Photo © – pixabay Jonathan Walters believes the Republic of Ireland’s late draw against Austria in yesterday’s World Cup qualifier was the least they deserved.A much improved second half display saw them claim a crucial point, thanks to Walters’ 86th minute equaliser.Martin O’Neill’s side remain unbeaten in Group D with three wins and three draws, and they next travel to Georgia at the start of September. Walters says they could have won the game, if it weren’t for some controversial late decisions by the referee.
PreviousThe Dodgers’ Matt Kemp dives for home plate to beat the throw to Oakland catcher Jonathan Lucroy during a game earlier this month at Dodger Stadium. Having shed some weight in the offseason, the 33-year-old Kemp is running as well as he has in years. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)‘We challenged him about his defense and he did a lot of extra work with George Lombard in spring training,’ Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said of outfielder Matt Kemp. ‘He heard the feedback and he set out to do something about it.’ (AP Photo/Matt York)Los Angeles Dodgers’ Matt Kemp during the National League Championship ring ceremony prior to a Major League Baseball game against the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium on Saturday, March 31, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG) SoundThe gallery will resume insecondsLos Angeles Dodgers’ Matt Kemp sits in the dugout before a baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Friday, April 20, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 10: Matt Kemp #27 of the Los Angeles Dodgers slides safely into second after hitting a double during the first inning of a game against the Oakland Athletics at Dodger Stadium on April 10, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp hasn’t hit .300 in a full season since 2012. His 30-homer, 90-RBI pace would be a vast improvement over his 2016 season with the Braves, when he hit 19 home runs and drove in 64. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)Los Angeles Dodgers’ Matt Kemp watches from the dugout during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Sunday, April 22, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)The Dodgers’ Matt Kemp dives for home plate to beat the throw to Oakland catcher Jonathan Lucroy during a game earlier this month at Dodger Stadium. Having shed some weight in the offseason, the 33-year-old Kemp is running as well as he has in years. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)‘We challenged him about his defense and he did a lot of extra work with George Lombard in spring training,’ Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said of outfielder Matt Kemp. ‘He heard the feedback and he set out to do something about it.’ (AP Photo/Matt York)NextShow Caption1 of 7‘We challenged him about his defense and he did a lot of extra work with George Lombard in spring training,’ Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said of outfielder Matt Kemp. ‘He heard the feedback and he set out to do something about it.’ (AP Photo/Matt York)ExpandOn April 16 in San Diego, Matt Kemp smoked a line drive to left-center field 312 feet from home plate. Franchy Cordero, the Padres’ center fielder, cut off the ball just in front of the warning track and rifled a throw to second base. After two hops, the ball beat Kemp to the bag.As Kemp was tagged out he could only smile. He realized his error. As soon as he returned to the dugout, a coach said, Kemp apologized for not running harder out of the box.Four weeks into the season, this is the only instance anyone could remember of Kemp’s footwork requiring an apology.“The other night, him trying to beat an infield hit out, I think he was 4.3 (seconds) down the line,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Kemp. “He’s moving as well as I recall.” It’s one thing for an athlete to say he is in the best shape of his life. It’s another thing for him to look it. Four weeks into the season, Kemp has taken it a step further, marrying his new physique with a renewed commitment to producing measurable results on a baseball field.Kemp said the 40 pounds he lost during the offseason have delivered the results he expected.