Tonight, I’m going to my first Dodger game since Memorial Day. That’s right: I have yet to see Yasiel Puig in person, yet to enjoy the Summer of Gorge anywhere but on my TV, radio or cellphone.
This will be my fifth game of the year. When I got the tickets for my wife and me last week — and I’m not likely to go to more than one more regular-season game this year after this one — it occurred to me that this will be the fewest games I’ve attended in a Dodger season since … 1988.
Read into that what you will. I’m reading in a lot of hope.
That ’88 season began with me as a college junior, continuing through my trip to cover Stanford at the College World Series in Omaha, my summer internship at the Half Moon Bay Review & Pescadero Pebble and my late-summer job as a gofer for NBC’s Summer Olympics boxing coverage in Seoul. I saw not an inning of Orel Hershiser’s scoreless streak, and returned to the States a couple of days after my senior year began, stopping at LAX without venturing out of it.
I had been at Dodger Stadium for Tim Leary’s pinch-hitting heroics, but otherwise my Dodger attendance that year was forcibly rare. I saw all the playoffs on TV in the vicinity of Palo Alto. I saw Mike Scioscia’s home run from the Stanford Daily newsroom, Kirk Gibson’s diving daytime catch and Jay Howell’s pine tar while ditching classes, Gibson’s homer off Eckersley with friends who were mainly rooting for Oakland, and the final out on my own little TV in my senior suite.
It wasn’t a lifetime ago, but it kind of feels that way. By the same token, my last Dodger game in May — itself a bright spot countering a dreary start, in case you’ve forgotten — feels about half a lifetime ago. The team’s winning percentage when I’ve gone this year (3-1, .750) is still higher than it’s been in my absence (37-27, .578). Still, though my absence didn’t quite coincide with the surge, the Dodgers have gone 57-27 (.679) since I last attended. More than half the season has gone by.
If the Dodgers make the playoffs, this will be the first postseason for which my family doesn’t have tickets since 1981 (though I did attend an NLCS loss that year). So I might be watching those games on TV as well, even sneaking views from the newsroom where I work. If that’s what it takes …
Peter O’Malley today said he has signed a licensing agreement enabling the Dodgers’ former Spring Training home, in recent years called the Vero Beach Sports Village, to be known as Historic Dodgertown – Vero Beach, Florida.
“We appreciate the extraordinary cooperation of Dodger president Stan Kasten and the Dodger organization in recognizing the significance of this unique site,” O’Malley, the former Dodger owner and president said in a statement. “We also are grateful to Major League Baseball for working with us, perpetuating the history and tradition of Historic Dodgertown and what it has meant to the game for decades.”
In 2001, Indian River County purchased the land and buildings from the Dodgers, but since 2009, after the Dodgers moved their Spring Training to Arizona, the facility has been used for tournaments, camps and the like. A partnership including O’Malley, Hideo Nomo and Chan Ho Park saved the facility from extinction in 2012, even expanding facilities there. Their lease agreement with Indian River County runs through April 2019.
“We have plans for more ways to utilize this amazing facility year-round,”said Craig Callan, who arrived at Dodgertown in August 1978 to manage the sports and conference center, and now directs the day-to-day activities as Historic Dodgertown vice president.
Time is crazy, and our journeys even crazier. From Dodger Thoughts, September 10, 2003:
‘You Just Hope He Never Changes’
So said Vin Scully about Edwin Jackson last night, and I couldn’t agree more. Especially because Vin was talking not only about Jackson’s pitching, but his smile.
Call me a sentimental fool, but there is nothing like seeing a young baseball player thrilled. And to see that ballplayer balance his excitement with poise – that’s pretty much the pinnacle of enjoyment for me as a fan.
If it weren’t for the television coverage and the 36,000 people in attendance, it would have been the same as watching a second-grader excel in the lead role of Tomato in the school play, Les Vegetables.
Anyway, it was a night the most casual observer could appreciate. As I wrote in April, a large part of appreciating baseball is just understanding the characters in the movie.
As for Jackson’s moundsmanship …
In his six innings against Arizona, Jackson allowed four hits, struck out four – and in a particularly amazing feat for a pitcher who walked or hit nearly four batters per nine innings in AA ball, he walked no one.
The righthander threw 80 pitches, 49 for strikes. He did not throw many first-pitch strikes: 11 out of 22 batters faced. But on only three occasions did he reach a 2-0 count, and only once did he go to 3-0. In fact, he went to three balls on only three batters.
