Dodgers @ Cubs NLCS GAME 1 RECAP

A fantastic game that ended with a gut-punch as the Dodgers fall in Game 1 of the NLCS against the Cubs on Saturday night.

The Dodgers rallied from a 3-0 deficit with a stirring come-back highlighted by a two-run single from Adrian Gonzalez in the top of the 8th inning off of Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman.

After an Andrew Toles single, a walk to Chase Utley and a fielders choice to Justin Turner where Toles made a daring dive into third to beat Kris Bryant’s attempt at a force to load the bases…….enter Chapman who blew away Corey Seager and Yasiel Puig to set the stage for Gonzalez’s heroics.

But, the Cubs would wrestle the game from the Dodgers in the bottom of the 8th on a lead-off double by Ben Zobrist and intentional walks to Jason Heyward and Chris Coghlan, Miguel Montero sent Wrigley into delirium with a grand slam. It was a horrible 0-2 pitch from the usually reliable Joe Blanton who has been a main-stay out of the Dodgers bullpen all year. Blanton’s cement-mixer on 0-1 was repeated on 0-2 and this time Montero didn’t miss it.

The Dodgers will  turn to Clayton Kershaw to pull them out of the fire again. Kershaw gets the start against Cubs right-hander and ERA leader Kyle Hendricks. Game time 5:05pm with the Cubs up 1-0 in the series.


Dodgers @ Cubs Game 1 NLCS PREVIEW

I woke up this morning to the stark realization that the Dodgers reward for outlasting the Washington Nationals in Game 5 of the National League Divisional Series was a date with the best team in baseball the Chicago Cubs.

The Dodgers grit, determination and grind-ability will be severely tested against the 103 win Cubbies who have the south-siders dreaming of their first pennant in 71 years and first World Series title in 108 years.

The Cubs are a machine. Their rotation is nasty with one of the best lefties in the game in Jon Lester (Game 1 starter), the ERA champion in Kyle Hendricks (Game 2) the reigning Cy Young award winner in Jake Arrieta in Game 3 and savvy experienced veteran in John Lackey in Game 4.

Their bullpen is loaded with Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon setting up left-handed flame-throw Aroldis Chapman. From the left-side they can bring Mike Montgomery and Travis Wood, giving them the ability to match-up with the Dodgers.

The scary thing about the Cubs is they really didn’t flex their muscles in the Giants series. Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell struggled offensively against San Francsico combining for only 2 hits. I expect those two to perform at a much higher level. I thought Giants pitchers navigated the Cubs line-up with aplomb.

Locate Locate Locate…..Dodger pitchers need to locate with movement. Game 1 starter Kenta Maeda needs to be much better than he was against the Nationals in his Game 3 start. He gets the ball today with the Dodger brass hoping he can give them AT LEAST 5-6 innings. Three innings today would be a disaster considering how spent the Dodger bullpen is.

The Dodgers were 7-for-33 with runners in scoring position against the Nationals. That number will get them swept. They were 0-for-8 with the bases loaded. That number will also get them swept. This squad can not waste their chances. Unlike the Nationals series where many in Dodger-land felt Los Angeles gave away Game 2 of the series. They can’t afford a give-away against the mighty Cubs.

This promises to be a delicious series with two teams and two cities hungry for a pennant. If the Dodgers can get a split in Chicago they would be ecstatic. For once, they need someone other than Kershaw and Kenley to pitch them to victory in October. Today begins a journey, many of us in late June will totally improbable…..gotta love baseball

Bleeding Dodger Blue…..ALWAYS

Dodgers need to take off the kid-gloves in handling of Urias

We have all seen it. We go to the home of that high-end society couple and as we walk through the door we almost don’t want to touch anything for fear we might break something. They have all these high-end vases and urns, furniture that must be dry-cleaned weekly and high-end art hanging from the walls.

This is the Dodgers and how they approach the game of baseball, look but don’t touch. When I see 20 year-old left-handed phenom Julio Urias, I see a player who is being showcased for no specific purpose. He is a piece of art that the fans and rest of baseball can look at, but can’t necessarily enjoy.

The Dodgers decision to pitch Clayton Kershaw on three days rest is another sign that the Dodgers aren’t ready to make that next jump. I doubt this decision belongs to Dave Roberts. This is a Friedman/Zaidi decision where they believe it’s in the best interests of the franchise to stunt the growth of a pitcher who has shown the tools to be a star of the future and instead lay the weight of the world on ole reliable Clayton who will try and bail this flawed team out again in a must-win game.

