SPORTS DIGEST: Basketball, baseball have different results as play resumes

By Don Wanlass, Contributing Writer

The basketball bubble appears to be working in Florida while baseball’s great experiment of trying to keep players healthy while playing in empty stadiums has hit a couple of rough stops.

So much for sports so far in the season of the coronavirus.

The NBA’s bubble experiment in Orlando, where everyone stays sequestered in the Disney World complex is working, if you can get used to watching games being played in empty gymnasiums.

Baseball, which chose to go without a bubble and trust its players to keep themselves healthy, found out that boys will be boys and not everyone is going to stay hope (or locked in their hotel room on the road) and is having problems with a handful of players on a couple of teams testing positive for the coronavirus.

The Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals are the affected (infected?) teams, but their illnesses are impacting other teams.

When the Marlins had several players test positive after a three-game season opening series against the Philadelphia Phillies, the Phillies also were put on quarantine, forcing the postponement of several games for both teams.

The same thing happened with the Cardinals after the second weekend of the season. With Major League Baseball trying to cram 60 games into 66 days, there isn’t much room for rescheduling postponed games and the Marlins and Cardinals could end up playing several doubleheaders to make up the games that were postponed.

So far, the Dodgers haven’t had any problems like the Marlins and Cardinals. Their only problems come when they fail to hit or their bullpen melts down, like it did July 31 against the Arizona Diamondbacks or Aug. 3 against the San Diego Padres.

At 8-4, the Dodgers are a game behind the Colorado Rockies. Their bullpen has been charged with three losses already (relievers also have posted three wins), but the Dodgers biggest problem comes when they fail to hit in the clutch.

Center fielder Cody Bellinger, first baseman Max Muncy and catcher Will Smith are all hitting under .200, which doesn’t figure to last (especially for Bellinger and Muncy).

When the Dodgers hit home runs in bunches, they win. When they have to get three or four hits to generate a run or two, they don’t do as well.

The starting pitchers still aren’t stretched out to go much more than six innings a game, which puts more strain on the bullpen, but, except for glitches in two of their four losses, the bullpen has pitched pretty well.

Kenley Jansen has three saves already in five scoreless appearances as he learns to pitch with reduced velocity. Joe Kelly has become a local hero while pitching 4 1/3 scoreless innings and Pedor Baez has given up one run in 6 2/3 innings.

Brusdar Graterol has pitched well in four of his six appearances, but his two bad appearances have both resulted in losses.

The Dodgers still figure to win the National League West for the eighth straight year, unless more teams end up catching the coronavirus and Commissioner Rob Manfred ends up canceling the rest of the season.

But, there’s too much money at stake once (if?) the playoffs start in October, for baseball to afford to shut the season down.

PLAYOFF BOUND: The Lakers will make the post-season this year for the first time since 2013 after clinching the number one position in the Western Conference with a 116-108 win over the Utah Jazz Aug. 3.

The victory leaves the Lakers with a 6 ½ game lead over the Clippers with five games to play, but the Lakers need those last five games to find a consistent number three scorer behind Anthony Davis and LeBron James.

Davis scored 42 against Utah, including four three-pointers, and grabbed 12 rebounds. James added 22 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists.

The third leading scorer was Dwight Howard with 11 and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was the only other player in double figures with 10. When the defenses tighten come playoff time, Davis and James are going to need Kyle Kuzma and someone else, to step up on a regular basis.

Many experts are still picking the Clippers to defeat the Lakers in a seven-game conference final series because the Clippers have more offensive weapons and a deeper and younger team overall.

The Clippers just got Lou Williams back after he missed a couple of games for leaving the bubble to go home for a funeral. He was seen at a gentleman’s club following the funeral and had to go through quarantine procedures again before he could return to the lineup.

The Clippers also haven’t had Montrezl Harrell in the lineup since play resumed, because he has been visiting his grandmother who is ill. Harrell and Williams are the best one-two punch off the bench in the league and are essential to what the Clippers do. With four or five more games to play, that should give the Clippers enough time to gel before the playoffs start.

TIGER WATCH: Tiger Woods goes for his 16th major title this weekend in the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. Whether he has the physical stamina needed for four consecutive days of intense golf is only one of the questions Woods needs to answer this week.

Woods stunned the golf world last year when he won the Masters at Augusta, his first win at a major tournament since the 2008 U.S. Open. He didn’t fare so well at the other majors last year.

Woods doesn’t know how many chances he is going to get to win another major, so he needs to win now if he hopes to equal Jack Nicholas’ career mark of 18 major wins. His next tournament win will give him the most career tournament wins ever as well.