Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dodgers sweep the Giants behind red-hot Raffy

The Dodgers put together a complete team effort on Wednesday afternoon as they defeated the Giants, 8-2. The win gave the Dodgers a three-game sweep, and some much-needed confidence after the Yankee series.

Vicente Padilla made his third start since returning from the DL, and he was sensational. He lasted seven innings for three hits, one run, one walk, and five strikeouts. It was a milestone victory for him, the 100th of his career.

The scoring started in the third. Jamey Carroll walked leading off. Rafael Furcal got his first hit of the day with a single for two on. Matt Kemp got his first start since Saturday and hit an RBI single to score Carroll. Also scoring on the play was Raffy on Pat Burrell's error, making it 2-0.

With the Giants unable to get much of anything going on offense, the Dodgers flexed their muscle in the the fifth. Once again, it was Carroll starting it all off with a double. Raffy then crushed a two-run shot to deep left, his third of the season.

Kemp got in on the act as well, launching a solo shot to left to put the Dodgers up 5-0. It was Kemp's 13th of the year. It was nice to see him do something other than strikeout for a change. Maybe this will jumpstart him.

Padilla gave up his lone run of the day on an Aaron Rowand homer leading off the sixth. Despite the lopsided score, it was probably some sweet revenge for Rowand considering he was beaned in the face by Padilla the last time they met.

Three more runs were tacked on in the eighth to emphatically put this one away. Who started it? That's right, Mr. Jamey Carroll with a double. He went to third on a wild pitch, then came around to score when Padilla's third strike swinging got by Eli Whiteside. It was that kind of a day, and series for that matter, for the Giants.

With the bases loaded on a single by Raffy and walk to Russell Martin, Kemp continued his good day with an RBI single. An RBI groundout by Ronnie Belliard pushed it to 8-1.

Ramon Troncoso pitched a scoreless eighth. Joe Torre wanted to rest Hong-Chih Kuo and Jonathan Broxton again, so good old George Sherrill was summoned to start the ninth. How did he do?

Come on now, did you even need to ask?! Terrible is the answer. He got Aubrey Huff grounding out, then gave up consecutive singles to Burrell and Pablo Sandoval. That was it for him, as Justin Miller soon got the last out of the game.

Not only did Sherrill once again prove he has no business being on the team (6.98 ERA, 2.17 WHIP), but Garret Anderson went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts... on his birthday! I can only hope that it won't be too much longer before they're both shown the door because they offer nothing to help the team. That's the sad reality for them now.

Even with their poor performances, today was a huge positive. Sweeping the Giants is always a sweet deal. Raffy was a big reason why, as he collected nine hits in three games. He's proving all over again why he's one of the most electric leadoff men in baseball. Boy is he fun to watch.

As for Kemp, he has been waiting to have a day like this for quite awhile now. He got on base four of his five at-bats, and was a big reason why the Dodgers stretched the lead in the middle innings. We all know how good he can be, and days like today are a step in that direction again. Combine his offense today with his defense yesterday, and that's the Kemp from last year we've been waiting to see.

The Dodgers will take these positive vibes into Arizona for three after an off day Thursday. Hiroki Kuroda will go on Friday against Edwin Jackson. Jackson, as you all should know, is coming off a no-hitter last Friday. Then again, he walked everybody and their mother, but I guess that didn't matter.

Dodgers still own Matt Cain

Matt Cain came into tonight's game with 50 career wins in six seasons and a 3.44 ERA. He's easily one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, and a guy that Giants have built around.

But for whatever reason, he just cannot beat the Dodgers.

That continued on Tuesday, as the Dodgers scored three runs with two outs in the fifth to break a tie, and they went on to win, 4-2. That's two straight over the Giants, and combined with two straight losses by the Padres, the Dodgers are three games back in the NL West.

With the loss, Cain is now 0-8 in his career against the Dodgers. I can't even explain how that's possible, it's just one of those weird things. But hey, I'll gladly take it.

The game wasn't without some bad news, though. Manny Ramirez tweaked his hamstring sliding back into second base in the first inning. He's currently listed as day-to-day.

Both teams traded runs in the first. With two outs, Andre Ethier drew a walk. Manny hit a single that put Ethier on third. An RBI single by James Loney made it 1-0. With Matt Kemp being inserted into the game to run for Manny, Casey Blake walked to load the bases. Blake DeWitt couldn't do anything with it, though, as he fouled out to third.

Andres Torres started things off for the Giants with a double. Pablo Sandoval's flyout got Torres over to third. Aubrey Huff hit a sac-fly RBI to tie the game at 1-1.

For the next few innings, both John Ely and Cain put up blanks. Ely got some help in the third with a double play ball from Sandoval, which just killed the Giants the game before.

In the fifth, the Dodgers took the lead for good. Not surprisingly, it all started with Raffy. He singled leading off, and went to second on Russell Martin's single. Ethier and Kemp both couldn't get on, so it was up to Loney. Martin helped himself with a steal, and Loney came through in a big way with a two-run single to make it 3-1. Blake's RBI single pushed the lead to 4-1.

Once again, the Giants' own boneheaded baserunning killed a potential rally in the sixth. Sandoval reached on an error by Loney, though Ely was just as much at fault for not touching the base when covering first. Huff then flew out to center for one down.

Next up was Pat Burrell, who singled to right. Sandoval, however, overran second, and was gunned out from behind by Ethier. Juan Uribe grounded into a forceout to end the inning. Basically, it was another horrendous decision on the bases that cost his team dearly.

The Dodgers loaded the bases with one out in the seventh. Ethier and Kemp both singled, and Blake drew the intentional pass. Ronnie Belliard pinch-hit for DeWitt and struck out. Reed Johnson also fanned to squash any chance of adding more runs.

After Bengie Molina walked to start the bottom of the seventh. Renteria promptly... you guessed it, grounded into a double play. Aaron Rowand grounded out to end that inning.

Ely exited after seven great innings, and Ramon Troncoso worked around one single to close the door in the eighth.

With Jonathan Broxton (thankfully) getting another day off, whom would Joe Torre turn to as the temporary closer for the night? If you guessed Justin Miller, you're either cheating or are lucky.

It didn't start off so well for Miller, as Burrell homered leading off. Uribe and Travis Ishikawa were then retired for two down, but Renteria singled to keep hope alive.

Ronald Belisario then made an appearance, as he got Buster Posey lining out to end the game. It was Belisario's first career save in 103 games.

Ely was awesome, as he's rebounded very well from a rough stretch not too long ago. He went seven innings for five hits, one run, three walks, and five strikeouts. He got plenty of help from his defense, which turned two double plays and got the big outfield assist from Ethier in the sixth.

Quietly, Loney continues to put up some great numbers. It seems like he does this every year, but doesn't get the proper credit. He had the big two-run single in the fifth, and is now up to 54 RBIs, tops on the team. He won't power the ball out of the park, but finds ways to produce with hard-hitting liners.

I'll be the first to admit that I didn't think the Dodgers would win the first two games, especially by close 4-2 scores. They looked mentally done late in the game against the Yankees on Sunday. It turns out that playing on the road the very next day was the best thing that could have happened. Give credit where it's due - they've stepped up and played great.

Vicente Padilla will look for the sweep on Wednesday afternoon. He pitched very well against the Yankees last Friday. He'll be opposed by Jonathan Sanchez, who has great numbers at home. It should be a good one.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Blake provides the power

Casey Blake is on the Dodgers for veteran leadership and solid defense at third. He also tosses in the occasional homer.

Blake's two-run homer in the eighth gave the Dodgers the lift they needed, as they went on to defeat the Giants, 4-2. It was a much-needed win for a team looking to rebound from Sunday night's debacle against the Yankees.

