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Dodgers

The Sports Report: It’s good news, bad news for the Dodgers

Los Angeles Dodgers v Philadelphia Phillies
Cody Bellinger hit two homers on Monday.
(Rich Schultz / Getty Images)

Howdy, my name is Houston Mitchell and it was so hot Monday that I saw two trees fighting over a dog.

Dodgers

After the Dodgers lost the last three games heading into the All-Star break and the first game, after, I got many emails from readers saying the end is near for them. Instead, the Dodgers now have a three-game winning streak capped by a 16-2 rout of the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday.

Cody Bellinger hit two home runs to give him 33, most in the majors. Max Muncy homered. Alex Verdugo homered. Phillies pitcher Yacksiel Rios was ejected for hitting Justin Turner with a pitch, though the plate umpire who ejected him appeared to be the only person who believed Rios did it on purpose. The best Phillies pitcher on the night was Roman Quinn, who is usually a center fielder.

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Every Dodger position player who started the game had at least one hit, one run scored and one RBI. It was a thorough thrashing. Now watch them lose today, 1-0.

But before the game, the Dodgers learned they would lose Chris Taylor for a while because of a broken left forearm suffered when he was hit by a pitch in Sunday’s win over Boston. Taylor has been one of the Dodgers’ best hitters of late, hitting .289/.369/.504 since June 1 and .345/.426/.58 in his last 25 games. The Dodgers recalled Matt Beaty from the minors to replace him.

“Pretty upsetting,” Taylor said. “I wasn’t surprised but I was hopeful that it wasn’t fractured.”

“I’m disappointed, we’re disappointed for C.T.,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “And he allows for a lot of different things that we do. But hopefully we’ll get him back sooner than later.”

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Let’s take a look at those NL West standings:

Dodgers, 63-33, ---

Arizona, 47-47, 15 GB

Colorado, 46-48, 16 GB

San Diego, 45-48, 16.5 GB

San Francisco, 45-49, 17 GB

So, the Dodgers will win the NL West, again, and go to the playoffs, again, this season. The question is, will they win the World Series this time? Which dovetails nicely with this week’s Times poll:

The Dodgers have the best record in baseball, but some fans are concerned that their bullpen will cost them a possible World Series title. So this week’s question is, do you think the Dodgers will win the World Series this year? Vote in our poll by clicking here, or email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. Results will be revealed next week.

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Our Andy McCullough asks, What do the Dodgers have left to play for this regular season?

“I’d rather be 14 up than 14 down,” Roberts said before the game. “We still have a lot of work to do. And if you look at that series, there are things we need to get better at, things that we need to clean up.”

“A few loose ends from Boston still perturbed Roberts. He cited “defensive lapses, times that we don’t finish at-bats the way we should” and issues with how the bullpen operated. Roberts worried about both the execution and the decision-making of his relievers, “how we attack hitters and [get] synced up,” he said.

“We’ve got to get better,” Roberts said. “And I really don’t care about the win-loss. I care about how we’re playing….”

“As the second half unfolds, the Dodgers face only internal challenges before the postseason begins. The front office has two weeks to repair the bullpen through trades; the on-field personnel has a couple months to place the pitchers in their proper roles. The bullpen remains the obvious blemish on an otherwise enviable roster.

Boxing

Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker, one of the best boxers in history, died Sunday after he was hit by a car. We have an obit of him here. An excerpt appears below:

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“Pernell Whitaker, heralded as one of the greatest boxers to ever lace up a pair of gloves, died Sunday night after he was hit by a pickup truck while walking across a wide thoroughfare in Virginia.

“Whitaker, 55, died from his injuries on the scene. Virginia Beach Police said they were investigating the circumstances of his death. The driver of the vehicle remained at the scene after the crash.

