By Jon Weisman
On Saturday in St. Louis, Michael Wacha carried a shutout (OK, a no-hitter) into the seventh (OK, the sixth) inning, then gave up a couple of hits and a huge home run. Sound familiar, anyone?
Sure, the stakes were different in the Dodgers’ 5-1 victory than Game 4 of the National League Division Series, but otherwise it was something of a mirror image of Clayton Kershaw’s final October downfall.
Judging by what he told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny left Wacha in the game mainly to try to get him the “W” next to his name in the boxscore.
“You’ve got that situation there with an opportunity to pitch (Gonzalez) tough, fouled off a lot of pitches and that did, no question, wear him down pretty good,” Matheny said. “At that point we’ve got to try and keep him in that game. Try and get our offense back out there and get him a win. The ball jumped for Grandal and that was the big game-changer.
“If it’s a 1-1 game, it’s Michael’s game.”
Said Yasmani Grandal, who blasted the three-run shot off Wacha, to David Cobb of MLB.com: “It just so happened that [Wacha] made a mistake, probably the only mistake he made all night, and I was able to capitalize on it.”
MLB’s Statcast took a look at Grandal’s tiebreaking homer Saturday and noted that Grandal “has an average exit velocity of 94.5 mph on balls Statcast™ has tracked, which leads all catchers.”
Grandal’s .492 on-base percentage in May is the second-best mark in the National League this month behind Bryce Harper, according to the Dodgers’ PR department, and he is third in slugging percentage (.698), behind Harper (.905) and Paul Goldschmidt (.720).
Grandal also provided benefits behind the plate for the Dodgers on Saturday. Grandal told Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles that starting pitcher Carlos Frias was trying to do too much too soon in his fruitless start a week ago against San Diego.
… “He wanted to use all four of his pitches from the beginning for some reason and I thought we could go with one or two pitches for the first three or four innings and all of a sudden mix in those other two,” Grandal said.
Frias talked about his trust with Grandal, saying he never shook him off Saturday. He was perfectly happy to cede the game plan to his catcher.
“If he’s thinking, he’s probably not doing his job right,” Grandal said. …
Despite an error by Howie Kendrick on his first batter and loading the bases before getting an out, Frias went seven innings and allowed only one run, unearned.
“Last time he was all over the place,” Don Mattingly told Cobb. “Tonight, he seemed to be hitting his spots. He used his slider some. As the game went on, he started using his curveball. That’s the key.”
Here are some more notes from the weekend …
By Jon Weisman
Paco Rodriguez has had trouble finishing pitches, manager Don Mattingly told reporters this morning, so he has been placed on the disabled list and is heading to Los Angeles for examination on his left elbow.
Rodriguez’s velocity has been on the decline, as noted in the Daily News by J.P. Hoornstra, despite not having been used frequently. Friday’s 18-pitch outing was his first in five days, and he has pitched on consecutive days only once in the past six weeks.
Here’s a small excerpt from Hoornstra’s piece:
… What’s interesting is that Rodriguez said he had no idea his velocity has been steadily dropping. He’s never relied primarily on speed to be effective, rather deception and location. Because of that, he said, he’s never paid close attention to radar-gun readings.
The decrease in speed is partially by design. Rodriguez said he was hoping to slow down his curveball this year by tightening his grip on the ball, “just so the fastball looks that much harder.” Rodriguez allowed for the possibility that he’s tightened the grip on all his pitches inadvertently. …
So far in 2015, Rodriguez has a 2.61 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 10 1/3 innings with eight strikeouts, stranding 17 of 22 inherited runners.
To take Rodriguez’s place on the active roster, the Dodgers have called up Matt West, the righty they cashed out of Toronto on May 4, from Triple-A Oklahoma City. In the organization this year, West has had 10 strikeouts and a 0.68 WHIP in 10 1/3 innings for Double-A Tulsa, along with four baserunners in two innings with one strikeout for Oklahoma City.
West’s MLB career consists of four innings with the Rangers last season, in which he allowed three runs on seven baserunners while striking out three.
If and when he appears in a game, West will be the first in Dodger history to wear No. 76. However, he will only be the second Dodger ever from Houston’s Bellaire High, after the inimitable Kelly Wunsch.
By Jon Weisman
Yasmani Grandal returns to active duty today after spending seven days on the concussion-themed disabled list.
Grandal will start tonight and bat sixth (where he has hit in his past eight starts), but Jimmy Rollins has been dropped from second to eighth. Scott Van Slyke is also back on starting duty.
