Monday, August 31, 2009

Dodgers acquire Ronnie Belliard

The Dodgers made a move to strengthen their bench by trading for infielder Ronnie Belliard from the Nationals. He should be in L.A. in time for Monday's game against the Diamondbacks.

Belliard is a right-handed hitter in his 12th year in the majors. He's a career .274 hitter with 107 home runs. This season his numbers have dipped, as he's hitting .246 with 5 homers and 22 RBIs in 86 games (187 at-bats).

My guess is that he's probably thrilled to get out of Washington and onto a contender. This isn't an earth-shattering move by any means, but it could give the Dodgers another decent option off the bench.

As for the bench, they now have Mark Loretta, Brad Ausmus, and Juan Castro as righties and Juan Pierre as a lefty. So there's some pretty good, veteran options to turn to late in games.

One thing I believe the Dodgers have done very well this season is just that - great bench play. Belliard can only help that.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Kemp's sac-fly enough to win in 12

Clayton Kershaw and Bronson Arroyo put on great pitching performances, as each surrendered two runs in seven innings. The Dodgers ended up winning the battle of the bullpens, as Matt Kemp's sacrifice fly in the 12th was enough to get the win, 3-2.

The win was especially sweet because the Giants just got done sweeping the Rockies in San Francisco. The lead in the NL West is now six games over each team.

With Manny Ramirez getting the day off, at least from starting the game, Kershaw knew he'd have to bring his best stuff to get a win. He didn't get the decision, but he did have great stuff. Along with only giving up two runs in seven, he struck out 11 and walked two. He was electric all day long.

Those two runs came in the second. Darnell McDonald hit his first big league home run, a towering two-run shot to left to make it 2-0. After that, the Reds couldn't get anything going.

On the flip side, Arroyo was showing everyone why he's been one of the hottest pitchers in the bigs lately. Through the first four innings, the Dodgers could only muster one walk, which lead to a double play from James Loney. Arroyo pitched to the minimum hitters.

Then came the fifth, and Kemp, hitting cleanup, made sure that changed. He connected with his 21st of the season, and it was 2-1. The bats weren't done yet, as Casey Blake followed with a single. Now with two down, Orlando Hudson singled as well for two on. Kershaw was just able to ground one through the middle for an RBI single and a 2-2 game.

Both teams had chances in the eighth to score, but came up empty. In the top of the inning, Manny pinch-hit but popped up. Rafael Furcal then walked and Juan Pierre singled. Andre Ethier and Kemp couldn't get on, and that was it.

George Sherrill and his 0.00 ERA as a Dodger entered in the bottom of the frame. He allowed a couple of singled consecutively with one down. But, he got Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips, ending that threat.

After Hudson grounded into a double play to end the top of the ninth (it's hard to watch him hit now because he's a freakin' ground ball machine), Ramon Troncoso mowed through the Reds to put it into extras.

Hong-Chih Kuo and James McDonald were very good, as they each struck out two while giving up a single. They made sure the Reds did not have a serious threat, as the Dodgers kept getting chances to win the game.

The solid pitching paid off, as the Dodgers got what they wanted in the 12th. No surprise here that it was Manny that began the rally by taking a walk from Francisco Cordero. Juan Castro found himself playing second with all the double switches, and he came through with a double to left for runners in scoring position.

Ethier was given the intentional walk to load the bases with one down. Kemp had a couple of strikes on him, then just missed hitting a grand slam to center. No matter, as it was plenty deep enough to score Manny to go up 3-2.

Jonathan Broxton got the chance for the save. He looked uncomfortable, took about five minutes in between pitches, yet somehow struck out the side for his 29th save. A couple of walks and 27 pitches made it a bumpy ride, but he got the big K when he needed it most.

Much like in Colorado, the Dodgers took two of three after dropping the first. They showed their mettle in situations where they looked like they could fold. Sure, the second half of the season hasn't been the smooth ride it was in the first, but the Dodgers still have the best record in the NL. That's saying something right there.

Following their successful 4-2 road trip, the Dodgers return home against the cellar-dwellers in the NL West, the Diamondbacks and Padres. That shouldn't really matter though, as any slip-up will only mean the Rockies and Giants will be ready to pounce.

First up is the Diamondbacks for four. Randy Wolf gets the ball in the first game against Doug Davis.

Four long balls good for a win

The Dodgers couldn't get anything done on Friday night with runners in scoring position. On Saturday, they made sure that would quickly change.

Manny Ramirez broke out of a power slump by hitting a two-run homer in the first, and the Dodgers powered their way to a victory over the Reds, 11-4. The Giants edged the Rockies, so the lead in the NL West is up to five over the Rocks and six over the Giants.

The Dodgers jumped up to a 4-0 lead after a couple of innings. In the second, Mark Loretta and Orlando Hudson singled to lead off. Brad Ausmus hit an infield single that was good enough to score Loretta. After a sacrifice by Charlie Haeger, Rafael Furcal's sac-fly RBI made it 4-0.

It's a good thing the Dodgers found a way to get runners in, because Haeger struggled in his third start of this season. He got through the first couple of innings unscathed, but ran into trouble in the third.

Craig Tatum lead off with a solo homer to go down 4-1. Paul Janish added a two-run shot, and Brandon Phillips an RBI single to get the game back even at four. Just like that, the Dodgers needed to go back to work.

Good thing for them, that's exactly what they did. It didn't happen right away, but Raffy did what he could by hitting a solo homer in the fifth, making it 5-4.

In the seventh, the Dodgers struck big. Andre Ethier pinch-hit and doubled to right to start. Raffy had another great at-bat by reaching on a bunt single, then going to second on an error. Juan Pierre singled them both home, and it was 7-4.

They weren't done yet, as Manny walked to put two on. Matt Kemp connected on a long three-run homer to center to make it 10-4. Even Hudson got in on the act, as his solo homer closed the scoring at 11-4.

Even though it was just the Reds, it was good to see the offense more than get the job done. Especially considering how frustrating Friday's loss was, as their bats went silent time and again, combined with Chad Billingsley's rough start. Saturday was a chance to get going again, and that's exactly what happened.

Haeger certainly didn't help his cause for staying in the rotation, as his knuckleball just wasn't there. He went 2 and 1/3 innings, four hits, four runs, two walks, and three strikeouts. With Hiroki Kuroda on his way back, it remains to be seen if Haeger gets another chance to start.

The bullpen was fantastic, as they really gave the Dodgers a chance to win. Jeff Weaver got the win, and went 3 and 1/3 innings of shutout ball, striking out four. Ramon Troncoso got the last out of the sixth, Ronald Belisario pitched the next two, and Guillermo Mota finished it off.

With the Rockies unable to solve the Giants, a win by the Dodgers today could mean a six game lead at the end of the day. It'll be a good one, as Clayton Kershaw takes on the resurgent Bronson Arroyo.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Manny K's with bases loaded to end game

Manny Ramirez had a chance to relive some of his magic from a few weeks ago against the Reds. Perhaps you've heard about his grand slam he hit on his bobblehead night? The situation again called for a big hit with the bases loaded, two down, and down by two in the ninth.

This time, Manny went down with a whimper.

Francisco Cordero used his slider to catch Manny looking, and the Dodgers fell to the Reds, 4-2. The ninth inning was the only exciting one for the Dodgers, as they looked like they had no life in their legs for the first eight.

Homer Bailey was a highly touted prospect coming into the league two years ago, but hasn't come close to living up to the hype. You wouldn't know that after watching tonight, as he pitched eight innings of scoreless ball, striking out seven. And with that, he lowered his ERA to 6.07.

So ya, I'd say the Dodgers' offense blew a great chance tonight.

At least the Rockies lost, as they had the pleasure of facing Tim Lincecum. Ubaldo Jimenez was good, but Lincecum was just too much, as the Giants won, 2-0. The lead in the NL West for the Dodgers remains at four games.

Chad Billingsley was the other starter, and he never found a rhythm. I'm not one to place blame on umpires... but it seemed to me like home plate ump Chuck Meriwhether didn't give him a whole lot of love. Billingsley scuffled, and Meriwhether made sure it stayed that way. And that's the best way I can put it.

Bills ended with five innings, seven hits, four runs, four walks, and one strikeout. It could have been worse had he not stranded the bases loaded in the fifth. He started the sixth, but immediately after giving up a solo homer to Jonny Gomes, Joe Torre had seen enough.

Gomes was also responsible for putting the Reds up 1-0 in the second on a soft RBI single to left. A single by Daniel Stubbs and double by Joey Votto scored two more runs in the third.

Down 4-0 entering the ninth, the Reds went with Nick Masset to get the last three outs. But, James Loney greeted him with a long homer to right, making it 4-1. After Russell Martin popped out (shocking), Dusty Baker gave the ball to Cordero.

