Oct 14

Magic knows what Hanley Ramirez is going through

As we hope for 1981 and 1988-style heroics from the Dodgers, I’m not blind to the possibility that this season could end like that another team from that era, the 1988-89 Lakers.

That season, the Lakers cruised through the early rounds of the playoffs – going 11-0 in fact – before both Byron Scott and Magic Johnson pulled up lame before Game 1 and during Game 2 of the NBA Finals. You can see Johnson’s injury about 5:40 into the clip below.

There was no Kirk Gibson here – the Lakers ended up getting swept in four games.

The difference is that the Lakers had recently given fans a steady stream of NBA titles, including the previous two seasons, while Dodger fans are starving.

No Matt Kemp. Maybe Andre Ethier and Hanley Ramirez – who has a hairline fracture in his rib – can do something. Maybe. But otherwise, it’s time for the rest of the gang to step up and complete the greatest Dodger story of the past 25 years.

 

Oct 12

Scoreless in St. Louis, the Dodgers drop NLCS Game 2

Game 1 of the National League Championship Series took me back to 1988. Now, with the Dodgers falling 1-0 to the Cardinals in Game 2, I’m taken back to the first two games of the 1981 National League Division Series, when the Dodgers followed a 3-1 loss at Houston with a 1-0 defeat.

Back in ’81, the Dodgers returned to Los Angeles knowing they needed to win three straight games against Bob Knepper (2.18 ERA), Vern Ruhle (2.91 ERA) and Nolan Ryan (1.69 ERA) to survive the five-game series and advance. That they succeeded might be small comfort to Dodger fans today, but maybe it’ll provide some hope.

Clayton Kershaw was magnificent this afternoon, but for the second time this week – and much more calamitously – he was victimized by his defense. After a leadoff double by David Freese, A.J. Ellis’ passed ball put the runner on third with nobody out. Kershaw had escaped a similar jam in the first inning, but this time, John Jay hit a one-out short fly to left field, and Freese tagged and scored easily while Carl Crawford made a hopeless throw home that was the spectrum opposite of Carlos Beltran’s Friday strike to nail Mark Ellis.

The big comeback opportunity for the Dodgers game right away in the top of the sixth, and was started by Kershaw, who singled against the otherwise dominant Michael Wacha. Crawford followed with an infield single, and both runners advanced to third on an error by Matt Carpenter. But Mark Ellis popped out, and after an intentional walk to Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig and Juan Uribe struck out.

Puig struck out four times today and is 0 for 10 in the series.

I disagreed with the move to pinch-hit for Kershaw with two out in the top of the seventh and a runner on first, but it could have some long-term benefit for the Dodgers. At the time, it seemed poor because of how low the chances were that Los Angeles would score in that moment, even with a pinch-hitter, and how much more vulnerable the Dodgers would be to giving up a second run over the next three innings.

I would have reconsidered once Nick Punto advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch, but at the time of the move, the Dodgers were relying on singles hitter Michael Young to get the run in. (Crawford, the on-deck hitter, would have been facing a lefty in a fairly grim situation even if Young had gotten aboard.) The alternative would have been Scott Van Slyke, a power hitter but one who hasn’t batted in a game since September 29.

To me, removing Kershaw – who had thrown only 72 pitches and allowed three baserunners in six innings – was more dangerous than removing Adrian Gonzalez was after he had batted in the eighth inning Friday.

Nevertheless, combined with Zack Greinke throwing a fairly modest 104 pitches Friday, there is an opening for the Dodgers to again skip Game 4 starter Ricky Nolasco and come back with their two aces in Games 4 and 5. The theory would be if you win those games, you could go back to St. Louis needing one win to clinch, and then throw the whole staff at the Cardinals over the next two games.

I realize how fanciful that sounds as I type it – especially with Hanley Ramirez’s status questionable – but do keep your mind open. If the Cardinals can win a Joe Kelly-Greinke game, then the Dodgers can win a Hyun-Jin Ryu-Adam Wainwright game. I know it doesn’t look like it, but they can.

The Dodgers are on their heels now and the odds are against them, but there’s nothing to gain from giving up.

