Thursday, October 31, 2013

Options for Capuano and Ellis declined, so sayonara to them?

With the offseason officially in full swing after the Red Sox downed the Cardinals to win the World Series on Wednesday, the Dodgers made some news today by declining the options on Chris Capuano and Mark Ellis

Both will be bought out for $1 million each.  Capuano could have made $8 million next season, and Ellis $5.75 million, so this obviously saves some cash for bigger needs.

Then again, both could also resign at much more realistic rates.  The early returns are that Ellis is the more likely of the two to be brought back.  The Dodgers view Alexander Guerrero as their long-term answer at second base, or at least they hope.  But then again, he could also play shortstop, which would slide Hanley Ramirez over to third, opening up second for Ellis again.

I do think the Dodgers will make an effort to bring Ellis back, especially because he's still very good on defense.  He was a finalist for a Gold Glove, but lost out to Brandon Phillips, which there's certainly no shame in doing.  Offensively, Ellis hit .270 with 6 homers and 48 RBIs, so it's not like there's much production there.  That will probably cost him a starting nod.  But, off the bench, I can see him contributing.

As for Capuano, I wouldn't expect to see him back next season.  Give the guy a bunch of credit for battling back from two Tommy John surgeries.  I can only imagine the uncertainty he must have felt going through that rehab twice. 

But, as the years and innings continue to pile up, I just don't see him getting any better.  He went 4-7 with a 4.26 ERA and 1.41 WHIP this year, which is nothing special.  I think the Dodgers will look elsewhere.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

2013 Postseason Report Card

The final installment of my report card series focuses on the postseason.  While it started off great with a 3-1 Division Series win over the Braves, it all came crashing down in a 4-2 defeat against the Cardinals.  Let's take a look.


Brian Wilson - The most consistent pitcher when it was all said and done, he was scoreless in six appearances, striking out eight in six innings.  I would think he earned himself a closer's job next season.

Zack Greinke - Didn't get the luxury of working with much run support, but a 2.57 ERA and 0.76 WHIP in three starts is pretty darn good.  He did blow a 2-0 lead in Game 1 against the Cardinals, but like I said before, his offense gave him next to nothing.

Adrian Gonzalez - Found his power stroke with three homers and two doubles in 10 games, and hit a healthy .316.  Capped off a big season for him at first base.

A.J. Ellis - Caught every single inning in both rounds, plus hit .323 with a .400 OBP.

Carl Crawford - The Dodgers needed his two home runs in the clinching game against the Braves, and ended up with a .310 average with four homers total in the leadoff spot.  Also, led the team with 26 total bases.

Kenley Jansen - His 4.15 ERA and 1.62 WHIP are very high for him, but that's because of a rough Game 5 against the Cardinals, which was a win anyway.  Saved both his games and struck out 10 in 4 1/3 innings.

J.P. Howell - Much like he did all season long, quietly put together good numbers with a 1.50 ERA and 1.33 ERA in six innings.  Was the only lefty available in the bullpen in the NLCS, which shows how much he was trusted.

Chris Capuano - Made one appearance, which came in the big Game 3 win over the Braves, tossing three scoreless innings.  It wasn't pretty with three walks, but no runs surrendered is the bottom line.


Clayton Kershaw - He was well on his way to an easy A, but it's hard to ignore his rough Game 6 against the Cardinals.  Take away those four innings and seven runs, and he surrendered only one run in the other 19.

Hanley Ramirez - So, so good against the Braves by hitting .500 with a homer and four doubles... then got beaned in the ribs in Game 1 against the Cardinals, and was 2-for-15.  He showed a lot of heart in even playing those games, but his power bat was sorely missed.

Yasiel Puig - When he wasn't striking out he did some damage, but 14 K's in 10 games is way too much.  Was moved to the middle of the order before the playoffs to drive in runs, but only had four RBIs, and his 0-for-10 in the first two games of the NLCS included six K's.

Juan Uribe - Gets this only because of his great NLDS, as his two-run shot in the eighth inning of Game 4 was the series clincher.  His bat was atrocious the next round, hitting only .130 with three singles and seven strikeouts.

Hyun-Jin Ryu - Started off being hit around against the Braves, but was fantastic in getting the Dodgers their first win in Game 3 against the Cardinals.


Nick Punto - Did an admirable job in filling in for Hanley Ramirez when he was injured.  But, getting picked off of second in the seventh inning in Game 4 of the NLCS was just killer.  Not quite as bad as Kolten Wong, but still...

Mark Ellis - Got the start in all 10 games, and while he wasn't bad, just wasn't that good either.  Hit .250 with nine strikeouts, and never made much of an impact.


Andre Ethier - Battled through a bad ankle injury, and eventually found his way back into the starting lineup.  Unfortunately, that may not have been a good thing, as he hit a lowly .130 with no extra-base hits or RBIs.  A big disappointment.

Skip Schumaker - Got some starts thanks to Ethier's injury, but did nothing with them.  Hit .158 with two RBIs, and proved to be nothing more than a bench player.

Ricky Nolasco - Got skipped over in the NLDS in favor of Kershaw on short rest, then took the loss in Game 4 of the NLCS.  He wasn't awful, but only gave four innings in an ineffective start.


Michael Young - Signed to be a big veteran bat off the bench and for his versatility.  Instead, went 1-for-10 and failed to make any sort of impact at all in what might be a disappointing end to his career.

Dee Gordon - Only had one chance to make an impression, and got nailed trying to steal late in Game 2 against the Braves.  It's the ultimate small sample size, but he failed to do the only job he was put on the roster for.

Paco Rodriguez - It was a tough end to the season for Paco, as he simply ran out of gas.  The Braves smacked him around twice to the tune of a 27.00 ERA, and was left off the NLCS roster.

Chris Withrow - Six walks in five innings was his biggest undoing, as he had a 5.40 ERA and 1.80 WHIP in four appearances.

Ronald Belisario - Somehow found his way into seven games, which was way too much.  Ended up with an enormous 7.36 ERA and 1.36 WHIP.  Thank God for Brian Wilson.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

2013 Report Card

(Note: This is my annual report card, but for the regular season only.  I will be back with a postseason report card very soon.  To view my mid-season report card, click below.)

2013 Mid-Season Report Card


Clayton Kershaw - The soon-to-be Cy Young Award winner was everything the Dodgers could've hoped for.  Led the NL in ERA (1.83), WHIP (0.92), and K's (232), while finishing third in wins (16) despite a horrible lack of run support for much of the season.

Zack Greinke - A rough start because of injuries eventually gave way to an ace-like end.  A 1.85 ERA in the second half paved the way to a 2.63 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and a 15-4 record.

Kenley Jansen - Saved the day in the bullpen, as one of the key moves to turnaround the season came in early June when he took over the closer's role.  Finished with 28 saves and a fantastic 13.03 K/9.

Hanley Ramirez - Playing in only 86 games was tough, but was terrific when he was in there.  Hit .345 with 20 homers and 57 RBIs, and made the offense a whole lot better just by being in the lineup.

Adrian Gonzalez - Played through neck pain early in the season, which led to some uncharacteristic errors at first.  But he finished with 157 games played, hitting .293 with 22 homers and 100 RBIs, and was a steady influence all season long.

Yasiel Puig - There's no denying the electricity this guy brought at a time the Dodgers desperately needed it.  Ended up hitting .319 with 19 homers, 42 RBIs, and 11 stolen bases, not to mention the eight assists from the outfield.

Juan Uribe - Who knew?  This guy totally changed his career around, becoming a vacuum at third base, plus hitting 12 homers and 50 RBIs.

Brian Wilson - Even though he only appeared in 18 games at the end, was the perfect setup man with an 0.66 ERA.  Definitely proved his arm troubles are a thing of the past.

J.P. Howell - Quietly had a 2.03 ERA and 1.05 WHIP as one of the primary left-handed relievers.

Paco Rodriguez - Faded at the end, but you can't forget how good he was for so long.  Still fresh out of college, pitched in 76 games to a 2.32 ERA and 0.90 WHIP.

Hyun-Jin Ryu - Wasn't expected to be more than maybe a #4 guy, but outpitched those expectations  by going 14-8 with a 3.00 ERA and 1.20 WHIP.


Andre Ethier - His numbers continue to be unimpressive (.272/12/52), but something should be said about his versatility in the outfield, especially with so many injuries to others.  Still plays very solid defense.

Carl Crawford - Had his usual ups-and-downs as far as injuries go, limiting him to 116 games with some days of rest mixed in.  Only had 15 stolen bases, but is still somewhat of a threat at the plate as he worked his way back from Tommy John.

Mark Ellis - His days as a starting second basemen could be over with the signing of Alexander Guerrero, but still sets a great example of how to play hard.  Hit .270, but remains great on defense.

Ricky Nolasco - Started his Dodger tenure a house of fire... but oh, those last three starts.  ERA shot up from 3.14 to 3.70, and probably cost himself more starts in the playoffs.  But, went 7-0 in his first eight starts, which played a big role in the summer run.

Chris Withrow - The flamethrower hit the rookie wall towards the end, but still had a 2.60 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and 43 K's in 34 2/3 innings.  A power arm to keep an eye on in middle relief.

A.J. Ellis - Turned himself into one of the final candidates for a Gold Glove, where he's valued most.  Only hit .238, but his 52 RBIs included some big ones along the way.

Nick Punto - Gets upgraded because of his ability to play three infield positions (third, short, second), which was big because of the revolving door of injuries to everyone else.

Michael Young - Did a solid job by hitting .314, even though he was short on power.  Plus, he appeared at all four infield positions.


Matt Kemp - Somehow played in 73 games, even though it seemed like much less.  Once again his season was derailed by one injury after another, and you have to question if his body is too brittle to ever be a star player again.  Never thought he'd have 6 homers and 33 RBIs for the whole season.

Scott Van Slyke - Never really took advantage of any sort of playing time he was given, hitting .240 with 7 homers and 19 RBIs in 53 games.  Seemed like he should've made a bigger impact.