The Dodgers at least made Cordero work. After Orlando Hudson grounded out (shocking again), Mark Loretta and Rafael Furcal singled. Matt Kemp then drew a walk, and the bases were juiced. Andre Ethier found a way to strike out on a ball that hit his foot. The ball then went far enough away for Ethier to get to first and Loretta to score, and it was 4-2.

Manny has definitely experienced a power outage lately (cue the steroid jokes), as he hasn't hit a home run since August 11 in San Francisco. All he needed in this spot was a single to most likely score two, but it just wasn't meant to be.

Taking two of three in Colorado was a big boost, but it's not like they totally broke out of their slump. They hit three homers on Wednesday, but that was pretty much it. Combine that with Billingsley having an off night (and getting no help from the guy behind the plate), and it was a pretty listless performance all-around.

Charlie Haeger will get his third start of the season, as he's been a pleasant surprise thus far. He's facing some guy named Matt Maloney, who probably wouldn't be anywhere close to a starting rotation had he not played with the Reds. Let's see if the offense can get cracking again. Saturday is the perfect opportunity to do so.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Dodgers win two of three in Colorado

Facing another hot opponent in the NL West, the Dodgers once again responded with a statement win.

Rafael Furcal's RBI single in the sixth put the Dodgers ahead for good, as they went on to defeat the Rockies, 3-2. The lead in the West is extended to four games over the Rockies and seven over the Giants.

Much like a couple weeks ago in San Francisco, the Dodgers hit the road for a three-game series against another team looking to take over the top. Just like then, the Dodgers got the wins they needed, showcasing why they've been in first for practically the entire season.

For the third straight game, the Dodgers jumped on the board in their first at-bats. Raffy went from an 0-2 count against Jorge De La Rosa to working a walk. Matt Kemp stepped up and blasted one out to left for the 2-0 lead. Kemp continues his monster season with a 3-for-5 night with a double as well.

In the third, the Rockies used some two-out hits to even the game against Vicente Padilla, making his first start with the Dodgers. Carlos Gonzalez singled with two outs, and Seth Smith tripled him in down the right field line. After a walk to Todd Helton, Troy Tulowitzki singled just between Raffy and Manny Ramirez in left to knot it at two.

Furcal has been in a slump lately, but he came through in a big way in the sixth. It started with a single by Orlando Hudson, who then went to second on Brad Ausmus' sacrifice bunt. Mark Loretta pinch-hit and lined out, but Raffy singled back up the middle for the 3-2 lead.

On Tuesday night, Joe Torre would rely on his bullpen to try to keep the game tied at two late, and yesterday afternoon, he looked to the 'pen to keep the lead. This time, they delivered.

Hong-Chih Kuo pitched the sixth and struck out the side in between Tulowitzki (I won't miss him) hitting a single. Ramon Troncoso started the seventh and gave up a single to start, then retired two. George Sherrill struck out Smith with a runner on second to end the threat.

Sherrill then started the eighth and got the first two before Brad Hawpe singled to left. Jonathan Broxton came on and got Garrett Atkins to fly out to right.

Broxton actually had something rare happen to him in the ninth... he got an at-bat. With two on and two out, he shockingly struck out. He's now 0-for-5 in his career, but somehow has drawn two walks. I smell career-changer.

Yorvit Torrealba singled with one down in the bottom of the ninth. On a chopper to Raffy by Ryan Spilborghs, Torrealba barely avoided the tag to put two on. From there, Broxton struck out the next two to end the game and get his 28th save.

Padilla was brought in to battle for the last spot in the rotation, and he made his case to stay there. He went five innings, six hits, two runs, one walk, and four strikeouts. Like Charlie Haeger, it's nice to see pitchers actually doing something positive to get that spot, rather than everyone stinking up the joint. We'll see Padilla get another start next week.

After dropping a tough one on Tuesday, give the Dodgers a bunch of credit for fighting back and taking the next two. Admittedly, the Rockies had their bottom three in the rotation run out there, which was much easier than facing Jason Marquis and Ubaldo Jimenez. But I don't feel bad about it, do you?

As the Rockies and Giants battle it out for three in San Francisco, the Dodgers travel to play the lowly Reds. But, the Reds have actually won four straight, including a three-game sweep in Milwaukee, so that's not bad. Chad Billingsley gets the call in the first game.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Big sticks busted out in Coors

The Dodgers temporarily halted the red-hot Colorado Rockies by hitting three home runs en route to a 6-1 win. The power display was enough to put the Dodgers back up by three games in the NL West.

Like last night, the Dodgers struck in the first. Only this time, they actually held onto the lead. With one down, Matt Kemp drew a walk. Andre Ethier then launched a long two-run bomb to grab the quick 2-0 lead.

In the bottom of the third, the Rockies would get their only run of the night on a solo homer by Ryan Spilborghs. That's as good as it would get for them on this night, as they had no answers for Randy Wolf.

A big fourth inning would put the game away for good. Once again, Ethier was the man as he hit a leadoff homer for the 3-1 lead. Manny Ramirez was hit by a pitch and Casey Blake walked to set it up for James Loney. Loney's not known for his power, but he got all of a shot just inside the foul pole in right for a three-run tater and a 6-1 lead.

Like I said before, Wolf was just awesome, as he didn't need much support on this night. He pitched 7 and 1/3 innings, giving up five hits, one run, two walks, and five strikeouts. That's his fourth straight win as he's absolutely been on fire.

There's one thing that he didn't do right, though... he didn't get an extra-base hit. Ah well, I can be picky.

George Sherrill came on to get the last two outs of the eighth. He got Spilborghs to line to center and Todd Helton to ground into a fielder's choice. Jonathan Broxton got a double play ball in the ninth on his way to a scoreless inning.

It's pretty rare that I can say the Dodgers scored all of their runs via the long ball, but that was a welcome sight tonight. After all, they are 13th in the National League in home runs, so we all know they're the manufacturing type of team. In Coors Field, however, the homer can be your best friend as it was tonight.

So now the Dodgers will send the newly acquired Vicente Padilla to the hill Thursday afternoon against Jorge De La Rosa. Neither man will be confused with Cy Young, but I've got to think the Dodgers again have an advantage here. Another win would mean two of three after dropping a tough opener.

A win would also give the Dodgers a four game pad before their schedule greatly lightens up. That's certainly not a huge lead, but better than it was going into this series. And with reports that Hiroki Kuroda is on his way back eventually, they would have to start feeling much better about their chances in reclaiming their division dominance.

A loss would mean only a two game lead, and it's anyone's ballgame.

Rockies stay hot by downing Dodgers

Once upon a time, the Dodgers were making a mockery of the NL West.

Today, with only a two game lead, it's hard to believe just how quickly things have turned.

As mediocre as the Dodgers have played since the All-Star break, the Rockies have absolutely been on fire. And that streak continued as the Rockies got a walk-off RBI single from Troy Tulowitzki in the 10th as they won, 5-4.

The game started off well for the Dodgers, who struck in the first. Matt Kemp singled to center and then stole second. Andre Ethier plated him with an RBI single, and it was 1-0.

A few innings later in the fourth, Casey Blake lead off with a solo homer, making it 2-0. With Clayton Kershaw cruising on the mound, it sure looked like the Dodgers were in a great position to make a statement in Coors.

Instead, the Rockies came right back, as they've made a habit of doing to everyone. Troy Helton hit a double with one down. After Tulowitzki popped up, Brad Hawpe cranked a two-run homer, and the game was back to even.

The bullpen of L.A. is usually a strong point, but not last night. Ronald Belisario came on with one out in the seventh and got Garrett Atkins to ground out. Clint Barmes followed that with a solo homer, and the Rockies took the 3-2 lead.

Enter Hong-Chih Kuo in the eighth, and he got the first two batters right away. But, Ryan Spilborghs singled and Helton walked. Tulowitzki hit a long double to left that scored one, but Helton was gunned out at home. The damage was done, though, as the Rockies went up 4-2.

The Dodgers did not quit on this one in the ninth, thanks in large part to Huston Street getting the night off. Juan Pierre pinch-hit and delivered with a single. Rafael Furcal doubled, and Kemp hit a sac-fly RBI to go down by one.

Old friend Joe Beimel came on and got Ethier swinging for two down. Matt Daley came on to face Manny Ramirez. Manny had two strikes on him, but then got a big RBI single to tie it at four. James Loney reached on an error and Blake was given the intentional walk to go after Russell Martin.

Martin had a chance to be a hero, but flew out. That was a sign of things to come, as the Rockies showed how tough they are in extra innings.

James McDonald was called upon to pitch the 10th, and pretty much did nothing right. To make a long story short, Tulowitzki was again a hero by singling to center to score Ian Stewart to end the night.

If the Dodgers want to at all make a statement, they have to get the next couple of games. The Dodgers have a clear advantage with starting pitchers, as they send Randy Wolf and Vicente Padilla to the mound. The Rockies counter with Josh Fogg and Jorge De La Rosa. So yes, that's a check for the Dodgers.

