月度归档:2017年11月

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LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Houston Astros’ best, making good on Yasiel Puig’s promise that there will be a Game 7 at Dodger Stadium.

After managing only one baserunner in five innings against starter Justin Verlander, the Dodgers scored twice on the Astros’ ace in the sixth, and the Kenley Jansen-led bullpen held on for a 3-1 win on Tuesday to force a seventh game to decide the World Series.

World Series. Game 7. It’s a magical combination of three simple words and one lucky number.

“After Game 5, [I said] it’s not going to be done today,” Puig said. “It’s going to be done tomorrow. [Someone] is going to win the World Series tomorrow.”

Entering the series, we knew this was a meeting of baseball’s best offense (Houston) and its best run-prevention unit (Los Angeles). The Astros’ thrilling 13-12 win in Game 5 was their kind of contest. But Game 6, with its solid pitching, timely hitting, airtight defense and spotless bullpen work — that was the Dodgers getting back to the formula that has been so successful for them during the entire month of October.

2017 World Series
Here’s everything you need to know about Houston’s win over L.A.

• Astros win first World Series title »
• Astros embrace, enjoy their moment »
• Correa proposes on field after WS win »
• L.A. did everything right until Game 7 »
• How the Astros dominated Darvish »
• 2017 produced a record-setting WS »
• Way-too-early 2018 power rankings »
• Odds to win 2018 World Series »
• Schedule » | Complete coverage »
And because they got back to playing Dodger baseball, L.A. will play its first game in November, and Dodger Stadium will host a World Series Game 7 for the first time in its long history. On Sunday, we wondered, how could the Dodgers possibly recover from such a gut-punch of a loss in Game 5? The answer: by playing like the Dodgers, that’s how.

“The whole year we’ve been talking about trying to win a championship, having the goal to win a championship,” Jansen said. “We’ve all got to believe. To see my teammates, we didn’t hang our [heads]. We didn’t feel sorry for ourselves. And we all believe. We knew it was going to be tough to score runs on [Verlander], but we believed we were going to get him.”

Rich Hill pitched effectively in a short outing, holding Houston to George Springer’s solo home run in the third in four-plus innings. It was the same scenario as in Game 2. Hill pitched well. So did Verlander, but he ultimately departed with his team behind.

In Game 2, the Dodgers’ bullpen couldn’t nail it down. In Game 6, it did.

“It’s great to see the way the guys threw the ball,” Hill said. “We attacked, threw strikes. We grinded the entire game and that’s been the makeup of this team the entire year.”

Brandon Morrow, who gave up four runs and failed to retire a batter during Game 5, inherited a bases-loaded, two-out jam when he came in for Hill. He responded, getting Alex Bregman to ground out to shortstop Corey Seager. Morrow has pitched in all six games of the series.

“We’ve asked a lot out of our bullpen this whole postseason,” pitcher Clayton Kershaw said. “The way [Morrow] looked tonight, the way Kenley looked tonight — that’s them. [Morrow] went back to what he does and Kenley is always amazing. It’s good to have those two guys for tomorrow, too.”

Lefty Tony Watson came on for Morrow and after hitting a batter, he got Marwin Gonzalez on a soft liner with two on to end the sixth. Kenta Maeda escaped a two-on jam by getting Jose Altuve to ground out to end the seventh.
Kenley Jansen celebrates closing out the Dodgers’ win in Game 6. Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY Sports
That left it to Jansen to get the last six outs, just as he aimed to do in Game 5 when he gave up a run for a third straight outing, matching a career high. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said before the game that he preferred to limit Jansen to a conventional three-out appearance, but he opted to go with his stopper early once again.

“I’m not trying to be a hero or anything, but there is no tomorrow,” Jansen said. “We’ve got to go out there and fight. He asked me how I feel and give him my honesty that I’m good to go. The adrenaline and everything, I feel great. I didn’t feel tired at all out there. I go out there to compete and help my teammates and try to pick them up, to force a Game 7.”

