Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bunch of rumors to catch up on

The offseason is now officially in full swing, thanks to the Philadelphia Phillies defeating the Tampa Bay Rays last night to win the World Series. I'm glad the Phillies won and in dominating fashion, since it makes the Dodgers not look quite as bad now. It pains me to say this, but congrats to the Phillies on a great season.

Now it's time to look at a bunch of different news on the boys in blue, courtesy of
  • Russell Martin's numbers dipped this year, so there's again talk that he needs more rest. Expect a decent backup to be brought in. That may or may not mean re-upping Gary Bennett. My guess... no.
  • Ned Colletti and agent Scott Boras have not had much contact yet. Boras' clients include Derek Lowe, Andruw Jones, and Greg Maddux. Oh ya, and some Manny Ramirez guy.
  • There have been early talks with Rafael Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra, and Casey Blake.
  • Jeff Kent will likely retire, ending his great career.
  • A top starting pitcher is likely to be acquired, whether that be C.C. Sabathia or resigning Lowe.
  • Jake Peavy is probably not likely only because the Padres would want way too much in return.
  • Both Brad Penny and Takashi Saito are question marks.
  • While Juan Pierre and Jones have talked about being traded, neither has formally said that to the club.
As usual, lots of decisions on the table. This is already getting very interesting.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Another week of mailbag questions, centered around the resigning of "you know who." The topics are a timetable for signing Manny Ramirez, why the club hasn't given up on Jason Schmidt, why Russell Martin and Andre Ethier are eligible for salary arbitration, what Kim Ng does for the Dodgers, and Tony Abreu's health.

Read and become smarter.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Berroa's option declined

The Dodgers have declined to exercise the $5.5 million option for Angel Berroa, choosing instead to buy him out at $500,000. Well, it's the Kansas City Royals who end up paying, his former team. For some reason, the Dodgers have the uncanny ability to trade for players without paying a penny of their contracts. Go figure.

He still belongs to the Dodgers, as he is salary arbitration eligible. Or, he could be non-tendered in December, then re-signed. The minimum he could be signed for is $2.85 million.

When he first came to the Dodgers, I thought he was the worst player on Earth. That's pretty much because he played like the worst player on Earth. But I'll give him plenty of credit - he was a key component of their turnaround in September by taking over full-time duties at shortstop. His hitting improved to be a good threat at the bottom of the order, and his defense was solid.

I think the key for him as far as rejoining the Dodgers is Rafael Furcal. If Raffy is back, he may seek out other teams to see if he can be a starter, and I wouldn't blame him. If there's no interest, I think he should be brought back more as an insurance policy and defensive replacement. There's definitely value to him.


The offseason means the return of a weekly mailbag (at least I hope... some weeks can be slow). This week's topics are whether Manny Ramirez is worth a huge contract, how Jason Schmidt is feeling, if Juan Pierre will be traded, and the coaching staff returning next season.

Here you are.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Let the Jake Peavy sweepstakes begin

It's common knowledge that this offseason will be a busy one for the Dodgers. Not only do they have the dilemma of bringing back Manny Ramirez (and at what cost?), but there's also C.C. Sabathia, who will demand top dollar as well. Now comes reports that the San Diego Padres are shopping ace Jake Peavy, and the Dodgers are on his list.

Peavy himself named 5 teams in which he'd be open to go to. Those teams are the Cardinals, Braves, Astros, Cubs, and Dodgers. Obviously, all are National League teams, and among the top tier as far as making a postseason run. Can't blame him for naming those teams.

Like any other trade of a superstar, there's 2 things that stand in the way: a huge contract and willingness to deal away top prospects. Thus far, the word is that the Padres have not heard the names they'd like to hear, so no deal is close. I could add another element, and that's Peavy's no-trade clause. He holds the key in all of this.

If the Dodgers do make a run, I'm sure they'd have to part with a couple of their Major League-ready prospects. Matt Kemp's name will be thrown around (because it always is), and probably Clayton Kershaw and James McDonald. All 3 of those guys have boat loads of talent, so getting rid of them would be tough.

I gotta be honest thought - I would be most open to moving Kemp. I just can't quite understand the guy. One second he's brilliant, the next second he looks completely uninterested. His inconsistency is his own worst enemy, and it caught up to him in the playoffs when he did absolutely nothing against the Phillies. A package of Kemp and maybe a younger prospect, and it would be an intriguing deal.

As for Kershaw and McDonald, I'd leave them alone. There's just WAY too much talent for both of them. And since one is a lefty and the other a righty, the rotation can be that much better for years to come.

I'm not sure how likely it is Peavy will be gone, but just him naming the Dodgers is a reason for optimism.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pierre wants to be traded

I guess this news shouldn't come as a surprise, but Juan Pierre has asked the Dodgers to trade him this offseason. The reason is pretty cut and dry: playing time. He used to have it, and he wants it again. With the Dodgers, that may be hard to come by.

I can't blame him, and I don't think any Dodger fans should either. Let's look at the facts. He signed a 5-year, $44 million contract for 2007, in which he proceeded to hit .293 with 96 runs and 64 stolen bases. Those numbers look pretty darn good, but there was a flip side. His OBP was only .331, which is way too low for a leadoff hitter. Plus, he was the center fielder with a weak arm, pretty much forcing teams to take extra bases on him. That got old fast.

The Dodgers needed pop coming into 2008, so they signed Andruw Jones. Well, we all know what a complete joke that turned out to be. But, with the emergence of Andre Ethier in Spring Training, Pierre was the odd man out with Matt Kemp already being in right. At the time, he was unhappy, and who could blame him? When Jones flopped worse than the XFL, Manny Ramirez was acquired, and the rest is history.

To Pierre's credit, I believe he has handled his demotion with as much class as possible. When he was given the start in Game 4 of NLCS, Joe Torre commented about how hard Pierre still worked each day, all to stay ready. That game, he played very well with a 2-3 night including a double. That was good to see.