Why even have Urias on the roster if he isn’t going to be utilized ? Front office defenders will tell you that Urias has been average and they are trying to protect him and keep his pitch count down and yada yada yada. Think how different the 1981 season would have been if the Dodgers kept Fernando Valenzuela’s pitch count down ? Whatever happened to winning NOW. You mean to tell me that if the Dodgers threw Urias today and he is shoving and putting up zeros in an elimination game that they would pull him at 65 pitches ? They would pull him after four innings because we need to protect him ? Protect him from what ? Winning ? Pitching while fatigued in a big spot and learning how to win ? What is the point of having such a great piece of art, if you are just going to look at it but not enjoy it.

The Dodgers might very well win today. What does that mean for Game 5 ? Well, it means Urias would most likely get the start in Game 5 and will be on a pitch count that limits how long he can go. If the Dodgers don’t win today then the kid was simply here as a threat that we might use. I thought the point of having pitchers, and young talented ones’ was to use them to win a pennant and a World Series. I didn’t know that a season of protecting Urias’ arm meant he would simply take a roster spot and wouldn’t be utilized.

The Dodgers are needlessly taxing and pushing their best player in Kershaw so they won’t have to make a decision on Urias throwing 80 pitches in a game where he might be effective.

I expect Kershaw to shove and give the Dodgers a chance. I just don’t know what it means moving forward for the Dodgers and for Urias if they do win and get to a Game 5. The time for baby-ing the youngster is over. Pitchers, pitch, they aren’t works of art.

Dodgers miss golden chances in Game 2 loss

It would be foolish to expect to win a game where you go 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position (RISP) and 0-for-5 with the bases loaded. Winning teams don’t waste so many opportunities. With Sunday’s 5-2 loss the Dodgers missed a great chance to take a strangle-hold on their first round NLDS series against the Nationals.

After Corey Seager’s first inning solo home run the opportunities were a-plenty for the Dodgers. The Dodgers would load the bases in the second inning and come up empty as Rich Hill would strike out and Chase Utley would ground out.

Josh Reddick would single home a run in the third giving the Dodgers a 2-0 lead. With the bases loaded and one out Yasmani Grandal would ground into a double-play.

In the 5th the Dodgers would load the bases again only to see Grandal strike out and Howie Kendrick line out to left. The Dodgers had another great chance in the 6th with runners at first and second and two outs only to have Adrian Gonzalez fly out to left.

Mistakes are magnified in the post-season. One mistake, one bad approach at the plate could end your season. For the Dodgers, these at-bats in run-scoring situations need to get better. I do give the Nationals a ton of credit for making quality pitches in big spots, but if you want to advance the approach needs to be better.

Today’s Game 3 has high stakes for both clubs. The Dodgers need to solve a left-handed pitcher in Gio Gonzalez. It’s no surprise lefties are the Dodgers kryptonite, hitting a league worst against south-paws with the lowest on base and slugging percentages as well.

The Nationals know a win today puts them a win away from advancing to the League Championship Series for the first time since they were playing in Montreal.

As I said before the series, the team who hits better with runners on base and gets better work out of the bullpen will win this series. So far it has proven to be true.

Bleeding Dodger Blue….enjoy the game !


Every athlete should be offended by Donald Trump

As a professional sports broadcaster covering professional, collegiate and high school sports for more than 25 years I take a great exception to Donald Trump’s characterization that his repulsive comments about women are simply “locker room” banter.

I have been in locker rooms where athletes knew who I was and may have been careful about what they were saying. I have been in locker rooms where the athletes didn’t know who I was and discussed all matters unfiltered. Without a doubt the language can get salty but I have NEVER in thousands of instances  ever heard an athlete brag about sexually assaulting a woman. In fact, if such a discussion ever took place I do not doubt that athlete would be confronted by his teammates and either turned in or ostracized by his mates.

Unlike Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for President, 99.9 percent of society doesn’t find sexual assault as something that should be glamorized and “bragged about.” I am not sure what kind of alternate reality Trump and his minions operate in but locker-rooms are not filled with a den of vipers looking to denigrate and assault women. Every athlete should take great exception to a man who professes to know what takes place in a locker-room and act as if it is common-place where assaulting and marginalizing women is tolerated and accepted behavior.

When he said, “locker-room” banter I seethed. What the hell are you talking about ? What kind of locker rooms are you going to ? Certainly not where any “real” athletes hang out.

I want to make it clear. Locker-room language can get salty. It can get pretty damn male. But, bragging about sexually assaulting women and athletes forcing themselves on women?…..that does not happen.

Don’t let this Trump lie become ingrained in your consciousness as truth.

The Dodger Bullpen: Renewed Faith

Did my eyes deceive me ? Did I really watch the Dodgers bullpen pitch four innings of scoreless baseball in October ? For the love of humanity, what in the world is going on here ?

My eyes didn’t play tricks. In fact the Dodger bullpen did on Friday what they have been doing all year…….getting outs.

I personally don’t know anyone who has been more critical of the Dodgers bullpen over the last few years than yours truly. It’s a pet peeve of mine. Go out, watch your starter bust his tail for 6 or 7 innings only to see some slinger out of pen cough it up. The losses over the years, especially in big post-season games have been crippling.