Chad Billingsley was making his return from the 15-day DL to make the start. His job was to pitch deep into the game while trying to erase the bad memories from the night before.

It didn't start off so well, as the Giants struck in the first. Andres Torres walked to lead off and stole second as Freddy Sanchez struck out. An RBI single by Aubrey Huff later, and it was 1-0 Giants.

The offense for the Dodgers got going in the third. With one out, Rafael Furcal doubled. Reed Johnson hit a single for runners on the corners. Andre Ethier lifted a sac-fly RBI to center to tie the game at 1-1. Manny Ramirez then just found some room in center for an RBI double and a 2-1 lead.

That score would hold up until the sixth. Travis Ishikawa pinch-hit for Barry Zito and hit a double with one down. Torres flew out for two down, so it was up Sanchez. He came through, as his RBI single knotted the game at 2-2.

At this point, it would have been easy for the Dodgers to roll over and play dead after all they went through on Sunday. To their credit, they didn't let that happen. They came into this game with a dominating 18-5 record against the NL West, and they made sure to play like that.

With Santiago Casilla and his 0.73 ERA on in the eighth, the Dodgers had their work cut out for them. Manny singled hard to right with one out. Ronnie Belliard grounded into a fielder's choice to force Manny at second. With two strikes on him, Blake then hit a two-run shot to left that would prove to be the difference. It was great clutch hitting.

Ronald Belisario pitched a scoreless eighth, thanks in large part to a double play ball from Torres. In fact, the Giants hit into an amazing FIVE DP's on the night. I'm not expert, but that's pretty shocking. Or pretty lousy hitting, if that's the way you look at it.

Fast forward to the ninth, and Joe Torre brought in Hong-Chih Kuo to get the save. It wasn't easy, as Juan Uribe walked with one down. Aaron Rowand then singled for two on. Here's something that I didn't think I'd say at the start of the season: Buster Posey pinch-hit for Pablo Sandoval. It didn't work, as Posey went out of the strike zone to strike out on a full count.

Edgar Renteria flied out lazily to right to end the game. It was Kuo's second save of the season.

The best part of this game was not seeing Jonathan Broxton in there. I'm sorry, I just can't easily forgot how terrible he was the night before. That one may take awhile to get over. Even if Kuo blew the save, I was so happy to see him get the chance and not Mr. Scared of the Spotlight. Thank you, Mr. Torre!

As for the Giants, they'll be kicking themselves for being so awful with men on base. The worst sequence came in the seventh. Pat Burrell and Sandoval singled to open the inning. Renteria then flied out to Ethier, who then fired home. Burrell stayed at third, but then Sandoval, for reasons only known to him, tried tagging to second. The ball was cut off, and Raffy easily tagged him out as Burrell went nowhere. Bengie Molina grounded out next, and the Giants completely ran themselves out of a scoring opportunity.

Billingsley put forth a great effort, as he finished with six innings for five hits, two runs, two walks, and three strikeouts. He didn't factor into the decision, but deserved a win. It was nice to see both he and Vicente Padilla pitch so well in coming back from injuries. It's a good sign going forward.

Perhaps most surprising was Matt Kemp sitting for a second straight game. Torre is obviously sending a message: if you're not producing, you're not playing. I like it. Kemp looks so completely lost right now, it's hard to watch. Maybe sitting him and clearing his head will work out for the best. I sure hope so.

Young John Ely will get the ball on Tuesday. He pitched very well against the Angels last start after doing zip in the previous three. He'll go against the powerful Matt Cain.

Monday, June 28, 2010

An excruciating loss for the Dodgers

It may take a long time for the Dodgers to get over this one.

With everything going their way through eight innings on Sunday, Jonathan Broxton couldn't hold the lead, as the Yankees tied it up and went on to win in 10 innings, 8-6. The loss erased a great start from Clayton Kershaw, who was dazzling for seven innings.

One day after putting together a great effort in winning 9-4, the Dodgers scored the first five runs of the game. They had every reason to believe they would take two of three from the Yankees. Instead, they fell to 4-11 in interleague play, which mercifully ended today.

The Yankees' own blunders handed the Dodgers a couple of runs in the third. Reed Johnson started in place of the slumping Matt Kemp and doubled leading off. Kershaw laid down a bunt that went to Andy Pettitte, who then fired wide of third to let Johnson score.

Ronnie Belliard then bunted as well, and Pettitte's throw was low to first, sailing away to allow Kershaw to score for a 2-0 lead. A sac-fly RBI from Andre Ethier made it 3-0.

The next inning brought more runs for the Dodgers. Again, it was Johnson doubling to start. Kershaw again sacrificed him over to third, and Rafael Furcal hit a sac-fly RBI to make it 4-0. A solo shot by Belliard increased it to 5-0, and the Dodgers were in firm control.

Kershaw's only blemish of the night was in the sixth. Derek Jeter led off and singled. Following a couple of outs, Alex Rodriguez hit a two-run homer to cut the lead to 5-2. It didn't seem like a big deal at the time, but that hit would sure pay off later.

The Dodgers picked up an insurance run (at least at the time) in the eighth. Jamey Carroll pinch-hit and singled, then stole second. A double from Raffy made it 6-2.

At this point, Joe Torre had the option of bringing in Ramon Troncoso or Jonathan Broxton in a non-save situation. He chose to go with Broxton. It didn't work.

No matter how you slice it, Broxton was just flat-out atrocious in melting down once again in a big game situation. He actually struck out Mark Teixeira pretty easily to lead off. Then it all went downhill. Hard.

A-Rod singled, went to second on fielder's indifference, and scored on Robinson Cano's double. Following a single by Jorge Posada, Curtis Granderson walked to load the bases. Chad Huffman, who had all of one hit in eight career at-bats coming into this game, hit a two-run single to make it 6-5.

Next up was some guy named Colin Curtis. He had two hits in four career at-bats. Once again, the inexperience made no difference. But, it's not like home plate umpire Chris Guccione gave Broxton any help. With two strikes, there's no better way to describe the next pitch other than saying it was right down the middle and called a ball.

Curtis then grounded one to Loney at first. With Granderson streaking towards home, Loney must have had a temporary brain freeze by stepping on first for the out then trying to get the out at home. The throw was easily late, and the game was tied at 6-6.

Mariano Rivera got the Dodgers in order in the ninth. Teixeira singled off of Troncoso to start the 10th. Rodriguez forced him out at second for one out. In came George Sherrill to face Cano.

Do I even have to tell you if Sherrill got the big out? Well, I will anyway... he didn't. Cano launched a two-run shot that proved to be the game winner. Carroll grounded out to end the game.

The Dodgers have played like crap lately, but this has to be their worst loss this year. They had all the opportunities in the world to take two of three at home, and just choked it away. It was pathetic.

The Dodgers also have to be worried about Broxton. I don't care what his numbers say or how fast he throws. He just cannot close the door in big games. Twice in two years against the Phillies, and tonight against the Yankees. He throws hard stuff, but batters can foul them away because there's no movement. They just wait for him to make a mistake and pounce on it. And that's why he can't beat great teams.

Maybe people might think I'm overreacting to one bad outing, but if Broxton can't even hold a 6-2 lead against the bottom part of the order, that's just sad. He needs to shut the door in those situations, period. Not only does it take away a big win for a team desperately needing one, but it robs Kershaw of the win and recognition he deserves.

As for Sherrill, I think it may be time to pull the plug on him. He's proven that for whatever reason, he can't get hitters out anymore. He has a 6.75 ERA for crying out loud. With a perfect chance to keep the game tied, he gave up a monster homer. Inexcusable on his part.

