Dodger Thoughts

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

Category: Postseason (Page 1 of 9)

Possible NLCS roster changes for the Dodgers

Ross Stripling (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

While Los Angeles will mostly dance with the Dodgers who brought them to the National League Championship Series, there is talk of change near the edge of their postseason roster.

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Predicting the 25-man NLDS roster for the Dodgers

By my estimation, here’s the likely 25-man National League Division Series roster for the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers* …

Catchers (2): Austin Barnes, Yasmani Grandal

Infielders (5): Brian Dozier, David Freese, Manny Machado, Max Muncy, Justin Turner

Infielder-outfielders (3): Cody Bellinger, Kiké Hernandez, Chris Taylor

Outfielders (3): Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig

Starting pitchers (4): Walker Buehler, Rich Hill, Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu

Relief pitchers (8): Scott Alexander, Pedro Baez, Caleb Ferguson, Kenley Jansen, Ryan Madson, Kenta Maeda, Ross Stripling, Alex Wood

Could be considered: Josh Fields, Dylan Floro (if he hadn’t disappeared over the past week, I’d have him instead of Madson), Zac Rosscup, Julio Urías, Pat Venditte, plus position players Tim Locastro or Chase Utley.

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Who makes the do-or-die starts for the Dodgers?

On Sunday, Walker Buehler might making the highest-stakes regular-season start by a rookie in Dodger history. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

I’m writing about an event that likely won’t come to pass, an event that most Dodger fans hope doesn’t come to pass.

But as their three-game series at San Francisco begins tonight, the Dodgers could soon be facing as many as four consecutive do-or-die games to reach the National League Division Series.

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Reflecting on a Dodger season that came so close

Los Angeles Dodgers vs Chicago Cubs

By Jon Weisman

Late on Tuesday evening, it had started to feel real, more real than it had felt in a long, long time.

Three nights earlier, the Dodgers had nearly stolen Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, despite their most disadvantageous pitching matchup and coming off an exhausting National League Division Series. No matter — over the next two ballgames, the Dodgers completely shut down the best team in baseball during the regular season, allowing not a single Cub to score. The offense pushed across six runs in Game 3, the pitching was as rested as it had been in two weeks.

Los Angeles was two games away from the World Series with four to play.

Four nights later, the Dodgers went to bed with their season over, left to ponder how far they had gone, how close they had come and how short they fell.

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Cubs make history, beat Dodgers for NL pennant

Matthew Mesa/Los Angeles Dodgers

Matthew Mesa/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

Undeniably, emphatically, the Chicago Cubs have made 2016 their year.

And like Al Downing allowing Hank Aaron’s 715th home run in 1974, the Dodgers’ ultimate role in 2016 turned out to be as a springboard to history.

Putting the Dodgers on their heels from the second pitch of the game, the Cubs hosted a nine-inning Wrigley Field parade to a mad celebration of their first World Series in 71 years, capturing the National League pennant with a 5-0 victory.

For the third time in the past 28 years, the Dodgers came within two wins in the National League Championship Series of ending their own Fall Classic drought, their fans’ own suffering a pale footnote to the Windy City celebration triggered by the final out.

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Andrew Toles is the eye in the hurricane

scene

By Jon Weisman

Chicago is giddy with enough excitement and anticipation to spread all over the city’s famous hot dogs, if they weren’t so particular about what you put on their hot dogs.

Wrigley Field is jumping. The streets around the old ballpark are rollicking. At once confident and paranoid, Chicago is a quaking nerve brought to life, and the roar at Game 6 of the National League Championship Series will be deafening beginning with tonight’s very first pitch.

And stepping into the batters’ box for that very first pitch will be none other than Andrew Toles.

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Will Kershaw bust seven-inning barrier in Game 6?

2016 NLCS Game 5---Chicago Cubs vs Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers
Andrew Toles, LF
Corey Seager, SS
Justin Turner, 3B
Adrián González, 1B
Josh Reddick, RF
Joc Pederson, CF
Yasmani Grandal, C
Chase Utley, 2B
Clayton Kershaw, P
Cubs
Dexter Fowler, CF
Kris Bryant, 3B
Anthony Rizzo, 1B
Ben Zobrist, LF
Javy Baez, 2B
Willson Contreras, LF
Addison Russell, SS
Albert Almora Jr., RF
Kyle Hendricks, P

By Jon Weisman

The Dodgers have one big mountain to climb this weekend in the National League Championship Series, and in the process would surely benefit from Clayton Kershaw climbing a smaller one.

In 13 career playoff starts, Kershaw has completed the sixth inning 10 times, the seventh inning three times and beyond … not at all.

