Friday, October 29, 2021

Friedman Blames Roberts, Prior, and Dugout Coaches for Starter-As-Reliever Decisions

As per today's LAT:

Friedman on Wednesday addressed the two controllable variables in the Dodgers’ demise. First, who exactly made the decisions to have [Max] Scherzer and Julio Urías pitch in relief? Was it the front office or manager Dave Roberts?

“They are Dave’s decisions with [pitching coach] Mark Prior and [game planning coach] Danny Lehmann and [bench coach] Bob Geren in the dugout,” Friedman said. “We do a lot of work to prepare ahead of time to understand how certain relievers match up against certain hitters.

“Games play out in so many different ways that it’s impossible to anticipate it before, so those decisions are made in the dugout, as they should be, because so many things have changed in the two, three, four hours from going through it through the game.”

I have been pretty zen since the Dodgers' loss in the 2021 NLCS, though not quite calm enough to write a post yet. But this article just got me bummed out all over again.


Saturday, October 23, 2021

2021 NLCS Game 6 Thread: Oct 23 @ Braves

Buehler vs. Anderson, 5p.

In a move the Braves never saw coming, the Dodgers opted to save Max Scherzer for Game 8 rather than start him on regular rest in today's Game 6. This forces Walker Buehler into the starting role on four days rest, and god knows who might go if we get past the Braves today. It's a crazy move, but I suppose we have to trust the process.

The Dodgers should still be buzzing after the steamrolling of Atlanta in Game 5, where we had more (Chris) Taylor than a Duran Duran concert (AJ Pollock, with two HR, also provided solid backup vocals to the band). But this narrative has flipped with every game, so I'm not expecting the momentum to carry over to Truist Park. I'm just happy that the last home game of the NLCS was a celebratory one.


Friday, October 22, 2021

2021 Post-NLCS Game 5 Thread: Chris Taylor Will Not Go Quietly

Chris Taylor puts the Dodgers ahead for good in the second inning (great photo by Luis Sinco, LAT)


Chris Taylor saved the Dodgers in the 2021 Wild Card Game, winning the game with a walk-off two-run HR. And though none of Taylor's astounding three home runs were a walk-off last night, he definitely punctuated this NLCS Game 5 victory as well, multiple times. With Justin Turner felled by a hamstring in Game 4, and Joe Kelly gone for the series after being removed in the first inning, it was up to one of the remaining Dodgers left standing to step up and carry this team.

Enter Chris Taylor:

Amazing. Having been at Adam Kennedy's three-HR ALCS performance in 2002, and watched Kike Hernandez do the same against the Cubs in 2017, it was awesome to view Taylor going to town for the final game of this series at Dodger Stadium (I watched this game at home). There have been 11 players with three home runs in a postseason game (including teammate Albert Pujols), but Taylor is the first to do it in an elimination game.

Chris Taylor carried us for the first half of this season, cooled off in the later months, and then came alive again for the postseason (despite his baserunning gaffe in Game 1). He now has four HR this 2021 postseason, in which he is batting .364 with a 1.254 OPS. Taylor is a free agent at the end of this season, and I so hope he is back in Dodger Blue.

Not that Taylor was the only Dodger hero in NLCS Game 5. AJ Pollock went 3-for-5 with two HR and 4 RBI of his own; Pollock's eighth-inning, three-run HR was a definitive game-ending smash. Love this picture:

Albert Pujols went 2-for-4 with two runs scored. Trea Turner, elevated to the two spot, went 3-for-4 with a run and a RBI. Will Smith was the only Dodgers position player to go 0-fer, and even Smith made a fine play to throw out Eddie Rosario at second on a stolen base attempt.

That was the Dodgers' seventh straight win in a postseason elimination game. Four of these backs-against-the-wall wins have been against the Braves.

So we head back to Atlanta for a Game 6 on Saturday. But I'm going to just buzz and enjoy this beatdown, right now. Let's cue up Don Henley (and Axl Rose on backup vocals):

Thursday, October 21, 2021

2021 NLCS Game 5 Thread: Oct 21 vs. Braves

TBD Mariachi Joe Kelly vs. Max Fried, 5p.

We've been here before, right? Like, last year?

Except we had Clayton Kershaw then. And Kiké Hernandez. And Max Muncy. And Justin Turner. Look, you can keep that Joc Pederson guy and all the best to him. But we miss these other four, like, a lot.

I was at 2018 World Series Game 3 (in a suite!) and after the 18th inning Muncy HR, I felt a wave of emotion and was totally charged leaving the Stadium that night. And none of that mattered in the next game when we lost, ultimately losing the series in five games.

This year, I was at 2021 NLCS Game 3 (also in a suite!) and after that amazing come-from-behind 6-5 victory, I again felt a wave of emotion and was totally charged leaving the Stadium last night. And again, it didn't matter the following day, as Julio Urias struggled (his Game 2 appearance now cost us two games, not just one) and the bats just weren't there all night (against the scrub Braves bullpen, no less).

Look, I just about lost all hope as soon as I opened the LAT Wednesday morning to find resident hack Bill Plaschke calling the series for the Dodgers. There's still a bit of hope left (about 20%, if you believe the statistical models), but it sure feels a lot different without those key ingredients, and with two of the three in Atlanta.


