Friday, July 31, 2009

How close were the Dodgers to making a blockbuster deal?

In researching what exactly was the proposed deal between the Dodgers and Padres, I was blown away by what I found. Here is what was being tossed around by both teams:

Dodgers would give away:
James Loney
Russell Martin
James McDonald
Blake DeWitt
Ivan DeJesus

Padres would give away:
Heath Bell
Adrian Gonzalez

My first thought was, "Holy crap!" That trade would have certainly changed both franchises in big ways to say the least. Of all the deals done this season, that would have easily been one of the biggest ones.

Why didn't it happen? The Dodgers were the ones that backed out. I can only assume that the above deal was put together by the Padres, and Ned Colletti was not willing to part with that many young players. Maybe some, but certainly not all.

As for Roy Halladay, Colletti was asked about this during the Dodgers-Braves game tonight. On the phone from L.A., he said that the Blue Jays wanted six players, which was way too high of a price to pay.

I expressed some disappointment in a previous post about not getting a starter. But, after looking at what the price tag was, I completely agree with not pulling the trigger on either trade. The players they would have gotten are legitimate all-stars, but not worth selling the farm for.

Unless another trade happens during the waiver period (not likely, but possible), this is your Dodgers team from here on out. Major trade or not, I still like their chances this postseason.

The Schmidt of old blanks the Braves

A few hours after the Dodgers failed in their pursuit to land Roy Halladay, Jason Schmidt took us back a few years to when he was one of the best pitchers in the league.

Schmidt gave up only one hit in six scoreless innings, Andre Ethier hit a three-run homer and RBI double, and the Dodgers cruised in Atlanta, 5-0. After dropping three in a row to the Cardinals, the Dodgers have now won their last two.

It was quite a sight to behold, as Schmidt was on the verge of getting booted out of the rotation and perhaps the team as a whole after two horrible starts. He certainly didn't blow anyone away like he did in years past, but he used his off-speed stuff to keep the Braves off balanced all night. Overall, he struck out three and walked five.

With Schmidt putting up blanks, Tommy Hanson was doing the same for his team. That is until the fifth, when Ethier struck. Russell Martin singled to lead off. Orlando Hudson and Schmidt could not reach, but Rafael Furcal singled, leaving it up to Ethier with two down. He hit a liner just over the right field wall for the 3-0 lead.

The Dodgers tacked on another run in the seventh. O-Dog walked to start, and he was sacrificed over to second by Juan Pierre. Raffy then ripped a single to right, putting the Dodgers up 4-0.

The final run was scored in the ninth, again by Ethier with two outs. This time, Hudson singled to start, and Pierre and Furcal got out. Ethier hit one off the wall in dead center, completing his four RBI night.

The best moment came in the bottom of the seventh. Ramon Troncoso relieved Schmidt and gave up a couple of weak singles. Joe Torre didn't waste any time in giving the ball to the newly acquired George Sherrill.

Sherrill strutted his stuff right away. He struck out both Nate McClouth and Kelly Johnson swinging. Chipper Jones worked a walk on a full count to load the bases. But, Brian McCann was caught looking to end the inning. In his Dodger debut, Sherrill struck out the side. Talk about a great first impression!

Situations like that are exactly why the Dodgers reached out to get him. It was a tight situation, the Braves had their heart of the order coming up, and the Dodgers needed big outs. To come through with two on, none out, and not give up a run was just huge.

James McDonald retired all six men he faced to finish the game. After getting beat around lately, that's now two straight good appearances for him, so perhaps his confidence is coming back.

I think it's safe to say Schmidt earned himself another start. The Dodgers must have some tired legs from playing four in St. Louis, including the last two in extra innings. They needed a big start, and that's what they got. Good for him.

Randy Wolf will get the ball tomorrow against old friend Derek Lowe. It'll be a FOX game, and with the Yankees being one of the options, there will be no Dodgers for me. To those of you that can see it, enjoy.

Colletti unable to land a starting pitcher

The trade deadline has come and gone, and there was significantly less noise this year than last. Well, it's darn near impossible to top getting Manny Ramirez and the complete tear he went on to last season, so it's tough to compare years. It's safe to say deals like that barely come around.

The Dodgers were looking to get an upgrade in both their starting pitching and bullpen. Half of that came true, with the Orioles' closer George Sherrill coming aboard for prospects Josh Bell and Steve Johnson. Sherrill will immediately be placed in late-game situations.

As for a starting pitcher... it didn't happen. And that's a bit of a disappointment.

One thing I'd like to make clear right away: I don't think it's fair to trash Ned Colletti for not getting something done. We have no idea what was being asked for the top pitchers he targeted. If the price tag was too high, then I can't blame him for not pulling the trigger. Remember, the majority of the team is made up of players groomed through the farm system.

But, when the Sherrill deal went down with only two prospects traded, there was a good feeling that Colletti was in a good spot to get Roy Halladay or Jarrod Washburn. Previously, they were in on Cliff Lee as well. Despite plenty of prospects and a few really good starting pitchers out there, nothing happened.

Near the deadline today, there was talk of acquiring Heath Bell, the Padres' closer. That, too, never came to fruition. So at the end of the day, the Dodgers never got that other arm they wanted.

The concern is that the Dodgers do not have good enough starting pitchers to carry the team in a short playoff series. Last year, they had Derek Lowe, who has plenty of playoff experience. After he took Game 1 in Chicago, Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda has less pressure on them, and were great.

Now, Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw are the top two pitchers, with Randy Wolf and Kuroda right behind them. While they're all solid pitchers, they can't compare to other aces that they could potentially face. Take a look at this list of pitchers the Dodgers could run into this October:

Tim Lincecum, Giants (only in the NLCS since two teams from the same division can't meet in the first round)
Matt Cain, Giants (ditto)
Chris Carpenter, Cardinals
Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
Cliff Lee, Phillies
Cole Hamels, Phillies
Rich Harden, Cubs

Those are some pretty impressive arms to say the least. The hope is that Billingsley can regain his form from early in the season and that Kershaw will continue to be lights-out. If they are on, then their names could be right on that list.

If not, however, then it sure would have been nice to have traded for a Halladay or Lee or Washburn.

Nothing doing on Bell or Gonzalez

According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Dodgers tried, but were unable to acquire either player.

It would have been nice to get at least one of them, but who knows what the price was. An educated guess tells me it was way too high. Oh well.

Dodgers eying Heath Bell and Adrian Gonzalez

According to "sources" (which basically could mean anybody), the Dodgers are looking to make a big splash before the trade deadline. Either separately or together, they are going after closer Heath Bell and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres.

With Jake Peavy out for most of the season, the Padres have been terrible. But, easily the two reasons to pay attention to them are Bell and Gonzalez. So it's only natural for teams to take a run at them.

Bell took over the closer's role from the departed Trevor Hoffman and has been great. He has a 2.01 ERA with 25 saves in 26 chances. Should the Padres actually get a lead, he's been rock solid at the end.

Gonzalez is the only offensive threat on that team. Here's a funny stat - he has 28 homers and only 59 RBIs. So that pretty much sums up how bad of an offensive team he has around him.

The price would have to be pretty steep, but the only name mentioned is James Loney. If the Dodgers can pull this off with only giving up Loney from the big club, they instantly become a whole lot better.

Remember, it's just a rumor, as are many others that are out there. We shall see how serious it is in a little while.

Vargas traded to Brewers

The Dodgers waited a while for Claudio Vargas to get healthy. Once he proved he was, he's now on his way out.

Vargas was traded to the Brewers for minor league catcher Vinny Rottino. The deal was done in order to free up a roster spot for George Sherrill.

In eight appearances this season, Vargas has done a nice job with a 1.64 ERA. For him, he was a victim of the numbers crunch. With Sherrill on board and Hong-Chih Kuo back, someone had to go.

Rottino was with Double-A Huntsville, where he's hitting .249 with four homers and 48 RBIs. It doesn't seem like he's a major prospect, but then again, Vargas isn't a major addition to the Brewers.

Dodgers save some face in St. Louis

It sure wasn't easy. But then again, it never is against the Cardinals.

Looking to avoid getting swept in a four-game set, the Dodgers woke up in the 10th inning on a two-run single by Matt Kemp and held on for the win, 5-3. Thankfully, the Dodgers regained a little bit of confidence by making the plays to win late.

The Cardinals did not waste any time in getting on the board and sending a signal that a sweep may be near. With two down in the first, Albert Pujols doubled, and Matt Holliday drove him in with a single and a 1-0 lead.

Kemp started his big night in the second. Casey Blake, who's starting to really hit well again, doubled with one out. James Loney's groundout moved him to third, where Kemp singled up the middle to tie the game at one each.

Holliday again struck for the Cardinals in the fourth by hitting an opposite field solo homer to grab the 2-1 lead. Man, he makes that lineup really tough. Great move by the Cards to get him to protect Pujols.

The Dodgers couldn't do much against Kyle Lohse (I really don't know why), but with his pitch count at 92, he was yanked after the sixth. Kyle McClellen would come on, and that would be just what the Dodgers needed.

With one out, Brad Ausmus singled. Juan Pierre hit for Kuroda, and after Ausmus went to second on a wild pitch, Pierre legged out an infield hit. Rafael Furcal came through in the clutch with a big double to left, putting the Dodgers ahead, 3-2.

That lead was short-lived... very short-lived. Guillermo Mota came in the bottom of the seventh, and Rick Ankiel uncorked a long homer to right to lead off. Hence, you can see why Ned Colletti got George Sherrill to shore up the bullpen.

The bottom of the eighth was pretty scary, as the Cardinals were knocking on the door again. Nick Stavinoha lead off with a double, and went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Skip Schumaker. Hong-Chih Kuo then got Ryan Ludwick swinging for a big second out.

Now came a dilemma for Joe Torre: Should he pitch to Pujols or Holliday? Well, he chose neither. Two straight intentional walks brought up Ankiel with two down and the bases loaded. Kuo strutted his stuff, getting him swinging easily to end the inning.

James McDonald did a great job in the ninth by getting the Cards in order, putting the game into extras. Ok, so I was fully expecting to see McDonald crumble, but thankfully I was wrong.

Andre Ethier walked with one out in the 10th, and Casey Blake singled. Both men advanced bases on a wild pitch, but James Loney struck out. Now with two down and the demoted Todd Wellemeyer on in relief, Kemp delivered a great two-run single for the 5-3 lead.