While Kenley Jansen is more than ready to go two innings in relief tonight, every extra out Kershaw might provide could be a benefit. And pitching on five days’ rest against a Cubs lineup he just shut out over seven innings, all is possible.

Two of Kershaw’s seven-inning starts came on short rest, when the Dodgers were glad for any effective innings they could get from their ace. He obliged, allowing one run in Game 4 of the 2015 National League Division Series before going that one better this week in NLCS Game 2.

The other was the opening game of the 2013 NLDS, when Kershaw struck out 12 while throwing a career postseason-high 124 pitches in a 6-1 victory over Atlanta.

Before Kershaw went on the disabled list this summer, length was one of his many calling cards. Nine times from April to June, Kershaw got at least one out in the eighth inning and seven of those times, he finished the eighth.

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Cubs’ comeback a model for Dodgers in NLCS

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

“Well, we’re working the at-bats,” said the manager. “Obviously we’re looking for more results. We did attempt to shake it up a little bit, and obviously didn’t play very well. But, listen, I’ve got a lot of faith in our guys. It’s a difficult moment to be in … you have to fight through some pretty stringent adversity. But that’s how this thing works sometimes. Again, from my perspective, there is nothing differently to do, except to really come out tomorrow with the right mental attitude, and that’s our best weapon, I think.”

That was Cubs manager Joe Maddon after Chicago lost Games 2 and 3 of the National League Championship Series, and it’s no different in substance from what Dave Roberts said after the Dodgers’ Game 5 loss.

While the Cubs had breathing room that the Dodgers now lack when Maddon made that statement, it was the steadying approach — the choice of poise over panic — that said it all. Given a chance to rebound, the guys who weren’t producing did just that.

As the Dodgers head to Chicago to save a dream, it’s worth keeping this in mind. This is the team that rallied from eight games back in the NL West, the team that rallied from a 2-1 deficit in the National League Division Series, the team that, up to now, has won every must-win game it has faced.

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After NLCS Game 5 defeat, it’s Kershaw and Hill again and pray for reign

hill-kershaw-3jo_8572

By Jon Weisman

The earth spins, seven days of suns rise and set, and here we are once more.

Two wins needed for land. Two games to do it, with two prime captains in Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill.

That’s the map of the world for the Dodgers, who find themselves back in the strait between exhilaration and elimination after losing Game 5 of the National League Championship Series tonight to the Cubs, 8-4.

Barely a week ago, Kershaw and Hill (with a large dose of Kenley Jansen and others) rescued the Dodgers’ title raft in the National League Division Series against Washington. Following two more victories in NLCS Games 2 and 3 against the Cubs, the Dodgers will look to circumvent their Game 4-5 losses and complete a happy repeat.

To continue scavenging sea and sky for good omens, know that those two wins followed an 8-4 Game 1 loss that played out similarly to Game 5, even to the final score. Tonight, the Dodgers fell behind early, tied the game — then watched that tie broken thanks to a home run off the previously stalwart Joe Blanton. There was even another late five-run eighth inning to ride out, and an even later short-lived comeback attempt.

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Dodgers shuffle batting order against Jon Lester

NLDS GAME 3--LOS ANGELES DODGERS V WASHINGTON NATIONALS

Cubs
Dexter Fowler, CF
Kris Bryant, 3B
Anthony Rizzo, 1B
Ben Zobrist, LF
Javy Baez, 2B
Jason Heyward, RF
Addison Russell, SS
David Ross, C
Jon Lester, P
Dodgers
Kiké Hernández, 2B
Justin Turner, 3B
Corey Seager, SS
Carlos Ruiz, C
Howie Kendrick, LF
Yasiel Puig, RF
Adrián González, 1B
Joc Pederson, CF
Kenta Maeda, P

By Jon Weisman

It’s a small change in the batting order, but at the same time, the Dodgers’ most significant of the postseason.

Against Cubs lefty Jon Lester tonight, Dave Roberts has moved Kiké Hernández to the leadoff spot, with Carlos Ruiz batting fourth, Howie Kendrick fifth, Yasiel Puig sixth and Adrián González seventh.

In his first postseason appearance of 2016, Hernández walked twice and lined out against Lester in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, and Roberts said he liked the quality of his at-bats.

“And I think that since he’s come back for this series, his pitch recognition is much better,” Roberts added. “I feel comfortable with him trying to get on base instead of worrying about trying to drive runs in — and also to put Howie in the middle of things. I think that to be able to get a hit with guys on base, I feel very comfortable with that.”

Ruiz is starting at cleanup for the first time as a Dodger and the first time at all since May 16 with Philadelphia. Ruiz is 2 for 7 with a homer in the playoffs, including an 0-for-2 start against Lester.