I'm not sure how the Dodgers regroup from this, but they'll have to and fast. Next up is three games in San Francisco. The Giants are now in second place in the NL West. If there's any reason for optimism, it's that the Dodgers are 18-5 against the West. At this point, they'd rather see anyone other than the American League.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Big offense helps Torre top the Yanks

One day after suffering through a 2-1 loss, the Dodgers quickly found themselves in a 3-0 hole. Rather than panicking, their offense went to work.

The Dodgers got production all throughout the lineup, highlighted by taking an amazing 10 walks, as they cruised over the Yankees, 9-4. The game took nearly four hours to complete, no doubt resembling a Yankees-Red Sox game.

Hiroki Kuroda has been a stud lately, and he started off the game with two quick strikes on Derek Jeter. But, Jeter eventually worked a walk, and that would be the beginning of trouble for Kuroda. Jeter stole second and went to third when Russell Martin's throw sailed into center.

Curtis Granderson drew a walk for two on and none out. Mark Teixeira then hit a three-run homer to right to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead. Already it was looking like a long night for the Dodgers.

Fortunately for the Dodgers, they were facing A.J. Burnett. When Burnett is one, he has some of the nastiest stuff in the game. But when he's not, he's a head case. Tonight was an off night, and the Dodgers capitalized.

Rafael Furcal led off with a single. After Matt Kemp struck out, Andre Ethier singled for runners on the corners. Manny Ramirez then lifted a ground rule double to right to make it 3-1. A sac-fly RBI by James Loney scored Ethier for a 3-2 game.

The top of the order again got to Kuroda in the third. Jeter and Granderson both singled to start. Last night's hero Alex Rodriguez then grounded one softly back to the mound. Kuroda hesitated for some reason, and Blake DeWitt's throw to second for the double play sailed away, scoring Jeter for a 4-2 lead.

It was another miserable miscue for a team that has made a habit of them lately. Whether botching plays on the bases or being unable to turn a simple double play, it's no wonder why the Dodgers have struggled lately.

How would the Dodgers respond to all of this? For a change, they actually did quite nicely. Starting in the bottom of third, they strung together seven unanswered runs to run away with this one.

The bases became loaded with no outs from walks to Kemp and Manny, and a single by Ethier. Loney hit a two-run single to tie the game at 4-4. Martin grounded into a double play, but Manny still scored to take the lead at 5-4. The Dodgers never looked back.

Two more runs were scored in the fourth. Raffy started it again with a single, stole second, and soon scored on Loney's RBI single. Casey Blake added an RBI double for a 7-4 lead. Of course, the Dodgers still ran into an out when Kemp was gunned out at the plate. But it didn't matter.

The final runs were scored in the eighth. With two outs, Raffy singled home Martin, and the throw got away to allow Raffy to scamper to third. Kemp doubled to left for an RBI and a 9-4 lead.

Jonathan Broxton got the last out of the eighth and finished the game in a non-save situation. He walked A-Rod with two outs thanks to a very questionable slider called a ball (Mariano Rivera would've gotten the call). Raffy made a fantastic diving play and throw to first to nail Robinson Cano to end the game.

Today was a big game for the Dodgers, as they had a national TV audience on FOX to show what they've got. What they showed is the ability to bounce back and put runs on the board against the world champs. They also showed great patience and clutch hitting at the plate.

Kuroda didn't have his best stuff, but hung in there long enough to get the win. He finished at 5 1/3 innings, seven hits, four runs, three walks, and five strikeouts. He did a good job of bouncing back after Teixeira's homer in the first.

Furcal was just awesome, as he once again showed how valuable he is when healthy. He went 3-for-5 with three runs scored, a stolen base, and flashed his leather for the game's final out. Take him away from the top of the order, and the Dodgers are a completely different team.

Loney should also get plenty of credit, as he drove in four runs. It was his two-run single in the third that tied the game, and he kept it going with another RBI single the next inning. Toss in a sacrifice fly for a run earlier in the game, and he put together some great at-bats.

Thankfully, interleague play will end after Sunday. The Dodgers won't miss it, as they are a mere 4-10 against the Tigers, Angels, Red Sox, and Yankees. But, if they can get Sunday's game, that'll be two of three against the defending champions. That would be a huge step in the right direction.

Clayton Kershaw will take on Andy Pettitte in a classic young vs. old matchup. Both have a legitimate shot at the All-Star game. Who knows the next time these teams will play each other, so enjoy it while it lasts.

Haeger gets DFA'd, Link is back

Needing another fresh arm, the Dodgers have designated the struggling Charlie Haeger for assignment. Jon Link has been called up for the fourth time already this season.

Haeger's season started off beautifully, as he struck out 12 Marlins in a no-decision back on April 11. He certainly looked like the fifth starter the Dodgers were searching for. Unfortunately, things quickly went downhill, as he never posted another quality start again.

Link has a 4.15 ERA in four appearances. He last pitched June 7 against the Cardinals, going two scoreless innings. He'll be one of the last options out of the bullpen, but provides insurance.

A-Rod's homer the difference for Yanks

With the hype machine in full force for the arrival of the New York Yankees, the Dodgers and Yanks were locked in a tight battle for much of Friday night's game. Vicente Padilla and C.C. Sabathia had their best stuff going.

One swing from Alex Rodriguez proved to be the difference.

A-Rod's solo shot in the sixth gave the Yankees a one run lead, and it held up as the Yankees took the opener of this big three-game set, 2-1. The Dodgers have now dropped seven of eight.

The Yankees knew they had their ace on the mound in Sabathia, so the Dodgers were hoping the Padilla of the end of last year would show up. That was certainly the case, as Padilla had a very strong start by going seven innings for six hits, two runs, one walk, and seven strikeouts.

The game started off well for the Dodgers, as the Yankees were set down in order. Rafael Furcal then led off with a walk and stole second. He advanced to third on Andre Ethier's groundout. Manny Ramirez hit an RBI single to give the Dodgers the lead, 1-0.

A-Rod started his big night with a double leading off the second. An RBI single from Jorge Posada tied the game at 1-1.

That score would stand for awhile, as both pitchers kept the other offense at bay. That's not to say that things didn't get interesting, because they did. Robinson Cano was beaned in the fourth, and Sabathia returned the favor by plunking Padilla in the leg in the fifth. Nothing came of it other than a staredown.

While the score remained tied, the Dodgers were bitten by the double play bug to end both the third and fifth. Those came off the bats of Raffy and Manny, so it was no doubt disappointing that they couldn't get the big hits.

After Mark Teixeira popped up to start the sixth, A-Rod crushed one way out to left for the 2-1 lead. It was one of the only mistakes of the night for Padilla, but that shows just how good the Yankees are. They had a chance to score and delivered. The Dodgers would put men on and come up with nothing.

Despite Manny dropping an easy fly ball off the bat of Cano, the Yankees stranded two in scoring position in the eighth. Ronald Belisario did a great job in the final two innings of pitching scoreless ball to keep the game close.

The most interesting scene of the night was Mariano Rivera going for the save against Torre's current team. Rivera struck out Manny and Matt Kemp to start the ninth.

Needing only one more out, James Loney took two very questionable strike calls before looking at one on the outside corner to end the game. Torre, Loney, and Don Mattingly were clearly PO'd, as they were yelling at home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi as he left the game.

As Torre said, Rivera doesn't need any help. He's already one of the legends of this game. But Loney was clearly given little to no chance to come through. Who knows what would have happened, but the Dodgers were only one swing away from tying the game. Cuzzi didn't let that happen.

Nonetheless, it was a very well-played game from both sides. It was good to see the Dodgers go pitch-for-pitch for nearly the whole game. It was still a loss, but maybe this will jumpstart them to a big weekend.

The Dodgers will send Hiroki Kuroda to the mound today against A.J. Burnett. Kuroda has been awesome lately, giving up only two runs in 19 innings. On the flip side, Burnett is currently in a four-game losing skid, as his June ERA is 10.35.