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

2021 NLCS Game 4 Thread: Oct 20 vs. Braves

The scene at Dodger Stadium, well after the come-from-behind 2021 NLCS Game 3 Los Angeles victory. Dodgers 6, Braves 5.

Urias vs. TBD, 5p.

Momentum, anyone? Unbelievably, the Dodgers are now basically 50-50 odds to win this series, based on an unexpected outcome to Game 3. I can't believe it--we were around 25-30% going into Game 3--and I know the statistical models don't get influenced by the emotional wave that overcame Dodger Stadium last night. On paper, we should be in good shape, even with emotion aside.

However, Game 4 with Julio Urias starting is pivotal, and the game hinges on how strong his left arm will be. Urias was used--ineffectively--in NLCS Game 2 Sunday, for 14 pitches. Scherzer was used for 13 pitches in the clinching NLDS Game 5 against the Giants, which was effective (and great). But then Scherzer's arm was dead in his NLCS Game 2 start, only lasting 79 pitches (4.1 IP, 2 ER, 7 Ks and 1 BB). And every arm in our bullpen was either used or warmed in the effort on Tuesday afternoon.

The Braves will counter with a bullpen game (which we will probably have to run in Game 5). For Game 4, the Dodger offense will determine whether we can even this series and keep our momentum.

We win this game, and it's all even. We lose, and we're down 3-1 just like last year. The volatility of the narratives in this series has been so high, swinging from "Dodgers win in a cakewalk" to "Well, that was lucky but we got Game 2" to "The Dodgers are doomed" to "The Dodgers are BACK." I can't tell what narrative comes next. This series is bananas.


2021 NLCS Post-Game 3 Thread: Bellinger, Betts AGAIN Come Up Clutch


In the eighth inning of 2021 NLCS Game 3, the Dodgers' season looked to be over. But battling back from a 6% chance of winning to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat was absolutely amazing, and one of the most incredible Dodger games I have ever attended.

The reports are right on target: I have never heard the Stadium so loud, which was probably more stunning because the Stadium wasn't full. But what made the noise so astonishing was that the deafening roar arose from a quiet (albeit largely still packed) audience with such ferocity, it was like the din of the fighter jets doing the flyover during the pre-game ceremony. ShakaBOOOOOOOM!

The Dodgers started NLCS Game 3 with another two-run Corey Seager HR in the first before an out was registered, just like we did in NLCS Game 2. And once again, the Dodgers gave up the lead later on in the game, despite having a Braves starting pitcher on the ropes and struggling, letting him off the hook with poor ABs and LOBs. When Walker Buehler faltered in the fourth, the Dodgers' offense looked exhausted, striking out and grounding out like old men (including the high-leverage Albert Pujols PH that resulted in a weak strikeout).

But then came the bottom of the eighth, and although Cody Bellinger's three-run HR made the stadium absolutely erupt, and Mookie Betts' double gave the Dodgers the lead--it was a full inning of unlikely events. And it happened SO FAST, like a tsunami. And with ABs that belied how poorly we attacked the Braves pitchers earlier in the game. Will Smith didn't muscle a ball, instead poking it up the right field line for a single. Justin Turner weakly popped out to second, which is a continued concern. But AJ Pollock worked a two-strike single up the middle, setting the stage for Bellinger's heroics.

Bellinger was down 1-2 in that AB, and the first strike was awful (brought to his knees, as the corkscrew was way off) and the second strike wasn't much better (totally mis-timed). So for him to get that home run ball, on a fastball so high up in the strike zone that there was no logical explanation of how this could have possibly been hit for a home run, was insanity. Any normal batter would have whiffed; not to mention, a guy batting .165 all year, who couldn't catch up to fastballs in the entire month of September.

The Braves were stunned. The place was going crazy. Frankly, I was just shocked that we had tied the score at all. But the fun wasn't over just yet. Chris Taylor singled over a leaping Dansby Swanson at short, and then stole second base while Matt Beaty was in his pinch-hitting AB. Beaty grounded to second in what many reports are calling a "sure double-play ball had Taylor been on first"--which is true--but I think Beaty deliberately poked it there to advance the runner in case it was fielded (which it was). I looked at that one as a smart Beaty AB.

And then, Mookie. Mookie, Mookie, Mookie. Mr. Clutch, a two-out double to right fielder Joc Pederson, to take the lead. Talk about ice in the veins.

The Dodgers then loaded the bases to bat all the way around in the order, but Will Smith popped to second to end the threat and fail to add on any insurance runs. Kenley Jansen then came in for the ninth (the inning he is supposed to be able to pitch, by the way), and struck out the 4, 5, and 6 batters in the Braves lineup, including the dangerous Austin Riley and Pederson (batting .364), to win the game.

And as much debated as Dave Roberts' pitching choices were in NLCS Game 2 (even I couldn't understand the use of Urias for the eighth inning, which doomed us), let's take stock that Dave Roberts' crazy pitching choices in NLCS Game 3 kept us in the game. Taking out Buehler when he was losing his cool, and command, in the fourth. Alex Vesia to close ou tthat inning. Pulling Corey Knebel when he got into trouble, allowing only one run to score. Introducing Justin Bruihl to the series at the right time. Calling on Mariachi Joe Kelly to strike out the dangerous Ozzie Albies with two on and two out. Bringing in Evan Phillips for five key outs in the seventh and eight. And then switching to Tony Gonsolin to again thwart Albies (who ended up 1-for-5 but is still batting .308 for the postseason).

