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SPORTS DIGEST: Ohtani is everything Dodgers hoped he would be

By Don Wanlass

Contributing Writer

Almost a third of the way through the baseball season and the Dodgers are where they are supposed to be — leading the National League West by eight games with the fourth best record in baseball.

After a 7-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks May 21, the Dodgers are 14-5 in May as they prepare to go on the road for a six-game trip to Cincinnati and New York.

Despite having the second best earned run average in the National League at 3.23, the Dodgers are dependent on their offense. When they hit, they win.

In their five losses this month, the Dodgers have scored a total of seven runs. They have 86 runs in their 14 wins, an average of more than six a game.

Shohei Ohtani has been everything the Dodgers hoped he would be when they signed him in the offseason for $700 million over 10 years. He has a .356 batting average with 13 home runs and 34 runs batted in. He also has 13 stolen bases.

He had his first game-winning walk-off hit for the Dodgers May 19 when he singled home Jason Heyward in the bottom of the 10th inning for a 3-2 win.

Mookie Betts sets the table for Ohtani and the rest of the offense as the leadoff hitter. He is hitting .330 with eight homers and 29 RBI.

Freddie Freeman has had a slow start to the season by his standards. His grand slam home run May 20, the key blow in the Dodgers 6-4 win over the Diamondbacks, was only his fifth homer of the season. Freeman hit 50 home runs in his first two seasons with the Dodgers

He’s only hitting .292, which is good for most Major League hitters, but considerably below the .325 and .331 Freeman has hit in his first two years. Once he finds his stroke, the Dodgers will be next to unbeatable.

Catcher Will Smith is quietly having an all-star type season. He is hitting .306 with 5 home runs and 32 RBI, third on the team behind Ohtani and Teoscar Hernandez.

Hernandez has been a pleasant surprise in the middle of the batting order, with 11 homers and a team-leading 37 RBI.  

There are still some weaknesses on the team. The bottom of the lineup still is inconsistent at best. 

Kike Hernandez is hitting .210. Gavin Lux is at .203. Chris Taylor has increased his average in the last week, but is hitting .098.

Last year’s rookie sensation James Outman and his .147 batting average were shipped out to Oklahoma City last week where the Dodgers hope he can find what led him to success last season.

It’s hard to explain the Dodgers’ pitching staff. 

Starting pitchers Clayton Kershaw, Bobby Miller, Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin and Emmet Sheehan are all on the injured list. That would be a great five-man rotation if they were healthy.

And the bullpen is the same way. Evan Phillips, Ryan Brasier, Joe Kelly and Brusdar Graterol are on the injured list. Those were the Dodgers’ four best relief pitchers last September.

In 51 games, the team has used 27 different pitchers. Eleven different pitchers have started games this season.

Normally, that would not be considered a recipe for success but the Dodgers get the most out of their pitchers.

Tyler Glasnow has assumed the role of staff ace. He is 6-2 in 10 starts with a 2.90 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 62 innings.

After a rough start, Yoshinobu Yamamoto is 5-1 with a 3.17 ERA. James Paxton is 5-0 with a 2.84 ERA and Gavin Stone is 4-2 with a 3.60 ERA.

Walker Buehler is back in the rotation and is 1-1 after three starts in his return from Tommy John surgery. After a couple of rough outings, he seemed to find his bearings May 18 against Cincinnati, throwing six shutout innings and allowing only three hits in a 4-0 win.

Two seasoned veterans, Daniel Hudson and Blake Treinen, are holding the bullpen together while Phillips recovers from a hamstring injury and Alex Vesia is having a good season, with a 1.23 ERA in 21 games

If Kershaw and Miller can return to the rotation and Phillips, Brasier and Kelly return to the bullpen, the Dodgers will have a pitching staff as formidable as their lineup.

There is still two-thirds of the season to go and anything can happen in baseball, but the Dodgers have to be happy with where they are 50 games into the season.

CAITLIN IS HERE: Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever will face the Los Angeles Sparks at Crypto.com Arena May 24 in a highly anticipated game. 

The game will feature three of the first four players chosen in the WNBA Draft last month: Clark from Iowa for the Fever and Cameron Brink and Rickea Jackson for the Sparks.

