The Sports Report: That didn't go well at all

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The Sports Report: That didn't go well at all

October 10, 2019 | News | No Comments

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Well, at least the Dodgers won’t lose in the World Series this year.

DODGERS

Before we get to the ugly recap. I have to say that if anyone had to beat the Dodgers, I am glad it was former ANGEL Howie Kendrick. Not that it makes me happy, of course, but after the tough series he had, you have to take you cap off to him.

Now, the ugliness. This is from Jorge Castillo’s game story:

The fans remaining at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night, the loyal ones who had stuck around to witness the stunning end of the Dodgers’ season, booed Dave Roberts when he finally emerged from the dugout in the 10th inning. They echoed their feelings on his walk back after the manager finally took the ball from Joe Kelly and gave it to Kenley Jansen.

It was all too late to salvage the Dodgers from elimination. The irreparable damage was done. Howie Kendrick had already smashed a fastball from the erratic Kelly over the center-field wall 410 feet away for a spine-cracking grand slam while Jansen, the reliever the Dodgers entrusted in those moments for the entire decade, watched from the Dodgers dugout, warm and ready to go.

It was the second bullpen collapse in the Dodgers’ 7-3, season-ending loss to the Washington Nationals in a decisive Game 5 of the National League Division Series. The first happened two innings earlier when Clayton Kershaw, summoned to pitch in relief, allowed two solo home runs on three pitches to squander the Dodgers’ lead.

The Dodgers’ game plan in this series was to wait out the Nationals’ vaunted starting pitchers and exploit their dismal bullpen. On Wednesday, the Nationals, the heavy underdogs in the series, used the blueprint to topple the Dodgers.

The bullpen performance spoiled a sparkling six-inning effort from Walker Buehler and sent the Dodgers to their earliest exit since 2015 while the Nationals advanced to the National League Championship Series for the first time.

Kershaw, the Dodgers’ Game 2 starter, entered in relief, and didn’t waste time. He struck out Eaton with three pitches, finishing him off 89-mph slider he swung through. Kershaw released a roar. His next three pitches offered different results.

The first was a curveball to Anthony Rendon below the zone to start the eighth inning. The next was another pitch below the zone, a slider, that Rendon golfed into the left field pavilion. The next was a slider up in the zone to Juan Soto. The 20-year-old wunderkind smashed it into the other pavilion. Kershaw crouched when the loud contact was made. He didn’t bother to look. Moments later, he handed the ball to Roberts and walked off the field to boos. He took a seat on the bench by himself.

—–

From Times columnist Bill Plaschke: This is not real. This cannot be happening.

The Dodgers did not just collapse all over October again. The Dodgers did not just blow another season with their Hall of Fame pitcher crumbling again. The Dodgers did not just extend a 31-year championship drought with boneheaded bullpen decisions by their manager again.

Yes, they did. Good Lord, they did.

The nightmare that never ends continued in its most fitful, frightful fashion yet Wednesday at the October house of horrors known as Dodger Stadium surrounded by the postseason demons that have inhabited Clayton Kershaw and Dave Roberts.

In the fifth and deciding game of the National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals, the Dodgers held a 3-1 lead in the eighth inning with the ball inexplicably in Kershaw’s hands. Three pitches and two blasted home runs later, the game was tied.

Two innings after that, with the ball equally inexplicably in the hands of reliever Joe Kelly, a 10th-inning grand slam by the Nationals’ Howie Kendrick finished it.

Before a booing crowd that’d been earlier stunned into silence, the Dodgers’ season ended in a 7-3 defeat that marked the worst collapse in their current seven-year postseason run.

No, seriously, this was bad, this was really, really, really bad. “Disappointing is an understatement,” Roberts said.

They win a club record 106 games over six months, and their championship hopes end in less than a week. They have arguably their best team in 31 years and overwhelm the mediocre National League for the entire season, yet when they finally play a game that matters, they blow it.

They tease their fans with seemingly their best chance at breaking their World Series championship dry spell, yet those fans end the game staring in shock at a pile of Nationals dancing and hugging on the field.

Just like the Boston Red Sox celebrated there last year. Just like the Houston Astros celebrated there two seasons ago.

This was worse than all of that, worse than those losses to the St. Louis Cardinals, worse than the collapse against the New York Mets, worse than anything.

This was the worst because the Dodgers had the lead, and momentum from a brilliant 62/3 innings from Walker Buehler, and power from two home runs in the game’s first two innings.

This was the worst because when the eighth inning began, Chavez Ravine was rocking and the Nationals were reeling and the Dodger bullpen was filled with rested and reliable relievers and the doggone game should have been over.

But Kershaw was on the mound. What was Kershaw doing on the mound?

—–

From Times columnist Dylan Hernandez: October was here and the Dodgers choked.

Again.

Ahead by two runs and only six outs from victory in the fifth and final game of a National League Division Series, the Dodgers found a way to lose Wednesday night.

The resulting despair was intensely familiar to this city, which is more than three decades removed from its last World Series championship. In these parts, baseball’s postseason has become synonymous with failure.