My only worry is that we've let Freddie Freeman (3-for-4 with a walk) find his stroke again. But having Austin Riley go 0-for-4 with a walk is an amazing feat for this series.

I will try and post more about the at-game experience later. There was so much more: the mariachi band in the right field bleachers, complete with a cardboard cutout of Joe Kelly (and a hilarious cut to him in the bullpen, mid-game) was hysterical; and it was so fun to have them liven up the crowd during the game. Watching the game while still avoiding alcohol (given my vow to the baseball gods after NLDS Game 3). But for now, all I can say is, I am so glad to have been there. And to have stuck it out to the end (even with the hour-long wait to get out of the parking lot!).

UPDATE: I also found this animation to be hilarious.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

2021 NLCS Game 3 Thread: Oct 19 vs. Braves

Buehler vs. Morton, 2p.

Jorge Castillo of the LAT said what ran through my mind at the end of that disapponting Game 2: 2-for-18 with RISP is not going to get it done. Even when Chris Taylor hit a bloop double to put the Dodgers up 4-2, I was lamenting we couldn't tack on any more--basically, what I was saying all game when the Dodgers kept leaving ducks on the pond. And we needed it, after reliever (?) Julio Urias gave up two runs, and the Braves won another one-run game in the bottom of the ninth.

There wasn't much time to rest on Monday, especially given the early start today: but hopefully, the Dodgers can rebound like they did in the 2020 NLCS, also down 2-0 to the Braves:

Now, a lot of those 2020 ingredients aren't on this year's squad: Joc Pederson (on the bad guys), Edwin Rios (out for the season), Max Muncy (out for the series). Those bats accounted for eight of our 11 first-inning HRs. So we will need Trea Turner, Gavin Lux, and Chris Taylor to step up here. It's our only hope.

Sax will be at Game 3.


Sunday, October 17, 2021

2021 NLCS Game 2 Thread: Oct 17 @ Braves

I didn't realize Max Scherzer's heterochromia spread beyond the eyes.

Scherzer vs. Anderson, 4.38p.

The Dodgers trotted out almost any pitcher who wasn't named Scherzer, Buehler, or Urias last night. And even 10 hits couldn't get us over the hump of winning against Max Fried, who left the game tied 2-2. But an Austin Riley home run in the bottom of the ninth won it for the Braves, who take a 1-0 lead into Game 2.

A Chris Taylor base-running blunder in the ninth, when he was caught in a rundown after rounding second too far on a Cody Bellinger single, didn't help the Dodgers' cause. But remember two things: 1) Taylor single-handedly lifted us past the Cardinals in the 2021 Wild Card Game; and 2) in the 2020 season, I seem to recall the Braves making a key base-running error as well, and got nailed by Justin "Superman" Turner:

So now, we go with Max Scherzer: shaky but effective in his last starts (12 of Scherzer's 13 2021 Dodgers starts resulted in wins, with the only loss coming in his most recent start, NLDS Game 3 vs. the Giants, a 1-0 loss). And the Braves start Ian Anderson, guitarist for Jethro Tull. Why, Mr. Anderson?

Why, Mr. Anderson? Why?

Anderson went 9-5 this regular season (including one loss against the Dodgers, lasting 4.1 IP and yielding 4 ER in a 4-3 loss, on June 4). He has not had an earned run in the 2021 postseason (one start). Anderson started 2020 NLCS Game 7 and lasted only three innings (five hits and two earned runs). I'm sure he'd love this opportunity to face us again.


Saturday, October 16, 2021

2021 NLCS Game 1 Thread: Oct 16 @ Braves

Cody Bellinger delivers the big ninth-inning deathblow in NLDS Game 5 to vanquish San Francisco.

Knebel vs. Fried, 5p

No rast for the weary. The Dodgers hopped on a plane Thursday for Atlanta, assembling a lineup without Clayton Kershaw (expected), Max Muncy (hoped for, but understandable), Billy McKinney (interesting), and David Price (a little surprising). In their places, pitchers Justin Bruihl and Evan Phillips join 11 other arms and 13 position players.

And as called a couple of hours ago, NLDS Game 5 starter Corey Knebel will again start a postseason game for the Dodgers, taking the mound in NLCS Game 1 vs. Harvard-Westlake alum Max Fried. I agree with the decision to not let Max Scherzer, who earned a one-inning save in NLDS Game 5, start Game 1 on another short respite, right after a six-hour flight.

But sending out Knebel again to start (even if it's only an inning, before Tony Gonsolin likely takes the mound) seems to be playing some risky games with the baseball gods. In Doc we trust.

The Braves may have only won 88 games this season, but they're playing hot, writes Mike Digiovanna of the LAT. And of course, by virtue of the Dodgers not winning the NL West, the Braves (who won the NL East) wield home field advantage. The Braves beat the crap out of Milwaukee in their NLDS. So this isn't going to be easy, by any means.

Oh crap, I'm nervous again! Guess I'd better watch something to calm the nerves...wait a minute, how about some other Bellinger heroics (albeit also, a Bellinger celebration injury that lingered into 2021...)


photo: Harry How, Getty Images

Friday, October 15, 2021

Post-2021 NLDS Game 5 Thread: Cody Bellinger Was Clutch, But SoSG Sax Is The Real Hero


In one of the most tense Dodgers playoff games I have ever watched, the Dodgers overcame the ghosts of Giants playoff games past, winning 2021 NLDS Game 5 in its final inning. The game's box score looked identical for the Giants and Dodgers through the first eight innings, with each team showing one run on six hits, and both runs coming in the sixth inning (Dodgers, off a Mookie Betts single and stolen base, scoring on a Corey Seager RBI double; Giants, on a solo home run to deep center by Darren Ruf).

