Thursday, April 30, 2009

Too much Lincecum

The Dodgers knew they were in a mismatch with Eric Stults taking on Tim Lincecum. The hope was that Stults could pitch well enough to keep the Dodgers in the game, that the bats could scratch something out against Lincecum, and possibly they could steal one.

Too bad none of that happened, as Stults was shelled, Lincecum was awesome, and the Dodgers lost to the Giants, 9-4. This one really wasn't in doubt all night.

It's tough to blame them for not doing much against Lincecum, since he's already the reigning Cy Young Award winner and seemingly only getting better. If not for some late runs in the 8th, it would have been a scoreless outing by him. He still got 8 K's, but hey, it's better than the 13 he got last September. So it's baby steps.

As for Stults, this was really the first start in which he didn't have anything going for him. He finished at 2.2 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 1 K. It started right in the first when Edgar Renteria and Pablo Sandoval singled, and Bengie Molina's triple drove them both home for the early 2-0 hole. And it got no better after that.

Renteria added an RBI single in the 2nd. The 3rd is when Stults would be chased thanks to some guy named Nate Schierholtz hitting an RBI double and a single by Emilio Burriss. Ramon Troncoso had to come in to get the last out of the inning. Yikes.

It got up to 7-0 in the 7th after Molina added a solo shot. At least the Dodgers somewhat got to Lincecum in the 8th on RBI's from Orlando Hudson's double, Andre Ethier's groundout, and Brad Ausmus' single. But it was obviously too little, too late. The final run was on a double by Juan Pierre.

After Troncoso relieved, Hong-Chih Kuo, Scott Elbert, and Guillermo Mota came in as well. That's not exactly what Joe Torre wanted to see considering they have another youngster, James McDonald, going today. He has yet to pitch past 5 innings in 3 starts. The Dodgers better hope the bullpen doesn't need to be called on early again.

16 of the first 22 games have been on the road, and the Dodgers have split them 8-8. That's actually pretty darn good. Considering they're 6-0 home, it looks even better. Now it's back home for and 11-game homestand starting tonight with 4 against the Padres. They stand at 11-10 and have been quite the surprise so far. Both Jake Peavy and Chris Young are lined up to start on Friday and Saturday, so it'll be a good test.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Not the prettiest game, but a win

Manny Ramirez paved the way with 3 doubles, and the Dodgers scored 2 runs in the 9th to break open a 3 all tie as they beat the Giants, 5-3. The win gives them a 2.5 games cushion in the NL West.

The Dodgers got their first 2 runs thanks to some shoddy D by the Giants. In the 2nd, Andre Ethier reached on left fielder Fred Lewis' error. Matt Kemp hit a sac-fly to get him over, and James Loney singled him home. Later in the 4th, Ethier singled and went to 2nd on a wild pitch. With one out, shortstop Juan Uribe's throwing error allowed Loney to reach and Ethier to score.

Not that the Dodgers didn't give away one on their own, because they did. In the 3rd, Lewis was beaned, went to 2nd on a single, 3rd on a wild pitch, and scored on Rafael Furcal's error. So ya, not exactly a game that Little Leaguers should watch for how to play clutch defense with runners on base.

With the game tied at 2 in the 7th, the Dodgers temporarily took the lead on a bases loaded walk to Loney. So the Dodgers responded by... surrendering a bases loaded walk to Rich Aurilla to tie it again. Not pretty.

Bob Howry was called upon for the Giants to start the 9th, and the Dodgers got to him. Manny hit double #3 to start it off. Russell Martin K'd, but Manny went to 3rd on a wild pitch. Ethier doubled to deep center for the 4-3 lead. Matt Kemp did him one better by unleashing a triple for an insurance run, and that was all she wrote. Will Ohman pitched a perfect 9th for his first save.

Chad Billingsley went deep into the game, and once again was very effective, finishing at 7.1 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 8 K. He got a no-decision, however, ending his season-opening consecutive win streak at 4 games. Jonathan Broxton got the win, but a blown save with it as well. Not entirely his fault as Bills let 2 on with 1 out in the 8th, and Broxton gave up the walk to score a run.

To show how well the Dodgers have played so far, if they lost this game, it would have been a season-high 3 straight games. To their credit, they found a way to win another close game. They still ran into trouble in the 8th (maybe I should just close my eyes during the 8th), but it didn't haunt them. They responded quite well to it.

Tonight will be the real challenge facing Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum. They luckily avoided him nearly all of last season, but the one game they did face him resulted in a 13 K, 3-1 loss. While he started the year slow, he's been money the last 2 games. If Eric Stults can somehow find a way to beat him, that'll be a huge bonus.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The 8th inning woes continue

The Dodgers found themselves on the short end of a 3-0 score against the Giants on Monday night. For the first time in seemingly forever, Barry Zito was pitching like his old self. Then the 7th inning struck, and the Dodgers went up 4-3. With the 8th inning upon them, the door would have been shut the last couple of years.

But not right now, as another 8th inning meltdown gave the Giants 2 back, as they held on to win, 5-4.

It was a pretty frustrating loss for the Dodgers because you can imagine just how good their record would be if they had an 8th inning solution. Because of injuries and ineffectiveness, it hasn't happened. I think the book on the Dodgers is to keep it close and strike in the 8th before Jonathan Broxton gets the ball at the end.

Randy Wolf started for LA, and he found himself in trouble in no time. With 1 out, Edgar Renteria doubled and Randy Winn tripled for the 1-0 lead. Rich Aurilla fouled out for 2 outs, but the Dodgers couldn't get off the field. An RBI double by Aaron Rowand and single by Pablo Sandoval made it 3-0.

That score stood up for quite awhile. For the first 6 innings, it's not like the Dodgers didn't put men on, because they got a hit here and a walk there. They just couldn't cash any of them in.

Then came the 7th, and after a Mark Loretta walk with 1 down (starting for James Loney), Casey Blake finally got them going with a 2-run shot. Juan Pierre pinch-hit and singled, and Rafael Furcal walked. Consecutive RBI singles by Orlando Hudson and Manny Ramirez gave them the 4-3 lead.

Ronald Belisario came on in the 7th and got the bottom part of the Giants order easily. But the 8th would be different. 2 straight singles by Fred Lewis and Renteria opened it, and Lewis scored on a slow roller to first by Aurilla to knot it up. Bengie Molina cashed in Renteria with an RBI groundout to 3rd. True, it's not like they killed the ball to get those runs, but the 2 singles to start really hurt. Both those men scored.

A day after blowing a save in Arizona, Brian Wilson came right back by striking out the side to end the game.

It's too bad the Dodgers couldn't take advantage of Zito starting since he's basically terrible. But at least they came alive late and gave themselves a chance to win. I think we all need to stay a little patient with the bullpen with Hiroki Kuroda's injury forcing James McDonald to start and Cory Wade out. Once those 2 are healthy, at the very least they'll have another option for late in games that can get the job done. I hope it works out.

The 4-0 Chad Billingsley takes the mound tonight, and he's just been awesome so far. He completely overwhelmed the Astros last start. In a way it's too bad that Tim Lincecum doesn't go until tomorrow, because that would have been really fun to watch those 2 battle.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Rockies finally beat the Dodgers

The Rockies took full advantage of the Dodgers sitting 3 of their key players, as they cruised to a 10-4 victory. It's the Dodgers first loss against the Rockies in 6 this year to this point.

Manny Ramirez, Rafael Furcal, and Casey Blake were all given a rest with visions of long-term in Joe Torre's head. It's the right call to make. I know a lineup with Juan Pierre, Juan Castro, and Blake DeWitt isn't going to strike fear into the hearts of the opponents, but it's better than running the veteran legs into the ground this early.

Clayton Kershaw probably didn't like the lineup changes, as he had the unfortunate task of starting in Coors Field with a B lineup. The first 2 innings were fine, but the wheels fell off the bus after that. And it all came back to one thing - a walk to leadoff hitter Chris Iannetta. Clint Barmes homered the next at-bat, and Ryan Spilborghs added another 2-run homer for the 4-0 lead.

Overall, Kershaw went 4.2 IP, 3 H, 9 ER, 4 BB, 4 K. Ouch. He's faced tough ballparks his last 2 starts (Minute Maid Park in Houston and today), and he's been literally creamed. 3 starts ago his ERA was 1.50, now it's ballooned to 7.29. He's obviously better than his ERA shows, he's just young and still learning. With his nasty stuff, I'm sure he'll figure things out soon.

The offense couldn't do anything until it was too late. The Rockies went up 9-0 in the 5th before James Loney's 2-run double in the 6th finally got the Dodgers on the board. The other runs were from a Russell Martin double and an RBI groundout by Loney.

