Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Tuesday, Sept. 12.
When I went off on vacation it seemed doubtless that the Dodgers would bury whoever the American League had to offer in the upcoming World Series. By the time I returned two weeks ago today it was apparent the Dodgers were in trouble, though why is a good question. Their epic collapse has only continued during the time I’ve been home and unable to write these pieces. While they have lost 16 of 17 the Indians have won their 18th in a row, playing far above a level they have at any time in 2017. Until their streak began it seemed a sure bet that Houston would face the Dodgers. Now it’s doubtful Houston, Boston or anybody else can subdue the Indians on their way to their first World Series win since 1948.
The Dodgers can’t lean on injuries, the classic excuse of a team going to the dogs. In fact Clayton Kershaw returned way ahead of schedule and they’re still floundering worse than residents of Key West or Charleston. Not one Dodger worth mentioning has been hurt since their troubles began in late August. Meantime the Indians, who find themselves missing many key parts-outfielders Michael Brantley and Bradley Zimmer, third baseman Jose Ramirez, second baseman Jason Kipnis and most devastating of all reliever Andrew Miller keep on rollin’ along like Old Man River. Starting with a five-run second the Indians massacred the Tigers 11-0 raising their record to 88–56. What shocks me is that barely 18,000 came to see the game’s hottest team in their home ball park.
Meantime, the Dodgers who haven’t had such a losing skid since World War II when they played in Brooklyn keep on losing. In a game delayed almost 4 hours by rain they lost to the Giants 8-6 with the end coming at 5:11 AM Eastern Time. 6 runs were the most the Dodgers have scored in September and still it wasn’t enough. It’s hard to blame starter Kenta Maeda-he was ready to go at 7 PM and making him wait 40 minutes, then have Giants’ starter Chris Stratton throw 5 pitches then wait 4 hours would make it difficult for even the best pitcher to maintain his stuff. And Maeda is no Kershaw. He gave up home runs in the first 2 innings and a triple which led to a run in the third putting his team in a 4-0 hole. The Giants had been outscored 21-2 Saturday and Sunday by the White Sox-the American League’s worst entry following a sudden surge by Oakland. Owing to their 91-36 start the Dodgers still lead the D-Backs by 9 games, making a 1964 Phillies-style collapse appear impossible. Of course the Phillies thought there was no way they could collapse back when LBJ was president. As badly as Maeda pitched, the loss went to Pedro Baez-his third this month. The Dodgers had tied the game at 4, then again at 5 on a monster home run by Yasiel Puig. Baez entered a 6-6 tie in the 6th and gave up what would be the game winner. Some 40,000 bought tickets for the game, though with an ominous forecast it’s unknown how many appeared at the gates. Only a few thousand die-hards were there at 11 PM Pacific Time when the game began in earnest.
The Dodgers never looked better, nor did they make an opponent look as incompetent as when they swept the Mets August 4–6, by scores of 6-0, 7-4 and 8-0 in an embarrassing episode of ESPN Sunday night baseball. Their high water mark came on Friday, August 25 when they beat Milwaukee 3-1 behind Maeda. That win raised his record to 12-5 and the team’s mark to 91-36. Coming off a near-perfecto that turned into a 10-inning loss on August 23, Rich Hill got knocked around by the D-Backs on the 29th. At that the Dodgers were still 91-39, no cause for alarm. Clayton Kershaw made a triumphant return on Sept. 1, a 1-0 defeat of the Padres which should have righted the ship. The Dodgers haven’t won since, starting with a walkoff loss in the first of a doubleheader the next day. On Sept. 3 Alex Wood fell to 14-2 in a loss to the Padres. Rich Hill got knocked around again in a 13-0 Labor Day loss to the D-Backs. Then the unthinkable-Kershaw was beaten 9-1 by the Rockies on the 7th. That began a 4-game sweep at home, including another loss by Alex Wood (now 14-3) and leading up to last night in the city by the bay. Sunday Rich Hill lost his 4th in a row if you count in the near-perfecto against the Pirates which he lost 1-0 back on the 23rd.
