Thursday, July 31, 2008

WOW... Manny is a Dodger

And we all thought the Casey Blake deal was going to be it!

I'm absolutely stunned at how easily it was for the Dodgers to trade for Manny Ramirez today. Seriously, it's highway robbery. To trade for a future Hall of Famer without giving up any of the current players shows that Ned Colletti knows what he's doing after all.

For those of you not in the know (or you've been hiding in a cave today), the Dodgers got Ramirez by only giving up 3B Andy LaRoche and SP Bryan Morris, who were then shipped to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jason Bay. In all, the Pirates got 4 Minor League players (2 more from the Sox), the Sox got Jason Bay, and the Dodgers got one of the best hitters in baseball.

LaRoche was once one of the top prospects in the Dodgers' organization, but he hasn't done a lick in the Bigs. In 2 years, he's hitting a meager .217, and only .203 this year. Morris may be a good player one day, who knows. But he is coming off of Tommy John surgery last year, so he's expendable.

Ya, I REALLY like this deal.

I was just on my way out the door when my other Dodger friend called me and said they got him. At the time, only CNNSI had the story. The only thing it said was something like "Manny is a Dodger." And that was pretty much it. But thank God, it was true.

Obviously, this is just the type of player the Dodgers need to content. In a weird way, it's pretty much an insult to Andruw Jones, and an embarrassment to him that he couldn't come close to getting the job done. If Jones was playing well, I'm not sure this would have happened. Good job, Jones. You suck.

Anyway, this will now create a logjam of outfielders, but it's a good problem to have. Manny will be in left field, and I would think Matt Kemp would still play everyday in either center or right. So now it's up to Andre Ethier, Juan Pierre, and Jones to figure the rest out. I like Ethier getting the nod, but that's a whole lot of money to sit on the bench. As Joe Torre said, now would be the perfect time for a DH.

The next challenge is for the Dodgers to step up and score runs. They're out of excuses. They got Manny, a proven RBI machine. Casey Blake is a very capable hitter, and certainly an upgrade over LaRoche and Blake DeWitt. If Rafael Furcal can come back healthy (a huge IF), then the Dodgers' offense may actually be fun to watch. Wow, I never thought I would say those words!

Oh ya, one last thing: THANK YOU NED COLLETTI!!!

Billingsley hurls another gem

Chad Billingsley continues to prove each start why he's one of the top pitchers in the National League.

Bills went the distance last night, throwing a complete game shutout to lift the Dodgers over the San Francisco Giants, 2-0. That's now 5 wins in 6 games during the homestand, which is about to get very interesting with Brandon Webb and the Arizona Diamondbacks coming to town.

Back to this game, and the Dodgers struck in the 1st inning. Matt Kemp was back in the leadoff role with Juan Pierre getting the day off against a lefty (Andruw Jones was in the lineup, but once again played like he had the day off) and walked. He then stole 2nd on Casey Blake's strikeout, and Russell Martin singled him home for the lead.

The 3rd inning was the only other scoring, once again started by a walk to Kemp, this time with 1 down. Blake also walked for runners on 1st and 2nd. Martin hit another RBI single to plate Kemp, followed by a double by Jeff Kent to score Blake. A sac-fly RBI by James Loney ended the scoring with the Dodgers up, 4-0.

A 4 run cushion, the Giants as the opponent, and Billingsley dealing on the mound were more than enough to take this game. With the exception of maybe Bengie Molina, there's absolutely nobody in the lineup that even scares me in the littlest bit. They are really bad. I'm glad the Dodgers get to play them again to close the season, because the division will probably come down to those last few days.

The first hit for the Giants didn't come until the 5th, when Molina singled to center. That was immediately erased on a double play grounder from Aaron Rowand. In all, Bills did not face more than 4 hitters in any inning.

The best play was at the end, when Jose Castillo doubled with 2 down. Randy Winn singled to left, and the shutout appeared to be in trouble. Andre Ethier gunned a perfect throw to Martin, who just got the tag on Castillo to end the game. That's the way to end a game.

Playing the Nationals and Giants was fun, but now it's time to get back to business. It's a great pitching matchup tonight of Derek Lowe against Webb. Webb is obviously a perennial Cy Young favorite, but Lowe has really turned his season around and been fantastic as well. The Dodgers are lucky in that they miss Dan Haren, but the DBacks miss Billingsley as well. My guess is that it'll be a 2-2 split when it's all said and done, but getting 3 would be sweet.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Johnson terrific in shutting down Giants

May 28, 2006 was the last time Jason Johnson could taste the winning side of a Major League start. Over 2 years later, he finally got that feeling back again.

Johnson gave the Dodgers exactly what they needed in going 6 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K in leading them to a win over the San Francisco Giants, 2-0. In 13 innings this season, he's only given up 2 runs, good for a 1.38 ERA.

With Matt Cain on the mound for the Giants, I knew runs were going to be at a premium once again. Cain actually has some pretty lousy career numbers against the Dodgers, much to my surprise (let's face it, any pitcher with bad numbers in recent history against the Dodgers is doing something wrong). He's now a career 0-5 with a 4.67 ERA. But, he has plenty of talent, and last night only gave up 2 runs in 7 innings.

The Dodgers did a decent job of getting men on base, as they got 9 hits, and were able to steal 4 bases. What killed them was (you guessed it) a lack of quality, 2-out hitting. In all, they left 7 men on base, and 6 of them in scoring position with 2 down. All they needed was 1 hit in that situation, and they could have had themselves a more comfortable lead. They sure like to play with fire.

Luckily for Johnson, the scoring came in the 6th, just after he made his last pitch for the night. Matt Kemp singled and stole 2nd to start the inning. After Andre Ethier advanced him on a fielder's choice, Jeff Kent lined out to 3rd for 2 down. James Loney singled home Kemp for a rare 2-out hit to give the Dodgers the 1-run lead.

Now here's where things get interesting. Casey Blake hit a double down the left field line. Fred Lewis bobbled the ball, and it appeared to go on top of the wall. The umpire ruled the ball out of play, allowing Loney to come around and score. Lewis claimed that the ball never went out of play, but to no avail. It's not like it mattered in the end since the Giants scored zip anyway, but still, a very strange play.

Chan Ho Park pitched a scoreless 7th and into the 8th, where Jonathan Broxton then took over for the 4-out save. Broxton has been great lately, gathering 3 of the 4 outs on K's. He's now 5-5 in save opportunities with Takashi Saito out. I would think his recent surge has quieted talks about acquiring a reliever like George Sherrill or Huston Street, but who knows.

The homestand is now at 4-1, which is obviously very good. It continues tonight in the finale of the 3-game set with the Giants as Chad Billingsley goes against Jonathan Sanchez in a good young guy matchup. Bills has clearly been the staff ace lately, and is finally over the .500 mark. A win tonight gives them big momentum before the Arizona Diamondbacks come into town for a big 4-game series.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dodgers nearly pull off huge comeback

Coming off a 3-game sweep of the Washington Nationals, playing against a team that isn't close to playoff contention, and sending a guy to the mound that was clearly a better pitcher at home than on the road, things were definitely looking up for the Dodgers.

That was until they spotted the lowly San Francisco Giants a 7-0 lead.

Normal teams would easily win that game, but the Giants nearly handed the entire lead back as the Dodgers scored 5 in the 5th and another run in the 6th to come within 1. That would be it for the scoring as the Giants held on, 7-6.

It's a shame Hiroki Kuroda got bombed again, because I really thought this would be the game he would get back on track. Instead, he's been downright horrendous lately. I'm not sure how he went from nearly pitching a perfect game to getting rocked 3 straight starts, but something ain't right. Is he injured again? That was the problem last time he was being hit around and he went on the DL.

Each team put up blanks the first 2 innings, then the Giants struck for 2 in the 3rd. The 4th is when Kuroda lost all control of the game. The thing that really sucked was all 5 runs came with 2 outs. 4 straight singles did the damage, including a 2-run single by pitcher Kevin Correia. Kuroda was also his own worst enemy when he failed to get an out while trying to stare down a runner at 3rd then throwing to 2nd. Oh, what could have been if that one out was recorded.

To the Dodgers' credit (and they do deserve a big amount of credit for this), they stormed back in the 5th. Granted, it started when James Loney reached on an error, but that evened things up for Kuroda's mistake. Casey Blake then singled for 2 on. Andre Ethier and Angel Berroa each had RBI singles after that. Mark Sweeney pinch-hit for Kuroda and FINALLY got a big hit, a 2-run double that cut the lead to 7-4. Juan Pierre then laid down a bunt that was thrown away by Bengie Molina, and Sweeney scored to go down by 2.

So with Sweeney providing a shocking big hit, it was only natural that Andruw Jones would get one as well. He pinch-hit the next inning with 2 down and singled home Blake, and the score was 7-6. Unfortunately, that's as good as it would get.

I guess the Dodgers ran out of gas since they failed to put a runner on base the last 3 innings. It didn't help when the first base umpire called Blake out on a very questionable call. Ok, it wasn't even questionable - it was flat out wrong. There's no way on Earth that was a swing. I know I'm right because Joe Torre never argues, and he was ejected, along with Blake. Terrible call.

It's amazing how hot and cold the offense can be. There's really no way of predicting it. They just have to take the good with the bad and hope it still gets the job done. And it would also help that they don't give up 7 runs before they get one damn hit of their own!

They're now 3-1 on the homestand, which continues tonight when Jason Johnson makes his first start of the season. Matt Cain is the opposing pitcher, and he can be as tough as anybody when he's on. Let's hope that's not tonight.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

At long last, Kershaw is on the board

He's had 10 Major League starts, and no wins. Still, it had to happen someday. Sunday was that day.

Clayton Kershaw has finally broken into the record books on the winning side for the first time in his career as he completely shut down the Washington Nationals, 2-0. At only 20-years-old, it's hopefully the first in a long line of wins down the road.

Much like Friday's game, scoring was at a premium for both teams. Fortunately for the Dodgers, they were playing the Nats. And Good Lord do the Nats suck. 2 runs in 3 games. Shutout the final 2 games. Like I said last night, any of you National fans that are reading this, I really do feel badly for you. That's gotta really suck.

