By Jon Weisman
In late July, we talked about how difficult the San Francisco Giants’ schedule would be from August 6-September 2, when they faced 26 consecutive games against winning teams. Aside from a four-game sweep of the Nationals, it didn’t go great.
- August 6-9: at Chicago (0-4)
- August 11-12: vs. Houston (1-1)
- August 13-16: vs. Washington (4-0)
- August 17-19: at St. Louis (1-2)
- August 20-23: at Pittsburgh (1-3)
- August 25-27: vs. Chicago (2-1)
- August 28-30: vs. St. Louis (1-2)
- August 31-September 2: at Los Angeles (0-3)
A three-game sweep of the Dodgers would made the defending World Series champion Giants triumphant — muddied but unbowed tug-o’-war survivors at the state fair. It would have meant a 13-13 run through the gauntlet, cutting the Dodgers’ National League West lead to 1/2 game.
Instead, San Francisco was dragged to a 10-16 crumble through the 26 games, sliding 6 1/2 games behind Los Angeles.
But today’s a new day, September practically a new month, and the Giants do have much easier possibilities for feats of strength in their remaining 29 games — 25 of which are against sub-.500 teams.
Let’s look at the final 32 days of the regular season. (more…)
By Cary Osborne
We start this week’s Minor League Report with some lower-level position players who have been absolutely ripping it up.
Rookie League Ogden outfielder/catcher Gage Green, a 35th rounder in this year’s MLB Draft, is riding a 15-game hitting streak. In that span, he is 29 for 65 with three home runs and a slash line of .446/.500/.692. Green hit five home runs and batted .291 in 58 games for Oklahoma State this season.
We’ve mentioned second baseman Willie Calhoun often since he was taken in the fourth round of this year’s draft, and there’s no reason to stop. He’s 10 for his last 23 with High-A Rancho Cucamonga. Included in that was a 4-for-5 performance Saturday. Calhoun has been promoted twice since being drafted and excelled at Ogden (.278/.371/.517, seven home runs in 38 games), Low-A Great Lakes (.393/.439/.492, one home run in 15 games) and now Rancho (.380/.439/.660, three home runs in 14 games).
Finally, 2014 second-rounder Alex Verdugo hit for the cycle on August 26 for Rancho. Since his promotion on August 14 from Great Lakes, he’s hitting .309/.333/.529 in 17 games with the Quakes.
Now, onto other news and notes …
By Jon Weisman
With one out remaining, the Dodger Stadium crowd stood at a full-throated roar of joy and awe.
And then held its breath, as Clayton Kershaw battled almost as never before.
Twice a strike away from a complete game, Kershaw allowed singles to Matt Duffy and Buster Posey. With the pitch count at 127, Don Mattingly came to the mound. About 15 seconds later, Mattingly went back to the dugout, alone.
Marlon Byrd stood in, and after two more pitches, Kershaw was again one strike away.
Then ball one. Then ball two.
Then, on his 132nd pitch of the game, tying his career high, a swing and a miss at an 89 mph slider. A glorious swing and miss.
Kershaw struck out 15 in carrying the Dodgers’ to a 2-1 victory over San Francisco tonight, setting a career high for a season at 251 (breaking his old mark of 248), and giving Los Angeles the highest total of strikeouts for a year for a Dodger pitcher since Sandy Koufax struck out 317 in 1966.
The 15 whiffs also tied a career high for a single game, originally set at his June 18, 2014 no-hitter.
This all came in another pressure-packed Dodgers-Giants game — the third-straight one-run win for the Dodgers, propelling them to 6 1/2 games ahead in the National League West. After Angel Pagan’s RBI single in the top of the sixth tied the game, Chase Utley hit his first Dodger homer to put Los Angeles back in front.
Kershaw lowered his ERA to 2.18, third in the big leagues. Since May 26, Kershaw has a 1.26 ERA with 178 strikeouts in 135 2/3 innings. In his past 750 innings, his ERA is 1.98.
In his past three games, Kershaw has struck out 39 batters, averaging 14.04 strikeouts per nine innings.
Kershaw paved the way for his complete game by averaging barely 12 pitches per inning for the first seven frames. He began the ninth at 107 pitches.
“It was a tough one with him,” Don Mattingly said. “His stuff was really good. Still crisp, we thought. He felt good. We felt like if there was any game we were going to let him go back out there, with Kenley and a few guys were basically down — Kenley was not available tonight — it was just a game that you felt like you were going to let him go for it. And that was it.”
When Mattingly visited the mound, he intended to leave Kershaw in the game as long as he was OK. He said he occasionally took him out early in games this year in order to save bullets for games like this.
Said Mattingly: “Utley told me, ‘You made a good decision by not taking me out.’ I was gonna get hurt.”
Kershaw wasn’t thinking about strikeouts in the ninth inning.
“I was just trying to get an out,” Kershaw said. “Those guys are great hitters, obviously. Duffy’s having a great year, and Posey’s Posey. Some good at-bats all night. They made me work that last inning, and I was fortunate to get one more out.”