Justin Turner was batting 0-for-3 with a walk in this game, capping an uncharacteristically anemic .083 batting average this postseason. But when Camilo Doval hit Justin Turner in the top of the ninth with one out, that opened up a sliver of hope for the Dodgers that seemed to elude them all game (the Dodgers ended the game 2-for-10 with RISP, and 7 LOB). Gavin Lux worked a great AB for a solid single to right, his first hit of the game (despite great at bats all game long). JT advances to second. And then, the light-hitting Cody Bellinger scorched an RBI single right through the shift to have the Dodgers take the lead:

Bellinger was the hero. Bellinger, after a trying season full of injuries and disappointing ABs. I was very worried by his plate appearance here in the ninth (I thought he was going to GIDP), and I was very proud to be proven wrong by his GWRBI. Way to go, Cody!

The bottom of the ninth wasn't a cakewalk, though. Dave Roberts' insane pitching choices this game, starting out with Corey Knebel for the first inning; Brusdar Graterol for the second; and Julio Urias for the third-through-sixth frames, seemed to leave us high and dry after using Blake Treinen and Kenley Jansen one inning earlier than normal. As the LAT's Dylan Hernandez pointed out, the unusual starter decision drove Giants manager Gabe Kapler to burn left-handed batters Tommy La Stella and Mike Yastrzemski early, making them unable to pinch-hit later. Who knows, it might have gotten the Giants spinning, spending energy trying to react to the unconventional move.

As an aside, I've learned to have trust in Doc Roberts' calls. The decision to start Knebel "went all the way to the tippy-top of the organization," Roberts said (the LAT also reported that Roberts told Kapler abou the Knebele decison at 10pm on Wednesday night, though the news didn't break to the public until aroudn 12 hours later). That said, the decision to have Chris Taylor bunt in the top of the ninth, with one out and men at the corners, was ridiculous. Taylor was stroking the ball well, a squeeze play at the plate was unnecesary, and Taylor popped his bunt up for an out anyway. That ended up leaving the score at 2-1 LA, at a time when a third run really seemend necessary to win this one.

Max Scherzer came in to pitch the ninth and line up for his first career save. But should this game go to extras, it wasn't clear what arms might be left to utilize.

Scherzer got Brandon Crawford to fly out to Chris Taylor in left field. Then Kris Bryant reached on an error by Justin Turner, which was bone-chilling. Winning run now comes to the plate. You sort of got the sense that one more mistake from Scherzer--in an unfamiliar position--would cost the Dodgers the game. Giants manager Gabe Kapler threw in "Late Night" LaMonte Wade to pinch hit, and he Kd looking on a beautiful pitch to the outside high corner, ending a very tense AB. And then, controversy struck, when Wilmer Flores struck out on a close call check swing that was called a game- and series-ending strike. And I mean, a very close call:

Giants fans are understandably angry; that's a shitty way to lose a game. However, so was losing on July 22, when a check swing that should have been called strike 3 was mis-called as ball 4, leading to Kenley Jansen walking in the tying run, in an eventual 5-3 loss to the Giants.

Kapler, in his post-game conference, was disappointed by the call but reiterated "that was not the sole reason we lost that game." Gotta hand it to Kapler for that poise and professionalism in the wake of that loss.

Maybe this is the baseball gods restoring order. I was at that July 22 Giants @ Dodgers game, and yes, it hurt--even in a game much less meaningful than this one. But given that game would have had the Dodgers win the season series with the Giants (and the division), meaning NLDS Game 5 would be in Los Angeles,... perhaps it's karma. Or payback for The New York Giants stealing signs in 1951.

Baseball karma.


Okay so by this point you are probably asking how SoSG Sax could have been the hero, when all he did was watch the game 300 miles away on television, pacing a groove in the floor just like every other Dodgers fan during that tense Game 5 matchup?

I went to NLDS Game 3. And I was fortunate enough to go in a suite, which gives access to not only great views, but food and beverages. And oh, there were a lot of beverages. I got to Game 3 very early, giving me a chance to have many of the beers in the refrigerator during the course of the game (always drinking responsibly, of course). Scherzer was on the mound against Alex Wood. The Dodgers, tied 1-1 in the series with two games at home, looked poised to win Game 3.

But unfortunately, that was the blustery and cold night that the Dodgers lost, when winds knocked down shots from Chris Taylor and Gavin Lux short of the wall that Evan Longoria was lucky enough to crest, in the Giants' 1-0 victory.

Mind you, this was my third visit to that suite this year. And all three times, the Dodgers had lost.

I was going back to that same suite for NLDS Game 4. And now, I was very worried. Was it my presence in that area that was dragging the Dodgers down? I even considered not going to the game at all, but that seemed extreme.

So late the night of Game 3, I made a vow: I would not drink any alcohol as long as the Dodgers were playing in the 2021 postseason.

