Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Maybe the Dodgers DON'T want to win the West

Another game against a bad team, another missed opportunity.

So it goes for the Dodgers these last few days. The schedule makers forked over the Nationals, Pirates, and Padres at the end of the season. Normally that would be a recipe for success. But it just hasn't happened.

San Diego pulled away late to beat Chad Billingsley and the Dodgers Tuesday night, 3-1. The Rockies won yet again 7-5 over the Brewers. The NL West lead is now down to 3 and 1/2 games.

Both Casey Blake and Ronnie Belliard were unavailable with injuries, so Juan Castro got the nod at third. Their absences showed, as the offense was anemic all night long. Then again, they were facing the immortal Cesar Ramos.

Yes, that was sarcasm.

Ramos did, however, get the job done last night, as he went five innings and only gave up one run. Four other relievers threw blanks until getting the ball to Heath Bell in the ninth, who struck out the side, punctuating a pitiful night.

Rafael Furcal and Orlando Hudson were at the top of the order, and they did their best to get things going. In both the first and the third, they reached base together. And both times, Andre Ethier could do nothing in the third spot to drive them in.

In the third, the other Tony Gwynn (his son in case you didn't know) got the first run of the game on a solo homer. He has 383 at-bats this season, and that was hit second home run. And of course it couldn't have come at a better time. Sarcasm again.

O-Dog continued his good night by hitting a triple to lead off the sixth. This time Ethier hit an RBI grounder to short that was booted by Everth Cabrera. Manny Ramirez responded to a runner on and no outs by grounding into a double play. That's just added to his .235 average this month.

Not that he's alone, because the rest of the team did zip squat the remainder of the game. In fact, seven of the last eight hitters struck out to end it. It was that sad.

As for Billingsley, he was better, but certainly not great. True, he gave up only two runs in six innings, but he still walked five. Then he said after the game that he felt he threw well. Huh? I hate to break it to you, Chad, but five walks does not mean you threw well.

For those of you that are also keeping track of the home-field advantage standings, the Dodgers have a slim 1 and 1/2 game lead over the Phillies, and 2 and 1/2 over the Cardinals. I'm shocked they're still in the lead to be honest. It seems like one of the other teams would have leapfrogged them by now.

The Dodgers are still lucky in that they have a chance, YET AGAIN, to wrap this thing up tonight. It'll be Jon Garland's time to see if he's the guy that can do it. No that it'll matter if the offense continues to blow chance after chance and lose to some unknown scrub (Clayton Richard tonight).

The Rockies will counter with Jason Hammel against the Brewers' Jeff Suppan. Since the Rocks are underway almost and hour and a half earlier, the Dodgers should have a decent idea where they stand before they take the field.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Dodgers get drilled, return home limping

Even with Manny Ramirez, Casey Blake, and Ronnie Belliard hurt, the Dodgers still had a great chance to beat the Pirates Monday afternoon and claim the NL West.

What happened instead was total humiliation.

The Pirates took advantage of a throwing error by Mark Loretta at third, then proceeded to put up five runs in the second. It was a beatdown after that, as the Dodgers got crushed, 11-1.

All things considered, I'd go so far to say it was still the worst loss of the season for the Dodgers.

Hiroki Kuroda had a golden opportunity to make his team forget about yesterday's debacle (from up 5-2 to losing 6-5 in the ninth for those of you who have forgotten), but the defense was once again a big letdown.

With Blake out with a sore hamstring and Belliard nursing a sore groin, Loretta was called upon to man the hot corner. And sure enough, the first ball hit to him was thrown away. Normally one error against the bottom part of the order wouldn't be that big of a deal.

Oh, how you are so wrong.

One damn error led to nine men coming to the plate in the second. The big blows were an RBI double by Delwyn Young and a two-run double by Andy LaRoche.

For those of you wondering, yes, they would be the ex-Dodgers coming back to haunt their old team. Again. I'm glad to see they finally figured out how to hit just in time to torch their original franchise.

LaRoche and Garrett Jones hit back-to-back solo shots in the fourth to make it 7-0, as if the score wasn't bad enough. LaRoche ended up 5-for-5 with two homers, six RBIs, and four runs scored. Oh joy.

Kuroda obviously didn't get any help to start the second, which explains how he gave up four unearned runs. But he also surrendered eight hits and two walks, while only getting three strikeouts. No matter how you slice it, he wasn't sharp at all on a day his team needed him to be the most.

Not that it really mattered at this point, but Guillermo Mota and James McDonald were each terrible as well late in the game. Which is probably why they might be on the postseason roster, but it's hard to imagine either one of them making an important pitch.

Today's disaster concludes a 3-4 road trip against the two worst teams in the National League. I'm starting to think that their 14-2 win last Tuesday against the Nationals seemed to be a bad thing. They definitely relaxed after that, and it showed.

Instead of "taking the bull by the horns" as the saying goes, the Dodgers have let defensive miscues and poor pitching completely ruin any momentum they may have had before this trip. They've got a lot of figuring out to do now.

It all starts on the defensive end, as they simply cannot just hand away outs, even against lousy teams. Injuries happen, and the Dodgers had a few guys out today. But the they have a veteran bench, and important games like this are the reason why. It's time for those guys to step up and help lead this team to some wins.

This can go one of two ways: they can suck the rest of the season and flop in the playoffs, or they can refocus and use this as motivation that they can't just coast anymore. They need to get after it as they have nearly all season long.

We'll see how they respond by traveling to San Diego for two starting Tuesday night. Chad Billingsley is the starter, and now's the time for him to put forth an effort like he did in the first half.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Rockies win, NL West isn't over yet

The Rockies just pulled off a crazy double play to beat the Cardinals 4-3 and remain in the NL West hunt.

Clint Barmes made a fantastic over-the-shoulder catch with two runners on, then got up and fired to first for the easy double play to end it. Talk about ending a game in style.

The Dodgers are now back to five games up in the West. The magic number is still one, only because they own all tiebreakers over the Rockies.

This might seem a little weird, but I'm glad the Rockies won. There's no way the Dodgers should have celebrated after the way they handed the game away today against a bad team. They need to win Monday afternoon, then pop the bubbly.

A win to end their road trip would be a much better time to celebrate.

Hold the champagne...

The Dodgers had the PERFECT chance to wrap up the NL West today, as they had a 5-2 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth against the Pirates, and Jonathan Broxton got the ball.

To put it bluntly, they flat out blew it.

Broxton let the first two men reach, Rafael Furcal and Andre Ethier had big errors, and Lastings Milledge got the winning hit to shock the Dodgers, 6-5.

With the magic number at one, if the Rockies lose to the Cardinals today, the Dodgers win the NL West regardless. But man, today was just a giant letdown.

Let's rewind a bit before discussing how they choked in the ninth. Rafael Furcal got the Dodgers the game's first score with an RBI single in the third. He now has an 11 game hitting streak.

The Pirates came right back off of Clayton Kershaw in the bottom of the frame. Brian Bixler singled, and he went to third with one out on Andrew McCutchen's single. Kershaw then uncorked a wild pitch, though Russell Martin should have blocked it much better. Bixler scored, and Andy LaRoche then hit an RBI double, making it 2-1.

Nobody else scored until the seventh, when the Dodgers tied it, but should have done so much more. James Loney singled to lead off, and Ronnie Belliard doubled for two on. Martin continued his rough day by striking out. Orlando Hudson was then given the intentional walk to load the bases.

Jim Thome came through last night with a hit, but today, he grounded one back up the middle. Shortstop Luis Cruz bobbled it and could only get out at first, tying the game at three. Raffy couldn't get another clutch hit when he grounded out.

Matt Capps entered to start the ninth, and that would start the run of closers getting creamed in this inning. Loney and Belliard again reached on hits. This time, Martin delivered a big RBI single, and it was 3-2. O-Dog sacrificed both men to scoring position, and Manny Ramirez pinch-hit just to get the intentional walk.

With the bases loaded, Raffy hit a hard one to second that Bixler went home with. It was not a good play, as Loney beat it out, making it 4-2. A wild pitch let Martin score at 5-2, and the Dodgers had to be thinking it was over.

Like I said before, closers just looked horrible today, and Broxton had a look in his eye that wasn't good from his first pitch to the last. He let Delwyn Young and Brandon Moss reach on singles, and everything basically went to hell after that.

McCutchen grounded one to Furcal that he bobbled, and only got the forceout at second, though he probably wouldn't have gotten a double play anyway. LaRoche then grounded on that Furcal had to backhand, but his throw to second this time skipped away, letting Young score to make it 5-3.

Following an intentional walk to Garrett Jones, his third of the day, Milledge had a chance to be a hero. He didn't waste much time, as he hit a sharp single to Ethier in right. Ethier then booted the ball, and all three men scored, putting an incredibly frustrating end to what should have been a great day.

Broxton looked bad, but two errors by an otherwise solid defense did him no favors. Still, it's concerning that he couldn't even close out the Pirates with a three-run lead. In fact, ever since the Dodgers pounded the Nationals on Tuesday, they haven't looked good at all since then. Reason to worry? Time will tell.

I know any team in the majors is capable of winning, but the Dodgers have hardly looked like a great team against two of the worst this past week. They've simply struggled way too much in games they should've won rather easily. These last few games haven't been pretty.

