Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ethier is CLUTCH

A season's worth of walk-off highlights has paid off in the end for Andre Ethier.

The fans have voted Ethier as the recipient of the 2009 Major League Baseball Clutch Performer of the Year. The award honors the person who performed the best with the game on the line.

There was never any doubt.

He led the majors in walk-off hits with six, including four home runs. The four home runs tied a record set by Jimmy Foxx of the Red Sox in 1940 and Roy Sievers of the Washington Senators in 1957.

To say the least, it's obviously a huge accomplishment to tie a record that hasn't been touched for over 50 years. Equally as impressive is the list of names he beat for this award: Albert Pujols, Mariano Rivera, Prince Fielder, Joe Mauer, and Tim Lincecum. Wow.

The month of June was big for Ethier, as he got three of his six walk-offs. He beat the Phillies in consecutive days on June 5 and 6 with a double and homer, respectively. On June 29, a two-run homer beat the Rockies.

In the postseason, he continued to swing a big bat. He ended with a .355 average, three doubles, a triple, three homers, and six RBIs. He did most of his damage in the Division Series against the Cardinals, going 6-for-12.

On the season, he set career highs pretty much across the board: 162 hits, 92 runs, 31 homers, 106 RBIs, 72 walks, and 160 games played.

It's good to see the people who voted for this award give Ethier the credit he deserves. Going up against such powerful names, it's probable that he is the least popular of them all. But, he also had the type of season that will soon change all of that. To the people who voted, I salute you for a job well done.

Combined with Matt Kemp, both players will continue to be the nucleus of the Dodgers' offensive attack for years to come, so Dodger fans should feel very comfortable about that. With both players still under 30-years-old, the best is yet to come.

Congrats, Andre, for quite the memorable season!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Don't expect O-Dog back

It appears as if Orlando Hudson will be one-and-done with the Dodgers.

After being benched during the playoffs in favor of Ronnie Belliard, the chances of Hudson resigning with the Dodgers are slim at best. He will once again test his worth on the free agent market.

There's a couple of reasons for this. The first is obvious - he was benched. To his credit, he didn't make a fuss about this at all, but nonetheless, it was a blow to him. Who knows how well he would have done if he was the starter, but Belliard ended up getting at least a hit in all eight games for a .300 AVG.

The second reason is that Hudson will be one of the top second baseman on the open market, much like last year. His top competition are names like Freddy Sanchez, Felipe Lopez, and, ironically, Belliard. So, it looks like he'll have plenty of options.

Hudson had quite the roller coaster year. His average through May was .332, and he earned an All-Star nod. He ended the year with at .283, including an awful .222 in June and .237 in September. His role of hitting in the second spot went away, along with playing time to Belliard.

The Dodgers seem like they have three choices here. The first two are to resign either Hudson or Belliard to be the starter. The other is to possibly call upon Blake DeWitt again. But, I would think they'd want to resign Hudson or Belliard.

It's never easy to tell where free agents will go, and keep in mind that Hudson went unsigned for a very long time last offseason. There's always a possibility of coming back, but after going from All-Star to benchwarmer in October, it looks like that ship has sailed.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Looking at the NLCS checklist

The Dodgers are now fully into their offseason after suffering another NLCS setback against the Phillies. The chances were there to make this season different from last, but the Phillies were the ones to once again make all the big plays when it mattered.

Like I did for the Division Series against the Cardinals, let's take a look at the checklist for the NLCS and how the Dodgers fared in each category.

1) Win the first two games at home.
No check.

As we all know, the Phillies took Game 1, 8-6. The Dodgers did come back and win Game 2, but a 1-1 split gave the Phillies a chance to sweep three at home. And, of course, they did.

This is the reason I felt the Dodgers needed to win their home games. All the Phillies needed was a slight opening of the door, and they kicked it down. They won both of their home games last year, and eventually cruised to a series win. The Dodgers could not duplicate that.

2) Keep the Phillies in the yard.
No check.

That would be a big, fat no. The Phillies rocked 10 homers in five games, which is their calling card. They hit at least one every game. Six different players recorded one.

And it wasn't just Ryan Howard who did the damage (who had two), it was guys like Shane Victorino and Carlos Ruiz who joined in on the fun. They just couldn't be stopped.

3) Keep Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino off base.
No check.

Victorino did the most damage, hitting .368 with a .478 OBP. Hitting in the second spot of the order in front of all the sluggers, he saw plenty of pitches to hit, and didn't miss a beat. He led the team with seven hits and 16 total bases.

Rollins only hit .227 with a .292 OBP. But, his biggest hit was the walk-off two-run double to win Game 4 off of Jonathan Broxton. For that reason alone, he was a big factor.

4) Get the lead after five innings.
No check.

That only happened once, in Game 4, a game the Dodgers lost anyway. Give the Phillies credit - they made the Dodgers' starters look totally weak.

5) Get to the Phillies' bullpen.
Check or no check, it didn't matter.

The reason is because the Phillies' bullpen in the NLCS was much better than the regular season. It all starts with Brad Lidge, who has been a new man this postseason. Well, maybe an old man, as in the guy who was perfect last season. He pitched 2 and 2/3 scoreless innings, picking up a save.

Chad Durbin, Scott Eyre, and J.A. Happ were all flawless as well, combining for four scoreless innings. The Dodgers were able to get to the bullpen, but it ended up making no difference.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New year, same result: Phillies win the NLCS

If the Dodgers were a better team this year than last, the Phillies are even better than last year's championship squad.

After suffering a heartbreaker in Game 4, the Dodgers looked to be mentally beaten in Game 5. The final tally was a 10-4 win for the Phillies, as they took the NLCS, 4-1.

Vicente Padilla was given the ball by Joe Torre, as he was 1-0 in his two postseason starts with a 0.63 ERA. Well, that didn't exactly work out as planned, as an early three-run homer by Jayson Werth led to only three innings for Padilla.

Cole Hamels was the Phillies' starter, and he got through Rafael Furcal and Ronnie Belliard with ease to open the game. On a 1-2 count, Andre Ethier lifted a home run to right to give the Dodgers an early glimmer of hope, 1-0.

Considering how well Padilla was throwing this October, the Dodgers had to at least temporarily feel good about taking the series back to Los Angeles. But, that tune would quickly change, and it would never go back.

Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino were both retired to open the bottom of the first. Then, as has been the case too much this series, walks killed the Dodgers. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard drew a couple to set up Werth. Like they've done all season, the Phillies came through in a big spot, as Werth's three-run shot made it 3-1.

James Loney kept the Dodgers close with a solo homer to right to lead off the second, and it was now 3-2. But, a Pedro Feliz homer gave the run right back at 4-2.

Werth again caused some damage with a single to start the fourth. Raul Ibanez quickly doubled him home, and it was 5-2. That was it for Padilla, as Ramon Troncoso was called upon to limit the damage. A walk to Carlos Ruiz (who seemed like Babe Freakin' Ruth in this series) and Jimmy Rollins getting beaned loaded the bases with two down.

Out went Troncoso, and in came George Sherrill, as Torre was desperate to keep the game close. Well, Victorino was drilled, scoring Ibanez to make it 6-2. At least Utley struck out to end the inning.

Orlando Hudson made what was likely his last appearance with the Dodgers by pinch-hitting and blasting a solo homer to left in the fifth, and the Phillies were now up 6-3. A double by Furcal and a walk to Belliard gave the Dodgers a good chance to get the game close.

