In case of NL West title, break glass!

LAD_DivChamps_TWGraphic_Shareable_v2

Wednesday, September 24, 2014, 6 p.m.

From: Jon Weisman
To: Dodger Fans of Later Tonight

If you’re reading this, then the Los Angeles Dodgers have clinched the 2014 National League West title, automatically activating the Opposite-of-Doomsday Dodger Insider Publications Scenario.

I can only imagine the wonders of the world you are living in, thousands upon thousands of seconds in the future. No doubt you travel to and from Dodger Stadium by jetpack, and the bioscience industry has invented cures for all the world’s ills.

For you, the NL West race is a thing of the past, a tale of yore, and no doubt details have grown fuzzy and obfuscated over the passing minutes. But while still deep in that ancient time, I wanted to preserve some details and remembrances — a primary source if you will.

So whisk the dust off the long-ago, and recall with me these memories of the Dodgers’ 2014 regular season.

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One inning to go

Striking out his 10th and 11th batters of the game in the eighth, Clayton Kershaw put the Dodgers within one inning of the National League West title. He has thrown 117 pitches, allowing eight hits and walking none. He and the Dodgers lead, 5-1.

Update: In a lengthy bottom of the eighth, the Dodgers add four more runs to make it 9-1.

– Jon Weisman

Puig-Crawford-Uribe laser tag puts Dodgers ahead in sixth, 5-1

By Jon Weisman

On an 0-2 sinker leading off the bottom of the sixth, Yasiel Puig sent a shot to right field, clearing the fence as smoothly as the bat flipped from his hand, to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead.

One out later, a Matt Kemp double to right center knocked Giants starter Tim Hudson out of the game. Hudson pitched his best ball in several starts, ultimately lasting 5 1/3 innings and allowing five hits and a walk while fanning four.

Giants lefty Javier Lopez entered and, in a move that was odd for a couple reasons, walked Hanley Ramirez intentionally. It’s always been bizarre to make a reliever start his outing with an intentional walk, and though it gave the Giants the platoon advantage, it brought up one of the Dodgers’ top hitters of the second half in Carl Crawford.

On the next pitch, Crawford ripped a double down the right-field line, scoring both Kemp and Ramirez to give the Dodgers a zesty 4-1 lead.

Then, after missing a home run by a sliver on a drive to left, Juan Uribe knocked a singled to left, pushing the Dodger lead to a bold 5-1.

A.J. Ellis hit into an inning-ending double play, but the Dodgers moved forward, leading by four with three innings to go to a National League West title.

All-around greatness: Kershaw ties game with first career triple

By Jon Weisman

As he came to the plate with two out and the tying runner on third base in the bottom of the fifth inning tonight against San Francisco, I had this thought.

Clayton Kershaw, pitcher, is right now the toughest out in baseball.

Sure enough …

Facing Tim Hudson with a 1-1 count, Kershaw lined a shot that split the gap in right center, and the Most Valuable Player candidate — who already showed off his fielding mastery in the third — motored all the way to third base.

It was Kershaw’s first career triple, and like his only career home run on Opening Day 2013, it gave the Dodgers their first run of the game against the Giants.

Scoring on the play was Carl Crawford, who was hit in the foot by the first pitch of the inning and then stole second base on the next pitch. Crawford advanced to third on a deep fly to right by Juan Uribe, before he eased home on Kershaw’s triple to tie the game, 1-1.

Through five innings, Kershaw had allowed one run on four hits and no walks, striking out six, on 68 pitches.

Video: Kershaw’s behind-the-back acrobatics can’t stop Giants from taking 1-0 lead in third

By Jon Weisman

After crusing through the first two innings on 21 pitches tonight, Clayton Kershaw got himself in some trouble. He allowed an infield single to short by Joaquin Arias and then a solid single to left by Gregor Blanco — and then, with the count 0-2 on pitcher Tim Hudson, Kershaw’s second balk of the season put both runners in scoring position.

Then came this:

Kershaw nearly escaped trouble completely when Hunter Pence then hit a slow grounder to third, but Juan Uribe’s throw home was a hair late to nab Arias.

foot

A single by Joe Panik loaded the bases, but Kershaw induced a 5-4-3 double play from Buster Posey to end the inning.

The Dodgers had runners at the corners in the second inning and on third in the third, but trailed after three innings, 1-0.

‘Let’s do it to them before they do it to us’

Giants at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Kershaw CCIX: Kershawll Street Blues
Dee Gordon, 2B
Yasiel Puig, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Carl Crawford, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Clayton Kershaw, P

By Jon Weisman

Nine innings to a division title, with Clayton Kershaw on the mound.