The fevered crowd at Chavez Ravine exploded when the opening notes of “California Love” blasted from the ballpark’s formidable sound system, signaling Jansen’s entrance. It’s a ritual the fans have shared with their closer countless times over the years but never has it meant more than it did Tuesday.

Jansen said moments after he took the loss in Game 5 that he had already moved on and was “looking forward to Tuesday.” He pitched like it.

Jansen dispatched the Astros with only seven pitches in the eighth. Then he got the last three outs in order as well, this time on 12 pitches, finishing up with three strikeouts among his six outs. His efficiency was crucial, not just for Tuesday’s game but for Wednesday’s winner-take-all game as well.

“Kenley is the best closer in baseball,” Hill said. “To see him come out and throw like that, everybody was really excited. We needed him. He wanted to come back and prove himself, to go out there and win it for everyone. There is nobody else we would want to have on the mound late in the game.”

After Sunday’s exhausting loss, everyone agreed that Monday’s day off was of great benefit.

“The day off was great, no question,” Jansen said. “It was tough in Houston. Those guys did what they were supposed to do. But we also did what we were supposed to do, to take one and get our home-field advantage back and force a Game 6. They were tough there.”

Verlander mowed down the Dodgers for five innings, giving up only Puig’s second-inning single and striking out eight. Out of nowhere, the L.A. offense came to life in the sixth. Austin Barnes greeted Verlander with a solid single. Chase Utley, who entered the game 0-for-14 in the postseason, was hit in the foot by a pitch. Chris Taylor flipped an opposite-field double to score Barnes. And Seager drove Houston right fielder Josh Reddick to the fence to drive in Utley with a sacrifice fly.

Just like that, the Dodgers had the lead and Verlander was done after he was replaced by a pinch hitter in the bottom of the inning.

Joc Pederson gave the Dodgers a precious insurance run in the seventh, taking Astros reliever Joe Musgrove deep with an opposite-field shot to left. He became the first Dodger with extra-base hits in five straight World Series games. Not bad for a guy who was sent to Triple-A late in the season to overhaul his approach.

“It’s never fun being demoted,” Pederson said. “But the league showed me a lot, the stuff I needed to work on. So, yeah, it was very humbling, and I needed to go learn how to hit, basically.

“I’ve still got a lot of work to do, but it’s encouraging to see some of the process and all the hard work turn into some results in the game.”

Besides Springer’s homer, Hill mostly matched Verlander pitch for pitch on a cool evening when the ball wasn’t jumping out of the park as it did last week when the games were starting with temperatures in triple digits.

But let’s get back to Puig’s brash comments in the wake of the Dodgers’ devastating Game 5 loss, when he stood before reporters and said, “This is not going to be finished Tuesday. There’s going to be Game 7.”

Puig singled in his first at-bat Tuesday but otherwise had a quiet night. Nevertheless, he proved to be more soothsayer than braggart after his team returned to the sort of stifling run prevention that got them 104 wins during the regular season and 10 more — so far — in the playoffs.

“Everybody has prepared all year for this moment,” Puig said. “Houston is a good team and nobody expected that this is going to be over in four games. It’s going to be a crazy game tomorrow.”

One crazy moment could be the Dodgers’ franchise starter trotting in from the bullpen. It almost happened on Tuesday. Kershaw was just beginning to stretch late in case Jansen’s pitch count spiraled out of control which, obviously, it did not. So he’s ready to do as much as is required in Game 7 for his team to finally get over the hump. Kershaw even joked about getting 27 outs.

“I know that he was up in the pen today,” Roberts said. “One reason I wanted to stay away from him is so we could get him a little bit more tomorrow. So when you’re talking about Clayton Kershaw, Game 7, I think anything’s within reason.”
The Dodgers have lost all six World Series in which they trailed 3-2. They haven’t won a championship in 29 years. Kershaw has never won a championship.

On Wednesday, the Dodgers have a chance to erase all of that bad history in the highest-stakes game ever played at Dodger Stadium. Just as Puig said they’d have a chance to do.

“I think it seems fitting,” Roberts said. “You’ve got the two best teams in baseball going head to head. Like we’ve talked about from the beginning, these two teams mirror one another, and the compete and fight in both teams is the most important thing I see as similarities.