But, the Rockies seem like they can run anybody out to the mound and still win. Kind of like how the Dodgers were in the beginning of the year. It's funny how that works out. Now the Dodgers have to be the ones to get their bats going and start to play winning ball again.

Wolf is exactly the guy the Dodgers want on the mound, as he's been a stud for them. If the Dodgers still can't win, the NL West lead will be down to one, as unlikely as that seemed just a couple months ago. But, we will see.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cubs avoid sweep behind Dempster

The Dodgers could never find a groove offensively as they fell in the last of a four-game series to the Cubs, 3-1. Despite the loss, the Dodgers took three of four. But, the Rockies beat the Giants again, so the lead in the NL West is 3 and 1/2 games.

Jake Fox had a big day for the Cubs, and it started with a solo home run off of Chad Billingsley in the second to go up 1-0. The Dodgers fought back thanks to a throwing error from Aramis Ramirez to let Matt Kemp reach in the bottom half. Tony Abreu hit an RBI single to center to knot it at one.

That would be it for scoring until the sixth, when the Cubs put the game away for good. It started when Ramirez tripled to lead it off. Kosuke Fukudome then doubled him home to go up 2-1. Fox again drove in a run with an RBI single, and it was 3-1.

Billingsley had been cruising before that, but it all came apart in the sixth. Overall, he pitched six innings for nine hits, three runs, one walk, and five strikeouts. Not his sharpest performance, but not terrible by any means. He just got no offensive support.

The Dodgers had a chance in the eighth, but didn't get much help from the boys in blue. Russell Martin and Abreu walked to start. Mark Loretta then hit a grounder to short that Ryan Theriot flipped to Mike Fontenot, who appeared to come off the bag. It didn't matter, as he was ruled to still be on the bag for the forceout.

Joe Torre wanted some help on that play, but didn't get it. And wouldn't you know, Orlando Hudson promptly grounded into the inning-ending double play. Carlos Marmol mowed through the top of the Dodgers order to get the save.

To take three of four from any team is always a good sign, so the Dodgers can't be too disappointed with this loss. I wouldn't say their offensive problems are really solved, though. They put up seven on Thursday, but combined for only five the next three games.

On Sunday, the top of the order of Rafael Furcal, Andre Ethier, Manny Ramirez, Casey Blake, Matt Kemp, and Martin went 1-for-20. Ouch! It's hard to believe they still had a chance to win even with that.

Up next for the Dodgers is a big series with the Rockies in Coors Field. The last time the Dodgers had a big series in the division was a couple weeks ago against the Giants, and the Dodgers took two of three. Hopefully history repeats itself. Hopefully, too, the offense starts to get more consistency. Coors Field can certainly help.

After taking an off day on Monday, Clayton Kershaw will get the call on Tuesday. He's opposed by Jason Hammel, who is the perfect pitcher to match up with when trying to break out of a slump. Let's hope that actually happens.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Padilla has good outing in minors

Vicente Padilla made a start in Triple-A Albuquerque on Saturday night, and did a good job. In five innings, he gave up three hits, two runs, three walks, and five strikeouts to get the win.

His only bad spot of the night came in the fifth when Adam Stern of the Nashville Sounds (affiliate of the Brewers) hit a two-run homer. Other than that, Padilla was spotted a 6-0 lead and made sure the Isotopes would cruise.

It's only a minor league outing, but to pitch well at the Triple-A level is an encouraging sign, especially since he hasn't pitched since August 7, his last outing with the Rangers. Padilla will get a his chance to show he can still be an effective major league starter by starting Thursday night in Colorado.

Haeger makes a statement in beating the Cubs

Charlie Haeger gave Joe Torre another good reason to keep him in the rotation by tossing seven scoreless innings, as the Dodgers blanked the Cubs, 2-0. Two solo homers by Matt Kemp and Casey Blake were all the Dodgers needed on the afternoon.

The Rockies came back from a 6-1 deficit to beat the Giants 14-11 in an old school Coors Field game. The Dodgers are now up 4 and 1/2 over the Rocks and 6 and 1/2 over the Giants in the NL West.

Kemp blasted his 18th of season with one out in the second. It cleared the Dodgers' bullpen and was estimated to 449 feet. Whoa!

The only other run of the game came with two outs in the fourth, when Blake hit his 15th of the season. Ted Lilly only gave up those two runs in six innings, but as usual with the Cubs, got no offensive support.

As for Haeger, he had the Cubs fooled all day. In seven innings, he gave up three hits, no runs, four walks, and seven strikeouts. He's gone seven innings in both starts this season and given up three runs, good for a 1.93 ERA.

The way I see it, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. As long as he's pitching this well, he deserves to start. Once Hiroki Kuroda comes back, there's only one rotation spot open, and Vicente Padilla will be given a chance as well. I'm sure Torre will go with the hot hand, because the Dodgers still have their eye on home field throughout the National League playoffs.

For the first time since being traded, George Sherill got the chance to close, and Jonathan Broxton pitched the eighth. This seemed to have more to do with the Cubs having the heart of their order up in the eighth, so Torre wanted his big righty in.

Haeger gave up a walk to Sam Fuld to start the inning. With switch-hitter Milton Bradley and righties Derek Lee and Aramis Ramirez due up, Torre wanted to match Broxton with them. It didn't seem like Broxton was thrilled about not getting to close when interviewed after the game, but this seemed to be more of a matchup issue than anything else.

Kemp lost a fly ball in right to give Lee a double and two runners in scoring position. Ramirez then lined out to first and Kosuke Fukudome struck out to end it. Sherrill wasn't exactly lights-out, giving up a single and a walk, but still got his 21st save, and first as a Dodger.

It wasn't a smooth ride, but Torre made the right call. I wouldn't think this situation will happen often, so Broxton shouldn't worry about losing his job. By now, I think he's used to getting the ball at the end of the game, so being called upon in a different situation was surprising to him. But it's all good.

The Dodgers will look for the sweep today by sending Chad Billingsley to the hill. Bills has gotten over his rough patch from a little earlier in the year, as he's had three straight good starts. Hopefully he's over his leg injuries as well, but we'll see.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Wolf does it all again

Maybe Randy Wolf should start hitting cleanup when he's on the mound.

For the second straight start, Wolf not only was masterful on the mound, but got the job done with his bat as well. Seven innings of one run ball combined with a big two-run double carried the Dodgers to a close win over the Cubs, 2-1.

The Rockies and Giants are locked in a three-game series, and the Giants easily got the first win, 6-2. Currently, the Dodgers lead the NL West over the Rockies by 4 and 1/2 and the Giants by 5 and 1/2.

Wolf continues to be one of the best free agent signings in all of baseball. Considering he only inked a one-year deal for $5 million, he's probably the best bargain signing this year. A 3.34 ERA and 1.11 WHIP proves that. Had he not received 13 no-decisions this year, he would easily be talked about as one of the best pitchers in the NL this season.

Performances like the last two he's had will get people talking, though. With the rest of the rotation either nursing injuries or ineffectiveness, Wolf has been a rock all year long. Who would have thought he'd turn out to be their ace?

After coaxing three straight grounders to start the game, Wolf got his stick going in the second. James Loney singled with one down. An out later, Orlando Hudson bounced a hard one to third that Aramis Ramirez could not handle. Wolf then laced one to the wall in center, scoring both for the 2-1 lead.

The Cubs fought right back by getting an RBI single from Ryan Theriot in the third. At 2-1, both staffs shut the door the rest of the game.

Once Wolf exited after the seventh, the Dodgers went to their new formula of George Sherrill and Jonathan Broxton to shut the door. Sherrill walked a slumping Alfonso Soriano to start the eighth. Soriano stole second on a ball that bounced by Russell Martin anyway. But, Sam Fuld and Jake Fox both grounded out to Rafael Furcal, and that was it.

Broxton has had his fair share of shaky outings lately, but not Friday night. Theriot grounded out, and both Milton Bradley and Derek Lee struck out to end the game. Now that's the dominant Brox we all have gotten to know.

In his last three games, Wolf has gone 3-0 with a 1.99 ERA. In his last two games at the plate, he's gone 4-for-5 with two runs, five RBIs, one double, and one home run. I'd say he's on a pretty good hot streak.

In addition to Wolf's big night, it was good to see the Dodgers locked in a close game the whole way and still come out on top. In fact, this could have been a 3-1 game had Manny Ramirez not been robbed of a solo homer by Fuld in the eighth. Either way, all three pitchers stepped up and lead the way.

The Dodgers will look to increase their lead in the West even more by sending Charlie Haeger to the mound. He had a great debut against a tough Cardinals team, but was victimized by the long ball and a lack of run support. He'll look to keep the Cubs' offense from busting out of their slump.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Big Russ goes boom

It's been a long time since I've said that Russell Martin has been the major difference in a game.

Thursday night finally belonged to him.

