Dodger Thoughts

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

Tag: Madison Bumgarner

Salty sixth sinks Dodgers in San Francisco


By Jon Weisman

In a game that prioritized roster reconnaissance over home-field hunting, the Dodgers got more information than they bargained for.

With the Dodgers leading 3-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth, Brandon McCarthy entered for a relief tryout and faced six batters — all of whom scored — in a 9-3 loss to the Giants.

Though Washington lost to Miami tonight, the Dodgers remain two games behind the Nationals with two to play, meaning that unless Los Angeles sweeps and Washington gets swept Saturday and Sunday, the Dodgers will open the National League Division Series in the nation’s capital October 7.

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Go ahead and look: Dodger rally stuns Giants in ninth

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kershaw-verticalBy Jon Weisman

After the Giants’ starter told the Dodger outfielder not to look at him, the Giants’ relievers only made him want to look away.

Trailing 1-0 in the ninth inning, the Dodgers rallied against the beleaguered San Francisco bullpen, parlaying three singles and a walkoff Adrian Gonzalez double into a 2-1 victory that put them a season-high six games up on the Giants with 12 to play. Magic number: seven.

A seventh-inning brouhaha (minus the haha) between Madison Bumgarner and Yasiel Puig on the edge of the first-base line added another layer of intensity to the Dodger-Giant rivalry, a prelude to a victory almost as cathartic as it was important.

San Francisco had one base hit that went past the infield tonight in Los Angeles, and it had nothing to do with the outcome.

Instead, what happened within the infield made the difference for 8 1/2 innings.

Taking the equivalent of a Big Wheel ride around the bases, the Giants motored their only run on an infield single, stolen base, error and wild pitch.

With two out, Eduardo Nunez hit the equivalent of an errant miniature-golf tee shot to Kershaw’s left. Three starts into his return from a disk herniation, Kershaw lunged but couldn’t reach it. Chase Utley charged to glove it, but couldn’t get a desperate throw to first in time, despite Nunez’s head-first, dirt-burst slide.

With two out and two strikes on Angel Pagan, after nearly being picked off by Kershaw, Nunez took off for second. Yasmani Grandal’s throw sliced like a screwball, out of Utley’s reach at second, allowing Nunez to slide in safely and then scamper to third.

One foul ball later, Kershaw bounced a slider in the dirt in front of home plate and through Grandal, and for the low, low investment of that 60-foot single, Nunez had earned 360 feet of bases and the shutout-breaking run.

That unearned run was the only mole on the Kershaw visage in his six innings. With the Dodgers trailing 1-0, he left for a pinch-hitter, having allowed three hits and a walk (his 10th of the season, compared with seven strikeouts on the night and 162 strikeouts in 2016).

But the Dodgers couldn’t make half the dent in Bumgarner that he made in them. Only Yasiel Puig had a hit against the Giants’ lefty, though Grandal and pinch-hitter Rob Segedin were hit by pitches.

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puigThe biggest noise came at the end of the seventh, when Puig hit a cue shot near the first-base line that Bumgarner turned into the final out of the inning. Reflexively, after yelling “Expletive yeah!” when the out was made, Bumgarner was angry at Puig,

“Don’t look at me,” Bumgarner said while looking directly at Puig, winning the approval of the Irony Committee. Benches cleared, but little came of it.

Except Bumgarner didn’t throw another pitch. Though he has crossed 100 pitches in his past four starts, Bruce Bochy decided that 97 of them to 24 batters with 10 strikeouts was enough for Bumgarner tonight, using a pinch-hitter in the top of the eighth and turning the game over to what has become a notorious bullpen.

With two out in the bottom of the eighth, pinch-hitter Carlos Ruiz got the Dodgers’ second hit, but nothing came of it after Derek Law retired Howie Kendrick on a fly to right.

In the bottom of the ninth, magic pixie dream hitter Andrew Toles came off the bench and singled sharply to right.

Javier Lopez replaced Law. Corey Seager, one strike away from his fourth whiff of the game, drilled a grounder past a diving Joe Panik for another single, pushing Toles within 90 feet of tying the game.

Hunter Strickland replaced Lopez. Justin Turner, also with two strikes against him, shot a third straight Dodger single to right, scoring Toles.

Gonzalez came up, and he rocked a ball to the wall in right center. Tagging up for a potential catch, Seager shifted into forward gear when right fielder Hunter Pence came up empty, and roared around the bases for the winning run and the biggest celebration at Dodger Stadium this year.

