Sunday, May 31, 2009

Huge start gives Dodgers split with Cubs

Juan Pierre, Rafael Furcal, Orlando Hudson, Russell Martin, and James Loney. What do they all have in common?

All five singled to start the game. And all five eventually scored.

The Dodgers jumped all over Cubs starter Sean Marshall for a five-run first en route to an easy win in Chicago, 8-2. Both teams won two games in this series.

Like they've done better than any other team in the majors this year, the Dodgers got on the board in a hurry and in a big way. Five singles, a two-run double by Mark Loretta, and a sac-fly RBI by Jamie Hoffmann was more than enough to put this game away after one inning.

Eric Milton was the starter, and he was a craftsman tonight. He lasted five and 1/3 innings, giving up two runs on six hits, walking one and striking out four. He maybe only topped out at 88 MPH, but his off-speed stuff was located masterfully, keeping the Cubs off balance the whole time. I'd say he earned a stay in the rotation.

The lead was built to 8-0 after five. Matt Kemp homered deep into left center for his sixth of the year, and second in three days. He's been pushed back as far as eighth in the batting order, mainly because he can't stop striking out, but his recent power surge is a great sign for a team that rarely hits one without Manny.

Loney doubled home another run in the fifth to make it 7-0. The final run was scored when Kemp singled to put runners on first and third. As Loretta struck out, Kemp stole second, and Geovany Soto's throw sailed into center, allowing Loney to walk home.

Milton ran into some trouble in the sixth, not that it mattered. A two-run double by Reed Johnson with the bases loaded made it 8-2 and chased him. Ronald Belisario came on and stranded both runners.

The defense was just as big a part of this win. Loretta made a great leaping catch to end the bottom of the first off the bat of Derek Lee. Hoffmann made a fantastic play by making a diving catch in the second, then having the presence of mind to quickly get up, fire home, and get Johnson out in plenty of time. What a play.

Basically the series came down to each team splitting close and blowout games. The Dodgers took Thursday's close game; the Cubs got a close one Friday. The Cubs blew out the Dodgers Saturday; the Dodgers returned the favor Sunday. So it was all a wash in the end.

There's no rest for the Dodgers as they return home to play the 11th game of 17 consecutive days. They start a homestand with three against the Diamondbacks. At long last, Hiroki Kuroda makes his return to the mound, with his only start coming Opening Day.

Stults' sprained thumb will cost him a DL visit

The sore left thumb of Eric Stults has gone from bad to worse, and it will now land him a spot on the 15-day DL. In his place, the Dodgers have called up Double-A reliever Travis Schlichting.

After watching Stults' start on Saturday against the Cubs, it was obvious that his thumb was not doing himself or his team any favors. Like he said, it starts off fine, but as the game goes on and it stiffens up, it's pretty much useless. He's been an effective starter, so the rest will do him some good.

Schlichting is an unknown, but he's been great in the minors this year. In Chattanooga, he's given up only one earned run in 13 2/3 innings, good for an ERA of 0.66. Opponents are hitting .146 against him. Throw in 12 strikeouts, and that's some great stuff right there.

Keep in mind, Hiroki Kuroda will be brought off the DL Monday, so somebody has to go. I'm still under the assumption that it will be catcher A.J. Ellis, as that was the original plan. Unless something changes, that's what will happen.

Torre's right: Manny should skip the All-Star Game

Joe Torre made headlines this week by offering his candid opinion on whether or not Manny Ramirez should be an All-Star this year. Here's his comment:
"No, I don't, and if you ask Manny, he'd give you the same answer," said Torre. "I understand a lot of it is a popularity contest and you want to give the manager the best players, but to me, the significance of the All-Star Game is to reward players who had a good first half."
In case you don't know, Manny actually is eligible to play in the game July 14. His suspension is due to end on July 3, barring any rainouts. So the possibility of him being voted in is an intriguing one.

My take on all of this is that Torre's right. I think Manny going to St. Louis would only cause more headaches for someone that doesn't need them. I can picture Manny being voted in, and all of the media attention would be on him and not on the other players that deserve their praise. It would basically be a giant circus.

I have no doubt that if he's not selected by the fans (he's currently fourth for outfielders) that the coaches will not pick him. First of all, Torre is one of the coaches, so it's not like he'd pick him after saying what he did. But the coaches would get grilled if they did pick him, so that's just not going to happen.

At the end of the day, everything will be much more peaceful for Manny, the Dodgers, and the All-Star Game as a whole with Manny staying back in Los Angeles on July 14. I'm pretty confident that will happen.

A big clunker in Wrigley

Ryan Dempster baffled the Dodgers for seven strong innings, and the Cubs easily defeated the Dodgers on Saturday afternoon, 7-0. The shutout was a first for the Dodgers this season.

Basically the game can be summed up as this: the Dodgers couldn't hit, couldn't pitch, and couldn't stop the Cubs from gradually building their lead as the game progressed. Only getting seven runners on base the entire game is not exactly a recipe for success.

Eric Stults got the start, and wasn't too bad early on, but then hit a wall. He only went three innings, giving up four runs on six hits. After walking Bobby Scales and giving up a triple to Mike Fontenot to start the fourth, that was all she wrote for him.

Stults is still battling through a sore left thumb, which would seem like was still bothering him. The announcers on Fox of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver were making a point about Stults needing to work quickly in order to be effective. He did early, but it didn't last long. The longer he took to pitch, the worse it was.

Like I said before, the offense couldn't do a lick. The only person who somewhat showed up was Matt Kemp, who went 2-3. Russell Martin and Andre Ethier had doubles with their only hits. And that, my friends, was it.

After Guillermo Mota came on and did a nice job getting out of the fourth, Jeff Weaver gave up three runs in two and 1/3 innings. He gave up three hits and five walks in that span. Ouch. I'll chalk that up to just a bad day for him, because he's been pretty good this year.

Tonight's game is the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball telecast. With no NBA playoffs tonight, there should be more eyes on this game, unless you count the Stanley Cup Finals as competition (no offense to anyone, but I don't). Eric Milton will go, and a good start for him should keep him in the fifth spot in the rotation with Hiroki Kuroda due back Monday.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Kuroda looks good to go for Monday

Hiroki Kuroda hasn't pitched since Opening Day in San Diego, sidelined with a strained left oblique. His two-month wait looks to have finally come to end, as Joe Torre announced today that he will be the starting pitcher Monday night against the Diamondbacks.

The Dodgers are obviously playing very well, as they have been able to come up with key play after key play. But they need Kuroda to provide stability and give them solid innings. Aside from Chad Billingsley and Randy Wolf, the rest of the rotation has ranged from good one day to barely giving any innings the next.

With Kuroda back, the plan is to have Clayton Kershaw in the long relief role Monday in case Kuroda wears down, or is knocked around, early. If Kershaw isn't needed, he will likely start Thursday night's game. The strategy will keep Billingsley and Wolf on their regular five-day cycle.

Once Kuroda is back, then it will be a battle between Eric Stults and Eric Milton for the final spot. It should be Stults', but he is still a bit banged up with a sore left thumb. Milton looked good his last start in Colorado, so maybe it'll be him for the time being. It could go either way.

Ellis is called up as Ohman hits the DL

Will Ohman is the latest Dodger to be placed on the 15-day DL with a sore left shoulder. The result is that catcher A.J. Ellis will be recalled for the weekend series against the Cubs. But he shouldn't get too comfortable...

You see, the plan is that Ellis will only be up until Hiroki Kuroda is activated off the DL. And judging by recent reports, that will happen on Monday, June 1. Considering the Dodgers already have two catchers in Russell Martin and Brad Ausmus, Ellis will be lucky to get in one at-bat pinch-hitting.

For Ohman, the injury could explain his 5.84 ERA, which is obviously not what the team bargained for when they signed him a week before Opening Day. If you recall, the original plan was for him to get in some work in the minors, but he kind of surprisingly made the 25-man roster.

Ohman was brought in to get out left-handed hitters, but they're hitting .296 against him. The funny thing is that righties are hitting .211, so go figure. With Hong-Chih Kuo still out and always an injury concern, Ohman's arm will still be counted on as the season goes on to provide big outs.

Small lead can't hold up in Wrigley

Matt Kemp's solo shot in the seventh inning broke a scoreless tie, and the Dodgers looked poised to win another close one against the Cubs. But, Chad Billingsley couldn't hold it, as the Cubs got two and held on, 2-1.

The game was a matchup of two good starting pitchers - Billingsley and Ted Lilly. Neither man let their team down, as they made big pitches to strand runners on base during the first six innings to keep it at 0-0.

The seventh inning started off with promise for the Dodgers, as Casey Blake worked a walk. That was quickly erased, though, when Andre Ethier grounded into a double play. That DP would come back to haunt them, as Matt Kemp hit his first homer since May 7 for the temporary lead.

Billingsley worked out of jams in the second, third, and sixth, but had no such luck in the bottom of the seventh. Koyie Hill lead off with a solo homer that tied the game at one. Just like that, it was a new game.

What followed was three consecutive singles by Jake Fox, Alfsonso Soriano, and Bobby Scales to load the bases with one down. Kosuke Fukudome hit a sac-fly RBI to center to give the Cubs the lead at 2-1. Billingsley did get Derek Lee to fly out to end it.

The Dodgers did have their chances to at least tie it up. In the eighth, Rafael Furcal walked to start, but the double play ball killed them again, this time by Juan Pierre. Two men were on in the ninth with two down, but pinch-hitter Mark Loretta grounded to short to end the game.

It's too bad the bats couldn't get that one big hit, because Billingsley deserved a win. He went seven innings, giving up eight hits, two runs, two walks, and eight strikeouts. It was just that one bad inning in the seventh that did him in.

James Loney has been playing well lately, but today was not a day he'd like to remember. He picked up the Golden Sombrero with four K's. The Dodgers did their best Cubs impersonation from last night by hitting into three double plays themselves. So it was obviously not their best day with the bats. It happens.

Saturday afternoon's game will be on Fox as Eric Stults takes the hill. With Hiroki Kuroda on his way back, it seems like it's a battle between Stults and Eric Milton for the remaining rotation spot. It'll probably to Stults that wins out, and a good start tomorrow can definitely help his cause.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The double play is the Dodgers' best friend

The Dodgers found themselves in a repeat of yesterday's game against the Rockies: a small lead in the 9th, the bases loaded, and one down.