Tied at two in the sixth, Martin hit his second career grand slam to break open the game against the Cubs, as the Dodgers cruised, 7-2. The Rockies also won (beating the Nationals should count as half a win), so the lead in the NL West is still 3 and 1/2.

After mercifully kicking the Cardinals out of town, the Dodgers were looking for ways to get back on the winning side. With Jeff Weaver getting another spot start, the offense knew they had to lead the way.

Weaver, however, posted a really good outing. In 5 and 1/2 innings, he gave up five hits, two runs, two walks, and four strikeouts. He kept the Dodgers not only in the game, but with a great chance at winning. That's all you can ask for in a spot like he was in.

The Dodgers got to work right away, as Rafael Furcal singled to lead off. A bad pickoff throw from Tom Gorzelanny allowed him to go to second, and Matt Kemp's single put runners on the corners. Andre Ethier hit an RBI groundout to make it 1-0.

A homer by Kosuke Fukudome tied the game at one in the second. Raffy got the Dodgers back on top in the bottom of the frame with an RBI single to score Martin, who had walked. But then the Cubs fought right back on an Aramis Ramirez RBI single, and it was tied up at two.

So here the Dodgers were again locked in a tight one later in the game. Against the Cardinals, they failed over and over to get anything done. Against the rest of the league, they've had great success. Martin made sure it stayed that way.

Manny Ramirez lead off with a single up the middle, and Casey Blake did the same. Orlando Hudson laid down a sacrifice bunt. With one down, the Cubs chose to walk James Loney to load the bases and try for a forceout at any base. Martin had other ideas, as his long fly ball was just enough to get over the left field wall.

Blake added an RBI single to score Manny in the seventh to round out the scoring. Ronald Belisario got the win by getting the last two outs in the sixth. Ramon Troncoso pitched a scoreless inning, and Guillermo Mota the last two to finish it off.

It's only one game, but perhaps this is the jumpstart the Dodgers needed. It could especially be good for Martin, who amazingly only has four homers this season. If the Dodgers can start getting more balance out of their lineup, then they can get on a run again. But if they lose tonight and stop hitting again, then it's back to a slump.

Randy Wolf, who's been the Dodgers most consistent starter all year, will get the ball again tonight. He's opposed by Randy Wells, and these two locked up earlier in the year with Wolf getting the slight edge, 2-1.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cardinals teach the Dodgers a winning lesson

I'm glad the schedule does not have anymore games against the Cardinals this year.

After hitting a couple solo homers to tie the game in the seventh, the Dodgers watched helplessly as the Cardinals once again made the big play late to win, 3-2. On the season, the Dodgers went 2-5 against a team they could very well see in the playoffs.

The game was a matchup of two stud pitchers in Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright. Unfortunately for L.A., Kershaw had one of those erratic nights in which the strike zone couldn't be found with a telescope. He lasted only 3 and 2/3 innings, giving up five hits and four walks. Yet somehow, he only surrendered two runs.

Wainwright, on the other hand, was simply brilliant. He had a no-hitter going into the sixth, when Orlando Hudson mercifully singled up the middle with one down. The rest of the lineup was just pathetic.

With such a large difference in the effectiveness of the starters, it was a shocker that the Cardinals were only up 2-0 entering the seventh. The Cards left 12 on base for the night, so there's your reason why.

The bats finally came to life in the seventh. With one out, Andre Ethier connected for a homer to center to go down 2-1. After Manny Ramirez flied out, Casey Blake crushed one to deep left, and Dodger Stadium was rocking with the score tied at two.

Here is where the real difference between the two teams came into play. The Cardinals proved they knew how to get the job done late, and the Dodgers did not.

Albert Pujols was down 0-2 in the count against Jonathan Broxton to lead off the ninth, and then slowly worked a walk. That was a killer, as Pujols stole second and took third on a horrible throw by Russell Martin. Matt Holliday lifted a sac-fly RBI, and it was 3-2.

Ethier tried to start a rally in the bottom of the frame by getting plunked on the first pitch. It didn't matter as Manny, Blake, and James Loney couldn't score him, and that was it.

The Dodgers have had their fair share of late-inning heroics this season, no doubt. But the Cardinals have taught them a lesson this season in how to be a great team. It's safe to say that the Cards are the cream of the crop in the NL right now, and the Dodgers have some work to do to regain lost momentum from early in the season.

To make matters worse, both the Rockies and Giants won again in one-run games. Now the lead in the NL West is down to 3 and 1/2 and five. Maybe the Dodgers should start keeping an eye on that Wild Card slot just in case.

Two struggling teams will lock up for four in L.A. as the Cubs come to town. They've been off and on all year, and have recently suffered a five-game slide. So both teams will look to get something positive going. Jeff Weaver gets another spot start.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Padilla signed, will be in rotation next week

Vicente Padilla has inked a minor league contract for the rest of this season. He'll make one rehab start before taking the place of Hiroki Kuroda next Thursday.

I talked about his numbers in my previous post, so check it out. As speculated, the Dodgers will only have to pay about $100,000 of his $12 million contract, so it's a minor risk worth taking.

Padilla could be coming in

With Hiroki Kuroda likely heading to the DL, the Dodgers have a renewed interest in Vicente Padilla, who was recently released by the Rangers.

Padilla had previously shown interest in the Dodgers, but the feeling wasn't mutual. But, that was before Kuroda started experiencing post-concussion symptoms after being hit in the head by a liner in Arizona on Saturday.

Once considered a promising young pitcher, Padilla hasn't had a good season since posting a 14-12 record with a 3.62 ERA with the Phillies in 2003. Sure, he won double-digit games in '06 and '08, but that's a product of the big Rangers' offense by his side.

Needless to say, I'm not very high on him. He's 8-6 this year, but with a whopping 4.92 ERA. That can be lowered in the National League, but who knows by how much.

The good news is that if he is signed and flops, the Dodgers only owe $100,000 of his $12 million salary, so I'm sure that's part of the motivation for possibly signing him.

Dodgers get rare win over Cardinals

Anytime the Dodgers get a win over the Cardinals, you have to stand and take notice. Tuesday was one of those nights.

Led by Chad Billingsley's six strong innings, the Dodgers chipped away to beat the Cards, 7-3. Both the Rockies and Giants also won, so lead in the NL West is 4 and 1/2 and 5 and 1/2, respectively. Those teams just won't go away.

After getting a really good start from Charlie Haeger the night before but unable to do anything against Chris Carpenter, Billingsley really needed a big outing, and he delivered. He hadn't pitched since August 7 because of a strained left hamstring, so it was a bit of an unknown how he'd do.

Thankfully for Dodger fans, he came through. In six innings, he gave up three hits, two runs, no walks, and one strikeout. His last pitch of the night was coaxing Albert Pujols into an inning-ending double play. Not a bad way to make an exit.

The Dodgers were the first team to strike, and it came in the third. Russell Martin doubled and Orlando Hudson singled for two on and one down. Bills "helped himself" (that's what is always said by announcers when a pitcher gets a hit) by hitting an RBI single. Rafael Fucal followed with one of his own, and it was 2-0.

The fifth is when the Dodgers struck for more. Andre Ethier tripled to lead off the inning, and he scored on Manny Ramirez's single to center. Casey Blake then singled, leading to James Loney's RBI single. O-Dog got a... you guessed it, an RBI single to round out the scoring at 5-0.

Billingsley was probably a Pujols hit away from being yanked in the sixth, because he already gave up two runs on a Skip Schumaker groundout and Brendan Ryan single. But, Pujols hit a hard grounder to Blake that led to a slick DP.

James McDonald pitched to two batters in the seventh, giving up a single to Ryan Ludwick. George Sherrill came on and gave up an RBI single to Khalil Greene to make it interesting at 5-3. But that's as close as it would get.

A pair of RBI doubles rounded out the scoring for the Dodgers. Martin scored Loney with one in the seventh, and Ethier scored Juan Pierre with the other in the eighth. Jonathan Broxton got a four-out save, his 26th.

The Dodgers have a chance today to build on their momentum by taking two of three from the Cards. A loss would mean the Dodgers have gone 2-5 against a team very likely heading for the playoffs. Plus, a win would show the Dodgers may be ready to get back to more winning ways.

Both teams will have a hard time putting runs together, as it's Clayton Kershaw against Adam Wainwright. Kershaw got roughed up in Arizona last start, and Wainwright hasn't had a bad start in seemingly forever. Let's hope the nasty Kershaw shows up tonight, not the wild one.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Randy Wolf is a beast!

With the Dodgers in a funk, they needed someone to step up the plate and lead the charge offensively.

They found that man - and it's the same one that was starting on the mound, too.

Randy Wolf had an amazing day. On the mound, he pitched 7 and 2/3 innings, giving up five hits, three runs (all in the eighth), no walks, and 10 strikeouts. Even better with the stick, he went 3-for-4 with a two-run home run, an RBI double, and two runs scored. Wow!