“I just feel better, man. That’s pretty much it,” he said. “I feel good. Got some weight off of me. I’m moving better.”How much better? One scout clocked Kemp’s baserunning speed as the best he’d measured since 2015. The league’s publicly available Statcast data agrees, pinning down April 2015 as the last month in which Kemp ran as fast as he has in April 2018 (26.6 feet per second). No player by Statcast’s metric has gained more speed since last year.It would not be accurate to say Kemp’s athleticism exceeded all expectations the Dodgers had in December, when they acquired him from the Atlanta Braves. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said he wasn’t quite sure what to expect back then. Dodgers’ Dave Roberts says baseball’s unwritten rules ‘have changed, should change’ Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Dodgers’ hot-hitting Corey Seager leaves game with back injury Dodgers’ Justin Turner looking rejuvenated on defense “We challenged him about his defense and he did a lot of extra work with George Lombard in spring training,” Friedman said. “He heard the feedback and he set out to do something about it.”For his part, Kemp has no interest in boasting about the effects of his new physique.“There’s really not much to talk about,” he said. “I talked about that in spring training. There’s not much else to say, really. For real. There’s nothing there.”Can he think of a ball that he’s caught or a throw that he’s beaten out, that he could not have a year ago?“I don’t know, man,” Kemp said. “I got the weight off. That’s all that matters.” Dodgers bench slumping Cody Bellinger for a day Whicker: Dustin May yet another example of the Dodgers’ eye for pitching “We had some sense that he was in the midst of working to get his body into optimal shape,” Friedman said. “I remember seeing him here in January. He came for a doctor’s appointment, saw him here hitting with some of the guys one morning, and was immediately taken aback by the shape he was in and the way he was swinging the bat.”Kemp’s .313 batting average, four home runs and 12 RBIs through 21 games are enough to justify the trade on merit. Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir and Charlie Culberson were jettisoned to help the team’s payroll flexibility. All the Dodgers received in return was their best right-handed hitter to this point in the season.Kemp hasn’t hit .300 in a full season since 2012. His 30-homer, 90-RBI pace would be a vast improvement over his 2016 season with the Braves, when he hit 19 home runs and drove in 64.The more breathtaking achievement is a 33-year-old outfielder with a history of hamstring strains and hip issues running like he’s 30 again.“It just gets back to each individual, what point they’re (at) in their career and how hungry they are to make those changes,” Friedman said. “So much of the early-season success has to do with that commitment that he made that offseason. He’s reaping the benefits of it right now, as are we.”A full appreciation of Kemp’s transformation requires more than numbers. From the time he was drafted in 2003, to his debut in 2006, and those promising early years patrolling center field at Dodger Stadium, Kemp was regarded as an athlete first and a baseball player second. Scouts marveled at Kemp’s tools but were often left wondering when his instincts and fundamentals would take hold – more as a runner and a fielder than a hitter.Sometimes that cost Kemp dearly. In July 2013, during his first game back from a shoulder injury, Kemp was caught between a stride and a slide into home plate and hurt his ankle. The usually stolid Associated Press account described “a needless injury that came from lack of hustle.” Kemp needed nearly two months to recover.Other than his long single in San Diego, this is not the same player the Dodgers have seen in 2018. Dodgers first base coach George Lombard said he’s been impressed by Kemp’s intent on the basepaths.“When he’s a trail runner at first, you see him engage on every pitch,” Lombard said. “He’s taking his secondary leads and that’s half the battle. The care factor when you’re running the bases, that’s one of the hardest things to do out there. When you’re scuffling you don’t want to put any effort into that, but when you watch (Chase) Utley, a Chris Taylor, those guys never take pitches off.”Lombard, who also coaches the Dodgers’ outfielders, said Kemp has gotten to every ball in left field that could be expected. This is where the numbers become useful.Statcast’s Outs Above Average metric records the percentage of fly balls every outfielder is expected to catch based on the difficulty of each hit. Kemp’s expected catch percentage of 94 is lower than his actual catch percentage of 96. In other words, he’s slightly better than the average left fielder.That’s all the Dodgers could have asked for.Related Articles
