Kenley Jansen can read a calendar. He offered the most distinct distillation of the Dodgers philosophy heading into this weekend’s series with Colorado. It’s June, Jansen reminded.
“It’s a long season, man,” Jansen said after his team won on Thursday for the seventh game in a row and the 13th time in 14 games. “I’m not getting caught up in all that excitement.”
Indeed, players like Justin Turner and Enrique Hernandez echoed the sentiment. The Dodgers harbor respect for the Rockies, who have emerged as a surprising contender for the National League West, but they will not place an excessive amount of importance in one weekend series before the All-Star break. The Dodgers understand how much baseball remains in the year.
Even so, it will be an intriguing series. The Dodgers outclassed the Mets during a four-game drubbing. The Rockies dropped two of three to Arizona and fell 1 1/2 games behind the Dodgers in the division race. The Dodgers shifted their rotation so their three most reliable starters will pitch.
Here are the matchups for this weekend:
Friday: LHP Kyle Freeland (8-4, 3.42 ERA) vs. LHP Alex Wood (7-0, 1.90 ERA)
Sunday: RHP German Márquez (5-3, 3.92 ERA) vs. RHP Brandon McCarthy (6-3, 2.87 ERA)
“It’s going to be a fun weekend,” manager Dave Roberts said. “We’ve got the guys who’ve been the most consistent for us this year taking the mound. We expect those guys to go out there and do what they’ve done. The Rockies, they’re a good ball club. They’re a good ball club. We’re going to play good baseball.”
On Thursday evening, in the seventh inning of a 6-3 victory over the New York Mets, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts orchestrated an elaborate ruse. He engages in feints like this often. He often refers to them as “just a little gamesmanship,” gambits to test the thinking of the opposing manager. Rarely do they work better than this.
With two outs, two runners aboard and the Dodgers leading by one run, Roberts sent Corey Seager into the on-deck circle for pitcher Pedro Baez. In the bullpen, Sergio Romo loosened up. The path appeared clear: If Enrique Hernandez reached base, Seager would replace Baez at the plate and Romo would replace Baez on the mound. When Hernandez walked, Roberts saw his bluff called. Seager and Romo sat down.
A third baseman in the minors, Baez batted for only the third time as a big leaguer. His rust did not steady the nerves of reliever Jerry Blevins. Blevins walked Baez on four pitches to force in a run. Another scored when Blevins walked Austin Barnes. The lead bloated to three runs, and the four-game unraveling of the Mets was complete, as the Dodgers won for the 13th time in 14 games.
“Just keep rolling along, riding the waves,” Barnes said.
The Dodgers (48-26) trounced an opponent in freefall. The fight was not even. This weekend offers a more robust challenge, as the Colorado Rockies visit Dodger Stadium for the first time since April. Trailing Colorado for most of the season, the Dodgers surged ahead in the National League West as Colorado dropped two of three to Arizona this week.
Thursday featured no spillover from Wednesday, when a well-struck and well-admired homer from Yasiel Puig incited the ire of the Mets. The team did not retaliate. They did not do much of anything, and the Dodgers won for the seventh game in a row.
The Dodgers pulled ahead after home runs in the third inning by Justin Turner and Hernandez. Hyun-Jin Ryu gave up two runs before exiting after five innings. Chris Hatcher coughed up the lead in the sixth. Joc Pederson came off the bench to put his team back in front an inning later with a solo homer, his team’s 15th in this series, which set a franchise record for a four-game set.
“We’re elevating, and good things are happening,” Roberts said.
The Dodgers produced 30 runs in the first three games of this series. On Thursday, they faced Steven Matz, a brittle but talented left-handed pitcher. Unlike 2016, the Dodgers are no longer helpless against left-handers. The team entered Thursday ranked 11th in the majors in on-base-plus-slugging percentage against left-handers. Most of the credit goes to improved performances from right-handed hitters like Turner, Hernandez and Barnes, plus the emergence of utility man Chris Taylor.