This game was never in doubt, as the Dodgers struck in the first inning. With Rafael Furcal getting the day off, Joe Torre penciled in Matt Kemp as his leadoff hitter. It was a bit surprising, but it worked, as Kemp doubled. Orlando Hudson singled to shallow center next. Andre Ethier then crushed a three-run homer to right, and it was 3-0 just like that.

The long ball again came into play in the fourth, when the Dodgers emphatically put this game away. Russell Martin singled with one out. After a foul out by Juan Castro, Wolf hit a two-run shot to go up 5-0. Kemp singled, and O-Dog hit another two-run shot, putting the Dodgers up 7-0.

The last two runs were scored in the eighth. A pair of RBI doubles by Wolf and Ethier got the job done. For people that believe hitting is contagious, here's your proof. The Dodgers could do no wrong with the sticks today.

The win temporarily gives the Dodgers something to be happy about, as they had to be reeling a bit from blowing last night's game. They welcome the top two teams in the NL Central to L.A. this week, the Cardinals and Cubs. So it's another tough week of games ahead.

Monday's game should be fun to watch, as Charlie Haeger gets the start. For those of you that don't know about him, he's a knuckleballer. He'll need to be on because Chris Carpernter starts for the Cards.

Kuroda not hurt seriously

In some pretty amazing news, Hiroki Kuroda somehow avoided being seriously hurt after being plunked in the head by a line drive on Saturday night.

He never lost consciousness and a CT scan was negative, meaning there's no internal bleeding or fractures. That's some great news. He was moving his arms even as he was being carted off the field, so that was immediately a good sign.

There's no timetable for his return. When there is one, I will share that with everyone.

Bad loss leaves Dodgers hurting all over

It was about the worst possible ending for an already bad night for the Dodgers.

Up 3-1 in the ninth, Jonathan Broxton gave up two long home runs, and the Diamondbacks went on to win the game in the 10th, 4-3. Not only did the Dodgers flat out blow this one, they also had to deal with a scary injury to Hiroki Kuroda.

Kuroda cruised through the first five innings, giving up only two hits and no runs. He looked like he had complete game stuff, as the DBacks were not getting good swings against him. Just when things were looking good, it all came to a crashing halt.

Pinch-hitter Rusty Ryal started the sixth by lining one off of Kuroda's head, causing the ball to ricochet all the way to the crowd for a double. Kuroda laid on the ground in obvious discomfort as all of the Dodgers looked on in concern.

Kuroda was carted off the field, but he was clearly moving his arms and appeared to be responsive. We'd all later find out that he actually was in pretty good shape for someone who took such a nasty shot to the head, as he never lost consciousness. Still, a totally scary sight that could have been much worse.

Back to the game, and James McDonald had the tough task of being thrown in there out of nowhere. After given all the time he needed to warm up, the Australian Trent Oeltjen hit a sac-fly RBI to go down 3-1.

The Dodgers scored all of their runs before Kuroda's injury. It started in the second when Matt Kemp walked to lead off. Another walk to Mark Loretta put two on with two down. Brad Ausmus went opposite field for an RBI single and 1-0 lead.

A bit of luck got the Dodgers another run in the third, as Doug Davis threw a pickoff throw away at first to let Rafael Furcal score from third. A sac-fly RBI in the sixth by Loretta scored Casey Blake, who tripled to lead off the inning.

All signs pointed to the Dodgers getting a win for Kuroda heading into the ninth. Hong-Chih Kuo and George Sherrill pitched the seventh and eighth, respectively, and were fantastic. Then came Broxton in the ninth, and boy did he get smoked.

Broxton struck out Gerardo Parra to start it, though it was clearly ball four if Parra didn't swing. Mark Reynolds took a weak slider and slugged it to deep center for the solo shot. Miguel Montero followed that with a shot to right, and after all of that, the DBacks tied it at three.

Kemp tried to get the Dodgers back into it by walking and stealing both second and third. But, as was the case most of the game, the offense could not come through, stranding him at third. That was pretty much a sign that this game was going to slip away.

And lucky me, I was right. Ramon Troncoso came on and was terrible. A single, an intentional walk, and another walk loaded the bases with one down. With the outfield playing up, Parra smacked one to the wall in center for the walk-off.

With everything to happen in this game, it's a shame that the Dodgers couldn't win this. They had so many chances to get it done, and couldn't. Another late-inning loss, and the Dodgers are the ones taking it on the chin in close games lately, as they continue to be pretty much a .500 team since the All-Star break.

Kuroda deserved a win for this one, but Broxton couldn't come through. Broxton's last seven appearances have seen him blow three saves, as his ERA has gone from 2.89 to 3.25. Maybe his toe is still hurting, or something else is hurting, but he clearly isn't the same pitcher lately.

Hopefully it's just a bad stretch and he'll work through it. If not, Joe Torre seriously needs to consider letting Sherrill getting some shots at closing. Sherrill has not given up a run in 8 and 1/3 innings with a WHIP of 1.08. I'm not saying Broxton should be fully demoted, but Sherrill can at least get some cracks in the ninth inning.

With the lead in the NL West down to 4 and 1/2 games over the Rockies, the Dodgers send Randy Wolf to the mound this afternoon. If Kuroda's out an extended period of time, Wolf's starts become even more important. At the very least, the Dodgers just can't get swept in Arizona. That would be, uh, not good.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Kuroda hit in head by liner, taken to hospital

In the sixth inning of tonight's game against the Diamondbacks, Hiroki Kuroda was nailed in the head by a line drive from Rusty Ryal. He was carted off the field and taken to a nearby hospital. The good news is that he was moving his arms and appeared to be aware of his surroundings.

More on this when news comes out.

One bad inning dooms Kershaw against Haren

Clayton Kershaw went 1-2-3 in the first inning, striking out Gerardo Parra to end it, and all looked good.

Then the second inning hit, and the Dodgers never recovered.

The Diamondbacks sent nine batters to the plate in a four run inning, and that was enough to beat the Dodgers, 4-1. Maybe if the Dodgers were facing anybody but Dan Haren, they would have had a shot, but not on this night.

The Dodgers scrounged together seven hits, three from Manny Ramirez and two from Matt Kemp. Other than those two, the offense did a big pile of nothing. The first three hitters of Rafael Furcal, Russell Martin, and Andre Ethier combined to go 0-for-10. Ah, not exactly the best way to set the table.

In the second, the DBacks took advantage of Kershaw's walks to get some big hits and drive in runs. It all started with a walk to Mark Reynolds, and it was all downhill from there. Miguel Montero doubled him home for the 1-0 lead. Augie Ojeda hit an RBI groundout, Haren an RBI single, and Ojeda scored on a wild pitch.

The only run of the night for the Dodgers came in the sixth. After James Loney flied out to deep right center, Kemp connected with a solo shot to left for his 17th of the season. He still strikes out too much, but with a .313 average, 17 homers, 76 RBIs, and 23 stolen bases, he's certainly had his best season of his young career.

As for Kershaw, he was once again victimized by too many pitches because of too many walks. In only 4 and 1/3 innings, he managed to throw a whopping 99 pitches. He actually struck out nine, but when his stuff wasn't on, he was all over the place.

The bullpen did a great job in keeping this at least within striking distance. Ramon Troncoso, Ronald Belisario, and Guillermo Mota combined to finish the game by giving up no runs on only one hit.

Like the rest of Major League Baseball these days, there was a bit of a beanball war as the game progressed. Belisario hit Reynolds the batter after giving up a double to Parra. In response, Haren tagged Ethier with two down in the eighth. Nothing came of it though, but perhaps this weekend something will develop.

Chad Qualls came in for the save, but the Dodgers tried to make some noise. Casey Blake walked to start, then was forced at second by Loney's grounder. Kemp hit a double for two runners in scoring position. But, Orlando Hudson and the pinch-hitting Mark Loretta could not make anything happen to end the game.

The good news to all of this? The Giants lost to the Mets, and the Rockies lost to the Marlins, so it's all a wash at the end of the day. Both the Giants and Rockies are in the East Coast this weekend, so let's hope they don't adjust too well.

Hiroki Kuroda will get the call tonight, and he's coming off a great start in San Francisco. After Kershaw couldn't last long, the Dodgers need Kuroda to pitch effectively tonight.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A good comeback, but Giants nip Dodgers in 10

The Dodgers were facing an uphill battle on Wednesday afternoon in San Francisco. Chad Billingsley was out with a sore left hamstring, and Tim Lincecum was staring them down from the opposing pitching mound.

Down 2-1 entering the ninth, Lincecum stayed on to attempt the complete game. He came close, but an RBI single by Andre Ethier tied it at two, chasing an angry Lincecum back to the dugout.

The comeback was sweet, but that would be the last good moment on this day. Guillermo Mota came on and again stunk it up in extras. A walk-off two-run homer by Juan Uribe gave the Giants the win, 4-2.

