Starting pitching has been the Dodgers’ greatest strength in 2019, the engine driving the team with the best record in baseball. But the pitching took a beating last week, at the tail end of a stretch of 18 straight game days and a long weekend gauntlet through Coors Field.
The result was four losses in seven games, the Dodgers’ first losing week in 2½ months.
Two weeks ago the Rockies and Padres scored a record 92 runs in a four-game series in Denver, with Coors Field looking very much like the high-octane Coors Field of old. That was Colorado’s last home series before meeting the Dodgers for four games that proved to be disastrous for those unfortunate enough to be standing on a pitching mound.
After four days in Denver, the final numbers for both teams combined were prolific: 65 runs — the second-highest run scoring series between the two teams in Coors Field history, behind only June 27-30, 1996 — on 99 hits, including 40 for extra bases, and 26 walks.
The weekend started with Dodgers starters given an extra day of rest, a respite at the end of 18 games in 18 days. Tony Gonsolin was called up for his major league debut on Wednesday in Arizona and was greeted rudely by the Diamondbacks, who hung a six-spot on the rookie.
Starting with the finale in Phoenix, Dodgers starting pitchers allowed 27 runs in 25 innings over the last five days of the week. Over the previous 14 games the Los Angeles rotation allowed 28 runs in 78⅓ innings.
The Dodgers defense has been generally very good at turning balls into outs this season — first in defensive runs saved, second in MLB in defensive efficiency and total runs saved, and fourth in FanGraphs defense — but the execution was quite poor last week, with 11 errors and various other misplays over the final six games of the week. Giving extra outs often comes with a hefty cost, but at Coors Field the misplays are fatal. Colorado during the four-game series hit .342/.377/.596.
The errors added seven unearned runs onto an already ghastly 6.41 ERA for the entire staff last week, including a gaudy 7.68 ERA for the starters. It was a hellish week for the entire staff, though too on the nose through Saturday with a 6.66 ERA in 50 innings over the first six games of the week.
Pat Valaika entered the weekend in an 0-for-30 skid, and was just 2-for-40 on the season, coming after a season that saw the utility infielder hit .156/.214/.246 in 133 plate appearances. But even Valaika feasted on Dodgers pitching, walking as a pinch hitter on Thursday followed by a home run and four straight hits on Friday and Saturday.
The pitching demise led to an unthinkable result: not only did the Dodgers see their 12-game winning streak against the Rockies end on Friday, but they actually lost twice in a row to Colorado. A win to salvage a Coors Field split on Sunday ended the week on a more upbeat note and stopped the reeling, at least in a relative sense.
A strong start provided the Dodgers more and more equity to experiment, and even with the rare bad week they still own the best record in the majors and a 12-game advantage in their division. They were constructed to withstand significant injuries to starters Corey Seager, A.J. Pollock, and Rich Hill; built to handle the growing pains of giving Joc Pederson a crash course at first base during actual major league games, and to provide a runway for a slew of rookies to not only get their feet wet but actually contribute in a meaningful way.
Even if it seemed last week the growing pains were laid on a little too Thicke.
Tony Gonsolin and Edwin Rios became big leaguers last week, the fifth and sixth Dodgers to make their major league debut this season (all drafted in 2015-16, with Rios selected in the sixth round out of Florida International in 2015, and Gonsolin a ninth-rounder out of St. Mary’s in 2016).
A little more than halfway through the season — 86 games in — rookies have accounted for 13.4% of Dodgers plate appearances. Alex Verdugo has been the most impactful, playing his way into a regular role. The five rookie position players are hitting a combined .304/.348/.502 in 450 plate appearances.
There’s a reason teams don’t generally win two-thirds of their games, nor do they keep up a 73% clip for much longer than the Dodgers did (46-17) in between their two losing weeks. It’s a long season, and no matter how good the team there will be times when they can’t get out of their own way. Last week was that for the Dodgers.
Eventually Seager will return, and Pollock too, perhaps even right after the All-Star break. Hill will take longer, which further highlights the Dodgers’ need for pitching at the upcoming trade deadline, now just over four weeks away.
They have another month before running their final Coors gauntlet of the regular season, and with three games set for July 29-31 the only question is whether the reinforcements the Dodgers add will already be on the team for that series or join them just after.
Batter of the week
Chris Taylor stayed hot, hitting .440, leading the team in hits (11), doubles (six), OPS (1.144), and steals (two). He narrowly edged Justin Turner, who was on base all week and scored nine runs and even delivered a painful RBI with a bases-loaded hit by pitch on Sunday.
Pitcher of the week
The pitching was pretty bad last week, so much so that Pedro Baez and his two scoreless appearances in Denver was a serious candidate here. But in the end this was an easy call, with Julio Urias delivering two separate relief appearances with three scoreless innings, including Sunday when he scoffed at the notion of Coors Field being an offensive haven, whiffing four while allowing only two of his 11 batters to reach base.
Honorable mention goes to Russell Martin, whose 0.00 ERA remains the best in franchise history.
Week 14 results
44 runs scored (6.29 per game)
49 runs allowed (7.00 per game)
.451 pythagorean record
Season to date
459 runs scored (5.34 per game)
331 runs allowed (3.85 per game)
.645 pythagorean record (55-31)
Hey now: Cody Bellinger was elected a starter for the National League All-Stars, and will start in center field on July 9 in Cleveland. He and manager Dave Roberts will be joined by Hyun-jin Ryu and Walker Buehler — both player elections — and Clayton Kershaw, a selection from the commisioner’s office. Ryu will start on the mound.
This marks the second time three Dodgers starting pitchers were named All-Stars, joining Don Newcombe, Ralph Branca and Preacher Roe in 1949. Or we could call it the third time if you count 1962, when Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax were All-Stars for the first of two All-Star Games that year, and Johnny Podres was an All-Star for the second one. Max Muncy, and to a lesser extent Justin Turner, were snubbed.