The problem now is that he still has 3 years and $28.5 million left on his contract. Is that easy to trade? Uh, no. Plus, if Manny isn't brought back, the Dodgers would like to have Pierre still on the team as insurance. However, if the right deal comes along, then I can see him being moved. Time will tell.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Phillies leave no doubt as they win the NLCS

It took all of one at-bat to realize that the Philadelphia Phillies were destined to go to the World Series.

And it took another bunch of runners left on base for the Dodgers to realize that they had opportunities, but pretty much blew it each time.

Game 5 of the NLCS belonged to the Phillies for the entire game, as they cruised to a 5-1 victory, punching their ticket to the World Series. Cole Hamels was just awesome, and even when runners did reach base, the Dodgers resorted to their old ways of failing miserably when it came to driving them in.

It's hard to imagine just what in the hell happened to Chad Billingsley, but he was atrocious once again. For someone that had a 3.14 ERA in the regular season and pitched brilliantly in Game 2 of the NLDS in Chicago, everything fell apart. We all know about his bad performance in Game 2 (and his whining afterwards), so this start was huge for him. He got up 0-2 on Jimmy Rollins, ran the count to 3-2, then threw a fastball that was smoked out to right. The crowd was dead already, and this gave them even more reason to just sit on their hands. Ugh.

A double play from Chase Utley helped out Billingsley in the 1st, and only 1 run was scored. It got worse in the 3rd. Jimmy Rollins walked and stole 2nd, but there were 2 outs. It didn't matter as Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell had RBI singles to go up 3-0. After an intentional pass to Shane F'n Victorino, that was it for Bills, finishing with 2.2 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 3 K. Chan Ho Park relieved and thankfully kept the game close when Pedro Feliz grounded out.

It's not like the Dodgers were getting killed, it just felt that way. But going into the 5th, it was 3-0 Phillies. The crowd would periodically pick it up a little, and there was a glimmer of hope that with Greg Maddux on the mound pitching well, something could happen.

Well, something did happen. Rafael Furcal had the worst inning of his life.

3, count 'em, THREE errors later by Furcal, and the Phillies went up 3-0. In fact, 2 errors were on 1 play where he booted a would-be double play ball, then made a horrendous throw home that scored another run. Then Carlos Ruiz grounded one to him with 2 outs, but the throw to 1st was in the dirt, scoring another. Much like Billingsley, I never thought I'd see Raffy just mentally be taken out of the game like that. Wow, I really did feel badly for him.

The game was virtually over then, but Casey Blake and Matt Kemp did single to open the bottom of the 5th, so it got somewhat interesting again. Then Blake DeWitt grounded into ANOTHER double play, and Jeff Kent struck out. That was DeWitt's 2nd DP of the game, and he just looked totally fried after that. I know the announcers thought it was weird that Joe Torre pulled him, but I think it was the right call. He was just completely done at that point, why risk making it even worse?

I'm sure nobody was shocked to see who provided the lone highlight of the night - Manny Ramirez. He was the only one to tag Hamels as he hit a solo shot into right to make it 5-1. The Dodgers were so inspired by that that they... did a big pile of nothing from that point on. Manny's last AB was a single up the middle in the 8th, a fitting end to a spectacular postseason. This October, he finished at a .520 AVG, .667 OBP, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 11 BB. Unreal numbers.

For all of the big hits the Dodgers got against the Cubs, it just wasn't happening this round. Take away both Manny Ramirez and all of Game 3, and their offense was downright embarrassing. Time and time again chances were blown with runners on. It's hard to believe just how lousy they were in those opportunities, but they were. And that's why they're on the outside looking in.

As poorly as the NLCS ended, nobody should lose sight on the fact that this was a great run from September on. They were easily one of the hottest teams in baseball over that span, and it was a lot of fun to watch. Manny was obviously a key factor in all of that, but the pitching staff was on fire as well. It really was a great time to be a Dodger fan.

This coming offseason will be HUGE for them, as there are a ton of decisions to be made. I can't recall the last time the Dodgers faced so many decisions like this, so it will be an interesting ride over the winter. There will be plenty of discussion not only about resigning Manny, but guys like Derek Lowe and Furcal, too. In my mind, the Dodgers will either look nearly the same or completely different from their postseason roster. It will be great to watch it all unfold.

For now, I'll salute the Dodgers for a great end of the season, including their first postseason series win in 20 years. Hopefully this will be the foundation for even more success in 2009.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Does Juan Pierre deserve another start?

One thing that I failed to mention in my game recap of Game 4 was the play of Juan Pierre. He got the start in center field over Matt Kemp after Kemp had gone 5-24 with only 1 RBI in the postseason. On the whole, I thought Pierre played very well.

Batting in the #8 spot, Pierre was in a spot where he wasn't too pressured to get on base like he would hitting leadoff or #2. His first AB he singled with 1 down. He was then easily thrown out trying to steal 2nd with Derek Lowe up. I don't know if it was a failed hit and run because Lowe swung and missed or if he just got a bad jump, but it was kind of weird how much he was out by.

His 2nd AB he lined out to 3rd, but then came right back in the 6th and doubled, which came right after Casey Blake's solo homer. Too bad both Andre Ethier and Russell Martin came up empty trying to drive him in, which goes along with my "they were not clutch" theme from last night.

I know it's easy to rip on Pierre, but it was good to see him get in there and play well. Kemp pretty much played his way to the bench, so I was glad to see Joe Torre make the switch. I know Kemp has all the tools to be a great player, but he's looked overmatched in both series. It was a good move.

Now the question is if it will happen again in Game 5. The Phillies are starting their lefty stud, Cole Hamels. The regular season stats for both men vs. lefties is pretty close: Kemp - .369, Pierre - .346. Will Torre stay with the man who went 2-3 with a run scored in his only start, or go with the man who has more power potential?

To give my 2 cents, I think I would rather see Pierre in there. In 375 AB's this year, he only struck out 24 times. Kemp has struggled much more with striking out, so that's a big plus for Pierre. I would much rather see the person who puts the ball in play then someone who has 9 K's in 25 AB's this postseason.

