Sunday, December 27, 2009

Read this book!

I’d like to take this time to introduce a book that I’ve been able to read a few excepts from - Evaluating Baseball's Managers, 1876-2008 by Chris Jaffe. Chris and I have traded a few emails back and forth, and I was fortunate enough to read about some of the most influential managers in Dodgers’ history.

First, a plug. It’s good stuff. And I’m not just saying that because he asked me to. In fact, he didn’t. He just wanted me to read it and provide a quick review. It’s a very detailed view about what makes managers successful (or unsuccessful for that matter). If you like baseball history, order this book.

While the book contains information about many managers dating back to the Brooklyn days, I’ll focus on Tommy Lasorda and Joe Torre and give his thoughts, followed by my own about his. Got it?

Tommy Lasorda. Still the most recognizable manager in the history of the Dodgers, and in baseball history for that matter. Lasorda won 1,599 career games, and was at the helm of one of the more unlikely World Series champions of all-time in 1988. Plus he bleeds Dodger blue. I’m jealous.

Jaffe focus mainly on Lasorda’s treatment of starting pitchers. In his words, “He used them as much as he could and his bullpen as little as he could.” This could be to a fault, however. Five pitchers – Rick Sutcliff, Fernando Valenzuela, Alejandro Pena, Orel Hershiser, and Ramon Martinez – started off like gangbusters, but were soon run into the ground. Too many innings too soon was the culprit. And those stats are undeniable.

The flip-side, as pointed out by Jaffe, was that Lasorda had a bunch of quality starters, so he may as well take advantage of them while he could. He let the starters be the ones to determine wins and losses, not the bullpen. In fact, only once did he have a closer get over 30 saves (Todd Worrell with 32 in 1995, Lasorda’s final full season).

Many wins came via the long ball as well. Combined with good starting pitching in the spacious Dodger Stadium, that translated to much success.

I’m glad Jaffe gave credit to the 1988 team and how Lasorda won with a team that talent-wise was certainly nothing special. In Jaffe’s words, “It takes a great manager to win with second-rate talent; which is a sign in Lasorda’s favor.”

Jaffe had a hard time determining if Lasorda was a good manager, or someone who promoted himself to be one, but really wasn’t. Of course I’m biased here and love Tommy, but it’s not like I grew up watching him manage much (I’m 29, in case you’re wondering). I can only go by what I read.

Based on what I read here, I think still think Lasorda was a fantastic motivator, but definitely did not trust his bullpen as much as he should have. Then again, he has two rings and I don’t, so there.

Joe Torre. Joe’s success is obviously due in large part to his years with the Yankees and claiming four championships. Jaffe recounts his days as skipper of the Mets, Braves, and Cardinals as more successful than his record might indicate. With each of those teams, other circumstances prevented more wins, such as Tom Seaver demanding a trade from the Mets in Torre’s first year and the ownership of the Braves and Cardinals overrating their own players.

With the Yankees, however, everything fell into place the second he took over in 1996. He installed confidence in his players, and as Jaffe put it, “A manager’s confidence can rub off on players, and the quieter the confidence, the more effective it can be.” After losing the first two games of the ’96 World Series to the Braves, patience and confidence helped the Yankees sweep the next four.

Most impressive is his postseason winning percentage in New York, .617. That beats his regular season winning percentage of .605. That’s amazing.

Unfortunately, the lumps he took at the end of his Yankee tenure helped cast a cloud over his true ability as a skipper. Jaffe mentions that his quiet confidence seemed to vanish, such as the time he dropped Alex Rodriguez to eighth in the lineup facing elimination against the Tigers in 2006. Jaffe said this was “aimless thrashing,” but I can’t blame Torre for trying to make something happen. A-Rod was just useless in that series, so he pretty much played his way down the order.

Perhaps the rough ending of Torre’s years in New York was because of exhaustion from the job, as Jaffe claims. And that’s probably the best way to put it. A great comparison is made between managing the Yankees and coaching Notre Dame football: win now, don’t stop winning, then win some more. It’s just a tremendous amount of pressure.

He’s gotten back on track in Los Angeles, taking the Dodgers to consecutive NLCS appearances with a young core of players like Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Russell Martin. For now anyway, Torre seems rejuvenated and back on top of his game.

There’s plenty more to read about, as I’ve only scratched the surface. It’s hard to argue with Jaffe’s opinions. He backs them up with rock-solid statistics, so he’s done his homework (my guess is he did A LOT of homework for this one). Even if you don’t agree, it’s worth a read.

Check it out by ordering here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dodgers add Carroll to the bench

The Dodgers finally signed a free agent for the first time this offseason. It's certainly not an earth-shattering move, but it does help add some depth.

Infielder Jamey Carroll has signed for two years and $3.85 million. His primary role will be to backup third and second base. He may even get a starting role at second if Blake DeWitt does not impress.

Carroll is entering his ninth season in the majors, as he's played with the Expos, Nationals, Rockies, and Indians. In 93 games last season, he hit .276 with 10 doubles and 26 RBIs.

His calling card is definitely his defense and versatility. In 56 games at second base (52 starts) last season, he had a .996 fielding %. He's a career .984 fielder, playing mostly second and third, with shortstop and outfield sprinkled in.

This is exactly the type of guy the Dodgers covet. Last season they had Mark Loretta, Juan Castro, and Ronnie Belliard to play multiple positions. Well, Castro's already in Philadelphia, and Loretta and Belliard don't appear to be on their way back. So Carroll can count on getting his fair share of playing time.

This is a solid signing only because he adds experience and depth to the infield, and because he chose the Dodgers over other teams. I'm doubting this is the impact signing most Dodger fans want, but guys like him help build the nucleus of a winning team. I like it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Juan Gone - Pierre off to the White Sox

Juan Pierre has finally gotten his wish: a starting outfield role on a new team.

The Dodgers made their first big move of the winter by sending Pierre to the White Sox for two players to be named later. The players will be named on or before January 7.

Pierre has two years and $18.5 million remaining on his existing contract. The Sox will pick up $3 million this upcoming season and $5 million the next one. The Dodgers assume the remaining $10.5 million.

Still, freeing up $8 million for a fourth outfielder is not a bad deal for a team that is trying to save some bucks. Whether Ned Colletti will admit that or not, that's exactly what's happening here. Yes, Pierre has been on the trading block ever since Manny Ramirez came aboard, but with the McCourts going through a divorce, now was the time to make a move.

The names in the deal haven't been completely confirmed, but they're rumored to be minor league starter John Ely and reliever Jon Link.

Ely looks to be the stud of the two. At Double-A Birmingham last season, he went a whopping 14-2 with a 2.82 ERA in 156.1 innings. Link was at Triple-A Charlotte last season, and he put together a 3.99 ERA in 56.1 innings while striking out 66.

So while the arms that are supposedly on their way look to be pretty good, I'll actually miss Pierre. Look, we all had our turn poking fun at him when he first came. Just look at my old posts from a couple seasons ago, and I have plenty of "Juan for Five" references. But that tune changed last season.

None of us should forget the great effort he put forth starting all 50 games of Manny's suspension. He finished the season with a .308 average and 30 stolen bases. This from a guy that only started 76 games.

I won't miss his rubber arm on defense, though. His lollipop throws to the infield were hard to watch. But when he got on base, he wreaked havoc with his speed like few others can.

With Pierre out of the fold, the Dodgers will need someone else to play the fourth outfield spot and spell Manny. Jason Repko and Xavier Paul are two names that come to mind right away. Maybe more moves will come.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

More second base talk

I've run down a few different second basemen the Dodgers thought about trading for in a previous post (Dan Uggla, Alberto Callaspo, and Brandon Phillips). Today comes talk of a few free agents that are on the radar. Here we go:

Ronnie Belliard - Belliard was quietly brought in last season and made a big impact. In 24 games, he hit a whopping .351 with 5 homers and 17 RBIs. He also hit .300 in the playoffs, picking up a hit in all seven games.

He also supplanted Orlando Hudson in the playoffs because of his hot bat. Granted, Hudson didn't help his own cause, hitting .237 in September. Still, to completely take over for a guy that won a Gold Glove this season speaks volumes to how well Belliard played.

He's not the slick defender that O-Dog is (not many people are), but he's capable of hitting around .290. I would very much like it for him to be brought back.

Juan Uribe - Uribe is coming off a very solid season by hitting .289 with 16 home runs and 55 RBIs for the Giants. The average was a big bounce back after three seasons of hitting in the .230's and .240's.

He's hit 20 homers in the past, so the power is there if that's what you covet from an infielder. Defensively, he's a stud at second base. Last season in 38 games there, he had a .993 fielding %. The season before with the White Sox, he had a .996 fielding % in 52 games.

While he hasn't played full time at second in his career (shortstop is his natural position), he's shown that he can get it done if given the chance.

Craig Counsell - Like Uribe, Counsell had a rebound season at the plate with the Brewers. He won't give you any power, but hit .285 with 22 doubles. He's a career .258 hitter, so maybe he found the fountain of youth for one season anyway.

He appeared in 44 games at second base, and guess what? He was flawless, recording a 1.000 fielding %. He played short and third as well, giving the Brewers a lift wherever needed. It's easy to see why teams are interested despite turning 40 next season.

If he is brought in, it will be to split time with Blake DeWitt. I look at him more as a utility guy, so I think the Dodgers can do better.

Jamey Carroll - Carroll has been a model of consistency the last two seasons for the Indians in that he'll give you decent hitting, no power, and a good glove at second. He hit .276 last season compared to .277 two seasons ago. In both years, he registered a .355 OBP.

He's another guy who's played many positions, but when he's played second, he's been good. In 56 games, he had a .996 fielding %. He also appeared at third, right, and left. I've seen his name pop up a few times simply because of his versatility.

I look at him like Counsell. He's wouldn't be a bad addition by any means, but not much of an impact player at the plate.


