Tag Archives: Kershaw

Cubs hammer Dodger bullpen; take 3-2 NLCS lead

Two things are perfectly clear as the Cubs and Dodgers head back to Wrigley for Game 6 of the NLCS. First, the Cubs hitters are no longer in a slumber. They are back. They are dialed in and they aren’t missing mistakes. Second, the Dodgers bullpen, the unit that helped propel this team past the Giants to win the National League West, is spent. They have nothing left. The chamber is empty. Aside from Kenley Jansen the Dodgers pen looks and is pitching like a tired bunch.

The signs are all there. Missing with strike one. Missing with location. Hanging breaking balls, leaving sliders up. Almost everyone in the pen is doing it. Grant Dayton, Baez, Stripling, Avilan and most importantly, Joe Blanton. The Dodgers are getting beat on 0-2 counts way too much and it has resulted in the biggest hits of the series for Chicago.

The Dodgers starters in Games 4 & 5  only lasted three and two-thirds innings. The result is a lot of work for the Dodgers pen. While we couldn’t expect the 20 year-old Julio Urias to go deeper than the three-plus he went, the mistakes he made in giving up back-to-back hits on 0-2 counts were debilitating. No Dodger fan is worried long-term about Urias. He started the game out of necessity since the Dodger brass felt Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy were the answers to the Dodgers rotation woes, but we’ll get to that much later at a different time.

Kenta Maeda pitched well tonight, but throwing 76 pitches in only 3.2 innings isn’t ideal. His stuff really doesn’t play if his command and location isn’t impeccable. Against an average team he can survive, but these are the 103-win Cubs. They don’t have weaknesses and they pound mistakes. So, when Maeda misses a spot, or falls behind, its curtains.

The Cubs have found their stroke. The slumps of Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell are now a thing of the past. Javier Baez is getting good swings and the Cubs don’t seem to have weaknesses heading to Game 6. But, the Dodgers do have hope.

That hope rests on the shoulder of Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw, pitched 7 innings of 2-hit shut-out baseball in Game 2. The Dodgers will lean on Kershaw to keep them in the game, try to grind out some runs  and get them to a Game 7. If the Dodgers can get the series to Game 7 they would send Rich Hill to the mound against Jake Arrieta.  This is the match-up where the Dodgers scored six runs, chased Arrieta after five innings and won the game going away 6-2. It seems inconceivable but the Dodgers would be happy with this match-up, even on the road, and even against the reigning Cy Young Award Winner.

The Dodgers and Kershaw have been here before. In 2013 they were down 3-games-to-2 to the Cardinals and had Kershaw on the mound. He struggled and was eventually lit up against the Cardinals. This feels so much different. Kershaw is throwing the ball better. he is better. He will pitch with a full complement of rest and this Dodgers team is tougher. There isn’t a better guy Dodger fans would want on the mound with the season hanging in the balance.

As rough as Games 4 & 5 were for the Dodgers, Dave Roberts made the right decision  making sure Kershaw and Hill were fully rested. Here we go, either the Dodgers will upset the heavily favored Cubs, winning two at Wrigley to keep this amazing ride alive, or the Cubs will win the National League pennant for the first time since 1945.

I need rest. We all need rest. Saturday will be here soon

Rizzo and Russell wake up; Cubs even NLCS AT 2-2

You knew it was going to happen, the Dodgers just hoped it didn’t materialize until Spring Training of 2017.

Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell both mired in horrific slumps busted out in a big way on Wednesday night to lead the Chicago Cubs to a 10-2 win in Game 4 of the NLCS. With Rizzo sitting on a 1-for-26 and Russell a 1-for-21, they both banged out three hits and hit home runs as the Cubs scored early and often against Los Angeles.

The ramifications for the Cubs is an ease with which they played the entire season. A group that looked tight at the tail end of Game 2 and all of Game 3 now looks comfortable at the plate and sits only two games away from their first World Series appearance in 71 years.

All is not lost for the Dodgers, although the short-term prospects don’t look promising. With the Dodgers winning Game 3 it insured the Dodgers would need to play a Game 6 if they were to be facing elimination. That Game 3 win gave manager Dave Roberts some wiggle room to adjust his starting rotation. Roberts is going to pitch Kenta Maeda in Game 5 tonight and then have Clayton Kershaw and if necessary Rich Hill pitch in Games 6 & & respectively on full rest.

