Monday, May 31, 2010

Recent roster moves

The Dodgers have made a few roster moves lately, so let's catch up.

First off, the Dodgers have finally cut ties with Ramon Ortiz. In his place, righty Justin Miller has been called up. Ortiz was given plenty of chances, but never came close to earning an extended stay. He finished with a 1-2 record, 6.30 ERA, and 1.63 WHIP.

Scott Elbert was then called up... and promptly sent back down after one appearance. Elbert didn't make a good impression at all when he appeared in last Saturday's game against the Rockies. He faced six batters, walked three of them, gave up a single, and generally looked to have no control.

When Elbert was first called up, it was Nick Green who got DFA'd. Green was pretty much victimized by Jamey Carroll's solid play when Rafael Furcal was hurt. Still, Green was only 1-for-8 with an RBI. Not much of a sample size, but good enough to get the boot.

Finally, righty Travis Schlichting has replaced Elbert. He pitched 2 2/3 innings last year, giving up a run.

Dodgers welcome back Ethier on Memorial Day

The Dodgers were hoping this bit of good news would actually happen, and it will: Andre Ethier will be activated from the 15-day DL and be in Monday night's lineup. No news yet on who will be the odd man out from the 25-man roster.

I'm stating the obvious here, but it's a nice lift for an offense that has gone back and forth between a good game and bad game. Then again, when you take a guy who at the time was leading the National League in Triple Crown categories, scoring runs will won't be as easy.

I think one thing fans need to remember is not to expect him to be some sort of savior. He's getting better all the time, but it's not realistic to think the offense will automatically put up 10 runs a game just because he's back. He hasn't played in a game since May 14, so he may need a little time to ease back into action.

With that said, his presence should only help guys like Manny Ramirez and Matt Kemp. When the outfield is at full strength, it's hard to think of many teams that feature a better trio.

A tale of 2 defenses

The Dodgers managed to throw the ball away twice in one play early in the game.

Good thing that two fantastic catches later in the game helped make up for it.

Matt Kemp and Xavier Paul flashed some serious leather, and a two-run sixth broke a tie that led to the Dodgers winning, 4-3. The Dodgers took two of three from the Rockies, and have won four of six this year.

Both teams got on the board in the first inning. With two outs, Kemp drew a walk from Jhoulys Chacin. James Loney followed with a double that just got Kemp to the plate in time, and it was 1-0.

Clayton Kershaw was either all over the place or striking everyone out. In the first, it was a combination of both. For the second straight day, Carlos Gonzalez was beaned leading off. With one down, Jason Giambi walked. Troy Tulowitzki hit an RBI single to tie the game, and Chris Iannetta followed with one an out later to go up 2-1.

In between all of that, Kershaw struck out the side. In fact, he struck out nine in five innings, giving up only those two runs. He still walked four and gave up four hits, so it was a bit of a wild start for him.

The game became tied in the third. It was Kershaw who singled to lead off, and Rafael Furcal bunted his way on next. Russell Martin was then beaned to load the bases. Kemp looked pretty lost in striking out swinging for one down. Loney got another RBI with a sac-fly, but Casey Blake struck out swinging to only get one run in.

Then the Dodgers' defense looked like a Little League team on one play in the bottom of the third. With Giambi on again from a walk, Tulowitzki hit an infield single to Raffy. Raffy tried to get Giambi at second, but threw it away. Loney picked it up and fired to third... only to have the ball get away to put runners on second and third.

Somehow the Dodgers wiggled out of the inning from a lineout to first and strikeout.

The defensive switch would be flipped in the fifth. The bases were loaded on a single and two walks with two outs. Iannetta then hit one hard that was sinking to center. Kemp showed why he won a Gold Glove last year with an awesome diving catch to end the inning.

Sure enough, the bats came alive right after that. Blake started it with a double, then Paul singled to right to score him. A single by Reed Johnson put Paul on third, who then scored on Blake DeWitt's RBI forceout.

With Kershaw already at 98 pitches after five innings, the lead would be be left up to the bullpen. And protect the lead they did, starting with Ramon Troncoso pitching a scoreless sixth. Hong-Chih Kuo got some help on a great leaping catch by Paul in the seventh to rob Gonzalez. Ronald Belisario got a double play ball from Iannetta to end the eighth.

The ninth got interesting when Jonathan Broxton came in. Ian Stewart greeted him with a double. Todd Helton pinch-hit and struck out, much like Manny Ramirez did earlier.

With one out and one on, Blake committed his ninth error of the season to put two on. Gonzalez scored a run on a fielder's choice, and it was 4-3. With two outs, Broxton got Ryan Spilborghs to ground to second to end the game.

Judging by how wild Kershaw looked early in the game, it looked like it could be a long day. But, once Kershaw somewhat settled down, the offense and bullpen came through. Manny sat out (not that he's set the world on fire lately anyway), and Andre Ethier sat out for what looks to be the final time as he should be back on Monday.

As for the defense, they rank dead last in the entire majors with a .978 fielding %. But, when they needed to make a big play, they did. Kemp and Paul's grabs were just huge. Especially Kemp's, because without that play with the bases loaded, the Rockies would most likely have won.

At 28-22, the Dodgers now begin a 13-game homestand. It starts with the Diamondbacks for three, who have struggled all this year. Chad Billingsley will look to get his seventh win.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Rockies slap around the Dodgers

Hiroki Kuroda struggled mightily on Saturday night, as the Rockies easily beat the Dodgers, 11-3. For whatever reason, Kuroda simply cannot beat the Rockies, as he's fallen to 0-3 with a 7.57 ERA in five career starts against them.

The Dodgers put up a threat in the first inning against Aaron Cook, but came up empty. Rafael Furcal singled and Garret Anderson walked. Manny Ramirez just got under one in flying out deep to right, allowing Raffy to tag to third. Matt Kemp, though, grounded into a double play.

The lack of a clutch hit immediately hurt the Dodgers, as Kuroda scuffled his whole start. Carlos Gonzalez was beaned to lead off, and Seth Smith singled. Todd Helton then hit a fly ball just in foul territory to Manny, who somehow managed to not catch it. I know Manny isn't a good fielder, but make no mistake about it, that ball should have been caught.

Helton then drew a walk to load the bases. An RBI fielder's choice by Troy Tulowitzki and sac-fly RBI from Brad Hawpe made it 2-0. Kuroda actually recovered pretty well, but it would be short-lived.

Gonzalez added a solo homer in the second to make it 3-0. After the Dodgers wasted their first two hitters reaching base (mostly thanks to Kuroda inexplicably being picked off of second), the Rockies got back-to-back RBI singles from Clint Barmes and Cook to run the lead to 5-0.

Kuroda was lifted in the fifth, where Scott Elbert gave up a bases loaded walk to Gonzalez and a two-run single to Smith. If the game wasn't already over before, it definitely was now at 8-0.

About the only positive to come from this game was in the seventh, where the Dodgers at least scored some runs. Kemp tripled to lead off and scored on James Loney's single. A.J. Ellis and Raffy added RBI singles, cutting the lead to 8-3.

But, the Rockies got those runs back in the eighth thanks to a two-run triple by Miguel Olivo and RBI single from Ian Stewart.

This was one of those games where little to nothing went right. Manny couldn't catch a ball in left, Raffy committed his seventh error, Kuroda was picked off of second, and the offense couldn't get anything going against a guy with a 5.40 ERA coming in. It was just an ugly night all around.

One person who actually did play well was reliever Justin Miller. The game was already decided when he came in the fifth, but he got all four men he faced out, including a strikeout of Brad Hawpe.

As for Kuroda, while I wouldn't say I'm worried about him, his ERA has slowly been creeping up his last four starts (2.66, 2.87, 3.03, 3.55). Despite walking just one, he didn't have his best control. When he was in the zone, he was whacked around. Hopefully this is just a little lull for him and nothing more.

The Dodgers will attempt to lick their wounds and bounce back on Sunday. Clayton Kershaw will get the ball, and he's been lights-out lately. He's just the guy the Dodgers want on the mound after a blowout loss.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Manny's dinger, flawless bullpen beat the Rockies

Jeff Francis faced the minimum amount of hitters through four innings in Friday night's game. The Rockies were up 4-0, and the Dodgers looked like they didn't stand a chance.

A couple of homers and big hits the next two innings changed all of that.

Matt Kemp and Manny Ramirez hit key home runs, Garret Anderson got a rally going with a pinch-hit double, and the bullpen pitched four scoreless innings. Add it all together, and the Dodgers had a nice comeback win over the Rockies on the road, 5-4.

It was really a tale of two games for the Dodgers, as their bats stayed in the dugout for the first half of the game. The only baserunner through four was Reed Johnson's single, and he was wiped away on a double play ball from Jamey Carroll.

Carlos Monasterios got another spot start, and he did about what you'd expect: five innings, five hits, four runs (two earned), one walk, and one strikeout. I wouldn't say he blew anyone away, but when you have a reliever making a start, all you can ask is that he keeps his team in the game. That's exactly what he accomplished.

The Rockies scored a couple of runs in the first. Carlos Gonzalez started things off with a single. Seth Smith hit a hard one to first that ate up Ronnie Belliard for an error. Sure enough, a wild pitch and an RBI single from Miguel Olivo made it 2-0.

In the bottom of the fourth, it was Olivo again who made some noise. He tripled to lead off and scored on Ian Stewart's sac-fly. Clint Barmes hit a solo shot, and the Rockies looked to be comfortably ahead at 4-0.

Kemp then began the fifth with his 10th home run of the season. Nobody else got on that inning, but at least the Dodgers got something positive going. It would obviously pay off later.

