Dodgers sweep D'backs, head to second straight NLCS


Dodgers sweep D'backs, head to second straight NLCS


PHOENIX -- Led by a big Japanese right-hander and a rookie from just down the road, the Los Angeles Dodgers are headed back to the NL Championship Series.

Cody Bellinger homered, drove in two runs and flipped over a dugout railing to steal an out for a dominant Yu Darvish, helping the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-1 Monday night to finish a three-game sweep in their NL Division Series.

Darvish, acquired from Texas in a trade deadline deal, struck out seven over five innings to outpitch Arizona's Zack Greinke and earn the righty his first postseason victory in three tries.

Four Los Angeles relievers combined to preserve a three-hitter. Kenley Jansen worked around a single by David Peralta for a three-out save, striking out Paul Goldschmidt to end it. Only four batters reached base all night for the Diamondbacks, including Daniel Descalso with a homer.

The Dodgers, who won 104 games for the best record in baseball and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, face the winner of the Nationals-Cubs series in the NLCS. Los Angeles lost there to World Series champion Chicago last year.

Bellinger - from nearby Chandler, Arizona - hit his homer in the fifth, then made a daring catch to end the bottom of the inning. The rookie first baseman fell into the Dodgers dugout as he snagged Jeff Mathis' popup, nearly dropping into the lap of manager Dave Roberts.

The 22-year-old Bellinger is the youngest Dodger ever to homer in the postseason - he's 75 days younger than Corey Seager was when he set the mark last fall. He was just 1 for 12 with five strikeouts in his first postseason before hitting Greinke's 3-1 pitch over the wall in left for a 2-0 lead.

Bellinger also brought home Chris Taylor with a groundout in the first inning, and Austin Barnes chased Greinke with a leadoff homer in the sixth.

After Ketel Marte's first-inning bunt single, Darvish sent down 13 in a row before Descalso hit his second homer of the series. The two-out shot barely cleared the right-field fence over Yasiel Puig's glove to cut the lead to 2-1.

Darvish left after hitting pinch-hitter Christian Walker in the bill of his helmet to begin the sixth.

Greinke - the ex-Dodger signed to a $206.5 million, six-year contract by Arizona before the 2016 season - gave up three runs and four hits in five-plus innings. He struggled with his command, walking a season-high five and throwing 103 pitches through five innings. Greinke faced 3-2 counts against five of his first eight batters and was at 54 pitches through two innings.

The Dodgers tinkered with Darvish's mechanics after the trade, and he was masterful through most of the night, mixing a 98 mph fastball with his deep repertoire of offspeed pitches. He allowed two hits and didn't walk any over 74 pitches.

Arizona won its last six regular-season games against the Dodgers, but Los Angeles dominated its NL West rival when it mattered most, sweeping an opponent in the postseason for the first time since the 2009 NLDS against St. Louis.

Diamondbacks: Open next season at home against Colorado on March 29.

Dodgers: Face either the Washington Nationals or Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series.

No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers


No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers

SCOTTSDALE — A couple of veterans walked past a clubhouse TV earlier in camp and saw that the Giants and Padres were tied heading into the bottom of the 10th of an exhibition game. The Padres infielders were just standing around, and there was not yet a new pitcher on the mound. 

“It’s that time when No. 99 comes in to pitch,” one of the players joked as he headed home for the day.

A few seconds later, a big left-hander took the mound. He was, in fact, wearing No. 99, and in his inning on the mound he would face a No. 74 (Aramis Garcia) and No. 78 (Steven Duggar). This is the norm for spring training, when dozens of players — including teenagers and journeymen still hanging around the low minors — get into every game. That leads to action between numbers you would never see in a normal game. The Giants had 60 players in camp, plus 10 coaches and staff members with numbers. Throw in their 10 retired numbers and the unofficially retired ones (25, 55, etc.) and, well, there aren’t a whole lot of choices left. 

If Duggar makes the Opening Day roster, he’ll get an upgrade from his lineman’s number. Ditto for Garcia, who could be Buster Posey’s backup as soon as next season. Still, a taste of big league action doesn’t guarantee a normal number in camp, when young players regularly find themselves back at the end of the line. 

