Dodgers get some runs in their stalking of Nationals

By Jon Weisman

Throwing out Matt Kemp at home in the bottom of the fourth inning emboldened the Washington Nationals, who then threw on wings of wax too close to the sun.

The Dodgers broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fifth with some beyond-daring baserunning, then added a two-run Juan Uribe homer in the sixth to give Clayton Kershaw more than enough support for a 4-1 victory Wednesday.

After Kershaw singled to start the inning, he dared to go from first to third on Dee Gordon’s single to center fielder Bryce Harper. Harper’s throw was offline, which led third baseman Asdrubal Cabrera to try to nail Gordon at second base, a fool’s errand if there ever was one.

One out later, with runners then on second and third, Adrian Gonzalez grounded to the hole at short. Ian Desmond bobbled it as Kershaw crossed the plate, then nearly pierced the sky with a wild throw home that freed Gordon to score.

It was weird, wild stuff, man.

Kershaw, who became the only Dodger besides Sandy Koufax to reach the 200-strikeout mark for five consecutive seasons (Koufax did it for six, from 1961-66), once again managed the near-impossible, lowering his already ant-high ERA, from 1.73 to 1.70. He gave up a second-inning single and walks in the first and third innings, before retiring 12 in a row until Bryce Harper hit a two-out homer just before the seventh inning stretch.

The Dodger Insider cover boy allowed one more hit before leaving after eight innings with eight strikeouts, throwing 108 pitches.

Mo’ne Davis lights up Dodger Stadium

By Jon Weisman

We’ve seen a lot of great first pitches at Dodger Stadium, but not sure any of them popped quite like tonight, when Little League World Series sensation Mo’ne Davis took the mound.

The crowd, which began to roar as Davis was being introduced and before she even emerged from the Dodger dugout, then saw what Dodger catcher Drew Butera called the hardest ceremonial first pitch he had caught. I have to say, it was just really cool to experience.

Davis is a featured guest of an upcoming episode of “The Queen Latifah Show” and was joined by the Queen herself tonight.

See Davis show off her first-pitch form and other photos below.

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Joc Pederson’s start in center is not a changing of the guard

LOS ANGELES DODGERS V WASHINGTON NATIONALS

For more Monday photo highlights, visit LA Photog Blog.

Nationals at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, 2B
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, RF
Carl Crawford, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Joc Pederson, CF
A.J. Ellis, C
Clayton Kershaw, P

By Jon Weisman

After placing Joc Pederson in the starting lineup in center field tonight, Dodger manager Don Mattingly made it clear — in case it wasn’t — that slumping Yasiel Puig’s job wasn’t in jeopardy.

“This time of year, I don’t think Yasiel has to prove he can do it,” Mattingly said. “We know he can do it … it’s more what can we do to get him back.”

Puig is in a 2-for-32 struggle with seven walks, and has not homered since July 31 (though he did blast a long out in San Diego that would have been a homer many other places). His only extra-base hit since August 15 was a pop-fly sun double.

Mattingly said that there was a sink-or-swim case to be made for Puig playing through the slump, but in part because this is his first 162-game MLB season, there’s also a thought that breaks from the lineup could help.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS AT LOS ANGELES DODGERS“Yas continues to struggle,” Mattingly said. “We’re hoping to give him a day here and give him a chance to work it out.”

But again, Mattingly tried to stop speculation that the Dodger outfield roles were wide open.

“I do think competition’s healthy, as long as it’s about winning games,” Mattingly said. “I don’t want to turn the apple cart over … I want to keep the harmony here. For tonight, this is the best lineup.”

Mattingly didn’t deny that he was excited to see what Pederson could do and happy to see him get opportunities, but added that those feelings weren’t unique to Pederson.

“With all the young guys, I think you’re always excited,” Mattingly said. “Same as we are about Pedro Baez and Carlos Frias, these guys that come up and throw the ball well.”

And yet, he did note that with Pederson, “you could tell right away he had that little swagger, little confidence.” He added that there was agreement throughout the organization that Pederson was the best defensive center fielder on the team.

* * *

As expected, three players optioned by the Dodgers in the final week of August — Erisbel Arruebarrena, Frias and Miguel Rojas — have rejoined the team now that the minor-league seasons are over in Albuquerque and Rancho Cucamonga. Frias is slated to start Wednesday’s day game/series finale against Washington.