Monasterios finished his night by retiring Smith, Todd Helton, and Troy Tulowitzki in the fifth. With the Dodgers' comeback immediately afterwords, Monasterios got the win and is now 2-0.

It was a walk that started the rally in the sixth to Carroll. We all know how lousy Anderson has looked, but we also know how much Joe Torre likes and sticks with veterans off the bench. It paid off tonight, as Anderson hit a ground rule double to center that would have easily scored Carroll had it stayed in the yard.

Rafael Furcal then hit a sac-fly RBI to deep center to slash the deficit to 4-2. Russell Martin hit an RBI double down the left field line to make it 4-3. Manny hadn't hit a homer since April 18, but he smacked one out to right to give the Dodgers the lead for good at 5-4.

The lead would then be handed over to the bullpen, and boy did they do a fantastic job. Ramon Troncoso, Hong-Chih Kuo, Ronald Belisario, and Jonathan Broxton all combined to throw four scoreless innings, allowing one hit, two walks, and striking out eight. Each reliever had two K's apiece.

Belisario looked especially sharp as he mowed through the Rockies in the eighth. Broxton beaned Jason Giambi to start the ninth, but bounced back with a couple strikeouts and a fly out. He now has 12 saves in 14 chances and hasn't blown one since May 6.

This was a solid win for the Dodgers mostly because they looked like they were going nowhere against Francis for most of the game. When the bats got hot, they got rolling. They actually went down in order the final three innings, so it's a good thing they took the lead when they could.

Hiroki Kuroda will get the ball on Saturday night. He had a decent start last outing against the Tigers, but certainly is capable of doing better. He's opposed by Aaron Cook, who seems to either give up 5+ runs, or goes deep into the game and gives up one. Go figure.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

One run good enough for the Cubs

Ted Lilly and John Ely were locked in a good old fashioned pitcher's duel on Thursday afternoon in Wrigley Field. The first team that blinked would come up the loser.

In the eighth inning, the Dodgers blinked.

A one-out double by Tyler Colvin scored Mike Fontenot, and the Dodgers' offense was nowhere to be found as they dropped one to the Cubs, 1-0. The Cubs took two of three at home.

Being a day game after a night game, Joe Torre rested Rafael Furcal and Manny Ramirez. The result was a team that collected five hits, and two were by Casey Blake. Simply put, Ted Lilly had little to no trouble in mowing them down.

But then again, Ely was equally as effective for most of the game. Alfonso Soriano got a day off, and Ely took full advantage of that. On the day, Ely went 7 1/3 innings for four hits, one run, two walks, and four strikeouts.

It's too bad that the one run he gave up would hang him with an L. After Fontenot tripled to lead off, Geovany Soto struck out swinging. Colvin then hit his double and went to third when Xavier Paul had trouble playing the ball cleanly. Jeff Weaver did a nice job in keeping the score at one.

Carlos Marmol was brought on in the ninth, and he struck out Raffy before walking Blake DeWitt. Manny pinch-hit and struck out. Garret Anderson pinch-hit and struck out. My guess is if there wasn't three outs, the next person would have pinch-hit and struck out. Marmol now has 11 saves.

It's hard to say if the Dodgers really had many threats to score. They certainly didn't through four innings. In the fifth, Reed Johnson walked to lead off. After DeWitt fanned, Jamey Carroll walked, and both men advanced to scoring position on Ely's bunt. Russell Martin was given the intentional pass before Paul flied out.

The only other scoring opportunity came in the eighth with the game still scoreless. With the top of the order up, Martin walked. Paul struck out, but Matt Kemp singled for two on. It didn't matter, as Blake lined out and James Loney grounded out.

Maybe if Ely was more experienced at pitching deep into games, he would have put up another zero in the eighth. But, it wasn't meant to be, and it's certainly not his fault that his record dropped to 3-2. He now has five straight great starts after a rocky first one. His ERA stands at 3.00 with a 1.00 WHIP. That's very impressive.

The good news is that the Dodgers claimed the middle game to get at least one win. The Cubs have won 8 of 11, so it's not like they're a lousy team like last year. I don't think they'll make the playoffs, but who knows.

The Dodgers just couldn't get that one big hit to give themselves the lead, much like Tuesday night's game. They were able to hit around a mediocre pitcher in Tom Gorzelanny, but couldn't do anything against solid ones in Ryan Dempster and Lilly.

What will help is Andre Ethier's return. From all indications, he'll play rehab games over the weekend and be back on the field in L.A. on Monday. That's much quicker than people thought, so that's great news. After watching the offense get blanked twice in three days, his return is a welcome sight.

Carlos Monasterios will get another spot start on Friday night in Coors Field. He'll go against Jeff Francis, who looks like his old self and them some two games back from his arm injury. So, the offense needs to wake up if they want to win this one.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dodgers can't solve Dempster

The return of Rafael Furcal made little difference to the Dodgers' lineup, as Ryan Dempster's eight shutout innings paved the way to a Cubs win, 3-0. The Dodgers managed three hits the whole night.

Lost in Dempster's dominance was another great start by Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw still threw way too many pitches (104 in six innings), but only surrendered one unearned run and four hits. His offense obviously didn't have his back.

For five innings, both pitchers put up blanks. The Dodgers had a couple of decent threats. In the first, Russell Martin singled with one down, and Manny Ramirez walked with two. James Loney grounded into a forceout to end it. Two singles by Manny and Casey Blake came in the fourth, but Xavier Paul struck out with two down.

It looked like the first team that could score would be in the driver's seat, and that was the Cubs in the sixth. Unfortunately, it came on an error by Furcal to put Ryan Theriot on. After Theriot stole second, Derek Lee's RBI single made it 1-0.

On a night like this, 1-0 probably seemed much bigger then it actually was. After the Cubs scored, the Dodgers sent nine men to the plate, and all men came up empty.

So it goes without saying that the Cubs ended up cruising for a win. They did tack on a couple more in the eighth, and once again it started with an error by Furcal. Derek Lee cashed in like the last time, cranking a two-run homer to stretch the lead to 3-0.

Carlos Marmol struck out Matt Kemp and Manny to end the game.

This was night a night that Raffy would like to forget. He spent a couple of weeks rehabbing, was playing in his first game since April 27... and went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and two errors. Ouch. I guess the good news is that he'll only get better from here.

Give Dempster credit here, as he certainly gives the bullpen a rest when he's on the mound. It seems like he's going seven or eight inning every start, and has a 3.31 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. He actually hadn't won a game since April 23, but that's because his offense wasn't giving him support.

Even with the poor results, it's still great to see Raffy back on top of the order. Once Andre Ethier is back, which could be soon from some reports, the Dodgers will have their lineup at full strength. And that's a positive sign going forward.

Chad Billingsley will look to follow Kershaw with a great start of his own tonight. Bills has won three straight, and has really looked to have figured out whatever plagued him at the end of last year and beginning of this one. Let's hope it stays that way.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tigers' big guns come through

The Tigers scored early and late to defeat the Dodgers 6-2 and avoid being swept in Dodger Stadium. With another victory by the Padres, the Dodgers are now a game back in the NL West.

Hiroki Kuroda made the start, and he immediately found himself in trouble. Johnny Damon laced a double to the wall in center to begin the game. After a sacrifice bunt by Ramon Santiago moved Damon to third, Magglio Ordonez's RBI single made it 1-0.

Next came an absolutely mammoth home run by Miguel Cabrera. It wasn't like he got a lot of air under it, but he just smoked it way out to left to score two and go up 3-0.

The Dodgers have actually been vulnerable in the first inning recently, and today was no different. But, with Manny Ramirez resting, in addition to Rafael Furcal and Andre Ethier being out again, scoring runs would be hard to come by on this afternoon.

It took until the fifth for the Dodgers to cash in with runners on. Blake DeWitt singled off the leg of pitcher Rick Porcello. Poor Porcello got hit three times today by liners, but sucked it up and had an effective game. Jamey Carroll singled next, and DeWitt went to third on Ordonez's bobble in right.

Kuroda laid down a bunt to advance Carroll to second for two outs. Xavier Paul got the Dodgers' only big hit of the day with a two-run single, slashing the lead to 3-2.

The sixth brought another threat from the Dodgers. With two outs, Garrett Anderson, DeWitt, and Carroll all singled to load the bases. With Kuroda's spot up, Joe Torre wasted no time in dialing Manny's number. The crowd was going crazy, as Manny has been magical in these spots.

Not this time. A weak bouncer to third on the first pitch ended the inning.

Ronald Belisario would like to forget about this game, as he gave up a few hits. It started in the eighth when Ordonez homered to left, getting the lead up to 4-2. The Dodgers put a couple on in the bottom of the frame, but Ronnie Belliard pinch-hit and promptly grounded into an inning-ending double play.

The ninth brought a couple more runs for the Tigers off of Belisario and George Sherrill. Belisario let a couple runners reach while only getting one out, and Adam Everett and Damon drove in both runs when Sherrill came in.

Jose Valverde came on and got Russell Martin to hit into a double play to end the game.

The Dodgers collected 11 hits, but were victimized by not getting the big hits they've grown accustomed to. They had spots for it to happen, like Manny and Belliard's pinch-hitting appearances, but it just wasn't meant to be today.

Kuroda was pretty lousy to start the game, but ended up with a decent line of six innings, six hits, three runs, one walk, and five strikeouts. It was good to see him battle back as the game went on.

As for Belisario, his ERA now stands at 6.28. But, perhaps he should get a pass because he's appeared in seven straight games before today without giving up a run. I still think he's one of the better setup men in the game, so I'm not worried.

Even with the loss today, the homestand has to be considered a success. Actually, the Dodgers could have lost by 10 today and I would still say it was successful. They went 5-2, and have won 12 of 14, and 14 of 17. It's safe to say the month of May has been friendly.