Tonight's game will be broadcast on FOX as a special primetime game. So, once again, there will be plenty of hype. Now the Dodgers just need to get a win for their home crowd.

Friday, June 25, 2010

At long last, Dodgers beat the Angels

The Dodgers slugged their way past Scott Kazmir and the bullpen in finally beating the Angels after five losses, 10-6. The game featured an odd delay in which some of the lights went out. Thankfully it didn't matter.

Facing the embarrassment of getting swept for the season by the Angels, the bats came alive in a big fourth after being down 1-0 on Bobby Abreu's RBI single in the first.

Matt Kemp started the rally with a single. James Loney was then beaned. Casey Blake flew out to deep center on a nice catch by Torii Hunter, which allowed Kemp to tag to third. Russell Martin walked to load the bases, and Reed Johnson's infield single tied the game at 1-1.

Rafael Furcal has been through a roller coaster of emotions lately, so he really needed something positive to happen. It did, as he laced a two-run double to go up 3-1. Jamey Carroll followed with an RBI single and Andre Ethier an RBI fielder's choice to make it 5-1.

Of course, the inning wouldn't be complete without another boneheaded baserunning blunder. When Ethier grounded back to the mound, the throw to second to get Carroll was late. For reasons only known to him, Carroll then walked off the base thinking he was out, and was tagged trying to get back.

Mike Napoli launched a solo shot to cut the lead to 5-2. Loney reached on an error in the fifth, went to third on Blake's single, and scored on Martin's sac-fly RBI.

The Angels made a run in the bottom of the fifth to make it interesting again. It all came with two outs, as Charlie Haeger gave up a single and walk. Ramon Troncoso came on, and he surrendered RBI singles to Hunter and Hideki Matsui to make it 6-4. Napoli grounded into a fielder's choice to end the inning.

In the seventh, Ethier doubled to lead off. Manny Ramirez came through with an RBI single for a 7-4 lead. Loney eventually walked, and Blake's RBI single increased the score to 8-4.

Manny again hit an RBI single in the eighth to score Carroll. Their final run was scored on Loney's RBI single.

Justin Miller got through the eighth and was kept on to finish the game. That didn't go so well, as Kevin Frandsen's RBI double kept hope alive. George Sherrill came in, and you didn't think he'd actually get a big out, did you? Of course not! Abreu singled home a run to make it 10-6.

Jonathan Broxton was brought in, and he got some help when Martin gunned down Abreu trying to go to third on a pitch in the dirt. Hunter and Matsui struck out swinging to put this game in the books.

Haeger didn't exactly have a great start, as he lasted 4 2/3 innings for five hits, four runs, four walks, and five strikeouts. He had a great chance to get a win, but crumbled in the fifth after getting two outs. His ERA stands at a whopping 8.40.

The real star of the night was Martin, who looked great in nailing three runners trying to steal, in addition to Abreu in the ninth. Plus, he had a sac-fly RBI, took a couple walks, and scored a run. It was an all-around good effort for him.

Other than Martin, every batter had at least a hit. Blake and Carroll had three each, and Furcal, Manny, and Kemp had two each. I've talked before about the need for production throughout the lineup, and that was certainly the case on Thursday. I'd say 15 hits and four walks counts as a big night at the plate.

One day after suffering through about the worst baserunning I've ever seen in my life, it's good the Dodgers didn't have a hangover. They swung the bats like they were determined to win. Granted, the Angels clearly got the better of them this year. The Dodgers desperately needed this one, and they got it.

Next up should be a fun three-game set in Dodger Stadium as the Yankees come to town. I'm surprised the schedule makers didn't plan this one for New York with Joe Torre making his return. But either way, it'll be great to watch.

The rotation sets up well for the Dodgers, as it'll be Vicente Padilla tonight, followed by Hiroki Kuroda and Clayton Kershaw this weekend. The Yankees can say the same with C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Andy Pettitte.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

3-0 lead doesn't hold up

The Dodgers were cruising through five innings on Tuesday night in Anaheim. Matt Kemp homered, Clayton Kershaw was dealin', and the losing streak looked like it would come to an end.

Then the sixth inning came, and all those good vibes got washed away.

Clayton Kershaw surrendered a big three-run homer to Bobby Abreu to tie the game, and the Angels got three more runs the next inning to take the win, 6-3. The Dodgers have now lost five straight.

The third inning started what appeared to be a good night for the Dodgers. Jamey Carroll singled with one down and eventually went to third on a throwing error by Jeff Mathis. Russell Martin then drew a walk for runners on the corners. Needing some sort of big hit to get him going, Andre Ethier delivered with an RBI single for the 1-0 lead.

Manny Ramirez struck out, but James Loney picked him up with an RBI single, and it was 2-0.

Speaking of people needing a big hit, Matt Kemp was one as well. He looked like his old self (not that he's close to being old yet, but you know what I mean) by taking a pitch to right-center for a solo shot in the fourth. He didn't try to do too much to it by pulling the ball - he simply went with it and powered it out.

The Angels threatened in the bottom of the fourth when Kevin Frandsen and Abreu walked leading off. But, a big double play ball from Torii Hunter and lazy fly ball from Hideki Matsui squashed the threat.

Unfortunately, Kershaw didn't get better as the game went on, he only got worse.

Brandon Wood walked and Howie Kendrick singled to open the sixth. On a 2-1 pitch, Abreu hit a three-run homer to dead center to tie the game. After all the momentum the Dodgers had built up throughout the game, it vanished in one swing. That's the way it's been going lately.

The bottom of the seventh started with a double by Juan Rivera. Mike Napoli struck out next. Rivera was given third on a balk, but was then picked off for two outs. Needing one more big out, Kershaw just couldn't do it, giving up consecutive singles to Mathis and Wood.

That would be it for Kershaw, who was no doubt scuffling at 103 pitches. Ronald Belisario was brought in, and this is a spot he would have gotten out of last year. Not this time, as Kendrick hit an RBI single and Frandsen a two-run double for the 6-3 lead.

The Dodgers tried to mount a comeback in the eighth, but came up empty. Garret Anderson singled leading off, and Casey Blake reached on an error. Lo and behold, Kemp hit into a double play and Blake DeWitt lined out to end the inning.

Manny flied out to end the game and give Brian Fuentes his 11th save.

This would have been a good win for the Dodgers had they held on. Instead, they only showed up for half a game. That's just not good enough against a solid team like the Angels. The Angels have plenty of injuries themselves, most notably Kendry Morales being out for the season with a broken leg. But they still produce when given the opportunity. The Dodgers aren't doing nearly enough of that right now.

After starting off June with a 7-2 record, the Dodgers are now in a 2-8 tailspin. I talked a week or so ago about the tough schedule they'd have the rest of the month (Red Sox, Angels, Yankees, and Giants). To be honest, I was hoping they'd play at least .500 ball. Instead, they're playing .000 ball.

Maybe all they need is one win to get them going again. But they'll need to earn it, as they can't execute poorly in big situations and expect to beat good teams. Leaving nine men on base, including five with two outs in scoring position like last night, is not going to cut it.

Someone has to stop the bleeding, and John Ely will give it his best shot tonight. He's been whacked around himself lately, so we'll see what kind of resiliency he has. Hopefully the bats will back him up as well.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Dodgers swept in Boston

Manny Ramirez did his part. Hiroki Kuroda did too.

The rest? Not so much.

For the second straight interleague series, the Dodgers were swept in three games. The Red Sox scored only twice against Hiroki Kuroda, but it held up as they won, 2-0. The Padres won again, so their lead in the NL West is up to two games.

Clay Buchholtz started for the Red Sox, and he has been their best starter this year. Early on, though, the Dodgers put some pressure on him. Andre Ethier drew a walk with one out in the first. Manny singled up the middle for two on. James Loney battled and also walked to load the bases.