As for the 3 replacements, the only one who did anything was Pierre, who hit leadoff and went 2-4 with a run and a walk. I'll take that. DeWitt and Castro were lost though, going a combined 0-8.

The Dodgers never were in this one, and it's understandable that they'd have a flat game considering they had to grind out the last 3 wins. An off day was inevitable at some point, and today was that game.

But, they'll have no time to rest as they travel to San Francisco for 3. The Giants were a blown save away from sweeping the Diamondbacks in Arizona, so they're playing better. Randy Wolf is the starter for tomorrow.

3 regulars to rest today

Much like last Sunday, Joe Torre will have a strange looking lineup for today. He has decided to rest Manny Ramirez, Rafael Furcal, and Casey Blake. In their places will be Juan Pierre, Juan Castro, and Juan DeWitt. Ok, Blake DeWitt. I just couldn't resist.

The rest for Raffy and Blake isn't unexpected since they've got backups with experience playing. Since the Dodgers are at 13-5, Torre can afford to give some time off like this to guys that can use a break every now and then.

Manny went 0-5 last night with 3 K's, so a rest isn't a bad idea. He's played in every game so far, and keep in mind he did miss 2 weeks of Spring Training. He'll be ready to go Monday in San Francisco.

Post #500!

I just wanted to take a minute to thank everyone who has taken their time to read my blog. This is my 500th post, which started in December of 2007. And to think my first post was about how excited I was that the Dodgers finally got a power bat in... Andruw Jones! My how times have changed!

I have really enjoyed working on this page and will continue to give you my best recaps, news, and views of the Dodgers.

Thanks again and keep reading!

Troncoso's a stud

One week ago, I speculated if Joe Torre would ever trust Ramon Troncoso after another poor performance against the Rockies in a blowout win. Torre, you know, has a tendency to not trust relievers.

After pitching 4 innings of 1-hit, scoreless ball in Coors Field tonight, I'd say that trust is nice and safe now.

Troncoso was just awesome tonight, giving the Dodgers a big lift out of the 'pen and holding the Rockies in check as the Dodgers squeaked out another 6-5 win. There was a couple of career firsts in this game, as James McDonald got his first win and Troncoso his first save.

Once again, the Dodgers got the scoring going in the 1st, something I'm happy to say I've said a lot lately. They put up 4 runs thanks to 5 singles, a double, and a stolen base, hitting around in the process. RBI's were one each by Andre Ethier and Casey Blake, and 2 by Russell Martin.

The down side is that even with a nice cushion to start the game, it wouldn't hold up. The Rockies got 3 back in the 3rd on a Seth Smith single and a 2-run single by Brad Hawpe. Just like that, it was a close one.

Martin drove in 2 more in the 4th with a shallow single to center, raising the lead to 6-3. His 4 RBI's were tied for his career high. He's getting more rest this season already, and it's paying off with his strong game tonight and with Brad Ausmus' big game last night. So basically, the Ausmus signing has been a great one thus far.

McDonald again made the game close when Garrett Atkins cranked a 2-run shot to go down 6-5. One the night, McDonald would finish at 5 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 2 K. Like Eric Stults the previous night, it wasn't the prettiest line in the world, especially the walks. But, the Dodgers got 2 wins, and that's the bottom line.

Troncoso came in the 6th, and just kept going and going and going. Kind of like that Energizer Bunny thing. His only blemish was an infield single by Smith. And that was it. With Jonathan Broxton throwing a lot the last 2 days in getting saves, he needed the rest. Plus Hong-Chih Kuo is doing terribly now and Cory Wade isn't back from the DL, so Troncoso's gem was perfectly timed.

The middle part of the order of Ethier, James Loney, and Martin did the most damage, going a combined 5-12, 5 RBI, 4 R, 3 BB. Manny Ramirez had a cold 0-5, 3 K night, so to get a win anyway is a great sign. The Dodgers are finding ways to win, which is what good teams can do.

Clayton Kershaw gets the call tomorrow. He was fantastic against the Giants 2 starts ago, then really struggled against the Astros on Tuesday. He'll look to give the Dodgers their 2nd sweep of the Rockies on this young season already.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ausmus' 2-out single in 9th gives Dodgers the win

On a night where Russell Martin got to take off, it was his replacement Brad Ausmus who delivered the biggest hit. With 2 down and James Loney on 2nd in the top of the 9th, Ausmus singled him home to put the Dodgers up for good, 6-5.

This was a back-and-forth ballgame between the Dodgers and Rockies, who both took turns not being able to put the other team away in the 8th. But it all worked out in the end as the Dodgers improved to 12-5, tied for the Cardinals for tops in the National League.

Once again, the Dodgers were able to make a lot of noise in the 1st, though it could have been much more. Rafael Furcal singled and Orlando Hudson walked, leading to an RBI single by Manny Ramirez. Man, have those 3 been awesome so far or what? Andre Either followed with an RBI single of his own for a 2-0 advantage. James Loney then walked to load 'em up.

With nobody down, the Dodgers wasted a great opportunity to blow the game open early when Matt Kemp forced out Manny at home and Casey Blake grounded into a DP. The Rockies then got an RBI single from Todd Helton to cut it to 2-1.

From there, the Rockies chipped away at Eric Stults, who was constantly playing with fire all night. They added single runs in the 3rd and 4th to take the 3-2 lead. But the Rockies also left the bases loaded in the 1st, grounded into a DP in the 3rd, left 2 on in the 4th, and were caught stealing in the 5th.

Overall, Stults went 5 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 5 BB, 3 K. 12 baserunners in 5 innings isn't good at all, yet he only gave up 3 runs. The Rockies ended up losing by a run, so you know they are kicking themselves for not cashing in at least a couple more of those runners. That was the difference in the ballgame.

Ethier tied it up at 3 with a double in the 5th. In the 8th, a big 2-out rally put the Dodgers up 5-3 and looking good. Ausmus doubled with 1 down and Mark Loretta, pinch-hitting for Ronald Belisario, drove him in with a single. A wild pitch with Manny up pushed it to 5-3.

So here we go again - the Dodgers with a small lead in the 8th, and Hong-Chih Kuo gets the call. And once again, he failed miserably. This time it was a pinch-hit, 2 run homer by Clint Barmes that tied it at 5 all. Kuo even beaned Ryan Spilborghs and then uncorked a wild pitch that sent him to 2nd, but stranded him there. With an 8.31 ERA, it's not looking good for him right now.

Much to the Dodgers credit, they fought back after that huge blow by Barmes, and they did it without Manny doing all the work. It was James Loney who lead off with a double, and then Ausmus delivered the game-winning hit. Jonathan Broxton worked around an error by Hudson and a walk to Troy Tulowitzki to strike out the last 2 hitters for save #6.

Other than Kuo's latest meltdown, it was an impressive win for the Dodgers. They still left 11 men on base, which is too many, but the Rockies actually topped that with 12, so it's basically a wash. Stults didn't fool many people, but got the big outs when he needed to. With 3 starts and a 3.52 ERA, I'm sure Joe Torre will gladly take that.

2 more adventures are on tap this weekend in Coors Field, and young James McDonald gets thrown to the wolves tomorrow. He didn't give up a run to them last Sunday in LA over 4.1 innings, so we'll see how he does the 2nd time around in less than a week.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Injury updates on 3 pitchers

Here's the latest word on Cory Wade, Hiroki Kuroda, and Jason Schmidt.

Wade threw 20 pitches in an extended Spring Training game
in Arizona today and reported no problems at all. He's scheduled to throw again on Saturday. If all goes well, and so far that looks to be the case, then he will most likely skip a Minor League rehab assignment and get back to the big club.

That would be a huge lift for the Dodgers, who've had a difficult time in the bullpen getting the lead to Jonathan Broxton. A healthy Wade will help that all out.

Kuroda threw a bullpen session on Thursday and was described as "a little sore" afterwards. I've heard everything from end of the month to mid-May for his return, so take all reports with a grain of salt. I would think he'd need a couple rehab starts before starting in LA again, however.

Schmidt, the forgotten man in all of this, will try to get his first rehab start with Single-A Inland Empire (I have no idea where that even is) on Tuesday. We've all seen this before, so I'll believe it when I see it.

On a side note, Jeff Weaver's name has been tossed around as someone that can fill some innings in the bullpen or make a spot start. He's currently in Triple-A Albuquerque (I do know where that is... I think) getting his innings in. I think it's realistic to see him back in LA at some point.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Billingsley and Broxton tag team for shutout

Thursday night belonged to the Dodgers 2 top pitchers. Chad Billingsley pitched into the 8th inning, and Jonathan Broxton picked up a 5-out save to help the Dodgers avoid the sweep in Houston, 2-0.

