Tag Archives: Justin Turner

Devastating loss has Dodgers on brink

There is no way to gloss over Sunday night’s Game 5 loss by the Dodgers. It’s devastating. They now trail the Houston Astros 3-games-to-2 as the series shifts west to Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night.

First, if you are expecting me to rail on the umpiring and the balls & strikes calls in Game 5 you might as well stop reading here. The umpiring was less than stellar but it is not the reason why the Dodgers lost. Blaming umpires is the novices way of making excuses. If you blame umpires it shows that you never really played the game, and you don’t really understand it. Ok, now that I’m done with that, let’s move on.

13-12 losses in baseball are tough. They are excruciating when you look at all of the various ways the Dodgers could have won this game. Before I focus on what the Dodgers didn’t do, let me first credit the relentlessness of the Houston Astros. My God, what a display of grit and perseverance as they continually battled their way back. Their approach at the plate was incredible, especially as they tried to get base-runners when trailing early.

George Springer, the walk-off winner hero Alex Bregman and of course the incomparable Jose Altuve and young phenom Carlos Correa. The at-bats these top four hitters in the Astros line-up took were simply amazing. Altuve and Correa hit some pretty nasty pitches for base hits in the 4th inning to set up Yuli Gurriel’s three-run home run to tie it.

Then, after Cody Bellinger’s three-run blast gave the Dodgers the lead 7-4 headed to the bottom of the 5th, here came the Astros again. Two out walks to Springer and Bregman, where Springer saw 8 pitches and Bregman saw 10 were amazing. Then, it was Altuve who hit the three-run homer to tie it.

The Astros know how to apply pressure and they are very good at it in their home ballpark. Let’s see if they can ride that wave to Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers jumped on Dallas Keuchel early, cashing in two 1st-inning walks and a two out two-run single by Logan Forsythe to grab a 2-0 nothing lead. Then a botched run down play by the Astros netted the Dodgers another run making it 3-0. In the 4th the Dodgers would add another and led 4-0 going to the bottom of the 4th with Clayton Kershaw cruising.

But the demons of post-seasons past reared its ugly head again, and this time one couldn’t blame the sign-stealing of the St. Louis Cardinals for his demise. This time it was ill-timed walks, location mistakes and great at-bats by the Astros stars. It’s unfortunate for Kershaw. A true gem, a stud, a guy Dodger fans love and want to see do well. It was painful watching him fail, and for many of us that love and defend him it was simply horrifying on baseball’s biggest stage.

In many instances Dave Roberts gets a pass when managing this ball club. Remember, he is simply pushing the buttons and navigating the course set by the analytics crew in the front office. There is no way he would have the job if he wasn’t following their directives. But, on Sunday night he had some egregious mis-steps.

First, with the score tied at 7 Justin Turner led off of the top of the 7th with a ringing double off the wall in right. Kike Hernandez was the next hitter and he was asked to lay down a bunt. Yes, a bunt. The tenor and flow of the game dictated that one run was about as useful as a pay toilet in a diarrhea ward. One run was an aroma. For Roberts to think and actually believe that one run would hold up in the top of the 7th inning is fool-hardy. The Dodgers have spent the entire year bunting primarily in low-scoring games where the ball isn’t flying around the stadium like a beach-ball with a beleaguered bullpen. It was an awful decision. It turned out to be a dud as Hernandez bunted it back to the mound, and Turner on a bad leg, after taking a screamer off his calf on Saturday, was easily thrown out at 3rd. Luckily the Dodgers would grab the lead when Springer would mis-play a ball in center and Hernandez would score all the way from first giving the Dodgers a one-run lead.