While future World Series winners would have bad stretches none has been as spectacular as the Dodgers’ collapse. The 1935 Tigers went 8–14 in September before taking out the Cubs in the World Series. 3 years later the Yankees went 7-12 in September before sweeping the Cubs in 4. Maybe the closest to this year’s Dodgers are my beloved 2000 Yankees who went 5–16 in September including 7 straight losses to end the year. The 24-hour sports talk cauldron that began in 1987 with WFAN went into full-blown panic mode as only New Yorkers can do. So how did the Yanks respond? They took Oakland out in the division series, beat Seattle in the ALCS and embarrassed the Mets in a 5-game subway series that would have been a total snorefest if Roger Clemens hadn’t lobbed a broken bat at Mike Piazza’s dome.
So perhaps the Dodgers can snap out of their presentmalaise (Pronounced MaLays for Jaws users,) and take out Houston, Cleveland or whoever the American League puts up against them. If they plan to, they need to start ASAP. With no significant injuries the parts are still in place. The question is, like George Foreman against Muhammad Ali in 1974, have the Dodgers punched themselves out. Though he lost Saturday against the Rockies and didn’t survive 4 innings, Clayton Kershaw is healthy enough to go on but 2 days’ rest against the Giants tonight. That’s unthinkable in normal times but for the Angelinos these times are anything but normal.
In the minors, several leagues will begin their championship series tonight. The Yankees’ AA and AAA teams are playing for the championship of their leagues. At AAA, the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Railriders face the Durham Bulls (Rays) for the Governors’ Cup, the International League championship trophy. At AA the Yankees’ entry the Trenton Thunder face the Altoona Curve (Pirates) for the Eastern League title. Owing to Hurricane Irma, the Florida State League, Carolina League and Southern League all cancelled their LCS declaring co-champions.
The Yankees’ New York Penn league entry the Staten Island Yankees begin their league’s playoff with the Hudson Valley Renegades (Rays.) In the South Atlantic League the Greenville Drive (Red Sox) play game 1 against the Kannapolis Intimidators (White Sox.) The Texas League’s Tulsa Drillers (Dodgers) and Midland (Athletics) meet for the championship of their AA league. In the AAA Pacific Coast League, the El Paso Chihuahuas (Padres) face the Memphis Redbirds (Cardinals) in a series for all the marbles in that league. Last but not least in the A-ball California League the Modesto Nuts (Mariners) face the Lancaster JetHawks (Rockies) in their league’s final round. One league’s playoff begins tomorrow night. In the Midwest League the Quad Cities RiverBandits (Astros) face the Fort Wayne TinCaps (Padres.)
Today’s major league schedule begins with a rare Tuesday afternoon game in Kansas City. The Royals host the White Sox there at 1:15 Eastern. The White Sox send Dylan Covey against Sam Gaviglio, a surprise acquisition off waivers by the Royals from the Mariners who have needed any pitcher with a pulse all season long. The rest of the slate is at night, starting with the Braves facing the NL East division champs the Washington Nationals. Both the Marlins and Phillies start high-profile rookies as Miami’s Dillon Peters faces Nick Pivetta. The Orioles’ Dylan Bundy is the third pitcher named Dylan (or Dillon) making a start tonight as he faces the Jays in Toronto. The Tigers hope to end the Indians’ insane winning streak. To do this they’re asking Matthew Boyd to best former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. Anybody want to bet on Boyd, considering Kluber is 12-2 in his last 19 starts and last time out struck out 13 White Sox? The Yankees continue their series against the Rays which was moved to Citi Field in Queens owing to Hurricane Irma. Meantime Oakland faces the Red Sox at Fenway. The Mets face the Cubs in a night game at Wrigley. In the late games the Rockies face the D-Backs, Houston meets the Angels and as mentioned above the Dodgers face the Giants again in San Francisco.0