Tag Archives: NLCS

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

Bit O Baca Oct 21st SNIPPET: The Cubs can come back from 0-3…..

 

In today’s Bit O Baca SNIPPET we highlight how the Chicago Cubs can come back and win the NLCS and why the energy and flow of this game may be ready to give Cubs fans one of the greatest stories in the history of baseball…..

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………