Austin Barnes, who started Sunday and played in two other games — including Friday, after A.J. Ellis was ejected in a balls-and-strikes/pitch-framing controversy — is remaining with the team. Outfielder Chris Heisey, who started on Thursday, has been optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Grandal, who brings a .403 on-base percentage and .466 slugging percentage back to the Dodger lineup tonight, went 3 for 10 with five walks and three strikeouts in three games designated hitting for Oklahoma City. That includes his own ejection in the second of those games.
Neither Ellis nor Grandal had ever been ejected from a professional game before, according to the two catchers. Ellis discussed his ejection after Friday’s game with reporters, as chronicled by Bill Plunkett of the Register.
… “Their job is to call balls and strikes,” Ellis said. “It’s not their job to be a catching coach behind the plate. It’s not their job to be critical of what I’m doing. It shouldn’t even matter if there’s a catcher there or not. The ball comes through a zone and they need to take a look at that.
“People on blogs and websites can critique my framing but I’m not going to take it from an umpire because it’s not their job to do that. It’s their job to call balls and strikes based on what comes through a strike zone.”
Winters was asked to respond but declined to speak to a pool reporter. He said only through a Cardinals official that the issue was balls and strikes and “the rest of it stays private.”
Not entirely. Winters was apparently wearing a microphone for MLB Network during the game. …
By Jon Weisman
One day in May, this little item appeared deep in the game notes of the Times’ Frank Finch:
Maury Wills and Willie Davis cut records with Stubby Kaye Friday afternoon as well as doing single platters. During the session Jimmy Durante made a record called ‘Dandy Sandy,’ singing the praises of Prof. Koufax. Wills said it would be a smash.
You didn’t think I would leave you hanging, did you?
By Jon Weisman
On a seven-game road trip earlier this month to Milwaukee and Colorado, the Dodgers scored 39 runs, despite having 13 of the scheduled 63 innings rained out. On the days unaffected by rain, the Dodgers averaged 7.4 runs per game.
But the Dodgers past four road games — May 19-21 in San Francisco and Friday in St. Louis — have led to a team-record four consecutive road shutouts.
A bit extreme, you could say. In 2015, the Dodgers have averaged just under four runs per road game, but they haven’t actually scored exactly four runs in a road game this season.
In addition to obviously being homerless over their past four road games, the Dodgers have been an uncharacteristic 0-for-22 with runners in scoring position — uncharacteristic because overall this season, the Dodgers have an .839 OPS with RISP in 2015, No. 2 in the National League.
Here’s how each of the Dodger position players have done during the shutout streak, with batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS:
- Howie Kendrick: 5 for 16 with a double (.313/.313/.375/.688)
- Jimmy Rollins: 4 for 13 with a walk (.308/.357/.308/.675)
- Joc Pederson: 3 for 15 with three walks, two doubles (.200/.333/.333/.667)
- Scott Van Slyke: 2 for 7 with a walk (.286/.375/.286/.661)
- Justin Turner: 3 for 10 (.300/.300/.300/.600)
- Kiké Hernandez: 1 for 5 with a double (.200/.200/.400/.600)
- Adrian Gonzalez: 3 for 14 with two walks (.214/.313/.214/.527)
- Juan Uribe: 1 for 4 (.250/.250/.250/.500)
- A.J. Ellis: 1 for 6 with a walk (.167/.286/.167/.453)
- Alex Guerrero: 3 for 15 (.200/.200/.200/.400)
- Yasmani Grandal: 1 for 8 with a double (.125/.125/.250/.375)
- Andre Ethier: 1 for 11 (.091/.091/.091/.182)
- Chris Heisey: 0 for 1 (.000/.000/.000/.000)
- Total: 28 for 125 with eight walks, five doubles (.224/.271/.264/.535)
Today, weather permitting, the Dodgers face Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha, who has a 1.87 ERA despite only 5.5 strikeouts per nine innings. His xFIP is 4.09. To quote from “Joe vs. the Volcano”: “Joe, nobody knows anything. We’ll take this leap, and we’ll see.”
By Jon Weisman
Here’s where the Dodger bullpen ranks in 10 key categories, compared with the rest of the National League:
- No. 3 in fewest innings thrown, behind the Mets and Reds.
- No. 2 in fewest batters faced, behind only the Mets.
- No. 2 behind the Mets in lowest on-base percentage allowed.
- No. 2 behind the Mets in WHIP.
- Tied for No. 1 with the Marlins for fewest home runs allowed.
- No. 1 in lowest slugging percentage allowed.
- No. 1 in lowest OPS allowed.
- No. 1 in strikeouts per nine innings.
- No. 1 in strikeout-walk ratio.
