This time, again

Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 5.29.14 PMBy Jon Weisman

When I posted my picks for the top 10 Dodger home runs of 2013, it was noted to me that Arizona’s Josh Collmenter gave up three of the 10 – which was surprising simply from a “What are the odds?” standpoint, as well as the fact that Collmenter allowed only eight in 92 innings last season. (more…)

April 20 pregame: Playing the elements

LOS ANGELES DODGERS V ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Diamondbacks at Dodgers, 1:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, 2B
Carl Crawford, LF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Yasiel Puig, RF
Andre Ethier, CF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Tim Federowicz, C
Josh Beckett, P

By Jon Weisman

In 18 games so far this season, Dodger starting pitching has held opponents to one run or less 14 times (while going at least five innings). Which is pretty cool.

Los Angeles is 10-4 in those games. The four losses were:

  • March 30, when an ailing Brian Wilson allowed three eighth-inning runs after Hyun-Jin Ryu had pitched seven shutout innings in San Diego.
  • April 15, when Josh Beckett through five shutout innings and the Dodgers led, 2-1, in the ninth inning before San Francisco tied the game off Kenley Jansen and then outlasted the Dodgers in 12.
  • April 16, when Paul Maholm allowed one run in six innings but San Francisco scratched a game-winning run off J.P. Howell in the seventh.
  • April 18, when Zack Greinke allowed one run in six innings and the Dodgers twice rallied from one-run deficits, only to lose in 12 innings.

Each of these games is a what-might-have been-a-win, but note that the bullpen never a lead of more than one run to protect – and twice had no lead at all. Those are slim margins, indeed. Some, if not all, of those bullpen losses are really losses you could pin on the offense – not that the offense wasn’t challenged by playing at San Francisco.

Baseball today in a sense boils down to four elements: starting pitching, relief pitching, offense and fielding. (You could say two elements if you combined everything but offense into defense, but work with me.) If you have at least three of those elements working for you in a game, your chances of winning will be excellent. The Dodgers are a pretty good bet almost every day out.

Ryu to sign autographs to raise money for South Korean ferry victims

By Jon Weisman

Dodger pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu will sign autographs for fans Sunday from 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. at Viva Los Dodgers in Lot 6 for monetary donations that will benefit the survivors and families of those who lost their lives aboard the South Korean ferry Sewol, which capsized on April 16.

Ryu will also select a fan at Viva Los Dodgers to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Sunday’s game.

Ryu will sign autographs for donations in the Dodgers’ autograph tent located to the right of the stage. On Friday, Ryu pledged a $100,000 donation via his HJ 99 foundation to a charity to help those affected by the Sewol ferry disaster.

Viva Los Dodgers, which begins at 10:30 a.m., is free with a ticket to Sunday’s game against Arizona.

April 19 pregame: Extra innings, extra impact

Diamondbacks at Dodgers, 5:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, 2B
Carl Crawford, LF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Drew Butera, C
Dan Haren, P

By Jon Weisman

Though the Dodgers haven’t exactly been giving up runs by the bushel — only 10 in the past four days — thanks to two 12-inning games, the bullpen has been fairly taxed.

Even after Hyun-Jin Ryu threw seven innings on Thursday, Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen combined to throw 58 pitches, a total that effectively kept the pair out of Friday’s 4-2, 12-inning loss to Arizona.

Thankfully for the Dodgers, Wednesday’s game was relatively light.

Here are the day-by-day totals:

Tuesday: 6 2/3 innings, 121 pitches
Wednesday: two innings, 31 pitches
Thursday: two innings, 58 pitches
Friday: six innings, 84 pitches

Wilson, Jansen and J.P. Howell would probably be the prime relievers as needed in support of Dan Haren tonight, when Los Angeles tries to bounce back from Friday’s disappointment, a game in which they rallied twice to tie (on home runs by Scott Van Slyke and Juan Uribe) only to lose.

