth inning began and finished at 2:07, the Dodgers’ fastest since July 9, 2008. Los Angeles has allowed one run in its past 30 innings.

The team ERA of the Dodgers in 34 games since the All-Star break: 2.12. The team ERA of the Dodgers in 22 games in August: 1.86.

After going seven innings in his first Dodger start July 9, Nolasco didn’t make it out of the sixth inning in his next five. But he now has three consecutive quality starts, and in his Dodger career has a 2.53 ERA over 53 1/3 innings in nine outings with Los Angeles.

With Atlanta losing, the Dodgers moved to within a game of the best record in the major leagues.

Aug 23

Vin Scully talks about his return

Red Sox at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.

Quotes from Vin Scully this afternoon, via The Associated Press:

‘I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that I have always felt that I am the most ordinary of men who was given an extraordinary break of doing what I love to do at a very early age. I pray that I’ll be allowed to do it for at least one more year.

”As far as I’m concerned, it could have been one line in the note sheet tonight. But I don’t take any of it for granted in any way, shape or form. I know that this miracle was given to me, and I could lose it in 30 seconds between the time I leave here and go up to the booth. I’m just so blessed to be doing what I love to do and full of thanks.

”I do think that the success of the team had something to do with it. These last 50 games, coming to the ballpark and watching them pull out some miraculous victories, it was so thrilling – even for someone who had seen however many games I’ve seen before.

”It became so much exciting again and so much fun. I don’t really know how I would have felt had they stayed in last place with 30 some-odd games left. I probably would have come back, anyway, because I love it so much, but this made it pretty easy. And as long as I feel the emotion, I feel like I should be here.

”The thought of just suddenly walking away from all these friends in the ballpark, and this great game, and this very exciting team, and this fandom that’s so thrilled with what’s going on, I thought there’s just no way. The best way that I could describe it was the night of the bobblehead, a couple of weeks ago, and they played that little tribute on the screen. And the ovation was overwhelming. I was as close to crying as I’ve been in a long long time.”

Aug 22

The Class of 65: Vin Scully to return for 65th year with Dodgers in 2014

Bill Shaikin of the Times has the best news of a fantastic Dodger summer:

… The Dodgers are expected to announce Friday that Scully, the finest broadcaster in baseball history, will return for a record 65th season in 2014.

Scully is 85. The Dodgers never would kick him out of the broadcast booth, but he respects his audience too much to mumble around a microphone the way Willie Mays stumbled around center field for the New York Mets, in a sad close to a brilliant career.

So Scully takes it year to year. This year, he has been invigorated by the best reality show in town, the richest-to-worst-to-first Dodgers. Next year? Sign him up.

“It has been such an exciting, enjoyable, wonderful season — the big crowds in the ballpark, everybody is talking about the ballclub, and I really respect, admire and love the management — so everything just fell into place,” Scully said.

“I really still enjoy it immensely. My health is good, thank God. So why not? And my wife said, ‘Why not?’ as well.

“Just the thought of walking away from it to retirement — and looking out the window or something? It’s just too good. As a baseball man, and someone who has always loved the game, the situation and the conditions are perfect.” …

Update: The Dodgers have made it official.

Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully, an icon in American sports history, will return to the Dodger broadcast booth for an unprecedented 65th season in 2014, it was announced. Scully will again call all Dodger home games and road games in California and Arizona.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed the excitement of this season and there is no way I could leave this truly remarkable team and our great fans,” Scully said. “With my wife Sandi’s blessing, I’ve decided I’d like to come back and do it again next season. I love what the new ownership has brought to the team, and the energy provided by the fans, who have packed renovated Dodger Stadium. It reminds me that other than being home with my family, there is no place else I’d rather be.”

Widely regarded as the finest sportscaster of all time, Scully’s 64 years of service mark the longest tenure in his field. He will call all nine innings of the team’s television broadcasts on Time Warner SportsNet LA beginning in 2014, with the first three innings of each of his games also simulcast on AM 570 Fox Sports LA.

“The Dodgers are overjoyed to have Vin back with the team in 2014,” said Dodger Chairman and Owner Mark Walter. “Vin IS Dodger baseball. The Dodgers, the sport of baseball and the city of Los Angeles are extremely fortunate to have him in our midst.”;

“We’re so grateful that Vin wants to continue to call Dodger games,” said Dodger owner Earvin Johnson, “Being able to listen to Vin helps make every Dodger game something special.”

“Vin brings a unique perspective to Dodger baseball,” said Dodger President and CEO Stan Kasten. “Everyone in the Dodger family and within the sound of his voice benefits each and every time we are afforded the opportunity to hear him call a Dodger game. We are thrilled to know that experience will continue through at least the 2014 season.” …

Aug 22

Kershaw brews, Dodgers cruise

With six earned runs in 53 innings, Clayton Kershaw has brewed a 1.02 ERA since the All-Star break.