On paper tonight’s Game 5 pitching match-up doesn’t appear to be a match-up at all. Maeda has thrown seven innings in two starts in the post-season and has given up 7 earned runs. Lester posted his best ERA in his long major league career at 2.44 and is a 19 game winner. Lester didn’t have his best stuff in his Game 1 start but his ability to pitch in big spots and not rattle makes him one of the best post-season southpaws in recent history. You couple these factors with the Dodgers having a major league worst .214 batting average against left-handed pitchers, and this scenario SCREAMS….mis-match.

With that said, all year the Dodgers have found a way to buck the odds. Dare I say it, a win tonight would be on par with coming back from 8.5 down in late June against the Giants and winning the division by four games.

Regardless of what happens tonight the Dodgers are set up with their best in Games 6 & 7. If they win, they have Kershaw going on full rest for a chance to win the pennant. If they lose they have Kershaw, on full rest to save their season. If needed you would then have Rich Hill on full rest as well.

If this game is close, and Maeda gets in ANY kind of trouble Roberts will pull the trigger and go to the bullpen. With tomorrow being an off-day the Dodgers can be liberal with that bullpen tonight. I have to believe there isn’t a lot of trust in Maeda right now and the leash will be short.

Bleeding Dodger Blue

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

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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.

 

 

Dodgers Epilogue Updated: A perfect collapse for an imperfect team

DODGER EPILOGUE; UPDATED OCT 16 7:15AM

The 2015 Los Angeles Dodgers season ended just as it should have ended……..FLAWED. A perfect ending for an imperfect team.  For an  organization that spent more than 300 million dollars to try to bring that elusive title to Dodger fans, they once again came excruciatingly short again.  But, unlike the 2013 and 2014 seasons the faithful were warned of this teams’ impending downfall. Whether the faithful were paying attention to the warning signs, is  another matter.

The pain of watching this team go 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position and 0-for-their-last-11 was a big reason why this merry band of millionaires was 8th in the National League in offense. Sure, the Dodgers led the Senior Circuit in on-base percentage, but that doesn’t matter if you can’t score. How fitting that this imperfect team saw their season crumble by falling asleep on a walk. When Daniel Murphy went full sprint from near second base all the way to third with nary a Dodger nearby, the ominous clouds were moving in.  A pre-cursor to said disaster was the shouting match between Andre Ethier and Don Mattingly in the 4th inning. This CAN’T happen in a winner-take-all game. It just CAN’T. I don’t care if Mattingly was trying to protect Ethier. Positive energy, positive vibes and everyone pulling in same direction can’t be usurped by dugout squabbles in a must-win game. All of this asymptomatic of a dysfunction that has been chronicled yet rarely seen on display on such a stage.

Many will say replacing Don Mattingly is all this team needs to turn the corner. While Donnie Baseball’s time maybe should come to an end, pinning this team’s October failings on Mattingly alone shows a complete lack of understanding of how winning baseball teams are built and how they should play. While some of this Mattingly should own, the Dodgers inability to play a multi-faceted game continues to be their achilles heel. There was no other team in the National League that was worse at generating runs without home runs than the Dodgers. This is not conjecture. This is a real statistic. The Dodgers were the 5th worst in baseball at generating runs without hitting a home run. In October, you don’t get to play the Padres and Rockies 19 times. You play the best of the best and you face superior pitching. Championship teams manufacture runs against power arms. If Friedman and company had visions of this team  manufacturing runs they were sadly mistaken.

Get em’ on. Move em over. Bring them in.

I harped on the Dodgers bullpen all year. While they were better late in the season and in the Mets series (aside from Game 3) the Dodgers need better “pitchers’ down in that pen. Too many guys with high velocity and no secondary pitches. This is  an Andrew Friedman issue. For a big money team to go on the cheap in their bullpen is incomprehensible. It’s as if he hadn’t seen what ailed the Dodgers coming into the 2015 campaign and thought his cheaper options would suffice….they didn’t.

Chris Hatcher showed great improvement, but his off-speed pitches need refining. Pedro Baez has one pitch. I know it’s a 98 mile per hour fastball, but in the last two October’s it has been Baez giving up critical hits on that fastball that have provided the winning margins in playoff games. His slider and change-up are not very good and so hitters can sit on his fastball. Kenley Jansen has one pitch, but he is the one guy that can live with it. His cutter acts like a breaking ball and he misses a lot of barrels. JP Howell was good, but he is a left-handed specialist and can’t be relied on for a ton of innings. This bullpen needs a lot of work and I believe it was President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman’s biggest failing in his first year at the helm.

