Dodger Thoughts

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

Tag: Justin Ruggiano

Dodgers extend qualifying offers to Greinke, Anderson, Kendrick

By Jon Weisman

Zack Greinke, Brett Anderson and Howie Kendrick received from the Dodgers one-year qualifying offers, the meaning of which is explained by Ken Gurnick of

The players — who are free to sign with other clubs beginning Friday at 9:01 p.m. PT — have until Nov. 13 to accept the offer, binding them to the club for only the 2016 season at a salary of $15.8 million. No player has accepted a qualifying offer since it was implemented as part of the free-agency system in 2011.

If the players reject the offer and sign with another club, the Dodgers would receive a compensation draft pick after the first round. The players still can re-sign with the Dodgers.

In addition, the Dodgers announced that outfielders Chris Heisey and Justin Ruggiano have elected to become free agents, and that the team has declined the club options on Bronson Arroyo, Joel Peralta and Chase Utley.

NLDS Game 4 lineups: Ellis, Puig, Ruggiano start

Curtis Granderson, RF
David Wright, 3B
Daniel Murphy, 2B
Yoenis Cespedes, LF
Travis d’Arnaud, C
Lucas Duda, 1B
Wilmer Flores, SS
Juan Lagares, CF
Steven Matz, P
Kiké Hernandez, CF
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Justin Turner, 3B
Corey Seager, SS
Yasiel Puig, RF
A.J. Ellis, C
Justin Ruggiano, LF
Clayton Kershaw, P
Jill Weisleder/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jill Weisleder/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

In a reversal of 2014, Yasiel Puig will make his first postseason start in more than a year when the Dodgers play the Mets tonight in Game 4 of the National League Division Series.

Facing a left-handed starter (Steven Matz) for the only time in the NLDS, Don Mattingly has put right-handed hitting outfielders Puig and Justin Ruggiano in place of Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford, who have typically sat against southpaws in 2015.

Also back in today’s lineup is catcher A.J. Ellis, no surprise with a lefty pitching for the opposition, Clayton Kershaw pitching for the Dodgers and Yasmani Grandal appearing to have aggravated his problematic left shoulder in Monday’s 13-7 Game 3 loss.

Memorably, Mattingly substituted Ethier for Puig in Game 4 of the 2014 NLDS, after Puig started the first three games. In each game, the Dodgers needed a win to stay alive in the playoffs. As Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. notes, the Dodgers have lost six straight elimination games on the road in the playoffs, last winning one in 1981.

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Laying down the Kershaw, Dodgers win NL West!

Kershaw close

By Jon Weisman

The Titanic skipped the iceberg. The boys beat the breaks.

All the numbers are magic tonight. For the first time in their history, the Dodgers are going to the postseason for the third consecutive year.

Soaring on home runs by Kiké Hernandez, Justin Ruggiano and A.J. Ellis off 2014 World Series hero Madison Bumgarner, sailing on the Unsinkable Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers stood up and shook up San Francisco, 8-0, to win the 2015 National League West title.

For Kershaw, it was his first career one-hitter (Kevin Frandsen’s clean single in the second inning preventing next-level history) and the second consecutive year he pitched the Dodgers to the NL West title — an eight-run victory both times. For Ellis, it was the second time in three years he homered in a division-clinching game.

Next challenge: To end the 26-year drought without a World Series title, the Dodgers’ longest since they won their first World Series in 1955. They will face the New York Mets in the National League Division Series, beginning October 9.

With the Dodgers having lost eight times in their last 10 games, stuck for 100 hours in a row on a magic number of two to clinch the division, Kershaw rose to the occasion for, as if it were even possible, one of the most brilliant games of his brilliant career. He retired the final 19 batters, struck out 13 in all (two shy of his career high), while needing only 104 pitches for the 12th shutout of his career.

Kershaw has 294 strikeouts in 2015, putting him within striking distance of 300 for the year, though he will probably have an abbreviated start in the Dodgers’ regular-season finale Sunday. Either way, Kershaw has the most whiffs for an MLB pitcher since Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson topped the 300 mark in 2002.

