Dodgers’ first win in Wild Card Series soothes nerves, momentarily

OK, Dodger fans, take a deep breath. The madness may be just beginning.

This may, in fact, be the biggest curse of this manic best-of-three round that hopefully will be gone after this season: By the time a team merely gets to the Division Series, their fans may already be nervous wrecks.

This 4-2 victory over Milwaukee in Game 1 of the lightning round was typical Dodger playoff baseball in a sense: Squander chances to put it away early, turn meek against the opposing team’s bullpen in the middle innings, give up a home run – always a home run – to make things closer than they reasonably should have been, finally give themselves some breathing room late, and depend on the bullpen to close the deal.

And I will say it now and get it out of the way: Only if and when Kenley Jansen gets the last out of the last game and the Dodgers can at last hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy will the worrying cease. Until then, nothing is certain and you’ll be able to distinguish Dodger fans by the furrows on their foreheads and the bags under their eyes.

Yes, the Dodgers seem to have as deep a bullpen as they’ve had in years. But we said the same thing in 2017, before a blown lead in Game 2 of the World Series, at home and without benefit of video monitors and trash cans, sent Jansen, and by extension the Dodgers, into a spiral that would last two additional seasons.

The best-of-three series, with its potential for disaster for a division champion, is made for drama, and chaos, and misery for favorites. The under .500 Houston Astros – yep, them – have already taken out the Minnesota Twins, who were 36-24. The Miami Marlins are this close to upending the NL Central champion Cubs, and the St. Louis Cardinals have the Padres, everyone’s favorite story this season, by the scruff of the neck.

The Dodgers avoided such sudden jeopardy in Game 1 thanks to Corey Seager’s 447-foot bomb to dead center off of Freddy Peralta in the seventh inning Wednesday night. This came after the Dodgers had left-handed starter Brent Suter wobbling in the first, with four walks and just nine strikes in 32 pitches thrown, but couldn’t get the big hit to break it open.

The pluses: The Dodgers saw a lot of the Brewers bullpen – though not Josh Hader, who they’ll almost certainly see Thursday night in Game 2 – and so have a better feel for what to expect. Seager (1 for 3 with that home run and two runs scored) and Mookie Betts (2 for 4, two doubles, a run scored and an RBI) have a 1-2 punch at the top of the lineup that is masking the difficulties of Cody Bellinger (.239 and .789 OPS in the regular season, 1 for 4 Wednesday) and Max Muncy (.192, .720 and 0 for 2 but with two walks).

And the Dodgers nursed Walker Buehler through four innings with no apparent blister issues, but the condition of his right index finger could be the X-factor that hovers over this playoff effort. A 25-pitch fourth inning contributed to his exit, as did the two-run home run he gave up to Orlando Arcia in the fourth that turned a 3-0 lead into a 3-2 nail-biter.

“One bad pitch,” Buehler said. “I had him 0-2. I can’t miss that much. Obviously that pitch (a four-seam fastball that Arcia hit into the left field pavilion) is supposed to be above his belt and I threw it about as middle-middle as I could.”

As for the finger? “We’re managing it and moving on,” he said.

Another plus was Julio Urías’ three solid innings in relief of Buehler with five strikeouts. Assuming the Dodgers get past the Brewers, Urías the starter will be increasingly important in a format with no off days.

“He was great,” manager Dave Roberts said. “I just give him so much credit for just being open to whatever we ask him, as we hopefully get to the next series and he’ll make a start.”

As this continues, however long it continues, it will come down to timely hitting and relief pitching. The Dodgers were 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position Wednesday night, 1 for 6 in the first two innings (and Betts had the 1, with his run-scoring double in the second).

As for late inning relief, Blake Treinen would have pitched a clean eighth but for a shift hit by Avisail Garcia, who rolled a grounder through the vacated right side of the infield. Jansen walked Jace Peterson with two out in the ninth to bring Christian Yelich up representing the tying run – and worry any Dodger fan with a memory – but fanned him to end it.

Jansen, may we note, has allowed no runs and just three hits and two walks in seven innings since that Sept. 12 meltdown against Houston. But, Roberts said, there’s room for improvement.