Second, with the Dodgers leading 8-7 going to the bottom of the 7th inning the Dodgers went to Brandon Morrow for the third straight day and for the 12th time in 13 games this post-season. Now, while he is not pitching in consecutive days, that is a lot of work. And, considering he has never thrown three straight days before, Roberts told assembled media before the game that he did not want to use Morrow. He used him. And, it blew up in his face. Morrow threw six pitches in the game. He gave up a 447 foot home run to Springer, a laser single to left by Bregman, a rocket shot double to left by Altuve and a Crawford Box home run to Correa. When the dust had settled after 180 seconds of baseball, the Astros had turned an 8-7 deficit into an 11-8 lead. It was devastating.

Before the game Roberts had said he may have to lean on Ross Stripling and Tony Cingrani. Well, those two pitchers cleaned up the mess and pitched well. Roberts first instincts were right, yet he out-thought himself and in the end it burned him and the Dodgers. Morrow gave up the runs, but it wasn’t on him. He did what he could. It’s a manager’s job to read the room, Roberts did it horribly.

The Dodgers would miraculously rally in the top of the 9th showing the guts we’ve come to love about this team. Down 12-9 going to the 9th the Dodgers would get a two-run home run from Yasiel Puig, a one-handed flip of the wrists that settled into the Crawford Boxes in the left cutting the deficit to 12-11. Austin Barnes would then double to left and after Joc Pederson grounded out, Chris Taylor would line a two-out two-strike single to center tying the game at 12. Gritty !

The game would end with the fatigued Kenley Jansen on the hill. After a scoreless 9th, Jansen would hit Brian McCann with two outs. He then carefully pitched to Springer and walked him before Bregman won it with a liner to left.

13-12 Astros win.

It’s crushing. The Dodgers had their best pitcher on the mound with leads of 4-0 and 7-4 and couldn’t hold a pivotal Game 5. They now have to beat Justin Verlander at home him Game 6 to force a Game 7. Verlander has been dominant this post-season. Sure, the Dodgers got to him in Game 2, but that was where the master bullpen plan started to crack for the Dodgers and now the pieces are in shambles.

To beat Verlander they will have to have a masterful approach, his pitch count won’t matter since the Astros bullpen is in tatters. With a game in tow, AJ Hinch is going to let Verlander go all the way. He won’t worry about the bullpen. Verlander’s stuff is so good he can throw 130 pitches and still be hitting 97 on the gun. The Dodgers are in the deep waters now.

They will turn to Rich Hill, hoping he can give them more than the 4 innings he was asked to give in Game 2. In fact the Dodgers will need 6 to 7 innings from Hill. The Dodgers bullpen is fried. On Tuesday they just can’t afford a short outing by Hill, plus he has no margin for error considering who he is facing.

On its face it seems the Dodgers aren’t in bad shape, they are going home down 3-2 with a chance to win two home games and win the World Series. But, that is not the case. Their manager has the yips, their strength, which is the bullpen is a mess and they are facing the best pitcher left in the series right now and he is fully rested and ready to bring Houston a championship.

There are only so many times the game of baseball will give you the opportunity to win a series.

The Dodgers were three outs away from a 2-0 series lead at home with the best closer in the game on the mound and lost. They had a 4-0 lead and then a 7-4 lead with this generation’s best pitcher on the hill and lost.

At some point the game of baseball says, “your time is up.”

Dodgers head to San Francisco with a crisis in confidence

An anemic offense, an ineffective rotation, a leaky bullpen.  All season long problems for the 2017 San Francisco Giants, and now all  clear problems for the current Los Angeles Dodgers.

For 127 games the Dodgers surely looked like one of the great teams in the history of baseball. A stretch of 53 wins and only 9 losses in a ten week stretch had the fans of the Dem Bums dreaming of November parade. Now each sojourn to the ballpark is a nightmare with no end in sight.

A week ago I wrote the faithful were over-reacting to the recent downturn and this Dodger team was too good to let this thing linger for too much longer. I was bamboozled. Blinded by the 10-week joy ride. The weaknesses that were masked by heroics night-in and night-out are now glaring issues.