Jonathan Broxton made Dodger fans sweat by walking Joe Thurston to lead off the bottom half. Two straight fly outs to Manny brought up Pujols. There would be no more dramatics for him tonight, as he weakly grounded back to the mound, ending the game.

It was great to see the Dodgers toughen up late in the game and grab the win. Granted, this series wasn't very successful for them, but at least they got one win. You get the feeling that these two teams will run into each other again in October.

The Dodgers hopped right on a plane for Atlanta for a three-game set. The first game is quite interesting. Jason Schmidt will take on Tommy Hanson. In other words, it'll be a look at what Schmidt used to be, compared to what he is now. Randy Wolf and Chad Billingsley are lined up for the weekend.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sherrill IS a Dodger!

The deal is done. George Sherrill has been traded to the Dodgers for two prospects: third baseman Josh Bell and pitcher Steve Johnson.

I've discussed both Sherrill and Bell before in a previous post, so take a peek back.

Johnson was with Bell at Double-A Chattanooga, but was with Single-A Inland Empire to start the year. Overall, he's 9-5 with a 3.61 ERA. Impressively, he has 117 strikeouts in 107 and 1/3 innings pitched.

I really like the move for the Dodgers. Both Bell and Johnson look like legitimate prospects, but Sherrill is a proven reliever that can help in late-inning situations. Most importantly, the Dodgers didn't have to give up the entire farm to get him.

Now the bigger question. Is this it for the Dodgers? Or, are they still after Roy Halladay? It would appear that Ned Colletti will still go after him because he still has plenty of prospects to offer.

Sherrill may be a Dodger

It looks like George Sherrill may be on his way to L.A.

Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse has this link, which is basically saying that he's checking to confirm.

Stay tuned.

Rumor updates on Halladay and Sherrill

Here's all I've gathered about the Dodgers' interest in Roy Halladay and George Sherrill, all thanks to and

Halladay - If there is such a thing as a front runner in the Halladay sweepstakes, then the Dodgers may be it. Of course, it changes by the minute, so who knows what's going on.

From what I can tell, the Dodgers can offer a couple of different packages. One would include either Chad Billingsley or Clayton Kershaw along with some minor prospects. Another wouldn't have to include either pitcher, but would have to include five to six top prospects.

With the Blue Jays looking to reload their youth, some of the prospects the Dodgers could dangle out there would be intriguing. I wouldn't quite say a deal is near, but it could be.

Sherrill - In order to get Sherrill, the Dodgers would have to include a third baseman. I don't think the Dodgers would mind trading Blake DeWitt, but here's the kicker - the Orioles prefer Josh Bell.

Bell is with Double-A Chattanooga and is hitting .296 with 11 homers and 56 RBIs. DeWitt has the major league experience, but his struggles this year haven't made him look too appealing.

One last note is that it was assumed the Dodgers could go after one or another, but maybe not. Ned Colletti may still be trying to get both, which would be huge. Of course, you can kiss their top prospects goodbye for that to happen.

A painful loss for the Dodgers

This one got away. Twice.

The Dodgers blew one-run leads in both the 9th and 12th innings, as the Cardinals won on a walk-off single by Albert Pujols in the 15th to get the win, 3-2.

It was a very frustrating night for the Dodgers, who saw their top two relievers in Jonathan Broxton and Ramon Troncoso unable to hold onto leads. The offense put together 13 hits and seven walks, but only could push two runs across the plate.

Every team goes through slumps, and the Dodgers are now in theirs.

The game was a tight one throughout, as both Clayton Kershaw and Joel Pineiro were just brilliant in their outings. Kershaw went eight innings, giving up no runs on four hits, striking out seven. Pineiro also went eight, giving up one run on six hits, striking out seven as well.

The Dodgers got the lead in the fourth. Casey Blake tripled in front of a diving Ryan Ludwick with one down. James Loney singled to center, part of his 4-for-7 night, to go up 1-0.

That was it for scoring until the ninth. Broxton got Pujols to ground to short on a nice play by Rafael Furcal. Holliday struck out, and all was looking good.

I don't know if I should blame Broxton or just give credit to a Cardinals team that is obviously a whole lot better with Holliday on board, because they just didn't quit. Ludwick singled and went to second on a wild pitch. The wild pitch would be costly, as Colby Rasmus singled on a full count to tie the game.

Blake and Loney singled to open up the 11th. With Blake on third, Matt Kemp lifted a fly ball to right that Blake was just able to tag up and beat home for the 2-1 lead. With two outs, Joe Torre had the option to pinch-hit for Ramon Troncoso, but he chose not to.

Whether you agreed with that choice or not, it proved to be a bad one. Ludwick came through again with an RBI single to left to tie the game at two. Hong-Chih Kuo came on and got the last two outs, highlighted by a diving catch in right by Andre Ethier to end the inning.

Manny Ramirez hit a ground rule double in the 13th, and things got interesting. Ethier was given the intentional pass to pitch to Blake. Blake responded with a sharp single to right. Manny chugged around third and tried to come home, but was gunned out by that damn Ludwick.

With Jeff Weaver on in the 15th, Brendan Ryan lead off with a triple. Jason LaRue pinch-hit, but popped up to Loney for one down. Julio Lugo then worked a walk. Mark DeRosa hit a grounder to Raffy at short, who then got Ryan at home trying to score.

With two down, Pujols was up with runners on second and third. This is where having Holliday obviously paid off, because the Dodgers chose to go after Pujols. Weaver got two strikes, then it went to a full count, where Pujols hit a laser over Kemp's head in center to end this 4 hour and 53 minute game.

Maybe if the Dodgers had won at least one of the first two games, this loss wouldn't have been as big. But man, this was tough to watch. The Dodgers get guys on base, and the Cardinals find ways to get out of it. The Cardinals put men on, and they come through in the clutch.

All three losses can be traced back to one big thing the Dodgers haven't done: timely hitting. For whatever reason, they just haven't been able to push across runs with runners on. The Cardinals have. It's really that simple.

I can only hope the Dodgers get some early runs against Kyle Lohse tonight, because I'm not sure they can handle being in another nail biter. The Cardinals just own them in close games right now. Hiroki Kuroda will go for the Dodgers.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Uh-oh... Cardinals destroy Dodgers again

Ok, I'm officially worried.

It's not so much that the Cardinals have beaten the Dodgers two straight games, it's more that the combined score has been 16-1. This was supposed to be a battle between the top teams in the National League, and the Cards have made it into a joke so far.

Not good.

As for Tuesday night's debacle, the game was delayed 1 hour and 25 minutes for a "rain delay" that never really happened. Once everything got underway, it was scoreless going into the sixth. Oh, the Dodgers had their chances, they just failed miserably with runners on.

In other words, it was Monday night all over again.

Here's a look at how many people were stranded in the first six innings: Manny Ramirez in the first, Russell Martin and Matt Kemp in the second, Rafael Furcal and Andre Ethier in the third, nobody in the fourth (because Martin grounded into a double play), Raffy and Manny in the fifth, and James Loney and Martin in the sixth.

Overall, nine men were left on base, and they grounded into two double plays. With only one true power threat in the lineup, they had to rely on stringing together hits to score runs. They'd get a couple hits, then waste it away, time and time again.

Chad Billingsley was awesome for the first five innings. In fact, he only gave up one hit. In the sixth, he got bombed. A six-run inning made his final line look pretty bad, but the truth is that he was a whole lot better than he has been lately.

In the sixth, Bills walked four (two intentionally), gave up three singles, and uncorked two wild pitches. But in a way, I can't blame him. With the offense doing next to nothing, he pretty much had to be perfect in order to win. He was really good for awhile, then the wheels fell off the bus.

Claudio Vargas did a good job in relief, throwing two innings and giving up a run. Brent Leach was terrible for the second night in a row. With an ERA of 17.18 in July, his overall ERA has ballooned to 5.75. You have to wonder if his arm is tired. That's another reason the Dodgers are looking for bullpen help at the trade deadline.

I guess the only highlight was watching Mark Loretta come on in relief in the eighth and get Ryan Ludwick to fly out. Of course, then Loretta grounded into a DP to end the game. How appropriate.

For the Dodgers, it's their first three-game losing streak of the season, which is pretty amazing if you think about it. It had to happen at some point. I just wish they put up a fighting chance these last two nights.

The Dodgers have faced adversity this season, as any team has. But, they've done an excellent job at responding positively to it. Right now, they need to come out swinging. Getting beat like this is pretty sad.

Hopefully the winning starts again tonight, and it's a great pitching matchup to watch. Clayton Kershaw will take on Joel Pineiro, who are both red hot. Let's hope the Dodgers at least put up a fight tonight and not crumble late like they've done the first two games.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Kuo returns from 60-day DL

Hong-Chih Kuo has continued his on again, off again career by being activated from the 60-day DL. Bet you'll never guess who's roster spot he's taken... That's right, Blake DeWitt has been sent back down for the fifth time this season.

The Dodgers wasted no time in getting Kuo some game action. He pitched one inning against the Cardinals on Monday night, retiring Julio Lugo, Mark DeRosa, and Albert Pujols in order. He was throwing in the 90's, and looked pretty good.

With Kuo, you never know what you're going to get, which is what makes his career so frustrating. He won the 2008 Setup Man of the Year award from In 80 innings, he struck out a whopping 96 with a 2.14 ERA. Simply put, he was awesome.

But this season, he's been terrible, obviously because of his arm injury. He hasn't pitched since the end of April.

Anything you can get from Kuo would have to be considered a bonus at this point. When he's on, he's one of the best relievers in the game. The Dodgers have to hope that he somehow finds a way to stay healthy, because he can be huge in getting the ball to Jonathan Broxton.

Dodgers interested in George Sherrill

I just saw Jayson Stark of ESPN report that the Dodgers are hot on the trails of Orioles' closer George Sherrill. Yahoo sports confirms this report.

It was not said, however, who the Dodgers would have to give up to get him. Stark only said that it would have to be something pretty big, so he won't come cheap.

Sherrill would be brought in as the setup man in the eighth inning. He may get some closing opportunities, but that wouldn't be his main gig. The combination of those two at the end of games could be huge.

Here's what we know about Sherrill. He become the closer for the Orioles last season when Chris Ray got hurt. His ERA was 4.72, but he still gathered 31 saves with six blown. This season, his ERA is 2.45 with 20 saves and three blown. So, he's only gotten better.

I'll keep track of this as it develops.

Four double plays kill Dodgers

The Cardinals had their ace on the mound in Chris Carpenter on Monday night. Combined with not getting an off day to travel from L.A., it looked like it could be a long night for the Dodgers.

