Bear and grin it: The line between too much and too little encouragement

Whiplash-5547.cr2

By Jon Weisman

How far should you go to light a fire under someone?

After seeing the Oscar-nominated movie “Whiplash” last winter, with its internal debate between tough love and abuse, I was curious what the reaction would be in the sports world. So earlier this season, I talked to Scott Van Slyke, A.J. Ellis, Kiké Hernandez, J.P. Howell and Darwin Barney about it for the July issue of Dodger Insider magazine. Click each page below to enlarge.

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Remembering ’65: See-saw second half of August

remembering-65-wide-v1-grass

By Jon Weisman

When might you be having a charmed season? When you’re scoreless with two out in the bottom of the 10th inning, Sandy Koufax bats for himself and walks, and then Roberto Clemente — of all people — drops a fly ball to allow the game-winning run to score.

That’s what happened August 14, 1965 at Dodger Stadium to allow the Dodgers to win, 1-0.

“It was sinking all the way,” Jim Gilliam, who hit the ball at Clemente, told Frank Finch of the Times. “Clemente first had his glove up in front of his chest, but at the last moment had to shift it. That’s when he muffed the ball.”

Said Clemente: “I was groping for the ball. I lost it.”

Though there were still many skeptics about the ’65 Dodgers, one who saw their potential was Pirates third baseman Bob Bailey.

“They’re not just giving an 80% effort like some teams,” Bailey told Times columnist Sid Ziff. “They go all out. They go for the extra base, the squeeze bunt, the impossible catch. And, of course, they’ve got tremendous pitching.”

But rather using the Clemente game to launch like a rocket to the National League pennant, the Dodgers would have one of their bumpiest weeks of the year.

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Dodgers Accelerator startup program takes next step

DA

By Jon Weisman

The Dodgers Accelerator program announced in April  — a program for investing in startups to benefit the next era of sports teams and their fans — has announced the selection of its initial 10 companies.

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As Nicasio nears return, Dodgers option Garcia

Yimi Juan

By Jon Weisman

The Dodgers optioned Yimi Garcia to Triple-A Oklahoma City, with the expectation of activating Juan Nicasio from the disabled list before their next game Tuesday in Cincinnati.

Nicasio has struck out 10.0 batters per nine innings this year while allowing 62 baserunners in 47 innings. In August, he allowed a hit in each of his four appearances before going on the DL with a left abdominal strain, though none of those hits led to a run.

Garcia has allowed one run in 8 1/3 innings for the Dodgers since the All-Star Break, but it was a killer: the 10th-inning run scored by Oakland on August 18, Garcia’s 25th birthday. For the year, Garcia has allowed 46 baserunners in 45 2/3 innings while striking out 58.

Though rosters expand September 1, the right-hander can’t be recalled for 10 days unless he is replacing another player going on the DL.

Have you stopped believing in the Dodgers?

By Jon Weisman

All at once, I feel the need to say something and say nothing.

With the contradiction of a first-place team that’s lost five straight games, my sense is that anyone who would listen to me already knows what I’m going to say, and anyone who doesn’t already know what I’m going to say won’t be convinced. People have had plenty of opportunity to hear my way of thinking, and to take it or leave it.

So maybe I’m just talking to myself here, or maybe I should be.

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Kershaw, Ellis thwarted for second time on roadtrip

By Jon Weisman

On Tuesday in Oakland, Clayton Kershaw and A.J. Ellis had big games, but they went for naught in an extra-inning defeat. Today in Houston, it happened again in a 3-2, 10-inning loss to Houston — the Dodgers’ fifth straight loss.

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Hernandez getting more playing time in center over Pederson

Dodgers at Astros, 11:10 a.m.
Kershaw CCXXXIV: Kershaw Little Romance
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Chase Utley, 2B
Justin Turner, 3B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Andre Ethier, RF
Carl Crawford, DH
A.J. Ellis, C
Kiké Hernandez, CF
(Clayton Kershaw, P)

By Jon Weisman

Kiké Hernandez is looking like the Dodgers’ starting center fielder for the time being, supplanting Joc Pederson today even with a right-hander, Lance McCullers, on the mound for Houston.

Don Mattingly told reporters today that Pederson “is going to be a good player for a long time,” praising his work ethic and willingness to make adjustments, but feels Hernandez is swinging the bat better now and doesn’t cost them significantly on defense.

Pederson has started 110 of the Dodgers’ 122 games this season, and this is the second time all year he has begun the game on the bench two games in a row. Pederson didn’t start July 31-August 1 against the Angels, in a weekend that was overtly designated for him to regroup, but those games were against lefties.