Even if the Rockies do lose today and the Dodgers wrap up the West, they really need to play a good game Monday afternoon, and shake off today's bad memory. They can't lay an egg again like the ninth inning today. It's time to go back to playing solid baseball on both sides.

Hiroki Kuroda has pitched great lately, and he'll look to continue that on Monday. The Dodgers could really use another great start by him.

Torre leads Dodgers back into postseason

With a win over the Pirates on Saturday night, the Dodgers have clinched at least a Wild Card berth in the postseason.

They'll wait until they wrap up the NL West to celebrate.

Facing a bit of a scare, the Dodgers were able to recover from a blown lead to beat up on the Pirates' bullpen and get the win, 8-4. The other good news is that the Cardinals took care of the Rockies 6-3 to clinch the NL Central. That now means the lead in the NL West is back up to six games.

Most importantly, the magic number to clinch the West is down to two. A win by the boys in blue combined with a Rockies loss, and it's all wrapped up.

But that's getting ahead of ourselves. For now, let's focus on a win in which the Dodgers had to do some late work to get the job done.

The game started off promising enough, as Rafael Furcal singled. He got a little greedy, though, as he gunned out trying to stretch it to second. Of course that meant Juan Pierre had to follow with a triple, obviously denying him of an RBI. That's ok, as Manny Ramirez hit a ground rule double to make it 1-0.

In the fourth, Manny walked to lead off. Ronnie Belliard hit an infield single with one out. Mark Loretta started at first against the lefty Paul Maholm, and he doubled in a run to go up 2-0. Russell Martin followed that with an RBI groundout, and it was 3-0.

Randy Wolf was pitching well like always up until this point, but Andy LaRoche bit his old team with a solo homer to lead off the bottom of the fourth. Still, at 3-1, the Dodgers looked like they had this one under control.

To the Pirates' credit, they didn't quit on their home crowd. Wolf started the seventh with a walk to Ryan Doumit before getting Lastings Milledge to fly out. Joe Torre then went for the fresh arm in Hong-Chih Kuo, and he got Steve Pearce to line out for two down.

Then Kuo unraveled, as the Pirates tacked on three more runs. Luis Cruz hit an RBI single and Andrew McCutchen a two-run single up the middle off of George Sherrill. The normally reliable Kuo and Sherrill coughed up the lead, and the Pirates were up 4-3.

As good as the Pirates' bullpen was on Friday, they came crashing back down to Earth the next day. The Dodgers sent nine men to the plate in the eighth, as they took advantage of four walks to regain the lead, 7-4. Andre Ethier and Orlando Hudson both drew bases loaded walks to grab the lead.

The best sight of the inning was the at-bat of Jim Thome. Pinch-hitting for Sherrill with the bases loaded and one out, Thome laced a sharp single to right to score two. He waited awhile, but that's got to be relaxing for him to finally come through in a big way.

A solo homer by Belliard in the ninth wrapped up the scoring. Jonathan Broxton pitched a hitless inning to pad his stats a little.

The Dodgers certainly have been tested the last four games against the Nationals and Pirates, and they still have two left in Pittsburgh. Winning the West on the road would be a nice bonus for them, however. Hopefully we'll see them celebrating in the visitor's clubhouse within the next couple of days.

Clayton Kershaw's shoulder is fine, so he'll get his first start since September 4, though he did throw a couple innings this past Tuesday. The Dodgers really need him to get back healthy, as he's a likely Game 2 starter in the postseason. So, today's start is pretty important.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

More defensive headaches halts a celebration

For the third straight night, the Dodgers put together a sloppy game on defense. Unlike Thursday night, it cost them in the end.

Looking pretty tired and unable to put together any rallies, the Dodgers made two errors that led to three unearned runs. That was enough for the Pirates, as they took the win, 3-1.

The Rockies shook off a great start from Chris Carpenter to beat the Cardinals in the ninth, 2-1. The lead for the Dodgers in the NL West is now at five games.

The Dodgers are currently in the middle of a seven-game East Coast swing, and they looked like their bodies are just worn down. They just came off of two tough games against the Nationals, and then couldn't figure the Pirates' pitching. I'm glad they don't play until Saturday night, because a day game would not have given them much rest.

The unfortunate part about this game was that the defense just handed over the runs. In the bottom of the first, Andre McCutchen led off with an infield single. Old friend Andy LaRoche then hit a grounder to Blake DeWitt, who was giving Casey Blake another night off with a sore hamstring. DeWitt promptly threw it into left field for two on.

With McCutchen on third, Garrett Jones lifted a sac-fly RBI to make it 1-0. That would only be the beginning of defensive miscues leading to runs.

DeWitt did make somewhat make up for his blunder by doubling with two outs in the second. Orlando Hudson got the start, and he needed to find his groove again at the plate. He started off positively, as his RBI double to right made it 1-1.

The tie was short lived, as the Pirates took over for good in the third. LaRoche and Jones singled with one out. Ryan Doumit hit an easy grounder to James Loney, who surprisingly booted it to load the bases. Garland got Lastings Milledge swinging, but Brandon Moss just dropped one in front of Manny Ramirez to score two and go up 3-1.

That would be all she wrote on this night, as the Dodgers never could get that one big hit to get back into this one. They were pretty much their own biggest enemy in the field and at the plate.

Matt Kemp singled to start the fourth, then got picked off of first. Their only other major threat was in the seventh when Manny was up with one on and one out... then grounded into a double play. Ugh.

Garland picked up his first loss with the Dodgers, though he's not at all to blame. He went six innings for six hits, three runs (none earned), one walk, and six strikeouts. He still has a 1.91 ERA with the Dodgers in five starts, so he's obviously been a huge lift.

I'll give the Dodgers a bit of a mulligan only because they didn't get much rest coming into this one. Even if the Pirates are pathetic again, they have some young players that have potential to turn things around. For one night anyway, they actually put together some good pitching as well.

Now the Dodgers need to shake off the last few days and get back to playing playoff baseball. Their magic number for making the playoffs is still one, which can happen if they win or the Braves lose. To win the division over the Rockies, it's still at four.

The Dodgers have the guy they want on the mound to get a win tonight in Randy Wolf. Wolf sure looks like he'll be the Game 1 pitcher in the playoffs, so you hope they can wrap up the division early enough so they won't have to play important games late next week.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Defensive blunders prove costly

The normally reliable defense of the Dodgers made a couple of miscues on Wednesday night. Even against the lowly Nationals, they were enough for a loss.

The Nationals scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth off of James McDonald, and the Dodgers dropped the middle game, 5-4. The Rockies also lost, so the lead is five games still in the NL West.

The game started off promisingly enough, as the Dodgers looked like they picked up right where they left off the night before. Rafael Furcal singled and stole second on a close pickoff play. A couple of groundouts by Ronnie Belliard and Andre Ethier later, and it was 1-0.

In the fourth, the Dodgers got another run across. An infield single by Belliard and two walks to Ethier and James Loney loaded the bases with two down. Russell Martin came through with an RBI single, but Ethier was thrown out trying to sneak another one across. It was 2-0, but that missed opportunity would come back to haunt them.

Belliard again had a productive at-bat with a double to start the sixth. Loney's RBI single would plate him, and it was 3-0. At this point, the Dodgers were simply cruising behind Chad Billingsley.

As for Billingsley, and he really needed a good outing. He got that to start with, as he cruised through the first five innings without giving up a hit. But as has been the case for many of his starts, a great beginning did not turn into a positive ending.

The sixth inning came, and Mike Morse walked to lead off. Following a couple of outs, Adam Dunn drew a walk. Despite not allowing a hit yet, it didn't matter, as Ryan Zimmerman hit a three-run homer. One bad pitch made the game tied at three. Unbelievable.

From there the Dodgers were let down by their defense and lack of a big hit. Orlando Hudson and Belliard walked in the seventh, but no runs. Manny Ramirez walked and Loney singled in the eighth, but Martin lined into a double play to end it.

George Sherrill came on to start the bottom of the eighth, and uncharacteristically gave up a run. Although, he didn't get much help, as Dunn's fly ball landed between a confused Matt Kemp and Ramirez. With two on, Elijah Dukes grounded into what appeared to be a surefire double play, but Hudson's throw to first was wide, and Christian Guzman scored to make it 4-3.

After experiencing some shoddy defense, which is a rarity to their credit, the Dodgers were both happy and frustrated to tie the game in the ninth. O-Dog singled to lead off, but hurt his left wrist as he tumbled into Dunn on the play. He left for Jason Repko. Jim Thome pinch-hit and got a single for runners on the corners.

Raffy walked to load the bases, and it looked like a big inning was about to happen. Well... it didn't. Belliard hit a grounder to Guzman, who promptly threw it wide of home to tie the game at four.

With Ethier, Manny, and Kemp due up, things were definitely looking good. Unfortunately, a strikeout, groundout, and line out meant no more runs. It was pretty shocking, actually, that none of them could come through. But it happens.

McDonald tried to hold the score even, but his breaking stuff was lousy. That meant he had to rely heavily on his fastball, and once the Nats figured that out, he was done. A sac-fly RBI by Pete Orr ended the game.

In all, it was a pretty weird game. The Dodgers went from a lock to win, to blowing the lead in one swing, to getting it back, but not scoring enough with a big chance, which led to the loss. Got all of that?