Ryder Jones wore 83 in camp last year and 63 in the big leagues. When he showed up this year, with 150 big league at-bats under his belt, he was told that he would have to wait until the end of the spring to upgrade. Players with more service time (think No. 2 Chase d’Arnaud or No. 19 Josh Rutledge) get priority, at least until all the cuts are made. Jones said he has a few numbers in mind for his next stint in the big leagues, but he won’t be picky. 

“Anything under 40 works,” he said, smiling. 

The steady climb toward single digits happens to just about everybody. Long before Brandon Crawford’s became @bcraw35, he wore 79 in his first camp. He moved up to 53 after that and Mike Murphy flipped that to 35 when Crawford became the big league shortstop. Hunter Pence doesn’t remember his first spring training number with the Astros, but he knows it was in the low eighties. Joe Panik wore 66 the first time he spent a spring at Scottsdale Stadium. “I was an offensive lineman,” he joked. Tyler Beede, now on the cusp of his big league debut, got promoted from 63 to 32 when he arrived last spring, only to swap to 38 this year because of some in-season shifting. When Pablo Sandoval arrived last summer, Steven Okert switched from 48 to 32.

Then there are those who have only known one jersey. Posey was a can’t-miss prospect when he arrived and doesn’t remember wearing anything other than 28. Brandon Belt was a top-25 prospect when he came to camp for the first time, and he’s been 9 since that day. Madison Bumgarner wore 40 in his first big league camp because he had already made his big league debut, but somewhere in the team archives, there are probably a few photos of a 19-year-old Bumgarner wearing something else. 

“The previous spring I came up to pitch a few times,” Bumgarner said. “I’m pretty sure I had a different number every time I came over and I’m pretty sure it was always in the eighties.”

There were seven Giants in the eighties this spring. Duggar was one of two top prospects — Chris Shaw inherited Crawford’s old 79 — to come close, and he didn’t mind one bit. He’s not thinking too far ahead, even though he could be a big leaguer in eight days. 

“I’ll take anything if I’m in the big leagues,” he said. “I’ll take No. 112 if that’s what they give me.”

Will Clark says Steven Duggar can play 'Gold Glove center field right now,' trusts the bat too


Will Clark says Steven Duggar can play 'Gold Glove center field right now,' trusts the bat too

Will Clark won his first and only Gold Glove at first base for the Giants at age 27 in 1991. It was Clark's sixth year in the major leagues. 

Steven Duggar won't have to wait that long to win the biggest hardware for his defense in Clark's eyes. 

"He can play Gold Glove center field right now in the big leagues. He can flat out go get it in center field," Clark said on the Giants' prospect Tuesday on KNBR. "He can definitely, definitely play a Gold Glove center field." 

Clark, who now serves a role in the Giants' front office after playing in five straight All-Star Games for his former team from 1988-92, has watched Duggar closely for more than just this spring training. When asked about his feelings on the 24-year-old, Clark made them clear right away. 

"I've seen Steve parts of the last two seasons in the minor leagues and I am definitely a Steven Duggar fan," Clark said. 

The question with Duggar has always been his bat. He has elite speed, gets great jumps in center field and everyone from Bruce Bochy to Buster Posey has praised his ability to track down fly balls. 

"His thing is, how quick is he going to make the adjustment in the big leagues with the pitching. I know there's a lot of people that are asking that question right now," Clark. 

Count The Thrill as one of the leaders in Camp Duggar. He joined many others in complimenting his glove left and right. But what he has to say about the Clemson product's bat is what puts him over the top. 

"He's succeeded at each level he's been at," Clark pointed out. "He will do it at the major league level and I'm kind of staking my reputation on that."

This is confidence -- to say the least -- coming from someone who was a .303 lifetime hitter and bashed 284 home runs in 15 seasons. 

Over three years in the minor leagues, Duggar is a .292 career hitter with a .384 on-base percentage and .427 slugging percentage. Duggar started off scorching hot this spring with the Giants, but has cooled down with the Cactus League soon coming to a close. In 16 games, Duggar is slashing .250/.353/.545 and has shown more pop with four home runs.