Just like in Colorado, they survived.

Randy Wolf pitched another gem, and the Dodgers took advantage of a whopping four double plays by the Cubs to get the win, 2-1. With the Padres idle today, the lead in the NL West is up to an amazing nine games, and we're not even 1/3 done with the season yet. That's just crazy.

The first inning started off much like many other games - the Dodgers got on the board. Juan Pierre continued his hot streak by singling and stealing second. Rafael Furcal returned from sitting three games with a sore back and managed to bunt the ball past a diving Mike Fontenot at third, scoring Pierre for the 1-0 lead.

Casey Blake looks like he has permanently moved up from the #8 spot in the order to hit fifth today, and he collected an RBI on a groundout in the third to make it 2-0. The score would hold up quite awhile, as Wolf and Cubs starter Randy Wells both pitched very well.

Wolf looked like he would get a complete game shutout as he entered the eighth, but that was all for naught as Bobby Scales worked back from an 0-2 count to hit a 3-2 pitch over the center field wall to make it 2-1. That was all for Wolf as Ramon Troncoso was called on to keep the narrow margin in tact.

It wasn't the prettiest, but Troncoso got the big outs when he needed them. In the eighth, he got Alfonso Soriano swinging and Ryan Theriot to ground into a double play to strand two runners with none out.

Joe Torre really couldn't use Jonathan Broxton today since he threw 38 pitches in Coors yesterday, so he let Troncoso hit for himself in the eighth and let him try to close it out. But just like the eighth, two men reached on a bunt by Milton Bradley and a single to center by Derek Lee.

Following a groundout, Geovany Soto was given the intentional walk to load 'em up for a forceout. In a pressure situation, Troncoso got Scales and Jake Fox swinging to end the game. The strikeout of Fox was particularly impressive seeing as how he was scorching the ball in Triple-A and had a chance to be a big hero. Didn't happen, and I'm not shedding any tears!

Today was a win that can be credited fully to the pitching and defense. Wolf pitched seven innings, giving up six hits, one run, one walk, and seven strikeouts. Troncoso went two innings for his third save. The defense turned four double plays, which included ones to end innings six through eight. Not bad.

Friday afternoon's matchup should be a good one, as Chad Billingsley takes on Ted Lilly. For those of you that can't normally catch the games, Saturday is on Fox (which includes New York, finally) and Sunday is an ESPN game. So enjoy watching them while they're hot.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Big lead comes in handy late against Rockies

Wednesday's afternoon game in Coors Field saw the Dodgers do something they've done the previous two games - put together a big inning. This time it was a five-run seventh that gave them a 7-3 lead and seemingly put this one away.

After the lead was increased to 8-3 heading into the bottom of the ninth, the Rockies refused to go quietly.

Despite a massive late run that saw the bases loaded and one out, the Dodgers were able to hold on to win, 8-6. That makes it the second sweep already of the Rockies and eight of nine overall.

With the red-hot Casey Blake and the banged up Rafael Furcal getting rests, Mark Loretta and Juan Castro were able to fill in nicely, something they've done tremendously all year long. They combined to score three runs.

A single by James Loney in first put the Dodgers up one early. In the second, Castro grounded into a fielder's choice, but an error by Troy Tulowitzki scored Andre Ethier from third.

Clayton Kershaw was on the mound, and he was victimized by his Achilles' heel, the walk. Two straight to start the third put men on, and they advanced to scoring position on a sacrifice bunt. Clint Barmes then scored on a balk to make it 2-1.

The fourth saw the Rockies take their first lead of the series on a long ball by Ryan Spillborghs to score two, and it was 3-2. Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez settled down to keep the Dodgers in check for four straight innings.

In the seventh, however, the Dodgers again scored a bunch. With one down, Matt Kemp walked and Castro singled. Blake pinch-hit and struck out for two down, and it looked as if the Rocks would avoid much, if any, trouble.

Too bad for them (and good for L.A.), that didn't happen. Juan Pierre drove in Kemp with a single to knot it at three apiece. Manny Corpas, once a really good closer and now a lowly middle relief man, gave up an RBI single to Loretta and a walk to Orlando Hudson.

With the bases loaded and Loney due up, lefty Randy Flores was called on. It didn't matter as Loney cleared the bases with a double, and just like that it was 7-3.

Another RBI single by Pierre got the score to 8-3 heading into the ninth. Ronald Belisario started it, but Spilborghs singled. Enter Will Ohman, who surrendered an RBI triple to Seth Smith, and this game was suddenly looking interesting at 8-4.

Joe Torre didn't mess around anymore, bringing in Jonathan Broxton to finish it off. After striking out Barmes, Broxton was all over the place. A double by Paul Phillips made it 8-5, and the next two hitters walked. With the bases loaded, Tulowitzki struck out for two outs.

Todd Helton was able to work Broxton's third walk to make it 8-6, and the Dodgers had to be wondering if they'd ever make it out of there. Brad Hawpe had a chance to be a hero, but grounded out to short to end the game.

The end of the road wasn't easy, but getting a big lead in Coors is obviously never safe. The Rockies don't have the power that they once did, so huge comebacks aren't as likely. It almost happened today, but Broxton was pretty much his own worst enemy. Hey, a win's a win, as they say.

A battle of Randy's will begin a four-game set in Chicago, Wolf vs. Wells. Wolf has been great this year, while Wells will be making his fourth career start. Even with the Cubs treading water at around .500, it should be a good matchup in a rematch of last year's NLDS.

The Dodgers swept that series, if you recall...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Small ball = big runs for Dodgers

The Dodgers used huge fourth and seventh innings Monday afternoon as they pounded the Rockies, 16-6. 15 of the 16 runs were scored in those two innings alone.

As if scoring seven runs in one inning and eight in another isn't amazing enough, they didn't have one home run today. Of their 19 hits, only three were for extra bases (doubles by Jamie Hoffmann and Casey Blake, and a triple by Juan Pierre). Basically it was a plethora of singles being slapped all over the place.

The game was scoreless through three, then the Dodgers let loose. Starting with Orlando Hudson, 11 men came to the plate, gathering seven runs on seven hits. Hudson, Blake, Matt Kemp, and James Loney all singled to start the onslaught.

The big blow of the fourth was when Juan Pierre hit a bases-clearing triple, scoring Juan Castro, Loney, and Eric Stults. Russell Martin's RBI single gave the Dodgers a touchdown lead at 7-0.

The final score won't show this, but the Rockies made this a close game starting in the bottom of the fourth. Clint Barmes' RBI double got them on the board, but Stults got out of the inning.

Stults turned out to be his own worst enemy in the fifth, as he started walking everybody and their mother. Three straight walks with one down got him the hook and destroyed any chance of him earning the win. And that's kind of sad considering he was up six runs to start the inning.

Jeff Weaver relieved and didn't do much better. Brad Hawpe's two-run double was the big blow, and it was quickly 7-5. A sac-fly RBI by Troy Tulowitzki in the sixth made it 7-6, and it was suddenly a brand new game.

That was short-lived, however, as the Dodgers again unloaded in the seventh. RBIs were hit by Hoffmann, Castro (two), Martin, Hudson (two), Blake, and Kemp. If the Rockies weren't walking hitters, they were watching balls being sprayed in all directions as the Dodgers found just about every opening possible to get a hit.

The scoreboard would seem to indicate a typical Coors Field game, but that wasn't the case. Despite 22 runs and 27 hits, none of them were homers. That's pretty crazy. You would think at least one of the runs would come from the long ball, but it didn't.

Neither team can claim their pitchers did well (especially the Rockies), but Stults has to be kicking himself for blowing a chance to go 5-1. He just couldn't throw a strike in the fifth to save his life. He did have a sore thumb, causing him to miss his last start, so maybe it was still bothering him. Who knows.

Eric Milton will go tomorrow, and he hasn't pitched since receiving a no-decision on May 16 in Florida. I would think his time in the rotation is numbered with reports of Hiroki Kuroda rehabbing. But, perhaps a strong start will keep him with the big club longer.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Runs galore as Angels take the Freeway Series

The Dodgers and Angels split the first two games of the Freeway Series, as both teams had trouble driving in runners on base. That wouldn't be a problem today, as the Angels were able to do a little more, winning 10-7.

The second inning was great for L.A. (you know, the team that actually DOES play there, not the imitators). Rookie Jamie Hoffmann, getting his first ever start in the majors, launched a three-run shot to put the Dodgers up 4-0. With Chad Billingsley on the mound, all signs pointed to a victory.

The Angels, however, had other ideas. Frustrated by not being able to take advantage of runners on base the first couple of games, Torii Hunter lead the way in knocking around Billingsley.

It all started in the third with RBIs on Rob Quinlan's double and Chone Figgins' single. That slashed the lead to 4-2, but Billingsley was able to get through the next two innings unscathed.

With a low pitch count, Billingsley entered the sixth with some momentum. That was short-lived, as the Angles put up a three spot to take the lead. Four straight hitters reached base to start the inning, as Hunter and Juan Rivera hit RBI singles, and Kendry Morales hit a sac-fly RBI.

Billingsley left after six innings, and Cory Wade tried to keep it a one-run game. That didn't happen, as Hunter again struck with a two-run single, pushing their lead to 7-4.

Despite not scoring for five innings, the Dodgers refused to go quietly. Darren Oliver came on to pitch for the Angles, and Orlando Hudson and Casey Blake greeted him with singles. James Loney hit a sac-fly RBI, and it was now 7-5.

Hoffmann would continue his memorable day by doubling just in front of a sliding Bobby Abreu to score Matt Kemp, and it was now 7-6. Mark Loretta pinch-hit and was walked intentionally to load the bases, and it was now up to pinch-hitting Rafael Furcal and Pierre to get something done with one out.

Well, they did get something done, just not for the Dodgers. Raffy grounded into a fielder's choice to force Kemp at home, and Pierre grounded out. That was as close as the Dodgers would get.

Brent Leach and Ramon Troncoso were pretty much awful in the ninth, as the Angles added three more runs to make it 10-6. Blake hit an RBI double to close out the scoring on this day.

The offense certainly can't be faulted, as they were able to make plenty of things happen. The pitching never came through, though. Billingsley gave up five runs (four earned) in six innings, but did strike out six.

The bullpen was even worse. Wade could only get two outs while giving up two runs, Leach gave up one run 1/3 of an inning, and Troncoso gave up two runs in 2/3. Five runs in three innings for the bullpen just won't get it done.