During the 2014 and 2015 winter meetings I watched from afar as the Dodger front office didn’t appear to make the adequate moves to strengthen what I perceived as a significant weakness. I gotta give it to Friedman and company, their gambles on the Joe Blanton”s and Grant Dayton’s of the world have paid off.

Those critical of my evaluation can rightly point out that the Dodgers have made attempts at strengthening the pen over the years only be continually re-buffed. In 2014 it was the winter meetings of Andrew Miller. The Dodgers never made a serious offer ( still a mistake in my opinion) But, Friedman had just taken over and was evaluating the farm and roster and may have not been as prepared to jump into the deep end of the pool. The Dodgers also apparently made the largest offer to Luke Gregerson who turned them down to go to the Astros.

During the 2015 winter meetings they made overtures toward Baltimore’s Darren O’Day. Reports indicate they offered him more money than the Orioles, yet O’Day stayed with the Birds. Then the Dodgers had a deal in place for Aroldis Chapman before his domestic violence charge hit the streets, and rightfully so the Dodgers backed out.

In Game 1 on Friday the Dodgers got two-thirds of an inning scoreless from the re-born Joe Blanton. They got two-thirds scoreless from Grant Dayton. They got one full inning of scoreless baseball from Pedro Baez. This might be the most surprising of them all after Baez had given up back-breaking game-winning hits to the Cardinals and the Mets in Game 1 of both the 2014 and 2015 National League Divisional Series. I literally couldn’t watch when Baez came into the game yesterday….


My television set turned off during Game 1 of the National League Division Series when the Dodgers brought in Pedro Baez

The Dodgers then got an inning and two-thirds from closer extraordinaire Kenley Jansen. That is four innings of shut-out baseball.

This is a strength now that was a complete and total weakness in year’s past. One of the primary reasons the Dodgers are in this position today is because of the productivity of that bullpen. Dodger faithful will tell you without this bullpen eating up innings as starter-after-starter went down with injury, then the Boys in Blue are not in this position. During the Giants second-half meltdown as their pen was coughing up 8th and 9th inning leads, the Dodgers were taking games over in the 5th and 6th innings and pitching the club to victory. So many arms and so much production. The Dodger pen has been the back-bone of this team. Give the Giants the Dodgers bullpen, they don’t cough up an 8.5 game lead……#Truth

They could struggle from this point forward, that is entirely possible, but based on what they have done this year, I can’t blame them as I have in the past for not getting the job done. The Dodgers bullpen has been a pleasant surprise. It’s a surprise that Dodger fans are more than willing to embrace.

As Always Bleeding Dodger Blue

“Devil Magic” may have met its match

The San Francisco Giants carpet ride of glory may have met its match in an October even year with this year’s 103-win Chicago Cubs.

There has been something magical about the Cubs this year. Joe Maddon and his fun-loving bunch believe this is their time. They have the group young and wild enough to give the finger to 108 years of no banners. They are the best team in baseball and they carry themselves like they know it.

It was only one game but the Cubs and Jon Lester tamed the beast that roars in last night’s 1-0 win. The “Devil” also saw some moments of trepidation when calls that usually go their way in October’s past, inexplicably didn’t.

Early on it seemed the Giant mo-jo was intact. A sliding acrobatic catch in left center by Gorkys Hernandez kept the Cubs at bay early, and a tremendous sliding snag of a hard hit grounder late by Kelby Tomlinson had Satan and minions delighted. But, that all turned in the 9th when Hernandez was called out on a check-swing, that replays clearly showed was a bad call and he should have been awarded first base. The call was even more painful for the Giants when Buster Posey rattled a ball off the ivy in left-center that would have easily scored the speedy Hernandez with two outs in the 9th.

You will say this a little thing, but I say its big. These are the types of plays, the types of breaks that always go the Giants way in October. Last night they didn’t.

Devil Magic is on full alert. It only takes one of those quirky plays to not go your way allowing even-year doubt to start seeping in.

Dodgers and Nationals square off in Game 1

I am sick of the October surprises in politics. It’s time for an October surprise for the Dodgers.

Dodgers and Nationals Line-ups


For the fourth straight year the Dodgers enter the post-season as division winners, but unlike the past three years they aren’t seen as the prohibitive favorites they’ve been in years 2013-2015. With that said, any team with Clayton Kershaw is expected to do well and with Los Angeles knocking off the Nationals in five of the six meetings this year, many are picking the Dodgers to advance.

I think this team is better than the team’s the Dodgers have sent to the post-season in the past. They aren’t more talented mind you, they are just better as a group. They play the game better. They aren’t the best team at playing little ball, but they are much better at it than in the past, and it should serve them well in this series.