“It was good to see him get the job done,” Roberts said, adding, “It just didn’t seem like the stuff had the teeth I’ve seen in recent outings … the cutter, I think there were a couple of throws that had some life, but it just didn’t have the life in the zone.”

Anyway, the ninth inning is a high wire act, we tend to remember the flameouts more vividly than we do the triumphs, and it’s easy to flinch when the tying run comes to the plate. But maybe Jansen is figuring this thing out.

If so, it’ll ease a lot of nerves in Los Angeles.

jalexander@scng.com

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

 

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Brewers’ Brent Suter melts down, Dodgers take advantage in Game 1

Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Brent Suter is one of two active major league players who attended Harvard University. He was a dual major in environmental science and public policy. The space between his ears contains multitudes and, for a time Wednesday night, Suter couldn’t escape it.

Chosen at the last minute to start Game 1 of the National League Wild Card series against the Dodgers, Suter faced 13 batters and recorded only five outs. He walked five Dodgers, including two with the bases loaded. He faced Mookie Betts twice and allowed a double each time.

By the time Craig Counsell pulled Suter from the mound in the second inning, the Dodgers led 3-0. Suter’s short start made all the difference for the Dodgers in their 4-2 win.

“Mookie hits that leadoff double and I’m thinking about him,” Suter said. “I think it took some focus off the plate. I’m missing corners. It had a snowball effect. I’m trying to breathe, trying to disengage, trying to do the normal routine to get me back in sync. I couldn’t find it.

“I just felt terrible. I was doing everything I could. I was doing my normal things to get back in line, get back in the zone, and I struggled to find it.”

Suter picked a poor time to implode. After pitchers Corbin Burnes and Devin Williams suffered injuries late in the season, the Brewers needed Suter to eat innings against the top-seeded Dodgers in Game 1.

Eric Yardley, Justin Topa, Freddy Peralta and Drew Rasmussen combined to allow just one run over the final 6 ⅓ innings Wednesday. However, Milwaukee must win Games 2 and 3 at Dodger Stadium to avoid elimination, having taxed an already-depleted pitching staff in Game 1. Brandon Woodruff will start Game 2 on Thursday.

“I think there’s a path for us to be strong in pitching the next two games, but it’s going to take a great start from Brandon,” Counsell said.

The Dodgers’ patient game plan worked to perfection. Suter threw 32 pitches in the first inning. The Dodgers swung at six of them and took just three for strikes.

After Betts’ leadoff double, Corey Seager and Max Muncy walked to load the bases. Will Smith took four pitches out of the strike zone to bring in the Dodgers’ first run. With two outs, AJ Pollock drew a four-pitch walk of his own with the bases loaded to bring home another run.

“They didn’t really let me breathe,” Suter said of the Dodgers. “They were doing things at second base. They got guys on to begin both innings. You’ve got to give them credit as well. They’re a really disciplined team. When it was in the zone, they were taking good swings. When it was out of the zone they were laying off. I wish I made them beat me a little more. I beat myself at least some of the time.”

Back-to-back doubles by Chris Taylor and Betts gave the Dodgers a 3-0 lead to begin the second inning. After Suter walked Muncy a second time – his fifth walk of the game – Counsell called to the bullpen.

It was an act of mercy.

“It almost felt like the whole world was zooming in,” Suter said. “I couldn’t make the adjustment. I had to battle through it. It’s a bad, bad feeling.”

The feeling isn’t new, Suter said. He felt it Sunday, in his final appearance of the regular season. He felt it the game before, and the game before that, yet each time was able to recover.

Wednesday, Suter simply couldn’t get out of his own head, and the Dodgers were able to capitalize.

“These are the nightmare games where you’re doing everything you can,” he said, “but it’s just not working.”

 

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Suspect `extremely apologetic’ after attempted kidnapping of Joe Montana’s grandchild in Malibu

By ANDREW DALTON

LOS ANGELES — A 39-year-old woman was charged Tuesday in what authorities say was an attempted kidnapping of the 9-month-old granddaughter of Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana from his Southern California home.

