Dodgers’ five regular-season losses deserve to be reviewed – Orange County Register
Editor’s Note: This is the Tuesday, October 5 edition of Journalist JP Hoornstra’s Inside the Dodgers newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.
Often in a season I’ll hear fans tell me how this the game puts “the whole Dodgers season in a nutshell”. It’s never when the dodgers win, be careful, even if they have won 106 games while ahead of their opponents by 269 points. Thought is always expressed in the midst of a loss. (Curious, does the word break if the Dodgers come back to win the game?)
Basically, thought is best expressed this way: this game accurately represents the weaknesses of the Dodgers at this point in the season. Sometimes it is. The Dodgers have weaknesses. You can think of the San Francisco Giants as their biggest weakness, but considering the rest of baseball has gone 45-97 against them, the Dodgers’ 9-10 record against the Giants doesn’t look bad at all. This one-on-one record, however, is the reason the Dodgers finished second in their own division. Which is why, by compiling this list of 2021 losses that felt worse than they actually were, the Giants are showing up a lot.
Why these games? Something in the moment seemed to capture the season in a nutshell. (They didn’t.) It was only five games, all losses, that could have revealed lasting weakness. The Dodgers have also won some memorable games this season. They won more than their opponent in Wednesday’s wildcard match. They are the betting favorites to beat the St. Louis Cardinals, and there are 106 reasons to believe the Dodgers will advance to the National League Division Series. It is not an attempt to be a wet blanket. This is an analysis of whether the Dodgers, at their most heartbreaking moments in 2021, offered any real cause for concern today.
May 28: Giants 8, Dodgers 5
For the first six weeks of this season, Kenley Jansen was not a good pitcher. He hardly ever pitched consecutive days and, when he did, he made a stop. This was the case on a Friday night in late spring at Dodger Stadium.
Tasked with protecting a 5-5 tie in the 10th inning, Jansen threw 21 shots against the Giants. Eleven were strikes. Maybe the runner’s rule on second base in addition worked against the Dodgers somehow, but I suspect that loss was more related to the mechanical struggles of their closest that didn’t fully resolve. before June. An RBI single from LaMonte Wade Jr. and a two-point double from Evan Longoria delivered the winning points.
The bad version of Jansen has rarely been seen since, well, since around the time of this game. Of the three Dodgers who knocked in the bottom of the 10th inning, two (Yoshi Tsutsugo and Sheldon Neuse) won’t be with the team in October. Let’s move on.
July 22: Giants 5, Dodgers 3
The bad version of Jansen made an appearance again this Thursday night in Los Angeles, as the margin between victory and defeat never seemed thinner.
Let’s be clear: this game cannot be reduced to a no check-swing call (by first baseman Ed Hickox) against Darin Ruf, which resulted in a basics-laden march, which led to the Dave Roberts ejection. It’s too easy.
Jansen’s 2-0 throw to Ruf, which should have been ball 3, was called a catch by home plate umpire Jansen Visconti. Ruf’s 4 ball forced into the tie race, but Jansen (a belt-high cutter to Wade) lined up in right field for a single that gave San Francisco a 5-3 lead. Forward hitter Ruf (Thairo Estrada) should have ended the game with his ball on the ground to Chris Taylor, but Sheldon Neuse did not stretch to second base to receive the pitch on a simple game of strength.
Bad Jansen and Neuse, who pulled out to finish the match at the end of the ninth, are retreating nightmares. Billy McKinney started this game in right field. Matt Beaty was fifth. None of those things are going to happen again in October, I think.
The Dodgers are Probably too good team to melt like that in the ninth inning now. Even if they do, we’ve seen it happen in a critical World Series situation, and the Dodgers have managed to overcome it. Other than Cody Bellinger’s 0-for-4 night, I wouldn’t call this game’s flaws “typical”.
August 27: Rockies 4, Dodgers 2
Kyle Freeland was pretty much an average league pitcher this season, but he pitched an average game against the Dodgers this Friday night. Home runs by Will Smith and Trea Turner were the source of Dodger’s two runs against the left-hander. Neither came against the Freeland curve, and that’s why I want to stick with this game for a while.