It almost feels too good — not too good to be true, but just too good. Baseball, a sport seemingly conceived just to upset expectations, to turn you upside down, is almost taunting Dodger fans with this, daring them to turn their confidence into overconfidence.

Nine innings to play, nine innings where anything could happen, nine innings for the Giants to humble Los Angeles and spoil the celebration.

And yet, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

How quickly have the Dodgers clinched when they could clinch?

LOS ANGELES DODGERS V SAN DIEGO PADRES

By Cary Osborne

There’s something in the air tonight that could turn recent history into ancient history.

Now, don’t freak out or anything, but the Dodgers have not been very successful in the last 25 years in winning their first potential closeout game for the National League West championship.

In fact, the Dodgers have lost that first-chance-to-clinch game every time since 1985 — that’s seven times: 1988, 1995, 1996, 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2013. (There’s an asterisk on the 2008 one, because the Dodgers lost the game but still won the division that same day.)

But hang onto 1985, though, because the relationship between that closeout and tonight is eerie. And if one believes in kismet, tonight is in fact the night.

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Baseball’s ‘Wonderful Life’ question

By Mark Langill

The Brooklyn Dodgers could wrap up the Eastern Division crown tonight behind lefty Clayton Kershaw, a National League MVP candidate poised for his third Cy Young Award in four years. But Bruce Bochy’s New York Giants aren’t facing elimination, and their Wild Card playoff status could set up a historic rematch with their century-old rivals in the National League Championship Series.

Governor Billy Crystal, the longtime Dodger fan who switched allegiances after his beloved New York Yankees bolted for Denver in 1967, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch tonight at O’Malley Field.

Champagne could be flowing tonight in the home clubhouse at Dodger Stadium. But today is also the 57th anniversary of the last game at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field on September 24, 1957, when lefty Danny McDevitt blanked the Pittsburgh Pirates, 2-0, in front of a crowd of 6,702.

What would life be like had the Dodgers and Giants not moved to the West Coast prior to the 1958 season?

Turner bout is fair play: Utility sensation helps Dodgers clinch tie for division title

By Jon Weisman

The past two nights, I couldn’t pre-write.

Normally, if I’m writing about a game or even just some aspect of a game, I’ll get it going in the middle innings. But in these games against the Giants, I was so sure the angle would keep switching that I couldn’t do it. And with Monday’s life-on-the-edge game, that anxiety was validated.

Then came tonight:

  • In the first inning, Zack Greinke shut out the Giants, and Justin Turner homered.
  • In the eighth inning, Zack Greinke shut out the Giants, and Justin Turner homered.

The Dodgers took the lead early, extended it late, and lo and behold, they clinched a tie for the National League West title tonight with a 4-2 victory over San Francisco.

The victory and share of the division comes with Clayton Kershaw taking the mound in his final start of the regular season Wednesday. That’s how soon the Dodgers can claim the NL West outright.

Against all reality, Turner’s dream season continues to get dreamier. His two home runs tonight matched his season totals in 2012 and again in 2013 for the New York Mets, who made Turner a castoff left unsigned by every Major League team until a week before his reporting date to Camelback Ranch. He now has a .397 on-base percentage and .482 slugging percentage in 315 plate appearances.

“Going around those bases, I was floating,” Turner said of his second homer to SportsNet LA’s Alanna Rizzo. “It was a good feeling, and the guys in here were beating the crap out of me and bubbles were flying everywhere. It was a good time.”

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Don Mattingly on Matt Kemp’s improved mechanics

Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago Cubs

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

By Jon Weisman

Matt Kemp turned 30 today, and his birthday comes at a happy time in his career. With a .363 on-base percentage and .580 slugging percentage, Kemp is among other things the No. 5 hitter in the big leagues in the second half of 2014, according to wRC+ (weighted runs created plus).

Much of this has been attributed to Kemp’s improved health, but as Don Mattingly discussed today (audio above), an adjustment to Kemp’s mechanics has also been a factor.

“I think the biggest change Matt’s made is to straighten up,” Mattingly said. “I think you see him taller, you see his feet a little bit more straight. A guy that dives or is striding into the plate, he limits himself what he can do.”

Mattingly drew a comparison between this and the mechanics of Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner, an earlier topic of discussion today, noting the effect of unusual angles Bumgarner uses.

“As a hitter, when you cross into the plate and you dive, you block yourself off certain parts of the plate you can’t handle and you can’t get to,” Mattingly continued. “Certain areas and even certain areas on both sides, you get cut off, and you don’t have the same leverage. So to me, with Matt straightening up, he was able to get through the ball a lot better and really create more bat speed and then backspin.”

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