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The Sports Report: Dodgers get the shutout and the sweep

Dodgers left fielder AJ Pollock celebrates with teammates after the Dodgers defeated the San Diego Padres.
Dodgers left fielder AJ Pollock (11) celebrates with teammates after the Dodgers defeated the San Diego Padres 4-0 on Thursday.
(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Austin Knoblauch, filling in for Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Jorge Castillo on the Dodgers: In the hours leading up to the July 30 trade deadline, the San Diego Padres envisioned Max Scherzer delivering the type of dominant outing he delivered Thursday at Petco Park. The right-hander tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings in front of a buzzing sellout crowd. He scowled and he prowled and he overwhelmed hitters.

The Padres just imagined him logging those performances in their uniform, not for the club they’ve so desperately wanted to overtake. But the Dodgers, not the Padres, acquired Scherzer that day, swooping in to steal the biggest pitching prize along with Trea Turner. And on Thursday, Scherzer shut down the plunging Padres to complete the Dodgers’ three-game series sweep with a 4-0 win.

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Scherzer recorded 10 strikeouts to one walk and 104 pitches in his fifth start as a Dodger and first start at Petco Park since he gave up seven runs over 3 2/3 innings as a member of the Washington Nationals on July 8. The 37-year-old right-hander, who’s given up five runs in 29 innings with the Dodgers, lowered his earned-run average to 2.51.

“I was just able to sequence,” Scherzer said. “I got in a good rhythm with [Austin Barnes] behind the plate and was just able to execute any pitch at any time.”

Max Scherzer receives a standing ovation from Dodgers fans as he exits in the eighth inning.
Max Scherzer receives a standing ovation from Dodgers fans as he exits in the eighth inning of the Dodgers’ 4-0 win over the Padres at Petco Park on Thursday.
(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)

The outing helped net the Dodgers (81-47) their 16th win in 18 games, keeping them within 2 1/2 games of the first-place San Francisco Giants in the National League West with 34 games to go.

The Dodgers’ starters in the sweep — Julio Urías, Walker Buehler and Scherzer — combined to hold San Diego to one unearned run across 19 1/3 innings as the Padres (68-61) managed just nine hits in 34 innings in the series. They’re 16 games out of first place and two games behind the Cincinnati Reds for the second wild-card spot.

“Our guys smell it,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “We know it’s a sprint right now and we needed to tighten things up and play with some emotion and some energy and we did that this series.”

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UCLA FOOTBALL

UCLA coach Chip Kelly stands on the sideline during a game against California in November 2019.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
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Ben Bolch on UCLA coach Chip Kelly: Three seasons, 31 games and 1,372 days after he was hired, Chip Kelly may be on the verge of a first at UCLA.

His first nonconference victory.

Las Vegas oddsmakers have made the Bruins 18-point favorites to beat Hawaii in their season opener Saturday at the Rose Bowl, suggesting that Kelly will finally break through after a litany of losses. He’s gone 0-6 in nonconference games, including 0-4 against Group of Five opponents, before his team played exclusively a Pac-12 Conference schedule in 2020.

In what might be a more telling assessment of the strength of Kelly’s team, UCLA is only a four-point underdog against No. 16 Louisiana State on Sept. 4.

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The coach who guided Oregon to national prominence only to commence a 10-21 nosedive at UCLA might be forgiven for his early stumbles in Westwood if the Bruins can start 2-0, portending the kind of dizzying success that was expected upon his hiring in November 2017.

All that matters when it comes to Kelly’s future, according to interviews with multiple people familiar with the UCLA football program, is what lies ahead, not the disappointments of 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Fans who were flabbergasted that Kelly parted ways with nearly a roster’s worth of players and didn’t go back to the blur offense he popularized with the Ducks wouldn’t care if he ran the wishbone so long as the Bruins were once again a factor in the Pac-12.

USC FOOTBALL

Quarterback Jaxson Dart looks to pass during USC's spring game in April.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
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Ryan Kartje on USC’s backup quarterback battle: Just one year ago, Jaxson Dart was barely a blip on USC’s radar. The young Utah quarterback had no Power Five offers. His profile didn’t even appear on all the major recruiting sites.