Kershaw finished with a line of 6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. He never faced more than 4 hitters in an inning. The thing that has plagued him all year long - lack of control - was not at all an issue today. Rather, he threw 57 of his 86 pitches for strikes. If he's got his control down, forget about it. His blazing fastball and nasty hook are good enough to get him by. Plus he's still developing his changeup, making him more effective. Now it's time to build on that, starting with his next start against the Diamondbacks on Friday.

It's not like there's a whole lot of offensive highlights to discuss, but here goes. James Loney started the 2nd with a solo shot to right, his 9th. They struck again in the 5th when Juan Pierre singled with 1 down. Matt Kemp also singled, and Russell Martin drove in Pierre with his own single. That's Dodger baseball! But seriously, against the Nationals, that's all you really need.

A couple of news bits comes from this game. The first is that Matt Kemp extended his hitting streak to 14 games, his career-high. In looking at his stats, he's actually hit safely in 30 of his last 33 games. That's pretty damn good. Now the funny thing is that his average is practically the same: .291 then, .290 now. Let's just call him consistent.

The other is that Nomar Garciaparra left after the 5th with irritation in his left knee. That happened because of Lasting Milledge's slide into 3rd the previous inning as Nomar was tagging him out. The knee twisted a bit, and here we go again. He claims it feels fine, but we shall see. I'll hold judgment for now, but excuse me for not being overly optimistic.

The San Francisco Giants come into town for 3, followed by the big 4-game set against Arizona. Hiroki Kuroda is the starter tomorrow, and he is looking to rebound off of 2 poor starts on the road. He's definitely a better pitcher at home. There will be no start from Tim Lincecum, which is huge.

DeWitt sent back down

Blake DeWitt has been optioned back down to Triple-A Las Vegas to make room for Casey Blake. The Dodgers chose to keep Andy LaRoche on the roster over him.

He was the feel-good story in the first half of the season, as he came out of nowhere to take over the 3rd base job. He had never played above Double-A ball at any point in his career, but was rushed up to the Bigs when both LaRoche and Nomar Garciaparra were hurt. After the Dodgers could not acquire a 3rd baseman, they gave him a shot, and he delivered big time.

His average peaked to .327 on May 17 when he went 2-4 with a home run against the Anaheim Angels. At the end of May, he was hitting .303. The downward slide started soon after that. In his last 40 games, he's hit a mere .200, which obviously was not getting the job done, especially in an offense that struggles to begin with.

It was the right decision to send him down. My guess is that he'll be a September call up once the rosters expand to 40. He was very slick defensively, so that's not the problem. I think Major League pitchers figured him out, and he had a tough time adjusting. Still, to play as well as he did without any prior Big League experience was fantastic. He'll be back.

Combined 2-hitter stiffles the Nationals

Derek Lowe was money once again, and the Dodgers had little trouble in easily dismantling the Washington Nationals, 6-0. The Diamondbacks won as well, so they still have a game lead in the NL West.

There really wasn't a whole lot to say about this game other than the Nationals clearly showed why they're one of the worst teams in the league... again. They looked like a Minor League team that was called up to try and win a Major League game. Man, they really suck. I feel badly for all of you Nats fans out there.

Anyway, Lowe was filthy tonight, as the ball was dancing all night long. Overall, he went 8 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K. I'm surprised he didn't strike out more considering how well he was throwing. I'm also a little surprised (and a bit disappointed) that he didn't get a chance for the complete game shutout. But, he was terrific. 15 ground ball outs. The last 13 hitters retired. Now that's the way to get it done.

Alas, it was Good Lowe tonight.

The Dodgers made sure he wouldn't have to sweat it when they struck in the 1st. Juan Pierre led off with a single. Matt Kemp hammered one out to center, and it was 2-0. Russell Martin then doubled and advanced to 3rd on Jeff Kent's groundout. Nomar Garciaparra then hit a sac-fly for the 3 run lead.

The next scoring came in the 4th, as Nomar started off with a solo shot, his 5th of the year. Casey Blake, the new guy, hit a double down the left field line and scored on Angel Berroa's double (yes, I did just say that). Lowe hit an RBI single for a 6-0 lead.

I've talked about Lowe, now let's focus on a couple of the offensive guys. Blake was great, as he went 2-3 with a double and run. No offense to Andy LaRoche and Blake DeWitt (literally... no offense... get it?), but Blake already looks like a big upgrade. He was the #6 hitter tonight, but I can easily see him hitting higher at any point.

The other guy is Nomar, who is having a great month of July. In the month, he's hitting a .303 AVG, 3 HR, 5 2B, 12 RBI. Bottom line, the guy can still hit. He obviously won't give you big numbers since he'll be out for stretches, but right now he looks good. The Dodgers will ride it as long as it lasts.

It's good to see the pitching staff get back on track these last 2 game. Though to be fair, they don't have Coors Field to deal with. Plus the Nats are a clear downgrade from the Rockies. I don't really give a damn though. They needed big performances, and Chad Billingsley and Lowe have provided it.

Now it's time to go for the sweep, and what better way than to see Clayton Kershaw get his first career Big League win tomorrow. Since the DBacks still get to play the Giants, the Dodgers will need the win. That'll be a great way to start the homestand.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

More encouraging numbers for Blake

I just did a little more research about Casey Blake's numbers this season, and I'm starting to like him more and more. Here's a sample of some of the numbers I found:

Runners on: .343 AVG
Runners in scoring position: .393 AVG
RISP, 2 outs: .318 AVG
Bases loaded: .600 AVG

Men on, 2 outs: .297 AVG, .444 OBP
Man on 3rd, less than 2 outs: .500 AVG

Those are some great stats, especially considering he started the year so slowly. I read on one of the message boards that us Dodger fans will hate him when he hits with runners on because he never comes through. Well, while I admit I don't pay a whole lot of attention to the Indians, the numbers suggest otherwise. I'm sure that is just frustration talk from a fan whose team was supposed to do some big things this year, but have instead become sellers.

Bottom line, it's a good move.

Casey Blake joins the Blue Crew

The Dodgers made their first major move before the trade deadline by trading for Casey Blake from the Cleveland Indians. He'll quickly become the starting 3rd baseman, replacing Andy LaRoche and Blake DeWitt.

In return, the Indians got a couple of minor leaguers, though they are good ones. Carlos Santana was at Single-A Inland Empire. He's a switch-hitting catcher, and has some big numbers at .323 AVG, 14 HR, 96 RBI.

Jonathan Meloan is probably the most well-known player involved in this deal. He's a hard-throwing righty at Triple-A Las Vegas. His numbers are a little weird, as he's only 5-10 with a 4.97 ERA. But, he does have 99 K's in 105 IP.

Back to Blake, and it's a good trade in my mind. The Dodgers have a ton of young talent, and at some point, they had to let some of them go in order to improve the big club. LaRoche and DeWitt have good talent, but they've been lost at the plate lately. It was time to make a move.

Here's a breakdown of Blake's numbers. Right now, he's at a .289 AVG, 11 HR, 58 RBI. Much like the Dodgers, the Indians have had a rough time offensively this season, so those numbers could be higher with better production around him.

What's important to note is that in the last 2 months, he's been fantastic. In the first 3, not so much. He was only at a .225 AVG entering June, but it's shot way up since then. So, it's a good sign that they got somebody who's been hitting very well recently. During June and July, he's hitting .352 with 7 HR and 29 RBI. Man, those numbers alone would make him an instant LA hero!

My guess is that he'll hit just about anywhere in the lineup. I wouldn't be surprised to see him hitting in the #3 spot since he's swinging so well. Any way you slice it, it's a good move. Then again, I did say that about Andruw Jones...

Ah, nevermind. Let's stay positive!

Billingsley the man again as Dodgers win

All of the expectations of Chad Billingsley eventually becoming the team ace are coming true. With injuries everywhere on the team, it couldn't have come at a better time.

Bills went 7.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 K as the Dodgers scored 3 in the 6th to beat the Washington Nationals, 3-2. Arizona also won (though to be fair, it should only count for half a win since it was over the Giants), so their lead is still 1 over LA in the NL West.

This was pretty much your typical, uneventful, runs-are-scare, Dodger-like game. It only took 2:16 to complete, as both Billingsley and John Lannan were mowing through the hitters with ease. The only run in the first 5 innings came when Nationals leadoff hitter Willie Harris hit a sac-fly to center to score old friend Paul Lo Duca for a 1-0 lead.

The Dodgers only had 2 hits (and 2 double plays grounded into) until the 6th, when they finally made some noise. Juan Pierre started it off with a single, and he went to 2nd when Matt Kemp singled as well. Russell Martin hit in the #3 spot and was beaned, loading the bases with none out. Jeff Kent then lined out to short for 1 down. Nomar Garciaparra came up huge with a single to score 2 and take the 2-1 lead. James Loney then grounded out to 2nd, but scored Martin, who was on 3rd at the time, and it was 3-1 after 6.

Both teams went down in order in the 7th, and Billingsley was allowed to start the 8th. He gave up a walk to start, but then got the next 2 hitters out. Ryan Zimmerman blooped a single into center to make it a 1 run game. After an Austin Kearns single to put 2 on, Jonathan Broxton's name was called to try for a 4 out save. He started it out perfectly with a strikeout of Jesus Flores to end the threat.

It was smooth sailing after that, as 2 flyouts and a groundout ended the game and gave Broxton his 3rd straight save since taking over for the injured Takashi Saito. So far, so good. Much better than last year where he looked lost in the closer's role. Maybe that trial run has helped him succeed this time around.

The 10-game homestand has started off with a win, and they need much more of those to get back the NL West lead. Derek Lowe goes today in a matchup against another old friend, Odalis Perez. Perez has actually been decent, with a 3.99 ERA despite having only 3 win.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

So much for finding the offense in Coors Field

The Dodgers hung a 16 spot on the Rockies on Monday night, and all was well in the world. But after scoring only 4 combined runs the last 2 games, it's not hard to see why the Dodgers can't consistently win.