Bullpen falters in 8th as Phillies take a 3-1 lead

Where do I even begin with this?

In what seemed like a near certainty late in Game 4 of the NLCS, the Dodgers went from being a few outs away of tying the series to getting pounded in no time. The Phillies made big swings when they needed to, and took over late for the win, 7-5. It's now 3-1 in favor of the Phillies, who are a game away from the World Series.

It was an up and down battle for the Dodgers from the very first batter of the game, starting with Jimmy Rollins' single. Jayson Werth singled, and Chase Utley doubled home a run. Ryan Howard had an RBI groundout, and while Derek Lowe was tossing a water cooler and ripping up his jersey, the Dodgers were down 2-0.

The bottom of the 1st would bring some noise for the Dodgers, but it would also signify an alarming trend that might have meant more to losing than the bullpen did. James Loney launched a 2-out double that scored Rafael Furcal to get back a run. Actually, it was mere feet from leaving the yard. But, with Manny Ramirez on 3rd and Loney on 2nd, Blake DeWitt lined out to end the inning.

And that would only be the beginning of not coming through in the clutch. In all, 12 men were left on base, and that would bite them in the end.

In fact, with the exception of the 4th and 9th innings, the Dodgers had realistic chances to put up a few runs in each inning. And more often than not, they failed miserably. Yes, they scored 5 runs, which isn't that bad, but it could have been so much better. Time and time again, runners were left stranded as another opportunity was blown.

It all boiled down to the same old problem the Dodgers have had the last couple of months when they lose: anybody not named Manny Ramirez cannot get a big hit.

To be fair, Rafael Furcal played great again, but he's a leadoff hitter and obviously not in an RBI position. The only big hits I can think of (except for Manny, of course), was the double by Loney and a solo shot by Casey Blake in the 6th, which initially gave the Dodgers a 4-3 lead. Manny is great, but not even he can win the NLCS by himself. He needs help.

Poor Blake DeWitt will have better nights, but last night was one he'd like to soon forget. He left 2 in the 1st on a lineout, 2 in the 3rd on a flyout, and 2 in the 5th on a double play. He was bad, but Russell Martin, hitting cleanup, was worse. In all, he left 8 men on base, including lining into a big double play to end the 6th in which the Dodgers could have extended their 5-3 lead. Oh ya, he was also 0-5.

The focus on this game will undoubtedly be if Joe Torre mishandled the bullpen in the 8th, but I don't know. I mean, if I was told Hong-Chih Kuo, Cory Wade, and Jonathan Broxton would be in the game late with a lead of 2, I would have been all for it. I couldn't help but think at the end of the night that their youth finally showed. They're great pitchers, but inexperienced. Maybe the bright lights and big stage finally got to them.

I know people think Broxton should have come on in the 8th with 1 down, but I know that Wade has been fantastic all year. There's always that hindsight being 20/20 thing, so I guess Broxton should have been in. I just think it's unfair to only point at Torre for blowing the game. If the anybody other than Manny could come through in the clutch with runners on, then it would be 2-2 right now.

So now all the Dodgers can do is go out and win 3 straight, which they can do. Is it probable? Eh, not really, but it is possible. Win the next one in LA, take Game 6, and all of the pressure is on Philly for Game 7. It can happen.

Chad Billingsley has a huge start coming up. I can't imagine he's the most popular guy in the clubhouse after his sorry performance from Game 2. Not only did he refuse to retaliate after Brett Myers threw one behind Manny, but then he blamed his poor play on "pitch selection," more or less calling out Martin. He absolutely needs to step up and be the man. There's no other way around it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Big start carries Dodgers in heated game

The Dodgers rode a big, 5-run 1st inning to easily cruise past the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 3 of the NLCS, 7-2. The lead for the Phillies is now 2-1, but the biggest news of the game was not the result, but the near brawl that ensued in the 3rd inning.

First, let's backtrack just a bit. In the 1st, Russell Martin was beaned on a pitch from Jamie Moyer in the left leg that would load the bases. Clay Condry eventually relieved and brushed back Martin with a pitch high and tight. That appeared to be the last straw.

With the game comfortably in hand at 6-1 in the 3rd, Hiroki Kuroda sent a message himself by throwing one over the head of Shane "Hit me in the ribs, not the head!" Victorino with 2 down. Nothing happened then except for Victorino's whining, but after he grounded out, more words were exchanged. The benches were emptied, and Manny Ramirez had to be restrained. I say they should have let him go and watched him fight Ryan Howard. Now that would be fun!

Warnings were issued, but nothing happened the rest of the night. Martin was actually beaned again later in the game, but on a breaking ball by Chad Durbin, which did not at all seem intentional. This series has suddenly become very interesting.

As far as the game goes, the Dodgers used a patient approach to tee off of Jamie Moyer, who looked downright pathetic. I know he's had success this year, but you have to wonder how. I can't imagine any hitter would be scared of facing him.

To open the bottom of the 1st, Rafael Furcal and Andre Ethier singled. Manny came up and singled home Furcal, and runners were on 2nd and 3rd. That's when Martin was beaned for the first time to load 'em up. Nomar Garciaparra, playing for James Loney, struck out looking for 1 down. Casey Blake barely singled into right to score Ethier and keep the bases loaded.

Matt Kemp was up next, and needing a big at-bat after doing pretty much nothing in the first 2 games, promptly K'd looking. But don't fear, Blake DeWitt continued his amazing season by clearing the bases with a triple, and pretty much putting the game away at the same time. The other 2 runs were scored on a solo shot by Raffy in the 2nd and an RBI single by Nomar in the 4th.

The other story (besides the near brawl and DeWitt's triple) was Kuroda's great start. He finished at 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K. He ran into some trouble in the 7th when Chase Utley doubled and Howard singled, followed by an RBI bloop single by Pat Burrell. That chased Kuroda, but Cory Wade came on and shut down the Phillies for 2 innings. Just like DeWitt, Wade has come out of nowhere and been huge just when the Dodgers have needed him most.

