Sunday, August 31, 2008

Well, it had to happen at some point...

The Dodgers needed someone to literally put them on his back and carry them to a victory. That's exactly why they acquired Manny Ramirez.

Manny was 3-4 with 2 homers and a double to power the Dodgers past the Arizona Diamondbacks, 6-2. The win FINALLY breaks that way-too-long losing streak of 8 games, and pushes them to within 3.5 games of the DBacks in the NL West.

The game was billed as a great pitching matchup between Chad Billingsley and Dan Haren, but Haren was the one who didn't live up to his end. It was scoreless until the 3rd when Manny hit a solo shot with 2 down. The DBacks responded with an RBI triple by Chris Young to knot the game at 1.

From there, the Dodgers' bats actually took over (yes, I did just say that). Matt Kemp, hitting in the #5 spot, singled and stole 2nd, then went to 3rd on Casey Blake's single. Angel Berroa scored Kemp on an infield single to take the lead, and Blake also scored on Stephen Drew's error. That made it 3-1.

They got on the board again when Manny doubled with 1 down in the 5th. Following an out, Kemp smacked his 16th home run of the year for the 5-1 lead. The scoring was closed in the 7th with Manny's 29th shot.

While Haren got knocked around for 5 runs off of 10 hits in 6 innings, Billingsley was awesome. He went 7 IP, 9 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K. The 6 K's pushed him just above Haren for 2nd in the NL at strikeouts with 177 to Haren's 176 (Tim Lincecum is blowing them out with 210... whoa). Hong-Chih Kuo was great in his 2 innings of scoreless ball, K'ing 5.

It was an overall team effort that was sorely lacking the last 2 weeks. It's just 1 win out of 9 games, so it's not like everything is ok, but it had to start somewhere. They needed their best player and pitcher to step up, and that certainly happened.

Tonight is another ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game, where the Dodgers are 0-3 this season. Last week they were on against the Phillies, and they blew the lead in the 9th and lost in extras. It's Derek Lowe vs. Brandon Webb, so it's a big game. No NFL yet, so I'm sure more people will be checking this one out. Can the Dodgers play solidly and show everyone they're not done yet?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Is it still Grady Little's fault?

Somewhere, Grady Little must be laughing his head off.

These are the same Dodgers that faded horribly late last year, and everybody called for Little's head. It must be his fault, they all said. The young guys are feuding with the old guys, and the reason for all of the finger-pointing was the manager. The Dodgers need someone who won't let that happen again, so in came Joe Torre.

One year later, it's the same crap all over again.

I hope this debunks the theory that managers have that big of an impact on a team's performance - they don't. Sure, they have SOME impact, such as who plays where and when, but the rest is up to the players. Mangers and coaches cannot hit, throw, field, or run. They can just stand there and hope for the best.

Remember when Don Mattlingly agreed to return to the team after the All-Star break, and everybody thought the offense would now shoot through the roof? How has that turned out? Yes, Donnie Baseball was a great, pure hitter in his day. But as a hitting coach, he's made no impact whatsoever. I'm not saying it's his fault, I'm just saying that no matter how many tips and tricks are tired, at the end of the day, it's up to the players. And the players aren't performing.

Torre and Mattingly are not the ones who tighten up everytime runners are in scoring position. They're not the ones who ground into DP after DP. They're not the ones who blow saves in the 9th. They're not the ones who commit 4 errors in 1 game to start this horrible stretch. Nope, they're not doing anything any differently than before when they were threatening to take over first place for good.

When it's all said and done, the Dodgers' season will ultimately come down to how badly they want to take advantage of playing in baseball's worst division (by far) and win it. For awhile it looked good, but now it sure doesn't. Yes, I understand that injuries to Rafael Furcal, Brad Penny, and Takashi Saito (to name a few) have hurt, but every team gets injuries. It's how the other players capitilize on their playing time which determines wins and losses.

Here's one other thing people need to stop grumbling about - that it's all the old guys' fault. It's not. True, I've seen just about enough of Nomar Garciaparra and Jeff Kent flunk with men on base. But I've also seen Matt Kemp not get on nearly enough, James Loney become a DP machine, and Russell Martin trail off late in the year once again. It's EVERYBODY'S fault, so deal with it. That's the truth.

Oh by the way, the Dodgers lost 9-3 to the Arizona Diamondbacks last night, their 8th straight losses. 2 errors by Nomar did them in, as well as 10 left on base. I'm not going to recap it in detail because I don't give a damn - either it's a win or a loss, and that's it at this point.

Chad Billingsley can be the hero tonight with a win. Facing Dan Haren won't help, but it doesn't matter - the Dodgers have lost to both pitchers great and bad lately. Let's see if they can break the streak or play like a team that rakes in millions of dollars, has millions of fans see them each year, yet plays with zero heart.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Dodgers suffer embarrassing sweep in Washington

Normally, a trip to Washington would be just the thing to cure a team's ills. After all, they Nationals are still one of the worst teams in the league, and a couple of wins is pretty much a sure thing.

But, these are the Los Angeles Dodgers, where nothing they do is the easy way.

As a result, the Dodgers have just been drilled into the ground, suffering a 3 game sweep after losing last night's game, 11-2. The game was promising for 1/2 of an inning, then completely downhill after that. Kind of like the Dodgers' season - downhill in a hurry.

Manny Ramirez got the Dodgers on the board with a 2-run shot in the 1st to score Andre Ehtier. Yay! Then Jeff Kent walked and James Loney was hit by a pitch. Horray! With 1 out, Casey Blake struck out and Danny Ardoin fouled out to first. That's Dodger baseball!

Clayton Kershaw started off the bottom of the 1st with a K, and then he tanked miserably. Christian Guzman hit a solo homer and Elijah Dukes belted a 3-run shot. It was 5-2 after 1, and the umpires should have just called the game at that point. Why bother playing more?

I would give a recap on the rest of the game, but what the hell is the point? I'll just look at the Dodgers' bullpen, which was horrible. Ramon Troncoso pitched 3 innings for some reason and gave up 3 runs, Cory Wade returned to give up a run in an inning, and Joe Beimel gave up 2 runs in an inning. Getting pounded by the Washington Nationals... ya, that may actually be worse than watching the offense flail away with no success.

So now it's off to Arizona, where the NL West is up for grabs. It's still only a 3.5 game difference between the 2, which is pretty sad considering the Dodgers haven't won in like 2 weeks. Hiroki Kuroda is tonight's starter, and he should have gotten the win last Sunday against the Phillies. Of course, the Dodgers choked that one away.

If the Dodgers want any chance of taking this division, they need at least 2 of the 3. That way, they'd be 2.5 games back, which is manageable distance. But, getting swept means 6.5 back, and all hope is gone. We will see...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

3 home runs... and 6 straight losses

Leave it to the Dodgers to hit 3 home runs and still only score 4 runs. The result, not surprisingly at all, was another loss to the Washington Nationals, 5-4. The Arizona Diamondbacks also lost, as both teams seem like they don't give a damn to win the division, so it's still 3 games back in the NL West.

The Dodgers somewhat broke out of their slump with 2 homers in the 2nd. James Loney led off with one, and Casey Blake hit one out with 2 down. Of course, there should have been men on base, but Nomar Garciaparra grounded into his 763rd double play of the season right before that. Man, I am really sick of seeing his name in the lineup. Just play somebody else!

The Nationals chipped away and then took the lead the next few innings. Jesus Flores had an RBI single in the 2nd, Lasting Milledge had an RBI fielder's choice in the 3rd, Ronnie Belliard had an RBI single also in the 3rd, and Emilio Bonifacio scored on Jeff Kent's error in the 4th. Another great, clutch play by Kent. In all, it was 4 runs for a 4-2 lead.

Andre Ethier tried his best to get the Dodgers back into the game with a homer in the 5th. But, you guessed it... it was a solo shot. That's because when they actually do hit homers, nobody else can get on base. When they don't hit homers, everyone gets on base. That's how life has been the last couple of weeks.

Ryan Zimmerman launched a solo shot to get the lead for the Nats back up to 5-3. The Dodgers certainly had their chances to either tie or get the lead back in the 8th. Blake came through with a single to score Manny Ramirez to make it 5-4. The bases were then loaded with 2 down... and here we go again for the Dodgers. Matt Kemp was given the opportunity to come through, and naturally flew out to left. Game, set, and match.

Greg Maddux was certainly better than his first outing in blue, going 5.1 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 0 K. 2 of his runs were unearned, but a throwing error by Maddux himself was to blame, so it's not like the guys behind him let him down. Good Lord, if Maddux, a perennial Gold Glove winner, starts making errors, then you know things are going sour.

