Dodgers look to stay hot as Giants come to town

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
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The Los Angeles Dodgers will look to stay hot as the Giants come to town.

Put the Los Angeles Dodgers in the category of a team that was playing some of its best baseball going into the All-Star break, with a chance to resume that trend when play resumes Thursday.

It will be a pair of West Coast rivals going at it when the visiting San Francisco Giants head south to meet the National League’s top team in the Dodgers.

The Dodgers closed out their pre-break schedule on a four-game winning streak, while also winning 11 of their last 12 and 15 of their last 17. At 60-30, the Dodgers are 3 1/2 games better than the second-best team in the National League, the New York Mets.

Los Angeles is also 10 games up in the NL West over the San Diego Padres and 12 1/2 better than the Giants. Despite all of their success to open the season, though, the Dodgers were swept in a three-game series at San Francisco in June the last time the teams met.

Since then, though, Los Angeles is 23-7, while San Francisco has gone 15-17.

The Dodgers had six players on the NL roster of Tuesday’s All-Star Game, including three pitchers in Clayton Kershaw, Tony Gonsolin and Tyler Anderson. Manager Dave Roberts hinted that right-hander Mitch White would pitch in one of the early games against the Giants since he did not have All-Star duties, although Anderson was not used in Tuesday’s game.

“You look the last three weeks and we played a lot of great team baseball,” Roberts said. “We caught it, we pitched well (and) offensively we came through together, one through nine. A lot of good things. To finish the way we did (on the schedule) was very encouraging.”

The biggest test between the Dodgers and Giants is yet to come. Including the upcoming four-game series, the teams will meet eight times over the next two weeks, with 14 games scheduled between each other through Sept. 18.

While the Giants have not resembled the team that won an impressive 107 games last season to end the Dodgers’ division title run at eight consecutive seasons, they did win five of six heading into the break and seven of their last nine.

A pair of newcomers to the Giants were All-Stars, as Joc Pederson was voted a starter in the outfield, while left-hander Carlos Rodon joined him on the squad. Pederson will make his second trip to Los Angeles with the Giants, not counting his appearance in the All-Star Game.

Pederson’s damage against the Dodgers this season has been minimal with a .250 batting average in the five games (two starts) and no extra-base hits with two RBIs.

Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford (knee) is on the injured list for the second time this season, with third baseman Evan Longoria and first baseman Brandon Belt also spending time on the IL in the first half. The injuries have taken a toll on the Giants’ lineup construction.

“Part of our first-half inconsistency is inconsistency with the lineup,” Crawford said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “Hopefully, we can get everyone healthy in the second half and take off.”

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.