The loss today gives the Dodgers only their second series loss at home out of eight total. That's still very impressive. The Angels, like always, are a very solid team, so it's not like they lost to some scrubs. It's a good thing for them that their players aren't as dumb as their team name is.

The Dodgers will now hit the road for seven games, starting with three in Colorado. Eric Stults will get the start on Memorial Day.

Dodgers' comeback leads to win in extras

The Dodgers found yet another way to win Saturday night when down by a few late. As they've done earlier in the season, it was their patience at the plate that paid off.

Juan Pierre's bases loaded walk scored Matt Kemp, and the Dodgers overcame a 4-1 deficit to defeat the Angles in 10 innings, 5-4. With the win, the Dodgers are the first team in baseball to reach the 30-win mark.

Both teams played to a standstill the first 4 innings. Russell Martin hit and RBI double in the second to go up 1-0, but Juan Rivera's solo homer in the fourth tied it up.

The fifth is when momentum would shift to the team that claims they're from Los Angeles, but really aren't. With two outs, Chone Figgins and Rivera were on base with singles. On a 3-2 count, Torri Hunter temporarily broke the game open with a three-run homer to give the Angles a 4-1 lead.

The Dodgers wasted no time in battling back. Orlando Hudson singled with two down and went to second on a wild pitch. Andre Ethier was then beaned. Martin, still struggling with his bat, again came through with an RBI single. James Loney followed with one himself to make it 4-3.

Down a run heading into the eighth, Casey Blake again showed why he's the most productive eighth hitter in the game. Loney doubled to lead off, and Blake singled him home an out later to tie it at 4-4.

From there, like most games, it was a battle of the bullpens. Ronald Belisario had already pitched 1.2 scoreless innings, and now it was Jonathan Broxton's turn. And Broxton sure did come through, blanking the Angels in the ninth and tenth, striking out three.

Jose Arredondo relieved in the ninth and got Loney swinging to end the threat. But in the 10th, Arrendondo looked completely lost. Singles by Kemp and Blake started it, and pinch-hitting Juan Castro walked to load the bases.

Pierre had already grounded out once with the bases loaded earlier the game, so he now had a chance for redemption. Of course, it helped that Arrondondo lost all control, walking Pierre on a full count to end the game.

A win in extra innings is always good, but the Dodgers wasted chances to score during the game. They got 11 hits, drew five walks, and were even beaned three times. Still, they left 14 men on base. They can thank Martin and Loney for their big, two-out RBIs.

The rubber match is today, and the Dodgers send their ace Chad Billingsley to the mound. He's tied for the National League lead in wins at six, so he's looking to get his name at the very top of that list with a win today.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

1-for-14 in scoring position dooms Dodgers

For the Dodgers, the formula was simple: get a big hit, win the game.

Too bad it never actually happened.

The Dodgers went a dreadful 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position in dropping the Freeway Series opener to the Angels, 3-1. The bottom line is that the big bats were nowhere to be found, wasting a good effort by Clayton Kershaw.

The funny part is that the Angels really weren't any better with their sticks. They were 2-for-17 with runners in scoring position, equaling the Dodgers with 11 men on altogether. The Dodgers topped that by leaving a man on third in five of the first seven innings. Ouch.

Gary Matthews Jr. got the scoring started in the fourth with an infield single that scored Torii Hunter. The Dodgers would fight right back in the bottom of the inning when Russell Martin doubled with one down, and James Loney drove him in with a single.

After Kershaw exited following the fifth, Ramon Troncoso, Brent Leach, and Ronald Belisario held the Angels in check the following two innings. Entering the eighth, it was time for Cory Wade to show his stuff.

Unfortunately, his stuff was pretty awful. He immediately gave up singles to Kendry Morales and Matthews Jr. After a groundout for one down, Macier Izturis drew a walk to load the bases. Both teams have had seemingly 100 men on during the game, but the Angels finally came through on a two-run single by Chonne Figgins to put the game away at 3-1.

I suppose the Dodgers were due to have some luck go the other way for a change, as they've been the ones making all the right plays lately. But the lack of a power threat really hurt them last night. So that means... you guessed it... no Manny Ramirez came back to haunt them.

Kershaw put in five solid innings, giving up only one run on four hits. His biggest problem is still the walk, issuing four this time. If he can improve his control even a little bit, he can do better than throwing 97 pitches in five innings. The fear is that his arm will tire as the season goes on, so let's hope he starts locating better.

If you want a good laugh, check out the box score from the game. There were seven men that had multiple hits and 11 walks taken. Yet only four runs were scored. It's safe to say both teams really missed their sluggers, Manny and Vladimir Guerrero.

Tonight's pitching matchup looks really good, as Randy Wolf takes on John Lackey. Wolf has been absolutely fantastic this year, proving that when healthy, he can can be dominant. Lackey has only made two starts, though one of them can barely be counted considering he was ejected for throwing at Ian Kinsler. So I think he should be well-rested.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dodgers sweep Mets to go 17-3 at home

For the third night in a row, the Dodgers were locked in a tight game with the visiting Mets. When one of the teams needed a big hit the most, it was once again the Dodgers that were money.

Russell Martin hit a go-ahead RBI single in the eighth to lead the Dodgers over the Mets, 2-1. The win gives the Dodgers a sweep, a 17-3 record at home, and an MLB-best 29-13 record.

Plus, they're 8-5 since a certain left fielder was suspended 50 games. Not too shabby considering they were 1-4 a little over a week ago.

The game was a matchup of two veterans trying to give their teams good innings, Jeff Weaver and Livan Hernandez. Neither man disappointed. Weaver went five innings, giving one run on four hits. Hernandez topped him with seven innings, giving up one run on seven hits. Despite their best efforts, each did not factor into the decision.

As the Dodgers have done better than any team this season, they struck in the first inning. Juan Pierre and Rafael Furcal singled to start. Orlando Hudson advanced them on a groundout, and Andre Ethier lifted a sac-fly RBI to score Pierre.

The Mets were able to tie it in the third on an RBI double by Carlos Beltran down the right field line. That's the biggest hit the Mets could garner, as they left nine on base, including six with two outs and runners in scoring position. They pretty much shot themselves in the foot the whole series and paid dearly for it.

Following the third inning, both teams couldn't do a whole heck of a lot. The Dodgers put two men on in the seventh and the Mets did the same in the eighth, but to no avail. With the bullpens doing battle, it seemed like the team that got the next big hit would win.

That happened in the bottom of the eighth for the Dodgers as O-Dog singled with one down. Ethier drew a walk to put two on. Martin had been hitless thus far in the series, but he came through with a hard grounder through short and third to score Hudson with the winning run.

Like the previous two games, the Dodgers' bullpen was really good. They combined for four scoreless innings. Ramon Troncoso pitched two, Ronald Belisario and Brent Leach combined for one, and Jonathan Broxton got his 11th save in 13 chances.

As I said before, the Mets really didn't give themselves much of a chance to win these games. Despite the Dodgers only owning a 10-6 edge in scoring, errors and lack of clutch hitting had to have made for a long flight home to New York.

Thursday is an off day before the Dodgers and Angels begin the annual Freeway Series. Clayton Kershaw is coming off his best start in his young career, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning in Florida. He's opposed by Jared Weaver, who's been really good this year, and completely dominant against the Dodgers in the past.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Blake's 3-run shot carries Dodgers

The Dodgers found themselves needing a spark as they trailed 3-2 in the sixth inning of Tuesday night's ballgame against the Mets.

Fortunately for them, they got exactly what they needed from their power source at the bottom of the lineup, Casey Blake.

Blake's 3-run homer, his team-leading ninth, gave the Dodgers a 5-3 lead that would hold up the rest of the night. The win increased their lead in the NL West to 7.5 games over the Giants.

Just like the night before, the Dodgers struck first in the bottom of the first. And what do you know, it's the Mets porous defense that let it happen. Juan Pierre reached on Daniel Murphy's error in left and went to second. After Rafael Furcal walked, Orlando Hudson drove in Pierre with an RBI single.

The Mets didn't waste any time in getting back into the game against Chad Billingsley. With Billingsley battling some control problems, it was John Maine that hit a 2-run single with the bases loaded to go up 2-1.

In the third, Murphy walked to lead off. Carlos Beltran hit one to James Loney, who fired to Raffy for an out. But, Raffy completely airmiled one back to first for an error, and Beltran was in scoring position. The error was costly as David Wright singled him home to go up 3-1.

The Dodgers had a chance to get a big inning in the bottom of the third as Billingsley, Pierre, and Furcal all reached to start. Hudson then popped up to Wright, Andre Ethier struck out, and Russell Martin grounded out to end it. No matter what the circumstances are with who's playing and who's not, not even getting one run with the bases loaded is not exactly clutch.

Just like Maine a few innings back, Billingsley got the Dodgers creeping back with an RBI double in the fourth to go down 3-2. Through the next two innings, both teams couldn't get anything going, and it looked to be a close game the rest of the way.

With Maine entering the 100-pitch mark, Blake picked a perfect time to get a big hit. With Loney and Matt Kemp on, Blake laced one into the left field stands to give the Dodgers the permanet lead, 5-3. He had missed the previous two games with a tight left hamstring, so it looks like the rest did him some good.

Billingsley wasn't sharp at all early on, but found a way to keep the Dodgers close. He finished at 6.1 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 5 BB, 7 K. He threw 117 pitches and didn't even get out of the seventh inning, so that's a good indicator that he didn't have his best stuff. Still, he improved to 6-1 with a 2.51 ERA.

The bullpen stepped up and did a great job. Brent Leach and Ronald Belisario got out of the seventh, Cory Wade pitched a scoreless eighth, and Jonathan Broxton shut down the side for his 10th save.

Even with the Mets banged up (they just lost Carlos Delgado for two months, plus Jose Reyes isn't healthy), it's still good anytime you can beat them. Granted, the Mets gave the Dodgers Monday night's game on a silver platter, but last night was an all-around effort.

Tonight, the Dodgers go for the sweep as Jeff Weaver gets the ball. It was supposed to be Eric Stults, but he was scratched with a sprained left thumb. He's opposed by Livan Hernandez, who's been pitching since Abraham Lincoln was president. So I like the Dodgers' chances.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Kershaw nearly unhittable in rout of Marlins

Clayton Kershaw came into today's game with some awful stats on the road, and with four regular starters resting. What looked to be a potentially tough game nearly turned into a historic one, as he threw seven no-hit innings in getting an easy win, 12-5. Cody Ross' double with no outs in the eighth was the only blemish.