Skip Schumaker - Wasn't bad, but never really was the good pinch-hitter he was signed to be, hitting only .263 in 319 at-bats.  At least he pitched two shutout innings, though!

Carlos Marmol - Definitely was better off in LA after a disastrous stint with the Cubs, and did have a solid 2.53 ERA.  However, his 1.55 WHIP showed his control problems will never go away.

Stephen Fife - More injuries disrupted his season, but had four wins with a 3.86 ERA, so wasn't too bad.


Dee Gordon - Got passed over by Justin Sellers (Justin Sellers!) for shortstop when Ramirez was hurt to start the season, and proved again why he'll never be an everyday player with an awful .234 average.

Tim Federowicz - Maybe there's a reason A.J. appeared in so many games - this guy was pretty bad.  Had nearly as many strikeouts (56) as total bases (57), and never gave Don Mattingly a reason to play him more.

Ronald Belisario - Mr. Inconsistency was just that - inconsistent.  Is no longer a strikeout pitcher, and a 3.97 ERA and 1.47 WHIP showed how unreliable he is.

Chris Capuano - Speaking of inconsistent, there's him.  One start he'd look good, the next start he'd get bombed en route to a 4.26 ERA and 1.41 WHIP.  His best days are clearly behind.

Jerry Hairston - Left off the playoff roster because of a pitiful .211 average with no pop at all. 


Brandon League - An absolute abomination as the closer.  And to think, his numbers actually IMPROVED to a 5.30 ERA and 1.55 WHIP after being demoted.  That says it all right there.  A horrible deal by Ned Colletti.

Matt Magill - Failed to take any soft of advantage of spot starts, bombing his way to a 6.51 ERA and 1.99 WHIP.

Matt Guerrier - Earned his way to Chicago with a 4.80 ERA and 1.47 WHIP.  Remember how he was signed to be the primary setup man?  Yikes, that's a scary thought.

Peter Moylan - Pathetic numbers with a 6.46 ERA and 1.96 WHIP.

Ramon Hernandez - Was given 17 games to prove his worth.  Well, he did by hitting .208, earning him a ticket out of town.

Justin Sellers - A horrendous choice to start the season at short, hitting .188.  Ouch.

Luis Cruz - Had one of the biggest downfalls I can recall in recent memory.  Had third base all to himself over Uribe, yet hit .127 in 45 games, and more than played his way to the waiver wire.  Boy was he bad!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Revisiting some postseason questions

Back on September 30, I took a look at five reasons the Dodgers could win the World Series, along with five reasons why they wouldn't (read my original report here). 

Well... we obviously know they didn't, so let's take a look at each key point and break it down.

Reasons They Will

1. Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke as the 1-2 punch.  Everything was working out quite nicely for this... and then Game 6 of the NLCS hit.  And that's when Kershaw had his worst start of the season with seven runs in four innings.  Even with that clunker, he had a 3.13 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in four October starts, striking out 28 in 23 innings.

Greinke was also solid, recording a 2.57 ERA and 0.76 WHIP in three starts.  The only downside is that he twice surrendered a 2-0 lead to the Cardinals, and on the losing end against the Braves, though that was hardly his fault.  He was signed to be the ace right behind Kershaw, and that's what he did.

All in all, these guys definitely provided the punch, but their offense did not give them the love they needed.  They both went in the first couple of games in St. Louis, and both were loses because of virtually no run support.  In other words, there wasn't a whole lot more they could do.

2. Hanley Ramirez is the best hitter around.  Absolutely yes for the NLDS.  No way for the NLCS.

The reason?  It's simple - Joe Kelly beaning him in the ribs in Game 1 of the NLCS.  Ramirez was already banged up enough from the season, but this is the injury that caused his average to tumble from .500 after the NLDS to .323 five games later (he sat out Game 2).  What a shame, too, because the offense was never able to overcome his lack of production.

3. Yasiel Puig on the big stage.  Of the regular starters, Puig's .333 led the team for the postseason.  He was much better in the NLDS, as he had a hit in all four games, including multi-hits in three of them, all wins.

With that said, he was pushed back to the #5 spot right before the start of the postseason, and he only had two RBIs the entire way.  Not exactly the type of production you'd want from a guy in that spot.

4. Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen closing out games.  Both men brought the goods, and both more than delivered.  Wilson did not allow any runs in six appearances, and showed the world that he's ready to close again in 2014.  Of course, staying on to be the top setup man would be nice as well!

Jansen only had one slip-up in Game 5 of the NLCS by allowing a couple of runs, but the Dodgers still won, so it didn't matter.  He had a whopping 10 strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings, good for an incredible 20.77 K/9.  He collected a couple of saves as well.

5. Road Warriors.  The Dodgers played four games away from home, and only won one of them.  They split in Atlanta before wrapping it up at home, and lost all three games in St. Louis.  The injury to Ramirez was definitely a big reason why, but for a team that finished tied for tops in the Majors with 45 wins away from home, their play on the road in the postseason was a disappointment.

Reasons They Won't

1. No Matt Kemp.  Absolutely this turned out to be a big issue.  There were countless amounts of times the Dodgers had runners on, failed to drive them in, and I'd think about Kemp getting the job done.  Not the beat up Kemp, the version that is feeling good and the ball is jumping off his bat.  As we saw in the NLCS, a run here or there could've meant a World Series trip for the Dodgers.  We'll never know.

2. Injury prone.  Oh boy, did I call this or what?  Everything was going quite smoothly until Kelly plunked Ramirez, and the Dodgers were never the same. 

The numbers don't lie: in the NLDS they averaged 6.5 runs a game, and in the NLCS they averaged 2.2, including two shutouts.  Of course, it's not like everybody was hurt, as guys like Andre Ethier and Juan Uribe did a big pile of nothing against the Cardinals.  It sure seemed like a trickle down effect once Ramirez was clearly not the same.

3. Yasiel Puig on the big stage.  I already pointed out his solid .333 postseason average.  But, there were bumps along the way.  He started off 0-for-10 with six strikeouts through two games of the NLCS.  When he did start to hit, he infuriated the Cardinals with his antics on the bases in celebration.  Then there was his bad overthrows in the Game 6 blowout. 

Bottom line is that you have to take the good with the bad with him, and hope there's more good.  There was a lot of good against the Braves, but not so much with a World Series berth on the line.

4. Streaky offense.  Just look at my numbers from above about the runs averaged per round.  When you get to the NLCS and fall over four runs shy per game than the previous round, all the pitching in the world probably won't get you the wins needed to advance.  That's exactly what happened.

5. Ricky Nolasco fading.  In 10 games, Nolasco only made one start, which was Game 4 of the NLCS.  With the Dodgers trailing in the series 2-1, he lasted only four innings and gave up three runs, taking the loss.  He wasn't awful, but certainly wasn't good either.

He was lined up to start Game 4 of the NLDS, but Mattingly went with Kershaw on three days' rest instead.  That move ended up working, but who knows if Kershaw felt some long-term effects from that.  Maybe he had a dead arm in the last start?  Nobody knows for sure, and he's definitely not telling anyone if he was less than 100%.  It's just a shame that after such a fantastic start, Nolasco faded so badly that the rotation in the playoffs was thrown a bit out of whack.

According to agent, Mattingly will be back

Whether it be for one year or beyond, the agent for Don Mattingly, Ray Schulte, said his client will indeed be back for the 2014 season.

Now it's up to the Dodgers to decide if Donnie Baseball will get his wish and not be a "lame-duck" manager with a one-year contract.

This news is a bit surprising to me, as the joint press conference Mattingly held with Ned Colletti on Monday sure seemed to suggest that both sides would split.  Maybe a couple of days off has led to cooler heads, so a solution should come soon.

The Dodgers have said that no decision will be announced until after that World Series.  That may be because Bug Selig prefers to hold off on such announcements so the attention isn't shifted away from the Fall Classic.  Remember when news leaked a few years ago that Alex Rodriguez was opting out of his Yankees' contract (only to sign that horrible 10-year deal with them soon after) during the Series?  That was awful timing.

I'm hoping there's a good solution to this, as Mattingly deserves more time in LA after leading the Dodgers to an NL West title and a trip to the NLCS.  Plus, he did it without Matt Kemp for much of the season, along with the long list of other injuries he's had to get through from stars like Hanley Ramirez and Zack Greinke.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Puig and Ryu named to Baseball America's All-Rookie team

Congratulations goes out to Yasiel Puig and Hyun-Jin Ryu for being named to Baseball America's All-Rookie team on Tuesday.  The only other teams with multiple players chosen were the Cardinals (Matt Adams, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal) and the Braves (Evan Gattis, Julio Teheran).

Puig joins Wil Myers and A.J. Pollack in the outfield.  He was called up on June 3, and proceeded to hit .319 with 19 homers, 42 RBIs, and 11 stolen bases.  There's no doubt that his style of play was a big factor in turning a dreadful Dodgers' season around, which lasted until Game 6 of the NLCS.  Plus, his cannon arm in right field made runners think twice about advancing an extra base, no matter where they were.

In addition to the Cardinals and Braves pitchers, Ryu is joined by Garrit Cole and Jose Fernandez (who took home the site's Rookie of the Year award).  His 192 innings were the most for any rookie.  He finished the season 14-8 with a 3.00 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 154 K's.  Control and off speed pitchers were the key to his success, which proved to be a great change of pace from more powerful pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

The official Rookie of the Year award by the BBWAA will come on November 11.  Do either Puig or Ryu have a chance of winning the top award?  For quite awhile I would've said yes to Puig, but probably not anymore.  It's a combination of Puig cooling off a bit towards the season's end, his not-so-great relationship with opposing players and the media, and Fernandez's scorching hot close to the season which most likely favors the Marlins' ace.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Doubts surround Mattingly's possible return

Judging by today's joint press conference with Ned Colletti and Don Mattingly, something seems pretty obvious: Mattingly will only return with a multi-year contract, and nothing less. 

Will he get what he wants?  The jury is still out on that.

In what was probably a surprise to most people, his 2014 option has already vested (or, became permanent) after beating the Braves in the NLDS.  Even with that, it's not a slam dunk that Mattingly will use that to return on what is basically a one-year deal.  In fact, that appears unlikely.