But, the Dodgers responded by putting at least one baserunner on each inning Carpenter was in there, giving them plenty of chances to score.

But (again), four double plays and 11 men left on base doomed all chances. The Cardinals cruised, 6-1.

The final line for Carpenter looks really good, as he only gave up one run in seven innings. A deeper look at his stats shows he also surrendered nine hits, two walks, and hit two batters. It seemed like every time the Dodgers put men on, you'd just wait for them to screw up. It just wasn't their night.

Randy Wolf was the Dodgers' starter, and he ran into trouble right away. He beaned Mark DeRosa with one down. Matt Holliday ripped one off the wall in center for the 1-0 lead. The next inning, an infield hit by Julio Lugo made it 2-0.

From there, Wolf settled down, and ended up with a really good start. His final line was six innings pitched, seven hits, two runs, two walks, and four strikeouts. At 98 pitches, he probably could have gone longer had he not thrown so many the first couple of innings.

The Dodgers were able to cut the lead in half in the third. Matt Kemp singled to lead off, went to second on Wolf's sacrifice bunt, and to third on a wild pitch. Rafael Furcal lifted a sac-fly RBI to right to make it 2-1.

When Wolf exited in the seventh, everything pretty much went to hell after that. James McDonald came on and got rocked. DeRosa greeted him with a home run. Albert Pujols singled, and Holliday reached on Casey Blake's throwing error. Yadier Molina walked an out later, and McDonald was out of there.

Brent Leach came on and promptly gave up an RBI single to Rick Ankiel. Exit Leach, enter Guillermo Mota. Didn't matter, as Brendan Ryan doubled home two, and the final tally was Cardinals up 6-1.

In the eighth, the Dodgers loaded the bases with two down, prompting Tony LaRussa to call upon his closer, Ryan Franklin. Kemp grounded into a fielder's choice to end it.

The seventh inning turned the game into a blowout, but the truth is that the Dodgers had so many opportunities, and just could not get that big hit. Manny Ramirez hit into two double plays, and Orlando Hudson and Russell Martin one apiece. It was pretty amazing that it just kept happening over and over.

One good sign from this game was the return of Hong-Chih Kuo. He pitched the eighth and got Lugo, DeRosa, and Pujols in order. Who knows how long this will last, but it's a welcome sight.

Both teams are right back at it tonight, as Chad Billingsley takes on Adam Wainwright. Bills finally put in a good start to get his 10th win last time out, so he'll look to build on a positive.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Will Cliff Lee become a Dodger?

The hottest rumor of the day has been a proposed deal that would send Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez to the Dodgers for James Loney, prospects, and either Chad Billingsley or Clayton Kershaw. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports wrote about this earlier today, calling it "serious discussions" between the two.

As time went on throughout the day, it's been pretty much all but shot down as false.

The major reason seems to be the part about giving up Billingsley or Kershaw. It seems to me that the Indians would be more than willing to get one of them to replace Lee, who will be a free agent after the 2010 season. That would be good for the Dodgers, but he's 30, and Billingsley and Kershaw are 25 and 21, respectively.

Would the Dodgers actually be willing to part with one of their young, stud pitchers? I would highly doubt it, even if it was Lee coming in return. Billingsley was an All-Star this year, and Kershaw isn't far behind. They can easily become a top 1-2 combination in the majors in no time. Trading away one of those parts would be pretty big.

About the only part of this deal I would like is Victor Martinez for James Loney. Don't get me wrong, I like Loney. His defense is excellent, he's young, and for the most part hits for a good average. But, he has little power, and hits into too many double plays. Good player, but can be expendable for the right price.

Martinez, on the other hand, can hit for 20-25 homers, and has a higher on-base percentage. He was an All-Star this season as a catcher, but has played almost as many games at first. He'd be a good power threat no matter where he'd be in the lineup.

Who knows how serious this deal ever was, or will be, so this could all be a giant waste of time. What does seem certain is the Dodgers have interest in Lee. Will they put together any sort of deal? With the trade deadline approaching, we will soon find out.

Dodgers make a run, but can't overcome poor start

Down 8-0 after five innings, the Dodgers found themselves getting their clock cleaned against the Marlins. Four runs in the sixth gave them some hope, and a couple runs in the ninth with two down brought the tying run to the plate.

Matt Kemp, however, had no magic in him on this day, as he popped up in foul territory to catcher Jeff Baker, and the Marlins won the final game of the three-game series, 3-2. With the loss, the Dodgers finished their homestand at 6-4.

The final score saves some face for the Dodgers, who looked pretty awful for the first half of this game. Unfortunately for Jason Schmidt, he's a big reason why. In his second start back from his injury problems, he was bombed in three innings for five hits, five runs (four earned), one walk, and one strikeout. Uh, not good.

Dan Uggla hit into a double play in the second inning to plate the first run. The next inning, Schmidt had two outs and a runner on second, then unraveled. He beaned Emilio Bonifacio with a pitch. Hanley Ramirez hit a two-run double, followed by an RBI double by Jorge Cantu for the 4-0 lead.

It would get worse in the fourth, as Uggla lead off with a homer, chasing Schmidt. Jeff Weaver came in and wasn't a whole lot better. Josh Baker and Chris Coghlan hit run-scoring doubles, and Ramirez hit an RBI single, making it 8-0.

The good news is that the Dodgers settled in after that, as they actually somewhat turned this into a game as time went on. After a miserable start, Weaver pitched two scoreless innings, followed by two from Claudio Vargas and one from Ramon Troncoso.

In the sixth, Orlando Hudson lead off with a double and went to third on Andre Ethier's single. James Loney scored them both with a double, and the Dodgers were mercifully on the board.

After a groundout, something happened that hasn't been seen in Dodger Stadium since last August: Russell Martin hit a home run. His two-run shot made it 8-4, and the game was at least watchable again.

Fast forward to the ninth with the same score, and the Dodgers made the Marlins sweat a little. Rafael Furcal tripled with one down. After O-Dog struck out, Ethier hit an RBI single to make it 8-5. Loney then hit an RBI single of his own, and it was 8-6. But, Kemp popped up, and the book was closed.

On a day where the Dodgers had a scrub starting pitcher and Manny Ramirez resting his sore left hand, I'll give them credit for showing some late life. We're not used to seeing them drop two of three, but the Marlins are only 3 and 1/2 games out of the wild card, so it's not like they're a bad team.

As for Schmidt... wow. I'm not sure what else to say. It's just obvious that this isn't going to work out. Unless something crazy goes on, there's no way the Dodgers can justify giving him starts when he has batting practice-like stuff. Is it time to absorb their losses and release him? It just might be.

There's no rest for the weary, as the Dodgers will travel overnight to St. Louis to begin a four-game set. With the addition of Matt Holliday, the Cardinals are a bigger threat now, so this should be fun to watch. Randy Wolf goes against Chris Carpenter in game one.

Blake finds the right spot in walk-off win

Casey Blake was already stuck in an 0-for-3 night, which went well with his .227 July average. With a 2-2 count and the bases loaded with two down, he would take any kind of hit he could get.

For the first time in awhile, luck was on his side. His soft fly ball to center was just in between three charging fielders, plating Rafael Furcal for the winning run, 4-3. That's the 27th comeback victory for the Dodgers this season.

Both teams traded runs in the first. Jorge Cantu doubled home Emilio Bonifacio for the game's first run. Furcal lead off the bottom of the first with a triple, and he scored on Orlando Hudson's single to make the game 1-1.

With both Hiroki Kuroda and Rick VandenHurk throwing well, runs were looking hard to come by. But, the Marlins struck next thanks to an error by Russell Martin. Cantu walked to start, and eventually got to third on Martin's throwing error. Cody Ross singled him home next for the 2-1 lead.

Hanley Ramirez used his speed to get the next run. A single and stolen base got him in scoring position in the sixth. Jeremy Hermida's single scored him, and the Marlins were starting to pull away up 3-1.

The Dodgers got a few men on base to this point, but couldn't cash in. In the bottom of the sixth, they made some noise. Andre Ethier singled to start and Blake walked. James Loney's RBI single made it 2-1. Martin made up for his error by driving in a run himself with a single to score Blake, and it was now 3-3.

Guillermo Mota and Jonathan Broxton tag teamed for three shutout innings, putting the tie game into the bottom of the ninth. With one out, Raffy bunted for a single and O-Dog singled for two on.

Manny Ramirez had a chance to be a hero once again, but he struck out for two down. Ethier walked to load the bases. Blake then found the perfect spot in the outfield for a bloop hit to end the game.

Like I've said all year year, this is another example of the Dodgers finding a way to win. They didn't hit any home runs, but they did manufacture runs when they needed them most. Down 1-0 and 3-1, they never quit and kept plugging away. With 62 wins, it's obvious that they know how to win.

Kuroda hasn't had a good start in awhile, but he was on last night. He finished with six innings, six hits, three runs (two earned), one walk, and nine strikeouts. He was in a good groove for sure. Hopefully this is a sign that his arm strength is where it needs to be.

The rubber match is Sunday afternoon, as Jason Schmidt makes his second start in his comeback tour. Who knows how long it'll last, but the Dodgers are certainly giving him chances to succeed. After the game, they hit the road for St. Louis to begin a seven-game trip.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A bobblehead and a grand slam for Manny

On a night Manny Ramirez wasn't in the starting lineup, he still found a way to make his mark on the game. It couldn't have come at a better time, as Dodger Stadium was sold out for Manny Ramirez Bobblehead Night.

Pinch-hitting with the bases loaded in the sixth of a 2-2 game, Manny laced the first pitch he saw into the Mannywood section in left field for a grand slam. The Dodgers never looked back, as they got the win and a sweep over the Reds, 6-2.

I've seen plenty of Dodgers games, but that's about as loud as I can ever recall the fans getting. That's right up there with some of the best moments they've had in that stadium's history. It was that dramatic.

With Manny resting his sore left hand, the Reds jumped on Chad Billingsley in the first. Joey Votto, about the only reason to watch the Reds these days, doubled home Chris Dickerson for the first run. Already, it was starting to look like a long night for Bills.

Andre Ethier stepped into the third spot of the order with Manny out and crushed a solo homer to center to tie the game at one. That's his team-leading 20th shot of the year.

The Dodgers took the lead in the fourth, though they got a little bit of help in doing so. Ethier walked to lead off, and James Loney stepped in an out later. He lifted a soft fly ball to left that Laynce Nix dove for and missed, allowing Loney to get an RBI triple and the 2-1 lead.