- No. 7 in rate of inherited runners allowed to score.
The last bullet point shows that Dodger relievers aren’t doing everything right. But they’re doing a lot of things very right — and that’s with Kenley Jansen having thrown 57 pitches so far all season.
And the other good news, heading into a stretch of 34 games in the next 34 days (with one doubleheader and one day off in June), is that so far, the Dodger bullpen haven’t been overworked.
How many fans are even aware that Zack Greinke leads the Major Leagues in ERA? Here’s more on Greinke’s super season so far, plus other news and notes:
- Some interesting tidbits about Greinke fill Pedro Moura’s story for the Register, based in no small part on a conversation with A.J. Ellis. Here’s a sample:
In combination with his fastball, the changeup and slider have presented an unusual problem to the opposition. Ninety-three percent of Greinke’s pitches have been clocked within roughly 5 mph of each other. They’re released similarly, travel at unusually similar velocities, and then, approaching the plate, they split off in separate directions.
“It’s pretty hard for hitters when the three pitches come in and you don’t know which way they’re going to go,” Ellis said. “Is it going to come straight through? Is it going to run down and in? Is it going down and away?”
Greinke, whose fielding-independent ERA is higher than Clayton Kershaw’s, acknowledges he has been lucky on balls in play this season, in contrast to Kershaw and …
- … Chris Hatcher, who spoke candidly about his recent struggles, as seen in this story by Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. As with Moura’s article on Greinke, you need to read the entire story on Hatcher, but here’s an excerpt:
Hatcher’s ERA in May was 3.00 entering Wednesday night (it is 6.00 now), after a 7.56 mark in April. But if there is one glaring difference in the two months, it’s in strikeouts. In April Hatcher struck out 15 of 38 batters faced (39.5%), but in May just two of 31 batters he faced have struck out.
We are talking about all of 14⅓ innings on the season here, so take these numbers with a grain of salt. But peripherally Hatcher is having a fine season. Despite his 6.91 ERA, his 17 strikeout, five walks and no home runs allowed give him a 2.23 FIP and a 3.58 xFIP.
But waiting for the numbers to even out isn’t a luxury most relief pitchers have, nor does it make giving up actual runs any less annoying.
“I feel like every ball put in play is a hit off me, recently,” Hatcher said. “A couple of those were poor pitches. But what’s frustrating is when you execute your pitch and somehow the ball still finds the ground or the guy ends up on first.”
Update: Here’s more analysis from Dustin Nosler of Dodgers Digest.
- Julio Urias had his cosmetic eye surgery Thursday, according to J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News.
- “Dodgers pitcher Chad Gaudin recently underwent carpal tunnel release surgery on his right wrist and could be pitching in a month,” Ken Gurnick reported on MLB.com earlier this week.
- Dodger senior vice president of planning and development Janet Marie Smith has been nominated for executive of the year at the Stadium Business Awards.
- The fate of Mets third baseman David Wright resembles that of Don Mattingly during his days with the Yankees, writes Steven Martano of Beyond the Box Score.
- Matt Holliday of tonight’s Dodger opponents in St. Louis has reached base in 43 consecutive games to start the season, “the longest streak in the National League since 1914” to open a season according to ESPN.com. David Cobb of MLB.com adds that the MLB record to start a season is 53 by Derek Jeter.
Did you see that? Because of a partnership between the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation and Vision to Learn, the nearly 100 elementary school students who stood in center field before Tuesday’s game could all say “yes.” The students and their families were on hand to celebrate the third year of the partnership.
Vision to Learn is a nonprofit organization that provides free eye screenings, eye exams and free glasses to underserved school kids in the greater Los Angeles area. Approximately 250,000 elementary school students in California — including 100,000 here in Los Angeles County — do not have the glasses that they need. According to the American Optometric Association, 80 percent of classroom learning is visual, yet it has been estimated nearly one in every seven kindergarten-through-fifth graders in California does not have the glasses they need to learn.
In the three years Vision to Learn has been in existence, the organization has examined more than 35,000 children and provided more than 27,500 pair of eye glasses to help students succeed in school and in life. LADF granted Vision to Learn $150,000 to increase services to elementary school students.
Vision to Learn is also a key health partner in LADF’s youth baseball program Dodgers RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities). More than 4,000 players in Dodgers RBI will have the opportunity to get their eyes screened over the course of the season at regional Dodger Days in their communities.
Dodger catcher A.J. Ellis and reliever Brandon League know firsthand what it is like to have vision problems and have both shown their support of Vision to Learn.
Visit dodgers.com/ladf to learn more about the LADF’s work.