The Dodgers will try to avoid an embarrassing sweep today at the hands of the Nats by giving the ball to Clayton Kershaw. His last start was awful in Philadelphia, but overall, he's had a pretty good year. You know the deal though... it all depends on if the offense wants to show up.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

DeWitt is back while Ozuna walks

In an effort to do anything to shake up their anemic offense, the Dodgers have recalled Blake DeWitt from Triple-A Las Vegas and designated Pablo Ozuna for assignment.

I can't say I'm too surprised by this. I'll give the Dodgers credit for not just sitting around and watching the same guys screw up time and time again. It's not like this is a major move or anything like that, but who knows, maybe DeWitt can recreate some of that magic he had to start the year when he was NL Rookie of the Month for May.

Since being sent to the Minors, DeWitt has played well. In 26 games, he's hit .303 with 4 HR and 18 RBI. In the past 4 games, he's 11-19 with 3 doubles, a homer, and 8 RBI's. I'm glad he didn't sulk about his demotion and quit playing hard. He made the most of his opportunity to get better and he has.

On the flip side, Ozuna did everything he could to convince the Dodgers why he's not even a good bench player. Well, I shouldn't be too hard on him defensively, because he didn't commit any errors in 41 chances playing both infield and outfield. But at the plate, he was deplorable. 3-18 with 1 RBI. If the Dodgers were hitting well, this move would probably not be made. That's how lousy things have been lately.

There's still the possibility of Ozuna clearing waivers, going to the Minors for all of a few days, then being recalled when rosters are expanded to 40 in September.

More double play woes for Dodgers

The losing streak for the Dodgers has now hit 5 games as they bowed down to the Washington Nationals, 2-1. Arizona Diamondbacks lost as well (does anybody even want to win this division?), so the lead is still 3 games for them.

Bet you'll be shocked to hear that the Dodgers had plenty of chances to score, yet threw each and every one of them in the garbage. That's what they do best - blow one opportunity after another. In all, they hit into 4 double plays and left 10 men on base. Yup, definitely not surprised.

So let's take a closer look at this one. Nomar Garciaparra hit into a DP to end the 2nd, Matt Kemp hit into one to end the 3rd, and Russell Martin hit into one to end the 8th. I think they should try reverse psychology - they should TRY to hit into double plays, and instead they may actually get a hit. Worth a shot.

My favorite inning of them all was the 6th. Here's the rundown: Manny Ramirez led off with a double. James Loney singled for runners on 1st and 3rd. Martin reached on a fielder's choice, and the bases were loaded with no outs. How did the Dodgers take advantage of this golden opportunity? Well, Nomar lined into a DP, and after an intentional pass to Casey Blake to load the bases again, Derek Lowe struck out.

By my count, that meant the Dodgers actually had the bases loaded TWICE in the same inning, and got ZERO runs. That's so pathetic, I don't even need to say anything else.

Lowe was great again, pitching a complete game, but gets the L. He went 8 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K. There's really not a whole lot else he could do, yet this team just refuses to do jack crap at the plate for him, so his record is now 10-11 with a 3.81 ERA. I wouldn't blame him one bit if he wants to leave at the end of this year. He deserves so much better.

As for the lineup, Kemp and Andre Ethier went a combined 0-10 in the first 2 spots. Nice. Jeff Kent was a blistering 1-4. Boy, he sure has sucked since that old sack of crap decided to whine about Vin Scully. Nomar was 0-3 and is now hitting .152 in August. I take back what I said before about how he can still hit. He sucks.

Manny was 3-4, yet scored no runs. Great support around him as usual.

Now here's the funny thing: Arizona certainly isn't seizing the opportunity to take this division, so it's still within striking distance. I think Major League Baseball should revoke the West's ability to place a team in the playoffs. This division is a complete joke and the laughingstock of baseball.

Now it's up to Greg Maddux to break the losing streak, and considering he's the one that started it last Friday, it would be ideal for him to do so. There's still 2 games left before the 3 game set with Arizona, so these are big. Maybe someone will actually hit a home run tonight! Well, I can dream...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Is this it for the Dodgers in 2008?

After suffering through another humiliating loss last night against the Phillies, I can't help but wonder if that was the final nail in the coffin for the Dodgers in '08.

The Phils put the final touches on a 4 game sweep of the Dodgers, returning for the favor for getting swept themselves last week in LA. At least in that series, the Dodgers needed 2 walk-off hits to get wins, and won the other 2 by 2 runs each. In other words, the Phils put up a fight. How did the Dodgers do this series? Outscored 27-5.

In other words, they put up absolutely zero fight.

There's really not a whole lot to even say right now - I said a lot yesterday. You may as well just cut and paste it. I'm not sure how it's humanly possible for a team to get 13 hits and SCORE ZERO RUNS, but that's our beloved Dodgers!

14 men left on base, and 9 of those with 2 down and RISP. That's hard to do. Really, it is. It takes a team with a special kind of talent to be that pathetic when it counts. At least I'll give the Dodgers this - they sucked to start this series, and carried that through all 4 games.

In my mind, this all started on August 20 when they committed 4 errors to hand over a game to the Colorado Rockies. Ever since then, their play may as well be piled into a big, heaping sack of CRAP. Since Andre Ethier's walk-off homer to beat the Brewers on August 17, they're 1-6. That shows me that instead of playing hard and doing the things necessary to keep the momentum, they all got cocky and just assumed they'd win the division. And that's exactly why they're not.

It's now on to Washington, and these are 3 games they can easily win. Of course, with the way things have been going, they can also get swept. Derek Lowe is the starter, and he's the last guy to get a win on this team. As in last Thursday. He'll need to practically carry the team tonight for a rare win.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Bumbling Dodgers blow another one

I don't think it's humanly possible to blow as many chances to win a game as the Dodgers did last night.

Proving yet again why they are unable to be a first place team, the Philadelphia Phillies rallied in the 9th to tie the game at 2, then used a 3-run homer to win it in 11, 5-2. The Arizona Diamondbacks also lost, which meant that the Dodgers not only blew the game, but a golden opportunity to gain a game back. It's a 3 game lead for them in the West.

I chose not to blog about this last night after the game because I was so damn pissed off. It's unreal just how this team can throw so many chances to win a game out the window. It's also downright embarrassing. But that's the Dodgers for ya - they are an embarrassment.

Let's look at the 1st inning. True, they scored a run. But look deeper, and you'll see why they should have had much more. Andre Ethier walked, Jeff Kent singled, and Manny Ramirez was hit by a pitch to load the bases. James Loney singled (a rare clutch hit from someone not named Manny Ramirez), but only 1 run scored. Nomar Garciaparra and Casey Blake each had chances to at least get 1 more run in. After all, they're veteran bats that have come through before.

So of course that means that Nomar flied out to shallow right and Blake K'd. Gee, how shocking.

Ok, let's see what else we can find. Matt Kemp doubled and stole 3rd with 2 down in the 2nd, but Ethier flied out. Kent singled to start the 3rd, but Manny K'd and Loney hit into a double play. Hiroki Kuroda singled to being the 5th and Kemp walked. Ethier grounded into a fielder's choice, and Kent hit into a double play.

Are you beginning to detect a theme here?

I could go on, but what's the point? This team just refuses to show any life offensively and work hard to score runs. Grounding into 3 double plays and leaving 13 men on base is absolutely pitiful. PITIFUL. Joe Torre, I feel for ya.

What's lost in all of this is the start from Kuroda, which was really good. He went 6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K. Pretty dominating, but keep in mind he plays for the Dodgers, where practically only no-hitters are good enough to earn a win.

Jonathan Broxton may be a great closer one day, but he looked lost last night. Even with the Dodgers up 2-1, it still wasn't good enough. Then again, the lead should have been much more, so it all comes back to the pathetic offense. True, Broxton should have closed it, but it's still the fault of the offense in the first place.

Basically the Dodgers need someone without the last name of Ramirez to step up, get a damn hit, and show some heart. I know, I'm reaching here, but it's worth a shot. They've got 1 more in Philly tonight before going to Washington, and then a big series this weekend in Arizona. And with the way the Dodgers are playing, the DBacks can easily put this division away when they meet up.

Chad Billingsley will get the call tonight, and if anyone can break a losing streak, it's him. Of course, that would also require the offense to.... oh I don't know......... maybe score more than 2 or 3 runs? Ya, like that'll happen....

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Another DUD in Philly

Locked in a tight race in the NL West, the Dodgers came into this 4 game series in Philadelphia needing to at least take a couple. After dropping the first 2 games by a combined score of 17-3, maybe getting just 1 is more realistic.

It was pretty much over the second Pat Burrell lined a 3-run shot off the left field pole in the 1st off of Clayton Kershaw, and the Phillies easily won, 9-2. Arizona is in action later tonight, so for now it's a 2.5 games deficit in the West.