Please note, this is a HUGE sacrifice to the baseball gods. I can't remember the last time I was at a baseball game and not drinking a beer, but I am guessing I was underage at the time. Having a beer at a baseball game is one of my passions, coupled with two of my favorite things in the world: baseball, and beer. Maybe not in that order.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, though. So I went to the game. The Dodgers romped to a 7-2 victory. And while friends and acquaintances cheered and clinked cans of Stella Artois and Modelo, I drank Aha flavored seltzer water and Dasani.

One thing I did notice was that I need to fidget while watching a game. So I ate a lot of chips and popcorn. Guess that's why I'm sipping a lot of beer during a game, normally.

But I also noticed, it wasn't tooooooo bad to be dry while watching the Dodgers. I could do this. I think.

So, bolstered by the Dodgers' win in Game 4, I have remained alcohol-free. Including through the off-day. Including through all of NLDS Game 5.

And it worked.

I also wore the same "World Series LA" hat (from 2017) which brought the Dodgers luck in Game 4. Same Dodgers socks as in Game 4, as well. And I wore a different Dodgers t-shirt during most of the game. After the seventh inning, with the score tied 1-1, I wanted to switch to the "World Series Champs" t-shirt (also what I wore Game 4), but Ms. Sax, sitting beside me on the sofa, warned me it was too early. So I waited. Then in the ninth inning, she signalled for the t-shirt change from the bullpen. And THAT move worked, too!


So here we go, on to the NLCS with Game 1 in Atlanta. I'll be poised and ready, as I'm sure the Dodgers will be as well. But I won't have drink in hand!


Thursday, October 14, 2021

2021 NLDS Game 5: Oct 14 @ Giants

Urias vs. Webb, 6p.

One last game, and this one is for all the marbles.

The Dodgers have never had a lead in this short best-of-five NLDS. And with the Giants starting Logan Webb, who absolutely owned us in NLDS Game 1 (also @ home), a victory tonight certainly won't be easy. Webb had 10 Ks over 7.2 IP last week, and described that start as "the best game of his career--'so far'." Gulp.

The Dodgers start Julio Urias, the majors' only 20-game winner this year, on regular rest. Urias is 1-0 in the postseason, just like Webb.

The Dodgers have followed every offensive outburst game this postseason with resounding thuds, including shutouts in Games 1 and 3 of the NLDS. Game 4 was another big win, off the backs of a strong start on short rest from Walker Buehler; two-run home runs from Mookie Betts and Will Smith; and an offensive attack that started early and never let up. But the Dodgers' 12 hits still left a lot on the table, as we went 1-for-11 with RISP and left 11 on base. We are going to need better than that on Thursday.

Because this time, there's not one more game to bail out us falling short. The Dodgers and the Giants have each won 109 games this year. Only one will get to 110.


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Post-2021 NLDS Game 4 Thread: Mookie Mashes The Dodgers Back From The Brink

The winning Game 4 giveaway towel.


This might be more of an At-Game Recap than a Post-Game Thread, but I needed to get my thoughts out about Game 4 (which I attended), which was a much better outcome than Game 3 (which I also attended). I am lucky to have been present for both games and I am very glad we won Game 4. But it was tense, man. Even with the Dodgers clearly getting to Giants starter Anthony DeSclafani early; and with Dodgers starter Walker Buehler looking decently solid on his own, it didn't seem like it was in hand, even with a 2-0 lead.

Then came Mookie Betts, in the bottom of the fourth, right after Walker Buehler had legged out a ricochet shot that resulted in a fielding error by Giants pitcher Jarlin Garcia. With none out, Mookie ripped one to right center field:

That one was the first time I thought the Dodgers had a chance at winning this game. 2-0 was a good start, punctuated by a Trea Turner RBI double in the first, and then a Chris Taylor sac fly in the second. But we really needed some space here, and that shot did it. From then on I felt a lot better about the game, especially getting an opportunity to see the entire Giants bullpen, which I hope proves advantageous in Game 5 (assuming we can get past Logan Webb, that is).

After the misery of Game 3, which started with swirls of cold wind befitting a San Francisco day more than a Los Angeles evening, it was great to be here for Gmae 4 with the climate more typical of a Dodger game. Just to be safe, though, I changed everything about my routine from Game 3. I changed Dodgers shirts and Dodger jackets. I wore different pants, shoes, and Dodger socks. I even broke out a brand new, never-before worn World Series LA Dodgers hat--from the 2017 World Series which was cheated from us--to make sure the baseball gods remembered.

Maybe Mookie saw my hat. He wasn't there for that 2017 heartbreak (and unfortunately, he was there for 2018's disappointment, just on the other side). But Mookie was definitely there for 2020. And it was great to see him there in 2021, leading us to a critical victory.

Great win. Grateful I was there for it.

Full highlights:

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

2021 NLDS Game 4: Oct 12 vs. Giants

Probably Buehler vs. DeSclafani, 6p.

Max Scherzer pitched great (10 Ks, after a wobbly first inning). But one fluke mistake to the light-hitting Evan Longoria that went over the wall, coupled with a San Francisco-like wind that kept all of the Dodgers' other hits in play, and the Dodgers dropped Game 3 by the heartbreaking score of 1-0.

Tonight we will probably throw Buehler on short rest, in a game that the Giants don't have to win in order to advance.

Our recent success in elimination games has been great: 2021 Wild Card Game; down 3-1 against Atlanta in the 2020 NLCS. But this matchup, against a team that has been continually underestimated but has so far prevailed, seems different.