Vicente Padilla will start the final game before heading off to Pittsburgh. He got a little roughed up in last start against the Giants, so he'll look to rebound.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Two touchdowns sinks the Nationals

Man, the Washington Nationals are really bad. Really, REALLY bad.

The Dodgers had no problems at all in taking care of the Nationals Tuesday night, 14-2. Seven runs in the fourth and six in the seventh were more than enough. It was the 99th loss of the season for the Nats, who have once again gone straight into the toilet.

On the good side, the Giants lost to the Diamondbacks, 10-8. That means the magic number for the Dodgers to clinch a playoff spot is down to two. Any combination of a Dodgers' win and a Giants' loss will do the trick.

The Rockies held off a furious ninth-inning rally by the Padres to hold on, 11-10. The NL West lead for the Dodgers remains at five games.

A Manny Ramirez RBI double got the Dodgers on the board in the third. Following an error by Rafael Furcal in the bottom of the frame, Adam Dunn launched a two-run shot, and it was 2-1.

What was a close game quickly turned into a joke. 11 men came to the plate in the fourth, as Livan Hernandez proved... well, that he's Livan Hernandez, and pretty much should stop trying to be a starting pitcher.

The highlights of the inning were an RBI single by old National Ronnie Belliard (thanks for him, by the way), a two-run single by Furcal, an RBI groundout by Andre Ethier, an RBI single from Matt Kemp, and a two-run double by James Loney. Add it all up, and it was 8-2.

Hiroki Kuroda made sure that stood up. In six innings, he gave up four hits, two runs (none earned), two walks, and six strikeouts. His last three starts have been brilliant, as he given up three earned runs in 20 innings, all resulting in wins. That's a great sign for the playoffs, where he's proved he can excel in.

As for the seventh, it was a combination of good hitting and some atrocious pitching. The Nationals basically sent a bunch of nobodies out to the mound, to which they proved why they're a bunch of nobodies.

Casey Blake started the run with a two-run homer, his 18th of the season. Raffy hit a two-run single, part of his 4-for-5 night. Jason Repko had a sac-fly RBI, and Kemp an RBI fielder's choice.

Everyone but Kemp and Loney were subbed out by the end of the game. So if you were dying to see Juan Castro, Juan Pierre, Repko, Blake DeWitt, and A.J. Ellis in action, last night was your game. It was a good feeling to see those guys get some time, as only Castro and Pierre will get a crack at the postseason roster. Possibly DeWitt as well, but it doesn't seem likely.

Another good sign was the last two innings where Clayton Kershaw got some work in. He was great, as he didn't allow a hit while striking out four. He threw 39 pitches and looked fine, so he must be anxious to get back to starting soon. We're all anxious as well.

While Tuesday night went all their way, the Dodgers still have to keep the ball rolling because the Rockies won't be losing much anytime soon. Chad Billingsley will take the ball tonight, and he really needs to prove he can pitch consistently again. If not, then his playoff roll will continue to be reduced.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dodgers pass the Lincecum test

Sunday afternoon was a good test for the Dodgers. They had their "A" lineup in, and the Giants did as well. Tim Lincecum, the reigning Cy Young award winner, was on the mound, which was sure to provide a playoff-like test. How would the Dodgers respond?

Quite nicely, thank you very much.

Andre Ethier hit a two-run homer, Ronnie Belliard a two-run single, and the Dodgers put together a great effort in getting their 90th win, 6-2. The Rockies also won, as they beat the Diamondbacks, 5-1. The lead in the NL West remains at five games.

On the flip side, the Giants have fallen 9 and 1/2 back in the West and 4 and 1/2 in the Wild Card. They have some work to do to if they want to be in the playoffs.

Today's game was a testament to how great of a season this has been for L.A. To beat a pitcher as great as Lincecum, and rather handily at that, to go 90-60 shows why the Dodgers have been a first-place team all year long.

Andres Torres had a big day for the Giants, and he was the only one to score for his team. He led off the game with a solo home run off of Randy Wolf for the 1-0 lead, and later added another solo shot. The Giants put a couple of men on with one out, but Wolf got a big double play off the bat of Bengie Molina to limit the damage.

The third is when the bats went to work, and it all started with a walk to Wolf. That proved to be very costly, as with two outs, Ethier connected on his 31st of the season, as well as his 101st RBI. Wow, what a year it's been for him.

The next inning, Matt Kemp and James Loney found holes in the infield for singles to lead off. Casey Blake was called upon to sacrifice, and he did it to perfection for two runners in scoring position. Belliard continued his hot play with a two-run single, making it 4-1.

The Dodgers never looked back from there, and ended up adding a couple of more runs along the way. Rafael Furcal scored both of them on wild pitches, one in the fifth and the other in the seventh.

Wolf made big pitches all day long, further validating most likely being the first starter used in the playoffs. Overall, he lasted six innings for five hits, two runs, two walks, and three strikeouts. He's now 11-6 with a 3.24 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. I knew he'd be a good addition when he signed in the winter, but who would have thought he'd be this good? I doubt many.

Hong-Chih Kuo, George Sherrill, and Jonathan Broxton teamed up to emphatically shut the door. They went three perfect innings, striking out four. Opposing teams are not going to want to deal with that combination at the end of games in the postseason, that's for sure.

The Dodgers get an off day Monday for travel before settling in for three in Washington. They have a very favorable week upcoming with the Nationals and Pirates. The trick, as it always is against bad teams, is to not play down to their level.

Hiroki Kuroda will go in the first game against Livan Hernandez, who's 276-years-old.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Penny rocked, Dodgers roll

It was quite the glorious day in Dodger Stadium.

Brad Penny was bombed by his former team, the Dodgers hit four home runs, Jon Garland pitched eight terrific innings, and it all added up to a win for the Dodgers, 12-1. Simply put, the Dodgers could do no wrong on the afternoon.

The Giants had a temporary lead of 1-0 after the first. Manny Ramirez's error off the bat of Eugenio Valez allowed him to get to second to lead off the game. Randy Winn's sac-fly RBI an out later would give the Giants their only reason to smile all day.

From there, the Dodgers just pounded away. And what better person to do it against than Penny, who's made no secret of his dislike for his former club. That's ok, because I'm sure the feeling's mutual. After giving up seven runs in 2 and 2/3 innings today, I highly doubt he's missed.

Rafael Furcal singled to center, then stole second with one out. Manny walked, and Matt Kemp grounded into a fielder's choice for two on and two down. James Loney hit an RBI single to knot the game at one.

Casey Blake then walked to get the bases loaded. Ronnie Belliard got another start today, most likely because Orlando Hudson has turned into a double play machine with his bat. It was the right call, as Belliard hit a grand slam out to left, putting the game away early at 5-1.

Not that they needed to, but the Dodgers just kept pouring it on as the game progressed. In the third, Kemp and Loney went back-to-back to solo homers, making it 7-1. That's Kemp's 25th of the season to go along with 34 stolen bases. Loney has hit much better in September after looking a bit lost during August.

The Dodgers got five more runs in innings five through seven. An error by Freddie Sanchez let Manny score, Russell Martin hit an RBI single, Andre Ethier got an RBI double, Blake DeWitt homered pinch-hitting, and Juan Pierre also pinch-hit and got an RBI single.

As great as the hitting was, Garland's performance was even better. How great has his trade been? Today, he pitched eight innings, giving up seven hits, one run (none earned), no walks, and three strikeouts. He was supposed to provide innings at the end of the rotation, and has instead looked like one of their best starters.

With Clayton Kershaw a big banged up and Chad Billingsley going through a bad slump, Garland is suddenly looking like a playoff starter. It's still a bit too early to say, but he's really put himself into a good position to get a start.

The lead over the Giants in the NL West is eight games. The Giants can forget about winning the division, but still have a shot at the Wild Card. The Rockies play in Arizona later tonight. As of now, it's a 5 and 1/2 game lead over them.

Sunday's game should be a real treat, as Randy Wolf takes on Tim Lincecum. Both men have had fantastic seasons, so it should be a low scoring game. Monday will be an off day followed by three in Washington.

Giants pull away for win

Vicente Padilla struggled for the first time with the Dodgers, and the Giants used three home runs to get the win, 8-4. The good news is that Jason Marquis of the Rockies also had a rough start, as they fell to the Diamondbacks, 7-4. The lead in the NL West for the Dodgers remains at five games.

The very first batter of the game would provide a bit of foreshadowing for things to come. Padilla got an 0-2 count against Eugenio Valez, but after it was worked to a full count, Valez cranked a solo shot to right to make it 1-0.

Manny Ramirez had a good night, and it started in the bottom of the first. With two outs, Andre Ethier was beaned on a bad curveball from Jonathan Sanchez. Manny then lined one in the left-center gap for an RBI single. Matt Kemp lined one back up the middle that Sanchez made a nice catch on, keeping the score at 1-1.

Padilla ran into a bunch of trouble in the third. Valez again started things with a single and a steal of second. Freddie Sanchez's single put two runners on, setting the table for Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval didn't waste the opportunity, hitting a three-run homer that made it 4-1.

Ethier and Manny again teamed up for a score in the fourth. Ethier singled to left to lead off, and Manny drove a low pitch into the left field stands to cut the deficit to 4-3. A solo homer by Rafael Furcal in the fifth tied the game.

That would be it for the Dodgers on this night, as the last four innings belonged to the Giants. Ramon Troncoso relieved to start the sixth and pretty much was slapped around. Fred Lewis and Velez each hit RBI doubles to make it 6-4.

