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Dodgers Dugout: Houston, we have a problem

Dodgers Dugout: Houston, we have a problem
Ed Harris as Gene Kranz in "Apollo 13" (Universal Pictures / Imagine Entertainment)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell. What will season ticket holders who sell their playoff tickets in order to pay for their season tickets do this year?

Not a good week

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You know that scene in “Apollo 13” where there has been an explosion on the spaceship, everything looks bad, everyone is panicking and Ed Harris, as mission control director Gene Kranz, says, “Let’s look at this thing from a ... um, from a standpoint of status. What do we got on the spacecraft that’s good?” and Clint Howard, as mission control worker Sy Liebergot, says, “I’ll get back to you, Gene.” And there doesn’t seem to be anyone manning the controls who is aware enough to say, “Houston, we have a problem.”

That’s where we are at now with the Dodgers.

This team is spiraling out of control, and it seems there is no way to right the ship. The offense can’t get a hit with runners on base. The relief pitching can’t protect a lead or a tie. The only thing you really can’t blame is the starting pitching, which has been good. You can read Andy McCullough’s article on the state of the team by clicking here.

Let’s look at some numbers.

How the Dodgers have done in August compared to other NL teams in playoff contention:

Record

St. Louis, 17-4

Atlanta, 15-8

Arizona, 11-7

Chicago, 12-8

Colorado, 12-9

Philadelphia, 10-10

Milwaukee, 8-11

Dodgers, 8-12

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Runs scored

St. Louis, 106

Atlanta, 105

Dodgers, 94

Milwaukee, 88

Colorado, 85

Arizona, 84

Philadelphia, 79

Chicago, 73

Bullpen ERA

St. Louis, 1.97

Chicago, 3.09

Arizona, 3.65

Atlanta, 4.00

Colorado, 4.58

Philadelphia, 5.27

Dodgers, 5.46

Milwaukee, 6.68

Dodger pitching in August

Starters: 5-3, 2.68 ERA

Relievers: 3-9, 5.46 ERA

Dodger reliever ERAs in August:

Dylan Floro, 0.90

JT Chargois, 2.70

Kenta Maeda, 3.00

Pedro Baez, 4.15

Daniel Hudson, 4.15

Caleb Ferguson, 6.00

Scott Alexander, 6.75

Kenley Jansen, 7.20

Zac Rosscup, 7.94

Erik Goeddel, 11.57

John Axford, 16.20

Where the Dodgers rank in the 15-team NL this season in different clutch hitting stats:

Runners in scoring position: 12th (.243)

RISP, two out: 15th (.201)

With men on base: 13th (.244)

Two out, man on second: 9th (.232)

Two out, man on third: 13th (.172)

Two out, first and second: 14th (.185)

Two out, first and third: 4th (.289)

Two out, second and third: 9th (.209)

Two out, bases loaded: 15th (.096)

How individual Dodgers have done with two out and runners in scoring position this season:

Corey Seager, .500

Brian Dozier, .333

Justin Turner, .333

Chase Utley, .286

Matt Kemp, .265

Yasmani Grandal, .225

Manny Machado, .214

Cody Bellinger, .200

Chris Taylor, .200

Kiké Hernandez, .194

Yasiel Puig, .179

Joc Pederson, .146

Austin Barnes, .143

Max Muncy, .133

There’s not a lot of good news there.

Here’s the thing. I am tired of watching Dodger hitters come up with two out and runners on base and swing for the fences. I am tired of Dodger hitters getting two strikes on them and still swing for the fences. I am tired of Dodger hitters coming up with a man on second and no one out and hitting a fly ball to left field. I am tired of Dodger hitters coming up with the shift on and not adjusting. I am tired of them not seeming to be aware of the situation they are in and still swinging for the fences anyway.

Home runs are great. And when that approach works, you win games 16-1 and look unstoppable. But when it doesn’t work, you end up breaking up a no-hitter with a solo home run and go on to strike out with the bases loaded and one out or the bases loaded with two out, when putting the ball in play would have scored a run. Or you hit that fly ball to left with a runner on second and no one out, failing to advance him, so that when the hitter grounds to short, there’s no runner at third to score. Then you wonder what happened when you lose the game by a run. But that Dodger hitter probably thinks, “If I had hit a home run, we would have won!” instead of, “If I had advanced that runner, he would have scored in that inning and we might not have lost!”

Now you have a bunch of guys pressing, trying to hit five-run homers with no one on base and swinging and missing, badly, when runners are on base. Even Manny Machado looked bad when he batted with the bases loaded Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the bullpen couldn’t save a lead if you spotted them three runs with two out, two strikes and Bucky LaGrange at the plate.

