Aug 11

Dodgers sweep Rays: Up next, the ’71-’72 Lakers

At 37-8 (.822) in their past 45 games following tonight’s 8-2 romp over Tampa Bay, the Dodgers need to go 32-5 (.865) to match the 1971-72 Lakers as the hottest L.A. team of all time.

I’m giddy, but you’ve gotta have goals, right? Oh, there’s that little matter of continuing the run in the playoffs, but first things first.

Tonight’s was another game that found the Dodgers so dominant that their mistakes didn’t matter. You can’t do that forever, but it’s nice while it lasts.

Dee Gordon’s hat trick of errors threatened to make him less popular in Los Angeles than Brandon League or Carlos Marmol, but the worst they did was cost Clayton Kershaw a complete game. In fact, the Dodger ace would probably have had a shutout if not for Carl Crawford’s fifth-inning bobble in left field of the first hit off Kershaw, a play that allowed Yunel Escobar to go to second base, stay out what would have been a double-play grounder by Ryan Roberts and score the Rays’ first run on a triple by Sam Fuld past a diving Yasiel Puig.

There was also a missed squeeze sign by Puig on third base, on bunt that was attempted by A.J. Ellis, a play that was of little consequence in the game but enormous significance to ESPN.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles pounded Tampa Bay pitching, running their streak of unanswered runs in the series dating back to the middle of Friday’s game to 18 in taking a 6-0 lead after four.  Kershaw had the first two RBI on a single in the second inning, after which Mark Ellis just missed a three-run homer in settling for an RBI double. A.J. Ellis had a sacrifice fly in the fourth (following the missed squeeze), and Adrian Gonzalez a two-run double in the fifth. All six runs crossed the plate with two out.

Mark Ellis later got his home run in the sixth, giving the second baseman three hits on the night.

Even with the four errors by his defense, Kershaw ended up pitching eight innings and allowing one earned run, three hits and two walks while striking out eight on 103 pitches. He lowered his major-league leading ERA by 0.03 to 1.88. He had no-hit stuff and looked in complete control until he issued a walk to start the eighth inning. But even after that was followed by a single and Gordon’s third error, Kershaw stepped out of the jam with little damage on a strikeout, sacrifice fly and groundout.

In the ninth, Marmol had his first perfect inning as a Dodger and, for what it’s worth, has made five consecutive scoreless appearances, allowing three hits and four walks while striking out three in 4 1/3 innings. It’s clearly the control that’s been his downfall, but he had good location tonight, retiring the side on nine pitches, eight for strikes.

Arizona lost again, allowing the Dodgers to boost their lead in the National League West to a season-high 7 1/2 games. Los Angeles is within 4 1/2 games of Atlanta for the best record in the majors.

Aug 11

Kershaw CLXXIV: Kershowse Encounters of the Third Kind

Rays at Dodgers, 5:05 p.m.

According to the Dodger press notes, the team’s current 36-8 run is not only the best by a Dodger team since 1953, it’s the best by any National League team since then.

It’s remarkable that three of the eight losses have come during Clayton Kershaw starts – more than any other Dodger starting pitcher – even though Kershaw has had a 1.62 ERA since the hot streak began.  The other five losses have been spread in games started by Chris Capuano (2), Stephen Fife, Ricky Nolasco and Zack Greinke.

Here is the Kershaw log during that time:

Los Angeles is 2-3 in Kershaw’s past five starts. He has a 2.00 ERA with three walks and 37 strikeouts in those five outings.

In games not started by Kershaw, the Dodgers have not lost since July 25. They have won 13 straight games not started by Kershaw.

Aug 10

The world is not enough: Dodgers 5, Rays 0

The Dodgers won 17 of their final 22 games heading into the All-Star break.

That was their cold part of the summer.

After going 17-5 from June 22-July 14, the Dodgers have followed up by going 19-3 from July 19 through today’s 5-0 shutout of Tampa Bay.

Since falling behind 6-0 after five innings on Friday, Los Angeles has outscored the Rays 12-0 over the following 13 innings. Unlike the Rays, they did not let an early lead get away.

Zack Greinke through 77 pitches through his first four innings, but he ended up with 6 1/3 shutout innings on 110 pitches, scattering six hits and a walk while striking out seven. J.P Howell and Chris Withrow combined to retire the remaining eight Rays.

Skip Schumaker went 4 for 4, while Nick Punto and Adrian Gonzalez each had two hits and two RBI. Juan Uribe also had two hits, while being caught off third base on a hidden-ball trick by the Rays – a moment commemorated by Yasiel Puig and the Dodgers after the game.

Aug 10

Eleven straight one-run wins

Here are the NL standings since June 22:

Update: From the Dodger press notes:

THE MORNING AFTER: The Dodgers rallied for four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning last night for their fifth walk-off victory of the year as they overcame a six-run, seventh-inning deficit to beat the Rays, 7-6. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the six-run comeback tied for the largest comeback win in Los Angeles Dodger history for the ninth time (last: April 19, 2005 at Milwaukee). Elias also notes that it was only the fourth time that the LA Dodgers pulled out a victory when entering the club’s at-bat in the seventh inning trailing by six runs:

July 22, 1970: W, 12-10 vs. Montreal (trailed 10-4 entering B7th)
May 9, 1994: W, 9-8 vs. Houston (trailed 8-2 entering 8th)
Aug. 11, 1999: W, 9-7 at Montreal (trailed 6-0 entering 7th)
Aug. 9, 2013: W, 7-6 vs. Tampa Bay (trailed 6-0 entering 7th)

       Last night was the club’s 11th consecutive win in a one-run game, which is a Dodger franchise record. Los Angeles has gone 18-11 in one-run decisions this year and was last defeated in a one-run game on June 10 against Arizona.