Chad Billingsley hasn't started since last Sunday in San Francisco, and won't again until Wednesday in Washington. He made a relief appearance to stay "sharp," though that's exactly what didn't happen.

Bills got the first two outs, then gave up a solo homer to Aaron Rowand. Nate Schierholtz singled and stole second. That little Velez struck again, hitting an RBI triple to make it 7-4. It's kind of weird to think that Velez was a single short of the cycle. He became a power hitter overnight I guess.

An RBI single by Juan Uribe in the ninth was the last score of the night. Brian Wilson mowed down the Dodgers in order to preserve the win.

When the game became a battle of the bullpens to start the sixth, it was the Dodgers who were surprisingly the ones to crumble. The only one who did well was Ronald Belisario, who got four outs. Troncoso and Billingsley really got knocked around.

The Giants, on the other hand, used a combination of six relievers to get the job done. None of them went over an innings, so Bruce Bochy did a nice job of making the right moves.

Padilla has been fantastic since he came over to the Dodgers, so it's hard to get on his case for one rough start. It's not like he got shelled, as he gave up four runs in five innings, but he certainly didn't look sharp. Still, I'm sure the Dodgers feel confident with him in there.

The Dodgers will look to pick a game up today as they root for the Diamondbacks as well. It'll be Jon Garland against Brad Penny. Penny was great last Sunday against the Dodgers, but it will be interesting to see how he reacts pitching in Dodger Stadium for the first time since being let go.

It's a FOX game, so enjoy it for those that can see it. I'm not one of them.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The reserves get a win

Playing in a day game after a 13 inning game the night before, the Dodgers put on the field what can be considered their "B" lineup. Gone were Russell Martin, Orlando Hudson, Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, and Manny Ramirez. In were Brad Ausmus, Ronnie Belliard, Juan Castro, Blake DeWitt, and Juan Pierre.

In case you forgot, they were still playing the Pirates, who pretty much put a "C" or "D" lineup out there every night.

No shock, the Dodgers still won, 3-1.

If you're a Pirate fan and are reading this, I really feel for ya. I really do. The Dodgers were pretty much saying, "We're resting a bunch of our good players, but it won't matter." And that's exactly what happened.

The one thing the Pirates did do right was get the first run across. In the second, Brandon Moss doubled to lead off against Hiroki Kuroda. After getting sacrificed to third, Jason Jaramillo hit an RBI single to go up, 1-0.

With a makeshift lineup, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp were pretty much the only legit threats left. That meant at least one of them would have to get a big hit. It took until the sixth inning, but it happened.

Ronnie Belliard doubled to start. Ethier struck out on a good breaking ball for one down. With an 0-2 count, Kevin Hart grooved one down the middle that Kemp clocked to center for a two-run shot and a 2-1 lead. It was smooth sailing from there.

Belliard continued his hot day by leading off the eighth and hitting one out to center, making it 3-1. He was 3-for-3 on the day with a double and homer. He certainly wasn't a high-profile pickup, but he's been very solid. His versatility in playing third or second has helped get him plenty of playing time.

The pitching was one again top-notch, again benefited from playing against a last-place team. Kuroda got the win, going six innings for six hits, one run, no walks, and seven strikeouts. That's two fantastic starts in a row, a great sign for October.

The end-game formula of Hong-Chih Kuo and George Sherrill pitched the seventh and eighth, respectively, allowing no baserunners. Jonathan Broxton got his 35th save, adding a strikeout in the ninth.

While the Dodgers largely had their way in this three-game sweep, it's back to reality after an off day Thursday. The Giants come to town, and they've been whipping up the Rockies this week. The Dodgers took two of three from them in San Francisco last weekend, but that was without seeing Tim Lincecum. That won't be the case this time around.

At last check the rotation for the three games hasn't been set in stone. But, it looks like it'll be Vicente Padilla, Chad Billingsley, and Jon Garland in that order. Who would have thought that from that group, Billingsley is the one we'd worry about the most? He really needs a solid start, and beating Brad Penny on Saturday would be a nice boost for his confidence.

What more can I say? Ethier is the man

Make that six walk-offs for Andre Ethier this season.

Ethier found a way to be a hero again, hitting a two-run homer with one out in the 13th to beat the Pirates, 5-4. That came a few innings after Matt Kemp's RBI single off of closer Matt Capps tied the game at three in the ninth.

The good news continues, as the Rockies were once again manhandled by the Giants, 10-2. The lead in the NL West is now up to five games over the Rockies and remains at 7 and 1/2 over the Giants.

Randy Wolf made his return to the mound after skipping a start with a hyperextended elbow. He did a good job with seven innings pitched, five hits, three runs, two walks, and five strikeouts. The Dodgers will welcome that line with open arms.

Wolf did run into trouble in the second. Lastings Milledge walked with one out, and Steve Pearce hit a two-run homer to left to make it 2-0.

Now you may be asking yourself - Who's Steve Pearce? The answer? I have no idea. He's basically another young player in a long line of them that the Pirates churn out there. I guess when you trade away all of your veterans, you may as well see which youngsters can play.

Anyway, Ronny Cedeno followed that up with a double. Now with two outs, Zach Duke hit an RBI single, and the Pirates were up 3-0.

It took until the fifth for the Dodgers to make some noise. Kemp led off with a double, which helped get the bats on a roll. Casey Blake tripled him home to slash the lead to 3-1. A sac-fly RBI by Mark Loretta, playing first base for James Loney against the lefty, made it 3-2.

You've got to somewhat feel for Pirates' fans, as they got a great start by Duke, a couple of big outs by Jesse Chavez, and gave the ball to their closer Capps. Normally that would be a recipe for success in the majors, but the Pirates of course found a way to screw it up.

Russell Martin began the ninth by popping up. Ethier then stroked a double, so there was hope with Manny Ramirez coming up. But, Manny also popped up for two down. No need to worry, as Kemp's RBI tied the game at three each.

Moving ahead to the 13th, the Pirates appeared to put the game away. Andrew McCutchen reached on an error by Blake, which is something I rarely say. Eventually, Ryan Doumit hit a soft single to score him, and it was now 4-3.

Like they've done so dramatically this season, the Dodgers came back. Now facing Chris Bootcheck, Rafael Furcal hit an infield single to lead off. After Martin flied out, lefty Phil Dumatriat came on to face Ethier.

Ethier's 30th blast of the season added another chapter to his storybook season.

Even if the Pirates are pretty lousy (again), it's always good to get a comeback win like this. This late in the season, every game is magnified even more, so it's all important. Good pitching and clutch hitting can carry a team far in the postseason.

Once Wolf exited after seven, Ramon Troncoso, George Sherrill, Jonathan Broxton, and James McDonald combined to throw the next five innings unscathed. Ironically, it was Ronald Belisario who picked up the win, despite giving up the go-ahead run in the 13th. Go figure.

With the good times rolling, the Dodgers close this three-game set with the Pirates on Wednesday afternoon. Hiroki Kuroda, coming off a masterful start against the Giants, gets the ball. Hopefully he won't have to dodge any balls or broken bats this game. Geez!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dodgers roll on Ethier's 6th inning blast

The Dodgers returned home from taking four of six on the road to find themselves in a tight one with the Pirates. That was until Andre Ethier stepped up and crushed a two-run homer to center to lift the Dodgers to a win, 6-2.

More good news came on this night as well. The Giants beat up on the Rockies again, 9-1. The Dodgers now have a four game lead on the Rocks and 7 and 1/2 on the Giants.

The Pirates really had a chance to make this game interesting in the first inning when they loaded the bases off of Jon Garland. A single by Andrew McCutchen and two walks to Andy LaRoche and Ryan Doumit gave them their shot. But, Lastings Milledge popped up and Brandon Moss struck out, and that was that.

On the flip side, the Dodgers made sure to take advantage of runners on base in the bottom of the first. Rafael Furcal singled and stole second to begin with. Matt Kemp followed with a walk, but Ethier flied to center. No matter, as Manny Ramirez cracked a double to left. Raffy scored with ease, but Kemp was cut down at the plate on a nice relay, making it only 1-0.

It took until the fourth for the Pirates to get a run, even if they continually put men on base against Garland. A two-out single by Ronny Cedeno led to an RBI double from Ramon Vazquez, and it was 1-1.

The bases were loaded by the Dodgers in the fourth, but they didn't exactly kick the door down. Orlando Hudson was in a big spot, but could only manage to score a run on a double play. For those of you not in the know, you can't get an RBI on a double play. So much for that.

Doumit again pulled the Pirates even in the fifth on an RBI groundout to third that Casey Blake could only go to first on. At two-all, the Dodgers needed to start making their move.

Fortunately for them, they did just that. Raffy got into one deep center in the bottom of the fifth that Milledge made a nice play on. Kemp then singled and stole his 33rd base of the season, good for third in the National League. Ethier took care of the rest, as his 29th homer of the season made it 4-2.

The Dodgers never looked back, which is not surprising seeing as how the Pirates still have no idea how to win. The good thing they have going for them is young players like McCutchen, Milledge, Doumit, and Garrett Jones. Perhaps better days are ahead, but it's not like it can get much worse.

Back to the game, and O-Dog got some good vibes back by hitting an RBI double to score Blake in the sixth, stretching the lead to 5-2. Hudson later scored Blake again with a single in the eighth to make it 6-2.