All I heard about coming into this series was how the Phillies were having a hard time scoring runs. Geez, you wouldn't know by watching these 2 games. The only thing they're having trouble with is who gets to be the hitting star, because right now they all are. I'd say the Dodgers' pitching is just what they needed to get back on track.

There's really not a whole lot to say other than it was another pathetic effort all around. Kershaw had a bad 1st inning, a good 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, and then ran into trouble in the 5th. Of course, Matt Kemp didn't exactly make life easy on him.

With the Phillies up 3-2, Jimmy Rollins singled and Chase Utley walked. Pat Burrell lifted a fly ball to center that Kemp totally lost in the sun, and it dropped behind him to score Rollins. A double by Ryan Howard scored 2, and just like that it was 6-2. And just like that, the game was essentially over.

True, Kershaw's final line wasn't too hot: 4 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 5 K. But in my mind, once again it was the Dodgers inability to post runs on the board. As a result, the starting pitcher has to be flawless, and it all fell apart in the middle of the game, just like last night. Manny or no Manny, the rest of the order needs to get it going.

The only highlight was a long home run from Russell Martin to cut the game to 3-2, and that would be it. As I said about yesterday's game, the offense has pretty much been in the toilet this week, and today just added to it. There's a lot of places to point, but when the team only gets 5 hits and has 7 K's, it's all of their fault.

There's 2 games left in Philly, and if want to save some face, they really need to play much better. Hiroki Kuroda gets the start on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. From what I can recall, they've been on SNB twice this season, and lost both: June 1 at New York Mets 6-1 in a game I went to, and June 8 vs. Cubs 3-1. On a nationally televised game, it would be nice from them to show the world that they are a true contender.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Uh-oh... Maddux gets bombed in return

The good: Andre Ethier's home run with 1 out in the 1st.

The bad: That would be the rest of the game.

This game turned from competitive to ugly in a matter of a couple of innings, as the Philadelphia Phillies dumped the Dodgers, 8-1. Greg Maddux made his return and pitched solidly for awhile, then fell apart.

Like I said, the lone positive from this game was Ethier's shot to give the Dodgers the early lead. Facing a guy like Kyle Kendrick, who sported an ERA of 5.01 coming into this game, you would have thought that they could put more runs on the board. Instead, it was kind of like yesterday against another lefty with a high ERA, Jorge De La Rosa. The Dodgers never really got to him, but squeaked out a win anyway. That certainly wasn't the case today.

Going into the bottom of the 4th, the Dodgers still held the 1-0 lead. Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley were retired to start the inning, and all looked well. But, a walk to Pat Burrell would prolong the inning, and Ryan Howard prolonged the ball for his 34th homer.

The Phillies would add another in the 5th when some guy named Chris Coste (remember that name) singled home Greg Dobbs. But, Coste and Jayson Werth were stranded on 2nd and 3rd with 1 down to keep the score at a manageable 3-1. The Dodgers certainly had a shot...

... Right up until Coste burned them again. The Phillies loaded the bases on 3 straight singles with 1 down in the 6th, and the beatdown would soon be on. Werth hit a sac-fly to make it 4-1, and Maddux just needed 1 more out to get out of trouble. But Coste launched a 3-run shot that would blow the game open and chase Maddux.

The final line for Maddux was 5.2 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 1 BB, 4 K. I knew the Phillies were going to score maybe a couple against him, but damn, he got rocked. It's not like he got any run support, though. He pretty much needed to be perfect to win this game, and obviously that didn't happen.

So the Dodgers haven't exactly carried over their momentum they got from last week into this one. They blew a 4 run lead in the 9th on Sunday in which they needed a homer to win, the bullpen imploded on Monday against the Rockies, the defense committed 4 errors on Tuesday, and then this. With Arizona winning and feeling great with Adam Dunn aboard, they better get their act together.

I know the offense can't always set the world on fire, but in their last 4 games, they've totaled just 10 runs. Not so coincidentally, they are only 1-3 in that stretch. Guys are getting on base (tonight they weren't, but they were before), but those big hits haven't been coming. It's amazing what some 2 out RBI's can do.

Things won't get any easier as Cole Hamels takes the mound Saturday afternoon in a great matchup with Clayton Kershaw. This is a rematch of their game from August 12 in which each pitched well, but neither factored in the decision (Dodgers won 4-3 on Ethier's walk-off single). It's a FOX game, but it's actually on here in New York! Imagine that. No Mets or Yankees hogging my TV screen. Life is good.

Penny and Schmidt, 2 prized... relievers???

It's starting to look that way more and more as the season goes on.

With Greg Maddux on board and the rotation seemingly set the rest of the way, that leaves a big question mark for 2 former All-Star Game starters. What in the world do the Dodgers do with Brad Penny and Jason Schmidt should they be cleared this year?

First off, let's look at Penny, as he is the more likely of the 2 to return. Currently, he's on the 15-day DL with right shoulder inflammation. He had already missed 7 weeks earlier in the year with more shoulder problems. Obviously, it's a big area of concern that has the club more than worried.

Take away the first start of the season on March 31 and the month of April, and he's been atrocious. From a 2.89 ERA at the end of April to 6.05 right now... ouch. There's also that streak of 7 straight loses. Those results alone were more than enough reason to reach out for Maddux.

If he can return, then the bullpen could definitely work out. A lot of people like to point to his performance to start the 2006 All-Star Game in which he blew away Ichiro, Derek Jeter, and David Ortiz with fastballs. In the 'pen, he can let loose for an inning or so, then call it a day. With injuries to Takashi Saito and Cory Wade, he can give a big lift. Next week he's scheduled to play catch, so let's see where it goes from there.

Then there's Schmidt, who's become the forgotten man of the organization. He hasn't pitched in LA at all this year, but has made a handful of Minor League rehab appearances. The latest word on him is that he had a solid bullpen session, and will start in the Minors again next week.

But, color me skeptical. I've seen this song and dance before. Arm starts to feel good again - rehab appearances - hopes get up - then he shuts it down. As much as I like the thought of Penny coming back in the 'pen, I just don't think it'll work out for Schmidt this season. Next year, who knows? That's what he should focus on.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lowe and Loney carry Dodgers

One day after taking a rest, James Loney was back in action today, powering the Dodgers to a big win. His single in the 5th tied the game at 1, and solo home run in the 7th gave the Dodgers the cushion to pick up the win, 3-1.

The Arizona Diamondbacks are playing against the San Diego Padres later tonight, so the lead in NL West for them is 1.5 games.

The game turned out to be a pitcher's duel, which I guess is not too surprising considering the early afternoon start. I knew Derek Lowe would be up to the occasion, but I didn't expect the Rockies' Jorge De La Rosa to be so good. Jeff Kent got the day off, and considering how well he's hit lately (just don't let Vin Scully tell him that), De La Rosa got a bit of a break there.

The game didn't start off so hot for LA, as Matt Holliday's sac-fly RBI put them on the board. Seeing as how the Rockies had already taken the first 2 games, I already was getting nervous that this series was about to turn into a giant disaster.

Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that the Rockies scored first. The Dodgers put up the first 3 runs last night and took home a big, fat L. Today, the situation was a bit reversed, thankfully.

It wasn't easy though, as the Dodgers' first hit was also their first run, and it took until the 4th inning to do so. Manny Ramirez reached on Ian Stewart's error and then stole 2nd. Loney stepped up and hit a single to left to knot the game at 1.

The Dodgers took the lead in the 5th thanks to Andre Ethier (you know, that guy that was benched last night after scorching the ball recently). With 2 outs, Matt Kemp doubled. Ethier hit a long single to score him, but was thrown out trying to get to 2nd. Still, the damage was done, and the Dodgers had the lead at 2-1.

That would be more than enough for Lowe, as he was cruising yet again. He went 6.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K. His record is now even up at 10 with a 3.89 ERA. Since the start of June, he has been absolutely fantastic. Let's all hope and pray that Good Lowe stays and Bad Lowe is long gone.

Loney padded the lead a bit with a solo shot that just cleared the wall in right in the 7th. Hong-Chih Kuo relieved Lowe in the 7th with 1 down and allowed a double to Clint Barmes for runners on 2nd and 3rd. He got Willie Taveras to foul out to Loney at 1st to end the threat.

Jonathan Broxton gave up a double on his first pitch to Stewart, then struck out the side. That's now his 10th save for the season. Good to see him bounce back from surrendering the lead last night.

The homestand is now over, and the final tally is quite shinny: 4-0 vs. the Phillies, 2-1 vs. the Brewers, and 1-2 vs. the Rockies. That would be 7-3 overall. Arizona has been on a roll lately as well, so it's good the Dodgers are keeping up.