The Mets staked Matz a one-run lead. For the second game in a row, outfielder Curtis Granderson hit a leadoff homer. Granderson turned on a 92-mph fastball from Ryu. Like Rich Hill on Wednesday, Ryu did not cower in response.
Hernandez helped Ryu in the second. Ryu walked first baseman Lucas Duda, and shortstop Jose Reyes singled. Duda held at third base. He tried to score on a fly ball into left-center field. Playing center, Hernandez called off left fielder Franklin Gutierrez, charged the ball and one-hopped a throw to the plate. Barnes tagged Duda out to end the inning.
Matz slipped through the Dodgers lineup in the first two innings. The third was less kind to him. Matz paid for a belt-high fastball to Turner, who smashed the pitch beyond the left-field fence for his fifth home run of the season, and his fourth in 11 games since returning from the disabled list June 9.
“We’re doing it an all kinds of different ways,” Turner said. “When you’re going pretty good in all three aspects — your pitching, your hitting and playing good defense — that’s a good recipe for success.”
The Dodgers were not done. Cody Bellinger hit a ground-rule double. Up came Hernandez. Matz chose a curveball as his first pitch. The ball bent toward the far edge of the plate. Hernandez reached out and powered it over the fence in right.
Ryu handed a run back in the fourth. He fed catcher Travis d’Arnaud a changeup at the waist. D’Arnaud hit a solo homer.
Ryu would not return for the sixth. Roberts removed him after 86 pitches. He made a confounding choice for the inning, facing the heart of the Mets batting order: Hatcher. Hatcher rarely pitches in moments of elevated leverage. The lead would not survive his appearance.
Hatcher walked outfielder Jay Bruce. After a flyout by d’Arnaud, Roberts elected to let Hatcher, a right-hander, pitch to the left-handed-hitting Duda despite having left-handed reliever Grant Dayton warm in the bullpen.
“I wanted to see Hatch get through that inning,” Roberts said.
The decision backfired as Duda ripped a double into the gap in right-center field. Hernandez tried to grab the ball with his bare hand as it bounced off the wall. He bobbled it before feeding the cutoff man, Logan Forsythe. His throw pulled Barnes up the first base line. Barnes dove back toward the plate, where Bruce neglected to slide, but the ball kicked away and Bruce was safe.
The game did not stay tied for long. Pederson crushed the first pitch of the bottom of the seventh off reliever Paul Sewald. The runs would keep coming.
“We’re probably,” Hernandez said, “the hottest team in baseball right now.”
Halfway between first and second base, moments after his three-run, fourth-inning homer rattled into the left-field bleachers, Yasiel Puig slowed his already unhurried trot to a crawl.
His ears caught the voice of New York Mets first baseman Wilmer Flores. Puig spun his head toward Flores and spat a four-letter expletive, a fittingly contemptuous gesture for this series, in which the Dodgers have trounced their guests, the latest an 8-2 dismissal Wednesday.
The anger from Flores stemmed from Puig’s leisurely pace as he rounded the bases. Eleven seconds passed between the collision of Puig’s bat with a doomed sinker from rookie Tyler Pill and Puig touching first base. Puig flexed upon impact. He did not drop his bat until the ball landed. It was an admirable blast, his 13th of the season, and Puig gazed upon it lovingly.
“He’s not the only player in baseball who takes a little longer in admiring home runs,” manager Dave Roberts said. “He got a good piece of it. I know that he did not mean any disrespect.”
The Mets disagreed — but then, the Dodgers have not been kind to them this week. The offense piled up 10 runs Monday and hung a dozen Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Pill managed to keep the Dodgers from reaching double digits. The offense still charged him with six runs in six innings and steamed toward a sixth consecutive victory. Yasmani Grandal chipped in two solo home runs after Puig’s shot.