It would take a senior-season transfer, a pandemic-altered high school campaign, and a meteoric rise to Gatorade national player of the year for Dart to arrive at this moment, with coach Clay Helton making official Thursday what so many around USC had expected since the freshman’s standout spring. Dart will be USC’s backup quarterback behind Kedon Slovis this season, while Miller Moss, a fellow four-star freshman, will occupy the No. 3 spot.

Slovis remains the unquestioned starter under center. The significance of the selection at backup quarterback extends beyond this season, with Dart now presumed to be at the center of USC’s future plans at the position and Moss — for now, at least — on the outside looking in.

RAMS

Rams running back Sony Michel speaks with reporters at the team's training complex in Thousand Oaks on Thursday.
(Greg Beacham / Associated Press)
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Gary Klein on the Rams: Shortly after he was traded from the New England Patriots to the Rams, running back Sony Michel received a text message from a former Georgia teammate.

Todd Gurley, a former Rams star running back for five seasons, sent along congratulations.

“He kept it simple,” Michel said Thursday after practice at the Rams’ facility in Thousand Oaks. “Congratulated me on the move because I’m sure he knows what kind of system I’m coming into.

“So, I thought that was pretty cool.”

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The Rams acquired Michel on Wednesday, sending a 2022 sixth-round draft pick and 2023 fourth-round pick to the Patriots in exchange for a player who has twice rushed for more than 900 yards and amassed more than 200 carries in a season.

Michel participated in individual and position-group drills Thursday but did not participate in the team scrimmage. He said he had not begun to dive into the playbook, a process that will go into hyperdrive as the Rams prepare for their Sept. 12 opener against the Chicago Bears at SoFi Stadium.

CHARGERS

Chargers coach Brandon Staley paces the sidelines during a preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers at SoFi Stadium.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Jeff Miller on the Chargers: The Chargers officially wrapped up the camp portion of their preseason and did so — finally — without a limp that was both noticeable and notable.

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Nine players on the active roster didn’t practice Thursday, but none of those injuries are thought to be serious.

In each of the last two Augusts, All-Pro safety Derwin James suffered a fractured foot and a meniscus tear, respectively.

The year before, Pro Bowl edge rusher Joey Bosa injured his foot in training camp and didn’t return until mid-November.

With player safety a stated priority, new coach Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco instituted an offseason program that involved less vigorous on-field work.

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They followed that with a camp featuring longer warm-up and cool-down periods and practices that sometimes ran shorter.

ANGELS

Angels relief pitcher Elvis Peguero is removed from the game by manager Joe Maddon in front of catcher Kurt Suzuki.
Angels relief pitcher Elvis Peguero, left, is removed from the game by manager Joe Maddon, right, in front of catcher Kurt Suzuki during the fifth inning of Thursday’s 13-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
(Terrance Williams / Associated Press)

Jack Harris on the Angels: While it was clear the Angels weren’t on the verge of a playoff push a couple weeks ago, they did seem to be laying down building blocks for the future — especially on the mound.

Patrick Sandoval was turning into arguably the second-best starter on the team. José Suarez and Jaime Barria had shown promising flashes in their return to the rotation. Prospects Reid Detmers and Chris Rodriguez had been recalled from the minor leagues. And young relievers such as Austin Warren were emerging in the bullpen.

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It was becoming one of the few bright spots for the Angels to cling to down the stretch, a silver lining to potentially carry into the offseason

But now, a rash of injuries, inconsistency and COVID-19 issues has wiped even that positive storyline away, culminating in a calamitous 13-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday afternoon that marked one of the Angels’ worst defeats all season.

“Everything about our pitching needs to get straightened out again,” manager Joe Maddon said.

SPARKS

Thuc Nhi Nguyen on the Sparks: The Sparks boosted their playoff hopes by bullying past bottom-feeding teams but couldn’t score a much-needed win against the league-leading Connecticut Sun on Thursday.