The Rockies used a 3-run 3rd inning to take the lead for good as they downed the Dodgers, 5-3. The loss pushes the Dodgers back to 49-52, and once again looking to find any way to play good all-around ball.

It looked like another long day in the 1st when the Rocks got 2 runs on a Matt Holliday single and Garrett Atkins fielder's choice. But, the Dodgers did battle back in the 2nd to at least pose somewhat of a threat. Jeff Kent singled to start and Andruw Jones walked with 1 down. Andy LaRoche finally got a hit to score Kent, but Jones was nailed trying to go to 3rd (a bad play from him... shocking, I know). Danny Ardoin then singled to score LaRoche and tie the game.

That's about as good as it gets, as Hiroki Kuroda again struggled to start the game, much like his last start in Arizona. I know Coors Field is tough, but man have the starters looked like crap this series. Holliday, Brad Hawpe, and Ian Stewart all had RBI's to open the game up a bit. That was all they needed.

Jones did the unthinkable in the 4th... he hit an RBI double to close the deficit to 2. That increases his RBI total on the year to 12! Woo-hoo!!! What a great player! That blistering hitting now shoots him up to #10 on the team list in RBI's. It's a good thing, too. Chin-lung Hu is hot on his trails with 7 RBI's... even though he's been in the minors since early June.

Oh ya, Jones still sucks.

Anyway, once Kuroda reached the 4th, he was fine, but the damage was done. He finished at 6 IP, 9 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 4 K. He kept the Dodgers within striking distance at least, but the bats let him down. They got 11 hits, but hit into 2 double plays, left 8 on, and 5 of those in scoring position with 2 outs. Not gonna get it done.

Pretty much the only guys to show up on offense were Matt Kemp (2-4, BB) and James Loney (3-4, R). That was it. Today was Nomar Garciaparra's 35th birthday, and he celebrated by going 0-4 with a K and 2 double plays. Uh, not the best way to party.

After laying an egg the last 2 games in a place where hitter's salivate to play in, they now get Thursday off and then return home for 3 against the Washington Nationals. Obviously, these are very winnable games. They need to get at least 2, if not a sweep. With the way they operate, who knows. Chad Billingsley will give it a go on Friday.

Stults sent back down to Triple-A

One man's arrival is another man's dismissal.

Eric Stults was the odd man out when Clayton Kershaw was recalled, as he was sent back down to Triple-A Las Vegas to make room. It was a bit of an unexpected move, but with so many relievers being used these last 2 games in Colorado, it makes sense.

Joe Torre indicated that the main goal of Stults will be for him to regain his aggressiveness, and not nibble away at the strike zone. Looking at the stats, you can see what Torre is talking about. He won his first 2 games quite easily, going 6 in Cincinnati and a complete game shutout of the White Sox.

After that, it was up and down. He started walking about 3 guys a game, and was clearly getting hit around more. Still, he only has a 3.18 ERA, even with his poor start in Colorado. If he goes back to trusting his stuff, the results show that he can be very good.

Of course, he's probably just a little angry that he was sent down for Kershaw, who was pounded even worse in his start yesterday. But, having solid, lefty starters is not easy to come by, so don't forget his name. He'll be a factor again at some point.

Coors Field too much for Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw got what he wanted, and that was a return to the Big Leagues and a spot in the starting rotation. What he probably absolutely did not want is that return to come in Colorado.

Either way you slice it, that's the hand he was dealt, and he handled it miserably last night. After spotting the Rockies a 5-0 lead after 3 innings, he was gone, and the Rocks went on for an easy win, 10-1. The Diamondbacks won, so that pushes the Dodgers a game back in the West.

Like I said, Kershaw had a very poor outing. He seems like the type of pitcher that will break off a couple of good pitches in an at-bat, and then throw a nice fat one over the middle that gets hammered. Granted, Coors Field is tough, but Ubaldo Jimenez handled it just fine. I don't care where he would have pitched last night - the results would have been the same.

Even thought he gave up only 1 run through the first 2 innings, it could have been worse. The Rockies stranded Jeff Baker on 2nd with 1 down in the 1st. In the 2nd, with runners on the corners and 2 down, Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra turned a fantastic double play to avoid any more trouble. Then the wheels came off the bus the next inning.

As for the bats, they pretty much looked lost the whole night. I didn't like their approach at all. It seemed like they wanted to hack away at the first ball near the strike zone, and ended up grounding out over and over. To only get 4 hits and take 2 walks in Coors is pretty sad. That was a night to forget.

I'll give Jimenez plenty of credit - he was really good. The announcers were talking before the game about how he's been good lately, and I can now see why. His stuff was nasty, especially the slider. He could have had a complete game shutout, but Matt Kemp led off the 9th with a bomb to center to finally break the ice. That was the lone highlight of the night for the Dodgers.

It's an afternoon start today, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a quirky lineup. My guess is that Jeff Kent and Andruw Jones will get the day off (Jones should get everyday off), and possibly Nomar, though he did rest on Monday. Danny Ardoin may get the call behind the plate, which would shift Russell Martin to 3rd.

Hiroki Kuroda gets the ball today, and he was terrible his last start. On the flip side, he was brilliant before that. Hopefully the team won't pack it in and look forward to their day off tomorrow before jetting off to Washington on Friday.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Dodgers score early and often for win

There's something about the 1st inning whenever the Dodgers and Rockies get together that lots of runs will be scored.

Do you remember back on April 26 when the Dodgers posted a 10 spot in the 1st at home against the Rocks? Well, the same thing almost happened, this time in Coors Field, as Matt Kemp paved the way with 2 doubles to put up 8 runs. Both teams traded runs after that as the Dodgers won, 16-10.

The baseball purists would not have enjoyed this one, as both starting pitchers were either awful (Kip Wells) or pretty bad (Eric Stults), and the offenses kept this game going for 3 hours and 40 minutes. Wells could only get 1 out as he was yanked after dishing out 8 runs (7 earned). Stults should have easily cruised to a W, but was pulled after only 3.2 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 4 K. He left the bases loaded in the 4th, but Brian Falkenborg came on and gave up only 1 run.

The funny thing is that the Rockies actually scored in 7 of the 9 innings, and outhit the Dodgers 20-18. They also took more walks (6-5), turned more double plays (2-0), stole more bases (1-0), and hit the game's only homer (Matt Holliday in the 3rd). But, the Dodgers still comfortably won.

And for once, I can point to the one statistic that may mean more than any other one (well, other than runs scored), and that's men left on base. Rockies - 16, Dodgers - 7. That, my friends, is the difference between winning and losing.

In scoring 16 runs, there's plenty of offensive heroes. Kemp got both his hits in the 1st, 2 huge doubles. Andre Ethier added a double and 2 RBI. Russell Martin had 3 hits and an RBI. Jeff Kent was perfect in 4 AB's, going 3-3, 3 R, 2 RBI, BB before turning over to Pablo Ozuna, who added a hit in 2 AB's. Even Angel Berroa looked like a Major League player, going 2-5, R, 2 RBI, and adding a nifty play at short later in the game.

The best was James Loney, who loves Coors Field. He was 3-6, 2 R, 5 RBI. In 14 career games there, his OPS is .961 with 4 HR and 24 RBI. I think he'll enjoy the next 2 games there.

And how did Andruw Jones do? 1-4 with 3 K's. It's nice to see him being consistent. He consistently sucks day in and day out.

None of the 5 pitchers that appeared for the Dodgers had numbers that looked pretty. Like I said before, Stults wasn't very good. Falkenborg got the win, but still gave up a run on 4 hits in 1.1 IP. Even Hong-Chih Kuo gave up 2 runs in 1.2 IP. Call it the Coors Field effect, I guess.

After scoring 16 runs last night and having a huge comeback win over Arizona the day before, the Dodgers will look to keep the ball rolling today. Clayton Kershaw is recalled and will get the start. I'm sure he's happy with that, but probably a little upset that it comes in Coors Field, where everybody looks bad. Still, he's back with the big club and looking to prove that's where he should stay.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Improbable comeback in 9th gives Dodgers series win

The Arizona Diamondbacks have got to be kicking themselves for this one.

The DBacks could have arguably swept this 3-game set against the Dodgers, but instead the Dodgers took 2 of 3 to fall back into a tie atop the NL West. And they got the win today by doing something I don't think anybody thought they had in them - a huge 9th inning rally.

It was pretty amazing, but after flailing away lifelessly at Brandon Webb for 8 innings for only 1 run, they got to Brandon Lyon for the 2nd straight game. And boy did they tag him today.

Nomar Garciaparra started it with a double, and James Loney singled him over to 3rd. Andruw Jones didn't strike out for once, he actually had a good at-bat with an RBI groundout to cut the lead to 4-2. Blake DeWitt then grounded out, and it looked like the DBacks were well on their way to opening up a 2 game lead in the West.

But that's when the bats got red hot. Andy LaRoche pinch-hit for pitcher Ramon Troncoso and singled, which scored Loney to go down by 1. Still with 2 down, Matt Kemp hit a big double to score newly acquired Pablo Ozuna, who pinch-ran for LaRoche, to tie the game. Amazing. Even more amazing was that they got 2 more runs when Andre Ethier hit a bomb to center for a run-scoring triple, and Russell Martin capped the scoring with a single.

Jonathan Broxton got his 2nd save, though he gave up an RBI single to Stephen Drew with 2 down. Thankfully Conor Jackson grounded into a force play to end the game. Broxton's 2-2 since taking over for Takashi Saito recently, so it's a nice start.

While the Dodgers certainly have their bad offensive games, they did score 6 today and 8 Friday, and actually had 2 in the 9th on Saturday. I'm looking for any silver lining when it comes to that lineup, so having the bats bail out the pitching is a great change of events. It was typical today that they never hit a home run during the 9th, but strung together lots of hits. That's how they do things. It worked today.

Derek Lowe had a very poor 1st inning, giving up 3 runs, but settled down after that. He finished at 5.1 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 6 K. I'm sure he thought it would be another L for him, and who could blame him? He's still never won a game in 7 career starts at Chase Field, so I think he's happier than anyone that the bats picked him up.