With Rafael Furcal, Russell Martin, Andre Ethier, and Casey Blake all kicking back on a hot Sunday afternoon, the defense was as good as ever. The highlights were a great diving catches by Orlando Hudson at second and Xavier Paul in right in the first couple of innings. Once Kershaw settled down, he was fantastic.

Overall, Kershaw pitched seven strong, giving up one hit, one run, four walks, and nine strikeouts. Not bad for a guy that was 0-3 on the road coming into this game, and with a 5.21 ERA overall. Thanks to today's effort, it's now 4.60.

The runs started in the first, and were mostly obtained on John Koronka's throwing error. James Loney hit into a fielder's choice with two runners in scoring position, and the errant throw let Juan Pierre and Mark Loretta score.

Juan Castro hit his first homer of the season in the second. Walks were issued to Kershaw and Loretta, and with one down, Hudson hit into a fielder's choice. But Kershaw would come around to score on... you guessed it, a throwing error by Koronka. The guy nearly had as many errors (two) as innings pitched (2.2). Stats like that are reasons why the Marlins have fallen on hard times.

And here's the real salt in the wound: Koronka was designated for assignment after the game. Ouch!

With Kershaw dealing, the Dodgers continued to add to their lead as the game progressed. Both Pierre and Loretta traded two-run doubles in the third and eighth, respectively. Pierre hit another RBI double in the ninth, finishing the day 3-for-5 with two runs and three RBIs. He's batting .419 for the year! Even in limited duty during April, that's just an awesome batting average.

The only negative of this game was Guillermo Mota, who was rocked in the ninth. While Kershaw was throwing flames all day, Mota proved why he's buried at the bottom of the bullpen. Up 12-1 in the last inning, he got the first 2 hitters out. Then he let the bases get loaded before giving up a grand slam to Ross. Even in a blowout win, that's not good to see.

For the Dodgers, today's win put a stamp on a very successful road trip. Winning two of three in Philadelphia and Florida with all of the Manny drama is something that surprises a lot of people (me included). I knew they could play well, but they are rising above that and continuing to pull away in the NL West.

Following a cross-country trip back home, the Dodgers will open a three-game series with the Mets on Monday night. Randy Wolf finally got a much-deserved win his last start in Philly, and he'll look to get another one Monday. The best thing about this series is that Johan Santana won't be pitching! Are you upset about that? Nope, neither am I.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Baker's homer the difference for Marlins

John Baker's two-out, two-run homer off of Jeff Weaver in the fifth broke open a tie game, and that was enough for the Marlins to defeat the Dodgers, 6-3. The loss ends the Dodgers' win streak at three.

Eric Milton got his first start since 2007, and all things considered, wasn't that bad. His final line was 4 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 3 K. As you can see, his biggest enemy was the walk. One of his runs he surrendered was a bases loaded walk to Dan Uggla on a full count. The Dodgers would have hoped to get a couple more innings out him, but with 84 pitches in only four innings, they pretty much had to yank him.

Juan Pierre continued his strong play (3-5 with three runs) by singling to lead off the game. After advancing to second on Rafael Furcal's groundout, he stole third and scored on Orlando Hudson's sac-fly. A two-out double by Cody Ross to score Uggla an inning later would tie the game at one.

Both teams traded runs in the third, starting with an RBI groundout by Raffy. Milton got the first 2 outs, but then walked Hanley Ramirez, beaned Jorge Cantu, walked Josh Baker, and walked Uggla to make the score 2-2.

Weaved relieved in the fifth, but that's when the Dodgers lost the game for good, as the Marlins once again did damage with two down. Baker launched his two-run home run after a single by Cantu, and it was 5-2. Weaver did give up two singles after that but got out of the inning.

The Dodgers had chances to get more runs in the sixth and seventh, but could only score one. Xavier Paul pinch-hit with two on and two outs in the sixth, but struck out swinging. Hudson got another sac-fly RBI to score Pierre and inning later, but that was it. The Marlins tacked on two more runs for good measure.

It's not like the Dodgers didn't make things happen, because they did get seven hits, take five walks, and stole four bases. The downfall was leaving eight men on, including four with runners in scoring position and two outs. On the flip side, the Marlins got five of their six runs with two outs. That's clutch hitting, folks.

The rubber match is Sunday afternoon, and Clayton Kershaw will look to bounce back from a rough start in Philadelphia. He's opposed by John Koronka, was was hit hard in his lone start against the Brewers this past Tuesday.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Broxton shaky, but holds on for win

Chris Volstad was able to easily mow through the Dodgers for through five innings on Friday night, giving up only a double to Casey Blake. But in a show of resiliency, the Dodgers got three back in the sixth, and eventually tacked on more runs to get the win, 6-4.

It all started when Blake hit a solo homer to left to lead off the sixth, and that seemed to energize the whole team. Pinch-hitting for starter Eric Stults, Xavier Paul hit his first Major League home run the next batter, and it was 3-2. If you can recall, he was the guy called up when Manny got suspended, and he's now 3-5 with a double and homer.

Juan Pierre singled, but was erased trying to steal second. Rafael Furcal and Orlando Hudson both singled to follow. At this point, I was really hoping Andre Ethier wouldn't hit into another double play, something he's gotten pretty used to. Thankfully he didn't, as he hit a sac-fly to left that was good enough to score Raffy and tie it at three apiece.

With the game knotted up, it would come down to a battle of the bullpens. Jeff Weaver took over for Stults in the bottom of the sixth and held the Marlins in check. James Loney lead off the seventh with a single, and Volstad would then exit for Kiko Calero.

The Dodgers' patience would be their best friend, as Matt Kemp and pinch-hitting Mark Loretta got free passes. That set up a big at-bat for Pierre, who delivered with a single between first and second, scoring Loney and Kemp for the 5-3 lead.

Brent Leach relieved in the bottom of the seventh and gave up an RBI groundout to Chris Coghlan, cutting the lead to 5-4. Ronald Belisario would come on with two outs and get Hanley Ramirez on a flyout to end the inning.

Belisario did walk Jorge Cantu to start the eighth, so Cory Wade would be called on. Wade would eventually load the bases on a hit and walk, but would escape when Alfredo Amezaga flied out. With the exception of getting bombed by the Nationals on May 7, Wade has been really good since his return. He looks like a solid setup guy again.

The Dodgers would get an insurance run in the ninth. Pierre walked with one down, and O-Dog singled one out later. Ethier again had a chance to drive in a run, and again came through. His single scored Pierre and increased the lead to 6-4.

The two-run lead would mean Jonathan Broxton would again get a save opportunity. He had a 3-1 lead against the Phillies yesterday, but gave up a tying double. Tonight would also be a rollercoaster, though with a happier ending.

With one out, consecutive walks would be issued to Coghlan and Ramirez. Cantu would ground back to Broxton, and both runners advanced. With two runners in scoring position, it was a big spot. Ross Gload looked to hit one hard into right, but it hung up enough for Ethier to easily handle it and end the game.

While the win was sweet, what will probably be most remembered in this game is the three Marlins that got tossed. Manager Fredi Gonzalez, Dan Uggla, and Emilio Bonifacio were all shown the door late in the game. I guess when you lose 18 of 24, you have a pretty good reason to be frustrated.

After beginning their Post-Manny Era (at least for 50 games) with some tough losses, the Dodgers have won three straight, all on the road. And they are doing so with contributions up and down the lineup. Most notably, Pierre deserves a ton of credit for staying prepared and getting on base. Do people realize he's hitting .391? Give the man his due because he has earned it.

Eric Milton has been recalled to start tomorrow's game. It's his first start sine May 8, 2007 with the Reds against the Astros. Obviously, it's been a long road back to the Bigs for him, so I'm sure he'll be ready to go.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Milton called up to start in Florida

After being out of the Majors for nearly two years, Eric Milton will be called up to start against the Marlins on Saturday. The move switches Jeff Weaver back to the long relief role in the bullpen, and James McDonald will go down to Triple-A.

First, a look at Milton. He was one of several free agent signings in Spring Training by the Dodgers, and he competed for the fifth starter job. It ended up going to McDonald, so Milton went to Triple-A Albuquerque. He's started seven games, going 2-3 with a 2.83 ERA. Looking deeper into his stats, his WHIP is an excellent 1.00, surrendering a mere 27 hits and six walks in 35 innings. I think he's ready.

The final straw for McDonald came Wednesday night. With the Dodgers leading the Phillies 9-2 in the ninth, McDonald came on to seal the deal. He got the first out, then walked the following batter. Joe Torre wasted no time in yanking him, clearly upset about a walk with such a huge lead. McDonald may as well have kept walking to Albuquerque.

As for Weaver, I think the long relief role suits him well at this stage in his career. He won't be asked to pitch as many innings as a starter, and he has the experience to get Major League hitters out when needed. I like the move.

10th inning rebound gives Dodgers series win in Philly

The Dodgers experienced all types of emotions on Thursday afternoon. They went from a tie game, to taking a small lead, to watching their star closer blow a save with two outs, to getting the lead back for good in the 10th inning. It all added up to a big 5-3 win in 10 innings over the reigning World Series champions, the Phillies.

The game saw a matchup of two stud pitchers in their early 20's, Chad Billingsley and Cole Hamels. Each man more than delivered. Billingsley went 7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 9 K. Hamels went 7 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K. Both men got no-decisions, though they did plenty to deserve wins.

With the game predictably low scoring, each team added single runs in the first 6 innings. The Phillies wasted no time in scoring in the first. Jimmy Rollins lead off with a double and went to third on Shane Victorino's sacrifice bunt. Chase Utley walked next. Ryan Howard hit a sac-fly RBI to score Rollins and grab the 1-0 lead.

The Phillies' defense helped the Dodgers get on the board in the third. Casey Blake started it with a ground rule double. Billingsley and Juan Pierre could not reach base, leaving it up to Rafael Furcal to come through. Raffy did... sort of. It was actually an error from Rollins that let him reach and Blake score, evening the game up at 1.

Tied up going into the seventh, James Loney hit his second homer in as many days to lead off the inning. Cory Wade relieved Billingsley in the eighth and was perfect, giving the Dodgers the lead into the ninth.