The Dodgers will now use a travel day on Monday before starting a three-game set with the Cubs. It's always fun to watch the Dodgers play in Wrigley, especially when half the team is in the stands brawling with the fans. Clayton Kershaw gets the start, and let's hope Chad Kreuter is brought in to be the catcher.

Jose Lima dies of a heart attack

Horrible news to report, as I just saw on ESPN that Jose Lima has died of a heart attack. He was only 37-years-old.

His wife said that he was having trouble sleeping the night before. She thought it was a nightmare at first, then realized it was something much worse. Paramedics were unable to save him.

Lima appeared in all or parts of 13 seasons in the big leagues, compiling 89 wins and a 5.26 ERA. His best year came in 1999 with the Astros where he went 21-10 with 187 strikeouts and 3.58 ERA.

For Dodger fans, Lima was the man who finally put an end to the postseason drought by defeating the Cardinals in Game 3 of the 2004 NLDS. He pitched a complete game shutout, giving up five hits.

It's a sad day for baseball as a whole, as Lima was a colorful character who was just plain fun to watch. It's safe to say he was one of a kind.

My condolences to his family and friends.

Dodgers hold off Tigers for another win

Casey Blake and Matt Kemp hit homers, giving the Dodgers enough runs to make up for a shaky bullpen to down the Tigers, 6-4. That's now 12 wins in the last 13 games.

Rookie John Ely got the start, and he certainly had his fare share of nervous moments in the first. Ramon Santiago doubled with one out and then advanced to third on Kemp's fielding error. An RBI single by Magglio Ordonez made it 1-0.

Miguel Cabrera then doubled to put two runners on. Brennan Boesch began his big day by hitting an RBI groundout to go up 2-0. Brandon Inge then walked, but Gerald Laird flew out to end the threat.

Thankfully for Ely, that was as much trouble as he would get in. He would eventually earn the win by lasting six innings for eight hits, two runs, one walk, and three strikeouts. He's now 3-1 with a 3.41 ERA in what is quickly turning into quite the impressive season.

The Dodgers started chipping away at the small deficit in the first. Russell Martin hit leadoff and walked. Xavier Paul got another start in right and reached on a bunt single, and Martin advanced to third on Cabrera's error. A sac-fly RBI by Manny Ramirez made it 2-1.

The game was then tied in the second when Blake hit a leadoff homer. It was his sixth of the season, part of his 3-for-4 day. His average is now up to .273 after being as low as .233 on May 17.

In the fifth, the Dodgers took the lead for good. Kemp doubled to start things off. James Loney hit an RBI single to go up 3-2. Blake singled to put a couple on, and Blake DeWitt hit a two-run triple to make it 5-2. Kemp's solo shot the next inning pushed the lead to 6-2.

Hong-Chih Kuo came on in the seventh after Ely gave up a single to Austin Jackson. After two quick outs, Blake committed an error to put a couple on, then Ordonez walked. In a big spot, Cabrera grounded back to Kuo to squash a potentially big inning.

Ramon Troncoso was then given the ball, and boy did things get scary all over. First, Boesch hit a solo homer to cut the lead to 6-3. With two outs, Jackson was then beaned right in the front of his helmet on a fastball. It looked and sounded pretty bad, but Jackson was able to walk off on his own, obviously a good sight. Jeff Weaver got Ryan Raburn to fly out for the last out.

Next up was Jonathan Broxton, and he had to scratch and claw for his 10th save. Two singles by Johnny Damon and Santiago greeted him. Alex Avilia struck out, and Blake made a great diving stop to force Santiago out at second off of Cabrera's bat. Boesch then hit an RBI ground rule double to right, and it was 6-4. Inge struck out looking with two runners on to end the game.

While the end of the game certainly had its moments, the Dodgers still came away with the W. It's never good to see someone getting clunked in the head, so we can only hope Jackson doesn't miss an extended amount of time. Good thing it got part of his helmet and not the exposed part of his face.

In addition to another win, more good news came in that Rafael Furcal could be activated for Sunday's game, or Tuesday in Chicago at the latest. Then again, we heard something similar about a week ago, and it never happened. Getting Raffy back on top of the lineup will be fun to watch. But, let's not forget about the great job Jamey Carroll has done in his absence.

The Dodgers will go for the sweep today. Hiroki Kuroda will look to get his sixth win, which would put him among the league leaders in that category.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Billingsley and the subs take first place

Joe Torre's lineup card was one of the strangest he's filled out this season. With only Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, and Casey Blake starting like usual, the Dodgers were in store for a close battle.

Didn't matter with Chad Billingsley on the mound.

Billingsley was awesome in limiting the Tigers to one run over seven innings. A productive middle three innings was enough for the Dodgers to take the interleague opener, 4-1.

With the Padres getting steamrolled in Seattle (even with Cliff Lee having an off night), the Dodgers have moved into a first-place tie with the Pads. But the Dodgers have won five of six from them this season, giving them the tiebreaker. I have no idea if that even matters, but in my mind it's good enough. So there.

Like the pattern has been the last few games, the opposition scored a run in the first, then got shut down the rest of the way. Austin Jackson hit one in front of a slow-motion Manny for a leadoff double. A groundout and a sac-fly RBI from Magglio Ordonez later, and the Tigers led 1-0.

Dontrelle Willis was getting plenty of groundouts through the first part of the order. But in the fourth, the Dodgers starting getting baserunners on. It all started with two outs. Matt Kemp singled and took second on a wild pitch. Walks to Blake and Reed Johnson loaded the bases.

Nick Green got a rare start at second, as he was a mere 0-for-5 coming into this game. He did the smartest thing he could - he got beaned in the foot to force in a run. Actually, it kind of looked like he did, but it was close. Nonetheless, it forced in the tying run. A.J. Ellis hit a liner that was snared at second to end it.

With Bills in full control, the Dodgers got his back by tacking on a couple in the fifth. Jamey Carroll hit in the leadoff spot and walked with one out. Ronnie Belliard doubled for runners in scoring position. With Manny up, a wild pitch easily allowed Carroll to score. Manny then hit a hard one off of Brandon Inge's foot for an RBI single, making it 3-1.

Ellis took advantage of his once-in-a-blue-moon start by hitting an RBI single in the sixth to score Johnson. Speaking of Johnson, he started in right and played great, going 3-for-3 with a walk and run scored.

Four runs was more than enough with the pitching being so good on this night. Billingsley ended with seven innings, four hits, one run, two walks, and five strikeouts. He had some deep counts early in the game, but made big pitches to wiggle out of trouble.

The bullpen was again great. Ronald Belisario pitched a scoreless eighth, and Jonathan Broxton struck out the side for his ninth save. Broxton now has a 1.02 ERA to go along with 27 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings.

Back on May 5, the Dodgers lost 11-3 to the Brewers. Their record was 11-16, and they pretty much looked like crap. Since then, they've won 13 of 15 to push their record to 24-18. The offense has busted out plenty of runs in some games, but the streak is mostly because of pitching and defense. That's the Dodger-like formula for winning.

Tonight's game is a good matchup of young hurlers, as John Ely takes on Armando Galarraga. Since being recalled on May 10 when Charlie Haeger went on the DL, Ely's given up five runs in 19 2/3 innings. He's been everything and more for the bottom part of the rotation.

The game is on FOX as part of a Saturday night special. But, it'll mean I get the Subway Series. Oh well. Enjoy it for those of you that can watch it.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Red hot Kershaw continues to roll

Remember last season when it seemed like Clayton Kershaw could never earn a win?

He's taking matters into his own hands this time around.

For the third straight start, Kershaw was simply brilliant, limiting the Padres to one run over 7 1/3 innings. A three-run sixth helped break a 1-1 tie, and the Dodgers took this one over the Pads, 4-1. Both teams split a game in this brief series, meaning the Dodgers have won four of five from them this year.

There wasn't a whole lot going on early in the game, thanks to the efforts of Kershaw and Kevin Correia. The Dodgers got on the board first in the second. Casey Blake led off with a single, and Blake DeWitt hit a double with one out. A sac-fly RBI by Jamey Carroll later, and it was 1-0.

Kershaw got into a bit of trouble in the third, where the Padres tied the game. Everth Cabrera doubled to right, as he took advantage of his fast speed on a slow blooper. Corriea sacrificed him over to third, and Will Venable hit one through the middle of the drawn in infield.

The Padres actually had two runners on with less than two outs in both the fourth and fifth, but came up empty. That would eventually come back to haunt them.

The sixth is when the Dodgers busted out some runs. Matt Kemp and James Loney singled to start for runners on the corners. Blake struck out, but Garret Anderson hit a sac-fly RBI to make it 2-1.

DeWitt was given the intentional walk to get to Carroll. That proved to be a bad move, as Carroll's RBI singled scored Loney and made it 3-1. A wild pitch from Correia scored DeWitt, and the Dodgers had a 4-1 lead.

Kershaw was eventually lifted in the eighth with one down after Adrian Gonzalez's single. Ronald Belisario got two strikeouts to end the frame. Jonathan Broxton gave up a single to start, but got the next three hitters for his eighth save.

While Kershaw deserves a ton of praise, another person who has quietly come through night in and night out is Carroll. The only reason he's playing all the time is because Rafael Furcal is slow to comeback from injury. But a 2-for-3 night raised Carroll average to .290, including .328 in May. Plus, he has a good glove at short.

Back to Kershaw, and he's now given up two runs in his last 22 1/3 innings. After getting bombed on May 4 (thankfully a distant memory at this point), his ERA has gone from 4.99 to 3.23. When he's on like he is right now, he's practically unhittable.

