LA went 3-4 against the Giants and Rockies last week
In what was arguably the most tense week of the season to date, the Dodgers ran the gamut of emotions, including a white-knuckle rivalry series against the Giants.
One former MVP, Mookie Betts, nursed an injured hip and was limited to one pinch-hit at-bat all week. Though he was unavailable for the final six games of the week, the Dodgers didn’t place Betts on the injured list until Sunday, holding out hope he’d be ready for the upcoming series in San Francisco, until it became clear that wouldn’t be the case.
Another former MVP, Cody Bellinger, has yet to find his footing in a season plagued by injuries and setbacks dating back to surgery to repair a separated shoulder in November. Bellinger is batting .162/.276/.284 in 2021 with a 61 wRC+. Among the 307 major leaguers with 150 plate appearances, Bellinger ranks 306th in batting average, 301st in slugging, 294th in wOBA (.253), and 273rd in on-base percentage.
That included an 0-for-25 skid that finally ended on Friday with both a double and triple against the Rockies, but he left that game in the eighth inning with left hamstring tightness, an injury that already cost Bellinger 10 games in June. The main thing keeping Bellinger in the lineup despite his struggles — aside from the aforementioned lack of options — was his defense in center field, but at least in the early going as Bellinger returns from this hamstring injury, he may be limited to first base for a bit.
The return of Corey Seager, last year’s NLCS and World Series MVP, was tentatively earmarked for the first Giants series in Los Angeles, but it didn’t come to pass. It won’t come in the next Giants series either, as Seager will depart for rehab at Camelback Ranch in Arizona while the Dodgers go on the road. This will mark Seager’s 11th week missed since breaking his hand on a hit by pitch on May 15.
The week also saw Kenley Jansen reach his nadir to date in 2021, with two straight blown saves against the Giants, his highest two pitch counts of the year. Jansen blew three saves in three tries over a five-day span, dating back to last Sunday, but he was right back on the beam to save Saturday’s 1-0 nail-biter over the Rockies.
“Meditate. That’s what I did, meditate. Breathe in, breathe out, and let it go,” Jansen told Kirsten Watson on SportsNet LA after Saturday’s save. “It’s a long season. Nobody wants to have two days like that. But at the same time, you’ve got to keep your head straight, keep your mind straight.”
Tension came in the form of three straight games decided with go-ahead runs in the ninth, followed by a 10th-inning affair, then two one-run games against the Rockies over the weekend. Even Monday’s relative blowout was a one-run game to start the seventh. Emotions spilled out in the form of two straight ejections by Dave Roberts against the Giants, after getting tossed just once in the first 96 games this season.
The Dodgers began the week one game behind the Giants, and ended the week two games back, with another showdown series looming.
Batter of the week
With Betts out of the lineup all week and Gavin Lux hitting the injured list on Monday, Chris Taylor took over both the leadoff spot and shortstop with aplomb, hitting five home runs and scoring nine times. He popped out to start Monday’s game, but for the rest of the week here are his first-inning results out of the leadoff spot: double, home run, single, home run, bunt single, home run.
Those home runs for Taylor meant frequent visits in the dugout from future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols, who is the preeminent hugger on the Dodgers.
“I think Albert probably cheers for his teammates more than anybody. It seems like he’s so genuinely happy for everyone. He’s more happy for you than you are for yourself,” Taylor explained. “Knowing that, and coming in and seeing him waiting for you to give you a big bearhug is a pretty cool feeling.”
Pitcher of the week
Thursday’s game didn’t end the way the Dodgers wanted, but Walker Buehler continued his season of steady acehood. The right-hander ranks fourth in the majors with 6.43 innings per start, and Thursday was tied for his longest outing of the season, 7⅓ innings against the Giants. Buehler allowed only one run, striking out nine.
Week 17 results
25 runs scored (3.57 per game)
33 runs allowed (4.71 per game)
.376 pythagorean win percentage
Year to date
525 runs scored (5.20 per game)
379 runs allowed (3.75 per game)
.645 pythagorean win percentage (65-36)
Extra frustrating: After the bases loaded with nobody out in a tie game in the top of the ninth on Friday, the Dodgers struck out three times in a row before losing in 10 innings, falling to 1-10 in extra-inning games this season. The franchise record for extra-inning losses is 17, by the 1967 Dodgers (10-17 in such games). In the 2000s, the only Dodgers teams with more extra-inning losses were 2008 and 2014, both 6-12 in extras.
