Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Month: September 2014 (Page 2 of 6)

One inning to go

Striking out his 10th and 11th batters of the game in the eighth, Clayton Kershaw put the Dodgers within one inning of the National League West title. He has thrown 117 pitches, allowing eight hits and walking none. He and the Dodgers lead, 5-1.

Update: In a lengthy bottom of the eighth, the Dodgers add four more runs to make it 9-1.

— Jon Weisman

Puig-Crawford-Uribe laser tag puts Dodgers ahead in sixth, 5-1

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By Jon Weisman

On an 0-2 sinker leading off the bottom of the sixth, Yasiel Puig sent a shot to right field, clearing the fence as smoothly as the bat flipped from his hand, to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead.

One out later, a Matt Kemp double to right center knocked Giants starter Tim Hudson out of the game. Hudson pitched his best ball in several starts, ultimately lasting 5 1/3 innings and allowing five hits and a walk while fanning four.

Giants lefty Javier Lopez entered and, in a move that was odd for a couple reasons, walked Hanley Ramirez intentionally. It’s always been bizarre to make a reliever start his outing with an intentional walk, and though it gave the Giants the platoon advantage, it brought up one of the Dodgers’ top hitters of the second half in Carl Crawford.

On the next pitch, Crawford ripped a double down the right-field line, scoring both Kemp and Ramirez to give the Dodgers a zesty 4-1 lead.

Then, after missing a home run by a sliver on a drive to left, Juan Uribe knocked a singled to left, pushing the Dodger lead to a bold 5-1.

A.J. Ellis hit into an inning-ending double play, but the Dodgers moved forward, leading by four with three innings to go to a National League West title.

All-around greatness: Kershaw ties game with first career triple

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By Jon Weisman

As he came to the plate with two out and the tying runner on third base in the bottom of the fifth inning tonight against San Francisco, I had this thought.

Clayton Kershaw, pitcher, is right now the toughest out in baseball.

Sure enough …

Facing Tim Hudson with a 1-1 count, Kershaw lined a shot that split the gap in right center, and the Most Valuable Player candidate — who already showed off his fielding mastery in the third — motored all the way to third base.

It was Kershaw’s first career triple, and like his only career home run on Opening Day 2013, it gave the Dodgers their first run of the game against the Giants.

Scoring on the play was Carl Crawford, who was hit in the foot by the first pitch of the inning and then stole second base on the next pitch. Crawford advanced to third on a deep fly to right by Juan Uribe, before he eased home on Kershaw’s triple to tie the game, 1-1.

Through five innings, Kershaw had allowed one run on four hits and no walks, striking out six, on 68 pitches.

Video: Kershaw’s behind-the-back acrobatics can’t stop Giants from taking 1-0 lead in third

By Jon Weisman

After crusing through the first two innings on 21 pitches tonight, Clayton Kershaw got himself in some trouble. He allowed an infield single to short by Joaquin Arias and then a solid single to left by Gregor Blanco — and then, with the count 0-2 on pitcher Tim Hudson, Kershaw’s second balk of the season put both runners in scoring position.

Then came this:

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Kershaw nearly escaped trouble completely when Hunter Pence then hit a slow grounder to third, but Juan Uribe’s throw home was a hair late to nab Arias.


A single by Joe Panik loaded the bases, but Kershaw induced a 5-4-3 double play from Buster Posey to end the inning.

The Dodgers had runners at the corners in the second inning and on third in the third, but trailed after three innings, 1-0.

‘Let’s do it to them before they do it to us’


Giants at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Kershaw CCIX: Kershawll Street Blues
Dee Gordon, 2B
Yasiel Puig, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Carl Crawford, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Clayton Kershaw, P

By Jon Weisman

Nine innings to a division title, with Clayton Kershaw on the mound.

It almost feels too good — not too good to be true, but just too good. Baseball, a sport seemingly conceived just to upset expectations, to turn you upside down, is almost taunting Dodger fans with this, daring them to turn their confidence into overconfidence.