The tiff extended an eventful fortnight for Puig. He flipped off two spectators in Cleveland last week and received a one-game suspension and is playing while his appeal winds through the system. He homered twice in one game over the weekend in Cincinnati. And he has upped his on-base-plus-slugging percentage from .711 on June 11 to .773 by Wednesday.
Later in the night, Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes advised Puig to speed up in the future. After the game, Flores remained upset.
“I don’t think he knows what having respect for the game is,” Flores said.
Puig offered a measured response to both. He suggested his emotion stemmed from an intentional walk in front of him, and said he understood why Flores might be mad.
“We’ve been hitting well and we’ve been hitting a lot of home runs, and if that’s the way he feels, it might be a result of them not playing so well,” Puig said. “After I talked to Cespedes, he told me to try to run a little bit faster — I don’t look at it that way.”
With the lineup rolling, Rich Hill (4-3) authored a quiet but encouraging outing. He remained unable to reach the sixth inning, exiting after five frames and 98 pitches. But he recovered from a first-inning stumble to strike out eight batters and hold the Mets to one run.
He unveiled a cut fastball to bolster his arsenal. He slipped from a bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning by striking out three batters in a row. His performance hinted at the heights he touched in 2016, when he inspired the Dodgers to sign him to a three-year, $48-million contract in the offseason.
The opening was not encouraging. On the second pitch of the game, outfielder Curtis Granderson whacked an 89-mph fastball over the center-field fence. On the next pitch, Flores doubled into left field on another fastball.
Hill managed to regroup. The Dodgers tied the score in the third inning. They did so without a hit. Joc Pederson led off with a walk. Third baseman T.J. Rivera threw away a grounder by Puig. With runners at the corners, Hill lifted a 2-and-2 fastball into center field for a sacrifice fly. Hill drove in a run for the first time since June 19, 2009.
The fourth inning tested Hill’s resolve. He started the trouble with a leadoff walk to outfielder Jay Bruce. A single by d’Arnaud rolled past Chase Utley at second base. Utley cost Hill in the next at-bat, dropping a popup to load the bases with none out.
Hill used the cutter to wriggle free. He had consulted with Clayton Kershaw about the grip of the pitch, and he showed confidence with it Wednesday. He spun the pitch past shortstop Jose Reyes for one strikeout. He pumped it for two strikes to second baseman Gavin Cecchini before finishing the at-bat with an 89-mph four-seamer. Hill fooled Pill with curveballs to strand all three runners.
“It goes back to making one pitch at a time,” Hill said.
The offense rewarded Hill for maintaining the tie. Cody Bellinger sparked a rally by smashing a double through the right side of the infield.
Bellinger barreled into second base, which forced a wild throw by Bruce. Bellinger took third base on the error. He scored on a double by Logan Forsythe.
After intentionally walking Pederson, Puig came to the plate. Pill missed inside with two fastballs. Puig swung through a changeup but took another. Down in the count, Pill hummed a fastball that bisected the plate.
On Wednesday afternoon, a few hours before the Dodgers distributed Andre Ethierbobbleheads to fans at Dodger Stadium, manager Dave Roberts offered a pessimistic estimation of when Ethier might actually play for the team this season: Sept. 1.
Ethier has appeared in 16 games since 2015 and has been sidelined since spring training by a herniated disk.
He broke his leg in the spring of 2016 and did not debut until Sept. 10 last year. Roberts projected a similar timetable this time, since Ethier has shown little sign of progress in recent months.
A few weeks ago, Roberts was still hopeful that Ethier might be available soon after the All-Star break.
Ethier can become a free agent after this season, with the Dodgers owing him a $2.5-million buyout.
Heading into 2016, the team pegged him as its leadoff hitter and a crucial part of the offense. His importance has waned as his health has been compromised, and other players have filled the void created by his absence.
Chris Taylor, a converted infielder, continues to make strides as the team’s regular left fielder.