With J.A. Happ in, Ethier hit an easy fly ball to center for two down. In stepped Manny Ramirez, who was already getting crushed by everyone for showering before the end of Game 4. The Manny of last year would have delivered with a big hit.

The Manny of this year? Not so much. A check swing groundout to Chad Durbin ending the inning, along with any chance the Dodgers had of winning.

The rest of the game belonged to the Phillies, save for an RBI single from Matt Kemp in the eighth. Victorino hit a two-run homer, and Werth added his second one of the game, in addition to Rollins scoring on a wild pitch. The Phillies got a lead and pounded on the Dodgers, while the boys in blue could do nothing about it.

So what exactly went wrong this series? The starting pitching is a good place to begin. Padilla was brilliant in Game 2, Randy Wolf pretty good in Game 4, and that was it. Clayton Kershaw in Game 1, Hiroki Kuroda in Game 3, and Padilla in Game 5 were terrible, and the Phillies took advantage of it all the way.

Things weren't a whole lot better on the offensive side. Loney and Belliard were the only ones to hit over .300. Furcal hit .143 and Casey Blake a pathetic .105. In Blake's case, he looked like he was in slow motion at the plate the whole time, most likely because he never really recovered from some injuries at the end of the regular season.

Then there's the Manny factor. It would be unfair to expect him to go on the tear he did last year, because that's not realistic. But in these last five games, he hit .263 and his only extra-base hit was a two-run homer in Game 1. The Dodgers really needed him to step up. Like his groundout in the fifth, he was a step behind each time.

Now the Dodgers must absorb the lessons learned from another NLCS exit and once again look to get over the hump next season. The ending was a letdown, but let's not forget all of the incredible moments this season. From the walkoffs to the sweep of the Cardinals in the NLDS, there were plenty of reasons to cheer this season.

Not even these last few games can change any of that.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Colletti's contract extended

Ned Colletti received a long-term contract extension the other day, putting an end to talks of what will happen once the season is over. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The higher-ups with the Dodgers did the smart thing here, as Colletti should be commended for his stellar work as general manager. They've reached the postseason in three of his four years, including back-to-back NL West division titles.

Sure, it didn't start off so well. His deals with Jason Schmidt and Andruw Jones are legendary for how bad they were. Schmidt battled a million injuries, winning only three games in three years, and Jones was so atrociously bad, it may have been the worst free agent signing in history.

But, there's also been plenty of good deals. Trading for Manny Ramirez last year injected the entire organization with a jolt of excitement. He also signed Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, and Randy Wolf recently, and they've been great this season. Convincing Joe Torre to switch coasts was a huge move as well.

During this season, he seemed to push all the right buttons. He either signed or traded for George Sherrill, Jim Thome, Vicente Padilla, Ronnie Belliard, and Jon Garland. They've all contributed in various ways.

At the end of the day, what is perhaps the smartest move he made? That would be doing nothing at all with his young stars. Matt Kemp, Russell Martin, Andre Ethier, James Loney, Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, and Jonathan Broxton are all huge pieces of the pie. Who knows how many times he's been tempted to trade them for veterans, but he's done the right thing in standing pat.

The bottom line is the the Dodgers have made big strides in recent years, and Colletti has been right in the middle of all of that. He deserves the extension he just signed.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Game 4 stunner as Rollins walks-off on Broxton

The Dodgers had it all going their way on Monday night. They battled back from a 2-0 hole after the first, got Randy Wolf to pitch effectively into the sixth, had the bullpen keep the lead safe, and turned the game over to Jonathan Broxton for the save.

All it took was one swing by Jimmy Rollins to flush all of those good vibes down the drain.

With only one out to go, Rollins smoked a fastball into the gap in right-center field that scored two runs, and the Phillies won Game 4, 5-4. The Phillies now have a commanding 3-1 lead in the NLCS.

How did the Dodgers go from guaranteeing a return to Los Angeles to wobbling off the field? A couple of reasons stand out. The first is Broxton's inability to shut down the bottom of the Phillies' lineup. Part of that was due to a four-pitch walk of pinch-hitter Matt Stairs. That's the same guy who torched Broxton last year with a two-run homer in Game 4, breaking a 5-5 tie.

After the walk, Carlos Ruiz, who somehow has becoming a huge thorn in the Dodgers' side to his credit, was beaned on the first pitch. Greg Dobbs softly lined out to Casey Blake at third before Rollins' heroics.

The other reason the Dodgers couldn't taste victory can be traced back to the first inning and home plate umpire Ted Barrett. Rollins singled on the first pitch he saw against Wolf to lead off. Shane Victorino and Chase Utley both popped up for two down.

Then came big Ryan Howard, who we all know as the guy that has an RBI in every postseason game this year. He's really good, and Barrett made sure it stayed that way.

To say that Wolf was squeezed would be an understatement. A couple of clear strikes were missed, running the count to 3-1, before Howard hit a two-run shot. The rest of the night wasn't a whole lot better, as the strike zone was so inconsistent, one has to wonder how in the world this guy got such an important assignment in such a big game.

I'm not one to point the finger at umpires and put all of the blame on them for losses. But with that said, Barrett had one of the worst nights behind the plate in a big game that I can remember. And that's the reality of the situation.

With the Phillies up 2-0 after the first, the Dodgers had an uphill climb, as the Phillies scored 13 straight runs dating back to Game 3. The fourth inning is when they finally woke up.

Matt Kemp was on base from a walk with two down. Manny Ramirez singled to put two runners on. James Loney came through with an RBI single to make it 2-1, and Russell Martin did the same a couple batters later to tie the game.

Kemp had been struggling the first three games, but continued his good night in the fifth. With two outs, he hit a solo homer to dead center for the 3-2 lead, and business was picking up.

Both teams exchanged runs in the seventh. Blake hit an RBI single to shallow right to score Manny to go up 4-2. Following a Shane Victorino triple, Utley singled him home to make it 4-3. It could have been worse, but Manny caught a sinking liner by Raul Ibanez to end the inning, which was actually a really good play.

The Dodgers had a chance to tack on another run in the ninth against Brad Lidge. Rafael Furcal singled, stole second, and took third on a wild pitch. Andre Ethier was then called out on a pitch clearly outside, which further added to Barrett's terrible night.

Ronald Belisario, Hong-Chih Kuo, and George Sherrill all got big outs in 2 and 1/3 innings of no runs. But Broxton, who had 36 saves in the regular season and two in this year's playoffs, simply could not close the door.

The Dodgers now have the unenviable task of facing Cole Hamels, Pedro Martinez, and Cliff Lee in the next three games. Of course, they need to get wins in the first two to get there. It's a tough road, but the Dodgers have no choice.

Vicente Padilla will be given the ball in Game 5 on Wednesday night, which is the right call. He's been phenomenal in his two starts, so Joe Torre has to go with his hottest pitcher. The Dodgers did get some runs off of Hamels, so it's a winnable game.

It's never an easy game in Philly, but we'll see what the Dodgers are made of now. At least Barrett won't be behind the plate.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Phillies dismantle Dodgers in taking NLCS lead

Hiroki Kuroda was supposed to come back from his neck injury to provide a lift.

Well, he provided a lift alright... to the wrong team.

The Phillies looked more than happy to step in against Kuroda and pound the living daylights out of him. After taking a 6-0 lead in two innings, the Phillies added more against the bullpen in taking an easy one, 11-0. They now have a 2-1 lead in the NLCS, with Game 4 Monday.