Nine innings to play, nine innings where anything could happen, nine innings for the Giants to humble Los Angeles and spoil the celebration.

And yet, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Turner bout is fair play: Utility sensation helps Dodgers clinch tie for division title

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By Jon Weisman

The past two nights, I couldn’t pre-write.

Normally, if I’m writing about a game or even just some aspect of a game, I’ll get it going in the middle innings. But in these games against the Giants, I was so sure the angle would keep switching that I couldn’t do it. And with Monday’s life-on-the-edge game, that anxiety was validated.

Then came tonight:

  • In the first inning, Zack Greinke shut out the Giants, and Justin Turner homered.
  • In the eighth inning, Zack Greinke shut out the Giants, and Justin Turner homered.

The Dodgers took the lead early, extended it late, and lo and behold, they clinched a tie for the National League West title tonight with a 4-2 victory over San Francisco.

The victory and share of the division comes with Clayton Kershaw taking the mound in his final start of the regular season Wednesday. That’s how soon the Dodgers can claim the NL West outright.

Against all reality, Turner’s dream season continues to get dreamier. His two home runs tonight matched his season totals in 2012 and again in 2013 for the New York Mets, who made Turner a castoff left unsigned by every Major League team until a week before his reporting date to Camelback Ranch. He now has a .397 on-base percentage and .482 slugging percentage in 315 plate appearances.

“Going around those bases, I was floating,” Turner said of his second homer to SportsNet LA’s Alanna Rizzo. “It was a good feeling, and the guys in here were beating the crap out of me and bubbles were flying everywhere. It was a good time.”

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Don Mattingly on Matt Kemp’s improved mechanics

Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago Cubs

Giants at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Justin Turner, 2B
Yasiel Puig, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Scott Van Slyke, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Zack Greinke, P

By Jon Weisman

Matt Kemp turned 30 today, and his birthday comes at a happy time in his career. With a .363 on-base percentage and .580 slugging percentage, Kemp is among other things the No. 5 hitter in the big leagues in the second half of 2014, according to wRC+ (weighted runs created plus).

Much of this has been attributed to Kemp’s improved health, but as Don Mattingly discussed today (audio above), an adjustment to Kemp’s mechanics has also been a factor.

“I think the biggest change Matt’s made is to straighten up,” Mattingly said. “I think you see him taller, you see his feet a little bit more straight. A guy that dives or is striding into the plate, he limits himself what he can do.”

Mattingly drew a comparison between this and the mechanics of Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner, an earlier topic of discussion today, noting the effect of unusual angles Bumgarner uses.

“As a hitter, when you cross into the plate and you dive, you block yourself off certain parts of the plate you can’t handle and you can’t get to,” Mattingly continued. “Certain areas and even certain areas on both sides, you get cut off, and you don’t have the same leverage. So to me, with Matt straightening up, he was able to get through the ball a lot better and really create more bat speed and then backspin.”

Two more Clayton Kershaw statistics

Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers

1) On this date in 2013, Kershaw had thrown 3,346 pitches. This year, he has thrown 2,605. It would probably take Kershaw six or seven playoff starts in October to surpass the pitch count he had already reached in September 2013.

2) Of the 191 innings that Kershaw has begun this year (189 full innings, plus two in which he was replaced with two out), he has pitched scoreless baseball in 165 of them. He allowed unearned runs in two innings, meaning that he has allowed earned runs in only 24 innings out of 26 starts this year.

— Jon Weisman

Breaking down the breakdown: What happened with Puig and Kemp on that fly ball?

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By Jon Weisman

The costly (though thankfully not injurious) mishap between Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp in the third inning Monday belied the smooth communication the Dodgers have had in the outfield since Puig became their center fielder.

Though casual observers might naturally assume, based on the stereotypical fears about Puig’s style of play, that Kemp and Carl Crawford have been playing DodgePuig for the past two months, Monday’s misplay was as unusual as it was harmful to the final score.

