Dodger Thoughts

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

Reflections on a rough loss

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For more images from Wednesday, visit LA Photog Blog – here and here.

By Jon Weisman

Disappointment infused with a sense of injustice? That’s not an easy way for Dodger fans to go to bed. Here’s a look at Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to San Francisco after a cleansing view of “The Americans” season finale and a night’s sleep …

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The ninth inning

The final inning hinged on the controversial non-call when Gregor Blanco rounded third, started to slow down but collided while still moving forward with third-base coach Roberto Kelly, who had his hands out in “stop” position.

The contact was more than incidental, because why is Kelly so close to third base that he is in the baseline, if he thinks his voice and hand gestures are enough to stop the runner? Even if Kelly lost track of where he was on the field, is that an excuse?

Los Angeles Dodgers vs San Francisco Giants“The third-base coach blocked,” Mattingly said. “It’s obviously interference. They missed the call, basically. I don’t know who was supposed to be watching, but they weren’t watching.”

That was my initial take as well, though I’m not sure that Kelly violated the baseball rule that says a baserunner should be out if the coach “physically assists” the runner back to the base. Blanco reacts to Kelly’s stop sign just before he gets to third base, and it was forward momentum while putting on the brakes, not an intent to try to score, that carries Blanco into Kelly.

It’s a judgment call, but as Mattingly said, the most frustrating part was that third-base coach Fieldin Culbreth turned his view away from third base far too soon and didn’t see the play so that he could make an informed call. Here’s the explanation Culbreth gave to a pool reporter.

“Don came out and asked me did I see him grab him. I told him no, I did not see him grab him,” Culbreth said. “There ends up being contact but the rule is pretty specific in the fact that he had to touch and physically grab him and assist him in returning to the base. That did not happen. If he doesn’t physically assist him in returning to the base, then there’s no interference.”

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The ninth inning, Part II

Then there’s the question of whether that cost the Dodgers the game. It didn’t help, obviously, but it was preceded by a Buster Posey single and a really painful hit-by-pitch from Chris Hatcher – painful not only because it put the winning run in scoring position, but because it injured A.J. Ellis. (X-rays are being sent to Los Angeles to be examined by team doctors, reports Alex Espinoza of

Next came the hard single by Brandon Belt off J.P. Howell that advanced Blanco to third base and the no-doubt sacrifice fly by Joe Panik over the five-man infield that won the game. The Dodgers needed a groundball or strikeout in that situation, and unfortunately didn’t get them.

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Guerrero again

For a long time it didn’t look like there would even be a bottom of the ninth, until Alex Guerrero came of the bench and blasted a game-tying two-run homer, off Madison Bumgarner no less.

The Dodgers were in their 14th game of the season, and they had three pinch-hits: Guerrero’s homer on April 14 against Seattle, his RBI double at San Francisco on Tuesday, and now this. Guerrero is now seven for 16 with two doubles and three homers (second on the team) in 2015.

You can’t ignore the case he is making for more playing time, though I do believe that most of those making that case place too little emphasis on Juan Uribe’s defense. Perhaps there’s a middle ground here.

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The lone walk

Why were the Dodgers behind in the first place? Clayton Kershaw pitched six innings, and faced the minimum three batters in five of them (four perfect innings, one with an infield single and a caught stealing). Kershaw struck out nine. He walked only one.

And that was the key. I thought Kershaw could have located a bit better, but also that he wasn’t exactly given the benefit of the doubt. On the full-count walk to Brandon Crawford with one on and none out, Kershaw was close on three of the four called balls and extremely close on one of them. The chart below is from Brooks Baseball via McCovey Chronicles.

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How much are you gonna blame Kershaw for that walk?

My overall takeaway from Kershaw’s performance was that in the middle innings of this game, he found himself. Speaking to Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles after the game, Ellis seemed to agree.

“He got into that old rhythm of the Clayton we saw last year. He had all his pitches working,” Ellis said. “It was great to see his slider kind of evolve throughout the course of the night. I know it’s a pitch he’s been kind of arm wrestling with and, to see him turn a corner with that, was really good to see.”

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The what-might-have-beens

Los Angeles Dodgers vs San Francisco GiantsAfter Bumgarner’s sacrifice, the first run of the game scored on a grounder to Jimmy Rollins. Rollins might have thrown home, but that’s a really risky play in the third inning of a scoreless game and might have set up an even worse inning.

The next two defensive moments came from substitutes – Justin Turner failing to throw out Crawford advancing from second to third, and Chris Heisey diving but failing to catch Matt Duffy’s dying quail to center field that scored Crawford. Neither play was remotely automatic, yet inevitably, people on Twitter were sure that Adrian Gonzalez and Joc Pederson were sure to have made both plays. I love both those guys, but considering that Gonzalez made a throwing error and Pederson came up short on his own diving attempt 24 hours earlier, it’s hardly clear that the outcomes would have been different.

