Dodgers Dugout: Dodgers lose two to the Giants and panic ensues

Mookie Betts slides into home, avoiding the tag of Giants catcher Tyler Heineman, July 23 at Dodger Stadium.
Mookie Betts slides into home, avoiding the tag of Giants catcher Tyler Heineman, Thursday at Dodger Stadium.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell. and that wasn’t the 4-0 start we were all expecting.

The Dodgers split their opening four-game series with the Giants, which leads me to today’s opening topic.

The four stages of being a Dodgers fan:

Game 1: That’s the start I was looking for. Big win over the Giants.
Game 2: Another rout of the Giants! This team is unstoppable!
Game 3: We ran ourselves out of a victory. Should be 3-0.
Game 4: Losing two to the Giants? This team is going nowhere and Dave Roberts needs to be fired.

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It’s always amazing to me how quickly some people give up.

That said, Game 3 was a bit embarrassing. A shaky effort by Alex Wood, who seemed to think “stay six feet apart” meant the ball and home plate. Countless baserunning mistakes turned what should have been a victory into a loss. And in a 60-game season, that is much more costly. Game 4 was a lack of timely hitting and some strange pinch-hitting (or no pinch-hitting) decisions. But let’s not get carried away with calling the Giants a triple-A team. Most oddsmakers didn’t even have them as the worst team in baseball. Teams lose games they should win all the time.

Last season, the Dodgers started 8-8. Remember what their record was after 60 games? 41-19.


So, all is not lost yet. And remember, eight of the 15 NL teams will make the playoffs this season.

But the last two games were sloppy games. I’m not letting them off the hook for that. If they don’t clean that up, it could be a long season.

And keep in mind that, despite the two bad games, the team is still seventh in the majors in runs per game, second in batting average, first in on-base percentage and 10th in slugging percentage (through Sunday’s games). They are also sixth in ERA. I know that doesn’t mean a heck of a lot after only four games, but it’s better than being near the bottom of those categories. And all that with Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger not hitting. Betts has an OPS+ of -1 right now, and I’m willing to bet it won’t be -1 when the season ends.

Of course, if they lose both games to the Astros, my reaction may not be so pleasant.

Random thoughts

Some random thoughts after four games.

The cardboard cutouts are growing on me. I wasn’t enamored with the idea at first, but I’m liking it. I like the guy holding the cartoon hot dog. It’s great to see Dennis Gilbert and Mary Hart behind home plate. And that’s either a cutout of Mike Brito or a guy dressed like Mike Brito back there. I haven’t seen it close enough to tell for sure.

The Dodgers ought to mix in cutouts of great former Dodgers and put them in random spots too. Imagine a cutout of Jackie Robinson, Don Newcombe, Duke Snider, Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, etc. That would be cool to see.

The ESPN announcing crew for the first game was awful. They seemed barely interested in the game and spent what felt like an hour with a random interview of Oakland A’s player Matt Chapman during the game. They talked over one another frequently (I’ll cut them some slack on that since they were in three different locations) and seemed like they would rather be doing anything else. It was the worst announcing job I have ever seen and heard.

It’s strange to see some players on the bench wearing masks, and some not. If everyone isn’t going to wear one, what’s the point?

There was also a lot of high-fiving going on. I’m not really knocking the players for that. It’s hard to change years of habit overnight. But after watching the first four games, it doesn’t really come as a surprise that more than a dozen Miami Marlins tested positive for the coronavirus.

This from my wife: Kiké Hernández needs to lose the mustache.

Will Smith, headhunter

Remember the idea in the last newsletter about cutouts and how a fan should get two tickets to a game next season if a foul ball hits their cutout? Well, Dodgers catcher Will Smith is improving on that.

Smith homered in Saturday’s game, and the ball hit the cutout of Dodger fan Austin Donley in the head, damaging the cutout. Donley sent out a tweet wondering if he could get the home run ball, and Smith responded with, “Sorry I took your head off. Shoot me a dm and I’ll hook it up for you.”

Way to go, Will Smith.

Player diary

Kiké Hernández writes about how this season has been different than any other. You can read his diary here.

Kershaw’s back

Clayton Kershaw missed his opening day start and was put on the 10-day IL after hurting his back in the weight room.

“It’s not too serious,” Kershaw said. “It’s getting better pretty quick. Optimistic it shouldn’t be much longer than my original stint on the IL.”

Any time Kershaw hurts his back, it’s scary. Back conditions can be chronic, and if Kershaw is out for an extended period of time, that is trouble. After all, the team is already without David Price, have a pitcher (Walker Buehler) not at 100% stamina yet, and lost Rich Hill, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Kenta Maeda in the offseason.

Season, interrupted?

Worrying about why the Dodgers are 2-2 instead of 4-0 may become meaningless soon with the news Monday that more than a dozen Miami Marlins tested positive for the coronavirus. The news forced postponement of the Marlins home opener and the postponement of the Phillies-Yankees game Monday, because the Marlins played in Philadelphia over the weekend.

As of Monday night, the Marlins were still in Philadelphia awaiting further testing.

One epidemiologist, Zachary Binney of Emory University, told The Times’ Bill Shaikin: “I would recommend shutting the Marlins organization down for at least two weeks. You need to let the virus clear itself out of the clubhouse, because it can sometimes take a long time for the virus to show itself, on a positive test or through symptoms.

“You have to wait it out. You have to assume everybody on the Marlins right now is potentially infected. The only way to get past that is time.”

Of course, the reason MLB set up a 60-person player pool for each team is for situations like this. It’s possible that baseball can get through this unscathed and proceed with the season, but if another team or two comes down with an outbreak like this, then the reasoning for even having a season becomes murky. So keep your eye on the coronavirus/baseball news the next couple of days.

Traveling to Houston

The Dodgers start a much-anticipated two-game series with the Houston Astros today. Will there be retaliation for the Astros cheating in the 2017 World Series? Too bad there won’t be fans in attendance; that would have really ratcheted up the emotions. We’ll talk about the aftermath on Thursday.

Up next

Tuesday: Dodgers (Walker Buehler) at Houston (Framber Valdez), 6 p.m., FS1, Sportsnet LA, AM 570
Wednesday: Dodgers (Dustin May) at Houston (TBA), 4 p.m., Sportsnet LA, AM 570

And finally

Will Smith damages a cutout with a home run. Watch it here.

Until next time...

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