Billingsley's own wildness caught up to him in the sixth. Willy Taveras and Votto both singled to lead off. Consecutive strikeouts to Brandon Phillips and Nix came next, and there were two down and runners on second and third. But, Bills unleashed a wild pitch, scoring Taveras to tie the game at two.

That's when Manny came in and did his magic. Bronson Arroyo was actually pitching pretty well up until this point, when he walked both Loney and Matt Kemp, and Russell Martin singled. He was pulled for Nick Masset, who saw his first pitch get creamed. Talk about a tough spot to be put into.

From there, the Dodgers' bullpen took over and put this game away. Guillermo Mota pitched two perfect innings and Jonathan Broxton took care of the ninth in order. I think it's safe to say that after Manny's slam, the Reds were just done at that point.

Billingsley certainly showed signs of getting out of his slump. He went six innings, giving up seven hits, two runs, one walk, and seven strikeouts. He has his defense to thank for this one. First, Martin blocked pitch after pitch that went into the dirt. Also, a fantastic double play by Loney and a sliding throw to first on a dropped third strike by Martin kept Bills in the game. It feels good to say that he has finally gotten his 10th win.

Everything is going well for the Dodgers right now. They've beaten the Reds 12 straight games at home, which is pretty crazy. Their lead in the NL West over the Rockies is nine games, and 10.5 over the Giants. Oh ya, they also have the best record in the majors. Life is good.

Thursday is an off day, which should be enough to get Manny back in the lineup for the Marlins on Friday. What a pitching matchup it will be: Clayton Kershaw vs. Josh Johnson. That should be great to watch.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

It's fun playing the Reds

The Dodgers put up two runs in the first, two more in the second, and five in the third, en route to an easy win over the Reds, 12-3. The win was great, but the bigger news was the condition of Manny Ramirez's hand after getting beaned.

Manny had already hit an two-run triple to left (yes, he actually legged out a triple) in the first. In his next at-bat in the third, he was hit on his left hand. He immediately left the game to get an X-ray, which was thankfully negative. He's listed as day-to-day.

Despite Manny exiting early for Juan Pierre, the Dodgers never skipped a beat, as they just completely creamed Homer Bailey. Matt Kemp hit a two-run homer in the second, as he continues his hot July.

The third is when the Dodgers put the game away for good. The bases were loaded with nobody down, thanks in a small part to an error by Joey Votto. A wild pitch scored Pierre. James Loney hit a two-run single with one down to make it 7-1. Rafael Furcal hit also had a two-run single, and the game went from a blowout to a complete laugher.

As great as the offense was, Randy Wolf had one of his best games of the season. He finished at 7 and 1/3 innings, four hits, two runs, one walk, and four strikeouts. That earned him only his fifth win of the season, but keep in mind he's the king of the no-decision. With an ERA of 3.45 and WHIP of 1.13, he's one of the best free agent pickups in all of baseball.

As for Bailey, I can't believe he's the same pitcher that fantasy people were drooling over in 2007. There's practically nothing about him that's good. Yes, he throws hard, but that's gotten him nowhere. In 23 career starts, he has an ugly 6.97. No wonder it's not easy to root for the Reds.

Raffy continued his great night by hitting a two-run homer to right in the fifth. He was 3-for-5 with four RBIs. You know who else had a great night hitting? Wolf was 2-for-3 with a double and RBI. Good stuff.

If the Reds are at all going to put up a fight, tonight would be it. Bronson Arroyo's ERA stands at 5.07, but he hasn't given up a run in his last two starts covering 16 innings. Plus, who knows if Manny will be available. Chad Billingsley has gone the other way, as he's really struggled lately. Should be an interesting game.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Schmidt gets win in return

The start of Monday night's game could not have gone any worse for Jason Schmidt. Not only was he throwing batting practice-like fastballs, but his defense let him down as well.

As bad as things looked in the beginning, it quickly turned around. The bats woke up, Schmidt made better pitches, and the defense was solid. Most importantly, the Dodgers were facing Micah Owings.

All of that added up to a 7-5 win. It's the second day in a row the Dodgers have come back from a three-run deficit to get a win.

The first inning took forever for both teams, as seven runs were scored. Willy Taveras lead off for the Reds and ripped a triple that somehow bounced off the top of the outfield wall and back onto the field. Jerry Hairston Jr. doubled him home for the quick lead.

From there, it was a combination of bad pitches and bad defense. Russell Martin threw away a ball trying to gun down a runner at second. Manny Ramirez could not catch up to a foul ball that bounced right in front of him. Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp both watched an easy fly ball ball in front of them. In all, it was a 3-0 advantage for the Reds.

The lead was not safe for the Reds, as Rafael Furcal lead off and pushed a bunt over third base for a double. Russell Martin singled for two on. Manny Ramirez struck out, and Owings must have gotten a little more comfortable. But, Ethier doubled home a run, Casey Blake doubled home two, and James Loney had an RBI single. Through all of that, it was the Dodgers up 4-3 after one.

The Dodgers used the longball to get the rest of their runs. Manny's next at-bat was productive, as he ripped a two-run shot in the second. Ethier clubbed a solo shot in fifth.

James McDonald came on in the sixth and got through his first six batters. He ran into a bit of trouble in the eighth with a walk and single to start. Ramon Troncoso came on, but an error by Juan Castro gave the Reds some life. Troncoso got a double play ball the next batter that only scored one run, and a strikeout ended the inning with the Dodgers still up, 7-5.

Jonathan Broxton came on for the third straight day, but didn't slow down at all. A pop-up, strikeout, and fly out gave him his 23rd save.

Schmidt looked pretty lousy in the first inning, though his defense made it worse. From there, he pitched four scoreless innings. In all, he pitched five innings, five hits, three runs, three walks, and two strikeouts. I think the Dodgers will happily take those numbers. I don't think he hit 90 MPH all night, or even came close, but if he locates well, he can get batters out.

With the Giants slipping a bit lately, the Rockies have now taken over second place, eight games back. The Dodgers will look to extend the lead even more when Randy Wolf gets the call tonight.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Kemp the newest late-inning hero

Add Matt Kemp to the growing list of late-inning heroes for the Dodgers.

With a full count, Kemp belted a solo homer that broke a two-all tie, carrying the Dodgers to a win over the Astros, 3-2. After dropping the first two games of the series rather easily, the Dodgers rebounded for a split.

The Astros were the ones to strike first, as the put up three runs in the third. Michael Bourne doubled to lead off, but the next two hitters lined out. Carlos Lee's single made it 1-0. A two-run homer by Geoff Blum made it 3-0, and it was beginning to look like a long day.

In the bottom of the third, Kemp started things with a walk and a stolen base. Brad Ausmus was the catcher, and he hit the first of two doubles on the day, knocking in Kemp to make it 3-1.

A little later in the fifth, Kemp and Ausmus again teamed up for a score. Kemp lead off with a single, and the second double by Ausmus now made it 3-2.

As good as it was to see the Dodgers fight back from a three-run hole, they got a huge help from the Astros' defense in the seventh. Actually, it was really only Alberto Arias' blunders that made the difference.

Kemp, once again, hit a leadoff single. Ausmus sacrifice bunted him over to second for one down. Blake DeWitt was then sent back to Albuquerque. No really, he pinch-hit and reached on Arias' error, putting Kemp at third as well. Rafael Furcal stepped in, and another error by Arias allowed Kemp to score to make it 3-3.

The eighth inning showed the highs and lows of hitting all in the span of two hitters. Andre Ethier singled to start, but James Loney promptly grounded into a double play. No worries, as Kemp's homer gave the Dodgers the lead for good.

The win gets Hiroki Kuroda off the hook, who was again not very good. He went five innings, giving up three runs on seven hits. The bullpen deserves the credit, as Guillermo Mota, Ramon Troncoso, and Jonathan Broxton combined for four perfect innings. It was especially good to see Broxton blow through the Astros in order for his 22nd save.

Kemp continues to have his best season of his young career, as the month of July has been very good to him with a .417 average. He's at or near the top in the major statistical categories on the team, even with hitting in the #8 spot most of the time. Along with great defense, it's been fun to watch him grow as a player.

Monday night will see something quite rare in Dodger Stadium: Jason Schmidt makes a start for the Dodgers. He's been a complete waste for them so far, but who knows, maybe he'll put together a decent second half. I can dream anyway...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Welcome back Jason Schmidt

Jason Schmidt will once again try to salvage his once great career by being activated from the 60-day DL and making the start Monday against the Reds. It'll be his first start since June 16, 2007.

This saga just seems to never end. He's been rehabbing in the minors all season. In Class A Inland Empire, he's 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in two starts. In Triple-A Albuquerque, he's 2-0 with a 4.18 ERA in five starts with six overall appearances. So, not too shabby.

Potentially, he can get up to three starts before the July 31 trade deadline. It's no secret that the Dodgers are looking for pitching help in both the rotation and bullpen. Could he possibly be trade bait with some strong performances? Who knows.

For a look back on his spectacular Dodgers history (yes, sarcasm), click on the link to the article. It's pretty amazing reading all of the injuries he's been through. So much for being the ace of the staff after signing a three-year, $47 million deal before the 2007 season.

Dodgers rebound on Kershaw's strong effort

The Dodgers started Saturday night's game by doing something they really needed to do: hold the Astros scoreless and put a couple runs on the board themselves. They never looked back, as Kershaw went seven strong for the win, 5-2.

After getting slapped around by the Astros for the first two games after the All-Star break, the Dodgers needed someone to step up and end the slide. As they've done all year after losing two straight, they turned things around for a win. Still, the Dodgers are the only team in baseball to not lose three straight games.

Rafael Furcal opened the bottom of the first with a single. Orlando Hudson then ripped one to left that just bounced in front of a sliding Carlos Lee, rolling all the way to the wall for an RBI triple. Matt Kemp's RBI single to left an out later made it 2-0.

That's how the score would stay until the sixth, when things got crazy for a moment. O-Dog singled and Manny doubled with one out for two runners on. Casey Blake was given the intentional pass to load the bases with one down. Kemp hit a soft grounder that scored Hudson for the 3-0 lead.

Mark Loretta started at first for James Loney and came through with an RBI single, and it was 4-0. On the play, Kemp went to third, and Loretta was on first. Mike Hampton, apparently mad that he gave up a couple runs, took the ball from the catcher and tried to fire it into his glove.