He threw with heat – reports said he reached the high 90s – and movement. He had the requisite pitch tailing down and away that always foils batters like Raul Mondesi (who struck out twice against Jackson and once against Eric Gagne). Jackson also had a pitch that moved outside to inside on righthanded batters, almost like a screwball.
With Andy Ashby following Brian Jordan on the disabled highway out of Los Angeles, speculation has arisen that the Dodgers would add Jackson to a potential postseason roster in the same manner that the Angels added Francisco Rodriquez last season. Don’t count on this happening.
For one thing, the Dodgers seem very conscious of nurturing Jackson, and aware of the risks of stressing Jackson’s arm at age 20. Additionally, the Dodger staff is deeper than the Angel staff was in 2002 – a guy like Steve Colyer, who throws hard and from the left side, seems like a more likely addition. And that’s assuming that the Dodgers even went with 11 pitchers in a postseason that has more off days than the regular season does.
But with Hideo Nomo’s return date uncertain, and Kazuhisa Ishii’s September performance unsteady, there is every possibility that we haven’t seen the last of Edwin Jackson and his young man smile this season.
Because he’s Matt Freakin’ Kemp.
Because even struggling through an injury-plagued season, even at his absolute worst, his 2013 OPS (.700) is almost as high as the Dodgers’ healthy outfielders in left (.755) and center (.762).
Because in the 11 games he managed to play after his first stint on the disabled list in 2013, Kemp had a .390 on-base percentage and .622 slugging, with three home runs in his most recent 14 at-bats.
Because even if he is never going to hit 39 homers in a season again, he’s still 13 months shy of his 30th birthday with the potential to hit as well as virtually any Dodger.
Because he’s a guy who can do harm in the playoffs. Because he wants to prove himself. Because he wants to win.
Because he’s the Bison.
He’s Matt Freakin’ Kemp.
Matt Kemp is running the bases. Looked fine going from first to third.
— Dylan Hernandez (@dylanohernandez) August 27, 2013
— Vincent Bonsignore (@DailyNewsVinny) August 27, 2013
— J.P. Hoornstra (@jphoornstra) August 27, 2013
Cubs at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Kershaw CLXXVII: Kershawd on Entebbe
Former Dodger announcer Ross Porter, who hasn’t been part of the franchise since the McCourt regime sent him on his way after the 2004 season, said he will be throwing the ceremonial first pitch before Saturday’s game at Dodger Stadium.
While taking on other broadcasting duties, Porter has focused his post-Dodger career on his website, Real Sports Heroes. He was an early friend of Dodger Thoughts, and it’ll be great for him back at the ballpark.
Dodger Thoughts/August 18, 2004: Next Stop, Porterville
I can’t remember when the Dodgers hit into three double plays without the ball on any of them touching the ground. Luck was not their lady, today, but still Los Angeles made a game of it after falling behind 4-0 with one out in the first inning.
Hyun-Jin Ryu was great except for that first frame, when he hit Shane Victorino with a barely inside pitch, allowed an infield single to Dustin Pedroia, an RBI single to Mike Napoli and the big blow, Jonny Gomes’ three-run home run. The runs ended the Dodger pitchers’ 26-inning scoreless streak.
After that, Ryu and five Dodger relievers combined to shut out Boston over 8 2/3 innings on five hits and two walks with 13 strikeouts. Adrian Gonzalez had a two-run double in the bottom of the eighth, but after Hanley Ramirez walked to put the tying run on base, A.J. Ellis struck out against Red Sox closer Koji Uehara, making a rare venture into the eighth inning.
Uehara, who had made 25 consecutive appearances in the ninth inning or later, retired the Dodgers in order in the final inning to finish the game. The Dodgers lost their fourth game in August and first at home.
Clayton Kershaw has thrown exactly the same number of innings in 2013 that the Dodgers have thrown in August: 198 1/3. And the dominance for each is almost exactly the same.
Dodgers in August vs. Clayton Kershaw in 2013:
|Team Total – Aug.||19||3||1.86||198.1||166||48||41||11||45||7||176||4||0||5||789||1.064||8.0||3.91|
Dodger pitching since August 1:
Dodger pitching since the All-Star break:
The last pitcher to throw at least 300 innings with an ERA below 2.20 in a season was Jim Palmer in 1975.
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.
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.”
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.” …
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)