The Dodgers recalled reliever Brandon Morrow from triple-A Oklahoma City and optioned Brock Stewart to the minors. Stewart, who logged three innings in relief Tuesday, will return to the Oklahoma City starting rotation.
Morrow did not give up a run in five appearances during a cameo with the Dodgers a few weeks ago. The team sent him back to the minors when Alex Wood returned from the disabled list June 10, but Morrow is more likely to appear in tight-game situations than Sergio Romo or Chris Hatcher.
The Dodgers do not have a timetable for pitcher Julio Urias’ return from shoulder inflammation. Team doctor Neal ElAttrache examined Urias this week, Roberts said. The team is still gathering information and could seek a second opinion on Urias’ arm. “With Julio, we’re trying to be extra cautious,” Roberts said.
Corey Seager turned 23 in April, which makes him, in this year of Cody Bellinger, a sage veteran. Bellinger will not turn 22 until July 13. By then, his home run total should well exceed his age. Bellinger blasted his 22nd homer of the season in the Dodgers’ 12-0 drubbing of the New York Mets on Tuesday night, and appeared set to stand beneath the spotlight yet again.
Except that Seager, the reigning National League rookie of the year and a veritable MVP candidate in 2016, offered a reminder of his own gifts. Steady but unspectacular in 2017, Seager staged a remarkable display of power, delivering a trio of home runs for the second time in his career. The exhibition at Dodger Stadium pushed Bellinger, ever so briefly, to the side of the stage — a difficult feat so far in June, as the Dodgers (46-26) have won for the fifth time in a row and the 11th time in 12 games, and Bellinger has been blasting baseballs out of sight seemingly on a daily basis.
“Whatever Bellinger’s doing, I don’t understand,” starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy said. “I think Seager got mad, and decided to give some balls away. It’s really fun to watch those guys hit right now.”
The rest of the Dodgers have begun to join in. A night after hanging 10 runs on their guests, the Dodgers pummeled Mets starter Robert Gsellman and bounced him from the game in the fifth inning. The lineup mashed four homers and scored eight runs against Gsellman. Seager extended the misery to reliever Josh Edgin by taking him deep in the fifth.
The offense created a sizable cushion for McCarthy (6-3, 2.87 earned-run average). McCarthy permitted four singles during six scoreless innings. He did not allow a Met to stand on third base. And the offense insured he would never have to worry about run support.
“It’s fun to watch, it’s fun to be around,” Bellinger said. “We’re just clicking on all cylinders.”
The Dodgers did not wait long to start the barrage. Logan Forsythe led off the first with a single. Four pitches later, Seager blasted a flat changeup from Gsellman beyond the fence in center field. Even so, Seager looked merely like a prelude to Bellinger.
From here, the Mets committed two sins. They made an error to allow Justin Turner to reach base. Then Gsellman hung a curveball to Bellinger, a young man who crushes mistakes. The curve hung at Bellinger’s belt. The ball landed just beyond the right-field fence.
Inside the Dodgers’ dugout, looks of astonishment extended across the railing as the homer took flight. Clayton Kershaw and Chase Utley locked eyes and broke up with laughter. Austin Barnes raised his arms skyward. Enrique Hernandez bugged his eyes and spun his cap around his head.
“What he’s doing is special,” Seager said. “Setting records. There’s no denying what he’s doing right now.”
Each homer creates a new milestone. No rookie has hit this many homers in this short a span of games to start his career. Bellinger became the first rookie to hit 10 homers in 10 games ever, and the first Dodger to do it since Shawn Green in 2002. The clamor for Bellinger to appear in next month’s Home Run Derby will only increase.
An inning later, the Mets devised a handy system for facing Bellinger: They walked him intentionally. The Dodgers could not capitalize, as Yasmani Grandal grounded out with the bases loaded, but the decision offered a hint of what may await Bellinger. Seager needed to adjust to varying strategies from opposing pitchers after he proved his worth at the big league level.