The starting rotation is in shambles. Clayton Kershaw is coming off his worst start of the year when the team desperately needed him (stop me if you heard that one before) Ouch ! Yu Darvish’s struggles in Texas were clearly not a result of environment, he can’t pitch in LA either. Rich Hill is pitching like an infant sleeps, one hour up/one hour down. Alex Wood was magical in May and June but clearly looks fatigued. And, does anyone trust Kenta Maeda in an October start. Suddenly what was such a strength appears to be an albatross.

The bullpen…..Oh Dear God this bullpen. The subject of such consternation for the past four post-seasons appears to be well on its way to be that pillar of inconsistency we have become accustomed to. Other than Kenley Jansen and a healthy Brandon Morrow I don’t trust anyone down there.

What’s with the allegiance and deference to everything Pedro Baez from Dodger management. A guy who has given up big hit after big hit in October’s past continues to get the call in highly leveraged situations and while he was lights out for much of the year, recently he has been a gas can. Not kindling on a smoldering mess of wet soot. No, dry wood, lighter fluid, extra gas, light match…..BOOM ! Unbelievably Dave Roberts reiterated this weekend that Baez will be the guy he calls on in big spots. Gotcha Dave.

The offense which was cause for much celebration and rejoicing all season long has been a mess. It seems too simplistic to cite the slight tweaks the trading deadline brought in changing chemistry, but there is something to it. The flow, the rhythm of the offense had a synergy that was off the charts.

Curtis Granderson has been awful. Love the guy but he has been as automatic an out as there is in baseball during his tenure with the Dodgers. Ever since is Grand Slam in Pittsburgh three weeks ago, how many hits does he have ? Two ? The beginning of the end came when Cody Bellinger turned his ankle. He had to sit for a week-plus, then Corey Seager started experiencing elbow issues, then Justin Turner slumped, then…….then…….then………it became a cyclical mess of misfortune.

I do not understand this commitment to Yasmani Grandal. A 240 hitter who is a terrible defender. Especially when you have a young talented and productive Austin Barnes who is just waiting. The Dodgers will tell you Barnes is productive because he DOESN’T play everyday, keeping him fresh to be a force when he is in there. You mean the kid can’t play everyday ? Or do you not want to disappoint a veteran Grandal in changing his role even when it’s warranted.

I could understand it if Grandal was a superior back-stop in the mold of Robert Perez of Cleveland. Perez can’t hit a lick, but Cleveland pitchers love throwing to him. He knows the hitters and blocks everything. Who cares if he hits .190. Grandal isn’t Perez.

I really don’t know what the Dodgers do with Joc Pederson or Adrian Gonzalez. Pederson just seems lost. After a long lengthy career it seems Gonzalez’s body is finally breaking down on him. At this point they just shouldn’t see the field.

Justin Turner told the media yesterday the Dodgers are the “worst team in baseball.” Right now I believe him. But, what we’ve seen from the Dodgers over the past two-and-a-half-weeks is also the reason why we love the game so much. Your fortunes can turn on a dime. At the moment,  I don’t see light at the end of the tunnel, but three weeks ago I didn’t see one of the worst stretches in Dodger history either.

Tonight they take on a team that is downright pitiful. The San Francisco Giants are a shell of their championship selves, ironically despite being  the worst team in baseball, they might be a playing a tad bit better than our boys in blue right now.

Can the Dodgers be this bad ? We will learn during their next 10 days as they travel to three cities, taking on both San Francisco and Philadelphia, two truly dreadful baseball teams.

Dodgers hit Home Run with Deadline Deals….

 

Sure, some problems still remain but the Los Angeles Dodgers front office did what they could to right some of the wrongs with their deadline deals, all while not sacrificing the franchises’ glorious looking future.

The two most pressing needs this team faced going into the deadline was acquiring some quality arms at the back-end of the Dodger rotation and adding solid arms to a fledgling bullpen. Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi and Josh Byrnes hit a home run at the deadline and they didn’t even acquire Cole Hamels, David Price or one of the other big names moved this week.