The Padres are still a really good team at this point, so the Dodgers deserve plenty of credit for playing so well against them. Even without Manny Ramirez, Andre Ethier, and Furcal, the team still finds a way to win. That's how they won so many games last year, and they're doing it again.

Interleague play opens up on Friday night as the Dodgers welcome the Tigers. Chad Billingsley was awesome in last start against the Padres, and he'll go tonight against Dontrelle Willis. Remember him? Seems like forever ago that he was baseball's newest star. Now his ERAs the last three seasons have been 9.38, 7.49, and 4.68. So much for that.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Nine straight wins for the Dodgers

The Dodgers easily disposed of the Astros on Tuesday night 7-3 to complete the two-game sweep and get their ninth straight win. They're now only a game back of the Padres, with whom they welcome to Dodger Stadium for two starting tonight.

With news that Andre Ethier could be out up to six weeks with a broken pinkie, the offense still started off hot. It all started with two outs on a walk to Manny Ramirez. Matt Kemp hit a ground rule double for two on.

James Loney took advantage of two men in scoring position with a two-run single. Loney then stole second and scored on Casey Blake's RBI single, making it 3-0.

Hiroki Kuroda eventually got the win, but wasn't exactly as sharp as he normally is. Carlos Lee cut the lead to 3-1 with a solo homer to lead off the second.

Much like the Dodgers a couple inning earlier, the Astros put together a two out rally in the third. Singles by Michael Bourn and Jeff Keppinger put two on, and a walk to Lance Berkman loaded the bases. Lee struck again, hitting a two-run single to tie the game at 3-3. The bases actually got loaded again, but a groundout from Pedro Feliz ended it.

The Dodgers got one back in the fourth. Loney walked to lead off, and Blake singled for runners on the corners. Blake DeWitt struck out, but Jamey Carroll hit a sac-fly RBI to make it 4-3.

From there, the Dodgers took their lead and never looked back. Manny got in on the fun in the fifth. With Kuroda on from a walk and Russell Martin from a single, Manny plated them both with a two-run single. The runners were in scoring position thanks to a nice sacrifice bunt from Xavier Paul, who made the start in left.

Casey Blake continued his recent resurgence with a solo home run in the eighth, capping the scoring at 7-3. Blake hadn't hit one since his two homer day against the Nationals on April 24, so maybe he's starting to pick it up again.

Kuroda did enough to push his record to 5-1. He lasted six innings for seven hits, three runs, one walk, and two strikeouts. Not dominating, but still put the Dodgers in a position to win.

The bullpen was flawless, which is quickly becoming the norm after a rocky start to the season. Ronald Belisario, Hong-Chih Kuo, and Ramon Troncoso went three innings for one hit and no runs. That bad start looks like a distant memory now.

Beating the Astros is certainly nothing to brag about these days. They're just plain awful. Their veterans look older everyday, and their starting rotation (minus Roy Oswalt) is really bad. I'm not sure where they go from here but I wouldn't be shocked to see guys like Berkman, Lee, and Oswalt moved. It can't hurt to press the reset button.

As the Dodgers, they took care of business these last two days. Now they have fate in their own hands the next couple of nights. The Padres got swept by the Dodgers this past weekend, then split a couple against the Giants. They're still the biggest surprise in baseball at 23-16.

Winning a 10th straight game won't be easy as Ramon Ortiz gets another spot start. He actually wasn't halfway bad last game, giving up three runs in four innings against these same Padres. He'll be opposed by Jon Garland, who's been awesome thus far at 4-2 with a 1.88 ERA.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Broken pinkie sends Ethier to the DL

The hottest hitter in all of baseball has finally met his match - his right pinkie.

Andre Ethier has been placed on the 15-day DL with a broken pinkie. The injury was originally sustained while swinging a bat in practice on Saturday. There's really not much of a story behind it other than he swung, it broke, and that's it.

With the Dodgers winning now, I'm sure this was more of a precautionary measure than anything. Had this occurred a couple of weeks ago when they were struggling, maybe he'd gut it out. In the long run, it's the smart thing to do to be careful.

In case you didn't know, he was leading the National League in the Triple Crown categories. He's hitting .393 with 11 homers and 38 RBIs. In the month of May, he's hitting an insane .490.

In his place will be Xavier Paul, who is someone that should make Dodger fans smile. Paul didn't put up gaudy numbers in nine games, hitting .276 with one RBI. But, he plays very hard and is someone you can easily get behind.

Should Paul play well again, I have to wonder if that will spell the end of the Garret Anderson experiment. Anderson is hitting a paltry .136 (8-for-59), and it's obvious the pinch-hitting thing just isn't working out. Maybe the Dodgers will pull the plug if they like what they see from Paul again.

Balanced effort beats the Astros

The Dodgers used contributions up and down the lineup, and John Ely had another great start in getting a win over the Astros, 6-2. The streak has now reached eight in a row.

It's no secret that the Astros came into this series as one of the biggest disappointments in baseball. They have Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, and Hunter Pence in the middle of their lineup, plus Roy Oswalt as their ace, and they suck.

Still, they at least made it look like they'd put up a fight starting in the first. Michael Bourn singled to lead off. After going to second on a groundout, Berkman's RBI single made it 1-0.

If you're an Astro fan reading this, you may as well just quit right here, because it was all downhill from there. Reed Johnson got the start in left and singled with one out. A walk to Manny Ramirez and single by Matt Kemp loaded the bases.

James Loney has been red hot lately, and his sac-fly RBI tied it at 1-1. Casey Blake hasn't been doing much (at the plate anyway), but he placed a grounder just down the line in right to score two and make it 3-1.

As good as Ely has been in his last couple of starts, that was all the cushion he would need. His next run he gave up was in the fifth on a Pedro Feliz RBI single. On this night, Ely finished with seven innings, five hits, two runs, no walks, and eight strikeouts.

Up 3-1, the Dodgers added another run in the fourth. Blake DeWitt tripled with one down. Jamey Carroll scored him on a sacrifice fly, making it 4-1.

After the Astros cut the lead to 4-2, the score remained that way until the eighth. With Brandon Lyon now in, Manny greeted him with a double to start. Loney was given the intentional pass with one down, and Blake struck out. But, DeWitt had another good at-bat, hitting another triple to score two, and it was 6-2.

In addition to Ely, Jeff Weaver, George Sherrill, and Ramon Troncoso combined to shut down the final two innings. For Sherrill, that's now three straight innings of scoreless ball. That's not a big deal, but compared to how flat out atrocious he was to start the season, maybe it is.

The Dodgers once again played without Rafael Furcal and Andre Ethier. Furcal looks like he'll need another rehab start, then should hopefully be back soon. As for Ethier, he's on the 15-day DL because of his broken pinkie. It's a tough blow, but the Dodgers have a knack for stepping up when key players are out (yes, I am referring to Manny's suspension last season).

The brief two-game series will conclude tonight with the Dodgers looking for their third straight sweep. Hiroki Kuroda has quietly been pitching great with a 2.66 ERA, and he'll look for his fifth win.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

More NL West dominance as Dodgers sweep Padres

The Dodgers continued their terrific play against NL West foes as they completed the three-game sweep of the Padres, 1-0. The win makes 12 of the last 15 in the victory column, and a 12-3 record against the rest of the division.

It wasn't a textbook way to win. Andre Ethier, Manny Ramirez, Casey Blake, and Blake DeWitt all sat this one out. With Garret Anderson, Reed Johnson, Ronnie Belliard, and Nick Green in, the offense managed two total hits. Heck, they only had five baserunners all day, and one of them (Belliard) got caught stealing.

So how did they win? Chad Billingsley was a big reason. We all know how he crashed and burned after the All-Star break last year, and has been searching for his old form ever since. A day like today is a sign that he's definitely back.

Billingsley went 7 1/3 innings for four hits, no runs, one walk, and six strikeouts. Much like Clayton Kershaw before him, Bills is more than finding his groove. After his third start, his ERA stood at 7.07. Thanks to four good starts in his past five, it's now at 4.03.

If you're a Padre fan, the shame of this game was that Wade LeBlanc was every bit as good as Billingsley. In fact, he had a no-hitter going into the sixth. But, he was victimized by his offense that has gone cold. The Padres came into the year with a questionable offense but started off great anyway. During the sweep, they scored four runs. Maybe they're coming back to Earth.

The Padres gave a threat in the second. Yorvit Torrealba singled with one out, and Will Venable followed with a walk. After Kyle Blanks struck out, Tony Gwynn ripped one to first that James Loney made a diving grab on, and beat Gwynn in a race to the bag.

Jamey Carroll started the sixth with a walk. Billingsley sacrificed him over to second. It turned out to be a big play, as Martin's single scored Carroll, giving the Dodgers the 1-0 lead and wiping out the no-no.

Billingsley stayed on in the eighth to get Gwynn on a groundout. With Matt Stairs pinch-hitting, Joe Torre brought in the "Stairs-killer," Jonathan Broxton. OK, that was a joke. Torre actually brought in Hong-Chih Kuo. Out went Stairs, in came Oscar Salazar, and it didn't matter because he popped up. Everth Cabrera grounded out to end the inning.

Broxton eventually did come in for the save opportunity in the ninth, and got the Padres in order for his seventh. That's now 11 batters sat down in a row for him.

The ironic thing about Martin getting the lone RBI of the game is that he wasn't even supposed to start. But with Manny and Blake sitting out, Torre made the right call in keeping him in there. And we all know he would play all 162 if he had the choice.

This was the Dodgers' biggest series of this young season, and they passed with flying colors. They scored nine total runs, but made enough big plays each game to get the victory. Today, they used one big hit, good defense from guys like Loney and Johnson, and more fantastic pitching. It was great to get a win without so many regulars.

