Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles Dodgers’
Thursday, June 19th, 2014
The big news in baseball on Wednesday was the gem spun up by Dodger southpaw Clayton Kershaw, who no-hit the Colorado Rockies at Dodgers’ Stadium. Baseball analyst Jeff Passan commented that Kershaw’s line was reminiscent of the perfect game posted by Sandy Koufax in September of 1965.
That’s a fine, but still inexact, comparison. People keep matching Kershaw to Koufax, but we can’t possibly know if the still-young Dodger will have the same kind of career. Kershaw’s first years have been stellar, but Koufax’s career was remarkable. Then too, Koufax was a knee-buckling fastball-curveball pitcher, while Kershaw’s truly great pitch is his stomach churning slider.
The lefty’s match-up last night against Brandon Barnes (just as a for instance), was quintessential Kershaw, who threw Barnes three pitches — all strikes: A 93 mph four seam fastball, followed by two sliders, one at 85 and one at 87 mph. The fastball set up the sliders, but it was the sliders that mattered. Barnes didn’t have a prayer.
So far as we can tell, the real difference between Koufax and Kershaw (outside of the fact that Kershaw, for all his brilliance, has only pitched in the majors for seven years) is that hitters swung over the top Koufax’s curve (with their asses bailing into the dugout) while it dove down, while hitters swing over the top of Kershaw’s slider as it dives down and in . . .
Passan also called the game “the no-hitter we knew was coming.” That sounds exactly right: Kershaw’s stuff has always been “electric” (as they say), with the southpaw throwing a mix of fastballs and sliders in retiring 28 Colorado hitters, while striking out fifteen of them. That’s one more than Koufax whiffed in his 1965 no-no.
The Koufax perfect game remains an MLB classic, and one of the greatest games ever pitched by anybody, but in part because the Cubs very forgettable Bob Hendley was tossing a one hitter at the same time. And lost.
Sunday, May 25th, 2014
The Nationals have good pitching and it shows: after doing a three game face plant in Pittsburgh, Washington brought out starter Doug Fister, their most recent version of a stopper, and the former Tiger shut down the Pirates in leading the home towners to a much needed 5-2 win.
Facing off against savvy veteran Francisco Lariano, Fister threw into the 6th inning, holding the Pirates to six hits while striking out four. Fister also had help from Nats hitters, who reversed their recent trend of leaving runners in scoring position. Denard Span, Anthony Rendon and Ian Desmond led Washington’s hit parade, with Desmond accounting for two Washington RBIs.
But the big blow for the Nationals came in the fifth inning, when Anthony Rendon tripled to right center field, the ball ricocheting off the bottom of the outfield wall after the normally heroic Josh Harrison, with a reputation of robbing the Nationals of long drives, could not reach it.
The victory was a welcome change for the Nats, who needed to snap out of a swoon that saw them lose four of their last six games. The win brought them back to .500, and within easy striking distance of the first place Braves. The Nationals now return home for a Memorial Day matinee against the struggling Miami Marlins.
Washington put ten hits on the board, the most they have had in four game losing streak. While the Nationals have not been anemic at the plate (notching 22 hits in their single loss to Cincinnati and the three losses in Pittsburgh), they have either consistently failed to come up with a big hit in clutch situations — or been robbed of hits when they most needed them.
The Nationals seemed to turn all of that around on Sunday. When it appeared that Josh Harrison had made another spectacular catch in right field in the 7th inning on Sunday, Matt Williams successfully appealed the called out. The review showed that Harrison had not caught the ball — which put Desmond on first. The Nationals ended up putting a final run on the board in that inning.
The Nationals bullpen, which is the best weapon the team has in the early going, was as steady as always in the Sunday win. Craig Stammen needed a single pitch to get out of a two on no outs situation in relief of Fister in the sixth, while Alfonso Soriano tabbed his 11th save.