Sodsai Predpring Dalzell of Los Angeles pleaded not guilty in LA County court to felony counts of attempted kidnapping of a child under 14 and burglary.

“Miss Dalzell is extremely apologetic and is very well concerned about the well-being of the family,” Dalzell’s attorney Ayinde Jones said outside of court. “She understands the harm that this has caused the family, friends and also fans of the Montana family. So our heart goes out to them.”

The 64-year-old Montana told sheriff’s deputies that the girl was asleep Saturday in a playpen in his house in Malibu when a woman he did not know entered and picked up the child.

Montana and his wife, Jennifer, confronted her, tried to deescalate the situation and asked her to give back the baby, authorities said.

After a brief struggle, Jennifer Montana pried the girl away, and Dalzell fled from the home, authorities said. She was later arrested nearby.

No one was hurt.

Jones said he plans to present a credible defense, “focused on ensuring that Miss Dalzell gets the help that she may need.”

The attorney said he has “no hindsight, no clue as yet on why she did what she did, only that she is very apologetic. She has told me over and over again that she understands the harm that she has caused. As a parent myself, I can only imagine the pain that it has caused the Montana family.”

Dalzell’s bail was set at $200,000 and she was told to return to court Oct. 20. She could get eight years in prison if convicted as charged. She has no previous criminal record.

“Scary situation, but thankful that everybody is doing well,” the former San Francisco 49ers star tweeted on Sunday.

Montana played 13 years of his 15 year-career with the 49ers, who won four Super Bowls with him as starting quarterback. He retired in 1994 after two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs.

He and Jennifer Montana, a philanthropist and former model, have been married since 1985 and have four adult children. It is not clear which of the children is the girl’s parent.

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Foothill defensive end Nicholas Fryhoff finds winning combination at Penn

The University of Pennsylvania’s combination of football and academics was too enticing for Nicholas Fryhoff to resist.

The Foothill High defensive end recently committed to the Ivy League contender, picking the Quakers over a few other schools, including Arizona of the Pac-12.

“I have a chance to join the Wharton School at UPenn, which is the top business school in the country,” Fryhoff, a senior, explained.

“By being a part of a program like this, as well as having the opportunity to build connections with so many people involved with Wharton, UPenn puts me in the best position to reach my full potential in the professional world.

“In regards to athletics, the UPenn football family is unlike any other. Their top-notch facilities and amazing coaching staff produce some of the best athletes in the Ivy League, including a few NFL players.”

Last fall, Fryhoff (6-5, 235) helped Foothill win the North Hills League title and go 11-1 overall. The Knights beat Villa Park and Yorba Linda in nonleague games.

Fryhoff was a second-team all-North Hills League selection from a strong defense.

He is the second class of 2021 recruit from Orange County to commit to Penn, joining St. Margaret’s defensive lineman Nick Ostund.

The duo continues a strong flow of O.C. football recruits to Penn. Last season, former St. Margaret’s wide out Ryan Cragun led the Quakers in receiving with 58 catches for 885 yards. JSerra products Nick Robinson and Sam Philippi were standouts at quarterback and defensive back, respectively.

La Habra quarterback Ryan Zanelli and Mater Dei outside linebacker Nate White are freshmen to watch. Penn last earned a share of the Ivy League title in 2016.

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Yuelli, San Jose shock LAFC in late match victory

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jackson Yueill’s tap-in goal in extra time lifted San Jose to a 2-1 comeback win over LAFC on Sunday night. Christian Espinoza set up Yueill’s goal, weaving through defenders to the left of the goal for a perfect center to Yueill in the 93rd minute. San Jose (3-6-5) knotted it in the 80th minute when Shea Salinas stopped his run driving to the left, crossed over to the right and sent a blast past the keeper. Mark-Anthony Kaye scored his third goal of the season at the 45th minute to put LAFC (5-6-3) on top. The loss prevented LAFC from rising to third place in the Western Conference.

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LeBron James’ latest heroics leave Lakers teammates, opponents in awe

You know what they say: Don’t take LeBron James for granted.

It seems like an outlandish premise, perhaps, that anyone would overlook his ability as he stormed to his 10th NBA Finals in 17 seasons.

