San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval (flu) scratched for series finale against Dodgers.

Pablo Sandoval

Pablo Sandoval, who homered Wednesday in the Giants’ 6-4 win over the Dodgers, will miss the series finale with the flu. (Associated Press photo)

Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval was a late lineup casualty Thursday because of flu symptoms, and he will miss the series finale against the Dodgers tonight at AT&T Park.

Sandoval is 6 for 13 in his career against Dodgers starting pitcher Edinson Volquez with a career .462/.462/.692 slash line. He’s batting .276 this season and clubbed his 14th home run in the Giants’ 6-4 win over the Dodgers last night. Nick Noonan, whose diving stop of a Hanley Ramirez ground ball ended Wednesday’s game, will replace Sandoval at third base.

For the second straight time, Tim Federowicz is catching Volquez. Volquez was sharp with Federowicz behind the plate last Friday in San Diego, allowing one earned run in 6 ⅓ innings. Another strong outing by Volquez will give the Dodgers a tough decision about who should take the ball in a potential playoff Game 4 after Ricky Nolasco struggled again Wednesday.

Other than Federowicz, the Dodgers’ lineup has a very playoff-ready look. The Giants have already clinched a win in the season series against the Dodgers, with 10 wins in the first 18 head-to-head games. However, the Dodgers are 36-36 this season against other National League West teams, with their final four games all coming against divisional opponents — the Giants tonight and the Colorado Rockies this weekend.

That’s a minor footnote, since the Dodgers won’t face any West teams in the playoffs. Cosmetically at least, a losing record within the division would look bad. As my father would say, it’s something to work on.

Here’s how both teams will line up:
Continue reading

San Francisco Giants 6, Dodgers 4

Ricky Nolasco

Ricky Nolasco has allowed 17 earned runs in his last 12 innings, spanning three starts. (Associated Press photo)

If you looked beyond the final score, beyond Ricky Nolasco‘s struggles, you might have noticed the difference between the playoff team and the non-playoff team Wednesday night at AT&T Park.

San Francisco starter Barry Zito was removed from the game, likely his last as a Giant, after pitching five solid innings with the Dodgers trailing 5-2. Zito did not allow a hit until the fourth inning and he did not react well to being removed in the fifth.

A KCAL camera followed the left-hander as he stomped from one end of the dugout to another. Zito appeared to swipe at a water cooler and hastily discard a paper cup, nothing too crazy and nothing that was too difficult to comprehend. After signing a 7-year contract worth $126 million back in 2007, Zito mostly underperformed (ERA-plus of 86) while his teammates won the World Series twice. Wednesday night might have been his last chance to do something right in a Giants uniform; after 77 pitches, he was done.

Nolasco was Zito’s opposite. He labored through a 24-pitch second inning in which the Giants scored three runs, all on a bases-loaded triple by former Dodger Tony Abreu that might have been a grand slam elsewhere.

A two-run home run by Pablo Sandoval in the fourth inning, and an RBI double by Abreu in the sixth, stuck Nolasco with six runs (all earned) in 5 ⅔ innings. He was allowed to throw 95 pitches and pitch into the sixth inning, and it didn’t raise an eyebrow.

For Zito, there was nothing to be gained by his excellence beyond the moment, while giving Nolasco a chance to pitch out of his struggles meant something to the Dodgers, even if they ultimately lost.
Continue reading

Sizing up the Dodgers’ September (and early October) starting rotation. Update.

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw will make his next start Saturday in San Diego. (John McCoy/Staff photographer)

Clayton Kershaw will start Saturday in San Diego and Stephen Fife will start Wednesday in Phoenix, a decision first reported here and since reflected on the Dodgers’ home page.

That presents one short-term question for the Dodgers’ rotation and many more for the next two weeks, including the playoffs.