Billingsley gave the Dodgers exactly what they needed - a strong performance against a lineup that had been hitting really well lately. After the first 2 games, I didn't think I'd see a shutout, so that made it even sweeter that it happened. On the night, he finished at 7.1 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K. He's now 4-0, the first LA pitcher to win his first 4 starts since Kaz Ishii in 2002 (bet you wouldn't have guessed that).

The Dodgers got on the board in the 1st yet again. Rafael Furcal walked and Orlando Hudson singled. Manny Ramirez continued his hot streak by singling up the middle for the 1-0 lead.

That was it for scoring for quite awhile. While Bills was awesome, Wandy Rodriguez was right behind him. He had some great breaking balls that really kept the Dodgers off balance. About the only real threat against him was in the 5th when O-Dog doubled with 1 down, but was just gunned out trying to stretch it into a triple. Probably not the smartest baserunning decision since Manny was on deck.

With Rodriguez out of the game in the 7th, the Dodgers got another run faster than a blink of the eye. Matt Kemp singled off of Geoff Geary to start. With Kemp stealing, Casey Blake doubled down the right field line to tack on the 2nd run.

Bills went into the 8th and got Pudge Rodriguez to ground out, but speedy Michael Bourne reached on an infield single. That's when Broxton came on and got Hunter Pence and Kaz Matsui retired.

The 9th got interesting when Tejada lead off with a single. Geoff Blum was hit by a pitch, and they both advanced to scoring position with 2 down. Thankfully, Darren Erstad grounded to James Loney to end it all. That's 5-5 in save opportunities for Broxton.

I talked about this last game, but the problem of who to give the ball to in the 8th came up again. It sure seemed like Joe Torre had no trust in Hong-Chih Kuo, who is rested and supposedly ready to go. I'm not sure how many 5-out saves we can expect to see from Broxton, but if the rest of the bullpen doesn't step out, it could be more.

The Dodgers now travel into Colorado for 3, and the Rockies were swept in Dodger Stadium last week, losing the last game by an embarrassing 14-2. Eric Stults gets another start, and with news that Hiroki Kuroda is throwing again, who knows how many more starts he'll get. A solid start in Coors Field will help his cause drastically.

Belisario coughs up lead in the 8th

The Dodgers and Astros were locked in a scoreless battle the first 3 innings in a duel between Randy Wolf and Roy Oswalt. After the Astros struck first with 2 in the 4th, the Dodgers used a 3 homer inning in the 6th to take the lead.

Spotted a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the 8th and facing the heart of the Astros order, Ronald Belisario couldn't hold up as the Astros took another one, 6-5. That's the 2nd straight blemish for the Dodgers after winning 8 straight.

The top of the 6th sure made it seem like the Dodgers were going to seize all momentum and take this game. Manny Ramirez started it off with a bomb to left, his 4th. Andre Ethier went back-to-back by just escaping one out to left, and it was 2-2. With 2 out and Russell Martin on with a walk, Casey Blake hit an even bigger bomb to take the 4-2 lead.

That didn't matter, though, as the Astros came right back with 2 of their own on a Jason Michaels double to knot it at 4. So much for grabbing all the momentum.

A tie game heading into the 8th, Ethier singled to lead off and James Loney hit a double to take the advantage. Now here's where the Dodgers faced a dilemma - bring in Hong-Chih Kuo, who's been pretty bad lately, or go with the young Belisario, who's good, but unproven. It was Belisario who got the call, and it wasn't a good one. Lance Berkman hit a solo homer with 1 down to tie it, and Pudge Rodriguez got a big 2-out single to take the 6-5 lead. LaTroy Hawkins put the Dodgers down in order for the easy save.

With Cory Wade on the DL, the Dodgers definitely have a problem on their hands when it comes to bridging the gap to Jonathan Broxton. I'm not sure if there's something physically wrong with Kuo, who has admitted to losing confidence after being hit around so hard lately. If it's just mental, then that's a good thing because his stuff is still nasty enough to correct.

Belisario is a nice story, and no doubt has great stuff. But he is totally new to all of this, so you have to expect that counting on him to be a consistent 8th inning option is going to have some bad results, like last night. Facing guys like Berkman and Carlos Lee in Houston is really tough, so you have to cut him some slack. I just hope either someone steps up soon or Wade comes back healthy shortly.

The Dodgers will look to avoid the sweep after starting off the year so well by sending Chad Billingsley to the mound. He's their ace, so it's the guy you'd want to have the ball in this situation. The game is on MLB Network, so everyone can enjoy. With cable that is.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Early lead can't hold up in Houston

The Dodgers looked like they were well on their way to their 9th straight win by posting 3 runs in the 1st. With Clayton Kershaw on the mound, things were looking good.

Unfortunately, Kershaw got pounded by the top of the Astros' order as the Astros took this one, 8-5. The loss is the first one since April 10 in Arizona. Can't complain about that.

Russ Ortiz was on the mound for the Astros, and it sure looked like a long night would be in store for him right away. Consecutive walks to Rafael Furcal and Orlando Hudson paved the way for Manny Ramirez, who singled home Raffy. After Andre Ethier advanced both runners on a groundout, James Loney scored Hudson on an RBI groundout. Russell Martin singled home Manny, and it was 3-0.

Kershaw never really could get going, as the top of the order consisting of Kaz Matsui, Miguel Tejada, Lance Berkman, and Carlos Lee gave him all sorts of fits. Berkman's RBI single in the 1st cut it to 3-1, but Kershaw got through the 2nd unscathed.

That would all change in the 3rd on an RBI double by Tejada, and a 2-run homer by Lee to make it 4-3. Tejada added an 2-run single in the 4th for a 6-3 lead. Kershaw would finish at 4.1 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 3 K. I think it's safe to say that at his young age, he's not as good as he showed in his last start against the Rockies, but not nearly as bad as this start would indicate. He'll have his peaks and valleys along the way, as we saw last night.

After the Astros pushed it to 7-3 in the 6th, the Dodgers made it a game again when Manny jacked out his 3rd of the year, which was a 2-run shot to make it 7-5. Kaz Matsui's single made it 8-5, but the Dodgers were not done yet.

In the 9th, Raffy reached on an error from closer Jose Valverde and O-Dog singled. That set the stage for Manny as the tying run, but he just missed hitting another one out, reaching the warning track in right. James Loney and Martin K'd to end the game.

While the Dodgers did blow a 3 run lead, it was good to see them battle back late in the game. It seems like anything can happen in that ballpark, so no lead is considered safe. Ramon Troncoso pitched 1.2 innings of scoreless ball, so that's good to see him maybe becoming more reliable.

Randy Wolf takes the mound against his old team from last season. He's opposed by Roy Oswalt, who's off to a slow start after a very shaky stint in the World Baseball Classic. Let's hope he doesn't figure it all out by tonight because when he does, he's hard to handle.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


The mailbag on has been updated for the first time in awhile. The topics are bringing Josh Lindblom up to help the bullpen, signing Pedro Martinez, scoring on the "fourth-out rule" in the past, and if "players to be named later" ever amount to anything.

Here you are.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dodgers emphatically pound the Rockies for the sweep

Right now, everything is clicking in LA.

The Dodgers tacked on a few runs early, then used a 7-run 5th inning to crush the Rockies, 14-2. That win gives the Dodgers a 10-3 record, 6 straight at home, 8 straight overall, and sole possession of first place.

During the homestand, they've outscored the Giants and Rockies 50-17, had 77 hits, 11 home runs, 31 walks, and hit for a .367 AVG.

I'd say it's good to be a Dodger fan right now.

It was 2-0 after the 1st thanks to RBI doubles by Orlando Hudson and Andre Ethier. Hudson singled home another run in the 2nd, and Rafael Furcal doubled one home in the 4th, and it was 4-0.

After catching a long fly ball at the wall with 2 on and 2 out in the 5th, Matt Kemp came right up in the bottom of the frame and hit a grand slam to blow the game wide open. Hudson and Ethier again had RBI's, and young Scott Elbert had an RBI double. 2 days in a row where a relief pitcher drives in a run (Will Ohman yesterday). Yes, I'd say it's all going well at the plate right now.

Kemp eventually added another homer to complete his amazing day. With the exception of James McDonald, every Dodger starter had a hit, and everyone but James Loney had at least 2. Everyone either scored a run or drove one in, so it was another complete team effort by the Dodgers. True, Kemp hit 2 out of the yard, but they still got most of their runs on clutch singles and doubles.