James, of course, had his ears open last offseason for whispers that he might be “washed” after a groin injury slowed him in his first season in L.A. and curtailed his personal 13-season playoff streak. And he found any such sentiments quite motivational, it turns out.

But don’t count anyone on or near the court in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals among James’ doubters, not Saturday, and likely not ever — especially not after he soloed for a decisive nine-point charge in the fourth quarter of the 117-107 series-clinching victory, all but singlehandedly snuffing out the never-ever-quit Nuggets, who’d rallied from 16 points down to as close as 2 with 10:25 to play.

“When you just step back and look and marvel at what LeBron is doing at this stage of his career, how he continues to find ways to improve and get better and take whatever team he’s on to new heights, that defines his greatness,” said Denver coach Michael Malone, who coached James in Cleveland between 2005-10.

“He’s one of the greatest to ever do it and his resume speaks for itself. In a Game 5, closeout game, when the game was hanging in the balance, who took over? The best player on the floor.”

James’ starring sidekick Anthony Davis hit big shots and played staunch defense in the series against Denver, but when it was time to close the door, he was happy to let James slam it shut it so hard it shook the bubble.

“He told us it was his time, he told me it was his time and everybody just kinda got out the way and let him be him,” Davis said. “And he brought it home for us. He’s always capable of doing that, he makes the right plays, he makes the right reads and tonight, the read for him was to get to the basket and finish or make a play. All of them was good reads and he carried us tonight.”

The way Lakers guard Alex Caruso described it, being on the court as a witness as James went to work was something of a gift.

“It’s just super cool for me to be able to have this experience and play meaningful minutes, and to play well and be on the court with LeBron scoring (nine) points to close out the game in big time moments,” Caruso said, going on to describe the confidence James instills in his side when he gets going in crunch time.

“Once LeBron starts making outside shots late in the game, I kind of know that it’s over for the other team, just because I know we’re gonna get stops eventually, we’re gonna make enough plays down the stretch to get the game under control. And a guy like that, what else do you want to do? Just give him the ball and let him be himself. He’s one of the greatest players to ever play for a reason.”

Or, as Lakers guard Danny Green put it: “He hasn’t let people forget, this guy’s the greatest player in the … damn world.”

For his part, James said he never really relishes the moments like the other players who were part of his audience Saturday, even now, as he’s aged and developed more perspective.

“I don’t, unfortunately,” he said. “I wish I did. They happen so fast and my mind is still so locked in on the journey, that it’s hard for me to take in and appreciate what we just accomplished. Just how I’ve always been. I always say that when I’m done playing the game, hopefully I look back on it and enjoy it — and hopefully I will. Hopefully I can, because I don’t think I enjoy it enough when I’m in it, because I’m so engulfed in the process until the final call.”

LeBron James said he doesn’t savor games like this one, or fourth quarters like this one, more now that he’s older. He says he’s too engulfed in the process to celebrate what the Lakers have achieved so far. pic.twitter.com/lsQt7vxsP5

— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) September 27, 2020

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Angels rookie Elliot Soto knocks first big league hit after 10 years in minors

After Elliot Soto’s 10-year minor league odyssey culminated with his first two big league hits, he was asked what made him stick it out so long.

“I don’t know,” the Angels’ 31-year-old rookie said on Saturday night. “I never wanted to give up. I’m a cucaracha. I’m a cockroach. Never die.”

Although the Angels lost 7-6 to the Dodgers in a meaningless game, Soto and Jahmai Jones provided the happy storyline at the end of a mostly disappointing season.

The two infielders had become close since the first spring training back in Arizona and the bond grew as they worked out together at the Angels’ alternate training site in Long Beach.

Each had made his major league debut already, but on Saturday they were in the starting lineup for the first time, Soto at shortstop and Jones at second.

“In BP when we were turning double plays, I’m like ‘Wow, this is comfy,’” Soto said. “This is normal. We’ve got good chemistry.”

The feel-good vibes continued into the third inning, when each stepped to the plate for the first time.

Jones went first, and lined a single up the middle, driving in the Angels’ first run of the game. Soto followed and poked a single into right.