Back to Kuroda, and it was great to see him look so comfortable in a big situation, just like against the Cubs. It should be noted, however, that if he does start again, it'll be Game 6 in Philadelphia. His ERA is similar from home and the road (3.68 and 3.78, respectively), but his WHIP tells a different story: 1.08 at home, 1.34 on the road. Hopefully with 2 great starts already this October, he can ride his hot streak for a big road start.

Today's game sees Derek Lowe going on three days' rest against Joe Blanton. Losing the first 2 games pretty much gave Joe Torre no choice but to turn to Lowe, which is the right move. Plus, no lefties were used last night, so Hong-Chih Kuo, Joe Beimel, and Clayton Kershaw are all ready to go. Blanton won the clinching game in Milwaukee, so he's not to be taken lightly.

Today's game could very well determine how the rest of the series will go. Can the Dodgers hit well again today, or will the Phillies make a statement to end this thing early?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Nomar in today, Lowe goes Game 4

A couple of notes about the next couple of games. First, Joe Torre has announced that Nomar Garciaparra will get the start today based on previous success off of Jamie Moyer. Where he'll be remains a mystery. It'll either be at 1st base in place of James Loney or over at 3rd base for Casey Blake.

My gut instinct tells me that Loney will be the odd man out. I'm not sure I can see Casey Blake getting benched after they traded for him during the season and have counted on his bat. Thus far, Loney is 3-7 while Blake is 1-7.

In other news, Derek Lowe is officially the Game 4 starter. Not surprising at all there, especially since no matter what happens tonight, the Dodgers will still be in a hole. Had the first 2 games gone to the Dodgers, it may have been a different story.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Back to LA down 0-2

Game 2 of the NLCS saw something very similar to Game 1: an early lead for the Dodgers. This time, it was an RBI groundout by Blake DeWitt that scored Andre Ethier, and the Dodgers were feeling good.

2 innings and 8 runs given up later, and it's another dud in Philly.

The Phillies rode the wave of 6, 2-out RBI's en route to an 8-5 win and a 2-0 lead in the NLCS. It all started in the bottom of the 2nd, and right after Chad Billingsley struck out both Pat Burrell and Jayson Werth. What seemed like an innocent single by Greg Dobbs started a string of 5 straight hits, including an RBI by Brett Myers, that gave the Phillies a 4-1 lead. Want to know what else is funny about that inning? Ryan Howard K'd to end it. So Burrell, Werth, and Howard all K'd, yet everyone else got on base. Weird.

The 3rd inning started with the Dodgers trying to claw back, as both Russell Martin and Ethier walked. With 2 down, James Loney singled up the middle to cut the lead in half at 4-2. Matt Kemp reached on an error at 3rd by Dobbs, and the bases were juiced. Too bad DeWitt looked overmatched and struck out swinging to end the threat.

I don't know what it was about Billingsley, but he was just awful. The bases were quickly loaded in the bottom of the 3rd after only 3 batters, but they did get a forceout at home for 1 down. Brett Freakin' Myers then doubled down the right field line to score 2, and the game was pretty much over from that point. Shane Victorino added a 2-run triple for good measure. The never ending inning saw 4 pitchers total in Billingsley, Chan Ho Park, Joe Beimel, and James McDonald.

At that point, with the Dodgers down 8-2 and the game taking forever, I felt like I was watching an American League game. So much for the National League being about pitching and faster games. Not yesterday.

I know the Dodgers of earlier in the year would've rolled over and played dead, but these guys have 1 extra special ingredient these days - Manny Ramirez. And it was Manny, after taking a strange pitch that sailed behind him in the 1st inning, that launched a 3-run shot that just got out in left to make the score 8-5. And it was even sweeter watching him talking trash to Myers from the dugout.

I guess the hitters from both teams ran out of gas at that point, because from the bottom of the 4th on there was no scoring. Starting in the 6th, the Phillies used their strong bullpen of Chad Durbin, J.C. Romero, Ryan Madson, and Brad Lidge to finish it off. Lidge was his usual up-and-down self, walking Manny and Loney, but K'ing Ethier, Kemp, and Nomar Garciaparra on some nasty changeups.

Like I said before, Billingsley was both awful during the game, and after it. During it, he went 2.1 IP, 8 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 3 BB, 5 K. Obviously he was hurt in the 2nd when he couldn't get his team off the field with 2 outs. After the game, he blamed his poor outing on "pitch selection," which would seem to imply that Martin called a lousy game. Look, I can understand being pissed about getting pounded, but blaming Martin made him look very selfish. If you don't like the pitch, can't you just shake it off? Let's hope that was just the frustration of losing talking.

Giving up 8 runs in 2 innings is not exactly a blueprint for success in the postseason, but I'll be somewhat positive and look for what went right. McDonald was simply fantastic out of the 'pen, pitching 3.1 innings of shutout ball, K'ing 5. You could see what sort of nasty stuff he has, so look out for him in the future. Damn, his changeup was sick.

And then we saw the Manny Ramirez factor. His presence alone just turns this whole team around. The 3-run shot got them back in the game, and each time he's up, you can just sense that something big could happen.

So now it's off to LA for Games 3-5. Hiroki Kuroda gets the call against Jamie Moyer. Moyer gets by on people thinking that he's too old, pitching too slow, and is too easy to hit around. Because of those reasons, he continually fools hitters and gets outs. The Dodgers can hit him, but can't fall into the trap that every at-bat will be a home run.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Quick lineup notes for Game 2

Just a quick look at today's lineup. A couple of changes have been made, and they match what the lineup was for the series against the Cubs:

1. Rafael Furcal - SS
2. Russell Martin - C
3. Manny Ramirez - LF
4. Andre Ethier - RF
5. James Loney - 1B
6. Matt Kemp - CF
7. Blake DeWitt - 2B
8. Casey Blake - 3B
9. Chad Billingsley - P

This reflects the Phillies starting right-handed Brett Myers. It worked against the Cubs for 3 straight, hopefully it works again today.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Utley and Burrell power Phillies in Game 1

The Dodgers found themselves with a 2-0 lead going into the 6th inning, and were in clear control from the start. Derek Lowe was shaky in the 5th, but managed to get Jimmy Rollins to fly out to left to strand 2 and end the inning. All the Dodgers needed was possibly one more inning of solid pitching to get through this one.