McDonald got the start today, and came out looking and feeling much better than his last one. He went 4.1 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 2 K. I think the only disappointing thing is the 3 walks, but this was still much better than the Arizona debacle. Had he not walked 2 to start the 5th, he could have easily gotten the win.

Instead, that win belongs to Elbert, making his first appearance of the year. He gave up solo shots to Brad Hawpe and Chris Iannetta, but those were when the game was already taken care of. Ramon Troncoso pitched 2 flawless innings to atone for yesterday's shaky outing.

As I said before, it's all going well for the Dodgers. True, they're a good team and are the favorites to win the NL West. Are they this good? This pace is hard to keep up, but who knows. I don't think we can expect them to pound teams in the ground like this, but with a healthy lineup, they can be really tough. Inevitably, there's going to be some injuries that hit just like every team, so they'll have to deal with bumps in the road. But this certainly is a lot of fun to watch.

The Dodgers will now hit the road for 9 straight games, following on off day on Monday. It's 3 games each in Houston, Colorado, and San Francisco. It's always good to prove you can win on the road, so getting 5 wins (if not more) is a good goal. Clayton Kershaw gets the start Tuesday, and he's coming off a 13 K performance. He'll need that in the homer-friendly Minute Maid Park.

Shoulder busitis lands Wade on the DL

Cory Wade became the 5th Dodger currently on the Disabled List when he was added yesterday for shoulder bursitis. It's retroactive to April 12, so he'll be able to come off April 27 if healthy.

Wade already missed 10 days in Spring Training because of this injury, so it obviously hasn't gotten any better. Makes me wonder if he truly was healthy, or was just saying he was to try and save his spot. Either way, it sure seems like he should have been DL'd to start the season rather than throwing him out there without being healed.

In his place will be lefty Scott Elbert, who pitched in 10 games with LA last year. His numbers weren't pretty, going 0-1 with a 12.00 ERA in 6 IP. The former #1 pick by the Dodgers in the '04 draft will be pitching out of the bullpen.

Manny and Ethier go bananas

It didn't take long for Manny Ramirez to bust out of his home run drought, launching a solo shot in the 1st inning for the early lead. From there, he would share the stage with Andre Ethier in combining for 4 homers to give the Dodgers their 7th straight win, 9-5.

It was the perfect combination for the Dodgers in getting a win: Chad Billingsley on the mound and the offense crushing homers off some rocky Rockies pitching (ok that was weak, but I said it anyway). A day after leaving 12 men on base which nearly cost them the game, Manny hit consecutive solo shots in the 1st and 3rd off Aaron Cook for the 2-0 lead.

The 4th is when the game was temporarily blown open. Brad Ausmus started at catcher and singled to lead off. 2 outs later, Orlando Hudson, hitting leadoff for a resting Rafael Furcal, walked for 2 on. Ethier was in the #2 hole and blasted a 3-run shot for a 5-0 lead and it looked like the Dodgers would cruise.

They obviously did win, but the Rockies put up a fight starting in the 6th. Billingsley walked Seth Smith to start the inning, a bad omen. Todd Helton singled, and Brad Hawpe tripled them home 1 out later. Ian Stewart followed with a sac-fly, and Bills went from an easy start to getting hit around a bit.

It's not that he pitched poorly, he just had 1 bad inning. He finished at 6 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 6 K. He's now 3-0 with a 2.84 ERA, proving that he is indeed healthy after a rough offseason. He's been a stud on a staff that had question marks coming into the season.

Alan Embree came on for the Rockies in the 7th, and Ethier greeted him with homer #2. Ryan Speier came on a little later, and Matt Kemp had an RBI single and Juan Castro a sac-fly. Heck, even Will Ohman added an RBI single! Didn't think I'd ever type those words.

About the only downside to the game was Ramon Troncoso in the 9th. Up 5 runs, he walked the leadoff hitter then gave up a single, getting only 1 out. Joe Torre is notorious for not trusting relievers, and I'm sure you can add Troncoso's name to that infamous list. I've got to think that his name will be next in people being sent down if he can't even get through the 9th inning of a blowout game. Not good.

Overall, it was great to see the Dodgers get 7 straight wins with Russell Martin, Rafael Furcal, and Casey Blake sitting. Getting a W with names like Brad Ausmus, Juan Castro, and Blake DeWitt in the lineup is a nice bonus. And of course, getting Manny unleashed is a dangerous sign for the rest of the league. Look out!

The Dodgers will go for a sweep, 8 straight, and 6-0 at home today when young James McDonald gets his 2nd start. I can't imagine it could be worse than his first one, so I'm hopeful.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

7th inning rally gives the Dodgers 6 straight

The night did not start off so well for the Dodgers, who found themselves in a quick 3-0 hole. An RBI double by Garrett Atkins, and a 2-run homer by Brad Hawpe with a full count and 2 down signified a possible long night. And it was, for a while anyway.

It took until the 7th inning before the Dodgers could finally cash in with runners on base. The 2 table setters, Rafael Furcal and Orlando Hudson, once again reached base with nobody down. Manny Ramirez was up, and we all know he hasn't jacked one out yet. He still didn't this at-bat, but he did drive in Raffy with a single. Matt Kemp hit a slow grounder to short to plate Hudson to make it 3-2.

With 1 on and 1 down, Andre Ethier was given another chance to get a big hit. Earlier in the game, he struck out with 2 on, popped up with 1 on, and again stuck out with 2 on. Uh, not exactly a memorable night. He came through this time, though, with a long double to center to tie the game at 3. After Russell Martin K'd, Mark Loretta, getting the start at 1st for James Loney with the lefty Jorge De La Rosa on the mound, delivered an RBI single to left and grab the 4-3 lead.

The Dodgers certainly didn't just cruise to the victory after that. Hong-Chih Kuo came on and proceeded to load the bases with 1 down on a double and 2 walks. I'm not sure what the heck is going on with him, but it's a concern because that's his 2nd lousy appearance in a row after normally being lights-out. With his history of arm problems, I've got to wonder if he's healthy. I sure hope I'm just overreacting, but I can't help it.

With 1 down and the bases juiced, Joe Torre channeled his Yankee days, giving the ball to Jonathan Broxton, ala Mariano Rivera back in the day. How did the new closer respond in a tight situation? Strikeouts of Troy Tulowitzki and Chris Iannetta to end the threat.

Broxton got 2 more K's in the 9th to completely overwhelm the Rockies and get the 5-out save. For those of you doubting whether he could handle the transition from setup man to closer, I think that's an emphatic "YES." That was just plain awesome.

Randy Wolf struggled in the 1st, then threw 5 great innings after that to finish at 6 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 9 K. I made fun of De La Rosa yesterday, but despite allowing 9 runners in 5.1 IP, he found ways to get out of trouble. With a lack of power, the Dodgers showed how hot and cold they can be.

With 12 men left of base, it wasn't pretty to watch for awhile. I talked about Ethier already, but he redeemed himself with a big double late. Poor James Loney. He didn't start, but did pinch-hit and looked completely lost. Still down 3 in the 6th, he came on with 2 runners on and grounded into a DP. Then with 2 on in the 7th after getting the lead, he still grounded out to end the inning. I know he doesn't have much power, but he grounds into way too many double plays. He's a good player, don't get me wrong, but I can't exactly say I'd want him up in a situation where there could be a DP.

The Dodgers will look for 7 in-a-row by giving the ball to Chad Billingsley, exactly the kind of a guy you'd want to extend this thing. It's a Fox game today, so enjoy it to those of you that can. I'll be watching the Yankees-Indians in the new ballpark.

DeWitt gets the nod over Paul

Blake DeWitt is back in LA after being recalled to replace the injured Doug Mientkiewicz. There was internal debate about promoting outfielder Xavier Paul, who's hitting .571 at Triple-A, but DeWitt gets the call.

I'm sure Paul's time will come at some point. Heck, if you hit for an average like that, even early on in the season, you're doing something right. I can only imagine a year or 2 down the line when Manny Ramirez is no longer around, this is a name you should be aware of. He seems like the real deal.

DeWitt was just sent down on Monday with the idea of getting him more playing time in Las Vegas. Well... so much for that. But, Mientkiewicz was a primary left-handed bat off the bench, appearing in 7 games and going 2-5 with 2 RBI. DeWitt's been there before, so he should be given his chance to hit in some key, late inning situations.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Dodgers easily dispose of Giants for sweep

Give the Dodgers this - they aren't relying solely on Manny Ramirez to score a bunch of runs. Rather, they've been getting contributions from everywhere.