It was the first time in Angels history that players picked up hits in their first big league at-bats in consecutive plate appearances. The last time it happened was in 2016, when Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin did it for the Yankees.

“Everyone was super happy,” Soto said. “It made it a super special occasion for me. And Jam going right before me and getting his, it kind of pumped me up.”

While the moment was obviously unforgettable for Jones too, it came amid a much different context than for Soto. Jones, 23, was a second-round pick in 2015. He had gone through a position change and some swing changes, but he ultimately didn’t reach the big leagues too much later than a normal timetable.

Soto was in his sixth season toiling in the minors when Jones was drafted. His 11th season as a professional nearly ended without an official at-bat anywhere, because of the coronavirus shutting down minor league baseball.

The Angels kept him around as a utility infielder, and he’d traveled with the big league team as part of the taxi squad earlier in the season. He finally got his chance to be on the active roster this week, when Andrelton Simmons opted out.

And on Friday night, Luis Rengifo hurt his hamstring, which gave Soto the chance to get into a game on defense. On Saturday, with the Angels eliminated, he got the chance to start.

To Manager Joe Maddon, who speaks often about his roots in player development and the minor leagues, writing Soto’s name in the lineup was special.

Maddon spoke before the game about Soto’s exceptional defensive skills and he flashed those with a barehand pickup to throw out Chris Taylor. Soto also chipped in a second hit, a double down the right field line.

“Spectacular,” Maddon said. “You saw how good of a player he is. What you saw tonight is no fluke. That’s what he is. That’s what he looks like. He showed tonight why he belongs on the big league level.”

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Freeway Series Photos: Will Smith hits go-ahead blast as Dodgers defeat Angels

Check out these photographs from Dodgers’ 9-5 victory over the Angels on Friday, Sept. 25, 2020. (Photos by Hans Gutknecht/SCNG)

 

  • The Dodgers’ Enrique Hernandez #14 throws to first base for a double play as the Angels’ Jared Walsh #25 slides into second base in the top of the first inning during their MLB game at Dodger Stadium, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Angels pitcher Andrew Heaney #28 looks down as the Dodgers’ Justin Turner #10 rounds the bases after Turner hit a home run in the bottom of the fifth inning during their MLB game at Dodger Stadium, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

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  • The Dodgers’ A.J. Pollock #11 hits a home run in the bottom of the fourth inning during their MLB game against the Angels at Dodger Stadium, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Angels’ Mike Trout #27 is congratulated by David Fletcher #22 after Trout hit a three-run homer in the top of the third inning during their MLB game against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Dodger starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw #22 during their MLB game against the Angels at Dodger Stadium, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Angels’ Mike Trout #27 is congratulated by Luis Rengifo #4 after Trout hit a three-run homer in the top of the third inning during their MLB game against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Dodgers’ A.J. Pollock #11 hits a home run in the bottom of the fourth inning during their MLB game against the Angels at Dodger Stadium, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Dodgers’ Will Smith #16 rounds the bases after hitting a two run homer in the bottom of the fifth inning during their MLB game against the Angels at Dodger Stadium, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Dodgers’ Will Smith #16 is congratulated by Max Muncy #13 after Smith hit a two run homer in the bottom of the fifth inning during their MLB game against the Angels at Dodger Stadium, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Angels’ Jared Walsh #25 crosses home plate after hitting a home run in the top of the fifth inning during their MLB game against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Dodger starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw #22 walks around the mound after giving up a three-run homer to the Angels’ Mike Trout #27 in the top of the third inning during their MLB game at Dodger Stadium, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Dodgers’ Mookie Betts #50 steals home in the bottom of the first inning during their MLB game against the Angels at Dodger Stadium, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Angels’ Justin Upton #10 enters the dugout after hitting a home run in the top of the fourth inning during their MLB game against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Angels pitcher Matt Andriese #35 looks away as the Dodgers heads for home after Will Smith #16 hit a two run homer in the bottom of the fifth inning during their MLB game at Dodger Stadium, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Angels’ Jared Walsh #25 enters the dugout after hitting a home run in the top of the fifth inning during their MLB game against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Angels’ Justin Upton #10 heads for home plate after hitting a home run in the top of the fourth inning during their MLB game against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Angels starting pitcher Andrew Heaney #28 during their MLB game against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Dodgers’ A.J. Pollock #11 enters the dugout after hitting a home run in the bottom of the fourth inning during their MLB game against the Angels at Dodger Stadium, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Dodgers’ Corey Seager #5 throws to first base during their MLB game against the Angels at Dodger Stadium, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Dodgers’ Justin Turner #10 hits a home run in the bottom of the fifth inning during their MLB game against the Angels at Dodger Stadium, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Angels’ Luis Rengifo #4 makes a diving attempt to stop a Dodgers’ Max Muncy #13 single in the bottom of the first inning during their MLB game at Dodger Stadium, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Dodger starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw #22 during their MLB game against the Angels at Dodger Stadium, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts #50 catches a fly ball hit by the Angels’ Anthony Rendon #6 for the out in the top of the fifth inning during their MLB game at Dodger Stadium, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Angels’ Jared Walsh #25 rounds the bases after hitting a home run as Dodgers pitcher Brusdar Graterol #48 looks on in the top fifth inning during their MLB game at Dodger Stadium, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Angels’ Mike Trout #27 is congratulated after Trout hit a three-run homer in the top of the third inning during their MLB game against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Dodgers’ Enrique Hernandez #14 throws to first base during their MLB game against the Angels at Dodger Stadium, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Dodger starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw #22 during their MLB game against the Angels at Dodger Stadium, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

