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Takeaways: Dodgers pitching remains its surprise strength

Takeaways Dodgers pitching remains its surprise strength


In three games against the Arizona Diamondbacks this week, the Dodgers more than doubled their opponent’s hit total, gave up only eight runs, and trailed for just five total innings.

And yet, they lost the series.

After winning four straight series, and winning Monday’s opener behind Walker Buehler’s shutout, the team struggled Tuesday and Wednesday, scoring just four runs in two games despite 14 hits.

They committed a couple costly errors, too, leading to either game-tying or go-ahead rallies in each of the Diamondbacks’ wins.

They returned home from a six-game road trip managing only a 3-3 record.

“I thought we pitched well this series,” Roberts said. “But outside of that I don’t think we had a good series.”

Here are five takeaways on the good and bad from the series.

Defensive mistakes

Dodgers left fielder Gavin Lux fields a grounder hit by the Diamondbacks’ Seth Beer before throwing to first base for the out during the sixth inning Tuesday in Phoenix.

(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

The Dodgers had a nice early cushion in Tuesday’s night game. Then Gavin Lux spiked a throw.

They had fought back to tie the score late in Wednesday’s game. Then Max Muncy sailed a toss.

Neither mistake was the sole reason for either of the Dodgers’ losses at Chase Field this week. But they changed the complexion of each game, punctuating a pair of underwhelming performances from a team that had won 11 of its previous 13.

“I don’t have an answer for it,” Roberts said. “I expect it to get back to normal.”

Indeed, the Dodgers defensive numbers have still been solid so far, with only seven errors. They rank seventh in the majors in fielding percentage. And they’re above league average in advanced metrics such as defensive runs saved and zone rating.

But both of their series losses — also including their opening-weekend setback against the Colorado Rockies — have been marked by sloppy play in the field. For a team that currently ranks third in runs per game and first in earned-run average, defense has been one of the more inconsistent aspects of the first 18 games.

“Up until this series, I thought we played good baseball, fundamental baseball, catching it and throwing it accurately,” Roberts said. “This series we didn’t do a good job of that.”

Trea Turner producing runs

The Dodgers' Trea Turner watches his two-RBI double

The Dodgers’ Trea Turner watch his two-RBI double in the eighth inning of a game against the Padres Saturday.

(Derrick Tuskan / Associated Press)

A leadoff hitter for most of his career with the Washington Nationals, Trea Turner has never had more than 77 RBIs in a season.

Now that he’s batting third for the Dodgers in his first full year with the team, Turner has been one of the more prolific early-season run producers.

Turner picked up his 16th RBI in 18 games Wednesday, driving in Mookie Betts to tie the game with a two-out single in the eighth inning. That total ranks sixth in the majors and is five more than anybody else on the team.

“With Mookie, Freddie [Freeman] in front of me, they get on so much, they walk so much that I’m gonna have my opportunities,” Turner said. “I’ve just gotta capitalize.”

Turner has been particularly productive with runners in scoring position. He is 11 for 26 (.423) in those situations with three doubles, a triple and a 1.022 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. It’s keeping in line with a career-long trend for Turner, whose .311 career batting average with runners in scoring position is eight points higher than his normal mark.

“I think in those situations he’s doing a better job of staying in the strike zone,” Roberts said. “We all know he likes to swing the bat. He’s one of the more aggressive guys in baseball. But in my opinion to consistently drive in runs, you have to stay in the strike zone and not expand, not be afraid to get into a count. I think he’s doing a much better job of that.”

Justin Turner’s slow start

The Dodgers' Justin Turner bats against the Braves on April 20

The Dodgers’ Justin Turner bats against the Braves on April 20.

(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Both Justin Turner and Roberts had a sly look when asked about the third baseman’s slow start this season. They both know that, for much of his career, Turner has struggled in April, then gotten hot the rest of the season.

The Dodgers are hoping Turner can do it again this season. So far, the 37-year-old is batting just .206 and has a team-worst .511 OPS. He’s struck out 13 times with only five walks. And he hasn’t been driving the baseball like normal, with just three doubles and no home runs.