Garland got the win, his 10th of the season. He wasn't overly effective, as he played with danger at certain times. A better team may have knocked him out early. But, six innings, six hits, two runs, three walks, and three strikeouts was good enough for the W. That's now eight straight seasons with double-digit wins, a great accomplishment to own.

The combination of Hong-Chih Kuo in the seventh and George Sherrill in the eighth got the ball to Jonathan Broxton in the ninth, and all didn't give up a hit and struck out one. To win in the playoffs, that's the formula that will need to be counted on. It can definitely work.

The win was a great start, and it should get even better Tuesday night with the return of Randy Wolf. He missed a start because of hyperextending his elbow, so it's good that it wasn't a serious injury. He's opposed by Zach Duke, who was great until August hit, and has been atrocious since. In other words, he fits in well with the Pirates.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The rocky road for Billingsley continues

Chad Billingsley lasted only four innings, Brad Penny shut down the offense, and the Dodgers laid a Sunday egg in San Francisco, 7-2. Still, even with the loss, the series can be considered a success since they took two of three.

Even better, the Rockies fell to the Padres today, 7-2. The Padres also took two of three, and were a Heath Bell blown save away on Friday from getting the sweep. In all, the Dodgers are up three games on the Rockies and 7 and 1/2 on the Giants in the NL West.

This game was never in doubt, not unlike the previous two games in which the Dodgers had their way. In the second, Pablo Sandoval led off with a single. With one down, Juan Uribe took a hanging breaking ball out to left for a two-run shot and a 2-0 lead.

Things would only get worse for Billingsley, which really isn't a big surprise considering he hasn't shown the ability lately to shake off any sort of trouble. Nate Schierholtz doubled to start the fourth, and Uribe singled for two on. Travis Ishikawa doubled to score another, making it 3-0.

That was all she wrote for Billingsley, who amazingly only gave up three runs, though probably deserved much more. In four innings, he gave up eight hits, three runs, no walks, and six strikeouts. He certainly wasn't pounded, but like I said before, he gets way too rattled by adversity.

Even more concerning is that he hasn't pitched over six innings since July 5, spanning 12 starts. For someone that should be a #1 or 2 pitcher, that's just not going to cut it. He's certainly much more capable than that, but just can't find a way to get more innings. I know Joe Torre loves to use his bullpen, but Bills is making that an easy decision.

Bottom line, if the Dodgers want to win in the postseason, they need Billingsley to step it up.

Jeff Weaver came on and pretty much got pounded, giving up four runs in 1 and 1/3 innings. His appearances have been sporadic, so it's hard to blame him if he's rusty. He's still a good long reliever to have, so I'm not worried.

The only highlight of the day for the Dodgers came in the seventh. Casey Blake singled to lead off, and Russell Martin hit a two-run homer to make it 7-2. That's now two days in a row with a homer, which is something I didn't think I'd be saying anytime soon. Dare I say he's starting to find a groove at the plate? I hope so.

As for Penny, he gave the Giants another big start. He lasted seven innings, giving up two runs on five hits. He was never seriously threatened all day. The Giants will need more of that if they want to make a run at the playoffs with limited time remaining.

Even with the rough loss today, the Dodgers have won four of their last six. After looking flat in losing a home series against the Padres last weekend, it's good to see them bounce back. Throw in Randy Wolf and Clayton Kershaw missing starts with injuries, and it's even more impressive.

Next up is a three-game set at home with the Pirates. The Pirates are, shall we say... really pathetic. They are only 2-9 this month as they play out another embarrassing season. Still, the Dodgers can't take anyone lightly with such a small lead in the West.

Jon Garland is first up on Monday. He'll be followed by the hopeful returns of Kershaw and Wolf after that. The Rockies and Giants will slug it out for three in San Francisco.

Another blowout win in AT&T Park

The Dodgers have quickly turned an important series for the Giants into a laugher.

Behind another strong performance from Vicente Padilla, the Dodgers took the second game, 9-1. Combining the last two games, the Dodgers have walloped the Giants by a score of 19-4. The Giants are now 8 and 1/2 games back in the NL West, and 5 and 1/2 back in the Wild Card.

There was another close call in San Diego, as once again, Heath Bell blew a save in the ninth. This time, however, the Padres made up for it by drawing a bases loaded walk in the 10th, winning 3-2, and stretching the lead in the West for the Dodgers to three games.

The game was close early on, thanks to key errors by both teams. In the second, Matt Kemp reached on Eugenio Valez's throwing error. He then stole second, and took third on Casey Blake's single. Russell Martin walked to load the bases. Padilla got in on the act with an RBI single, but Blake was thrown out trying to score as well. It was a 1-0 lead for the Dodgers.

Randy Winn took a walk to start the bottom of the third. After Aaron Rowand struck out, Jonathan Sanchez dropped down the sacrifice bunt. Padilla had trouble with it, then made it worse by throwing it away. Winn scored, and it was 1-1.

For the Giants, that would be the end of their night, as they got pounded after that. The fourth is when the Dodgers put it away, thanks to an unlikely source. Blake walked and James Loney singled to lead off. Russell Martin then stepped up and crushed a three-run homer just inside the pole in left, making it 4-1. It was only his fifth of the year, but he chose a great time to do it.

It was pure cruise control after that, as the Dodgers tacked on a little more as the innings passed by. Juan Pierre walked and stole second to start the fifth. Matt Kemp's double to left scored him, making it 5-1.

Rafael Furcal hit an RBI double to score Martin in the sixth. Manny Ramirez tripled to start the seventh and scored on a wild pitch. Finally, Loney launched a two-run shot in the ninth to score Blake, finishing the scoring on this night.

As for Padilla, he's making a case for a postseason start based on his great performances. He went six innings, three hits, one run (zero earned, though his error led to it), three walks, and five strikeouts. With the Dodgers in four starts, he's 3-0 with a 2.01 ERA.

Hong-Chih Kuo, Ronald Belisario, and James McDonald each threw scoreless innings. McDonald looked really good, striking out the first two hitters he faced, then getting a weak grounder to first to shut the door.

Today's game will be interesting, as Chad Billingsley goes against old friend Brad Penny. Penny hasn't been shy about expressing his hatred for his former club, so you know he'll be ready. Billingsley has ridden the roller coaster this season, but shutting down the Giants for a sweep would be great for him.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Dodgers cream Giants behind Kuroda's gem

Faced with a slim two-game lead in the NL West, the Dodgers came out swinging on Friday night. Hiroki Kuroda pitched eight brilliant innings, and the offense got into a groove as they took a win over the Giants, 10-3.

Then there's the story of the Rockies. Down 1-0 practically all game in San Diego, Heath Bell was on to try and seal the deal in the ninth. And wouldn't you know it... he imploded. A bases clearing double with two outs and two strikes by Yorvit Torrealba lead them to a 4-1 win.

All in all, the NL West lead remains at two. But, if the Giants keep losing, it might not really matter, as they're now 7 and 1/2 back.

The Dodgers struck in the first off of Matt Cain, who they've surprisingly had a lot of good games against. Andre Ethier singled with one out. Manny Ramirez was caught looking for strike three on a nasty slider, but Matt Kemp singled. A two-run double to deep right by James Loney made it 2-1.

In the second, Bengie Molia singled and Juan Uribe doubled to open. An RBI groundout by Nate Schierholtz made it 2-1, and it was looking like anyone's ballgame.

But, Kuroda made sure that wasn't going to happen. After Uribe's double, Kuroda amazingly retired the next 19 hitters in a row. A triple by John Bowker in the eighth broke the streak. On the night, he finished with eight innings pitched, three hits, two runs, no walks, and five strikeouts.

Making only his second start since being hit in the head from a liner in Arizona, he showed what kind of a weapon he can be in the postseason. He won both his starts last year against the Cubs and Phillies, if you recall, so he's definitely capable of throwing big games.

The game was still a close one until the sixth. It all started with two outs when Loney hit a single. Casey Blake then stepped up and cranked a hanging breaking ball to deep left for his 17th of the year, making it 4-1. This was Blake's first game since September 4 because of a sore hamstring.

With Kuroda dealing, the offense took off as well. Five more runs were scored in the seventh, emphatically putting this game out of reach. Manny and Blake hit RBI singles, Loney a sac-fly RBI, and Russell Martin a two-run double, increasing the lead to 9-1.

Kemp added an RBI single to score Juan Pierre to score the Dodgers' 10th run of the night.

I'm sure the Dodgers could have felt a whole lot better about this win had the Rockies not pulled their comeback just minutes after the game was over. But give the Rocks plenty of credit - they are playing some fantastic baseball right now.

While the Dodgers have battled consistency issues, especially on offense, it's not like they've just handed over the division. The Rockies just don't lose. It's that plain and simple. More than likely, both teams will get into the playoffs, so now it's a race to see which team can get home field for at least the first round.

With a big win already under their belts, the Dodgers will look to get at least one over the weekend. It starts on Saturday night with Vicente Padilla taking the hill. He's been a great pickup thus far, as he's earned his spot in the rotation. With Randy Wolf and Clayton Kershaw missing starts with injuries, Padilla's start is even more important.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Out of nowhere, Dodgers grab a win

Five double plays into the game, the Dodgers had to think getting a runner on base was a curse.

A huge two-out rally took care of all of that.