Over eight innings, he allowed eight baserunners in the Dodgers’ 6-0 victory over Miami, and his WHIP rose.

His ERA+ is now over 200. He had another RBI hit, a line-drive single to left field that broke a scoreless tie in the fourth inning.

And this wasn’t even his best game. His control was shaky at the outset, with seven of his first eight pitches called out of the strike zone and 18 balls to his first seven batters.

But with the help of three timely double-play grounders, the Marlins couldn’t score.

Kershaw called it a day after 103 pitches, 66 for strikes. Brian Wilson made his first Dodger appearance in the ninth inning, striking out two and allowing a two-out double to Greg Dobbs. He threw 19 pitches, 11 for strikes.

Five Dodgers had doubles, and Skip Schumaker had a single to go with twice being hit by a pitch. It was the 24th time a Los Angeles Dodger was twice plunked, with Nomar Garciaparra remaining the only one to record the painful hat trick.

Yasiel Puig, who had a double and a sacrifice fly, was also hit by a pitch. In the fourth inning, he was safe at home on a pitch to Schumaker that bounced about 10 feet away from the plate, but it had been ruled dead because the ball hit Schumaker. It would have been a smart hustle play, though.

Arizona lost to Cincinnati, meaning the Dodgers lead the National League West by a season-high 9 1/2 games. In the divisional era, here are their biggest winning margins:

10.0 games in 1977
7.0 games in 1988
5.5 games in 1985
4.0 games in 1974
3.0 games in 2009
3.0 games in 1983
2.5 games in 1978
2.0 games in 2008
2.0 games in 2004
1.0 games in 1995
0.5 games in 1981 (split season, first half)

Aug 21

‘And you get a benching! And you get a benching!”

My favorite part of Bill Plaschke’s latest column in the Times, which I’ve been rubbernecking since Tuesday night – I mean, there’s such a perverse pleasure in it; it’s like perspective fell down a well, and news trucks from all around the country have come to cover the dramatic rescue attempt – is this.

Plaschke is so gung-ho about his mission to bench Yasiel Puig that he thinks you need to make plans to do it over and over again.

… There is one easy way out of this problem. That would be Matt Kemp. The Dodgers desperately need the return of the injured Kemp — giving them four outfielders for three spots — so Puig can be benched more often down the stretch and be allowed to grow more slowly into the game. Kemp could be back as soon as Sept. 1, and for Puig’s development, it will not be soon enough. …

It’s as if one side of the reactionary sports world said, “They pull a Morosi? You pull a Plaschke.”

Plaschke somehow managed to top the magical illlogic earlier in the same column, “For every playoff game that Puig wins with his bold arm or crazy legs, he could cost them two,” a statement that shows that as much as Plaschke claims to see the big picture, he misses it entirely.

Man of character Nick Punto greets Yasiel Puig after his tiebreaking home run.

Look, even most of those who thought a punitive benching of Puig was an overreaction would concede that a day off to collect himself might not hurt. There are obviously aspects of Puig you’d like to see improve, and leaving him out of the starting lineup Tuesday was sensible timing.

But when you argue in print that a 22-year-old ballplayer, after 2 1/2 months in the major leagues, is so lacking in character that you “desperately” need a mechanism to keep him in line – weeks from now, over and over again, because the initial punishment or his natural development has so little chance of working  – you’ve revealed to the world your bias against him.

And it’s a nice touch to ignore the irony that the Dodger you name as your savior is the last one you pilloried in the press.

Even Plaschke’s seemingly rational request that Puig “be allowed to grow into the game” misses the mark, ignoring the fact that this player, who 14 months ago was in the midst of a long layoff from competitive baseball on any level, has shown preternatural ability to do just that. If Plaschke just took a breath and thought about all the things Puig does right, that no observer of the Dodgers had any right to expect in August 2013, he might not be so alarmed and devastated that yes, mistakes do happen, on and off the field.

Every parent, to use one analogy, wants to protect and instruct their children from making mistakes that could cause them harm. There’s plenty I’d like to see my kids do better. But ideally, I evaluate their weaknesses alongside their strengths, I don’t let their shortcomings blind me to their sheer wonder, and I certainly don’t plan for their continued ignorance.

And I understand that the best way to learn is to learn by doing.

But don’t give up hope. Perspective might yet make it out of the dark, cold pit. I give Don Mattingly a healthy chance of ensuring its rescue.

Aug 20

And, exhale

There’s little I can tell you that you can’t see for yourself. This will be the opposite of profound.

A good player who had a tense couple of days and hit a rough patch at the plate was held out of the starting lineup, then fined for being late to the ballpark. But the manager kept things in perspective and put the player into the game at a moment when he was needed, and the player hit a game-winning home run.