Kemp-PuigIn the immediate aftermath, there was considerable debate over who was at fault. Watching the play live and then numerous times on replay, I see two players both approaching the ball at fairly similar speeds — it was in the air long enough to be caught by either. (It’s not as if Kemp is at a standstill and Puig arrives like a freight train.)

Fundamentally, this is the center fielder’s ball if he wants it. So the only question in my mind is whether Puig called for it or not. If he did, then it’s his — if he doesn’t, then he needs to get out of Kemp’s way.  Puig didn’t give a demonstrative hand signal the way Kemp did, but whether Puig called for it verbally, I don’t know. The play might have been as simple as Puig calling for the ball and Kemp not hearing him, though Puig isn’t exactly volume-challenged.

Whatever went wrong, hopefully it will be addressed and corrected. It was an unfortunate play, and hopefully it’ll remain as unusual as it was.

Dodger bullpen working double overtime

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By Jon Weisman

Famous last words before Monday’s game …

Despite seven excellent innings from Dan Haren, who allowed one hit and one earned run, the Dodger bullpen was still forced to throw six more innings in what became a 5-2, 13-inning loss to the Giants.

Dodger relievers have averaged 97 pitches over the past eight games, and 144 over the past two (click to enlarge).

Bullpen 2

The result of this is that even if Zack Greinke pitches seven or eight innings tonight, the Dodgers might be without Kenley Jansen, who has thrown 44 pitches in the past two days. Perhaps, however, the Dodgers would make Jansen available tonight, knowing that they have a favorable matchup Wednesday with Clayton Kershaw against Tim Hudson, followed by an off day Thursday.

Paco Rodriguez and Pedro Baez, who seem to be emerging as go-to relievers for the Dodgers, should also be available tonight after finishing a two-days-on, one-day-off cycle. And then there’s Chris Perez, who improbably has been one the Dodgers’ most effective relievers this month, throwing seven shutout innings with nine strikeouts and two hits allowed. Perez has walked four in that time, however.

The Dodger defense played a big role in extending Monday’s game. Three errors forced the pitching staff into making extra pitches, with the Matt Kemp-Yasiel Puig miscommunication contributing directly to the Giants’ second run. On the flip side, the Dodgers’ night would have ended two innings sooner if Puig hadn’t fired off this spectacularly accurate throw to preserve the tie in the 11th.

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The Dodgers, and their bullpen in particular, could use a laugher, but with Giants ace Madison Bumgarner throwing tonight, odds are against that happening. Monday’s game was a heartstopper, and tonight might be little different.

Up and at ’em in autumn

For photos from Sunday, visit LA Photog Blog.

Giants at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, 2B
Yasiel Puig, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Carl Crawford, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Dan Haren, P

By Jon Weisman

Tuesday brings the first official day of fall, but this afternoon at Dodger Stadium felt like the real beginning. Shadows had crept all the way to the baselines by the time Don Mattingly’s pregame press session broke, the burning rays of last week’s heat wave a fully distant memory.

And with the Giants in town and the stakes never higher with six games remaining in the season, this entire week could be considered the eve of October.

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Clayton Kershaw wins his second Roy Campanella Award


Clayton Kershaw has become the first two-time winner of the Dodgers’ Roy Campanella Award, given to the Dodger player who best exemplifies the spirit and leadership of the late Hall of Fame catcher. Dodger uniformed personnel vote on the winner.

Kershaw previously won the award last year (above, he’s pictured with today’s birthday boy, Tommy Lasorda). Before him, the honor has gone to Rafael Furcal (2006), Russell Martin (2007), James Loney (2008), Juan Pierre (2009), Jamey Carroll (2010), Matt Kemp (2011) and A.J. Ellis (2012).