Well... he missed, and it rolled to the wall near the Astros dugout. Kemp was paying attention and easily trotted home. Since time was never called, the run counted, and that was it for Hampton.

Up 5-0 in the eighth, Kershaw was pulled after giving up only two hits, one walk, and five strikeouts. James McDonald came on with a chance to get some outs... and proceeded to give up two straight hits for a run. He got yanked by an angry Joe Torre.

Brent Leach and Ramon Troncoso were able to hold the Astros to a couple of runs. Jonathan Broxton came in to close, and again found himself in trouble by walking Miguel Tejada leading off. A hit and a walk later, and the bases were loaded. Thankfully in between all of that, he managed to strike out the side, getting his 21st save.

As for Kershaw, he's clearly taking over the team ace roll as Chad Billingsley continues to struggle. He's 5-0 with an incredible 0.75 ERA in his last seven starts. Whoa. Those stats are just stunning. I'd say he's more than meeting his potential at this point.

The Dodgers will look to split the series today by sending Hiroki Kuroda to the mound. He hasn't done much of anything lately, so he's another guy trying to figure things out. Today would be a good day for that.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Billingsley rocked as Astros pound Dodgers

Chad Billingsley would sure love to forget about his last month of pitching.

For the sixth straight time, Billingsley was unable to get that elusive 10th win. Not only did he not accomplish this, but he lasted only 1 and 2/3 innings, getting drilled for six runs, as the Astros easily won, 8-1. It was not pretty to say the least.

The Astros hit around in the first inning. Bills actually got Michael Bourn and Kaz Matsui out to start the game. Then, the next six hitters reached with two down. The big blows were a solo homer by Miguel Tejada and a two-run double by Hunter Pence.

After the Dodgers went down weakly in the bottom half, the Astros again went to work in the second. A big two-run double by Geoff Blum chased Bills with two outs in the second. Jeff Weaver had to come in way earlier than anyone would have expected.

The only run the Dodgers got was an RBI groundout by Russell Martin to score Orlando Hudson in the third. That, my friends, was it.

As bad as Billingsley was, Roy Oswalt was just the opposite. He went the complete game, giving up only one run on four hits. Throw in no walks and five strikeouts, and that was the Oswalt of old. After a rough first couple of months, he's turned it around to become the ace of their staff again.

For Billingsley, it's hard to figure out exactly what's wrong. Perhaps he had a bit of a dead arm last night after pitching in the All-Star game on Tuesday. Maybe the Astros just took good swings. From what I could tell, his location wasn't sharp at all. His breaking stuff either barely made it to the plate or was right in the middle.

I'll hope it's something as simple as fixing his location and not something worse. From what the Astros players said, they knew his breaking stuff was bad, so they just sat on his fastball. His next start will come at home on Wednesday against the Reds, who aren't a good hitting team. Hopefully that'll be the game to get him turned around.

Clayton Kershaw will take the mound today, looking to stop the Dodgers from getting their first three-game losing streak of the year. It won't be easy, as the Astros have completely outplayed them in every aspect of the game so far. But, Mike Hampton is going for the Astros, who isn't exactly a stud pitcher anymore.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Astros' pitching stifles Dodgers

Manny Ramirez made his long-awaited return to Los Angeles on Thursday night. He hadn't played there since a May 6 win against the Nationals. Yes indeed, "Mannywood" is back.

But somebody forgot to wake up the offense, as the Astros had their way in a 3-0 win. The Dodgers had a handful of chances, but nine men left on base and two double plays were too much to overcome.

The start of the game was a nice pitcher's duel between Randy Wolf and Wandy Rodriguez. Neither team could push a run across through four.

In the fifth, the Astros broke the ice with a solo homer from Humberto Quintero. He's now up to a whopping... one for the season. Figures.

Down by one, the Dodgers had a golden opportunity to get on the board. James Loney singled to lead off, and Orlando Hudson doubled into left for two runners in scoring position. Randy Wolf hit a soft grounder to second, but it wasn't good enough to score a run. With one down, Rafael Furcal walked.

So now the bases were loaded with one down, and Andre Ethier stepped up to the plate. It seems like every time he gets in one of these situations, it's either a huge hit or a double play. What happened here? A soft grounder to short for the 6-3 DP. Ouch.

The Dodgers never really had a big threat after that, as Rodriguez and the bullpen didn't give much to them. The Astros tacked on two more in seventh, as Wolf gave up three straight hits to start the inning and load the bases. Guillermo Mota came in and did a pretty good job, only allowing a couple runs to score.

In the bottom of the seventh, Loney and Hudson again reached to start, but two strikeouts and a groundout washed away any scoring chance. Jose Velverde came on and got his ninth save to close it out.

Wolf was pretty good for most of the game. He finished with six innings, five hits, three runs, one walk, and six strikeouts. Unfortunately for him, a bad seventh inning really made his final line look ordinary. But with no run support, there's not much he could do.

As for Manny, he ended up going 1-for-4 with two strikeouts. He singled in the eighth, but Casey Blake grounded into a double play. The only one who really did well was O-Dog, who was 3-for-4.

Chad Billingsley will, once again, look for his 10th win tonight. He's been a little off lately, including giving up the tying run in the All-Star game. In fact, if not for Albert Pujols' two diving plays, who knows how many runs would've scored. He'll go against the always dangerous Roy Oswalt.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Looking back at the first half

With baseball's best record at 56-32, the Dodgers have had a historic first half of the season. Clutch hitting, comeback wins, and that guy getting suspended 50 games have been the major highlights. Let's take a look at the highs and lows thus far:

The Good

Best record in baseball. That's really all I have to say about that. By winning nearly 64% of their games, the Dodgers hold a lead over the Red Sox by two games.

Comeback victories. Countless times the Dodgers have won it the dramatic way with big hits coming late. From the seventh inning on, they're hitting a whopping .296, by far the best in baseball. There's really no counting this team out.

Pitching. Their team ERA is 3.58, second only to the Giants. As usual, the pitching has been stellar. Even with the subtractions of Brad Penny, Greg Maddux, Derek Lowe, Takashi Saito, and Joe Beimel, the staff has continued to step up and lead the way. Also, they lead the league in ERA with runners in scoring position.

Dominance on the road. They have the most wins on the road with 28. Plus, they've already played six more games on the road than at home, so they'll be closer to home in the second half.

Bench leadership. Mark Loretta, Juan Castro, and Brad Ausmus have been awesome off the bench. Every situation they're put into, from spot starts to late-inning replacements, they've excelled. Most importantly, the Dodgers haven't skipped a beat with them in there.

Juan Pierre. I don't think many people would have envisioned this, but he was an All-Star while filling in for Manny Ramirez. He has a .328 AVG, .387 OBP, and 23 steals. An argument can easily be made that he's the most valuable player of the first half.

Manny Ramirez (on the field). Before and after his suspension, there's no denying that he's still one of the top hitters in baseball. In only 36 games, he's hitting .355 with an incredible .487 OBP, 9 homers, and 29 RBIs.

Casey Blake. I still think he should have gotten way more All-Star consideration. But, at .285 with 12 homers and 55 RBIs, I'll be more than happy to take that. Most importantly, his glove has been great.

Orlando Hudson. His cycle in the home opener was a sign of things to come. While an ice cold June made his average go down to .283, he still has 24 doubles, seven home runs, and 44 RBIs. Plus, his Gold Glove caliber defense is on display every night.

Matt Kemp. Quietly, he's put together some great numbers. He's at a .320 AVG, .384 OBP, six triples, 11 homers, 50 RBIs, and 19 stolen bases. And, as I've said about the previous two guys, his defense has been terrific as well.

Andre Ethier. His average is only .250, but 18 homers and 56 RBIs are legit. He's been the key figure in late-inning heroics.

Chad Billingsley. He was absolutely red hot to start the year, but has cooled off recently. Still, there's no denying he's earned his All-Star berth with a 9-4 record, 3.38 ERA, and 119 strikeouts. He's the team ace.

Randy Wolf. If only the Dodgers could give him more run support, he'd be in St. Louis right now. His record is a mere 4-3, but his 3.45 ERA and 1.17 WHIP show how great he's been.

Clayton Kershaw. The current run he's been on for the last six games have been incredible. When he's on, he's practically unhittable. He still walks too many, but with a 3.16 ERA and 99 strikeouts in 99.2 innings, he's doing something right.

Ramon Troncoso and Ronald Belisario. I'll group these two together because there's so many similarities. They've both come out of nowhere, and both have been huge in late innings. Combined, they've thrown 105 innings, giving up 88 hits, striking out 80, and giving up only four homers. Both have sub-2.50 ERAs. Just a fantastic job by these two.

Jonathan Broxton. With 20 saves and 65 strikeouts in 40.2 innings, he's one of the top closers in the game.

The Bad.

Manny's 50-game suspension. Even if the Dodgers played great ball with him out, it's a shame the whole thing ever had to go down. It was pretty embarrassing to say the least. Thankfully, it's over.

Russell Martin. It's hard to believe how lost he's been at the plate most of this year. He's had a couple of really bad months during April and June which has caused him to be at .258 right now. And, he only has two homers. Hopefully that turns around soon.

Rafael Furcal. He was in the mid to low .200's through the first three months. A hot July has raised his average to .256. It seems like he's finally starting to settle in.

Hong-Chih Kuo. Whoa, has he struggled. He's been shelved for awhile with elbow problems, which most likely explain his 6.75 ERA. He was a top reliever last year, and hasn't even come close to that this season. Anything they get out of him the rest of this season would be a bonus.

James McDonald. Perhaps a little unfair to put the kid on this list. But, he was the fifth starter coming out of spring training, and pretty much pitched his way out of that. With a 4.70 ERA and 1.50 WHIP, he's now back in the bullpen.

Baseball's best ends 1st half on high note

The Dodgers went out on Sunday and did what they've done better than any other team so far this season: take care of business on the field. A 6-0 let them cruise to a 7-4 win, their 56th of the season.

There's a lot to like about the way the Dodgers won this game. First of all, they were far away from Los Angeles, and could have easily packed it in and called it a break. Instead, they were the ones who looked like they still had something to prove, starting the game with a quick 2-0 advantage.

Rafael Furcal started things with a walk. After Andre Ethier struck out, Manny Ramirez lifted a long fly ball to right. Corey Hart must have lost it in the sun, or never thought he'd catch it to begin with, because he let it drop near the wall, putting runners on first and second.

