Dodger Thoughts

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

Month: August 2015 (Page 2 of 6)

Remembering ’65: Lowly Mets send Dodgers reeling


By Jon Weisman

Here’s a game, within a series, within a season, that would have driven Dodger fans on Twitter crazy.

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Singular Greinke lifts double-playing Dodgers

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

By Jon Weisman

Zack Greinke gave up five runs in his first inning of August. For the rest of the month, his ERA was 1.36.

Greinke improved those figures with seven shutout innings today at Cincinnati, and the Dodgers needed every one of them, hanging on for a 1-0 victory.

The Dodgers grounded into five double plays, tying a team record, including a franchise record-tying three by Yasmani Grandal — then wasted a bases-loaded, none-out opportunity in the ninth with a strikeout and two foulouts.

Fortunately for Los Angeles, the first GIDP scored a run in the second inning, and it held up, despite the offensive struggles and injuries to Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig.

Only in the fifth inning did trouble find Greinke: a first-and-third situation with one out and 22 pitches already thrown in the frame. But Greinke was able to use opposing pitcher Anthony DeSciafani and technically-the-leadoff-hitter Skip Schumaker as an escape hatch, striking out both.

Greinke now has a 3.46 ERA in the first inning this year, and a 1.29 ERA after the first inning. Throwing 109 pitches, Greinke struck out nine against six baserunners today. For the year, his ERA is 1.61.

With Kenley Jansen having pitched the first two games of the series, it was up to Chris Hatcher and Jim Johnson to close out the game. And with a shutout inning apiece, they did.

The Dodgers are 4-1 in games decided by a 1-0 score this season.

Gonzalez, Puig leave game with injuries

By Jon Weisman

Two key parts of the Dodger offense didn’t make it through today’s game at Cincinnati.

Adrian Gonzalez fouled a ball off his knee in the third inning and departed the contest in the fifth. He is day to day with a contusion, as Ken Gurnick of reports.

Potentially more serious is the condition of Yasiel Puig, who came up limping after beating out an infield hit in the ninth inning,. With a 2-for-4 day today, Puig has a 10-game hitting streak in which he has a .390 on-base percentage, .526 slugging percentage and .916 OPS.

Grandal returns, but Ellis could play more down stretch

Dodgers at Reds, 9:35 a.m.
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Chase Utley, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Justin Turner, 3B
Andre Ethier, LF
Yasiel Puig, RF
Yasmani Grandal, C
Joc Pederson, CF
Zack Greinke, P

By Jon Weisman

Yasmani Grandal is back in the starting lineup for the first time since Saturday, but as Pedro Moura of the Register wrote, Grandal’s left shoulder isn’t 100 percent.

With A.J. Ellis three months into a hot streak off the bench, Grandal himself indicated that Ellis might play more than the typical one or two games per week as the season heads into September.

“A.J.’s doing a great job behind home plate,” Grandal told Moura. “Why not give him a shot at playing more games in a row, getting him a little more comfortable back there on back-to-back days? You never know what can happen.”

No one’s looking to put Grandal out to pasture, especially if he can heal up. According to Fangraphs, the 26-year-old is No. 4 among Major League catchers in wins above replacement and is tops among everyday catchers in offense. He has a .383 on-base percentage and .471 slugging percentage, despite going 3 for his last 30 (with five walks).

But after two seasons of injury-plagued decline, Ellis has been reborn at age 34. His .736 OPS in 2015 is his best since 2012, and from May 26 through August 26, he has a .435 OBP while slugging .521, including a homer, single and walk in Wednesday’s 7-4 win over the Reds.

“I don’t know if it was just health, or bad swing mechanics,” Ellis said in explaining his surge to Moura. “I was hitting a lot of ground balls to the left side of the infield on pitches I should have traditionally stayed up the middle on or hit the other way. I worked hard on staying up the middle.”

Given their side-by-side success, we should see the Dodgers be able to take advantage of Grandal and Ellis not only down the stretch but if they reach the playoffs, especially given how often in their friendly partnership Grandal has caught Zack Greinke while Ellis has caught Clayton Kershaw.