“I have no idea. If you guys have anything, let me know,” third baseman Justin Turner told reporters. “But it’s pretty weird. One and ten this year in extra innings. It’s obviously not good.”
Welcome aboard: Dodgers top pitching prospect Josiah Gray withstood two months of dealing with a right shoulder impingement to make his major league debut on Tuesday. That came in a bulk role that included a rude awakening (three home runs allowed) and also a flash of his repertoire (seven strikeouts, 15 swinging strikes). Sunday brought a more traditional outing, and his first major league start, with four more innings, two runs and six strikeouts.
“I’m going to fill the strike zone more times than not. Obviously going to continue to [try to] eliminate the long ball. That’s something I’m going to continue to have to work on,” Gray said Sunday. “I think I’ve shown flashes of having good stuff out there. Obviously you’ve got to improve every day, in whatever role I’m in.”
That role in this coming week will be a start against the Diamondbacks in Arizona.
Gray is the fourth Dodgers pitcher to make his major league debut this season, joining Edwin Uceta (April 30), Jake Reed (July 6), and Darien Núñez (July 9).
One Hall of Famer, passing another: Albert Pujols on Saturday started against a left-handed pitcher, as he has at every opportunity since joining the Dodgers. It marked the 2,934th game of his major league career, good for 14th-most in major league history. Pujols on Saturday broke a tie with Adrián Beltré for the most games played by a Dominican-born player in major league history.
Bonus, baby: Walker Buehler before the season signed a two-year, $8 million contract that covered his first two years of salary arbitration eligibility. The contract called for a $2 million signing bonus and salaries of $2.75 million this year and $3.25 million next year. Performance bonuses from 2021 can increase Buehler’s base salary by up to $4.125 million, and to date he has earned $2 million of that — $500,000 each for starts 14, 16, 18, and 20, the latter coming Thursday — pushing his 2022 base salary to $5.25 million.
Buehler’s further opportunities to add to his 2022 salary this year include $500,000 for each of 24 and 28 starts, $1.125 million for winning the Cy Young Award, or $625,000 for finishing in second or third place.
Monday: Victor Gonzalez was activated from the injured list, and pitcher Jake Reed was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Monday: Gavin Lux was placed on the injured list with a left hamstring strain, and outfielder Zach Reks was recalled from Triple-A.
Tuesday: Top pitching prospect Josiah Gray was called up to make his major league debut. Utility man Andy Burns was designated for assignment. Pitcher Scott Alexander was placed on the injured list with left shoulder inflammation. Pitcher Edwin Uceta was activated from the IL and optioned to Triple-A.
Wednesday: Outfielder Billy McKinney was acquired from the Mets for minor league outfielder Carlos Rincon. Pitcher Jake Reed was designated for assignment.
Wednesday: Sheldon Neuse was recalled from Oklahoma City, and pitcher Darien Núñez was optioned to Triple-A.
Thursday: McKinney was activated, and Zach Reks was optioned to Triple-A.
Friday: Max Muncy was placed on the paternity list for the birth of his baby daughter, missing the weekend series against the Rockies. Núñez and Brusdar Graterol were recalled from Triple-A, and Garrett Cleavinger was optioned.
Saturday: With Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger unavailable, outfielder Luke Raley was called up from Triple-A, and Núñez was optioned.
Saturday: Jimmie Sherfy was placed on the injured list with right elbow inflammation, and Mitch White was recalled from Triple-A.
Sunday: Reed was claimed off waivers by the Rays.
Sunday: Betts was placed on the injured list with right hip inflammation, retroactive to Thursday. Jimmy Nelson was activated from the injured list after missing 14 games.
- Monday: Giants 7, Dodgers 2
- Tuesday: Dodgers 8, Giants 6
- Wednesday: Giants 4, Dodgers 2
- Thursday: Giants 5, Dodgers 3
- Friday: Rockies 9, Dodgers 6 (10 innings)
- Saturday: Dodgers 1, Rockies 0
- Sunday: Dodgers 3, Rockies 2
Previous reviews: Apr. 1-4 | Apr. 5-11 | Apr. 12-18 | Apr. 19-25 | Apr. 26-May 2 | May 3-9 | May 10-16 | May 17-23 | May 24-30 | May 31-June 6 | June 7-13 | June 14-20 | June 21-27 | June 28-July 4 | July 5-11 | July 12-18
The Dodgers run the Brandon Medders gauntlet, with another showdown series against the Giants — this one in San Francisco — followed by a weekend in Phoenix, where it’s a dry heat.