With one out, the Dodgers needed to at least get someone home. But, it didn't happen. Garret Anderson struck out and Casey Blake bounced feebly back to the pitcher. Three runners on and no runs.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the Dodgers' defense just handed the Sox a run in the first. Dustin Pedroia bounced one to Blake, and he botched it for a "single" (should've easily been an error, but hey, they were in Boston). Pedroia then stole second, Russell Martin threw the ball away, and Pedroia kept running when nobody covered third because of the shift on for David Ortiz.

If you're keeping track, Pedroia was basically handed three bases. Ortiz was put on intentionally, and Kevin Youkilis's RBI single made it 1-0. Kuroda wiggled out of trouble soon after to keep the score as is.

The Dodgers again put runners on in the second, but again got nothing out of it. With one out, Blake DeWitt singled and Jamey Carroll was beaned. Matt Kemp hit leadoff (more on that later) and lined into a double play. To his defense, he did put good wood on it, but had no luck.

In the third, the Sox got their other run, which would turn out to be the last scoring of the day. Marco Scutaro and Pedroia singled to start. A sac-fly RBI by Ortiz made it 2-0.

From the second inning on, the Dodgers looked helpless at the plate. They only got two more hits and generally looked like they didn't belong on the same field as a good American League team like the Sox.

The only other scoring opportunity was in the seventh. Anderson hit a ground rule double leading off. Two straight flyouts came next, with the latter allowing Anderson to tag to third. DeWitt was then beaned to put runners on the corners. In came Daniel Bard, who got Carroll to ground into a fielder's choice.

Kuroda had a great effort, not that he got any support from the bats or gloves. He finished with seven innings for six hits, two runs, one walk, and nine strikeouts. His off-speed stuff was really effective. He definitely settled into a groove as the game went on.

George Sherrill came on to start the eighth and immediately gave up a triple to Pedroia. The Dodgers were lucky he was stranded there. I continue to be amazed at just how bad Sherrill is right now.

Like I said before, Manny did his part. He was 2-for-3 with a walk. The rest of the lineup was just downright pathetic. Anderson and DeWitt were the only other ones with a hit. They left seven on and hit into two double plays.

I'm not one to question and/or criticize the great Joe Torre, mostly because... well, he's Joe Torre. But hitting Kemp in the leadoff spot has been a flop. I have no clue why a guy who's such a free swinger would hit first. He's now 2-for-13 for a .154 AVG leading off. Yes, it's not a big sample size, but good enough to show that he should never hit there again.

Not that Kemp's alone, because there's others that haven't pulled their weight as well. Ethier continues his freefall with another 0-fer (0-for-3 last night). Russell Martin was 0-for-4 and is hitting .253.

Kemp, Ethier, and Martin are the Dodgers' core and future. If they can't do better than that, you can forget about getting further in the postseason. Heck, you can forget about the playoffs, which is much harder to make than people realize. The Dodgers can't be a team where Manny is going to have to do everything to win. He's done much better lately, but he can no longer carry a team on his own.

Obviously, Rafael Furcal's absence has been felt, and everybody looks forward to his return from the awful news of his father passing away. Once he's back, the offense automatically gets a jumpstart. Until then, they need their other players to worry about base hits and not home runs and being a hero.

The Dodgers have a chance to reverse their recent poor play with another week of interleague play against tough AL teams. First up is three in Anaheim and then three back home against the Yankees. Those two teams have a combined record of 82-59.

We still have plenty of time left in the season, but in my mind, this is a very important week for the Dodgers. They simply cannot roll over and play dead like they have so far in interleague play. It's time to step up and show that they can be a threat against anyone.

The Dodgers will happily take an off day to try and regroup on Monday. Tuesday they'll play the Angels, as Clayton Kershaw takes the mound against Ervin Santana.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Manny shines, but Dodgers fall in Fenway

Manny Ramirez delivered the type of game he wanted against his old mates. It wasn't enough, however, as the Red Sox scrapped together a run in the ninth to win again, 5-4. The Dodgers remain a game back of the Padres in the NL West.

Vicente Padilla made his way back from being on the DL for two months to get the start. He got through the first three hitters in a good sign.

The Dodgers took an early lead in the second. Manny started it by singling to left off of Tim Wakefield. Amazingly, he then stole second as James Loney struck out. Of course, it helps when the opposing pitcher is throwing a knuckleball. Garret Anderson scored him with an RBI single.

The Sox got that run right back in the bottom of the frame. With Victor Martinez on second, Daniel Nava hit an RBI double to tie the game.

In the third, the Dodgers blew a golden opportunity to score. Adrian Beltre and Marco Scutaro both had errors throwing too high to first. Remember how I just said how it was easy to steal a base off a knuckleballer? Well, I guess it's not for Matt Kemp, who was easily gunned out trying to take second. That was pathetic. He now has 10 steals and 10 times caught stealing. Last year, he had 34 steals and eight caught.

With Kemp getting gunned down, Andre Ethier struck out to end the inning. Those are a couple of bad trends that we've seen way too much lately. Ethier's average has tumbled down to .323.

Martinez made his presence felt again in the fourth. Kevin Youkilis singled to lead off, and Martinez hit a two-run shot to give the Sox the lead, 3-1.

Both teams traded homers in the sixth. Manny connected on one over the Green Monster to cut the deficit to 3-2. No doubt that had to feel great for him. Actually, maybe it didn't, as he probably could care less about how the fans feel about him. Youkilis got that run back by hitting one himself.

The game became tied in the seventh, starting with Anderson's double. Blake DeWitt followed an out later with an RBI double, and it was 4-3. DeWitt went to third on Bill Hall's error, and Kemp's sac-fly RBI tied the game at 4-4.

Hong-Chih Kuo struck out David Ortiz with a couple men on to end the seventh. Kuo then struck out two more in the eighth to keep the game tied.

Anderson again singled to start the ninth off of Jonathan Papelbon. Three straight outs came next, though. Anderson went 3-for-4 in his best game as a Dodger. Maybe being in an American League stadium brought back good memories. He is a career .331 hitter at Fenway.

Ronald Belisario was called on to keep the game tied in the ninth. Hall singled leading off, but the next two hitters were retired. Scutaro then drew a walk to keep the inning alive.

Joe Torre then brought in Jonathan Broxton to get one big out. After getting two easy strikes on Dustin Pedroia, an RBI single to right ended the game.

Despite being handed four errors by some very shaky Sox' defense and stealing three bases, the Dodgers couldn't get the job done late in the game. They didn't get the kind of production up and down the lineup that it takes to beat a good team like the Sox. Manny and Anderson combined to go 5-for-8 with three runs, one homer, two RBIs, and one steal.

The rest of the lineup? 1-for-24. Yikes!

Padilla didn't have a great final line, but showed some good signs of being healthy again. He finished at 5 1/3 innings, five hits, four runs, one walk, and four strikeouts. Obviously, the two home runs hurt him. Still, it was good to see him back and have good movement on his pitches.

As for Broxton, it was pretty disappointing that he couldn't get Pedroia out in such a big spot. Broxton is still one of the best closers in the game no doubt. But, he needs to find a way to get that game into extra innings, especially with a two-strike count.

The Dodgers have a chance to get something out of this series on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. It's a good pitching matchup as Hiroki Kuroda takes on Clay Buchholtz. Kuroda's coming off two fantastic starts, and Buchholtz has nine wins and a 2.67 ERA. This should be a good one.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Manny's Fenway return ends with a K

Friday night was all about Manny Ramirez and his return to Boston. Would the fans cheer him? Would they boo him? How would he respond?

Well, the answers went like this: yes, yes, and he struck out to end the game.