In the fourth inning, Seager fouled off a series of fastballs, curveballs and sliders. On the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Gsellman fed Seager a fastball on the inner half. Seager redirected the pitch toward the opposite field, racing on a line out to left. The solo shot gave him five multi-homer games in his career.
Seager credited a recent improvement in his timing for his performance. “Stuff’s starting to come together,” he said.
Gsellman would not last much longer. Grandal added an opposite-field solo homer. Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson supplied doubles to produce a run. With Pederson at second, Mets manager Terry Collins showed mercy on Gsellman. Collins assigned Edgin to complete the inning.
The Dodgers did not oblige. Forsythe took a walk to bring up Seager. Edgin spotted a curveball for a strike. The pitch was admirable, but it did not dissuade Seager from hunting a fastball. One arrived on the next pitch, a 92-mph four-seamer that drifted over the middle. Seager smashed another opposite-field drive to complete the trifecta.
Seager came close to a fourth homer, unleashing a long drive with the bases loaded in the sixth. He ended the eighth inning in the on-deck circle, happy to settle with a career-best evening.
“With Corey, we’ve grown to expect greatness every single night,” manager Dave Roberts said. “When he’s throwing out hits and not slugging, we want more. It was a matter of time. It was a special night.”
After receiving an epidural injection for a herniated disk in his back, Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said he had not set a target date to resume baseball activities.
Manager Dave Roberts has floated the possibility of Gonzalez returning before the All-Star break. Gonzalez mentioned late July for a possible return.
Gonzalez is on the disabled list for the second time this season. He missed two weeks in May. Upon his return, his back continued to dog him. Gonzalez does not want to repeat that scenario.
“This time around, I’m not going to rush,” Gonzalez said before Tuesday’s game against the New York Mets. “Obviously, I felt fine, but then the more baseball I [played], the more it started to stiffen up. I think slower is better than faster right now, at this point.”
Gonzalez has been unable to hit for power in 2017. He has a career-worst .339 slugging percentage, well below his .456 average slugging percentage as a Dodger.
Roberts chose not to dwell on Clayton Kershaw’s performance on Monday night. Kershaw got credit for the victory, but he allowed a career-high four home runs to the Mets.
Afterward, Kershaw insisted he planned to move forward and not let the outing irritate him. Roberts chose a similar path, mentioning how Kershaw will face the Colorado Rockies this weekend at Dodger Stadium.
“I think Clayton’s pretty good about turning the page,” Roberts said. “But I wouldn’t want to be the Rockies come Saturday.”
Kershaw has already allowed a career-high 17 homers this season.
Roberts tipped his cap to umpire Joe West, who umpired his 5,000th game on Tuesday. West was umpiring second base during Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series, when Roberts stole his way into baseball history. “Every single time I see him, he tells me he’s the one who made me famous,” Roberts said.
Could Kenley Jansen really pitch an entire season without walking a batter?
It’s a crazy thought except, well, the season is just about halfway done and Jansen hasn’t walked anyone. The Dodgers’ closer has faced 107 batters, struck out 50 and walked none.
“It’s awesome, man,” Jansen said. “I’m not taking it for granted. I’m doing something that has never been done before.
“It’s awesome to be living in this moment.”
No pitcher has faced as many batters in a season without walking any. He has pitched 29 2/3 innings. The major league record for most innings pitched without a walk: 21, by Len Swormstedt of the 1906 Boston Americans.
“If I walk someone, I walk someone,” Jansen said. “Hey, I made a great run at it. … If, at the end of the year, it’s zero, or one or two or three or four, we’ll see.”
Jansen’s ERA is 0.91. In perhaps the most dominant relief season in modern history, Dennis Eckersley of the Oakland Athletics posted a 0.61 earned-run average in 1990, striking out 73 and walking four.
In 1992, Eckersley was the American League’s most valuable player, with a 1.91 ERA, 87 strikeouts and nine walks.