Dodgers got a way with the Giants, 9-5

Seager slide

By Jon Weisman

Early in tonight’s Dodgers-Giants showdown, Dodger Stadium organist Dieter Ruehle played Billy Joel’s “Pressure.”

Funnily enough, the Dodgers played as if they felt no pressure at all.

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Dodgers turn to Greinke to vanquish Bumgarner

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Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

By Jon Weisman

I’m going to say that Madison Bumgarner has had the Dodgers’ number this year.

In fact, I’m going to say that Bumgarner got that number not here at Dodger Stadium in 2015, but in Kansas City on October 29, 2014, when he completed the postseason of the ages, the postseason so many of us thought Clayton Kershaw would have.

For so long, it was Kershaw who had the Giants’ number. Through 2014, Kershaw had a 1.43 ERA against the Giants in 180 career innings, with 191 strikeouts.

Not this year. The Giants have won all three Bumgarner starts against the Dodgers this season. All three of them against Kershaw. All three of them in the so-called “What’s wrong with Kershaw?” period, the last of them in a game so twisted that it may have hit the reset button for Kershaw’s season.

On April 22, Bumgarner and Kershaw neutralized each other, each allowing two runs in six (Kershaw) or 6 1/3 (Bumgarner) innings. Before opposing pitchers had figured out Alex Guerrero the way they now seem to have, the National League’s April Rookie of the Month hit a two-run, game-tying homer off the Giants lefty. The game came down to the bullpens, with San Francisco walking off against Chris Hatcher and J.P. Howell in the bottom of the ninth.

Six days later came more of a true pitchers’ duel. Buster Posey drove in runs in the first and fourth innings off Kershaw with a single and a homer, but the Dodgers scratched across a run in the bottom of the fourth to close the gap. But there was no scoring after that, with Bumgarner putting out threats in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

Then came May 21, the throw-up (your hands) game, in which Bumgarner was in trouble (seven hits and two walks in six innings) but causing trouble (homering off Kershaw in the third inning). Once again, Bumgarner’s brand of trouble won.

Jill Weisleder/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jill Weisleder/Los Angeles Dodgers

Since that date, in 126 2/3 innings, Kershaw has a 1.28 ERA against all comers.

Tonight, Bumgarner faces Zack Greinke. And if there’s anyone that has anyone’s number, it’s Zack Greinke vs. the Giants. As a Dodger, Greinke has a 1.96 ERA in seven games (46 innings) against San Francisco, and has never lost.

Last September, Greinke faced off against Bumgarner on September 23, in arguably the biggest game of the season, and the Dodgers won. It was a game that all but ensured the Giants would be in the National League wild-card game, on the fringe of the postseason, nearly ending Bumgarner’s October before it began.

Look at Bumgarner now. Look at Greinke now. Somehow, someone’s number is up.

Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner and a twisted, twisted game

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By Jon Weisman

On April 1, 2013, Clayton Kershaw homered in a 4-0 victory over the Giants, in a year he would beat them three times with a 1.38 ERA.

On May 21, 2015, Madison Bumgarner homered in a 4-0 victory over the Dodgers, in a year he has beaten them three times* with a 1.31 ERA.

*OK, one of those was a no-decision in a Giants victory, but allow me my symmetry.

I can’t help but find the most interesting thing about Thursday’s game in San Francisco is not the state of the Dodger offense — please, you can’t be blind to understanding that the freakish scoreless streak will soon become a memory — but just that baseball never ceases to be baseball.

Frankly, that’s true as far as analyzing Thursday’s game goes. Baseball was so baseball yesterday.

Let’s take the ongoing drama “CSI: Kershaw.” For seven innings, Kershaw outpitched Bumgarner. Despite leaving with a 2-0 lead, Bumgarner was in trouble all day, allowing 10 baserunners in six innings, but he got another great catch from outfielder Angel Pagan and was bailed out at one critical point by Alex Guerrero’s remarkable baserunning blunder. The Giants lefty got one out in the seventh and then was done.

Kershaw made one gruesome pitch to Bumgarner in the third, then allowed three batters to reach base in a one-run fourth. The rest of those seven innings, Kershaw allowed two hits and two walks while striking out seven, all in an efficient 91 pitches.