The Dodgers battled back from a quick 3-0 hole, but a seven-run fifth was more than enough for the Red Sox to get the first game, 10-6. Manny ended up 1-for-5 with a single and run scored.

Carlos Monasterios was coming off his worst start as a Dodger against the Angels, and that seemed to carry over to start the game. With one out, Dustin Pedroia singled. David Ortiz then took a fat pitch over the plate way out to center, putting the Sox up 2-0. A solo shot by J.D. Drew (I still hate him) on a reviewed call made it 3-0.

Monasterios settled down a bit after that, and the Dodgers fought back in the third against Felix Doubront, who was making his first career start. Ronnie Belliard got the start at second and doubled to lead off. Reed Johnson then grounded to Kevin Youkilis at first, who then flipped to Doubront covering the bag, only for the ball to bounce off his glove and into the dugout, allowing Belliard to score.

Now with one out, Matt Kemp tripled to center to force home another run. An RBI groundout by Russell Martin tied the score at 3-3, and the Dodgers had new life. The Sox left the bases loaded in the bottom of the frame when Jason Varitek flied out to Andre Ethier.

The Dodgers threatened to take the lead in the fifth when Reed Johnson singled and Martin walked with two outs. Ethier struck out to end it, and that would be the start of his rough night.

It would also lead to the Sox pushing seven straight runs across the plate.

It was a pretty ugly fifth, as Monasterios allowed the first three men to reach. With two on, Ramon Troncoso came on. To put it bluntly, Troncoso was absolutely horrific. Five batters came up, and five batters reached base. Darnell McDonald singled home a run, another came in on Kemp's bobble in center, and Adrian Beltre crushed a two-run shot.

Six hits, two walks, one steal, one beaned batter, one wild pitch, one fielder's choice, and one sacrifice fly later, the Sox were up 10-3.

The Dodgers tried to somewhat battle back in the sixth. Manny got his only hit of the night with a single, and Casey Blake doubled both men into scoring position. James Loney hit a two-run single to cut the score to 10-5. Belliard walked, and the Dodgers looked to be in business.

But, Garret Anderson struck out (can't imagine that happening), Jamey Carroll did the same, and Kemp grounded into a fielder's choice for the third out.

Anderson homered to lead off the ninth, raising his average to a blistering .172. Fantastic! Kemp and Martin both singled, but Ethier and Manny couldn't drive them in as the game ended with Manny looking at a breaking ball for a called strike three.

Manny didn't have to endure heckling in the field as he was the DH, but even when he was hitting, it's not like the fans were totally against them. It honestly seemed like a 50/50 response. I expected more boos, but I'm glad I was wrong.

While Manny struggled, more concerning is Ethier's performance (or lack there of). He was hitless in five at-bats, and his average is now down to .330. He was at .392 when he went on the DL May 14. It's not like he was going to hit that high all year, but he's definitely not the same hitter he was at the start of the year. He's probably just pressing too much to make something happen.

The Dodgers need Ethier to get back into a groove. Ditto for Kemp, who's had a horrible June, though he did have a big triple tonight. If they are both taking too many strikeouts and unproductive at-bats, they're going to struggle to put runs on the board. It's that simple.

As for the pitching, Monasterios is now going through the same struggles that John Ely is facing. They're both young and inexperienced. They've both had peaks this season, now they're going through valleys. This is why Ned Colletti has talked about finding another starting pitcher. It only makes sense going forward.

Vicente Padilla will make his return from the DL on Saturday, and he'll be pitching in his first game since April 22. He'll go against Tim Wakefield, who's been throwing that knuckleball since Lincoln was president.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

All-around Arroyo wakes up Reds

Bronson Arroyo pitched seven innings of one-run ball, but it was his three-run homer that was difference as the Reds beat the Dodgers, 7-1. The Dodgers still took two of three from this series before moving on to Boston.

With a very early start time of 12:35 ET (so 9:35 PT for the L.A. boys), Manny Ramirez and Russell Martin were given the day off. Unfortunately, Rafael Furcal was placed on the bereavement list because of a family matter. Chin-lung Hu has been recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque.

Blake DeWitt hit leadoff and singled to start the game. Matt Kemp then drew a walk, and it looked like the Dodgers were going to roll again. Andre Ethier hit a big home run last night, but grounded into a double play in this spot. A groundout by James Loney followed, and it was a sign of things to come.

The Dodgers did lead this game in the second. Two out walks to A.J. Ellis and Jamey Carroll sent John Ely to the plate. Ely responded with an RBI single, the first of his career. Speaking of "a sign of things to come," the opposing pitcher would also strut his stuff at the plate.

That would be Arroyo, who didn't disappoint when given the chance to drive in runs. Jay Bruce and Chris Miller were on base with two outs, when Arroyo hit a three-run shot to make it 3-1.

Once that happened, the Dodgers never recovered. After Brendan Phillips walked to start the third, Jay Bruce's two-run homer made it 5-1.

Two innings later, Phillips got in on the fun with a solo shot to push their lead to 6-1. Once Scott Rolen walked and Jonny Gomes singled, Justin Miller replaced Ely. An RBI single by Bruce was the game's last run.

It's not like Arroyo dominated the Dodgers, because they still got seven hits and seven walks. But, there was absolutely no clutch hitting after Ely's single. 10 men were left on base, and Garret Anderson, Kemp, and Ethier all grounded into double plays. It was pretty ugly.

Ely is now showing his youth and inexperience, as he's been hit around the last three starts. At one point, he had gone seven starts without giving up a longball. Well, that's been thrown out the window, as he now has surrendered six in his last three.

So, he's facing some reality right now. I don't think he's this bad, but he wasn't as good as he was showing before. Maybe someday he will be, but certainly not yet. He just needs to find that confidence that had him at a 2.54 ERA after his seventh start (it's 4.15 now). Keeping the ball in the park would be a nice start.

Next up for the Dodgers is the first of two huge weekends. It's the return of Manny Ramirez to Fenway Park. Joe Torre will most likely have him at DH, where he should be anyway. Still, what a fun scene that will be when Manny takes the plate for the first time. I can't wait.

Carlos Monasterios suffered his first subpar start last time, but with Chad Billingsley hitting the DL a couple days ago, he'll get another start. It should be an electric atmosphere, so he'll have to find a way to settle himself down and just worry about the batters. Don't be surprised to see Jeff Weaver get in Friday as well.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ethier's homer carries Dodgers to a win

Andre Ethier got back on track with a three-run homer, Clayton Kershaw pitched strong into the eighth inning, and the Dodgers got another win over the Reds, 6-2. The Dodgers are now an amazing 25-6 against the Reds since 2006.

The Blue Jays blew out the Padres as well, 7-1. Now the Dodgers have a 1/2 game lead in the NL West. But don't get too comfortable, the Giants are only one game back. It changes by the hour it seems.

This game was a great matchup of two young pitching studs: Kershaw and Mike Leake. Through four innings, both men put up blanks. The Dodgers had two men on in the third and fourth, but couldn't push any runs across.

That changed in the fifth, and it started with Rafael Furcal's leadoff single. Russell Martin also singled. Ethier struck out, but Manny Ramirez drew a walk to load 'em up. James Loney hit a two-run double to go up 2-0.

The Reds tried to slash the lead in half in the bottom of the fifth. With two outs, Orlando Cabrera singled to Manny in left. Ramon Hernandez tried to score, but Manny gunned him out. It's not often (or ever) that I get to write those words, so I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

In the sixth, the Dodgers took a comfortable lead. Blake DeWitt led off with a walk. Kershaw sacrificed him over to second, where Russell Martin singled him over to third an out later. Ethier has struggled since returning from the DL, but he got the big hit he was waiting for with a three-run shot, putting the Dodgers up 5-0.