Dodger Insider magazine — September edition

September cover
September magazine features
By Jon Weisman

The subject of three different stories, including a look at his National League Most Valuable Player candidacy, Clayton Kershaw graces the cover of the September issue of Dodger Insider magazine — which also boasts a feature you’ll want to hang onto for some time to come.

“Take a Number” is a 15-page special section offering the history behind every Dodger uniform number from 00 to 99, with all kinds of information historical and trivial.

Who was the greatest player to wear No. 6, Steve Garvey or Carl Furillo? Who wore No. 39 before Roy Campanella — and after? What is the all-time best Dodger team by numbers? All that and more can be found in this detailed feature. (Preview the first two pages by clicking the image at the bottom of this post.)

Overall, there are more than two dozen stories in this edition of Dodger Insider — the biggest of the year — including a feature on how deeply Zack Greinke is a student of the game, the myth and reality behind new defensive stats, inside-the-game and historical stories, photos, games for all ages and much more.

Buy it at Dodger Stadium or by going to dodgers.com/magazine. The digital version of the issue should be available next week.

Take a Number preview

September 2, 1979: Manny Mota sets pinch-hit record

Mota batting

By Mark Langill

Today is the 35th anniversary of Manny Mota’s record-setting 145th career pinch hit, a bloop single against Cubs reliever Lynn McGlothen on September 2, 1979.

It was a Sunday afternoon, and the Dodgers were going nowhere in the standings, languishing in third place after consecutive National League pennants in 1977 and 1978. After his bloop single, which barely eluded the leap of second baseman Steve Macko, Mota hugged first base coach Jim Lefebvre and left the game for a pinch runner. He returned to the dugout and received a hero’s welcome, along with a standing ovation from the crowd.

How did a seemingly obscure record, held for 12 years by a reserve catcher named Forrest “Smokey” Burgess, become so important to Dodger fans?

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Even the best hit bumps in the road

Point of parliamentary procedure
On Monday, the Giants completed their May 22 suspended game against Colorado by winning, 4-2. This would seem to mean that the Dodgers’ trailed by 10 games on June 7-8 this year, meaning that they rallied from an even greater hole than in 2013.

By Jon Weisman

At their peak this season, the Dodgers led the Giants in the National League West by 5 1/2 games, on August 12. Five days later, that lead was down to 2 1/2 games after a three-game sweep by Milwaukee, and for some, the roof was caving in.

Ten days later, the lead was back up to 4 1/2 games.

Now, the Dodgers’ lead in the NL West is down to two games, and again, some look up at the ceiling and find it’s hanging a bit low. Maybe this time they’ll be right; maybe it’ll continue to drop and drop until it collapses all around us.

But there isn’t a team in baseball that doesn’t have a house that needs retrofitting from time to time.

  • Washington – the only team in the NL with a better record than the Dodgers, by the way – was swept by last-place Philadelphia one week ago.
  • Milwaukee, which looked like kings of the league after sweeping the Dodgers, is 3-9 since and on a six-game losing streak.
  • St. Louis has popped into first in the NL Central with a three-game winning streak … that immediately followed a four-game losing streak.
  • Kansas City, the underdog delight when it caught and passed Detroit in the AL Central, has lost six of its last nine and all of its three-game lead.
  • Those Tigers are now tied for first place, but only after weathering a 10-17 run.
  • The Angels became the best team in baseball with a 15-4 run … right after losing three straight to the Dodgers and then two of three to the struggling Red Sox.
  • Remember how awful it was that the Dodgers lost two of three to the Cubs? Two weekends ago, maybe the most underrated team in the big leagues, Baltimore, lost three straight to the Cubs.

And then, of course, are the San Francisco Giants, who the national media handed the NL West title to before summer had started. On June 8, they were 42-21. Then on August 25, 27 wins and 41 losses later, they were 69-62.

They win eight straight games, still trail the Dodgers, and now they’re invincible? I’m not quite convinced.

Look, I know that rushing to judgment is irresistible. You see it all the time – people will give up on a game after a bad two innings, so why wouldn’t they give up on a season after a bad couple of losses? The Dodgers trailed the Diamondbacks by 9 1/2 games last year and rallied – that didn’t stop any number of folks from deciding this season was over two months ago. The Dodgers trailed the Nationals in the seventh on Monday, 6-2, then were one Joc Pederson foul ball away from a magical comeback.

I’ve never really known what you gain from the absolute pessimism – it’s one thing to lower expectations, another to eliminate them entirely. But clearly, it’s a thing.