The record is only 48-50, but it's still good enough for a share of first place. They'll take it. That's 10-6 this month, including a 3-game losing streak to the Marlins wedged in there. Not bad. They now have some winnable games coming, with 3 in Colorado, 3 vs. Washington, and 3 vs. San Francisco before the DBacks come to LA. Now is the time to make their move and get some distance.

Eric Stults will get the call tomorrow in Colorado. It's a big series for the Rockies since they're only 6 games back (believe it or not), so if they're going to make some noise, now is the time. Especially with rumors to deal Matt Holliday and/or Brian Fuentes, has they do in the next couple of weeks could very well determine what direction they take their ballclub.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

First half thoughts

It's kind of funny when thinking about how the first half of the season has gone for the Dodgers. On one hand, if I was told prior to the season that they'd only be 1 game in back of 1st place, I would have gladly taken it and moved on. But, when you think about the fact that they're only 46-49, it's kind of embarrassing that the NL West has deteriorated so quickly.

But I'm not here to focus on the rest of the division, this is all about the Dodgers. Here are some separate headlines that have occurred, followed by my thoughts.

Joe Torre begins his first year as manager on the West Coast
I was one of those believers that his mere presence would cause a turn for the better. Well, I'm not sure I was as sold on it as some other people, but I definitely looked at it as a change for the better. And, good record or not, it's still a change for the better.

But I think it's time we stop assuming that a manager can dramatically change a team. Yes, a difference can be made, but it's not like they can hit, field, and run. That's all up to the players. I'm sure Torre isn't telling Matt Kemp to screw up on the bases and Juan Pierre to take 1 walk a month. It's quite the opposite I'm sure, but it doesn't matter. The players determine the outcome.

The hope is that Torre's approach will pay off in the long run, and in that respect, we still have to give it time to unfold. The Dodgers did win 4 of the last 5 series, so that's a great sign. No matter how poorly the rest of the division is playing, they just have to worry about being on top when it's all said and done. Time will tell.

Rafael Furcal's hot start... and abrupt shutdown
Boy, do I miss Raffy. And by "I," I should say "any fan of the Dodgers." He was MVP material to start the season, and they have been lost for the most part without him. Here's his numbers thus far - 32 G, .366 AVG, .448 OBP, 12 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 19 BB, 8 SB. He was clearly the best player on the team through the month of April.

Then he went down with a bad back after the May 5 game against the New York Mets, and hasn't been heard from since. It's a huge shame because he's had a bad history of injuries. In his contract year, this could not have come at a worse time.

So now 3 big questions remain. 1) Will he come back this season? 2) Will he be the same player if he does? 3) Do the Dodgers resign him despite other bad contracts of injured players?

No run support
This is really a follow-up of the Furcal posting. He goes down, and the offense goes on life support. But even without him, their offense is so horrendous some nights, it's almost impossible to watch.

Here's how their doing in the major hitting categories (NL only - 16 teams):
AVG - 12th
OBP - 11th
R - 13th
HR - 15th
RBI - 13th
SB - 2nd

Yeah, not exactly Earth shattering numbers. At least they can run well. But the rest of the numbers are simply ugly. Yes, I fully understand not having Furcal in there makes a big difference, and that's completely true. But, it's not like the rest of the team needs to go into hibernation waiting for him to come back. They need to step up.

Great pitching
As poorly as the offense has performed, the pitching has really gained momentum lately. Even though Jason Schmidt hasn't made an appearance, Scott Proctor has been horrendous, and Brad Penny has been awful and hurt, the rest of the staff has picked it up.

Here's the rankings in the major pitching categories (NL only again)
ERA - 1st
WHIP - 2nd
BB - 3rd
K - 5th
SV - 13th

That's more like it. Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda started off the year as the #3 and #4 starters, but they have been more like #1 and #2. Derek Lowe was abysmal through May, but has been Good Lowe since then. Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito may be a notch below their normal dominant selves, but they still have been great. Overall, they've been fun to watch.

Juan Pierre's shaky play
The season did not start off well for Pierre, as he was relegated to the bench in favor of Andre Ethier in left. Injuries and some horrible play (just wait for that) have bumped him up to a starter. While April did not do much for him, he was at a .286 AVG and .350 OBP in May. Then he went down with a sprained left knee ligament June 29, and was on the DL for the first time in his career.

Look, I'll never fault his effort. I continually hear about his preparation and effort each day at the ballpark. But I can fault the results. He's simply not a leadoff hitter, as in 207 AB's, he has a lowly .294 OBP. Yikes. And we all know about his spaghetti arm. It's just not working out for him as a Dodger, but I think we'll be stuck watching him for the foreseeable future.

I've saved the best one for last...

I'm going to try as hard as I can to put my thoughts about Jones into words, but it won't be easy. So please, bare with me.

I remember my very first blog post on here was about Jones signing with LA, and boy was I excited. I immediately thought about the Dodgers getting more power and runs, along with great defense. My oh my, I could not have been any more wrong.

To say he has been a letdown would be like saying Brett Favre is being a drama queen. To try and put in perspective just how pathetic he has been, here are his numbers:

.164 AVG, .265 OBP, 19 R, 6 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 23 BB, 59 K, 0 SB

Wow, they were even worse than I thought. Want to know how many multiple hit games he has? 3. Want to know what his average is with runners in scoring position? .067. How about when there's 2 outs? .050. Absolutely pitiful.

The trouble started way back in Spring Training when he reported way overweight. No big deal, he said, he'll work his way out of it. Ya, ok. Still waiting for that to happen. Not that it will.

He was supposed to turn the franchise around, and guess what? He has. Only for the worse. Now they have another player making a ridiculous amount of money and not giving a damn thing back. This signing alone could spell the end of GM Ned Colletti's tenure with the Dodgers. Wouldn't surprise me one bit.

Overall thoughts
They still have a long way to go if they want to be considered a legit contender. At this point, they may sneak in the playoffs, but it's hard to believe they could hang with teams like the Cubs, Phillies, or Cardinals. Heck, even the Mets and Marlins are up there.

They have the pitching. Kuroda, Billingsley, and Lowe should continue to be great. Chan Ho Park and Hong-Chih Kuo have been huge. Takashi Saito is done for awhile, and that will hurt, but I think Jonathan Broxton will be ok. With Brad Penny due back at some point, hopefully he'll have things figured out. Plus there's that Clayton Kershaw guy, who could reemerge at some point. Depth is their strength.

At the end of the day, the offense will determine if this is a season to remember. The youngsters need to produce. I'm looking specifically at Matt Kemp, James Loney, and Andre Ethier. I won't count Russell Martin since he's already an established All-Star. If those 3 can improve their game, then they can get big wins. They simply cannot have games where the offense can barely get 1 run. Consistency is the key, and they need much more of it.

With the possibilities of trades always lingering in the air, the 2nd half will be a fun one to watch.

Martin has great effort in All-Star Game

I wanted to take some time to give my thoughts on the only Dodger in last night's All-Star Game from Yankee Stadium, Russell Martin. While he wasn't voted in as a starter (shame on you people!), he definitely played a huge role in the outcome as the night went on.

I didn't even realize this until I read about it today, but he caught 10 innings! Not bad for a guy that didn't even start. Geovany Soto was the starter, but he went 0-2 before coming out in the 5th for Martin. From there, many big plays were made centered around him.

In looking at how he did at the plate, he was 1-3 with a sac bunt, so not too shabby. He flew out in the 7th against Joe Nathan and in the 14th against George Sherrill. His best AB came in the 10th against Yankees' closer Mariano Rivera when he singled with 1 down. Miguel Tejada singled him over to 3rd, and it was 2 on and 1 down. Unfortunately for the NL, they blew a golden opportunity to score when Dan Uggla grounded into a DP. I think Uggla should burn the tape of this game. Not a night he wants to remember.

The sac bunt came in the 12th off of Joakim Soria to put runner on 2nd and 3rd with 1 down. But, yet again, 2 straight K's ended the threat.

At the end of the night, Martin can be very proud of his effort. He was on the receiving end of a great throw from the Pirates Nate McLouth in the 11th to gun Dioner Navaro at home. It was a fantastic play from both men. I don't care what the idiot from ESPN says, there's no way Navarro slid underneath the tag. Get some damn glasses, moron.

About the only thing that didn't go Martin's way was trying to throw out base stealers. Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, Grady Sizemore, and JD Drew all took 2nd off of him. Kinsler was also the only guy to get nailed. 1-5 isn't too good, but that's not what lost the game in the end.

So despite the fact that I wasn't happy about Martin not starting, I think it was more fun to watch him play such dramatic innings as the game went on. The announcers on Fox, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, were very complimentary of his play, and they were right. It was kind of cool to see Navarro hitting and Martin catching, as they were the 2 prized catchers at one time in the Dodgers' organization. I think both of their careers worked out for the better in the long run.

Most importantly, I'm glad the whole world got to see why Russell Martin will soon be the best catcher in all of baseball. He's already on the fast track to it.

Oh boy... Saito is out for 6 weeks

And the beat goes on for the injury-riddled Dodgers.

Takashi Saito becomes the latest big-name player to get shelved as he is done for the next 6 weeks with a sprained elbow ligament. The timetable was pretty much what was expected, as a quick return seemed very unlikely when he was hurt.

For those of you keeping score at home, that's now the 15th player to hit the DL this season. I don't know... I sometimes wonder if this team is just cursed. They've had a roller coaster first half of the season with wins and losses, but the injuries have just derailed them from the start. What can you do?

While Saito heals, Jonathan Broxton is suddenly thrown into the closer's role. He's done it before, though not too successfully. Still, I think the Dodgers are much more prepared to replace a closer temporarily than most other teams are. Broxton is a stud who throw flames, so I think he'll be fine.

Now that Broxton is pushed up to the 9th inning, the domino effect takes place for the rest of the 'pen. One theory is to have Chan Ho Park return, meaning that Clayton Kershaw can be called back up to start. Joe Beimel could also pitch in the 8th.