Is it too soon to juggle a starting rotation with an eye toward the opponent? Not for the Dodgers, who decided to push back Alex Wood’s next start by one day so their top three starters — Wood, Clayton Kershaw and Brandon McCarthy — could start this weekend against the first-place Colorado Rockies.
The Dodgers, Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks started play Monday with the three best records in the National League West, with each team within one game of the others. The division champion advances to a best-of-five playoff series; the two wild cards must play a sudden-death playoff game.
Monday marked the first anniversary of what so far has been one of the most lopsided trades in recent baseball history. In what appeared to be a marginal swap of triple-A players, the Dodgers sent pitcher Zach Lee to the Seattle Mariners for infielder Chris Taylor.
Lee had received a $5.25-million bonus — a team record for a drafted player — but his Dodgers career consisted of one major league game in six pro seasons.
Taylor has emerged as an invaluable player for the Dodgers, and now he’s an outfielder, a position he never played in the majors before this year. He entered play Monday with an .895 OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage), third on the team behind Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger.
“You almost want to take that utility tag off him,” manager Dave Roberts said. “He’s essentially been an everyday player for us.”
The Mariners never did call up Lee, who went 0-9 with a 7.39 earned-run average for their triple-A Tacoma affiliate. The San Diego Padres, desperate for candidates to fill their starting rotation, claimed him on waivers last December and afforded him eight innings this season, in which he walked eight. They sent him back to triple A and, on Monday, the Padres designated him for assignment.
Fields was unscored upon in his first eight appearances this season and carried an earned-run average below 1.00 into the first week of June. However, in his last five appearances, he has given up seven runs — including five home runs — in 4 2/3 innings.
Romo has not pitched since June 4 because of a sprained ankle. He has a 6.41 ERA in 24 appearances this season.
First baseman Adrian Gonzalez received an epidural injection to combat the discomfort stemming from the herniated disk in his back, manager Dave Roberts said.
Gonzalez has been on the disabled list for one week. Roberts said the Dodgers “hope” he can return before the All-Star break, which is three weeks away.
Gonzalez, 35, a five-time All-Star, is batting .255 with one home run. His .335 slugging percentage ranks 121st among the 126 National Leaguers with at least 150 plate appearances.
Corey Seager has fallen more than 300,000 votes behind the Cincinnati Reds’ Zack Cozart in balloting to decide the National League’s starting shortstop at the All-Star game. No other Dodgers player ranks as high as second at his position. Voting extends another two weeks. … Roberts said Kenta Maeda, who gave up one run and drove in two as the starting and winning pitcher Sunday, would return to the bullpen. Maeda earned the victory by giving up one run in five innings, his longest outing since May 25. … Infielder Logan Forsythe and outfielder Yasiel Puig had the day off Monday.
As the Dodgers have crossed these United States this month, from Missouri to Wisconsin, to California and then through Ohio, Cody Bellinger hears the same question.
Home run derby, yay or nay?
There is a third option, one so audacious that few would dare attempt it. See, Bellinger doesn’t need a batting-practice pitcher to go deep just about every night. He is turning the Dodgers schedule into his own home run derby.
He does not need to go to the actual derby to make people take notice of his slugging prowess. He makes folks go back, back, back into the record books every time he circles the bases.
Bellinger hit two more home runs Monday at Dodger Stadium, driving in four runs and powering the Dodgers to a 10-6 victory over the New York Mets. Justin Turner had four hits, including a home run, drove in four runs and lifted his batting average to .399.
For the second straight day — this one in a game started by Clayton Kershaw, no less — the Dodgers opened up a seven-run lead but could not complete the game without closer Kenley Jansen getting loose.
Chris Hatcher walked the bases loaded in the eighth inning, bringing Jose Reyes to the plate, representing the tying run. Reyes had homered twice against Kershaw; Hatcher struck him out.