In my opinion, the Dodgers should try to retain Belliard or go after Uribe. Of course, this is all assuming they can't swing a trade for someone. Both players can get it done at the plate, which they showed last season. Uribe's the better fielder, but Belliard isn't that bad. Most importantly, I think they can be full-time guys.

DeWitt is still a wild card in all of this. If he shows he can handle the job himself, Ned Colletti will look to get someone to share some of the time. DeWitt's played well before, but he needs to really make an impression if he wants an everyday gig.

Tigers interested in trading for Pierre

Believe it or not, there is interest out there for Juan Pierre and his remaining contract of two years and $18.5 million. The Tigers appear to be leading the charge.

After trading away Curtis Granderson to the Yankees for pitching help, an outfield spot is now wide open. Hence, Pierre can get what he wanted: a starting gig in the outfield.

Here's what needs to happen. The Tigers have plenty of overpaid, broken down starting pitchers themselves (Dontrelle Willis, Jeremy Bonderman, and Nate Robertson). The Dodgers don't want anything to do with that, especially after the Jason Schmidt debacle they just suffered through the last three years.

To make this deal happen, the Tigers would again need to swing a three-way deal. It's unclear if another team is in on this or if the Tigers have even pursued it yet.

Look, Pierre deserves to start. We can point to his huge contract all we want, but he showed last season during Manny Ramirez's 50-game suspension how valuable he can be. He deserves better than occasionally starting and being a late-inning replacement.

The problem is that his role will continue to be that with the Dodgers. Manny's back, and Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier each had career years and are only getting better. Pierre is again the odd man out.

After the season I may not have been crazy about trading Pierre away. I liked the weapon he became off the bench. But with Randy Wolf gone, and most likely Jone Garland and Vicente Padilla, the Dodgers need starters. If they can get one, I'd swing the deal.

Colletti trying, but can't trade for a starting pitcher

Not only has Ned Colletti tried to trade for Roy Halladay, but three other starters as well. So far, no luck.

While Colletti has never actually come out and said he wants Halladay, he did refer to the "big guy in Toronto" as being coveted. Nice. The only other known pitcher was former Dodger Edwin Jackson. He's now off the table as he's heading to Arizona as part of the Curtis Granderson three-way deal.

Another option Colletti has explored is trading Juan Pierre and the rest of his bloated contract (two years and $18.5 million) for a starter at the back end of the rotation. Like everything else, he's come up empty thus far.

The Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, and Hiroki Kuroda as starters etched in stone. Other options include James McDonald, Charlie Haeger, Scott Elbert, Ramon Troncoso, and Josh Lindblom. Who knows how they'll pan out, so it's obvious to see why Colletti wants more established arms.

I will give Colletti this - he's pulled deals out of nowhere before, such as getting Manny Ramirez two seasons ago and Jon Garland and Jim Thome on the same day last season. So anything can happen when we least expect it.

Wolf looks headed to Milwaukee

***UPDATE***

According to Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports, it's official. Wolf will sign with the Brewers for 3 years and just under $30 million.

***

When the Dodgers chose not to offer arbitration to their top pitcher of last year in Randy Wolf, it was obviously not a good sign. Even with Wolf saying he'd still consider resigning, it looked doubtful.

Now, the Brewers are jumping in and making an offer Wolf would might find hard to refuse.

Wanting a multi-year deal, the Brew Crew have obliged by offering a three-year, $27 million deal. The Mets appear to be in second place, so they may jump back in at this soon. Other teams have been rumored as well, but the Brewers are the first one to make an offer like this.

I would hate to see Wolf go, but the writing has been on the wall for a week now. Maybe the Dodgers are still concerned about his injury history. Maybe they think they'd have to overpay to keep him. Or maybe they're trying to slash dollars off their payroll and aren't coming out and saying that.

My guess is Wolf takes this deal for a couple of reasons. One, you'd think he learned his lesson from a year ago when the Astros initially made an offer of 3 years and $28.5 million only to pull it because of the difficult economy. The Dodgers then nabbed him for one year and $9 million.

The second reason is that the Brewers are pretty good, so they'd be a contending team. A 1-2 punch of Wolf and Yovanni Gallardo is not too shabby.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wolf not offered arbitration, but will he be back anyway?


In a surprising move on Tuesday, the Dodgers passed on offering Randy Wolf arbitration. Even with ownership in flux (Google this: divorce and McCourts), it was assumed they'd at least want to resign their top pitcher from last year.

Instead, the Dodgers are stuck with the excuse of "we don't want to overpay for him." Wolf's a Type A free agent, meaning he's in the top 20 percent of starting pitchers. He received $8 million last year, so it's most likely he would've gotten a raise in arbitration.

Had the Dodgers offered arbitration and Wolf ended up signing with another team, they would have received a draft pick from the first or second round.

From what I've read, Dodger fans are not happy. It's understandable considering Wolf was clearly their best, most consistent pitcher for all of last year, and he was signed just to give support in the middle of the rotation. By the end of the season, he was starting Game 1 of the NLDS.

On the year, he went 11-7 with a 3.23 ERA. He also struck out 160 while throwing a career-high 214.1 innings. It was an especially impressive year for a guy who basically throws two pitches: a fastball and a looping curveball.

While Wolf will easily be one of the top dogs on the free agent market, he's given us Dodger fans some hope by saying that even in these days of uncertain ownership, he's open to re-signing with his old mates. Just the fact that's gone public with that comment is a positive sign.

Still, I would be pretty shocked if that actually happened. With Wolf proving that he's healthy and at the top of his game, he'll most likely take a bigger payday elsewhere. Right or wrong, the Dodgers remain reluctant spending big bucks on a pitcher.

With Wolf probably gone, the Dodgers now have a starting rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda, Chad Billingsley, and a bunch of question marks. Needless to say, they have work to do.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Mailbox

With the offseason here, the mailbag has returned to Dodgers.com. In this installment, there's talk about the chances of retaining free agents, why the Dodgers don't trade away young players for big names, who's the next Clayton Kershaw down on the farm, the different types of free agents, and compensation for another team signing a free agent.

Read and enjoy.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Trading for Halladay looks unlikely

The Dodgers would love to trade for a stud pitcher like Roy Halladay. Giving up Chad Billingsley to make it happen, however, has put a stop to any potential deal.

A source close to this situation was quoted as saying this deal appears to be "a long-shot."

GM Ned Colletti had this quote about acquiring starting pitching:
"We would like to improve our pitching, especially starting pitching. I don't believe we can subtract from it in order to improve it."
While Billingsley certainly had his struggles in the second half of '09, his excellent first half, good enough to earn him an All-Star berth, is a big reason why the Dodgers don't want to throw in the towel with him.

As with the case of any trade rumor, you never know what will happen in the end. I don't think anybody saw the Dodgers getting Manny Ramirez at the trade deadline in 2008, but it happened at the last minute. If you're a fan of this deal, then keep the faith, because anything is possible.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Dodgers courting Roy Halladay

If the Dodgers want to make a splash this offseason, they certainly know the name to go after.

According to Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports, the Dodgers and Blue Jays have reopened talks about trading Roy Halladay. If you recall, Halladay was the hot name at last year's trade deadline, but then-Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi never pulled the trigger.

Here's why the Dodgers have been constantly pursuing this deal: Halladay is a bona fide ace, a perennial Cy Young candidate, and can match up and beat any other team's ace in a playoff series.

Simply put, if he's not the best pitcher in the game today, he's right up there.

As for the Blue Jays, they would seem foolish not to move Halladay since he's a free agent after the 2010 season. They could have had a bunch of stud prospects last year, but Ricciardi got cold feet. The new GM, Alex Anthopoulos, is now restarting talks.

In order to get someone of his Halladay's caliber, the Dodgers would easily need to say goodbye to at least Chad Billingsley or Clayton Kershaw. Based on how last year unfolded, I'm sure they'd rather it be Billingsley. Also, a younger name like Russell Martin or James Loney. Or who knows, maybe both.

Needless to say, it will cost a lot. But it could be the shot in the arm the Dodgers need to get over the NLCS hump.

Like any rumor, it could go either way. Maybe the Dodgers are pursuing this heavily, maybe they've barely made mention of it. But the fact that any talk is happening is a good sign.

Stay tuned as the offseason unfolds, because this could turn into a huge story.

Could Russell Martin be traded?

If you are to believe ESPN's Buster Olney, it's certainly a possibility.

After a couple seasons in a row where his stats have gone South, the Dodgers may look to move their young catcher rather than overpay him. He's arbitration-eligible this year, so he'll earn more than the $3.9 million he got last season.

The reason is simple: the Dodgers will look to trim payroll just like nearly every other team. As Olney points out, with nine other players looking at arbitration and the McCourts going through a divorce, the time could be right to pull off a trade.

Keep in mind that this might not even be on the Dodgers' radar, but it's still an intriguing thing to think about. Martin won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in 2007 with a .293 average, 19 homers, 87 RBIs, and 21 stolen bases. He looked like the best young catcher in baseball by far.

It's not like he's fallen off a cliff, but he hasn't matched those numbers since then. Across the board, his major numbers fell in 2008, and even more in 2009 with a .250 average, 7 homers, 53 RBIs, and 11 stolen bases.

He'll only be 27 next season, so if the Dodgers do dangle him, plenty of teams would be interested. However, I can't help but think of Martin's situation as being very similar to Paul Lo Duca. Lo Duca was once the catcher of the future after a great start, then sputtered. Is Martin heading down that same path?

For Martin's sake, a rebound in 2010 will be important.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dodgers will keep an eye on Smoltz

FOXSports.com is reporting that the Dodgers are one of a handful of teams interested in John Smoltz. While Smoltz was a starter last season with the Red Sox and Cardinals, he could sign somewhere as a closer, too.

As Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi report, the Dodgers would like to add a veteran starter to brace themselves for the possible departures of Randy Wolf, Vicente Padilla, and Jon Garland.

Smoltz had quite the interesting season in 2009. He signed with the Red Sox and didn't make his first start until June 25 because of shoulder surgery. Needless to say, it was an absolute disaster, as he went a putrid 2-5 with an 8.32 ERA.