What did he gain by sitting? What did he lose by playing? I don’t know. I do have an instinct that the situation was handled well, and the favorable outcome to the game for the Dodgers was a bonus.

I like leadership that has a cool head. I think that’s what the Dodgers had today.

Los Angeles put 21 runners on base but used a third as many pitchers, needing Kenley Jansen to come in for the save in the ninth. It was a nailbiter most of the way against a last-place team in a crowd-challenged stadium. But the Dodgers can sleep tonight, then wake up to Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw for the next two games.

 

Aug 19

Yasiel Puig does not need to be benched

This notion that the Dodgers need to Watch out! because Yasiel Puig’s mental blunders could cost them a playoff game is the latest in a series of stories about the rookie phenom that mean well but miss the point.

If Los Angeles is lucky enough to be in position to watch Puig make a costly mistake in a playoff game, whom do you think everyone in the city will need to line up and thank?

The Dodgers don’t need to watch out for Puig’s mistakes any more than they need to watch out for Mark Ellis’ inconsistent bat, Carl Crawford’s throwing arm, Don Mattingly’s bullpen choices or any of the numerous weaknesses that every member of the team has.

Admittedly, it’s hard to find them in Clayton Kershaw, but even him.

Yasiel Puig makes mistakes in the field. His mistakes can be interpreted as character flaws, which can be infuriating.

Just because he makes a certain type of mistake doesn’t mean he is singularly capable of hurting the Dodgers in a way no other player is.

With every player, you evaluate the pros and cons in a total package, and then you put out the best possible lineup on a given day. Evaluating Puig’s weaknesses in a vacuum, independent of the immensely promising strengths, is a pointless exercise.

The tricky thing with Puig, one can concede, is that it’s not like he only makes mistakes against lefthanders or in day games. So you can’t hide them the way you might, say, hide Andre Ethier’s production against lefties (Sunday’s homer notwithstanding).

Until there are three other outfielders whose net production is better than Puig’s, you play Puig. And right now, no such outfielder on the Dodgers exists, unless Matt Kemp returns from the disabled list in his 2011 form. Let alone three of them.

Kemp, of course, illustrates the folly of getting caught up in a player’s mental mistakes. Before he became a Most Valuable Player candidate, people became obsessed with his baserunning errors, to the point of calling for him to be traded, when his talent was obvious and all that was needed was more patience for him to get the message.

It wasn’t the benching of Kemp that solved his issues. It was, all parties subsequently disclosed, a lengthy and frank conversation between Kemp and Ned Colletti that got everyone on the same page. Kemp reached a level of maturity that Puig will probably get to at some point, through patience and tutelage and conversation and several other tools. In other words, it might not arrive by by 4:05 p.m. today.

It will come when it comes. It will come as fast as the Dodgers can make it come. It will come soon enough.

This is not to say Puig shouldn’t get an occasional day off, like every other Dodger has gotten since Steve Garvey played first base. But a punitive benching isn’t likely to do much other than make the people watching the games feel superior.

Mistakes like throwing to the wrong base are easy pickins’ for mortals like fans and sportswriters, because it’s the kind of thing we mortals could actually get right. If I know to hit the cutoff man, Puig must be a human disaster area if he doesn’t, right?

At the end of the day, wouldn’t you rather have a ballplayer whose biggest problem is he throws or runs to the wrong base, rather than one whose biggest problem is he can’t hit or run at all? Puig is already learning patience at the plate faster than anyone way, way back in June dreamed he would. If Puig’s biggest remaining problem is learning to hit the cutoff man, that’s not something to denigrate, that’s something to celebrate.

And we’re not even discussing the the fact that the same approach that sometimes leads Puig astray might also lead him to triumph, many times over.

It’s entirely possible that a Puig mistake will cost the Dodgers a game. That makes him like nobody else — except everyone else that wears a Dodger uniform.

Dodgers at Marlins, 4:10 p.m.

Aug 18

Ninth-inning errors undo streaking Dodgers

Brandon League had a classic Jonathan Broxton-style loss today (and I realize that putting both those names in the same sentence could do to the Internet what Walter White does to dispose a body on Breaking Bad).

League took the mound trying to keep the Dodgers alive against the Phillies, a fielder made an error, Carlos Ruiz did something, and then a fielder made another error, and the game was over. The Dodgers, who hadn’t lost since August 6 and hadn’t surrendered a lead of any kind since August 8, wasted Andre Ethier’s home run off lefthander Cole Hamels, let a 2-0 midgame advantage slip away and fell to Philadelphia, 3-2.

So no, this loss shouldn’t get pinned on League, who isn’t nearly as good as the Internet-abused Broxton was in his heyday and couldn’t get a strikeout when he needed one, but nevertheless deserved to get out of the inning without a run. Hanley Ramirez, who went 0 for 4 before making both ninth-inning errors, will have to be the fall guy for this one. Given Ramirez’s track record in 2013, he can take it.