Daniel Wasinger (Southeastern Louisiana) – Kane County CougarsA 2018 31st-round pick, Wasinger was assigned to the Diamondbacks’ Single-A team on May 31. In his third appearance for the Cougars, he delivered a go-ahead RBI single to put them on top 4-3 before Wisconsin tied it in the ninth and won it in the 12th. Class A Short SeasonTanner Driskill (Lamar) – Auburn DoubledaysThe 2018 ninth-round pick will start his second season with the Auburn Doubledays, the Nationals’ Short-A squad. Driskill struck out 21 batters in 24 innings in his rookie season in 2018. Andrew Fregia (Sam Houston State) – Aberdeen IronbirdsThe two-time All-Southland Conference selection was assigned to the Orioles’ Short-A affiliate on May 21 after hitting .169 over 19 games with Baltimore’s Single-A squad. Andro Cutura (Southeastern Louisiana) – Pensacola Blue WahoosThe 2014 Southland Conference wins and strikeouts leader is 1-2 with a 4.45 ERA and 20 strikeouts through 28.1 innings for the Twins’ Double-A affiliate to start the season. In his last two starts, he has a 0.50 WHIP and no earned runs through 10 innings. Ryan Tepera (Sam Houston State) – Toronto Blue JaysAfter missing the first three weeks of the season with right elbow inflammation, Tepera was activated from the 10-day injured list on April 18 and pitched 11 innings out of the bullpen and picked up two holds before returning to the IL on May 21 with elbow impingement. Over his five-year big-league tenure with the Blue Jays, he is 12-11 with a 3.65 ERA, 38 holds and 10 saves. Tepera has punched out 198 batters over 204.2 innings and boasts a .220 opponent batting average. Austin Briggs (McNeese) – AZL Athletics GreenA 2018 29th-round pick by the A’s, Briggs prepares to start his second season with the Rookie League team after striking out 28 batters in 26 innings across 16 appearances in 2018. Grant Borne (Nicholls) – Potomac NationalsIn his second season with the Nationals’ Advanced-A affiliate, the two-time All-Southland Conference selection is 1-3 with 32 strikeouts in 10 appearances. Borne struck out a career-high eight batters across six innings against Wilmington on May 11. Adam Moore (UT Arlington) – Nashville SoundsIn his seventh-straight season at the Triple-A level, now with the Rangers’ affiliate, the 2006 Southland Conference Newcomer of the Year went 5-for-9 with five RBI, a home run and a double in a two-game series against Reno June 4 & 6. Ryan O’Hearn (Sam Houston State) – Kansas City RoyalsWhile O’Hearn’s numbers have dipped at the plate this season, the former Bearkat is second on the team to teammate Dozier in walks with 24 and recorded nine multi-hit games this season. He blasted an opposite-field home run, his fifth of the season, in an 8-7 win over the Yankees on May 26. O’Hearn has shone defensively in 45 starts at first base with a near perfect fielding percentage (.997), 45 double plays and 12 assists in 371 total chances. Nick Heath (Northwestern State) – Northwest Arkansas NaturalsThe two-time Southland Conference stolen bases leader has already racked up a Double-A best 33 stolen bases. Heath swiped a career-high four bags against Arkansas on May 20, surpassing the 125 career steals mark in just his fourth year of pro baseball. Wade Miley (Southeastern Louisiana) – Houston AstrosThe 2008 Southland Conference strikeouts leader has found a second wind in his career as a member of the Astros rotation with the second most wins on the team at 5-2. Miley ranks third on the squad in innings pitched with 74.1 frames pitched over 13 starts. The Hammond, La., native went 4-1 in the month of May with four quality starts. In his sole defeat, he posted season-highs in innings pitched (7.0) and strikeouts (9) against the Cubs. Chi Chi Gonzalez (Oral Roberts) – Albuquerque IsotopesIn his first season with the Rockies’ Triple-A squad, the 2013 Southland Conference Pitcher of the Year is 4-4 with 53 strikeouts in 58 innings pitched over 11 starts. He tied a season high with seven scoreless