Mattingly contests that a one-year deal basically gives him the dreaded "lame-duck" status, something his old boss Joe Torre desperately tried to avoid in his Yankee days.  It's understandable given the intricacies of running a big league clubhouse.

Still, given the tone of his delivery, I'm not at all convinced that this thing will get figured out.  Even with a run that lasted until Game 6 of the NLCS, fair or not, Mattingly's decision making was a subject of scrutiny all season long.  Will that be enough to chase him out the door?  It could be.

Maybe all of this talk is just what both sides need to hear to clear the air, and Mattingly will ink another three or four-year contract this week.  Maybe it's his final words in Dodger blue, and he'll take over a club like the Nationals or Tigers with the retirements of Davey Johnson and Jim Leyland, respectively.  Maybe he'll be out of baseball for the 2014 season.

Colletti said this week will be spent evaluating Mattingly, the coaching staff, and player evaluations for next season.  So, we should soon find out if Donnie Baseball is locked in with the Dodgers for the foreseeable future.

Dodgers continue international splash by signing Guerrero

Just three days after being ousted in the NLCS by the Cardinals, the Dodgers are already back to work in upgrading their club.

In what has been rumored for most of the season, the Dodgers officially signed Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero to a four-year, $28 million deal today.  Based on plate appearances, that total could get bumped up $1 million per season, topping out at $32 million. 

While it's very early to project just how good of a player Guerrero will end up being, it looks like a good signing on a few different levels.  For starters, as we saw in the NLCS, the Dodgers really need to find ways to improve their offense up and down the lineup.  While a healthy Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez obviously make a big difference, the book on Guerrero is that he has plenty of power and speed on the bases.  So, if he pans out, that's a huge plus.

It also means that the days of Mark Ellis being the full-time starter would appear to be over.  I'm not saying that he has no value, because if you watch the amount of games that I do, you have to respect how hard he works in the field and at the plate.  But, the bottom line is that in 126 games this season, he hit .270 with 6 homers, 48 RBIs, and 4 stolen bases, which are not exactly eye-popping numbers.

What Ellis did have was a great glove, as his .989 fielding % ranked eighth in all of baseball at second base.  He only committed six errors all season in 533 total chances.  And we all know that in the National League, having a great defense is big if you want to win, so while Guerrero has been described as having a good glove, he'll have to prove it.

The last reason this will probably turn out to be a good signing has to do with a guy not even on the Dodgers, and that's Robinson Cano.  Magic Johnson alluded to not signing Cano towards the end of the season, but with management's reputation for throwing a whole lot of bucks at the big names, it was hard to believe the door was closed.  Now I think the door might only be open a slight crack, if at all.

It's hard to blame Ned Colletti for being aggressive in the international market based on the success of Hyun-Jin Ryu and Yasiel Puig this season.  Plus, we all know of the strong history of international players in Dodger history, from guys like Fernando Valenzuela, Hideo Nomo, and Chan Ho Park.  It's worked before, and it can work again.  Guerrero can make that happen.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

In the end, Dodgers never could overcome Ramirez getting plunked

Even though the Dodgers lasted until Game 6 of the NLCS, the turning point occurred in the third batter of Game 1.

That's when Hanley Ramirez was beaned in the ribs by a Joe Kelly fastball.  Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig struck out after that, and the Dodgers never were the same.

From there, Ramirez was practically in a no-win situation.  If he sits out, people question if his mere presence is enough for the Dodgers to boost their chances of winning.  If he plays, he's so banged up that he's essentially a singles hitter in the #3 spot.  In other words, he's another version of Andre Ethier.

The numbers for HanRam this season are very telling.  Let's break it down between regular season, NLDS, and NLCS.

Regular Season
.345 AVG, .402 OBP, 25 2B, 2 3B, 20 HR, 57 RBI, 10 SB

.500 AVG, .556 OBP, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 1 SB

.133 AVG, .316 OBP, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 SB

No surprise there.

Ramirez has played the entire season with some sort of injury, including his thumb, hamstring, back, and then his ribs.  The fact that he was still able to put up such great numbers shows the talent he has.

But a broken rib is a broken rib, and any athlete would have a hard time playing through that.  Add in the fact that he's a baseball player, and his ribs feel the pain each time he swings a bat and makes a throw, I don't think his 2-for-15 performance against the Cardinals is shocking at all.

The beaning also affected him on defense, as he was clearly reluctant, and possibly not even able to, dive for some hard grounders in his area.  Who knows if he would've gotten to them anyway, but the Cardinals were able to knock Clayton Kershaw out of Game 6 early because of those hits, so his lack of range on those didn't help.

It's not fair to pin the entire series loss on just Ramirez getting hit, as plenty of other guys didn't step up when they were needed the most.  But as the saying goes, Ramirez was "the straw that stirred the drink," and without his production, everybody else suffered as a result.  He couldn't hit like his normal self, and the Dodgers averaged 2.2 runs per game.

That's what ultimately did them in.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Dodgers rocked, season ends in blowout Game 6 loss

Clayton Kershaw on the mound.  Hanley Ramirez a late addition to the lineup.  Some momentum after winning Game 5 with four home runs a couple of days before.

None of it mattered.

The Cardinals scored four in the third and five in the fifth, and the Dodgers had two hits the entire game in getting absolutely creamed, 9-0.  That's it for this season, as the Dodgers deepest run since 1988 ended with a 4-2 series loss.

A sign of bad things to come happened in the first.  Carl Crawford legged out an infield single to short, but was quickly erased on a double play ball from Mark Ellis, who was pretty bad all around in this one.  Kershaw gave up a one-out double to Carlos Beltran, but nothing came of it.

Kershaw again wiggled out of trouble in the second when Shane Robinson hit a two-out single, then went ahead to third on two straight wild pitches.  Again, Kershaw got out of trouble by striking out Peter Kozma.

The third inning?  No such luck.  The season was essentially lost here, as the Cardinals sent 10 batters to the plate, a completely shocking sight against someone of Kershaw's caliber.  A double by Matt Carpenter with two outs led to an RBI single from Beltran for the 1-0 lead.

What's probably forgotten is that Matt Holliday struck out to make two down.  Six batters came to the plate afterwards, as Yadier Molina started it on an RBI single up the middle.  Kershaw didn't get the outside corner on a full count to Matt Adams, as home plate umpire Greg Gibson was squeezing him for whatever reason.  Oh, I know the reason... the game was in St. Louis.  Robinson's two-run single with the bases loaded made it 4-0.

Chances were slim, but at least Crawford led off the fourth with a walk against the red hot Michael Wacha.  Three straight popups came next, as the bats were just pitiful all night long.

In the fifth, Kershaw was KO'd.  An RBI double from Adams is what finally did him in.  Ronald Belisario came in, and with the bases loaded, Wacha's grounder to Ellis at second was inexplicably thrown home late, making it 6-0.

A sacrifice fly from Carpenter, a wild pitch by J.P. Howell, and a single by Beltran scored the other runs, as the Cardinals completely ran away with this one at 9-0.

The last hit of the game for the Dodgers came in the sixth, as A.J. Ellis doubled leading off.  Shocker of shocks, he was stranded right there.

It's a shame this game turned out to be such a trainwreck, as it was obviously not a reflection for the type of season the Dodgers put together.  They came such a long way from being in last place in June, had the 42-8 run, won the NL West, beat the Braves in the NLDS, then couldn't come through when most needed in the NLCS.

As you can see, there were many positives, but Game 6 was anything but that.  Kershaw lasted only four innings for 10 hits, seven runs, two walks, and five strikeouts.  He couldn't locate his fastball well, and they took advantage of it.  What also didn't help was a small strike zone by Gibson, and even though that ultimately didn't matter because of the offense, it still affected him enough to throw him off his game.  And that's the truth.

Two things that I knew had to happen if the Dodgers wanted to win coming into this game: the offense had to give some support, and Beltran couldn't do the damage.  Um... no check and no check.  Adrian Gonzalez, Ramirez, Andre Ethier, Yasiel Puig, and Juan Uribe combined to go 0-for-15 hitting in the 3-7 spots.  Wow, I knew they were bad during the game, but it didn't hit me just how bad until I just looked at the box score.

A lot of Cardinals did damage, but it started with Beltran.  He went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs.  That's something I'll never understand about this series, the way the Dodgers stubbornly gave him pitches to hit, and he certainly did.  He's so good in the postseason, yet in the first and last game, he was so big in leading his team to wins.  I'm still shaking my head.

Now the offseason is upon us, and with that, some question marks that come with it.  Will Don Mattingly be brought back?  Will Kershaw sign a massive extension?  Will the front office bring in another star like Robinson Cano?  Will recovering arms like Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett be ready to go for next year?  We will soon find out.


On a personal note, this has been my sixth year covering the action day in and day out on this blog.  This season has been the most fun, and craziest for that matter, and I've enjoyed every second of it.  Stay tuned for a season review, plus for all the news that comes in the Hot Stove season.  Thanks again!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Hanley Ramirez out for Game 6

A tough blow for the Dodgers - Hanley Ramirez will not be in the starting lineup for Game 6 in St. Louis.  It'll be Nick Punto playing short instead and hitting eighth.


Nothing against Punto, but he obviously doesn't have nearly the impact bat that Ramirez has.  I don't think anyone does.  As we saw in the NLDS against the Braves, even a banged up Ramirez can carry a team, hitting .500.  After getting beaned in the ribs in Game 1, he's just not the same player, hitting only .167.  For once he's just not able to overcome all of the injuries.

Don Mattingly has set his lineup, and it'll feature Adrian Gonzalez hitting third, Yasiel Puig in the cleanup spot, and Andre Ethier hitting fifth.  I like this move because Puig should hit in front of Ethier, as I stated on a post yesterday.  If there's two outs in the ninth and the #4 spot up, I'd much rather see Puig than Ethier.