The cost of getting a Hamels or Price would have dented the Dodgers future and thankfully Friedman and company wasn’t willing to do that. The organization has considered shortstop Corey Seager and left-handed 18 year-old pitcher Julio Urias as untouchable. This has been the stance with Ned Colleti and has also been the stance of Friedman. The Dodgers know what they have in those two cornerstones and weren’t willing to trade for pitchers that would only enhance a strength. Now, there is no denying Hamels or Price would have emboldened the Dodgers rotation, but it would have only solidified a strength. By opting for Mat Latos and Alex Wood the Dodgers added length to their rotation and gives them two superstar starters and two very good third-and-fourth starters.

What some may overlook were the acquisitions of Luis Avilan and Jim Johnson from Atlanta’s bullpen. The names aren’t sexy but they were vital in the Dodgers post-season hopes. Avilan is a 26 year-old lefty that sports a career ERA of 2.77 with a WHIP of 1.16. Avilan struggled last year (4.57 ERA; 1.57 WHIP) but has righted the ship this season with a 3.58 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. Avilan will be a reliable situational lefty that will compliment JP Howell. Howell has been fantastic this year, but does the southpaw doesn’t throw with the velocity that Avilan brings. Avilan is a nice addition.

Jim Johnson had back-to-back 50 save seasons for the Baltimore Orioles in 2012 and 2013. Since then he just hasn’t been the same pitcher. He struggled to get anyone out in 2014 and was almost out of baseball. But Johnson has regained his form this year with the Braves and will serve as a solid right-handed arm setting up Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. Johnson was serving as the Braves closer for the last month after Jason Grilli was lost for the season with a knee  injury. Johnson registered 9 saves and an ERA of 2.25. The Dodgers are not asking Johnson to close, but they will ask him to get some big outs in the 7th and 8th innings. He is experienced and has been tested. This was exactly the type of acquisition the Dodgers needed. Friedman had littered the Dodgers bullpen with former wash-out infielders who were converting to power arms out of the bullpen. Friedman and the Dodgers brass had come into this season believing  this would be the “answer” to the Dodgers bullpen woes. But, since May 1st the Dodgers pen had the second worst bullpen ERA in the National League. Friedman saw the writing and the wall and fixed it.

One of the deadline moves that didn’t address immediate need but may prove one day to be biggest of moves was the inclusion of Jose Peraza. The 21 year-old speedster was in the middle of a conversion from second base to center field. The Dodgers see Peraza as a second baseman and he may be the man they peg for the job sooner rather than later depending on their free agent dealings with current second-sacker  Howie Kendrick. By all accounts Peraza is not ready for the big leagues now, but his time should come. Last year Peraza hit .339 with 60 stolen bases between High-A and Double-A for the Braves. This year he is hitting .294 with 26 stolen bases in 96 games for Triple-A Gwinnett. His offensive game may need some refinement but many analysts say he is already the Dodgers 4th or 5th best prospect. And, at 21 years-old he has some time for growth.

The moves weren’t without some pain, most it financial which Guggenheim seems willing to eat and toss into the sea. It sure is nice to have an ownership group that doesn’t mind taking on salary while acquiring pieces that bring the team closer to a championship. The Dodgers did have to part with highly touted Cuban infielders Hector Olivera. The Dodgers gave Olivera a 28 million dollar signing bonus and had planned on paying him 34 million more dollars over the next six years. That responsibility now lies with Atlanta. Braves GM John Hart says they are ecstatic to get a player of Olivera’s talents. Hart told media members if Olivera hit the open market he would command a much bigger contract so Atlanta sees bargain in Olivera.

The Dodgers had high hopes for Olivera but with Justin Turner’s emergence at third and reports indicating Olivera was not playing second base as well as they thought, Olivera was a chip the Dodgers could dangle.

Do the deals make the Dodgers World Series favorites ? Probably not, but despite some of the team’s inadequacies they did become a much more formidable team on the bump.