innings in a 1-0 loss to Las Vegas on May 23.Louis Head (Texas State) – Oklahoma City DodgersHead was promoted to the Dodgers’ Triple-A squad and has punched out 14 batters in 11.2 innings over eight relief appearances in Oklahoma City. He picked up his first AAA victory with a perfect inning of relief in a 15-6 win over Round Rock on May 14. Cole Stapler (Nicholls) – Visalia RawhideStapler is 3-4 with a 3.38 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 10 starts for the Diamondbacks’ Advanced-A team. His 1.13 WHIP is third-best in the California League. Stapler picked up his fourth quality start with one run on five hits over six innings against Modesto on May 31.Bryan Warzek (New Orleans) – Rancho Cucamonga QuakesDespite sitting down 32 batters on strikes through 26.2 innings, the two-time All-Southland Conference pick is 1-2 with a 6.08 ERA in seven starts with the Dodgers’ Advanced-A affiliate. Warzek struck out a season-high eight batters in five no-hit innings on April 16. Tyler Depreta-Johnson (Houston Baptist) – Down East Wood DucksThe Third-Team All-Southland selection from last year received a call-up to the Rangers’ Triple-A squad after reaching base at a .348 clip in Single-A. After three games with the Sounds, he was assigned to the club’s Advanced-A affiliate. Jameson Fisher (Southeastern Louisiana) – Winston-Salem DashIn his second stint with the White Sox’ Advanced-A team, the 2016 Southland Conference Player of the Year is reaching base at a .389 clip and ranks second in the Carolina league in doubles (17) and third in walks (37). Fisher also paces the team in total bases (86). Hunter Pence (UT Arlington) – Texas RangersThe longest-tenured active major leaguer out of the Southland Conference, the league’s 2004 Player and Hitter of the Year is tied for sixth among active hitters with 54 career triples. He ranks among the top-three on the Rangers in runs (35), home runs (12) and RBI (40). In the month of May, he hit .299 with a 1.025 OPS, eight home runs, seven doubles, 17 runs and 26 RBI. Pence carried that momentum into early June with a solo shot to put the Rangers on the board in a 4-3 win over the Orioles. Double-APreston Beck (UT Arlington) – Frisco RoughridersIn his second season with the Rangers’ Double-A team, the 2012 Southland Conference home runs leader is tied for the team lead with seven dingers in 2019. Beck is currently riding a five-game hit streak, batting .450 with four doubles and four runs. Class AGrant Anderson (McNeese) – Hickory CrawdadsSince being traded to the Rangers and subsequently assigned to Texas’ Single-A affiliate, Anderson has enjoyed the change of scenery with a 5-4 record, five saves and 2.64 ERA in 19 games. He has a 2.08 ERA and seven strikeouts over his last 8.2 innings Ty Tice (Central Arkansas) – New Hampshire Fisher CatsIn his first year with the Blue Jays’ Double-A affiliate, Tice is 1-3 with a 1.21 ERA in 19 appearances. He has struck out 22 batters through 22.1 innings. Tice hasn’t allowed an earned run in 14.1 innings over his last 13 times out.Will Vest (Stephen F. Austin) – Erie SeawolvesAfter a brief promotion to the Tigers’ Triple-A squad in Toledo, Vest is 1-3 with 11 strikeouts in 14 innings over nine appearances since returning to Detroit’s Double-A affiliate. Class A AdvancedKyle Arjona (New Orleans) – Clearwater ThreshersA member of last year’s Southland Conference All-Tournament Team, Arjona was assigned to the Phillies’ Advanced-A affiliate on May 17 and has punched out 10 batters in seven frames, including a career-high five strikeouts in three innings against Jupiter on May 24.Drew Avans (Southeastern Louisiana) – Rancho Cucamonga QuakesThe two-time All-Southland Conference selection was promoted from Single-A on April 19 and has driven in 12 runs with the Dodgers’ Advanced-A team. Avans went 3-for-4 with his third triple of the year and a career-high five runs in a win over Lancaster on May 15. Colton Turner (Texas State) – Charlotte KnightsIn his third stint with the White Sox’ Triple-A squad, Turner is 3-3 with 44 strikeouts in 42 innings in 15 appearances. He punched out a career-high eight batters across five innings against Rochester on May 16, allowing just one earned run on four hits. Addison Russ (Houston Baptist) – Reading Fightin PhilsRuss has appeared in 23 games out of the bullpen in his first year with the Phillies’ Double-A affiliate, striking out 34 batters in 23.2 innings and recording seven saves. He has pitched 13.1-straight innings without an earned run over his last 12 appearances. Josh Green (Southeastern Louisiana) – Visalia RawhideTied for the California League lead in wins, Green is 5-1 for the Diamondbacks’ Advanced-A affiliate. He had tossed six-straight quality starts with a 5-0 record and 1.75 ERA before hitting the 7-day injured list on May 17. He is the No. 26 prospect in Arizona farm system. Shawn Semple (New Orleans) – Tampa TarponsOn May 25, Semple was briefly promoted to the Yankees’ Double-A affiliate before returning to New York’s Advanced-A squad. He has struck out 23 batters in 31.2 innings across six starts for Tampa and picked up his first quality start on May 19 against Dayton. RookieKwan Adkins (Northwestern State) – AZL Giants BlackA Third-Team All-Southland pick in 2018, Adkins will start year two with the Giants’ Rookie League team after reaching base at a .364 clip with 21 walks, 21 runs and five extra-base hits in 2018. Paul Goldschmidt (Texas State) – St. Louis CardinalsThe two-time Southland Conference Hitter of the Year paces the Redbirds with 62 hits and is among the top-three on the team in runs (37), home runs (12), walks (30), batting average (.271), on-base percentage (.358), slugging percentage (.445) and OPS (.803). Over the last 13 games, Goldschmidt has a slash line of .333/.373/.458 with two home runs and five runs. Among active MLB players, he is third in career on-base percentage (.396) and fifth in career OPS (.923). FRISCO, Texas – A total of 53 Southland Conference baseball alumni are currently playing professional baseball in 2019. Below is an update on all active players. Statistics are through June 6, 2019. Cayden Hatcher (Nicholls) – Grand Junction RockiesA member of last year’s Southland Conference All-Tournament Team, Hatcher will start year two with the Rockies’ Rookie League team after going 2-0 with 23 strikeouts in 26 innings over 11 games in 2018. William Hancock (Central Arkansas) – Idaho Falls ChukarsA member of last year’s All-Southland Conference First Team, Hancock will start the year with the Royals’ Rookie League team after hitting .219 with eight RBI, six doubles and seven runs in his rookie season. MLB Hunter Dozier (Stephen F. Austin) – Kansas City RoyalsThe 2013 Southland Conference Player and Hitter of the Year has been one of the top sluggers in the American League through the opening months, ranking fifth in slugging (.589) and OPS (.987) and seventh in on-base percentage (.398) and batting average (.314). Dozier also leads the team with 26 walks. He was placed on the 10-day injured list with thorax tightness on June 3. Over the final six games of May, Dozier had a slash line of .455/.478/.727 with four RBI and three doubles. Collin Kober (McNeese) – Modesto NutsKober is 2-1 with a 3.73 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 22 appearances for the Mariners’ Advanced-A team in 2019. He struck out a career-high four batters in two scoreless innings against Stockton on May 4. Nolan Riggs (Sam Houston State) – Richmond Flying SquirrelsPrior to being placed on the 7-day injured list on April 17, Riggs had struck out six batters and allowed just three hits through 5.1 innings of scoreless relief.Robie Rojas (Sam Houston State) – Biloxi ShuckersRojas was assigned to the Brewers’ Double-A team after previously being slated to open the year in the Rookie League. He is batting .308 in four games with the Shuckers with a pair of doubles, three runs, and a .780 OPS. Jordan Romano (Oral Roberts) – Buffalo BisonsIn his second stint with the Blue Jays’ Triple-A affiliate, the 2014 Southland Conference Relief Pitcher of the Year has struck out 41 batters in 29 innings, including 16 punchouts and one run on four hits over 10.1 innings in his last seven appearances. Jake Norton (Stephen F. Austin) – GCL MarlinsThe Third-Team All-Southland pick from last year will start year two with the Marlins’ Rookie League team after tossing 3.1 innings of relief without allowing an earned run in 2018. Caleb Smith (Sam Houston State) – Miami MarlinsSmith has impressed as the anchor of the Marlins rotation with a 3-4 record and a 3.41 ERA through 12 starts in 2019. The team leader in strikeouts (82) and two-time All-Southland Conference hurler had tossed six-straight