You can also fault Don Mattingly for feeling the need to put League into a tie game in the ninth in place of a sizzling Paco Rodriguez (who had retired four batters on 15 pitches) to face Casper Wells, 12 for 80 going into today’s game with his third major-league team of the year. Leaving Rodriguez in the game or going straight to Kenley Jansen, when you knew you needed to pitch shutout ball, were obvious options.

As for the fact that the Dodgers lost without using Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford or A.J. Ellis, well, either you believe in resting position players or you don’t. If you do, well, you assume that the long-term benefit of the full day off outweighs the short-term impact they could have had on this particular game. (Plus, the subs for Gonzalez and Crawford went a combined 4 for 8, though perhaps Gonzalez would have fielded the bouncing throw from Ramirez that Jerry Hairston Jr. missed).

If you don’t believe in player rest, well, there’s always tomorrow.

Aug 18

Pair of pitchers will test Dodgers’ winning ways

Having achieved so many feats over the past two months, the Dodgers can add another in the next 36 hours. With two more wins, today in Philadelphia and Monday in Miami, the Dodgers would improve their post-All Star break record to 27-3 – a .900 winning percentage.

Standings since the end of play June 21

But those two games should also be the toughest of their current road trip. This morning, Los Angeles sends Ricky Nolasco against Cole Hamels, who has pitched better than his 5-13 record. Since July 1, Hamels has a 1.98 ERA with 47 strikeouts against 63 baserunners in 59 innings. He has been averaging 7.4 innings per start, and most recently had a complete game 5-1 victory with nine strikeouts over the one team in the majors with a better record than the Dodgers, Atlanta.

Hamels did throw a season-high 123 pitches in that game, but he has had five days off between then and today’s start.

Monday might pose an even greater challenge. The Dodgers will have wonderful rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu open things against the Marlins, but are scheduled to face their own wonderful rookie in Jose Fernandez, who has a 2.45 ERA and 149 strikeouts in 139 2/3 innings with 136 baserunners allowed.

The one advantage the Dodgers figure to have in both games is in their starting lineup, although against lefty Hamels, Los Angeles will begin with Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez on the bench. A.J. Ellis and Juan Uribe are also resting, meaning that Scott Van Slyke will be in left field, Jerry Hairston Jr. at first base, Tim Federowicz at catcher and Nick Punto at third base.

Among other things, the Dodgers have also become the first team to win 19 road games out of 20 since the 1916 New York Giants, according to STATS (via The Associated Press).

And here’s one more for you. Since June 22, the Dodgers are 34 games over .500. The other teams with winning records in the National League are a combined 29 games over .500.

Dodgers at Phillies, 10:35 a.m.

Caption this photo!

Aug 17

Now, the Dodgers don’t even allow any runs

My mind is going kljadhfklajhkkjacl.

Not only have 10 games have gone by since the Dodgers last lost, 27 innings have passed since they last gave up a run.

Despite more running errors than Larry, Moe and Curly in a five-legged race, Los Angeles made it to the historic 42-8 mark in their past 50 games with tonight’s 5-0 victory over Philadelphia.

The feats are so indescribable that I’m going to try to keep trying to make up words to describe them.

Alajhlakjtasl.

Lasfueblutasat.

Kershawmanic.

The team’s resident ace, Clayton Kershaw, again appeared to have no-hit stuff, throwing four perfect innings before he himself hit an RBI double to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead. A worst-case scenario followed, with Kershaw spending the rest of the top of the fifth inning on the basepaths until the inning ended with one of the Dodgers’ four double plays.

Kershaw allowed a hit to the first batter he faced after that, but still had an easy time of it until the eighth, the only inning that two Phillies reached base against him. Frequent Dodger nemesis Carlos Ruiz came up as the go-ahead run, but in the latest illustration of how things have changed in 2013, he went down swinging on Kershaw’s 100th and final pitch of the game.

Kershaw’s ERA is now 1.797.

Juan Uribe, who earlier singled, doubled and walked and made multiple fine plays on defense, hit a three-run homer in the top of the ninth to ice the game.  Uribeatific.

They are 25-3 since the All-Star break. They have won 19 of their past 20 road games. They are jsihlknasd, quijlhbabal, blayscarfic. They are your Los Angeles Dodgers.

 

Aug 16

Blue Is the Warmest Color: Dodgers 4, Phillies 0

Can it be any accident that at the exact moment the Dodgers closed out their latest victory, my screening of the Cannes Film Festival winner was beginning. The film was terrific, a worthy (and platonic) companion to my warm feeling toward the Big Blue Wrecking Crew.

Nine wins in a row
, 8 1/2 game lead in the National League West, 24-3 after the All-Star Break, 41-8 since June 22.

Wow, redux.