“Nicknamed “Sweet Pea,” Whitaker was a Hall of Fame fighter, a 1984 Olympic Gold medalist and a perennial pound-for-pound king during his 17-year career. The Norfolk-born southpaw was a four-division champion who finished with 40 wins —17 via knockout — 4 losses and 1 draw.

“His lone draw against Julio Cesar Chavez in 1993 was arguably Whitaker’s finest hour as a professional; but the final scorecards from the mega fight told a different story.

“By all accounts, Whitaker handily beat Chavez in front of more than 60,000 fans at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Chavez was undefeated in 87 fights at the time, and Whitaker out-landed him 311 to 220 and threw 153 more punches. It’s considered one of the most controversial decisions in boxing history, and the dubious scores elicited a Sports Illustrated cover with “Robbed!” written on it as Whitaker connected with a right hand on Chavez’s chin.

“I knew this might happen,” Whitaker said after the fight. “But still it was like a bad dream. Last night it was like someone put a knife in me and twisted it.”

“A Sports Illustrated cover in 1994 billed him as “The Best,” and the label was an apt compliment for Whitaker, a pure pugilist in the ring who morphed his body with “Matrix”-like motions and danced around punches with panache. His masterful “hit but don’t get hit back” style is a blueprint today for defensive tacticians.

“Trained by the duo of Lou Duva and George Benton, Whitaker fought out of a crouch and slipped around flustered opponents to much fanfare en route to becoming a champion in the lightweight, super lightweight, welterweight and super welterweight divisions. He turned pro at Madison Square Garden on national TV in 1984 and first became a world champion by outpointing Greg Haugen in 1989, a year in which he was declared “Fighter of the Year” by Ring Magazine and the Boxing Writers Assn. of America.

“According to the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, where he is also an inductee, Whitaker won 201 of 214 amateur fights before turning pro after the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles. Whitaker was part of one of the best U.S. boxing teams in Olympics history, highlighting a group of 11 medalists that also featured Evander Holyfield and Meldrick Taylor. Whitaker also won a gold medal at the 1983 Pan American Games and a silver medal at the 1982 World Championships.

“I am saddened to learn of my good friend and Olympic teammate Pernell Whitaker’s untimely passing,” Holyfield tweeted Monday. “We share so many great memories. He was small in stature but yet so big in heart and skills inside the ring, there will never be another like him. He will truly be missed.”

Lakers

Arash Markazi on a Lakers team you may not be aware of:

“Visitors to the Lakers’ posh training center in El Segundo enter through oversized glass doors and are greeted by large rotating photos on three vertical flat screens framed in gold.

“At center is a photo of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal embracing on the court after winning the first of their three championships together with the Lakers. To the left is a picture of Andre Ingram, a guard for the South Bay Lakers, the team’s G League affiliate, who made headlines two years ago when a promotion made him, at 32, the NBA’s oldest rookie. And at right is a photo of Jordan “Vert” Gates, 20, controller in hand, playing a video game.

“Even Gates can’t quite get over the company he keeps.

“I feel like I’m living a dream every day,” he says. “It doesn’t seem real.”

“Gates is the Lakers’ new point guard, but he’s not replacing Lonzo Ball. He’s a starter for Lakers Gaming, the franchise’s team in the NBA 2K League. The six-member esports squad, which completes its first season Wednesday, is considered a valued extension of the organization.

“We want to make sure we’re catering to our fans of the future,” Lakers owner Jeanie Buss says. “They’re a big part of the Lakers family.”

Lakers Gaming shares more than a name with the 16-time NBA champions; the team also works out of the same 120,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art headquarters. The gamers each have keys to the facility and can come and go whenever they please, just like LeBron James.

“I grew up as a Lakers fan and idolized Kobe [Bryant],” Gates says, “so to be able to represent them and go into the offices and be a part of the team now. … It’s a feeling I really can’t explain.”

