Aug 14

From 0-8 to 39-8: Dodgers have every reason to appreciate success

Those were some sad times in May ...

Having captured the attention of the entire baseball world with their 39-8 run, it remains hard to believe that the 2013 Dodgers had another memorable “something-and-8″ this year — beginning the month of May with an 0-8 start.

It’s a trip down Bad Memory Lane that should make you feel fantastic about the journey back. Here’s how it happened — how this team was once that team …

Rockies 7, Dodgers 3 (May 1)
Main event: Josh Beckett was still a part of the Dodger rotation. He allowed three runs in the first inning, and was replaced after the fourth inning, having given up five runs (four earned) and eight baserunners on 83 pitches.
Sidelights: The Dodgers were only down 5-3 when Kenley Jansen faced two batters in the seventh inning, retired neither and was charged with two runs. Los Angeles also wasted a three-hit game from Hanley Ramirez, only his second complete game of his injury-riddled year.
Takeaway: Ineffective starting pitching and ineffective relief pitching is an unfortunate combo that the summertime Dodgers obviously haven’t often seen. But buckle up — we’re just getting started with these Dodgers of early May.

Giants 2, Dodgers 1 (May 3)
Main event:
Overtly, it was Buster Posey’s walkoff home run leading off the bottom of the ninth against Ronald Belisario. But arguably, the key aspect of the loss was the Dodgers’ parlaying 11 hits and seven walks into one single run. The team left 13 runners on base and hit into three double plays.
Sidelights: As part of a trend that hasn’t entirely abated, Clayton Kershaw was not rewarded for pitching well: seven innings, six baserunners, one run, no decision. He allowed his run in the sixth inning, the same inning that Ramirez pulled up lame running from first to third, his last game action for more than a month.
Takeaway: The Dodgers still haven’t gotten completely away from stranding runners, but they certainly have done better recently. Those with backbone saw the Dodgers’ ability to get runners on base in the first place, even if they didn’t score, as a good sign.

Giants 10, Dodgers 9 (May 4)
Main event:
In one of the wildest games of the season, Los Angeles had a seven-run fifth inning and still lost, once again on a walkoff homer, by none other than Guillermo Quiroz off Brandon League.
Sidelights: After a mostly encouraging first start April 27, Matt Magill’s problems surfaced boldly in this one: 14 batters, 10 baserunners, four outs, five runs. Nick Punto walked to start the seven-run inning and an RBI double to cap it, all for naught.
Takeaway: Four different Dodger relievers allowed runs, and three of them remain on the roster: J.P. Howell, Belisario and losing pitcher Brandon League. Over recent weeks: same guys, different results.

Giants 4, Dodgers 3 (May 5)
Main event:
Down 4-0 in the eighth, the Dodgers rallied for three runs, thanks in part to a pinch-hit, two-run single by Adrian Gonzalez, but Jerry Hairston, Jr. stranded the tying run at second base.
Sidelights: Hyun-Jin Ryu allowed four runs in six innings.
Takeaway: This was the three-game sweep that prompted Don Mattingly to comment, in fashion that raised the eyebrows of T.J. Simers and a number of others, “I feel better about our club walking out of here than I did walking in.” Simers called Mattingly ridiculous, but it turns out that focusing on the subtext, rather than the text, was the right call. Of course, this wasn’t the last time that comments by Mattingly would be scrutinized.

Diamondbacks 9, Dodgers 2 (May 6)
Main event: Chris Capuano got blasted in his first start after 20 days on the sidelines, allowing three runs in the second and three runs in the fifth.
Sidelights: The Dodgers trailed by one heading into the fifth before being blown away. Javy Guerra capped things by allowing three runs in the ninth.
Takeaway: In their past 48 games, the Dodgers have lost by more than four runs once. The timing of a loss of this nature, which dropped Los Angeles into last place for the first time in 2013, just as Mattingly’s comments were generating controversy, could hardly have been much worse.

Diamondbacks 5, Dodgers 3 (May 7)
Main event:
A two-run home run by Paul Goldschmidt off Brandon League in the top of the ninth decided this one. At the time, this was just a cruel mismatch.
Sidelights: Beckett held together to allow three runs over six innings, and the Dodgers tied the game in the bottom of the seventh on a Skip Schmaker walk and Punto double. Jansen threw 18 pitches in the eighth inning, so there was little chance he would pitch the ninth even if Mattingly were inclined to use him then.
Takeaway: This was the third bullpen loss of the past week. Dodger relievers have had one loss charged to them in their past 49 games.