All I can say is this: Baseball is an inherently streaky game, so much so that the 2014 Dodgers’ lack thereof (one winning streak longer than three games, no losing streaks longer) stands out as a true oddity. Los Angeles is 7-8 in its past 15 games, which as lowpoints go, is pretty good.

Over the past week, no doubt, the Giants have been better than the Dodgers. Over the coming weeks, who knows? Enjoy the pennant race.

Pederson, Guerrero among initial roster expandees

Nationals at Dodgers, 5:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, 2B
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, RF
Scott Van Slyke, LF
Yasiel Puig, CF
Juan Uribe, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Roberto Hernandez, P

By Jon Weisman

Joc is in the house.

In addition to Alex Guerrero, Tim Federowicz and Yimi Garcia, highly touted prospect Joc Pederson, fresh off his mega-season at Triple A, has joined the Dodgers on the first day of expanded rosters.

Pederson and Garcia, who had a 3.10 ERA with 69 strikeouts against 81 baserunners in 61 innings, will be making their Major League debuts if and when they enter a game.

Guerrero played in both Australia games for the Dodgers, striking out in his only at-bat. He ended his first Triple-A season with a .364 on-base percentage, .613 slugging percentage and 15 home runs.

Federowicz, 8 for 61 with three doubles, three walks and a homer as a Dodger earlier this season, OPSed .938 for Albuquerque.

The Dodgers also activated reliever Chris Perez from the disabled list.

Update: The Dodgers designated Carlos Triunfel for assignment to make room for Pederson on the 40-man roster.

Ryuribe lives!

DETROIT TIGERS VS LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Dodgers at Padres, 1:10 p.m.
Yasiel Puig, CF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, RF
Scott Van Slyke, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Darwin Barney, 2B
Hyun-Jin Ryu, P

By Jon Weisman

Dodger pals Hyun-Jin Ryu and Juan Uribe do so many other things together, they might as well come off the disabled list together.

Ryu (out since August 13) and Uribe (out since August 15) are in the starting lineup for the Dodgers today, with Carlos Frias and Miguel Rojas taking the smallest of detours to the roster of Triple-A Albuquerque. Frias and Rojas can rejoin the Dodgers after the Isotopes’ play their final game of 2014 on Monday.

Other reinforcements from the minors can come as soon as Monday, when rosters expand to up to 40 players.

Before leaving his August 13 start with two outs in the sixth inning, Ryu had made five consecutive quality starts (averaging 6.5 innings with an ERA of 1.91), nine quality starts in his past 10 and 14 out of 16 since his previous DL stint ended May 21. He has a 3.28 ERA and 8.0 strikeouts per nine innings this season.

Uribe is batting .293 this year, albeit with only 12 walks, and is the National League’s top-ranked defensive third baseman, according to Fangraphs.

Defense, defense


Though it was ultimately in vain, the Dodger defense put on a show Saturday. Take a look.

– Jon Weisman



Walls of death

LOS ANGELES DODGERS AT SAN DIEGO PADRES

For more photos from Saturday, visit LA Photog Blog.

By Jon Weisman

Throughout their history, like any other team, the Dodgers have hit the wall offensively from time to time, far worse than their three runs in 22 innings this weekend in San Diego, including Saturday’s 2-1, 10-inning loss.

Only two years ago, there were three consecutive shutouts by the Giants. And before that, these droughts from 2007 and 2003. And so on back through time. It’s almost impossible for anything to surpass the 33 consecutive scoreless innings that finished the 1966 World Series, a year before I was born.

In my own lifetime, the pinnacle of offensive debacles was the first two games of the 1981 National League Division Series, which left me with as hopeless a feeling as I’ve ever had: 20 innings, one run, two walkoff losses.

Dodgers	000 000	100-1
Astros	000 001	002-3

 

Dodgers	000 000	000 00-0
Astros	000 000 000 01-1

 
That was tough stuff. But the Dodgers came home and outscored Houston, 12-2, in the final three games of the NLDS and were on their way to the next round.

The 1988 Dodgers practically hung their legacy on being offensively challenged, a branding that’s only partially deserved (they were slightly below average in offense but seaworthy, before the injuries to Kirk Gibson and others nearly through them overboard). Better offensive teams than the ’88 Dodgers have come up short, but there’s no way to know in advance. Repeat: there’s no way. In the end, the team is either going to score when it counts or it won’t.

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