The classically trite Weisman conclusion

Second-guessing is inevitable in a game like this, and if maybe one play or decision in a game had gone differently among hundreds of plays and decisions, the Dodgers would have won. But the reverse is also true – one more thing goes the Giants’ way – maybe one less defensive gem by Kershaw or by Rollins or by Yasiel Puig – and the game isn’t as close. I don’t see any grand lessons to be drawn from this defeat.


Kershaw vs. Bumgarner tonight … and then comes tomorrow


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  1. Maybe not grand but I think there a few lessons to be drawn.

    The most obvious is that Guerrero is an everyday player. It is unbelievable that he is on the bench. If we could stomach the atrocious SS of Dee Gordon and the less than mediocre SS of Hanley why not a few months of Guerrero at 3B?

    Other than that just one game which by the end of the season will be remembered more for Bobby Kelly’s heroics. Yeah nothing grand.

    After a good night sleep, time for baseball :)


  3. Whatever it may be, there’s always a couple of series that every close call goes against the Dodgers, and vice versa, they get every close call, it’s baseball for ya, just have to move on from it.
    That said, the rule about coaches touching players needs to be re-written so it really isn’t a “judgement” call for the umps. Make it clear, anytime a coach touches a player, in any form, outside of a home run “trot”, the runner is out, no if’s, and’s or but’s. If the two are touching something went wrong, either the coach is out of his “area”, or the runner is out of the path of normal running the bases. None of this, “coach assisted” BS.

  4. oldbrooklynfan

    To me the game looked like a lost cause, since everything was going in the Giants’ favor until Guerrero’s home run, which was reminiscence of a homer Ron Swaboda once hit for the Mets when he first started.
    From that point on I felt like it was anybody’s game.
    It was an exciting game but the Giants look like they are out of their funk.

  5. leekfink

    Look, this was a second consecutive night of really bad luck, on a bunch of areas. And that’s annoying. Any luck at all, and we win. Kershaw outpitched (clearly) Bumgarner.

    Kershaw, I thought, made every pitch he needed to. I thought he had Crawford struck out, at least once. (But I do think he is settling in–Kershaw is like fine wine, he only gets better as the season goes on.) If he gets the call on one of those pitches, no runs scored.

    The other thing that I hate to do is give credit to the Giants for executing. Crawford worked that AB and did not bite on some very close pitches, and fouled off several to work the walk. It was also a heads-up base-running by him to advance on the Aoki groundball. And Bumgarner getting the 2 strike bunt down was hard and key. Without that, no runs score.

    The trouble I have is the philosophy here. If we are building a team around defense (and we are, otherwise we would have re-signed Hanley and kept Kemp), then why replace the Gold Glove first baseman (also current best hitter in baseball) and the Gold Glove quality centerfielder in order to get right-handed bats to face a good, maybe great, but up-to-now-scuffling, left-hander. I don’t know if A-Gon or Pederson make either of those plays, because both were tough. But the last 2 games really were both “a game of inches,” and we seemed to sacrifice the governing philosophy right at the time that it might have changed the outcome.

    • Jon Weisman

      I liked your comment — the only quibble I have is the notion that Heisey, who is the NL’s No. 3 OF defensively in UZR since 2013, represented a drop-off in CF. Pederson is good but he’s not Garry Maddox — not yet, anyway.

      As for Turner – you’re going to rest Gonzalez at some point, so why not pick the moment where you might get the greatest offensive edge from Turner?

      • leekfink

        That’s fair. And I don’t know enough about Heisey (or defensive metrics, but it’s not clear anyone does), and there was no sure thing that Pederson or even Gonzalez make those plays (both tough).

        I also realize that there were other factors (the following day-game suggested giving a rest to Gonzalez (at least) for one of those days, the opportunity to call-up Heisey as part of the Liberatore-Heisey-Bolsinger-PTBNL rotation through the 25-man roster. But it just felt odd to see going all-in on the right-handed lineup for offensive purposes, when the focus has been defense.

        Interestingly, it sort of worked as Heisey and Turner were 2 of the 8 base-runners that Bumgarner allowed.

    • jpavko

      Pederson would have caught the low line drive that Heisey wasn;t able to get to

  6. Should we blame the bullpen for not executing properly in the 9th? We could. Should we blame Roberto Kelly’s non-interference interference? We could. It comes down to this: perhaps the two greatest pitchers in baseball pitched to a draw, and the Dodgers didn’t hit after Baumgarner left the game. If the opposing team scores three runs, our team should win the game. It won’t always because, yes, that’s baseball.

  7. jpavko

    How can Mattingly Justify stating Uribe over Guerrero. Alex may not be a gold glover but we’ll never know bwcause of the “stupid” 3 year contract Uribe was signed to. I’d rather have Guerrero’s offense over Uribe’s defense any night

    • You may be right about Alex starting more, but Uribear has given us WAR 4.2 and 4.0 the past two seasons (give me more “stupid” if that is what “stupid” is). A slow start bat-wise, but believe that he can contribute to the club.

    • Jon Weisman

      Guerrero is signed to a more lucrative contact than Uribe, so that’s not the driver here. Also, Uribe’s current deal is a two-year deal.

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