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In his first start since returning from the disabled list, Hernandez provided the initial spark — or sparks. He led off the game with a single off Bumgarner, went to third on an omenic Kelby Tomlinson error, then scored on Justin Turner’s sacrifice fly — all before hitting the first Dodger homer to begin the third.

Though Kershaw was dealing, allowing his only single and walk in the third inning, it was a plenty tight game into the fifth, when whatever leverage Bumgarner was hanging onto seemed to give way when it took him 13 pitches to retire Kershaw — the longest at-bat by a big-league pitcher this year. The Dodgers didn’t score, but Bumgarner finished the fifth inning already at 100 pitches.

With two out in the sixth, Bumgarner hung a curveball that Ruggiano blasted for a 3-0 Dodger lead. Ellis went back-to-back to make it 4-0. In the eighth, the Dodgers broke it open with four runs, the big blow a team-leading sixth triple of the year by Andre Ethier.

Starting with the last out of the third inning, Kershaw retired 16 batters in a row, striking out 10 of them, to reach the ninth on 96 pitches.

Trevor Brown whiffed on three pitches. Angel Pagan flied to left on two pitches. Kelby Tomlinson took tow balls, then hit a slow chopper to shortstop, where Corey Seager flung to Adrian Gonzalez to ignite the celebration.

Next stop, playoffs.

‘Weird’ lineup features youngest Dodger cleanup hitter in more than 50 years

Colorado Rockies vs Los Angeles Dodgers

Rockies at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Austin Barnes, 2B
Chase Utley, 1B
Justin Ruggiano, LF
Corey Seager, SS
A.J. Ellis, C
Alex Guerrero, 3B
Chris Heisey, RF
Joc Pederson, CF
Alex Wood, P

By Jon Weisman

Even by the Dodgers’ ever-fluctuating standards, this is not the usual starting lineup.

Don Mattingly himself called it “weird,” and said he knew it would be that way by the time he left Dodger Stadium and the 16-inning marathon behind in the wee hours of the night. Among others, Mattingly was looking to rest Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Turner, who each played the entire game. And the Dodgers are still battling several injuries, including players not on the disabled list such as Scott Van Slyke and Jose Peraza.

Let’s take a look at tonight’s lineup, one through nine:

  • Austin Barnes, 2B: Taking it from the top, this is the 25-year-old catcher’s first MLB game batting leadoff or at second base. In the minors, Barnes has played 150 games at second base, though none since 2014. He is the first Dodger to play catcher, third base and second since Trent Hubbard in 1998-99, and the first to do it in the same season since Derrel Thomas in 1980. Barnes’ RBI single Tuesday lifted his on-base percentage as a Dodger to .375 in 25 plate appearances.
  • Chase Utley, 1B: In 13 seasons, the 36-year-old Utley has 31 career games (24 starts) at first base, most recently August 10 for the Phillies at Arizona. In 220 1/3 innings, he has been charged with one error.
  • Justin Ruggiano, LF: Ruggiano has become a familiar face in left field, and has a .393 OBP/.846 slugging percentage in 28 plate appearances as a Dodger, even after following his leadoff double Tuesday with six consecutive outs. But this is only his 11th career start as a No. 3 hitter, and first since April 9, 2014 for the Cubs against Pittsburgh.
  • Corey Seager, SS: Seager is batting cleanup in his 13th Major League game. Other Dodgers, most recently Yasiel Puig, Scott Van Slyke and even John Lindsey, have batted cleanup sooner, but the Dodgers haven’t had a starting cleanup hitter younger than Seager (21 years, 142 days) since Derrell Griffith (20 years, 294 days) in 1964. Before Griffith, there wasn’t a younger starting Dodger cleanup hitter since Duke Snider in 1947. With Jimmy Rollins still unable to play defense for several days, Seager will continue to see action.
  • A.J. Ellis, C: Ellis’ start in the No. 5 slot Tuesday was his first in nearly two years. He hasn’t started back-to-back days as a No. 5 hitter since May 14-15, 2013.
  • Alex Guerrero, 3B: Guerrero, who has a single, double and walk in seven plate appearances this month, is starting at third base for the 14th time this year and first time since August 8 at Pittsburgh.
  • Chris Heisey, RF: Ruggiano, Seager and Heisey (who had RBI in the seventh and 11th innings Monday) were the only three Dodgers to play all 16 innings. None was in the organization three weeks ago.
  • Joc Pederson, CF: Pederson, who had reached base in nine consecutive starts before going 0 for 2 Monday, has played 87 percent of the Dodgers’ innings in center field this year. Only Gonzalez (90 percent) has a higher percentage of the team’s innings at one position in 2015.
  • Alex Wood, P: In Wood’s Major League debut on May 30, 2013, he batted third, entering the game in Justin Upton’s slot in a ninth-inning double switch.