I'll be there, clenched.


Monday, October 11, 2021

2021 NLDS Game 3: Oct 11 vs. Giants

Scherzer vs. Wood, 6.30p.

After splitting the first two NLDS games in San Francisco, it's time for some home cooking! And the Dodgers' chef will be the only Max on the Dodgers menu this season :(, none other than Max Scherzer. From a Michelin star perspective, Max Scherzer is like Wolfgang Puck or Gordon Ramsay: the stars he earned after coming over at the trade deadline and ratting off nine straight starts with a combined 0.78 ERA was impressive; however, Scherzer has allowed 11 earned runs over 14 2/3 innings in his last three games (two regular-season, one Wild Card game).

That said: the Dodgers have all twelve games that Max Scherzer has started. Even when he's not in the kitchen, he's still cooking up a plan for victory.

On top of that, we've got Albert Pujols starting in place of Cody Bellinger, who had the (early) dagger in NLDS Game 2. Yes, Tio feasts on lefties. But I also think this also has to reflect the fact that Giants starter Alex Wood knows the Dodgers lineup inside and out, but Pujols is going to be a new and unknown ingredient. Doc has made tons of great moves in the postseason, so I'll trust him again on this one.

I'll be there to watch tonight's game. LET'S GO, DODGERS!

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Post-2021 NLDS Game 2 Thread: Offense Erupts, Dodgers Even Series At One


The line favored the Dodgers in this NLDS Game 2, but I didn't believe it. Not after getting shut down by Logan Webb in Game 1, where we went scoreless in the 4-0 defeat. It reminded me that, with the exception of a solo shot by Justin Turner and a game-winning walkoff HR by Chris Taylor, the Dodgers hadn't had much of an offensive show for this 2021 postseason.

Many Dodgers were to blame for this power outage, but none received more criticism than Cody Bellinger, who struggled through multiple injuries and could never get that corkscrew swing to be back into place this season. He looked thoroughly lost all year, especially on the high fastballs in which he was inevitably late. But in Game 2, with the Dodgers nursing a tight 2-1 lead in the top of the sixth inning and one out, Bellinger met Giants reliever Dominic Leone and came through:

AJ Pollock followed Bellinger with another two-run-scoring double down the left field line. Pollock had also been maligned for his poor postseason performance as a Dodger (though unlike Bellinger, Pollock almost hit .300 this year during the regular season). Suddenly, it's 6-1 LA in the sixth, and the pressure was lifted.

But that wasn't all. In the eighth inning, Will Smith hit a first-pitch solo shot off of Zack Littell for a 7-2 lead.. After a Chris Taylor single, a Bellinger K, and a AJ Pollock single, Dodgers bench reserve Matt Beaty had an RBI single to left.

I couldn't be more happy for Beaty, who was the one Dodgers player not to get any appearances in the 2020 World Series. He wasn't great in Game 1 starting in place of the injured Max Muncy at first, but it was great to see him contribute here in a pinch (he replaced Corey Knebel). When Corey Seager added a two-out single to score Pollock and make the score 9-2, it was more than over.

Of course, the Dodgers were only in this spot thanks to Julio Urias' five innings of three-hit, 5 K ball that yielded only one run despite a couple of jams and leadoff Giants on the basepaths. The Giants ended up 1-for-8 with RISP; the Dodgers were 6-for-15. Urias also stroked a RBI single in the second inning to help the cause and open up a 2-0 lead early.

Also of note: Although Joe Kelly gave up a run in the sixth inning (and Alex Vesia gave up a run in Game 1), our bullpen has still been pretty strong in these two games. The Dodgers got to both Leone and Littell for multiple runs on Saturday. Both the Dodgers and Giants have strong bullpens. I hope this is a portent of things to come for this series.

Meanwhile, Kenley Jansen and Blake Treinen have yet to make an appearance in the NLDS.

Mookie Betts also had a momentum-saving pirouette move in right field on an RBI single by Brandon Crawford. When Wilmer Flores tried to stretch from first to third on the same play, Mookie gunned his butt out at third by a sweet throw to Justin Turner:

Flores nailed. Rally over. Good prevails over evil in Game 2.

Now we're back to Los Angeles for two home games. I'm feeling a lot better now that it's a best-of-three series with two games at home; some of the sleeping bats woke up in a tense affair on enemy territory; and we've got Max Scherzer going on Monday.

Clench up, Dodgers fans.

Saturday, October 09, 2021

2021 NLDS Game 2: Oct 9 @ Giants

Urias vs. Gausman, 6p.

For most of this regular season, the Dodgers were behind the Giants in the standings. We didn't end up catching them in the end.

And after one horrible game of this NLDS, we find ourselves in the same position: just a bit behind, needing to catch back up. That's what happens when the offense evaporates, particularly when Giants starter Logan Webb gets given a very lenient strike zone (though he did pitch an efficient game, admittedly). And to be fair, we've only had two run-scoring strikes in both postseason games.

But the loss of Max Muncy looks even more dire against the Giants. If not Max, who else on the Dodgers is going to step up and deposit a pitch in the ocean?