For insurance, the Dodgers added another run. Matt Kemp tripled with one down and scored on Blake's sac-fly. The Phillies had their 4-5-6 hitters due up in the bottom of the frame, so it seemed that if Jonathan Broxton could get Ryan Howard out to start, he would cruise.

Howard did strike out, followed by a swinging K of Jayson Werth. With two outs and nobody on, it sure looked good.

But Raul Ibanez singled. Then Greg Dobbs walked. And with an 0-2 count on Carlos Ruiz, an outside fastball was drilled to right-center to score both men, and just like that, it was all tied at 3. It was Broxton's first blown save of the year, all with two outs. It's safe to say that nobody saw that coming.

With momentum clearly on the Phillies side, the Dodgers refused to quit. Much like the Phillies two-out rally, the Dodgers had one of their own in the 10th. Andre Ethier walked off Chad Durbin. Russell Martin then doubled to plate Ethier, and Martin soon scored on a double by Kemp. Ramon Troncoso closed the door in the bottom of the 10th, and the Dodgers got a huge road win.

While it's only May and still all sorts of games left to be played, winning two of three in Philadelphia with all of the Manny drama is a great statement. With Tuesday's game being pretty flat, I have to admit I didn't see the Dodgers winning the next two. Maybe a split, but not both. It's a testament to their young hitters and top of the rotation of Randy Wolf and Billingsley.

The Dodgers will now travel to Florida to take on another team of young stars, the Marlins. Eric Stults, coming off a complete game shutout against the Giants, starts against Chris Volstad.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dodgers pound Moyer in big win

Randy Wolf pitched six strong innings against his former club, and the bats gathered 14 hits in an easy win over the Phillies, 9-2. The win gives the Dodgers a 23-12 record, once again the best in all of baseball. It also denied 46-year-old Jamie Moyer of his 250th career win. So take that, old man!

Wolf hasn't gotten a win since Easter Sunday, but that was mostly because his team didn't give him much support. He started last Thursday against the Nationals (you may remember that day for some guy getting suspended), and the Dodgers blew a 6-0 lead and lost, 11-9. Today, the offense would make sure no such thing like that would happen again.

The Phillies had the lead in the early going on a homer by Jimmy Rollins. At 1-0 going into the fifth, the Dodgers went crazy. Rafael Furcal busted out of a funk with a double. He scored on Orlando Hudson's double to even it up.

Following a groundout by Andre Ethier and a walk to Russell Martin, James Loney lifted a high fly ball to right. Jayson Werth kept going back, and back, and back, until he started running another direction. But it didn't matter as the ball finally sailed over the wall for a three-run shot.

Consecutive singles by Matt Kemp and Casey Blake followed Loney's first homer of the season. Wolf laid down a great bunt in which he was just out at first. Give Kemp a ton of credit for what he did next, as he hustled around third and slid perfectly around Carlos Ruiz's tag for the 5-1 lead. In all, it was five runs on five hits.

Two more runs were added in the sixth on an RBI single by Loney and a sac-fly RBI by Blake. It wasn't exactly a prototypical sacrifice fly, as he fouled out to first. But, with Ryan Howard ranging far back and leaning into the crowd, Martin scurried his way home. Another great example of baserunning and manufacturing runs.

For good measure, Blake added a two-run shot in the ninth. The big night at the plate was more than enough for Wolf, who improved to 2-1 by going 6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 8 K. With an ERA at 2.77, he's quietly (very quietly it seems) putting together an All-Star type of season. He's really stabilized a staff that needed someone to be relied upon for innings.

In looking at the stats, it's easy to see why the Dodgers put up nine runs. The top of the order of Juan Pierre, Furcal, and Hudson went 6-13 with four doubles, three runs, and two stolen bases. While Pierre and Hudson continue to impress, it was really good to see Raffy bust out. At .244, he's looking at any reason for hope, and today was it.

Both teams have had their fun in the last two games, starting with Werth's four steals a night ago, and 14 hits from the Dodgers tonight. Tomorrow's game will be great to watch. Chad Billingsley will take on Cole Hamels in a matchup of two of the game's brightest young stars. It's an afternoon start, so tape it if you can't watch.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Quick start fades away for Dodgers

Here was the scenario for the Dodgers: They faced their first East coast trip of the season against the reigning World Series champions, the Phillies. It's a rematch of last year's NLCS in which the Phillies pretty much had their way, 4-1. It's also a nice early season test to see how legit the Dodgers really are.

Oh ya, and Manny is suspended.

What might have been a great matchup this early in the season was given an obviously blow from Manny's suspension. But nonetheless, the games must go on. And despite getting a quick 1-0 lead, the Dodgers crumbled in the fourth and eventually lost, 5-2.

Sticking with their lineup of Juan Pierre, Rafael Furcal, and Orlando Hudson at the top, the Dodgers had a good start. Pierre continued his great play by doubling off Chan Ho Park to lead off the game. Raffy lined out to short, but Hudson picked him up with an RBI single.

What started as a good play suddenly turned into a bad one when O-Dog was thrown out trying to get to second. And it was made even worse when Andre Ethier doubled next at-bat. Russell Martin grounded out to end the inning.

Still, the Dodgers found themselves up 2-1 entering the bottom of the fourth. Shane Pricktorino... oops, I mean Victorino (I just don't like him) hit an RBI fielder's choice to tie it at one in the third, but Matt Kemp's two-out single put the Dodgers up 2-1 the following inning.

It was in the fourth when the wheels would fall off the bus for the Dodgers. Clayton Kershaw would allow the first 5 hitters to reach base, highlighted by an RBI single from Jimmy Rollins and a two-run single by Raul Ibanez. In all, it was three runs on three hits, two walks, and two stolen bases for a 4-2 Phillies lead.

That lead would go up to 5-2 in the seventh when Jayson Werth stole home. Yes, I did just type that. In fact, Werth had FOUR STOLEN BASES on the night. That's just pretty sad. Nothing against Werth, who is a player I've admired back from his Dodger days for his hard play, but there's no way he should be running wild like that. Wow.

With Brad Lidge on the mound in the ninth, things would get interesting. Martin struck out to start it, but James Loney singled. Kemp fouled out to right, and it looked like a lost night. Except, Casey Blake singled for two on and pinch-hitting Mark Loretta singled to score Loney and cut it to 5-3.

Pierre had a chance to be a hero with two outs, but it wasn't meant to be, as he flied out to end it.

I'll give the Dodgers credit for fighting until the very end. But they were their own worst enemy tonight, as they put up 11 hits and only got two runs. They left eight on base, including four with two outs in scoring position. Basically, they just couldn't get a big hit when they needed it most.

Kershaw started well but faded in the middle innings. He ended at 5 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 5 K. Four hits is great, but he can't be walking nearly a batter an inning. To his defense, this was a pretty tough start for a young pitcher, and with some more runs by his offense, he could've been right there for a win. He'll get better.

Randy Wolf has been awesome his last three starts, and he'll look to continue that Wednesday night against Jamie Moyer. Moyer's ERA is 7.26, so I would hope the offense can get some runs against him. It's an ESPN game, so we all can enjoy.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Extra innings unkind to Mota

The Dodgers had a lead, lost a lead, battled back to tie the game in extra innings, but eventually fell to the Giants in 13 innings, 7-5. The loss ends their homestand on a down note, which adds to the rest of the gloomy mood of the last few days.

Going into this game, the Dodgers knew they'd have their hands full facing reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. Plus, Casey Blake and Russell Martin were given the day off. So it was looking like an uphill climb.

To their credit, Lincecum was not at all the reason they lost. In the 1st, Juan Pierre started things with a walk, then went to 3rd on an errant pickoff throw from Lincecum. Orlando Hudson's sac-fly 1 out later gave them a 1-0 lead.

Jeff Weaver coughed up the lead the next inning, as a sac-fly by Lincecum and a bases loaded walk to Edgar Renteria gave the Giants a 2-1 lead. That was soon tied in the 3rd after Pierre singled, stole 2nd, and scored on Rafael Furcal's RBI single.

With everything knotted up in the 5th, the Dodgers put 2 more on the board. Brad Ausmus got the start at catcher and singled to lead off, but was forced out at 2nd on Weaver's grounder. Pierre came through again with a long double to score Weaver for the 3-2 lead. Then O-Dog hit what seems like his millionth double this season to score Pierre and grab a 4-2 lead.

Randy Winn chased Weaver to start the 6th with a double. Ramon Troncoso entered, but the Giants cut it to 4-3 on a single by Emmanuel Burriss. Will Ohman and Ronald Belisario kept the Dodgers ahead by pitching scoreless 7th and 8th innings.

The Dodgers found themselves in a situation where they needed someone to hold the lead in the 8th and bridge the gap to Jonathan Broxton. Unfortunately, it didn't happen. Winn singled off of Belisario to start, and Cory Wade came in. Wade gave up singles to Aaron Rowand and Burriss, and with 1 down, Nick Schierholtz's sac-fly RBI made it 4-4.

The game would come down to a battle of bullpens, and both teams put up blanks in innings 9-11. Following 2 scoreless innings by Broxton and 1 by McDonald, the Dodgers had to no choice but to trust Guillermo Mota. With all the other top relievers used, it was a gamble that would prove costly.

Rich Aurilla gave the Giants a lead at 5-4 with a sac-fly in the 12th. With closer Brian Wilson on to try and seal the deal, Blake was clutch with a huge solo homer to left with 1 out. Just like that, the Dodgers had new life and momentum...

...but Mota would again give up the lead. This time it was a 2-run single by Winn in the 13th, and that was too much for the Dodgers to overcome. Groundouts by Hudson, Andre Ethier, and James Loney would stick a fork in this day.

The Dodgers really had a golden opportunity to get a win over a fantastic pitcher before heading off to the road, but it just didn't happen. From the 7th inning on, they could only muster 5 hits, and the only big one was Blake's home run. So of course, that meant one thing - they missed Manny Ramirez. And as Dodger fans, we're going to have to live with that fact for awhile.

Monday is an off day, then it's a rematch of last year's NLCS in which the Phillies won 4-1. Clayton Kershaw gets the start against old Dodger Chan Ho Park. Thursday's game should be really good with Chad Billingsley vs. Cole Hamels, so make sure to check that one out.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Saturday afternoon belongs to Stults

Eric Stults made sure the Dodgers would avoid any kind of slump.

