Your weekly recap on the Best (and Worst) of the West.
August 8th-14, 2022
From Fernando Tatís Jr.‘s supposed ringworm infestation to a son’s heartfelt thank you to his mother, here are the important stories in the NL West this week.
Los Angeles Dodgers
A 12-game winning streak has come to an end for the Dodgers. A hot afternoon in Kansas City and an effective and efficient start from Royals righty Brady Singer did the job. Singer held the Dodgers hitless into the fifth, until DH Chris Taylor snuck a grounder into center for a base hit. Still, Royals pitching staved off the Los Angeles lineup, keeping the hot-hitting team to just two hits. The Royals had to be longing for a bit of redemption after their 13-3 blowout defeat the previous day. It seems they found it.
Ah well, the skies cannot always be Dodger Blue.
Speaking of clouds, veteran lefty hurler Clayton Kershaw spoke on Friday about his back issues. Kershaw left the game early on August 4th against the Giants with back pain. He had an epidural the next day and has since resumed a throwing program. If he progresses as expected, it’s possible he begins throwing off a mound within the week. There’s no set timeline for his return, but with playoffs still comfortably distant, both Kershaw and the team are optimistic about October.
This organization is nothing but patient when it comes to the recovery of its stars. In the case of Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger, that patience is really starting to pay off, Muncy especially. Despite a small setback of a bruised hand, Muncy is back to being America’s Slugger. He’s hitting .417 with 10 RBI and 4 home runs in his last seven games.
The Boys in Blue head to Milwaukee for a four-game series. They’ll face the Marlins and then the Brewers again at home the following week.
The Dodgers sit pretty on top of both leagues with a record of 79-34 and a .699 winning percentage. Nice.
San Diego Padres
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s been some kind of kerfuffle involving one of the Padres players this week. It’s absolutely hilarious that someone likely misspelled the name of the steroid on Google, saw “ringworm” and just went with it. As for the photo purportedly posted by his mother showing the infection…well, there’s a reason they call it RINGworm. There are no actual worms involved, but the ring that forms around the infected area kinda looks like one. The redness on his neck might very well be some kind of fungus. But this former hillbilly girl has seen her share of ringworm and isn’t buying it.
Look, is it possible? Sure. Is it likely? Absolutely not. Because this just in: It’s now from a haircut. Oh boy.
What’s not funny is the immense pressure put on young players like Tatís and the distance that the higher-ups in the organization are now trying to put between them and their young star player. Padres GM A.J. Preller put his player in the hot seat last week by openly questioning Tatís’s maturity and the lack of trust between them.
Other players piled on as well. The frustration and disappointment is inevitable but I’m not sure how trust-building a public thrashing like this can be. Especially when one of the players calling him out is also-trust-issue-haver Mike Clevinger. Clevinger broke COVID protocols with fellow pitcher Zach Plesac while playing for Cleveland in 2020. He then waited through at least one plane trip to tell his team about it.
Manager Bob Melvin did reach out to Tatís but declined to comment on what they discussed, reiterating instead how much he likes current his team. He also mentioned the procedures in place for replacing injured players. The team will treat the Tatís situation in a similar manner. However Melvin approaches it, I don’t envy his job of managing the clubhouse mood over this recent stretch of roller coaster events.
Soto a Bright Spot
In positive news, as of Sunday morning, new acquisition Juan Soto is batting .351 since joining the Padres. That’s the exact same percentage with which he won the Silver Slugger in 2020 with the Nationals. He leads the majors in walks and, appropriately, on-base percentage.
It’s a shame that Soto and Tatís won’t get to play on the same team this season. If there are any two players who can understand performance pressure and the unique challenges that face a young and successful player of color, it’s Soto and Tatís.
Padres sit at 65-52, sixteen games behind the division lead.
San Francisco Giants
After the stellar season last year to finally unseat the Dodgers atop the division, the Giants’ current race to the middle has to be especially frustrating for players and fans alike. After losing two of three to their closest division rivals in San Diego, the Giants returned to San Francisco with a sweep of the Pirates at home.
Standout this week was the Logan Webb start against the Pirates on Saturday. Webb pitched eight innings of shutout baseball with nine strikeouts and two walks, lowering his ERA to an even 3.00. Webb also made an excellent mad scramble to first to base tag out Kevin Newman unassisted. His last inning looked like it could have been disastrous, loading the bases with a double and two walks but he got out of it with a foul tip strikeout to Ben Gamel.
At 6.5 games behind the Padres, the Giants have a lot of ground to cover to hope for a wild card spot. It’s not impossible, but with Soto to the Padres, it does feel improbable. But then again, so did last season’s 107 wins out of seemingly nowhere. It’s not time to count them out yet.
With a three-game sweep of the Pirates at home (including a very exciting Sunday walk-off) the Giants sit at an even 57-57, twenty-two and a half games out of first place.
This team has seen an improvement over last year’s dismal showing. To put it into perspective, as of Sunday, July 14th, the Diamondbacks have won 53 games. They won just 52 games in the entire 2021 season.
Christian Walker has been on a bit of a tear for the team, hitting .485 in the past week with three walks and 6 RBI. He had a 4-hit, 4-RBI game in Denver on Sunday, coming a triple shy of a cycle. He also hit his 27th home run of the season.
Emmanuel Rivera, the Diamondback’s lone trade deadline acquisition, also kept a 7 game-hitting streak alive. He hit two homers into the stands on Saturday, one of them an oppo taco.
The Diamondbacks won both of their series this week, winning three out of four from Pittsburgh and two out of three over Colorado. They head to San Francisco, then home to face St. Louis in the next week.
Look, it’s easy to be dismissive of the last-place team in the league who won’t stop trading away its franchise players, but the story of long-time minor leaguer Wynton Bernard’s call-up reminds us that the magic of making the majors is still there.
Bernard spent a decade jumping from league to league, playing overseas and indy league ball in an effort to reach the Show. At 31 years old, Wynton finally got there. And his viral call home to his mother made more than one crusty baseball heart melt. The fact that he beat out a tough call at first on review and then stole second cemented his legend in Colorado baseball history.
If you’ve somehow been online and missed his story, it’s well worth your time.
The Rockies may be 51-66, but 51 wins would put them as high as third in the NL Central. As it is, they are currently 30 games outside of the division lead and very likely will not have to worry about bundling up for October baseball this year.