“But, again, we worked all year long to have home-field advantage, and here we are. It’s only fitting for this series.”

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In July, forward Jonathon Simmons signed a three-year offer sheet with the Orlando Magic, which guarantees him $13.3 million through the 2019-20 season. The San Antonio Spurs opted to not match the offer sheet, which made Simmons’ move to the Magic official.

Rumor Central”Jonathon is an elite wing defender that will provide toughness and athleticism to our team,” Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said.

So far, it’s been one of the best summer signings, as Simmons is averaging 15.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists for Weltman and the Magic. Simmons is also currently making 50.7 percent of his shots, which is on pace to be a career best.

When talking with the Orlando Sentinel about his desire to be a top player in the NBA, Simmons said he turned down the opportunity to possibly sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“I expressed that to Pop [San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich]. I said, ‘I can be good over here, but I can’t be great.’ I want to be able to go against the Kawhis night-in and night-out,” Simmons said. “I even talked to LeBron James over the phone, and he was like, ‘We want you in Cleveland.’ And I said, ‘No, I want to play against you.’ I want to be able to play against elite guys and be able to, in a couple of years down the line, be just where they are.”

The Cavs were limited in what they could offer free agents this past summer, and that might have also factored in Simmons’ decision to not look at Cleveland as an option. All the free agents who signed with the Cavs accepted one-year contracts for the veteran minimum amount, while rookie Cedi Osman is making $2.64 million.

The Magic are off to a 8-6 start, and Simmons has a lot to do with Orlando’s early-season success, according to his teammates.

“He’s really vocal,” Terrence Ross said. “He’s easy to talk to. He wants to win. He just pushes everybody to be better.”

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The Los Angeles Rams lead the NFL in scoring with 32.9 points per game. The last time the Rams led the NFL in scoring for a season was the ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ team of 2001. The 32.9 points per game is the exact average the 1999 Rams earned on their way to Super Bowl XXXIV.

The 2017 version with Todd Gurley gashing defenses and Jared Goff chucking the ball all over the park has many comparing it to those Marshall Faulk/Kurt Warner teams.

One key member of the “Greatest Show on Turf” sees some similarities between the modern-day Rams and his historic squad.

“I’m not saying that’s where they are now,” receiver Torry Holt told Gary Klein of the L.A. Times during a phone interview, “but that’s where this offense is trending.”

Goff and Co. aren’t to ‘Greatest Show’ level yet, but there are many similarities between the teams thus far, including how much they’ve improved from the previous season.

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It’s notable that the Rams made their initial leap into offensive legend when Mike Martz was hired as offensive coordinator in 1999.

Holt gave coach Sean McVay credit for the Rams going from a stuck-in-the-mud Jeff Fisher days to a high-flying artistic offense in less than a year.

“He’s a shot in the arm for that organization, a shot in the arm for that offense and shot in the arm for Jared Goff’s development,” Holt said.

Sunday’s wipeout of the New York Giants contained a bevy of deep strikes, including a 67-yard bomb to Sammy Watkins and an incomprehensible third-and-33 screen to Robert Woods that went for a 52-yard score. Plays like these are where Holts sees similarities with his old team.

“There was some resemblance to the ‘The Greatest Show on Turf,'” Holt said. “I saw some of that flash, particularly on those two plays.”

McVay’s squad has a long, long way to go before we enshrine them with Holt’s teams. But considering how painful they were to watch last year, it’s an astonishing turnaround.

If the Rams keep this up the rest of the season, we’re going to have to come up with a new nickname for this squad.

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WASHINGTON — Stephen Strasburg’s best wasn’t good enough.

In Game 1 of the National League Division Series, Strasburg picked up right where he left off at the end of the regular season, when he was the NL’s best pitcher in the second half. Facing the defending World Series champion Cubs, Strasburg didn’t give up a hit through five innings, the second-longest no-hit bid of his career. He fanned Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant twice each, the first time in more than two months that Rizzo and Bryant both had a pair of whiffs in the same game.