quality starts until suffering his first loss on May 14 to the AL East-leading Rays. Smith struck out a career-high 11 batters across 6.2 innings against the Cubs on May 7. Among NL Pitchers, he has the second-best opponent batting average (.198) and ranks third in K/9 (11.18). Kyle Keller (Southeastern Louisiana) – New Orleans Baby CakesKeller is in his second stint with the Marlins’ Triple-A team after receiving a call up on April 9. He has 33 strikeouts and a .188 opponent batting average in 28.2 innings across 18 appearances. He has a 0.50 WHIP and 12 strikeouts over his last eight innings. Bryce Johnson (Sam Houston State) – San Jose GiantsIn his second season with the Giants’ Advanced-A squad, the two-time Southland hits leader leads the team in runs (26), hits (50), RBI (20), total bases (70), walks (30) and stolen bases (12). Johnson tied a career high with four hits against Modesto on May 23. Aaron Hernandez (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi) – Inland Empire 66ersA 2018 third-round selection by the Angels, Hernandez has struck out 29 batters in 27.1 innings across eight outings for Anaheim’s Advanced-A team. He struck out a season-high seven batters across four innings in a start against San Jose on April 29. Robbie Podorsky (McNeese) – Lake Elsinore StormPodorsky’s second stint with the Padres’ Advanced-A squad has started much better than his first as he ranks second on the team in stolen bases (12) and third in batting average (.289). He was placed on the 7-day injured list on June 4. David Fry (Northwestern State) – Wisconsin Timber RattlersIn his first year of Class A ball with the Brewers, last year’s Southland Player of the Year leads the Midwest League with 23 doubles and ranks second in total bases (107). He will start for the Western Division team in the 2019 Midwest League All-Star Game. Tyler Gray (Central Arkansas) – Lexington LegendsThe 2018 Southland Conference Pitcher of the Year, Gray started the year with the Royals’ Single-A affiliate. He is 2-3 with a save and a 4.63 ERA in 13 games, including three starts. Adam Oller (Northwestern State) – Augusta Green JacketsThe 2016 Southland Conference Pitcher of the Year had his contract purchased by the San Francisco Giants and was assigned to the Giants’ Single-A affiliate in Augusta on May 30. He has six strikeouts in as many innings through two starts for the GreenJackets. Mac Sceroler (Southeastern Louisiana) – Daytona TortugasThe two-time First-Team All-Southland pick was promoted to the Reds’ Advanced-A team to start the year and has a 3-0 record and 38 strikeouts in 33.2 innings. Since moving to the starting rotation, he has a 2.91 ERA with 27 strikeouts over 21.2 innings. Tate Scioneaux (Southeastern Louisiana) – Altoona CurveIn his third season with the Pirates’ Double-A squad, the 2014 Southland Conference Tournament MVP is 1-1 with 16 strikeouts over 12 innings out of the bullpen. He hit the 7-day injured list on May 16. Triple-AJonathan Davis (Central Arkansas) – Buffalo BisonsThe three-time All-Southland Conference was optioned to the Blue Jays’ Triple-A affiliate on June 5 after hitting just .143 in 17 games with Toronto. Davis hit his first career MLB home run against the Rays on May 27 – a two-run shot to put the Blue Jays on the board.Jonathan Dziedzic (Lamar) – Omaha StormchasersIn his fifth season with the Royals’ Triple-A team, Dziedzic is 1-2 with a 3.68 ERA in eight appearances, including four starts. He picked up his first win of the year after tossing 5.1 innings in a May 27 start against Oklahoma City, striking out five and allowing two runs. Jace Peterson (McNeese) – Norfolk TidesAfter spending most of 2018 with the Orioles, Peterson started 2019 with Baltimore’s Triple-A squad. The two-time First Team All-Southland pick leads the team with 39 runs and ranks second with 54 hits. Jose Trevino (Oral Roberts) – Nashville SoundsIn his first season with the Rangers’ Triple-A team, the two-time All-Southland pick is hitting .240 with 13 RBI, seven doubles and 14 runs scored. The No. 25 prospect in the Rangers organization hit the 7-day injured list on May 19. Carson Smith (Texas State) – Pawtucket Red SoxAfter spending all of 2018 at the major league level, the two-time Southland Conference Pitcher of the Year was assigned to Boston’s Triple-A squad and placed on the seven-day injured list on April 4.