The Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals both won Sunday. The wild-card scenarios are fairly straightforward for the two teams entering their final series of the season (the Dodgers host the San Francisco Giants, the Cardinals visit the Cincinnati Reds).
There are 16 possible outcomes, and the Cardinals make the playoffs in 13 of them. In two, the two teams finish the regular season with identical records and the Dodgers will host Game 163 next Thursday, with the winner traveling to Atlanta for the wild-card game. Only if the Dodgers and Reds both sweep can the Dodgers clinch a playoff berth on the final day of the regular season.
The bottom line: The Dodgers must win at least two of their final three games to even have a chance, and the Cardinals cannot win more than one of three.
The earliest the Dodgers can be eliminated is Tuesday, and they cannot clinch before Wednesday.
Dodger fans looking for someone to epitomize the dire state of today’s opponent, the Colorado Rockies, have their man. Batting second and playing center field for the Rockies, is Rafael Ortega.
Here’s all you need to know about Ortega: The 21-year-old Venezuelan has never played an inning of baseball beyond the Single-A California League. He ended the season with a .284 batting average and 36 stolen bases for the Modesto Nuts. The Cal League is notorious for being a hitter’s league; the “average” batting average in the league this season was .273.
Today, he’ll make his big-league debut.
Here’s more from the Denver Post:
Clayton Kershaw is tentatively scheduled to start Wednesday on regular rest in the Dodgers’ regular-season finale against the Giants, but nobody truly knows when he’ll pitch next.
Will it be this season? Next season? In the regular season? In the playoffs?
Truth is, nobody knows, and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly wasn’t even in the mood for giving hints Saturday afternoon.
“We haven’t really crossed that bridge yet,” Mattingly said. “I hope it’s not a decision at all. I hope he’s needed to pitch.”
There’s only three scenarios under which it’s not a decision:
In his 116th game of the season, A.J. Ellis hit a wall.
It came without warning but, starting with the Dodgers’ Sept. 11 game in Arizona, Ellis went 10 straight games without a hit — a span of 31 plate appearances.
Before this year Ellis’ career high was 110 games in a season, and that was when he was 26 years old and a Double-A catcher. The logical conclusion was that the workload of his first full major-league season had finally caught up with him. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Saturday he saw some fatigue from the catcher.
“A catcher, he’s got a lot going on,” Mattingly said. “A lot of studying he’s doing. It’s not like he’s hitting and going to the outfield. He’s hitting, he’s got to call every pitch. The games we’ve been in, it’s like ‘we can’t give up a run, we can’t give up a run.’ So his mind is always constantly on, almost like really intense mind — you’re saying ‘can’t give up a run, can’t give up a run, this is a big out.’ He’s going through that every pitch. So when he’s not hitting, he’s doing that I can see more mental weardown than physical.”
Bobby Abreu‘s first career pinch-hit home run provided the final two runs of the Dodgers’ 8-0 win over the Colorado Rockies. After the game, manager Don Mattingly was asked if he’d do more to get Abreu into the lineup.
With Shane Victorino, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier all healthy? No.
But there’s something to be said for the fourth act of Abreu’s season. Let’s call Act 1 “Anaheim,” Act 2 “Starter for the Dodgers,” Act 3 “Albuquerque” and Act 4 “Pinch hitter.” All 19 of Abreu’s plate appearances in September have come as a pinch-hitter. Add in his last four at-bats in July before the Dodgers designated him for assignment, and Abreu has made 23 straight plate appearances as a pinch hitter.
Dodgers prospect Joc Pederson was playing meaningful games last week, perhaps more meaningful than any the big-league club will play anytime soon.
They were the first — and so far, last — World Baseball Classic games for Team Israel. Pederson, who was at Dodger Stadium on Friday to receive his Branch Rickey Award as the organizational hitter of the year, couldn’t say enough about the three games in Jupiter, Florida.
“It was a great experience, something I’ll never forget,” he said. “We were only together for I think it was maybe 10 days, and I’ve never seen a group of guys have so much team chemistry. It was an unforgettable experience.”
Andre Ethier was back in the lineup Friday against a left-handed pitcher, Jeff Francis of the Colorado Rockies. This is noteworthy because Ethier was not in the lineup when the Dodgers faced Padres left-hander Clayton Richard two days ago in San Diego.
On Thursday, Don Mattingly shared his thoughts on the disparity between Ethier’s batting average against right-handers (.325) and left-handers (.214).
I stumbled into a long conversation with Davey Lopes about baserunning on Friday (it’s not hard to do). Specifically, we talked about Nick Punto’s head-first dives into first base, which had morphed from a novelty into a regular occurrence –it happened three times in one game earlier this month, and twice more on Wednesday.
That was the lead subject of yesterday’s Dodgers notebook. Here’s more from Lopes:
The Dodgers sent Stefan Jarrn, the son of Spanish-language broadcaster, Jorge, and grandson of Hall of Famer, Jaime, to Philadelphia as the player to be named later in the Shane Victorino trade.
The 22-year-old infielder batted .209 with three homers and nine RBI in 26 games for the Rookie-level AZL Dodgers this season. Jarrn was a 40th-round draft pick by the Dodgers in 2011.
Nick Punto can’t tell you how or why or when he began perfecting his head-first dive into first base.
“I probably started it, my mom said, when I was four or five years old,” Punto said.
Now 34, Punto has ingrained the head-first dive into his brain, to the point of it becoming a reflex whenever there’s a close play at first. Conventional wisdom holds that diving head-first only slows down a runner. Sprinters don’t dive at the finish line of a race, right?
Yeah, Punto’s heard that one.
“And I say that’s because there’s a hard court, a track, at the end of that finish line,” he said.
OK, but why expose yourself to injury, flinging your body fingers-first into a hard canvas base while a first baseman attempts to catch a baseball at the same time, in the same place?
“I’ve been injured running through the base,” Punto counters. “I pulled a hamstring. You can roll an ankle. There’s lots of things you can hurt running through the base as well.”