If you're Clayton Kershaw, you feel a lot more pressure to put up blanks now.  He's definitely up to the task, but hopefully he doesn't have to be perfect to win.  Tonight is a game where it would be great to see someone like Juan Uribe drive in runs to get to Saturday night.

One other factor that may help the Dodgers is the weather.  As of now, there's possible rain in the forecast around 9 p.m.  It'll also be in the 40s, so bundle up!  A rainout will only help get Ramirez back in the lineup, so maybe Mother Nature will assist them a bit.

To win in St. Louis, Dodgers can't mess with Beltran

As we near the finish line in the NLCS, the Dodgers face a tall task in winning two straight in St. Louis.  The first two games saw Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw pitch... and two straight loses.  So, it's obviously not an easy thing to do.

What the Dodgers did do right, however, was win two of three at home, so here we are back in Missouri for Game 6.  Kershaw takes the mound on Friday, and if all goes right, Hyun-Jin Ryu in Game 7.

How can the Dodgers pull this thing off?  One thing if very clear: don't let Carlos Beltran do the damage.

Here's what people probably don't realize: Beltran is hitting only .200 this postseason, and a measly .176 against the Dodgers.  So, he's basically been held in check.

But, it's hard to forget the Dodgers stubbornly pitching to him with bases open in Game 1.  With two on and two out in third, he hit a two-run double off of Greinke.  In the 13th with two on and one down, Kenley Jansen pitched to him and watched the game end on a single.  Three RBIs for Beltran, 3-2 win for the Cardinals.  Not exactly the smartest night in Dodger organizational history.

Since then he's only had one hit, an RBI triple in Game 5.  What the Dodgers have smartly done is walk him instead of challenge him, with five in total.  I don't care how good of a pitching staff they have, this guy is one of the best hitters in postseason history, and shouldn't be messed with.

With that in mind, Kershaw would be wise tonight to pick and choose his battles.  If the bases are empty, go after him (at least somewhat).  If runners are on and a base is open, don't give him anything to hit.  There's no reason to risk leaving something over the plate to hammer, because he will.  He's that good.

When the NLCS is all over with, win or lose, the Dodgers need to make sure they had the best gameplan they could to win.  Pitching to a guy who's capable of carrying a team himself is not the way to get it done.  Making the other guys around him get the big hits is.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

For Game 6, Mattingly should swap Puig and Ethier

As the Dodgers get ready for Game 6 in St. Louis, Don Mattingly stated today that he fully expects Andre Ethier and Hanley Ramirez to be in the lineup.  There's more confidence in Ethier than there is in Ramirez, and understandably so considering everything hurts for Ramirez right now.  But, with a couple of days off between the last pitch of Game 5 and the first pitch of Game 6, hopefully he'll be in better shape.

With that said, if I was Mattingly, I would make one lineup adjustment: hit Yasiel Puig in the #5 spot, swapping spots with Ethier, who would move to #6.

There's a few reasons for this.  One, Ethier is 3-for-17 in this series (.176 AVG).  I don't care if the Cardinals have right-handed Michael Wacha as the starter, Mattingly can't keep overvaluing what side of the mound the pitcher delivers from.  Right now Ethier is a singles hitter and nothing more.  It doesn't matter if the pitcher is right of left-handed, he's still pretty bad.

The second reason ties into the first one, in that Puig is a much better option to drive in runs from the middle of the order.  He was as bad as they came in the first two games, but after putting up an 0-for-10 spot, he's since gone 5-for-9 with a triple and two RBIs.  Give him a chance to get an extra-base hit against a really good pitcher.

The last reason has to do with Ramirez.  The last two games he's had to leave early because of his fractured ribs, to go along with various other ailments.  He even missed all of Game 2.  Say he needs to leave early in Game 6 as well and Nick Punto has to take his spot in the #3 hole.  Then say the Dodgers are down by at least one in the ninth.  Whom would you rather have up with two outs: Puig or Ethier?  I don't care how many strikeouts Puig gets, one swing from him can make a heck of a lot more difference than Ethier.

Mattingly has used basically the same lineup during both rounds in the playoffs, with the only real difference where Puig has hit.  As the Tigers and Red Sox have shown, making some changes can be a positive thing.  Make the heart of the order Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, and Puig, and that strikes much more fear in the Cardinals than Ethier hitting behind A-Gon.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A-Gon powers Dodgers to deepest run since '88

The old mantra "One game at a time" never rang so true than for these Dodgers.  Needing to win three straight games to fight off elimination, they put their best foot forward on Wednesday afternoon.  The result was an offense that found a spark, and a trip back to the Midwest.

Powered by two homers from Adrian Gonzalez, plus solo shots from Carl Crawford and A.J. Ellis, the Dodgers took down the Cardinals, 6-4.  The Cardinals are still in control of these series at 3-2, as the setting will shift back to Busch Stadium.

Both teams have been plagued by poor hitting throughout the series, but more so for the Dodgers, who seemed to make failing in the clutch a new hobby.  In Game 4, they hit into three double plays and had a guy picked off of second in the late innings.  Not exactly the recipe for how to win in the postseason.

What the Dodgers have been able to count on has been their pitching, but right away, Zack Greinke found himself in a whole lot of trouble.  Matt Carpenter led off with a single, Carlos Beltran walked, and Matt Holliday singled to load the bases with nobody out.

How did Greinke respond?  Beautifully.  He struck out Matt Adams swinging, then got Yadier Molina to ground to Juan Uribe at third, who turned the easy 5-3 double play.  As announcer Ron Darling correctly pointed out, sometimes pitchers provide a spark by striking out the side, but this time it was by wiggling out of a bases loaded, nobody out jam.

The offense went down in order in the first, but got going in the second.  It started on a single by Adrian Gonzalez, who was awesome on both sides of the field.  Andre Ethier flew out (no surprise there), but Yasiel Puig's single to right put two on.  Uribe's RBI single up the middle made it 1-0.

After A.J. Ellis fouled out, Greinke pulled the old "help himself out" thing by sneaking an RBI single to left, and it was 2-0.

If you found the score and situation to be eerily similar to Game 1, then you would be right, because it was.  Just like the first game, Greinke came right back to the mound with a 2-0 lead and faced Joe Kelly.  Unlike last time, Kelly grounded back to the mound, and Greinke was ready to put up a zero, right?

Wrong.  Four straight hits came next, and it started on another single by Carpenter.  Beltran smacked an RBI triple off the very top of the centerfield wall, making it 2-1.  Then came the second run on a double by Holliday, and it was a new game.  Thankfully Molina grounded into another double play to end the threat.

When this happened in Game 1, the Dodgers failed to score the entire rest of the night, which went 13 innings.  This time, Gonzalez made sure to erase the bad memory of a double play grounded into by Hanley Ramirez, as A-Gon's 450-foot monster shot to right made it 3-2.

From there, simply put, Greinke was fantastic.  He retired the side in the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh.  Add it all up, and he put down the final 13 batters he faced for a final line of seven innings, six hits, two runs, one walk, and four strikeouts.  In three postseason starts, his ERA is a healthy 2.40.

The Dodgers kept adding to their lead with the longball.  Yes, really!  Crawford demolished one into right in the fifth to go up 4-2.  In the seventh, it was Ellis's turn, hitting one out to left to make it 5-2.  And just for fun, Gonzo hit one more in the seventh to give Kenley Jansen a 6-2 lead.

Jansen's ninth was interesting, to say the least.  I wouldn't say the Cardinals pounded him, but little hits here and there made the home crowd much more nervous than they thought it would.  And the guy typing this! 

It all started on a double by Holliday, who had a good day with three hits and two doubles.  Adams made it 6-3 on an RBI single.  As good as Holliday was, Molina was not, as he struck out for one down, putting him at two K's and two DP's on a dreadful day at the plate.  Jon Jay singled, but David Freese struck out on some high cheese.

When light hitting Peter Kozma came up, it looked like game over.  Only it wasn't.  He hit an RBI single, and it was 6-4.  At this point Jansen had already given up more hits in one inning than he did all season (four), but everyone exhaled when he struck out Adron Chambers to end the game.

Guess what?  Jansen still struck out the side, giving him 10 in 4 1/3 playoff innings.

So here the Dodgers find themselves on their longest run since that famous 1988 championship season.  They've made the NLCS a couple of other times, but lost in five games to the Phillies in both 2008 and 2009.  At least they got over the dreaded Game 5 hump.  You have to start somewhere.

What's working for the Dodgers is that they get a day off to rest Ramirez, who left again in the seventh for Nick Punto.  Actually, because of the day game on the West Coast, it'll end up being just over two full days off, which can only help him get back on track after injuries have slowed him down to .167 in the NLCS.

Oh ya, there's that Clayton Kershaw guy getting the ball in Game 6 as well.  It's hard not to be excited about their chances, even on the road.

The pressure is still on the Dodgers, as they're the ones in a do-or-die situation on Friday.  But suppose they get the win, then what?  Definitely, the pressure shifts to the home team, as the Cardinals would be looking at two straight years of blowing 3-1 series leads.  No team has ever done that in MLB history...

...or in the NBA or NHL as well.

Dodgers a step behind in falling to 3-1 hole

On a night where the Dodgers celebrated the 25-year anniversary of Kirk Gibson's dramatic home run in the 1988 World Series, and where they grabbed back momentum from a big 3-0 win the previous night, they were looking to even up the NLCS.

Then they went out and laid an egg.

One miscue after another was too much for the Dodgers to overcome, and a mammoth 423-foot two-run shot by Matt Holliday put the Cardinals in control for an eventual win, 4-2.  The Cardinals are up 3-1 in this series, with the Dodgers getting one last game at home on Wednesday afternoon with Game 1 starters Zack Greinke and Joe Kelly taking the hill.

If the Dodgers were looking for a positive sign from Ricky Nolasco, then they got it with a great first inning including two popups in foul territory and a grounder to first.  Then he got through the second with only a walk and a couple strikeouts.  Too bad this positivity didn't last.

The start of the frustration for the Dodgers began in the second, when they couldn't capitalize with the bases loaded.  Andre Ethier singled, Yasiel Puig walked (yes, walked), and A.J. Ellis walked with two outs.  The problem was that this meant Nolasco was up next, and Lance Lynn easily struck him out.