One particular detail of the defeat was especially recognizable. Costing the Dodgers their two-run advantage was their most accomplished, most respected and hardest-working player.

The player was Clayton Kershaw.

Again.

“Everything people say is true right now about postseason,” Kershaw said. “I understand that.”

The lead vanished over successive pitches delivered by Kershaw in the eighth inning that will live in infamy, a slider to Anthony Rendon that was whacked over the outfield fence and a slider to Juan Soto that met the same fate.

The 3-1 edge that Kershaw inherited from starter Walker Buehler was erased, setting up a go-ahead grand slam by Howie Kendrick in the 10th inning.

The Dodgers lost the game 7-3, and the series three games to two.

Kershaw was despondent.

“I let down the guys in the clubhouse,” he said. “That’s the hardest part every year. When you don’t win the last game of the season and you’re to blame for it, it’s not fun.”

His latest attempt to rewrite his postseason legacy resulted in only more autumnal heartbreak.

—–

OK, enough about that. Time for a…..

DODGERS POLL

Should Dave Roberts be fired as Dodgers manager? Click here to vote.

NL PLAYOFFS

At least the Dodgers made a game of it. For fans in Atlanta, it was over early as the St. Louis Cardinals scored 10 runs in the first inning on their way to a 13-1 win over the Braves.

The Cardinals, owners of the weakest offense among the field of playoff teams, never put a ball over the fence on Wednesday. They blew away the Braves’ cadre of pitchers with a series of tiny cuts. A game-opening walk drawn by Dexter Fowler, who had entered with one hit during this series, and a well-placed sacrifice bunt by Kolten Wong started the surge.

Paul Goldschmidt stroked a single into left field. Marcell Ozuna, who finished the best-of-five set with three doubles and two homers and tied with Goldschmidt for the series lead in hits (nine), sliced one the other way for a run. Then Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman muffed a would-be double-play ball off the bat of Yadier Molina. Everyone was safe.

The Cardinals poured on. They didn’t stop when Braves manager Brian Snitker lifted starter Mike Foltynewicz after they had sent eight to bat and taken a 4-0 lead. Starting pitcher Jack Flaherty drew a bases-loaded walk. Consecutive two-run doubles by Fowler and Wong and a third-strike wild pitch that got by catcher Brian McCann with two out gave the Cardinals a commanding 10-0 lead. No team had scored that many runs in the first inning of a playoff game.

NLCS schedule

All times Pacific. All games on TBS

Game 1: Friday, Washington at St. Louis, 5 p.m.

Game 2: Saturday, Washington at St. Louis, 1 p.m.

Game 3: Monday, St. Louis at Washington, TBD

Game 4: Tuesday, St. Louis at Washington, TBD

Game 5*: Wednesday, St. Louis at Washington, TBD

Game 6*: Oct. 18, Washington at St. Louis, TBD

Game 7*: Oct. 19, Washington at St. Louis, TBD

Houston-Tampa Bay ALDS schedule

Game 1: at Houston 6, Tampa Bay 2

Game 2: at Houston 3, Tampa Bay 1

Game 3: at Tampa Bay 10, Houston 3

Game 4: at Tampa Bay 4, Houston 1

Game 5: Today at Houston, 5:30 p.m., FS1

USC FOOTBALL

Interim athletic director Dave Roberts (no relation to the Dodgers manager) made clear in an interview with The Times that he won’t be the one to make a decision on the future of embattled football coach Clay Helton. Or anyone else, for that matter.

To make such a major move, Roberts said, would be “unfair” to whomever is hired for the AD job permanently.

“If a change was to be made, it would probably be the province of a new athletic director, not Dave Roberts,” the interim athletic director said of Helton. “But like I said, Clay is going to stand or fall on his record. So I mean, if he has a very successful season, I think he’ll be in good stead. If he doesn’t have a great season, the new AD is going to have to make that determination.

“I think it’s a fair statement to say that between now and the end of the season, unless something extraordinary happened, Dave Roberts isn’t going to be stepping in there, making the decision that really I think would be the province of a new AD.”’

ANGELS

Joe Maddon is not the only experienced candidate being considered for the Angels’ managerial opening.

The Angels also have former Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter and World Series champion John Farrell on their list of four candidates, according to people close to the situation who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter and requested anonymity.

Maddon interviewed in Anaheim on Monday, a meeting that was said to have gone well. Despite the obvious fit of Maddon, who spent the first three decades of his professional career with the Angels, general manager Billy Eppler has been adamant about considering other options to fill the opening caused by the firing of first-year manager Brad Ausmus.

KINGS

The Kings didn’t go empty-handed in their first road trip under new coach Todd McLellan, but they did end their three-game swing through Western Canada on the flattest of notes. In an 8-2 loss to the Canucks in Vancouver, they quickly fell behind in the first, faded after a brief second-period surge and were buried by four-straight Canucks goals in the third.

What parts of Wednesday’s loss did McLellan dislike?