He quickly was released and made the smart call in going back to the National League, this time with the Cardinals. Though he was only 1-3, he had a much better 4.26 ERA.

With Dodger Stadium still having the reputation as being a pitcher's park, it could be a good fit. I know Joe Torre would love it, if for no other reason than to take young hurlers Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw under his wing for at least a year.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Second base rumors

With both Orlando Hudson and Ronnie Belliard free agents, the Dodgers are working hard on their quest to find a solid second baseman for 2010. Here's what's been discussed:

Alberto Callaspo - In his first full year of action, Callaspo quietly had a nice season for the Royals, finishing with a .300 average, 11 homers, and 73 RBIs. He's been discussed in a possible deal for A.J. Ellis, the Dodgers' minor league catcher.

I liked what I saw from Callaspo this year, mainly because he was on my fantasy team at the end of the season. He doesn't have eye-popping stats, but can swing a good bat. He committed 17 errors, but it would be hard for anyone to be an upgrade over Hudson.

While I would make that trade, this deal has already been shot down as it hasn't even been discussed.


Dan Uggla - Courtesy of ESPN's Buster Olney, Uggla is one of two second basemen he's heard the Dodgers discussing. Uggla's a low average - high power guy. He's hit 31-32 homers for three consecutive seasons, but his highest average in that span was .260 in 2008.

As Olney points out, the Dodgers would probably prefer defense at this position, and that's not Uggla's strength. Even with the power, it could be a long-shot.


Brandon Phillips - The other player Olney has heard is Phillips. As the Reds look to dump payroll, Phillips and his $18.75 million, 2-year contract could be expendable. He's a much better defender than Uggla, and hit 20 homers and 98 RBIs last year.

It's unknown if the Reds are willing to even trade him, though, or if the Dodgers could come up with the right deal.

Kemp and Ethier are Silver Sluggers

After having breakout 2009 seasons, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier have already added to the honors they've gathered this offseason.

Kemp and Ethier both won Silver Slugger Awards, given to the top players at their positions. The outfielders became the first pair of Dodgers to claim the honor since Mike Piazza and Eric Karros in 1995.

Russell Martin claimed the award in 2007, making him the last Dodger to do so until this season.

Previously in the offseason, Kemp won his first Gold Glove Award. Ethier was named the Clutch Performer of the Year by fan voting for all of the dramatic hits he came up with to win games.

It's been quite the past couple of days for the Dodgers, as they've combined to win four awards in both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. It really puts an exclamation point for a big season in Los Angeles.

Kemp finished the year hitting .297 with 26 home runs and 101 RBIs. He also hit three grand slams and homered in four straight games. His 10 RBIs in extra innings were the most since Juan Gonzalez had 11 in 1992. He hit everywhere from second to eighth, and never skipped a beat.

Ethier hit .262 with 31 homers and 106 RBIs. We all know of his flair for the dramatic for his six walk-off hits, four of which were home runs. He also set a Dodgers' record for most homers hit by a left-handed hitter at home with 22.

The scary part is that with Kemp only 25 and Ethier 28 next season, the best is probably yet to come. They are the nucleus for the Dodgers in their continuing battle for a World Series spot.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hudson and Kemp win Gold Glove Awards

Matt Kemp and Orlando Hudson have accomplished what no other tandem in Dodger history have done: winning Gold Glove Awards.

The National League winners were announced today, and Kemp and Hudson each won the prestigious award. For Hudson, it's his fourth, and for Kemp, it's his first. Both led the way for a Dodger team that won 95 games and went to the NLCS.

Both Cesar Izturis and Steve Finley won the award in 2004, but Finley was acquired at the trade deadline. Hudson and Kemp are the first pair in team history to win it while being with the club all season.

Hudson finished with a .988 fielding percentage, while committing only eight errors. He made the All-Star team for a terrific first half, though he was eventually replaced by a hot Ronnie Belliard as the playoffs approached. Still, Hudson's slick glove was a pleasure to watch all season long.

Kemp improved by leaps and bounds this year, as he turned untapped potential into the real thing. He was third in the majors with 14 outfield assists and made only two errors. His speed gave him range all over the outfield. He was basically a highlight waiting to happen at any moment.

Each of their gloves was a big factor in giving the Dodgers 95 wins, an NLCS berth, and a .986 fielding percentage, good for fourth in the league.

Dodgers show interest in Jackson and DeRosa

Just a couple of rumors to talk about today.

The first is an old Dodger friend, Edwin Jackson. If you recall, he was groomed to be the next pitching star a few years back. In his first major league start on September 10, 2003, he defeated Randy Johnson and the Diamondbacks, 4-1. He gave up only a run in six innings, and the win was also on his 20th birthday. It sure looked like the future was bright.

Unfortunately, that was all she wrote as far as having good memories in LA. His ERAs the next two years? 7.30 and 6.68. Yikes. He was then shipped to Tampa, where he was mediocre for three seasons. However, he made the All-Star Game last season with the Tigers, and he looked like a new man.

Now, the Dodgers are interested in Jackson all over again. He'll only be 26 next season, and was 13-9 with a 3.62 ERA in 2009. The only red flag would be that his ERA started at 2.25 in April and crept up a bit each month. Still, he showed plenty of signs of being the dominant pitcher people envisioned him being.

There haven't been any offers on the table, but one possibility is George Sherrill. At the trade deadline, the Tigers were one of the teams in on him. It could make sense on both sides with the Tigers needing bullpen help and the Dodgers trying to build their rotation again.

The second is Mark DeRosa, who started last year with the Indians and ended up with the Cardinals. He's a super-versatile player, as he can realistically play any position on the field. His hitting has dipped the last few years, but he's still pretty good.

The Dodgers are one of eight teams who have interest in DeRosa, so it's important to note that that's as far as it's gone thus far.

Plenty of more rumors will come soon, I'm sure.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Torre may extend contract another year

It wasn't too long ago during the postseason that Joe Torre said he doesn't expect to stay past the 2010 season. But two straight NLCS berths and some unfinished business looks to have changed his mind.

Torre and Ned Colletti are in discussions to add another year to his contract through the 2011 season. With Colletti receiving an extension himself recently, it appears as if both sides want to keep a good thing going.

Also worth noting is that all of Torre's coaching staff, including Don Mattingly, are close to finalizing deals to stay. Mattingly interviewed for the Indians' opening during the playoffs (if eventually went to Manny Acta), and declined an interview with the Nationals. He'll stay on as the hitting instructor while waiting his call to manage one day.

It's a logical move on all sides. Torre has brought pride and stability back to LA after many years of a playoff drought. While he hasn't returned to the World Series, the Dodgers certainly have the pieces to make it happen.

As for Mattingly, it's definitely a good thing that he's coming back. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves by calling him the next manager. Take a look at the Lakers, for example. It sure looked like Kurt Rambis would take over for Phil Jackson, but Rambis didn't want to wait it out, so he's in Minnesota now. And who could blame him?

The point is that while it would be great for Mattingly to eventually take over, sometimes time and temptation prove to be too much.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Manny makes it official: he's back

Manny Ramirez has exercised his 2010 option, and he'll be back in Dodger blue next season. He'll be paid $20 million for the last year of his contract.

I talked a whole bunch about this in my previous post, and my prediction that he'd be back was true. It really wasn't a hard choice to make. The Dodgers were the only place he'd make that kind of money.

As Ned Colletti stated, the hope is that Manny won't press as much as he did after his suspension last season. Pitchers would bust him inside with hard stuff, and Manny never could quite adjust. With an offseason of knowing exactly who he's playing for, he can get geared up and ready to go for 2010.

Now the Dodgers can focus on adding other ways to improve. Most importantly, they need starting pitching. Second base is also an area of need.

Will he stay or will he go?


That will be the question for Manny Ramirez until the November 10 deadline. And the longer he waits to decide, the more unpredictable this situation becomes.

Here's the decision Manny has to make. He can either opt to say with the Dodgers, exercising a $20 million option for 2010, the final year or his two-year deal. Or, he can simple opt-out and become a free agent.

The ball is totally in his court because it's a player option. Ned Colletti can only sit back and wait for the final word, because he has no say in the matter.

On the surface, it appears to be an easy decision. Manny can make a cool $20 million, which would seemingly be hard to find on the open market. Plus, factor in his age of 37 and his 50-game suspension for drug use during the season, and it looks like no team would be willing to top his current deal.

But here the catch: Scott Boras is his agent. And needless to say, kids, Boras doesn't mess around.

For those of you that need proof, look no further than the 2006 case of J.D. Drew. He was guaranteed $33 million for three years if he exercised his option, which seemed like a slam dunk. However, Boras convinced him to opt-out, thus becoming a free agent.

Just when most people thought he was crazy, Drew ended up signing with the Red Sox for five years and $70 million. Boras looked like a genius in the end.

Then again, Drew was much younger and with much less baggage at the time. But Manny can hit, and that may be all that matters.

The Dodgers have to be a bit torn on this situation. Manny took into spring training to sign, but still started the season hot. Then the suspension hit, and he was never the same. While the Dodgers achieved plenty of success, he failed to catch fire in the postseason like they wanted him to.

Admittedly, he has shaky knees, and would probably prefer to DH somewhere. Plus there's still the whole "Manny being Manny" issue, which never goes away.

The positives are that he's still a big bat in the middle of the order that the Dodgers need. He's still a box office attraction. And he's still capable of going off and having a monster season.

My guess is that he stays in Los Angeles for a couple of reasons. One is that he won't get a better deal elsewhere. The other is that I haven't heard a hint of another team being in hot pursuit.

Anything is possible with Manny and Boras. In a few days, we'll all see how this plays out.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Garland's option declined

Jon Garland did a solid job in his brief stint with the Dodgers. However, forced to choose between paying him $10 million to come back in 2010 or have the Diamondbacks buy him out at $2.5 million, they chose the latter.

Garland won't be back in '10, and will now be a free agent. The fact that his old club has to pay every penny made the decision a pretty easy one.