The Fever enters the game with a 0-4 record, losing twice to the Connecticut Sun and the New York Liberty. It was a rough way to start the season for the Fever since those two teams are a combined 7-0.

Clark is adjusting to life in the WNBA. She leads the team in scoring at 17 points a game and assists with 5.5 a game. She also averages 6.5 turnovers a game. 

Guard Kelsey Mitchell and forward NaLyssa Smith are the only other Fever players averaging more than 10 points a game.

The Sparks lost their first two games before defeating the Washington Mystics, 70-68 May 21. Brink used her 6-4 frame to block a shot in the final seconds to secure the win for the Sparks, who were led by guard Lexie Brown with 20 points. 

Veteran forward Dearica Hamby has been the Sparks’ best player early in the season, leading the team in scoring with 22 points a game and rebounding with 13.7.

Brink has shown more defense than offense so far. She is scoring only six points a game while averaging six rebounds and 3.7 blocks a game.

Jackson is averaging 9.7 points a game coming off the bench.

The game was originally scheduled to be played at the Walter Pyramid on the Cal State Long Beach campus. That gym seats only 4,000 people so when the Lakers, Clippers and Kings were all eliminated from the playoffs, the Sparks asked to move the game to their normal home, Crypto.com Arena. 

The game figures to be a rare sellout for the Sparks.

LOOKING FORWARD: Pro football fans can start planning their schedules for next season now that the NFL has released the schedules for all 32 teams. 

The Rams open the season Sept. 8 in Detroit in a replay of last season’s wild card playoff round that saw the Lions eke out a 24-23 win. The game will be the Sunday Night Game of the Week on NBC.

The Chargers open at home against the Las Vegas Raiders at 1 p.m. Sept. 8. That will be new head coach Jim Harbaugh’s debut. It will also be Tom Telesco’s first game as the Raiders general manager after spending the last 10 seasons as the Chargers’ GM.

The Rams’ opener will be one of five “prime time” games for the team this season.

They will play a second Sunday night game Nov. 24 against the Philadelphia Eagles at SoFi Stadium, two Thursday night games against the Minnesota Vikings Oct. 24 at SoFi Stadium and Dec. 12 at San Francisco and a Monday night game Nov. 11 against the Miami Dolphins at SoFi.

The Chargers will make three prime-time appearances, a Monday night game Oct. 21 at Arizona, a Monday night game Nov. 25 at SoFi against the Baltimore Ravens and a Sunday night game at Kansas City Dec. 8.

The game with the Ravens will pit Harbaugh against his brother John, the first time they have coached against each other since Super Bowl XLVII in 2013, when the Ravens defeated the 49ers, 34-31.

The Chargers’ other home games are scheduled for Sept. 29 against the Kansas City Chiefs, Oct. 27 against the New Orleans Saints, Nov. 10 against the Tennessee Titans, Nov. 17 against the Cincinnati Bengals, Dec. 15 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dec. 22 against the Denver Broncos.

Their other road games are scheduled for Sept. 15 at Carolina, Sept. 22 at Pittsburgh, Oct. 13 at Denver, Nov. 3 at Cleveland, Dec. 1 at Atlanta, Dec. 28 or 29 at New England and Jan. 4 or 5 at Las Vegas. The bye week falls early, Oct. 6.

The Rams other home games are Sept. 22 against San Francisco, Oct. 6 against Green Bay, Oct. 20 against Las Vegas, Dec. 8 against Buffalo, Dec. 28 or 29 against Arizona and Jan. 4 or 5 against Seattle.

Their road schedule includes Arizona Sept. 15, Chicago Sept. 29, Seattle Nov. 3, New England Nov. 17, New Orleans Dec. 1 and the New York Jets Dec. 22.

Their bye week is Oct. 13.

The Rams open their three-game preseason schedule Aug. 11 by playing host to the Dallas Cowboys at SoFi Stadium. They will face the Chargers Aug. 17 with the Rams designated as the road team.

The Rams will conclude the preseason Aug. 24 by playing at Houston.

The Chargers’ preseason schedule includes the Seattle Seahawks at SoFi Stadium Aug. 10 and the Dallas Cowboys on the road Aug. 24.

       
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