Yasiel Puig (right) was picked off first base by Cole Hamels on Sunday. His misadventures on the basepaths have been the subject of criticism this season. (John McCoy/Staff Photographer)
On the afternoon of June 3, in the hours before Yasiel Puig‘s first major-league game, the rambunctious rookie was doing something rarely seen: He stood and listened.
Dodger Stadium was quiet. There couldn’t have been more than 10 people on the field. Class was in session.
Davey Lopes was a few feet from first base on the infield dirt, crouched and staring at the pitcher’s mound, leading off like he had many times in this ballpark. Their conversation was out of earshot for those of us up in the press box, but we didn’t need an imagination or an interpreter to figure out what was going on. Puig was getting a crash course from Lopes, the Dodgers’ first base coach, on how to read a major-league pitcher.
In his 66 games since then, number 66 has been picked off once and caught stealing six times. That’s not good, but it’s also not awful for a player as aggressive as Puig. If anything, it’s to be expected.
Ricky Nolasco is 4-1 with a 2.97 earned-run average since joining the Dodgers in a June trade. (Getty Images)
The Dodgers’ streak of success is up to 50 games. They will try to improve their record to 43-8 in their last 51 games dating back to June 22, sweep the Phillies in Philadelphia, and beat Cole Hamels today.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Dodgers’ 42 wins are tied for the second-most by a Major League team in a 50-game span since 1900. The 1912 Giants, 1941 Yankees and 1942 Cardinals also posted 42-8 records during 50-game runs, while the Cubs went 45-5 during a 50-game stretch in 1906.
But as we discussed earlier in the week, the Dodgers may already have achieved an important tipping point by winning 42 of 50.
One note on Dodgers starter Ricky Nolasco: If he wins today’s he’ll reach double-digit victories for the sixth consecutive season, joining Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia and Zack Greinke as the only pitchers to do so every year since 2008.
Here are todays’ lineups:
Hanley Ramirez hit a two-run home run off Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee in the fourth inning of the Dodgers’ 4-0 victory Friday, their ninth straight win. (Associated Press photo)
To the guy who emails me nearly every day asking for Cliff Lee trade rumors:
The Dodgers don’t need Cliff Lee.
Would he give the Dodgers the best 1-2-3 combination in all of baseball? Yes.
Would he make them a better team? Maybe, depending on the number of prospects the Phillies demand in return, which is usually quite high two weeks before the waiver trade deadline.
But should a team that is adequately built for the present (see: 41-8 record since June 22), and needs all its elite prospects to maintain momentum through the future, trade for a guy like Cliff Lee? Probably not.
And the fact that the Dodgers don’t need Lee, after watching what he did to them Friday, is just as strong a testament to their turnaround as any statistic we could insert here.
Dodgers fans have pushed the team to first in Major League Baseball in attendance. (John McCoy/Staff Photographer)
The Dodgers’ fortunes came full circle today, when online oddsmaker Bovada released its list of World Series favorites with the Dodgers on top at 9 to 2.
To recap, then:
The Dodgers have gone from the preseason favorites with baseball’s highest payroll, to midseason busts on the verge of firing their manager, to favorites once again by winning 40 of 48 games.
Friday served as a reminder of how things might have been when the Philadelphia Phillies, the Dodgers’ weekend opponent, fired manager Charlie Manuel with 40 games left in their season. Ryne Sandberg will take over on an interim basis.
It was supposed to be Don Mattingly not long ago. Now it’s Mattingly who will be opposing Jim Leyland from the opposite bench in the 2013 World Series, if these odds are any indication:
Los Angeles Dodgers 9/2
Detroit Tigers 5/1
Atlanta Braves 13/2
Boston Red Sox 15/2
St. Louis Cardinals 10/1
Tampa Bay Rays 11/1
Texas Rangers 11/1
Cincinnati Reds 12/1
Oakland Athletics 12/1
Pittsburgh Pirates 12/1
On a related note, Gary Sheffield is buying in. He tells Dodgers Nation: “I think they have the chips to make it.”
Some bullet points for the weekend:
The trade deadline has come and gone, and the Dodgers will have to be satisfied with a haul that includes third baseman/shortstop Hanley Ramirez, outfielder Shane Victorino and relief pitchers Randy Choate and Brandon League.
Just as notable was one player they didn’t get: Chicago Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster, who went to the Texas Rangers for third base prospect Christian Villanueva and pitching prospect Kyle Hendricks.
Dempster, whose 2.25 ERA is second in the majors, would have instantly upgraded a rotation whose best right-hander is either Chad Billingsley or Aaron Harang, depending on the night. (Last night, it wasn’t Harang.) He also would have cost the Dodgers a pitching prospect they did not want to part with –Allen Webster and Zach Lee remain at Double-A Chattanooga.
Since he’s a free agent at the end of the season, the Dodgers could still go after Dempster in the winter.
The trade is another strike in the burgeoning arms race in the American League West, where the Angels stole headlines last week by obtaining Zach Greinke from Milwaukee. The Rangers also obtained Cubs catcher Geovany Soto in a separate deal last night.
It also points to August as an interesting month if the Dodgers want to obtain a starting pitcher through the waiver process.
Former Dodgers draft pick and longtime nemesis Shane Victorino is the Dodgers’ new left fielder and leadoff hitter.
The Dodgers traded right-handed reliever Josh Lindblom, minor league right-hander Ethan Martin and a player to be named later or cash considerations to the Phillies for Victorino on Monday, hours in advance on baseball’s 1 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline.
“We’re excited to add an All-Star caliber player with postseason experience,” general manager Ned Colletti said in a statement. “He plays the game with passion, gives us a top of the order bat from both sides of the plate, can steal bases and is solid defensively in the outfield.”