It doesn’t hurt that in his postseason career, Ellis is hitting .386/.481/.682 for a 1.163 OPS in 53 plate appearances (yes, small sample size warning). He has a 10-game hitting streak in the playoffs and has a hit in all but one of his 14 career playoff games.

Meditations on hitting three home runs and winning

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On hitting three home runs and winning

It is good. So very
Very good

A team for hitting
Home runs
Is like shaming
A Redwood
For being old
And strong

Isn’t allball
Manufacturing runs is fine
Until the factory runs down
And no factory is invulnerable

Be your strength
Be proud
For when you say
I say,
“How slow?”
When you say “Bunt!”
I say, “But we do not bunt well.”

Just as a team
That has no power
Cannot be told, “Just have more power!”

We are not perfect
But our
Are not weaknesses

— Jon Weisman

Nothing is easy unless everything is easy

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Dodgers at Reds, 4:10 p.m.
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Yasiel Puig, RF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Justin Turner, 3B
Scott Van Slyke, LF
Chase Utley, 2B
A.J. Ellis, C
Kiké Hernandez, CF
Brett Anderson, P

By Jon Weisman

As four-run Dodger victories go, Tuesday’s 5-1 win at Cincinnati was a nailbiter.

Los Angeles had a 5-0 lead against the Reds with 10 outs to go in the game. Under normal circumstances, you would recline in your chair a bit.

But there was the hovering drone of the five-game losing streak, with two of those five defeats directly tied to the bullpen. In between was a loss charged to Tuesday’s starting pitcher, Alex Wood, who gave up the go-ahead run August 19 to Oakland … with 10 outs to go in the game.

So here we were at Great American Ball Park.  Ten outs to go. Bases empty. Five runs ahead. Maybe this night would go easier.

Here’s how many pitches it took to get each of the next 10 outs (click to enlarge):

Bullpen August 25

It should jump out at you that of those 10 remaining outs, six came quickly and were quite routine. Yeah, there was a massive foul ball by Brayan Pena off Kenley Jansen, but that was with the bases empty and two out in the ninth.

But the final outs of the sixth and eighth innings … those were the times that try fans’ souls.

In the bottom of the sixth, the tension was underscored by just how far the Dodgers had to go to get to the end of the game, how intimidating those final 10 outs seemed.  If it was going to be so hard to get one — three pitchers, 13 pitches — how would they ever get nine more?

We were 14 pitches and a baserunner into the seventh inning before J.P. Howell got an out, but that turned out to be two-for-Tuesday special, so the jeopardy factor was fairly low.

Then, just when you might have relaxed — three outs on seven pitches after the double play — you were punished. The game crept slowly, from two out/bases empty … to man on first … to men on first and second … to bases loaded, tying run at the plate … to Jay Bruce taking two 93 mph fastballs and fouling off two 94 mph fastballs on his way to a 2-2 count … and seemingly nowhere for Luis Avilan to go.

Seventeen Dodger pitches with two out in the eighth. Seventeen pitches, with only two swing-and-misses. Seventeen pitches, each more agonizing than the last. Seventeen pitches, holding us in suspended aggravation, until Avilan threw that final, liberating curveball for strike three.

After 11 more flings by Jansen, Dodger fans could exhale.

No, you wouldn’t think it should be this hard. Right now, it is. It won’t always be, and man, will we appreciate that.

Reminder: Sign up for 2016 Adult Baseball Camp

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Fantasy campBy Jon Weisman

The Dodgers’ official Adult Fantasy Baseball Camp will take place at Camelback Ranch (in partnership with the White Sox) from January 18-24, 2016. We told you about it back in May, but that was long enough ago that we thought it was worth this reminder.

