Dodgers squandered plenty of opportunities against the Braves

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Despite making it close, the Dodgers had plenty of opportunities to score but came up empty plenty of times following Hanley Ramirez’s RBI double in the first inning. They couldn’t get the big hit against Braves starter Mike Minor from the second through the sixth innings, nor relievers Luis Ayala or Luis Avilan in the seventh.

Second inning: Juan Uribe lead-off single followed up by Skip Schumaker grounding into a 4-6-3 double play.

Third inning: Carl Crawford lead-off single followed up by Mark Ellis grounding into a 6-4-3 double play.

Fourth inning: Adrian Gonzalez lead-off single, followed by three consecutive unproductive outs.

Fifth inning: Nothing

Sixth inning: Hanley Ramirez one-out double, advances to third on Yasiel Puig’s infield single, but does not score.

Seventh inning: Skip Schumaker leads off with an infield single, then advances to second on a sacrifice bunt. Michael Young reaches on another infield single. Carl Crawford ends the threat by grounding into a 1-6-3 double play against reliever Luis Avilan.

Ninth inning: A.J. Ellis draws a one-out walk. Dee Gordon pinch-runs for him and immediately attempts to steal second base, but is thrown out by catcher Gerald Laird. To Gordon’s credit, replays showed that second base umpire Bill Miller got the call wrong.

Manager Don Mattingly made things worse in the bottom of the seventh being too mindful of the platoon advantage. With two Braves runners on first and second with two outs, Jose Constanza came to the plate to pinch-hit for Avilan. Constanza finished the regular season with a .516 OPS, not exactly the type of hitter you fear in a big spot. Nevertheless, Mattingly came out to the mound to replace right-handed reliever Chris Withrow with lefty Paco Rodriguez for the platoon advantage. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez countered by pinch-hitting Reed Johnson for Constanza. Mattingly countered by intentionally walking Johnson to bring up Jason Heyward — yes, Jason Heyward — for the platoon advantage. Heyward worked the count to 2-0 in his favor, took a slider for a strike, then drove a second slider back up the middle for a two-run single to put the Braves up 4-1. Bad managing strikes again.

This is not to take anything away from Braves starter Mike Minor, who made pitches when he had to and wasn’t hit particularly hard. Nor is this to take away from the Braves’ bullpen as Avilan made a heck of a play to start that double play in the top half of the seventh and Craig Kimbrel was his usual dominant self. But the Dodgers were their own worst enemy tonight and now send the NLDS to Los Angeles knotted at 1-1.

Report: Pirates to convert JB Shuck into two-way player

JB Shuck
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Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.

Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.

Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.

Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.