Like Adam Wainwright, who will start wildcard play for the Cardinals, Freeland’s best throw is his curve ball. He throws it more than any of his other throws. And the curved ball gives the Dodgers adjustments.
Freeland threw 28 curved balls that day. The Dodgers swung at 13 and missed eight. They put two of Freeland’s curved balls into play in this game, both times for strikeouts. This is not what you want.
Perhaps all of this is relevant because it encourages Wainwright to do more of what he does: pitch his best pitch a lot. The Dodgers had better sit on different ground. They are not a good curveball hitting team (although this is more true against left-handed pitchers than right-handed ones).
September 3: Giants 3, Dodgers 2
It was the rare “reliever game” the Dodgers lost. They’ve won more reliever games – defined as a game in which the starter has pitched two innings or less – than any National League team this season. Only once in those 11 wins have the Dodgers had a “completely built” starter who was forced to leave due to injury. The rest of the games were based on strategy. It was a good strategy. The reliever game is generally the ally of the Dodgers.
Eleven pitchers took the mound for the Dodgers this Friday night in San Francisco. (By comparison, the Dodgers with 92 wins in 1976 used 12 pitchers all season.) It took 11 innings and 4:32 to complete. They lost when Evan Phillips walked twice (one intentional) to charge the goal late in the 11th, then watched Buster Posey score on a Trea Turner pitch error.
The Dodgers have done a lot of things well in this game. Against the team that maximized the clashes to the tune of 107 wins, Roberts chose their pitchers well. In extra innings, the Dodgers put the ball into play. Only two of their nine batters were struck out; one was Phillips, the pitcher. But when they needed something simple enough – a 75-foot Turner does 99 out of 100 times – the Dodgers failed to perform.
This game is instructive in some ways. Depending on whether or not Tony Gonsolin is cleared to play in a potential NLDS game and how many innings he is capable of pitching, the Dodgers may not have pitched their last game of the 2021 reliever box. doesn’t necessarily bode well for the Dodgers, even against the Giants. Turner’s mistake might not have been a fluke, but he was barely a month into his tenure as a full-time second baseman. His balance and internal clock at the post should be better. The Dodgers haven’t lost an overtime game since September 3. If they make it to overtime in October, the 10th inning will not start with a runner placed on second.
It’s something to think about, not something to worry about.
September 8: Cardinals 5, Dodgers 4
This one stung in the moment because of the way it ended. After a ninth inning single from Corey Seager and a sacrificial volley from Will Smith, the Dodgers drew the Dodgers to 5-4, Chris Taylor struck with one runner and two strikeouts. He shot a full count, only to swing and miss a 95 mph fastball from Giovanny Gallegos to end the game.
What matters most now is how it started. Or rather, who started. Wainwright took a 5-2 lead in the ninth inning at St. Louis. He got some help when Mookie Betts was sent off at plate trying to score Corey Seager’s first-to-brace. Most of the time he got help from his curve. It wasn’t a swing-and-miss pitch; the Dodgers simply couldn’t do anything when they put the ball into play. Only a single from Max Muncy in the first inning and a single from Turner in the ninth were checked against the curve. Another 11 times, Wainwright threw the curve ball and the Dodgers put the ball in play for an out.
It could be argued that seeing Wainwright recently will be a godsend for the Dodgers. You could also say that it won’t matter. Wainwright has been one of the National League’s top pitchers this season, going 17-7 with a 3.05 ERA. He led the world in all-round games (three) despite two timid strikeouts against the Dodgers in St. Louis. Even losing Muncy for this game might hurt less than you think. Wainwright allegedly threw a bunch of curve balls at him, and the story goes that Muncy would have done badly.
The Cardinals got to see Dodgers starter Max Scherzer in the same series at Busch Stadium. (Scherzer threw a gem.) St. Louis also assigned a forward scout to see Scherzer at Dodger Stadium on his most recent start. Bottom line, this joker game offers a great pitching match. Both veterans have weapons that could give their opponents fits. I don’t think we needed the show in St. Louis a month ago to find out, but it’s there as a proof of concept.
GIVE ME ALL THE STORIES
The ghosts of Jack Clark, Tom Niedenfuer and Ozzie Smith won’t count in a Dodgers-Cardinals game steeped in mutual history, but hey, Albert Pujols could!
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