Unfortunately for LA, it didn't happen.

The Dodgers suffered their first playoff blemish in 4 games as the Phillies took Game 1 of the NLCS, 3-2. Lowe was good, but Cole Hamels was just a bit better, and homers by Chase Utley and Pat Burrell in the 5th proved to be the difference.

The game started off promisingly enough for the Dodgers, as they got on the board right away. Andre Ethier doubled with 1 down in the 1st. Manny Ramirez then unloaded on a long double to dead center that just barely missed being a 2-run homer. It still was plenty deep enough to score Ethier, and it was 1-0.

The lead was increased to 2-0 in the 4th, and it all started with a ground rule double by Matt Kemp that just hopped inside the foul line and into the crowd in right. Casey Blake grounded out to get Kemp over to 3rd, and Blake DeWitt came through with a sac-fly RBI to get the lead of 2.

As I said before, Lowe had another good outing, just not quite good enough. He was dealing through 4, but seemed to have trouble with his stuff in the 5th. That's when he stranded 2 on Rollins' flyout to left, so no damage done. But in the 6th, he must have hit a wall, because Utley uncorked a 2-run shot, and Burrell lined a no-doubter 2 hitters later for the lead, which would never go away.

While the homers were legit, I can't help but wonder what kind of an inning the 6th would have been had it not been for Rafael Furcal's throwing error to start. Shane Victorino hit a soft grounded to short, and Raffy rushed his throw, which was high and off of James Loney's glove, allowing Victorino to go to 2nd. It's too bad that the game might have been lost on that one play, but in a tight, 1-run game, that's how it goes.

On the night, Lowe finished at 5.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K. Not bad, but it's the 6th that made it look ordinary. Compare that to Hamels' line of 7 innings, 2 runs, and 8 K's, and Hamels lived up to his hype. When that changeup is dancing like it was tonight, there's little that the Dodgers' hitters can do. It's just that good.

Being down 1-0 certainly isn't the end of the line, especially in a 7 game series. Here's what the Dodgers need to do to turn this thing around. First, someone other than Manny needs to step up. He was 2-4, and except for Ethier's 2-4, nobody else really stood out. The guys at the bottom of the order of Loney, Kemp, Blake, and DeWitt went 2-14 with 1 run and 1 RBI. That's just not going to get it done.

Two, they can't give away outs like Furcal did tonight. The Phillies are notorious for being a streaky hitting team. They were doing jack squat all game until they were given an extra out in the 5th. You know how that turned out.

Finally, now that Hamels is out of the way, they need to take advantage of their superior starting pitching at this point. And it all starts with Chad Billingsley on Friday afternoon. He just has to pitch like he has all year long, and they should be fine. Against the Cubs he was lights-out. Another big start would tie this series up at 1 and bring it back to LA for 3. It can happen.

It's official: Kuo's in and Saito's out

Hong-Chih Kuo has been declared good to go for the NLCS, and he's been added to the 25-man roster. That also means that someone had to get booted off, and that man is Takashi Saito. James McDonald still stays, as does the rest of the roster from the NLDS.

I talked about the possibility of this move yesterday, so just go back a couple of posts to read. If Saito looked that bad, then I suppose it's a good thing that this move was made. Well, Kuo absolutely needed to be added, but it's still somewhat surprising that Saito wasn't even good enough to beat out McDonald. Those must have been some horrible side sessions.

The chances of Kuo appearing in back-to-back games are probably slim, much like it was during the year. Having him there is good enough, so the Dodgers will take what they can get.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Nomar could be at 1st base in Game 1

I just posted about what the lineup should look like for Game 1 of the NLCS tomorrow night. I also speculated about James Loney and Matt Kemp swapping spots in the order due to the lefty Cole Hamels going for the Phillies. What I didn't consider was that Nomar Garciaparra could start at 1st base.

According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, that could indeed happen. With someone who has stuff as nasty as Hamels, it's probably a good idea to get another righty in there. Nomar hasn't started a game yet, but that had more to do with the Dodgers' offense being hot and facing righty starters all 3 games against the Cubs.

So if Nomar does start, look for him to be in the #5 spot right in front of Kemp.

By the way, Rosenthal picks the Dodgers in 7. I've always like that guy.

Lineup notes for Game 1

Joe Torre has indicated that he will be juggling his lineup a bit for Game 1 of the NLCS against Cole Hamels. While the Dodgers only faced righties against the Cubs in Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, and Rich Harden, the Phillies will have Hamels and Jamie Moyer on the other side of the mound.

Here's what the lineup should look like Thursday night:

1. Rafael Furcal - SS
2. Andre Ethier - RF
3. Manny Ramirez - LF
4. Russell Martin - C
5. James Loney - 1B
6. Matt Kemp - CF
7. Casey Blake - 2B
8. Blake DeWitt - 3B
9. Derek Lowe - P

I have to also wonder if Kemp and Loney will switch spots. Torre didn't say anything about that, so maybe not. Loney definitely had the better Division Series, as his grand slam turned the whole series around. Kemp never really got on track, gathering 2 hits, but both were doubles at least.

As far as the starting rotation goes, it will remain unchanged from the last series. Lowe goes first, followed by Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda. Game 4 will be interesting. It could be Lowe on 3 days' rest, Clayton Kershaw, or Greg Maddux. I would cross Maddux off the list because I don't think he matches up well against that lineup. Kershaw could get the start if the Dodgers have the series lead and if he hasn't been used all that much. Or, Lowe could go, especially if the Dodgers are losing and need a win.