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The steadiest, and most underrated, National of all might well be Stammen. Hard to believe, but the once upon a time wannabe starter is now 30 — and pitching like the veteran that he is. Stammen had a little hiccup on Sunday, giving up a run in two innings, but he sports a 2.24 ERA in 26 innings of work . . .
Stammen is on track to eclipse his innings count for the last two seasons: last year he threw 81 innings and appeared in 55 games, the year before he threw 88 innings and appeared in 88. His early years, toiling as a starter, were his most frustrating. The key for Stammen is his slider, which is his out pitch, but his menu includes a sneaky sinker. He also has a Burt Hooten style knuckle curve . . .
We were pleased when we saw the Nationals opening line-up today, though not simply because Adam LaRoche was penciled in after a stint on the disabled list. The line-up did not include Nate McLouth, who raised our ire on Saturday by striking out looking in the 9th against Pittsburgh closer Mark Melancon. In order to “get your swing” you actually need to swing and McLouth stood flat-footed as Melancon served up a fat 91 mph cutter . . .
Friday, May 9th, 2014
The Washington Nationals provided two-and-a-half games worth of solid baseball to get the series win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Trolleys are one of the National League’s elite teams, as even casual fans know, and were picked by many pundits in the preseason to go all the way — so it’s heartening that the Nats played them hard and well in this early season match up.
Jordan Zimmermann was in command of the zone during his start, but a thunderstorm prevented him from getting past the 4th inning. Even so, the boys from the bullpen (Aaron Barrett, Jerry Blevins, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, and Rafael Soriano) went the distance and kept everything on lock down, notching a much-needed shutout. Stephen Strasburg had a rough first inning on Wednesday, giving up four straight singles, but then went six-and-change to keep it close.
Strasburg went to the pines with the lead and was then ably assisted by Blevin and Clippard, who locked up the eighth. Clippard needed his outing, as he looked uneven before the Dodgers’ series. Clippard has moved his ERA back down to 2.40 for the season: it was above 4.00 for much of early April. Rafael Soriano untucked his seventh save and maintained his season ERA of 0.00 over 13 games played.
The bats in the two wins weren’t exactly extraordinary, but they were solid in much the way they were in 2012, when the Nats won more than a dozen one run games on the back of great pitching and good fielding. Speaking of fielding, the infield turned a total of five double plays over the series and center fielder Denard Span was his usual acrobatic self, making some great catches by the warning track.
And we’d be remiss not to mention Nate McLouth (filling left field for Bryce Harper), who hasnt’ done squat at the plate this season, but who literally put skin in the game on a great catch against the wall in foul territory on Monday: “I know it pretty much went catch, boom, wall,” he said. Good leather, no wood? Nate just needs to get his swing — and our bet is that he will.
Wednesday, May 7th, 2014
Stephen Strasburg struggled through a tough first inning, giving up four straight singles and two runs, but then settled in for yet another strong and steady start — leading the Nationals to a 3-2 win and a series victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. This was an unusual early-May classic, pitting two tough teams against each other in what felt like a post-season showdown.
The Nationals faced their former teammate, Dan Haren, who started for L.A. Haren was effective, throwing six innings of seven hit baseball — but he couldn’t match Strasburg. The Nationals touched Haren for three runs, and the veteran righty registered his first loss of the year against four wins.
The game also marked the return of Wilson Ramos to his usual spot behind the plate. Ramos made his first start since being injured on opening day, and notched the game winning RBI on a fifth inning sacrifice fly that scored Denard Span. Ramos was 1-2 with an RBI on the day, while Span scored two of the Nationals’ three runs.
Strasburg threw 114 pitches, cruising into the 8th inning before being relieved by Jerry Blevins. Nationals skipper Matt Williams dismissed Strasburg’s historic first inning troubles with a shrug during his post game comments. “He was throwing well. Those hits were on the ground,” he said. “Good fastball, good command, he pitched well.”
