Five thoughts from the week in baseball:
It was around this time last year that the Dodgers went on a hot streak that put them on pace to break the all-time record of 116 wins in a season.
They were 35-25 on June 7 before going 46-11 over their next 57 games, virtually wrapping up the National League West by August. The Dodgers beat the Cubs 4-1 in the NL Championship Series with Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish and Rich Hill limiting the Cubs to five earned runs in a combined 22 1/3 innings over their four starts.
The Cubs simply lost to a better team, most of the experts said.
But then the Dodgers lost a wild seven-game World Series to the Astros in which Darvish was pounded early in Game 7 at Dodger Stadium.
Darvish and Brandon Morrow signed with the Cubs, and the Dodgers started 2018 looking nothing like the team that cruised to the World Series.
Gasping for air on May 8, the Dodgers were nine games under .500 with a boatload of injures, including shortstop Corey Seager, who was lost for the season. The outlook looked bleaker than Roseanne Barr’s career.
As the Dodgers arrive at Wrigley Field on Monday for their rematch against the Cubs, Kershaw and Hill are on the disabled list (and Darvish, of course is on the Cubs’ DL).
But somehow they’re still the favorites in the NL West, having won 21 of their last 28 games to move 1½ games behind the first-place Diamondbacks. They’re 11-3 in June with a major-league-high 34 home runs in the month, and their two big starters are on their way back.
Hill is set to return to the rotation this week after two stints on the DL with a blister on his middle left finger. He has been out since May 20 and had laser treatment on the blister to speed up the healing process. Kershaw, who made one start after coming off the DL before going back on with a lower back strain, is expected to throw a simulated game this week and perhaps return to the rotation by the end of June.
So we’re probably right back where we started, and the Cubs could face the Dodgers in the postseason for the third straight year.
Slow but steady
Wade LeBlanc is a junkballer’s junkballer. The Mariners’ 33-year-old left-hander has been on seven teams since 2011, bouncing around like a pinball.
LeBlanc was pressed into the Mariners rotation on May 3 because of injuries and is 3-0 with a 2.06 ERA in his nine starts. He came into Saturday’s game against the Red Sox with an average fastball velocity of 86.5 mph, lowest of any major-league starter, yet shut them out on two hits over 7 2/3 innings, mostly with his off-speed stuff, including a nasty changeup.
“It’s more of a power game right now, for good reason,” LeBlanc told the Seattle Times. “There’s a lot of guys that can throw hard and execute pitches. But I think the game would get boring if you could throw that hard and execute pitches. I like to keep things challenging, I guess.”
The Mariners are 27-12 since May 8, hanging in the AL West with the Astros, who have won 11 in a row. Shockingly, the Mariners began to sizzle after Robinson Cano went on the suspended list for his PED violation.
Two of the big reasons why are outfielder Mitch Hanger and shortstop Jean Segura, both of whom came over from the Diamondbacks after the 2016 season for Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte.
Haniger already had a career high 53 RBIs on Sunday, while Segura was at .343 with a league-leading 98 hits.
The M’s have 21 comeback wins, including 14 in which they’ve taken the lead in the seventh inning or later. Scott Servais, the underrated manager, is a likely front-runner for AL Manager of the Year.
In an interview with the New York Times, Goose Gossage dismissed the growing number of Ivy League-educated executives who have taken over baseball’s front offices from old-school general managers.
“Here are people trying to control this game that really, really don’t have a clue about the game, period,” Gossage said. “Whatever that computer spits out, that’s it. There are volumes and volumes of knowledge that go into playing baseball — that computer has no idea — and it’s called the human element and it’s everywhere. They think they’ve got it figured out because they won their rotisserie leagues at Harvard.”
Gossage was not invited to Sunday’s Old-Timers’ Day at Yankee Stadium because of his penchant for speaking his mind. Sad but true.
Padres manager Andy Green was ejected Friday after arguing with veteran umpire Joe West. Green was heard on TV taunting West over his shoulder as he left the dugout: “Don’t worry, Joe, I’m leaving, so you can go call another call wrong.”
Surely this won’t came back to haunt Green, will it?
The Brewers-Phillies game was delayed Sunday when Milwaukee reliever Adrian Houser entered the game and immediately vomited behind the mound. While delicately describing the scene to his listeners, Brewers radio broadcaster Bob Uecker said they would not be making the moment into a bobblehead day.
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