Sure enough, the Cardinals made the Dodgers pay in the third.  Daniel Descalsco singled leading off, and Lynn sacrificed him over to second on a great bunt.  The ice cold Matt Carpenter hit an RBI double to left center for the 1-0 lead.  Carlos Beltran grounded out for two down.

Had Nolasco kept the deficit at only one run, then things would've been fine.  But, Holliday took a flat inside fastball and just unloaded on a two-run bomb to left, going up 3-0.  You had a feeling that that could be a dagger.

The only time the Dodgers managed to get runners not only on but in was in the fourth.  It started when Adrian "Mickey Mouse" Gonzalez doubled to right.  Ethier then walked, which set up an RBI single up the middle from Puig to make it 3-1.  Juan Uribe flied out to deep right, which advanced Ethier to third, and Ellis's RBI single made it 3-2.

Don Mattingly then called upon Skip Schumaker to hit for Nolasco in the big spot, even this early in the game.  It didn't work.  Schumaker bounced into an easy double play to end the inning.  Looking back, having Nolasco lay down the sacrifice bunt would've been better, or maybe calling on Scott Van Slyke to swing for the fences and at least getting a sacrifice fly.

Chris Withrow pitched the fifth and sixth, and the bottom line is that he didn't give up a run.  It wasn't pretty, as he had three walks and a balk.  Even Ellis got nailed for catcher's interference.  A double play from David Freese ended the sixth.

The double play ball struck again in the sixth, as Uribe grounded into one to the end inning, wasting Puig's one-out single.

The most unlikely sight took place in the seventh, as the Cardinals added a solo home from Shane Robinson on a ball that bounced off the top of the wall in left and into the crowd.  How unlikely was it?  Robinson has five home runs in 342 career at-bats, and then this happened.  Unbelievable.

Nick Punto took over for a clearly hurting Hanley Ramirez to start the seventh, and in his first at-bat, doubled with an out in the bottom of the inning.  That was great, right?  Well, it was until he was picked off of second in a truly pitiful sight.  It wasn't even close.

Nothing happened for the Dodgers in the eighth, but Ethier greeted closer Trevor Rosenthal with a single in the ninth.  Puig came up next, already looking like a new man after a disastrous first two games.  Here, though, he hit into... you guessed it, a double freakin' play.  Uribe struck out to end it.

There are quite a few ways the Dodgers could've at least tied the game, but time and time again, they came up short.  Nolasco was a bit of a mixed bag, as he certainly wasn't awful, but not very good either.  He lasted four innings for three hits, three runs, one walk, and four strikeouts. 

The middle relief only gave up one run in five innings, even if it was a bumpy ride along the way.  J.P. Howell was the one who gave up the homer to the weak-hitting Robinson, not that it mattered in the end since the Cardinals had enough of a lead anyway.  Carlos Marmol saw his first playoff action by getting five outs and only allowing one walk, striking out three.

So while the pitching ranged from decent to good, the offense was terrible again.  They simply are not doing what it takes to win games at this level.  They gathered eight hits, which is actually two more than the Cardinals.  But, they grounded into three double plays, which were just killer.  Schumaker's and Uribe's both ended innings, and Puig's came in the ninth.

What's even more interesting is that the Cardinals are hitting .148 this series, yet are in full control.  The Dodgers aren't much better at .223, so it's safe to say both teams have been pretty bad at the plate.  Yet, when the big play has to be made, there's the Cardinals executing, and the Dodgers not.

All the Dodgers can now ask for is to win three straight games, which they're certainly capable of doing.  If Mattingly was given the choice of lining up his three best pitchers for a situation like this, he would definitely choose Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, and Hyun-Jin Ryu.  That's who we'll see as they desperately try to stay alive.

A win on Wednesday would also start to put some doubt in the Cardinals' heads about blowing a 3-1 lead to the Giants last year.  But if that's ever going to happen, the offense has got to score more than the 1.8 runs they've averaged through four games.  If they can't support their pitchers, then the season will be over.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Dodgers ride Ryu to Game 3 victory

The Dodgers got everything they could've hoped for out of Game 3 of the NLCS: a resurgent Hyun-Jin Ryu, a returning Hanley Ramirez, and an offense that finally got some clutch hits.

Add it all up, and it's a 3-0 victory for the Dodgers, who are now down 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.  Game 4 will be Tuesday night in Dodger Stadium.

The odds were certainly stacked against the Dodgers for a variety of reasons, but none bigger than having to go through Cardinals' ace Adam Wainwright, who went the distance in finish off the Pirates in the do-or-die Game 5 of the NLDS.  Throw in an anemic offense that went 22 innings between scoring, and Ryu not even lasting into the fourth his last start, and winning would be tough.

Fortunately for the Dodgers, Ryu more than brought his stuff.  He walked Carlos Beltran on a full count in the first, then proceeded to retire the next 11 in a row.  His location and velocity were a complete 180 degree turn from a week ago against the Braves.

The Dodgers were also being held in check before mercifully breaking through in the fourth.  It started on a "double" to right center by Mark Ellis, though in fairness, it should've never happened if John Jay or Carlos Beltran even bothered to take control.  Nonetheless, it was a break the Dodgers happily took.

Ramirez, who hit a bloop single in his first at-bat, flew out to right, advancing Ellis to third.  Adrian Gonzalez then lined an RBI double to right, and it was 1-0.  A groundout by Andre Ethier advanced Gonzo to third with two outs.  The much maligned Yasiel Puig finally got a hit, and a big one at that, as his RBI triple made it 2-0.  He certainly thought it was a home run when he first made contact, raised his arms in triumph, realized it wasn't, and still got to third.  Unreal.

Ryu didn't give up a hit through four, but David Freese and Matt Adams greeted him with singles to start the fifth.  Freese then had to be lifted for a pinch-runner, as he strained his calf during the at-bat.  That runner turned out to be Daniel Descalso, who inexplicably ran way too far on a soft lineout to Crawford in left, causing him to be doubled up.  A fielder's choice by Peter Kozma ended what would be the final true threat of the night for the Cards.

Brian Wilson relieved Ryu in the eighth, and after a single up the middle by Jay, nothing else came of it.  That's now five scoreless postseason appearances for Wilson without allowing a run, as he also picked up his first hold.

The bottom of the eighth brought another insurance run thanks to some gutsy baserunning.  Crawford and Ellis both singled with an out.  Ramirez blooped another single into center, and Crawford aggressively ran home and just beat the tag of Yadier Molina on a close, but correct, call.

Kenley Jansen mowed through the heart of the Cardinals' order, getting Molina to ground to short to end it for his second postseason save.

The Cardinals are still the team in control of this series, but visions of last year's collapse could be dancing through their heads.  If you recall, they flat out blew a 3-1 series lead against the Giants, who ended up sweeping the Tigers in the World Series.  Maybe yes, maybe no, but it's natural to at least somewhat think about it.

Ryu was signed this past offseason for starts like this, as injuries to Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett meant he was the true #3 starter.  He lasted lasted seven innings for three hits, no runs, one walk, and four strikeouts.  Like I said before, his location was fantastic, and the Cardinals never could find any rhythm against him.

The story of the game for the Cardinals was all of their mental mistakes on both sides of the field.  As pointed out by the TBS guys on the postgame show, Mike Matheny looked seething angry in his press conference, and with good reason.  Two balls that landed in the outfield were costly, especially the one from Ellis that started the rally in the fourth.  Then Descalso getting doubled up in the fifth, which was pathetic, quite frankly.

With the win, Don Mattingly can give the ball to Ricky Nolasco with much more breathing room than being down 3-0.  Win or lose, he has to like his chances with Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, and Ryu slated to go in Game 5, 6, and 7, respectively.

Or, Mattingly can throw everything out of whack by pushing Greinke on short rest, just like Kershaw last round.  I doubt it will happen, but you never know...

For now, we'll say it's Nolasco starting Tuesday night against Lance Lynn, who pitched the final two innings of the Cardinals' 3-2 win in 13 innings in Game 1.  Nolasco hasn't pitched since tossing an inning of relief in the last regular season game on September 29, and hasn't started since getting pounded by the Giants on September 25.  If anything, he's well-rested.

Dodgers would be wise to sit Ethier

There's still no word on whether or not Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier will be able to give it a go for Game 3 of the NLCS.  There's plenty on the line, obviously, as the Dodgers desperately need to win this one to avoid going down 3-0.

Having Ramirez's bat in the lineup, even at 50%, would be huge for the Dodgers.  Opposing pitchers still have to very much account for him and the impact his swing can make.  He's already had a CT scan, but as of now, those results aren't available.

Ethier is also trying to fight his way back into the lineup, as he sat out most of Game 2 before striking out to end it.  I can certainly admire his desire to play, but I have to ask the question: Is putting him in the starting lineup even a good idea at this point?

The answer, I'm sorry to say, is clearly no.

The Ethier we are seeing now is a shell of his former self, the guy who was the glue in the outfield for nearly the entire season when Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp were hurt, and Yasiel Puig was still in Double-A.  That guy didn't have a big bat power-wise, but had 47 extra-base hit in 142 games while playing some great defense, especially in center when Kemp was out.

Now?  Not so much.  He pinch-hit in all four games against the Braves in the NLDS, and went 0-for-3 with a walk and strikeout.  In Game 1 of the NLCS, he found his way back in the starting lineup in center, and responded by going 1-for-5 with a walk and two strikeouts.  There was also the double by Carlos Beltran that scored two runs which wasn't caught at the wall.  Fair or not, it's safe to question whether Skip Schumaker would've caught that ball.  We'll never know.

As if he didn't look bad enough in Game 1, the way he struck out to end Game 2 was especially alarming.  Three fastballs from Trevor Rosenthal, three weak swings and misses by Ethier.  Yikes.