Then, in an eighth inning Bumgarner was long gone from, Kershaw allowed two baserunners whom the Dodger defense and bullpen let score, and once again, instead of going down, Kershaw’s ERA went up.

But we can also say this: For seven innings, Bumgarner outpitched Kershaw. I’m not oblivious to the fact that nothing matters more than keeping zeroes on the scoreboard, and that Bumgarner deserves the lion’s share of credit, not to mention the share of almost every other animal, for the Dodgers’ 0-for-7 performance with runners in scoring position. Bumgarner was the winner Thursday, and deservedly so.

To that apparent contradiction, I offer this reasoning that erstwhile “Simpsons” voice actor Harry Shearer presented to Marc Maron earlier this year.

I have to say about this something that I learned from my six years of analysis, of psychoanalysis. Which is, one mark of adulthood is you can hold two conflicting emotions about the same thing at the same time. Two things can be true at the same time. So it is true that as an actor on an insanely successful TV series, I am by any standards of the human species obscenely overpaid. It is also true that as an actor on one of the most insanely successful television series of all time, I am getting royally screwed. Both things are true.

In other words: baseball.

Time and urgency, winning and losing


By Jon Weisman

Somewhere right now, someone is driving a car and texting about the horrors of ebola.

But let me get back to that …

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Ryu-Bumgarner kicks off weekend of great pitching in Dodgers-Giants series

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Dodgers at Giants, 7:15 p.m.
Yasiel Puig, CF
Justin Turner, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Scott Van Slyke, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Hyun-Jin Ryu, P

By Jon Weisman

With Zack Greinke pitching Saturday and Clayton Kershaw looming Sunday, San Francisco’s most favorable matchup in this weekend’s Dodgers-Giants series might be tonight’s, when Madison Bumgarner faces Hyun-Jin Ryu.

But even this one is practically a tossup.

  • Ryu: 3.5 WAR, 3.16 ERA, 2.60 FIP*, 3.02 xFIP**, 8.23 K/9, 1.16 WHIP
  • Bumgarner: 3.5 WAR, 3.02 ERA, 2.94 FIP, 2.93 xFIP, 9.09 K/9, 1.16 WHIP

*Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) measures what a player’s ERA would look like over a given period of time if the pitcher were to have experienced league average results on balls in play and league average timing.

*Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) is calculated in the same way as FIP, except it replaces a pitcher’s home run total with an estimate of how many home runs they should have allowed given the number of fly balls they surrendered while assuming a league average home run to fly ball percentage (between 9 and 10% depending on the year).

Ryu is Bumgarner’s equal in Wins Above Replacement, despite throwing 46 fewer innings so far in 2014.

Perhaps more impressively, Ryu ranks second in the National League behind Clayton Kershaw in FIP. In xFIP, the NL top five goes as follows: Kershaw,  Stephen Strasburg, Zack Greinke, Bumgarner and Ryu.

Bumgarner has had an interesting past couple of weeks. He struck out 25 in two starts August 21 and August 26, including 13 in a one-hit shutout of Colorado. But at Detroit on Saturday, he didn’t strike out anyone in six innings.

The last time Bumgarner faced the Dodgers, there was this.

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Bumgarner delivers maverick performance to stifle Dodgers

OK, maybe Madison Bumgarner will win the NL Cy Young Award.

In the kind of pitching duel that helped catapult Clayton Kershaw to top pitcher honors in the league last year, it was the San Francisco lefty who delivered the extra squeeze, shutting out the Dodgers with 10 strikeouts and no walks over eight innings in a 2-1 Giants victory.

Kershaw also had 10 strikeouts in eight innings – not to mention two of the four Dodger hits off Bumgarner, and a diving catch in foul territory – but he gave in for single runs in the first and sixth innings, each driven in by Pablo Sandoval, and ended up on the short end. The second run was safe at most by milliseconds.

Kershaw has the lowest career ERA against the Giants that any pitcher has against any single team in major-league history since 1920 – 1.32 going into tonight’s game, 1.39 now – but after going 5-0 with a 1.07 ERA against San Francisco last year, he is 1-3 despite a 1.74 ERA against the Giants this year.

Folk hero Luis Cruz had the other two hits against Bumgarner, who threw 123 pitches while getting the rest of the Dodgers to go 0 for 21. Hanley Ramirez homered off Sergio Romo with two out in the ninth, but lefty Javier Lopez came in to shut down Andre Ethier to end the game and put San Francisco back in first place in the National League West by half a game.

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