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Best of Orange County 2020: Best sushi

1. Yama Sushi

27782 Vista Del Lago C-22, Mission Viejo; 949-716-9262; yamasushionthelake.com

Yama Sushi uses the freshest and highest-quality ingredients available. Yama Sushi also will not settle for anything but the best and most highly trained Japanese chefs that create the finest sushi rolls on a nightly basis. Diners not only come to Yama Sushi for the terrific sushi and entrees, but also for the environment and swanky ambiance. In fact, Yama Sushi is known for its picturesque views as it sits right on the Lake Mission Viejo.

Yama Sushi also has great prices considering the prime ingredients being used. However, if customers want an even better price on their sushi, Yama Sushi hosts Sushi Tuesday with sushi rolls  40 to 50 percent off the regular price. This Tuesday tradition became a customer favorite in 2008 when the promotion was started, and has been a staple to the business ever since.

Customers also have the ability to choose a variety of ways to eat their food as well. Omakase style is where chefs prepare items of their choosing in front of customers where they can see it being made. There is also a five-course meal that includes a delicious dessert.

Along with sushi, there are also entrees available such as udon or rice bowls. There is also a kids menu available, which has chicken, salmon, and beef teriyaki, chicken nuggets, and kids’ sushi.

2. Full Moon Sushi

Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Tustin

Full Moon Sushi opened its doors to its first location in Fountain Valley in 2001 and ever since then it has become an extremely popular spot for diners to enjoy their favorite Japanese delicacies. From there, the restaurant opened another location in Costa Mesa in 2007 as well as in Tustin in 2009. Full Moon Sushi is known for its great service, delicious food, and wonderful selection.

The staff at Full Moon Sushi says every hour is happy hour because the prices are some of the best for sushi in Orange County. Not to mention it is family friendly, which brings guests with kids back to Full Moon Sushi time and time again. Customers can even buy fashionable hats and t-shirts to support their favorite sushi joint too.

Make sure to try the popular Healthy Full Moon Roll, Hawaiian Roll, or a fresh poke bowl. There are also delicious dishes outside of sushi such as vegetable tempura, sesame chicken, gyoza (pork dumplings), and fried tofu.

3. Shunka Sushi

369 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa; 949-631-9854; shunkasushi.com

Shunka Sushi is a Japanese spot specializing in some of the freshest sushi in Orange County. The restaurant only offers classically trained chefs who are known for carefully crafting authentic items using fish bought directly from Japan every day at the sushi bar.