Friday, October 08, 2021

2021 NLDS Game 1: Oct 8 @ Giants

Buehler vs. Webb, 6.30p

The Dodgers may have felt a lot of momentum with their dramatic 2021 Wild Card Game victory over St. Louis. However the rested Giants, who played a poker tournament on Wednesday night while eating bon bons, did not even watch the Wild Card Game. They're confident. They're rested. They've suffered fewer injuries to their staff, and, of course, they earned the right to host this best-of-five series by wininng 107 regular-season games in 2021, not to mention beating the Dodgers head-to-head 10-9 this year.

The odds are definitely stacked against the Dodgers as we go against what is commonly referred to as baseball's "evil empire." That's the Giants today, under Farhan Zaidi's reign. Not only are the Giants the team with baseball's best record, who have built this team using their unbridled $164M payroll (well above the major league average) to fortify their arsenal, including trade deadline steals like Kris Bryant, undoubtedly the most publicized July move this year.

The Giants also got playoff-tested and championship winners on their squad like Brandon Crawford and another guy whose name anagrams to Oyster Pubes. They play in a gleaming new ballpark while their tech mogul fanbase sips chardonnay in the stands, that is when they're not navigating their yachts in the secluded waterways beyond right field, probably simultaneously devising new ways to make money while invading digital privacy or marketing to kids.

And let's not forget, the Giants know no depths to which they will sink in order to win. This includes sign stealing to cheat their way to a pennant. Or rampant and unrepentant steroid usage in the clubhouse, in order to inflate both the illegitimate home run numbers, as well as the bloated cranium size, of its players. We don't stand much of a chance against a team who has a history of not playing by the rules.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers are battling their way out of an offensive slump. Let's not forget that in that Wild Card Game, besides Mookie Betts and Trea Turner going 2-for-4, Justin Turner with a solo shot, and Chris Taylor with an improbable GWHR, the Dodgers weren't exactly offensive powerhouses against the Cardinals. Corey Seager, Will Smith, and AJ Pollock all went 0-for-3 (with four Ks among them). The Giants have an excellent bullpen, so even if we can get past Logan Webb (who not only pitched the Giants to victory last Sunday, he hit a home run as well), it will still be a struggle from the plate.

And Max Muncy is still out. God, we miss that guy.

So let's see. This narrative can swing from pillar to post here. Dodgers win, and it's a steamroller to the World Series (probably not a fair prediction). Dodgers lose, and we're in deep trouble, and on the road to a sweep (probably a fair prediction).

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Post 2021 NL Wild Card Game Thread: Chris Taylor Walks It Off


With a dramatic walk-off home run that will sit among legendary blasts like Kirk Gibson's in WS 1988, Justin Turner's in NLCS 2017, and Max Muncy's in WS 2018: Chris Taylor just pushed us past the St. Louis Cardinals in the winner-take-all 2021 NL Wild Card Game.


The Dodgers should have won this game on paper, what with their 106-win record (16 wins more than St. Louis), but the Cardinals came into this game incredibly hot, winning 19 of their last 22 including their last 11 road games and a franchise record 17-game winning streak wedged in that run.

The Dodgers also ended the season hot, though, including winning their last 15 home games to come up just short of the NL West division victory. But in a winner-take-all Wild Card Game, the best team doesn't always win. And one of these hot streaks was going to fall tonight.

Max Scherzer didn't have it tonight, with his command failing him throughout the game (I think there were seven three-ball counts), ultimately being pulled after 4.1 IP and an uncharacteristic 94 pitches. The LAT accurately described him as "scuffling." Scherzer was pissed when Dave Roberts pulled him. But it ended up being the right call, as Roberts' use of the bullpen through Joe Kelly, Brusdar Graterol, Blake Treinen, Corey Knebel, and Kenley Jansen was just masterful: 4.2 IP of no-run ball with only two hits (Scherzer had given up three and 6 Ks (Scherzer had 3 Ks, the same amount as Jansen). (Yes, we should qualify for a Jumbo Jack with 10 Ks total.)

But Adam Wainwright wasn't perfect either, lasting 5.1 IP but barely escaping a threat in the third when Trea Turner's broken bat led to an inning-ending GIDP. Wainwright ended up with only 5 Ks, one more than Scherzer, in an inning more of work. Wainwright also conceded a fourth-inning solo shot to Justin Turner that tied the game, and the game traded scoreless innings through the fifth-through-eighth innings.

So rather quickly, this game had become a test of each team's bullpens. The games involving the bullpen arms played out like a tennis match, which the TBS announcers referenced often ("The Dodgers hold serve!"). Luck was going to to end up being a factor here, but I have to hand it to Dave Roberts for making the right bullpen calls at all the right times.

The Cardinals threatened, putting runners on base in multiple innings, using a weak but effective arsenal of bloop singles and inopportune walks, amplified by three stolen bases. But they ultimately were let down by a remarkable 0-for-11 performance with RISP. And even though reliever and former closer (and All-Star) Alex Reyes yielded the Taylor HR in the bottom of the ninth, it was those missed offensive opportunities which doomed the Cardinals.

Not getting a post-date kiss, I reckon.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, went 2-for-5 with RISP. Our offense wasn't great either, with the exceptions of Mookie Betts had two hits (both misplays by Cards SS Edmundo Sosa), Trea Turner (two hits), and Cody Bellinger (a hit and two walks (and two SBs--real credit to Bellinger for making a huge impact in this critical game)). But AJ Pollock, Will Smith, and Corey Seager all went 0-for-3 with at leat one K (Seager had 2 Ks). Still, when we needed to get the big hit, we did.