Bellinger said he would love to participate in the home run derby if asked. He would get his father to pitch to him.
“It’d be cool,” he said. “I think it would be pretty special.”
He spotted the rest of the National League three weeks and leads the league in home runs.
“That’s a pretty good indicator they should invite him,” Kershaw said.
Bellinger has 21 home runs, the first major league player to hit so many in the first 51 games of his career. If he keeps his current pace, he would finish with 58, but manager Dave Roberts said it would be “absurd” for Bellinger to keep up that pace.
The franchise record is 49, by Shawn Green in 2001.
The franchise player on display Monday was Kershaw, the three-time Cy Young Award winner. For the first time in his career, Kershaw gave up four home runs. He has given up 17 home runs, a career high in a season not quite to the halfway point.
He started the seventh inning at 100 pitches. He did not finish the inning, yanked after Reyes took him deep for the second time in the game.
Kershaw walked off the field, stomped around the dugout, then kicked the bench with his right foot. He gave up six earned runs, the first time he had done so in more than three years. He said he had two options to rebound, the first of which involved extensive analysis to replay and rethink every pitch.
“Or you can say screw it and come back tomorrow,” he said. “I’m going to go with the latter.”
He also walked one batter and struck out 10, meaning the stuff was fine but the location was not. Besides the home runs, the Mets went two for 20 against Kershaw, with no extra-base hits.
Bellinger brought a buzz to the evening. He homered in his first two at-bats and, if Scooter Gennett could hit four in a game, why not Bellinger?
In the third at-bat, Bellinger struck out, twice swinging from his heels.
“I don’t blame him,” Roberts said. “I told him anybody can hit two home runs. I wanted to see him hit three myself.”
Before Bellinger’s fourth at-bat, Dodgers co-owner and Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson tweeted his congratulations to the rookie.
Two home runs, the major league record for fastest to 21, and the NL lead in home runs? As Johnson is well aware, the two words that might best describe Bellinger at this point are these:
The Dodgers are 44-26. That translates to 102-win pace, and yet the club still resides a rung below Colorado in the National League West — and tied with Arizona, to boot. The Dodgers swept the Reds this weekend to complete a 5-1 road trip through Ohio. Yet they gained no ground. The Rockies swept the lowly Giants and the Diamondbacks swept the cellar-dwelling Phillies.
So here we are, in the middle of June, in a dynamic division race. It will be fascinating to see if the pitching staff of the Rockies can hold up through the long summer at Coors Field. The same principle applies to Arizona’s lineup, which boasts Paul Goldschmidt, Jake Lamb and little else to concern opposing pitchers. The season is not even halfway complete, but the three-way dance should be entertaining.
The Dodgers return home on Monday for a four-game series with the Mets, their antagonists from the 2015 National League Division Series. These Mets have regressed into their injury-laden past, and flew west on Sunday after getting wrecked by Washington over the weekend. Here are the matchups for this week at Dodger Stadium:
5. Cody Bellinger: Here is where things get murky. Bellinger has been excellent, especially as a rookie. Only Eric Thames has hit more homers than Bellinger has (19). He stabilized the Dodgers lineup and has provided a slew of game-altering hits. But that’s what first basemen and left fielders get paid to do. Bellinger ranks seventh in weighted on-base average (wOBA) and sixth in OPS among National League first baseman. As an outfielder, Bellinger has a much better case: He ranks third in OPS and third in wOBA. It’ll be interesting if he makes it.
6. Chris Taylor: Another tough one. Taylor ranks second in fWAR among second baseman — but he’s been playing the outfield for several weeks. He’ll be reliant on the player vote, and I don’t think that will carry him.
7. Justin Turner: He belongs on the team, given his incredible .985 OPS, but I don’t know if he’ll make it. The National League roster will already include Nolan Arenado and Kris Bryant, and Turner missed some time with a hamstring strain. He may need the fan vote to make it.