The Giants were understandably on edge after dropping the first two games of what could have been a golden chance to gain some ground in the NL West. After falling 9-1 on Tuesday, they needed Lincecum to step up, and he did. What they also did was cause a near brawl.

In the fifth, the Giants took a two run lead. Eugenio Valez lead off with a ground rule double to center. Freddy Sanchez hit a single that allowed Valez to score. On the play, as Russell Martin jumped in the air to get the high throw, he was taken out by the sliding Valez. It wasn't an intentional play, it just happened.

Maybe Pablo Sandoval thought James McDonald was angry about it, because the next pitch was inside and nearly hit him. The Kung Fu Crybaby... er, Panda, yelled out at the mound, as Martin then yelled back, causing both benches to empty. No harm done as nobody was ejected.

A bases loaded walk to Fred Lewis let the second run score, as Hong-Chih Kuo had a hard time finding the strike zone relieving in the fifth.

Juan Pierre pinch-hit for Kuo with one down in the sixth, and he tripled to deep center. An RBI groundout by Rafael Furcal put the Dodgers down by one.

That's how it remained until the ninth. Furcal hit a slow roller to short that he just beat out, or so said the first base umpire. Bruce Bochy had already been ejected earlier, now the acting manager Randy Wotus also was shown the door. I don't think I've ever seen two managers get tossed like that.

Anyway, Martin flied out to deep center, and Raffy tagged up to second on a very heads-up play. That would prove to be a great decision, as Ethier ripped a single past second to tie it up.

George Sherrill did his usual stellar job by pitching the eighth and ninth innings. He escaped potential trouble by getting a pinch-hitting Aaron Rowand to ground into an inning-ending double play to end the ninth.

Mota must not be money in extra innings, because he again gave up a long home run, just as he did last Saturday against the Braves. Uribe left no doubt by crushing one deep to left that Manny Ramirez could only watch.

Joe Torre said before the game that this would be a committee approach for his pitchers, and he wasn't kidding. Jeff Weaver pitched the first three innings, and did a good job by giving up no runs. A combination of McDonald, Kuo, Ronald Belisario, Ramon Troncoso, Sherrill, and Mota followed. Since there's an off day Thursday, Torre had this planned all along.

Even with the Giants getting the win, this series was obviously more successful for the Dodgers. They took two of three, increasing their lead over the Giants by one to 6 and 1/2. The Rockies, on the other hand, just won't quit, as they're 5 and 1/2 back.

After playing 20 games in 20 days, the Dodgers mercifully have a day off on Thursday. It's about damn time! They then go to Arizona for three. The DBacks are a total afterthought these days, so the Dodgers should try to get at least two.

The first game should be good, as Clayton Kershaw takes on Dan Haren.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Everything clicks in drubbing of Giants

The Dodgers are doing the best they can to remind everyone why they have a big lead in the NL West.

The Giants were no match for the Dodgers on Tuesday night, as Randy Wolf went eight brilliant innings, and Manny Ramirez and Matt Kemp homered for the 9-1 win. Coupled with a loss by the Rockies, the lead is 6 and 1/2 in the West.

Emilio Valez hit an RBI groundout in the third to get the Giants on the board first. Joe Martinez was rolling for awhile, as he was scoreless through four innings. But, once he started to get hit, the Dodgers took this game and ran away with it.

In the fifth, Rafael Furcal started a big inning with a walk. Russell Martin hit a grounder that Martinez somehow backhanded on a great play... then threw the ball away at second. With two on, Andre Ethier hit a long double to plate them both.

Manny lined a double to left that scored Ethier for the 3-1 lead. Casey Blake's grounder advanced Manny to third, and James Loney hit an RBI single. Three hits and an error gave the Dodgers a 4-1 lead.

Fast forward to the seventh, where the Dodgers had another big inning. Ethier singled to lead off, and Manny took a low breaking ball and deposited it into left for his 13th homer of the year.

A walk to Blake and a single by Loney set the table for Kemp. All Kemp did was crush one to dead center for a three-run home run, his 16th this year. The end result was a commanding lead of 9-1.

While the offense struck big a couple of times, Wolf was the true star. In eight innings, he gave up three hits, one run, one walk, and three strikeouts. Along with Hiroki Kuroda yesterday, that's two straight dominating performances by the starters. Combine that with the offense waking up, and it's easy to see why they've had their way thus far.

As for the Giants, it's obviously not the way they wanted to make a statement. They came into this series with the potential of being 2 and 1/2 games back, now they're 7 and 1/2 back. They're one of many teams battling it out in the Wild Card, lead by the Rockies by one game over the Giants. That'll go right down to the wire.

Chad Billingsley is a scratch for today's game because of a sore left hamstring. With the Dodgers winning the first two games, it's actually not as big a deal that he can't start. Don't get me wrong, I wish he was in there, but they can afford to be cautious with a nice lead in the West.

Jeff Weaver will instead take the spot start, and he's a reliable choice. The bad news is that none of this may matter because the great Tim Lincecum starts for the Giants. Lincecum actually has a 4.15 ERA this year against the Dodgers, so maybe there's a glimmer of hope there.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Kemp's big double helps beat the rivals

After dropping three of the last four at home against the NL Central, maybe hitting the road and playing division teams would be a jolt for the Dodgers.

That sure looked to be the case last night, as Matt Kemp's three-run double in the fourth was the big blow in beating the Giants, 4-2.

The win puts the Dodgers 5 and 1/2 up on the Rockies, who beat the Cubs easily, and 6 and 1/2 on the Giants. Also, the win gives the Dodgers a 31-12 record, the best for any team against their own division in baseball.

The Giants took a 1-0 lead in the second when Travis Ishikawa hit a solo homer to deep right. It could have been more, but Fred Lewis was gunned out trying to steal the batter before.

In the fourth, the Dodgers put themselves in the lead for good. It started when Manny Ramirez singled sharply up the middle on a full count. Following that, Casey Blake and Orlando Hudson drew walks to load the bases. On a 1-0 count, Kemp lined one into the left field corner to clear the bases for a 3-1 lead. Mark Loretta hit an RBI single, and it was 4-1.

That big inning was good enough for Hiroki Kuroda to keep rolling. He finished at 6 and 1/3 innings, six hits, one run, one walk, and two strikeouts. He didn't overpower anyone, but hit location was great and kept the Giants off balance all night.

After Kuroda gave up a one-out single in the seventh, Hong-Chih Kuo and Ronald Belisario came on to get the final two outs. George Sherrill gave up a leadoff double to Edgar Renteria, but three straight groundouts left him stranded.

Jonathan Broxton came on for the save, but it didn't go so smoothly. Bengie Molina hit a long home run to left with one out to make it 4-2. Randy Winn singled up the middle next, but was forced out at second on Fred Lewis' grounder.

With the tying run at bat, Ryan Garko hit a hard grounder up the middle. Juan Castro, who was only in because Hudson tweaked his groin a couple innings before, made a terrific diving stop to easily get Garko at first. A great ending to a big game.

The Dodgers used a basic formula of good pitching, good defense, and clutch hitting to win this one. They really only got a couple of big hits back in the fourth, but it was enough. They turned two double plays, which is something the Giants have been hitting into a lot lately.

Since the lead in the division is still the same with the Rockies' win, there's still plenty of work to be done. Randy Wolf will go tonight. He's opposed by Joe Martinez. I didn't have a clue who this guy was, but then I saw a video of him getting drilled in the head for a Mike Cameron liner from earlier this year, and I remembered. That was just sickening, so it's good to see him back.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Dodgers have no answers for Vazquez

It was a bad ending to a bad weekend of baseball.

The Braves dominated from start to finish as Javier Vazquez was practically untouchable in a 8-2 rout of the Dodgers. The Braves took three of four in this series, and could have swept it had it not been for Andre Ethier's three-run walk-off to steal Thursday's game.

The Dodgers may not be setting the world on fire at the plate lately, but Vazquez was still awesome regardless of that. His stuff was just off the charts good. If he wasn't at 113 pitches, he would have easily thrown a complete game. Still, eight innings, one run, and seven strikeouts speaks for itself.

Eric Stults was given the tough job of being recalled yesterday and starting today. All things considered, he really wasn't too bad. He gave up three runs in five innings, striking out three.

A double play groundout by Adam LaRoche put the Braves up 3-0 in the fourth, but certainly not out of reach. In the bottom of the inning, Ethier started things with a single, and Manny Ramirez hit a check swing double for two on. Casey Blake lifted a sac-fly RBI to make it 3-1.

Neither team could get much going for most of the game until the last inning. Russell Martin singled with one out in the seventh, but Orlando Hudson grounded into a DP to end that.

At 3-1 in the ninth, Jeff Weaver was yanked for Ramon Troncoso. Weaver pitched three perfect innings, but Troncoso was called on anyway. Bad move.