The Dodgers took full advantage of having the Giants in town and not facing Tim Lincecum by winning last night 7-2 and getting the 3-game sweep. San Diego is also playing really well, so they're both locked in 1st at 7-3.

Rafael Furcal wasted no time in getting the lead, as he hit a 2-0 pitch just over the left field fence for the 1-0 lead. The Giants struck back in the top of the 2nd with an Edgar Renteria RBI single to tie it at 1.

The Dodgers went up for good in the bottom of the 2nd, though with some help. Andre Ethier was beaned by a Barry Zito pitch to lead off. Matt Kemp hit a diving liner to left, where Fred Lewis tried to make the sliding catch and completely missed, causing the ball to roll all the way to the wall. Kemp got a gift RBI triple, though it should have been either an out or single at most. But we'll take it. Casey Blake singled home Kemp the next hitter, and it was 3-1.

Making another start for the injured Hiroki Kuroda, Eric Stults gave another great performance. He finished at 5 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 K. Not overpowering, but enough to limit the Giants. He goes to 2-0 thanks to 4 flawless innings from the bullpen. James McDonald made his first appearance since hit horrible start in Arizona for a scoreless inning, Ronald Belisario gave 2 scoreless innings, and Will Ohman finished them off.

The other news from this game is how well Doug Mientkiewicz played, and then proceeded to land himself on the 15-day DL. He pinch-hit for McDonald in the 6th and laced a double down the right field line to plate Ethier and Kemp, then dove head first into 2nd and popped his shoulder. After trying to stay in, Juan Pierre ran for him. Let's hope he isn't out too long since he's been hitting well and is always top notch defensively.

With a sweep in the books, the Dodgers look to take down the last NL West opponent, the Rockies. Randy Wolf gets the ball, and he was fantastic his last start against Arizona. Jorge De La Rosa goes for the Rockies, who... well... really sucks. It's fun facing bad pitchers.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Don't expect Kuroda back soon

The strained left oblique will definitely keep Hiroki Kuroda out longer than his 15-day DL stint. After playing catch on Monday, he did not attempt to do so the next 2 days.

It's a blow for the Dodgers because he was their Opening Day starter, and they don't have a whole lot of depth for the rotation like they have had in years past. Well, I should say there's not as much reliable depth, because the jury is still out on guys like Eric Stults, James McDonald, and Jason Schmidt (remember him?).

If Stults is able to pitch well like he did last start and in spot starts last year, this should not be a big deal (he goes again tonight against the Giants). If he struggles, then it's a problem. McDonald got one start and was really all over the place, getting shelled against the Diamondbacks. He should get another start on Sunday against the Rockies, but who knows how long he'll last in that game.

As for Schmidt, he threw 73 pitches in 5 innings of an extended Spring Training game. Depending on how his body reacts that (and who knows how that'll be), he could be due for a Minor League rehab assignment soon. In other words, he won't provide any immediate help. Down the line is where they're aiming.

So really, a lot depends on if Stults can continue his solid starts. After watching how great Randy Wold, Chad Billingsley, and Clayton Kershaw were in their last starts, then Kuroda's loss isn't as glaring. If Stults can join that club, then Kuroda can take his time healing up.

Walking home with a win... literally

The first 7 innings of tonight's ballgame featured 2 teams that looked pretty much lost at the plate. The last 2 is when things got interesting. Fortunately for the Dodgers, they made just a little more plays than the Giants, squeaking out a 5-4 win.

The Dodgers entered the 8th up 2-1 and seemingly in control. Hong-Chih Kuo entered for Clayton Kerhaw and proceeded to do nothing. He pegged Pablo Sandoval and Rich Aurilla singled for men on the corners. It was a rare hiccup for a guy that is normally as lights out a reliever as you'll find.

Ronald Belisario entered and had 2 strikes on Aaron Rowand before watching him unloaded on a no-doubter to left, putting the Giants up 4-2. Both Kuo and Belisario hadn't given up a run this year, so this was their first blemish.

The Dodgers, much to their credit, didn't roll over and die as I've seen them do many times in recent years in games like these. In the 8th, Andre Ethier singled and Russell Martin doubled down the left field line. James Loney hit a sac-fly RBI to get within 1, and Matt Kemp singled past a drawn in infield to knot it at 4 entering the 9th.

After big Jonathan Broxton came on and overpowered the 3 hitters he faced, the bases were loaded on singles by Orlando Hudson and Manny Ramirez, and an intentional pass to Ethier. Martin grounded into a force play at home, and it came down to Giants' closer Brian Wilson against Loney, who's been known to ground into a double play or 2 (or a lot).

Fortunately, he never had to swing the bat, as he walked on a full count, giving the Dodgers the W. I kind of laughed when that happened since the Giants pretty much handed them the game. There's not many other teams in the league that would do that, but a win is a win.

What's lost in all of this is how awesome Kershaw was. He went 7 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 13 K. That's the most strikeouts by a Dodger lefty since Fernando Valenzuela in 1987, or something like that. Man, was his stuff electric tonight. He definitely deserved the win, but the offense left way too many men on base for that to happen. Regardless, it was great to see him in such control.

After taking the first 2, the Dodgers go for the sweep tomorrow with Eric Stults making his 2nd start since being recalled for the injured Hiroki Kuroda. He faces Barry Zito, who used to be good, but now sucks. Have I mentioned that before? Ya, only like every single time I talk about him. It never gets old!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Young shipped to Pirates

Delwyn Young ended up crossing the country, as he was traded to the Pirates for 2 players to be named later.

He was rehabbing his surgically-repaired elbow at Triple-A Albuquerque when he was informed that he'd been taken off the 40-man roster. It's not clear where he'll start with Pittsburgh.

A switch-hitter, he appeared in 83 games last year and hit .246. Not a major loss at all for the Dodgers, who already have 4 good outfielders (yes, I'm counting Juan Pierre, since he would be a starter on countless other teams). Like Jason Repko is finding out now, there really isn't any room for him. Maybe he'll find his niche in Pittsburgh, who continue to be a bumbling franchise looking for any sort of reason to cheer.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

DeWitt sent packing to Triple-A, Young is sent packing for good

Citing a lack of playing time, the Dodgers have decided to option Blake DeWitt to Triple-A and call up veteran infielder Juan Castro. The move is designed solely to give DeWitt more action on the field rather than playing sporadically with the big club.

In order to make room on the roster, outfielder Delwyn Young has been designated for assignment. That means the Dodgers will have 10 days to trade, release, or waive him. There's been some talk that the Indians, Pirates, and Phillies have interest. He's capable of being a pretty good hitters, but injuries to his oblique and elbow last year have obviously affected him.

Back to DeWitt, and he's only made 1 start this season in 8 games, gathering 6 at-bats total. 6 AB's in 8 games isn't exactly making a young player better, so it's the right move. I speculated a few days ago that with Eric Stults up, perhaps DeWitt would be a candidate to be sent down. Stults' emergence isn't the reason, but I'm not surprised it did happen.

What's interesting to note is that he will not be playing an shortstop in Las Vegas. Rather, he will focus on 2nd base, since he already can play 3rd base. Joe Torre said that if anything happens to Rafael Furcal (like the last 2 seasons), Chin-lung Hu will be his replacement.

As for Castro, he's in his 11th year and was a Dodger way back in 1999. It makes more sense for a veteran like him to sit the bench and make occasional spot starts than DeWitt, mostly because Raffy and Orlando Hudson have shown no signs of slowing down after injury-plagued 2008 seasons. Hopefully it stays that way.

Pretty much your perfect home opener

The Dodgers opened the home part of their schedule Monday afternoon after a week on the road. A big win was wished for, hoped for, and maybe even expected. What we didn't know was just how dominating it would be. Consider all the good things that went down:
  • Orlando Hudson hit for the cycle, tripling in his 4th at-bat to reach a mark that hasn't been done by a Dodger since Wes Parker in 1970.
  • Andre Ethier hit 2 home runs.
  • Chad Billingsley pitched 7 strong innings, giving up 1 run and striking out 11.
  • Mark Loretta came on late and made a fantastic diving catch in the 9th.
  • Randy Johnson suffered his first loss in Dodger Stadium after 7 wins.
  • Every Dodger starter had a hit while every Giant starter struck out at least once against Billingsley.
  • The Dodgers got wins in both the first game of the year and the home opener.
  • They beat the hated Giants 11-1.
There's a whole lot to be happy about after that performance. And to think that it was actually a close game at 1-1 heading into the bottom of the 4th, with Billingsley and Johnson throwing very well.