— Jon Weisman

Indulging the nightmare scenario

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Russell Martin visits Jonathan Broxton at the mound during the ninth inning in Pittsburgh, September 27, 2009. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Jon Weisman

How close are the Dodgers to the National League West title? They can see it, even though it’s invisible. They can smell it, even though it’s scentless. They can feel it, even though it takes no earthly form.

Defeat the Giants tonight, and the Dodgers clinch no worse than a tie for the division championship and a one-game playoff. Any combination of three Dodger victories and Giant defeats this week, and the NL West title returns to Los Angeles outright.

It’s all so simple, and yet I’m reminded that the last time the Dodgers went to the final week to clinch, in 2009, they lost five games in a row, starting with a memorable bullpen collapse at Pittsburgh, before carving out a 5-0 victory over Colorado with one game remaining in the season. I remember walking on the moonlit shores of Catalina Island, at the end of a week of nearly crippling tension, trying to scrape a signal for my cellphone to get updates before I could finally relax.

The Dodgers threatened to repeat the pattern beginning with Saturday’s come-from-ahead loss to the Cubs, but Sunday’s victory — and the Giants’ own three-game weekend Waterloo in San Diego — provided a 4 1/2-game cushion. Still, I’m going to stare directly at the demon elephant in the room and work my way through how everything could go wrong.

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More than 4,000 enjoy LADF 5-K at Dodger Stadium


Jill Weisleder/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

The first annual Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation 5-K run enjoyed the benefit of a cloudy September morning on its way to great success. There were 4,050 total participants: 3,805 in the 5K and 245 in the Kids Fun Run. Dodger alumni Tim Leary, Derrel Thomas, Dennis Powell and Al Ferrara were on hand to provide support.

Top male participants
1)     Justin Patananan, age 34, Palmdale, (16:43)
2)     Mario Lopez, age 23, Los Angeles, (16:47)
3)     Jeff Ambos, age 52, Riverside (17:09)

Top female participants
1)     Karina Vega, age 29, Chino Hills, (20:07)
2)     Lauren Kern, age 26, Phoenix, AZ, (20:16)
3)     Nevaeh Walla, age 12, Fillmore, (20:25)

Here’s a nice writeup of the event from Sons of Steve Garvey. More photos from Jill Weisleder below:

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So many runs, so little time: Division title in sight for high-scoring Dodgers

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By Jon Weisman

Is this what life is like as a Colorado Rockies fan?

The average score of the 10 games on the Dodgers’ last regular-season roadtrip of 2014 was 7-6.

Despite beginning their travels with a shutout loss at San Francisco, the Dodgers scored 75 runs in the 10 games, averaging an ungodly 8.3 runs per game over their past nine, culminating in today’s 8-5 victory at Chicago.

The Dodgers, who reduced their magic number for clinching the National League West to four, went 6-4 on the trip and ended up gaining ground over the 10 games on San Francisco, which trailed San Diego, 1-0 3-0 5-0, in the sixth inning today.

If the Giants can’t rally, the Dodgers could clinch a tie for the NL West title as soon as Monday.

Dodger pitching allowed 62 runs on the trip and struggled almost the entire past week. In today’s game, Jamey Wright and Carlos Frias combined to allow four runs in their five innings, before some stability was brought in by a largely marginalized source: Chris Perez retired all four batters he faced and was rewarded with his first victory of 2014. Perez has pitched seven innings in September and allowed no runs on two hits while walking four and striking out nine with a 0.00 ERA.

Paco Rodriguez followed by retiring both batters he faced to bridge the Dodgers to Pedro Baez (who allowed a solo home run) and Kenley Jansen, who allowed a walk and a double but then set down the Cubs’ No. 2-4 hitters.

But again, the Dodger bats carried the day. Matt Kemp went 4 for 5 with four RBI and his 15th home run since the All-Star Break — that’s one every four games. Yasiel Puig went 2 for 5 with four runs and managed to avoid breaking his ankle on an aborted slide into second base midgame.

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