Ron Cey and Bill Melton will serve as hosts and co-commissioners of the camp, which offers so much perks and recreation …

  • Opportunity to sign up and play for your favorite team — the Dodgers or the White Sox — each coached by two former players
  • Among those scheduled to appear for the Dodgers: Rick Monday, Eric Karros, Steve Yeager and Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda
  • Your own locker and name plate within a professional locker room
  • Professional clubhouse manager and athletic trainer services
  • One full Major League uniform (Dodgers or White Sox) including pants, personalized jersey and cap
  • 25 personalized baseball cards, complete with your camp statistics on the back
  • Games each day, most being doubleheaders, culminating in a championship game on the main stadium field
  • Single-occupancy hotel room for six nights (two-bedroom suites available upon request)
  • Daily transportation between Camelback Ranch and your camp hotel
  • Breakfast and lunch each camp day
  • Welcome reception
  • Mid-camp Hot Stove dinner
  • Awards luncheon.

For more information or to reserve your roster spot, call (623) 302-5078, e-mail or visit Answers to frequently asked questions can be found at Camelback Ranch’s official camp site.

Dodger minor league report No. 19: Peeking at September

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By Jon Weisman

We got a jump on this week’s minor league report Tuesday by highlighting the performances of Julio Urias, Jharel Cotton and Corey Seager. And with a morning Dodger game at Cincinnati on Thursday — the last Dodger game east of the Rockies in the 2015 regular season — we’re going to get to the farm report itself a day early.

Already, conversation is hot and heavy about whom the Dodgers might call up when rosters expand September 1. The Dodgers have said they won’t call up players willy-nilly without a specific purpose, but that’s not to say this team doesn’t have several specific purposes to address.

Here are the candidates from the 40-man roster:

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Cotton, Urias making farm life ever so interesting

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By Jon Weisman

With six days until Major League rosters can expand, pitchers Jharel Cotton and Julio Urias continue to make strong cases for a callup.

Dodger manager Don Mattingly told reporters today that even if the 19-year-old Urias comes up this year, he won’t be part of the initial wave September 1. We’re assuming the Dodgers will stick with that approach, even though Urias then pitched six innings of shutout ball tonight for Double-A Tulsa in a 1-0 loss to Arkansas.

Urias allowed four hits, walked none and struck out three, throwing 76 pitches (12.7 per inning). His August ERA is 1.98, with 30 baserunners allowed in 27 1/3 innings against 25 strikeouts.

The 23-year-old Cotton might be another story, because unlike Urias, he needs to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason. Recently promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City with an eye on his potential as a September addition, Cotton — who is profiled in the soon-to-be-released September issue of Dodger Insider magazine — came out of the bullpen and faced nine batters, allowing two singles and a walk while striking out all other six.

As gravy on the cake, Cotton came to bat in the seventh inning and hit a two-run triple. Before making his Triple-A debut tonight, Cotton had a 2.30 ERA with 71 strikeouts 62 2/3 innings for Tulsa.

Corey Seager, another interesting farmhand to say the least, hit his third homer in five games in Oklahoma City’s 8-2 victory against Pacific Coast League Old Friend Albuquerque. Seager is 14 for 45 (.311) in his last 10 games with 26 total bases, one walk and 11 strikeouts, for a .326 on-base percentage and .578 slugging percentage.

Seager, who plays third base and shortstop, homered on the same night that the Dodgers’ big-league third baseman and shortstop, Justin Turner and Jimmy Rollins, homered in a 5-1 victory at Cincinnati.

Shoulder sidelines Yasmani Grandal

Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers at Reds, 4:10 p.m.
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Yasiel Puig, RF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Justin Turner, 3B
Scott Van Slyke, LF
Chase Utley, 2B
A.J. Ellis, C
Kiké Hernandez, CF
Alex Wood, P

By Jon Weisman

Yasmani Grandal is not expected to start before Thursday at the earliest because of an ailing left shoulder, Don Mattingly told reporters today.

Grandal is third on the Dodgers with 140 weighted runs created (wRC+), but he is 3 for 30 with five walks and no extra-base hits in his past 35 plate appearances. Mattingly said there is worry the shoulder condition is altering Grandal’s swing.

The 26-year-old catcher isn’t expected to go on the disabled list, especially with rosters expanding one week from today. But it will mean more work than usual for A.J. Ellis, who is quietly posting his best averages at the plate (.356 on-base percentage, .360 slugging percentage) since 2012.