The Dodgers will put their seven-game winning streak on the line when they welcome the Astros in for two at home. The Astros are just horrible this year, and have a run differential of -60, by far the worst in the league. Fresh off two good starts, John Ely gets the ball on Monday.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Dodgers win behind Kershaw's gem

Clayton Kershaw gave his second straight fantastic performance, and the Dodgers beat the Padres for the second straight day, 4-1. The Dodgers are now three games back of the Padres in the NL West.

Friday night's game last quite awhile, but this one flew right by thanks to Kershaw. He finished the night with seven innings pitched, three hits, one run, two walks, and seven strikeouts. Combined with his eight innings of shutout ball against the Rockies in his last start, and he's lowered his ERA from 4.99 to 3.55.

The Padres scored their lone run of the game in the first. Scott Hairston walked and David Eckstein singled to lead off. After a groundout by Adrian Gonzalez got Hairston to third, he scored on Chase Headley's RBI groundout.

James Loney immediately got that run back by hitting a solo shot to start the second. Both teams went scoreless the next three innings.

In the fifth, Casey Blake led off with a walk. An out later, he went to second on Kevin Correia's wild pickoff attempt. Jamey Carroll got another start at short and delivered again, this time an RBI single to go up 2-1. Following a Kershaw sacrifice bunt, Carroll scored on Russell Martin's single.

The last run was tacked on in the sixth. It came from Garret Anderson, who's someone that desperately needs to make something happen. Loney walked and stole second with one down. Anderson then laced a triple to right, putting the Dodgers up 4-1. Anderson still only has a pathetic .143 average, but at least he did something positive tonight.

The rest of the game was cruise control for Kershaw and the bullpen. Ramon Troncoso entered in the eighth, and he made quick work of the Padres with a couple of strikeouts and a flyout.

Jonathan Broxton got a 1-2-3 ninth for his sixth save. After blowing a save against the Brewers on May 6, he's a perfect 5-for-5 in save opportunities, while not giving up a run.

This game signifies how the Dodgers have turned things around the last couple of weeks. They got great starting pitching, timely hitting, and committed no errors. They only put seven men on base all night, but scored four of them. Plus they won tonight without Andre Ethier, and Manny Ramirez went 0-for-4.

Speaking of Ethier, he missed the game with a jammed little finger on his right hand. He's listed as day-to-day, so hopefully that means it won't be a DL trip. Time will tell.

The Dodgers will go for the sweep on Sunday. Chad Billingsley is going for his second straight win, and he'll be opposed by Wade LeBlanc.

Kemp's blast lifts Dodgers over Padres

When the Dodgers needed a big hit on Friday night, Matt Kemp got just enough of one to lead the way.

Kemp's two-run homer in the seventh was enough for the Dodgers to claim a 4-3 win over the first place Padres. It was his first since April 21 in Cincinnati, and couldn't have come at a better time.

Coming into this game, the Dodgers found themselves needing someone to make another spot start. Joe Torre has called on the likes of Carlos Monasterios and John Ely in the past, and this time it was Ramon Ortiz. It wasn't a favorable choice considering his ERA was 5.16 coming in.

All things considered, Ortiz really didn't do that badly. The goal was to pitch effectively enough to keep the Dodgers in the game. Three runs in four innings doesn't look that great, but it allowed the bats a chance to win the game later.

The first part of the game featured the Padres going back and forth between being up one and being tied. Adrian Gonzalez got them on the board in the first with a solo homer. It could have been worse, though, as Tony Gwynn got caught stealing right before that.

The Dodgers tied it back up in the third, but blew a golden opportunity to get more. Three straight singles by Russell Martin, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier off of Jon Garland started the inning. Manny lined a single to right, but only one run scored because it was hit so hard.

James Loney has been great in his career with the bases loaded, but he feebly popped up to the infield. Casey Blake then grounded into a double play, and the Dodgers only got one run out of it.

Will Venable got an RBI single to give the Padres the lead back in the third. In the fifth, the Dodgers again tied it on Ethier's RBI double to right center. The ball was inches away from going out, and sure looked like it would at first. But, that's Petco Park for you.

Ortiz started the fifth, but a walk to Gwynn and single by David Eckstein brought in George Sherrill. I haven't been able to say this much (if at all), but Sherrill did a great job. Gonzalez popped up, Chase Headley hit an RBI groundout, and Venable struck out swinging. Now that's the Sherrill we've been waiting to see.

The Dodgers kept the game close all game long, and were waiting to get that one big blow. It happened in the seventh, and started with Martin's double. Kemp then just put one out of the reach of Gwynn in center, putting the Dodgers up for good at 4-3.

Ronald Belisario and Hong-Chih Kuo teamed up to pitch the eighth. It ended with Kuo striking out Gonzalez. Like Sherrill, it's good to see those two regaining their dominant form.

The bases were left loaded again in the ninth, as Loney struck out this time around. Jonathan Broxton got all three batters faced for his fifth save.

With the way the Padres have opened the season, this has to be considered a big win. Plus, the Dodgers in recent history always seem to struggle in San Diego. So, it's a great sign to watch them fight their way to a win. That's now seven wins in the last eight.

Clayton Kershaw is coming off of a great start against the Rockies and Ubaldo Jimenez last Sunday. He got an extra day of rest, so should be ready to go today.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dodgers back to .500 with sweep

The Dodgers completed a three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks on Wednesday by a score of 6-3. Hiroki Kuroda provided another great start, and three runs in the seventh put the game away for good.

The sweep was the Dodgers' first of the season, and also gave them a 9-3 record again NL West foes. It's also six wins in the last seven games.

After a rough start to the season, business is definitely picking up.

Both teams didn't do much damage through three innings, as Kuroda and Edwin Jackson kept the hitters off balance by allowing two combined baserunners.

Who would be the person to get the bats going? None other than Andre Ether, currently your National League triple crown leader. Matt Kemp singled to start the fourth. Ethier then hit one just out to left for a two-run shot, making it 2-0.

That lead would be short-lived, however. Stephen Drew and Mark Reynolds both singled, bringing up Adam LaRoche with one down. LaRoche would deliver a rocket down the right field line, easily scoring both, and it was 2-2.

Jamey Carroll did a lot of work to get another run on the board in the fifth. He walked to lead off, then stole second with one out. After Russell Martin's lineout to third, Kemp hit an RBI single to shallow left for a 3-2 lead.

The Diamondbacks made a pretty head-scratching move in the seventh which eventually chased Jackson. Carroll walked to start, and Martin singled with one out. Kemp struck out, but Martin stole second for two runners in scoring position.

With two outs, manager A.J. Hinch decided to walk Ethier to face Manny Ramirez. Manny wasted no time in hitting a three-run double to center, breaking the game open at 6-2. It was a tough call, but it's hard to justify giving Manny a chance like that, even with Ethier being red hot. It just wasn't a smart thing to do.

Kuroda made it into the eighth, and was soon lifted after giving up a single and a flyout. Ronald Belisario pitched to one batter and gave up a walk, and Hong-Chih Kuo gave up the last run of the game on a sac-fly to LaRoche.

Jonathan Broxton got the save, but it wasn't exactly flawless. A single by Tony Abreu and walk to Cole Gillespie brought the tying run to the plate. But, Broxton struck out the side, including the last two hitters for his fourth save.

Kuroda had to overcome the scary memory of getting beaned in the head the last time he was in Arizona. He walked the first batter, but quickly recovered. He's now 4-1 with a 2.66 ERA on the year. He's not an ace, but is a great 2-3 starter.

Even if the Diamondbacks really aren't that good, it was still a big three games for the Dodgers. They need wins any way they can get them, and they've done that a lot lately. They're getting healthier, getting much better starting pitching, and getting production up and down the batting order. It's pretty simple, but that's why they've looked much more competitive in recent days.

Thursday is an off day, then a three-game battle against the first place Padres. Who would have thought we'd be saying that before the season? I'm not sure many people could even name more than a handful of Padres, but they've been fantastic so far. Ramon Ortiz gets the spot start against old friend Jon Garland.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ely gets first major league win

John Ely posted his second straight good start, and offense backed him up as the Dodgers rolled over the Diamondbacks, 13-3. The win gave Ely his first win in the bigs after three starts.

Ely and Dan Haren both put up blanks the first three innings. Haren was especially impressive as he struck out the side in each inning. Ely countered with pop-ups and groundouts.

The Dodgers got on the board in the fourth. James Loney doubled with one down, and he scored on Casey Blake's RBI double to center. Ronnie Belliard followed with an RBI double of his own, and it was 2-0.

Another run was tacked on in the sixth. Manny Ramirez and Loney both singled to open the inning. Blake sacrificed them over to scoring position, and Belliard got another RBI with a single to push the lead to 3-0. An RBI double by Andre Ethier in the seventh made it 7-0.

Ely was in complete control at this point, as he got through the first six innings without a serious scoring threat. But, singles by Mark Reynolds and Stephen Drew to start the seventh chased him. Jeff Weaver came in, and Chris Young hit an RBI single, making it 4-1.

With two down, George Sherrill was given a big chance to retire Kelly Johnson... only to fail again as Johnson hit a two-run double, and it was 4-3. Ramon Ortiz got Connor Jackson grounding out to end the inning.

A close, one-run game was quickly blown completely open in the eighth by the Dodgers, as they put up a seven spot. The big blow was Russell Martin's three-run jack. Loney added an RBI single, Belliard a bases loaded walk, and Jamey Carroll a two-run single. Just like that, the Dodgers led 11-3.

The late onslaught continued in the ninth on a sac-fly RBI by Reed Johnson and an RBI double by Loney.