Greg Maddux will make his first start as a Dodger on Friday night in Philadelphia. We all know the last time these 2 teams met... so I'm sure the Phillies will be more prepared this time around. This will be a fun game to watch.

Terrible defense hands game to Rockies

4 errors in 1 game. Wow.

The Dodgers did everything they could to give the Rockies a win, and that's exactly what happened. With a lineup so jumbled that my head started spinning just trying to remember who's playing where. It didn't work, as all 4 errors were from people either playing out of position (Russell Martin and Casey Blake) or who rarely play at all (Danny Ardoin).

Needless to say, it was an ugly loss. Couple that with another Diamondbacks win, and the lead for them is now 2 games in the NL West.

The game started off promising enough, as the Dodgers scored their 3 runs in the first 2 innings, and with Chad Billingsley on the mound, looked to be in cruise control. Juan Pierre led off the game with a single and stole 2nd. That was about it as far as the good part of his evening, but I'll get to that later. A single by Matt Kemp in the #2 hole made it 1-0.

The Rockies made their own defensive blunders in the 2nd to hand over 2 runs. With Martin and Nomar Garciaparra on, Ardoin's grounder to short went right under Troy Tulowitzki's glove. That scored 2, and it was 3-0.

Then the game went downhill. Billingsley finished with a line of 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 6 K. 2 runs in 6 innings is good, but he was living dangerously throughout. He hasn't walked 4 since taking a loss against Atlanta on July 8. The strikeout turned out to be his best friend, helping him get out of some messes.

Tulowitzki's homer with 2 down in the 4th was the Rockies first run. From there, it was the bumbling defense that took over. The bases were loaded with none out in the 5th. After a forceout at home to get 1 down, Blake's error let the game get to within 1 run. Bills came through by forcing a double play to end the inning.

Still, the momentum from that big double play was short-lived. Martin's throwing error in the 7th led to Brad Hawpe's game-tying single. Jonathan Broxton came on in the 9th to keep the score tied... and proceeded to bean Matt Holliday. Holliday then stole 2nd, and Hawpe again burned them with a single to win the game.

As I said before, the defensive alignment was all over the place: Ardoin at catcher, Martin at 3rd, Blake at 1st, Pierre in center, and Kemp in right. Kemp did nail Ian Stewart at home in the 1st, and Martin started the inning-ending double play in the 5th. Those were the only bright spots, as 4 errors speaks for itself.

Man, I've got to feel for Andre Ethier. He's a hero with 2 walk-offs last week in beating the Phillies and Brewers, and once again he finds himself on the bench for the inferior Pierre. Pierre hasn't even had a 2 hit game this month! I know Ethier was 0-5 with 3 K's on Tuesday, but he's been great lately. Just leave him in the damn lineup!

And for those of you saying that Pierre had a good night because of his single in the 1st, check out the rest of his night: K swinging in 2nd, K swinging in 4th, groundout in 7th. Ya, nice job, Juan. Way to come through in a close game.

Let's all hope the lineup is back to normal this afternoon, as the Dodgers can ill-afford to get swept before hitting the road. Derek Lowe is the starter today, and he pitched 7 strong innings last start against the Brewers. They need another one of those today.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Maddux will go Friday in Philly

Greg Maddux will make his first appearance for the Dodgers this season when he pitches Friday in Philadelphia. In his last start for the San Diego Padres, he allowed only 1 run in 7 innings against the Phillies. For the year, he's 0-2 against them, but with a 2.70 ERA (nice run support, Padres).

The timing makes sense for a couple of reasons. One, he won't have to be rushed to start against the Rockies either today or tomorrow. Against the Rocks, he's sporting a shaky 5.40 ERA against them this season.

Two, he will avoid pitching in Arizona following the Philly series, where he's been awful this season. Lifetime at Chase Field, he's 1-7 with a 6.01 ERA. Ya, it's a good decision.

I guess I can add a third reason to the list, as having Maddux go Friday will give young Clayton Kershaw an extra day of rest to pitch on Saturday. Bottom line, it makes sense all around.

Rockies blow game open in 8th

The Dodgers battled back from an early deficit to get the game within a run. That's as close as it would get, as the Rockies pounded Hong-Chih Kuo to easily take the game, 8-3. The Arizona Diamondbacks nearly blew a big lead against the Padres, but held on, and they are now up by a game in the NL West.

Hiroki Kuroda came into this game with 3 straight strong starts. That would not carry over into the 1st inning, as the Rockies got 2. With the bases loaded and a 1-2 count, Ian Stewart hit a low breaking ball into left for a 2 run single. Give credit to Stewart for a good piece of hitting. Jeff Kent hit a ground-rule double to score Matt Kemp in the bottom half, getting the score to 2-1.

The 3rd inning would be costly, as Brad Hawpe launched a 2 run homer to score Matt Holliday and increase their lead to 3. Holliday and Hawpe combined to score 5 of the team's 8 runs, so they could not be stopped at all.

The bottom of the 4th saw the Dodgers make some noise, and all with 2 outs. Nomar Garciaparra singled and Casey Blake doubled. Nomar scored on a wild pitch, and Blake came around on Matt Kemp's double. With 2 runners in scoring position, though, Andre Ethier K'd to end the threat.

The Dodgers again had a big chance to score in the 7th when they loaded the bases off of Manny Corpas. Russell Martin then flew out to right, and that would be it for the Dodgers on this night. Holliday hit a solo shot and Stewart hit a 3 run shot in the 8th, and that's all she wrote.

The most disappointing part of this game was Kuo's shaky performance for the 2nd straight time. In his last 2 games, he's pitched 1 inning and given up 5 runs, with 2 homers. Ugh. I've got to wonder if he's been overused lately. Earlier in the year, he was getting about 3-5 days off in between appearances for the most part. Since August 10, he's been in 5 games. Maybe it's time to scale back a bit.

As poorly as Kuo performed, the Rockies 'pen pitched 4 innings of shutout ball, only giving up 3 hits and a walk. The Dodgers did have 11 hits, but left 9 on base, which is always killer. Oh ya, and 7 of them were in scoring position with 2 outs. Ouch.

The good news for Dodger fans is that after a loss, Chad Billingsley tries to put them back on track. He's opposed by Jeff Francis, who used to be good, but now? Uh, not so much.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Maddux is back, and the rotation is set

The Dodgers have traded for Greg Maddux in exchange for 2 players to be named or cash considerations. The move adds to list of players acquired for this year that includes Angel Berroa, Casey Blake, and Manny Ramirez.

With Brad Penny's season looking to be as good as lost, having a proven winner in Maddux come aboard is a big plus. We all can remember the last time he was with the Dodgers, and he was fantastic (well, until his bad start in the playoffs against the Mets... but he's forgiven). The offense is looking better all the time, now the back end of the rotation can contribute as well.

I'm not going to get crazy here and suggest that this version of Maddux is the same as years ago, because that's just not the case. But, he doesn't need to be. When he came 2 years ago, the Dodgers needed him as one of their top pitchers. Derek Lowe was their #1, but if you can remember, it was Hong-Chih Kuo who came out of nowhere to be their #2. Penny was such a lost cause that he was relegated to the bullpen. It was obvious their pitching staff was a mess.

Now, he can slide in nicely as the #5 starter. Chad Billingsley and Derek Lowe are pitching lights-out, Hiroki Kuroda has the capability to do the same, and Clayton Kershaw continues to improve each start. Maddux gives the Dodgers 5 starters that all stand a legitimate chance of winning any game. I like it.

The first 2 months of the season started off well for Maddux, with ERA's around the 3.70 mark. But, the next 2 months were awful, as his June ERA was 4.71 and July 5.27. Yikes. The good news is that in his 3 August starts, he's been great, going 2-1 with a 1.89 ERA. That's more like it. His last start was on August 15 against Philadelphia in which he gave up 1 run in 7 innings... and the Padres lost 1-0.

I highly doubt he'll miss the Padres putrid offense. With the exception of Adrian Gonzalez (who actually has been pretty lousy himself lately), there's very little offensive talent. The Dodgers have won 6 of 7 that includes 3 walk-off wins. Oh ya, and the Dodgers are tied for 1st while the Padres are 16 games back. The sun is definitely brighter in LA.

With the off day yesterday, the #5 spot in the rotation was skipped. That would mean Maddux would most likely start Saturday in Philadelphia.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Ethier the hero with walk-off homer

The Dodgers were in cruise control for most of the afternoon yesterday against the Milwaukee Brewers. Clayton Kershaw had a great start, Jason Johnson pitched very well from the bullpen, and Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier homered. Yup, it was shaping up to an easy win with a 5-1 9th inning lead...

