Game 14: Dodgers 4 – Rockies 3

The matchup: Dodgers vs Rockies (6.07.16)
Special Guest: My buddy Johnny. (See if you can spot us in the crowd back when DeAndre Jordan destroyed Brandon Knight.)
Snacks: Stella (thanks, Marc!), Dodger Dog (x2).
Giveaway: Today’s gift was seeing Julio Urias make his Dodger Stadium debut.
Memorable Moment: About the only thing that could top seeing Urias’ debut would be a walk-off home run and that’s exactly what we got. Thanks, Trayce!

RECAP: All eyes were on Julio Urias for this one but those who arrived early were treated to getting to watch Clayton Kershaw go through his bullpen session. As I entered the stadium, a heavy thump was emanating from the Dodger bullpen. A dozen more steps and that thump began to sound all-too-familiar.

This was the scene when I joined my friends Marc and Leslie at the Bullpen Overlook.

CLAYTON KERSHAW BULLPEN

Clayton Kershaw works out in the bullpen in anticipation for Friday night’s showdown with Johnny Cueto in San Francisco.

Well hello there, Mr. Cy Young/MVP winner.

Clayton Kershaw and AJ Ellis

Must have been a good workout if A.J. led with a fist bump from so far away.

Clayton Kershaw AJ Ellis 2

Clayton and A.J. getting a head start on Best Friends Day.

CLAYTON KERSHAW AND AJ ELLIS 3

Either they’re making plans for dinner or Clayton is busting A.J.’s chops about something.

Once Kershaw wrapped up his workout, the Bullpen Overlook cleared out for all five minutes. Fans entering the stadium wasted no time in staking out spots to wait for the arrival of Urias and my buddy Johnny soon joined us. He’s a Yankee fan for life but is appreciative of the Dodgers’ efforts so he’s always a good time at a game.

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This was the swarm around the bullpen an hour before game time.

Then it happened. Fans’ expressions went from bored to OMG faster than Maury Wills running the bases.

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That moment when a 19-year-old phenom walks onto the field.

Julio Urias had arrived.

JULIO URIAS DODGERS

Julio Urias and Yasmani Grandal make the walk to the Dodger bullpen.

JULIO URIAS YASMANI GRANDAL 1

No pressure, kid. No pressure.

JULIO URIAS BULLPEN 2

No turning back now.

JULIO URIAS DODGER STADIUM

Urias heads to the bullpen mound.

CROWD 2

Gotta get those Chatsnaps.

YASMANI GRANDAL 1

“Hey, guys. What do you think of my new chest protector? Guys?”

JULIO URIAS 1

El brazo de oro. He’s gonna be a good one.

If photos of Urias aren’t doing it for you, here’s a video that I shot because I’m the kind of nerd who just had to bring along three cameras.

(The random voice you’ll occasionally hear is me talking to people who were watching the Periscope I was also doing.)

NERD WITH THREE CAMERAS

I may have a problem.

JULIO URIAS MOHAWK

Time for Urias to go to work.

Once on the mound, the third time was the charm for Urias. He may have only went four innings on 86 pitches but he gave up just one run on three hits and struck out seven of the 17 Rockies he faced.

Following a slightly tense (sorry, won’t describe it as rocky) first inning, Justin Turner got the Dodgers on the board and helped my fantasy team with a three run shot that gave Urias his first lead of his young career and it seemed to settle him down in the following innings. A big positive is that he didn’t unravel when Nolan Arenado doubled home DJ LeMahieu in the third. He promptly erased that threat by striking out some Carlos Gonzalez fellow to end the inning.

JULIO URIAS PITCHING

After years of anticipation, Julio Urias made it to the big club.

The Dodger bullpen was another story. After Louis Coleman and Adam Liberatore combined forces to hold down the fort for an inning, Joe Blanton and Pedro Baez got the Rockies back into the game.

With the score tied at three with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Rockies manager Walt Weiss called on Carlos Estevez to face Trayce Thompson. As Estevez threw his warmup pitches, our conversation shifted to how many extra innings we’d be willing to sit through on a Tuesday night.

Two pitches later we were jumping out of our seats as Thompson hit a line drive just over the left center field wall.

Game over.

Dodgers win.

Cue Randy.

Dodger Stadium at Night

It was a great night to be at Dodger Stadium.