A couple of other theories I heard that I tend to like. The first is that Hong-Chih Kuo can pitch the 8th and 9th on nights he's available. He's been terrific this year, so I like that. The other is to seriously consider using Brad Penny as the closer. He has great stuff, and with the starting rotation already set, it's worth a try. 2 great options in my mind.

Whatever the case, I still hope Saito comes back. Maybe I'm higher on him than some other people are, but even at 38, I still love him as the closer. Let's hope he'll be fine by the end of August.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

First half is closed with offensive surge

After suffering through a week of embarrassingly poor hitting, the offense wasted no time in getting the job done today. A 6-run 1st inning was plenty enough to back Chad Billingsley, as the Dodgers rolled over the Florida Marlins to get at least 1 of the 4 games, 9-1.

The Marlins actually struck first when Luis Gonzalez doubled home Alfredo Amezaga, and it looked like another long day at Chavez Ravine. Thankfully that was not the case, as the offense took advantage of a horrendous start by Andrew Miller to get 3 hits and 3 walks and put the game away early.

The first 6 hitters reached in the 1st, highlighted by a Matt Kemp infield single and steal of 2nd, Nomar Garciaparra's single to right, and James Loney's double to score 2. Andy LaRoche and Luis Maza also picked up RBI's. Oh ya, Andruw Jones picked one up as well... from a bases loaded walk. Way to go! You still suck.

After that, Billingsley was simply awesome, mowing down hitters left and right. He finished at 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 13 K. Wow, that's a huge start. He'd easily be an All-Star if the offense wasn't so anemic and hung 8 losses on him, which is totally unfair. But that's life. With an ERA of 3.25, he's clearly their staff ace right now. That's not too surprising considering he's always had loads of talent, and now he's living up to it.

While the whole lineup did really well, Kemp, Nomar, and Maza were the stars. Kemp was back at leadoff and had a terrific game, going 3-4, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB, 2 SB. It's about damn time he produced in the leadoff spot. Geez. Nomar hasn't done a lick since coming off the DL, but today he was 2-3, R, 2 RBI. Maza started for Jeff Kent and went 2-3, R, RBI. Production up and down the lineup - I like it.

It's a great end to the first half of the season, but it would have been much nicer had they not laid 3 straight eggs before this game. Getting swept at home in a 4-game set would have been awful though, so at least one win is something they'll take. They only gave up 14 runs, or 3.5 a game, but only have 1 win to show for it. That's the Dodgers for ya.

For one day, I'll be happy. Their record is 46-49, obviously not even close to what they envisioned, but thanks to some bad play from the rest of the division, they're only 1 game back of Arizona. It doesn't matter how they get to the playoffs, it's by any means necessary.

The All-Star game is Tuesday night in Yankee Stadium (I guess you all should know that considering it's been beaten into the ground). Russell Martin is the lone representative of the Dodgers. I have no clue how much he'll play since Brian McCann is the other backup, and both men are very much deserving of a few innings. Maybe saving Russ until the end will be cool if the NL ends up winning.

Fish drown Dodgers in extras

All of that momentum the Dodgers had before this series has quickly gone ka-poof.

Despite a game-tying solo shot by Andre Ethier in the 8th inning, the Florida Marlins scored 2 in the 11th to beat the Dodgers, 5-3. That's now 3 straight losses, mostly because the offense has been in the Witness Protection Program.

It's another frustrating loss in a long line of them, mainly because they make things so hard on themselves. Let's take a look at the 1st inning. Nomar Garciaparra hit leadoff (better than watching Matt Kemp strike out again) and hit an infield single. Andre Ethier followed with a single, and Russell Martin drew a walk.

So that's bases loaded, nobody down. How do they capitalize on such a golden opportunity? Jeff Kent grounded out to short to score a run and move Ethier to 3rd and Martin to 2nd. Andruw Jones struck out swinging. Big shock. James Loney grounded out to 2nd. Instead of posting a big inning, they get 1 damn run. Pitiful, just plain pitiful. But then again, the Dodgers ARE pitiful.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Kent, Jones, or Loney flopped in a big spot considering all of their averages with RISP: Kent - .235, Jones - .068, Loney - .291. Ok so I guess Loney's isn't too bad, but he's grounded into something like 400 double plays this year, so it all evens out in the end.

Even with that embarrassing inning, there was still plenty of hope for a win. Kemp started the 2nd with a home run to right, his 9th, for a 2-1 lead. Florida got one back in the 6th when Jorge Cantu hit a homer of his own to even the score at 2, then took the lead in the 7th on an Alfredo Amezaga RBI single.

The 8th is when Ethier tied the game at 3 with a homer, which was a good sign that they could battle back after coughing up the lead. Of course, it all meant nothing in the end when Ramon Troncoso allowed a Dan Uggla double and a Cody Ross sac-fly in the 11th. Another waste of a night.

Hiroki Kuroda came back to Earth a bit, but he still was pretty good, finishing at 6.2 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. On normal teams, that would be enough to win. But this is the Dodgers, so that must mean it's still not good enough.

Another bit of news from this game is that Takashi Saito joins the long list of injured players when he left with 2 outs in the 9th, saying he had a right elbow injury. Ugh... just what they need. He's 38, so it'll probably mean a DL stint. I don't know for sure, but what the hell, he may as well get added to the long list.

The Dodgers really, REALLY need a win today as Chad Billingsley gets the ball. He has a 3.38 ERA... and an 8-8 record. That's almost laughable to look at. The guy has an ERA that low and 8 losses. Wow. Let's hope it changes today.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

No run support for Stults

Eric Stults gave up 2 home runs in the 1st inning to the Florida Marlins, and that was more than enough to beat the Dodgers, 3-1. The Dodgers only collected 1 run on 5 hits against a guy making his first career start.

I suppose the game could have ended right after the 1st when Jeremy Hermida hit a 2-run bomb and Jorge Cantu a solo shot, but they humored the crowd by playing the rest of the game anyway. Take away the 1st, and Stults had another strong outing. 1st inning: 2 hits (both home runs), 1 walk, 1 hit by pitch, 2 strikeouts. 2nd-5th innings: 4 hits, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts. It ended up being a quality start when it was all said and done.

Still, people who didn't see the game will just look at the boxscore and probably think Stults wasn't very good. The truth is that for the millionth time this season, the Dodgers' offense did jack squat and hung another L on their starting pitcher, deserved or not. Who knows how good Chris Volstad will turn out to be, but I would think the Dodgers could have done a little better than 5 hits and 1 walk. Kind of pathetic that they didn't.

I'm not sure where to start with the blame because everybody was lousy, but let's take a look at Matt Kemp. He's constantly the talk of trade rumors, yet it never seems serious. He's a freak athlete, but kind of a blockhead at the same time. For the past 11 games (or every game in July), he's hit leadoff with Juan Pierre and Rafael Furcal out with injuries. He's only collected a .255 AVG and .340 OBP, and more alarmingly, 20 K's in 47 AB's. Doesn't seem like it's working out.

Then there's Andruw Jones, who somehow continues to disgrace himself more and more each game. He K'd his first AB, singled in his 2nd... then got caught stealing. In the 7th, he had a big opportunity to get the offense going with a runner on 1st... and he promptly grounded into an inning-ending double play. At a .172 AVG, it's unfathomable just how bad he really is. This is starting look like one of the worst free agent signings of all time. It's quickly going up in the history of bad Dodger moves with the Delino Deshields for Pedro Martinez deal.

Give Russell Martin credit for trying to get something going, as he singled up the middle in the 9th to get the only run and chase Volstad with 2 outs. Jeff Kent then flew out against closer Kevin Gregg to lower his AVG to .254, another huge disappointment in a long list of them this year.

The best the Dodgers can do now is get 1 game under .500 before the All-Star break, and they will look to start the process today with Hiroki Kuroda taking the mound. He was nearly perfect in his last outing against the Braves, so they need another big start from him.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Mattingly to return as hitting coach

The Dodgers recently announced that Don Mattingly will take over the role of hitting coach after the All-Star break. The interim hitting coach, Mike Easler, will now become a roving hitting instructor in the organization.

I certainly don't think this move will hurt anyone, as Mattingly was obviously a great hitter in his day. But, I caution Dodger fans about how well this may or may not work out. I wouldn't expect him to work miracles. It's not like he can grab the bat and go up and hit the ball himself. Don't expect their numbers to all of a sudden skyrocket because he's back.

I guess I'm one of those believers that baseball players are harder to coach than other sports. In the other major sports, X's and O's can make a big difference. I'm baseball, everyone pitches and hits, and that's it. Do managers and coaches make an impact on winning? Yes. But is it as big as other sports? Not at all. And that's just how I feel.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to see him back, and can only hope he can help guys who really need it like Andruw Jones and Matt Kemp. It certainly can't hurt to have a great hitter like Mattingly giving them advice.

But please, don't sit back and wait for the hitting to be the best in the league once he's back. It'll still be an uphill battle.

Hanley Ramirez too much for Dodgers

Hanley Ramirez was huge for the Florida Marlins all night, as he had 5 hits and the game-winning home run in the 11th inning as the Marlins downed the Dodgers, 5-4. The loss pushes the Dodgers back into 2nd in the NL West.

Chan Ho Park got the start and was ok, but certainly not as sharp as he has been. It didn't help in the 1st when Matt Kemp committed an error that allowed Jorge Cantu to take 2nd base, who then easily scored on a double to center by Josh Willingham. Park finished at 4 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K.

The Marlins got up 3-0 after Josh Baker collected his first Major League hit and home run all at once with a solo shot in the 2nd. It was starting to look like a long night for the Dodgers, but they battled right back in the 3rd. It was all done with a single, sacrifice, single, steal, single, steal, and single. Got all of that? Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Russell Martin all had RBI's to even the score.

The Marlins got one back in the 4th when the damn pitcher, Josh Johnson, singled home a run, but Martin hit his 10th homer of the year to again keep the score tied. The Marlins loaded the bases in the 7th, but Hong-Chih Kuo wiggled out of trouble when Jeff Kent made a nice diving play to get the forceout at 2nd to end the inning.