In six starts with the Dodgers, Garland went 3-2 with a 2.75 ERA. He was a long reliever for the Division Series against the Cardinals, but didn't get any action. He was left of the Championship Series roster altogether.

Had the price tag not been so high at $10 million, I could see the Dodgers bringing him back. He'll always be a solid 4-5 starter mostly because he'll give you at least 200 innings a year. Pitchers like him are always valued. But, it looks like they'll concentrate on bringing back Vicente Padilla instead.

Randy Wolf remains a free agent along with Padilla. That leaves Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, and Hiroki Kuroda as the only established starters, and we all saw how Billingsley fell apart at the end of last season. There's also names like James McDonald, Eric Stults, and Charlie Haeger that have made starts in the past.

Needless to say, the Dodgers have plenty of work to do to shore up their rotation.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Don't mess with Padilla's shooting instructor

He just might shoot you.

While in his native Nicaragua, Padilla was accidentally shot in the right thigh by his instructor
. Apparently, Padilla's gun was jammed when he handed it over to be checked out. Well, it worked just fine. So well that the moron instructor shot himself in the hand, which then grazed Padilla's leg.

No, this was not a cartoon, it's real life.

I can joke about this only because the injury was considered minor and surgery wasn't even required. And thank God, because the Dodgers reportedly have interest in resigning him.

After being signed to a minor league deal in August, Padilla was awesome the last two months, going 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA. He then had two great starts in the postseason against the Cardinals and Phillies, though he was battered in the last game of the season in Philly.

Based on that success, there is a strong likelihood of him being resigned and back in the starting rotation next season.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ethier is CLUTCH


A season's worth of walk-off highlights has paid off in the end for Andre Ethier.

The fans have voted Ethier as the recipient of the 2009 Major League Baseball Clutch Performer of the Year. The award honors the person who performed the best with the game on the line.

There was never any doubt.

He led the majors in walk-off hits with six, including four home runs. The four home runs tied a record set by Jimmy Foxx of the Red Sox in 1940 and Roy Sievers of the Washington Senators in 1957.

To say the least, it's obviously a huge accomplishment to tie a record that hasn't been touched for over 50 years. Equally as impressive is the list of names he beat for this award: Albert Pujols, Mariano Rivera, Prince Fielder, Joe Mauer, and Tim Lincecum. Wow.

The month of June was big for Ethier, as he got three of his six walk-offs. He beat the Phillies in consecutive days on June 5 and 6 with a double and homer, respectively. On June 29, a two-run homer beat the Rockies.

In the postseason, he continued to swing a big bat. He ended with a .355 average, three doubles, a triple, three homers, and six RBIs. He did most of his damage in the Division Series against the Cardinals, going 6-for-12.

On the season, he set career highs pretty much across the board: 162 hits, 92 runs, 31 homers, 106 RBIs, 72 walks, and 160 games played.

It's good to see the people who voted for this award give Ethier the credit he deserves. Going up against such powerful names, it's probable that he is the least popular of them all. But, he also had the type of season that will soon change all of that. To the people who voted, I salute you for a job well done.

Combined with Matt Kemp, both players will continue to be the nucleus of the Dodgers' offensive attack for years to come, so Dodger fans should feel very comfortable about that. With both players still under 30-years-old, the best is yet to come.

Congrats, Andre, for quite the memorable season!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Don't expect O-Dog back

It appears as if Orlando Hudson will be one-and-done with the Dodgers.

After being benched during the playoffs in favor of Ronnie Belliard, the chances of Hudson resigning with the Dodgers are slim at best. He will once again test his worth on the free agent market.

There's a couple of reasons for this. The first is obvious - he was benched. To his credit, he didn't make a fuss about this at all, but nonetheless, it was a blow to him. Who knows how well he would have done if he was the starter, but Belliard ended up getting at least a hit in all eight games for a .300 AVG.

The second reason is that Hudson will be one of the top second baseman on the open market, much like last year. His top competition are names like Freddy Sanchez, Felipe Lopez, and, ironically, Belliard. So, it looks like he'll have plenty of options.

Hudson had quite the roller coaster year. His average through May was .332, and he earned an All-Star nod. He ended the year with at .283, including an awful .222 in June and .237 in September. His role of hitting in the second spot went away, along with playing time to Belliard.

The Dodgers seem like they have three choices here. The first two are to resign either Hudson or Belliard to be the starter. The other is to possibly call upon Blake DeWitt again. But, I would think they'd want to resign Hudson or Belliard.

It's never easy to tell where free agents will go, and keep in mind that Hudson went unsigned for a very long time last offseason. There's always a possibility of coming back, but after going from All-Star to benchwarmer in October, it looks like that ship has sailed.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Looking at the NLCS checklist

The Dodgers are now fully into their offseason after suffering another NLCS setback against the Phillies. The chances were there to make this season different from last, but the Phillies were the ones to once again make all the big plays when it mattered.

Like I did for the Division Series against the Cardinals, let's take a look at the checklist for the NLCS and how the Dodgers fared in each category.

1) Win the first two games at home.
No check.

As we all know, the Phillies took Game 1, 8-6. The Dodgers did come back and win Game 2, but a 1-1 split gave the Phillies a chance to sweep three at home. And, of course, they did.

This is the reason I felt the Dodgers needed to win their home games. All the Phillies needed was a slight opening of the door, and they kicked it down. They won both of their home games last year, and eventually cruised to a series win. The Dodgers could not duplicate that.

2) Keep the Phillies in the yard.
No check.

That would be a big, fat no. The Phillies rocked 10 homers in five games, which is their calling card. They hit at least one every game. Six different players recorded one.

And it wasn't just Ryan Howard who did the damage (who had two), it was guys like Shane Victorino and Carlos Ruiz who joined in on the fun. They just couldn't be stopped.

3) Keep Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino off base.
No check.

Victorino did the most damage, hitting .368 with a .478 OBP. Hitting in the second spot of the order in front of all the sluggers, he saw plenty of pitches to hit, and didn't miss a beat. He led the team with seven hits and 16 total bases.

Rollins only hit .227 with a .292 OBP. But, his biggest hit was the walk-off two-run double to win Game 4 off of Jonathan Broxton. For that reason alone, he was a big factor.

4) Get the lead after five innings.
No check.

That only happened once, in Game 4, a game the Dodgers lost anyway. Give the Phillies credit - they made the Dodgers' starters look totally weak.

5) Get to the Phillies' bullpen.
Check or no check, it didn't matter.

The reason is because the Phillies' bullpen in the NLCS was much better than the regular season. It all starts with Brad Lidge, who has been a new man this postseason. Well, maybe an old man, as in the guy who was perfect last season. He pitched 2 and 2/3 scoreless innings, picking up a save.

Chad Durbin, Scott Eyre, and J.A. Happ were all flawless as well, combining for four scoreless innings. The Dodgers were able to get to the bullpen, but it ended up making no difference.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New year, same result: Phillies win the NLCS

If the Dodgers were a better team this year than last, the Phillies are even better than last year's championship squad.

After suffering a heartbreaker in Game 4, the Dodgers looked to be mentally beaten in Game 5. The final tally was a 10-4 win for the Phillies, as they took the NLCS, 4-1.

Vicente Padilla was given the ball by Joe Torre, as he was 1-0 in his two postseason starts with a 0.63 ERA. Well, that didn't exactly work out as planned, as an early three-run homer by Jayson Werth led to only three innings for Padilla.

Cole Hamels was the Phillies' starter, and he got through Rafael Furcal and Ronnie Belliard with ease to open the game. On a 1-2 count, Andre Ethier lifted a home run to right to give the Dodgers an early glimmer of hope, 1-0.

Considering how well Padilla was throwing this October, the Dodgers had to at least temporarily feel good about taking the series back to Los Angeles. But, that tune would quickly change, and it would never go back.

Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino were both retired to open the bottom of the first. Then, as has been the case too much this series, walks killed the Dodgers. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard drew a couple to set up Werth. Like they've done all season, the Phillies came through in a big spot, as Werth's three-run shot made it 3-1.

James Loney kept the Dodgers close with a solo homer to right to lead off the second, and it was now 3-2. But, a Pedro Feliz homer gave the run right back at 4-2.

Werth again caused some damage with a single to start the fourth. Raul Ibanez quickly doubled him home, and it was 5-2. That was it for Padilla, as Ramon Troncoso was called upon to limit the damage. A walk to Carlos Ruiz (who seemed like Babe Freakin' Ruth in this series) and Jimmy Rollins getting beaned loaded the bases with two down.

Out went Troncoso, and in came George Sherrill, as Torre was desperate to keep the game close. Well, Victorino was drilled, scoring Ibanez to make it 6-2. At least Utley struck out to end the inning.

Orlando Hudson made what was likely his last appearance with the Dodgers by pinch-hitting and blasting a solo homer to left in the fifth, and the Phillies were now up 6-3. A double by Furcal and a walk to Belliard gave the Dodgers a good chance to get the game close.

With J.A. Happ in, Ethier hit an easy fly ball to center for two down. In stepped Manny Ramirez, who was already getting crushed by everyone for showering before the end of Game 4. The Manny of last year would have delivered with a big hit.

The Manny of this year? Not so much. A check swing groundout to Chad Durbin ending the inning, along with any chance the Dodgers had of winning.

The rest of the game belonged to the Phillies, save for an RBI single from Matt Kemp in the eighth. Victorino hit a two-run homer, and Werth added his second one of the game, in addition to Rollins scoring on a wild pitch. The Phillies got a lead and pounded on the Dodgers, while the boys in blue could do nothing about it.

So what exactly went wrong this series? The starting pitching is a good place to begin. Padilla was brilliant in Game 2, Randy Wolf pretty good in Game 4, and that was it. Clayton Kershaw in Game 1, Hiroki Kuroda in Game 3, and Padilla in Game 5 were terrible, and the Phillies took advantage of it all the way.