After Cliff Lee shut down the top of the Dodgers' order to begin the game, it was batting practice time for his team. With one out, Shane Victorino singled and stole second. Chase Utley followed with a single for runners on the corners.

Next up was Ryan Howard, and he worked a full count. He then lined a triple into the right field corner to score two runs. Jayson Werth followed that up with a towering two-run homer to center, and it was quickly 4-0.

Looking for any sort of sign that he could get outs, Kuroda tried to go back out in the second but again got shelled. Carlos Ruiz doubled to lead off, and went to third on Lee's sacrifice. An RBI double by Jimmy Rollins was all Joe Torre could take.

Scott Elbert got his first taste of postseason ball, and he was pretty much miserable himself. Consecutive walks to Victorino and Rollins, including a wild pitch, set up an RBI groundout from Howard to make it 6-0. Chad Billingsley came on to end the inning by striking out Werth.

With a six-run lead, Lee was well on his way to a win. With the way he was throwing, he could have had a 1-0 lead and still got the win. He was everything the Phillies hoped for an more by trading for him during the season, as he put up eight innings of three hits and 10 strikeouts. For good measure, he threw in a single at the plate as well.

Billingsley had a chance to show that down the line, he could get a start. Everything started off well, as he retired 9 of the first 10 hitters he faced.

But, as has been the problem with him for much of the year, he hit a wall. With two outs in the fifth and facing the bottom of the order, he walked Raul Ibanez. A seemingly meaningless walk turned into an RBI triple by Pedro Feliz and an RBI single from Ruiz. Just like that, Billingsley reminded everyone why it's hard to trust him pitching consistently.

Not that it mattered, because for the second straight game, the bats were in hibernation. The last two games have seen them gather seven hits for one run (and to think they actually won the last game). I know Pedro Martinez and Lee were pitching really well, but they have to find a way to do better than that.

A couple of guys that need to get their bats going are Rafael Furcal and Matt Kemp. Combined, they're 1-for-14 with one walk the last two games. Ouch. Needless to say, that's not going to cut it. They both his high in the order, so they have to be more productive.

About the only positive from this game was that Manny Ramirez went 2-for-3, with his hits coming up the middle and to right. That means he wasn't trying to pull everything out of the park on every pitch. It's a good sign.

As for the rest of the team, they've bounced back all season long from getting beat, and that's what needs to happen now. Last year's team may not have been able to come back from this, but I believe this year's version can. Like I said before, they just need more production from a couple of their big bats.

Randy Wolf gets the ball tonight, and he hasn't pitched since Game 1 of the Division Series against the Cardinals on October 7. That start didn't go so well, and that can't happen tonight. He's a veteran who used to pitch for the Phillies, so the scene shouldn't faze him.

A loss tonight would mean the Dodgers would be down 3-1, and would have to run the table against Cole Hamels, Pedro, and Lee again. So yes, getting a win tonight is a must.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Dodgers rally against the 'pen to win Game 2

Pedro Martinez mowed down the Dodgers through seven innings in a flashback to his Cy Young days.

Luckily for the Dodgers, he's older now, and got yanked.

Down 1-0 entering the eighth, the Dodgers rallied for two against five Phillies' pitchers to squeak one out, 2-1. The series is now tied at one with the next three games scheduled for Philadelphia starting Sunday night.

The Phillies had a chance to take full control of this series, as Pedro was just untouchable. He picked up right where he left off the last time he pitched in the postseason, which was Game 3 of the 2004 World Series against the Cardinals. For those of you that have forgotten, that was the year the Red Sox finally broke their curse.

Vicente Padilla, on the other hand, was just as electric. He more than justified getting a Game 2 start. He lasted 7 and 2/3 innings, giving up four hits, one run, one walk, and six strikeouts. Combined with his seven innings of shutout ball against the Cardinals in the NLDS, he's been absolutely outstanding this postseason.

The one blemish for Padilla came in the fourth. After Chase Utley grounded out to first, Ryan Howard came up. Howard took an outside breaking ball and hammered it out to right-center, putting the Phillies up 1-0.

I would love to talk about the Dodgers' offense against Pedro, but there's just not much to say. They only managed two measly hits, which were a bloop single to center by Russell Martin and a single by Matt Kemp off of Pedro's glove. And that, my friends, is it.

After James Loney flew out to deep center to end the seventh, and with Pedro's pitch count at 87, Charlie Manuel turned the slim lead over to his bullpen. As they've done all season long, it turned into an adventure.

It all started when Casey Blake, who had been 0-for-7 and looked awful at this point, singled off of Pedro Feliz's glove at third to greet Chan Ho Park. With Juan Pierre pinch-running, Ronnie Belliard managed to push a bunt past both Park and Howard for two on.

Here's where the Phillies' defense let them down. Martin grounded one to Feliz, who fired to Utley for the forceout. For some reason, Utley then rushed his throw to first, and once again it was nowhere near Howard. Pierre came around to tie the game at one.

Scott Eyre came in, and Jim Thome singled. Ryan Madson then came in, and he walked Rafael Furcal to load the bases. All Kemp needed was at least a sac-fly, but he struck out for two down.

Now J.A. Happ was in to face Andre Ethier, who found himself quickly down 0-2. Ethier battled back for a full count, and walked on a low pitch to score Martin, making it 2-1. Manny Ramirez had a quiet day, and he popped up to end the inning.

Jonathan Broxton faced the top of the order, but he had no problems. Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino grounded out, and Chase Utley flew out on a liner to Ethier to end it.

Needless to say, this was a huge win for the Dodgers. Had they lost, it would have been close to impossible to beat the Phillies four out of the next five. Now, it becomes a best-of-five series, with the Phillies grabbing home field.

The Dodgers closed out the Cardinals with ease to end the first round, so they should have plenty of confidence in getting home field back. Then again, the Phillies should feel good as well, as they were only a couple of good innings away from being up 2-0.

Hiroki Kuroda makes his return to the rotation on Sunday. He'll need to be on top of his game, as Cliff Lee gets the ball for the Phillies. The Dodgers managed to score on Cole Hamels, so it's not out of the question to get some runs off of Lee. Still, the Dodgers will need to put together a complete effort to get the win.

Phillies go deep in taking Game 1

For much of the beginning of Thursday night's Game 1 of the NLCS, it looked as if James Loney's solo homer would be the only score of the game.

And then the fifth inning came, and Clayton Kershaw and Cole Hamels got rocked.

Unfortunately for the Dodgers, the Phillies out-slugged them, as a pair of three-run homers proved to be the difference in winning 8-6. The Phillies are now up 1-0 in the best-of-seven series.

The Kershaw-Hamels matchup was living up to it's billing through the first four innings. A solo homer to start the second by Loney gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead, and with the way Kershaw was throwing (one hit and two walks through four), it looked like the Dodgers may squeak it out.

But in the fifth, the wheels fell off of Kershaw's bus. It was pretty much your basic disaster, as Kershaw showed why it's hard to completly rely on a 21-year-old making such a big start. Raul Ibanez singled to start, took second on a wild pitch, and Pedro Feliz walked.

Having trouble locating the strike zone, Kershaw basically grooved one over the plate to Carlos Ruiz, who made him pay by cranking a three-run homer, making it 3-1. Still in the fifth, Kershaw stayed on to face Ryan Howard with two down, and Howard made him pay with a two-run double, and it was 5-1.