Mike Bolsinger will make a spot start Friday, giving Kershaw and other Dodger starters an extra day of rest.
By Jon Weisman
Scott Schebler, who survived Triple-A Oklahoma City’s 19-inning game Tuesday, is the latest player to be recalled by the Dodgers.
Schebler had a .322 on-base percentage and .410 slugging percentage this year in the minors. He went 1 for 3 on June 5 in first only big-league game this year, and provides an extra left-handed bat off the bench.
The 24-year-old walked three times in the opening game of what became a 26-inning doubleheader in Oklahoma City. Relief pitcher Daniel Coulombe escaped a bases-loaded jam in the top of the 19th inning, then singled with two out in the bottom of the 19th and scored the winning run on Buck Britton’s walkoff home run.
Then in the second game, Ramon Troncoso was forced to spot start and pitched four innings. Deck McGuire, who began the night in Double-A Tulsa, was told to drive over to Oklahoma City for a mid-evening promotion, and pitched three innings in the second game for the win.
By the way, Justin Ruggiano on Tuesday became the 53rd person to play for the Dodgers this year, tying a franchise record from 1944 and 1998.
By Cary Osborne
It’s the sixth edition of our new Dodger Insider feature — also appearing in the print magazine — in which you get to play manager each month and pick the move to make in a hypothetical situation.
The setup: It is October 4 — the regular-season finale. The Dodgers have a 2-1 lead over the San Diego Padres with one out in the top of the ninth inning. Kenley Jansen is pitching, runners are on second and third and the dangerous Justin Upton is up.
Upton has been extremely hot with the bat of late. In fact, in this game, he’s 3 for 3. Against Jansen, he is 3 for 14 in his career against Jansen with nine strikeouts and one homer. Yonder Alonso is on deck, and he leads the Padres in grounding into double plays. He has little history against Jansen.
To add even more pressure, if the Dodgers win, they will win the National League West. If they lose, they’re forced to play a one-game playoff against the Giants.
The question: Do you …
A) pitch to Upton
B) intentionally walk Upton to face Alonso.
Last month: With two out and one on in the bottom of the 11th inning, fans divided on whether to let Jansen bat for himself after a perfect top of the 11th, or pinch-hit with either Yasmani Grandal or Zack Greinke.
By Jon Weisman
A year ago, this was when Clayton Kershaw was going to reap the benefit of missing more than a month of the baseball season.
Kershaw was sidelined in 2014 from March 23 to May 6 with a Teres Major muscle strain. That stunk for April, but the upside was that with fewer innings under his belt, he’d be that much stronger for the stretch run.
This year, no such luck (good and bad). Entering his first start of September tonight, Kershaw has thrown 185 innings, nearly 15 percent more than the 161 1/3 he had at this time last season. So does he feel any different, any worse for wear?
“I think I feel the same,” Kershaw said Tuesday afternoon. “I don’t think I put much merit into (the rest angle), if I remember right, last time.”
So do the April innings matter in September and October?
“I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe over the course of like 10 years, but in a small sample, probably not. I wouldn’t say so. I feel fine. I think I feel the same as I did last year. As good as you can feel.”
According to Baseball-Reference.com, Kershaw has the second-lowest ERA after September 1 in Major League history since 1920. In his career, Kershaw has a 1.97 ERA after September 1, over 219 1/3 innings — roughly the equivalent of a season (click to enlarge).
If you’re wondering about his performance in the postseason, I’ve addressed that topic most recently here.
Top: The opening spread from the 13-page photo essay on Clayton Kershaw in the September issue of Dodger Insider magazine (click to enlarge).
By Jon Weisman
No, it hasn’t been an easy time for Joc Pederson, and no, he probably wouldn’t have started Tuesday against Madison Bumgarner if Kiké Hernandez and/or Yasiel Puig had been healthy.
But Pederson has been putting in the effort toward a difficult midseason adjustment, and tonight he saw some payoff, making solid contact in all three at-bats against Bumgarner …
… culminating in his huge seventh-inning home run, punctuated by a sprint around the bases.
“I thought he had good swings all night tonight,” Don Mattingly said. “Hopefully this continues to build. … He’s tried to make some changes. We’ve talked about how hard that is during the season. You’ve just got to stay with it and keep going. That has to be a confidence booster for him off Madison — obviously a tough, tough matchup.
“You feel good when you see success with a guy that’s been struggling, especially when a guy’s been working on something. When that starts to take hold, when you have a little success, it breeds confidence in what you’re doing. I think the fact that he’s starting to see some results, … that has a chance to put a true belief in what he’s doing.”
Update: Pederson spoke to Steve Bourbon of MLB.com about his progress. An excerpt:
“I’m just trying to have some more rhythm and stay calm. Just nice and relaxed. See the ball and hit the ball. It sounds so simple but it’s not,” Pederson said. “The adjustment this offseason was to make the barrel more upright to be consistent. At the start of the year it was good. But you lose things, go down some wrong roads, struggle a bit and you adjust. Like I said, it’s a learning process.”