Things weren't a whole lot better on the offensive side. Loney and Belliard were the only ones to hit over .300. Furcal hit .143 and Casey Blake a pathetic .105. In Blake's case, he looked like he was in slow motion at the plate the whole time, most likely because he never really recovered from some injuries at the end of the regular season.

Then there's the Manny factor. It would be unfair to expect him to go on the tear he did last year, because that's not realistic. But in these last five games, he hit .263 and his only extra-base hit was a two-run homer in Game 1. The Dodgers really needed him to step up. Like his groundout in the fifth, he was a step behind each time.

Now the Dodgers must absorb the lessons learned from another NLCS exit and once again look to get over the hump next season. The ending was a letdown, but let's not forget all of the incredible moments this season. From the walkoffs to the sweep of the Cardinals in the NLDS, there were plenty of reasons to cheer this season.

Not even these last few games can change any of that.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Colletti's contract extended

Ned Colletti received a long-term contract extension the other day, putting an end to talks of what will happen once the season is over. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The higher-ups with the Dodgers did the smart thing here, as Colletti should be commended for his stellar work as general manager. They've reached the postseason in three of his four years, including back-to-back NL West division titles.

Sure, it didn't start off so well. His deals with Jason Schmidt and Andruw Jones are legendary for how bad they were. Schmidt battled a million injuries, winning only three games in three years, and Jones was so atrociously bad, it may have been the worst free agent signing in history.

But, there's also been plenty of good deals. Trading for Manny Ramirez last year injected the entire organization with a jolt of excitement. He also signed Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, and Randy Wolf recently, and they've been great this season. Convincing Joe Torre to switch coasts was a huge move as well.

During this season, he seemed to push all the right buttons. He either signed or traded for George Sherrill, Jim Thome, Vicente Padilla, Ronnie Belliard, and Jon Garland. They've all contributed in various ways.

At the end of the day, what is perhaps the smartest move he made? That would be doing nothing at all with his young stars. Matt Kemp, Russell Martin, Andre Ethier, James Loney, Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, and Jonathan Broxton are all huge pieces of the pie. Who knows how many times he's been tempted to trade them for veterans, but he's done the right thing in standing pat.

The bottom line is the the Dodgers have made big strides in recent years, and Colletti has been right in the middle of all of that. He deserves the extension he just signed.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Game 4 stunner as Rollins walks-off on Broxton

The Dodgers had it all going their way on Monday night. They battled back from a 2-0 hole after the first, got Randy Wolf to pitch effectively into the sixth, had the bullpen keep the lead safe, and turned the game over to Jonathan Broxton for the save.

All it took was one swing by Jimmy Rollins to flush all of those good vibes down the drain.

With only one out to go, Rollins smoked a fastball into the gap in right-center field that scored two runs, and the Phillies won Game 4, 5-4. The Phillies now have a commanding 3-1 lead in the NLCS.

How did the Dodgers go from guaranteeing a return to Los Angeles to wobbling off the field? A couple of reasons stand out. The first is Broxton's inability to shut down the bottom of the Phillies' lineup. Part of that was due to a four-pitch walk of pinch-hitter Matt Stairs. That's the same guy who torched Broxton last year with a two-run homer in Game 4, breaking a 5-5 tie.

After the walk, Carlos Ruiz, who somehow has becoming a huge thorn in the Dodgers' side to his credit, was beaned on the first pitch. Greg Dobbs softly lined out to Casey Blake at third before Rollins' heroics.

The other reason the Dodgers couldn't taste victory can be traced back to the first inning and home plate umpire Ted Barrett. Rollins singled on the first pitch he saw against Wolf to lead off. Shane Victorino and Chase Utley both popped up for two down.

Then came big Ryan Howard, who we all know as the guy that has an RBI in every postseason game this year. He's really good, and Barrett made sure it stayed that way.

To say that Wolf was squeezed would be an understatement. A couple of clear strikes were missed, running the count to 3-1, before Howard hit a two-run shot. The rest of the night wasn't a whole lot better, as the strike zone was so inconsistent, one has to wonder how in the world this guy got such an important assignment in such a big game.

I'm not one to point the finger at umpires and put all of the blame on them for losses. But with that said, Barrett had one of the worst nights behind the plate in a big game that I can remember. And that's the reality of the situation.

With the Phillies up 2-0 after the first, the Dodgers had an uphill climb, as the Phillies scored 13 straight runs dating back to Game 3. The fourth inning is when they finally woke up.

Matt Kemp was on base from a walk with two down. Manny Ramirez singled to put two runners on. James Loney came through with an RBI single to make it 2-1, and Russell Martin did the same a couple batters later to tie the game.

Kemp had been struggling the first three games, but continued his good night in the fifth. With two outs, he hit a solo homer to dead center for the 3-2 lead, and business was picking up.

Both teams exchanged runs in the seventh. Blake hit an RBI single to shallow right to score Manny to go up 4-2. Following a Shane Victorino triple, Utley singled him home to make it 4-3. It could have been worse, but Manny caught a sinking liner by Raul Ibanez to end the inning, which was actually a really good play.

The Dodgers had a chance to tack on another run in the ninth against Brad Lidge. Rafael Furcal singled, stole second, and took third on a wild pitch. Andre Ethier was then called out on a pitch clearly outside, which further added to Barrett's terrible night.

Ronald Belisario, Hong-Chih Kuo, and George Sherrill all got big outs in 2 and 1/3 innings of no runs. But Broxton, who had 36 saves in the regular season and two in this year's playoffs, simply could not close the door.

The Dodgers now have the unenviable task of facing Cole Hamels, Pedro Martinez, and Cliff Lee in the next three games. Of course, they need to get wins in the first two to get there. It's a tough road, but the Dodgers have no choice.

Vicente Padilla will be given the ball in Game 5 on Wednesday night, which is the right call. He's been phenomenal in his two starts, so Joe Torre has to go with his hottest pitcher. The Dodgers did get some runs off of Hamels, so it's a winnable game.

It's never an easy game in Philly, but we'll see what the Dodgers are made of now. At least Barrett won't be behind the plate.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Phillies dismantle Dodgers in taking NLCS lead

Hiroki Kuroda was supposed to come back from his neck injury to provide a lift.

Well, he provided a lift alright... to the wrong team.

The Phillies looked more than happy to step in against Kuroda and pound the living daylights out of him. After taking a 6-0 lead in two innings, the Phillies added more against the bullpen in taking an easy one, 11-0. They now have a 2-1 lead in the NLCS, with Game 4 Monday.

After Cliff Lee shut down the top of the Dodgers' order to begin the game, it was batting practice time for his team. With one out, Shane Victorino singled and stole second. Chase Utley followed with a single for runners on the corners.

Next up was Ryan Howard, and he worked a full count. He then lined a triple into the right field corner to score two runs. Jayson Werth followed that up with a towering two-run homer to center, and it was quickly 4-0.

Looking for any sort of sign that he could get outs, Kuroda tried to go back out in the second but again got shelled. Carlos Ruiz doubled to lead off, and went to third on Lee's sacrifice. An RBI double by Jimmy Rollins was all Joe Torre could take.

Scott Elbert got his first taste of postseason ball, and he was pretty much miserable himself. Consecutive walks to Victorino and Rollins, including a wild pitch, set up an RBI groundout from Howard to make it 6-0. Chad Billingsley came on to end the inning by striking out Werth.

With a six-run lead, Lee was well on his way to a win. With the way he was throwing, he could have had a 1-0 lead and still got the win. He was everything the Phillies hoped for an more by trading for him during the season, as he put up eight innings of three hits and 10 strikeouts. For good measure, he threw in a single at the plate as well.

Billingsley had a chance to show that down the line, he could get a start. Everything started off well, as he retired 9 of the first 10 hitters he faced.

But, as has been the problem with him for much of the year, he hit a wall. With two outs in the fifth and facing the bottom of the order, he walked Raul Ibanez. A seemingly meaningless walk turned into an RBI triple by Pedro Feliz and an RBI single from Ruiz. Just like that, Billingsley reminded everyone why it's hard to trust him pitching consistently.

Not that it mattered, because for the second straight game, the bats were in hibernation. The last two games have seen them gather seven hits for one run (and to think they actually won the last game). I know Pedro Martinez and Lee were pitching really well, but they have to find a way to do better than that.

A couple of guys that need to get their bats going are Rafael Furcal and Matt Kemp. Combined, they're 1-for-14 with one walk the last two games. Ouch. Needless to say, that's not going to cut it. They both his high in the order, so they have to be more productive.

About the only positive from this game was that Manny Ramirez went 2-for-3, with his hits coming up the middle and to right. That means he wasn't trying to pull everything out of the park on every pitch. It's a good sign.

As for the rest of the team, they've bounced back all season long from getting beat, and that's what needs to happen now. Last year's team may not have been able to come back from this, but I believe this year's version can. Like I said before, they just need more production from a couple of their big bats.

Randy Wolf gets the ball tonight, and he hasn't pitched since Game 1 of the Division Series against the Cardinals on October 7. That start didn't go so well, and that can't happen tonight. He's a veteran who used to pitch for the Phillies, so the scene shouldn't faze him.

A loss tonight would mean the Dodgers would be down 3-1, and would have to run the table against Cole Hamels, Pedro, and Lee again. So yes, getting a win tonight is a must.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Dodgers rally against the 'pen to win Game 2

Pedro Martinez mowed down the Dodgers through seven innings in a flashback to his Cy Young days.

Luckily for the Dodgers, he's older now, and got yanked.

Down 1-0 entering the eighth, the Dodgers rallied for two against five Phillies' pitchers to squeak one out, 2-1. The series is now tied at one with the next three games scheduled for Philadelphia starting Sunday night.

The Phillies had a chance to take full control of this series, as Pedro was just untouchable. He picked up right where he left off the last time he pitched in the postseason, which was Game 3 of the 2004 World Series against the Cardinals. For those of you that have forgotten, that was the year the Red Sox finally broke their curse.