The Phillies now had all the momentum, as Hamels was mowing down the Dodgers with ease. As has been the case all year long, the Dodgers never quit, and put together a big inning themselves.

It started with a ground rule double by Russell Martin leading off. Rafael Furcal singled Martin over to third with one down. Andre Ethier hit a slow grounder that Jimmy Rollins threw into his dugout after getting the forceout at second, scoring a run and advancing Ethier to second.

Now it was Manny Ramirez's turn to show that he still can carry a team. In one swing, he answered all of that, hitting a two-run homer off of a changeup to make it 5-4, and Dodger Stadium was rocking.

The Dodgers would continue to get close, but could never quite get over the hump and grab the lead. In the sixth, two singles by Loney and Ronnie Belliard and a walk to pinch-hitter Jim Thome loaded the bases with two outs. Furcal had a chance to break through, but grounded out to end the inning.

Ronald Belisario and Hong-Chih Kuo were great in relief, and still only down by a run in the eighth, George Sherrill was given the ball to face the heart of the Phillies' order. For the first time as a Dodger, he fell flat on his face. A three-run shot by Ibanez gave them an 8-4 lead.

Needing another comeback, the Dodgers still fought back. With Ryan Madson in, Loney and Belliard again singled, and Martin hit an RBI single to make it 8-5. Raffy hit a deep sac-fly to right to make it 8-6.

Ethier singled to put Juan Pierre on third, and Manny again had a chance to make something happen. It didn't happen this time, as he grounded weakly to third.

Brad Lidge came on for the save and got a big double play from Casey Blake, who was 0-for-5, to put the game to bed.

At the end of the night, the Dodgers can both feel good for fighting back, and kick themselves for leaving 10 on base. The difference in this one was that with men on, the Phillies came through. The Dodgers left six of those men on with two outs in scoring position. At this point of the season, that won't get it done.

Kershaw will have better nights, but his final line was pretty ugly: 4 and 2/3 innings, four hits, five runs, five walks, and three strikeouts. If you saw the game, he was cruising along just fine, but the fifth just killed him.

The plan is simple today - get a win at all costs. I just can't see the Dodgers having much of a chance if they lose both home games, especially with the following three in Philadelphia.

Vicente Padilla will get the start against an old Dodger, Pedro Martinez. Two veterans who have found a second life this season going at it, so it'll be fun to watch.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dodgers announce NLCS roster

The Dodgers have made their roster for the NLCS official, which you can read by clicking here.

There are no offensive changes, as Doug Mientkiewicz once again will be playing the role of cheerleader, while Jim Thome will be the primary pinch-hitter. The reserves of Orlando Hudson, Juan Pierre, Juan Castro, Mark Loretta, and Brad Ausmus all return.

On the pitching side, Jeff Weaver and Jon Garland will be sitting, while Scott Elbert and Hiroki Kuroda made the cut. Kuroda has already been announced as starting Game 3, and with Chad Billingsley able to be a long reliever, Garland had no roll.

Elbert's name is a surprise, but considering the Phillies have big lefties in Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez, and Matt Stairs off the bench, it shouldn't be. I can see Elbert getting called upon to get a big out early in the game, as Hong-Chih Kuo and George Sherrill will handle the late innings.

Weaver has the flu this week, so that could be a factor in him missing the roster. Even if he was healthy, I think Elbert would have made it over him regardless.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dodgers announce NLCS rotation

I'm watching Sportscenter right now, and the Dodgers have just released their starters for the first four games of the NLCS against the Phillies:

Game 1: Clayton Kerhsaw
Game 2: Vicente Padilla
Game 3: Hiroki Kuroda
Game 4: Randy Wolf

I thought Wolf would go in Game 2, but Joe Torre will go with another hot hand in Padilla. Both Kershaw and Padilla have the hard stuff that is so valuable to win in October.

I'm also surprised Wolf isn't going in Game 3, but maybe Torre wants to give the ball in Game 4 to someone he can rely on to either extend the series or end it altogether. Wolf is that guy.

We'll see how Kuroda is, but he's been hurt before this season a couple of times and bounced back just fine, so I'm sure he's capable of doing the same now.

Kershaw gets Game 1 nod, Kuroda possibly Game 4

Clayton Kershaw has been named the Game 1 starter for the NLCS against the Phillies. He gets the call over Randy Wolf, who will most likely go Game 2.

Joe Torre has decided to ride the hot hand, and the 21-year-old Kershaw is quickly becoming one of the major's hottest young stars. He battled Adam Wainwright in Game 2 of the Division Series and ended up with a no-decision in 6 and 2/3 innings, surrendering two runs. Most importantly, he kept the Dodgers within striking distance, which they took advantage of by winning in the ninth.

It's the right call to make, as it's hard to ignore somehow who has thrown 185 strikeouts in 171 innings in the regular season. We all saw how the hard-throwing Vicente Padilla shut down the Cardinals last round, so the thought is that Kershaw can also be overpowering.

Looking ahead, Hiroki Kuroda looks like he could be healthy enough to start Game 4 in Philadelphia. Kuroda's been battling a herniated disk in his neck, knocking him out of the Division Series. If he's back, that's a big lift for the Dodgers, as he proved last season that he can be very effective in the postseason.

How the Dodgers can beat the Phillies

The NLCS presents a fun matchup between the National League's two best teams. The Dodgers are red-hot after sweeping the Cardinals, to the shock of many. The Phillies won two tough games in Coors Field over the Rockies to advance.

Last year, the Phillies disposed of the Dodgers, 4-1. The Dodgers had a chance to even the series at 2-2, but Matt Stairs' pinch-hit, two-run homer off of Jonathan Broxton in the eighth inning broke a 5-5 tie, pretty much ending the series right there. I'm not sure that ball has landed yet.

For the Dodgers, the plan is simple: get revenge for last year and get back to their first World Series since the infamous 1988 season. The Phillies want to repeat as champs.

Here are five keys to the Dodgers playing into November:

1) Win the first two games at home.
The reason is simple: unless Cliff Lee comes back on short rest, he won't pitch until Game 3. Therefore, it'll be Cole Hamels, and someone like J.A. Happ or Pedro Martinez.

The Phillies won the first couple of home games last year, and it obviously gave them plenty of momentum. Hamels has historically owned the Dodgers, winning both games in last year's LCS and a complete game shutout on June 4 in Dodger Stadium. Getting a win over him in Game 1 would be huge.

If Lee truly doesn't go until the series goes back east, then Randy Wolf will have an advantage over the other Phillies' options. With the format 2-3-2, winning both at home would guarantee home games in Games 6 and 7 at the very least.

2) Keep the Phillies in the yard.
The Phillies are tied for second in the majors for home runs at 224 (Yankees are first at 244). Somehow, they actually have more homers on the road than at home, 116-108. Either way, they can mash. With Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, and Raul Ibanez in the lineup, it's no secret why.

That's not to say that the Phillies hit home runs and nothing else, because they have the talent to win in other ways. But, shutting down the long ball will allow the Dodgers to use their great defense to keep games under control.

3) Keep Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino off base.
After hitting a pathetic .207 through June, Rollins ended up at .250. While that's still bad for a leadoff hitter, it shows he at least got better as the season wore on. Victorino made the All-Star team with a .292 average.