This team was FLAWED. Two great starters in Kershaw and Greinke. An outstanding closer in Jansen but less than championship quality  elsewhere on the hill. Offensively they did what they were supposed to do, hit home runs. But, when you get to October you need to be more like the 2015 Kansas City Royals and not the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers. Run generation is at a premium in October and when you don’t do it, you don’t win.

Either the Dodgers are too pompous, too proud, too egotistical or too stupid to realize that the team that has given them the blue-print for October success plays in San Francisco. The Dodgers just seem to be too stubborn to copy it.

The news on the horizon isn’t all bad. Joc Pederson will be the Dodgers every day center fielder and Corey Seager will be the every day shortstop. The drafting and developing has been in full effect since 2012 and these kids are getting ready come help. But the approach needs to change.

Don Mattingly may have managed his last game as a Dodger. The foolish will believe this will change the results in October. If the Dodgers don’t change their approach, the game will pass them by. 650 million dollars in payroll over the last three years have made the Dodgers competitive, it can’t make you win. Until the Dodgers, get back to the Dodger Way. Pitching, defense, speed, stolen bases, hitting and running; they will continue the great tease of the last three decades.

Losing in October is always painful. It’s great getting to October and we should feel fortunate as Dodger fans the club got their again. But, the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over-and-over again and expecting a different result. The Dodgers are flawed. It is Friedman’s responsibility to pull his head away from number crunching and spread sheets and figure that out. In Tampa he had a manager who believed in small ball. Joe Maddon now has taken his vast knowledge and has the Cubs on the brink of a pennant. If Friedman does make a change, he needs to find someone who is a disciple of the Maddon principles, the “OLD” Dodger way.

It might be time to eat some salary to the mega-rich Guggenheim Group. Carl Crawford is not serving any purpose any more. He is taking a roster spot. He is awful defensively, can’t stay healthy and it might be time to admit that the only reason they brought him from Boston was to get Adrian Gonzalez in a Dodger uniform. Decisions will need to be made on Andre Ethier as well. The platoon system in place at the end of year just was not tenable. The Dodgers may have to admit eating tens of millions dollars on these bad contracts may be in the best interest of the team.

The Dodger season comes to an end on the 27th anniversary of one of the franchises greatest moments, Kirk Gibson’s hobbled home run. Nothing will ever ruin October 15th for me. Always Gibby Day ! While tonight’s loss stung, it wasn’t completely unexpected. And, lets be honest, the Dodgers weren’t going to beat the Cubs.

2013 and 2014 hurt a lot more than this. Like our Brooklyn brethren we are programmed for haunted October’s. We always live to fight another day.

Until the winter meetings everyone…..

Dodgers and Kershaw have much to prove…..

Other than the New York Yankees, no other professional baseball franchise has been in the post-season more than the Dodgers. Whether in Brooklyn or in Los Angeles the Bums have made October their rite of passage. What the Dodgers have not done is always flourish in the month of October like their New York brethren.

Despite winning the National League West for the third straight time the Dodgers recent inability to solve the St. Louis Cardinals has been their albatross. For the sanity of themselves and  their voracious fan base, this is something that needs to be rectified.

Entering this 2015 post-season the Dodgers have numerous question marks. I believe they have more SIGNIFICANT holes than they have that past few seasons. With that said, this might also be their best chance in recent memory to win the pennant. Odd, I know, but let me spell it out.

First lets start with the strengths. The strengths are always more fun to talk about for Dodgers fans. The Dodgers have pop. They can hit the long ball. Up and down the line-up the Dodgers can put runs on the board with one swing of the bat. For much of the season they led the National League in round trippers. The Dodgers also have the best one-two punch in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in the post-season. Kershaw in the three-time Cy Young award winner who will finish in the top-5 once again, while Greinke could garner his second Cy Young award with an amazing 2015 campaign registering a 1.66 ERA. The Dodgers also have great depth. Despite injuries that would have crippled most teams, the Boys in Blue have built a bench that allows them to withstand injuries to key players and not lose a ton in production .

The concerns with this team begins and ends with their porous bullpen. As much as the front office tries to sell the fan base on this group, they have been colossal disappointment. The group is much too streaky for my tastes. Great start, bad middle, solid late-July to early August only to see them stumble again late. For a franchise to have the deepest pockets in all of sport and not make a run at Andrew Miller and some of the other serviceable arms on the market was fool-hardy as I made so abundantly clear ad nauseam. The pen is what it is……a mind-numbing group that will have me grab my Pope Francis blessed rosary beads every time they enter the game.