Game 12: Dodgers 4 – Braves 0

The matchup: Dodgers vs Braves (6.04.16)
Special Guest(s): Us! Our friend Marc invited us to enjoy the spoils of some tickets that he won.
Snacks: Dodger Dog (x2), Dodger Blonde Ale, Souvenir sized Coke.
Giveaway: Don Sutton retired number pin.
Memorable Moment: Since it was just another ho-hum scoreless Clayton Kershaw outing, we’ll go with seeing a brilliantly executed squeeze play.

DODGERS BEER TAP

The Dodgers Blonde Ale is can be found at the bar next to the Left Field Pavilion.

RECAP: Barely a week after I won a major award through the new Dodger Pride Rewards in-game drawings, our friend Marc, who sits in front of us up in Section 2, hit a jackpot of his own in the form of Field Level tickets. My wife and I joined him along with our mutual friend Leslie for a night down in the Larry King adjacent seats.

With Clayton Kershaw on the mound, we met up extra early to snag seats above the Bullpen Overlook. Like always, it was well worth the wait watch him warm up.

AJ ELLIS AND CLAYTON KERSHAW

A.J. Ellis gets loose while Clayton thinks deep thoughts about all the ways he’ll mow down the Braves.

AJ AND CLAYTON GOING TO WORK

Clayton and A.J. make the walk to the Dodger dugout.

CLAYTON KERSHAW PITCHING

Clayton Kershaw lowered his ERA to 1.46 after throwing six scoreless innings.

The first big dramatic moment of the game came in the top of the second when first base umpire Joe West, yes, that Joe West, called a rather iffy balk on Kershaw to send Jeff Francoeur to second base with nobody out. Once the steam stopped shooting out of his ears, Clayton responded by throwing a pair of strikeouts and inducing a ground out to end the threat. The Braves would get a runner to third the following inning but that would as close as they’d get to putting a run on the board the entire evening.

On the Dodger side of things, Clayton (of course) gave himself all the lead he needed in bottom of the third by knocking a single to the fringe of left field and then hustled in from second off a Justin Turner single. One detail worth noting: Justin changed his walk up song from his long used Turn Down for What. I didn’t recognize his new jam but hopefully it gets him hitting again like the Red Dream we all know and love.

BRIAN WILSON JERSEY

When you spot a fan wearing a Brian Wilson jersey, you gotta take a pic.

LIGHT UP PHONE CASE

Not far from Brian Wilson’s last remaining fan was this pro selfie taker. Check out the light up phone case. It’s Kardashian approved!

Things got a little tense when the Dodger bullpen took the wheel in the top of the seventh. Joe Blanton and Pedro Baez each gave up a hit in their respective innings but were able to bridge the gap to Kenley Jansen.

In the bottom of the eighth, the Dodgers took away any potential ninth inning drama by adding a trifecta of insurance runs. With Turner and Trayce Thompson on the corners, Braves manager Brian Snitker called in Ian Krol to face Joc Pederson. Joc laid down the first pitch he saw and it couldn’t have been a more perfect bunt, landing in the no-man’s land between the mound and second base. Turner scooted home with ease and two pitches later, Thompson and Pederson executed the Dodgers’ first double steal of the season.

And if those offensive fireworks weren’t enough to put a Saturday night Dodger Stadium crowd into a partying mood, our section was treated to an epic lap dance late in the game. A group of ladies in the row behind us were celebrating a birthday and a fellow sitting next to my wife seized the opportunity jump over his seat to get his Magic Mike on. It just wasn’t a couple quick air humps either. The dude went for it to the howls and screams of the birthday girl’s friends and he kept on bumping and grinding her until they all snapped souvenir photos. It was such an impressive display of moves that I fished three bucks out of my pocket so I could make it sprinkle for him but my wife pumped the brakes on that. It was probably a wise decision as the sight of dollar bills likely would have had him ripping off his shirt.

I just hope he’s out of the doghouse by now. The poor guy’s boyfriend was not pleased.

CLAYTON KERSHAW

Kenley Jansen, a millisecond away from getting his 16th save of the season.

 

Game 10: Dodgers 1 – Reds 0

The matchup: Dodgers vs Reds (5.23.16)
Special Guest: My buddy Bruce, a hilarious young comic from the mean streets of Bakersfield. Give him a follow.
Snacks: Los Doyer Dog, Goose Island IPA, and some of Bruce’s Red Vines which were surprisingly fresh.
Giveaway: Travel pillows!
Memorable Moment: Watching Clayton Kershaw throw a two hit, complete game shutout was pretty good.

DOYER DOG

First Los Doyer Dog of the season!