He gave up three hits and no earned runs over seven innings, struck out 10 and needed only 81 pitches to do it, repeatedly inducing chants of “Let’s go Strasburg,” which pretty much never happens at Nats Park.

In short, he was brilliant. But it didn’t matter.
Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals kept it close against the Cubs in Game 1 of the NLDS, but fell short in the end. Alex Brandon/AP Photo
It didn’t matter because Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks decided to channel his inner-Irving Berlin (“Anything you can do, I can do better”), tossing seven innings of two-hit ball and generally baffling the Nats’ bats. It didn’t matter because MVP candidate Anthony Rendon — who committed fewer errors than any third baseman in the majors this season — flubbed an easy chopper that put Javier Baez on base to start the sixth, leading to two unearned runs that seemed more like 20.

It didn’t matter because, despite getting the very best version of Stephen Strasburg that they ever could have hoped for, the Nationals still lost. Even worse, they lost a game they couldn’t afford to lose.

If ace Max Scherzer were pitching on Saturday in Game 2, Friday’s defeat would seem infinitely more tolerable for the Nationals. But Scherzer — he of the two Cy Young awards and one tweaked hammy — needs extra time to convalesce and isn’t slated to pitch until Game 3 in Chicago.

Instead, skipper Dusty Baker will send Gio Gonzalez to the hill Saturday — the same Gio Gonzalez who, after a stellar first five months of the season, worked to a 6.75 ERA over his final four starts. At best, the left-hander rediscovers his groove and helps the Nats knot the series, their home-field advantage already shot. At worst, Gonzalez continues his slide, Washington continues what has been a disturbing multiseason trend of offensive impotence in the playoffs, and the Nationals continue on to Chicago in a two-game hole.

Gulp.

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“Yeah, it does,” Baker said when asked postgame if his team’s “L” stung a little more given how well Strasburg threw. “He was doing all he could. You know, we just couldn’t muster up too much offense tonight. We’ll be better tomorrow.”

2017 World Series
Here’s everything you need to know about Houston’s win over L.A.

• Astros win first World Series title »
• Astros embrace, enjoy their moment »
• Correa proposes on field after WS win »
• L.A. did everything right until Game 7 »
• How the Astros dominated Darvish »
• 2017 produced a record-setting WS »
• Way-too-early 2018 power rankings »
• Odds to win 2018 World Series »
• Schedule » | Complete coverage »
Being better isn’t just about scoring more runs. It’s about catching the ball, which Washington didn’t do well all season (minus-37 runs saved, worst among playoff teams), and which Rendon didn’t do when he needed to. It’s about hitting the cutoff man, which Bryce Harper didn’t do on Bryant’s RBI single in the sixth, allowing Bryant to advance to second (he scored on Rizzo’s single two pitches later). It’s about mastering the minutia necessary to win games in October.

“That’s playoff baseball,” Ryan Zimmerman said.

“Both pitchers threw great tonight,” he said. “Stras threw the heck out of the ball. That was fun to watch. Their guy also threw the ball well. You have to kind of do the little things right and take advantage of the breaks you get, like they did.

“But that was Game 1. Obviously would have rather won that game, but it’s never easy.”
Easy, of course, is all relative. For the Nationals, October has proven decidedly difficult. Before this year, they had been to the playoffs three times since moving to D.C. in 2005. All three times — in 2012, 2014 and 2016 — they’ve been the higher seed, and all three times they’ve been bounced in the NLDS. Given that, and given what happened Friday, it’s hard not to think they’re headed a fourth fall failure.

Then again, it’s worth noting that last year against the Dodgers, Washington dropped the opener at home — in a game started by Scherzer — only to rebound and win the next two. And that was with zero contributions from Strasburg, who missed the 2016 playoffs after suffering a torn pronator tendon down the stretch. In other words, just because Strasburg’s best wasn’t good enough in Game 1, that doesn’t mean the Nats’ best isn’t yet to come.

“Obviously it didn’t go the way we wanted tonight,” Zimmerman said. “But we’ll bounce back tomorrow.”