Reminiscing with Steve Sax

sax_1988_lcs

By Cary Osborne

We spoke with Steve Sax, a two-time World Series champion and eight season Dodger second baseman (1981-1988), for help on a piece for the June Dodger Insider Magazine this week. It appears that he’s a busy man. Coming off a season in which he was the Arizona Diamondbacks’ first base coach, Sax is now working for MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM and Major League Baseball Advanced Media. He also has his own motivational-speaking business called “Steve Sax Speaks” and he is also a personal coach and mentor.

He lives in Roseville, a suburb of Sacramento — where he grew up. It was also in this area where the Dodgers found Sax in 1978. That year was a unique year for the Sax family because of unique moves by the Dodgers. The Dodgers drafted Sax in the ninth round of the 1978 First-Year Player Draft, and they signed his brother Dave not too long after the draft.

“We couldn’t figure out why my brother wasn’t drafted,” Steve recalls. “He was setting records up and down the state in junior college, and he certainly had all the tools to be a Major Leaguer. He was more highly touted than I was. We couldn’t believe he wasn’t drafted. When the scout came, my mom asked why he wasn’t drafted.”

The scout’s name was Ron King, who also scouted Dodgers R.J. Reynolds and Rudy Law and later Jason Kendall for the Pirates. Steve recalls King inviting his brother, who is a year older than him, to a tryout two days after his mother’s question. He signed Dave the day of the tryout.

The Sax brothers played together in the minor leagues from 1978 to 1981. Steve said having a brother side by side with him gave him comfort and might have accelerated his development to become a Major Leaguer.

“To have an element of your family was a big step forward for me,” Steve says. “It gave me a lot of help culturally. It was great for me to have somebody from my family there. My brother would always tell me the truth of what was going on in baseball, so I knew that I could ask my brother for advice and get true advice. Sometimes he told me things I didn’t want to hear, but at least I knew it was true.”

Steve was in the Majors to stay when he debuted August 18, 1981. Without Dave, Steve had new guys to take him under their wings. Steve cites Steve Garvey and Dusty Baker who were particularly instrumental at the beginning of his Major League career.

Dave, a catcher, finally made it to the big leagues when he made his Major League debut September 1, 1982 — the season Steve was named National League Rookie of the Year and an All-Star. Dave played nine games in 1982 and 1983 with the Dodgers, eventually signing with Boston and playing parts of three seasons there.

He is now a dairy distributor and is still close to his little brother. The Sax brothers now live across the street from each other.

 

April 18 pregame: Van Slyke feasting on lefties early on

LOS ANGELES DODGERS AT ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Diamondbacks at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Yasiel Puig, RF
Justin Turner, 2B
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, CF
Scott Van Slyke, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Tim Federowicz, C
Zack Greinke, P

Photo: Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Cary Osborne

Don Mattingly insisted this isn’t the lineup we’ll see every time against left-handed pitching, but Scott Van Slyke is making an early argument to be a factor in a game whenever there is a southpaw on the mound.

Van Slyke is in the lineup batting sixth today and will be starting for the third time this season against Arizona lefty Wade Miley.

“He’s been good. Scotty gives you an at-bat. He’s a guy in the middle of the order that he’s always been an RBI guy, and he knows what he’s doing,” Mattingly said. “He’s had some hits off Miley, but the at-bats off Madison Bumgarner, another tough lefty, he shoots the ball in the corner yesterday and walks. Every at-bat seems like it’s 3-2. He really gives you a quality at-bat that gives you a different look and really lengthens our order out.”

Tonight will be Van Slyke’s fifth start of the season, and they’ve all been against left-handers (three against Miley, two against Bumgarner). Thus far he is 5-for-8 against lefties with a slash line of .625/.727/1.375 and a home run on Opening Day in Australia off Miley.

“I guess I just see the ball well off him,” Van Slyke said modestly.

Against righties, he’s 0-for-8 this year. In his career, he’s got a line of .245/.336/.490 against lefties and .208/.296/.396 against righties.

* * *

In the wake of the SEWOL ferry disaster in his homeland of South Korea, Hyun-Jin Ryu has pledged a $100,000 donation via his foundation to a charity to help those affected.