Oct 12

Plunked ribs knock Hanley Ramirez out of starting lineup

Bruised ribs from getting hit by a first-inning Joe Kelly pitch have put Hanley Ramirez on the sidelines with Andre Ethier (not to mention Matt Kemp, lest we forget).

The breaks are trying to beat the boys. Let’s see how the boys respond.

Dodgers at Cardinals, 1:07 p.m.

Carl Crawford, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Yasiel Puig, RF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Skip Schumaker, CF
A.J. Ellis, C
Nick Punto, SS
Clayton Kershaw, P

Another note: Eric Collins and Steve Lyons will not return to the Dodger broadcast team in 2014, according to Bill Shaikin of the Times.

Oct 12

How the Dodger bullpen shapes up for NLCS Game 2

The Dodgers are hoping they won’t need their bullpen behind National League Championship Series Game 2 starter Clayton Kershaw, but in case they do …

• Kenley Jansen should be good to go after throwing only five pitches Friday.

• Brian Wilson figures to be sidelined after throwing 28 pitches.

• Ronald Belisario, who had a breezy nine-pitch inning, would probably start the eighth inning if needed – perhaps in combination with J.P. Howell, who threw 15. Howell might also be saved to face Carlos Beltran if the situation arises post-Kershaw.

• Edinson Volquez could be the multi-inning guy ahead of Chris Withrow, who threw 25 pitches Friday.

• Carlos Marmol lurks.

Andre Ethier, not surprisingly after playing 12 1/2 innings in his first start in four weeks, is not in today’s starting lineup. Skip Schumaker will start in center field.

However, A.J. Ellis will be back out there at catcher despite nearly five hours of intermittent crouching.

Oct 12

Puig out

Yasiel Puig started a nice 9-3 twin killing on defense Friday in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, but unfortunately for once, he was also killing the Dodgers on offense.

Puig turned in the first 0-for-6 performance in Dodger playoff history.

Friday’s game was the Dodgers’ longest postseason game by innings in 97 years and two days.

Friday’s game was also the first MLB postseason game to have at least two double plays started by right fielders since 1992. On October 11, 1980, there was a game with three double plays that began with the guy in right.

Oct 11

Sense memory

I realize I remember how I felt when Orel Hershiser and the Dodgers lost Game 1 of the National League Championship Series in 1988, 25 years ago.

The difference is that it hadn’t been 25 years since I celebrated a World Series title. It had been seven years. I was just shy of 21 at the time, so it had been nearly a third of my life.

Now I’m just shy of 46. It’s been more than half my life.

I think I’m more optimistic about the Dodgers after losing Game 1 on the road in 2013 with Clayton Kershaw pitching the next game than I was after the Dodgers lost Game 1 at home in 1988.

The score both times was 3-2. Both games were lost in the final inning.

Oct 11

National League Championship Series Game 1 chat

The Dodgers were 12-1 when they scored at least four runs in Zack Greinke starts this year. The only loss was in Colorado in extra innings.

So they should try to score at least four runs.

Brace yourselves for launch … here we go.

Dodgers at Cardinals, 5:37 p.m.

Carl Crawford, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Yasiel Puig, RF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Andre Ethier, CF
A.J. Ellis, C
Zack Greinke, P

Oct 11

Capuano, Rodriguez left off Dodgers NLCS roster

The Dodgers have halved their number of lefthanders on their playoff roster, leaving Paco Rodriguez and Chris Capuano out of the National League Championship Series.

Carlos Marmol and Edinson Volquez have joined the roster in their place.

J.P. Howell will be the only lefty in the Dodger bullpen unless Hyun-Jin Ryu gets removed from the starting rotation.

If it weren’t surprising enough, it’s particularly shocking because the Cardinals don’t hit lefties well.

My best guess — and this is entirely speculation — something’s wrong with Capuano physically, and maybe Rodriguez too. Or, the Dodgers just felt that Rodriguez was spent.

The Dodgers’ contingent of position players remains the same.