The beginning of the game was rough, as the offense looked helpless against Haren. But, patience won out, as they just crushed anything thrown their way as the game progressed. Martin ended 3-for-6 with a homer and three RBIs, Belliard 2-for-4 with three RBIs, and Loney 4-for-6 with two doubles and two RBIs. Every starter except Ely had a hit.

While the offense was fun to watch, the shinning light for Dodger fans was Ely's start. He lasted six innings for six hits, two runs, no walks, and six strikeouts. His great control was the key. In fact, he has 17 strikeouts and three walks on the season. Hopefully the Dodgers have found their fourth starter for the rest of the season.

The other positive sign is that this game marked three straight good starts from Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, and Ely. If the Dodgers are going anywhere this season, it's going to be up to those guys to pitch like they're capable of. Hiroki Kuroda has proved he can be consistent, now the others need to build on their positive starts.

After two convincing wins for the Dodgers, it's up to Kuroda to get the sweep. A win would bring them back to .500. It's nothing to brag about, but obviously better than where they were at a week ago (11-16).

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ely is back as Haeger gets DL'd

Charlie Haeger has been placed on the 15-day DL with plantar fasciitis, and John Ely has once again been recalled. Ely was originally sent down to make room for Jeff Weaver a few days ago. Even though players are supposed to wait 10 days to be recalled, since Ely's replacing an injured player of the same position, it's allowed.

Who knows how much this injury has affected Haeger, especially on Saturday night when he got yanked without recording a single out. His numbers are just putrid so far at 0-4 with an 8.49 ERA. I don't want to go so far to say that his injury isn't that bad because that wouldn't be fair to speculate. But, I'm sure the Dodgers are willing to take their time as he tries to figure his stuff out.

As for Ely, he pitched really well against the Brewers last week, so he deserves another chance. He'll get the ball on Tuesday in Arizona. Since the Dodgers are still searching for anyone to claim the final two spots of the rotation, it'll be his spot to lose.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Kershaw outduels Jimenez

Coming off one of the worst starts in his career, Clayton Kershaw didn't just have the challenge of cooling off the Rockies' offense, but beating Ubaldo Jimenez as well.

Kershaw not only rose to the occasion, but he reminded people that when he's on, he's one of the best young hurlers in the game.

The Dodgers rebounded from a bad loss on Saturday to defeat the Rockies, 2-0. Despite getting waxed yesterday, the Dodgers claimed two of three to win this series. The homestand has ended with a 6-4 record.

It was a fun game to watch, especially for fans of a good old fashioned pitcher's duel. Both Kershaw and Jimenez had a few minor troubles early, but quickly found their grove. And when those two are dealing, look out, because the offenses barely stood a chance.

Judging by the first inning, you probably wouldn't have guessed that Kershaw would last so long. Dexter Fowler drew a walk with one down. After Todd Helton struck out (Kershaw got him three times), Troy Tulowitzki bunted his way on. Another walk followed to Ryan Spilborghs, but Ian Stewart struck out. It was a typical Kershaw inning with two walks and two strikeouts. But, no harm done.

The Dodgers broke through in the third thanks to the bottom part of their order. Blake DeWitt led off with a double to right on a changeup. Jamey Carroll then hit one hard back to Jimenez, who deflected the ball just into the outfield. DeWitt scored, and it was 1-0.

From there, both pitchers were totally locked in, so not much happened. It's not like a bunch of regulars were resting on a Sunday, because all the big guns were out there. Obviously Rafael Furcal is still hurt, and unfortunately Carlos Gonzalez went home following the death of his uncle. Other than them, it was a couple of "A" lineups out there.

Jimenez exited in the eighth, and Matt Daley took over. Russell Martin has been slumping lately, hitting .214 in May. He was 0-for-3 at this point, but took an inside pitch out to left field for a solo shot and a 2-0 lead.

At 117 pitches and facing the top of the order, Kershaw was pulled for Jonathan Broxton. He got the first two outs with ease, then surrendered a single on an 0-2 count to Melvin Mora. Spilborghs hit an infield single to Casey Blake at third, and suddenly there was a threat. But, Stewart flied out to Andre Ethier, and it was over.

Kershaw is a hard guy to figure out, as he goes from wild to masterful in the flick of a switch. Today was a huge step in the right direction, as he went eight innings for two hits, no runs, three walks, and nine strikeouts. It was easily his best start of the season, and no doubt gave the bullepen a much needed day off.

The Dodgers are still searching for a consistent, winning formula. They got Manny Ramirez back recently, and all indications are that Rafael Furcal is a week away. With them back in the fold, maybe that will give them the added boost they need. Then again, pitching is still a major issue, but Kershaw's start today is a reason for optimism.

Now the Dodgers are off to Arizona for three. They will then take a day off Thursday, and go onto San Diego for three more. Chad Billingsley starts the first game, and Hiroki Kuroda on Wednesday. Tuesday's game is still anyone's guess.

Dodgers get Haegerbombed

The good news: Charlie Haeger accomplished something that hasn't been done in 22 seasons.

The bad news: That accomplishment was getting yanked without recording a single out.

Haeger had another chance to prove he belonged in the starting rotation, and was just awful. A single, three walks, a three-run triple, and Joe Torre pulled him in the first inning down 4-0. The Rockies cruised to an easy win, 8-0.

With only three established starters in the rotation (two of whom are coming off terrible starts in Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley), the final two slots are basically band-aids. Sometimes it works, like John Ely's sharp performance last Thursday. Sometimes, the blood comes soaking through anyway, like Saturday night.

The game opened with a single by Seth Smith. Dexter Fowler then walked. Todd Helton then walked to load the bases. Not to be outdone, Troy Tulowitzki drew another walk to force in a run. By the time Haeger finally threw a strike, it was as he watched Carlos Gonzalez's three-run triple down the right field line.

The masterful Ramon Ortiz came in next (yes, sarcasm... like I really needed to clarify that). His first batter was Ian Stewart, and Stewart hit a two-run shot to make it 6-0. Matt Kemp had an error to put another runner on, but three groundouts mercifully ended the inning.

While the score was 6-0, the Dodgers still had nine innings against an unproven pitcher and the return to Manny Ramirez to chip away. Well, that didn't happen at all. The game was over in the first inning.

The Dodgers managed a measly six hits against Jhoulys Chacin, as he mowed through them over 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball. Who knows, he may end up being a good pitcher down the line. But he had a 4.91 ERA in nine appearances last year, so it's not like he tore the league up. It was a pretty sad effort from the offense.

There were a few innings where the Dodgers put a couple men on, but came up empty. Manny lined out to right to end the third. Blake DeWitt's flyout to center ended the sixth. In the eighth, Kemp and Manny singled, but James Loney grounded into a double play to squash that threat.

Not only did the Dodgers suffer another lopsided loss, but now Tuesday's start is up in the air. Torre originally pointed out Carlos Monasterios and Ortiz as potential starters, but they both appeared in this game. Ortiz pitched five innings and Monasterios two. Maybe Monasterios can give a few innings by resting a couple days, but that's just a guess.

Much like the beginning of this homestand, the Dodgers would get a couple of good wins, then get crushed. It's a pretty bad trend. Even if the pitching is horrible, the bats have got to do better than roll over and play dead like in this game. Andre Ethier showed up, going 3-for-3, but that's it. Maybe they need Rafael Furcal back more than we thought.

With all of that said, the Dodgers can still claim this series with a win today. It'll be very tough, though, as Clayton Kershaw goes against Ubaldo Jimenez. Jimenez has six starts, six wins, and a 0.87 ERA. In my mind, that's pretty good.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

With returning veterans, Ely and Paul optioned

After helping the Dodgers win a couple games recently, John Ely and Xavier Paul received some tough, but not too unexpected news: both are being sent down to Triple-A Albuquerque. Jeff Weaver and Manny Ramirez came off the 15-day DL to replace them.

Ely was great on Thursday against the Brewers. He lasted 6 2/3 innings and gave up only a single run. A blown save in the ninth by Jonathan Broxton prevented him from getting his first big league win. The outing was especially impressive considering the Brew Crew just slapped around Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley the previous two nights. With the way the rotation has been going, look for him to be back at some point.

As for Paul, he seemed to take the news pretty hard. The Dodgers are 5-1 when he starts, and 4-0 when he leads off. But, he's still the odd man out. My guess is the decision came down to him or Garret Anderson. Anderson is hitting .133 in 45 at-bats playing part-time. But, this early in the season, the Dodgers simply weren't going to give up on him for the younger Paul.

Back-and-forth game goes Dodgers way

The Dodgers and Rockies were locked in a tight struggle for most of Friday night. Fortunately for the Dodgers, they got the big hit when they needed it most.

Matt Kemp's RBI triple scored Jamey Carroll in the sixth, and great bullpen work kept the lead as the Dodgers won, 6-5. Jeff Weaver's brief appearance was good enough to get him win #100 in his career.

Both teams exchanged runs in the second. Troy Tulowitzki walked, stole second, and went to third on a grounder. Ian Stewart's sac-fly RBI scored him to make it 1-0. Casey Blake led off with a double, and he scored on Carroll's RBI single to knot it up.

From there, it was a battle of both teams looking to take control. The Dodgers grabbed the lead back in the third, as Kemp reached on an error by Ian Stewart. After stealing second, Kemp scored on Andre Ethier's single, and it was 2-1.

The Rockies got that run right back in the fourth on Carlos Gonzalez's RBI single. They then took a temporary lead the next inning. Once again, it was Gonzalez doing the damage with a sac-fly RBI, and it was 3-2.