The Dodgers scored four runs all with two outs in the eighth, shocking the Diamondbacks for the win, 5-4. With another win by the Rockies, the lead in the NL West remains at 3 and 1/2 games.

To say this win was unexpected would be an understatement. The Dodgers were embarrassingly bad with runners on for the first seven innings. Time and time again, they would find a way to ground into the dreaded double play. But when they need it the most, their bats came alive.

The game started off promising enough, as Rafael Furcal singled to right to lead off. Andre Ethier then hit a double into the gap in left to get the Dodgers up, 1-0.

Chad Billingsley, however, would not be able to hold it, as he suffered through a rocky start. Still in the first, a single by Stephen Drew and double by Gerardo Parra put two on. Two sac-fly RBIs later, the DBacks were up, 2-1.

Unfortunately for Bills, he would be victimized by the hot bat of Billy Buckner. Yes, that would be the starting pitcher for the DBacks. On the night, he went 2-for-3 with 2 RBIs. Perhaps he should consider hitting everyday considering his ERA stands at 7.38 (and that's including his seven innings of one run ball last night).

In the second, Buckner got his first RBI with a single to score Brandon Allen. In the sixth, he hit a two-out double that plated Augie Ojeda, and it was 4-1.

When you factor in the Dodgers hitting into double plays in the second, third, fourth, sixth, and seventh, it was pretty easy to write them off for the night. The best thing that could have happened was Buckner exited, and the DBacks' bullpen was terrible.

After getting Orlando Hudson to groundout to start the eighth, Blane Boyer entered and surrendered a single to Russell Martin. Juan Pierre pinch-hit, hit a grounder, and just avoided DP number six. His hustle turned out to save the game for the Dodgers.

Furcal singled with two down, and the hit parade was then on. Matt Kemp and Ethier hit consecutive RBI singles, Manny Ramirez walked, and James Loney's RBI singled made it 4-4. The Dodgers then got a bit of luck as Ronnie Belliard chopped one to short that Drew slipped on and could make no play, scoring the go-ahead run at 5-4.

Hong-Chih Kuo and Jonathan Broxton then came on and made sure the lead would stay. Kuo gave up a single to Miguel Montero to start, but got a couple of groundouts to end the inning. Broxton also gave up a single, but a meaningless one with two outs, as he recorded his 34th save.

While Billingsley wasn't anything special with four runs in six innings, the bullpen was money once again. James McDonald struck out the side in the seventh to get the win, in addition to Kuo and Broxton's great efforts. They did their part while the offensive finally figured it out.

This is one of those games that brings you back to the first half of the season where pretty much everything went right. It seems like it's been a little bit since getting a win like this, so let's hope they can build their momentum and keep the ball rolling.

Even if they were outplayed most of Tuesday's game, they still got the win, in addition to Monday's easy win. Today they go for the sweep, as Jon Garland again goes against his former team and the dangerous Dan Haren. A win over Haren would be great for the offense to show they can play more consistently.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Kershaw to miss a start

Clayton Kershaw will miss his scheduled start on Friday after injuring his right shoulder on Sunday. How did he injure his non-throwing shoulder?

By running into a wall catching a fly ball during batting practice.

That raises an interesting question: Wouldn't he know a giant wall was right near him as he was running? Well, I guess not.

Either way, the injury is not serious, and in the long-run, may not be such a bad thing. At 21-years-old, there's some concern about him being overworked at 159 innings this year. Last year, he logged 169 innings, so he's obviously well on his way to surpassing that total.

With six starters in the rotation, Joe Torre has plenty of other options for now. Give Kershaw some rest, let him get right, and it could pay off in the end. They'll definitely need his arm to make a run in the postseason.

Dodgers show plenty of fire in win

Maybe a game with an ejection, a bean ball, and some arguing will wake the Dodgers up.

It worked on this day, as the Dodgers took the Labor Day game from the Diamondbacks, 7-2. Three homers and another strong start by Vicente Padilla was a recipe for success.

More noteworthy was Manny Ramirez's ejection in his second at-bat. He struck out on three pitches, tossed his bat and helmet, and got the boot from home plate umpire Doug Eddings. One can only guess there were some colorful words thrown in as well.

Manny already left his mark on this game, though. In the second with no score, he took a changeup from Max Scherzer and deposited it into left field for a solo shot. James Loney followed with one of his own for his 10th of the season, all on the road.

Still in the second, Ronnie Belliard singled with nobody out. Scherzer battled some bad control problems, as two wild pitches put Belliard at third. Russell Martin hit an RBI single, and the Dodgers took command, 3-0.

That would be all the runs Padilla would need, as he's put together his third straight good start. On the day, he went six innings for six hits, two runs, one walk, and three strikeouts. His only blemish was a two-run shot by Chris Young in the fifth. He's definitely justified being kept in the starting rotation.

Belliard would continue his strong day by belting a solo homer in the fourth to go up 4-0. He's been given plenty of playing time the last few days with Casey Blake resting his sore hammy. It's worked out pretty well, as he's put together some good games.

After Young's two-run homer in the fifth made it 4-2, Belliard again made his mark in the eighth. Juan Pierre singled with one out, then proceeded to steal two bases. Loney walked, and Belliard's RBI double made it 5-2. Orlando Hudson was given the intentional pass, and Martin hit an sac-fly RBI to make it 6-2.

The last run was scored in the ninth on Pierre's RBI single, scoring Matt Kemp. After failing miserably with runners on against the Padres, the Dodgers finally got big hits today, including the homers. Let's hope it lasts more than just today.

Martin was involved in a near confrontation with Scherzer in the fourth. Belliard had just hit his solo homer to go up 4-0. Two batters later, Martin was plunked and was not pleased. After exchanging pleasantries on his way to first, they again did after the inning was over. Nothing else came of it, though.

Jonathan Broxton had to get the final four outs for his 33rd save in 38 chances. He hasn't given up an earned run since blowing a save against the DBacks on August 15, otherwise known as the game Hiroki Kuroda took a liner off the head. Brox has settled down at the right time.

The win was good because, yet again, the Rockies and Giants won as well. For the Rockies, they came back to get a win at home against Cincinnati. Down 3-1 going into the seventh, they figured it out in time for the win. The Giants squashed the Padres, 9-4.

In all, it means the Dodgers still lead the NL West over the Rockies by 3 and 1/2 and the Giants by 5 and 1/2.

Both teams are back at it again on Tuesday, as Chad Billingsley will look to avenge a loss against these DBacks from last week. He's lost his last three starts since beating the Cardinals on August 18, so he's looking to get back on track again.

One step forward, one step back

And so it goes for the Dodgers these days.

The Padres built up a 4-1 lead and held off a late charge by the Dodgers to get the win, 4-3. The loss combined with the Rockies pretty much murdering the Diamondbacks mean the lead in the NL West has shrunk to 3 and 1/2 games.

To put it bluntly, it was a bad ending to a bad series, and was seen on national TV no less. The offense looks like they've lost all memory from earlier in the season when everyone in the lineup was capable of getting a big hit.

Now? It's like one game they figure out, then the next game it's all thrown out the window.

For the third straight game, the Padres scored in the first. Orlando Hudson made a rare error to let David Eckstein reach. Adrian Gonzalez then whacked a double for two on. Kevin Kouzmanoff hit a grounder to Rafael Furcal, but his throw home was just a bit wide, and it was 1-0.

The bases got loaded with nobody out in the third on a single and two walks. Kouzmanoff drove in two more with a single right up the middle, making it 3-0. Juan Pierre was starting for center in place of Matt Kemp, so it was safe to say that everyone coming around third would be getting the green light. And it worked.

Manny Ramirez and James Loney both singled to start the bottom of the fourth, and it was looking like the Dodgers would get something going. Not so fast, as Ronnie Belliard right on cue grounded into a double play. Somehow, Russell Martin actually had a productive at-bat, as his RBI single made it 3-1.

An opposite field home run by Gonzalez gave the run right back, putting the Padres up 4-1. Man, I can't help but think of that proposed trade that almost went down at the trade deadline where Gonzalez would've been in L.A. His bat in this lineup would be perfect. Oh well.

Like Hudson's error in the first, another error by Everth Cabrera, his fourth in the last two games, let Mark Loretta reach with one out in the seventh. Raffy singled, but Pierre flew out for two down. Andre Ethier got another clutch hit with a two-run double, making it 4-3.

The Padres chose to give Manny the intentional walk, and it paid off as Kemp pinch-hit and lazily flew out to center.

Jim Thome had a chance for a big moment in the ninth. With Heath Bell in and Raffy on first with a walk, Thome worked the count, but flew out to left. Ethier had that same chance, but he also flew out, and that was that.

The Padres have actually played some pretty good ball lately, but nonetheless, it's still a really bad series loss for the Dodgers. They were once invincible at home - now they've won only one series in their past seven. Needless to say, that's not exactly encouraging news for a team trying to make the playoffs.

Hiroki Kuroda made his first post-DL start, and wasn't too bad, but not as sharp as he would have liked. He went five innings, five hits, four runs (three earned), three walks, and three strikeouts. The bullpen of Jeff Weaver, Ronald Belisario, George Sherrill, and Hong-Chih Kuo did a nice job of keeping the Padres at four runs.

Not that it mattered, as the bats once again went dead. Nine left on base, including three in scoring position with two out, were enough for the Padres to keep the lead. For whatever reason, things just are not clicking right now.