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Dodgers facts and figures after four NLCS games

infielders

By Jon Weisman

With the National League Championship Series between the Cubs and Dodgers now tied at 2-2, let’s do what we did after it was tied 1-1 and reset the scene …

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Taking a heavy club away from the Cubs

screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-4-24-25-pm
By Cary Osborne

Three of the most important numbers in the National League Championship Series have been three, four and five. Those numbers represent the three spots in the Chicago order that Dodger pitchers have dominated.

Chicago’s 3-4-5 hitters are 2 for 32 in this series.

In Game 1, Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell went 1 for 12 at the plate with a walk.

That same trio went 0 for 9 with a walk in Game 2.

The Cubs changed things up in Game 3 and went Zobrist, Rizzo and the hot Javier Baez and still managed to only go 1 for 11 with a walk.

The lone hits were a Zobrist double in the five-run Cubs eighth inning in Game 1 and a broken-bat infield single from Rizzo in the ninth inning in Game 3.

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Second-inning crisis catapults Hill to NLCS success

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

On the verge of an early exit, Rich Hill turned his night around.

After 23 pitches in the second inning, Hill had only one out.  A six-pitch popout by Javy Baez was sandwiched by a nine-pitch walk to Anthony Rizzo and an eight-pitch free pass to Jorge Soler. Game 3 of the National League Championship Series was teetering.

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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the Dodgers be holding a 2-1 NLCS lead

sunset-overhead

By Jon Weisman

Pitchers paint on the edge of a cliff. They are artists, tending to a tiny canvas that hovers in mid-air, and they are adventurers who might fall at any moment.

Rich Hill took a minor masterpiece into the sixth inning tonight at Dodger Stadium. After walking two of three batters with some tremulous brush work to start the top of the second, Hill was in his element. Twelve of the next 13 batters he faced became dots on his Seuratian landscape.

In the top of the sixth, the ground beneath Hill’s easel began to quiver. With one out, Kris Bryant singled to left center, for the second hit off the Dodger left-hander. With two out, Anthony Rizzo took the first four pitches, and three fell outside the borders of the strike zone. On deck was Javy Baez, whose electric play helped the Cubs win Game 1 of the National League Championship Series and nearly Game 2 as well.

Hill raised his arm and lofted the next pitch, a 74 mile-per-hour curveball that sidled through the California air with the arc of a rainbow, landing into the glove of Yasmani Grandal for strike two.

Then, at 87 mph, Hill dropped down with a master’s flourish.

101816_hill_k_rizzo_med

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers (Top: Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers (Top: Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Hill pumped his fist, shouted to the heavens and handed his work to the gallery, for 54,269 art-lovers at Dodger Stadium to marvel.

The 36-year-old’s six innings of two-hit shutout ball, his finest performance since he threw seven perfect innings at Miami on September 10, were framed by Grandal, the catcher who also hit a two-run home run off Jake Arrieta in the Dodgers’ 6-0 victory.

Taking a 2-1 lead in the NLCS, the Dodgers are as close to the World Series as they have been in 28 years.

Hill struck out six, giving him 19 in 13 postseason innings (13.2 strikeouts per nine innings) with a 3.46 ERA. With Joe Blanton, Grant Dayton and Kenley Jansen finishing the game, the Dodgers have thrown consecutive postseason shutouts for the first time in franchise history.

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Dodgers to starters: Leave no pitch behind

NLDS-Game 5-Los Angeles Dodgers vs Washington Nationals

Cubs
Dexter Fowler, CF
Kris Bryant, 3B
Ben Zobrist, LF
Anthony Rizzo, 1B
Javy Baez, 2B
Jorge Soler, RF
Addison Russell, SS
Miguel Montero, C
Jake Arrieta, P
Dodgers
Chase Utley, 2B
Corey Seager, SS
Justin Turner, 3B
Adrián González, 1B
Josh Reddick, RF
Joc Pederson, CF
Yasmani Grandal, C
Andrew Toles, LF
Rich Hill, P

By Jon Weisman

“Go as hard as you can for as long as you can, and we’ll figure out the rest.”

That’s the mantra Dave Roberts has sent to his starting pitchers. Sure, seven, eight innings would be nice, but that’s no longer the barometer. For that matter, the homespun charm of a quality start started sounding all too quaint around the fourth of July.

“There’s not been really one formula for us to win the baseball games that we’ve won,” Roberts said today, before Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. “So this postseason, it’s more for me just kind of sending the message to the starters to go out there and leave it all out there.”

Rich Hill, who in the regular season with the Dodgers never went fewer than five innings and had seven perfect frames September 10 at Miami, epitomizes this approach. In this postseason, he has struck out 13 batters in seven innings over two starts, including six in 2 2/3 innings on three day’s rest in the final game of the National League Division Series against Washington.

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