That's where the tide most definitely turned, as the Dodgers sent 11 men to the plate. The funny part was that it actually started with Russell Martin striking out before the onslaught was on. Ethier homered to deep center for his first shot of the year, Matt Kemp walked, and Casey Blake singled. Bills sacrificed for 2 down, and Rafael Furcal lined one into left for the 4-1 lead.

The O-Dog got his double, scoring Raffy, and getting it to 5-1. Manny Ramirez got the intentional pass, and Johnson walked James Loney for his last hitter. Martin singled home 2 before Ethier ended the inning flying out. In all, it was 6 runs on 5 hits and 3 walks. Men were on base and driven in - it's amazing how it all works out with some clutch hits.

Ethier struck again in the 8th with a 3-run bomb to increase the lead to 10. But the real story will be Hudson's cycle, the first one by a Dodger in Dodger Stadium history. That's pretty amazing if you think about. All of those great players, and it hasn't happened ever until today. Wow. Considering he still is working through a wrist injury from last season, that's just crazy to see.

While the offense was all on target, Billingsley was awesome yet again. He finished at 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 11 K. He K'd his last 5 hitters he faced, and was just completely overpowering. It helps facing a weak hitting team like the Giants, but he could have beaten anyone today with his stuff. Nasty. He's now 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA and 1.00 WHIP early on.

After practically putting everyone to sleep in the San Diego series, the offense is starting to string together some clutch hits since then. I'm glad Ethier got it going today without the pressure of hitting cleanup. I can easily see him back there at some point, but for now it's the right move. Manny hasn't hit one out yet, but he is hitting .304 with a whopping .529 OBP. He'll take his walks and wait until he can get hot. It'll happen soon.

Tuesday is an off day, and Wednesday it'll be Clayton Kershaw against Matt Cain. The Dodgers have some momentum after today's shellacking and a good weekend in Arizona, so we'll see how they come and play the next 2 games at home.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Rotation tweaked a bit for this week

With Eric Stults pitching so well on Saturday in Arizona, he will be getting another start this week as Joe Torre has made a couple of changes to the rotation, mainly due to the day off on Tuesday.

Instead of having James McDonald go Thursday in the last game against the Giants, he will be pushed back to Sunday against the Rockies. Stults will get that Thursday start.

Torre says this was done because of the off day and has nothing to do with McDonald's shaky start on Friday. I think I believe about half of that, as Stults is clearly the better option right now. For whatever reason, he handles starting much better than relieving. Plus, McDonald will be used out of the bullpen this week, which is more his strength. It could work out.

In the long run, Stults has a chance to get that 5th starter job, moving McDonald to the 'pen for good. That would mean a guy like Blake DeWitt or Ramon Troncoso would have to get optioned, but so be it. Having McDonald in the 'pen makes their depth a whole lot better, so Stults' start on Thursday will be big for everyone.

Wolf's dazzling 7 innings enough for win

With All-Star Dan Haren on the mound for the Diamondbacks and keeping runs at a premium, it was Randy Wolf who stepped up and did even better. Wolf's 7 strong innings of only 2 hits and 1 run lead the way as the Dodgers got the close win, 3-1. After dropping Friday's opening game, the Dodgers fought back to take 2 of 3 and close the road trip at 4-3.

Wolf's performance was awesome, but what will be remembered about this game is the ultra-rare "fourth run" rule. Here's the skinny. In the 2nd inning and the DBacks up 1-0, Andre Ethier was on 3rd and Juan Pierre on 2nd. Randy Wolf lined back to Haren, who then turned and threw to 2nd where Felipe Lopez tagged out Pierre for the inning ending DP.

We all thought that the score would remain the same, except that Ethier never tagged up and scored before Pierre was tagged. Since the DBacks all left the field, the run was counted because they never appealed the play at 3rd. Had they stayed on the field and done so, then the run would not have counted. So, it was 1-1.

You get all of that?

I'm not sure I did either, but that's the story. Anyway, in the 3rd Rafael Furcal started things with a walk, and Manny Ramirez walked 1 out later. James Loney, still hitting cleanup, singled to score Raffy for the 2-1 lead. Russell Martin followed up with a double play, continuing his slump. Oh well.

The rest of the game flew by after the 3rd. Haren struggled the first 3 innings, getting near 70 pitches, but settled down. Wolf was simply brilliant all day, mixing his breaking stuff and fastball and keeping all hitters off balance. After Lopez started the game with a double, he didn't give up a hit until Chad Tracy started the 8th with a single. In all, 15 men in a row were retired. It certainly wasn't overpowering, but it was fantastic control that was the key. His final line was 7 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K.

With the rotation thin right now with Hiroki Kuroda's injury and the bullpen getting plenty of work, it was good that Wolf could go so long. Hong-Chih Kuo came on in the 8th with a runner on and did what he does best - blow hitters away and get a hold. Jonathan Broxton was much the same as he went 3-3 in save situations.

Up next is the home opener against the San Francisco Giants. I know I've said this a lot already, but the pitching matchup will again be exciting to watch. Chad Billingsley goes against Randy Johnson. I'm glad Johnson gets the start because it will be like his DBack days when the division rival comes to Dodger Stadium. Tuesday will be a day off.

The offensive surge is here

A day after the Dodgers suffered a bad loss to the Diamondbacks, I talked about how the offense had yet to really break out. Perhaps a few tweaks in the lineup would help, along with more production from the bottom part of the lineup.

Last night, it all happened.

Catching a break by not facing Brandon Webb, the Dodgers exploded against Yusmeiro Petit and got an easy victory, 11-2. Eric Stults filled in for the injured Hiroki Kuroda and put in another quality start for a win.

It actually took until the 4th to get things going. In fact, the first 10 hitters were set down in order, and it looked like another struggle of a night was on hand. But, old DBack Orlando Hudson homered into right for the 1-0 lead. Back-to-back walks to Manny Ramirez and James Loney (hitting cleanup instead of Andre Ethier) proved deadly as Russell Martin, fresh from a day off, doubled to score them both.

That was really all the Dodgers would need. In the 6th they tacked on 5 more runs, with Andre Ethier scoring 2 on a double, a sac-fly by Matt Kemp, and run scoring singles by Casey Blake and Rafael Furcal. 3 walks and a wild pitch helped along the way.

Hitting is contagious, and last night proved it. Only Hudson hit a homer, so the other 10 runs came on timely hitting and sacrifices. Even with Manny, the Dodgers still aren't a team to out-homer you, so they'll have to get more hits with runners on like they did last night. And it was good to see them get the bats hot.

The lineup was switched a little, as Loney hit cleanup, Martin 5th, and Ethier dropped to 6th. It was good to get some pressure off of Ethier, who hasn't done anything hitting cleanup this year. Loney is hot, and even with little power, it was the right call to put him there. Ethier still was only 1-5, but that hit was the 2-run double.

As for Stults, he continues to make the case that he should stay in LA with 5.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K. Everytime the ball is given to him for a spot start, he responds very well. Couple that with James McDonald's horrible start the other night, and perhaps Stults will be a starter sooner than we think. It's early to say that, but be aware of it.

Today's matchup will be fun to watch with Randy Wolf against Dan Haren. Wolf wasn't sharp at all against the Padres his first start, but Haren with really good against the Rockies, taking the tough-luck loss when his team gave him 0 runs. Juan Pierre will get his first start today for Matt Kemp. Have to throw the guy a bone, I guess.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Kruoda lands on the DL with strained oblique

Citing more precautionary purposes, Hiroki Kuroda was placed on the 15-day DL with a strained left oblique muscle, retroactive to Tuesday. He'll be eligible to be activated on April 22.

The Dodgers are saying that this is just to be careful, obviously being really early in the year. Kuroda wanted to start, but wasn't allowed to. After pitching well on Monday in a victory over the Padres, he felt tightness after his bullpen session on Wednesday.

With the Dodgers already facing a lack of depth as far as options in the rotation, this is thankfully not supposed to be a big deal. Still, even missing one start from the Opening Day starter is an issue. If all goes well, he wants to throw in 4-5 days. I hope that's the case.

With Jason Schmidt DL'd and not ready to start even if he wasn't, Eric Stults is on his was back to LA to make today's start. Ok, he's heading to Arizona, but you get the point. He was 2-3 last year, but with a very respectable 3.49 ERA. The Dodgers can really use at least 6 innings from him tonight to give the bullpen a blow.

McDonald crushed in the 3rd

James McDonald will have better nights than this.

Cruising along nicely by throwing only 20 pitches in the first 2 innings, McDonald was bombed and chased in the 3rd inning as the Diamondbacks tagged him for 5 runs. The Dodgers made a bit of a late push, but it wasn't enough as the DBacks took the first game between division rivals, 9-4.

