The Next Day: Yep, Still Great

If you’re wondering if a full night’s sleep took any of the edge off from last night’s, game: nope. Obviously.

Really, thinking about the last two games, I keep coming back to one particular feeling. Without overlooking how great Clayton Kershaw was on short rest yesterday, many of the players we’re remembering as the heroes from Games 3 and 4 came from absolutely nowhere at the beginning of the year. I mean, think about it:

Juan Uribe, four hits including two homers — left for dead, stuck behind Luis Cruz, shockingly made it through the winter without a DFA.
Carl Crawford, four hits including three homers — coming off two seasons nearly as bad as Uribe’s, not even certain to be able to be ready to play after elbow surgery.
Brian Wilson, four shutout innings in the series — completely off the radar after 2012 Tommy John surgery, in no one’s plans to even pitch this year.
Kenley Jansen, struck out the side in a perfect ninth — once again pushed aside for an inferior reliever in the ninth by the front office before reclaiming his job.
Chris Capuano, a huge three shutout innings of relief — something like the seventh starter, destined for a year in the bullpen or a trade.

Of course, there were large contributions from the guys you expected, like Kershaw and Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig (who only hit .471/.500/.529 in the series) and Adrian Gonzalez (when he wasn’t torturing Kershaw with shoddy defense), but for all the attention given to the stars here, this team isn’t winning this series without the support of guys we had uncertain expectations for at the start of the year.

The NLCS starts Friday, with Zack Greinke on the mound either in St. Louis or home against the Pirates, depending on the outcome of Wednesday’s Game 5. Kershaw backs him up for Game 2. It’s all coming together, isn’t it?

Juan Uribe Cares Not For Your Bunt

So if you’re wondering if that was the best game I’ve ever attended, yes: yes it was. And if you’re wondering if both Jon Weisman and I threw up our hands in utter frustration when Juan Uribe went up to bunt in the eighth inning, well, you’re absolutely f’ing right we did.

Or as about half my Twitter feed said at the time (not that I could tell, because stadium reception is trash):

And of course Uribe didn’t get the bunt down, because he’s terrible at bunting, and proceeded to hit the ball about 25 feet deep into the left field bullpen — and if it’s possible for Dodger Stadium to be louder than it was in that moment, I’m not sure I want to be there to see it.

But here’s my favorite part — we’re driving back from the stadium, listening to Rick Monday and Charlie Steiner do the postgame show, and A.J. Ellis comes on. After jokingly (probably) asking “who am I talking to,” and pretending to order a pizza — because A.J. is the best — the conversation came to Uribe’s at-bat. I’m paraphrasing here, but Ellis joked that it was a wonderful strategic decision by Uribe to fail to get the bunt down twice, in order to get a chance to swing away.

Ellis was kidding, I think, but imagine if he wasn’t? What if Uribe saw the bunt sign, rolled his eyes and thought to himself “are you f’ing kidding me with this,” and tried to do his best to get around it? That’s obviously not what happened, because Uribe’s not a good enough bunter to intentionally send two bunts foul, but you could hear it in Ellis’ voice. You knew he thought the bunt call was stupid, and you could tell that Monday agreed.

And you know what? They’re not the only ones:

STOP BUNTING. FOREVER. And especially in the NLCS, which is a thing the Dodgers are about to be in, because: holy crap, what a night. What a night.

NLDS Game 3, Braves 3, Dodgers 4:Night of the Uribear

I could talk about how dominant Kershaw was over 6 innings without an earned run.  I could talk about my frustration with AGonz and his terrible errors.  But no, the night belongs to the Uribear with the greatest 2 run homer ever in the history of history!  Yasiel Puig hit a lead off double in the B8 and for some inexplicable reason, Juan Uribe tried to lay down a bunt.  After two failed attempts, wisdom prevailed and the Uribear said screw it and just hit a dinger.  Kenley did what Kenley does and shut out the top of the Braves order. Don’t look now, but the Los Angeles Dodgers are headed back to the NLCS! BLARP A BLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

2013 NLDS Game 4: So It’s Clayton Kershaw

Lesson learned: Never, ever trust a public statement made by a baseball official. Despite what pitching coach Rick Honeycutt had said, Ricky Nolasco will not get the start today. Instead, Clayton Kershaw goes on short rest for the first time in his career.

This is both what I feared would happen ans expected might happen, for all the reasons we outlined earlier. I don’t like testing Kershaw on three days rest, I prefer setting him up for NLCS Game 1, I worry now about starting Nolasco in the NLCS after weeks of rest, and this introduces the non-zero risk of
Hyun-jin Ryu starting that first NLCS game if things go poorly tonight.