Seeing Schumaker's name etched in center at the start of Game 3 is not going to create all sorts of excitement for Dodger fans.  He's only hitting .176 this October (3-for-17) with two RBIs.  But, it's the right thing to do.  Ethier's ankle is simply not in the shape it needs to be to automatically grant him the starting nod.  Kudos to him for trying, but right now, he looks like an easy 0-for-4 against someone as good as Adam Wainwright.

I certainly hope Ethier can somehow find a way to get healthier before time runs out on the Dodgers in 2013.  Based on his .111 postseason average, Don Mattingly can't afford to go with him again in the biggest game of the year for the Dodgers.  And whether or not Ethier claims he's good to go should be a moot point.  The best players need to be in tonight's lineup who give the Dodgers their best chance to win.

That's Schumaker, not Ethier.

A closer look at the Dodgers' abysmal NLCS offense

With the Dodgers down 0-2 to the Cardinals in the NLCS, all of the talk has been about their absolutely atrocious offense, and rightfully so.  Time and time again they've had chances to break through and at least win one of the games, only to fail miserably in big situations.

All in all, the Dodgers were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position in Game 1, and 0-for-6 in Game 2.  I'm pretty sure that equates to 1-for-16 in two games.  That's just brutal.  Here's a closer look at every situation where they've had a chance with RISP...

Game 1
1st inning: Mark Ellis on 2nd (single), Adrian Gonzalez struck out swinging, Yasiel Puig struck out swinging
3rd inning: Carl Crawford on 2nd (double), Ellis grounded out
Crawford on 3rd (double), Ramirez on 2nd (walk), Puig grounded into forceout at home
Ramirez on 3rd (walk), Gonzalez on 2nd (walk), Juan Uribe two-run single to center
Puig on 2nd (fielder's choice), Andre Ethier flew out
6th inning: Uribe on 2nd (single), Zack Greinke flew out
10th inning: Ellis on 3rd (triple), Michael Young flew out (then Ellis thrown out at home by Carlos Beltran)
11th inning: Ethier on 2nd (walk), Nick Punto struck out swinging
12th inning: Crawford on 2nd (single), Young grounded into a double play

Game 2
1st inning: Mark Ellis on 2nd (single and stolen base), Puig struck out swinging
5th inning: A.J. Ellis on 2nd (ground rule double), Punto struck out looking
6th inning: Clayton Kershaw on third (single and error), Crawford on 2nd (single and error), Mark Ellis popped up, Puig struck out swinging, Uribe struck out swinging
7th inning: Punto on 3rd (single and two wild pitches), Young flew out


There's really no positive way at all to spin these numbers.  With the exception of Uribe's two-run single up the middle to take a 2-0 lead in Game 1, everything else has ranged from ugly to pathetic. 

As Matt Kemp sits out and Ramirez missed Game 2 with a sore everything after gritting through 13 innings of Game 1 clearly injured, a lot of the pressure falls on guys like Puig and Gonzalez.  Quite simply, they've been awful.  With RISP, Puig is 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, and Gonzalez is 0-for-1 with a strikeout, but was also hitless in Game 2.  Neither one of these guys has made any difference whatsoever.  Well, they have for the Cardinals, but I digress.

Ramirez remains a gametime decision for Game 3, so even if he is in the lineup, you can't expect him to automatically bring the power.  Maybe he will, but the guy is obviously in pain, so we have to temper our expectations.  And Kemp isn't walking through that door.

At 0-for-10 with six strikeouts in this series, Puig will still be counted on to get the job done.  He's so lost at the plate right now, pitchers are just throwing everything by him, including fastballs right down the middle.  Being so young with so much power, he's practically spinning himself into the ground when he swings and misses.  There's been no plate discipline at all, something I thought he showed in the NLDS against the Braves.  Not anymore.

It seems like the Dodgers have been destroyed in both games thus far, but the reality is that they've lost by the slimmest of margins.  It's how they've lost that's been so frustrating, as both of their aces put in fantastic efforts that where wasted away.  A hit here and a play there, this could very well by 2-0 Dodgers.  But it's not, and the reality is that they need to win four of the next five, with three of those games coming at home.

As A.J. Ellis stated, the Cardinals beat their aces, now it's time to beat theirs in Adam Wainwright Monday night.  Maybe that'll be the thing that jumpstarts this sorry offense into making a series of this thing.  If not, then good luck to the Cardinals in the World Series.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Ethier will open the NLCS in center

Andre Ethier has apparently done enough to convince Don Mattingly and the Dodgers' management to return to the starting lineup.  He'll get the nod in center and hit seventh behind Juan Uribe in Game 1 of the NLCS.

This is great news, at least if he's truly healthy.  You get the feeling that it's one of those things where Ethier is feeling better, but both sides are trying to convince themselves that he really will be OK to start.  Perhaps it will be one of those issues where they'll let him go until he shows signs of not being able to execute the way he should.

With that in mind, expect Skip Schumaker to have his glove ready and be stretched during every inning.

The Cardinals feature an all right-handed rotation (Joe Kelly, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn), so Ethier's bat from the left side is essential.  Schumaker also hits left, and while he did fairly well in the NLDS against the Braves, his bat doesn't have the game-changing impact that Ethier's does.

Of course, neither one of them has the impact that Matt Kemp's bat does, and this is the type of series where he will be sorely missed, but I digress.

Hopefully Ethier can provide some thump at the bottom of the order, as the Dodgers will look to steal back home field advantage with a win in any of the first couple of games.  Some improved health plus Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw taking the ball means that is a good possibility of happening.

Dodgers set 25-man roster for the NLCS

The Dodgers waited until Friday afternoon to officially announce their 25-man roster for the NLCS, and here it is:

Starting Rotation
Clayton Kershaw
Zack Greinke
Hyun-Jin Ryu
Ricky Nolasco

Kenley Jansen
Brian Wilson
Ronald Belisario
J.P. Howell
Chris Withrow
Carlos Marmol
Edinson Volquez (long relief)

A.J. Ellis
Tim Federowicz

Adrian Gonzalez
Mark Ellis
Hanley Ramirez
Juan Uribe
Michael Young
Dee Gordon

Carl Crawford
Andre Ethier
Yasiel Puig
Scott Van Slyke

Skip Schumaker
Nick Punto

Analysis: A couple of changes have been made from the previous round.  Out are Paco Rodriguez and Chris Capuano, in are Marmol and Volquez.  Still missing are Brandon League and Jerry Hairston.

Removing Rodriguez is not a surprise, as he was knocked around down the stretch, as well as by Jason Heyward.  So much for getting the lefties out.  Capuano pitched three scoreless innings in Game 3 against the Braves, but wasn't very effective against the Cardinals this season, and still is just a so-so option.  Maybe Volquez has something left in him.

Only keeping one lefty in the bullpen is a bit of a risk, but one worth taking.  As we saw in the Game 2 loss, matching left vs. left and right vs. right isn't guaranteed to work, so I'd much rather just have the best pitcher in regardless of which side of the rubber he throws from.  Besides, if the Dodgers insist on using another lefty in the later innings, maybe Ryu can do the job.

Someone who may find his way back into the starting lineup, or at least getting much more playing time, is Ethier.  His ankle isn't 100%, but supposedly much better than last round.  Even with a bit of uncertainty, however, the Dodgers decided to keep Van Slyke around to play the outfield just in case, and Gordon to pinch-run.

Other than potentially starting Ethier in center for Schumaker, I wouldn't expect to see any changes to the starting lineup, as Don Mattingly used the exact same one in all four Division Series games.  With Uribe playing very well and Ramirez avoiding injuries for now, Young and Punto will play backup roles.  We know Greinke and Kershaw will go the first couple of game, with Ryu and Nolasco candidates for Game 3.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Middle relief will play key role for the Dodgers

A lot went right for the Dodgers in taking down the Braves in the NLDS.  Carl Crawford hitting three home runs.  Hanley Ramirez hitting .500.  Juan Uribe's series-clinching two-run shot.  Clayton Kershaw's one earned run in 13 innings.  Kenley Jansen being untouchable.

But for all that went right, one thing definitely needs improvement against the Cardinals in the NLCS: middle relief.

It wasn't all doom and gloom, at least.  Brian Wilson pitched three scoreless innings in three appearances.  J.P. Howell was also scoreless over three appearances covering 2 1/3 innings.  Chris Capuano relieved an ineffective Hyun-Jin Ryu in Game 3 and didn't allow a run in three innings, though did have control problems with three walks.  But hey, no runs is no runs.

As for the rest of the 'pen (minus closer Jansen)... yuck.  Chris Withrow took over for Zack Greinke in the seventh inning of Game 2 and only got two outs, getting charged with two runs.  Paco Rodriguez relieved Withrow, gave up a huge two-run single to Jayson Heyward, then was yanked.  Ronald Belisario walked Justin Upton, then he too was yanked.

In Game 3, Capuano, Howell, and Belisario were effective, but Rodriguez was not.  All he had to do was get the final three outs with a nine-run lead, and three hits and a walk later, including a massive two-run bomb by Heyward, Jansen had to get the last out.  It was very disappointing.

Then there was Belisario in Game 4, who was horrible.  After taking over for Kershaw in the seventh, he got the first out, but then allowed a triple to Elliot Johnson and an RBI single to Jose Constanza.  And just like that, he was done.

All in all, here are the ERA's for the following: Belisario - 9.00, Withrow - 27.00, Rodriguez - 27.00.  UGLY.

A case can be made that those are small sample sizes, but in the playoffs, everything is.  There's really no way of spinning those numbers into something positive at all.  They all pitched only 2 1/3 innings, yet gave up five runs, seven hits, and four walks.

At this point, I'm sure Don Mattingly will use Howell, Wilson, and Jansen in the late innings with a lead.  But what happens when they need innings if they're losing or the game is tied?  That means more of the guys with the ballooned ERA's.  Advantage, Cardinals.

However, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the Dodgers make some roster changes for the NLCS.  I think Belisario will stick around, mostly because he never seems to go away.  But Withrow and Rodriguez could get ousted in favor of guys like Carlos Marmol and/or Brandon League.  I was a little surprised Marmol wasn't on the NLDS roster, so I would lean towards him making the championship series round.