Both men combined to steal 56 bases. If they are kept off base, it limits the chances of the Phillies changing games with one swing. Solo homers are much easier to manage than three-run shots. The first two hitters of the game will set the course for how the series could go.

4) Get the lead after five innings.
As the Cardinals found out, the Dodgers can realistically turn games into five-inning affairs. Arms like Ronald Belisario, Hong-Chih Kuo, George Sherrill, and Jonathan Broxton can all get outs at any point.

If the starters can find a way to get a lead going into the middle-to-late innings, then the Dodgers have to feel very good about getting wins.

5) Get to the Phillies' bullpen.
It's no secret what kind of an adventure the closing situation has been for the Phillies. Brad Lidge went from 41-41 in save situations last season to 11 blown saves and a 7.21 ERA this year. Ryan Madson hasn't been much better, blowing six saves in 16 chances. Needless to say, it's been ugly.

Lidge did get a couple of saves against the Rockies, so that should help his confidence. But, it's hard to imagine anyone on the Dodgers being scared of facing the bullpen. If games are close late, the advantage greatly swings towards the men in blue.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

NLCS schedule

The times have been set, so here's the official schedule for the NLCS:

Game 1: Thursday, October 15 @ Los Angeles, 8:07 ET
Game 2: Friday, October 16 @ Los Angeles, 4:07 ET
Game 3: Sunday, October 18 @ Philadelphia, 8:07 ET
Game 4: Monday, October 19 @ Philadelphia, 8:07 ET
*Game 5: Wednesday, October 21 @ Philadelphia, 8:07 ET
*Game 6: Friday, October 23 @ Los Angeles, 8:07 ET
*Game 7: Saturday, October 24 @ Los Angeles, 8:07 ET

* If necessary

All games will be shown on TBS.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dodgers vs. Phillies in the NLCS

The Phillies just finished off the Rockies with a close 5-4 victory. It'll now be a rematch of last year's NLCS in which the Phillies beat the Dodgers 4-1. This time around, the Dodgers have home-field advantage, which was big last season.

First game is Thursday at 7:30 ET, 4:30 PT. Starting pitchers will be announced soon, though my guess is Randy Wolf vs. Cole Hamels, mostly because Cliff Lee pitched tonight.

Looking at the NLDS checklist

As the Dodgers await the winner of the Phillies-Rockies series (currently at 2-1 Phillies), let's take a look back at my checklist for beating the Cardinals, and how well the Dodgers did in each area.

1) Get at least a split at home.

In fact, it was better than a check, because they won both. Granted, they were handed a gift error in Game 2 because of Matt Holliday's error, but they still needed big at-bats from Casey Blake, Ronnie Belliard, and Mark Loretta to get the win.

The Dodgers took all of the momentum in this series by taking both games, and the Cardinals never recovered.

2) Get to the bullpen.

In Games 1 and 3, they chased Chris Carpenter and Joel Pineiro early. In Game 2, Adam Wainwright was dominant, but Ryan Franklin could not get the final out after Holliday's big error.

3) Let their own bullpen go to work.

Look at these stats:
Game 1 - 5 and 1/3 innings, one run
Game 2 - 2 and 1/3 innings, no runs
Game 3 - 2 innings, one run

That's a total of 9 and 2/3 innings and two runs. So much credit goes to names like Ronald Belisario, Hong-Chih Kuo, George Sherrill, and Jonathan Broxton. All four are flamethrowers who are capable of getting big outs at any time.

4) Either Pujols or Holliday have to be contained.

Pujols was held to a .300 average and only one RBI. The Dodgers made sure he did not beat them. Holliday's error has already become legendary, and at the plate, he hit a measly .167 with a solo homer.

So in the end, both men were more than contained. A major bonus.

5) Manny needs to be the shinning star.
Check, because of Game 3.

Through the first two games, Manny was 2-for-8 with a double. But Game 3 is the type of game he was re-signed for. He went 3-for-5 with two doubles and two RBIs. His first inning RBI double set the tone for the rest of the night. At the same time, he silenced many critics that he couldn't catch up to the fastball anymore.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Another year, another NLDS sweep!!!

Ladies and gentlemen, the Dodgers are going nowhere anytime soon.

For the second straight season, the Dodgers came into the Division Series as the underdogs, and they once again turned doubters into believers by getting a sweep. This year it was three straight over the Cardinals after beating them on Saturday night, 5-1.

The Dodgers jumped on Joel Pineiro in the first, as they established that they would be the aggressors. Matt Kemp legged out an infield single to short with one out. After Andre Ethier flied out, Manny Ramirez lined a first-pitch fastball for an RBI double to go up 1-0.

With the way Vicente Padilla pitched, who knew at the time that getting one run of support would be enough. It didn't start off easily, as Ryan Ludwick and Albert Pujols hit singles with one down. Matt Holliday grounded out, but Colby Rasmus walked to load the bases. It was looking like the Cardinals might break through.

But in what was most likely the turning point of this game, Yadier Molina weakly grounded out to short, and the threat was over. The air was already getting sucked out of Busch Stadium, and the Dodgers made sure it stayed that way.

In the third, Raffy singled with one out, which added to his .500 average these last three games. With two outs, Ethier crushed one to deep right for a two-run homer, making it 3-0. Ethier also hit .500 to go along with two home runs.

The next inning brought another run, and again with two outs. Ronnie Belliard singled to lead off. Following two groundouts, Furcal hit an RBI single down the left field line to get the lead up to 4-0. Little by little, the Dodgers increased their lead and kept the Cards in check.

With Padilla still dealing, Ethier tripled with... you guessed it, two outs in the seventh. He scored on Manny's RBI single, and it was 5-0. Manny ended up 3-for-5 with 3 RBIs, silencing critics saying he wouldn't hit this postseason. So much for that!

Padilla was pulled to start the eighth, as Joe Torre went with the George Sherrill-Jonathan Broxton combination to close it out. Sherrill walked Julio Lugo with one out, then got Ryan Ludwick to fly out.

Torre went with Broxton to get Pujols with two down, but Pujols lined an RBI single into right, cutting the lead to 5-1. Holliday had one last chance to atone for a lousy series, but he instead flew out lazily to Ethier in right, ending the inning.

Broxton stayed on to finish it off in the ninth. Molina got an infield single with one out, but Rick Ankiel pinch-hit and struck out to end the game and the season for the Cards.

There were many heroes for the Dodgers this game, but who would have thought Padilla would lead the charge? Quite simply put, he was brilliant. He went seven innings for four hits, no runs, one walk, and four strikeouts. His fastball and control was top-notch all night. Wow, was he nasty when it counted the most.

This was a hard game for the Dodgers to win, as the Cardinals rightfully should have been sitting at a 1-1 tie with a chance to win two at home. Once again, the Dodgers found ways to get a win against a good team, and the Cardinals are one of the best.

Looking ahead, the Dodgers will now take on the winner of the Phillies-Rockies series. That's currently tied at one each, with Game 3 snowed out on Saturday. It'll be pushed back to Sunday night, with Game 4 Monday, and Game 5 on Tuesday if needed.

The Dodgers will now wait until Thursday, October 15 for Game 1 of the National League Championship series. Keep in mind, they'll have home-field advantage this round as well. It's a 2-3-2 format.

For now, sit back, relax, and enjoy scouting the competition the next few days. Then get ready for the Dodgers to resume their quest for a ring on Thursday!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dodgers get a Holliday gift to win Game 2

Matt Holliday squeaked the door open in the ninth, and the Dodgers kicked it down.