Vicente Padilla, on the other hand, was just as electric. He more than justified getting a Game 2 start. He lasted 7 and 2/3 innings, giving up four hits, one run, one walk, and six strikeouts. Combined with his seven innings of shutout ball against the Cardinals in the NLDS, he's been absolutely outstanding this postseason.

The one blemish for Padilla came in the fourth. After Chase Utley grounded out to first, Ryan Howard came up. Howard took an outside breaking ball and hammered it out to right-center, putting the Phillies up 1-0.

I would love to talk about the Dodgers' offense against Pedro, but there's just not much to say. They only managed two measly hits, which were a bloop single to center by Russell Martin and a single by Matt Kemp off of Pedro's glove. And that, my friends, is it.

After James Loney flew out to deep center to end the seventh, and with Pedro's pitch count at 87, Charlie Manuel turned the slim lead over to his bullpen. As they've done all season long, it turned into an adventure.

It all started when Casey Blake, who had been 0-for-7 and looked awful at this point, singled off of Pedro Feliz's glove at third to greet Chan Ho Park. With Juan Pierre pinch-running, Ronnie Belliard managed to push a bunt past both Park and Howard for two on.

Here's where the Phillies' defense let them down. Martin grounded one to Feliz, who fired to Utley for the forceout. For some reason, Utley then rushed his throw to first, and once again it was nowhere near Howard. Pierre came around to tie the game at one.

Scott Eyre came in, and Jim Thome singled. Ryan Madson then came in, and he walked Rafael Furcal to load the bases. All Kemp needed was at least a sac-fly, but he struck out for two down.

Now J.A. Happ was in to face Andre Ethier, who found himself quickly down 0-2. Ethier battled back for a full count, and walked on a low pitch to score Martin, making it 2-1. Manny Ramirez had a quiet day, and he popped up to end the inning.

Jonathan Broxton faced the top of the order, but he had no problems. Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino grounded out, and Chase Utley flew out on a liner to Ethier to end it.

Needless to say, this was a huge win for the Dodgers. Had they lost, it would have been close to impossible to beat the Phillies four out of the next five. Now, it becomes a best-of-five series, with the Phillies grabbing home field.

The Dodgers closed out the Cardinals with ease to end the first round, so they should have plenty of confidence in getting home field back. Then again, the Phillies should feel good as well, as they were only a couple of good innings away from being up 2-0.

Hiroki Kuroda makes his return to the rotation on Sunday. He'll need to be on top of his game, as Cliff Lee gets the ball for the Phillies. The Dodgers managed to score on Cole Hamels, so it's not out of the question to get some runs off of Lee. Still, the Dodgers will need to put together a complete effort to get the win.

Phillies go deep in taking Game 1

For much of the beginning of Thursday night's Game 1 of the NLCS, it looked as if James Loney's solo homer would be the only score of the game.

And then the fifth inning came, and Clayton Kershaw and Cole Hamels got rocked.

Unfortunately for the Dodgers, the Phillies out-slugged them, as a pair of three-run homers proved to be the difference in winning 8-6. The Phillies are now up 1-0 in the best-of-seven series.

The Kershaw-Hamels matchup was living up to it's billing through the first four innings. A solo homer to start the second by Loney gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead, and with the way Kershaw was throwing (one hit and two walks through four), it looked like the Dodgers may squeak it out.

But in the fifth, the wheels fell off of Kershaw's bus. It was pretty much your basic disaster, as Kershaw showed why it's hard to completly rely on a 21-year-old making such a big start. Raul Ibanez singled to start, took second on a wild pitch, and Pedro Feliz walked.

Having trouble locating the strike zone, Kershaw basically grooved one over the plate to Carlos Ruiz, who made him pay by cranking a three-run homer, making it 3-1. Still in the fifth, Kershaw stayed on to face Ryan Howard with two down, and Howard made him pay with a two-run double, and it was 5-1.

The Phillies now had all the momentum, as Hamels was mowing down the Dodgers with ease. As has been the case all year long, the Dodgers never quit, and put together a big inning themselves.

It started with a ground rule double by Russell Martin leading off. Rafael Furcal singled Martin over to third with one down. Andre Ethier hit a slow grounder that Jimmy Rollins threw into his dugout after getting the forceout at second, scoring a run and advancing Ethier to second.

Now it was Manny Ramirez's turn to show that he still can carry a team. In one swing, he answered all of that, hitting a two-run homer off of a changeup to make it 5-4, and Dodger Stadium was rocking.

The Dodgers would continue to get close, but could never quite get over the hump and grab the lead. In the sixth, two singles by Loney and Ronnie Belliard and a walk to pinch-hitter Jim Thome loaded the bases with two outs. Furcal had a chance to break through, but grounded out to end the inning.

Ronald Belisario and Hong-Chih Kuo were great in relief, and still only down by a run in the eighth, George Sherrill was given the ball to face the heart of the Phillies' order. For the first time as a Dodger, he fell flat on his face. A three-run shot by Ibanez gave them an 8-4 lead.

Needing another comeback, the Dodgers still fought back. With Ryan Madson in, Loney and Belliard again singled, and Martin hit an RBI single to make it 8-5. Raffy hit a deep sac-fly to right to make it 8-6.

Ethier singled to put Juan Pierre on third, and Manny again had a chance to make something happen. It didn't happen this time, as he grounded weakly to third.

Brad Lidge came on for the save and got a big double play from Casey Blake, who was 0-for-5, to put the game to bed.

At the end of the night, the Dodgers can both feel good for fighting back, and kick themselves for leaving 10 on base. The difference in this one was that with men on, the Phillies came through. The Dodgers left six of those men on with two outs in scoring position. At this point of the season, that won't get it done.

Kershaw will have better nights, but his final line was pretty ugly: 4 and 2/3 innings, four hits, five runs, five walks, and three strikeouts. If you saw the game, he was cruising along just fine, but the fifth just killed him.

The plan is simple today - get a win at all costs. I just can't see the Dodgers having much of a chance if they lose both home games, especially with the following three in Philadelphia.

Vicente Padilla will get the start against an old Dodger, Pedro Martinez. Two veterans who have found a second life this season going at it, so it'll be fun to watch.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dodgers announce NLCS roster

The Dodgers have made their roster for the NLCS official, which you can read by clicking here.

There are no offensive changes, as Doug Mientkiewicz once again will be playing the role of cheerleader, while Jim Thome will be the primary pinch-hitter. The reserves of Orlando Hudson, Juan Pierre, Juan Castro, Mark Loretta, and Brad Ausmus all return.

On the pitching side, Jeff Weaver and Jon Garland will be sitting, while Scott Elbert and Hiroki Kuroda made the cut. Kuroda has already been announced as starting Game 3, and with Chad Billingsley able to be a long reliever, Garland had no roll.

Elbert's name is a surprise, but considering the Phillies have big lefties in Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez, and Matt Stairs off the bench, it shouldn't be. I can see Elbert getting called upon to get a big out early in the game, as Hong-Chih Kuo and George Sherrill will handle the late innings.

Weaver has the flu this week, so that could be a factor in him missing the roster. Even if he was healthy, I think Elbert would have made it over him regardless.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dodgers announce NLCS rotation

I'm watching Sportscenter right now, and the Dodgers have just released their starters for the first four games of the NLCS against the Phillies:

Game 1: Clayton Kerhsaw
Game 2: Vicente Padilla
Game 3: Hiroki Kuroda
Game 4: Randy Wolf

I thought Wolf would go in Game 2, but Joe Torre will go with another hot hand in Padilla. Both Kershaw and Padilla have the hard stuff that is so valuable to win in October.

I'm also surprised Wolf isn't going in Game 3, but maybe Torre wants to give the ball in Game 4 to someone he can rely on to either extend the series or end it altogether. Wolf is that guy.

We'll see how Kuroda is, but he's been hurt before this season a couple of times and bounced back just fine, so I'm sure he's capable of doing the same now.

Kershaw gets Game 1 nod, Kuroda possibly Game 4

Clayton Kershaw has been named the Game 1 starter for the NLCS against the Phillies. He gets the call over Randy Wolf, who will most likely go Game 2.

Joe Torre has decided to ride the hot hand, and the 21-year-old Kershaw is quickly becoming one of the major's hottest young stars. He battled Adam Wainwright in Game 2 of the Division Series and ended up with a no-decision in 6 and 2/3 innings, surrendering two runs. Most importantly, he kept the Dodgers within striking distance, which they took advantage of by winning in the ninth.

It's the right call to make, as it's hard to ignore somehow who has thrown 185 strikeouts in 171 innings in the regular season. We all saw how the hard-throwing Vicente Padilla shut down the Cardinals last round, so the thought is that Kershaw can also be overpowering.

Looking ahead, Hiroki Kuroda looks like he could be healthy enough to start Game 4 in Philadelphia. Kuroda's been battling a herniated disk in his neck, knocking him out of the Division Series. If he's back, that's a big lift for the Dodgers, as he proved last season that he can be very effective in the postseason.

How the Dodgers can beat the Phillies

The NLCS presents a fun matchup between the National League's two best teams. The Dodgers are red-hot after sweeping the Cardinals, to the shock of many. The Phillies won two tough games in Coors Field over the Rockies to advance.

Last year, the Phillies disposed of the Dodgers, 4-1. The Dodgers had a chance to even the series at 2-2, but Matt Stairs' pinch-hit, two-run homer off of Jonathan Broxton in the eighth inning broke a 5-5 tie, pretty much ending the series right there. I'm not sure that ball has landed yet.

For the Dodgers, the plan is simple: get revenge for last year and get back to their first World Series since the infamous 1988 season. The Phillies want to repeat as champs.

Here are five keys to the Dodgers playing into November:

1) Win the first two games at home.
The reason is simple: unless Cliff Lee comes back on short rest, he won't pitch until Game 3. Therefore, it'll be Cole Hamels, and someone like J.A. Happ or Pedro Martinez.

The Phillies won the first couple of home games last year, and it obviously gave them plenty of momentum. Hamels has historically owned the Dodgers, winning both games in last year's LCS and a complete game shutout on June 4 in Dodger Stadium. Getting a win over him in Game 1 would be huge.