 

Magic holds court at Dodger Stadium

Magic

By Cary Osborne

Dodger position players made their way to the field at around 4 p.m. today. But one by one until it became a group of five, they stopped.

Dodger owner Magic Johnson stood near third base, and they couldn’t help but pick his brain.

First it was Carl Crawford asking about Isiah Thomas and the Detroit Pistons Bad Boys.

Dee Gordon and Chone Figgins then chimed in.

Matt Kemp made his way into the group.

Finally Adrian Gonzalez joined in.

Like little kids, they all imitated basketball players — Kemp shooting an imaginary ball. Figgins trying to block it. Gonzalez pulling Gordon aside and saying there’s only one thing he knows in basketball — defense.

“I get six fouls and I’m going to use all of them,” Gonzalez said.

Just some of the cool moments at Dodger Stadium beyond the game.

April 18, 1958: The start of something big

DSCN5970By Mark Langill

“You only get one chance to make a good first impression.”

Although the Dodgers finished in seventh place during their inaugural season on the West Coast in 1958, former vice president Buzzie Bavasi always looked at the April 18 opener at the Los Angeles Coliseum with fondness. A Friday that began with morning ceremonies at City Hall, followed by a parade through downtown and ending at the ballpark, culminated with a thrilling 6-5 victory over the San Francisco Giants in front of more than 78,000 fans.

Manager Walter Alston tabbed veteran Carl Erskine, the author of two career no-hitters in Brooklyn, to pitch in front of the large crowd. Erskine was excited to play on Opening Day, but he quickly realized he wasn’t the only one. Early in first inning, he told batterymate John Roseboro, “the catcher isn’t supposed to throw the ball harder than the pitcher.” Roseboro didn’t realize the velocity on his return throws to the pitcher’s mound. Around the fourth inning, Erskine glanced toward the L.A. dugout and was amused at the sight of his teammates looking into the crowd, looking for movie stars.

Rookie third baseman Dick Gray hit the first Dodger home run, a solo shot off Johnny Antonelli in the seventh inning. The Dodgers held a 6-4 lead entering the ninth inning when Gray saved the day. He noticed Jim Davenport missed third base while attempting to score on Willie Kirkland’s triple. Davenport was called out on appeal.

Dodgers announce ‘Kids 4 Dodgers Baseball’

Kids BlhO96aCIAADrxTBy Cary Osborne

The Dodgers have announced the launch of a new community program that will give an opportunity to children and families, who due to economic hardship might not have the resources to attend a Dodger game, to not only attend a Dodger game but provide them transportation, a ticket, a T-shirt and food and beverage.

The “Kids 4 Dodgers Baseball” program will play host to 250 youngsters at each of 51 Dodgers games throughout the season, courtesy of the Dodgers. A total of 12,750 Los Angeles area inner-city youth will board a customized Dodger bus to Dodger Stadium and will each receive a ticket to a Dodger game, voucher for a Dodger Dog and beverage and a Kids 4 Dodgers Baseball T-shirt.

“It is our pleasure to launch Kids 4 Dodgers Baseball and host children at our games who otherwise may not get the opportunity to experience ‘Blue Heaven on Earth,’” said Dodger owner Earvin “Magic” Johnson. “Our success on the field is just as important as how successful we are off the field in the L.A. community. I believe Kids 4 Dodgers baseball is a very special addition to the Dodgers’ community outreach programs.”

Each Kids 4 Dodgers Baseball group is pre-selected and chosen through an application process. Groups interested in being considered for the Kids 4 Dodgers Baseball program can contact the Dodgers’ community relations department by calling (323) 224-1435 or can apply online.

Yasiel Puig goes Yasiel Puig

By Jon Weisman

At this point, you could argue that Yasiel Puig is single-handedly funding the Internet, with all the clicks he is generating.

With two consecutive plays in the third inning of today’s Dodger game at San Francisco, Puig once again left the baseball world agog.

First, there was this not-by-design, 9-3 forceout.

Then, this whirling dervish of a catch in windy deep right.

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