Yasiel Puig (66) was called out for interfering with Colorado second baseman D.J. LeMahieu on this play in the first inning. (AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)
Coors Field is a special place.
Visiting teams are best advised to check their formula for winning at the front gate and pick it up on the flight out of Denver. That also applies to the Colorado Rockies, who have tried every formula in the franchise-building book and have failed. Since Coors opened in 1995, the Rockies have missed the playoffs in 17 of 20 seasons.
There was no recognizable formula for the Dodgers’ win. Their hottest pitcher and position player, Clayton Kershaw and Yasiel Puig, were both on the field when Monday’s game began, but both were on the bench by the end of the Dodgers’ 10-8 win. Puig didn’t finish the game healthy and the major-league leader in innings pitched came nowhere close to finishing the game, getting yanked after five innings and 81 pitches. A series of mental errors, physical errors and pitching changes added up to a choppy game. Continue reading →
The Dodgers are two games behind the Atlanta Braves for the National League’s best record. (Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer)
While I spent the weekend at a wedding in which two bridesmaids went chasing after a tossed bouquet like a a couple of defensive linemen going after a fumbled football (congrats Darryl and Amanda!), the Dodgers spent the weekend looking ahead to October.
How else to view the Michael Young trade, with the Phillies unloading their primary third baseman to a Dodgers team that might or might not use him extensively off the bench?
Looking ahead in a way the Dodgers won’t publicly, the best record in the National League is within their reach the next three days in Denver. If the Dodgers sweep the Colorado Rockies, and the New York Mets sweep the Braves in Atlanta (stranger things have happened; the Metropolitans are 4-3 in Atlanta this year), the best record in the National League belongs to the Dodgers. Atlanta is currently two games ahead of the Dodgers, 83-53 compared to 81-55.
The National League team with the best record on October 1 will have home-field advantage throughout the postseason until the World Series, thanks to the American League’s All-Star game victory. All those Dodger wins in July and August that had us reaching for the record books, searching for the best 40- and 50-game stretches in baseball history, might actually mean something after all.
So far as we can tell, the last time the Dodgers held the NL’s best record outright as late as Sept. 4 was in 1978.
And so the journey into scarcely charted territory continues.
Matt Kemp is scheduled to play his first game in center field tonight with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. Kemp went 0 for 5 and grounded into two double plays last night. (Rachel Luna / Staff Photographer)
Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp is scheduled to play his first game in center field tonight, the second day of his rehabilitation assignment with Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. Continue reading →
In 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 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.
• 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:
Axford/Siegrist/Rosenthal/Mujica have a combined K/BB ratio of 224/58 over 202 1/3 innings this season.
• From ESPN.com: “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.
Dodgers pitcher Ricky Nolasco becomes a free agent at the end of the season. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer)
Ricky Nolasco‘s next start will be his 10th in a Dodgers uniform. If the last two starts are any indication — the right-hander has pitched 16 innings and allowed zero runs against the Red Sox and Cubs, respectively — he’s grown quite comfortable pitching for his childhood team in a short amount of time.
While some professional athletes simply aren’t able to deal with the unique pressures of pitching near their hometown, Nolasco has adapted well, improving incrementally with each outing. A free agent at the end of the season, Nolasco chose his words carefully Wednesday when asked if he’d want to re-sign with the Dodgers.
“My teammates have been doing a great job of welcoming me here,” Nolasco said after blanking the Cubs. “As far as what the future holds, we’re just going to have to wait and see what happens. I’m from here, and this is where I want to be. We’ll just see what happens.
“I’ll focus right now on winning right now and all that will play itself out.”
The key words there — this is where I want to be — were easily lost yesterday, when Yasiel Puig‘s benching was the media focus after the game. (More on him in a bit.)
Since Magic Johnson and his Guggenheim Baseball Management cohorts bought the club, the Dodgers’ new owners have gone out of their way to show they are choosers, not beggars. This winter, they potentially can choose from a free-agent pitching crop that includes Nolasco, Matt Garza, Phil Hughes, Tim Lincecum, Ervin Santana, A.J. Burnett and Jon Lester (for whom the Red Sox hold a team option worth $13 million). You can certainly argue that Nolasco, who turns 31 in December, isn’t the best pitcher in that group. He isn’t the worst. More importantly, would any accept the job of fourth starter more willingly, with lower contract demands, than the Rialto right-hander?