The bottom of the inning saw the Reds get a one and a two: one run on a sac-fly RBI from Jonny Gomes, and two ejections. Scott Rolen took a pretty low pitch for a called third strike, argued immediately, and was tossed. Dusty Baker came out, argued as well, and was run.

Like the night before, if it could go wrong for the Reds, it did.

Manny added a solo shot in the ninth, his seventh and second in consecutive games. Hong-Chih Kuo got credited with a save by pitching out of a jam in the eighth and finishing it up.

Kershaw had another really good performance. He went 7 1/3 for seven hits, one run, one walk, and seven strikeouts. His fastball was popping all night. He's now up to 7-3 with a 2.96 ERA.

As for the Reds, they have been one of the surprise teams this year. But, they've now dropped six of nine, and haven't been competitive at all these last two games. The Cardinals are now tied with them for the top of the NL Central.

With Ethier and Manny hitting homers, it's obviously a good sign for the heart of the order. The Dodgers need these two driving in runs to stay in first. Matt Kemp was only 1-for-5 with three strikeouts. Hopefully he can snap out of his funk soon so he can join in on the fun.

Thursday will be the final game in Cincinnati before going to Fenway Park for three. It'll be an afternoon start with John Ely going against Bronson Arroyo. Ely has come back to Earth a bit after a brilliant start, so he'll look to pitch deeper into the game.

Everything flowing for those L.A. teams

On a night where the Lakers blew out the Celtics to force a Game 7 in the NBA Finals, the Dodgers got in on the fun as well. A 3-0 lead pre-rain delay turned into a 12-0 demolition of the Reds. The Padres won as well, so their lead is still 1/2 game in the NL West.

The offense wasted little time in hitting around Aaron Harang. Rafael Furcal began his five-hit night with a double leading off. Russell Martin drew a walk next. Following a pop-up by Andre Ethier, Manny Ramirez hit an RBI single. James Loney then hit an RBI double, and Matt Kemp a sac-fly RBI to make it 3-0.

With Hiroki Kuroda putting up blanks, that score stood up until the rain delayed fifth inning. Raffy and Ethier singled for Manny's at-bat, who then had to wait awhile before it actually happened. When it did, he hit an RBI single off of new pitcher Logan Ondrusek. RBI singles by Loney and Casey Blake came next, and it was 6-0.

The Reds blew a bases loaded opportunity in the fifth when Brendan Phillips fouled out to left. They also put two men on in the seventh and eighth, but came up empty. It was one of those nights where the Dodgers got all the clutch hits, something that sorely eluded them against the Angels.

In the seventh, Manny connected on a two-run homer to make it 8-0. Ramon Troncoso of all people got on RBI on the always heroic bases loaded walk. Raffy continued his hot night with a two-run single, and it was 11-0. The last run came in the eighth when Kemp got an RBI on a groundout.

Just two days after a frustrating sweep against the Angels, not even the rain delay could deny the Dodgers on this night. They collected 19 hits and five walks, and constantly put the pressure on the Reds' pitching staff.

Kuroda was awesome, going five innings for three hits, no runs, two walks, and eight strikeouts. He even pitched an inning after the rain delay, no doubt eyeballing a win. I can't blame him, and it worked.

Troncoso pitched a couple of scoreless innings in relief. George Sherrill had one scoreless inning, but still gave up two hits. We're all still waiting for him to come around, but it sure doesn't look like it's going to happen anytime soon. I hope I'm wrong. Justin Miller finished the game by striking out two.

After the Sunday game, I talked about the really tough rest of June the Dodgers have. Well, they obviously got off to the best start possible. It's only one game, but they needed to get some swagger back, and they did. They'll need that momentum going forward in Boston.

Wednesday's pitching matchup will be great. Clayton Kershaw goes against Mike Leake. For those of you that don't know, Leake totally bypassed the minors and has been dazzling in the majors so far. Kershaw has a 3.13 ERA. This will be fun.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dodgers swept at home by the Angels

The Dodgers put up a late fight, but it wasn't meant to be. An early 5-1 lead helped the Angels claim their first sweep ever in Dodger Stadium, 6-5. The loss dropped the Dodgers' homestand record to 8-5. Also, they remain a game back in the NL West to the Padres.

Carlos Monasterios got his final spot start (at least for now) and had a rough start. Eric Aybar singled and stole second to begin the game. An RBI single from Bobby Abreu made it 1-0. After a walk to Torii Hunter, Hideki Matsui's RBI single put the score at 2-0.

Rafael Furcal quickly cut that lead in half by hitting a leadoff homer for the Dodgers. That was his first leadoff shot of the season.

Following a second inning that ended with Aybar grounding into a double play, the Angels got right back to work in the third. It came with two outs, a theme that killed the Dodgers these three games. Hunter hit a solo shot to center for a 3-1 lead. Matsui then doubled and Howie Kendrick hit another double, and it was 4-1.

With Jeff Weaver now in, Abreu singled and stole second with one out. Now with two down, the Angels again had a big at-bat, this time an RBI single from Matsui to make it 5-1.

It sure looked like the Dodgers were going to pack it in and call it a game. But, they did just the opposite. For the first time in three games, their offense showed signs of life. Even though it was an eventual loss, at least they made a game out of it.

It all started in the seventh. Manny Ramirez doubled for the second time to lead off. James Loney hit an RBI double to go down 5-2. Ronnie Belliard struck out, and Reed Johnson's groundout advanced Loney to third. Blake DeWitt then hit an RBI single to right, and it was 5-3.

Only down two runs, Justin Miller came on to start the eighth. He got Kendrick out, but then gave up a solo homer to Mike Napoli to put the score up to 6-3 for the Angels.

Fernando Rodney then entered, and he immediately walked Russell Martin. Andre Ethier popped up, but Manny singled for runners on the corners. Loney scored them both on a two-run double that seemed to roll forever to the wall.

Now down 6-5, the Dodgers had a perfect chance to score Loney from second with one out. The Angels would have cashed in with this opportunity. The Dodgers, however, did not. Belliard struck out again and Johnson popped to short.

Still down a run in the ninth, Casey Blake pinch-hit and walked. Now up came Matt Kemp, who did not start this game because of his recent slump. Well, it didn't get any better, as he again struck out. A game-ending double play from Raffy put this game in the books.

As I talked about after the last game, the loss doesn't mean the Dodgers had a bad homestand. 8 wins in 13 games is pretty good. But, obviously knowing that they could have had one or two more makes it slightly bittersweet.

Couple a sweep with the fact that the rest of this month brings a really tough schedule, and the Dodgers certainly have their work cut out for them. After visiting the Reds for three, they then go play the Red Sox and Angels for three more each. Their reward for coming back home? The Yankees for three. Then they close June by visiting the Giants for three. Ouch.

As of today, the Reds, Red Sox, Angels, Yankees, and Giants have a combined record of 187-136. Each team is either at the top of near the top of their respective division. Simply put, these teams are really good.

With the Dodgers pretty much at full strength, we're about to see what they're made of. Can they handle the rigorous schedule? Or, will they come up short in key situations like they did against the Angels? Time will tell.

Following a day off on Monday, they will be in Cincinnati starting Tuesday. Hiroki Kuroda goes the first game against Aaron Harang.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Offense stays quiet in loss

For the second straight night, it was the Angels getting the big hits, as they defeated the Dodgers, 4-2. The loss combined with a Padres' win means the Padres have a one game lead in the NL West.

The Dodgers were looking to get the bad taste out of their mouths from getting trampled 10-1 the night before. The opening three innings were scoreless as John Ely and Scott Kazmir were comfortably settling in.