This was not a very fun game to watch. The potential problems the Dodgers faced coming into this season all turned out to be true: back end of the rotation, lack of depth in bullpen, and people other than Manny Ramirez getting big hits. The critics looked good after last night.

McDonald finished with 2.1 IP, 2 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 2 K. Now I know that if you didn't see the game and looked at that line, you probably wondered how the heck you can give up 5 runs on only 2 hits. That's because the 3 walks all came in the 3rd, and throw in a hit batter and an error by Casey Blake, and there you have it.

There's no doubting McDonald's stuff, as he showed really nice off-speed pitches and fastball when he was locating it. But wow, he was really lost in the 3rd to say the least. Not pretty. Give the DBacks credit - they came through with men on base, something the Dodgers haven't done yet.

About the only highlights to this one for the men in blue was Blake's 2-run shot in the 7th and Manny's RBI single in the 8th to cut it to 6-4. So all hope was not lost, but Guillermo Moto was awful in the bottom of the frame and Will Ohman wasn't much better, which showcased that lack of depth I talked about before.

I'm still waiting for the Dodgers to have that one inning where they just break out and score a bunch of runs. So before we all anoint the Dodgers as this great offensive team, the guys in the bottom part of the order have to do better than that. Andre Ethier, Casey Blake, and Russell Martin (who had last night off) need to be more consistent.

I know it's still early, but I think Joe Torre should move Matt Kemp up to the cleanup spot and move Ethier down a little. Both Kemp and Loney are hitting .368, and with Ethier at .250 and the team not scoring much, it would be worth a shot. Plus Ethier's only 1-10 with runners on, killing any chance of a big inning.

Today's matchup is interesting, not so much because of what it is, but because of what it would have been. Both Hiroki Kuroda and Brandon Webb are hurt, so it'll be the matchup of a lifetime - Eric Stults vs. Yusmeiro Petit. Yes!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Despite plenty of chances, Dodgers can't break through

Today is one of those games I tell myself 2 things: it's still early and every team suffers through bad losses like this.

Still, it didn't help me a whole lot after the game when the Dodgers wasted away a 3-1, 8th inning lead to give the Padres a 4-3 edge heading to the 9th. Then they wasted away a leadoff triple by Orlando Hudson to strand him and lose.

Clayton Kershaw battled through control problems much like Chad Billingsley last night, but just like Bills again, only gave up 2 runs. He deserved to get the win, but that just didn't happen. On top of 6 K's in 5 innings, he even singled and scored a run in the 3rd.

Knotted at 1 heading into the 6th, Matt Kemp came through with a big 2 out, 2-run single to score Andre Ethier and Russell Martin to get the lead at 3-1. The score stayed that way the next 2 innings thanks to the Major League debut of Ronald Belisario, who K'd 4. Pretty good stuff.

What wasn't good was how awful Will Ohman and Corey Wade were in the 8th. Ohman gave up a solo bomb to Adrian Gonzalez, who had been held in check quite nicely the whole series until that. Wade came on and proceeded to do absolutely nothing, getting pounded by a Nick Hundley single to tie it at 3 and a double to Luis Rodriguez to be down 4-3. Nothing he threw looked good.

Despite coughing up the lead, Hudson clocked a triple to deep center to start the 9th, and it was looking like at least they could extend the game. Instead, Manny Ramirez grounded out to the infield playing shallow, so no run. Andre Ethier worked a walk for runners on the corners and 1 down.

Enter Martin, who earlier in the game grounded into a force play with the bases loaded and 2 down. The pessimistic side of me said that he would ground into a double play to the end the game... so he promptly grounded into a double play to end the game. Do I know my team or what?

I think it's a good thing that Martin has tomorrow off, because those are 2 at-bats he would much like to forget. Letting him rest and regroup is a good call.

While the bullpen wasn't any good today, they were the first 3 games. The real problem is that the offense still hasn't had a breakout game. 11 more runners were left on base today to go along with 10 yesterday. They're drawing walks, but just aren't getting enough clutch hits. Hopefully they'll snap out of it soon.

I'll just have to accept the fact that they're 2-2, but should easily be 3-1, so oh well. Next up is 3 in Arizona. Like I said last night, the good news is that Brandon Webb will not make a start because of a sore shoulder. They will see Danny Haren on Sunday, however. James McDonald makes his first Big League start tomorrow, so that will be fun to watch how he reacts to starting.

Manny's double in the 7th lifts Dodgers

Manny Ramirez made his first big impact with the Dodgers by hitting a 2-run double in the 7th, breaking a 2-all tie and carrying them to a win, 5-2. That was his 3rd RBI of the game after an RBI groundout in the 1st.

The first couple of innings saw a run apiece for the Dodgers, with Manny's RBI coming first. In the 2nd with 2 outs, Casey Blake launched a solo shot into deep left to get a 2 run edge. That was his first hit of the season after going hitless in the first 2.

Chad Billingsley faced very little resistance the first 4 innings, then hit a wall in the 5th, kind of like Hiroki Kuroda a couple nights before. Up 2-0 and facing the bottom 2 in the order, he promptly walked the bases loaded without getting anybody out. That was a flashback to his wild days when walks came quite often.

He thankfully only surrendered a couple runs, but the Padres ran themselves out of the inning. Jody Gerut had an RBI fielder's choice for 1 down and runners on the corners. David Eckstein hit a sac-fly RBI, but Gerut got greedy and tried to go to 2nd, only to have James Loney cut off the throw to home and quickly get him at 2nd. Not a good decision.

That would be it until the 7th when Manny followed consecutive singles by Rafael Furcal and Orlando Hudson to plate them both. Loney drove him in with a single 2 outs later.

Billingsley ran out of steam in the 5th, but still picked up the win with 6 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K. The 4 walks is too high, but 2 hits is pretty darn good. More great bullpen work followed with scoreless innings by Cory Wade, Hong Chih-Kuo, and save from Jonathan Broxton, K'ing 2.

The final game will be this afternoon with Clayton Kershaw taking the mound. The bats really haven't busted out yet, but they've had chances with runners on. Once the bottom part of the order starts getting those hits with runners on, they'll be clicking.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A few notes for upcoming games

Vin Scully was just talking about the next few games, and he relayed a message from Joe Torre that Rafael Furcal will get tomorrow off (day game after a night game). Blake DeWitt gets the start at short.

On Friday in Arizona, Russell Martin will get a rest, so look for Brad Ausmus to see his first action.

Finally, the Diamondbacks announced that Brandon Webb will NOT make a start against the Dodgers. Good! Not that I'm saying it's good he's hurt, but good that the Dodgers... well, "dodge" that bullet. Great play on words by me.

The undefeated season ends here

So the Dodgers won't finish 162-0. I'll enjoy being 1.000 while it lasted.

After taking a 2-1 lead in the 4th inning, the Padres scored 3 in the 6th to cruise to a 4-2 victory. Randy Wolf battled control problems all night and it finally came back to haunt him in the 6th.

There really wasn't a whole lot to this game. The Dodgers really only had a good 4th inning in which they made some noise. After K'ing in his first ab-bat, Manny Ramirez lead off with a double to center, and following Andre Ethier's flyout, Russell Martin doubled him home. The bases were soon loaded with 1 down, but Casey Blake could only manage a soft sac-fly RBI, and Wolf grounded out to end it.

Wolf wiggled out of a bases loaded, 1-out jam in the 3rd, but found no such luck in the 5th. Back-to-back singles to Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Kouzmanoff opened the inning, and Chase Headley scored them both with a double. Guilermo Mota soon came on and gave up a sac-fly to Luis Rodriguez, and that would close the scoring.

In fact, that would close out everything for the Dodgers. Matt Kemp's infield single in the 4th was the last hit they got. They took some walks, but that's it. Manny did have a chance with 2 down and 2 on in the 7th, but he popped out.

Wolf went 5.1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, and like I said before, he never seemed to get on track. Mota combined with Will Ohman and Ronald Belisario to not allow anything else to happen.

Chad Billingsley will get his first start today against Walter Silva. Bills suffered through a bad postseason and a broken leg from a slip on the ice in the winter, so I can imagine he's itching to get things going again.

Monday, April 6, 2009

It's all good for the Dodgers on Opening Day

The Dodgers did something I haven't seen in a long time - they scored on Jake Peavy early and took pressure off their pitching. That was more than enough against a weak Padres offense as the Dodgers got the win, 4-1.

It was pretty much a textbook win for the Dodgers. String together some hits for runs, throw in a big hit, good starting pitching, and really good bullpen work. Granted the Padres aren't exactly setting the world on fire these days, but anytime you beat a guy the caliber of Peavy, you have to feel good about that.