...Except that the Dodgers decided to nearly hand them a win on a silver platter.

James Loney committed 2 errors on 1 play, and Ryan Braun launched an 0-2 hanging slider well over the left field wall to tie the game at 5. After all of the hard work put in for 3 hours, the game appeared to be lost.

Then Ethier stepped up and showed why he should never have to sit for Juan Pierre.

Matt Kemp led off the bottom of the 9th with a single, and Ethier promptly lifted one just over the wall in right for the game winning, walk-off home run. It was Ethier's 2nd shot of the day to bring his total up to 15, and increases his average in August to .357, with 4 homers in 11 games.

Needless to say, he's been money. And it couldn't have come at a better time after all of Dodger Stadium was in a shocked silence over the blown lead.

The game started off fantastically for the Dodgers. Clayton Kershaw allowed a leadoff double to Richie Weeks, and let the bases get loaded in the 2nd, but didn't allow a run either time. In the 1st, Matt Kemp hit the first pitch he saw into the seats for a 1-0 lead. After Jeff Kent singled, Manny creamed his first pitch to deep left, and it was 3-0 after 1.

Kershaw's lone blemish was a homer allowed to Mike Cameron in the 4th. He finished with 6 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K. He has been terrific lately. After getting shelled in Colorado his first game back from the minors, he's had a quality start in his other 5 games. Twice he's given up no runs, twice 1 run, and once 3 runs. Those starts have earned him a spot locked in the rotation.

Another guy who pitched well was Johnson, who I admit am surprised to still see around. But, pitching 2.1 scoreless innings of relief only helps his cause. He's pitched in 2 close games in a row where he hasn't given up a run, so he's been very reliable.

As great as Ethier's walk-off was, it should have never even come to that. Chan Ho Park wasn't very good in the 9th, but he's not the one that made 2 errors on 1 simple ground ball, it was Loney. His 0-2 pitch to Braun was horrendous, though. I'll bet both Loney and Park are breathing huge sighs of relief still.

With the win and the Diamondbacks loss (nice to see Houston finally show up), it's a deadlock in the NL West. On the homestand against 2 playoff caliber teams, the Dodgers are 6-1. After a rest on Monday, the Colorado Rockies come into town for 3. The last thing they need is a letdown after 2 huge series wins, so they need to win the winnable games. After these 3, they hit the road for 10 against the Phillies, Nationals, and Diamondbacks.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Brewers end the winning streak

The Milwaukee Brewers got 2 runs in the 8th and the winning run in the 10th as they defeated the Dodgers, 4-3. The loss puts an end to an impressive 5 game winning streak, and also knocks them 1 game back in the NL West with Arizona's win.

The Dodgers continued their great run of scoring in the 1st inning, this time by using the long ball. Matt Kemp started things off with a double, and Andre Ethier cranked one to right for a 2-0 lead. Despite hitting .324 this month, Ethier sat the day before in favor of Juan "For Five" Pierre, so I'm sure he was playing with a chip on his shoulder.

The Brewers fought back in the 2nd with 2 straight singles with 1 down. Mike Cameron reached on an error by Nomar Garciaparra to score Corey Hart, and it was 2-1. And that's the way it would stay for quite awhile.

Neither team could do squat at the plate in innings 3-7. Derek Lowe was out of there after 7, and the normally untouchable Hong-Chih Kuo entered. Except on this night, he got hit around. Ryan Braun greeted him with a double, and J.J. Hardy smacked a 2 run shot to give them the 3-2 lead. I was shocked considering how nasty Kuo has been.

To the Dodgers credit, they fought back in the 9th, with a little help from an error by Hardy. Ethier walked, and Soloman Torres entered. Kent grounded a sure-fire double play ball to Hardy, but it went right through him to put runners on the corners. Manny Ramirez came through with a sac-fly to tie it at 3. After a walk to pinch-hitter Mike Sweeney, the bases were juiced for Casey Blake. But, he popped out, and to extras we go.

I thought the Dodgers were going to win this one considering all of the momentum they had, but it was the Brewers who struck in the 10th on an RBI single by Hardy. Jonathan Broxton got the first 2 hitters out, but an innocent walk at the time to Ray Durham proved costly when he stole 2nd, then scored on the single.

Kemp and Ethier both singled with 1 down in the 10th, but Jeff Kent lined out and Manny K'd to end the game.

It was a good back-and-forth game between 2 possible playoff teams. Lowe was outstanding, going 7 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K. He deserved a win, but Dave Bush only gave up 2 runs in 7 innings, so he was very good as well. It was a surprise that Kuo and Broxton were the ones to lose the game, but that doesn't normally happen. They get a mulligan.

With Arizona slapping around the Astros right now, the Dodgers could use a win today to keep pace. Clayton Kershaw will go against Jeff Suppan. 1 guy is a rookie, and the other seems like he's been in the Majors since the '80s. Today's game is on TBS, so enjoy it.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

5 in a row at home

Chad Billingsley didn't start the night like his usual sharp self. After Gabe Kapler gave the Milwaukee Brewers a 2-0 lead only 3 batters into the game, it looked like a long night might be in store.

Bills made sure that didn't happen.

After allowing 3 runs in the first 2 innings, Bills settled down to throw 5 scoreless innings after that, and the Dodgers had a nice comeback win, 5-3. Brandon Webb pitched for the Diamondbacks, so it's not like I need to tell you if they won or not. The lead is still 1 in the NL West for them.

The new guys had a big hand in this win. Manny Ramirez hit an RBI single in the 1st to score Juan Pierre and get the Dodgers down 1. For those of you keeping score, that's now 17 RBI in 14 games as a Dodger. Ya, that was a good deal. Have I said that before?

A Jason Kendall single put the Brewers up 3-1 in the 2nd, but that would be it for their scoring on the night. Bills finished with 7 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K. His ERA is now 3.10, and he's 8-2 in his last 10 decisions. Simply put, he's been their ace.

The 4th inning started the Dodgers' comeback, thanks to the other trade they made. Casey Blake deposited a ball into the left field stands to score Russell Martin, and it was all knotted up at 3. In 20 games, he's hitting .303 with 4 HR and 12 RBI. Not too shabby.

With 1 down in the 5th, Jeff Kent singled home Matt Kemp to give the Dodgers the lead for good. Martin added a homer to start the 8th for good measure.

The bullpen chipped in to this victory. Ramon Troncoso was shaky, giving up 2 hits and only getting 1 out. Joe Beimel got Prince Fielder to ground out and leave to men on. Jonathan Broxton finished the 8th with a fly out of Corey Hart, then pitched a perfect 9th for his 9th save.

Derek Lowe gets the call tonight, and he is coming off a win Monday against the Phillies that started this fantastic homestand. He'll be looking to even his record at 10-10.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Penny and Wade the newest DL members

The Disabled List continues to welcome new patients this week.

This time, it's a starter and a reliever that make an appearance. Brad Penny only lasted 2 starts in his comeback before shoulder tendinitis sidelined him. Cory Wade has only pitched once since August 5 because of his own sore shoulder.

Penny got through a start in San Francisco, somehow only giving up 1 run in 5 innings for the win. That was probably a mirage, as his velocity was noticeably down, and was generally considered lucky to have put up such good stats.

Unfortunately for him, that was as good as it would get, as the Philadelphia Phillies rocked him for 6 runs in 3 innings. It was obvious that he's still not right, and that is indeed the case. I'm not sure where the Dodgers go from here with him. They're getting great starts from their other starters, so they shouldn't feel the need to force somebody out if he says he's ready to go. This will be an interesting story to follow if he gets healthy.

Wade has been a really good surprise this season. He wasn't even an original member of their roster to start the season. With an ERA of 2.56 in 52.2 IP, his absence will be felt. His injury is nothing serious, rather it seems as if it's more of a precaution to give him rest. He can come back August 24.

To replace both men, lefty starter Eric Stults and righty reliever Tanyon Sturtze have been called up. Stults went 2-2 with a 3.18 ERA earlier this year, and Sturtze has 5 saves at Triple-A Las Vegas this year. Both are experienced Major League players that can give good innings.

Everything clicking in sweep of Phillies

These are the Dodgers we've been waiting to see all year. Big pitching, clutch hitting, and most importantly, first place in the NL West.

Hiroki Kuroda was practically unhittable for 7 innings, and the Dodgers needed only 3 runs to take the game and the sweep, 3-1. This was a big series for each team, as Phillies entered in first place of the NL East and the Dodgers were battling the Diamondbacks for the West. The end result was the New York Mets taking over the East, and the Dodgers in a deadlock with the DBacks.