Ruggiano’s surprising September is all about timing

Los Angeles Dodgers vs San Diego Padres

Rockies at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Kershaw CCXXXIX: Kershawse Party
Joc Pederson, CF
Chase Utley, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Justin Turner, 3B
Andre Ethier, RF
Corey Seager, SS
Yasmani Grandal, C
Scott Schebler, LF
Clayton Kershaw, P

By Jon Weisman

You’d think it would be a little late in the game for a 33-year-old with 12 seasons as a professional to surprise anyone.

“I think at this point, people have the book on me,” Justin Ruggiano acknowledged today. “I don’t think I’m catching anyone off guard.”

Maybe we should be conditioned to expect the unexpected.

After doubling on the first pitch of Sunday’s 4-3 victory over Arizona and later knocking a single, Ruggiano is 8 for 19 with a 1.053 slugging percentage as a Dodger. That’s right — he’s averaging at least a base per at-bat.

Though he has hit as many as 18 homers in a season (2013 with the Cubs), Ruggiano hasn’t stopped looking to improve. Significantly, that includes his first fortnight as a Dodger.

“I think the moment you become a non-improving player is the moment you’d be out of the game,” Ruggiano said today.  “There’s always something to be done. Since I’ve come over here, I’ve worked on a timing mechanism with the hitting coaches that has really helped me stay on the ball and kind of clear up my vision of the ball. And I think that’s actually contributed to a lot of the success I’ve had the past two weeks.”

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Ruggiano, Schebler, Seager, Utley: Celebrating the September quartet

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Justin Ruggiano (Photos by Jon SooHoo)

Justin Ruggiano (Photos by Jon SooHoo)

By Jon Weisman

Despite my having a little fun on Twitter this morning at the expense of those supporting the hysterical Yoenis Cespedes for MVP campaign, no, I’m not seriously launching a #ruggianomvp crusade.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy what Justin Ruggiano and three other players who also weren’t Dodgers a month ago — Scott Schebler, Corey Seager and Chase Utley — have meant for the Dodgers.

Look at these numbers for September …


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So many pitchers, just enough time

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By Jon Weisman

It was nine innings that featured 16 pitchers, 35 baserunners, 232 minutes and 338 pitches. It ended with Kenley Jansen doing what Kenley Jansen needed to do, striking out Mike Trout and Albert Pujols and then getting a fly to right by David DeJesus to preserve a 7-5 victory for the Dodgers at Anaheim.

Scott Van Slyke became the Dodgers’ first No. 8 hitter with four hits and four RBI since James Loney hit a single, double and two grand slams at Colorado in 2006. His two-run hit off the pitcher in the seventh inning provided the Dodgers with the runs they needed to win, one day after Andre Ethier cleared the bases in the seventh inning with a comebacker to the pitcher that was thrown away.

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Justin Ruggiano had another big hit for the Dodgers, a two-run double pinch-hit while pinch-hitting for Ethier in the fifth. Corey Seager and Joc Pederson each reached base three times, including the first two walks of Seager’s career.

The Angels used nine pitchers, tying the most the Dodgers have ever faced in a nine-inning game. The last time it happened was the Loney two-slam game.

Oh, and while he did allow three runs in a game for the sixth time in 29 starts this year, Zack Greinke had his 26th quality start and still has a 1.68 ERA.