Kuo's return could bump Saito

All signs point to a thumb's up for the return of Hong-Chih Kuo to the active 25-man roster for the NLCS, which is definitely a good thing. The flip side is that Takashi Saito may have just pitched himself out of the postseason.

With Kuo ready, Saito's horrible bullpen sessions look to have earned him a ticket to the bench for this round of the playoffs. Combine that with his awful appearance against the Cubs in Game 2 (3 batters, 3 hits for those of you that have forgotten), and I guess we shouldn't be all that surprised.

It's really too bad that Saito may be the odd man out, because when he's on, he's just as good a closer as anybody else. Unfortunately, after missing 2 months with a partially torn elbow ligament, I guess it would be asking too much to have him close out games in the playoffs like the Saito of old. It's just not going to happen. And that's the reality. The good news for him is that there's still the World Series to get to if the Dodgers are good enough, so he can always get added back on. Rest and rehabilitation worked for Kuo, it can work for him as well.

If Saito is able to convince the powers that be from tonight to tomorrow morning that he can get big hitters out, look for Kuo to replace youngster James McDonald, who has yet to appear in the postseason.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Kuo aiming for NLCS comeback

The Philadelphia Phillies are sporting 2 of the studliest lefty hitters in Ryan Howard and Chase Utley in all of Major League Baseball. What's the best way to counteract that? Good lefty pitching.

Fortunately for the Dodgers, they might just have gotten their main gun back just in time.

Hong-Chih Kuo pitched a simulated inning of 4 hitters and 19 pitchers Tuesday morning in Dodger Stadium, and reported no discomfort. He used all of his pitches and looked to be in full command. That's just what Dodger fans (and management) have been waiting to see. And it could not have possibly come at a better time.

The real test will be on Wednesday to see if Kuo has any soreness from pitching the day before. If he does, then the situation gets that much more dicey. Hopefully he'll be just fine and ready to attack the Phillies' hitters.

One more reason to get excited over Kuo's possible appearance? He gave up only 1 hit in 5 scoreless innings against the Phillies this year, picking up a save along the way. Yup, I hope he's ready.

NLCS schedule

Game 1 - Thursday, Oct. 9 in Philadelphia, 8:22 ET
Game 2 - Friday, Oct. 10 in Philadelphia, 4:35 ET
Game 3 - Sunday, Oct. 12 in LA, 8:22 ET
Game 4 - Monday, Oct. 13 in LA, 8:22 ET
Game 5 (if nec.) - Wednesday, Oct. 15 in LA, 8:22 ET
Game 6 (if nec.) - Friday, Oct. 17 in Philadelphia, 8:22 ET
Game 7 (if nec.) - Saturday, Oct. 18 in Philadelphia, 8:22 ET

Sunday, October 5, 2008

An early look at the NLCS

Here's a bit of a breakdown of the NLCS between the Dodgers and the Phillies. Basically, it's a battle between the Dodgers right-handed starting pitchers vs. the Phillies' lefty bats, and the Phillies left-handed starting pitchers vs. the Dodgers' righty bats. It also gives a good look at possible late game matchups, such as Joe Beimel against Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Check it out.

Final numbers for the NLDS

Here is the final tally for the Divisional Series against the Cubs. They should be fun to read considering the Dodgers WON IN A SWEEP. HA!


Russell Martin - C
4-13, .333 AVG, .467 OBP, 2 R, 3 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 BB

James Loney - 1B
3-14, .214 AVG, .214 OBP, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI

Blake DeWitt - 2B
3-11, .273 AVG, .273 OBP, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI

Rafael Furcal - SS
4-12, .333 AVG, .467 OBP, 4 R, 2 RBI, 3 BB

Casey Blake - 3B
3-11, .273 AVG, .333 OBP, 2 R, 2 RBI

Manny Ramirez - LF
5-10, .500 AVG, .643 OBP, 5 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 4 BB

Matt Kemp - CF
2-13, .154 AVG, .154 OBP, 2 2B, 1 RBI

Andre Ethier - LF
1-10, .100 AVG, .357 OBP, 2 R, 4 BB


Derek Lowe - SP
1-0, 3.00 ERA, 6 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K

Chad Billingsley - SP
1-0, 1.35 ERA, 6.2 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K

Hiroki Kuroda - SP
1-0, 0.00 ERA, 6.1 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K

Jonathan Broxton - RP
1 SV, 0.00 ERA, 3.1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K

Cory Wade - RP
2.45 ERA, 3.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K

Greg Maddux - RP
0.00 ERA, 1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K

Takashi Saito - RP
INF ERA, 0.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K

Dodgers vs. Phillies in the NLCS

The Philadelphia Phillies just got done wrapping up a 6-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers, winning that series 3-1. As a result, the Dodgers will start off on the road once again, traveling to Philly in the best of 7 series. Game 1 is Thursday night at 8 ET on Fox.

Much more on this series to come in the next few days.

A sweep and a berth in the NLCS!!!

So much for this finally being the year the Chicago Cubs broke their curse.

If you were to listen to all of the so-called "experts" before this series, you would not have thought the Dodgers even belonged on the same field as the Cubs. Turns out, it was the opposite. The Dodgers survived a close one last night in Dodger Stadium to hold off the Cubs and sweep the NLDS by a score of 3-1.

The game featured a pretty good pitching matchup of Hiroki Kuroda against Rich Harden. Kuroda had been great against the Cubs in 2 starts this year, which included a complete game shutout at home. Harden was acquired by the Cubs for reasons like this - to give the Cubs a boost just when they needed it.

Harden wasn't that bad, but his rough first inning set the tone for the rest of the night. After Kuroda stranded a couple, the Dodgers went to work. Rafael Furcal popped up to 3rd to start things off, but Russell Martin hit his first of 2 doubles. Manny Ramirez found a hole to sneak a single by, and Martin barely beat the throw to 3rd. James Loney continued his amazing play with a double to score both for the 2-0 lead.