Rafael Furcal and Orlando Hudson got things going right away in the 1st with consecutive singles. After Manny and Andre Ethier flied out, Raffy and Hudson got a double steal, followed by a walk to Russell Martin.

In the past, this is where the Dodgers would flunk miserably. Ah, but not tonight, as James Loney laced a sharp single into left, scoring 2 for the quick lead. A huge, 2-out hit against a perennial ace. Not bad.

Hiroki Kuroda proved he was worthy of Opening Day by going 5.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K. He gave up a run in the 1st after allowing Jody Gerut's leadoff double, but cruised into the 6th after that. In the 6th he ran into trouble, loading the bases all with 2 outs. Corey Wade came on and got Kevin Kouzmanoff to ground back to the mound to end it, and pretty much put the game away. Jonathan Broxton dominated the 9th for 2 K's and save #1.

There was good balance up and down the lineup to contribute. Raffy was 2-5 with a run and stolen base, Ethier 2-3 with an RBI, Loney 3-4 with 2 RBI, and Matt Kemp launched a solo shot to center in the 7th. Manny was 0-3 with a walk that lead to a run scored in the 3rd.

Like I said yesterday, too much is usually made of Opening Day. For now, the Dodgers can feel good that they beat a really good pitcher in his park. But if they go out and lose the next 3, it's not so good. We'll see.

Tomorrow's starters are Randy Wolf against Chris Young. Wolf pitched in Petco Park last year, putting up some pretty good numbers. Young is coming off a season marred by injuries, which included a very scary liner to face from Albert Pujols. Yikes. Thankfully he's back and says he's ready to go.

Today's starting lineup

Here's a quick look at the starting lineup of today's game in San Diego, 15 minutes before first pitch:

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

That's pretty good depth with Kemp and Blake at the bottom. Should be a tough one against Jake Peavy, but CC Sabathia got hit around today, so maybe Peavy will too.

Go blue!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Opening Day is tomorrow!!!

Baseball season is finally here, as it all gets underway tomorrow afternoon with plenty of action. Ok, so technically it starts tonight with the Braves-Phillies, but tomorrow is the real fun.

The Dodgers will be in San Diego for 4 games, followed by 3 in Arizona, before making their way back home next Monday against the Giants. Throw in a home set against the Rockies after that, and the Dodgers will play their first 13 games against all their division rivals. It's a good place to test where they stand this early in the year.

Jake Peavy will take the mound tomorrow, the Dodger Killer. His numbers are just sick against LA, as in 13-1 with a 2.32 ERA in 22 starts. Yikes. Hiroki Kuroda goes for LA, a surprise starter by most seeing that Chad Billingsley was the guy with the great numbers last year.

The Dodgers' lineup has been much hyped now that Manny has been brought in, along with the returns of Casey Blake and Rafael Furcal, and the addition of Orlando Hudson. The Padres will have to find ways to get on base for Adrian Gonzalez, the only true run-producer for them. Guys like Jody Gerut, Kevin Kouzmanoff, and Chase Headley will be counted on to continue their development and get the offense going.

Much like opening week in the NFL, too much is made of the first game in baseball. If your team dominates, then all the offseason moves have worked. If they put up blanks, then your GM sucks! Like the Dodgers showed last season, it's not how you start, it's how you finish. And doing pretty well along the way doesn't hurt.

Baseball fans, let the games begin!

McDonald annoited the 5th starter

James McDonald has been officially named the 5th starter to begin the season with the Dodgers. For about a week or so this had been the talk, but Joe Torre went on record with it yesterday.

Good for him. After watching him at the end of last season, it was obvious he was another prospect with really good stuff and a really good future. His numbers this spring haven't been very pretty - 1-2 with a 5.60 ERA - but he's given up 3 runs in his last 10.1 IP. There's plenty of reason to be excited.

But I can't help but comment that while McDonald has stepped up, he was given a huge boost by the miserable pitching of others. The Dodgers were hoping to find lightning in a bottle like they have so many times in the past by bringing in forgotten veterans and seeing who would step up. Shawn Estes, Eric Milton, Jeff Weaver, and Claudio Vargas had their chances.

And all of them failed miserably.

Estes is now trying to become a left-handed specialist, which could prolong his already shaky career. Weaver is going to Triple-A to get more innings in. I have no idea what the plans for Milton and Vargas are, but they all pretty much pitched their way out of contention.

I'm sure the Dodgers wanted to see McDonald at least start off in the bullpen and work his way up, but they have no choice. Jason Schmidt still isn't ready to pitch every 5th day, so that didn't work either.

Ready or not, here comes McDonald. His first start will be on Friday in Arizona.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

NL West preview: Closers

Here's the last part in my preview series, looking at the closers.

1. Brian Wilson - Giants
2. Jonathan Broxton - Dodgers

3. Chad Qualls - Diamondbacks

4. Huston Street - Rockies

5. Heath Bell - Padres

I get the feeling that I could toss all of these names in a hat, mix them up, then go with whatever order I pick them. All of these players have either done it before with bad numbers (Wilson), are just getting their feet wet (Broxton, Qualls, Bell) or are trying to overcome injures (Street).

Wilson gets the nod because even with a 4.62 ERA and 1.44 WHIP, he still saved 41 of the Giants' 72 wins. That's hard to ignore. Broxton stepped in for the injured Takashi Saito and went 14-17, then gave up only a solo homer in 5.2 IP in the playoffs. His stuff is overpowering. Qualls puts up excellent numbers across the board, so you would think he'll be good in the 9th inning as well. Street needs to prove he's over injuries and can put up good enough numbers in Colorado, or Manny Corpas will be lurking. Bell faded in the 2nd half last year, and on a mediocre team at best, it's hard to see him being that effective.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

NL West preview: Starting Pitching

Part 3 of my season preview will look at starting pitching.

1. Arizona Diamondbacks
Brandon Webb, RH

Dan Haren, RH

Doug Davis, LH
Jon Garland, RH

Max Scherzer, RH

It must be nice to have your 2nd starter as Dan Haren. Even with the departure of Randy Johnson to the Giants, this rotation is still really good. Webb and Haren are as good as you're going to get in the 1-2 spots. Garland and Davis have both done well in the past, but not so much now. Still, if one of them can put up good numbers, they'd take it. Scherzer was the phenom pitcher that came up last year who can be really good if he stays healthy.

2. San Francisco Giants
Tim Lincecum, RH

Matt Cain, RH

Randy Johnson, LH

Barry Zito, LH

Jonathan Sanchez, LH

I was close to slotting these guys in first, but I think the DBacks have a slight edge. Lincecum proved last year how dominant he is, and boy is he fun to watch. Cain seems like a guy who should be doing better, but just hasn't really broken out yet. He's still only 24, so that can change. The addition of Johnson is a good one, because with Zito still stinking up the joint, at least one lefty with a great past can still do some good things. Keep an eye on Sanchez, another young pitcher with great upside.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers
Hiroki Kuroda, RH

Chad Billingsley, RH

Randy Wolf, LH

Clayton Kershaw, LH

James McDonald, RH

A lot could go right with this rotation... and a lot could go wrong. It depends on youth and health. Kuroda showed that he's a very solid pitcher in the postseason, so he's earned the Opening Day job. Billingsley had a breakout season where he showed the stuff of a staff ace. Wolf is back, and he's a high strikeout pitcher, and a high injury risk. Kershaw and McDonald have some nasty stuff, but who knows if that translates into getting hitters out consistently. If anything, they've shown flashes that it can happen.

4. San Diego Padres
Jake Peavy, RH

Chris Young, RH

Cha Seung Baek, RH

Kevin Correia, RH

Shawn Hill, RH

It's a little hard to believe that a staff with Jake Peavy can be ranked so low, but that's because 3-5 are big question marks. Young is a very good pitcher when healthy, which didn't happen at all last year. If he's fine, then that's a good 1-2 combo. However, that's where it ends. Baek, Corriea, and Hill all have some really ugly numbers. Playing in Petco Park helps, but the bottom line is that if you suck, you'll suck anywhere!

5. Colorado Rockies
Aaron Cook, RH

Ubaldo Jimenez, RH

Jorge De La Rosa, LH

Jason Marquis, RH

Franklin Morales, LH

Poor Colorado. It's practically an automatic that anything to do with pitching, they'll be near or at the bottom of the list. But, Cook and Jimenez really aren't that bad. Cook puts up good numbers without being flashy, and Jimenez has all the flash, just not nearly as much consistency. The bottom 3 guys either aren't good anymore, or never were to begin with.