Dodgers struggle against lefties, Astros still streaking – SweetSpot


Some observations in watching the Washington Nationals beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2 on a postcard night at Dodger Stadium:

1. Dusty Baker continues to hit Trea Turner leadoff despite a sub-.300 OBP.

Without Adam Eaton, the Nationals don’t have another obvious candidate, but it’s also clear Baker isn’t deploying his most optimal lineup as he bats Daniel Murphy fifth and Anthony Rendon sixth — with two lesser hitters batting in the top two spots (Ryan Raburn hit second on Monday). Baker’s mindset seems to be: OK, Bryce Harper hits third and I want Ryan Zimmerman to protect him. Then I want Murphy to protect Zim. And Rendon to protect Murph. That gives Baker a L-R-L-R order — overrated in my opinion, especially when you’re talking about four good hitters — but in the process he may be giving an extra at-bat to worse hitters. Why not move up Rendon or Murphy — or both — in front of Harper and Zimmerman. Imagine the RBI opportunities.

Anyway, after playing so well last year, Turner has been a bit of a disappointment. While he hit .342 in his half season in 2016, his low walk rate and aggressive approach made it also clear that pitchers could learn to take advantage of that approach. The good sign is Turner’s chase rate has actually declined from last year, from 32 percent to 24 percent. His well-hit rate is actually higher than last year as well, so some of this is the hits just aren’t falling as much. Look, he’s going to swing the bat; walking isn’t his game. The key is for him to not attack the pitcher’s pitch. In his first two at-bats, he grounded out on a 1-0 changeup at the bottom of the zone and a 1-1 slider in on his hands. Those are good counts to look for a pitch in his zone, not to swing at borderline strikes. He did reach on an infield single in his third at-bat — that speed — and made a nice play deep in the hole at shortstop, but I’d like to see some adjustments at the plate.

2. The Dodgers rolled out an odd lineup, stacking it with right-handed batters against Gio Gonzalez.

That’s understandable, but it meant Kiki Hernandez making his first start at first base and Brett Eibner playing center field, with Adrian Gonzalez and Cody Bellinger on the bench. The Dodgers haven’t struggled against lefties like last year — they entered the game with an OPS just a few points less than their OPS against righties — but this lineup isn’t going to scare many lefties in October, which is why Tim Kurkjian was talking during the game about the Dodgers possibly looking to trade for another right-handed power bat at the deadline.

3. Bryce Harper snapped an 0-for-15 skid with a fifth-inning single to left-center.

Since sitting on a .405 average on April 29, Harper has hit just .250 since. Cause for alarm? Of course not. These are all natural fluctuations, and even during this “slump,” he’s slugging over .500.

4. Anthony Rendon is such a good ballplayer.

After a slow a start, he had that monster three-homer, 10-RBI game on April and has been on fire ever since. He homered and doubled, makes all the plays in the field, and is making a run for All-Star status. Third base in the National League, however, is loaded with Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado and Jake Lamb. May be hard to squeeze Rendon on the team.

5. And the save goes to … Oliver Perez!

He becomes the sixth different reliever with a save for the Nationals. Matt Albers got the first two outs, before pinch-hitter Cody Bellinger doubled. Perez then came on to flip Yasmani Grandal over to his weaker right side. The weird thing is: Why not bring in Perez to face the lefty-hitting Bellinger? The Dodgers had already used backup catcher Austin Barnes (he started), so Grandal was going to hit no matter what. Anyway, Perez got away with an 0-2 pitch down the middle that Grandal fouled off, before finally striking him out on a breaking ball.

Who is the better team? It seems both teams have a big weakness: The Nationals’ bullpen, the Dodgers against lefties. How these issues are resolved will play a large part in answering the question.

Astros win streak hits 11. That’s the longest in the majors this season and also 11 in a row on the road. Yulieski Gurriel broke open a 4-3 lead over the Kansas City Royals with a three-run homer off Kelvin Herrera in the ninth. Good move by Ned Yost to bring in his closer to keep the game close — it just didn’t work.

Get this stat: Gurriel was hitting eighth; seventh-place hitter Brian McCann also homered. Houston’s 7-8-9 hitters are now batting .285 and slugging .502 — that’s better than the MLB average for the 3-4-5 spots (.265/.459). That’s certainly one way to go 42-16 through 58 games.

Oops, my bad. Do you ever get the idea Buster Posey has wondered what he did to the baseball gods to deserve this season? Here’s teammate Orlando Calixte unleashing a throw that was just a bit too high:

OK, the San Francisco Giants did beat the Milwaukee Brewers 7-2 behind Jeff Samardzija, who fanned 10 in 7⅔ innings. In his past seven starts, he has 59 strikeouts and one walk, and that’s absolutely as insane as it sounds. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, no pitcher has had 50-plus strikeouts and one walk over a seven-start span, at least since the mound was moved to its current distance in 1893. Samardzija’s ERA over that span is 2.98, which is good, but nothing historic. Maybe he’s throwing too many strikes.

Tweeter of the night. In Pedro Martinez we trust:

Now, Pedro also tweeted that David Ortiz “is in baseball shape because he works out, and the team could use a swing or two.” Ortiz, meanwhile, told the Baseball Globe that “I’m happy, I did the right thing.” Why do I have a feeling this isn’t the last time a possible Ortiz comeback will be discussed?

The real game of the night. The first game of the best-of-three Women’s College World Series was an all-time classic, a 17-inning thriller between Oklahoma and Florida. Both teams scored two runs in the 12th inning, before Oklahoma’s Shay Knighten finally belted this three-run homer off national player of the year Kellie Barnhill as the defending champs held on for a 7-5 victory:

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