Facing a bases empty, two-out situation in the last inning, the Dodgers took advantage of a dropped liner by Holliday to walk-off with the win in Game 2, 3-2. The Dodgers lead the best-of-five series 2-0, with Game 3 Saturday in St. Louis.

It was quite the improbable win for the Dodgers, as they were baffled for the first eight innings by the wicked stuff of Adam Wainwright. Unlike Chris Carpenter the night before, Wainwright was on the money all night long, giving up only a solo homer to Andre Ethier in eight strong innings.

Still, it was the Dodgers who once again sent the home fans home happy with another dramatic, comeback win. Somehow, someway, time and again they find a way to get the win. It's been unbelievable to watch all year long.

Clayton Kershaw started for the Dodgers, and he got through the Cardinals' order with ease to start the game. But, to start the second, Holliday sent a hanging breaking ball just over the left field wall to go up 1-0.

The Dodgers didn't get their first hit until the fourth, but it was a good one. With two outs, Ethier cranked one out to center for his first postseason homer to tie it 1-1. He hit a miserable .188 last postseason, so like Matt Kemp last night, it was great to see him break through in October.

Each team would go down easily in the fifth, provide a little spark in the sixth, but couldn't come through. To start the seventh, Mark DeRosa singled to center. Colby Rasmus then hit a long double off the center field wall to score DeRosa, going up 2-1.

The problem for the Cardinals on that play was that as DeRosa scored, James Loney made a leaping catch to cut off the throw, then fire to Casey Blake at third to tag Rasmus out advancing by a mile. Tony LaRusa was visibly upset at Rasmus for such a baserunning blunder, and it came back to bite them in the end.

Ethier, Manny Ramirez, and Loney went down in order in the eighth, and hope was looking lost. The best thing that could have happened for the Dodgers was that Troy Glaus pinch-hit for Wainwright and flew out to center to end the eighth.

With Wainwright out of there, Trevor Miller came on to get Ethier popping up to start the ninth. Closer Ryan Franklin then got Manny to fly out, and the air was sucked out of Dodger Stadium.

It was up to Loney to keep the game going, and he hit a liner out to Holliday in right. Holliday looked like he was unsure how to make the easy play, and it eventually hit his... um, midsection, putting Loney on second. Juan Pierre then came in to pinch-run.

Blake had a long at-bat in which he worked a walk, further showcasing how valuable he is to the team. With a chance to justify his starting position over Orlando Hudson at second, Ronnie Belliard hit an RBI single up the middle, knotting the game at two.

The Dodgers weren't done yet, as Russell Martin walked on four pitches to load the bases with two down. Joe Torre sent up old reliable to pinch-hit, Mark Loretta. In the biggest moment of his 15-year career, Loretta hit a soft walk-off single to center, giving the Dodgers the game.

The reality of this game is that the series should be tied at one. If Holliday makes the routine play, then the Cardinals grabbed some momentum back. Now, they have to find a way to hold the fort down at home before going for the win next week in L.A.

Who knows how this series will end up, but the Dodgers are obviously in cruise control, needing only one of the next three. Now we all can see just how important home-field advantage is in the postseason. All of those wins early in the season paid off tonight.

For the Dodgers, it's time to smell blood and put the game away this weekend. Getting a win in St. Louis would show how they are for real. The Cardinals are still a very good team, as they were 46-35 at home. But the Dodgers were 45-36 on the road, one of the best in the NL.

Vicente Padilla has gotten the call to start Game 3, and he'll go against Joel Pineiro. Padilla is 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA in seven starts (eight appearances) with the Dodgers, while Pineiro has struggled since August. The Dodgers have to like the pitching matchup and their chances to wrap it up on Saturday.

Kemp's blast leads Dodgers to Game 1 win

Before Randy Wolf could even blink, he found himself in a worst-case scenario: bases loaded, nobody out, and Game 1 of the Division Series against the Cardinals looking to be a disaster.

Fortunately for him, he only surrendered one run. And fortunately for the Dodgers, Matt Kemp put the Dodgers ahead to stay in no time.

Kemp cranked a pitch right down the heart of the plate for a two-run homer in the bottom of the first off of Chris Carpenter, and the Dodgers found ways to hang on all game as took the win, 5-3.

It certainly wasn't looking good in the first, as Skip Schumaker walked and Brendan Ryan hit a ground rule double to left. Joe Torre didn't even hesitate to put four fingers up and walk Albert Pujols to get to Matt Holliday. It worked, as Holliday struck out looking.

The Cardinals did manage one run, though it probably shouldn't have happened. Ryan Ludwick blooped one into center that Ronnie Belliard tried to make a backwards catch on. He missed, though Kemp should have called him off and made the play himself. Belliard made up for it by starting a sweet double play off of Yadier Molina to end it.

The Dodgers were fortunate to only be down one, and Rafael Furcal added to the momentum with a single leading off. That's when Kemp crushed one out to center for the 2-1 lead. After driving in only one run in eight games last postseason, it was great to see him get off to such a great start this time around.

What followed the first inning was basically a collection of a lot of hits, shaky pitching, yet even shakier hitting with runners in scoring position. Believe it or not, both teams combined to leave an amazing 30 men on base, far surpassing the previous record of 22 for the Division Series back in 1995. It was just one of those nights.

In the third, the Dodgers increased their lead a bit. Andre Ethier was hit in the foot to lead off, and Manny Ramirez drew a walk. Casey Blake hit an RBI single, making it 3-1. A walk to Russell Martin loaded the bases with two outs, but Wolf popped up.

Wolf gave one back in the fourth, as that would ultimately be his last inning. A walk to the eighth hitter Colby Rasmus set up an RBI double from Schumaker, and it was 3-2. An intentional walk to Pujols again gave Holliday a chance, only this time Wolf beaned him.

That was it for Wolf, as Torre called on Jeff Weaver to get the final out. It sure was a close one, as Ludwick just barely missed a surefire three-run hit down the left field line, landing foul. Ludwick then bounced back to the mound to end it. Talk about baseball being a game of inches.

The Dodgers tacked on a couple more in the fifth and sixth. Belliard singled, Martin walked, and Juan Pierre sacrificed them both over. In a tough at-bat against Carpenter, Raffy eventually hit a sac-fly RBI to right to make it 4-2.

The sixth was another wild inning, which saw the Dodgers again threatened to break the game open. Martin got the only RBI, as he was beaned with the bases juiced to make it 5-2. Jim Thome had a chance for a big hit, but struck out.

After Ronald Belisario got the first 1-2-3 inning of the night for either side in the sixth, the Dodgers turned to Hong-Chih Kuo, George Sherrill, and Jonathan Broxton to close it out. And that's exactly what happened.

Kuo did give up a couple of two-out singles, but struck out pinch-hitter Troy Glaus to end the threat. Sherrill got two outs, beaned Schumaker, then Broxton was fortunately able to get Pujols to ground out to close the eighth. Broxton gave up an RBI double by Mark DeRosa in the ninth, but struck out Rick Ankiel for the game's final out.

It was quite an interesting ride, as the teams also combined to set a nine-inning Division Series record for length of game at 3 hours and 52 minutes. It seemed like each team had a reason to believe they could grab the lead each inning, only to strand runners over and over.