Shunka Sushi also prides itself on using fish so flavorful that no wasabi or other additions are necessary in boosting the flavors of the fish, vegetables, and rice. The fish purchased at Shunka Sushi is not as widely available as your typical sushi joint has to offer, and the sushi the restaurant has available is prepared with the freshest and most authentic ingredients available.

Guests must also try the wide variety of sake the restaurant has available to pair perfectly with their sushi. Choose between everything from a California cut roll, to a salmon avocado roll, or a spice tuna hand roll. Shunka also serves fresh salads and sashimi including big eye tuna, fresh water eel, and albacore. No menu option will disappoint.

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Best of Orange County 2020: Best apartment community

1. Newport Bluffs Apartment Homes

100 Vilaggio, Newport Beach; 844-277-3455; irvinecompanyapartments.com

The gated community of Newport Bluffs is a richly landscaped development of three distinct villages inspired by Old World Italian towns. The surrounding scenic coastal foothills of Bonita Canyon make for nice views from many of the apartments.

With townhome and single-level options, Newport Bluffs includes 30 separate floor plans; each has fully equipped chef kitchens, a private patio or balcony, in-home washer and dryer and central air conditioning. Some come with private, one or two-car garages and gas fireplaces.

The smallest floor plan is the only studio on offer at Newport Bluffs — a 549-square-foot unit in the Residencia village starting at $1,925 a month. One-bedroom units in the Residencia and Loggia villages range from 683 square feet starting at $2,255 a month to 1,152 square feet over two levels starting at $3,150 a month. There are 15 two-bedroom floor plans in the Residencia, Loggia and Rivoli villages, starting at 945 square feet and going up to 1,395 square feet over two levels; pricing details are unavailable. Lastly, there is one three-bedroom floor plan in Residencia and five three-bedroom townhome plans available in Rivoli; square footage starts at 1,317 square feet and prices at $3,425 a month.

The three resort-style pools with spas include plenty of lounge seating and private cabanas. Adding to the resort feeling are several outdoor fireplaces and seating areas, two lighted tennis courts, a fitness center and aerobics studio, and a clubhouse with a catering kitchen for group events. A unique offering is a private wine room.

2. Broadstone Arden

1951 E. Dyer Road, Santa Ana; 844-379-1841; broadstonearden.com

Broadstone Arden welcomed its first tenants in November 2019, becoming the first residential community to open in Allied Residential’s Park and Paseo district.

With 335 units of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom floor plans, sizes range from 594 square feet to 1,956 square feet, starting at $1,905 a month. All come with washers and dryers, private patios or balconies, walk-in closets, stainless steel appliances, Nest thermostats and keyless entry.

A lot of attention was paid to design elements in the common areas. “The Instagrammable spaces allow residents and guests to easily tap into the aesthetically pleasing dynamics of luxury living,” said Lauren Blum, Alliance Residential’s marketing director for Southern California.

Community features of note include a rooftop pool with a glass-edge spa, a two-story gym and spa retreat with a Himalayan salt room. A game lounge features an interactive golf simulator.

In the next few months, the green spaces and parks within the community will be opening, Blum said, along with two new residential communities, Broadstone Archive and Atlas.

3. Gateway Apartment Homes

299 N. State College Blvd., Orange; 844-848-2383; irvinecompanyapartments.com

The Gateway apartment homes, operated by Irvine Co. Apartment Communities, has many of the amenities you would find in a high-end resort community: Multiple pool areas, lush tropical landscaping and attractive, stylishly decorated common areas.

Located in the Platinum Triangle area and straddling the Orange/Anaheim border, Gateway offers studio, one-, and two-bedroom apartment homes, some featuring lofts; furnished units are available. The units have a private patio or balcony, many with a view of landscaped courtyards. Monthly rents start at $2,780 for a 618-square-foot studio, $1,925 for a 729-square-foot one bedroom and $2,380 for a 1,077-square-foot two bedroom.

Apartments also have you covered on the work-at-home front, with built-in shelves and computer desks already in place.

Community features include four pools and spas with waterfalls, along with poolside cabanas with private TVs and stereos.

Shared amenities also include fire pits, Viking barbecue grills, sports lounge, two fitness centers, two dog parks, a parcel locker system and a club room with a full kitchen.

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