The Dodgers got their bats going in the fifth, starting with Xavier Paul's leadoff double. Ethier got another big hit with an RBI double to tie the game. Blake singled to score Ethier, and Russell Martin followed that up with a run-scoring single of his own, and the Dodgers grabbed the lead at 5-3.

At this point, Hiroki Kuroda had been struggling to maintain control. He once again couldn't hold onto the lead, as the Rockies tied the game. Eric Young pinch-hit and tripled to right. Seth Smith scored him with a single. George Sherrill entered to pitch to Todd Helton, and Helton lifted a sac-fly that plated Smith, making it 5-5.

The game would then become a battle of the bullpens. Carroll greeted Matt Daley with a double to begin the bottom of the sixth. With two outs and Carroll on third, Kemp hit a fly ball that landed just between center and right, rolling to the wall for a triple that scored Carroll.

With the score 6-5, the Dodgers' bullpen came through. It started with Ramon Troncoso, who worked around two baserunners in the seventh to get out of the inning, then set the side down in order in the eighth.

Jonathan Broxton came on for the save, fresh off a blown one the night before. It looked like it might happen again, as Gonzalez used a long at-bat to single to left. Gonzalez got greedy, though, as he was gunned out by Russell Martin trying to steal. Two strikeouts later, and the game was over.

On a night where Kuroda couldn't get his command, the bats came through. They only had nine hits, but Kemp, Blake, Carroll, and Martin all had RBIs with two down. On the flip side, the Rockies had 11 hits, but stranded 11 on base. That was the difference in this one.

With a good start to this series, the Dodgers will give another start to Charlie Haeger on Saturday. Haeger pitched very well in relief against the Brewers on Tuesday, so that possibly earned him this start. He'll look to get the Dodgers out of the cellar of the NL West.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Injury updates on Manny and Raffy

There's some good news on the injury front for the Dodgers.

Manny Ramirez has just finished up his last rehab assignment for Single-A Inland Empire. If he is feeling good on Friday, and indications are that he is, he will be activated and start Saturday's game against the Rockies.

Rafael Furcal is aiming for a return late next week. His injured hamstring is about 100%, and he will test it this weekend. With his history of injuries, the Dodgers are being extra cautious to not rush him back. It's a good strategy, even with the Dodgers struggling now. They're looking long-term at this, and it's the right thing to do.

As for who will get demoted, Nick Green is a slam-dunk once Raffy's back. While Xavier Paul has played pretty well in some starts, I just can't see him staying over Garret Anderson. Not with Joe Torre's history of leaning towards veterans. My guess is Paul goes back to Triple-A.

Another couple of names to consider are Charlie Haeger and John Ely. If Haeger gets shelled again soon, he could be the one as well. Ely is coming off a good start, so I see him staying for the time being.

Ethier pulls another Kobe

Look out, Kobe Bryant. Andre Ethier is challenging you for the most clutch player in L.A.

After watching Jonathan Broxton go through a blown save in the ninth, Ethier bailed the Dodgers out yet again with a walk-off grand slam, giving the Dodgers a win over the Brewers, 7-3. And mercifully, the sweep has been avoided.

John Ely did everything he could to get his first major league win, as he was awesome. In 6 2/3 innings, he gave up four hits, one run, and struck out seven. He quieted an offense that absolutely creamed Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley. And that was no easy feat.

The Dodgers jumped out to the lead in the first. Xavier Paul, whose status is still in limbo with Manny Ramirez on his way back, led off and walked. He then stole second, and went to third on Matt Kemp's deep flyout to center. A sac-fly RBI by James Loney made it 1-0.

In the second, it was a fielding blunder by Prince Fielder that gave the Dodgers two unearned runs. Jamey Carroll doubled with two outs. Ely then bounced an easy one to third, but for some reason, Fielder pulled up short on the catch, and it bounced inside the dugout. Carroll scored, and Paul then hit an RBI double to plate Ely, and it was 3-0.

Ely was lifted in the seventh after giving up an RBI single to Greg Zaun with two outs. Ronald Belisario uncorked a wild pitch, but got Corey Hart swinging to end it.

Hong-Chih Kuo set the side down with ease in the eighth, and got the ball to Broxton. That's really all the Dodgers were asking - to let Broxton get the win. The formula was simple, but it didn't work.

Ryan Braun and Fielder singled with one down. Casey McGehee then flied out, and all was looking good. Not so fast, as RBI singles by Zaun (who seemed to kill the Dodgers these last three days) and Craig Counsell tied it at three. Broxton still only has one save, and two blown ones.

With LaTroy Hawkins now in the game, Carroll singled to lead off. Garret Anderson pinch-hit, but lined out. Paul continued his great night with a single, and Carroll eventually moved to third on a wild pitch. Matt Kemp drew a walk to load the bases.

It all came down to Ethier, who someone seems to always find himself in these situations. All he needed was a deep fly ball, and he certainly got that, as his grand slam sailed over the center field wall. Another walk-off for Mr. Clutch.

It's just incredible how often this happens for Ethier, who now has 11 walk-offs since 2008. That's easily the most in the majors in that span. The guy has a knack for getting his best swing at the most crucial time possible. The grand slam was also his second this season already.

Ely definitely deserved the win, so that's a shame that it didn't happen. Broxton gave up his first runs of the season, as he's still looking for regular work as a closer. For Joe Torre, the challenge is finding spots to get him in, even without a save on the line. He only has 10 appearances, so his workload needs to increase somehow. He can't just sit for so long and expect to be dominant.

Ethier's slam has given the Dodgers something to feel good about for the first time since Sunday. After looking good against the Pirates, the Brewers really did slap them around for the majority of the series. But, avoiding the sweep was key, and it happened.

Now the Dodgers have the Rockies in town for three. The Rocks have played .500 ball thus far, so they haven't exactly been thrilled with the way they've played either. But, they do have Ubaldo Jimenez going on Sunday, who's been filthy good so far. The Dodgers send Hiroki Kuroda to the mound on Friday.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A bad start... and a worse end

When the Dodgers lined up Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley to pitch the first couple of games against the Brewers, they had to be feeling pretty good about their chances. They just took three of four from the Pirates, and things were looking up.

Two days and 22 runs allowed later, things are back to being down again.

Billingsley got beat up in the first inning, the bullpen was absolutely atrocious, and the bats couldn't get a clutch hit if their lives depended on it. Add it all up, and it was another laugher for the Brewers, 11-3. That knocks the Dodgers back down to 11-16.

The first inning was a joke, as Billingsley looked like he was clueless on how to pitch to major league batters. He gave up four straight singles to start, and soon an RBI triple to Alcides Escobar, and it was 4-0 just like that.

The offense at least made it close for a little while. Singles by Russell Martin and Matt Kemp put two on. James Loney and Casey Blake followed with consecutive RBI singles, and it was 4-2.

The funny thing after the first was that Billingsley actually settled down to pitch well, as he got through the next five innings unscathed. He somehow went from giving up four runs on five hits in the first to giving up no runs on two hits after. Go figure.

In the sixth, the Dodgers cut the lead to 4-3, temporarily giving some hope to the home fans. Loney led off with a walk, then went to second on a wild pitch. With two outs, Garret Anderson pinch-hit for Billingsley, and came through with an RBI single.

The good news was that the Anderson at-bat worked, the bad news is that the bullpen was given the ball and flopped. Ronald Belisario worked around an error by Casey Blake to get out of the seventh.

Then the eighth came, and it was like the first inning all over again. In all, 10 men hit, and the Brewers used four run-scoring singles to do the damage. There was just no escaping this inning it seemed like. Belisario and Ramon Troncoso were just horrible.

Not to be outdone, George Sherrill gave up a couple of runs in the ninth. What's happened to him? He went from the best setup man in the league to a guy with a 9.00 ERA. I can't believe he's dropped this fast.

It was good that Billingsley settled down, but the fact that he started the game so poorly is once again a disturbing sign. The book on him is that he has great stuff, but is susceptible of giving up a big inning. Well, he lived up to that label and then some on Wednesday night.

As for the bullpen, it's hard to imagine them being this bad over the course of the season. But right now, they're really bad. And that's just reality. Only Jonathan Broxton and Carlos Monasterios look like the have a clue. The rest take turns getting pounded night in and night out. It's hard to watch.

If the Dodgers want to save even a little bit of face, they need to win the final game of this series. I think the Brewers are a good team, but it's not like they've been playing well to start the year. You wouldn't know it by watching the first two games, though.

John Ely will get another spot start. His first one didn't go so well, as he got knocked around by the Mets. With the way the rotation is playing, a good start tonight could earn him more starts.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Kershaw KO'd early in blowout

Clayton Kershaw took one on the chin Tuesday night... and then some.

Facing a good hitting team in the Brewers, Kershaw lasted only 1 1/3 innings, getting pounded for seven runs on five hits, three walks, and two hit batsmen. The result was an early 7-0 hole, and the Brewers took this one with ease, 11-6.

Obviously anytime your starting pitcher can't even get out of the second inning, it's a disappointment. Factor that in with the rest of the staff struggling to start the year, and you can bet how hard it was to watch the "ace" of the staff get rocked.

It all started in the second inning, though the first two men reached for the Brewers to lead off the game, but were stranded. Corey Hart walked and Greg Zaun was plunked, which led to an RBI single from Alcides Escobar. Pitcher Chris Narveson then struck out, and there was one on and one down.

The top of the order came back up, and boy did they ever get the job done. A single by Rickie Weeks loaded the bases. Then runs were scored on Chris Gomez's beaning, Ryan Braun's three-run double, and Prince Fielder's two-run homer. Ramon Ortiz came in next and eventually surrendered a two-run shot to Zaun.