If Lee truly doesn't go until the series goes back east, then Randy Wolf will have an advantage over the other Phillies' options. With the format 2-3-2, winning both at home would guarantee home games in Games 6 and 7 at the very least.

2) Keep the Phillies in the yard.
The Phillies are tied for second in the majors for home runs at 224 (Yankees are first at 244). Somehow, they actually have more homers on the road than at home, 116-108. Either way, they can mash. With Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, and Raul Ibanez in the lineup, it's no secret why.

That's not to say that the Phillies hit home runs and nothing else, because they have the talent to win in other ways. But, shutting down the long ball will allow the Dodgers to use their great defense to keep games under control.

3) Keep Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino off base.
After hitting a pathetic .207 through June, Rollins ended up at .250. While that's still bad for a leadoff hitter, it shows he at least got better as the season wore on. Victorino made the All-Star team with a .292 average.

Both men combined to steal 56 bases. If they are kept off base, it limits the chances of the Phillies changing games with one swing. Solo homers are much easier to manage than three-run shots. The first two hitters of the game will set the course for how the series could go.

4) Get the lead after five innings.
As the Cardinals found out, the Dodgers can realistically turn games into five-inning affairs. Arms like Ronald Belisario, Hong-Chih Kuo, George Sherrill, and Jonathan Broxton can all get outs at any point.

If the starters can find a way to get a lead going into the middle-to-late innings, then the Dodgers have to feel very good about getting wins.

5) Get to the Phillies' bullpen.
It's no secret what kind of an adventure the closing situation has been for the Phillies. Brad Lidge went from 41-41 in save situations last season to 11 blown saves and a 7.21 ERA this year. Ryan Madson hasn't been much better, blowing six saves in 16 chances. Needless to say, it's been ugly.

Lidge did get a couple of saves against the Rockies, so that should help his confidence. But, it's hard to imagine anyone on the Dodgers being scared of facing the bullpen. If games are close late, the advantage greatly swings towards the men in blue.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

NLCS schedule

The times have been set, so here's the official schedule for the NLCS:

Game 1: Thursday, October 15 @ Los Angeles, 8:07 ET
Game 2: Friday, October 16 @ Los Angeles, 4:07 ET
Game 3: Sunday, October 18 @ Philadelphia, 8:07 ET
Game 4: Monday, October 19 @ Philadelphia, 8:07 ET
*Game 5: Wednesday, October 21 @ Philadelphia, 8:07 ET
*Game 6: Friday, October 23 @ Los Angeles, 8:07 ET
*Game 7: Saturday, October 24 @ Los Angeles, 8:07 ET

* If necessary

All games will be shown on TBS.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dodgers vs. Phillies in the NLCS

The Phillies just finished off the Rockies with a close 5-4 victory. It'll now be a rematch of last year's NLCS in which the Phillies beat the Dodgers 4-1. This time around, the Dodgers have home-field advantage, which was big last season.

First game is Thursday at 7:30 ET, 4:30 PT. Starting pitchers will be announced soon, though my guess is Randy Wolf vs. Cole Hamels, mostly because Cliff Lee pitched tonight.

Looking at the NLDS checklist

As the Dodgers await the winner of the Phillies-Rockies series (currently at 2-1 Phillies), let's take a look back at my checklist for beating the Cardinals, and how well the Dodgers did in each area.

1) Get at least a split at home.
Check.

In fact, it was better than a check, because they won both. Granted, they were handed a gift error in Game 2 because of Matt Holliday's error, but they still needed big at-bats from Casey Blake, Ronnie Belliard, and Mark Loretta to get the win.

The Dodgers took all of the momentum in this series by taking both games, and the Cardinals never recovered.

2) Get to the bullpen.
Check.

In Games 1 and 3, they chased Chris Carpenter and Joel Pineiro early. In Game 2, Adam Wainwright was dominant, but Ryan Franklin could not get the final out after Holliday's big error.

3) Let their own bullpen go to work.
Check.

Look at these stats:
Game 1 - 5 and 1/3 innings, one run
Game 2 - 2 and 1/3 innings, no runs
Game 3 - 2 innings, one run

That's a total of 9 and 2/3 innings and two runs. So much credit goes to names like Ronald Belisario, Hong-Chih Kuo, George Sherrill, and Jonathan Broxton. All four are flamethrowers who are capable of getting big outs at any time.

4) Either Pujols or Holliday have to be contained.
Check.

Pujols was held to a .300 average and only one RBI. The Dodgers made sure he did not beat them. Holliday's error has already become legendary, and at the plate, he hit a measly .167 with a solo homer.

So in the end, both men were more than contained. A major bonus.

5) Manny needs to be the shinning star.
Check, because of Game 3.

Through the first two games, Manny was 2-for-8 with a double. But Game 3 is the type of game he was re-signed for. He went 3-for-5 with two doubles and two RBIs. His first inning RBI double set the tone for the rest of the night. At the same time, he silenced many critics that he couldn't catch up to the fastball anymore.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Another year, another NLDS sweep!!!


Ladies and gentlemen, the Dodgers are going nowhere anytime soon.

For the second straight season, the Dodgers came into the Division Series as the underdogs, and they once again turned doubters into believers by getting a sweep. This year it was three straight over the Cardinals after beating them on Saturday night, 5-1.

The Dodgers jumped on Joel Pineiro in the first, as they established that they would be the aggressors. Matt Kemp legged out an infield single to short with one out. After Andre Ethier flied out, Manny Ramirez lined a first-pitch fastball for an RBI double to go up 1-0.

With the way Vicente Padilla pitched, who knew at the time that getting one run of support would be enough. It didn't start off easily, as Ryan Ludwick and Albert Pujols hit singles with one down. Matt Holliday grounded out, but Colby Rasmus walked to load the bases. It was looking like the Cardinals might break through.

But in what was most likely the turning point of this game, Yadier Molina weakly grounded out to short, and the threat was over. The air was already getting sucked out of Busch Stadium, and the Dodgers made sure it stayed that way.

In the third, Raffy singled with one out, which added to his .500 average these last three games. With two outs, Ethier crushed one to deep right for a two-run homer, making it 3-0. Ethier also hit .500 to go along with two home runs.

The next inning brought another run, and again with two outs. Ronnie Belliard singled to lead off. Following two groundouts, Furcal hit an RBI single down the left field line to get the lead up to 4-0. Little by little, the Dodgers increased their lead and kept the Cards in check.

With Padilla still dealing, Ethier tripled with... you guessed it, two outs in the seventh. He scored on Manny's RBI single, and it was 5-0. Manny ended up 3-for-5 with 3 RBIs, silencing critics saying he wouldn't hit this postseason. So much for that!

Padilla was pulled to start the eighth, as Joe Torre went with the George Sherrill-Jonathan Broxton combination to close it out. Sherrill walked Julio Lugo with one out, then got Ryan Ludwick to fly out.

Torre went with Broxton to get Pujols with two down, but Pujols lined an RBI single into right, cutting the lead to 5-1. Holliday had one last chance to atone for a lousy series, but he instead flew out lazily to Ethier in right, ending the inning.

Broxton stayed on to finish it off in the ninth. Molina got an infield single with one out, but Rick Ankiel pinch-hit and struck out to end the game and the season for the Cards.

There were many heroes for the Dodgers this game, but who would have thought Padilla would lead the charge? Quite simply put, he was brilliant. He went seven innings for four hits, no runs, one walk, and four strikeouts. His fastball and control was top-notch all night. Wow, was he nasty when it counted the most.

This was a hard game for the Dodgers to win, as the Cardinals rightfully should have been sitting at a 1-1 tie with a chance to win two at home. Once again, the Dodgers found ways to get a win against a good team, and the Cardinals are one of the best.

Looking ahead, the Dodgers will now take on the winner of the Phillies-Rockies series. That's currently tied at one each, with Game 3 snowed out on Saturday. It'll be pushed back to Sunday night, with Game 4 Monday, and Game 5 on Tuesday if needed.

The Dodgers will now wait until Thursday, October 15 for Game 1 of the National League Championship series. Keep in mind, they'll have home-field advantage this round as well. It's a 2-3-2 format.

For now, sit back, relax, and enjoy scouting the competition the next few days. Then get ready for the Dodgers to resume their quest for a ring on Thursday!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dodgers get a Holliday gift to win Game 2


Matt Holliday squeaked the door open in the ninth, and the Dodgers kicked it down.

Facing a bases empty, two-out situation in the last inning, the Dodgers took advantage of a dropped liner by Holliday to walk-off with the win in Game 2, 3-2. The Dodgers lead the best-of-five series 2-0, with Game 3 Saturday in St. Louis.

It was quite the improbable win for the Dodgers, as they were baffled for the first eight innings by the wicked stuff of Adam Wainwright. Unlike Chris Carpenter the night before, Wainwright was on the money all night long, giving up only a solo homer to Andre Ethier in eight strong innings.

Still, it was the Dodgers who once again sent the home fans home happy with another dramatic, comeback win. Somehow, someway, time and again they find a way to get the win. It's been unbelievable to watch all year long.

Clayton Kershaw started for the Dodgers, and he got through the Cardinals' order with ease to start the game. But, to start the second, Holliday sent a hanging breaking ball just over the left field wall to go up 1-0.

The Dodgers didn't get their first hit until the fourth, but it was a good one. With two outs, Ethier cranked one out to center for his first postseason homer to tie it 1-1. He hit a miserable .188 last postseason, so like Matt Kemp last night, it was great to see him break through in October.

Each team would go down easily in the fifth, provide a little spark in the sixth, but couldn't come through. To start the seventh, Mark DeRosa singled to center. Colby Rasmus then hit a long double off the center field wall to score DeRosa, going up 2-1.

The problem for the Cardinals on that play was that as DeRosa scored, James Loney made a leaping catch to cut off the throw, then fire to Casey Blake at third to tag Rasmus out advancing by a mile. Tony LaRusa was visibly upset at Rasmus for such a baserunning blunder, and it came back to bite them in the end.