Casey Blake then walked as well, loading the bases, something that happens a lot to this team. James Loney didn't exactly crush the ball, but he placed it perfectly into center to score Furcal. An error by Mike Cameron on the play let Manny score as well.

Both teams didn't make any noise until the Dodgers struck again in the fourth. And wouldn't you know it, Brad Ausmus of all people hit a solo home run for the 3-0 lead.

In the fifth, Ethier singled and Manny walked with one down, and both advanced on a wild pitch from Yovani Gallardo. Blake hit an RBI groundout, followed by another single from Loney for the 5-0 lead.

After that, it became the Orlando Hudson Show. He hit home runs from both sides of the plate for the first time in his career. The one from the left side came in the sixth, and the right side in the eighth. The All-Star ended his first half with a bang.

Hiroki Kuroda was given some relief time to get in some work, and was hit around. Clayton Kershaw's last batter was a double to Cameron to start the seventh, and Kuroda was summoned. Four runs total were scored off of him in 1 and 1/3 innings. James McDonald had to get the last two outs to get out of the eighth.

Ramon Troncoso was given the save opportunity, and it got somewhat interesting. Two runners reached for Ryan Braun, who was the tying run. But, Braun popped up to Raffy, and that was it. It was the fifth save for Troncoso.

The win gave the Dodgers two of three in Milwaukee, making this the fourth straight series they've won. A rare loss by the Giants will give the Dodgers a comfortable seven game lead in the NL West.

Kershaw deserves a ton of credit for this one. He started the game with the bases loaded thanks to a double and two walks. On a full count, he struck out Cameron. From there, he was just awesome. He finished with six innings pitched, two hits, one run, five walks, and four strikeouts. That's now six straight great starts, gathering four wins in the process.

The All-Star break is now here, where Chad Billingsley and Hudson will be in St. Louis. Jonathan Broxton will be there, but won't participate with a toe injury. Once games resume, the Dodgers will open a nine-game homestand, starting with the Astros for four.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Weaver's rough start dooms Dodgers

Jeff Weaver was given a spot start a couple of days before the All-Star break. Coming into the game, he had a 3.32 ERA, and has definitely given a nice lift when needed.

Saturday night was not one of those nights.

Weaver didn't have much control from the beginning, and was pretty much smacked around at will. He didn't get out of the fourth inning, and the Brewers got the win, 6-3. Combine that with another win by the Giants, and the lead in the NL West is down to six games.

Just as Chad Billingsley experienced the night before, Weaver gave up a couple of runs in the first inning. Craig Counsell tripled with one down. Ryan Braun then hit a hard grounder to short, and Rafael Furcal fired it home in an attempt to get Counsell in a rundown. But, the throw was low and skipped by Russell Martin, scoring an unearned run.

Prince Fielder then singled to right to score another, and Weaver was quickly in an early hole. The Dodgers' bats got things going in a big way the night before, but that wouldn't be the case tonight.

The Brewers tacked on two more in the fourth, when Weaver was run. Frank Catalanotto homered to lead off, which is a bit embarrassing. Anyway, J.J. Hardy tripled, and scored on an RBI single by pitcher Mike Burns. Again, embarrassing. Two of the least likely guys doing damage.

Down 4-0, the Dodgers used the longball to get back into it. With two outs, Matt Kemp was on first with a single. Rafael Furcal then smacked a two-run shot to slice the deficit in half. Andre Ethier followed with one of his own, and it was now 4-3.

That's as close as the Dodgers would get, as the Brewers added two more off of Brent Leach and Guillermo Mota on a two-run double by Hardy in the eighth. Trevor Hoffman got three straight groundouts to end the game, avenging his blown save on Friday.

As shaky as Weaver was, the bats only had one good inning, so it's not like they really backed him up much. They got eight hits, but didn't take a walk all night. The Brewers bullpen shut them down for the last four innings, which was a big difference for them.

The first half of the MLB season will end after Sunday's game, as the Dodgers will own the best record regardless of the outcome. Clayton Kershaw will take the mound. His last five games have been awesome, lowering his ERA from 4.18 to 3.27. He'll look to keep the ball rolling.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Broxton out for now with toe injury

Jonathan Broxton has not been himself his last two appearances, giving up five runs, five hits, and four walks in two innings. Now, we may understand why.

Broxton will be out the last two games before the All-Star break and possibly more with a sore right big toe. Most likely, you can forget about seeing him on Tuesday in St. Louis, which is a shame.

The good news is that he can get some good rest, so if he's going to get hurt, at least he did it while there's some days off. With something like a toe injury, I can imagine that no matter what type of treatment you have, the best remedy is solid rest.

In the meantime, Guillermo Mota will fill in the closer's role. That speaks volumes for how well he's turned his season around lately. He hasn't given up a run since June 19. His ERA at the end of May was 7.71, and now it's 3.57. Combine that with his past experience at closing, and it's an easy call.

To fill Broxton's spot in the bullpen, Scott Elbert was recalled from Triple-A. That means that our favorite "he's up, he's down" player, Blake DeWitt, has once again been sent back down.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A 12-8 win... in 10 innings!

The Dodgers broke out their big sticks on Friday night, clubbing five home runs. It almost wasn't enough, as the Brewers hit a couple themselves, and the game was tied at six after regulation.

Then the 12th inning came, and the Dodgers busted loose. It all started with a walk to Manny Ramirez, and the rout was on. A grand slam by Matt Kemp was the big highlight, as the Dodgers scored six and went on to win, 12-8.

This was a classic back-and-forth game between two of the National League's better teams, who also made the playoffs last season. Every time one team would grab a lead, the other would fight right back. For a baseball fan, it was fun to watch. (Just slightly more fun if you like the Dodgers).

Andre Ethier got things started in the first by creaming a solo shot to right for the 1-0 lead. The Brewers would get a couple runs off a shaky Chad Billingsley to grab the lead at 2-1.

A solo home run by James Loney was the Dodgers' next run, as they tied the game at two. But, like the first inning, the Brewers came right back. This time, it was a J.J. Hardy homer that made it 3-2 Brewers.

Things looked to be in the Dodgers' favor in the sixth, as they put up three runs. After an Ethier single, Manny cranked a two-run shot to center. Russell Martin then hit one of his own. Yes, I did just say that. It was now 5-3 Dodgers.

However, as has been the case way too often lately, Billingsley could not hold a lead in the middle of the game. I'm not sure why, but he again came unraveled. RBIs by Frank Catalanotto and Hardy tied the game at five, and it was obvious both teams were not going to give in.

Move to the bottom of the eighth, and Mike Cameron hit a homer off of Brent Leach, and the Brewers had reason to believe this would be their night. Entering the ninth, they had a 6-5 lead and Trevor Hoffman coming into the game.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, went right to work. Martin started it with a single. Orlando Hudson sacrificed him over to second. In a surprising move, Kemp then reached on a bunt. Had that not worked, he would have been second guessed for quite some time. But, it did, so he won't. An RBI single by pinch-hitting Mark Loretta sent the game to extras.

The Brewers sent in Carlos Villanueva, and boy was he just awful. The Dodgers absolutely lit him up for six runs. He got the first out, then walked Manny. As I said before, it was all over after that. The big blows were an RBI triple by Casey Blake, an RBI infield single by Martin, and a towering grand slam by Kemp.

Now, the Brewers certainly didn't roll over and die, as they made life for Jonathan Broxton pretty hard. The first three guys reached on two singles and a walk. With two runs in, two on, and two outs, Jason Kendall hit a long fly ball to center. Kemp raced back and made a Willie Mays style catch to emphatically end the game.

The offense was obviously the highlight, as they are adjusting quite nicely to Manny's return. Billingsley and Broxton were again a concern, as they just didn't seem to have much control. Bills gave up five runs in five innings, walking four. Broxon gave up two runs in an inning. Not exactly the numbers you'd want to see from your All-Stars.

Nonetheless, it was another dramatic win in a long list of them this season. When the Dodgers needed to step up, they did. Manny did his part, but everyone up and down the lineup contributed. And that's why they have the best record in baseball.

Jeff Weaver will get a spot start on Saturday. He's been great this season, taking the ball whenever needed and giving the Dodgers a chance to win. That's all they can ask for.

Belisario lands on DL with sore elbow

A sore elbow has landed Ronald Belisario on the 15-day DL. The good news is that doctors have found no structural damage, so it looks like it'll be rest and relaxation for him.

Belisario was among the league's leaders in appearances at 43. He's literally been one of the biggest surprises this season for the Dodgers, as he's pretty much come out of nowhere to be a leader in the bullpen. He had previously missed both the 2005 and 2006 seasons with Tommy John surgery.

So I think this will lead to a simple questions - Has Joe Torre overused him? If you've followed Torre his whole career, you'll know that he has a hard time trusting certain relievers in big spots. Hence, he tends to rely too much on the same guys.

It's obvious that when it comes to bridging the gap to Jonathan Broxton, Torre only trusts Belisario and Ramon Troncoso, who's at 39 appearances himself. With an elbow injury, the overuse question is a valid one.

I think only time will tell if Belisario has been called upon too much. If he comes back and has lost velocity on his nasty fastball, then it would appear he had too much, too soon.

Hopefully, with the emergence of Guillermo Mota, plus Cory Wade and James McDonald being recalled, Belisario won't be used as much in the second half.

Big start leads to trouncing of Mets

The Dodgers abused Mets pitching for 17 hits and nine walks, and won easily in Citi Field, 11-2. A four-run first inning was more than enough to claim this one.

Mets starter Livan Hernandez was just awful, and certainly did nothing to build on the slight momentum they had from winning the night before. The first hitter of the game, Rafael Furcal, hit a ground rule double that was a sign of things to come.

Andre Ethier followed with a single for two on. Manny Ramirez then singled to score Furcal, and the rout was on. A walk to James Loney an out later put the bases loaded. Orlando Hudson, hitting seventh in the order because of a huge slump, cleared the bases with a double, and it was 4-0.

Gary Sheffield gave the Mets some hope with an RBI single in the bottom of the first, but that was it. Consecutive RBI singles by Manny and Blake in the second pushed it to 6-1, and already the game was out of reach.

Randy Wolf did something interesting before the game - he switched his number from 21 to 43, his old Phillies number. Coming into the game with a whopping 12 no-decisions, his strategy certainly worked.

On the night, Wolf went 6 and 1/3 innings pitched, seven hits, two runs, two walks, and three strikeouts. More importantly, for the first time since May 28 in Chicago against the Cubs, he earned a win.

