Kenley Jansen

Getty Images

Dodgers finally snap 11-game losing streak

6 Comments

The Dodgers losing streak ended at 11 last night as Clayton Kershaw played the stopper in a 5-3 win over the Giants.

It wasn’t necessarily easy. Kershaw, while picking up his 17th win of the year, was not dominant, surrendering a homer to Kelby Tomlinson in the third inning before Chase Utley tied it up with a homer of his own in the fourth. L.A. scored three more in that frame thanks to a Corey Seager sac fly and a two-run double from Yasiel Puig. Kershaw would work out of a major jam in the sixth inning — the Giants loaded the bases with no one out but came away with only one run — and left the mound with fist pumps and yells and stuff.

Reliever Ross Stripling allowed one more run to make it 4-3 in the seventh but Justin Turner doubled home a run to make it 5-3 in the eight. Things got shaky again for the Dodgers in the ninth as Kenley Jansen gave up three singles to load the bases with one out before bearing down to strike out Buster Posey and Nick Hundley to secure the win.

It was only one game but it was a big relief for the reeling Dodgers who, in addition to stopping the streak, clinched at least the second Wild Card in the National League, ensuring their fifth straight playoff appearance. They also notched their 93rd win. They have 17 games left and, on balance, they come against losing teams. If they end the season with 100 wins and some semblance of momentum heading into the playoffs, this skid will be a mere footnote.

And That Happened: Tuesday’s Scores and Highlights

Getty Images
13 Comments

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Dodgers 5, Giants 3: The streak is over. Clayton Kershaw allowed two runs — one earned — and pitched out of a bases loaded jam in the sixth to get the win and stop the bleeding. Kenley Jansen got a four-out save but it was shaky, with him giving up three straight singles with one out in the ninth to face a bases-loaded jam of his own, though he struck his way out of it. Chase Utley homered and Yasiel Puig doubled in two to give the Dodgers their winning margin. The win ensured the Dodgers of at least a playoff spot in the National League.

Indians 2, Tigers 0: Wrote this up here, but it was pretty simple: Corey Kluber was dominant, tossing a complete game shutout and Francisco Lindor continued his hot hitting with a solo homer. The win ties the AL record winning streak of 20, held by the 2002 Athletics. This afternoon the Tribe seeks to break that and tie the all-time record winning streak held by the 1935 Cubs.

Royals 4, White Sox 3: Brandon Moss hit a grand slam in the first inning and the Royals held on for the rest of the game. It was the third straight game with a homer for Moss. He has nine RBI in those three games.

Braves 8, Nationals 0: The Nationals ran out a fairly legit lineup for a team that popped champagne corks the day before, but they got creamed anyway. Freddie Freeman hit a three-run homer and Ozzie Albies hit a solo shot. Julio Teheran scattered seven hits over seven shutout innings. The only bright spot for the Nationals — aside from knowing that they have already won the division — was Gio Gonzalez clinching his 2018 option by notching his 180th inning pitched.

Phillies 9, Marlins 8: This was a wild one. The Phillies at first thought they had a walkoff win in the ninth — they made a mess on the field, throwing buckets of chewing gum, Gatorade and sunflower seeds and stuff all over Hyun-Soo Kim, who got the hit —  but a replay review showed that Cesar Hernandez was out at home, negating that run and forcing them to play on. In extras, Rhys Hoskins hit his second homer of the game to tie it back up after the Marlins had taken a lead in the top of the 10th. Then, in the bottom of the 15th Nick Williams walked if off — legitimately this time — with an RBI double. Williams had three hits and reached base five times in the game. The Marlins blew an five run lead they held as late as the sixth inning. Whew.

Blue Jays 3, Orioles 2: Baltimore took a 2-1 lead into the ninth but the Jays rallied off of O’s closer Zach Britton with a walk and a few singles, capped by Richard Urena’s walkoff single. That was the sixth straight loss for Baltimore, and while they all hurt, that one had to hurt more.

Red Sox 11, Athletics 1: Mookie Betts put on a show, smacking two homers on a 3-for-5, six-RBI night. That was more than enough for Eduardo Rodriguez and three Boston relievers. If Betts starts hitting like he did in 2016 and keeps it up in October, the Red Sox will be a completely different team than they’ve been of late.

Rays 2, Yankees 1: Sonny Gray allowed only two runs on five hits in eight innings but Blake Snell and his friends in the pen allowed only one run all game. The Rays runs came on solo shots from Kevin Kiermaier and Adeiny Hechavarria. The Rays and Yankees drew over 21,000 fans, which isn’t bat for a neutral site game with only a couple of days notice.

Brewers 5, Pirates 2Eric Thames hit his 29th home run, Domingo Santana went 3-for-4 with two RBI and the Brewers kept pace with the Cubs and Cards, each of which also won. Not bad considering starter Brent Suter lasted only three innings. The pen did the job, though, with  Jeremy JeffressOliver DrakeJared HughesAnthony Swarzak and Josh Hader each tossing a scoreless inning and Corey Knebel tossing one of his own to notch the save.

Mariners 10, Rangers 3: Kyle Seager and Ben Gamel both hit three-run homers. Marco Gonzales struck out six while allowing three runs over five innings. The Rangers dropped three games behind Minnesota for the American League’s second Wild Card. The Mariners remained three and a half back.

Cubs 8, Mets 3: Kris Bryant hit a three-run homer in the Cubs’ four-run fourth and Jose Quintana allowed two runs over seven, striking out seven. Quintana knocked in a run himself with a safety squeeze.