Ethier, Manny Ramirez, and Loney went down in order in the eighth, and hope was looking lost. The best thing that could have happened for the Dodgers was that Troy Glaus pinch-hit for Wainwright and flew out to center to end the eighth.

With Wainwright out of there, Trevor Miller came on to get Ethier popping up to start the ninth. Closer Ryan Franklin then got Manny to fly out, and the air was sucked out of Dodger Stadium.

It was up to Loney to keep the game going, and he hit a liner out to Holliday in right. Holliday looked like he was unsure how to make the easy play, and it eventually hit his... um, midsection, putting Loney on second. Juan Pierre then came in to pinch-run.

Blake had a long at-bat in which he worked a walk, further showcasing how valuable he is to the team. With a chance to justify his starting position over Orlando Hudson at second, Ronnie Belliard hit an RBI single up the middle, knotting the game at two.

The Dodgers weren't done yet, as Russell Martin walked on four pitches to load the bases with two down. Joe Torre sent up old reliable to pinch-hit, Mark Loretta. In the biggest moment of his 15-year career, Loretta hit a soft walk-off single to center, giving the Dodgers the game.

The reality of this game is that the series should be tied at one. If Holliday makes the routine play, then the Cardinals grabbed some momentum back. Now, they have to find a way to hold the fort down at home before going for the win next week in L.A.

Who knows how this series will end up, but the Dodgers are obviously in cruise control, needing only one of the next three. Now we all can see just how important home-field advantage is in the postseason. All of those wins early in the season paid off tonight.

For the Dodgers, it's time to smell blood and put the game away this weekend. Getting a win in St. Louis would show how they are for real. The Cardinals are still a very good team, as they were 46-35 at home. But the Dodgers were 45-36 on the road, one of the best in the NL.

Vicente Padilla has gotten the call to start Game 3, and he'll go against Joel Pineiro. Padilla is 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA in seven starts (eight appearances) with the Dodgers, while Pineiro has struggled since August. The Dodgers have to like the pitching matchup and their chances to wrap it up on Saturday.

Kemp's blast leads Dodgers to Game 1 win

Before Randy Wolf could even blink, he found himself in a worst-case scenario: bases loaded, nobody out, and Game 1 of the Division Series against the Cardinals looking to be a disaster.

Fortunately for him, he only surrendered one run. And fortunately for the Dodgers, Matt Kemp put the Dodgers ahead to stay in no time.

Kemp cranked a pitch right down the heart of the plate for a two-run homer in the bottom of the first off of Chris Carpenter, and the Dodgers found ways to hang on all game as took the win, 5-3.

It certainly wasn't looking good in the first, as Skip Schumaker walked and Brendan Ryan hit a ground rule double to left. Joe Torre didn't even hesitate to put four fingers up and walk Albert Pujols to get to Matt Holliday. It worked, as Holliday struck out looking.

The Cardinals did manage one run, though it probably shouldn't have happened. Ryan Ludwick blooped one into center that Ronnie Belliard tried to make a backwards catch on. He missed, though Kemp should have called him off and made the play himself. Belliard made up for it by starting a sweet double play off of Yadier Molina to end it.

The Dodgers were fortunate to only be down one, and Rafael Furcal added to the momentum with a single leading off. That's when Kemp crushed one out to center for the 2-1 lead. After driving in only one run in eight games last postseason, it was great to see him get off to such a great start this time around.

What followed the first inning was basically a collection of a lot of hits, shaky pitching, yet even shakier hitting with runners in scoring position. Believe it or not, both teams combined to leave an amazing 30 men on base, far surpassing the previous record of 22 for the Division Series back in 1995. It was just one of those nights.

In the third, the Dodgers increased their lead a bit. Andre Ethier was hit in the foot to lead off, and Manny Ramirez drew a walk. Casey Blake hit an RBI single, making it 3-1. A walk to Russell Martin loaded the bases with two outs, but Wolf popped up.

Wolf gave one back in the fourth, as that would ultimately be his last inning. A walk to the eighth hitter Colby Rasmus set up an RBI double from Schumaker, and it was 3-2. An intentional walk to Pujols again gave Holliday a chance, only this time Wolf beaned him.

That was it for Wolf, as Torre called on Jeff Weaver to get the final out. It sure was a close one, as Ludwick just barely missed a surefire three-run hit down the left field line, landing foul. Ludwick then bounced back to the mound to end it. Talk about baseball being a game of inches.

The Dodgers tacked on a couple more in the fifth and sixth. Belliard singled, Martin walked, and Juan Pierre sacrificed them both over. In a tough at-bat against Carpenter, Raffy eventually hit a sac-fly RBI to right to make it 4-2.

The sixth was another wild inning, which saw the Dodgers again threatened to break the game open. Martin got the only RBI, as he was beaned with the bases juiced to make it 5-2. Jim Thome had a chance for a big hit, but struck out.

After Ronald Belisario got the first 1-2-3 inning of the night for either side in the sixth, the Dodgers turned to Hong-Chih Kuo, George Sherrill, and Jonathan Broxton to close it out. And that's exactly what happened.

Kuo did give up a couple of two-out singles, but struck out pinch-hitter Troy Glaus to end the threat. Sherrill got two outs, beaned Schumaker, then Broxton was fortunately able to get Pujols to ground out to close the eighth. Broxton gave up an RBI double by Mark DeRosa in the ninth, but struck out Rick Ankiel for the game's final out.

It was quite an interesting ride, as the teams also combined to set a nine-inning Division Series record for length of game at 3 hours and 52 minutes. It seemed like each team had a reason to believe they could grab the lead each inning, only to strand runners over and over.

The Wolf-Carpenter matchup was supposed to be a pitcher's duel, but it was anything but that. Wolf lasted 3 and 2/3 innings for six hits, two runs, five walks, and two strikeouts. He was constantly behind hitters all night. Carpenter only went five innings for nine hits, four runs, four walks, and three strikeouts. It was shocking to see him get hit around so much.

At the end of the day, the Dodgers wanted a lead for their bullpen, and they did just that. They combined to only give up one run in 5 and 1/3 innings. Against hitters like the Cards, that's impressive.

Now the pressure is on the Cardinals to get one before leaving L.A. For the Dodgers, it's time to get greedy and want more than just a split. They've got their best pitcher of the second half of the season in Clayton Kershaw on the mound. The Cardinals counter with Adam Wainwright, who would be a Game 1 starter on so many other teams.

Kershaw can't be like Wolf and play with fire from the get-go. If he can get into a groove, then the Dodgers have to like their chances. After all, they hit Carpenter very well yesterday, why not Wainwright today? That's the attitude they have to take to be successful.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Game 1 lineup

Here's the lineup the Dodgers will go with against a tough matchup in Chris Carpenter:

1) Rafael Furcal - SS
2) Matt Kemp - CF
3) Andre Ethier - RF
4) Manny Ramirez - LF
5) James Loney - 1B
6) Casey Blake - 3B
7) Ronnie Belliard - 2B
8) Russell Martin - C
9) Randy Wolf - P

Don't forget, first pitch is at 9:37 ET, or 6:37 PT for those of you out in sunny California. All NLDS games are on TBS.

Dodgers set their NLDS roster

Joe Torre has submitted his roster for the first round of the playoffs. You can it out here.

Basically, all you have to do is look at my suggested roster a couple of posts down. The only difference is that Jeff Weaver made it over Guillermo Mota. That surprised me at first, but I'm sure Torre likes that Weaver has pitched deep into the postseason before, so he got the nod. Plus, with a 3.65 ERA in 79 innings this season, he's done pretty darn well anyway.

Monday, October 5, 2009

How the Dodgers can beat the Cardinals

Welcome to the playoffs. The Dodgers have home-field advantage throughout after posting an NL-best 95 wins. Their reward for a season of hard work?

Playing the Cardinals in the NLDS. Ugh.

After watching the "experts" on ESPN unanimously pick the Cards (the same ones that picked the Cubs last season), I got thinking how the Dodgers can pull this off. It technically wouldn't be an upset, but in most people's minds, it would be. So here's what I can up with.

5 Keys to an Upset

1) Get at least a split at home.
Normally when a team has home-field, they want to win all home games. But, when facing Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, I don't think it's fair to say the Dodgers need to win both. That's really hard to do, and that's to the the Cardinals' credit.

Carpenter is 17-4 with a 2.24 ERA, and Wainwright is 19-8 with a 2.63 ERA. Those numbers speak for themselves. But if the Dodgers can have at least one good hitting night, then they should be happy with that.

2) Get to the bullpen.
This is not to say that they don't have some good arms in the 'pen, because they do. Dennys Reyes, Trevor Miller, and Kyle McClellen are the top ones. But if asked which set of pitchers they'd rather face, the starters or the relievers, the Dodgers will gladly take on the relief core.

3) Let their own bullpen go to work.
On the flip side, the Dodgers need to get their bullpen in a situation to be successful. If they can let their top three guys - Hong-Chih Kuo, George Sherrill, and Jonathan Broxton - work the last three innings, it's a great sign.

How will that happen? The starters will need between 5-6 solid innings. They can do that.

4) Either Pujols or Holliday have to be contained.
Simply put, both of these guys cannot go nuts. If they do, this thing could be over in three. If one of them does well, fine. But not both.

In 63 games with the Cards, Holliday is hitting .353 with 13 homers. I'd say he's been a good addition. As for Pujols... well, he's Pujols. No explanation needed. It won't be easy, but shutting down one of those guys is important.

5) Manny needs to be the shinning star.
We all know how valuable Manny Ramirez was last postseason. He was red hot from the first to last game. This September, it's been a different tune. He hit a mere .229 and .486 SLG%, far below his career averages. To say the least, he limped to the finish line.

This series will most likely come down to Manny vs. Pujols. Manny needs to prove that he's still the most feared right-handed hitter in the game. If he leads the way in the middle of the order, then the Dodgers can advance to the NLCS.