The game only took about 2 hours and 20 minutes, due in large part to the effectiveness of Kuroda and Phillies' starter Brett Myers. Kuroda ended at 7 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K. That's now 3 straight starts of at least 7 innings and 1 run. Before that, he was terrible. Now, he's awesome. That's the way it's been for him this year. With 2 of those wins against the DBacks and Phillies, it's a great sign.

The scoring started in the 2nd when James Loney led off with a triple. 1 out later, Nomar Garciaparra grounded out to score him and go up by 1. That would be it for awhile, as both pitchers were locked in.

The Dodgers struck next in the 6th when Matt Kemp homered to center, and it was 2-0. The Phills finally got a run in the 7th on Ryan Howard's sac-fly RBI to go down 2-1. Pat Burrell K'd in Kuroda's last hitter of the night.

Casey Blake contributed with 2 outs in the 7th. Russell Martin, who's still trying to find his groove lately, singled and stole 2nd. Blake singled him home, and that would do it for the night. Blake came in with good numbers with RISP, and he showed why yet again.

For the 2nd time this series, Hong-Chih Kuo put up blanks in the 8th and 9th, getting the win last time and save this time. Where would the Dodgers be without his numbers in the bullpen? That's hard to imagine. With a 1.66 ERA, he's been that good all year long.

After nearly blowing a 7-1 lead on Monday, the Dodgers have to be feeling really good about the way they took command in this series. They got huge walk-off hits from Andre Ethier and Nomar, great starting pitching in 3 of the games, and never wilted against the pressure of playing in close games against a good team. Now more than any other point this season, Arizona has to be worried.

Life doesn't get any easier for LA, as they welcome the Milwaukee Brewers and their 70-52 record into Chavez Ravine for 3. In a great gift from God, they will not have to face C.C. Sabathia, who now pitches complete game shutouts in his sleep. Instead, it'll be Manny Parra taking on Chad Billingsley tonight as the Dodgers look to get sole control of the West.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ethier delivers in the 9th

Cole Hamels held the Dodgers in check for only 2 runs in 7 innings. The best thing that could have happened for the Dodgers is that his pitch count reached 111, so he was yanked.

Addings runs in the 8th and 9th, the Dodgers came back from a 3-2 deficit to take the game over the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-3. The Diamondbacks also won, thanks to a great effort by Randy Johnson, so the lead for them is still 1 game in the NL West.

The game featured a great pitching matchup of Hamels against Clayton Kershaw, 2 of the best young lefties in the game. Kershaw struggled through the first 3 innings, giving up a homer to Chase Utley as the 2nd hitter of the game. In the 2nd inning he got 2 quick outs, then 3 straight singles for another run. Worst of all, it was Hamels who had the RBI single.

In the 3rd he faced the heart of the Phillies order, and retired Utley to start. Jimmy Rollins, hitting in the #3 spot, doubled and stole 3rd. A sac-fly RBI by Pat Burrell made it 3-1.

After that, he settled down quite nicely. He struck out the side in the 4th, K'd the first 2 hitters in the 5th, and stranded 2 runners in the 6th. Overall, he finished at 6 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 8 K. Bottom line is that he kept the Dodgers in the game.

The Dodgers got runs starting with a Casey Blake single in the 1st to score Matt Kemp. They went down in order until the 6th, when they scratched across another run on a Manny Ramirez single to score Juan Pierre. You know, that Manny guy is pretty good. Just thought I'd let you in on that little secret.

Thankfully Hamels was done by the 8th, and the Dodgers were able to load the bases on Chad Durbin with no outs. Blake hit a sac-fly RBI to score Kemp again. Then Nomar Garciaparra grounded into a double play. Just like the night before, they dropped the ball again with the bases loaded. But, that one run tied it up.

Hong-Chih Kuo was great in relief, mowing down 6 of the 7 hitters he faced in the 8th and 9th. With J.C. Romero on to start the 9th, it didn't take long for this one to be over. Russell Martin was beaned, and James Loney got him to 2nd on a groundout. Ethier then stepped up and ended the game with a single.

Taking 2 in a row against the NL East leading Phillies is always a good thing. They've had chances to blow these 2 games open with so many men on base and haven't done so, but they've still won, which is all that matters. I'll take it, and I think they will too.

Brad Penny makes his 2nd start since coming back to take on the newly acquired Joe Blanton. Penny was lucky to have faced the Giants last game, as they didn't take advantage of him. The Phillies will be a much stiffer challenge.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


The mailbag has made it's triumphant return. Here's the skinny: the money owed to all of the upcoming free agents, Cory Wade's background, where Giovanni Carrara is now, if Tony Abreu is the long-term replacement for Jeff Kent at 2nd, if Chris Winthrow has pitched yet, and Manny's hair.

Here you go.

Manny sticks around long enough for win

The Dodgers jumped all over Kyle Kendrick and the Philadelphia Phillies in the 3rd inning to post a 6 spot. Though the game got interesting towards the end, the Dodgers held on to win, 8-6.

This was kind of a weird game, and one that gave me many mixed emotions. On one hand, you can see how the additions of Manny Ramirez and Casey Blake have paid off. In the 3rd, Manny doubled home Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. Blake hit a 2-run bomb to center, and it was 6-0.

But there's the other side of the game, and it's the Dodgers inability to put the nail in the coffin. Yes, I'm being picky, but I think I have good reason to be. The Phills scored 5 runs in innings 6-9, and after Derek Lowe left in the 7th, the bullpen was shaky. Chan Ho Park struggled, giving up a run on 2 hits in getting the last 2 outs of the 7th. Joe Beimel got Chase Utley and Ryan Howard out, then walked Pat Burrell to get yanked.

Jonathan Broxton blew Jayson Werth away with 3 fastballs to close the 8th. In the 9th, everything nearly feel apart, and it's a good thing the Dodgers had a 4 run lead. A walk and single opened the inning before the next 2 guys were retired. Needing that last out was tough, as Shane Victorino singled to load the bases, and Utley hit a bloop 2-run single to get within 2.

Howard could have really sent LA into a tailspin, but he grounded out to end the game.

While the bullpen wasn't very good, what really hurt the Dodgers was the fact that when the bases were loaded, they sucked. 4th inning: James Loney and Russell Martin K'd. 6th inning: Blake K'd and Angel Berroa grounded into a fielder's choice. 8th inning: Blake forces Manny out at home on a grounder and Berroa grounds into a DP. By my count, that's 6 at-bats completely wasted. Imagine what the score could have been had they gotten just 1 hit in those situations? Yikes.

The game did provide some comic relief, from, you guessed it, Manny Ramirez. To start the 9th, he was nowhere to be found. The game was delayed for a bit, until he finally came running out of the tunnel and onto the field. I guess he thought he was being pulled for a defensive replacement, but Andruw Jones is hurt, and it's not like Juan Pierre is an upgrade.

I can't resist this one... Manny was being Manny.

Tonight's game features a fantastic pitching matchup, as Clayton Kershaw takes on Cole Hamels. That's going to be fun to watch. The Diamondbacks travel to Colorado while holding a 1 game lead in the NL West.

Monday, August 11, 2008

2 bad innings leads to 2 bad losses

What an opportunity the Dodgers just left on the table.

This past weekend could have easily been a 3 game sweep of the San Francisco Giants, and first place in the NL West. Instead, both Jonathan Broxton and Hong-Chih Kuo came up empty in the closer's role, as the San Francisco Giants won on Sunday, 5-4. The DBacks won (Danny Haren was starting, so not much drama there), and the lead for them is 1.5 games.

It may as well have been a rewind of Saturday night, except that this didn't take extra innings. Late lead by a run - blown save - Giants feel somewhat relevant again. The scary part is that the Dodgers close the season with 3 in San Francisco, and you know these last 2 games will be in their heads. I guess those games won't be that easy afterall.

Chad Billingsley gave up a rare run in the 1st inning on Randy Winn's double to go down by 1. In the 3rd, the Dodgers got on the board when Jeff Kent grounded out to score Andre Ethier, who had just tripled.

Both teams traded runs in the 4th and 5th. The Giants got 2 in the 4th on another hit by Randy Winn, this time a 2-run single. Bills got the first 2 hitters out easily, then uncharacteristically gave up 4 straight singles. The Dodgers got 1 back in the 5th when Matt Kemp tripled and score on Ethier's single.

The game appeared to be in hand in the 7th when Manny Ramirez came through yet again, hitting a 2-run double to score Kemp and Ethier for the 4-3 lead. Needing a day off, Broxton sat and Kuo came in. From what I can recall, this is the first time Kuo has gone for a save, so it is a different mindset. Right away, he gave up 2 singles. Casey Blake had an error to load the bases. A fielder's choice and a single later, the game was lost.