Los Angeles now leads the National League West by 8 1/2 games, the Dodgers’ biggest lead since the last day of the 2013 season.

Dodgers ride up to the 7½ floor

By Jon Weisman

With a dynamic offensive display tonight — five home runs, seven extra-base hits and three steals — the Dodgers drove down the Padres, 8-4, and with the seventh straight loss by the Giants, moved a season-high 7½ games ahead in the National League West.

No NL team has a bigger divisional lead than Los Angeles does.

There were numerous heroes for the Dodgers tonight, but it’s hard not to start with right fielder Scott Schebler. In his second MLB start, Schebler went 2 for 5, took away extra bases from Justin Upton, and became only the third Dodger this century to have a home run (444 feet, in this case) and two stolen bases in the same game, after Shawn Green in 2000 and Matt Kemp in 2010.

Also homering in his third game as a Dodger was 33-year-old Justin Ruggiano, who followed Corey Seager’s RBI forceout* with a two-run, pinch-hit shot in the fifth inning put the Dodgers ahead to stay, 5-3. That’s three guys driving in runs who weren’t on the team five days ago.

Adrian Gonzalez and Chase Utley followed with homers before the inning was over, giving the Dodgers an NL record: six different innings this season with three home runs.

Utley also walked twice, and is now 11 for 47 with four doubles, a triple, two homers, five walks and three hit-by-pitches as a Dodger. That’s a .345 on-base percentage, .489 slugging percentage and .835 OPS since coming to Los Angeles.

Seager also doubled and singled, making him 4 for 9 in his MLB career, while Jimmy Rollins walked twice, stole a base, doubled and singled, making him 2,414 for 9,109 in his MLB career.

Carl Crawford actually hit the longest homer of the night for the Dodgers. Measured at 454 feet, it was the fourth-longest blast by the Dodgers in 2015, and longest by anyone not named Joc Pederson.

Mike Bolsinger had a bit of a weird night in his first start for the Dodgers since July 29. He walked two, struck out six and allowed only two hits, but both were homers, good for three runs in five innings. In all, the teams combined for eight home runs, tying a Petco Park record.

*Not gonna get into this right now …

Dodgers recall Scott Schebler

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Giants at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Kershaw CCXXXVI: Kershawk in the Woods
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Chase Utley, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Justin Turner, 3B
Andre Ethier, RF
Carl Crawford, LF
Yasmani Grandal, C
Joc Pederson, CF
Clayton Kershaw, P

By Jon Weisman

Scott Schebler, who survived Triple-A Oklahoma City’s 19-inning game Tuesday, is the latest player to be recalled by the Dodgers.

Schebler had a .322 on-base percentage and .410 slugging percentage this year in the minors. He went 1 for 3 on June 5 in first only big-league game this year, and provides an extra left-handed bat off the bench.

The 24-year-old walked three times in the opening game of what became a 26-inning doubleheader in Oklahoma City. Relief pitcher Daniel Coulombe escaped a bases-loaded jam in the top of the 19th inning, then singled with two out in the bottom of the 19th and scored the winning run on Buck Britton’s walkoff home run.

Then in the second game, Ramon Troncoso was forced to spot start and pitched four innings. Deck McGuire, who began the night in Double-A Tulsa, was told to drive over to Oklahoma City for a mid-evening promotion, and pitched three innings in the second game for the win.

By the way, Justin Ruggiano on Tuesday became the 53rd person to play for the Dodgers this year, tying a franchise record from 1944 and 1998.

Justin Ruggiano reacquired by Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

On the last day players can come into the organization and be eligible for the postseason, the Dodgers have acquired minor-league outfielder Justin Ruggiano from the Mariners, along with cash considerations, in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

Ruggiano, who was drafted by the Dodgers in the 25th round of the 2004 draft, has an .899 OPS for Triple-A Tacoma and .678 OPS in 36 games for Seattle.

On July 19, 2006, Ruggiano was the player to be named later in a trade that sent Dioner Navarro and Jae Seo to Tampa Bay (and Andrew Friedman) for Toby Hall, Mark Hendrickson and cash.

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