RECAP: With Kershaw on the mound, Bruce and I arrived early to watch batting practice and catch Clayton’s pregame warmup from the bullpen overlook. The only hitch in the plan was the part where the Dodgers skipped their half of BP following their 17 inning marathon in San Diego the day/night before.

Bruce worked for the Bakersfield Blaze back when they were affiliated with the Reds and shared some fun stories about Billy Hamilton and other current Reds players coming through Bakersfield on their way to the bigs. It was a great way to pass the time because other than Scott Kazmir’s quick bullpen session, this was our entertainment until Kershaw showed up.

Dodger Groundskeeper

You don’t know how exciting it can be to watch a guy water dirt when you have to hold down a seat for a few hours.

Once Kershaw made his entrance to the bullpen, the wait became instantly worth it. This was the fifth time or so that I’ve seen him warmup and it was just as exciting as the first time. From the moment he steps onto the field to start stretching, the dude is locked in. He doesn’t say a single word. He just stares at the ground and throws fire.

DCIM100GOPROG0051946.

Clayton Kershaw begins his warmup.

CLAYTON KERSHAW BULLPEN

Kershaw returns from his pregame ritual of staring at a wall during the National Anthem to finish his warm up.

Clayton Kershaw GIF

The closest Kershaw gets to speaking during his warmup is when he fist bumps Rick Honeycutt on his way out to the field.

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Kershaw and AJ Ellis make the commute to their office.

And here’s a reverse angle featuring a photobomb from us courtesy of the Dodgers’ Instagram.

Photobombing Clayton and AJ

99% sure Bruce and I were talking about where to eat when this photo was taken.

Aside from the Reds briefly threatening to score in their half of the first, Clayton mowed them down with merciless efficiency. The only real scare for Kershaw (as far as fans were concerned) came on the base paths when he was mildly crushed by Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips when he slid into second following a wild pitch. Clayton though had no time for heart attack inducing near misses. He got right up and motored to third following a horrible throw to second that was Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart’s first of two throwing errors on the evening.

And of course Clayton’s hustle would be rewarded by his teammates by leaving him stranded on third.

Bruce and Todd

Bruce and I enjoying our new Dodger travel pillows.

Kershaw kept things humming as such a brisk clip that the game was somehow in the seventh inning stretch in under two hours. When he took the mound in the eighth, he was only at 79 pitches which meant he had 20 to work with to pull a Maddux. He made it to the ninth with the possibility still intact but a six pitch at-bat by Zack Cozart and Billy Hamilton’s refusal to swing at the first pitch put Kershaw at the 100 pitch mark. Hamilton would fly out to end the game two pitches later.

The near miss on the Maddux added a nice jolt of excitement and makes a person wonder if Greg Maddux, now that he’s on the Dodgers’ staff, would have called to congratulate Clayton on his achievement.

On the way home, I couldn’t help but think how many pitchers out there would give their non-pitching arm to throw a single game like Kershaw’s but for him, and to the fans who’ve become spoiled by such brilliance, it was just another Monday night at the ballpark.

Game 9: Dodgers 5 – Angels 1

The matchup: Dodgers vs Angels (5.17.16)
Special Guest: My buddy Ned. (The last time went to a Dodger game, Jake Arrieta threw a no-hitter.)
Snacks: Caesar salad, Non-Garlic Fries, PBR Tall Boy.
Giveaway: Dodger Welcome Mat
Memorable Moment: Winning a Kenley Jansen autographed baseball. Wut?

RECAP: The best part of the meltdown above? It happened in the top of the first when Clayton Kershaw reintroduced Mike Trout to Uncle Charlie. For reasons that still boggle the mind, that pitch was called a ball and Marc’s internal rage meter went from 0 – 100 before the ball was tossed back to Kershaw.

Ever since we moved over to Section 2 three seasons ago, Marc has served as an in-game barometer for the current state of the Dodgers. Those of us who sit near him still speak in hushed reverence about his Brandon League and Brian Wilson induced meltdowns that would send him pacing up and down the aisle cursing the baseball gods.

It’s all in good fun though. Marc and his dad Russ are at nearly every game and are the kind of loyal fans any team would be lucky to have.

The last time the Dodgers had a welcome mat giveaway, my buddy Ned joined me for the game so I thought this game would be the perfect chance for him to add to his collection.

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For the record, I forgot a Dodger shirt at home.

After getting hosed on that curve ball to Trout, Clayton recovered and proceeded to go full Clayton on the Angels. He’s so good it’s almost not fair to the opposing teams. While he was mowing down Angels as fast as they were coming to the plate, Ned and I took a quick lap around the stadium to see him dominate from a few different vantage points and make some new friends.