My second biggest concern regarding this ball-club is their inability to manufacture runs. So many in the lunatic fringe of this fan base do not believe in the hit-and-run, the bunt, the productive out. Many fail to see its the easiest and most productive way to victory. Productive outs lead to runs which lead to wins. I would much rather have Joc Pederson lay a bunt down the third base line with a runner at second and no one out then swing from his britches and swing and miss once again. A bunt allows the runner to get to third which means a ground ball, fly ball, wild pitch, passed ball, balk or even a hit would net a run. But, never mind me, just keep expecting Joc to hit the ball 450 feet. The Dodgers were one of the worst teams in the National League at the fine art of manufacturing runs despite have the best on-base percentage in the National League. This statistical imbalance makes no sense and shows how disconnected this offense can be.

My third concern, and this one breaks my heart. It’s Clayton Kershaw. I know, saying this is sac-religious but the numbers don’t lie. In his last four post-season appearances he is 0-4 with a 7.15 ERA. I love the guy, I really do. But, the great ones perform in October. As great as Greg Maddux was, in my mind all I can remember is him continually scuffling with those mid-90’s Braves teams in October. Kershaw is so much better than his numbers indicate. I won’t even get into his Cardinal-failings. It’s well documented that the Cardinals have pounced on every one of his mistakes over the past two post-seasons. I would love for the Dodgers and Kershaw to get another shot at the Red Birds. He NEEDS success against them as much for him as for the organization. Kershaw’s post-season yips is a huge blip on his resume. Lunatic fringe members will try to argue it’s anomaly, it’s not. Kershaw pitches like the King of All in the regular season but turns into the court jester in the post-season. It’s the one dangling participle that he needs to fix. Admittedly I am not confident of Kershaw in October. I have seen too many meltdowns, too many inexplicable craters in performance to have that MadBum-esque feeling that he is going to overcome.

So there you have it. The post-season is here. this is a very exciting time. The one saving grace as I type this is that the Giants and Yankees are both done for the year. Out of the original New York three, only the Dodgers remain. This team could very well win the pennant and hoist their 7th World Series trophy. But it wouldn’t surprise me if their season is done by next Monday either. So it is with the Dodgers, so unpredictable, so entertaining and never boring.

 

 

Giants Band-Wagon Whine Reaches New Heights

The Giants came to the Ravine like a 10 year-old kid getting ready for his first trip to Disneyland. They are leaving after spending three days in a hotel puking their guts out over the porcelain cylinder while their brothers and sisters enjoyed the rides…..

The San Francisco Giants trip to Dodger Stadium did not go as planned. They came in Monday night only 3.5 games back of the Dodgers in the West with visions of creeping closer to Los Angeles. Instead the Giants leave the Ravine 6.5 games back and seven games back in the loss column. Barring a Dodger collapse the Giants will continue their rite of passage by not making the playoffs in an odd year.

For the second straight night Bruce Bochy was ejected from the game as he clearly went on full tilt after another close call from crew chief Mike Winters didn’t go his way. On Tuesday night it was a suspect strike call to Alejandro De Aza in a critical spot. Then on Wednesday Winters rung up Brandon Belt in the eighth inning of the series finale on a check swing. Replays showed Belt clearly did not swing. The vitriol is understandable considering how the beat-up Giants have under-performed in their biggest series of the year. Giants fans went on full gasket-blowing mode after the Winters check-swing call.

It is so unbecoming of a champion to whine when things don’t go their way. Can’t they just admit they are being beaten ? I never have a problem tipping my hat to the champs when they were waxing the Dodgers earlier this season. Why is it so hard for Giants fans to do the same ? I think they do take the lead from their broadcasting crew which constantly belittles and dis-respects the Dodgers and their fans. I don’t blame them. That is their schtick. It’s what they do. They could care less what a Dodger fan thinks of their broadcast. They are appealing to Giants fans. But, those subtle comments tend to pollute the waters. So, when their beloved Giants are beaten, especially by the Dodgers, well it couldn’t be that the Dodgers are beating them. It HAS to be that Mike Winters is screwing them, or injuries have depleted them or this, that and the other. I find the long-time Giants fans have a better grasp on the functionality of baseball. Lifers get the fact that there is an ebb and flow to the game that occasionally comes to a head sometimes. The game doesn’t always go your way. Yeah, sometimes you do get hosed. You know what you do, you play through it. The Giants actually do a great job playing through it. Their Johnny-Come-Lately band-wagon fans don’t see it that way. The new fan acts like that 10 year-old kid who is growing up cheering for the Giants and has no clue that they went 56 years with no rings. The lifer understands that sometimes it’s not your year. This is directed to those new fans who are acting like 10 year-olds.