Troncoso was just pounded on for four runs in only 1/3 of an inning. Guillermo Mota got the last two outs, but was still charged with a run himself. Overall, the close 3-1 game was blown open to 8-1. It could have been even worse had Matt Kemp not made a great catch crashing into the center field wall.

Manny and Blake singled to lead off the ninth... but Kemp grounded into a double play to score Manny. Martin was hit by a pitch and Hudson singled... but Mark Loretta lined out to right to end it. Two separate threats, and only one run.

Like the saying goes, when it rains, it pours.

About the only good news to this day is that the Giants grounded into three double plays (two by Pablo Sandoval), and lost to the Reds, 5-2. The Rockies clobbered the Cubs, 11-5, so both teams are now 5 and 1/2 games out.

Losing six of the last nine now means that the three-game set in San Francisco starting Monday is pretty big. It's more of a big deal for the Giants since they're the ones who need to slash the deficit. The Dodgers can get swept and still be up 2 and 1/2 games. That's obviously not the goal, but the reality.

The Dodgers will have Hiroki Kuroda take the mound on Monday against Jonathan Sanchez, the no-hit man. Sanchez wasn't that great in the three starts after the no-no, but did put up seven shutout innings in Houston last start.

Zero offense spoils Kershaw's gem

Two straight nights the Dodgers and Braves have gone into extra innings. And two straight nights, it was the Braves that took over when it counted the most.

A two-run homer by Kelly Johnson off of Guillermo Mota in the 10th gave the Braves a 2-0 lead, and they just held on for win, 2-1. Matt Kemp was robbed of a sure RBI single that would have tied it up to end the game.

With the loss, the Dodgers seem to be slowly losing their grip in the NL West. The Giants won again, so it's only a 5 and 1/2 game lead. The Dodgers really need to figure things out and fast because the Giants look to only be getting better. Oh ya, the Rockies aren't too shabby either at 6 and 1/2 out.

At the end of the season, these could be two games we look back at that could make a difference in the playoff race.

Clayton Kershaw was absolutely phenomenal, and it's highway robbery that he couldn't get a win. He went seven innings, two hits, no runs, one walk, and 10 strikeouts. Three baserunners in seven innings. Wow.

The flip side is that Braves' starter Kenshin Kawakami threw up blanks as well. He didn't give up a run in seven innings, with only four hits and four strikeouts.

To sum it up, neither team had a clue against either starter. So once again, it would come down to the bullpens to get the win.

After the Dodgers blew a bases loaded, one out chance in the seventh, the Braves could not capitalize with a couple of runners on in the eighth. The returning Ronald Belisario, George Sherrill, and Jonathan Broxton were flawless to get the game into extras.

In the 10th, Mota got Matt Diaz to fly out for one down. Following a walk to Adam LaRoche, Johnson crushed one out to right for the lead. Maybe Mota is still in fear of Prince Fielder eating him, I don't know.

With Rafael Soriano on for the save, the Dodgers did make a little noise to try and get back into it. Juan Pierre lead off with a single. Andre Ethier's RBI single with two outs made it 2-1. Manny Ramirez was given the intentional walk for Kemp, who just missed a single up the middle. And that's the way it goes.

It's not like a 5 and 1/2 game lead in your division is a bad thing, because it's certainly a good problem to have. But I keep thinking back to last season when the Diamondbacks were cruising to a division lead and the Dodgers came charging hard late to claim it. The Giants are now that hot team, and the Rockies can't be forgotten either.

A win today would be a nice statement, because after today it's a suddenly big three-game set in San Francisco. The Rockies will be at home against the lowly Pirates, so you have to give them at least a couple wins there.

With Jason Schmidt on the DL, Eric Stults has been recalled for the start today. He hasn't been too hot this year, but at least he has experience in situations like this. The bad news is that Javier Vazquez goes for the Braves, who's having a great season. This should be an interesting one.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Schmidt lands back on the DL, Abreu recalled

Four starts into his comeback, Jason Schmidt is back home... on the disabled list, that is.

Schmidt was placed on the 15-day DL with right shoulder soreness. The plan, according to Joe Torre, is to have him rehab and possibly contribute to the big club in September.

Color me skeptical, but I'll believe it when I see it. Maybe Torre is envisioning him in the bullpen, especially when rosters expand. But I just can't see him being in the starting rotation again. It's not like he can get deep in games, so that seems unlikely.

Perhaps we've seen the last of Schmidt in his highly disappointing Dodgers' career. With the way his body has crumbled on him, it certainly wouldn't be a surprise if he's done.

In his place, Tony Abreu has been recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque. He hasn't been in L.A. since 2007 because of hip and groin problems. He was hitting .342 in the minors, so that's a good sign.

Broxton and the bullpen fall apart

Despite going into the seventh inning with a 5-2 lead, the Dodgers' bullpen did something that hasn't happened much this year - they flat out blew it. The Braves scored in the ninth to give Broxton his fourth blown save, then went on a tear in the 12th to beat the Dodgers, 9-5.

The turning point of this game could very well have been Chad Billingsley being forced out of the game after six innings. Once again, it was a leg issue. Last Sunday it was his right hamstring, and Friday night it was his left one. It was described as "mild," so hopefully it was just a precautionary thing.

Still, there's no doubt Billingsley's exit gave the Braves the hope they needed. His final line was six innings, four hits, two runs (one earned), three walks, and three strikeouts. Just when it looked like he was getting over his mid-season struggles, he hurts his legs. Should I be worried? I hope not.

Ryan Church would play a big role in this game, and he got the Braves on the board first with an RBI single in the second. A single and stolen base by Russell Martin allowed Orlando Hudson to get and RBI single in the bottom of the frame to tie it at one.

A bad walk to Jair Jurrjens would come back to haunt Bills, as that was followed by a bunt single and an error by James Loney for runners on the corners. Martin Prado grounded into a double play, but a run still scored to make it 2-1.

The Dodgers would take over from there... though they definitely got some help from the home plate umpire. After the game was tied at 2-2 in the fifth, Rafael Furcal singled to lead off. As he took off for second for an attempted stolen base, Ethier took a pitch on a 3-1 count that the umpire looked to signal a strike.

Only... it wasn't a strike. Or so the guy claimed, despite making what sure looked to be a "strike" motion with his arm. Raffy was gunned down but it didn't matter, as there were now two runners on. Bobby Cox, predictably, got ejected, though he had good reason.

What did all of that mean? Casey Blake launched a three-run shot for a 5-2 lead.

Everything looked to be lined up nicely for the Dodgers, but Kelly Johnson hit a two-run shot off of Hong-Chih Kuo to slice it to 5-4. George Sherrill got two outs in the seventh and a scoreless eighth to continue his solid pitching and get the ball to Broxton.

It's not like Broxton got drilled, but a one-out walk to Nate McLouth proved to be costly. He stole second, and Garrett Anderson grounded a two-out single by Hudson to tie it at five.

The Dodgers sure had their chance in the 11th to end it, but came up with nothing. Martin singled, Juan Pierre walked, and Ethier was intentionally walked with two outs. The newly called up Tony Abreu had his chance to be a hero, but grounded out.

From there, it all fell apart. Ramon Troncoso and Scott Elbert pretty much did a big pile of nothing. Yuniel Escobar hit an RBI single to break the tie, and Church cracked a three-run homer to put it way out of reach at 9-5.

About the only good news in all of this is that Giants suffered their own collapse, as the Reds scored five times in the ninth to blow open what was a tie game. The Rockies did win, however, so both teams are now 6 and 1/2 games back in the NL West.

With a cushion like the Dodgers have, they can afford to have some games like this. Still, it was pretty frustrating that Broxton couldn't close the deal. It's his first blown save at home, so maybe he was due at some point. It was one that definitely got away.

Clayton Kershaw goes to the mound tonight, as he looks to rebound from a loss to the Brewers on Monday. He's never faced the Braves, but does have a sparkling 2.06 ERA at home.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Ethier sparkles late once again

Andre Ethier continues to add to his career year.

With two on in the ninth and down by two, Ethier took a 2-0 pitch just over the right field wall for a walk-off home run and a win for the Dodgers, 5-4. Amazingly, that's his fifth walk-off of the season, the best in the majors.

Talk about a flair for the dramatic, Ethier has it.

On a night where the Rockies lost and the Giants were idle, the Dodgers picked up a little more ground on each team. With all three playing so well, there's really little room for a losing streak. Big hits like this are what has created that separation for the Dodgers.

The Braves were the first to get on the board off of Randy Wolf. With two outs in the second, Matt Diaz and Adam LaRoche each hit RBI singles for the 2-0 lead. Manny Ramirez's RBI triple in the third cut it to 2-1.

Wolf lost some control in the fourth by giving up a couple of singles and a walk to load the bases. On a full count, Nate McLouth laid off a breaking ball outside to force in a run for the 3-1 lead. Martin Prado grounded out to end the threat and keep the game manageable.