“The NBA 2K League is a professional gaming circuit co-founded by the NBA and Take-Two Interactive Software, the parent company of 2K Sports. Its season began early in April and will end with its championship on Aug. 3. Last year, it became the first official esports league operated by a U.S. professional sports league, opening with 17 teams. Four teams were added this season, including the Lakers, and plans call for every NBA team to have its own 2K team.

“We have the NBA, the WNBA and the G League, and this is the fourth league in our family,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver says. “And that’s exactly as we’re treating it; one more professional league.”

“The 2K players earn about as much, and in some cases more, than G League players. All NBA 2K players who competed in the inaugural season and were retained by their teams receive a base salary of $37,000 for the six-month season. First-round selections in the 2019 NBA 2K League Draft collect a base of $35,000; players selected in the second round or later receive a $33,000 base salary. G League players earned a base of $35,000 during the last regular season.

“The 2K players also receive free housing in their home-team market during the season, plus relocation expenses, medical insurance and a retirement plan.

“Players on good teams can potentially earn six figures because the league awards $1.2 million in prize money throughout the season — with $360,000 awarded to the league champion.”

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Back to your humble host here: Aren’t you sad now that you yelled at your kids for spending too much time playing video games?

Sports poll

The Dodgers have the best record in baseball, but some fans are concerned that their bullpen will cost them a possible World Series title. So this week’s question is, do you think the Dodgers will win the World Series this year? Vote in our poll by clicking here, or email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. Results will be revealed next week.

Results from last week’s poll: We asked “Who will win the NBA’s Western Conference next season?” After 6,102 votes, here are the results:

Lakers, 45.4%

Clippers, 29.4%

Golden State, 7.3%

Houston, 5.8%

Denver, 4.6%

Portland, 3.1%

Utah, 2.7%

Other, 1.7% (San Antonio, Phoenix and Sacramento received the most votes in “other”).

Your favorite sports moment

What is your favorite all-time L.A. sports moment? Click here to tell me what it is and why, and I’ll start running them in future newsletters. And yes, if your favorite moment is about the Angels or Ducks or a team just outside of L.A., I’ll count that too. And the moment doesn’t have to have happened in L.A., just needs to involve an area team.

Odds and ends

Mike Trout sits out, but Angels optimistic about injury…. Angels defeat Astros, 9-6…. Angels aren’t back to normal, but are getting better…. Former Kings defenseman Slava Voynov signs with Russian club…. Ducks hire Kevin Dineen as a minor league coach…. Del Mar, ‘Where the turf meets the surf,’ has a new slogan for summer meeting…. Sparks Nneka Ogwumike named a WNBA All-Star game reserve…. Justin Houston brings ‘eighth-year senior’ maturity to Gardena Serra…. New Jersey Devils mascot shatters a giant window at a child’s birthday party

Other newsletters

We also have other newsletters you can subscribe to for free. They are emailed to you and we don’t sell your name to other companies, so no spam from us. They are:

Our Dodgers newsletter, written by me. Subscribe here.

Lakers newsletter, written by Tania Ganguli. Subscribe here.

Horse racing newsletter, written by John Cherwa. Subscribe here.

Soccer newsletter, written by Kevin Baxter. Subscribe here.

Today’s local major sports schedule

Dodgers at Philadelphia, 4 p.m., Sportsnet LA, AM 570

Houston at Angels, 7 p.m., FSW, AM 830

Born on this date

1887: Baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson

1932: NFL player Max McGee

1942: Tennis player Margaret Court

1943: College/NFL coach Jimmy Johnson

1946: NFL player Ron Yary

1959: NFL player Gary Anderson

1960: Baseball player Terry Pendleton

1964: Cyclist Miguel Indurain

1968: NFL player Barry Sanders

1979: Trap and skeet shooter Kim Rhode

Died on this date

1995: Race car driver Juan Manuel Fangio, 84

2016: Basketball player Nate Thurmond, 74

And finally

Pernell Whitaker vs Julio Cesar Chavez. 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 us here. If you want to subscribe, click here.


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