Manny Machado’s shock-the-world, Ahmad Abdul Rahim-style, two-strike bunt to start the second inning of Game 7 of the National League Championship Series was like manna from heaven for the small-ball starved crowd, and as a guy who’s not part of that crowd, I couldn’t have been happier.
Tag: Manny Machado
Justin Turner has been on fire. Since returning from his second trip of the year to the disabled list in early August, Turner has a .488 on-base percentage and .714 slugging percentage. More than that, he’s all but been his usual self since June 1, with an .885 OPS.
Yasiel Puig has been on fire. Since his own DL trip ended in early May, the right fielder has a .365 OBP while slugging .578, for a .943 OPS.
Cody Bellinger has been on fire. Since August 1, Bellinger has matched Turner’s .488 OBP while slugging a nearly compatible .605.
Brian Dozier has been on fire. Starting his Dodger clock on August 1, Dozier is OBPing .429 and slugging .590. Despite an apparent EKG scare Monday, the second baseman is in tonight’s starting lineup for the Dodgers.
Nevertheless, several Dodgers have very much not been on fire, leading to four straight losses and a 5-10 plunge over their past 15 games).
While the Dodger bullpen has pitched under a laser-firing microscope for the past several days, the underplayed story is how the offense has let the team down, scoring a total of nine runs in the final three games at Colorado and then two more Monday against the Giants.
Since July 29, the Dodgers have scored 59 runs in those 15 games, but 21 runs came August 2 against Milwaukee. In the remaining 14, the Dodgers are averaging 2.7 runs per game.
There’s no particular shame in being held to two by the likes of Madison Bumgarner, even if one of them is on a collision-inducing bloop double by Clayton Kershaw, but there’s still an important mini-trend to process.
In making their July deals, the Dodgers bet big on bats, acquiring Dozier and Manny Machado. Their additions to the bullpen, Dylan Floro and the now fibula-challenged John Axford, look altogether small by comparison — but keep in mind baseball is a run-differential game. If you increase your offense, your bullpen gets more cushion. The Dodgers looked to ease the strain of their pen with a workaround, and certainly, the plan to eventually move two strong starting pitchers like Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling into relief played into that intent.
Obviously, over the past week, the strategy could not have looked worse, with the bullpen giving up go-ahead runs in six straight games. Kenley Jansen’s heart issue unexpectedly put more pressure on the relief crew than it was ready to handle. But also, the Dodger offense came to the rescue only once, in Thursday’s crazy 8-5 win. So when you look at the culprits of an ugly week, they include not only the relievers, but the recent performance of Matt Kemp, Chris Taylor, Joc Pederson and perhaps most frustratingly, Machado.
Manny Machado’s first 50 plate appearances as a Dodger are now in the books: .400 on-base percentage, .442 slugging percentage. During that time, the Dodgers went 6-4 on a road trip against three playoff contenders, a trip that you could have called a complete success had they won the 16-inning game at Philadelphia and taken all three series.
The flame of Manny Machado is lighting the Dodger rumor mill on fire, as noted last week, and today has only fueled the speculation — though as always, you should note that nearly every rumor blows in with its own agenda.
But all the heavy petting still has me wondering about the domino effect of a Machado acquisition on a Dodger lineup that has so many moving parts.
Nothing that happens at this year’s trade deadline will change the fact that the Dodgers are underdogs to win the World Series.
The Red Sox and Yankees are in a ferocious battle to win the American League East. Boston (66-30) has a chance to become the first major-league team to start a season 70-30 since the 2001 Mariners, and only needs to go 34-32 to win 100 games. Short of the Red Sox collapsing, New York (61-32) will probably need to finish with at least 105 wins to catch them. Both teams are really good.
Over in the AL West, the Astros (63-34) are on pace to win 105 games themselves. Seattle (58-37) has been keeping that division race interesting, and yet by losing six of their past nine games, the Mariners have opened the door for Oakland (53-42) to creep into the wild-card race. But you’d have to imagine a nearly impossible scenario where all three teams collapsed for the AL West champions not to finish comfortably above 95 wins.
And if the AL West champion then derailed the Red Sox and/or Yankees to reach the Fall Classic, you can bet that team would stand as Goliath to whoever comes out of the National League.
It might seem to contradict the premise of this piece, but it’s completely valid to suggest that today the Dodgers (52-42) are the best bet to be that NL opponent. Overall in 2018, they are one of six teams within three games of the best record in the NL. Their current 50-game run of 34-16 is the best the league has seen this year. For their past 54 games — one-third of the season — they are 3 1/2 games better than any other rival.
It’s easy to complain about what the Dodgers aren’t — injury-free for one, uncertain at second base and in the bullpen for another — but is worthwhile to remember what they are. Their nine position players with the most plate appearances each have above-average offensive stats, and the one who has been weighing them down the most, Logan Forsythe, has been benched.
On the mound, people are concerned to various degrees with Clayton Kershaw’s back, Rich Hill’s struggles, Ross Stripling turning into a pumpkin and a bullpen that isn’t as much “lights out” as it is “lights on dimmer.” I could go on. But I don’t think many people realize that despite these and other issues, the Dodgers have the NL’s No. 2 pitching staff in wins above replacement and No. 1 in ERA and fielding-independent pitching. I saw one person Friday on Twitter call Dodger pitching “shaky,” and all I can say is — even conceding that’s true — that only means that every other team’s pitching as shakier.
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Kenta Maeda never really had it tonight.
A superb first-inning catch by Trayce Thompson and a second-inning 9-6 forceout by Yasiel Puig bought Maeda some time, but the outcome hung in the balance about as long as the aching 75-mph curveball that he threw to Manny Machado with two on and none out in the top of the fifth.
Machado — who had been the victim of Thompson’s theft — slammed that tetherball off its rope, sending it to the back of the Left Field Pavilion, 453 feet away, breaking a 1-1 tie in what would be a 4-1 Orioles victory, ending the Dodgers’ winning streaks of five overall and 10 at home.
It was Baltimore’s first victory at Dodger Stadium in 49 years and nine months, since the infamous Game 2 of the 1966 World Series. (Mark Langill will have more on that game Wednesday morning.) Los Angeles had won all four of its regular-season home games against Baltimore.
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By Jon Weisman
Joc Pederson was an absolute smash at the first round of this year’s Home Run Derby in Cincinnati, before falling by the slimmest of margins.
Hometown hero Todd Frazier of Cincinnati went all the way to bonus time to edge Pederson in the final round tonight, 15-14, though Pederson — blasting distance-shattering homers to all fields — dazzled the nationwide audience like none other, and muted a history of Dodger disappointments at the event.