Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw reach deal on new contract

Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw reach deal on new contract

LOS ANGELES — Clayton Kershaw still might not be a ‘Dodger for life.’ But he will be one for the next three years. The Dodgers and Kershaw reached agreement Friday on a new contract that will add one more year to the remaining two years and $65 million on the seven-year contract he signed in

MLB free agent news: Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw ‘very close’ to deal

MLB free agent news: Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw ‘very close’ to deal

The Dodgers and ace Clayton Kershaw are close to agreeing on a deal that would keep the left-hander in Los Angeles, MLB.com reported Friday afternoon, shortly before a 4 p.m. ET deadline for him to exercise his contract option. It’s “very close,” an unidentified source told Jeff Passan.

Dodgers advance to World Series thanks to timely homers and weathering Josh Hader in NLCS Game 7

Dodgers advance to World Series thanks to timely homers and weathering Josh Hader in NLCS Game 7

The Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 5-1 on Saturday night, taking both Game 7 of the National League Championship Series and the pennant itself. The Dodgers will now advance to play the Boston Red Sox in the 2018 World Series (beginning Tuesday) while the Brewers head home for what’s certain to be a long winter. How did the Dodgers win Game 7? In part by doing what they needed to do in order to weather Josh Hader’s outing.

Coming into the game, it was obvious the Brewers would have Hader pitch at least two innings at some point. From an outsider’s perspective, the dream plan for the Brewers had Jhoulys Chacin completing four or five innings, handing the reins to Hader, and then letting him go as far as he could before Jeremy Jeffress and/or the rest of the Brewers bullpen took it home.

The Dodgers didn’t play nice, however.

Instead of the aforementioned scenario, the Dodgers jumped on Chacin early, taking a 2-1 lead on a two-run home run from Cody Bellinger in the second. Yasiel Puig followed up Bellinger with a double, and manager Craig Counsell started warming Hader with an eye on preventing an even bigger inning. Chacin got out of the inning, but Counsell pinch-hit for him with two on and two out in the bottom half of the frame. The pinch-hitter, Jonathan Schoop, ended the rally.

From there, Hader checked in and did his thing. He threw three innings, striking out four batters and permitting just two baserunners — one on a single, one on a walk. The only thing the Dodgers had going in their favor against Hader was that eventually his spot would come up in the order — at which point Counsell would likely pinch-hit for him in a one-run game. That is indeed what happened, with Hader ducking out and making way for Milwaukee’s other arms to start the sixth inning.

Xavier Cedeno was first out of the bullpen after Hader. He faced one batter, allowed a single through the shift, and exited. Closer Jeffress, who had struggled throughout the postseason, then came in and … things didn’t go so well. Jeffress allowed another single and then recorded two outs before yielding a three-run homer to Puig on a slider. 

Just like that, the deficit flipped from 2-1 to 5-1. Jeffress would recover and combine with Corey Knebel and Brandon Woodruff to keep the Dodgers off the board the rest of the way, but it wouldn’t matter. The Dodgers had done their damage for the night, and their pitching made it stand up.

If the Brewers’ plan was to maximize Hader’s outing, then the Dodgers’ plan was to maximize the non-Hader outings. That’s exactly what they did — and that’s why they’re heading to the World Series. 

Taylor doing it all for Dodgers in World Series return

Taylor doing it all for Dodgers in World Series return

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Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Chris Taylor (3) catch the fly ball hit by Milwaukee Brewers’ Christian Yelich during the fifth inning of Game 7 of the National League Championship Series baseball game Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Chris Taylor is sparking Los Angeles with his bat and his glove, just like old times.

Only this October, the do-it-all Dodger is looking to finish the job.

Taylor capped a terrific NL Championship Series when he made an outstanding catch to help Los Angeles beat the Milwaukee Brewers 5-1 in Game 7 on Saturday night. He also hit .364 (8 for 22), scored four times and played three positions as the Dodgers captured the pennant for the second straight year.

The catch came in the fifth, two innings after Taylor moved from second base to left field. He hustled back and made a sliding, reaching grab on the warning track to rob Christian Yelich of a tying extra-base hit.

”I knew it was in the gap,” he said. ”I was just trying to run hard, get to the spot, and I think it tailed enough to where I kind of had to change my route and go back toward the fence a little bit, but I’m just glad I caught it.”

The 28-year-old Taylor got up on his knees and pumped his right fist after the great grab . Yasiel Puig broke the game open with a three-run homer in the sixth, and Los Angeles was on its way to the World Series for the second straight year.

”Really a game-saving play,” manager Dave Roberts said. ”Once the game is tied anything can happen. The momentum shifts. But that was certainly a signature play at the time.”

Taylor has typified the versatile Dodgers under Roberts. He played four positions this year – left field, center field, second base and shortstop – trailing only Enrique Hernandez’s eight for most on the team. Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy also played the field in four different spots.