8. Pedro Baez: No.
9. Yasmani Grandal: It’s a down year for National League catchers, so if the team wants to take a third backstop after Buster Posey and J.T. Realmuto, you could make an argument for Grandal.
McLovin’, you have to get some new friends.
Corey Seager has been fine. His power is down a tad (slugging .462 after slugging .512 in 2016) but his on-base percentage is up (.392 after getting on base at a .365 clip in 2016).
Baseball is a difficult sport. Alex Rodriguez posted a 9.4 bWAR season as a 20-year-old in 1996. He played 22 years in the majors. He only reached that 9.4-win mark twice more in his career.
Honestly, I don’t know what to tell you, besides mentioning that Hatcher provides depth. I thought the team would designate him for assignment last summer. I thought the team would non-tender him during the winter. I thought the team would try to sneak him through waivers and onto the Oklahoma City roster this spring.
Nevertheless, he persists.
Hatcher has pitched some good games this season, and he has shown some value by logging innings. But he also gives up home runs at an alarming rate, and Dave Roberts does not trust him in even medium-leverage scenarios. There are plenty of other arms in the organization (Josh Ravin comes to mind, as does Brandon Morrow) who could fill Hatcher’s role with better results.
I’ll say this: Hatcher’s staying power is certainly confounding, especially with a team that prides itself on being a meritocracy. Ross Stripling pitched a couple bad games and lost his spot. Josh Fields may lose his spot after four rough ones this month. Morrow didn’t even give up a run during his cameo, and he lost his spot.
The main reason Hatcher is still on the roster is he is out of options. If the team designated him for assignment, he could be claimed by any of the 29 other clubs. The Dodgers front office, it is readily apparent, fears this outcome far more than Dodgers fans do. I understand the theory behind depth — it is a guiding principle for the organization, and it has clearly worked these past three seasons — but Hatcher is testing the viability of that theory.
Fields could be a candidate for a demotion when the team looks to bring back Brandon Morrow. Morrow was optioned on June 10, so a 10-day period has to pass before he can be recalled. You may see some movement this week.
Andre Ethier is still rehabbing the herniated disk in his back, and he is not expected to return until after the All-Star break.
Julio Urias has been shut down because of inflammation in his left shoulder. There is no timetable for his return.
Yimi Garcia underwent Tommy John surgery during the winter. He will not pitch this season.
Considering Julio Urias is hurt, while Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu have all been various forms of mediocre, I do not see the Dodgers finding a bevy of interested suitors in their rotation surplus. The team does not have an eight-man starting rotation. They have six starters, and three are in jeopardy of shifting into the bullpen.
Bullpen, starting rotation, corner outfield. Same answer as last week, and the week before, and the week before.
My favorite Thrice song is a newer one: “Black Honey,” from the record they did last year.
Also: I received at least a dozen questions complaining about Chris Hatcher.
David Vassegh, is that you?
I am not sure the rest of the club would want to wear those pants. Enrique Hernandez did say he received a compliment from noted fashionista Joey Votto about them, for what it’s worth.
1. A lot is riding on how Rich Hill performs this week against the Mets. His upside exceeds the upside of Kenta Maeda and the upside of Hyun-Jin Ryu. But Hill has been a mess for most of the season, and both Maeda and Ryu looked competent against the Reds. Hill looked something less than that against Cleveland earlier in the week. He has a chance to solidify his spot with a solid outing this week.
2. I was flying Sunday night, so I couldn’t watch the full show. I caught some clips this morning (whoa, they jobbed out Mike Bennett already?) and watched the men’s “Money in The Bank” match. It was a fairly generic version of this type of match. Some good spots, some decent action. Baron Corbin still belongs in developmental, but when you have Jinder Mahal as your champion, you’ve made clear that titles mean nothing, anyway.
3. “The Man” by the Killers sounds like it got recorded in 2009 and left in the studio for eight years.