While Kuo's line will say that the 2 runs were unearned, but the truth is that the 2 hits he gave up to start the inning spelled doom. Yes, Blake's error hurt, but that's not why they lost. Broxton needed a day off after going 3 straight days, so the options in the 'pen were limited. I'm still surprised Kuo didn't come through, but even he can have a bad day. It happens, but it sucks that it happened against the Giants and in a very winnable game.

Bills finished with 6 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 6 K. His ERA is 3.07, which is still outstanding. 12 men reaching base in 6 innings is too high for him. I think he's lucky to only give up 3 runs. Matt Cain didn't get the win, as he gave up 4 runs in 7 innings. The Dodgers still found a way to hit him around, it just wasn't enough in the end.

Coming up now is a 4 game homestand against the Philadelphia Phillies. Joe Torre says Broxton will be available tonight. Derek Lowe gets the ball tonight. He got Pujolsted his last game, giving up a granny to him in getting pounded. It's the start of 10 straight at home, with Milwaukee and Colorado to follow. Their last homestand produced a 7-3 result, but that was against the Nationals, Giants, and Diamondbacks. This time the competition will be stiffer.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Broxton coughs up lead in 11th

Jeff Kent gave the Dodgers a 2-1 lead in the 11th inning by blasting a solo homer to left. Enter Jonathan Broxton, who's been on fire since taking over closer duties from the injured Takashi Saito.

And then exit Jonathan Broxton, who gave up 2 runs while only getting 1 out.

It was an ugly bottom of the 11th, as the light hitting Giants easily tied the game and then won it, 3-2. The Dodgers could have claimed first place with the win because of the Diamondbacks loss, but it was not meant to be.

It was a pitcher's duel for most of the game, as Hiroki Kuroda had his 2nd straight great start. He finished with 8 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K. He's about the toughest pitcher I know to figure out. Brilliant one start, horrible the next. The good has definitely outweighed the bad, however, and he's now given up 2 runs in 15.1 innings.

Kuroda also helped his own cause by getting the Dodgers on the board in the 2nd. Manny Ramirez began things with a single. He eventually reached 3rd on a walk to Russell Martin and Angel Berroa's hit by pitch. With 2 down, Kuroda singled to get the lead.

There really wasn't a whole lot of action until the 6th, when Dave Roberts led off with a double. He went to 3rd on a wild pitch, and scored on Fred Lewis' sac-fly. Other than that, both teams were putting up blanks all game.

Kent's homer in the 10th was leading off, and Manny immediately followed with a single on his 3-5 night (and a nice .485 AVG). A couple of groundouts later, Casey Blake was given the intentional pass to put 2 on with 2 down. With Hong-Chih Kuo due up, Andruw Jones pinch hit.

Bet you'll never guess what happened next?! Yup, he struck out. And still sucks.

Broxton was pretty much lost in the 11th, as Roberts again started it off with a double. Broxton didn't help himself at all by throwing wildly past first base for an error. With the infield drawn in, Aaron Rowand ended the night with a single. Opportunity lost.

12 men left on base did them in, along with 5 with RISP and 2 outs. Same old story for them when they lose tough games. Great pitcher, horrible clutch hitting. You know how it goes.

Today features a great pitching matchup with Chad Billingsley vs. Matt Cain. Does it seem like the Dodgers are always facing Cain? Well, it's actually a good thing, as he's never beaten the Dodgers before in 8 starts. After today's game, they will return home for 4 huge games against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

As Penny comes back, Falkenborg goes out

In a move that is not at all surprising, Brian Falkenborg has been designated for assignment now that Brad Penny has returned from the DL. As usual, he goes through the waivers process the next 10 days in which he will be dropped or traded. If nothing is happening, he can go to the Minors.

It seemed like the battle of who would get dropped came down to Falkenborg, Ramon Troncoso, and Jason Johnson. Troncoso has already been brought up, demoted, and brought back up. After a horrendous April in which he earned himself a trip to Vegas with a 9.53 ERA, he has since put together a 3.00 ERA since June. He's earned a spot.

Johnson is the journeyman who had 2 starts recently: a win against San Francisco, and a no-decision (but a bad start) against Arizona. Unfortunately for him, he fell victim to the numbers squeeze, as Penny came back and Clayton Kershaw has been pitching phenomenally. Still, he has a 3.57 ERA in 17.2 IP, and can pitch multiple innings when needed. That's a keeper.

So it's Falkenborg who gets the heave-ho. With an ERA of 6.17, he pretty much wrote his own ticket out of town. From the few times I've seen him, nothing really stood out about him. Guys like Cory Wade and Joe Beimel can get guys out consistently, but Falkenborg has never shown that.

I can't imagine any team being interested in him, so he'll more than likely clear waivers. He has stated that he'll accept a trip to Las Vegas, so perhaps we have not seen the last of him once September hits.

Penny gets the job done in return

Brad Penny made life interesting in the 1st inning by walking the first batter he faced. After a double by Bengie Molina to score a run, things were definitely not looking up.

But, it helped that the opponent was the San Francisco Giants, who are terrible. That combined with walking only 1 more in the next 4 innings gave the Dodgers the win, 6-2. Oh ya, and it also helped that Barry Zito was the opposing pitcher.

The 3rd inning is when the fun started for the Dodgers, and it came from the bottom 2 of the order. Danny Ardoin hit his first home run of the season leading off to tie the game. Penny then singled, and the rally was on. Matt Kemp singled and Russell Martin walked to load the bases. Jeff Kent then came through with a huge, bases clearing double to open the game up. Angel Berroa doubled with 2 down to score another run, but Andruw Jones was tagged out at the plate (all of those buffet dinners are catching up to him).

The rest of the game was never in doubt, as Molina and Casey Blake traded solo shots. The 9th got a bit interesting, as Chan Ho Park walked a couple of guys. Jonathan Broxton came on and also gave up a walk to load the bases, but Randy Winn K'd looking to end the festivities.

Penny's velocity was obviously down, but he showed something by holding the Giants to only 1 run in the 1st. There's a couple of ways to look at him now. One is that his velocity will gradually return, as this was his first start since June 14. The other is that he's not really a power pitcher anymore, as he's relying on his location and breaking pitches these days. I think it's a little bit of both. He won't overpower everyone anymore, but will get outs based on his stuff.

For now, his return is a good thing, and gives the Dodgers something else to feel good about. They're now 1 game over .500 and a 1/2 game in back of Arizona for first place in the NL West. The rotation of Lowe, Billingsley, Kuroda, Kershaw, and Penny can be pretty darn good. With Manny and Blake on board to boost the offense, there's plenty of reasons to feel good about their chances the rest of the season.

Hiroki Kuroda gets the call today, and he will most likely either look fantastic or get bombed, continuing his roller coaster season. Last start was a good one, overpowering the Diamondbacks. A win today and a DBacks loss will give LA sole possession of first place.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sweep avoided as Kershaw dominates

Derek Lowe got pounded into the ground last night, giving up 8 runs in 3.1 IP as the Cardinals put themselves on the verge of a sweep. Thankfully for the Dodgers, the young gun came up dealing.

This afternoon belonged to Clayton Kershaw, who was awesome today in limiting the Cardinals to 1 run in 7 innings, as the Dodgers got another homer from Manny Ramirez to win, 4-1. The win puts them back at .500 after 114 games.

The 1st inning was again the Dodgers' best friend as they got on the board, and surprisingly it happened with 2 outs. Jeff Kent hit a ground rule double, and Manny walked. James Loney came through with an RBI single for the early lead.

Manny again launched one in the 3rd, his 4th in only 6 games with LA. Have I mentioned lately how much I love this trade? Ya, I do. It's not like he'll continue hitting home runs at this pace (can he?), but it's nice to have at least one person in the lineup that can be counted on for power.

The final run came in the 4th, and it happened with 2 outs, always a good sign. Juan Pierre was the leadoff hitter today, and he tripled home Danny Ardoin, who got a rare start for the resting Russell Martin (good move, Russ has been struggling lately).

Other than Manny, obviously, the story was Kershaw, who has put together 3 great starts in a row. Since getting recalled and getting pasted in Colorado, he has 2 wins in that time while giving up 1 run in 19 innings. He could not have possibly picked a better time to pitch well, since Brad Penny is back and rotation spots are hard to come by. Jason Johnson is the odd man out, not Kershaw.

Getting the win today was nice, but this series was a bit of a disappointment. Tuesday they had a solid comeback, but came up short. Wednesday they got their teeth kicked in. I don't know what it is about St. Louis, but they look lost there. Let's hope the playoff road does not go through there.