”We’re so used to it now,” Taylor said. ”I don’t remember the last time I played a game in one position the whole game. We change so much that it’s just become second nature now.”

Taylor also has become a reliable contributor at the plate, especially this time of year. Last postseason, he shared NLCS MVP honors with Justin Turner while taking down the Chicago Cubs in five games. The Dodgers then came up empty in the World Series, falling to the Houston Astros.

Los Angeles gets another shot this year, this time against the Boston Red Sox. Game 1 of the World Series is set for Tuesday night at Fenway Park.

Taylor will likely be on the field … somewhere. He was the starting center fielder in all seven World Series games last year, and also played second. Expect to see him all over the diamond this time around.

Not bad for a fifth-round pick out of the University of Virginia who found a home in Los Angeles after he was acquired in a trade with Seattle for right-hander Zach Lee in June 2016. While Lee hasn’t pitched in a major league game since 2017, Taylor has become a key performer for the Dodgers.

He had a career year last season, hitting .288 with 21 homers, 72 RBIs and 17 steals in 140 games. He led the NL with 178 strikeouts this year, but still finished with 17 homers and 63 RBIs in a career-high 155 games.

When the Dodgers returned to the playoffs, Taylor got right back to work.

He homered and drove in two runs in the Division Series against Atlanta. He had five hits, scored twice and drove in a run in the first two games against Milwaukee.

The NLCS was tied before Los Angeles’ 5-2 win in Game 5 on Wednesday. Taylor singled, advanced to second on a throwing error and swiped third before coming home on Austin Barnes’ single in the fifth inning, tying it at 1.

”It’s been an awesome year, but we’re not done yet,” Taylor said.

Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/tag/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Dodgers make history with World Series berth after horrific start

Dodgers make history with World Series berth after horrific start

The Los Angeles Dodgers are back in the World Series, which is what many prognosticators thought way back in February and March. But the Dodgers’ ride to the Fall Classic was anything but smooth, and they joined select company in their in-season comeback.

The Dodgers are just the sixth team ever to reach the World Series in a season in which they were 10 or more games under .500 at any point, and the first to do so since the 2005 Houston Astros.

May 16 saw the Dodgers reach their low point of the season, just 16-26 (.381), and were 8½ games back in the National League West.

There are a multitude of factors that contributed to the Dodgers’ rise since then, a 76-45 (.628) run that paced the National League for the remainder of the season. But the most obvious boon to their success was the return of Justin Turner, who missed the first 40 games of the season with a fracture in his left wrist.

The club also saw literally the entire starting rotation hit the disabled list at some point during May, and lost All-Star shortstop Corey Seager at the end of April after Tommy John surgery.

But manager Dave Roberts remained confident that his team would rebound, predicting at the end of the season’s first month — April 29, Roberts recalled with perfect clarity months later — that the Dodgers would win the division despite trailing by seven games at the time. It was a belief he repeated throughout the summer.

“It’s the consistency in how you approach each day, and as a by-product we started winning baseball games. I think that for me it’s such a long season,” Roberts said earlier in the NLCS. “I think the biggest compliment for all of us is that we stayed the course.”

The Dodgers remained under .500 until as late as June 6. The latest any of these teams that were 10 or more games under still had a losing record was in 1973, when the New York Mets were still under .500 on Sept. 20, with just eight games left to play. The Mets finished 82-79 and got all the way to the seventh game of the World Series before succumbing to the swinging Oakland A’s.

The most stunning comeback of all the teams at least 10 games under .500 was the 1914 Boston Braves, dubbed the “Miracle Braves” because of their late surge. At their worst they were 12-28 (.300), and were still 10 games under .500 as late as July 15, halfway through the season. They were a stunning 61-16 after that, and rode that hot streak into the World Series, where they swept the Philadelphia A’s for the Braves’ first championship, and their only one in Boston.

The farthest those Braves trailed in the standing in 1914 was 15 games back. This year’s Dodgers trailed by as many as nine games, the last time on May 8.

Of the five previous teams to reach the World Series after falling 10 games under .500, two have won it — the Miracle Braves, and the 2003 Florida Marlins.

The Dodgers get their crack at the World Series beginning on Tuesday, with the first two games of the Fall Classic at Fenway Park against the Red Sox.

From under .500 to the World Series

Team Most games under .500 Last date under .500 Final record WS result
Team Most games under .500 Last date under .500 Final record WS result
1914 Braves 16 July 31 94-59 (.613) won 4-0 over A’s
2005 Astros 15 July 18 89-73 (.549) lost 4-0 to White Sox
1951 Giants 10 May 25 98-59 (.624) lost 4-2 to Yankees
1973 Mets 10 September 20 82-79 (.509) lost 4-3 to A’s
2003 Marlins 10 June 29 91-71 (.562) won 4-2 over Yankees
2018 Dodgers 10 June 6 92-71 (.564) TBD vs. Red Sox