Diamondbacks 3, Dodgers 2 (May 8 )
Main event:
Goldschmidt again, but this time his tiebreaking home run came in the eighth off Jansen.
Sidelights: Leading 2-0 in the sixth, Kershaw allowed his own homer to Goldschmidt after Didi Gregorius (love that name) reached on a Dee Gordon error. Gordon was the only Dodger with two hits in the game.
Takeaway: Home runs off Kershaw and Jansen? When things were going badly, they were going very badly.

Marlins 5, Dodgers 4 (May 10)
Main event: Adrian Gonzalez hit a three-run home run in the first inning, propeling the Dodgers to the end of their seven-game losing streak. Except, not.
Sidelights: Belisario took another loss, thanks to a two-run Marlins seventh that broke a 3-3 tie. The Dodgers’ scored once in the eighth on A.J. Ellis’ third hit of the game, but after a one-out wild pitch, he was stranded. Magill allowed three runs in five innings.
Takeaway: Not enough offense, not enough pitching. Again.

When I look at the Dodger team that has chosen to spread its eight losses over eight weeks rather than compressing them into one week, I have trouble quite believing they could be that good — just like I had trouble believing they could be quite that bad.

But with a bullpen taking five losses in eight games, you had to hope for some kind of change. Thankfully, that change did arrive, and it’s just surreal.

Mets at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.

Aug 13

Dowdgers make Harvey invisible, 4-2

Matt Harvey is the biggest legitimate rival to Clayton Kershaw’s Cy Young candidacy and the toughest pitcher Los Angeles has faced in its race from the bottom to the top of the baseball world. Only seven times in 23 outings had he allowed more than two runs all year; only three times had he allowed more than three runs.

But after toying with Harvey and being toyed with right back – three times in the first four innings the Dodgers hit into double plays – Los Angeles treated Harvey like almost every other pitcher in this historic run. They bashed him.

With a two-run double from Nick Punto in the fifth inning and a two-run single by A.J. Ellis in the sixth, the Dodger backed the standout pitching from Hyun-Jin Ryu and beat the Mets tonight, 4-2.

Let’s run the numbers, like we do almost every night now.

• It was the Dodgers’ seventh-straight win, a season high.

• They are 22-3 (.880) since the All-Star Break.

• They are 39-8 in their past 47 games, the best mark over such a period since the 1951 New York Giants.

• As Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. notes, they have a chance to become the first team to go 42-8 in a 50-game stretch since the 1942 St. Louis Cardinals.

• Arizona’s comeback win against Baltimore prevented the Dodgers from increasing their 7 1/2-game lead in the National League West, but Los Angeles did leapfrog another team, Texas, in the quest for the best record in baseball. The Dodgers remain 3 1/2 games behind Atlanta.

Despite allowing a home run to the second batter of the game, Ryu was fairly magnificent, scattering four singles and a walk over seven innings without another run scoring. Ronald Belisario and Kenley Jansen finished the game, the latter allowing his first run in 11 innings since July 23 while being aided by a diving catch in the gap by Carl Crawford.

Amid reports that Hanley Ramirez might start as soon as Wednesday, Punto continues to have a torrid August, with a 1.283 OPS in 30 plate appearances. Ellis, meanwhile, moved past Andre Ethier (sidelined with left calf tightness) into second place on the Dodgers in RBI in 2013.

Aug 11

Dodgers sweep Rays: Up next, the ’71-’72 Lakers

At 37-8 (.822) in their past 45 games following tonight’s 8-2 romp over Tampa Bay, the Dodgers need to go 32-5 (.865) to match the 1971-72 Lakers as the hottest L.A. team of all time.

I’m giddy, but you’ve gotta have goals, right? Oh, there’s that little matter of continuing the run in the playoffs, but first things first.

Tonight’s was another game that found the Dodgers so dominant that their mistakes didn’t matter. You can’t do that forever, but it’s nice while it lasts.

Dee Gordon’s hat trick of errors threatened to make him less popular in Los Angeles than Brandon League or Carlos Marmol, but the worst they did was cost Clayton Kershaw a complete game. In fact, the Dodger ace would probably have had a shutout if not for Carl Crawford’s fifth-inning bobble in left field of the first hit off Kershaw, a play that allowed Yunel Escobar to go to second base, stay out what would have been a double-play grounder by Ryan Roberts and score the Rays’ first run on a triple by Sam Fuld past a diving Yasiel Puig.

There was also a missed squeeze sign by Puig on third base, on bunt that was attempted by A.J. Ellis, a play that was of little consequence in the game but enormous significance to ESPN.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles pounded Tampa Bay pitching, running their streak of unanswered runs in the series dating back to the middle of Friday’s game to 18 in taking a 6-0 lead after four.  Kershaw had the first two RBI on a single in the second inning, after which Mark Ellis just missed a three-run homer in settling for an RBI double. A.J. Ellis had a sacrifice fly in the fourth (following the missed squeeze), and Adrian Gonzalez a two-run double in the fifth. All six runs crossed the plate with two out.