If there's one thing the Dodgers have done very well lately, it's getting some wins when the Rockies appeared to be close to taking over. That's going to have to continue, as they now travel to Arizona for three while the Rockies go to Cincinnati for four.

Vicente Padilla will get another start, as he's done a nice job thus far. He'll need to keep it going, as Max Scherzer goes for the Diamondbacks. That's the same guy who shut down the Dodgers this past week, so lucky them, they get to see him again. Just hope for the best.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Wolf gets career win #100

Randy Wolf pitched seven strong innings to get his 100th career win, as the Dodgers beat the Padres, 7-4. The lead in the NL West remains at 4 and 1/2 games after the Rockies and Giants both won as well.

The beginning of the game started off an awful lot like Friday night's debacle, as the Padres got on the board. Everth Cabrera singled to lead off and stole second. After getting sacrificed to third, Kevin Kouzmanoff's RBI single made it 1-0.

The Dodgers finally showed some life of their own with the bats, a day after getting blanked by some no-name pitcher. Saturday they faced Mat Latos, and they made sure that embarrassment didn't happen again.

Rafael Furcal singled and Juan Pierre, starting for the resting Manny Ramirez, walked. Both advanced on Andre Ethier's groundout. Matt Kemp scored Furcal with an RBI groundout to tie it at one. James Loney singled to right to plate Pierre, and it was 2-0.

The next inning, Russell Martin and Raffy both walked. Cabrera then committed a costly error off of Pierre's bat, as both men came around to score to make it 4-1. Adrian Gonzalez got one back with an RBI single in the third to make it 4-2.

Ethier connected on his 28th of the season with a solo shot in the fourth. Another error by Cabrera let Kemp reach, and Loney hit another RBI single to go up 6-2.

An Ethier RBI double extended the lead to 7-2 in the in sixth. Heading into the bottom of the ninth, James McDonald was given the ball to close out a five-run lead.

Except that McDonald proceeded to give up three straight singles to load the bases. He got the hook, and Jonathan Broxton had to put out the fire.

Edgar Gonzalez hit an RBI single next at-bat, and Ethier's fielding error let another runner score, making it 7-4. Thankfully, Broxton struck out the next two and got a groundout to end the game, making it much scarier than it needed to be.

Lousy ninth inning or not, it's a win the Dodgers needed to have, especially over a bad team. I'm glad to see Loney hit well, as he went 2-for-2 with a couple of walks. He looked like he didn't have a clue lately, so maybe he's turning the corner. It's just one game, but you have to start somewhere.

Wolf ended up going seven innings for four hits, two runs, no walks, and five strikeouts. To say he's been one of the biggest surprises in the majors this year is an understatement. People knew he was a solid starter, but he's looking like an ace this year. Should the Dodgers hold on and make the playoffs, I can easily see him getting the Game One start.

With Casey Blake and Manny sitting out, I'm glad the others in the lineup got the job done. Granted, a big error by Cabrera helped the cause, but the Dodgers took advantage of it. With the Rockies and Giants still rolling, that's something that needed to happen.

Tonight's game is on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, as Hiroki Kuroda makes his return from the DL. In case you were under a rock, he was beaned in the head by a liner on August 15 in Arizona, so it's great that he's back so soon.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Dodgers embarrassed at home by Padres

It's been like this during the entire second half of the season: one good win, followed by a loss. They can thank their inconsistent offense for that.

The Dodgers were flat out atrocious against Wade LeBlanc and the Padres, as they took a loss, 2-0. The Rockies and Giants both got close wins, so the lead is 4 and 1/2 over the Rockies and 5 and 1/2 over the Giants.

There's not much to recap, as the Padres got both of their runs in the first couple of innings thanks to hitting with runners in scoring position and some horrible defense on the same play.

With Clayton Kershaw on the mound, Everth Cabrera lead the game off by walking. David Eckstein singled to put two on. But, Adrian Gonzalez struck out as Cabrera was caught trying to steal third. Kevin Kouzmanoff still managed to hit an RBI single to make it 1-0.

The next inning is when the Dodgers played Little League defense. After some guy named Oscar Salazar singled to lead off, he went to second on a groundout. Nick Hundley hit an infield single that Rafael Furcal tried to make a great play on, but threw it away. James Loney picked it up, fired it home to get Salazar, only to see the ball bounce off the plate and into the stands, making it 2-0.

Even with the bad defense and tough start to the game, you would think the Dodgers would still make up two mere runs against a guy with an ERA over nine.

You would be wrong.

Oh, they got some hits. Not many, but enough to put some threats together. In fact, they had at least a runner on in every inning except the fifth and sixth. But, they went a whopping 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position, stranding 10. Needless to say, you're not going to win by doing that.

Kershaw pitched well, but last I checked, when your team scores zero runs for you, you probably won't win. He finished with six innings, four hits, two runs (one earned), three walks, and three strikeouts. He hasn't won since July 18 against Houston, spanning nine starts.

About the only highlight of the game was Jim Thome getting his first at-bat with the Dodgers. He delivered with a pinch-hit single to center in the eighth, putting runners on the corners with one out. The Dodgers were so pumped that they then popped up and flied out to end the inning.

Look, the Dodgers deserve a ton of credit for all the wins they've had this season, especially late in games. But, they equally deserve to be criticized for bad losses, and Friday night was the definition of a bad loss. They simply cannot lose games like that and look so pathetic in the process. They've got to play with more energy than that.

Everyone in the lineup needs to pull their weight, especially the bottom. Maybe Joe Torre can convince Thome to play some first base, as Loney pulled another 0-for-4 night and looks totally lost. A threat like Thome can add some much-needed punch to a weak lineup.

I know people will say Manny Ramirez is to blame, but I get the feeling he's trying to do too much since everyone else can't hit either. He just needs to relax.

Hopefully the Dodgers can get two wins this weekend and make Friday's game a distant memory. Randy Wolf will look for his 100th career win by taking the mound tonight.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Garland is money against former mates

No doubt, Jon Garland made his most awkward start of his career on Thursday night, pitching against the team he was just playing for three days earlier.

And no doubt again, Garland delivered everything the Dodgers hoped for.

Seven innings of two-run ball was enough to give the Dodgers a win, 4-2. Ronnie Belliard's three RBIs and Manny Ramirez's solo homer backed him up.

More good news, as the Mets got a win in Colorado, and Pedro Martinez out dueled Tim Lincecum to give the Dodgers a 5 and 1/2 lead in the NL West.

The first inning didn't start off so hot, as the Diamondbacks struck. Stephen Drew lead off with a single and Miguel Montero walked an out later. Mark Reynolds hit an RBI single to left to make it 1-0.

Belliard started his big night in the second. With two outs, James Loney singled and took second on a wild pitch. Belliard then stepped up and singled to shallow center, making it 1-1.

A solo homer by Drew in the third put the DBacks up 2-1. After Ryan Roberts singled in the next at-bat, Garland more than settled down, as he retired the final 14 batters he faced. Whoa.

The Dodgers took the lead and then surged ahead for good in the fifth. Manny Ramirez was up in the fourth when Andre Ethier got caught stealing. No problem, as Manny lead off the fifth and drilled a homer to dead center, tying the game at two.

Casey Blake then hit a double, and he went to third on Loney's flyout. Belliard singled between short and third for the RBI and 3-2 lead. He added his third RBI in the sixth on a fielder's choice, closing the scoring at 4-2.

George Sherrill and Jonathan Broxton both game up a hit when they entered, but that was it. The end result was Sherrill's eighth hold and Broxton's 31st save.

The Dodgers earned the split in the four games mostly because of their pitching. Vicente Padilla a couple games ago went five and gave up one, and then Garland's great effort last night. The offense got just enough runs, but they are still looking to find their groove.

But, a split is obviously better than losing the series, as the Rockies and Giants failed to capitalize on a couple of loses. They're still hanging around, so the month of September is still no time to fall into a slump.

The Diamondbacks exit, and the horrible Padres enter for three. You would have to really, really follow baseball closely to know the three starters the Padres will run out there: Wade LeBlanc, Mat Latos, and Tim Stauffer. It's no surprise they have the third-worst record in the NL.

For the Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw will get the ball. He's coming off of two strong performances in which he received no decisions, so let's hope the offense picks him up tonight.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dodgers go flat in loss to Diamondbacks

The best way I can describe the Dodgers' offense Wednesday night - not happening.

Seven hits, only one extra base hit, and six left on meant a tough night at the plate, as the Diamondbacks used a four-run fifth to get the win, 4-1. The Rockies and Giants both won, so the lead in the NL West is 4 and 1/2 and 5 and 1/2, respectively.

Both Chad Billingsley and Max Scherzer were dealing for the first part of the game. In fact, Andre Ethier's double and single were the only hits for either team through the first four innings.

Billingsley looked especially sharp, as he had a perfect game through the first 4 and 1/3 inning. Then, as has been the case many times this year, Bills fell apart in the middle innings.

Miguel Montero started it by doubling to left. The next batter was Brandon Allen, and he absolutely unloaded on a long two-run shot to right, and before you could blink, it was 2-0. Two infield singled lead to RBIs by Stephen Drew and Gerardo Parra to make it 4-0.