Full credit to Taylor, who entered the game in a double-switch (for Graterol, as well as Pollock), and popped out to first in the bottom of the seventh. Much was made by the TBS broadcasters who cited Taylor's recent 8-for-72 stretch, not researching that Taylor had basically carried us through the first half of the 2021 season (not to mention, an outstanding defensive play in the top of the eighth on a sinking fly ball to left). But this was Taylor's moment to shine: two out, bottom 9, Bellinger in scoring position, and a 2-1 count (having been fooled badly on a slider earlier in the AB). You knew it as soon as it left the bat; Taylor and squared up his leg kick and everything.

BOOM. We're in the NLDS, and now head up to San Francisco for a pair of games to start a best-of-five series.

But first, let's celebrate. (And it was wonderful to watch the team celebrate in the locker room post-game, channeling all the joy that was stolen from them with the anticlimactic ending of the 2021 regular season, despite the torrid finish to the amazing regular season that did not get justly rewarded!)

UPDATE 10/7: More coverage, I can't resist.

The LAT's Gina Ferazzi took this amazing shot of Chris Taylor as the home run was at the end of its flight. What an awesome photograph. It anchors the WC G1 photos page online, as well as the Sports page print edition.

Also, here's Charley Steiner's call on radio (thank you, SoSG Orel, for pointing this out to me). Good to hear not only Steiner make the correct call on a deep fly ball (a rarity in itself!), but also to hear him lose his mind:

2021 NL Wild Card Game: Oct. 6 vs. Cardinals

Scherzer vs. Wainwright, 5.10p

On Tuesday, another storied franchise went down in the AL Wild Card Game. Today's game is set up to do the same.

The Dodgers walk into this winner-take-all game with baggage, searching in vain for a bat to fill the large hole suffered with Max Muncy's freak injury, not to mention an injured Clayton Kershaw (out for the entire postseason), an unavailable Walker Buehler (who pitched on Sunday), and a Cody Bellinger that hasn't gotten his groove all year. Even the rosiest of scenarios only has us at a razor-thin edge to win.

If there was ever a time for us to lose hope in this postseason, it's today. And I'm worried as all get out.

I had an offer for tickets to this Wild Card game, but my recent visits to those particular seats had all ended in losses, so I've made the call to pass and watch the game from home. I'll be on this thread with you.


UPDATE 8:10a Okay, I just read the morning coverage in the LAT and I'm a little depressed. Let's get fired up by remembering the Cardinals' 2009 NLDS Game 2, which featured the infamous nutshot from Matt Holliday:

Oh, those were better times. There's hope.

Sunday, October 03, 2021

On the 2021 Season

We never got to celebrate.

Unlike the other six divisional champions, the two AL Wild Card teams who won on their final day, and even our upcoming opponent, the St. Louis Cardinals: the Dodgers didn't get to celebrate making the playoffs this year. An outstanding 6-0 sweep in the final homestand, including a thrilling come-from-behind "1 + 4" game against the Padres, coupled with two Trea Turner grand slams against the Brewers--all were eclipsed by the Giants beating a Padres team who didn't even put up a fight in their final game.

15 straight home victories, a franchise record, did not get an opportunity to receive its deserved commendation. Instead, fans in attendance for Fan Appreciation Day left the Stadium with worry about the elbow of Max Muncy, our team leader in home runs, set in (not to mention the evaporation of Clayton Kershaw's postseason availability, thanks to an injury earlier this series).

We didn't get a chance to celebrate. And it sucks.

I'm very appreciative of the Dodgers gutting this season out for a ninth-straight postseason appearance (remember, the franchise record for consecutive postseason appearanes was TWO, prior to this run). I know it wasn't the divisional title we wanted, but honestly with a 106-56 record, there weren't that many "shoulda coulda" losses on which to reflect. (UPDATE: Longtime reader ubragg pointed out the 7/22 Darin Ruf non-call game as a key game that was robbed from the Dodgers, which is absolutely correct. I clearly had buried that one away in the deep recesses of my mind.)

Not to mention, Dave Roberts and Andrew Friedman guided this team through the embarrassing distraction of Trevor Bauer; the early-season loss of starter Dustin May; the physically corrosive injuries to Cody Bellinger. Mookie Betts doesn't seem 100%. Our starting rotation is down to three real arms (Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler, and Julio Urias). And our bullpen seems to be performing better than it should be, anchored by a surprising bounceback season from Kenley Jansen.

This could be Corey Seager's last year as a Dodger. And Chris Taylor, too. No to mention Kershaw, of course. (cries, for all three)

This is a great team. We won 106 games.

It's very likely that we won't win any others, given the capriciousness of the baseball gods.

But before we get to the stomach-churning stress of the NL Wild Card Game, I'm trying to take a second to at least show appreciation for these guys for even getting to the playoffs in the first place.

It's been a great year, Dodgers. Thank you.


Friday, October 01, 2021

Series Thread (Games 160-162): Oct 1-3 vs. Brewers

Fri 10.1 Kershaw vs. Lauer
Sat 10.2 Urias vs. Burnes
Sun 10.3 TBD vs. TBD

Well, this is it. With three games left and two games back, the divisional lead isn't going to happen. So we may as well have fun this weekend and just make sure the offense continues its mashing ways. The Wild Card game, with Adam Wainwright, awaits.