The Dodgers now travel to San Francisco for 3, and they are atrocious. Penny makes his return from the DL to make his first start since getting pounded in Detroit on June 14. Barry Zito is the opposing pitcher... but hold the phone. He just went 8 and none against the Padres last start, so maybe he doesn't suck quite as badly as he once did. I mean, he still sucks, but maybe not as much. We will see.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Ludwick's homer beats the Dodgers in extras

The Dodgers found themselves in a 4-0 hole on Tuesday night, mostly because everybody not named Manny Ramirez could buy a hit. The good news was that the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen is as about as weak as a piece of grass.

Neither Ron Villone, Jason Isringhausen, or Ryan Franklin could hold the lead, as the Dodgers battled all the way back to knot the game up at 4. It didn't matter, because in the end, Ludwick sent the fans home happy as they won in the 11th inning, 6-4.

The game wasn't that exciting at all through most of the game, due in large part to the pitching of Chris Carpenter and Chad Billingsley, and 2 rain delays in the 5th that lasted just over an hour. Once play resumed for good, things picked up. Well, they did for the Cardinals, at least until the 9th.

Billingsley had another great outing, going 5 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K. He wiggled out of trouble in the 2nd when 2 were left on. He gave up his first run in the 5th on an Adam Kennedy single with 1 out. It could have been much worse, though, as Albert Pujols struck out and Skip Schumaker was caught stealing 3rd. That turned out to be a huge play.

Through the first 8 innings, the Dodgers could manage just 4 hits, and 2 of them by Manny. They also hit into 3 inning-ending double plays, which is really pathetic. And 2 of them were hit by the Double Play King, James Loney. I've got to say this about him. I'm not trying to say I don't think he's a good player, because he is. But there just seems to be something missing to him - kind of like a "wow" factor. Last I checked, he was leading the league in GIDP, and there's absolutely no reason that should happen.

I guess what I'm saying is, I really hope he becomes more than just a singles hitter. He can be so much better than that. But leading the league in double play balls? That's just mind-boggling.

Back to the game, and the 9th inning rally started with the rarest of all rare sights - a home run by Andruw Jones. And he creamed it too. That's a good sign, though he has a whole long way to go. Andre Ethier and Russell Martin singled, and Manny was walked. Loney hit an infield single (a very lucky hit... trust me), and Jeff Kent singled to get it to 4-3. A sac-fly by Casey Blake evened the score.

Still, it wasn't meant to be. They had more chances in the 10th with the bases loaded and 2 down, but Loney lined out to left. Ludwick ended it in the 11th.

This was a game they could have rolled over and died, but instead they fought back. But it was also pretty frustrating because they hit into 3 double plays, left 8 men on base, and overall looked lost for most of the game. They had chances to win, but couldn't. Then again, the Cards are probably just as frustrated that they blew a 4 run lead late, so it evens out in the end.

Derek Lowe takes the mound tonight, and he was on the bad end of a 2-1 loss last start against the Diamondbacks. He's steadily lowered his ERA since it ballooned into the 5's in May. He'll look to get back to an even 9-9 tonight.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Raffy eyes a September 1 return

The good news for the Dodgers seems to be getting better as Rafael Furcal said he wants to return by September. He's coming off of back surgery recently and hasn't appeared in a game since May 6.

The easiest stat I can point out that shows just how valuable he is would be this:

With Furcal in the lineup: 18-14
Without Furcal in the lineup: 36-41

And that is as easy as that. He was having a monstrous April, but just like the year before, injuries have really derailed his season. The positive thing about this year is that he can still come back to a team that is in the thick of a playoff hunt, unlike last year. No wonder he wants in so badly.

Even with the great additions of Casey Blake and Manny Ramirez, having a healthy Furcal leading off would just mean so much to the Dodgers. He adds a whole new dimension of speed, on base ability, power, and great defense. In other words, better than watching Juan Pierre every game. Let's hope he's being honest and really will be healthy then. If so, then look out.

Manny and the Dodgers roll past Arizona

Friday night may not have ended so well for Manny Ramirez, but Saturday and Sunday sure have.

After hitting a 2-run bomb on Saturday to lead the Dodgers to a 4-2 win, Manny homered, doubled, and drove in 3 to get another win over the Diamondbacks, 9-3. The win gets the Dodgers 1 game back in the NL West, and completes their homestand at 7-3.

The Dodgers did something that they've found great success in, and that is score runs in the 1st. With 1 down, Matt Kemp singled, and Russell Martin walked. Ramirez then singled to score Kemp and take the 1-0 lead. James Loney singled home Martin, who had just stolen 3rd, and it was a 2 run lead.

The DBacks fought right back when they got 2 off of Jason Johnson. Not to be outdone, the Dodgers got right back to work in the 3rd. Kemp hit an RBI single to score Angel Berroa, Martin singled home Kemp, and Ramirez smoked a big double to score Martin for the 5-2 advantage. They did not look back after that.

Manny continued his hot play by hitting a solo shot out to left in the 5th, his 2nd in consecutive days. For the 3 games, he's 8-15 with 2 HR and 5 RBI. Can you even imagine anyone else on the Dodgers doing that? Uh... no. His presence alone in the lineup is certainly making the Dodgers a more feared team already.

Johnson received his final start today since Brad Penny will be making his return from the DL this week. He really didn't have his best stuff today, going only 4.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K. It's a tough spot for a guy like him to be in. He looked really good his last start against the Giants, and even pitched well in relief in Colorado before that. But, the reality is that he'd have to be absolutely flawless to keep a rotation spot. Penny is the man they have invested in, and deserves a shot based on past results. If Penny flops, however, then Johnson could easily get a second look.

The overall homestand could not have gone much better for the Dodgers. They got 7 wins in 10 games, and the 3 losses were by 1 run each. A few more hits here and there and who knows, it could have been a clean sweep. But they will certainly take this. I think they sent a great message to the DBacks today. They already have the pitching, but with Casey Blake and Manny in the lineup now, they will be tough to deal with. That's the hope at least.

With the homestand over, the Dodgers will now hit the road for 6, starting in St. Louis on Tuesday. It's a very interesting pitching duel to start with, as Chad Billingsley takes on Chris Carpenter. Carpenter has had some really tough luck the last couple of years, as injuries have just killed him. When healthy, he's very good. That will be fun to watch.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

No heroics for #99

Manny Ramirez arrived in Dodger blue (and wearing #99?) and looked ready to make a sudden impact. Unfortunately for him, he didn't come through on his chance to do so in the 9th.

The Dodgers were once again in a close, low-scoring game against the Arizona Diamondbacks last night. And once again... they DBacks were the ones that did just enough to eek out the victory, 2-1. With the loss, the Dodgers are now 3 games in back of first place at 54-55.

The game will obviously be remembered for Manny's debut, but it was the pitching duel between future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson and phenom Clayton Kershaw that was the real story. The older guy went 6 innings and 1 run (unearned); the younger guy went 6 innings and no runs. For Kershaw, it's 2 really good starts in a row, as he's lowered his ERA from 5.18 to 4.02.

There was nothing doing in the first 5 innings, as each pitcher was plowing through the other team, ala Brandon Webb and Derek Lowe from the night before. And just like that game, the Dodgers struck for the 1st run. They got plenty of help in doing so, as Juan Pierre reached on Orlando Hudson's error. He then stole 2nd when Tony Clark threw the pickoff throw to 2nd into the outfield. Matt Kemp doubled to left, and it was 1-0.

With Kershaw done after 6 innings and 89 pitches, Chan Ho Park relieved. Hong-Chih Kuo went the night before, so Park was the obvious choice. He got greeted very rudely by Clark, who homered to dead center to tie the game. It got worse when Chris Snyder then singled. Joe Biemel eventually came in and gave up a double to Stephen Drew to score Snyder, and it was now 2-1.

The Dodgers had their chances, starting in the 8th when Andre Ethier drew a leadoff walk. But, the next 3 hitters couldn't reach. The 9th is when things got really interesting when Russell Martin starting things with a single. Up next... Manny Ramirez. He could have instantly been an LA hero with a homer.

Ah... it didn't quite work out that way, as he grounded into a DP. Jeff Kent popped out, and suddenly the DBacks have taken the first 2 games.

Who knows how the end of the year will turn out, but these were 2 games in which the Dodgers had the lead, but couldn't hold on. And for the umpteenth time, it was their inability to put runs on the board that bit them in the end. Same old song and dance.

Manny ended up 2-4, both on singles. Casey Blake was 0-4, Kent was 0-4, Andruw Jones 0-3 with 2 K's... you get the point. Like I said when Manny was traded, it's up to the rest of the team to do their jobs, and not just rely on Manny to do everything. Not exactly the best start to that last night.

Nonetheless, they have 2 games left to turn things around, and it starts tonight when Hiroki Kuroda looks to reverse some bad recent history. He was awful last start against the Giants, but they need a quality start from him. Supposedly, Manny will show up with a haircut, so that's worth watching alone!