After suffering through 2 bad losses, the Dodgers regrouped in a big way today. Riding a complete game, 4-hit shutout by Stults, they easily cruised to a victory over the Giants, 8-0. It's their first win since that guy in left field got suspended.

The 1st showed just how good the Dodgers can play, and how frustrating their youth can be. Stults got the Giants in order to start it off. Leading off was Juan Pierre, which kind of made me cringe. But he came through today, starting with an unusual double where he lined one off of Jonathan Sanchez's glove, going into left field.

Orlando Hudson followed with a single to send Pierre to 3rd. With nobody out, Andre Ethier came up, hitting in Manny's #3 hole. He got the run in, but by grounding into a double play. Matt Kemp flied out to end it, and right away I found myself saying, "Manny could have done better."

Thankfully for the rest of the game, Manny didn't matter. The 2nd inning brought more runs, starting with a walk to Russell Martin and a 1-out pass to Casey Blake. Juan Castro got the start at short for Rafael Furcal and doubled to score Martin. Pierre came back up with 2 down and came through with a 2-run double to get the 4-0 lead.

That was more than enough for Stults, who was simply fantastic today. Check out his final line: 9 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K. His ERA 2 starts ago was 5.50, now it's 3.58. It's performances like that that will keep him in the LA's rotation for as long as he wants to be.

More runs were added later, starting with an RBI single by Kemp in the 5th to go up 5-0. In the 8th, another double by Castro and singles by Stults and Pierre ran it up to 8-0. Edgar Renteria doubled to open the 9th, but he was stranded as the next 3 hitters did nothing.

The win is a relief for obvious reasons. For the first time since Wednesday night's win over the Nationals, the Dodgers can smile. Everyone will be available tomorrow in the bullpen thanks to being rested today and an off day for travel on Monday.

Coming up in the next 2 weeks are a bunch of tests that will show what the Dodgers can do sans Manny. It starts on Sunday with Jeff Weaver facing Tim Lincecum. They then pack up for games in Philadelphia and Florida, followed by home games against the Mets and Angeles. So basically, the easy teams are done and the challenges await. We'll see how it goes.

Pre-Manny Dodgers make their return to the plate

Yes, the Dodgers definitely missed Manny Ramirez last night.

I'll be the first to admit to all of the critics that his lack of presence was indeed felt as the Dodgers looked helpless in trying to score runners on base. The Giants used strong pitching and just enough hitting to get the win, 3-1. That's now 2 losses without Manny, and 48 games to go.

Chad Billingsley was the starter, and while his final line wasn't bad, he battled some control problems as the night wore on. He went 7 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 5 K. Granted, none of the 8 hits he allowed went for extra-bases, so he caught a break there. He just wasn't as dominating as he's been this season.

The game was scoreless after 5 innings of play. Barry Zito, like Billingsley, let runners reach base, but stranded them. I'll give credit where credit is due - after ragging on him endlessly for quite awhile, he has pitched very well lately to earn a respectable 3.57 ERA. Has he finally figured things out? For the Giants to win, and considering the high price tag it cost to get him there, they better hope so.

The scoring started in the 6th as Edgar Renteria and Randy Winn singled to open it up. Pablo Sandoval flew out deep to Matt Kemp, but Renteria advanced to 3rd. Andre Ethier had to make a running catch into foul territory off the bat of Aaron Roward, but Renteria tagged up and scored to go up 1-0.

The Dodgers got it back in the bottom of the 6th, as they too used singles to lead off by Matt Kemp and Russell Martin. But, Martin showed some horrible baserunning by easily getting gunned out trying to advance to 2nd while Kemp went to 3rd. After Mark Loretta struck out, Casey Blake just got one out of the reach of a diving Fred Lewis in left to even it up.

Billingsley went back to work in the 7th, but got knocked around. The bases were loaded with 1 down on singles by Juan Uribe and Emanuel Burriss, and an intentional pass to Fred Lewis. Renteria hit a sac-fly RBI to make it 2-1. Randy Winn walked to load 'em up, and Joe Torre elected to keep Bills in the game. Too bad a dinky infield single by Sandoval to score another made that decision look bad.

It wasn't a pretty sight in the last few innings as the Dodgers put men on base, but either K'd or grounded into double plays. The 9th ended when Rafael Furcal grounded into his 2nd DP of the game, putting an end to a miserable night at the plate for the men in blue.

Overall, the Dodgers could only muster 1 run despite getting 9 hits and gathering 5 walks. They also left 9 men on base, including 5 in scoring position with 2 outs. Their only stolen base attempt was gunned down, and they hit into 3 doubles plays. Those are just some ugly numbers.

As the game wore on, and certainly afterwards, I couldn't help but think that these were the Dodgers we had to endure on a nightly basis before Manny arrived last year. You get the feeling that every run they get, they will have to scratch and claw for. Nothing looked easy.

I know the critics who say the Dodgers will tank without Manny will point directly to this game, and they have some good evidence to back up their claims. It's still too early to say how they'll do, because we should keep in mind that they scored 9 runs 2 nights ago without him. But what they really need is guys like Ethier and Kemp to start hitting for power. If they don't, then a lot will have to go their way if they want to consistently put runs up and win.

It's a FOX game this afternoon, as Eric Stults takes the mound. He put in a good outing against the Diamondbacks last start, and with the team looking for their first post-Manny win, he needs another solid one today.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The home streak is over, so let the Manny blame begin

The start of last night's game with the Nationals sure seemed to be an end to the bad mood surrounding Chavez Ravine. A 6-run 1st inning, including a grand slam, will cure any and all ills.

Then the bad day got even worse - the Nationals came all the way back and won, 11-9. The loss ends the Dodgers' home win streak at an MLB-record 13 straight games to open the season.

It was pretty much a case of the worst possible timing on Earth. A staggering 6-0 lead heading into the 6th wasn't enough to hold off the team with the worst record in baseball. The bullpen that has been fantastic lately completely imploded. Surrendering 11 runs in 4 innings isn't exactly the best way to make fans forget about their already horrible day.

First, the good part of the game, and it was all in the 1st inning. After Rafael Furcal struck out to start it off, Orlando Hudson walked. The new #3 hitter Andre Ethier singled to send O-Dog to 3rd. James Loney singled to score Hudson, and it was 1-0. A walk to Russell Martin loaded the bases and set the stage for Matt Kemp.

And boy did Kemp deliver with a grand slam to right center, his 2nd granny this season. A triple by Casey Blake and a sac-fly RBI by Randy Wolf made it 6-0, and all was well in the world again.

Neither team could do much of anything until the 6th, when Josh Willingham homered, giving Wolf his only run of the night. Overall, Wolf finished at 6 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K. He once again got a no-decision thanks to the shoddy bullpen work, so that's 5 straight starts without getting a decision of any kind. With a 3.59 ERA, he deserves more than just 1 win.

The meltdown started in the 7th with Ramon Troncoso, who saw his string of scoreless innings come to a halt. He gave up 3 singles and an RBI groundout to Christian Guzman to make it 6-2. Will Ohman came on with 2 outs to get the lefty Adam Dunn out, but that didn't happen as Dunn hit a double to score 2 and make it 6-4. Just like that, it was a new game.

Still, the Dodgers had the lead, but that went right down the toilet thanks to a horrendous 7th inning. The trio of Cory Wade, Brent Leach, and Guillermo Mota pretty much did nothing right. Doubles by Austin Kearns and Nick Johnson plated 2 apiece, and Adam Dunn and Elijah Dukes each had RBI singles. All of that added up to a 10-6 advantage for the Nats. Some meaningless runs were scored after, but the game was over.

Any baseball fan that reads about this game will automatically think, "They're going to suck without Manny now." Well, the bullpen did last night, but they've been great lately. They were bound to have a bad outing at some point. The offense put up 9 runs without Manny, and they've won without him a couple of times earlier this year when he sat. And Randy Wolf again pitched a good game.

I'm putting the positive spin on this because I really do believe the Dodgers will be able to play good ball without Manny there until July. I'm not foolish enough to think the offense will be as good. The reason Manny was brought back was to provide consistent pop in the middle of that order. But if guys like Kemp, Ethier, Loney, and Martin can continue their progress, I know they can win ballgames.

The Dodgers will now welcome in another NL West rival tonight, the Giants. Back in April the Dodgers swept 3 from them to start their home streak, and the Giants took 2 of 3 in San Francisco at the end of the month. The ace Chad Billingsley and his spotless 5-0 record takes the mound against Barry Zito.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Pierre is now seeing why he wasn't traded

Juan Pierre didn't want anything to do with staying in LA once Manny Ramirez was given a 2-year deal. With young studs Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier claiming the other outfield spots, Pierre knew that his playing time would tank.

Despite all of that, Ned Colletti wanted to hang onto him as an insurance policy. Today is exactly the type of reason why.

Think about it - who would be the starting left fielder if Pierre wasn't there? Xavier Paul has been tearing up the Minors, but he's very raw. Jason Repko isn't bad, but he's more fragile than glass. Is there even anybody else that could possibly step in? I can't think of anyone.

So Pierre will now get a chance to prove that he's still an impact player. We all know that he has great speed and can be a terror on the bases. But we also know the flip side - a really weak arm and an OBP that will never be that great. Like it or not, that's what he brings to the table.

I think people are too hard on him, and I'll be the first to admit that I certainly have been on here as well. When the Dodgers lose and you see Pierre not getting on base and making rainbow throws from the outfield, it's easy to point the finger at him. But I think now is the time Dodger fans embrace him and accept him for who he is. He did win a ring as a leadoff hitter with the Marlins, so he knows what it takes to be a winner.

The early plan is to keep him at the bottom of the order... literally. Joe Torre has him in the #9 spot in the order for tonight's game against the Nationals. It's a page out of Tony LaRussa's playbook, and if the Dodgers can keep winning with that order, it'll keep happening.

I can honestly say that I am willing to give Pierre a chance to relax, play ball, and show everyone why he was signed to such a rich deal to begin with. Getting on his case too quickly probably won't be the smartest thing to do. Let's see how he contributes and helps the Dodgers get some wins.

Major League Baseball to Manny: Take a 50 game break

A 21-8 record, 13-0 at home, a 6 game lead in the NL West, and a team that was rolling and not showing any signs of slowing down.

And now this.