Friday night is Game 1 in St. Louis, so keep an eye out for the final 25-man roster.  The Dodgers know these games will be tight, so the boys in the bullpen will have extra importance.  Getting a fresh arm or two in there can only help.

Greinke vs. Kelly, Kershaw vs. Wacha open the NLCS

The Cardinals put away the Pirates in the deciding Game 5 of the NLDS on Wednesday night, 6-1.  The win also gives the Cards home field advantage in the NLCS, as the Dodgers will be opening on the road once again.

What is good news for the Dodgers, however, is that Adam Wainwright won't be going until Game 3 on Monday.  He was fantastic on Wednesday, going the distance in throwing 107 pitches.  Both Don Mattingly and Mike Matheny have announced the starters for the first couple of games in St. Louis:

Game 1 - Friday, October 11, 8:37 ET
Zack Greinke (15-4, 2.63) vs. Joe Kelly (10-5, 2.65)

Game 2 - Saturday, October 12, 4:07 ET
Clayton Kershaw (16-9, 1.83) vs. Michael Wacha (4-1, 2.78)

It's this time of year when the Dodgers are so happy they shelled out the dough in the offseason for Greinke.  Suppose Greinke wasn't there or was hurt, then I highly doubt we would've seen Kershaw start on three days' rest against the Braves in the NLDS.  A loss there would've meant someone like Ricky Nolasco in Game 5.  Now, since the Dodgers won, they can push Kershaw back to regular rest for Game 2 of the NLCS, while watching their other ace go Game 1.  It works out for all.

Plus, the pressure is definitely on the Cardinals to win Game 1.  Imagine if they lose that game, then they have to turn around less than a day later and face the soon-to-be Cy Young winner in Kershaw.  Yikes, that's pretty scary. 

Maybe the Dodgers are secretly happy to have Greinke go in the first game for a couple of reasons.  One, if they win, they then give the ball to Kershaw and can steal two games on the road.  Two, if Greinke loses, their fallback option is Kershaw.  Not a bad guy to get you back into a series.

Since this is October, though, in no way should anyone fall asleep on the Cardinals' starters.  Kelly and Wacha have more than proven themselves this season, even in limited starts.  Wacha's last two starts have been insane, as he's carried no-hitters into the ninth and eighth innings, respectively.  It's hard to top that.

As for Game 3, we do know that Wainwright will take the hill, but Mattingly hasn't tipped his hand yet.  Hyun-Jin Ryu is one candidate, but he was pretty ineffective in his Game 3 start against the Braves, not making it into the fourth.  Nolasco got bumped for Kershaw in the clinching Game 4, so if anything, he's fresh.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Uribe's heroics lift the Dodgers to the NLCS

When is hitting a home run easier than laying down a sacrifice bunt?

When you're Juan Uribe, and you want to give the Dodgers a late lead.

After being unable to lay down a bunt twice in the eighth inning with Yasiel Puig on second, Uribe absolutely unloaded on a two-run bomb to left.  The result was a 4-3 lead, and after Kenley Jansen struck out the side in the ninth, the Dodgers are back in the NLCS for the first time since 2009.

There were plenty of storylines coming into Monday night's Game 4 in LA, with the Braves looking to get the series even and back home for the deciding game.  The biggest one came hours before the first pitch, as Clayton Kershaw was named the starter on three days' rest over Ricky Nolasco.

It was a bit of a gamble considering Kershaw's never done this before, but by the end of the night, it was a non-issue.  In fact, Kershaw was fantastic in pitching six strong innings without giving up an earned run.  Notice I said EARNED run, because his defense definitely let him down.

The start of the game was all about the suddenly hot Carl Crawford, who homered leading off for the quick 1-0 lead.  Not satisfied with just one, he connected on another in the third to go up 2-0, as he was about the only thing going right with the bats.

All of the momentum was clearly with the Dodgers after Crawford's second shot, but it was all handed right back to the Braves with a very sloppy fourth.  Freddy Freeman singled leading off.  Even Gattis then grounded a sharp one to Adrian Gonzalez at first, who inexplicably rushed his throw to second with no one covering yet for the error.  Gonzalez also had an error on the first hitter of the game when he bobbled Jayson Heyward's easy grounder.

A wild pitch by Kershaw sent runners to scoring position, but Brian McCann struck out on a very questionable called strike three.  Chris Johnson came through with an RBI single to make it 2-1.  Andrelton Simmons then grounded one to Uribe at third, who threw to Mark Ellis at second for an out, who then threw wide to first to allow the run to score.  Ugh.  It wasn't an error officially, but it should've been as the game was tied 2-2.

For the next few innings, the Dodgers reverted back to their non-clutch ways, as they left runners all over the place.  A.J. Ellis had a chance against a tiring Freddy Garcia in the sixth with two on and two out, but he grounded out.

With Kershaw done after six, Ronald Belisario entered.  That would be a bad sign of things to come, as even though Simmons grounded back to him right away, Elliot Johnson tripled next.  Jose Constanza pinch-hit and gave the Braves a 3-2 lead with an RBI single, and the Dodgers were looking like they'd have to pack their bags with Craig Kimbrel lurking.

Luis Avilan got through the seventh despite a two-out double to Mark Ellis.  The question then became if Kimbrel would work two innings or not.

Fortunately for the Dodgers, he didn't, and never appeared at all.  Fredi Gonzalez went with David Carpenter instead, the same guy who gave up Hanley Ramirez's two-run homer in Game 2 that nearly cost them the game.  Right away, Puig doubled to right on some great hustle to get to second.

So would Gonzalez go with his big dog now?  Nope.  In stayed Carpenter, and Uribe unsuccessfully tried to lay down two bunts.  After that idea was thrown out the window, Uribe connected on a horrible 0-2 slider that stayed up in the zone, and a 383 foot homer to left put the Dodgers back up 4-3.

There would be no ninth inning comeback for the Braves, as Jansen struck out the side, getting Justin Upton swinging to the game and start the celebration.

What a game of ups-and-downs this turned out to be.  First the two solo shots by Crawford, who carried this team to an early lead as they tried to close it out.  Then the defensive mistakes, which took away a win from an awesome start by Kershaw.  Then the Braves getting the lead, then giving it right back on Uribe's homer.  I'm glad Jansen wasn't interested in giving it away again.

The offense only scored via the longball, and we can all be thankful for that.  But, they also left eight men and were 1-for-9 with RISP.  The one hit?  Uribe's homer in the eighth.  Talk about good timing.

Kershaw did all he could, and even he seemed to agree that taking him out after six innings and 91 pitches was the right move.  He can now get his proper rest before starting Game 2 on Saturday either home against the Pirates or on the road against the Cardinals.  Stay tuned to see how that one plays out.

The middle relief, again, left something to be desired.  Right now Mattingly's biggest question is whom to use to get the ball to Jansen in the ninth.  Brian Wilson has the eight locked down, so more specifically, who will bridge the gap to him.  Belisario was terrible, and Chris Withrow wasn't any better in Game 2.  Paco Rodriguez looks like he has no arm left.  Maybe we'll see more J.P. Howell, who has three scoreless appearances with three strikeouts.  He's looking good.

For now, the Dodgers will kick back and enjoy Game 5 between the Pirates and Cardinals.  Zack Greinke will get the call in Game 1, followed by Kershaw, with either Ricky Nolasco or Hyun-Jin Ryu to follow.

Dodger fans can celebrate their victory, and the fact that they don't have to play the Phillies in the NLCS again!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Mattingly reverses course, Kershaw will go Game 4

It turns out the Dodgers' Game 3 victory was not the determining factor for when Clayton Kershaw would make his next start.

Don Mattingly announced this afternoon that Kershaw will go in Game 4, and not Ricky Nolasco.  The thought coming into Sunday night's Game 3 was that a loss would mean he'd take the ball immediately, and a win would push him back to a possible Game 5.  But the Dodgers and Mattingly had other plans.

I think it's obvious that Kershaw was begging for this to happen, as there's no way Mattingly would make this move without his ace fully on board.  Knowing the competitor that Kershaw is, I can easily see him making a big deal about finishing off the Braves as soon as possible.

But the question has to be asked: Is this a smart move?  In listening briefly to guys on ESPN and TBS, it's certainly not.  Kershaw is the Dodgers' franchise player, and is about to cash in with a huge contract extension.  Plus the fact that a loss by the Dodgers would still mean they'd live to fight another day makes them look a little desperate.

If Kershaw and the Dodgers do lose tonight, then Zack Greinke will get the call in the sudden death Game 5 in Atlanta.  That means four of the five games would be started by the big two, so if the Dodgers still manage to lose this series, they didn't deserve to win it in the first place.

Let's hope this all works out, Kershaw has a clean game, and looks good going forward.  It would also help if the offense puts the pressure on like they did Sunday night.  Stay tuned and see.

Too much offense in Dodgers' Game 3 rout

The happiest man in Los Angeles right now?  Hyun-Jin Ryu.  Thanks to an offensive outburst of 13 runs, Ryu's poor start was completely lost in the shuffle.

And when your team has Hanley Ramirez, it's easy to forget about the negatives.

The Dodgers had an incredible 10 two-out RBIs en route to an emphatic 13-6 win over the Braves.  The win put the Dodgers on the verge of the NLCS with a 2-1 advantage heading into Game 4 Monday night.

As I stated before, the game didn't start off so hot, as Ryu gave up a couple in the first.  Justin Upton smoked a double to center with an out, just past the outstretched dive of Skip Schumaker.  He scored an out later on an Evan Gattis RBI single, then following a walk to Brian McCann, Chris Johnson scored another on a single to make it 2-0.

The Dodgers started their scoring in the second with a four-spot.  Yasiel Puig and Juan Uribe singled leading off, and A.J. Ellis walked an out later.  Ryu then got into one that nearly landed past Upton in right, but was good enough for the sac-fly RBI to make it 2-1.

One big key to this game was the play of Carl Crawford, who struck out twice and had that horrible double play the last game.  Well, he more than showed up to play in this one on both sides of the field.  His three-run homer to deep right gave the Dodgers a 4-2 advantage.  He also had an amazing catch in foul territory in the eighth in which he tumbled into the stands, but thankfully came out OK.  Wow, that was equally as terrific as it was scary when he landed head first on concrete.