You Got Beat.

http://www.truebluela.com/2015/9/2/9253449/giants-broadcasters-pulling-a-bumgarner

It’s a tired act. You are the champs. Act like it. If you have injuries, get better depth so it doesn’t sting as much. Tip your cap to your rival. We’ve been doing it for the last 27 years.

 

Dodgers Watch Giants Win ANOTHER Pennant and it wasn’t Luck

 

I blame News Corp. I blame Kevin Malone. I blame Rupert Murdoch. I blame Frank McCourt. I blame Jamie McCourt. I blame Jamie’s hair-dresser. I blame her limo driver. Hell, I blame anyone and everyone.

For the third time in five years the San Francisco Giants have won the National League pennant. And, for the third time in five years I find it easy to blame the Dodgers for not being good enough to stop them. All I have wanted for the last few years is for the Dodgers to re-establish order with their rival. Winning the division for the second straight year was a nice first step, but in the grand scheme it doesn’t really mean anything. You need to perform in October, something the Dodgers can’t do right now. The Giants perform in October. They have done it with a core group of hard-nosed stars and sprinkling of role players that relish being part of an organization that wins and has fun doing it.

Many people pointed to Giants luck or fortuitous bounces as the reason for the Giants success again in October. Stop it.  That would be short-changing a team that truly is a team. The Giants are winning because of a disciplined front office approach to building their organization.  They haven’t deviated from that approach. Brian Sabean runs it, and Bruce Bochy runs with it. Bochy is the master technician. His gruff presentation belies a baseball genius who takes advantage of situations with match-ups and pushes the right buttons because he knows what his guys can and can not do. Bochy should be the envy of every major league team. This may sound like a knock on the Giants, but it’s not. Bochy and his staff gets more out of that ball-club than any other manager in the game today and he has been doing it for a long time.

If this doesn’t hurt the Dodgers organization and their fans then they aren’t worth being called, Dodgers. When you see your less talented rival continually win pennants, while you languish on the sidelines and come up short in the biggest October moments then you aren’t doing things right. I heard many people say the Dodgers were probably the only team that could have beaten the Giants this October. Stop it AGAIN. There is no way THIS Dodgers team with THIS Dodgers bullpen was going to beat the Giants. Bochy would have made sure of that. The Giants have toughness coursing through their veins, “Champions Blood” as Hunter Pence likes to say,  while the Dodgers melt when they are faced with the biggest moments. This isn’t opinion, it is fact. Until the Dodgers, as a group,  rise to the occasion in October, they will be considered “soft.”

Despite the malfeasance of the Frank McCourt ownership, the Dodgers did manage to advance to National League Championship Series in 2008 and 2009 losing both times to the Philadelphia Phillies in five games. They lost primarily because their best players lacked the stones to come up big when it counted and of course a deficient bullpen headlined by Jonathan Broxton. Fast forward to 2013 where once again the Dodgers pushed on to the NLCS where they were once again beaten by a “tougher” Cardinals team that rose to the occasion when it counted. This year was a complete debacle. The Cardinals knocked off the Dodgers in the division series in four games. The Dodgers won 94 regular season games but were thin on the mound, had no bullpen and had a sub-par defensive team. The Giants would have beaten the Dodgers in 5 or 6 games in this NLCS. Not because they are more talented than the Dodgers, they win because they are tougher.

What does tougher mean in baseball terms ? Tougher means refusing to lose. Refusing to strike out with a runner at third and less than two outs. Being mentally aware of all situations, including getting good secondary leads, so you can take an extra base on a ball in the dirt. Knowing what base to throw to when the ball is hit to you. Knowing you need to hit the cut-off man. Toughness is hitting a ball to second base to move a runner to third with less than two outs because even when it hurts your batting average it will still help the team get a run. Toughness is putting team over self. Toughness is forsaking personal glory for the good of the group. The Giants organization and their insanely annoying fans preach this all the time. “The Dodgers don’t win because they have too many “I” guys.” Reluctantly I have to agree. The self-centeredness on the Dodgers is evident and does not lead to winning. Late in the season Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig almost came to blows over Puig’s selfishness in the dugout.  Kemp was tired of watching Puig pout and take his hitting woes to the field. After the game Kemp posted a picture of celebrating Dodgers minus Puig. There was a quote from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar extolling the virtues of self-sacrifice for team. The point was clear. “Puig, this isn’t about you. It’s about us.”