“All 60 minutes,” he said. “I think it’s pretty obvious.”

As the Kings’ last line of defense, Jonathan Quick couldn’t bail them out either. In two games this season, the 33-year-old goalie has stopped just 42 of 56 shots. Though he was left on an island at times Wednesday, with many of the Canucks’ 25 shots coming from dangerous areas, his eight goals allowed still represented a career high.

RAMS

Speculation surrounding Todd Gurley’s left knee issue dominated the offseason, continued through training camp and remained a topic of discussion through the Rams’ first five games.

Now, add Gurley’s left thigh to the mix.

The Rams’ star running back did not practice Wednesday because of a thigh bruise apparently suffered during the Rams’ 30-29 loss to the Seattle Seahawks last Thursday. Players had a few days off before returning to work Monday and then had Tuesday off.

“It kind of caught us all off guard,” Rams coach Sean McVay said of Gurley’s injury.

Gurley is not the only starter with a lingering injury from the loss to the Seahawks. Cornerback Aqib Talib did not practice Wednesday because of a rib injury.

“You think it’s your typical bumps and bruises, and then it ends up being a little bit more than that,” McVay said of both conditions.

Could Gurley and Talib be held out against the 49ers?

“It’s hard to say. Just being Wednesday, we’ve still got some time,” McVay said. “The big thing was that they missed practice … and we’ll take it a day at a time.”

CLIPPERS

Kawhi Leonard’s Clippers debut is still on hold, the team announced Wednesday evening. After participating in practice, including taking his turn to guard explosive scorer Lou Williams, the team listed him as unavailable for a preseason game against the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night so he could rest.

Coach Doc Rivers said after practice he was not sure if Leonard would play against the Nuggets. “But I think he will play in one or two preseason games,” he added. “But I don’t know when.”

Leonard didn’t play in the Clippers’ two exhibition games in Hawaii against the Houston Rockets or Shanghai Sharks.

The Clippers have two more exhibition games after Thursday. They play Melbourne at Staples Center on Sunday afternoon and the Dallas Mavericks on Oct. 17 in Vancouver. The Clippers open the regular season hosting the Lakers on Oct. 22.

YOUR FAVORITE SPORTS MOMENT

What is your favorite all-time L.A. sports moment? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com and tell me what it is and why and it could appear in a future daily sports newsletter or Morning Briefing.

Normally I save this spot for readers and not for co-workers, but this one was so special I waived the rule for today. This moment comes from Times employee Darrell Kunitomi:

Our family had a tremendous L.A. sports moment when our pops, Jack Kunitomi, was selected to be the Dodgers “Military Hero of the Game” on Sept., 2016.

“Our dad was an original Little Tokyo homeboy when L.A. was still a small town. He swam in the L.A. River, and he loved the game of baseball. His Dodger hero was Jackie Robinson, and dad was very happy to see Robinson’s jersey at the stadium, below the stands where only VIPs tread. Dad lived a long and interesting life – in 1941 things changed radically for dad and our community when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Japanese Americans had nothing to do with that, but our pops and mom (newlyweds) headed to a honeymoon of sorts at the Manzanar incarceration camp behind barbed wire. Dad later transferred to Heart Mountain, Wy., where he was drafted into Uncle Sam’s U.S. Army. He went willingly, he was loyal and patriotic, and he trained in the Military Intelligence Service. Dad left our mom and son Dale in camp, and served in the Philippines and Occupation of Japan. After the war he became a LAUSD teacher, and he had four more kids. I detail this because he was just another good American fellow, the sort of average guy who made up the Greatest Generation. It was such an honor the Dodgers bestowed on him. We were all moved when he was introduced during the game. The crowd rose to stand and cheer and applaud our dad, the average Japanese American Joe Citizen. What a proud moment for the family. We wished our mom had lived to see it.

But it was a moment before the game that will be most memorable. There was a crowd of photographers and others around dad near home plate. I was to the side and suddenly I sensed something odd about the people and the noise. On instinct I raised my camera. And Dodger manager Dave Roberts jogged in to shake dad’s hand, something they told us he doesn’t usually do. I got the shot as dad smiled the biggest smile he had smiled in years. The 100-year-old Los Angeles homeboy, all the way to the majors.

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Ducks at Pittsburgh, 4 p.m., PRIME

BORN ON THIS DATE

1953: NBA player Gus Williams

1963: Former King Mike Donnelly

1969: NFL player Brett Favre

1972: Former King Alexei Zhitnik

1974: NHL player Chris Pronger

1974: Race car driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.

1984: Baseball player Troy Tulowitzki

1991: BMX rider Mariana Pajón

DIED ON THIS DATE

1978: Sprinter Ralph Metcalfe, 68

2001: Boxing trainer Eddie Futch, 90

2004: Baseball player Ken Caminiti, 41

2012: NFL player/actor Alex Karras, 77

AND FINALLY

Lowlights of Dodgers-Nationals Game 5. Watch it here.

That concludes the newsletter for today. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, please email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. If you want to subscribe, click here.


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