The only other time the Dodgers had a chance to score was in the 8th when Martin and James Loney reached with 2 down. Who do you think was chosen to get the big hit? Yup, Andruw Jones. And yup again, he struck out. And finally, another yup... he sucks out loud.

Brian Falkenborg was 1 out away from escaping the 11th when he grooved a fastball to Ramirez that was tattooed out to center. So much for that. The Dodgers went down in order to end the game.

I'll look at the positives in that it's good to see them battle back from an early 3-0 deficit. Ethier and Martin each had 2 hits, and the team stole 3 bases. Kuo continued his excellent work with 3 shutout innings to keep the Dodgers in the game. Johnson was making his first start in a little over a year and K'd 6, but did give up 3 runs in 5 innings.

The bullpen did well, giving up only 1 run in 7 innings, but Falkenborg continues to struggle. In only 5.2 IP, he's 1-2 with a 7.94 ERA. I can't imagine he'll be with the team long once guys like Brad Penny and Mark Sweeney come back.

Eric Stults will go tonight against Chris Volstad, another Marlins' pitcher making his first start of the season. Who knows what the future holds for Stults with Penny due back relatively soon, but keeping his ERA around 2.22 will help.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Andruw Jones... a new LA hero!

It's amazing what is considered "good" for Andruw Jones these days.

All he did last night was hit a grounder up the middle that scored the 2nd run, and then he had a hard slide into 2nd base that broke up a potential double play later in the inning. The result was the LA crowd on their feet giving him a standing ovation on his way to the dugout.

Yes, a ground ball and a slide is as good as it gets for Jones these days.

Nonetheless, that RBI single did score the 2nd run, which would be huge as the Dodgers held on to beat the Braves, 2-1. It's their 4th straight series win, and also means another tie for 1st place in the NL West with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The real story was the start of Derek Lowe, who, much like Hiroki Kuroda 2 days before, was simply brilliant. This time, Lowe took a perfect game into the 7th inning before Gregor Blanco led off with a sharp liner up the middle. Close again, but not quite perfect.

Instead, it was a dominant start from the get-go, as Lowe finished at 7.2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K. The only blemish was a hanging breaking ball that Jeff Francoeur properly disposed of in the 8th. Jonathan Broxton relieved him in the 8th and got an out when Russell Martin easily nailed Mark Kotsay trying to steal 2nd. Takashi Saito pitched a perfect 9th for the save, his 17th.

The Dodgers still can't score to save their lives, but this is about as good of starting pitching as they can possibly ask for. That's good to see considering they're all just buying time until Rafael Furcal is healthy (if that will ever happen). The pitching is clicking on all cylinders right now.

Being 1 game under .500 and in a tie for 1st place is pretty much laughable, but the good news is that they've taken 9 of the last 14 to earn their way back up top. With Arizona's pitching, it'll still be tough to get the lead and keep it, but it's very possible now. The rest of the division certainly isn't getting blown out of the water, as none of them are more than 10 games out, but they also don't do themselves any favors. It's still wide open.

Chan Ho Park gets another start tonight while Brad Penny is still out. That's a good thing considering Park's ERA is 2.36. The Florida Marlins are in town for 4 to close out the first half. The Marlins are only 2 games out in the NL East, so it's a big series for both teams.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Nearly perfect night for Kuroda

Hiroki Kuroda was as close to perfection Monday night as one could be. Through 7 innings, he was unstoppable. Only a double by Mark Teixeira to start the 8th would stand in the way of him and history.

Still, a complete game, 1-hitter was about as good an outing as possible, as the Dodgers beat the Braves, 3-0. The win was not only that close to being historic, but put the Dodgers in a tie for 1st place in the NL West with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

All of the offense came in the 5th, as James Loney started things off with a walk from Jorge Campillo. Andruw Jones continued his consistent play by popping out to 2nd, only furthering his distinction of being a total waste of space. Nomar Garciaparra then stepped up and smashed a 2-run shot to left to grab the lead. Blake DeWitt singled to center, and Matt Kemp hit an RBI single to close the inning at 3-0.

With the comfort of having a lead, Kuroda stayed on fire. Undoubtedly, the best play was at the top of the 7th, when Gregor Blanco laid down a bunt to 3rd to start the inning. DeWitt charged and made a terrific barehanded throw that barely nailed him at 1st. It's questionable whether Blanco should have bunted to being with, as that would seem to be pretty cheap. But, the play was made anyway.

Credit Teixeira for getting a big hit with a 2-strike count to start the 8th. I knew looking at the lineup that if Kuroda could get through Teixeira and Brian McCann, the perfect game would very reachable. It was close, but just not meant to be.

Perhaps just as impressive as the first 7 innings was that after the perfect game was gone, Kuroda still pitched his heart out, retiring the next 6 hitters on 2 flyouts and 4 groundouts. He ended with 6 K's, and lowered his ERA from 3.73 to 3.39. Dominant from the first pitch.

It's pretty much an impossible act to follow, but Chad Billingsley is just the guy to try. He's been brilliant in his last 2 games, allowing no runs in 15 innings. He's opposed by Jair Jurrjens, another person with an ERA in the low 3's and 8 wins. It'll be a fun one to watch.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Red-hot Ethier carries Dodgers

Andre Ethier had such a miserable June, Andruw Jones' return was starting to be a good thing. I'm talking .195 AVG awful. Now that the calendar has turned to July, his bat is starting to heat up.

A 3-4 day at the plate raised his average from .271 to start the month to .287 now, and the Dodgers took 2 of 3 from the San Francisco Giants by winning today's game, 5-3. The play of Ethier and James Loney made sure the Dodgers would stay less than a game behind division-leading Arizona.

After looking like crap yesterday against Barry Zito, the Dodgers got on the board right away against Matt Cain. Ethier singled with 1 down, and Loney doubled him in an out later for a 1-0 lead, the 6th time in 7 games the Dodgers have scored in the 1st inning. Kind of amazing considering Furcal's not there (but easier to do when Juan Pierre isn't grounding out to start every game).

Eric Stults was a little shaky to start, as he gave up an RBI groundout to Bengie Molina to even the score at 1 in the bottom of the inning. He did get out of the inning with 2 on, though. He finished at 4 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K. Definitely not his sharpest outing, but he kept the Dodgers on the winning side.

2 more runs were scored in the 3rd when Matt Kemp singled home Angel Berroa and Ethier hit a sac-fly to score Eric Stults. Believe it or not, Berroa actually hit a single to raise his average to a sizzling .197. Whew, talk about production! Stults luckily got an infield single, and it's good that both men came around to score with nobody out. That's the kind of production the Dodgers have not gotten nearly enough in earlier games. Maybe it's turning around, who knows.

Rich Aurilla homered to make it 3-2 Dodgers, but Loney hit a big double to score both Ethier and Kemp in the 5th for a 5-2 lead. I'm glad that people other than Russell Martin and Jeff Kent can drive in runs. The youth came through today.

The 9th was a little interesting as the Giants put the 1st 2 men on against Takashi Saito. But, he got 3 straight outs, with a sac-fly RBI wedged in between, for his 16th save. If the Giants had any sort of threats in their order, it could have been much more nerve-wracking, but they don't. Good for the Dodgers I guess.

The win makes it 3 straight series wins (Angels, Astros, and Giants) and 7 of the last 10. It's not always pretty, but taking that many games against anyone is a great step. At 2 games under .500, they should shoot for at least an even record once the All-Star break hits. They've got 7 games against the Braves and Marlins coming up at home to keep playing solid ball. Let's do it.

Big start, then nothing else

The Dodgers were able to put 2 runs on the board in the 1st inning against the horrible Barry Zito. It looked like a great night, and another miserable one for Zito to add to his resume.

Then the Dodgers remembered that they're the Dodgers, and couldn't possibly do things the easy way.

Zito ended up with 10 K's as the Giants had a big 7th inning rally to take the game, 5-2. Chan Ho Park tried his best, but the bullpen of Joe Beimel and Brian Falkenborg let him down from getting his 5th win.

Instead, Zito was the story. He sure looked awful in the 1st, when Matt Kemp led off with a long drive to center that some clown reached over the fence to catch. I would guess that it would've hit the wall anyway, but we'll never know. That guy got the boot, and Kemp was given 2 bases. Andre Ethier then doubled down the right field line for the quick lead.

After Russell Martin struck out, Jeff Kent barely landed a single into center for runners on 1st and 3rd. Andruw Jones came up and actually didn't strike out! Hooray!!! But he did score Ethier on a groundout, kind of a cheeseball way for an RBI but it worked. Nomar Garciaparra walked, but James Loney grounded out to end the inning up 2-0.

Park was dealing until finally giving up a run in the 6th, when Aaron Rowand doubled home Ray Durham. He finished at 6 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 K. With news that Brad Penny won't be returning until after the All-Star break, Park will be rewarded with another start Thursday night against the Florida Marlins.

The 7th is when everything went downhill, as Beimel gave up a double to Jose Castillo right away. Omar Vizquel sacrificed him to 3rd for 1 down, and Brian Falkenborg came in and got Rich Aurilla swinging for 2 outs. Needing only 1 more walk, it was a single, walk, single, and double that scored 4 runs. The bases were actually left loaded, so it could have been that much worse.

Of course, when the offense strikes out 10 freakin' times against BARRY F'N ZITO, there's no way they can expect to win anyway. That's really, really sad. Zito is one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball, so leave it to the Dodgers to make him look like his Oakland A's days again. That's just a pitiful performance.

The rubber match is today with Eric Stults taking the mound against Matt Cain. Since Arizona lost as well yesterday, the Dodgers are still only .5 games back. Nomar and Jones will get the day off, but Jones has been playing like he's been off all along. Nice to see him 0-9 in his return with 5 K's. Some things never change.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Dodgers in pursuit of C.C. Sabathia and Jack Wilson

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has an article today discussing the Dodgers' pursuit of both C.C. Sabathia of the Cleveland Indians and Jack Wilson of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Here's how it all breaks down:

* They are looking into possible deals, but will be unable to get both men. The reason is that they will need to give up the same minor league prospects in both deals. The question is which one they value more.