Starting pitchers for sure (2): Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke

Starting or relieving? (3): Hyun-Jin Ryu, Ricky Nolasco, Edinson Volquez

Relief pitchers (6): Kenley Jansen, Brian Wilson, J.P. Howell, Chris Withrow, Ronald Belisario, Carlos Marmol

Catchers (2): A.J. Ellis, Tim Federowicz

Infielders (7): Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Ellis, Hanley Ramirez, Juan Uribe, Nick Punto, Michael Young, Dee Gordon

Outfielders (5): Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier, Skip Schumaker, Scott Van Slyke

Oct 10

Andre Ethier vs. Adam Wainwright

Sure, you remember Matt Holliday from Game 2 of the 2009 National League Division Series, but do you remember this?

In his regular-season career, Ethier is 10 for 33 with three walks and three homers against the Cardinals ace, for a 1.028 OPS. It is hoped Ethier will be in the starting lineup for the Dodgers in the 2013 National League Championship Series — if he can play at all, you can count on him appearing in Monday’s Game 3 against Wainwright.

More highlights from Game 2 of the 2009 NLDS
.

Oct 10

Joe Kelly intrigues as NLCS Game 1 starter against Dodgers

Earlier this year — for the only time this year — I live-blogged a Dodger game. Some of you might remember, not that you should, but one of the things that stuck out for me was the appearance of Joe Kelly.

When he entered that May 25 game, Kelly had an ERA of 7.36 and hadn’t pitched in a week, but he was called into service when Cardinals starting pitcher John Gast had to leave with an injury after having faced only six batters.

Facing the Dodgers with none out and one runner on base in the bottom of the second inning, Kelly then proceeded to …

– strike out the next three Dodgers.
– allow a double to Nick Punto, hit Mark Ellis with a pitch and surrender an RBI single to Adrian Gonzalez.
– retire the next four Dodgers.
– allow hits to Dee Gordon (ending an 0-for-25 slump) and Punto in the fourth inning before escaping that jam.
– give up a leadoff homer to Gonzalez and a walk to Matt Kemp to start the bottom of the fifth.
– head for the showers.

Kelly pitched three innings, allowed seven baserunners and struck out six. His wild ride lasted 62 pitches, and while he looked like a lit match in a gastank half the time, he looked unhittable the other half. (From my liveblog: “Kelly has an ERA over 7 but he throws fire. Nothing below 95 mph.”)

Of course, 50-50 effectiveness won’t get it done, but Kelly would improve in 2013. After a stretch in which he appeared in 10 consecutive Cardinal losses, Kelly moved into the starting rotation for good in July — and thrived. His ERA from July 1 on was 2.18, including a 5 1/3-inning winning outing against the Dodgers on August 6 in which he allowed one run. Most recently, Kelly went another 5 1/3 innings in the National League Division Series against the Pirates, allowing two earned runs and picking up a no-decision.

The caveat for Kelly is that he succeeded in the second half of 2013 almost despite himself: 49 strikeouts against 117 baserunners in 86 1/3 innings. Only once did he pitch more than six innings, leaving matters for the St. Louis bullpen to wrap up.

Those six strikeouts in three innings of relief against the Dodgers? He still hasn’t had more strikeouts in a game in his career.

That’s the pitcher who will face Zack Greinke in Game 1 of the NLCS on Friday. Kelly might not be the better hurler on paper, but he could easily keep things interesting.

Oct 10

Get ready for day games: NLCS schedules two under the sun

The Dodgers will play Game 2 and if necessary Game 5 of the National League Championship series in the daytime, according to the schedule announced today.

Game 1: Friday at 5:37 p.m.
Game 2: Saturday at 1:07 p.m.
Game 3: Monday at 5:07 p.m.
Game 4: Tuesday at 5:07 p.m.
Game 5: Wednesday at 1:07 p.m.
Game 6: Friday at 5:37 p.m.
Game 7: Saturday at 5:37 p.m.

All times Pacific. Dodger home games in bold. “If necessary” games in italics. Games televised on TBS.

Oct 09

Great interviews in Earth history: A.J. Ellis

Thanks to Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness for catching this. We were talking about it on Twitter today and at the game Monday: A.J. Ellis can basically write his own ticket as a broadcaster after his playing career is over, assuming he doesn’t write his own ticket as a manager. For my part, I’m not sure I can wait that long. Wire him up and have him do commentary during Game 1 at St. Louis on Friday.