I also think the usage of Kenley Jansen is a little odd. The Dodgers bring him in during a tie game the day he is activated from the disabled list. Wow, talk about throwing him right back into the fire. And the next time they bring him in is about 11 hours after his third child is born.

Obviously, Jansen would never use either of those things as an excuse, but I believe a good manager puts his players in position to succeed, and Dave Roberts did not do that in either of those situations.

So here’s the big question. Will the Dodgers make the playoffs? Right now, I would say no. That doesn’t mean I’m throwing in the towel on the season. But they have three games against last-place San Diego next, followed by two against last-place Texas. They have the easiest schedule of any of the teams remaining in NL playoff contention. So anything is possible: 4.5 games out with 34 to play is not insurmountable. But if they don’t wake up soon, the season will be over.

Next season

The 2019 schedule for all 30 MLB teams was announced Wednesday, and the highlight for the Dodgers is the Yankees coming to town Aug. 23-25. The Dodgers will open at home against the Arizona Diamondbacks and close against the Giants in San Francisco. They also play the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park July 12-14. The Dodgers and Angels play June 10-11 at Anaheim and July 23-24 in Los Angeles. You can find the full Dodger schedule by clicking here.

Ask Ross Porter

Hi, fans! It’s good to be back with you to answer your questions during this baseball season. Please send your questions to Houston, and he will pass them on to me. List the city in which you live.

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Scott Walden of Columbus, Ohio, asks: Hi, Ross! You’re the new Dodger general manager. Who are your five “untouchables,” unless blown away by a trade offer, and what position is the biggest need?

Ross: Because you must be a charitable guy, Scott, I am confident you will let me have six. They would be Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, Walker Buehler, Corey Seager, Alex Verdugo, and if I don’t have to pay him too much, Manny Machado. To improve the Dodgers, my objective would be to acquire not one, not two, but three reliable relief pitchers.

Andrew Hernandez of East Los Angeles asks: Hello, Ross. As a Mike Piazza fan, what is he doing now and where does he stand on the all-time catchers list?

Ross: Mike purchased a lower-level soccer team in Italy last year and is living there. Tommy Lasorda tells me Piazza loves Italy and will probably remain in that country. Mike is No. 1 in career home runs (427), slugging percentage (.545) and OPS (.922) among catchers, and is fourth in batting average (.308), RBIs (1,335), extra-base hits and total bases.

Donald Neitz from Pennsylvania asks: Mr. Porter, was Duke Snider a natural right-handed batter who started hitting left-handed, and if so, who switched him?

Ross: He sure was, Donald, and you can call me Ross. Duke was instructed by his father to bat left-handed because most pitchers are right-handers. He knew many ballparks at the time had short right-field fences, and also, a left-handed batter was two steps closer to first base. In his 20-year Hall of Fame career, 18 with the Dodgers, Snider clouted 407 home runs. One of his Compton High classmates was future NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. Duke was the last living Brooklyn Dodger who was on the field for the final out of the 1955 World Series, Brooklyn’s only world championship. He died in 2011 at the age of 84.

Amanda Somdal of Prattville, Ala., asks: You mentioned over 19,000 players have been in the major leagues. Ross, this is a challenging and tough question, but you may be able to come up with the facts. What are the overall statistics for the 143-year history of the big leagues in these 11 categories?

Ross: Games: 216,400 +

Innings: 3.86 million

At Bats: 14.8 million

Hits: 3.9 million

Runs: 1.95 million

Homers: 299,000 +

Stolen Bases: 305,000

Strikeouts: 2.1 million +

Walks: 1.3 million +

Errors: 516,000

Managers: 683

More KTLA games

For those of you who live in the Los Angeles area and are unable to see Dodgers games on TV, there will be two more games televised on KTLA (Channel 5). Those games are:

Friday, Aug. 31, vs. Arizona, 7 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 4, vs. New York Mets, 7 p.m.

Meanwhile, there is no agreement between DirecTV and Spectrum SportsNet coming in the near future.

Up next

Friday, 7 p.m.: San Diego (Clayton Richard, 7-10, 5.11 ERA) at Dodgers (Rich Hill, 5-4, 3.73 ERA)

Saturday, 6 p.m.: San Diego (Brett Kennedy, 0-3, 8.36 ERA) at Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw, 6-5, 2.40 ERA)

Sunday, 1 p.m.: San Diego (Robbie Erlin, 3-3, 3.46 ERA) at Dodgers (Alex Wood, 7-6, 3.60 ERA)

And finally

Bill Plaschke says the Dodgers must break their cycle of blowing late leads. Read all about it here.

Have a comment or something you'd like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me and follow me on Twitter: @latimeshouston.

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