The bottom of the Dodgers' order did some damage in the bottom of the fourth. Orlando Hudson hit an infield single and Wolf followed with his own single for runners on first and third. Juan Pierre lifted a fly ball to center that was plenty deep enough to score O-Dog, making it 3-2.

Chipper Jones would get his third hit of the night off of Wolf, this time a big fly that made it 4-2. Overall, Wolf finished with seven innings pitched, nine hits, four runs, three walks, and four strikeouts.

There were threats in both the seventh and eighth for the Dodgers, as they put two men on in each inning. But, Manny and Matt Kemp both struck out respectively to end each inning.

The 4-2 score would hold up until the ninth, when Rafael Soriano came on to try and close it out. Pierre greeted him with an infield single that Jones was unable to barehand. Rafael Furcal singled to put runners on the corners. Ethier then hit a three-run shot, and that's all she wrote.

There's really not a whole lot else to say about Ethier and the Dodgers' ability as a whole to get big wins late in games. Their confidence in big situations is always there, as they never seem to be overwhelmed by the moment. I just hope that clutch hitting carries into October.

Chad Billingsley will look to get his second straight win tonight against Jair Jurrjens. Both pitchers matched up last Sunday in which the Dodgers easily won, 9-1.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dodgers pour it on as the Prince fumes

A couple of big events took place at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night. The first was that the Dodgers crushed the Brewers by a score of 17-4. The 17 runs were the highest home total for them in 30 years.

The second was that Prince Fielder got beaned with two outs in the ninth, and he's not too happy.

A blowout win for the Dodgers quickly turned into a circus as Guillermo Mota was ejected for drilling Fielder in retaliation for Manny Ramirez getting plunked in the eighth. Fielder looked on in complete confusion as to why he got hit when he was down by 13 runs.

The story didn't stop there.

After the game, Fielder had to be restrained by his teammates and security from charging after Mota in the Dodgers' clubhouse. Who knows if he would have actually thrown down if he got inside, but the fact that he was there shows how angry he was.

As for the game itself, the Dodgers got four runs in the first off of Yovani Gallardo, who entered the game with a really good ERA of 3.13. Five innings and nine runs later, that would become a 3.59.

Rafael Furcal and Andre Ethier lead off with singles. After Manny flied out to right, Casey Blake doubled home both runs for the 2-0 lead. An RBI single by Matt Kemp and RBI double by Russell Martin made it 4-0.

This game was actually close at one point, as the Brewers battled back for three runs in the fifth off of Hiroki Kuroda. J.J. Hardy grounded out with two men on to end the inning, or it could have been much worse.

Manny hit a no-doubter into left for a solo homer in the bottom of the fifth to make it 5-3. From there, the Dodgers absolutely poured it on and never looked back.

An eye-opening seven runs were scored in the sixth, as Gallardo's neck must have gotten sore from watching the ball smacked all over the place. The big blows were a two-run double by Manny and two-run single by Kemp. At 12-3 after six, it was all but over.

The eighth is when Kemp blasted a two-run homer to center, Ethier hit a two-run single, and even Mota added an RBI single. Yes, it was one of those nights where everything went right.

Maybe the Brewers were fortunate to have the whole bean-ball war go down, as the focus quickly went from the beat down they took to Fielder getting drilled. Probably better for them that people aren't talking about how badly they were walloped. One thing's for certain - I probably wouldn't beat Fielder tonight!

Jason Schmidt will look to build on his great performance in Atlanta by getting the ball tonight. It seems like each start he is battling for his starting spot, so it's another important game for him.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

No magic in Manny's bat

Manny Ramirez was given a golden opportunity to add to his L.A. lore. It was the bottom of the ninth, there were two down, and the bases were loaded. Exactly the type of situation Manny thrives in.

Unfortunately for the Dodgers, it was also the type that Trevor Hoffman has made a living of. Hoffman got Manny to fly to right, and despite a late charge, the Brewers held on for the win, 6-5.

The weary Dodgers had Clayton Kershaw on the mound to start. He's been terrific lately, quickly establishing himself as one of the NL's best hurlers. But, his Achilles' heal flared up again last night, as his wildness just handed the Brewers plenty of chances.

Kershaw only lasted four innings, walking six, giving up four hits and three runs. His six strikeouts were good, but that's about all there was good about that start. This is the kind of start that reminds you that he's still a young guy, and is still learning how to be a good starting pitcher.

The Dodgers took the lead in the third against Manny Parra. Brad Ausmus started it with a soft single up the middle. Kershaw laid down a bunt, but it was thrown wide of first by Parra, putting two on. Rafael Furcal found a hole for an RBI single and a 1-0 lead.

Maybe Kershaw would have been better off resting on the bench, as he was all over the place in the fourth. Ryan Braun started it with a single, and then the walks kicked in. With one out, Mike Cameron, J.J. Hardy, Bill Hall, and Mike Rivera all walked, forcing in two runs. Yikes.

Three straight singles for the Brewers started the next inning. Cameron grounded into a double play with the bases loaded, so somehow only one run scored, putting the Brewers up 3-1.

The game was certainly still in striking distance, but Braun flexed his muscle and creamed a three-run homer in the sixth. At 6-1, it looked like that was all she wrote for the Dodgers.

To their credit, they didn't give up on this one. Matt Kemp doubled to lead off the bottom of the seventh, and came around to score on Orlando Hudson's groundout, making it 6-2.

Parra was looking to get a complete game by taking the mound in the ninth. He didn't last long, as Casey Blake singled and Kemp doubled for runners in scoring position. Exit Parra, enter Hoffman.

James Loney greeted him with a ground rule double to right to score both, and just like that it was 6-4. O-Dog's RBI single made it 6-5, and there was still nobody out. Juan Pierre laid down a sacrifice bunt to put Hudson on second with the tying run and one out.

Russell Martin flied out to deep center, and Hudson was now on third with two outs. Raffy bunted and reached for runners on first and third. Andre Ethier was hit by a pitch to load 'em up, but Manny flied out to end it.

It was an incredibly exciting ride in the ninth, as the Dodgers shook off their tiredness to push this game to the limit. If that same situation comes up again, the Dodgers would easily take it with Manny in the batter's box. If Manny's hand was completely healthy, maybe it would've been a different result.

Hiroki Kuroda will try to get the Dodgers back on the winning side by going tonight. He's had and up and down season because of injuries, so he's still looking to get his fourth win. A WHIP of 1.15 shows that he's still capable of pitching very well.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Kemp and Billingsley deliver on Sunday night

The Dodgers had lost their last two series against the Marlins and Cardinals, something they have not been used to doing this year.

Matt Kemp and Chad Billingsley made sure the same didn't happen against the Braves.

Billingsley was fantastic over five innings before leaving with a cramp in his right hamstring, Kemp went for five RBIs, and the Dodgers rolled to an easy one, 9-1. Thanks to some great starting pitching, the Dodgers took two of three.

Over the first five innings, Billingsley was simply dominant. He gave up only two hits and one walk while striking out nine. His breaking stuff was nasty. It was good to see him pitch with such confidence and effectiveness after going through some rocky waters lately.

His injury came in the bottom of the fifth when his right leg seemed to buckle on him during his follow through. After a visit from the trainer, he ended up finishing the inning. He wanted to get right back out there to hit, but Joe Torre had other, and better, ideas.

Jair Jurrjens was just as good over four innings, as he was able to wiggle out of trouble with runners on. The Dodgers put men on in each of those innings to no success, including Billingsley striking out with the bases loaded in the fourth.

In the fifth, they finally came through, and all with two down. Manny Ramirez started it by singling up the middle, and James Loney also singled. Matt Kemp launched a hanger out to dead center for the three-run shot, his 14th of the season. That big fly broke the game wide open.

Russell Martin then doubled, which set up Mark Loretta's RBI double. At 4-0 after four, the Dodgers never looked back.

With Billingsley not allowed back to play, Jason Schmidt of all people pinch-hit... and singled! Loney cracked a double that brought the big man around to score, making it 5-0 after six innings.

Three more runs were added for fun in the eighth. Manny was given an intentional walk to load the bases with one out, and Loney grounded out to score a run. Kemp then hit a two-run single to complete his big night. A ground rule double by Orlando Hudson in the ninth closed out the scoring.

Once Bills exited, Scott Elbert pitched well, giving up a run in 2 and 2/3 innings. Guillermo Mota gave up an RBI single in his only batter faced in the eighth, and George Sherrill got Chipper Jones to fly to center. Ramon Troncoso pitched a scoreless ninth, striking out Matt Diaz to end the game.

After dropping the first three in St. Louis, the Dodgers won their last three of four to right the ship. The Rockies and Giants are still not losing much, so to still own a seven game lead over them is pretty impressive. The Dodgers are still refusing to give them much, if any, hope in the West.

The schedule makers didn't really do the Dodgers much of a favor, as they made the cross-country trip back home to start a home set against the Brewers tonight. The red-hot Clayton Kershaw goes tonight, looking for his ninth win.