The taste is bitter and sour for us Dodgers fans. If the taste isn’t bitter then I have to seriously question your Dodger allegiance.  Seeing the Dodgers rival continue to win pennants stings. It is a pain that the Dodger fan base must live with during what will be a cold cold winter. Grasping a division title holds little solace when your rival is winning pennants and playing in World Series. That is now FOUR pennants for the Giants since 2002. The Dodgers haven’t won a pennant since the magical run in 1988. The Giants could win their 3rd World Series title in the last five years. Embarrassing I say, embarrassing.

I am happy the Guggenheim Group has high aspirations and World Championship goals. That is what you should try to do when you have resources at your disposal and a competitive fire burning in your belly. I also understand that it doesn’t happen overnight. When you are as low and down-trodden as the Dodgers were under McCourt, the culture and mode of operation will not change quickly, regardless of how much money you pump into the organization.

With that said, until the Dodgers get as tough or tougher than their rivals to the north, they will always be second fiddle. The Dodgers should learn from San Francisco, they should try an emulate the culture surrounding an organization that relies on the gathering of a few stars and spare parts that all pull in the same direction and compete and play for one common goal…..each other. Until the Dodgers do that, we will be forced to watch our hated rivals celebrate pennants and championships while we talk about what went wrong in another October year after year after year.

From Mark Walter to Stan Kasten to Andrew Friedman to Don Mattingly to Clayton Kershaw; If you aren’t disgusted, then you aren’t paying attention.  Now, Lets Go Royals !

A Dodgers Post-Mortem: The Real Reason St. Louis Beat the Dodgers

 

The Cardinals can deny they were doing it, and the Dodgers can deny it was being done. But when you look deep inside the Dodgers four game loss to the St. Louis, the Boys in Blue were beaten by their stubbornness.

The Cardinals were the worst home run hitting team in the majors this season. They hit a total of 99 round-trippers on the year. So, how would you explain the Cardinals hitting 7 home runs in four games against one of the elite pitching staffs in baseball ?

Left-handed Red Birds batters hit five home runs. All five of those home runs were hit off of left-handed pitchers, not an easy task, four of those home runs came with a runner at second base, including Matt Adams’ crowning three-run blast against Clayton Kershaw on Tuesday afternoon.

After the series both the Cardinals and Dodgers refused to say sign-stealing was taking place. Cardinals hitters sheepishly said they were “lucky” to get some good pitches to hit and put “good swings” on some pitches that were in bad spots. All true. For their part the Dodgers denied their signs were being picked, but there are rumblings that the Dodgers were not mixing up their signs ENOUGH while Cardinal base-runners danced off of second base.  I don’t care what both sides say, the evidence is over-whelming.

THE DODGERS WERE HAVING THEIR SIGNS STOLEN AND DIDN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT.

The numbers and the circumstances don’t make any sense. And, let me be clear. I have no problem with what I am alleging the Cardinals did. Sign-stealing is part of the game. If you aren’t trying to get that edge on your opponent then you aren’t doing enough to try and win. I love teams that do it. The college team I have covered for nearly two decades have becomes experts at the art. The pilfering of signs has been part of baseball since this grand ole game became America’s past-time. In Joshua Prager’s book “The Echoing Green” he details how the 1951 New York Giants used a sophisticated set of signals to read signs from opposing managers and catchers and relay what was coming to the hitters while they stood in the batter’s box. Many of those 51′ Giants say they don’t make up 13.5 games on the Dodgers in six weeks if not for the binoculars and signals they employed in August and September of 51′.

Clayton Kershaw was virtually automatic against left-handed hitters this season. Not to denigrate the Cardinals hitters, but they aren’t exactly the Tony Gwynn’s and Stan Musial’s of the world. But, with runners on base and while Kershaw was in the stretch the Cardinals became Ted Williams re-incarnated. Watch their at-bats. They are on everything. They not only didn’t get fooled on his assortment of pitches, they were ON every pitch. So, you have a pitcher who is having one of the greatest seasons in the history of the game, but suddenly when runners get on base he can’t get anyone out and the hitters are completely dialed in ? With someone as good as Kershaw that isn’t possible.

The Cardinals were 7-for-13 against Kershaw when he was pitching out of the stretch. And, they were an amazing 5-fo-8 with runners at second base including a home run and a triple. I don’t care what the Cardinals and Dodgers are trying to sell. My eyes didn’t lie to me. Kershaw got beat with his fast-ball, slider and curve. The Cardinals had his pitches. Why the Dodgers couldn’t figure this out for the second year in a row, is beyond me………

Season and Legacy on line for Dodgers and Kershaw in Game 4

 

We all knew this could happen. Those of us that follow this team day in and day out knew that the bullpen implosion could happen on the grandest of scales and on the grandest of stages.