Twins 16, Padres 0: This one got out of hand early with the Twins taking a 9-0 lead after three innings and never looking back. Minnesota was homer happy too, hitting a dinger in each of the first seven innings. Jason Castro homered twice. Brian DozierJorge PolancoEddie RosarioEduardo Escobar and Kennys Vargas also went deep.

Cardinals 13, Reds 4: The Cardinals have won four straight and six of their last seven as they keep pace with the Cubs, two back in the Central. Paul DeJong homered. It was his 22nd on the year, setting a new mark for Cardinals shortstops. Yadier Molina drove in three. St. Louis farting around all year and then, in the last month, putting together a run that could put them in the playoffs is about the most Cardinals thing ever.

Rockies 4, Diamondbacks 2: Carlos Gonzalez hit two homers and drove in all four of the Rockies’ runs and Jon Gray was solid, striking out ten and not waking a batter in seven innings. Colorado wins its sixth straight. They’re three back of the Dbacks for the top Wild Card and home field advantage for their presumed one game playoff.

Astros 1, Angels 0: This is why the Astros got Justin Verlander. Their newest addition allowed only one hit and struck out nine over eight shutout innings and that made it possible for a Yuli Gurriel RBI single in the second inning to hold up.

Players having great seasons under the radar

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
14 Comments

Yesterday, I watched a myriad of defensive highlights from Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons (who also homered). Curious, I looked up his stats and found him among the leaders in Wins Above Replacement. And then I found a handful of other players having great seasons and realized I’ve hardly heard anything about them. Let this be my contribution towards raising them into the spotlight.

Andrelton Simmons (Angels): The 27-year-old is having the best offensive season of his career. He posted a .751 OPS in his rookie season, but that spanned only 49 games. From 2013-16, he had an aggregate .664 OPS. His defense never wavered, of course, which is why he kept getting regular playing time and why the Angels were eager to trade for him in November 2015. This season, however, he’s been a terrific hitter, batting .292/.345/.451 with 13 home runs, 57 RBI, 62 runs scored, and 17 stolen bases in 502 plate appearances. He’s four home runs away from matching a career-high. Simmons is 11th in baseball in FanGraphs’ version of WAR, heavily predicated on the valuation of his defense, but it’s not too outlandish for me to believe Simmons has added nearly two wins above replacement on defense alone. While Jose Altuve, Aaron Judge, and Mike Trout will fight for the lion’s share of AL MVP votes, Simmons could get some down ballot consideration.

Gio Gonzalez (Nationals): Gonzalez nearly threw a no-hitter earlier this season against the Marlins, which brought some eyeballs to his stat line. Still, he hasn’t been talked about much somehow. He’s 12-5 with a 2.39 ERA and a  150/62 K/BB ratio in 162 innings. It’s nothing new for Gonzalez, as he won 21 games with a 2.89 ERA en route to finishing third in Cy Young balloting in 2012. There’s also some reason to believe Gonzalez’s performance is in some part due to great fortune as his batting average on balls in play is about 50 points below league average and his rate of stranding runners on base is more than 11 percent higher than his career average. Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer have had better seasons and will be the first and second place finishers in this year’s balloting, but Gonzalez is looking at likely finishing third again, which is no small feat.

Aaron Nola (Phillies): After a dismal June 16 start against the Diamondbacks, Nola stood with a disappointing 4.76 ERA. After the first two innings of last Thursday’s start against the Giants, he briefly brought it under 3.00. Currently, it’s at 3.26 along with a 128/38 K/BB ratio in 124 1/3 innings. Since that June 16 start, he’s made 11 starts with a composite 2.21 ERA across 73 1/3 innings. The right-hander out of LSU showed promise in his rookie year in 2015, then struggled last year before succumbing to injury. Finally, it’s appearing that Nola is showing the promise the Phillies believed in when they took him in the first round (seventh overall) in the 2014 draft. Perhaps more importantly, he looks like a pitcher the Phillies can build around. If there’s one thing the Phillies have lacked since trading Cole Hamels, it’s a starter capable of throwing seven or eight innings and holding the opposition to one or two runs.

Chris Taylor (Dodgers): On a team that features Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, Alex Wood, and recently added Yu Darvish, it’s understandable that Taylor would slip under the radar. He’s played five different positions this season — left field, second base, center field, third base, and shortstop — while batting .311/.383/.549 with 17 home runs, 58 RBI, 69 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases in 413 plate appearances. He’s played average to above-average defense at most of those positions, which is why his 4.6 fWAR ranks 13th in baseball and 10th in the National League. Before the Dodgers acquired him from the Mariners last June in a very little talked about trade, Taylor had been a weak-hitting utilityman. Now, he’s the starting center fielder for baseball’s best team.

Felipe Rivero (Pirates): The Pirates acquired Rivero from the Nationals last year in the Mark Melancon trade. It worked out well for the Buccos. Though the club sits at a disappointing 60-64 in fourth place in the NL Central, Rivero has been a bright spot, owning a major league best 1.31 ERA with 14 saves and a 73/16 K/BB ratio in 61 2/3 innings. The lefty took over the closer’s role when Tony Watson began to struggle in the first half. While Rivero has been terrific against right-handed hitters, limiting them to a .547 OPS, he’s been death to lefties (.227 OPS). After the season, Rivero will be eligible for arbitration for the first of four years, so it wouldn’t be shocking if he got traded at some point, but for now, they’ll enjoy his outstanding 2017 campaign.