Friday’s starter still isn’t listed on the Dodgers’ home page, but the process of elimination makes Edinson Volquez the logical choice. Volquez pitched Sunday in Los Angeles and would be starting on normal rest Friday. Five other starters (Hyun-Jin Ryu on Monday, Zack Greinke today, Fife on Wednesday, Ricky Nolasco on Thursday and Kershaw on Saturday) are all accounted for this week, so Volquez figures to be the man on Friday if he’s healthy. It would be his second appearance against the Padres since they cut him in August.

Determining the Dodgers’ rotation over their final seven regular-season games beginning Sunday is another puzzle, one that’s complicated by the decision to push back Kershaw’s next start.
Continue reading

Daily Distractions: This scavenger hunt is a suite deal for fans.

Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson with Rachel Robinson on Jackie Robinson Day at Dodger Stadium. Photo by Getty Images

Want to meet Magic Johnson?

Sorry — to #MeetMagic?

The Dodgers are hosting a scavenger hunt to give seven fans a chance to meet the Dodgers’ co-owner and receive two suite tickets to his sold-out Bobblehead Night game Sept. 12 against the San Francisco Giants.

The rules: Beginning at 2 p.m. today, and around the same time each of the next six days, @Dodgers will tweet a clue related to the specific location of a Magic Johnson bobblehead with hashtag #MeetMagic. You need to travel to the location of the Bobblehead, find the Dodger Blue Crew member with the Bobblehead, and correctly answer a trivia question. The bobbleheads are going to be placed at “several iconic Southern California locations.” That’s all we know.

You can only win one pair of tickets, which are valued at $1,000. Some more rules can be found here.

Some bullet points for a Rosh Hashana:
Continue reading

Rockies 7, Dodgers 5.

A.J. Ellis, Brian Gorman

Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis takes umbrage with home plate umpire Brian Gorman’s reversal of this third-strike call against D.J. LeMahieu in the sixth inning. (Karl Gehring/The Denver Post)

If you were looking for a meaningful takeaway from a Dodgers perspective Wednesday night, there weren’t many in the Colorado Rockies’ 7-5 victory. So we’ll get to the Dodgers later.

If you were running an experiment about the merits of a replay system in baseball, this game was a petri dish full of bad calls.
Continue reading

Edinson Volquez tries to exorcise his Coors Field demons.

Edinson VolquezEdinson Volquez has a chance to make the Dodgers look very, very good today.

Led by Ricky Nolasco, yesterday’s 7-4 win over the Rockies gave the appearance that the Dodgers can rest half their starters, give up six runs and still win. (The appropriate response: “Must be nice.”)

Can the Dodgers one-up themselves?

Several starting position players are getting the day off again as the Dodgers go for the sweep today — Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez and Mark Ellis. The scheduled starter, Volquez, has the sixth-highest career ERA at Coors Field (8.39) of any pitcher with at least seven starts at the ballpark. In three starts this season he’s allowed 21 runs, all earned, in 12 ⅔ innings at Coors. That’s made for a 14.92 ERA, the highest in a single season for any pitcher with at least three starts at the park.

Short of trading for Jeremy Guthrie and putting him on the mound — his 9.50 career ERA is the highest of any active starter at Coors — the Dodgers are doing their best to prove they can win with anybody in Denver.

Volquez has told reporters that he might have been tipping pitches recently. If that was indeed the problem and the magician has been revealing his secrets, pitching coach Rick Honeycutt‘s magic-bullet discovery would be enough to make Penn and Teller jealous.

A couple pregame notes:

• The Atlanta Braves lost to the New York Mets, temporarily moving the Dodgers 1 ½ games behind the Braves for the NL’s best record.

• As of last night, the Dodgers now lead the majors in average road attendance, drawing 2,392,116 in 67 dates for an average of 35,703. The Dodgers’ 45,696 average at home also leads MLB.

• The Arizona Diamondbacks’ game against the Toronto Blue Jays (click here for the live box score) will be over by the time the Dodgers take the field. Arizona is currently 13 ½ games out of first place. The Dodgers’ magic number to clinch the division is 12.