IT HAS.

In the first three games of the National League Divisional Series against the St. Louis Cardinals the Dodgers bullpen has spit the bit down the home-stretch. They have thrown their jockey. They have pulled up lame and now they need their own Spectacular Bid to come to the rescue.

Happy scenes like this from Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp have been few  and far-between

Clayton Kershaw has the Dodgers season and his own personal legacy on the line this afternoon. In short, it’s time for him to perform. A lot of players can shine from April-thru-September, not everyone can shine in October. Kershaw has yet to show his post-season mettle. He can’t afford to wait much longer.

The theories as to why Kershaw is struggling against the St. Louis Cardinals in October are many. Some of them make sense and some are completely outlandish. I will say this, the Cardinals are EXTREMELY confident against Kershaw out of the stretch. Whether his ball flattens out, hangs or is not as sharp will never be divulged by Cardinal hitters. Neither will they divulge how they are relaying pitch and location to the hitters, but those of us that have been around the game, know simple the transmission of this information can be.  After St. Louis’ Game 3 win the platitudes about Kershaw were rolling like an old school projector. “Best in the game, real tough, got our hands full.” Blah blah blah…….

The Cardinals are secretly thrilled they get to face Kershaw again. They know that if they get him out of the stretch, they will know what’s coming and they not only feel, but they BELIEVE they will rough him up. Belief is powerful. When you believe you are going to do something, its pretty tough to stop. The Cardinals are a franchise that is known to be experts at picking pitches from pitchers out of the stretch and relaying this information to hitters. I have it good authority that it is happening again. The shame is not that the Cardinals are engaging in this espionage, the shame is that the Dodgers seem ambivalent to the fact that it is happening !!!!

Yes, you heard me right. The Dodgers know this is happening and are not doing anything about it. How does this happen ? How do you not change pitch sequence, indicators ? To me it is unfathomable to think the Dodgers don’t know this is happening. The Cardinals are 7-for-21 with runners at second base. Six of those hits have come in the decisive 7th innings of Games 1 and  3. I see a trend here, why don’t the Dodgers ?

Last night Don Mattingly said Kershaw would be good for 90 pitches, well, he better be able to throw a few more considering how well the Cardinals work counts and grind out at-bats. In Kershaw’s last three starts against the Cardinals in the post-season he is 0-3 with an earned run average near 8. For Kershaw’s own personal legacy he needs this game like no other. He is in danger of becoming that player where you go, “he is great, BUT.” You don’t want to be that guy. That guy is always saddled with baggage and Kershaw doesn’t want to lug that around for another off-season.

For Kershaw he needs to somehow solve Matt Carpenter. Three games, three home runs, all on fast balls out over the plate. The pitch selection to the sizzling hot Carpenter is stunning. It’s as if the stubbornness of the Dodgers brain-trust refuses to believe how hot Carpenter is, and he is proving to be a one man wrecking crew against the Boys in Blue. The Cardinals have hit an amazing six home runs in three games against Dodgers pitching, four of those home runs have been hit by left-handed hitters against left-handed pitchers.

The Dodgers season is on the line today. Clayton Kershaw has the ball. Normally this would bring a sense of confidence and calm, instead I have no idea what to expect and that scares the hell out of me.

Kershaw’s Kryptonite Dooms the Boys in Blue

 

It was nearly unanimous. The Dodgers had to win game one of the National League Divisional Playoff against the St. Louis Cardinals. With Clayton Kershaw on the mound it was imperative the Boys in Blue put the game in the win column and hand the ball to Zack Greinke for Game 2 tomorrow.

It didn’t happen.

In one of the most stunning games in Dodgers history Clayton Kershaw experienced an epic 7th inning meltdown as the Cardinals scored 8 runs in an insane inning that resulted in a 10-9 Cardinals win. There are games that are tough to swallow, tough to fathom and tough to understand, and then there is Friday’s game.

Kershaw was on cruise control. He hadn’t allowed a base-runner to second base, and maybe that was the problem, or else we may have seen his implosion coming. As soon as the Cardinals put some runners on base they started to tee off on his eminence. It happened fast, it was swift and it was unrelenting. 4 straight singles to start the 7th inning on eight pitches, seven of which were fastballs. The harder the Cardinals hit it, the harder Kershaw tried to throw it. Big mistake.

