Two blockbuster trades that seemed inevitable a week ago became official Thursday after an issue with Matt Kemp’s physical caused an awkward delay.
Josh Beckett threw the first no-hitter of his career in the Dodgers’ 6-0 win in Philadelphia. The 34-year-old right-hander threw 128 pitches — a career high — walked three batters and struck out six.
The last Dodgers pitcher to throw a no-hitter was Hideo Nomo in September 1996. Beckett became the 21st Dodger to throw a no-hitter and the 11th since the franchise moved to Los Angeles.
With two outs in the ninth inning, Beckett walked Jimmy Rollins and fell behind Chase Utley 3-1. He came back to strike out Utley to seal the victory with two called strikes, sending the Dodgers pouring out of the dugout to celebrate.
Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. doesn’t regret his situation. He’s back in the major leagues after a year-and-a-half layoff. Monday, he was batting leadoff at Dodger Stadium. For the season, he’s batting .250 and is a regular in the Phillies’ outfield rotation.
If he could do anything over from the last two years, however, he admitted that he should have had surgery early in 2012. That’s when Gwynn first noticed the symptoms the led to his sports hernia surgery in September of last year.
The symptoms persisted throughout the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
“I didn’t want to have surgery at all,” he said. “I had just signed a 2-year deal at that point. The last thing you want to do is sign a deal then sit out a period of time. That’s what I was thinking at the time. But you live and you learn. You feel invincible when you’re younger. I learned the hard way that wasn’t the case.”
It’s hard to say whether or not Andre Ethier is available for the Dodgers’ game tonight against the Philadelphia Phillies. In the clubhouse before the game, it was clear the outfielder was still recovering from a head cold. He said that’s all it is, a head cold, and that his condition is the “same as yesterday.”
Well, according to Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, Ethier was so sick yesterday that he wasn’t available off the bench.
“We’ve got three guys — I wouldn’t say three — but a number of guys who aren’t recovering like the rest,” Mattingly said.
Ethier and Josh Beckett are two; Mattingly declined to name the third.
During batting practice, Ethier looked like himself, spraying line drives around the field. He hit at least one ball to the warning track.
Given all that, it’s hard to draw a firm conclusion about his availability for tonight. He’s listed on the lineup card as available off the bench.
Here are the lineups for both teams:
Tony Gwynn Jr. played 239 games for the Dodgers from 2011-12. By one metric, he was the team’s best defensive outfielder during that time. Gwynn was a serviceable hitter until somewhere around June 2012; he batted .180 after June 1 of that year. Gwynn gave way to Shane Victorino, then Carl Crawford, and wound up spending all of 2013 in Triple-A.
Gwynn signed with Philadelphia last November (for a modest $900,000) and made the Phillies’ Opening Day roster. Gwynn doesn’t start against left-handed pitchers, so we might not see him in the series until Zack Greinke starts Wednesday. The platoon seems to be working; Gwynn is batting .292 this season.
The success might also stem from his jersey number. After going his own way since he broke into the majors in 2006, Gwynn is wearing his father’s number 19 for the first time in his career.
So about that “hypothetical present.”
The Dodgers were rumored to be interested in their opponent today, Cliff Lee, at the 2012 trade deadline. They traded for Joe Blanton instead and missed the playoffs. Last year Lee went 14-8 with a 2.87 ERA and made the National League All-Star team. Sounds like a missed opportunity.
Then again, given the Phillies’ reluctance to trade any of their high-priced, high-risk veterans (Lee, Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley), it’s no surprise that Lee is still in Philadelphia. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has shown no intention of rebuilding his aging roster. Lee might be no less untouchable today than he was in the summer of 2012. His team, meanwhile, is 8-10 in the young season.
Lee, 35, is owed a total of $50 million between this year and next. The Dodgers opted to put that money toward signing Greinke instead and dealt their expendable prospects to Boston for Adrian Gonzalez, Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto.
To think: Maybe if Lee became a Dodger, the Punto Era might never have existed.
Hypotheticals are fun.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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.