Here’s how the two teams will line up for the 5:40 p.m. game (televised locally on KCAL, Channel 9):
Continue reading

Mental approach ought to determine Edinson Volquez’s success with the Dodgers.

Edinson Volquez

Edinson Volquez was 9-10 with a 6.01 earned-run average this season before he was placed on release waivers Wednesday by the San Diego Padres. (Getty Images)

Edinson Volquez was laughing Friday. Maybe it was nervous laughter; reading someone’s emotions can be difficult the first time you meet them.

The right-handed pitcher, who officially signed a one-year contract with the Dodgers on Friday, was talking about his last start seven days ago against the Chicago Cubs.

“Every pitch I threw, they hit them,” Volquez said. “I was surprised because I have good numbers against the Cubs. I saw my record agianst them, it was 5-0, 2-point ERA [actually 2.98]. I had a lot of confidence. Then in the first inning it was like six runs, five (earned) runs, in the first inning. It’s not good.”

Cue the awkward laughter.
Continue reading

Daily Distractions: The Dodgers’ strikeouts are shrinking.

Mark McGwireIn digging through some numbers yesterday, here’s one:

This Dodgers team might well finish with no 100-strikeout batters.

Andre Ethier is the club’s most prolific whiffer, with 82 coming into today’s game against the San Diego Padres. He and Adrian Gonzalez (79) are likely to get a fair amount of rest in September, so keep an eye on Yasiel Puig (79 strikeouts) and, remarkably, Matt Kemp (69) over the final month too.

If the Phillies’ Ryan Howard can avoid striking out five more times over the final month of 2013, and Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig doesn’t stay stuck on 94, the Dodgers might be the majors’ only team without a 100-strikeout man.

How’s that for a statistical anomaly from a Mark McGwire-coached lineup?

Did we look up the last time that happened? Sure did: 2007, when Russell Martin whiffed a team-leading 89 times. Before Martin, the last Dodger to lead the team with fewer than 100 strikeouts was current third-base coach Tim Wallach in 1994.

But it’s a more impressive feat in 2013 with strikeouts at an all-time high, with a hitting coach whose final major-league season featured twice as many strikeouts as hits.

But McGwire took the job last fall with a mantra about patience, and has stayed true to that in his first season as hitting coach.

Some bullet points for a Friday morning:

• Kemp went 0-for-5 with a strikeout and two double-play groundouts in his first rehab game with Single-A Rancho Cucamonga last night. Kemp was the Quakes’ designated hitter and figures to play center field the next couple days. There were no ankle problems, mercifully, but Kemp was fooled by a couple changeups.

• The Padres must be happy to be rid of Edinson Volquez.

• In one early-morning pre-waiver deadline trade, John Axford went from the Milwaukee Brewers to the St. Louis Cardinals. If the Dodgers hook up with the Cardinals in the postseason, they will face a bullpen that can claim this:

• From “Scorekeeping in baseball, however, is an art form, individual expression that makes you feel you are part of the game. It personally and precisely records every moment of the game, allowing you to replay and relive it forever.” • Not a baseball photo, but: Championship-winning coach takes a photo of himself and his wife kissing a championship trophy in 1976, loses hair, joins Twitter, re-stages the photo in 2013, shares photo with the world. Enjoy. • Baseball photo.


• Whenever I need a laugh, I do drugs:

Reports: Dodgers to sign Edinson Volquez.

Edinson Volquez

Edinson Volquez was 9-10 with a 6.01 earned-run average this season before he was placed on release waivers Wednesday by the San Diego Padres. (Getty Images)

According to multiple reports Wednesday, the Dodgers are on the verge of signing right-handed pitcher Edinson Volquez to a major-league contract. Volquez was placed on release waivers earlier Wednesday by the San Diego Padres.

Continue reading