Unfortunately for Ryu, the third would be his last, as the Braves tied it up.  Three straight singles by Upton, Freddie Freeman, and Gattis started the inning.  Then Ryu really messed up by not finding the base on a double play ball from McCann.  Then he screwed up again by throwing home instead of to first on Johnson's little dribbler.  Ugh.

From there, it was all Dodgers, as the 4-4 tie seemed like a distant memory when it was all said and done.  They took the lead for good in the third.  Ramirez doubled to start, then scored on Adrian Gonzalez's RBI single.  The other run came on Schumaker's RBI single to center.

Chris Capuano pitched three scoreless innings in relief of Ryu to get the win, though it was a struggle at times.  He actually walked all three leadoff hitters, but nothing came of it.  It's like both teams traded secrets on how to fail with runners on.  Overall, the Braves were 3-for-11 with RISP, and the Dodgers were 7-for-15.

The fourth was a huge inning, as the Dodgers put up four runs again.  Crawford's bunt was bobbled by Alex Wood leading off for a costly error.  One out later, Ramirez came within inches of a home run, but settled for the RBI triple in going up 7-4.  After Puig's RBI single to center, Uribe got just enough of one out to right for the two-run shot, and the Dodgers were in full control at 10-4.

The final runs were scored in the eighth on RBI singles from Ramirez, Gonzalez, and Puig.  Those three combined for eight hits, six runs, and six RBIs.  Great numbers from the heart of the order.

A game like this shows just how deadly the Dodgers can be when they're not all swinging for the fences every at-bat.  They got a couple of homers, but of their 14 hits, 10 were singles.  Their situational hitting was obviously terrific, as they took it one base at a time in scoring multiple runs in four of the innings.  That's got to be a huge relief after grounding into three double plays and striking out way too much in Game 2.

With the good came some bad, as Ryu just never got going.  What makes it worse were the question marks surrounding him coming into this start about his health.  He appeared to be fine in this one, but his stuff certainly wasn't fooling the Braves.  Maybe it was just one of those starts, but if he is hurt, it's some bad news going forward.

The other downer was Paco Rodriguez, who could only get two outs in the ninth before Kenley Jansen had to strikeout McCann to end the game.  Paco is probably suffering from a dead arm, as he gave up three hits, including a two-run shot to dead center by Jayson Heyward, and a walk.  It's too bad considering how special he was for the majority of the season.  If the Dodgers do advance, don't be surprised if he's left off the NLCS roster.  He's lost his effectiveness it seems.

The Game 3 win lets Don Mattingly exhale some, and not have to make the tough decision of whether or not to bring back Clayton Kershaw on three days' rest.  I bet he would've, too, with the season on the line.  But now Ricky Nolasco gets his scheduled start, with Kershaw ready to go on Wednesday in Atlanta in the do-or-die situation.

Nolasco has a lot to prove, as anyone who's followed the Dodgers knows we've seen him at the top of his game, and the absolute bottom.  Maybe he'll be relaxed knowing the season is not over if he loses, and that his offense is on fire.  What also helps is that he's facing the ancient Freddy Garcia, whom I'll admit I didn't even know was on the Braves until last night.

The Braves still have plenty of power, but they also have plenty of more pressure on them to get this thing to a Game 5 back east.  The Dodgers will look to be off until Game 1 of the NLCS on Friday with a win.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Iffy times for Dodgers' Games 3 and 4 starters

If the Dodgers are going to finish off the Braves at home, it might be in spite of their scheduled starters, and not because of them.

Hyun-Jin Ryu has recently raised questions about the health of his arm after throwing a bullpen session on Friday with Don Mattingly and team doctor Neal ElAttrache watching closely.  Predictably, that has people wondering if he's truly feeling right heading into a very important Game 3 of the deadlocked NLDS with the Braves.

So is Ryu hurt, or simply being careful?  If you are to listen to him, it's the latter.  What we do know is that his bullpen apparently looked clean, and he's saying all the right things by insisting he's fine.  Perhaps we just need to take his word for it, but with the way the Dodgers have cycled through one injury after another this year, it's natural to be concerned.

The numbers suggest Ryu is healthy, because despite a 1-3 record in September, his ERA was 2.88.  His WHIP was a monthly-best 1.08.  It's entirely possible he was pitching somewhat injured all along, and it worsened recently.  Dodger fans just have to hope this is all much ado about nothing.

Say the Braves get home field back by winning Game 3, then the Dodgers could be in trouble.  Game 4 will see Ricky Nolasco take the mound, and while he's fully healthy as far as we know, his numbers of late certainly aren't.  He was fantastic through two September starts, then was bombed in his last three, causing his ERA for the month to skyrocket to 6.66.  Geez, just look at that number, 6.66.  That's scary on many different levels...

Anyway, if the Dodgers want to win at home, they're going to have to have much better situational hitting than they did in Game 2.  Usually their pitching takes care of itself, and maybe Ryu and Nolasco will be great, but there's definitely more uncertainty with them than Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.  That goes without saying.

Hopefully by Tuesday morning, the Dodgers will either be preparing for the Cardinals or Pirates, or preparing for a winner-take-all start from Kershaw.  If not, then the starters at home most likely let them down.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Through 2 games, we've seen the best and worst of the Dodgers

The Dodgers find themselves deadlocked with the Braves 1-1 through the first couple of games in the NLDS.  Game 1 went exactly as they scripted it, with the bats backing up Clayton Kershaw, who piled up 12 strikeouts in a 6-1 victory.  Game 2 saw the bats fail to deliver in big spots, and the middle relief fall apart in a 4-3 loss.

You could say that we've already seen a lot of good and a lot of bad in the first couple of games.  Let's take a look at both sides of the coin.

The Good

Clayton Kershaw.  As I stated before, Kershaw was awesome in Game 1, giving up one run in seven innings.  I wouldn't say he was sensational, because he had definite control issues for a little bit, something that has plagued him just a bit since the start of September.  But, as usual, he more than got the job done when it mattered most.  He's lined up to start Game 5, and with the series tied right now, that could be a real possibility of taking place.

Hanley Ramirez.  An RBI double in Game 1.  Another one in Game 2.  Then a two-run shot to pull the Dodgers within one in Game 2.  The Dodgers rested him just enough entering the playoffs, and it's sure paying off so far, as he's clearly been the best hitter on either side.  Plus he only has one of the team's 18 strikeouts through two games, so he's not beating himself.  They need his bat to continue to stay hot if they want to win, and there's no reason to think it won't.

Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen.  Wilson has pitched the eighth inning in both games, allowing no runs on only one hit while striking out two.  He looks ready to be a closer again next season, unless the Dodgers throw a ridiculous amount of money at him to be the setup guy.  Jansen finished Game 1 in the non-save situation, and while a couple guys reached, he still struck out the side.

Adrian Gonzalez in Game 1.  Game 2 saw nothing much happen, but his huge two-run homer in Game 1 put the Dodgers up 4-0, and was more than enough for Kershaw to cruise from there.  I can't imagine the Braves felt good being down two to Kershaw, and four must have sent them into a tailspin.

Yasiel Puig's Game 1.  The worry coming into the playoffs was that Puig would try to do way too much, but in the first game, he was great.  He singled twice, went beautifully from first to third on another single, tagged up and scored, and doubled up Evan Gattis at first.  That's the type of all-around game we love to see.  Now if he'd just stop striking out...

The Bad

Yasiel Puig's strikeouts.  Yup.  As good as he is at times, he looks just as bad when he tries to hit it to the moon on every swing.  He already has four K's, including a really bad looking one in the eighth of Game 2 after Ramirez got them within one.  The funniest part was seeing a shot of a clearly annoyed Mark McGwire after that happened.  Puig has got to resist the home run swing and stick to singles and running.  The Dodgers will be so much better off.

Carl Crawford leading off.  Speaking of strikeouts, there's Crawford with four as well.  Mattingly put him in the top spot instead of Puig, and while he did reach base twice in Game 1, he was awful the next night.  He had the horrible 1-6-3 DP with the Dodgers threatening in the seventh, then K'd to end the game with a runner on first.  The Dodgers need him to play better because it's not like he'll sit.

Middle relief not named Brian Wilson.  With the Dodgers down 2-1 going into the seventh in Game 2, things went south.  First Crawford's DP, then Chris Withrow walked the first batter he faced.  Paco Rodriguez gave up the big two-run single to Jayson Heyward to put the Braves up 4-1, and Ronald Belisario walked the only batter he faced.  I wasn't a fan of using Withrow to start the inning, but taking Wilson and Jansen out of the equation, maybe there weren't any better options.  And that's a problem.

Swings, misses, and double plays.  The Dodgers did a lot of that in Game 2.  Their leadoff, cleanup, and #5 hitter each struck out twice.  Skip Schumaker, Mark Ellis, and Crawford grounded into double plays.  Despite outhitting the Braves 10-6, it didn't matter thanks to a lack of execution.  And to think they only lost by one is even more frustrating, because if they cut those mistakes by a few, they could've won.

Dee Gordon.  Safe or not, the Dodgers need Gordon to get the job done.  He's on the postseason roster for one reason and one reason only: steal bases.  I sure thought his hand beat the "tag" in Game 2, but the call didn't go their way.  If he can't steal that base, he really has no value.  Fair or not, his team needs him to make that play.

Mattingly by the book in Game 2.  It's easy to blame Mattingly for the moves he made in Game 2 being wrong.  If his players executed better, he'd look good.  But they didn't, so he doesn't.  I didn't like at all how he wouldn't pitch to light-hitting Jose Constanza or Reed Johnson, and instead pitched to Heyward.  The whole left vs. left and right vs. right thing drives me nuts.  WAY too much value is placed on that old school logic.  I know Withrow was pretty bad, but he was just coming off a strikeout of Elliot Johnson, so I'm sure he could've gotten some guy named Constanza.  Alas, we'll never know.