After the Mets cut it to 6-2 in the third, the Dodgers got two more back in the fourth. This time, it was Russell Martin who had a big hit with two outs. His single scored two, and it was 8-2.

Three more runs were tacked on in the eighth, which came from a two-run single by Juan Castro and an RBI single by Matt Kemp. That came off the lethal Tim Redding. Seriously, why is still pitching in the majors? It's hard to watch.

The funny thing about this game is that the Dodgers left even more men on this game compared to last (13 to 12). But, when you have 27 men reach base, you're bound to leave some on. It was a complete onslaught, and all without the benefit of the home run.

It's a good thing the Dodgers keep winning series, because the Giants and Rockies certainly aren't making winning the NL West a cakewalk like it once was. To still have a seven game lead on the Giants and eight on the Rockies is a big accomplishment considering how well those teams have been performing.

The Dodgers are now off to Milwaukee for three. Chad Billingsley had a five-run lead in the ninth inning against the Padres last outing... and then somehow came out of it with a no-decision. So, once again, he'll be looking for his 10th win.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dodgers can't cash in on Perez's wildness

Oliver Perez made his return to the Mets rotation, and proceeded to walk seven men in five innings. Throw in four hits, and the Dodgers averaged just over a couple runners on per inning. Plenty of chances to score, right?

Well, right... but it didn't happen. A total of 12 men were left on the night, and the Mets finally showed some offensive life to taking the win, 5-4.

The Dodgers did get the first run to start the game. Rafael Furcal walked on four pitches to lead off. He was forced out by Orlando Hudson's fielder's choice. Casey Blake also walked for two on, and Mark Loretta, playing first for James Loney against the lefty, singled for the 1-0 lead.

The Mets battled back to score their first run since Saturday. Jeremy Reed doubled with one down, and Luis Castillo's infield single tied the game at one.

In the third, the Mets would have a long inning that pretty much wore out Hiroki Kuroda. David Wright snapped an 0-for-17 slump with an RBI single for the 2-1 lead. An error by Casey Blake, something you rarely see, allowed another run to score, and Reed's RBI single made it 4-1.

The next inning, the Dodgers got a run back, but they also blew more chances for more. Raffy's RBI single to score Matt Kemp made it 4-2. But, Hudson grounded into a double play, and that was that.

A big insurance run was added by the Mets in the fifth, which chased Kuroda. Brian Schneider hit an RBI single with the bases loaded for the 5-2 advantage. Cory Wade came in and put out the flames with a groundout and strikeout, so the game was still in striking distance.

Raffy added an RBI groundout in the eighth to make it 5-3. In the ninth, it was time for Francisco Rodriguez, who immediately was greeted by a solo homer from Manny Ramirez. Blake walked, and it looked like the Dodgers had something going.

But going along with their theme from the rest of the night, they just couldn't get that one more bit hit. Loretta struck out, but Russell Martin singled. Andre Ethier had a chance to avenge and 0-for-4 night... and then promptly grounded into a DP to end the game. Ouch.

Ethier has had a great season, with plenty of walk-off hits already. But Wednesday night is one he'd love to forget. He struck out to lead off the second, lined out with the bases loaded to end the third, flied out to leave two on to end the fifth, flied out to leave one on to end the seventh, and grounded into a double play to end the game. I hope he doesn't watch a replay of this game.

As wild as Perez was, he got the big outs when he needed. Kuroda, on the other hand, never looked comfortable. He lasted 4 and 1/3 innings, eight hits, five runs (four earned), two walks, and one strikeout. The bullpen of Wade, Guillermo Mota, Brent Leach, and Ramon Troncoso kept the game close, but the offense couldn't come through.

The final game of this series is tonight, as the veterans of Randy Wolf and Livan Hernandez take the mound. Wolf pitched great last outing against the Padres but received a (wait for it, wait for it...........) no-decision. But you never would have guessed that would happen!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Manny drives in 3, then gets the boot

It was all Dodgers for their debut in new Citi Field on Tuesday night, as the Mets put up practically no resistance in an 8-0 thrashing. Quite simply, the Dodgers put men on base, drove them in, and were much better pitching. It's pretty much your formula for success.

But the real story of the night was... you guessed it, Manny Ramirez. He stole the show not only for his bat, but for his arguing as well.

Manny finished the night 2-for-4 with three RBIs. The two outs he recorded were via strikeout - and he was not happy about it. So unhappy he was that after K'ing the second time, he flipped his elbow pad in the direction of home plate umpire John Hirschbeck and got tossed.

Of course, the called third strike on Manny was way outside, so it's pretty much a natural reaction to get mad. But I'm sure Manny just wanted some time off anyway to rest. So hey, it all worked out in the end!

That was about the only highlight of the night for the Mets, who are just getting lousier and lousier. Granted, injuries have really depleted them, but they're just hard to watch these days.

The Dodgers got on the board in the second, and never looked back. Russell Martin singled to start, and Matt Kemp did the same one out later. Clayton Kershaw laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt for runners in scoring position with two down.

Mike Pelfrey was his own worst enemy after that. He walked Rafael Furcal to load the bases, then walked Orlando Hudson to force the first run in. Manny then stepped up and dropped a broken-bat single into center that drove in two for the 3-0 lead.

In the fourth, Raffy reached on an error by Luis Castillo. O-Dog broke out of his long slump by doubling home Furcal, and it was 4-0. It was increased by a run the next at-bat as Manny singled into right, and the blowout was on.

More runs were chipped on later, not that it mattered as the Mets never put up a fight. Blake DeWitt, recalled for the fourth time already this season, crushed a long homer to right for his first of the year in the seventh. A sac-fly RBI by Casey Blake and a bases loaded walk to Kemp in the eighth closed out the scoring.

Lost in all the Manny drama was the great start by Kershaw. He pitched six strong innings, giving up three hits, no runs, and striking out seven. Most importantly, he only walked two. In his last five starts, he only given up two runs. I didn't even realize how impressive he's been until now. Those are just fantastic numbers.

The best part about Kershaw's last five starts? They've all been wins for the Dodgers. Can't do much better than that.

Hiroki Kuroda takes the mound tonight against the returning Oliver Perez. Perez has an ERA of 9.97, so it's hard to imagine he'd get any worse. Then again, with the way the Mets looked last night, maybe it is possible...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

An absolutely crazy win for the Dodgers

I'm not even sure where to begin with this.

This was supposed to be a feel-good recap about how Chad Billingsley did it with his arm and his bat in leading the Dodgers to an easy win. You see, they were up 6-1 going into the ninth against the lowly Padres, and Bills was looking to get a complete game.

Then Chase Headley lead off with a solo homer.

Then the other Tony Gwynn doubled, and that was it for Bills. No problem, as Jonathan Broxton was called upon. Even though it wasn't a save situation, Joe Torre wanted to put out this flame quickly.

Instead, those flames turned into an all out wildfire.

Broxton was completely lost, walking three guys, and let the Padres score four more runs to tie the game at six and head into extra innings. It just kept going from bad to worse. Who knows - if it wasn't for Eliezer Alfonso sliding past third base for the final out, the Padres could have won it there.

So the laugher turned into an extra inning battle, and both teams went scoreless in innings 10 through 12. Both teams had runners on in the 10th, but nothing happened.

Leading off the 13th, James Loney cranked a solo shot to right, and the Dodgers were once again up, 7-6. Jeff Weaver, pitching his third inning, made that hold up in the bottom half, and the game was mercifully over after four hours and 33 minutes.

Ugh... what a mess this turned out to be. The bottom line is that the Dodgers won. The path they took to get there was crazy, but hey, a win's a win. They can be proud that they suffered such a heartbreaking collapse, only to hold steady and get a win in the end. And for that I'm thankful.

I just feel bad for Billingsley, who deserved his 10th win. Not only did he last eight innings, giving up three runs and striking out five, but he went 2-for-4 at the plate. The two hits? Try a solo homer and a double. Wow.

The only solution I could come up with for Broxton's wildness was that he didn't think there was any chance he'd be pitching today with a 6-1 lead in the ninth. Maybe he had mentally checked out, which I couldn't blame him for. I didn't think the home plate umpire did him any favors, as he had some very close pitches called balls. But, that's the way it goes.

I think it's a good thing the Dodgers have Monday off, if only to unwind from this one. They will travel to New York for three with the Mets, who are terrible now. Injuries have just crippled them. Clayton Kershaw goes in the first game.

Kemp still has a shot at the All-Star Game

Matt Kemp still has a chance to get to St. Louis on July 14, as he is one of the Final Vote candidates in the National League.

The other choices are Christian Guzman of the Nationals, Mark Reynolds of the Diamondbacks, Pablo Sandoval of the Giants, and Shane Victorino of the Phillies.

I was a little surprised that it's Kemp getting the chance, but his numbers speak for itself: .303 AVG, 10 HR, 44 RBIs, 19 SB. So, there's an opportunity for a 20-40 season.

What surprised me the most was that it wasn't Casey Blake. His numbers aren't as exciting with a .287 AVG, 11 HR, 48 RBIs. But, I think his glove and steady leadership has been a huge reason why the Dodgers have maintained a big lead in the NL West.

Either way, I can't complain. Let's all make a push to get Kemp to the All-Star Game by voting HERE.

Dodgers land 3 All-Star berths

Congratulations to Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton, and Orlando Hudson for earning a trip to St. Louis for the All-Star Game on July 14.

Billingsley has been an ace for the Dodgers this season with a current record of 9-4. His ERA, BAA, and K's are in the top 10 of the National League. His development into the main guy on the staff has been huge as the Dodgers lost Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, and Greg Maddux from last season.

Broxton has just been an absolute monster this year. He has 20 saves, blown only two, and has gathered six wins. Like Bills, he's stepped up into a key role after the departure of Takashi Saito. Simply one of the best closers in the game, and only getting better.

Hudson is one of two reserve second basemen along with Freddy Sanchez of the Pirates. O-Dog has been a fantastic signing this offseason, as his glove has been every bit the Gold Glove that it's been in the past. A very rough June at the plate has made his average tailspin to .288 (it was .332 on June 1), but he's still a key component in front of Manny Ramirez.

Manny homers, but bullpen and defense crumble

It took only one at-bat for Manny Ramirez to hit his first home run since suspension, putting the Dodgers up 1-0. Randy Wolf pitched six strong innings, surrendering only one run, and left in line for the win with Dodgers up 2-1.

