Tag Archives: Los Angeles Dodgers

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.

Dodger Nation in full panic mode……

Rarely am I the great outlier when it comes to analyzing my beloved Dodgers, but over the last week there aren’t many voices of calm, except for my own.

After winning 91 of 127 games and going an insane 53-9 over a 10-week stretch the Dodgers have hit the pavement like a hell-bent anvil.

It’s not just the losses, its how they are losing. Ugly.

The usual criticisms are being rained down upon the Boys in Blue.

  1. Not enough depth in the starting rotation
  2. Bullpen shortfalls
  3. No reliable lefty in the pen

I can’t argue any of these points. All of these facets have been downright dreadful, but there are a few elements you need to evaluate before you jump off the ship without a life preserver.

First, the Dodgers slide coincided with the Cody Bellinger going on the shelf for a bum ankle. Second, as Bellinger came back Corey Seager went on the shelf with a problematic shoulder and elbow. These two were two of the pulsing pistons driving the Dodgers in June and July. They are banged up and the team is in a scuffle, not a surprise.

Justin Turner has also cooled off considerably. Like the Dodgers playing at an .800 clip it was unrealistic to expect “Red Turn” to hit .360 all year. These three are the teeth of the Dodgers offense, with a disruption in this triumvirate there was going to be some slippage.

And how about this for analysis ? They were due for a slide.  I know the reasoning is medieval and isn’t sexy but it’s fact. Over a 162-game schedule a team will always revert to their mean. You are what you are over 162 games. Right now the Dodgers are talented, spirited team that has put themselves in a great position, that is it. Nothing more, nothing less.

I will say that there is some concern with the complete meltdown on the mound. The starting pitching needs to be better, the bullpen needs to be better. They know this, it’s not a surprise. But, I think this team is closer to the team that blistered baseball for 127 games instead of the duds we’ve seen over the last ten games.

Last point, this thing does need to get turned around in the next few weeks. The 2006 St. Louis Cardinals won a World Series losing 8 of their final 9 games and limping into the post-season. They were exception and not the rule. You can’t expect to play like a trash bin and think you can flip the switch on September 27th.

For now, I sit back and let my Dodger brethren fret. I will take a deep breath, knowing that baseball is a fickle mistress, and watch as the Boys in Blue eventually find their footing.

I hope.

 

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

Hill shines and Dodgers keep applying pressure

I have covered a top-flight baseball program for the past 20 years. The Chico State Wildcats have won two D-II national titles and 9 regional championships. The axiom which is instilled when you don the Cardinal and White is…..

“IF YOU AREN’T APPLYING PRESSURE THAN YOU ARE FEELING PRESSURE.”

Right now the Los Angeles Dodgers are applying all kinds of pressure to the heavily favored Chicago Cubs. Pressure in execution. Pressure in style of play and pressure in aggressiveness.

The Dodgers are playing free and easy. They are playing the game the way child plays baseball. Playing a game, having fun and enjoying this whole October experience. As a fan who follows this team much closer than I actually should, I can see it. This is not the same group that participated in the playoffs in 2013-2015. Watching those teams in October was a chore. We constantly waited for the other shoe to drop. The Dodgers were favored, but I never felt they were playing a game. The game looked forced to those teams.

This group is different. They are playing as if they know they aren’t better than the Cubs. They are just coming after the 103-win Cubbies as if to say, “you may beat us, but you are going to have to fight us for it.” It’s a joy watching this team grind it out. I have spent so many October’s watching the San Francisco Giants play this way. Free and easy, no pressure, just play.

After the Dodgers tossed their second straight shut-out against the Cubs it’s as if Chicago is carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. I really thought that they had gotten past their tortured past. The Cubs look tight. This game is hard enough to play when your mind is clear. To play it and succeed when your mind is racing and you are hauling around the hopes of a city…..it’s almost impossible. The Dodgers are applying pressure, the Cubs are certainly feeling it.

If anyone can turn this thing around for Chicago it’s Joe Maddon. I also think the Cubs will be well served in not facing Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill or Kenley Jansen. The Dodgers will now send their young 20 year-old phenom Julio Urias to the hill to try and grab the series by the throat. Tomorrow’s result could determine whether the Dodgers go with Kershaw on three days rest or save him for regular rest and pitch him in Game 6 in Chicago. With a win tomorrow, I think the Dodgers save Kershaw. A loss and my gut tells me Dave Roberts brings him back on three days to pitch Game 5.

I have too much respect for the Cubs to start searching StubHub for World Series tickets. The Cubs won 103 games for a reason. They are good. They are tested and they are hungry. The Dodgers just have keep doing what they are doing. But, look out if the Cubs can get out of their own way. Game 4 could very well determine who wins the National League pennant……enjoy Dodger Fam

Bleeding Dodger Blue !!!

Kershaw and Jansen dazzle as Dodgers even NLCS

For the fourth time this post-season Clayton Kershaw appeared in a game and for the fourth time the Dodgers won.

The good news for Chicago is Kershaw will not appear in Games 3 & 4.  Behind the brilliance of Kershaw and closer Kenley Jansen the Dodgers evened the National League Championship Series at a game apiece.

Kershaw was fantastic. Primarily utilizing his fastball and slider he located perfectly, keeping Cubs hitters off-balance. Kershaw threw only 9 curveballs and will be able to lean on that pitch when he appears later in the series. Jansen came in to put the game away in the 8th and 9th innings striking out 4 of the 6 hitters he faced.

The only offense was provided by Adrian Gonzalez who took ERA leader Kyle Hendricks deep to left-center in the 2nd inning. Gonzalez was thinking opposite field against the change-up specialist and it paid dividends, hitting one into the basket just above the .368 marker at Wrigley.

The Cubs will certainly have the pitching advantage in Game 3 of the series as the scene shifts to Dodger Stadium for Games 3, 4 and 5. Reigning Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta gets the ball for the Cubs while the Dodgers counter with Rich Hill.

The biggest concern for the south-siders in the inexplicable slumps from Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell. The two have combined to go 2-for-42 in the post-season with Rizzo sitting on a 1-for-23. The Dodgers know it only takes a blooper, a bleeder, or a Texas-leaguer to get these guys going. Both the Giants and Dodgers pitching staffs are making perfect pitches on Rizzo, and to win the series and keep him in check, they will have to continue to hit their spots and get count leverage.

A big question mark for Joe Maddon is what to do with Jason Heyward. He scuffled all year and is now struggling in the post-season. Jorge Soler or Albert Almora might be a better option if Heyward continues to struggle.

The Dodgers felt real good even after their Game 1 loss to the Cubs. The Dodgers are taking some real good at-bats (aside from Yasiel Puig’s two-out bunt try on Sunday night) There is a grind-ability to the Dodgers offensive game right now that is fun to watch.

Been saying it all year, this team may not be as talented as the team’s from 2013-2015 but there is no doubt this Dodgers squad is tougher.

Game 3 is Tuesday at 5pm from Dodger Stadium

As Always Bleeding Dodger Blue !

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.