Kenley at Coors: Kenley Jansen pitched in one of the four weekend games in Denver, and on the season has pitched 2⅓ scoreless innings at Coors Field with three strikeouts and a save. The Dodgers closer has had medical concerns in the high altitude of Denver multiple times during his career, and had cardiac ablation surgery in November to correct the issue. Jansen also provided the quote of the weekend about his preparation for the mile high city.
#Dodgers Kenley Jansen has been drinking 8 liters of water each of the past few days to avoid dehydration at Colorado altitude. “I’m tired of pissing, believe me,” he said.— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) June 27, 2019
Nine lives, 9.00 ERA: Tony Gonsolin had a rough go of it in his major league debut on Wednesday, allowing six runs (four earned) in his four innings of work. The big blow against Gonsolin — a noted cat lover — was a three-run home run from Eduardo Escobar, who is afraid of felines. There were positives for Gonsolin, who didn’t walk anybody and even got a hit in his first major league at-bat. He remained upbeat after the loss.
#Dodgers Tony Gonsolin called his MLB debut "a lot of fun." I pointed out that it did not seem fun.— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) June 26, 2019
"Yeah, results-wise, not the best obviously. But my takeaway is it was a lot of fun. A lot of firsts for me and you can always get better. "
Coors-powered: The Dodgers won their series opener over the Rockies on Thursday thanks to six home runs, matching their team record at Coors Field. They hit six home runs on three previous occasions, the last on Sep. 26, 1997.
Most Dodgers HR at Coors
The silver bullet: Max Muncy hit three home runs during the weekend in Denver, and in his career has hit nine home runs there while hitting .353/.443/1.000. His nine home runs at Coors Field is only bested by four hitters in the stadium’s 25-year history, all the more remarkable since Muncy has played only 16 games there.
A product of their times: Home runs are such a huge part of the game these days, so much so that it’s difficult to compare with other, less powered eras. There are 1.37 home runs hit per team game in MLB in 2019, a record pace that is up a whopping 19% over last year which was the fifth-highest home run mark in history. Still, even with home runs flying out with more frequency than ever throughout baseball, the Dodgers managed to stick out.
Muncy’s home run on Friday was his 20th of the season, joining Cody Bellinger (27) and Joc Pederson (20) in making the Dodgers just the fifth team ever with three players reach 20 home runs before July, and the first in 16 years.
The Dodgers are the 5th team to have 3 players reach 20 HR before July in MLB history. pic.twitter.com/UcPhw0YENh— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 29, 2019
But then on Sunday, Manny Machado hit his 20th home run for the Padres, giving San Diego three players with 20 home runs as well. Maybe home runs just aren’t that special anymore.
Nightmare inning: Hyun-jin Ryu had his first actual bad inning of 2019 in the fifth inning on Friday in Colorado. Entering the frame leading 5-2, Ryu faced five batters and all of them scored. The first eight batters of the inning got hits against Ryu and Joe Kelly, including two home runs and two doubles. In all, the Rockies had 10 hits in the frame and the Dodgers committed three errors, and eight runs were scored by Colorado. Just imagine the damage had Daniel Murphy not been thrown out at second base trying to advance on a wild pitch by Kelly that ricocheted ludicrously fast off the backstop right to catcher Russell Martin. It was the biggest inning allowed by the Dodgers since Arizona got them for nine runs in the eighth inning in Phoenix on Apr. 21, 2017.
Wednesday: Tony Gonsolin was called up to start the series finale in Phoenix. Will Smith was optioned to make room on the active roster for Gonsolin, and out-for-the-season Tony Cingrani was transferred to the 60-day injured list to make room on the 40-man roster.
Thursday: Gonsolin was optioned back to Triple-A one day after his debut, with Edwin Rios recalled from Oklahoma City and pitcher Zac Rosscup called up as well. Caleb Ferguson was optioned to Triple-A, and to make room on the 40-man roster A.J. Pollock was transferred to the 60-day injured list, the latter a procedural move that has no effect on Pollock’s return timetable, still expected to be just after the All-Star break.
- Monday: Diamondbacks 8, Dodgers 5
- Tuesday: Dodgers 3, Diamondbacks 2
- Wednesday: Diamondbacks 8, Dodgers 2
- Thursday: Dodgers 12, Rockies 8
- Friday: Rockies 13, Dodgers 9
- Saturday: Rockies 5, Dodgers 3
- Sunday: Dodgers 10, Rockies 5
Week 14 batting
Week 14 pitching
The week ahead
A new week and a new month, as the Dodgers welcome July and finish out the string before the All-Star break, back home to run the Carlos Baerga gauntlet, six games against the Diamondbacks and Padres. If you think this is a standard split with a pair of three-game series, think again!
Week 15 schedule
|Mon, Jul 1||Tue, Jul 2||Wed, Jul 3||Thu, Jul 4||Fri, Jul 5||Sat, Jul 6||Sun, Jul 7|
|Mon, Jul 1||Tue, Jul 2||Wed, Jul 3||Thu, Jul 4||Fri, Jul 5||Sat, Jul 6||Sun, Jul 7|
|Off||vs. D-backs||vs. D-backs||vs. Padres||vs. Padres||vs. Padres||vs. Padres|
|7:10 p.m.||7:10 p.m.||6:10 p.m.||7:10 p.m.||7:10 p.m.||1:10 p.m.|
|Stripling v.||Buehler v.||Ryu v.||Kershaw v.||Maeda v.||Stripling v.|
|Clarke||Kelly||Paddack||Lucchesi (L)||Allen (L)||Strahm (L)|