Then the normally lights-out bullpen were instead lit up, the defense went AWOL, and the Padres got the win, 7-4.

What does that mean? Yes indeed, Randy "No-Decision" Wolf lives on.

The first six innings saw a pitcher's duel between Wolf and Josh Geer, who were knotted at one each. In the seventh, Casey Blake and James Loney each singled with one down, chasing Geer. With Greg Burke in the game, he unleashed a wild pitch that scored Blake for the 2-1 lead.

Even with the slim margin, it sure looked like the Dodgers were well on their way to a W when Ronald Belisario came in the bottom of the seventh. Instead, his wildness got the better of him.

Eliezer Alfonzo walked to lead off, followed by a single from Tony Gwynn. Kyle Blanks was then beaned, and the bases were juiced. Everth Cabrera changed that, as he hit a two-run single to give the Padres the 3-2 lead. Adrian Gonzalez (big shock) hit an RBI single to increase it to 4-2.

The Dodgers did get a run back to make it interesting in the eighth. Rafael Furcal walked and Russell Martin singled to open the inning. Juan Pierre, in for Manny, sacrificed them over. Andre Ethier hit an RBI groundout to score Furcal, and it was 4-3.

That was as close as the Dodgers would get, as their own defense would let them down big time. In the bottom of the eighth, Juan Castro's fielding error was the start, and Blake had a throwing error. In all, three runs were scored. Ramon Troncoso was the victim, but all of his runs were unearned.

With Heath Bell in, the Dodgers started off the ninth pretty well. James Loney walked and went to second on fielder's indifference. Matt Kemp hit an RBI single to make it 7-4. Then Bell struck out the side of Castro, the pinch-hitting Orlando Hudson, and Furcal.

The story of this game will be the Dodgers' defense and bullpen faltering late. A quick check of the stats shows the Dodgers fourth in the majors with a .988 fielding percentage, so getting three errors in a game is highly unusual. But, it happens. I don't think we'll be seeing the bullpen giving up six runs in two innings much anymore.

Chad Billingsley will try for the fourth time to get his 10th win of the season. The Dodgers have lost his last three starts, so they'll look to change that today. He's opposed by Josh Banks.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Big 1st carries Dodgers in Manny's return

The return of Manny Ramirez from his 50-game suspension must have provided good vibes for the Dodgers. A five-run first inning was enough for them to defeat the Padres, 6-3.

If there was any indication that Manny's return would give a boost to a stale Dodgers' offense, then Friday night's first inning was it. The lineup looked like the one that was pre-suspension, with Rafael Furcal leading off, Orlando Hudson in the two-hole, and Manny hitting third. After that, it was usually a bit of a toss-up, but it was Andre Ethier cleaning up last night.

To start the game, Raffy singled to left. Hudson grounded out to get Raffy over to second. With a loud reaction of mostly cheers from the crowd (mostly because there were a whole lot of Dodger fans there), Manny worked a walk on a full count.

Ethier hit a grounder that forced Manny at second, but Everth Cabrera threw the ball away, allowing Rafffy to score. Casey Blake followed with a walk. After that, it was consecutive RBIs on singles by James Loney and Russell Martin. A two-run double by Matt Kemp capped the inning at 5-0.

The Dodgers got five runs and four hits in the first inning alone, and then pretty much put it into cruise control after that. Their only other run was in the third. Ethier started with a double, and soon got to third. Martin hit an RBI groundout that made it 6-0.

Hiroki Kuroda was pitching very well into the sixth, with his only run a solo shot by Scott Hairston. His fatigue must have caught up to him in the sixth, as he gave up a walk and single to start the inning. After an out, Adrien Gonzalez (whom Sports Illustrated referred to as "the only reason to watch the Padres"... so true!) doubled in both runs, and that was it for Kuroda.

The resurgent Guillermo Mota came on and immediately got two groundouts, and the inning ended at 6-3. Kuroda got the win, even if his final line wasn't the prettiest: 5 and 1/3 innings, four hits, three runs, two walks, two strikeouts.

Once again, the bullpen more than slammed the door shut. Mota pitched 1 and 2/3 innings of hitless ball, Ramon Troncoso and Brent Leach combined to close out the eighth, and Jonathan Broxton blew away the Padres in the ninth for save #20.

The story of this night will obviously be Manny, even if he was just 0-3 with a walk. I don't care what he was - his presence in the lineup is exactly what the doctor ordered for this struggling offense. Hopefully the rest of the team can just relax and get back to stringing together some hits. Now they can settle into their roles a little better.

Saturday is a FOX game, and Manny is scheduled to be in the lineup (I'm sure the suits at that network had a thing or two to say about that). Randy "No-Decision" Wolf will look to get his fourth win of the season. But more than likely, he'll get 13th no-decision instead.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Manny's back, so roster moves are made

With Manny Ramirez official back from his 50-game suspension, the Dodgers have juggled some spots on their roster. Here's the breakdown:

Back: Manny Ramirez

Sent to Triple-A: Eric Stults and A.J. Ellis

Designated for Assignment: Mitch Jones

Stults and Ellis will both be everyday starters while in Albuquerque. For Stults, he will have an eye towards regaining the fifth-starter spot, or he will be good trade bait for the upcoming trade deadline at the end of July.

Ellis will get regular work in preparation for a September callup. And with the way Russell Martin has been hitting (well, not hitting) this year, you never know if opportunity knocks for him.

As for Jones, he falls into that 10-day window in which he can be claimed by another club, traded, or released. If all of that fails, he can return to Albuquerque, where he has 21 homers.

What should be noted is that there will still be another move to be made once Friday comes. It has more to do with Claudio Vargas and if the Dodgers see him contributing with L.A. Also, Hong-Chih Kuo (remember him?) may be transferred from the 15-day to the 60-day DL.

The scenarios are pretty confusing, so click on the link and read the article if you want to figure it all out.

Raffy is clutch off the bench

For the third straight game, the Dodgers and Rockies were deadlocked in a pitcher's duel. Cashing in with runners on base became few and far between.

Then Rafael Furcal stepped in to pinch-hit with one out in the eighth. This time, the Dodgers got the big hit.

Furcal lined an RBI single into right to score Russell Martin, and that was all the Dodgers would need as they got the victory, 1-0. I'm not sure how, but the Dodgers somehow managed to take two of three from this suddenly important series.

Both starting pitchers got the job done, but in different ways. Rockies starter Jason Hammel was really, really good. He ended up pitching a complete game, albeit eight innings. His lone blemish was Raffy's single in the eighth. Other than that, he gave up four hits before that without walking anybody. No wonder the Rockies have been winning like crazy - their pitching has greatly improved.

Compared to Hammel, Clayton Kershaw also held the opponents in check. But, his route was much different. He only lasted five innings while accumulating 97 pitches. The good thing was that he didn't give up a run on only one hit. However, he walked five.

As I've said before in the season, Kershaw is only 21, so he's got many more season's worth of starts ahead of him. His stuff is just plain nasty. But, the bottom line is that he walks way too many guys. He's pretty much his own worst enemy. It's no shock that Chad Billingsley and him are 1-2 in walks in the National League.

All of that aside, Kershaw held the Rockies scoreless, so at the end of the day, that's all that matters. As much as the Dodgers looked lost at the plate, the Rockies were worse. They collected only three hits and struck out 10 times. Uh, not good.

The bottom of the eighth saw the bottom of the order due up for the Dodgers in Brad Ausmus, Juan Castro, and the pitcher's spot. Not exactly your recipe for scoring, but it's not like the top was doing any better. Ausmus completed his 2-for-3 day with a single to start.

Castro was just able to land a bunt that was popped up in front of Hammel, sacrificing Ausmus into scoring position at second. Martin pinch-ran for Ausmus, and Raffy came in to hit. His single to right was mercifully the big hit the Dodgers have been waiting for.

Jonathan Broxton blew away the Rocks in the ninth for his 19th save. The whole bullpen stepped up, with Ronald Belisario going two innings and Ramon Troncoso one. They were just as untouchable.

The win makes the Dodgers the first team in the majors with 50 wins. They're currently 6.5 games up over the Giants (who play later tonight in St. Louis) and 8.5 over the Rockies.

More importantly, they've maintained a comfortable lead in the NL West without Manny Ramirez. And with their offensive output pretty much non-existent lately, it's perfect timing that he's due back their next game on Friday.

Friday will open a three-game series in San Diego. The Padres only won nine games the whole month of June, so they're still struggling to find any sort of consistency. Hiroki Kuroda will get the call in the first game.

2-hit by Jason Marquis? Ouch

Chad Billingsley did all he could, giving up three runs in 7 and 2/3 innings, striking out 11. Too bad the offense never showed up with him.

The Dodgers looked absolutely lost against Jason Marquis, as they could only muster two hits in losing 3-0. The game only took two hours and 16 minutes. So pretty much if you blinked, you would've missed the Dodgers helplessly flailing away.

The good was the performance by Billingsley, who was coming off two rough starts in which he couldn't hold three-run leads. The first inning looked a bit bleak, as Clint Barmes doubled and Brad Hawpe walked. But Troy Tulowitzki grounded out, and there was no damage.

After flying through the first three innings, Hawpe launched a hanging breaking ball out to left for the 1-0 lead. He would continue to haunt the Dodgers on this night, as he finished 2-for-3 with two runs scored.

Marquis not only retired 19 consecutive men at one point, he also did his best Randy Wolf impersonation with the bat. In the seventh, the bases were loaded for the Rockies on a single by Hawpe and walks to Ian Stewart (intentional) and Chris Iannetta. Marquis then lined a soft single into left that scored two, and it was 3-0.

I would recap the best scoring chances the Dodgers had, but that never happened. James Loney singled in the second and Juan Castro in the eighth. And that, my friends, is all she wrote. They didn't even take one walk the whole night. It was a pretty sad effort at the plate.

Orlando Hudson and Russell Martin received the night off, and with good reason. Hudson's down to .297 by hitting .222 in June. Martin looks totally lost, as he pinch-hit and weakly grounded back to the mound. He's hit a meager .190 in June.

The bottom line - they need Manny back, now more than ever. After scoring seven runs in the last four games, that's pretty obvious. The threat of him alone will make a huge difference. By the way, he's due back on Friday in San Diego.

The Dodgers will look to somehow get their offense going with an afternoon game today. Clayton Kershaw takes the mound. If the first two games are any indication, the game will come down to which pitchers drives in the most runs. Look for Wolf and Marquis to both hit cleanup...