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I wasn’t kidding when I said we made some new friends.

We got back to our seats just in time for me to have to go claim a major award. The moment we sat down, I received a text that I had won the evening’s Dodger Pride
Rewards drawing for the evening.

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 11.20.56 PMStarting this season, season ticket holders have been encouraged to scan their cards to be automatically entered to win a nightly assortment of Dodger goodies. Being the nerd that I am, I’ve remembered to scan my card at most games and after a whole six or seven tries, all that hard work finally paid off.

I hustled down to the Club Level and I was greeted by this sign.

IMG_3679Along with a couple Dodger employees guarding an assortment of goodies.

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Lucky for me, they never worked at the same carnival as Navin Johnson and I was given a pretty big choice of prizes. It was all really great stuff and I went for a ball that was signed by Kenley Jansen.

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Score! A Kenley signed ball is a way better prize than a pack of carnival Chiclets.

Between Clayton’s performance and Corey and Joc combining for three home runs, going home with this ball was just the icing on the cake.

It was a night at the ballpark that was way too much fun for a random Tuesday.

Clayton and Kenley

The Kenley ball found a home on our Dodger shelf next to Clayton.

 

Game 6: Dodgers 1 – Padres 0

The matchup: Dodgers vs Padres (5.1.16)
Special Guest(s): My buddy Jim and his daughter Elsa
Snacks: Looks like they crushed some Dodger Dogs.
Giveaway: Corey Seager Kids Jersey
Memorable Moment(s): From Jim’s texts during the game: 10 pitches, three strikeouts for Kershaw in the first inning. Kershaw got an RBI. He’s doing it all himself! Nine innings of Kershaw!

Jim - Elsa

Jim and Elsa flying the Dodger flag.

RECAP: With a Corey Seager Kids Jersey on deck for the giveaway, I offered up our tickets to my buddy Jim so that he could take Elsa, his t-ball superstar daughter, to a game. Knowing how kid’s schedules are planned out years in advance, I offered him our tickets long before it became clear that Kershaw would be on the mound so I wasn’t about to dredge up an excuse for needing our tickets back.

As if I’d dare pull that stunt on a couple of hardcore Dodger fans anyway.

Jim’s been a lifelong fan and has been doing his part to make sure Elsa that is too so it’s always a treat when we get to hook them up with a game. From his updates, it was clear they were there for every pitch (no easy feat when bringing a 7-year-old to the ballpark) and were able to make some great memories.

Here’s hoping they get reminisce about this one 10 years from now with Kershaw still on the mound for the Dodgers.

Elsa Dodger Dog

Elsa takes down a Dodger Dog like a pro.

Jim and Elsa

Jim and Elsa joined me for an afternoon on the field at the end of last season.

Elsa at the Warning Track

Elsa got some early practice in the art of robbing a home run.

 

 

 

Game 5: Padres 5 – Dodgers 2

The matchup: Dodgers vs Padres (4.30.16)
Special Guest: This was a solo mission. Couldn’t stay for much of the game and had promised a Justin Turner Chia Pet to a buddy.
Snacks: Greek Salad from the healthy cart and a water. (Made the mistake of stepping on the scale before heading to the game.)
Giveaway: See above.
Memorable Moment: Clayton Kershaw threw me a ball during batting practice. (And I didn’t drop it!)

Justin Turner Chia Pet Ticket

Made some sweet custom modifications to our tickets in honor of Justin Turner Chia Pet Night.

RECAP: Thanks to a prior obligation, I was spared the anguish of having to watch the Dodgers extend their losing streak to six and drop their second in a row to the lowly Padres of San Diego. When I left, neither team had scored and the Dodgers still had hope. We won’t rehash what happened in the following innings.

Howie Kendrick Batting Practice

Howie Kendrick settles in to the batter’s box.

To help off-set the fact that I was a horrible Dodger fan who bounced at the top of the third, I did attend early batting practice to catch the festivities. I get out for it a few times a season and prefer to stick to the sidelines. Better to let the established ballhawks do their thing and not take any chances away from kids. The only time I ever make a play on a ball is if it’s coming right at me. My glove is purely for self-defense and you should definitely bring one if you go to BP. Balls can come in hot.

Even with this “strategy,” I’ve managed to snag several over the years and have had to invoke my self-imposed one ball limit more than a few times. Yesterday’s came from Clayton Kershaw(!) while he was shagging balls out in centerfield.