A trio of Nats’ relievers helped Strasburg bring home the win, his third of the still young season. Jerry Blevins battled L.A.’s Adrian Gonzalez in the 8th inning, throwing ten pitches to the first baseman (seven of them for strikes) before getting the first sacker to pop out to Anthony Rendon in foul territory.
Tyler Clippard then came in in relief of Blevins in an attempt to master all-world Yaisel Puig, getting him to line out to Span in center. Rafael Soriano then pitched the 9th, and set down the side in order: Andre Ethier grounded out to second, then Juan Uribe and Matt Kemp both struck out swinging.
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Nationals now head for the left coast, where they will face off against the Oakland A’s and the Arizona Diamondbacks. But before leaving the never-this-interesting N.L. East, we should tip our hats yet again to those lousy Miami Marlins. Who are anything but . . .
The Marlins started the season 5-2 before losing eight in a row, including four to the Nationals. Remember? And everyone thought: the Fish are playing at their level, with a tailspin that will never stop. Since then, Miami has gone 13-6, which has included a sweep of the Braves and two series sweeps of the Mets . . .
The Marlins have been almost unbeatable at home: they are 17-5 in front of their own (still sparse) fans at Marlins Park. The problem for Miami, it seems, is that league rules require them to play half their games on the road. That’s not great news: the Fins are 2-10 after getting off a charter . . .
Tuesday, May 6th, 2014
The Nationals triumphed in their series opener against Los Angeles on Monday night, but only after a rain delay of three hours and seventeen minutes — enough to scatter what would have been a large crowd who had come to see their team take on the early season favorites to take the National League West. The 4-0 Nationals victory ended at 1:21 am, with only several hundred fans in attendance.
The seemingly endless rain delay meant that both Dodgers’ starter Zack Greinke and Nats’ starter Jordan Zimmermann did not return to the mound after the game was delayed in the middle of the fourth inning. So the Nationals were forced to shut down the Dodgers while using five relievers — Aaron Barrett, Jerry Blevins, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano.
Despite the inclemency, the Nationals were able to patch together an impressive win, authoring a shutout behind home runs from Anthony Rendon (in the 1st inning) and Danny Espinosa (in the 8th). And the Nationals bullpen was brilliant, with all five Washington relievers holding the Dodgers’ otherwise potent line-up scoreless.
The rain delay was more than a little disappointing for the 25,000-plus Washingtonians, most of whom showed up to see a classic pitchers’ duel between the savvy Greinke and Nats’ ace Zimmermann. The first four innings didn’t disappoint, though it was clear that the Nationals starting nine were hitting well against the 5-0 Greinke. And Zimmermann looked unbeatable.
“I felt good. I had good command of the fastball today. I was locating pretty well,” Zimmermann said of his short outing. “I wish the rain wouldn’t have come because it was one of those games where I had a lot of things working and I felt like my command was pretty good.”
But while Zimmermann wanted the game to continue, the same was obviously not true for L.A. skipper Don Mattingly, who came out in the middle of the 4th inning in an apparent effort to get the umpires to call the game. Instead, with both teams facing post-series travel requirements, the umpires let it rain and rain — until it stopped.
“It was supposed to be passing, and it didn’t,” Mattingly said. “It didn’t seem like there was any concern. I don’t think either team really wants to go through this and lose their starter after four innings and tax their bullpen.”
The Wisdom of Section 1-2-9: Monday night wasn’t the first time that the regulars of 1-2-9 have been faced with a weather crisis. Back on April 9, the Nationals engaged in an interminable 10-7 donnybrook with the Miami Marlins that had to be one of the coldest games the team has ever played . . .
Then, as now, the fans showed their impatience, abandoning their seats — in that case, to get warm, but last night to get out of the rain. “It started out just fine and you thought we would get the game in in plenty of time,” a section regular noted during the delay, “but along about the top of the 4th it really started to come down . . .”