Manny Ramirez has been suspended for 50 games by Major League Baseball for using performance-enhancing drugs. He won't be anywhere near a ballpark until he's eligible to come back July 3 in San Diego.

I was at work when I found at, and everything from my cell phone to my email to other teachers popping by with the "good" news seemed to hit me at once. Manny. Drug addict. Suspended. What was he thinking? What an idiot! All of those comments and everything in between is what I heard today.

To be completely technical about all of this, Manny was caught using human chorionic gonadatropin (HCG), which is a women's fertility drug. It's not to be confused with HGH, human growth hormone. HCG is typically used for steroid users who are off a cycle to restart their body's natural testosterone production. Seems like Manny used a bit too much, and a positive test was triggered.

In addition to getting a nearly 2-month vacation, he'll also forfeit about $7.7 million of his $25 million contract this year. I know most people will laugh at that because he's still a multi-millionaire, but that's still a pretty big chunk of change.

Of course this is all disappointing. How can I not be pissed off that the Dodgers' best player just did something really stupid to cost his team? But I guess the silver lining is that this season is only 29 games old. When he comes back, he'll still have half of his games left, which covers 3 months. So it's basically like getting a pretty bad injury, but not season-ending.

In today's baseball age, I can't say this is terribly surprising. Ever since the infamous home run chase during the summer of '98 by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa was pretty much proven to be a fraud, the general public has been conditioned to be let down. I was watching a Syracuse basketball game this winter when news of A Rod broke, and my surprise didn't last long, just like today. Makes me wonder who the hell isn't cheating anymore? Sad.

So yes, this will be a black cloud over the organization for the entire year. But to say that the Dodgers are automatically done is not doing their homework. They still have a solid club that is more than capable of winning in the weak NL West. Manny will come back in the #3 spot when the summer heats up, and the Dodgers will still be the favored team to win the division.

I can only hope that Manny does the smart thing and just lay low until he comes back. Then he really needs to pick up where he left off, because if he doesn't play well, his long season will get even longer.

At 13-0, Dodgers set new MLB record at home

The Dodgers found themselves locked in a tight game for the first 5 innings of Wednesday's night game against the Nationals. With both Clayton Kershaw and Daniel Cabrera doing their best to avoid messy situations, it was a battle to see which team would blink first.

Fortunately for the Dodgers, the Nationals' pitching lived up to their reputation - pathetic.

A bunch of walks and hits were strung together, and 7 runs later, the Dodgers were able to cruise to a 10-3 win. Now they stand alone in the record books as having the most home wins to start a season in Major League history at 13... and hopefully counting.

Kershaw started and immediately had to work out of a jam in the 1st. Christian Guzman and Ryan Zimmerman singled, and Elijah Dukes walked with 2 down. "Stone Cold Steve" Austin Kearns couldn't come through with a K to end it.

The Dodgers loaded the bases themselves in the bottom of the 1st on a bunt single by Rafael Furcal, a double (again) by Orlando Hudson, and a walk to Manny Ramirez. Andre Ethier grounded into a DP, but still got a run home. After James Loney struck out, it was a pretty big opportunity lost.

The Nationals were able to knot it up at 1 in the 3rd thanks to a Ryan Zimmerman sac-fly RBI. A bases loaded walk with 2 down to Ethier in the 5th gave the Dodgers the edge again, 2-1.

The 6th is when the Dodgers went off. Russell Martin started it all with a single. With 1 down, consecutive walks to Casey Blake and the pinch-hitting Mark Loretta again gave the Dodgers a big chance to score. This time, they more than cashed in. Raffy singled to plate 1, and O-Dog drew a walk to force in another. Manny scored 2 with a double to make it 6-1. Ethier was given the free pass to load 'em up again, and Loney hit a 2-run single. The scoring ended on a fielder's choice RBI by Martin, who lead off the inning. In all, 4 walks, 4 hits, and 7 runs to make it 9-1.

Kershaw came through with his 2nd straight great start, going 5 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 K. 3 starts ago his ERA was 7.29, now it's 4.91. He hasn't given up a homer in his last 2 as well, and combined with not giving away too many free passes, he's now figured it all out. Just hope it stays that way.

A couple of minor notes about the bullpen. James McDonald relieved and pitched a scoreless inning. That was his first appearance since not even getting out of the 2nd inning against the Padres on April 30. Brent Leach made his first Big League appearance, not allowing a hit in an inning. Good to see those 2 come out and pitch well.

Let's see if the momentum keeps up as Randy Wolf takes the mound. He hasn't even earned a decision since a win over the Diamondbacks on Easter Sunday, April 12. He's pretty much the #2 guy behind Chad Billingsley now, so he'll look for another solid start.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Dodgers claim share of MLB record

With 3 runs in the 1st inning, the Dodgers scored more than enough runs to win 3-1 and get their perfect run at home to 12 games. That win will put the Dodgers in the record books once again as they now have a tie with the 1911 Detroit Tigers for the best home start in MLB history.

The 1st inning swayed from "uh-oh" to "whoa" by the end of the frame. Augie Ojeda lead off with a double off of Jeff Weaver. The old man came back with consecutive K's and a pop up to end any threat.

With 1 down in the bottom of the 1st, Orlando Hudson continued his scorching ways with a double, and the runs soon followed. Manny Ramirez was intentionally walked (in the 1st inning?!?!) to set up a potential double play ball by Andre Ethier. But, Ethier singled home O-Dog for the 1-0 lead. James Loney grounded out, but Manny still scored from 3rd. An error by Josh Wilson off the bat of Russell Martin got the 3rd run in.

The Diamondbacks used a wild pitch by Weaver to score Max Scherzer to make it 3-1. It was still only the 3rd inning, and plenty more game was left. The Dodgers would only get 3 more hits after the 1st inning, so the DBacks sure seemed like they'd have their chances to end the streak.

But thanks in large part to leaving 6 men in scoring position with 2 outs, the DBacks never could break through. 9 men were left on total, and the Dodgers' bullpen was against light-out to keep the score at 3-1.

Weaver earned his start partly because he has pitched really well in the Minors at in relief duty last week, and because James McDonald faltered so badly. Whatever the reason, he was great last night, going 5 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K. Combined with Eric Stults the night before, and that's 2 great starts from the bottom of the rotation. On a night where the bats weren't doing a whole lot, Weaver was money when they needed him most.

Ramon Troncoso pitched 1.2 innings scoreless, and he hasn't given up a run since April 18, making his ERA 0.98. Ronald Belisario struck out the side in the 8th, and Jonathan Broxton K'd 2 in the 9th to go 8-8 in save situations. There's still a lot of youth in those players mentioned, but boy are they rock-solid right now. Just hope it keeps up.

While the record is obviously sweet, being an MLB-best 20-8 and 5.5 games up in the NL West is just as nice. They've completely dominated the rest of the division at 19-6. That's just plain impressive.

With a win over the Nationals tonight, the Dodgers can find themselves in sole position of 1st place in the record books at 13-0 to start the season at home. It's up to young Clayton Kershaw to get the job done. After getting rocked in his previous 2 starts, he bounced back for 7 scoreless his last one.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

11-0 at home gives Dodgers new National League record

The Dodgers rode back-to-back jacks from Manny Ramirez and Andre Ethier in the 1st to cruise to an easy victory over the Diamondbacks, 7-2. The win not only puts the Dodgers at 19-8, but sets a National League mark by winning their first 11 at home. Next up is the MLB record of 12 set by the 1911 Detroit Tigers.

I'd say that signing of Manny has worked quite nicely.

The runs were scored in plenty of different ways: homers, doubles, errors, and sac-fly's. They also managed to go 1-10 with RISP and hit into a triple play by Casey Blake. Plus their pitcher is a fill-in until Hiroki Kuroda comes back. And they still won by 5. Everything that could go right is right now for LA.

After Stults worked around a double by Connor Jackson to start the game, Manny and Ethier hit solo shots with 2 down to grab the early lead. A Josh Wilson single in the 2nd would cut the lead to 2-1.

The bottom of the 2nd is when Russell Martin walked and Matt Kemp reached on an error by Wilson. With the runners on the move, Wilson made a nice backhanded catch of a liner, which he turned to 2nd then on to 1st to get 3. The Dodgers rolled the dice and paid for it, but with the way they've been putting up runs, it was worth the gamble. It obviously didn't hurt them in the end.

The 5th brought in 2 more runs thanks to the sac-fly. Kemp and Blake singled to start, and after Kemp stole 3rd, Stults got a fly ball deep enough to score him. Manny eventually lifted one to right field that plated Blake, and it was 4-1.

Mark Reynolds cut into that with a homer to make it 4-2 in the 6th. The Dodgers got right back to work, though, when Martin singled and scored on a double by Kemp. Tony Clark's error off the bat of Rafael Furcal scored Kemp to put the game away. The 7th run was scored on a double by Manny.

Stults improved to 3-1 by being efficient, going 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K. Nothing special, but for the bottom of the rotation, it's plenty good enough. The bullpen of Ronald Belisario, Guillermo Mota, Cory Wade, and Jonathan Broxton gave up only 1 hit the rest of the way. Wade's return has really sparked them as that's a very solid unit right now.

On the line tonight is a share of the MLB record with the Tigers. Jeff Weaver makes his return to the starting rotation to the Dodgers for the first time since 2005. I'm glad to see him stick it out after suffering through the Minors last season, because they need his arm to give them innings right now.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

10-0 at home

The heading speaks for itself.

The Dodgers rested Manny Ramirez, Casey Blake, Russell Martin, and Rafael Furcal on Sunday afternoon, and still easily defeated the Padres, 7-3. The pitching of Chad Billingsley along with a 3-run 1st lead the way.

To put the streak in perspective, it eclipses the 9-0 mark set by the 1946 Brooklyn Dodgers for best in team history. The last National League team to start 10-0 was the 1983 Atlanta Braves, managed by... Joe Torre. This English teacher really likes the irony in that. Since last year's All Star break, they are 33-9 at home. Holy crap!

After Bills set the Padres down in order to start the game, the Dodgers went to work. Leadoff hitter Juan Pierre, getting more starts lately, singled up the middle. Orlando Hudson immediately cashed him in with a long double. That was followed by a double from Andre Ethier, who scored on a James Loney single. Just like that, it was 3-0.