Braves
Dodgers
CF
Heyward
LF
Crawford
RF
J.Upton
2B
M.Ellis
1B
Freeman
SS
Ramirez
LF
Gattis
1B
Gonzalez
C
McCann
RF
Puig
3B
C.Johhnson
3B
Uribe
SS
Simmons
CF
Schmukaer
2B
E.Johnson
C
A.Ellis
P
Garcia
P
Kershaw

But while I don’t love it, I do get it. There was real reason not to like this matchup for Nolasco, who after allowing two runs or fewer in 10 of his first 12 Dodger starts — and no more than three runs in all of those starts — then gave up five, six, and five in his final three starts of the year.

The first of those was a particular disaster, since he lasted only 1.1 innings against the Giants at home in Dodger Stadium. With Chris Capuano all but certainly unavailable tonight after throwing 46 pitches in relief of Ryu last night, and Paco Rodriguez likely either unavailable (25 pitches) or just undesirable (looked bad, gave up a long homer) and J.P. Howell maybe available but limited after 24 pitches, the Dodgers risked a short start with no long man available, a role Nolasco can now fill.

Also not exactly working in Nolasco’s favor — and you know I don’t like to use pitcher-vs-batter stats, so the fact that I am here should tell you how overwhelming this is — is that Brian McCann simply owns Nolasco in a way that’s just not right. In 61 plate appearances, McCann has a line of .345/361/.828, including eight — eight! — homers.

Now sure, a lot of that came back in 2008 and 2009, which may not be super relevant in 2013 since each are very different players. But the last two times they’ve faced — in Nolasco’s final start with Miami in July, and last July 31 — McCann has taken Nolasco deep.

So again, I get it. It’s just really risky, and if Kershaw doesn’t respond well tonight after throwing over 120 pitches three days ago, it could backfire terribly. Here’s to hoping I get to see a clincher at the park tonight.

Fri 10/11Sat 10/12Sun 10/13Mon 10/14Tues 10/15Wed 10/16Thurs 10/17
RR. Belisario9105
LJ.P. Howell152026
RK. Jansen51626
RC. Marmol26
RB. Wilson281411
RC. Withrow2544
RE. Volquez

Dodgers tickets

NLDS Game 4: Of Course You Start Ricky Nolasco

nolasco_2013-08-23

First things first: I was at last night’s game, and it couldn’t have been better. I mean, being at Dodger Stadium is almost always fun, but during the first home playoff game in four years, with a sold-out crowd, a couple of homers, and all of the offense? Just wonderful. The only downside? Cell service is even worse than I’d heard, just about unusable. Well, that and the two guys behind me insisting that “small ball is the best” and that Don Mattingly should have called for a bunt every single time everyone got on base. Clearly, they didn’t see my shirt.

Anyway, thanks to Eephus for holding the fort down here and for those of you I met in person, and I’ll be back there tonight to hopefully see a clinching celebration. But who will be on the mound? Ricky Nolasco is scheduled to start, and Rick Honeycutt said last night that he would, but I — and others, clearly — have been hearing that Clayton Kershaw was (and maybe still is?) very much in the mix for the start.

Which, it should go without saying, I was strongly against as soon as the Dodgers won Game 3. If you’re down 2-1 and headed into an elimination game, then, sure, you want your best on the mound. And I get the argument that says to finish it up here in Los Angeles rather than risk going back to Atlanta for a Game 5.

But there’s obviously a lot of repercussions beyond that. Kershaw has never pitched on three days rest, and while that’s not to say he couldn’t do it, this doesn’t seem like the opportune time to test it out. That would also mean that if you win, Kershaw wouldn’t be available for Friday’s Game 1 of the NLCS unless you had him start on three days rest a second time.

Besides, you’re going to need Nolasco at some point, and he hasn’t started since Sept. 25. (He did throw an inning of relief after that.)  In an NLCS where you’re likely to need four starters, Game 4 would come on October 15, meaning he’d be on 19 days rest if he doesn’t go tonight. If and when that goes poorly, it’d be hard to blame him.

The other concern is if you use Kershaw tonight and lose, and while he’s the best pitcher in the game, I think we all saw this season how many times he can pitch wonderfully and not end up with a win because of it. That means you have Zack Greinke in Game 5, and if he gets the job done, Game 1 of the NLCS is either Kershaw on short rest again… or Nolasco… or Hyun-jin Ryu, who was awful last night.

I get that it’s dangerous to plan too heavily on the NLCS when you still have to finish off a dangerous Braves team, so you can’t look ahead too much. But you basically have a situation where you need to win one of the next two games (and tonight’s opponent being Freddy Garcia). Kershaw will start one of those two games. Let’s make sure it’s the one where he’s on full rest and not affecting his availability for the next series.

I believe that the right choice will be made. But am I 100% sure? No, not yet.