The Wolf-Carpenter matchup was supposed to be a pitcher's duel, but it was anything but that. Wolf lasted 3 and 2/3 innings for six hits, two runs, five walks, and two strikeouts. He was constantly behind hitters all night. Carpenter only went five innings for nine hits, four runs, four walks, and three strikeouts. It was shocking to see him get hit around so much.

At the end of the day, the Dodgers wanted a lead for their bullpen, and they did just that. They combined to only give up one run in 5 and 1/3 innings. Against hitters like the Cards, that's impressive.

Now the pressure is on the Cardinals to get one before leaving L.A. For the Dodgers, it's time to get greedy and want more than just a split. They've got their best pitcher of the second half of the season in Clayton Kershaw on the mound. The Cardinals counter with Adam Wainwright, who would be a Game 1 starter on so many other teams.

Kershaw can't be like Wolf and play with fire from the get-go. If he can get into a groove, then the Dodgers have to like their chances. After all, they hit Carpenter very well yesterday, why not Wainwright today? That's the attitude they have to take to be successful.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Game 1 lineup

Here's the lineup the Dodgers will go with against a tough matchup in Chris Carpenter:

1) Rafael Furcal - SS
2) Matt Kemp - CF
3) Andre Ethier - RF
4) Manny Ramirez - LF
5) James Loney - 1B
6) Casey Blake - 3B
7) Ronnie Belliard - 2B
8) Russell Martin - C
9) Randy Wolf - P

Don't forget, first pitch is at 9:37 ET, or 6:37 PT for those of you out in sunny California. All NLDS games are on TBS.

Dodgers set their NLDS roster

Joe Torre has submitted his roster for the first round of the playoffs. You can it out here.

Basically, all you have to do is look at my suggested roster a couple of posts down. The only difference is that Jeff Weaver made it over Guillermo Mota. That surprised me at first, but I'm sure Torre likes that Weaver has pitched deep into the postseason before, so he got the nod. Plus, with a 3.65 ERA in 79 innings this season, he's done pretty darn well anyway.

Monday, October 5, 2009

How the Dodgers can beat the Cardinals

Welcome to the playoffs. The Dodgers have home-field advantage throughout after posting an NL-best 95 wins. Their reward for a season of hard work?

Playing the Cardinals in the NLDS. Ugh.

After watching the "experts" on ESPN unanimously pick the Cards (the same ones that picked the Cubs last season), I got thinking how the Dodgers can pull this off. It technically wouldn't be an upset, but in most people's minds, it would be. So here's what I can up with.

5 Keys to an Upset

1) Get at least a split at home.
Normally when a team has home-field, they want to win all home games. But, when facing Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, I don't think it's fair to say the Dodgers need to win both. That's really hard to do, and that's to the the Cardinals' credit.

Carpenter is 17-4 with a 2.24 ERA, and Wainwright is 19-8 with a 2.63 ERA. Those numbers speak for themselves. But if the Dodgers can have at least one good hitting night, then they should be happy with that.

2) Get to the bullpen.
This is not to say that they don't have some good arms in the 'pen, because they do. Dennys Reyes, Trevor Miller, and Kyle McClellen are the top ones. But if asked which set of pitchers they'd rather face, the starters or the relievers, the Dodgers will gladly take on the relief core.

3) Let their own bullpen go to work.
On the flip side, the Dodgers need to get their bullpen in a situation to be successful. If they can let their top three guys - Hong-Chih Kuo, George Sherrill, and Jonathan Broxton - work the last three innings, it's a great sign.

How will that happen? The starters will need between 5-6 solid innings. They can do that.

4) Either Pujols or Holliday have to be contained.
Simply put, both of these guys cannot go nuts. If they do, this thing could be over in three. If one of them does well, fine. But not both.

In 63 games with the Cards, Holliday is hitting .353 with 13 homers. I'd say he's been a good addition. As for Pujols... well, he's Pujols. No explanation needed. It won't be easy, but shutting down one of those guys is important.

5) Manny needs to be the shinning star.
We all know how valuable Manny Ramirez was last postseason. He was red hot from the first to last game. This September, it's been a different tune. He hit a mere .229 and .486 SLG%, far below his career averages. To say the least, he limped to the finish line.

This series will most likely come down to Manny vs. Pujols. Manny needs to prove that he's still the most feared right-handed hitter in the game. If he leads the way in the middle of the order, then the Dodgers can advance to the NLCS.

Who should make the NLDS roster

As we sit and wait for the NLDS to start on Wednesday night, we all know that Joe Torre will have to submit his 25-man roster for the first round by Wednesday morning. I put some thought into what the roster should be, so here's my thoughts:

Slam Dunks (20 total)

Infielders - Russell Martin, Brad Ausmus, James Loney, Orlando Hudson, Ronnie Belliard, Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake

Outfielders - Manny Ramirez, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Juan Pierre

Pinch-Hitter - Jim Thome

Starting Pitchers - Randy Wolf, Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley

Relief Pitchers - Jonathan Broxton, George Sherrill, Hong-Chih Kuo, Ronald Belisario, Ramon Troncoso

The Rest (5 total, with reasons why)

Juan Castro - Can play both short and second off the bench. Committed only three errors in 57 games. Hit .277, but can lay down a bunt.

Mark Loretta - Only hit .232, but is still Torre's favorite to pinch-hit. Gives a calm, veteran presence in big at-bats. Can play second or third, and is a very good glove like Castro.

Vicente Padilla - Ended the season on a high, with 10 strikeouts in six innings against the Rockies. Is 4-0 with a 3.22 ERA with the Dodgers, far exceeding all expectations. Could very well find himself getting a start down the line.

Jon Garland - Like Padilla, has been a great addition late in the year. Is 3-2 with a 2.72 ERA. Won a World Series ring with the White Sox in 2005. Could either start or come in for long relief.

Guillermo Mota - Gets the slight edge over James McDonald based on numbers against righties. Mota's BAA is .238, McDonald's is .282.

The only obvious names left off would be Doug Mientkiewicz, Jeff Weaver, and James McDonald.

Mientkiewicz would be expendable because they have Thome as a lefty off the bench, plus Castro and Loretta are far more versatile. Weaver isn't needed because Garland and/or Padilla can throw long relief. McDonald doesn't have quite the experience or numbers against righties.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

NLDS schedule

Some of the times are still being worked out, but here's the setup for the Dodgers vs. Cardinals in the NLDS:

Game 1: Wednesday, October 7 @ Los Angeles, 9:37 EST
Game 2: Thursday, October 8 @ Los Angeles, 6:07 EST
Game 3: Saturday, October 10 @ St. Louis, 6:07 EST
*Game 4: Sunday, October 11 @ St. Louis, TBD
*Game 5: Tuesday, October 13 @ Los Angeles, TBD

* If necessary

When the rest of the times are determined, I will post them. All Division Series games will be shown on TBS.

95 wins for the Dodgers

The Dodgers closed out an amazing regular season with a victory over the Rockies, 5-3. The win also gives manager Brad Ausmus an undefeated season.

Ok, so he was only manager for the day, but he'll take a 1-0 record.

Today's game was pretty much a glorified spring training game, as 21 players appeared in total. There were some regulars that started the game: Casey Blake, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Orlando Hudson. They were all subbed out before the end of the game.

Juan Pierre played the whole game, as did Doug Mientkiewicz at first, Chin-lung Hu at short, and A.J. Ellis at catcher. Not exactly your best lineup in the world, but a big first inning off of Jason Marquis put it away early.