* The Milwaukee Brewers are still considered the front-runners for Sabathia, but the Dodgers certainly have some say in this matter. Signing with a big market team like LA would give them a good chance of resigning him at the end of the season, avoiding free agency.

* Wilson coming aboard would mean the probable end to Rafael Furcal's tenure as Wilson is signed through 2009. GM Ned Colletti has acknowledged a willingness to acquire a shortstop.

* The prospects mentioned are AA righty James McDonald, AAA shortstop Chin-lung Hu, and current Major Leauge 3rd baseman Andy LaRoche.

Here's my thoughts on all of this. Sabathia is definitely worth acquiring because dominant lefties like him are hard to come by. Can you imagine a rotation of Sabathia, Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, and Hiroki Kuroda next season? That's pretty nasty. Plus, there's still Derek Lowe and Brad Penny to consider. Talk about an outstanding rotation.

Wilson has had some injury problems the last 3 years, which is immediately a red flag. To be fair, they're not even close to what Furcal has gone through. He's a contact hitter, taking only 46 K's in 477 AB's last season. What he doesn't have a lick of is power, but I don't think the Dodgers are too concerned with that. He'd be a decent addition, just as long as Dodger fans don't expect him to work wonders offensively.

In the end, it would be hard to argue with getting Sabathia. Trading for him and then resigning him would be a huge signal that the Dodgers are ready to be major players again.

Big error helps Dodgers to victory

True, the Dodgers put up 10 runs on the scoreboard, something they haven't done in 3 years. Ok, it was last done on May 3 in Colorado, or just over 2 months ago. But, what cannot be ignored is that routine dropped liner to left by Fred Lewis of the Giants is what gave the Dodgers this win.

Any way you slice it, the Dodgers will gladly take it, as they held on for a 10-7 win. It's their 4th in a row, and 7 of 8 on the road. It's funny how that works out. They play at home at home and look like crap, but hit the road and string together a bunch of wins.

They put themselves into a hole in the 1st, mainly thanks to an error by Derek Lowe, leading to 2 runs. In the 3rd, they responded, mostly due to the wildness of Giants' starter Jonathan Sanchez, who twice walked in runs with the bases loaded. Not exactly the best way to help his own cause.

The Giants were up 5-2 heading into the 5th, but Andre Ethier continued his hot streak by hitting out his 10th homer, tops on the team. That's 3 straight games with a homer (with only 5 RBI to show for it... kind of shows how often the rest of the team gets on base for him). He was red hot coming out of Spring Training, and now he's showing why people are so high on him.

The 6th is when Lewis made the costly mistake to lead off the inning off the bat of the returning Nomar Garciaparra, and it was all downhill for the Giants after that. Delwyn Young singled Nomar home for the 1st run. 3 straight doubles by Ethier, Jeff Kent, and Russell Martin pushed in the other 4 runs for an 8-5 advantage.

Jonathan Broxton came in during the 8th and was shaky, giving up 2 runs on 3 hits and a walk, but luckily for him, he induced Rich Aurilla into a double play to somewhat limit the damage. The other runs for the Dodgers were on a Nomar double, and Andy LaRoche's 2nd home run of the year, a solo shot in the 9th.

Takashi Saito pitched a perfect 9th for his 15th save in 18 chances. That's 6 straight scoreless innings since a hiccup on June 20 against Cleveland. He's only given up 3 hits during that time.

A win is a win, but it's hard to ignore what might have been in the 6th had Lewis made that simple play. That changed the whole complexion of the game. Joe Torre wasn't initially happy with the performance, especially when nobody covered 2nd base later in the game when Martin tried to throw out Randy Winn stealing. Like I said before, it wasn't pretty at times, but they'll take it.

Oh, and Andruw Jones made his return, going 0-5 with 4 K's. It's nice to see he's picked up right where he left off, sucking from the beginning of the year and still going strong.

Chan Ho Park gets the call today. It was originally going to be Brad Penny, but he's been pushed back to sometime next week. Park has been fantastic in his spot starts, so he has that going for him. Oh, and Barry Zito is the Giants' starter, perhaps the worst free agent signing in baseball history. I'd say today's game leans towards the Dodgers.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Jones and Garciaparra to return today

This is probably old news by now, but Andruw Jones and Nomar Garciaparra will be activated for the start of the San Francisco series today. Jones has been out since May 27 for right knee surgery, and Nomar since April 26 with a torn left calf muscle.

The Dodgers played well in Houston, something they really needed, but their offense is still one of the worst in the Majors. A big part of that at the start of the year was the horrendous play of Jones, who currently has a .165 AVG, 2 HR, 7 RBI. Um... yuck. Nomar has only played in 9 games and didn't do much, with a .226 AVG, 1 HR, 5 RBI.

Even with some poor numbers, the Dodgers need to at least see what they can add. It's not like they guys in their places have seized the opportunity and made things happen. Actually, the opposite has happened. I remember when Jones went out, I can hardly think of anyone that thought they'd miss his bat. Now, they're willing to see if he has figured out what went wrong to start the year.

Both showed signs of encouragement, as Jones went 4-8 with a homer and Nomar 5-8 in their 3 games at Triple-A Las Vegas.

Just stay away from Dodger Stadium

After the Dodgers' recent string of victories on the road, maybe being away from the friendly confines of Dodger Stadium is just what this team needs.

They only went 4-5 on their recent homestand, but have taken 6 of their last 7 on the road after defeating the Houston Astros yesterday, 5-2. The win gets them to within 1.5 games of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The story of the game was another strong starting pitching performance, this time by Chad Billingsley, who finds himself over the .500 mark for the first time this season. He was dominant, going 8 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. If not for a shaky start to the season, he would be talked about much more as one of the top pitchers in the league. He hasn't given up an earned run in the last 17 innings, covering 3 games.

The Dodgers got on the board in the 1st, something they have done in each game against the Astros. With 2 outs, Russell Martin singled, and Jeff Kent walked. James Loney found a perfect spot for a bloop, 2-run ground-rule double down the left field line. Blake DeWitt, in a horrible 3-25 stretch, smacked a 2-run single for a 3-0 lead.

That's all Billingsley would need, but the Dodgers made sure to tack on a couple more. In the 3rd, Andre Ethier hit his 9th homer of the year, and 2nd in as many games. Perhaps he's starting to heat up, as he has 3 since June 27. Keep in mind that this is the Dodgers we're talking about, so that is a pretty big deal.

In the 5th, the Astros finally scored, but that was right after an error by 2nd baseman Luis Maza allowed the inning to continue with 2 outs. Maza came in when Jeff Kent left with lower back stiffness, something that the Dodgers certainly don't need, because he found his stroke in his old stomping grounds of Houston.

Loney finished off his big day by hitting a solo homer in the 6th, his 7th of the year, topping off a 2-3 with 2 RBI day. He was the only Dodger with multiple hits, but they did take 5 walks and have 3 extra-base hits. Maybe they should look to play in Houston more often.

Now the Dodgers need to capitalize on their better play as of late and take care of the Giants. The teams haven't met since the opening series of the year, where the Dodgers took 2 of 3. It's a good pitching matchup today, as Derek Lowe goes against Jonathan Sanchez, another good, young pitcher for the Giants.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Kershaw optioned to Double-A

In a move I didn't see coming, Clayton Kershaw was the odd man out to make room for Hiroki Kuroda's return from the DL, as he was optioned to Double-A Jacksonville.

From what I've read, he wasn't too happy about it either. I was thinking maybe they'd cut dead weight like Mark Sweeney or Angel Berroa, but I guess that was wishful thinking on my end. Joe Torre stated how he wanted to keep Ramon Troncoso up to have another option in the bullpen, and that's understandable.

Still, I'm not a big fan of this move. His last start was much better, and it was in Houston, where anyone can be a power hitter. His next start was going to be in San Francisco, and they've been horrible this year. Just doesn't make much sense to me.

The flip side is that he does have command issues to deal with, which will be his goal down on the farm. In 8 starts and 38.2 IP, he's walked 24, or 3 a game. For someone that hasn't gone past 6 innings, that's too many. I know he's still working on a changeup to go along with a wicked curveball and great heater. He'll figure it out.

I think once a couple of days go by, he'll be ok. And I certainly believe he should be recalled later in the year. 2 keys will be Eric Stults and Jason Schmidt. If Stults falters and Schmidt cannot regain his form, then Kershaw will be back in no time. It'll be interesting to keep an eye on his starts in Jacksonville.

Ouch... Raffy done for at least 8 weeks

I'm starting to wonder if we've seen the last of Rafael Furcal in a Dodger uniform.

His season is looking as good as lost as he suffered yet another setback, this time going under the knife for back surgery that will sideline him for a minimum 8 weeks. He has a bulging disc, which just sounds uncomfortable, so it's not hard to see why he's having such a hard time with it. It's another big blow in a season that started off with so much promise.

Recent examples in Dodger history were brought up of players who underwent similar surgeries like Furcal by Dr. Robert Watkins, and they were Kevin Brown and Eric Gagne. Brown came back briefly, but quickly shut it down after that. Gagne was done for the season.

Then again, both of those guys could have been incredibly drugged up (cough, cough... Mitchell Report), so who knows what to think of that.

So now the question shifts to what GM Ned Colletti will do to fill such a big hole. Chin-lung Hu was the first replacement, but his hitting was atrocious. Angel Berroa was cheaply brought in, and he's tearing it up with a blistering .183 AVG. Luis Maza is also lighting the world on fire with a .239 AVG. So... ya, looking for another option is definitely the way to go.

As for Furcal, who knows what will become of him. It's hard to believe he'll be the same this year even if he is back. He played last year not at 100% and was not nearly the same player he was in the past. Sorry to say, but I just don't see him contributing this year.

Kuroda throws blanks in return

To quote the movie "Swingers," Hiroki Kuroda was "money, baby, MONEY!!!" last night.