The Cubs must have thought it would be another long night, but to their credit, they kept battling back. 2 innings in a row (3rd and 4th), they would put 2 men on base, but could never get that 1 big hit that would have boosted them. Instead, they looked like they were all trying to hit the ball to the moon with 2 outs, where the Dodgers' approach to the plate was much more disciplined. And that was your difference these 3 games.

In the 5th, the Dodgers tacked on another run when Martin doubled home Furcal, who had walked. That run would prove to be big as the game would get tight later. Having more than a 1 run cushion was key in the Dodgers' bullpen relaxing and getting tough outs when they needed them in my mind.

The Cubs once again had chances in the 7th to score, but came up empty. Ryan Theriot and Kosuke Fukudome singled to chase Kuroda for Cory Wade. Alfonso Soriano, who was just plain awful at the plate all series, flew out, and Mike Fontenot lined out to Matt Kemp. That was a close one, as Kemp had to reach back to make the catch going backwards.

Up 3-0 in the 8th, the Cubs finally made a little noise, as Darryl Ward's pinch-hit single scored Derek Lee with 2 down. Jonathan Broxton came in and blew away Mark DeRosa in perhaps the biggest at-bat of the year for both teams. Broxton continued to bring the heat to put the Cubs down in order in the 9th, ending with a K of Soriano as the party was on.

The big first inning as a nice lift for the Dodgers, but their pitching was what won this game. Kuroda, in his first postseason start of his career, including Japan, went 6.1 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K. Like Derek Lowe and Chad Billingsley before him, he was brilliant. Constantly getting ahead of the hitters, he let his stuff take over. Wade gave up a run in 1.1 innings, but still pitched well. Broxton just blew away all 4 hitters in his path. Consistent, big pitching all around.

The top of the order of Raffy, Martin, and Manny got on base 7 times, which was just like the other 2 games. Their ability to get timely hits set the stage all series. Unlike the heart of the Cubs' order, the Dodgers were able to drive them home with clutch hits. The Cubs - not so much. I guess scratching and clawing their way into the playoffs really helped the Dodgers relax and just play ball. Contrast that to the Cubs constantly hearing about all of that "curse" talk, and they wilted under pressure.

So with another party in LA, they now get plenty of time to soak it up, rest, and get ready for the National League Championship Series against either the Philadelphia Phillies or Milwaukee Brewers. That could easily go 5, as the Brewers looked rejuvenated at home. Game 1 will be Thursday night either in Philadelphia or home against Milwaukee. At this point, I'm not sure who'd I'd rather see. Both have great offenses, with a slight edge in my mind to the Phillies. But facing C.C. Sabathia would be scary, even if he was off the other day. The Phillies are deeper in their rotation, so that's a tough call. Hopefully they'll beat each other up for 5 games.

Dodger fans, enjoy the moment, and be thirsty for more!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Saito says he's A-OK

I just saw a report on the Division Series by ESPN's Pedro Gomez that Takashi Saito claims his right elbow is just fine. That's been in question since last night when he faced 3 batters in the 9th with a 10-1 lead, and promptly gave up 3 hard hit balls before getting yanked. So, eyebrows are understandably raised.

Look, it's not like he gave up hits to some scrubs. Getting lit up by Derek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and even Mark DeRosa isn't exactly out of the ordinary. What hurts Saito is that the first 17 innings of Games 1 and 2 have been FLAWLESS by the Dodgers. Anything negative gets highlighted even more.

Even though Jonathan Broxton has pitched the last 2 games, I would think he'll be the one closing out the game if need be on Saturday night. That's how lousy Saito looked. If the guy says he's fine, then I guess everyone needs to take his word for it. But, Broxton is clearly more prepared to assume the closer's role at this point. That seems the most logical solution to me, and probably many others as well...

So of course, about a few minutes after I wrote this, Joe Torre gave word that he's not ready to give up on Saito in the 9th just yet. I'm not surprised, and would somewhat agree that it's not the right thing to do to totally give up on him. Still, if it's a one run game in the 9th with the heart of the Cubs order due up, who would you rather see in right now? I gotta go with Broxton.

Dodgers throttle Cubs to take 2-0 lead

One swing by Russell Martin, and Dodger fans are starting to believe that this team is for real.

Even with the best record in the National League and home-field advantage, the Chicago Cubs have looked helpless the first 2 games, as the Dodgers took Game 2, 10-3. Up 2-0 in the best of 5 series, it now shifts to Los Angeles this weekend.

The game started off promising enough for the Cubs, much like Game 1. Carlos Zambrano was on the mound chomping away at his gum, and he K'd Manny Ramirez to end the 1st. Alfonso Soriano led off the bottom of 1st with a single off of Chad Billingsley, and advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch. The heart of the order was due up for the Cubs, and things were looking good.

Too bad for them, that was as good as it would get.

Billingsley bared down to K Ryan Theriot and Derek Lee, then got Aramis Ramirez on a fly ball to center. Bills never looked back, finishing the night at 6.2 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K. For a guy making his first postseason start, he was as calm and cool as could be. Man, what a warrior he was out there.

The real fun started in the 2nd on consecutive singles by Andre Ethier and James Loney. After Matt Kemp struck out looking, the Cubs' defense just fell apart. An error by Mark DeRosa at 2nd allowed Ethier to score, and Derek Lee's error on Casey Blake's grounder loaded 'em up. Bills struck out (probably a good thing considering it wasn't a double play). Rafael Furcal then had the perfect bunt between the pitcher and 2nd to score another.

With the bases loaded and 2 down again, Martin unloaded on a scorcher to the gap in left and center to empty the bases, and in effect put the game away early at 5-0.

As Bills was dealing, more runs were tacked on from the 5th inning on. Manny hit another bomb; Kemp doubled home Manny; and Raffy, Manny, and Blake all had RBI singles. Needless to say, their whole lineup was clicking in every way possible.

It was an odd feeling for sure after the game, as it's been since the great 1988 team since they've looked this good in October. Throw in the fact that it's on the road against a loaded team, and it's just crazy to think that the Dodgers have won the first 2 games by a combined score of 17-5.

