College Prep Professional Sports

Dodgers will hit, but can they find relief pitching?

SPORTS DIGEST:

Six games out of a 162-game schedule is what a statistician would call a small sample size.

In other words, it’s too early to make wide-ranging judgments about the 2019 Los Angeles Dodgers.

Actually, there are a couple of things you can already say about the Dodgers that will probably be true in July and September.

First off, the Dodgers will be a power-hitting team again this year. The Dodgers hit a franchise record 235 home runs last year. They hit eight more on opening day and through six games have hit 17. 

The Dodgers will live and die by the home run this year. And, judging by the way the bullpen has performed in the first six games this year, they will need to hit lots of home runs.

The bullpen was supposed to be improved this year with the addition of Joe Kelly to the back end.  In the World Series for Boston last year, Kelly pitched in relief in all five games, giving up only four hits in six innings while striking out 10 and walking no one.

In two appearances this year for the Dodgers after signing a three-year $25 million contract in the offseason, Kelly has given up six runs and seven hits, including two home runs in three innings of work. His earned run average is 18. Brock Stewart’s ERA is 13.50, Yimi Garcia’s is 12 and Pedro Baez’s is 9.82. 

The bullpen will improve when Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill come off the injured list later this month and Ross Stripling and Julio Urias go to the bullpen, but the Dodgers need someone to get batters out after the starters leave before Kenley Jansen comes in to pitch the ninth.

That bridge was supposed to be Kelly but, five games into his Dodgers’ career, he was booed off the mound April 1 as the Dodgers lost to the Giants, 4-2.

Urias pitched five shutout innings in that game, striking out seven and giving up only three hits.

Kelly came out for the sixth inning and a 2-0 lead was quickly only 2-1 after Brandon Belt hit a home run. Kelly survived the sixth, but not the seventh. 

After giving up a leadoff single, Kelly got the next two batters on ground balls. But pinch hitter Pablo Sandoval singled in a run and center fielder Steve Duggar doubled to end Kelly’s night.

Belt then greeted reliever Scott Alexander with a double to right center for a 4-2 Giants lead. 

The Dodgers went meekly in the last three innings, getting only a one-out walk in the ninth inning against three different Giants relievers.

The two runs the Dodgers got came on home runs by Chris Taylor and Alex Verdugo in the fifth inning.

Manager Dave Roberts is still going to mix and match his lineups on a game-to-game basis. The Dodgers are platooning at three positions: catcher with Austin barnes and Russell Martin, first base with Max Muncy and David Freese and left field with Joc Pederson and Chris Taylor, but everyone except Cody Bellinger and A.J.Pollock have been out of the starting lineup at least once.

The Dodgers plan to send Urias to the bullpen when both Kershaw and Hill are healthy, with the hope of keeping his innings down for the season. Urias, less than two years removed from shoulder surgery, is ready to pitch in the rotation on a regular basis, though, and will probably be put back into the rotation in August to prepare for the playoffs.

As good as Clayton Kershaw still is, he might be the team’s third best starter behind Urias and Walker Buehler, who got knocked around March 31 in his first start. 

The Dodgers rallied with three runs in the eighth inning to win.

Leading 18-5 after eight innings March 30, Roberts didn’t want to waste another relief pitcher, so he sent catcher Martin to the mound. This came after the Dodgers had taken batting ractice against Diamondbacks catcher John Bryan Murphy in the eighth inning, lighting him up for seven runs and eight hits.

Martin was the better pitching catcher that night, retiring the Diamondbacks on only 10 pitches on two ground balls and a pop up.

PLAYOFF WATCH: With four games to play, the Clippers find themselves in sixth place in the NBA Western Conference, a half-game behind the fifth-place Utah Jazz.

If the standings remain the same, the Clippers would face the Houston Rockets in the opening round of the playoffs.

That would be a series the Clippers could win, if only because former Clipper Chris Paul now plays for the Rockets and has never been a great playoff performer.

The Clippers might prefer to jump past the Jazz and draw the Portland Traiblazers in the first round.

Either way, the Clippers are one of the hottest teams in the league with 13 wins in their last 15 games. No one wants to draw them in the first round.

The Clippers have been starting a lineup with three guards, 6-10 shooting forward Danilo Gallinari and center Ivica Zubac.

But the Clippers get more dangerous when they go to their bench, particularly guard Lou Williams and forward Montrezl Harrell.

Williams is almost a lock to be voted the NBA’s sixth man of the year again. He is averaging 20.3 points per game and 5.3 assists, both lead the team.

Harrell averages 16.7 points and 6.6 rebounds a game. Among the starters, only Gallinari scores more.

After losing Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan last year, many people figured the Clippers would be lucky to win 35 games a year. They could end up with 50 wins, which should make Doc Rivers a candidate for coach of the year.

He has his team peaking at the right time, playoff time. This could be the year the Clippers make some noise in April and May.

BRACKET MADNESS: After winning 19 of 20 games over a three-day span, my March Madness bracket was looking good. And then it wasn’t. I went from having all eight Elite Eight teams left to having no one left in my final four.

Nevertheless, the final four features some good matchups. Virginia faces Auburn at 3 p.m. April 6, followed by Michigan State against Texas Tech. 

Virginia was the top-ranked team most of the year and they draw Auburn, the lowest-seeded team left in the tournament. 

Michigan State, which eliminated my championship choice, Duke, has a wonderful point guard in Cassius Winston. Texas Tech plays better defense than anyone left in the tournament so expect that to be a low-scoring game. I’m picking Michigan State to defeat Virginia in the title game April 8.

ATHLETIC SHOWCASE: There will be showcases for potential college basketball and football players who might be interested in playing at historically black colleges and universities in Lynwood this month.

The showcase for basketball players will be April 13 and 14 at Firebaugh High School. The football showcase will be April 27 and 28 at Lynwood High School. On-site registration begins at 8 a.m. for both showcases. You also can register online at thecollegeexpo.org.  

Both showcases are for high school seniors and juniors as well as junior college players. Last year, more than 100 players who attended the showcases left with scholarships, according to organizers. More than 20 college coaches are expected to be in attendance.

For girls, basketball players, there will be a two-day showcase April 13 and 14. The April 13 showcase will be at the Compton Salvation Army facility, with a 10:30 a.m. check-in, a 1 p.m. three-point shootout and a 2 p.m. all-star game.

The April 14 activity will be from noon to 4 p.m. and Lynwood Middle School, that will include an open run and coaches workout. 

for more information, visit thecollegeexpo.org.

By Don Wanlass

Staff Writer