       The victory last night was the Dodgers’ third this season (3-41) when trailing entering the ninth inning, also accomplished July 24 at Toronto (3-2 entering 9th, won 8-3 in 10 innings) and July 10 at Arizona (5-4 entering the 9th, won 7-5 in 14 innings). The last time the Dodgers entered the ninth inning trailing by three or more runs and emerged victorious in a nine-inning game was July 20, 2008 at Arizona, when the club rallied for five runs in the top of the ninth in a 6-5 win.

Rays at Dodgers, 1:05 p.m.

Aug 09

Welcome back, Tony Jackson

Rays at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.

Former colleague Tony Jackson has made the leap into independent blogging with Dodgerscribe. Read about his plans, and join me in welcoming him back.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers are going with a lineup against Tampa Bay lefty ace David Price that only a mother or believer in the Dodgers’ overall hotness could love.

Mark Ellis, 2B
Nick Punto, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Yasiel Puig, CF
Jerry Hairston Jr., LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Tim Federowicz, C
Skip Schumaker, RF
Chris Capuano, P

Aug 08

Variety Sports Entertainment Summit on August 15

Variety (in association with Sports Video Group) will be hosting its third annual Sports Entertainment Summit on August 15, all day long at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills.

It’s a great event with tons of behind-the-scenes information passed along about the present and future of sports in the media world — particularly television — and also a tremendous networking opportunity.

Among the top participants are:

Dodgers executive vice president and chief marketing officer Lon Rosen
Kings Hall of Famer Luc Robataille
Clippers forward Matt Barnes
Fox Sports Media Group COO and co-president Randy Freer
NBC Olympics executive producer Jim Bell
Time Warner Cable Sports senior vice president and general manager Mark Shuken

I’ll be moderating three sessions:

10:15 a.m.: The Future of the Sports and Entertainment Business
12 noon: The Power of the Regional Channel – Industry is Cheering, Are Audiences?
4:45 p.m.: Keynote Conversation with Luc Robitaille, president of business operations and alternate governor, Los Angeles Kings

Other sessions include:

9:45 a.m.: Keynote Conversation with Randy Freer, COO and co-president, Fox Sports Media Group
11:15 a.m.: Can We Score with TV Everywhere and Sports Programming?
1:45 p.m.: Beyond the Game Programming Technology – Companion Mobile, Online Experiences
2:30 p.m.: Masters of Game-Time Storytelling
3 p.m.: Branding the Athlete – Winning in a Jungle of Social, Entertainment and Endorsement Choice
4 p.m.: What is the Next Major? Sports on the Rise

The full agenda can be found here. Registration can be done online here. Until 11:59 p.m. Friday, you can get $100 off the $595 cost.

If you can’t make it, look for coverage of the event on on August 15.

Aug 07

Yasiel Puig, Plate Disciplinarian

A Carl Crawford liner knocked St. Louis starter Shelby Miller out of the game after two pitches, a six-run second inning knocked around emergency reliever Jake Westbrook and the Dodgers more or less cruised thereafter to 25 baserunners (Crawford reached five times) in a 13-4 victory.

I rushed through that description so that I could get to what I wanted to talk about – the developing batting eye of Yasiel Puig.

After drawing skepticism and a bit of derision for his wild, swinging ways – seven walks in his first 42 games (against 43 strikeouts) – Puig has dramatically turned things around. With three walks tonight, Puig now has 12 walks in his past 13 games (against 14 strikeouts). That’s a 150-walk pace over a 162-game season.

Only one of the 12 walks has been intentional.

It’s not that Puig has been timid in the plate. Emerging for a slump that lowered his OPS to a season-worst .967 (yeah, season-worst) on July 22, Puig has gone exactly 20 for 50 with those 12 walks, two hit-by-pitches, four doubles and three home runs. That’s a .400 batting average, .531 on-base percentage, .660 slugging percentage and 1.191 OPS during that stretch.

Puig has drawn five walks in the four games that Hanley Ramirez has missed this week, but that alone doesn’t account for his improved showing. And it means that 240 plate appearances into his career, Puig still has an OPS well over 1.000.

His ups were followed by some downs, and his downs have now turned into some ups. The ride will continue, but it’s hard not to be excited by his ability to show power with restraint.

Aug 07

Starter Seeks Six in Sixth Start

Facing St. Louis pitcher Shelby Miller and his 2.89 ERA, the Dodgers could stand to get something extra tonight from Ricky Nolasco, who hasn’t made it through the sixth inning in the last four of his five Dodger starts.

Nolasco hasn’t been pounded — no more than three runs have scored against him in any of his Dodger appearances — and he has taken only one loss. It’s just that he could do mo’ better for the Blues.

Miller, for his part, has a 4.89 ERA in seven starts since June 22.

Dodgers at Cardinals, 5:15 p.m.