That question ignores the Dodgers’ plans for Josh Beckett, prospect Zach Lee, and Chad Billingsley, who’s due to return from Tommy John surgery at some point next season if his rehab goes well. (All three would love to have a permanent spot in the Dodgers’ 2014 rotation behind Kershaw-Greinke-Ryu.) But it’s a question that the Dodgers will have to ponder if Nolasco continues to force his way into the team’s long-term blueprints.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that center fielder Matt Kemp will begin his long-awaited rehabilitation assignment tomorrow with Single-A Rancho Cucamonga.
Kemp is scheduled to be the designated hitter in the Quakes’ 7 p.m. home game against the High Desert Mavericks.
“He passed all the tests,” Mattingly said.
Kemp sustained what’s believed to be a severe Grade 2 ankle sprain on July 21 in a game against the Washington Nationals. It was Kemp’s first game back after missing 15 days with inflammation in his right shoulder.
Wednesday was Kemp’s second straight day running the bases and making cuts in the outfield at close to full speed.
“It seems like it’s taken a while but we’re there. We survived,” Mattingly said. “Hopefully we get Matt sharp and it gives us options on our players.”
Kemp left without speaking to reporters after the game.
Matt Kemp confers with the Dodgers’ medical staff and manager Don Mattingly on the infield after running the bases Tuesday afternoon. (J.P. Hoornstra via Instagram)
Matt Kemp is at least two days away from beginning a minor-league rehabilitation assignment after running the bases at close to full speed Tuesday.
“I was a little skeptical. It turned out to be really, really good,” Kemp said. “It was pretty fun to go out there and run. It’s been a while.”
Kemp has been on the disabled list since sustaining what is believed to be a severe Grade 2 ankle sprain on July 21. Running the bases at game speed was the most significant milestone Kemp needed to clear before he could be sent out.
There was some question as to when and where Kemp’s rehab stint would begin, but that was cleared up with his positive prognosis Tuesday.
(View our video interview with Kemp on Tout here and here)
“I’m not going to the spring training complex,” Kemp said. “I’ll go to Rancho (Cucamonga) or wherever they send me, but I’ll be around here in Cali somewhere.” Continue reading →
There was no true update on Matt Kemp‘s condition Monday. The center fielder took a day off his rehab program as he attempts to come back from what’s believed to be a severe Grade 2 ankle sprain, and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that Kemp will try to run the bases tomorrow.
The day off wasn’t a setback, more of a planned resting point, and there have been no real setbacks so far — just a slower healing process than the Dodgers hoped for Kemp.
There’s still some hope that Kemp can play in a minor-league rehab game before he returns to the Dodgers, which presents some interesting scenarios. Continue reading →
Jake Peavy allowed only a solo home run in a complete-game win over the Dodgers on Sunday. (David Crane/Staff Photographer)
The Red Sox know they caught a break over the weekend, just like the Chicago Cubs know they will not in the coming days.
Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke never threw a pitch for the Dodgers against the Red Sox. That’s a huge reason why the Dodgers dropped a series for the first time in two months. The way the Dodgers’ aces have been pitching lately, avoiding Kershaw and Greinke is like playing the Chicago Bulls between 1990 and 1993 on a night when Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were both hurt. (That never happened, for the record.)
After the Red Sox won the final game of the series Sunday — the Dodgers’ first series loss in more than two months — manager John Farrell complimented the performance of his starting pitchers. Jake Peavy threw a complete game Sunday, John Lackey threw a complete game Friday in a loss, and Jon Lester won the middle game with 7 ⅓ strong innings.
“The credit to our team is that we’ve stayed consistent, and the only way you can stay consistent is starting pitching and those guys have done it,” Farrell said. “Those guys have done a really good job. Even when a guy has a bad outing, the next guy picks him up.”
If that were Mattingly talking about the Dodgers’ staff, no one would be surprised.
Farrell also knows that it’s a double-edged sword, that he dodged a bullet by missing Kershaw and Greinke. Greinke, who starts against the Cubs tonight, has the majors’ lowest ERA since the All-Star break (1.41). Kershaw has the lowest ERA overall this season (1.72).
“Those are two very good pitchers, in those two guys,” Farrell said. “It’s just how the schedule unfolded.”
Meanwhile, MLB.com asked Cubs managerDale Sveum about seeing Greinke and Kershaw the next two nights. His response: “Why did you have to bring that up? Let’s talk about something else.”