So, before the Dodgers could even get their #4 hitter up, the Brewers were up 9-0.

About the only good news to come out of this game was that once the score went to 10-0, the Dodgers at least tacked some runs on to make it look not quite as embarrassing. James Loney had a three-run homer in the eighth. But make no mistake about it, this was a beatdown from the start.

If it was some end-of-rotation guy getting shelled, you can pretty much understand it. But for Kershaw, more is expected of him. Part of that is because we know what he's capable of. The other part is that the staff doesn't have a true ace, so Kershaw is looked upon to be one. Fair or not, it's the way it is.

Kershaw is still only 22-years-old, and that's something that needs to be put in perspective. He's not ready to be an ace yet, but maybe he shouldn't be at this point. He's going to have games he's brilliant, and he'll have games in which he struggles to throw a strike. Last night was the latter, and to the extreme.

One positive on the pitching side of this game was Charlie Haeger. Granted, he was pitching without any pressure because his team was getting killed, but he still only gave up one run in four innings, striking out three. Maybe he's found a new role. At the very least, he may have bought himself more time to stay with the big club.

After such a strong start to the homestand, the wheels on the bus came to a screeching halt with this loss. The Brewers are third in the NL in runs scored, so getting that offense under control is hard to do. Kershaw flopped, so Chad Billingsley and John Ely will now have their chances.

Billingsley has been on an upswing lately, coming off of two good starts. But, those were against the Nationals and Pirates. Facing the Brewers' lineup is a whole different challenge. If he can put in another quality start and get the win, then maybe he would officially be back on track.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Ethier sizzles as Dodgers whack Pirates

It was the Andre Ethier Show on Sunday in Dodger Stadium.

Ethier hit two home runs, his third straight game with a homer. Combined with eight strong innings from Hiroki Kuroda, and the Dodgers had more than enough to beat the Pirates, 9-3. The Dodgers took the final three games after dropping the first one on Thursday.

The Dodgers got things going in the second, starting with Matt Kemp's walk. James Loney laced a double to the gap in right center, and Kemp came all the way around to score and go up 1-0. After Loney advanced to third on Ronnie Belliard's groundout, Blake DeWitt began his four-hit day with an RBI double, putting the score at 2-0.

Ethier's first contribution to the day was in the third. Xavier Paul hit leadoff and again impressed, hitting a triple. An out later, Ethier's RBI single made it 3-0. The Pirates got one back on Andy LaRoche's RBI groundout in the fourth.

The fifth is when the Dodgers put the game out of reach. Paul again started a rally, singling to lead off. Ethier then stepped in with one out and hit another homer. Loney's RBI single made it 6-1, and the Dodgers never looked back.

DeWitt had his best day of the year as well. He hit a two-run double with two down in the seventh. His 4-for-4 effort pulled his average from .250 to .297 all in one day. I'd say that's a pretty good improvement.

Ethier's second home run of the day rounded out the scoring for the Dodgers. This was an absolute blast off of Joel Hanrahan in the eighth. It was quite an impressive line for Ethier: 3-for-5, two runs, four RBIs. He's got the third spot in the order on lockdown.

Had Ethier not gone crazy at the plate, then the story of the day would have been Kuroda. It was another stellar performance from him, as he went eight innings for five hits, one run, one walk, and five strikeouts. Once again, the key was his ability to throw strikes at any point. That's something Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley are still working on.

The defensive play of the year for the Dodgers was also made in this game. With Andy LaRoche on first with one out in the seventh, Bobby Crosby lifted a soft fly ball to left. Ronnie Belliard, starting at third for Casey Blake, made a great over-the-head catch. He then threw all the way to first to double up LaRoche, with a stretching Loney getting the call. Fantastic play.

The only downside to the game was George Sherrill's atrocious work in the ninth. Asked to get the final three outs when up 9-1, Sherrill instead gave up two runs on a single, two doubles, and a walk. You would've thought it was Russ Ortiz out there in mop-up duty. Ronald Belisario had to get the final out, a flyout from Jeff Clement.

The Dodgers are still three games under .500 at 11-14, but this was a good series for them. Granted, the Pirates are still one of the worst teams in the league, but with the way the Dodgers played on the road, they'll take any win they can get. After getting shutout on Thursday, the Dodgers won the last three by a combined score of 20-6.

Monday is an off day, then the Brewers come in for three. Rafael Furcal should be making his return, which is a welcome sight over Jamey Carroll. Nothing against Carroll, but Raffy makes so many things happen when he's right. Clayton Kershaw goes in the first game.

Ethier and Monasterios team up for win

Carlos Monasterios made a successful spot start, Andre Ethier hit a three-run dinger, and the Dodgers cruised to a victory over the Pirates, 5-1. The season series between the two teams is now knotted at 3-3.

Monasterios entered the game with a 1.69 ERA in seven relief appearances. With injuries to Vicente Padilla and Jeff Weaver, Joe Torre had to look for someone to fill the spot left on Saturday. His plan of combining relievers paid off.

Like the night before, the Pirates got off to a good start, only to fall flat as the game progressed. Monasterios walked the first hitter, Akinori Iwamura, probably as he was battling some early game jitters. Russell Martin gunned out Iwamura trying to steal second, though.

James Loney made a nice catch in foul territory off of Andy LaRoche's bat, as Loney had to reach over the railing into the Pirates dugout to make the grab. Andrew McCutchen made people quickly forget about that, as he hit a solo shot to go up 1-0.

The second inning was interesting, as Monasterios struggled to find his command. Lastings Milledge was beaned, and Zack Duke sacrificed him to second. Ronny Cedeno was then hit in the head on a slow curveball (so thankfully no damage done), and Iwamura singled to left to load the bases. LaRoche grounded easily to Casey Blake for the forceout for three outs.

That would be the last real threat of the night for the Pirates, as they only gathered three hits the rest of the way. It should be noted that Garrett Jones sat this one out, as he had a piece of food stuck in his throat the night before, causing a hospital visit. He did make his way to the game, but wasn't used.

The Dodgers got things going in the third. Monasterios is the one who started it, as he singled to lead off. Martin singled an out later to put two on. Ethier then took a low pitch and golfed it out to right, putting the Dodgers up for good at 3-1.

Reed Johnson hit in the leadoff spot, and he added an RBI double in the fourth. The last run was scored on an RBI double from Loney in the seventh.

It was obviously a good night for Monasterios, but he fell just short of getting the necessary five innings for the win. In four innings, he allowed three hits, one run, one walk, two hit batsmen, and two strikeouts. Torre targeted 70-75 pitches for him, and he ended at 73.

Once Monasterios was pulled, it was up to Ramon Ortiz to keep the Dodgers in the lead. And, believe it or not, that actually happened. For the first time as a Dodger, Ortiz looked like a competent pitcher. He went three innings and only gave up one hit, striking out five. Granted, he was playing the Pirates, but he still looked good.

Hong-Chih Kuo and Ramon Troncoso pitched the final two innings. Kuo has had three straight positive appearances, and Troncoso continues to get the ball in any situation. His ERA is down to 3.21.

With Manny Ramirez looking at a few rehab assignments soon, it was Ethier who provided the power last night in his absence. Ethier went 3-for-4 with a homer and two doubles. He's now hitting .350, including a whopping .432 at home.

The win makes two straight over the Pirates after getting shutout on Thursday. I figured the Dodgers would need to take at least three of four in this series, and they've got a game to go. Hiroki Kuroda has been the best starter thus far, and he gets the call today. A win on Sunday would be a great start to the 10-game homestand.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Losing streak ends at five

The Dodgers finally got some good starting pitching, bullpen work, long balls, and a little help from the other team all in one night. The end result was a 6-2 win over the Pirates, and the losing streak has mercifully been snapped.

Judging by the start of the game, it sure looked like another long night at Chavez Ravine. On the very first pitch of the game, Akinori Iwamura hit a ground rule double to left off of Chad Billingsley. Andrew McCutchen plated him an out later on a double of his own, and it was 1-0.

Xavier Paul surprisingly found himself hitting leadoff, and it paid off with a single. He then stole second on Russell Martin's strikeout. Andre Ethier took a fat pitch and hit a laser out to right, putting the Dodgers up 2-1.

In the third, it was the Pirates' defense that aided the Dodgers' success. Errors by Bobby Crosby and Jeff Clement allowed Paul and Ethier to reach base with one down. James Loney hit one of the lowest liners you'll ever see for a home run. The three-run shot put the Dodgers up 5-1.

The teams traded single runs in the next few innings. Ryan Doumit doubled to right to score Ryan Church in the fourth. The Dodgers got it back on Ronnie Belliard's pinch-hit sacrifice fly RBI, ending the scoring at 6-2.

It was a pretty big start for Billingsley, whom the Dodgers trusted to get back on the winning side. And that he did. He ended at six innings for six hits, two runs, three walks, and four strikeouts. In his last two starts, he's given up only three runs in 12 innings, which is something the Dodgers have been hoping to see.

The offense needed someone to step and show some signs of life. Ethier did that early, and Loney took advantage of terrible defense for his big homer. Pirates' starter Charlie Morton came in with a 16.20 ERA, but he struck out eight and actually looked halfway decent.

The bullpen was another positive, as they had three of their top dogs appear, all with success. Ronald Belisario, George Sherrill, and Jonathan Broxton all combined to throw three innings of one-hit ball. Too bad it wasn't a save situation, as Broxton is still stuck at one.

So that's one win, now the Dodgers need to dominate the weekend. Carlos Monasterios will get his first start in the majors on Saturday night. Joe Torre didn't have much of a choice, and Monasterios has actually performed pretty well, gathering a 1.69 ERA in 10 2/3 innings. It's worth a shot to let him get the start.