The 23-year-old actually has a .413 on-base percentage this month, thanks to 20 walks, but it has been dragged down by a .122 batting average (.130 on balls in play). He has two singles, a double and two homers in 41 at-bats.

With five walks in the Dodgers’ four games this past week, Pederson has reached base as much as any other Dodger despite going 0 for 7. In his only game, A.J. Ellis homered and had four walks.

Pederson pinch-hit in the ninth inning of Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the Astros and hit a 105 mph lineout to center field.

This is Hernandez’s 12th consecutive start for the Dodgers (three in center field, eight at second base and one at shortstop). He has a .349 on-base percentage and .425 slugging percentage in that time, with a .379 batting average on balls in play, though he is 0 for 5 in the Houston series.

Hernandez has a .624 OPS against righties in 106 plate appearances this season, after a .796 OPS in 99 plate appearances against righties last season.

Chase Utley, whose arrival Friday is one of the dominoes contributing to Pederson’s current status, went 0 for 4 Friday but looked fit Saturday, with a double and good athleticism on defense and running the bases.

Yasiel Puig returns to lineup

Dodgers at Astros, 4:10 p.m.
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Yasiel Puig, RF
Justin Turner, 3B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Scott Van Slyke, LF
Chase Utley, 2B
Kiké Hernandez, CF
Yasmani Grandal, C
Alex Guerrero, DH
(Zack Greinke, P)

By Jon Weisman

Yasiel Puig is back in action today for the Dodgers, who will look to end their 0-for-27, 2-for-56 slump at the plate today at Houston.

Sidelined recently by a mild right hamstring strain, Puig actually brings a five-game hitting streak into the game. He is 6 for his last 17 with two walks and a homer, for a .950 OPS.

Zack Greinke is 4 for 6 this month with two homers, but the designated hitter rule leaves his bat in the rack. The past two times the Dodgers have been no-hit, they have been using DHs (Juan Rivera and Chase Utley).

Fiers in the hole: Dodgers no-hit in Houston


By Jon Weisman

The last two times Chase Utley has played in a Dodger game, he has been on the losing end of a no-hitter.

First was May 25, 2014, when Utley made the final out in Josh Beckett’s no-hitter against the Phillies. Then came tonight.

In his first game with his new team, Utley grounded out to the right side three times and flied out once, though that made him only one of nine players who failed to record a single, double, triple or home run against Houston’s Mike Fiers. That’s the long way of saying that the Dodgers were no-hit for the first time since June 8, 2012, when five Seattle relievers (including Brandon League) finished up the final three no-hit innings for injured starter Kevin Milwood.

Final score: Houston 3, Los Angeles 0.

Three Dodgers walked: Justin Turner with two out in the first inning, Andre Ethier to start the second and Joc Pederson to begin the third. None  reached second base, and Fiers retired 21 in a row after Pederson’s base on balls.

Houston left an equal number of baserunners and went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position, but two home runs — by Jake Marisnick with Chris Carter on first base in the second inning, and a solo shot by Evan Gattis in the sixth — prevented the Dodgers from extending their bid for a hit to extra innings.

On his 120th pitch, Fiers got his fifth consecutive strikeout to end the eighth inning. Fiers’ previous career high for pitches in a game was 113.

In the ninth, Jimmy Rollins hit Fiers’ 126th pitch to the warning track in right field for the Dodgers’ loudest out of the night. Utley hit the 129th pitch for another fly to right. And on a 2-2 fastball that was his 134th pitch, Turner swung and missed.

In their past two games, the Dodgers are 2 for 56 with a double, homer and five walks.

Entering tonight, Fiers had allowed 134 hits in 135 innings in 2015 with Milwaukee and Houston. The Astros acquired him on July 30.

The last time the Dodgers were no-hit in Houston, by Nolan Ryan on September 26, 1981, they won a World Series a month later.

Chase Utley debuts as designated hitter

Dodgers at Astros, 5:10 p.m.
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Chase Utley, DH
Justin Turner, 3B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Andre Ethier, RF
Yasmani Grandal, C
Carl Crawford, LF
Kiké Hernandez, 2B
Joc Pederson, CF
(Brett Anderson, P)

By Jon Weisman

Chase Utley’s Dodger initiation will come solely at the plate, as the new acquisition will serve as designated hitter for tonight’s series opener at Houston.

Utley has already DHed twice this year for the Phillies, going 1 for 6 with a walk and a hit-by-pitch against the Yankees and Orioles. Lifetime, he is 4 for 17 as a DH with one homer, nine years ago.

Yasiel Puig might see action at DH before the weekend is over, Don Mattingly has told reporters. Puig is nursing a minor right hamstring strain.

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