That's really all Bills would need, as he finished with 7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 8 K. He even added an RBI single and run scored in the 6th. He's been simply fantastic in every sense of the word at 5-0 this season. I'd say the playoffs from last year have had zero negative impact.

The score was 3-1 until the bottom of the 6th when the Dodgers put it away for good. With 2 outs, replacements Brad Ausmus and Juan Castro singled. Bills then hit the RBI single to score Ausmus. Pierre added an RBI single, and O-Dog doubled again to score 2 for the 7-1 lead.

About the only blemish was that Will Ohman gave up 2 hits and a run in the 8th without getting an out. No biggie, as the newly unhittable Ramon Troncoso came on for 2 scoreless frames. Where in the world did he come from? It wasn't long ago I was talking about him possibly being demoted, and now he's pitched his last 13.2 innings scoreless. Good for him.

It's always good to get a win over a division opponent, but to do it with 4 regulars resting for the sweep, it's extra special. There's no rest for them, however, as they welcome the Diamondbacks for 2 (not a typo). Eric Stults will look to rebound from a rough start against Doug Davis.

Leach gets the call over Elbert

Scott Elbert had his chance to make an impression and couldn't get the job done. So with Hong-Chih Kuo on the DL, it's lefty Brent Leach who will get his chance.

Leach had been in Double-A Chattanooga and put up some really good numbers. In 13 IP, he's given up 1 run while striking out 17 and walking 8. He's done all he can to be given his chance, and now it's here.

As for how long he'll be up is anyone's guess. We all have to wait to see what the timetable for Kuo's return is.

McDonald and Weaver swap spots

Joe Torre has made the decision to place the struggling James McDonald back in the bullpen and give his next start to Jeff Weaver. The move can't be too surprising given how completely opposite each pitched Thursday night against the Padres.

I talked about this yesterday and my guess was that Weaver would be kept in the bullpen, but I can certainly understand the move. McDonald will now be the long reliever, which makes sense given the return of Cory Wade to pitch late innings. Plus Ramon Troncoso hasn't surrendered a run in his last 10.2 innings.

Who knows how long Weaver will last as a starter, but it could be permanent. An why not? He's a veteran who knows what it takes to win in the NL West. All the Dodgers are looking for is someone to give them some steady innings, which is what McDonald just couldn't do. Each man should be comfortable with their new roles, so it's a good thing.

2 straight walk-off wins

The Dodgers found themselves locked in another pitcher's duel Saturday night against the Padres. With both teams unable to crack the opponent's starting pitcher, it would come down to a battle of the bullpens.

Despite the Dodgers' shaky start to their season in the 'pen, it was the Padres that crumbled for the 2nd night in a row. Andre Ethier's walk-off single with the bases loaded and no outs gave the Dodgers a 2-1 win. The 9-0 home start matches the 1946 Brooklyn Dodgers for best in team history. Whoa.

A day after Jake Peavy and Clayton Kershaw put up blanks, Chris Young and Randy Wolf were nearly as good. Young lasted 7 innings giving up 1 run. Wolf finished at 5.1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 4 K. Wolf's road was a bit more rocky, but the bullpen of Ramon Troncoso, Cory Wade, and Guillermo Mota picked him up perfectly.

It took 2 hitters for the Padres to get on the board, as the younger Gonzalez, Edgar, launched a solo shot to left for the 1-0 lead. The Dodgers would strike back in the 3rd when Wolf "helped his own cause" (famous baseball saying for the pitcher got a hit) doubled to lead off. Rafael Furcal's single to right tied it at 1.

That's the way it would stay for awhile, though the Padres did have their chances. 2 walks were stranded in the 5th. In the 6th, they again got 2 walks and an infield single by Adrian Gonzalez to load the bases with 1 down. Troncoso relieved and got a huge double play ball from Kevin Kouzmanoff to end it.

The bullpen deserves a ton of credit, which was boosted by a healthy Wade. Troncoso went 1.2 innings, Wade 2, and Mota got the win with a scoreless 10th, stranding 2 runners. With Hong-Chih Kuo's status up in the air, it's good to see guys like Mota be relied upon, in addition to the much-improved Troncoso. Maybe the bullpen woes are close to ending.

For the 2nd straight night, the Padres chose not to pitch closer Heath Bell, and it's cost them. This time it was Luke Gregerson who blew it late. With the top of the order up to start the 10th, Raffy and Orlando Hudson singled. Manny Ramirez was given the free pass, setting the stage for Ethier. And he left no doubt with a hit off the right field wall to end it.

At 9-0 at home, the Dodgers obviously have the best home record in baseball. They hold a 4.5 games lead over the Giants in the NL West, and that's with Raffy hitting .258, Russell Martin .224 (raised after going 3-4 last night), and Casey Blake .225. It's all about timely hitting right now, and the Dodgers have found every way to get the job done.

Today's game will mean a lot, as this team looks to set a franchise record by starting 10-0 at home. That in addition to a 4-game sweep of the Padres, who started this series in 2nd place, would be extra sweet. Chad Billingsley will get the call looking to improve to 5-0.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Another setback for Kuo

Like I've thought all season long, it looks as if the struggles of Hong-Chih Kuo are at least partially related to health. He's been placed back on the 15-day DL with elbow problems, which is the same one that's had two Tommy John surgeries on it. Not good.

To say I'm worried would be an understatement. He's a complete shut-down reliever when he's all good, as evidenced by last season when hitters would be lost against him. But it was obvious things just weren't right from the start of this season. You don't go from a 2.14 ERA last season to 6.75 this season without something being up.

I can only hope I'm getting too carried away here, and that a couple weeks or so of rest will make him better. With Cory Wade back, the Dodgers would ideally like to see the combination of Kuo and Wade pitch the 8th and get the ball to Jonathan Broxton to finish off games. Let's hold out hope that that will be the case as the season wears on.

As for his replacement on the roster, look for Scott Elbert to turn quickly around from being sent down earlier in the week and make his way back to the big club.

Wade is activated, so we once again say goodbye to DeWitt

Cory Wade is healed and activated off the DL, ready to help a bullpen that has had some adventures getting the ball to Jonathan Broxton. Needing to make a move on the roster, poor Blake DeWitt has yet again been sent back to Triple-A Albuquerque.

The return couldn't have come at a better time, with the combination of most of the rotation getting hammered early in games and the setup men generally not getting the job done. And the Dodgers are still 16-8. Go figure.

Wade appeared in 77.1 innings last season, compiling a 2.27 ERA with a .202 BAA. He became more and more trusted as the year went on, so his health is key. Ronald Belisario has tried to fill his shoes, and for a guy that has never been at the Major League level before, I think he's done pretty well. But Wade's presence is literally a big "relief."

As for DeWitt, he's really a victim of the circumstances, as his bat is just not needed now. The starting lineup is set, and the bench is full of veterans like Mark Loretta, Juan Pierre, and Brad Ausmus who have been key guys before and are capable of coming on late and getting the job done. His time will come at some point.

Weaver is back in LA

The up-and-down journey for Jeff Weaver hit another peak on Thursday, as he was recalled by the Dodgers to help steady a struggling staff. To make room on the 40-man roster, Doug Mientkiewicz was switched to the 60-day DL.

Weaver wasted no time in getting to work, as he came on in the 2nd for an ineffective James McDonald and pitched 4 fantastic innings of shutout ball, K'ing 4. Talk about making an impact in no time.

Give Weaver this - he doesn't give up. He started his career as a young stud with the Tigers. With so much going for him, he went to the Yankees and proceeded to really struggle in the New York spotlight. Needing a fresh start, the Dodgers luckily got George Steinbrenner take trade him for Kevin Brown, and he became an effective starter for 2 years. He's bounced around to the Cardinals and Mariners, before being out of baseball altogether last season. And now he's back.

There's not a whole lot he hasn't experienced. In case you've forgotten, he was the guy on the mound in Game 5 of the 2006 World Series for the Cardinals, getting the win against his old team, the Tigers. He's pitched in many places and many big games, so I think he can handle pressure situations.

Even with the rotation struggling at times, I would think Weaver would be asked to be the long reliever, especially after how well he did Thursday. But stay tuned, because that could easily change at any moment.

A check swing, and a walk-off win

Russell Martin sure needed some good news. Stuck in a 2-for-23 slump, he found himself up with the bases loaded and 2 down. With count run to 3-2, all he needed was for a break to finally go his way.

And it did. Duaner Sanchez pitched one high, and Martin checked his swing in time to score Orlando Hudson for the game's only run, 1-0. With the win, the Dodgers are still undefeated at home at 8-0.

The game was highlighted by a fantastic pitching duel between Jake Peavy and Clayton Kershaw. Both men have fantastic stuff, but have also been hit hard lately. Last night, they both figured it out.

Peavy pitched 8 scoreless innings, giving up 2 hits and K'ing 8. Kershaw had 7 scoreless innings with 4 hits and 3 K's. For Kershaw, it was especially important to pitch well deep into the game considering Eric Stults and James McDonald combined to go 4.1 innings the 2 nights before. And with news that Hong-Chih Kuo is back on the DL, it's more pressure on the starters to get quality innings.

There's not a whole lot to say about both offenses, as Peavy let 3 men reach base and Kershaw 7, which included an error by Rafael Furcal. The Padres had a couple of threats to score. In the 2nd, Chase Headley and Henry Blanco singled but were stranded. And in the 4th Scott Hairston lead off with a double, but a double play did them in.

Fast-forward to the 9th where Sanchez took over for Peavy. Raffy greeted him with a single, but Hudson grounded him into a forceout. Hudson did take 2nd on a wild pitch, however. That lead Manny Ramirez to get the intentional pass, setting the stage for James Loney... who struck out. With 2 outs, Matt Kemp walked to load 'em up, and Martin got the winning walk. Looks like the old Dodger Sanchez ain't what he used to be.

The bullpen did their job, including the 8th inning! Ronald Belisario started it and got an out and a walk, so Will Ohman came on for the final 2 outs. Jonathan Broxton pitched a 1-2-3 9th, getting the win in the process.

The Dodgers are off to their best home start since the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers won their first 9. They ended up losing to the Yankees in the World Series that year, but that happened like every year back then. We know history won't repeat itself this year since the Yankees' pitching is atrocious.

Randy Wolf will take the mound tonight looking to equal that mark from '47 against Chris Young. With the rotation shaky, Wolf and Chad Billingsley are the only sure things right now, so a big start by Wolf would be nice.