Pierre started things with a triple down the right field line. Kemp got beaned and Ethier walked to load 'em up. Blake then hit a two-run single to quickly get the Dodgers the lead. Mientkiewicz hit an RBI single, and Ellis added one as well an out later to go up 4-0.

Like the Dodgers, the Rockies had no reason to play all of their regulars, as the NL playoffs have been set since the Dodgers' win on Saturday night. Brad Hawpe did get a couple of at-bats, however, and he hit a solo homer his first one to make it 4-1.

There wasn't a whole lot else going on until the seventh. Jason Repko was beaned, stole second, then was eventually picked off. Ethier walked in between all of that, and he went to second on Mientkiewicz's single. Hu stroked an RBI double, making it 5-1.

The Rockies made a bit of a run in the next couple of innings, but it wasn't enough. Seth Smith had an RBI double and Paul Phillips an RBI groundout in the ninth. Still, Ramon Troncoso was able to hold on for his sixth save of the season.

The game obviously meant nothing, but it was still good to see the makeshift lineup hit so well. Five runs and 13 hits is not something many people would have expected when the lineups were posted, especially against Marquis. But, it happened, and it was fun to watch.

I mentioned in my last post that Vicente Padilla would not likely get a start in the playoffs, but I failed to remember that Hiroki Kuroda will be out at least for the NLDS. So, Padilla had a chance to impress today, and he did just that.

He went five innings for four hits, one run, no walks, and a whopping 10 strikeouts. Even against a thrown together lineup, that's a fantastic effort. He's definitely thrown his name in contention for a start in Game 3 or 4.

Watching today's game was much more relaxing than if the Dodgers would have lost last night. Joe Torre carried on his tradition of letting a player manage the last game, assuming they have already wrapped up a playoff spot. Today it was Ausmus, who's a future manager no doubt. He didn't have to sweat it out at all.

Monday and Tuesday will be off days. Then, it's back to business on Wednesday for Game 1 of the NLDS against the Cardinals. It'll be Randy Wolf against Chris Carpenter. It's a battle of two guys who have exceeded all expectations this season to post great numbers.

For now, it's time to enjoy these last couple of days (after having no reason to smile the previous week), and look forward to October baseball!

At long last, the Dodgers win the West!!!


After a week of playing some horrible baseball, the Dodgers made sure to put an end to the NL West race on Saturday night. A five-run seventh inning was more than enough to get the win over the Rockies, 5-0.

The win also gives the Dodgers home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Well, not in the World Series, since the AL won the All-Star Game. You know, because exhibition games are just so important. Whatever.

Anyway, the NL playoffs are set. The Dodgers open with the Cardinals, and the Phillies will take on the Rockies. The AL playoffs are still up in the air with the Twins and Tigers battling for the AL Central. The Yankees, Red Sox, and Angels await.

Both teams could not get the bats going for much of the start of the game, thanks to some fantastic pitching. Clayton Kershaw was dealing, as he struck out 10 in six innings, allowing only three hits. It was a big spot for the young hurler, and he responded with a gem.

Jorge De La Rosa was doing just fine for himself. Through three innings, he gave up no runs. But, in the fourth, he pulled his groin, forcing him to exit. Jose Contreas pitched the next three innings and didn't give up a run either.

With the game at a stalemate entering the seventh, something had to give. Hong-Chih Kuo relieved Kershaw and pitched a scoreless inning. To start the bottom half, Casey Blake lined a single to center, which was booted by Carlos Gonzalez, sending Blake to second.

That one hit was all the Dodgers needed.

James Loney laid down a great sacrifice bunt to get Blake to third, and Loney was called out on a close play at first. Ronnie Belliard pinch-hit for Orlando Hudson, and hit a sharp single off of Todd Helton's glove at first, making it 1-0.

Following a walk to Russell Martin to put two on, Mark Loretta hit for Kuo and hit an RBI double to make it 2-0. Rafael Furcal got the intentional pass to load the bases with one down. Juan Pierre hit a soft RBI single to left to go up 3-0. A sac-fly RBI by Matt Kemp and an RBI single by Manny Ramirez later, it was a 5-0 lead.

Joe Torre didn't mess around with the lead at all, not wanting the Rockies to get back into the game. He sent George Sherrill and Jonathan Broxton out to the mound, and they each retired all six batters with ease, giving the Dodgers the division.

It was quite the bumpy ride, but mercifully, it's over. The last thing the Dodgers needed was to face the embarrassment of getting swept by the Rockies and losing the division. We won't have to endure that now, thankfully.

After celebrating the division title, the Dodgers finish the regular season out with Vicente Padilla on the mound. He probably won't be a starter in the playoffs, but who knows. If the Dodgers go deep into a series, I could see him getting called upon.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Matt Kemp got a hit

And the rest of the team didn't.

I'll bet you'll never guess just how (un)successful the Dodgers were on Wednesday night!

Facing another game where if they win, they take the NL West, the Dodgers again regressed. This time they were actually one-hit by three guys named Clayton Richard, Mike Adams, and Luke Gregerson en route to losing to the Padres, 5-0.

The Rockies won... again. They beat the Brewers, 10-6. That means the West lead for the Dodgers is down to a paltry 2 and 1/2 games.

You know what? I'm glad the Rockies keep winning. I don't think the Dodgers should be handed anything. They need to get a damn win. And it's obviously just not happening.

The Padres struck in the first when Chase Headley hit an RBI single to go up 1-0. Jon Garland got the next two guys out, so it wasn't looking bad yet.

That changed in the third. David Eckstein singled to lead off, and Headley singled an out later. Now with two outs, Kevin Kouzmanoff rocketed a three-run shot to left, putting the game away at 4-0. Well, the game already was put away at 1-0, but this homer sealed the deal for good.

The last run came on an error by Mark Loretta at third. Like I've said before, the Dodgers really miss Casey Blake. These last few games show just how underrated he is, and how good of a threat he is on both sides of the diamond.

Garland, like the other pitchers before him, had a chance to throw a great game and get this thing over with, but that didn't happen. He lasted a mere 3 and 1/3 innings for seven hits, five runs (four earned), one walk, and four strikeouts. To be fair to him, that was his first really bad start in six as a Dodger, so he gets a pass.

As for the offense... wow. That's really all there needs to be said. They're pressing now more than ever, and look lifeless in the process. This is a time when they need their stars to take over, and they all looked lost. To get only one hit and ground into two double plays just shows how much things have tanked recently.

If there's a positive way to spin all of this, it's that the Dodgers aren't alone in their struggles. The Red Sox have lost six straight, including a 12-0 shellacking to the Blue Jays last night. The Cardinals have lost five of their last seven, though they did crush the Reds today.

While that doesn't at all excuse the Dodgers' poor recent play, it at least shows that good teams go through this. The Dodgers will still make the playoffs, but if they fail to clinch the West, that would cast a huge dark cloud over them. And rightfully so.

Thursday is an off day, which is something they haven't had in over a week. Maybe getting a day off, relaxing, and coming back home will do the trick. They only need one more win, which all come against the Rockies. So basically, if they want the division, they have to earn it against the team that's chasing them.

That's the way it should be.

Randy Wolf will get the ball on Friday night, and he's exactly who the Dodgers want in this situation. Ubaldo Jimenez goes for the Rockies. He's also had a great year, though September has been tougher on him.