Consecutive singles by Matt Holliday, Johnny Peralta, Yadier Molina and Matt Adams sent shock waves through the Ravine. But, these small tremors paled in comparison for what was about to come. After a strike-out of Pete Kozma, Kershaw gave up a laser single to left by Jon Jay cutting the Cards deficit to 6-4 with the bases loaded and one out. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly visited the mound to talk with Kershaw, any thought of pulling Kershaw needed to be tempered by the realization that the Dodgers bullpen is the worst among the eight remaining playoff teams. That is not opinion, that is fact. If Mattingly would have gone to the pen at this point, I would have expected security to run out there and tackle both Donnie and Kershaw making sure he didn’t leave the bump. When your all-everything with 21 wins and a 1.77 ERA is in the high grass, you don’t run for the hills and hand the ball to some schlep.

It appeared Mattingly’s confidence would pay-off. Kershaw struck out phenom Oscar Tavares on three pitches, a first pitch fastball and a two wicked sliders down and away. Two down and the Dodgers still leading 6-4. All good right ?  Not so much.

Striding to the plate came the bane of the Clayton Kershaw’s existence. His personal kryptonite. Matt Carpenter had that legendary Game 6 at-bat in the 2013 NLCS. He fouled off what seemed like a dozen pitches, not getting fooled by change-ups, sliders and curves, simply grinding out an at-bat, while looking like he was on EVERYTHING. Eventually Carpenter would double down the right field line opening up the flood gates for the Cardinals as they would pound Kershaw and the Dodgers into submission on their way to a 9-0 win and the National League pennant. So, here we were, Kershaw and Carpenter again, locked in a pivotal post-season moment. And unlike last year, Kershaw refused to give in. He pounded the zone with heater after heater after heater.

First pitch fastball 95, fouled off, strike one. Second pitch fastball 95, swing and a miss strike two. Third pitch, fastball 94, fouled off, third base side. Fourth pitch slider, bouncing it at 89 in the dirt, 1 and 2. Fifth pitch, change-up at 88 way out of the zone 2 and 2.  Sixth pitch fastball, right down the middle at 94 and Carpenter was ON IT fouling it straight back. Seventh pitch slider at 89 down and in, the best pitch Kershaw threw in the sequence and Carpenter just gets a piece, the only pitch he looked fooled on. Eighth pitch, oh the eighth pitch, the pitch that will live in infamy if the Dodgers lose this series. Fastball, 95 middle in and he hammers it…..sitting dead red all the way and crushing it to deep right center. A 6-1 lead evaporates, and even though the Dodgers made some noise late, the meltdown was too much to overcome in a 10-9 loss as Yasiel Puig struck out with the tying run at third in the bottom of the 9th.

Meltdown complete.

This is simply a brutal loss. I lay it at the feet of the Dodgers for egotistically thinking that they didn’t have to switch up their signs and didn’t have to try to keep the Cardinal hitters off-balance. Kershaw’s insistence to pound the strike zone and giving up hit after hit as a precursor to Carpenter’s heroics was his undoing. Confidence and believe gave way to stupidity and arrogance. How in the world can you give up 4 singles on eight pitches to the heart of the Cardinal order on ALL fastballs ? How does that happen ? That happens when you are so confident, so sure of what you are doing that you don’t adjust to teams that make adjustments on you OR you don’t recognize or WANT to recognize they are stealing your signs. Kershaw and AJ Ellis have been around this game long enough to know that when you are getting hit with the same pitch in the same spot,  you might be 1) tipping your pitches or 2) they are stealing your pitches. If you don’t think this, then you are not a smart player and you are negligent in your duties.

It is hard not to be fatalistic about this Dodgers team. They needed this game, especially in a best-of-five format. The ace in the hole that the Dodgers have always leaned on is the thought that if this thing got to a 5th game you could always bring Kershaw back. Well, that theory is now shot. I love the guy, but he has now proven in two straight playoff appearances that he can’t solve the Cardinals and Matt Carpenter. A big part of the Dodgers swagger was the confidence in knowing they had the big Texan waiting to rescue them. At this point I don’t know whether Kershaw will rescue or sink them. Do we even know where his head is right now ? Can you imagine the inner turmoil in his mind ? He dominates an entire league for six months after getting crushed by the Cardinals last October, only to get crushed by them AGAIN this October. He is the only pitcher in the history of the game to give up 7 earned runs in back-to-back post season starts. That is unfathomable !

This is a team that can score, they have punch, they can run a little bit and they have solid starting pitching. But, their foundation has been cracked by this Cardinal group. To win this series the Dodgers can’t lean on one of the sports’ biggest weapons. He has gotten them this far, but to beat the Cardinals, the Dodgers are going to have to do it without their ace.

He can’t save them. They have to try to save him.