By Jon Weisman
Jose Peraza isn’t purely a September callup. The 21-year-old second baseman-center fielder, the youngest Dodger position player since Adrian Beltre, had 13 plate appearances in four games for Los Angeles before today’s turn of the calendar.
But we’ll call him a late addition to the Dodgers, and what an addition so far.
The young sparkplug ignited and then all but sealed the Dodgers’ 2-1 victory over Giants ace Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants, moving Los Angeles to a 5 1/2 game lead in the National League West.
“He seemed to play fearless,” Don Mattingly said.
In the third inning, Peraza singled and soon after raced home from second base for the Dodgers’ first run off Bumgarner. And in the eighth inning, shortly after Joc Pederson’s homer off Bumgarner doubled the Dodger lead, Peraza made a spectacular play, backhanding a Brandon Belt grounder with the tying run on second base and glove-flipping to Jimmy Rollins to start an inning-ending double play.
“I was looking to get it over to Jimmy,” said Peraza, who said he practices glove-flips periodically. “Thank God it worked out.”
In doing so, Peraza saved a vintage Zack Greinke outing from the wastebasket. Greinke allowed no runs on two hits over his first seven innings, then gave up three singles for a run in the eighth, setting up the game’s most dramatic moment.
Luis Avilan, relieving Greinke, allowed a long foul ball on his first pitch and needed seven in all to get Belt, but thanks to the double play, retired his 11th batter in a row over the past six games.
Peraza dropped a second-inning pop-up for an error — so much for perfection. But that was soon a distant memory.
“Maybe I do,” said Peraza, about whether he feels the pressure of being thrust into a Giants-Dodgers pennant race in his fifth Major League game, “but it basically comes down to me doing my job, and thank God things turned out well.”
By Jon Weisman
In the wake of Monday’s 14-inning game, the Dodgers added Joe Wieland to a September 1 recall list that already included Mike Bolsinger and Ian Thomas. Joel Peralta was also officially activated from the disabled list.
Wieland has a 4.59 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in Triple-A this season, but improved to 3.38 and 1.09 in August. With the Dodger bullpen throwing nine innings Monday and 17 1/3 innings since Saturday, Wieland provides another backup arm. Los Angeles has 16 pitchers on its active roster at present.
There are increasing indications that Mike Bolsinger will make a spot start for the Dodgers in their upcoming four-game series at San Diego, though nothing definitive has been stated.
In addition, to make room for Justin Ruggiano on the 40-man roster, the Dodgers recalled Josh Ravin (hernia) and placed him on the 60-day disabled list. Ravin has not pitched in a game since July 25.
By Jon Weisman
Tonight, Justin Ruggiano plays his first game for the Dodgers, more than 11 years after they drafted him. His reward — a Los Angeles debut against Madison Bumgarner.
In trying to find a winning combination against Bumgarner, who is undefeated against the Dodgers this year, the outfield has been is a bit of a riddle. Though there has been occasional on-base success, no Dodger outfielder has a run or an RBI against the Giants ace in 2015:
- Andre Ethier, 1 for 1
- Alex Guerrero, 1 for 7
- Chris Heisey, 0 for 2 with a walk
- Kiké Hernandez, 2 for 4 (one double)
- Joc Pederson, 1 for 6 (double)
- Yasiel Puig, 1 for 3 with a walk
- Scott Van Slyke, 3 for 10
Hernandez and Puig, of course, are on the disabled list. Guerrero did hit a two-run home run off Bumgarner as a pinch-hitter, but is 6 for 49 with no walks since July 1.
And while Ethier has emerged as the Dodgers most productive outfielder, that has become almost exclusively against right-handed pitching. He has a .515 OPS vs. lefties this year, and has not OPSed above .650 against southpaws since 2008.
Will Ruggiano do any better? Well, hitting lefties is his calling card — an .835 OPS in 488 career plate appearances, including .823 for Seattle in 43 plate appearances this season.
In nearly the smallest of sample sizes, Ruggiano (pictured at right with the Dodgers’ Double-A team in Jacksonville in 2006) has thrived against Bumgarner, with a single, homer and two walks — along with one precious “reached on catcher’s interference” — in six plate appearances.
Another right-handed hitter Don Mattingly likes against Bumgarner? Zack Greinke. This is the second time this year that Mattingly is batting his starting pitcher eighth, but the first time that he means business with it. Yimi Garcia batted eighth July 6 in a game the Dodgers knew they would use a pinch-hitter for him.
Greinke is 0 for 2 lifetime against Bumgarner, and has a .629 lifetime OPS against lefties. Don’t expect miracles: As Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. noted, though this is a matchup of the past two Silver Slugger winners, neither has allowed a single hit to a pitcher in 2015.
If anything, the Dodgers need to worry about Bumgarner, who is also batting eighth. Bumgarner has five home runs and an .810 OPS in what is the greatest hitting season for a pitcher since Carlos Zambrano in 2011.