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After giving up 12 unanswered points across the third and fourth quarters, the Sparks lost 76-72 to momentarily drop out of playoff position before a rematch in Connecticut on Saturday. The Sun (19-6) extended their lead at the top of the WNBA standings with their seventh-straight win while improving their record at home to 12-1 this year.

Meanwhile, the Sparks have lost back-to-back games at the halfway point of a pivotal six-game road trip.

The Sparks (10-15) lifted themselves into playoff contention with four straight wins after the Olympic break, beating the league’s 12th-, 11th- and eighth-place teams by an average 3.75 points. Momentum appeared to be building as the nail-biting victories put the Sparks in a tie for eighth in the league.

BASEBALL

San Diego's Fernando Tatis Jr. adjusts his helmet before striking out in the third inning against the Dodgers on Thursday.
(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)
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Bill Shaikin on the San Diego Padres: On the first day of this most anticipated season in the half-century of the San Diego franchise, I asked Padres general manager A.J. Preller how the hype of 2021 compared with the hype of 2015.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Preller said, with a thin laugh. “I’ve kind of blacked out that 2015 season.”

You might remember 2015, even if our friends in San Diego would rather not. The Padres loaded up on veterans — Matt Kemp, Craig Kimbrel, Wil Myers, James Shields, the Upton brothers — and Kemp lauded Preller as a “rock star GM.”

The Padres started unloading veterans in June. Preller fired manager Bud Black, then passed over coach Dave Roberts as the interim replacement, and as the permanent replacement. The Padres finished 18 games out of first place in the National League West.

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In this season of the Swagg Chain, the Padres are 16 games out of first place, with one month still to play.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

August 27

1884 — Richard Sears beats Howard Taylor 6-0, 1-6, 6-0, 6-2 to win his fourth straight U.S. national tennis championship.

1903 — Britain’s Hugh Doherty is the first non-American to win the men’s singles title in the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association championships with a 6-0, 6-3, 10-8 victory over the William Larned.

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1909 — William Larned wins his fifth U.S. singles tennis title with a five-set victory over William Clothier in Newport, R.I.

1928 — Helen Wills beats Helen Hull Jacobs to take the fifth women’s singles title in the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association championships. Wills needs only 33 minutes, defeating Jacobs 6-2, 6-1.

1957 — Hickory Smoke, driven by John Simpson, Jr., wins the Hambletonian Stakes after capturing the fifth and deciding heat.

1969 — Lindy’s Pride, driven by Howard Beissinger, wins the Hambletonian Stakes in straight heats.

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1975 — Onny Parun of New Zealand defeats Stan Smith 6-4, 6-2 in the first night match at the U.S. Open before a crowd of 4,949 at the West Side Tennis Club.

1976 — Transsexual Renee Richards, formerly Richard Raskind, is barred from competing at the U.S. Open tennis championships after refusing to submit to a chromosome qualification test.

1978 — The Cosmos defeat the Tampa Bay Rowdies 3-1 to win the NASL Championship.

1985 — Mary Joe Fernandez, 14, becomes the youngest player to win a match at the U.S. Open. Fernandez beats Sara Gomer 6-1, 6-4.

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1996 — Stefan Edberg stuns Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek at the U.S. Open, winning 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 in his record 54th straight and final Grand Slam event.

1999 — Maurice Greene and Inger Miller win at 200 meters at the world championships, giving the U.S. a sprint sweep. Greene is the first to win the 100 and 200 at a major global meet since Carl Lewis at the 1984 Olympics.

2006 — Marco Andretti, 19, becomes the youngest winner of a major open-wheel event, beating Dario Franchitti by 0.66 seconds to take the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma.

2015 — Usain Bolt wins his fourth straight 200-meter title at the world championships, finishing in 19.55 seconds in Beijing.

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2018 — Simona Halep becomes the first No. 1-seeded woman to lose her opening match at the U.S. Open in the half-century of the professional era. Halep is overwhelmed by 44th-ranked Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-2, 6-4.

And finally

Win No. 4 for Max Scherzer in a Dodgers uniform was pretty impressive. Here’s a look at each of his 10 strikeouts.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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