I am no longer shocked at the efficiency of the bullpen. I have used Andrew Friedman as a piñata at times, but if he foresaw Joe Blanton performing at this level, kudos to him. Even if he didn’t, hell, he took the chance and Blanton has made him look good. The Dodgers pen is much more well equipped to perform well in October than in October’s past.

One bit of advice to manager Dave Roberts. Please, please under no circumstances are you to use Pedro Baez in Game 1 of this series. In 2014, after Kershaw’s 7th inning meltdown, it was Baez who served up what would be the game-winning hit for the Red Birds, a three-run home run to Matt Holiday. Then, last year in a tie ballgame late it was Baez again who served up the game-winning single to David Wright. No Baez today please. I don’t want to hear third times a charm. I don’t want to hear about how well he has pitched this year….blah blah blah…..No Baez today.

The Nationals are a formidable foe and this series will be tough. This series would be even tougher if Stephen Strasburg were healthy and if Wilson Ramos didn’t get hurt last week. Throw in the fact that Ryan Zimmerman has struggled to get big hits with runners in scoring position all year and it really narrows down how the Nats can beat you. Trea Turner has been a dynamic addition to Washington and its imperative Dodger hurlers keep him off base. He is a terror on the bases. Our ole friend Jayson Werth has hurt the Dodgers in the path when with the Phillies, gotta keep him out of leveraged situations with runners in scoring position. And, of course Bryce Harper. By Harper standards he has had an off year but he is supremely talented and loves the spot-light. I expect him to have a good series.

Both teams have great bullpens with Mark Melancon closing for the Nationals and Kenley Jansen closing for the Boys in Blue. Both teams want to give their behemoths in the 9th leads to work with.

It seems simplistic to say, but these teams are evenly matched and the squad that hits better with runners in scoring position and whose bullpen performs better will win it.

No predictions here. Bleeding Dodger Blue and dreaming of that elusive pennant that we have waited nearly three decades to savor.



New Regime….Same ole’ Browns

The agonizing existence of  being a Cleveland Browns fan has taken an even darker turn with the performance of Carson Wentz for the Philadelphia Eagles.  You know Wentz ? The guy that the new Browns brain-trust publicly stated would be no better than the 20th best quarterback in the NFL at his peak.

After three weeks of games, the Browns have lost two mediocre quarterbacks to injury and have watched Wentz win three straight games for an Eagles team that suddenly looks like a squad that has a chance to be something special. To add insult to injury Wentz beat Cleveland in the season opener flawlessly dissecting the Browns secondary. Wentz has been superb in his three starts resulting in three wins. He has thrown FIVE touchdowns with no interceptions and has completed 64 percent of his passes. What has been even more impressive is the veteran-like poise he has shown in leading a squad that was left for dead by most before the season started.

The Browns netted several draft choices in dealing the number two pick in the draft to the Eagles. At first glance it “seemed” like a good move for a team that is deficient at virtually every position where someone named Joe Thomas isn’t playing. But, when digging deeper we should have known this move would be a mistake.

From 2011-2014 the Browns accumulated picks. The previous regime took pride in the fact they could flip high draft picks for multiple picks, telling the faithful that these selections would provide the depth to make the Browns a contender. Here we sit with not ONE player taken in the first or second rounds of 2011-2014 drafts still on the roster. Do you realize how difficult it is to screw up THAT many selections. If you were actually trying to fail, you couldn’t miss on that many. Those picks turned into bird droppings. All the while teams selected players like Odell Beckham Junior, Khalil Mack, Derek Carr  and now Carson Wentz.

As a Dodger fan I watched current Browns money-ball guru Paul DePodesta gut the Dodgers for cheaper and what he deemed more efficient options. He opted for depth instead of true talent. Some of it can be forgiven since he worked for Frank McCourt, but it was the DePodesta philosophy on full display and he lasted only two years before being laughed out-of-town.

I wonder how long this experiment lasts before the number crunchers are ridden out on a rail. New Head Coach Hue Jackson said before the season the goal is to “win the Super Bowl.” Pump the brakes buddy. This team hasn’t finished above .500 since 2007 and continue to fluctuate between 3-and 5 wins. This franchise is an abyss. I am sick of hearing all these new Browns regimes talk about how things are going to be different. They need to show me. The product they are delivering is pathetic. The time for talk is when you aren’t an embarrassment to the sport.

We won’t know the full extent of the Wentz to Philly for picks trade until the Browns actually make the picks. Wide receiver Corey Coleman from Baylor seems like a pretty good receiver but he is now going to miss several weeks with a broken wrist. When all of the picks are made, then and only then will we be able to adequately judge the Wentz deal.

But, I got to tell you, early indications are telling me, Carson Wentz was a quarterback that would have worked in Cleveland, and the brainiacs in Brea, screwed it up again.