Seriously, is this the Dodgers I'm watching? Wow!

The whole offense was terrific again, as each position starter contributed to scoring 10 runs in some way. In the bullpen, Cory Wade continued his remarkable season, throwing 1.1 hitless innings. I remember when he came up, he had a reputation of throwing strikes. Who would have thought he'd have this much of an impact? Probably not even himself.

About the only negative of this game was the 9th when Takashi Saito came in. Quite frankly, he looked awful. 3 hitters faced, and the results were 2 doubles and a single. Jonathan Broxton came in and perhaps cemented himself as the only closer this postseason. He walked Felix Pie, but got Geovany Sota to line-out to 2nd, and struck out Kosuke Fukudome and Darryl Ward to end the game. As the announcers accurately said, it was a sloppy inning. But being up that much, it made no difference.

So now the scene is set in LA for perhaps a major upset. Hiroki Kuroda takes the mound against Rich Harden. Kuroda absolutely deserves to get the start, as he's shown the ability to shut teams down. However, there's also the starts in which he gets bombed, so we shall see which side of him shows up.

For Harden, it's the same old story today as it's been his whole career. When he's on, he's frighteningly good. When he's banged up, his velocity is down, and he becomes quite ordinary. In his last 2 starts, he's given up only 3 earned runs in 11 innings, but has also walked 11. The Dodgers have shown the patience this series to draw the walk, so that should be their game plan again.

As is the case with any postseason, momentum can quickly come and go. Right now, the Dodgers look like they are clearly the better team. It's funny how that works out sometimes. A big win by the Cubs tomorrow, and then the Dodgers are panicking about closing out at home. Obviously, the Cubs are the ones playing like they feel all of the pressure, so the Dodgers need to take the approach again that they have nothing to lose.

One more solid game, and it could be a glorious Saturday night in LA.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Loney's grand slam carries Dodgers past Cubs

Wow, what a way to start the postseason!

For the first time in... well, forever... the Dodgers were clicking on all cylinders by hitting 3 home runs as they cruised past the Chicago Cubs in Game 1, 7-2. Down 2-0 in the 5th, the Dodgers ran off 7 straight runs to put the game away with ease.

The game started off with Ryan Dempster and Derek Lowe displaying why they were the Game 1 starters. Dempster got Rafael Furcal swinging, and after a walk to Russell Martin, got Manny Ramirez to ground into a DP. Lowe came right back a strikeout of Alfonso Soriano, and retired Kosuke Fukudome and Aramis Ramirez on grounders.

Things started to have a familiar feeling in the 2nd, as Mark DeRosa hit a 2-run homer that just got out in right. Lowe was pitching very well, but elevated one just a bit too much around the outside of the plate. For us Dodger fans, you couldn't help but start thinking "here we go again" when that was hit. Little did we know, that would be it for the Cubs on this night.

The Dodgers had their chances in the 3rd when the bases were loaded with 2 down, but Andre Ethier struck out swinging on a 3-2 count on a pitch low and away. While the Dodgers in the past would have wilted away, this team kept battling and turned the game around in the 5th. Dempster did them a huge favor by walking Furcal, Manny, and Ethier with 2 down.

James Loney then stepped up and became an instant LA star with a HUGE grand slam to dead center to give the Dodgers the lead for good. Up 4-2, the Dodgers never looked back.

More runs were tacked on eventually, starting in the 7th when Manny golfed one out to left. That was his 25th postseason homer, which extends his own record. In the 8th, Casey Blake singled up the middle to score Blake DeWitt, who tripled off of Jeff Samardzija to lead off. Finally, Martin hit a solo shot in the 9th to round out the scoring.

The Dodgers didn't miss a beat tonight, and it was their most dominant postseason outing since Orel Hershiser won Game 5 of the 1988 World Series. That's kind of hard to believe it's been that long, but it has. Jose Lima's gem in the 2004 NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals was fantastic, but the way the Dodgers hit tonight, this was better.

Lots of heroes to go around, but let's start with Lowe. He finished at 6 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K. His lone blemish was the homer from DeRosa, and other than that, he was dealing all night. Cory Wade pitched a scoreless 7th, followed by Jonathan Broxton shutting down the 8th. Greg Maddux of all people finished out the game in the 9th, only allowing 1 hit. That was a weird sight seeing him come in, but it worked.

Loney's granny, the 3rd in Dodgers postseason history, could be a hit we're talking about for a long time. Up until then, it looked like the Dodgers of old that would threaten, but never follow through with that big hit. Not tonight! Manny and DeWitt each had 2 hits, Martin reached twice, and Raffy drew 2 walks.

With 1 game in their favor, it's time to get greedy. Regardless of what happens tomorrow, it's still great to at least get 1 in Chicago. But with Chad Billingsley taking the mound, they can definitely get another one before heading home. Can you imagine if they go up 2-0? Man, I can't even comprehend that right now! But it's absolutely within reach.

I wouldn't expect any lineup changes tomorrow. Raffy didn't get a hit, but got on base and is still a threat, so he'll be in there again. Carlos Zambrano recently threw a no-hitter, then has looked like crap. Is he out of gas? Let's hope so!

I can't wait for Thursday night's game. Bring on the Cubs!!!

McDonald replaces Troncoso

Here's a surprise that I'm sure young James McDonald never thought he'd hear: he will replace Ramon Troncoso as the final man on the 25-man roster for the NLDS. Joe Torre had originally said it would be Troncoso over Scott Proctor, but obviously changed his mind after a night thinking about it.

I guess the thinking is that McDonald has a fresh, young arm that hitters aren't familiar with yet. I can go for that. I'm not sure what the chances of him pitching a meaningful inning is, but we shall see.

He's only appeared in 4 games, but they've all been good. Twice he's pitched 2 innings, and twice 1, and hasn't given up a run in any of them. 5 hits and 1 walk in 6 innings is great. True, it's not exactly a big piece of the season that we're judging him on, but I think he's earned his way to the postseason. Good for him.