CLAYTON KERSHAW SHAGGING FLY BALLS

Three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw battles a bat boy (I believe it’s Sergio) for a ball during batting practice.

While Clayton was deciding where to throw it, I gave him a nonchalant wave that was borderline ironic amid all the screaming and waving that happens every time he touches a ball. Next thing I knew, it was coming right at me.

It’s amazing how time can freeze while a ball is in flight. As it made its way towards me, I got the chance to relive every horrific botched pop up from the days of Little League as my brain and motor skills rapidly began shutting down. Luckily, the solid thud of the ball landing in the pocket of my glove snapped me out of my two second flashback and the first thing my rebooted brain reminded me to do was to use my manners.

“Thanks, Clayton!” I yelled out.

Meanwhile, Clayton was probably like, “Great, now maybe that that stalker from the other night will leave me alone.”

CLAYTON KERSHAW BALL 2

Thanks for the ball, Clayton.

KERSHAW BALL CLOSE UP

Close up of the ball.

TOP DECK DODGER STADIUM

Bonus shot of an empty Top Deck.

Not long after the Padres took the field for their portion of BP, I exited the stadium and moseyed up to our level so I could score a second Chia Pet and wolf down a shame salad before anyone was there to see it.

From The Seats

None of these fans were any the wiser that I was the only person to eat a salad at a baseball game.

For a brief moment during the second inning, a rainbow could be seen arcing across the stadium behind right field. It was nearly in the exact same spot as the rainbow that appeared during Vin Scully’s first bobblehead night back in 2012.

RIGHT FIELD RAINBOW

Right field rainbow.

Was it a sign from the baseball gods that things will be turning around for the Dodgers?

Let’s hope so.

Game 3: Marlins 3 – Dodgers 2

The matchup: Dodgers vs Marlins (4.25.16)
Special Guest: My buddy Matt. Check out his Star Wars short on Funny or Die.
Snacks: Dodger Dog, regular fries, some of Matt’s fries, churro (for a hand warmer), some of Matt’s peanuts.
Giveaway: Clayton Kershaw bobblehead.
Memorable Moment: The return of Don Mattingly.

WITH MATT

Matt shows off just about the only thing a Jewish vegan can eat at Dodger Stadium during Passover.

RECAP: The Dodgers returned to Chavez Ravine after a quick 4 and 2 road trip to Atlanta and Denver and brought some gnarly weather back home with them. And we’re talking gnarly by hearty Midwestern standards. Not “Oh no, a dead palm fond fell on my Prius.”

Clouds over Dodger Stadium

It was a dark and stormy night at Dodger Stadium.

About 45 minutes before game time, a howling wind had the giant flags in center field as stiff as boards, sending rain (yes rain!) flying in every direction and fans running for cover. Things calmed down enough so that everyone returned to their seats in time for the official introduction of Don Mattingly as the manager of the Marlins.

DodgerVision played a montage of assorted highlights from Donnie Baseball’s years in blue set to the theme song for Welcome Back Kotter, a rather melancholy selection. Don was greeted with respectful applause and a smattering of (mostly) ironic boos.

Ross Stripling held the Marlins scoreless until Giancarlo Stanton led off the top of the fourth by sending the crowd at the left field bar running for cover with a cruise missile of a solo home run. Yasiel Puig and Trayce Thompson countered with shots of their own in the bottom half of the inning to put the Dodgers ahead 2-1. Stanton didn’t have to wait long to strike back. He raked a tying double to the wall in the fifth and the Marlins pulled ahead for good an inning later when Puig came up about half a mile short in his attempt to spear Derek Dietrich’s line drive triple out of the sky.

In the bottom of the seventh, Donnie received his most sincere greeting of the evening when he came out to replace starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen. The only way he could have been booed any harder is if he would have called for a double switch (his signature move) that involved Marlins hitting coach Barry Bonds trotting out to play left field. While I like Mattingly, I couldn’t help but laugh at the years of pent up angst raining down upon him.

Over in the Dodger Dugout, Dave Roberts maximized the used chewing gum that was available pitch out of the bullpen and emptied the bench in the most strategic way he could, saving Adrian Gonzales until the bottom of the ninth to pinch hit with Joc Pederson standing on first.

The Dodgers came up short but tonight is a new night and Clayton Kershaw is on the mound.

And hopefully this guy won’t be at the ballpark.

Barry Bonds Jersey

Yep. This guy was wearing a Giants era Barry Bonds jersey to a game between the Dodgers and Marlins.