Monday, May 5th, 2014
Washington lefty Gio Gonzalez faced off against Philadelphia’s Roberto Hernandez at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday in a classic pitchers’ duel and pitched brilliantly — but ended up on the short end of a 1-0 defeat. Gio and Hernandez were almost evenly matched, but Philadelphia put a single run on the board in the 1st inning that proved the difference in the game.
“Hernandez was so locked in. He hit his spots. When he fell behind, he got a groundout or fly out. Today was his day,” said Phillies center fielder Ben Revere after the victory. Both Hernandez and Gonzalez threw 7.1 innings and both gave up four hits. Hernandez struck out three, while Gonzalez struck out seven.
Philadelphia’s single run came on a Jimmy Rollins triple followed by a Chase Utley RBI single. “It was just a good pitchers’ duel,” Gonzalez said after the tough luck loss. “I just tried to keep us in the game as long as possible.” One of the Nats’ best chances of putting a run on the board also came in the top of the 1st. Kevin Frandsen walked, but was thrown out at third on a Jayson Werth single.
“We’ve had some really key hits over the course of the season,” Washington skipper Matt Williams said of the Philadelphia duel. “It just wasn’t our day.” Washington’s loss leaves the Nationals still half-a-game behind slumping Atlanta in the N.L. East. The Nationals will face the Dodgers tonight at Nationals Park.
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: When the Dodgers take the field tonight against the Nationals they’ll do so in the midst of an unusual early season funk. The Drysdales lost two of three against the Marlins in Miami, their latest defeat, on Sunday, when Miami’s Jeff Baker doubled in the winning walk off run against L.A. reliever Jamey Wright . . .
Worse yet, Dodgers’ right fielder Yasiel Puig crashed into the wall attempting to snag Baker’s double, then appeared to hurt his ankle when he landed. Concussion tests on Puig were negative, but the young all-world hitter is day-to-day. But the Miami loss and Puig’s injury is only the latest in a series of tough losses for the odds-on-favorites to win the N.L. East . . .
Tuesday, April 29th, 2014
Last week the New York Times published a fascinating, and unusual, look at baseball loyalties. “Using aggregated data” provided by Facebook, the Times published a map of U.S. baseball loyalties, color-coded by team — then accompanied the map with fourteen separate maps showing the boundaries separating the teams.
As the Times explained: “The maps were created using estimates of team support based on how many Facebook users ‘liked’ each team in a ZIP code. We applied the algorithm to smooth the date and fill the gaps where the data was missing.” Put another way: using the maps, readers can find out which team a large aggregate of fans support in a specific ZIP code. The process can get obsessive, but it yields sometimes surprising results.
The Yankees and Red Sox (in particular), but also the Braves (to a lesser extent) have national followings. The Yankees are an “empire” and the Red Sox are a “nation.” The Yankees have more followers in Emery County, Utah for instance, than any of the closest nearby teams — the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Giants (who are third). Alaska? Alaska has a lot of Mariners fans, but the Red Sox and Yankees have a loyal following.
“A popular team like the Yankees has a huge presence in the New York area,” the Facebook entry on the findings says, “but its presence is felt all over the country and indeed the world. The ‘Red Sox diaspora,’ despite being from a much smaller city, are also spread all over the country.”
As you might expect, the Braves (the Cobb Country Braves, as we have taken to calling them), dominate the Georgia fan base, but their loyalties extend well to the west and northeast, much as the Rangers dominate nearly all of Texas, except for the ZIP codes surrounding Houston.
We would have thought that the Cubs would have a loyal national following, but that’s not the case. But they dominate Chicago — except for the area around U.S. Cellular Field (on the South Side)) which then trails off into parts of northwest Indiana. But Chicago is, essentially “Wrigleyville.”
The New York Times says that California’s baseball loyalties reflect a group of “city states” — with the area divided by team loyalties based strictly on metropolitan areas. That’s right, but Angels and Padres’ fans are surrounded by the more popular Dodgers and Giants — who have been around longer (even in California) and have won more national championships.