Making his first start since coming off the DL, he was fantastic in shutting out the Houston Astros for 7 innings and helping the Dodgers win, 4-1. He gave up only 5 hits, 1 walk, and 1 strikeout. A brilliant start in a tough ballpark to post good numbers.

Andre Ethier and Jeff Kent got the party started in the 1st. Ethier doubled with 1 down, and Kent hit a 2-out double to score him and take the early lead. Kent again got the Dodgers on the board in the 3rd, when Matt Kemp led off with a triple, but was stranded there for 2 outs. Kent came through with his 2nd double, and a 2-0 lead.

The bottom of the order got in on the act in the 4th, as Blake DeWitt singled, stole 2nd, and went to 3rd on a throwing error, all with no outs. After Delwyn Young grounded out, Joe Torre pressed the right buttons by having Luis Maza hit a suicide squeeze that worked out perfectly.

The scoring ended in the 5th when Ethier hit a solo home run, his 8th of the year. He's scored a run in each game this series, and for the Dodgers, that's a very big deal. Scoring runs is hard to come by, you know.

But the real story was Kuroda, who proved how good he can be if healthy. I was at the start in New York when the Mets just pounded him, and I can now assume that he was hurt and trying to gut it out. It looks like the rest did him a whole world of good. With Brad Penny due back, their rotation looks like it's starting to settle in.

Cory Wade pitched a scoreless 8th and ended the game, only allowing a solo shot to Carlos Lee for the Astros only run of the night. He was a guy that kind of quietly came on, and he sure has been reliable. I mentioned the Mets/Dodgers game I saw last month, and Wade looked really good there. In 33 IP, he has a mere 5 walks and 21 K's. He's been a rock.

The Dodgers have now won 5 of their last 6 road games (thanks, Cincinnati) and have scored 11 runs the last 2 games. Unbelievable! They'll look to take the series today when Chad Billingsley takes the mound in an early start. They'll then hit the road to San Francisco.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Another setback for Furcal

Rafael Furcal was finally looking like he was close to returning to the Dodgers. But, it's just not meant to be at this point. While rehabbing with Triple-A Las Vegas, his nagging back injury has flared up once again, and he has now been sent back to Los Angeles for medical evaluation.

Obviously, this is not at all good news for a few reasons. The biggest one is that the team is lost without him for the most part. He was an early MVP candidate at the start of the year, and the Dodgers were playing pretty well. Take him out of the equation, and the Dodgers' offense has been on life support. It's been ugly. No matter who they plug in at shortstop (Chin-lung Hu, Luis Maza, Angel Berroa), their production is a joke compared to him.

The other reason is that this is his contract year, and he may very well be seeing those dollar signs appear less and less as the weeks go by. The Dodgers have a bad recent history of signing damaged goods to big contracts, with Jason Schmidt and Nomar Garciaparra being the best examples. Even if a healthy Furcal is great, is it worth the risk? He's not getting younger, and he's had some bad injuries the last couple of years. I love the guy, but even I wouldn't blame the team for passing on a big extension.

Let's hope this is just a temporary setback, and that he'll be fine. I won't be holding my breath, though...

Kent bails out the Dodgers

It was role reversal night in Houston as the hitters were the ones to carry the team to victory, overcoming some shoddy bullpen work.

Jeff Kent's solo shot in the top of the 11th gave the Dodgers a 7-6 edge, and Takashi Saito nailed down the Astros in order to seal the win. The Dodgers did have a 6-1 lead at one point, but the bullpen could not get the job done.

The scoring started quickly for LA, as Russell Martin, pretty much the only consistent hitter they've got, smacked a 2-run shot for the early lead off of Wandy Rodriguez. Hunter Pence got one back for the 'Stros with an RBI single to slash the lead in half.

From there, the Dodgers scored a single run in 4 straight innings starting in the 3rd. The highlights included RBI singles by James Loney and Martin, and RBI doubles by Matt Kemp and Kent. It was a little surprising that they were able to be so productive against Rodriguez considering he had an ERA in the 2's coming in, but didn't have his best stuff last night.

Clayton Kershaw was the starter, and was given a nice early lead, but still was unable to come up with his first Big League win. He's got to be wondering if it'll ever happen. He was cruising through the early part of the game until the 6th. He walked Lance Berkman to start, then K'd Carlos Lee. Miguel Tejada then singled, and Mark Loretta grounded out to Kershaw for runners on 2nd and 3rd. Joe Torre then elected to go to the bullpen and bring in Brian Falkenborg...

... and Ty Wiggington greeted him with a 3-run homer to cut the lead to 6-4. Still, Kershaw was in line for a win, but Jonathan Broxton surrendered a 2-run double to Carlos Lee to tie the score. I've got the feeling that if anyone except Kershaw was starting, this game would have been easily put away. Ah well, he'll have another chance Sunday in San Francisco for that first win.

Joe Beimel and Chan Ho Park combined to hold the Astros scoreless in the 9th and 10th, and then Kent hit one out with 1 down in the 11th. Saito thankfully did not have to face the heart of the Astros order as they went down easily.

It's good to see the bats carry the team through, even if they did strand 11. With news of Rafael Furcal suffering yet another setback, it's going to continue to be a struggle each game. I'm glad to the veterans of Kent and Martin are leading the way. They're going to have to do a whole lot of that if they want to take over the NL West lead.

Hiroki Kuroda comes off the DL to make the start tonight. He was hot and cold before he went on, so if he's healthy, I'm sure he'll be fine.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Las Vegas Millionaires Club

It must be quite an interesting sight for fans of the Las Vegas 51's this week. In addition to Jason Schmidt rehabbing there, he has now been joined by Nomar Garciaparra, Andruw Jones, and Rafael Furcal. I'd say ticket sales have probably seen a spike.

Nomar, Jones, and Furcal all played last night, and each had some success. Nomar was 0-2 with walk, Furcal was 1-3 with an RBI double, and Jones was 1-3 with a homer. Man, those kinds of stats would earn them a spot smack dab in the middle of the Dodgers' lineup!

In all seriousness, it's great to see them close to coming back. For Furcal, he was clearly the top SS in the NL before his injury, and his return means everything. Nomar and Jones have not exactly torn up the league this year, but perhaps some R&R will do them good. Just reading about Jones hitting a home run is a big sigh of relief. Granted, he has a lot of prove that he can do that at the Big League level when he's back, but hey, it's a good start.

As for Schmidt, he's had pretty good success in his long road to recover thus far. He's made 5 starts for 13 IP. His ERA is 3.46, to along with 6 BB and 10 K. There's already been rumblings that he will team up with Clayton Kershaw to pitch in the same game, which makes since considering neither one of them is capable of going deep into games right now.

I'll be sure to keep an eye on all 4 of these player's performances as long as they are down on the farm.

Pierre done for 4-6 weeks

This is definitely uncharted waters for Juan Pierre. For the first time in his 9-year career, he will be on the DL with a sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

The injury happened during the finale of the Freeway Series last Sunday against the Anaheim Angels. He was stealing 2nd when Erick Aybar landed on the bottom of his left leg, causing the knee to twist. Totally unintentional, and an unfortunate accident.

Pierre started off the year showing signs of being more selective at the plate, most likely in an effort to get more playing time as Andre Ethier was named the starting left fielder out of Spring Training. But, reality has set in during the month of June. In May, his OBP was .350, which is high for him. In June, it was .301, anemic for a leadoff hitter. And needless to say, the Dodgers' offense has been lost with Pierre leading off and Rafael Furcal home rehabbing.

The Dodgers will have to go about a week where their outfield consists of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Jason Repko, and Delwyn Young. Not exactly names that will send shivers down the spines of their opponents. But, it'll have to do for now.

Lots of hits and blown opportunities

The good news: the Dodgers had 11 hits.

The bad news: they took 0 walks, stole 0 bases, hit into 2 double plays, and scored 1 run in a loss to the Houston Astros, 4-1.

Roy Oswalt went 6 innings and gave up 6 hits, but also no walks as he completely overpowered the Dodgers with 9 K's. The Dodgers had chances to score, and the perfect example was in the 1st when the bases were loaded with 1 down. They did get a James Loney sac-fly RBI, but that was it. When they weren't striking out, they did get runners on, but as usual, did a big pile of nothing with it.

2 runners on and none out in the 5th. 2 K's and a flyout to end the inning.

2 runners on and 1 down in the 6th. 2 K's to end the inning.

That's really bad, but nothing was quite as bad as the heroic return from the DL by Jason Repko. To say he had about the worst night of his career at the plate would be an understatement. His first 4 times up in the leadoff spot - 4 K's. In fact, he should have been 0-5 with 5 K's if it was not for a questionable balk call on Astros' closer Jose Valverde that took away the final K. Instead, Repko got a 2nd chance and finally put the ball into play, flying out to right. Wow, what a horrendous night.

Eric Stults gave up a bomb to Lance Berkman in the 1st, but was doing fine until running into trouble in the 4th. With the bases loaded, Mark Loretta singled home a run, and then Brad Ausmus singled home 2 more to get a big cushion. Ya, it was only 3 runs, but as I have said a million times in the past, a lead of 1 run or more against the Dodgers is pretty much a sure victory.

I'd now like to take a moment to talk about Mark Sweeney. He sucks. I could pretty much just end it right there, but I recently read a comment that nearly made me fall out of my chair. When asked about his poor performance this year, he had this to say:

"Regardless of what I'm doing, right now, I feel as good (physically) as I have ever felt. I never make excuses, but the situations I have been in haven't been ideal for pinch-hitting and putting your piece into a team, because offensively we have struggled."

Ah... ya, Mark. You've struggled as a pinch-hitter because of the situations you're placed in. Talk about putting a creative spin on things. That stupid ass comment alone should get him released. Oh, and he flew out in his only at-bat last night to lower his AVG to .097. Kinda hard to defend yourself with numbers like that.

All of that garbage aside, Clayton Kershaw will look for his first win since Little League tonight. He'll need to drastically cut his walks down, as a 1.67 WHIP shows that he's still learning how to pitch to Major League hitters.