The only time the Dodgers awoke their fans with their bats was in the eighth. Juan Pierre pinch-hit for James McDonald with one out and drew a walk. Rafael Furcal had a great bunt for a base hit. After Ethier lined out to first, Manny Ramirez had another chance for an RBI after failing his first three times. He took some advice from new teammate Jim Thome and hit an RBI single.

Matt Kemp also had a tough night after being so red hot lately, as he lined out to right to end the threat, part of his 0-for-4 night. Juan Gutierrez got the Dodgers in order to put end to this clunker.

With all the talk of the Dodgers getting Thome to improve their offense, their regular guys pretty much stunk up the joint. Ethier got three hits, but got no help. Casey Blake got the night off, so maybe hit bat could have been a difference. Who knows.

Two guys who are painful to watch at the plate these days are James Loney and Russell Martin. In August, Loney hit .222 and Martin hit .239. Both only had six extra-base hits. Basically it seems that Loney grounds to second and Martin pops up each time they're up. I hope they can turn it around because the bottom of the order is really suffering with those numbers.

Billingsley ended up going six innings for six hits, four runs (three earned), one walk, and five strikeouts. To be fair, in his four-run fifth, he only gave up a couple of hard hits. The rest were little dribblers that found the perfect spot. It was still concerning that he again seemed to hit a wall in the middle innings, but at least he wasn't pounded.

The final game is tonight, as Jon Garland goes against his old team, as opposed to the other way around, which was the original plan. I guess the offense is due for a good night, as they seem to do good one night, then zip the next.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ethier saves the day with his glove

Andre Ethier has made a habit of letting his bat get wins late in games. Now he can add his glove to this season's highlight reel.

Ethier made a leaping catch against the wall to end the eighth inning, holding a run from scoring and allowing the Dodgers to go on to get the win, 4-3. The Rockies beat the Mets (no surprise there), so the lead is 5 and 1/2 games in the NL West.

The Diamondbacks got on the board in the first against Vicente Padilla, who's vying to stay in the rotation. In fact, the DBacks loaded the bases off of two walks and a bunt single by Justin Upton with none out. Somehow, Padilla only gave up a run on an infield single, as two strikeouts and a groundout made it 1-0.

After all of that, it took Matt Kemp one swing to tie the game up, as he hit his 23rd, and also one in four straight games. I'd say he's locked in right now. The DBacks had to be kicking themselves for blowing such a big chance early to grab command.

Russell Martin and James Loney singled with two outs in the second to start a rally. It worked, as Padilla got in on the act with an RBI single, and it was now 2-1.

Kemp had a bit of a crazy play result in his fortune in the fourth. He lead off the inning by singling and then stealing second. Ethier flied out to right, and Upton tried to get Kemp going back to second. Except, the ball bounced off of him, going all the way into foul territory behind third, allowing him to score and go up, 3-1. Weird stuff.

Padilla got Mark Reynolds swinging to start the sixth, then exited for the lefty Scott Elbert, just called up that day. It wasn't a good move, as Rusty Ryal and John Hester hit RBI singles, and Padilla's good effort was wasted with the score now tied at three.

The Dodgers responded by pulling a play out from earlier this season. Ethier checked his swing in time to draw a bases loaded walk, scoring Juan Pierre to go up 4-3. Remember when it seemed like every game the Dodgers scored this way in the first half? It's been awhile.

Ramon Troncoso got the DBacks in the eighth, but that was with the aid of Ethier's fantastic catch at the wall. Jonathan Broxton worked around a single and stolen base by Upton for his 30th save.

Back to Padilla, and he put together the type of outing he needed to stay starting. He went 5 and 1/3 innings, four hits, one run, two walks, and five strikeouts. He was well on his way to a win had Elbert not given it right back. Joe Torre said the other day that he'd go with a six man rotation with Jon Garland coming in if he had to, and I doubt he'd change his mind about that after last night.

Jim Thome will be in town Wednesday night, as he'll put on the Dodger blue, no doubt looking a little strange in the process. But I'm not complaining. You've got to think Torre will use him at some point, so it will be interesting to see when. If he can be what Matt Stairs is to the Phillies, then it's a great move.

Chad Billingsley will get the call tonight in the third game of a four-game set. He's lost two straight, and is coming off a tough one in Cincinnati. He'll look for his 13th win tonight.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Welcome aboard Jim Thome and Jon Garland

Just in case any of you thought the Dodgers didn't make enough noise at the trade deadline, they more than made up for that on Monday night.

On a pretty crazy night, in the middle of a game no less, the Dodgers traded for both Jim Thome of the White Sox and Jon Garland of the Diamondbacks. Both will play key roles in the run to the postseason.

First, let's look at Thome. It's not everyday a team gets to add a player with 564 home runs, good for 12th on the all-time list. Couple that with Manny Ramirez and his 542, and that's just crazy to look at.

Thome has already indicated that he's not physically able to handle first base, which isn't a surprise. Since he had to waive a no-trade clause, he obviously had to be comfortable with the deal and being strictly a pinch-hitter. The Dodgers now have a fantastic lefty option off the bench late in games.

While Thome brings big power, including 23 homers and 74 RBIs this season, he also bring lots of strikeouts, as in 116 in 345 at-bats. That's something that the Dodgers are willing to live with, as his presence alone creates problems for the opposing team.

Garland is 8-11 with a 4.29 ERA this season. Those numbers aren't bad, but the encouraging sign is that he's been much better since June. A horrible first two months of the season make his numbers look inflated. He's coming off of a win against the Astros where he pitched seven innings of scoreless ball, striking out five.

Joe Torre made an interesting comment, as he said that Garland will be the fifth starter, yet the Dodgers may end up going with six. That sixth will depend on the effectiveness of Vicente Padilla. But, Garland will have a chance to add stability to the back end, something the Dodgers haven't had much luck with this year.

In all, it was a pretty amazing night for the Dodgers, as the news of the trades came one right after another. Two veteran players who've been All-Stars in the past and know how to be a part of winning teams. Plus, the Dodgers will only pay a portion of the $2 million remaining on Thome's salary, and the Diamondbacks will pay the rest of Garland's.

I'd say the Dodgers just got better while barely paying a penny for it.

On a busy night, Dodgers let one slip late

The Dodgers made plenty of noise off the field, as two trades announced late in the game grabbed all the headlines. It was on the field that they let one get away.

The Diamondbacks tied the game on a home run from Justin Upton in the eighth off of George Sherrill, then roughed up James McDonald in the 10th for two more to get the win in 10, 5-3. Both the Rockies and Giants were idle, so the lead in the NL West is 5 and 1/2 games.

With Randy Wolf on the mound, the Dodgers knew they'd get a solid outing. Unfortunately, it was their defense that let them down. Well, it was actually just Manny Ramirez, as he showed in this game why they love him (home run) and why they have to put up with the bad (missed fly ball).

In the second, Mark Reynolds lifted a fly ball to center that Matt Kemp couldn't find at first. When he did, he barely caught it and had to absorb Manny knocking him over trying to help. Probably not what you would call a textbook defensive play, but it worked.

Miguel Montero and Chris Young both singled to get a threat going. With two outs, Augie Ojeda lined one out to left that Manny totally misplayed, resulting in a two-run double and a 2-0 lead for the DBacks.

Ronnie Belliard got his first start on his first day as a Dodger, and he had quite the debut. With one out in the bottom of the second, he lifted one out to left to make it 2-1. Not a bad way to make a first impression.

The sixth is when the Dodgers flexed their muscle. Manny lead off with a solo homer to center, which knotted the game at two. Matt Kemp followed with one of his own, putting the Dodgers ahead, 3-2. With the game getting late in innings, the Dodgers had confidence their bullpen could close this one out.

Well, it worked for an inning anyway. Hong-Chih Kuo struck out a couple in the seventh to keep the lead. Now the Dodgers could use their late-inning formula of Sherrill and Jonathan Broxton to get the win.

Except, Sherrill was finally scored on for the first time as a Dodger. Upton crushed a solo shot with one out in the eighth, and it was now a new game. It had to happen sometime, as Sherrill had been untouchable up until then. It just sucked that it had to tie the game.

The Dodgers really had their best chance to score in the eighth, but Andre Etheir lined to center, and Manny and Kemp struck out. They never threatened the rest of the game.

Broxton did a nice job of getting the DBacks in order to close out regulation, but it was all downhill from there.

McDonald looked great in Cincinnati, but terrible Monday night. Rusty Ryal lead off with a home run to make it 4-3. A double, an error, and an intentional walk loaded the bases with two down, which lead to a walk to Ojeda that made it 5-3. Juan Gutierrez got the Dodgers in order to close it out.

Even with the loss, this game will long be known for the Dodgers trading for both Jim Thome and Jon Garland in the middle of the game. Thome will add a lot of punch off the bench, and Garland can hopefully be the fifth starter they've been looking for. Those are some pretty big additions for practically nothing given up.

As for the game, Rafael Furcal, Orlando Hudson, and James Loney weren't in the starting lineup. Loney rested against a lefty and O-Dog most likely was just getting some rest as his bat continues on a downward spiral.

Raffy's family was unfortunately in the middle of the Southern California wild fires, as they had a busy day evacuating. Thankfully everyone is fine. Joe Torre knew he had a big day, so he was held out.

In the previous two series against the Rockies and Reds, the Dodgers dropped the first one, then turned around on the next two. They'll look to do that again as Vicente Padilla gets the call. Who knows where he fits in now that Garland is here, but a good start tonight can only help.