By Cary Osborne
For a Dodger team with a mantra that has been “Win the day,” the Dodgers have a couple of tomorrows left in them.
And by tomorrow, the news of Game 4 of the National League Championship Series will all be what the British would call “fish-and-chip paper.”
We know the scenario for the Dodgers to win this series now, and even after a deflating 10-2 loss that saw the Dodgers both unlucky and underwhelming, that scenario is still ideal.
The Dodgers are tied at 2-2 with the Cubs in the NLCS and will have Kenta Maeda going in Game 5 in the National League Division Series — at home — with the opportunity to send the National League West champions to Chicago with a 3-2 lead in the series and Clayton Kershaw on the mound in Game 6.
“It happens and obviously it’s more magnified in the postseason, but we haven’t had a game like that in a long time,” said Dave Roberts. “It wasn’t to be. So I think for us it’s one of those things you have to brush off and get ready to go tomorrow.”
What bearing will four errors, a replay that didn’t go the Dodgers’ way in the first inning and a short outing by Julio Urías have on the Dodgers later in this series?
The Dodgers got lengthy outings — by the 2016 Dodgers standards — from Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill in Games 2 and 3, so if anything the Dodger bullpen needed the work it got on Wednesday. The five relievers the Dodgers used Wednesday didn’t appear in Tuesday’s game.
If there’s any concern, maybe it’s that some hibernating Cubs hitters woke up. Anthony Rizzo, who was 2 for 26 this postseason coming into Game 4, went 3 for 5 with a solo home run that put the Cubs up 5-0 in the fifth. Addison Russell was 1 for 24 before his 3 for 5 day. He hit a two-run homer off Urías in the Cubs’ four-run fourth.
Urías, who became the youngest pitcher to make a start in postseason history at 20 years, 68 days old, was impressive in innings one through three. He retired the side in order in the first inning, got out of a second-inning jam and worked a mostly clean third.
But the fourth was his undoing. Ben Zobrist led off with a bunt single and then Urías surrendered back-to-back soft singles — the second gave Andrew Toles a chance to get Zobrist at the plate, but he threw it wide left and to the backstop. After an RBI groundout by Jason Heyward, Russell homered and ended Urías’ day.
The Dodgers’ best opportunity to jump back in the game was the bottom of the fifth after Cubs starter John Lackey departed following back-to-back walks to Toles and pinch-hitter Andre Ethier. After a Howie Kendrick single and Corey Seager strikeout, Justin Turner knocked them both in with a one-out, two-run single off reliever Mike Montgomery’s glove. Montgomery got groundouts by Adrián González and Kiké Hernandez to end the inning, though, stranding a pair of Dodger runners.
Two Dodger errors helped contribute to the Cubs’ five-run sixth.
You can also look back and shake your head on the second inning when Toles singled and González was thrown out at the plate — a play that was upheld by replay, but could have gone either way.
It was a forgettable game, one you can be sure the Dodgers have cleared out of their memory already.
And here’s another positive to look forward to. After Kenley Jansen threw 21 pitches on Tuesday, the blowout kept him out of Wednesday’ game.
Three of the most important numbers in the National League Championship Series have been three, four and five. Those numbers represent the three spots in the Chicago order that Dodger pitchers have dominated.
Chicago’s 3-4-5 hitters are 2 for 32 in this series.
In Game 1, Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell went 1 for 12 at the plate with a walk.
That same trio went 0 for 9 with a walk in Game 2.
The Cubs changed things up in Game 3 and went Zobrist, Rizzo and the hot Javier Baez and still managed to only go 1 for 11 with a walk.
The lone hits were a Zobrist double in the five-run Cubs eighth inning in Game 1 and a broken-bat infield single from Rizzo in the ninth inning in Game 3.
By Jon Weisman
Julio Urías has pitched 79 innings in the big leagues this year, including the postseason. He has allowed 119 baserunners, many of whom stood on first base with an opportunity to steal second. He picked off seven of those batters.
During those innings, 16 different umpires have worked behind home plate, with several more of their colleagues working the bases.
Not one of those umpires has called Urías for a balk.
That’s really the only point I care to make here. I’m not here to argue whether Urías’ pickoff move, which is rapidly gaining notoriety (or depending on your point of view, infamy) is a balk or not. Personally, I think the balk rule, with its 3,981 different qualifiers, is so arcane as to be a joke. The infield-fly rule, by comparison, could hardly be more clear: runners on first and second, fewer than two out, pop fly, fair territory, umpire calls the batter out automatically.
Ever since Urías showed his pickoff move on the big stage in the National League Division Series — even earning nicknames such as “The Drifter” from Fox Sport 1’s announcers — there have been widespread critiques.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon, whether speaking sincerely from the heart, working the refs or both, laid it out Tuesday afternoon.
“When you get to see it on TV, it’s pretty obvious,” Maddon said. “It’s not even close. It’s a very basic tenet regarding what is and what is not a balk. Give him credit, man, for going through with it. That’s part of the game. I think from umpire’s perspective, there are certain umpires that are in tune to that, some that are not. There are other balks that I always get annoyed with that aren’t called. So I’m certain that the umpiring crew has been made aware of it. … That’s not an interpretation. That’s balking 101 for me. So we’ll see. We’ll see how it all plays out.”
Except Maddon is wrong in one fundamental way. It’s not obvious. It is close.