The Dodgers need improvement from several players as they look to win their first game since August 16. During the current five-game losing streak …

  • Justin Turner is 1 for 18 with two walks and two errors.
  • Jimmy Rollins has a single, double and homer in 22 plate appearances.
  • Adrian Gonzalez has four singles and a walk in 20 plate appearances.
  • Scott Van Slyke, Carl Crawford and Alex Guerrero are a combined 1 for 28 with one walk.

Rollins’ third-inning home run six days ago at Oakland is the Dodgers’ most recent four-base hit.

Alex Wood, who takes the mound today for the Dodgers, has been charged with exactly three runs on five hits with three walks in each of his past three starts.

Mat Latos pitched a five-inning simulated game Monday, and is scheduled to start Saturday against the Cubs, with Brett Anderson, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw taking the starts between now and then.  Juan Nicasio, as noted Monday, has been activated from the disabled list.


Bear and grin it: The line between too much and too little encouragement


By Jon Weisman

How far should you go to light a fire under someone?

After seeing the Oscar-nominated movie “Whiplash” last winter, with its internal debate between tough love and abuse, I was curious what the reaction would be in the sports world. So earlier this season, I talked to Scott Van Slyke, A.J. Ellis, Kiké Hernandez, J.P. Howell and Darwin Barney about it for the July issue of Dodger Insider magazine. Click each page below to enlarge.

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Remembering ’65: See-saw second half of August


By Jon Weisman

When might you be having a charmed season? When you’re scoreless with two out in the bottom of the 10th inning, Sandy Koufax bats for himself and walks, and then Roberto Clemente — of all people — drops a fly ball to allow the game-winning run to score.

That’s what happened August 14, 1965 at Dodger Stadium to allow the Dodgers to win, 1-0.

“It was sinking all the way,” Jim Gilliam, who hit the ball at Clemente, told Frank Finch of the Times. “Clemente first had his glove up in front of his chest, but at the last moment had to shift it. That’s when he muffed the ball.”

Said Clemente: “I was groping for the ball. I lost it.”

Though there were still many skeptics about the ’65 Dodgers, one who saw their potential was Pirates third baseman Bob Bailey.

“They’re not just giving an 80% effort like some teams,” Bailey told Times columnist Sid Ziff. “They go all out. They go for the extra base, the squeeze bunt, the impossible catch. And, of course, they’ve got tremendous pitching.”

But rather using the Clemente game to launch like a rocket to the National League pennant, the Dodgers would have one of their bumpiest weeks of the year.

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Dodgers Accelerator startup program takes next step


By Jon Weisman

The Dodgers Accelerator program announced in April  — a program for investing in startups to benefit the next era of sports teams and their fans — has announced the selection of its initial 10 companies.

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As Nicasio nears return, Dodgers option Garcia

Yimi Juan

By Jon Weisman

The Dodgers optioned Yimi Garcia to Triple-A Oklahoma City, with the expectation of activating Juan Nicasio from the disabled list before their next game Tuesday in Cincinnati.

Nicasio has struck out 10.0 batters per nine innings this year while allowing 62 baserunners in 47 innings. In August, he allowed a hit in each of his four appearances before going on the DL with a left abdominal strain, though none of those hits led to a run.

Garcia has allowed one run in 8 1/3 innings for the Dodgers since the All-Star Break, but it was a killer: the 10th-inning run scored by Oakland on August 18, Garcia’s 25th birthday. For the year, Garcia has allowed 46 baserunners in 45 2/3 innings while striking out 58.

Though rosters expand September 1, the right-hander can’t be recalled for 10 days unless he is replacing another player going on the DL.

Have you stopped believing in the Dodgers?

By Jon Weisman

All at once, I feel the need to say something and say nothing.

With the contradiction of a first-place team that’s lost five straight games, my sense is that anyone who would listen to me already knows what I’m going to say, and anyone who doesn’t already know what I’m going to say won’t be convinced. People have had plenty of opportunity to hear my way of thinking, and to take it or leave it.

So maybe I’m just talking to myself here, or maybe I should be.

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