“It always looks way worse when your slow month is April,” said Turner, who has a career .751 OPS in March and April, significantly worse than any other month. “But that’s what I’m going through right now and I’m just gonna keep working to grind through it.”

He added with a chuckle: “The calendar’s getting ready to turn, so definitely looking forward to that.”

Turner said he did make an adjustment to his batting stance this week, opening up a little more following a pregame hitting session Tuesday.

“Got a little bit better results,” he said after hitting a double that night. “Not exactly what you’re hoping for, but definitely felt better, seeing the ball better.”

Turner’s underlying numbers are still concerning. He ranks well-below league average in average exit velocity, hard hit percentage and expected batting average and slugging percentage, according to Baseball Savant.

Roberts, however, maintained confidence that Turner can turn things around.

“He’s a guy who’s not necessarily a tinkerer but he can make adjustments,” Roberts said. “He hasn’t found his stride yet in the batter’s box. But [Tuesday] was a good sign.”

May making progress

The Dodgers' Dustin May watches a game from the dugout last season

The Dodgers’ Dustin May watches a game from the dugout last season.

(ASSOCIATED PRESS)

There was a familiar face in the Dodgers clubhouse this week, as Dustin May showed up before Tuesday’s game to throw a bullpen session and get in some work around the team.

When the season started, May remained at the team’s Camelback Ranch spring training complex in nearby Glendale, Ariz., to continue his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery last year. He worked alongside other injured pitchers including Danny Duffy and Victor González (who also came to Chase Field on Tuesday).

May, who was one of the Dodgers most promising young pitchers before getting hurt last year, is still targeting a return during the latter-third of the season. He said Tuesday’s bullpen session was his ninth of his recovery, and the first to include a pitch other than the fastball (his cutter). He’s finally starting to see the end of his recovery.

“Getting close, yeah,” he said. “Starting to throw breaking balls feels more normal. … Just getting back to actually being on the mound is a good feeling.”

May said he has learned to become patient, something that has surprised himself.

“Going through the rehab, knowing that it was a long process, I thought I was going to be very impatient, wanting to get going,” he said. “But having talked myself through it a lot, as I was going through, it’s been very easy on the mind.”

May’s next big milestone: Facing live hitting, something he expects to do in about a month.

“That’s when you get the adrenaline back,” he said. “You have to get somebody out in front of you. You have to make sure your pitches are actually where you want them to be.”

Pitching injury updates

Dodgers starter Tyler Anderson delivers against the San Diego Padres in the second inning Saturday night at Petco Park.

Dodgers starter Tyler Anderson delivers against the San Diego Padres in the second inning Saturday night at Petco Park.

(Derrick Tuskan / Associated Press)

It looks like Tyler Anderson could be staying in the Dodgers rotation for a while.

That’s because injured left-hander Andrew Heaney, who had gotten off to a strong start this year before shoulder discomfort that landed him on the injured list (and thrust Anderson into the rotation), still isn’t close to returning to the mound.

Roberts said Heaney hasn’t started to throw again, and that the team is “going to be quite conservative” with his recovery process.

“We’re going to make sure it’s a slow process,” Roberts added.

Roberts acknowledged the longer Heaney is shut down, the longer it will take for him to build arm strength back up before returning to play.

“There’s a threshold or a breaking point where it’s almost like you’ve got to start back over as far as a spring training buildup,” Roberts said. “We’re not there yet. But the more time before he picks up a baseball, the longer the buildup is going to be.”

Some good pitching news for the Dodgers: Tommy Kahnle (Tommy John surgery recovery) could be ready to rejoin the major-league club as soon as next week, once he completes his minor-league rehab assignment. Caleb Ferguson (Tommy John surgery recovery) and Victor González (left elbow inflammation) are nearing rehab assignments, too, putting them on track for a potential major-league return in mid-to-late May.

The team will also be able to carry 14 pitchers for most of May, after MLB and the players union agreed to delay the reinstatement of the 13-pitcher maximum until May 30. Currently, they have 16 pitchers on the active roster, after they were expanded from 26 to 28 for the start of the season following the lockout-shortened spring.

“To give us another month of an extra pitcher is huge,” Roberts said.





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