So far, a couple dozen or more Major League umpires over the past five months have had a look at every move Urías makes. Conservatively speaking, Urías has thrown to first base at least 100 times. And the umps, all of whom seem to have different strike zones, different umpiring styles, different relationships with players and managers, have been unanimous. Urías hasn’t balked.
By Erin Edwards
What an exciting October for Dodger fans. While our boys in blue battle for a title, the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation will continue a number of fundraisers during the postseason, giving fans an opportunity to support programs that benefit undeserved children and families in Los Angeles.
It just wasn’t a good at-bat.
Swinging strike on a Jake Arrieta curveball. Another flailing effort on another curveball. Short salvation came in the form of a high fastball. But then Arrieta hit the inside corner with a called strike three to end the second inning.
Yasmani Grandal turned and did the one thing a catcher shouldn’t do. He argued the call with home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom.
It was the equivalent of spilling some coffee on your shirt and having a disagreement with your boss — all before 10 a.m.
Ah, but there were innings left and hours left in the work day. And if we’ve come to know anything about Grandal, it’s that one stain need not ruin his day.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Arrieta got ahead 0 and 2 on Grandal, but the Dodger catcher worked the count to 3-2, also fouling off a couple of Arrieta’s offerings. And on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Grandal dug a fastball from below the strike zone and drove it out 398 feet to left center field for a two-run homer — the biggest hit in the Dodgers’ 6-0 win over the Cubs on Tuesday night in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. (more…)
By Jon Weisman
On the verge of an early exit, Rich Hill turned his night around.
After 23 pitches in the second inning, Hill had only one out. A six-pitch popout by Javy Baez was sandwiched by a nine-pitch walk to Anthony Rizzo and an eight-pitch free pass to Jorge Soler. Game 3 of the National League Championship Series was teetering.
By Jon Weisman
Pitchers paint on the edge of a cliff. They are artists, tending to a tiny canvas that hovers in mid-air, and they are adventurers who might fall at any moment.
Rich Hill took a minor masterpiece into the sixth inning tonight at Dodger Stadium. After walking two of three batters with some tremulous brush work to start the top of the second, Hill was in his element. Twelve of the next 13 batters he faced became dots on his Seuratian landscape.
In the top of the sixth, the ground beneath Hill’s easel began to quiver. With one out, Kris Bryant singled to left center, for the second hit off the Dodger left-hander. With two out, Anthony Rizzo took the first four pitches, and three fell outside the borders of the strike zone. On deck was Javy Baez, whose electric play helped the Cubs win Game 1 of the National League Championship Series and nearly Game 2 as well.
Hill raised his arm and lofted the next pitch, a 74 mile-per-hour curveball that sidled through the California air with the arc of a rainbow, landing into the glove of Yasmani Grandal for strike two.
Then, at 87 mph, Hill dropped down with a master’s flourish.
Hill pumped his fist, shouted to the heavens and handed his work to the gallery, for 54,269 art-lovers at Dodger Stadium to marvel.
The 36-year-old’s six innings of two-hit shutout ball, his finest performance since he threw seven perfect innings at Miami on September 10, were framed by Grandal, the catcher who also hit a two-run home run off Jake Arrieta in the Dodgers’ 6-0 victory.
Taking a 2-1 lead in the NLCS, the Dodgers are as close to the World Series as they have been in 28 years.
Hill struck out six, giving him 19 in 13 postseason innings (13.2 strikeouts per nine innings) with a 3.46 ERA. With Joe Blanton, Grant Dayton and Kenley Jansen finishing the game, the Dodgers have thrown consecutive postseason shutouts for the first time in franchise history.
By Jon Weisman
“Go as hard as you can for as long as you can, and we’ll figure out the rest.”
That’s the mantra Dave Roberts has sent to his starting pitchers. Sure, seven, eight innings would be nice, but that’s no longer the barometer. For that matter, the homespun charm of a quality start started sounding all too quaint around the fourth of July.
“There’s not been really one formula for us to win the baseball games that we’ve won,” Roberts said today, before Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. “So this postseason, it’s more for me just kind of sending the message to the starters to go out there and leave it all out there.”
Rich Hill, who in the regular season with the Dodgers never went fewer than five innings and had seven perfect frames September 10 at Miami, epitomizes this approach. In this postseason, he has struck out 13 batters in seven innings over two starts, including six in 2 2/3 innings on three day’s rest in the final game of the National League Division Series against Washington.
By Jon Weisman
So here we are, back in Los Angeles for a guaranteed three games in a row in the meaty midsection of the National League Championship Series.
Barring extra innings, the Dodgers have 27 innings to cover, with 11 pitchers to spread them around. (The 12th, presumably, would be held back for a potential Game 6 start, whether that’s Clayton Kershaw or — if Kershaw is moved up to Game 5 on three days’ rest — Kenta Maeda.)
Among the pitchers that puts into play is Alex Wood, the left-hander who has thrown four big-league innings since May, when he went on the 15-day disabled list with left posterior elbow soreness that led to (relatively) minor elbow surgery.
Wood retired 11 of the 13 batters he faced in the final two weeks of the regular season, allowing only a single and a walk while striking out four with one double play. But he was left off the Dodgers’ National League Division Series roster, meaning that he has gone another 16 days since appearing in a game.
So, a little antsy … ?
“Yeah, you could say that,” Wood said with a laugh before Monday’s off-day workout. “It’s been fun to watch those guys, but at the same time I’m just kind of champing at the bit, waiting for my opportunity to get in there and get my feet wet again. I feel great, and I’ve been trying to stay as sharp as possible.”