Mark Ellis later got his home run in the sixth, giving the second baseman three hits on the night.

Even with the four errors by his defense, Kershaw ended up pitching eight innings and allowing one earned run, three hits and two walks while striking out eight on 103 pitches. He lowered his major-league leading ERA by 0.03 to 1.88. He had no-hit stuff and looked in complete control until he issued a walk to start the eighth inning. But even after that was followed by a single and Gordon’s third error, Kershaw stepped out of the jam with little damage on a strikeout, sacrifice fly and groundout.

In the ninth, Marmol had his first perfect inning as a Dodger and, for what it’s worth, has made five consecutive scoreless appearances, allowing three hits and four walks while striking out three in 4 1/3 innings. It’s clearly the control that’s been his downfall, but he had good location tonight, retiring the side on nine pitches, eight for strikes.

Arizona lost again, allowing the Dodgers to boost their lead in the National League West to a season-high 7 1/2 games. Los Angeles is within 4 1/2 games of Atlanta for the best record in the majors.

Aug 11

Kershaw CLXXIV: Kershowse Encounters of the Third Kind

Rays at Dodgers, 5:05 p.m.

According to the Dodger press notes, the team’s current 36-8 run is not only the best by a Dodger team since 1953, it’s the best by any National League team since then.

It’s remarkable that three of the eight losses have come during Clayton Kershaw starts – more than any other Dodger starting pitcher – even though Kershaw has had a 1.62 ERA since the hot streak began.  The other five losses have been spread in games started by Chris Capuano (2), Stephen Fife, Ricky Nolasco and Zack Greinke.

Here is the Kershaw log during that time:

Los Angeles is 2-3 in Kershaw’s past five starts. He has a 2.00 ERA with three walks and 37 strikeouts in those five outings.

In games not started by Kershaw, the Dodgers have not lost since July 25. They have won 13 straight games not started by Kershaw.

Aug 10

The world is not enough: Dodgers 5, Rays 0

The Dodgers won 17 of their final 22 games heading into the All-Star break.

That was their cold part of the summer.

After going 17-5 from June 22-July 14, the Dodgers have followed up by going 19-3 from July 19 through today’s 5-0 shutout of Tampa Bay.

Since falling behind 6-0 after five innings on Friday, Los Angeles has outscored the Rays 12-0 over the following 13 innings. Unlike the Rays, they did not let an early lead get away.

Zack Greinke through 77 pitches through his first four innings, but he ended up with 6 1/3 shutout innings on 110 pitches, scattering six hits and a walk while striking out seven. J.P Howell and Chris Withrow combined to retire the remaining eight Rays.

Skip Schumaker went 4 for 4, while Nick Punto and Adrian Gonzalez each had two hits and two RBI. Juan Uribe also had two hits, while being caught off third base on a hidden-ball trick by the Rays – a moment commemorated by Yasiel Puig and the Dodgers after the game.

Aug 10

Eleven straight one-run wins

Here are the NL standings since June 22:

Update: From the Dodger press notes:

THE MORNING AFTER: The Dodgers rallied for four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning last night for their fifth walk-off victory of the year as they overcame a six-run, seventh-inning deficit to beat the Rays, 7-6. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the six-run comeback tied for the largest comeback win in Los Angeles Dodger history for the ninth time (last: April 19, 2005 at Milwaukee). Elias also notes that it was only the fourth time that the LA Dodgers pulled out a victory when entering the club’s at-bat in the seventh inning trailing by six runs:

July 22, 1970: W, 12-10 vs. Montreal (trailed 10-4 entering B7th)
May 9, 1994: W, 9-8 vs. Houston (trailed 8-2 entering 8th)
Aug. 11, 1999: W, 9-7 at Montreal (trailed 6-0 entering 7th)
Aug. 9, 2013: W, 7-6 vs. Tampa Bay (trailed 6-0 entering 7th)

       Last night was the club’s 11th consecutive win in a one-run game, which is a Dodger franchise record. Los Angeles has gone 18-11 in one-run decisions this year and was last defeated in a one-run game on June 10 against Arizona.

       The victory last night was the Dodgers’ third this season (3-41) when trailing entering the ninth inning, also accomplished July 24 at Toronto (3-2 entering 9th, won 8-3 in 10 innings) and July 10 at Arizona (5-4 entering the 9th, won 7-5 in 14 innings). The last time the Dodgers entered the ninth inning trailing by three or more runs and emerged victorious in a nine-inning game was July 20, 2008 at Arizona, when the club rallied for five runs in the top of the ninth in a 6-5 win.

Rays at Dodgers, 1:05 p.m.