The fourth inning was different, as Ely scuffled and the Angels pounced. It started with a double by Howie Kendrick. After advancing to third on Bobby Abreu's groundout, Torii Hunter's RBI double made it 1-0. Two hitters later, Juan Rivera crushed a two-run shot to left to put the score at 3-0.

Another double by Kendrick the following inning made it 4-0. At this point, it sure looked like the Dodgers might be done, as their offense couldn't put much of anything together.

The lone highlight of the game came in the fifth when the Dodgers finally got some runs. Jamey Carroll was the spark plug, as he doubled to lead off. One out later, Rafael Furcal drew a walk for two on. Russell Martin came through in an RBI spot, as his double scored two by slash the deficit to 4-2.

Ramon Troncoso and Ronald Belisario did a nice job of holding the Angels down for the rest of the game. But, the bats blew a big opportunity to at least tie the game in the seventh. Once again, it was Carroll who started the inning in a good way by walking. Garret Anderson pinch-hit and singled with nobody out. Raffy tried to bunt, but popped up instead for one out. Martin then drew a walk to load the bases.

With Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp due up, it sure looked like the runs would follow. But, that just didn't happen. Ethier struck out and Kemp grounded into a forceout to end the inning. The Dodgers would never recover.

This was not a night for Kemp to remember, as he pulled the big 0-for-4 hitting in the fourth spot in the order. He doesn't have a hit since June 7 against the Cardinals. After hitting .291 in May, he's now 8-for-45 in June for a .178 average and two extra-base hits. Simply put, the Dodgers need to get more production and less strikeouts out of him.

Ely suffered his second straight rough start, going five innings for six hits, four runs, three walks, and two strikeouts. It's not like he got bombed, but fell victim to the longball again. He's still getting used to the whole major league thing, so tough starts like this are to be expected.

With one game to go in the homestand, their record stands at 8-4. Even with a loss today, winning 8 of 13 games is pretty good. But, they were 8-2 at one point, so it would be a disappointment to end it by getting swept. For whatever reason, the Angels play really well in Dodger Stadium.

Once again, it's Carlos Monasterios earning a spot start on Sunday. This appears to be the final one with Vicente Padilla about a week away from returning. Monasterios will go against Jared Weaver, who's historically pitched very well against the Dodgers.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dodgers have the Cardinals' number

The Dodgers continued their home dominance over the Cardinals with a 4-3 victory to complete a three-game sweep. Combine that with sweeping last year's NLDS, the Cardinals have to be searching for answers.

One day after claiming a close 1-0 win, this game started off looking like a runaway. With one out in the second, Matt Kemp walked, but was gunned out trying to steal second. No need to fear, as Andre Ethier doubled. Manny Ramirez stepped up and had another big at-bat, nailing a two-run homer to center to make it 2-0.

With Clayton Kershaw locked in, the Dodgers tacked on two more in the third. Manny started it with a walk. James Loney then singled, and both runners went to scoring position on Casey Blake's sacrifice. Blake DeWitt then laced a hard single past Albert Pujols to get the lead up to 4-0.

Kershaw made one critical mistake on the night, and it came in the fourth. Aaron Miles led off with a walk, but Pujols flew out. Matt Holliday then drew a walk. Ryan Ludwick is the only one who swung the bat well for the Cards, and it continued with a long three-run shot to left, cutting the lead to 4-3.

That would be it for scoring on this night, as Kershaw shook off the homer to pitch through the seventh. He ended the night giving up four hits, three runs, two walks, and 10 strikeouts, a season high. In 77 2/3 innings, he now has a staggering 90 K's. He's among the league leaders with guys like Adam Wainwright, Tim Lincecum, and Dan Haren. Not a bad list to be a part of.

Ronald Belisario picked up a hold in the eighth by getting the side in order. He's starting to get back on track after a rough first couple of months. In June, he has six appearances for a 1.42 ERA.

Jonathan Broxton then came in for the save, and probably should be thankful that it even happened. One night before, he got Pujols swinging, but that changed tonight with a leadoff single. Holliday and Ryan Ludwick then followed with two flyouts.

Yadier Molina then hit a long drive to center that bounced over the wall for a ground rule double. It was a lucky break, as Pujols was well on his way to tying the game. With a second life, Randy Winn grounded out to Blake to end the game.

The offense did a great job early of cashing in against a good pitcher in Wainwright. Four runs was tied for the most he's given up this season, and five walks was easily the highest. Anytime you do that well against someone like him, it's a big plus.

Manny hasn't been making much of any noise in awhile, but the last two games show why he's still a feared hitter. He hit the game winning double on Tuesday and started the scoring with his home run Wednesday. For the Dodgers to go deeper than they have the last two years, they need Manny being a threat. Maybe these two games is a start.

Right now, the Dodgers are an outstanding 8-2 on the homestand. Great starting pitching, a shutdown closer, and healthier players has been the winning recipe. Soon, Vicente Padilla and George Sherrill will be back, so they'll play key roles as the season goes forward. Business is definitely picking up.

The Dodgers conclude their homestand with a three-game set against the Angels starting Friday. Chad Billingsley hasn't won in a couple of starts, so he'll look to get one in the first game.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

DeWitt's big night leads to easy win

The Dodgers didn't need late heroics on Monday, as they scored eight runs in the fourth and fifth innings to cruise past the Cardinals, 12-4. The Padres also won, so the Dodgers still trail them in the loss column by a game.

After Carlos Monasterios got the Cardinals in order to begin the game, the offense went right to work. Rafael Furcal singled to lead off and then stole second. Matt Kemp hit second and drove him in with a single to make it 1-0. Following a wild pitch to put Kemp at second, Andre Ethier got lucky by blooping a hit into left for two on. Manny Ramirez then hit into a double play, but at least the Kemp scored, and it was 2-0.

The Cardinals cut the lead in half to start the second on Ryan Ludwick's long solo homer to left. Fortunately for the Dodgers, that was as close as the Cards would get on this night.

Manny began the fourth with a double. After a groundout by James Loney put him to third, Ronnie Belliard walked. Blake DeWitt hit his first RBI of the game with a single to score Manny. Next was a great suicide squeeze bunt from A.J. Ellis, who was Sunday's hero. Everyone was safe as Belliard scored, making it 4-1.

The bats weren't done yet, as Monasterios sacrificed both men into scoring position with two down. Raffy then lifted a high fly ball that bounced into the stands in right for a two-run double, and the Dodgers were starting to run away at 6-1.

Ethier came up in the fifth and walked to lead off. A walk to Loney and a passed ball put runners at the corners. Belliard hit an RBI single to score Ethier. DeWitt finally connected on his first tater of the season, a three-run shot that emphatically put the Dodgers ahead at 10-1.

The Cardinals tried to muster some runs in the seventh. Ludwick hit his second solo shot of the night, and Felipe Lopez hit a two-run single. But, it was too little, too late.

The scoring was rounded up in the seventh for the Dodgers. DeWitt hit a sac-fly RBI to cap his five RBI night. Garret Anderson pinch-hit and doubled in Loney to make it 12-4.

It was good to see DeWitt have such a big game, as he's been very quiet lately. Coming into this game, he was hitting .273 with 15 RBIs. Not terrible numbers, but not that great either. Jamey Carroll is hitting .293, and after looking so good in filling in for Raffy and Casey Blake because of injuries, I'm sure people began chirping that he should play second base full-time, not DeWitt.

The other star was Monasterios, who continues to post one solid start after another. Considering he only pitched above Single-A level twice before this season, it's just amazing how the Dodgers find these guys to plug in and do so well. After going six innings for four hits and three runs, he's now 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA.

The Dodgers haven't scored in double digits since May 11 when they beat the Diamondbacks 13-3. Scoring that many runs is hard to do anyway, but it was refreshing to see them look so alive after scratching and clawing their way for any runs the last handful of games. When Blake gets back in there, that will only help as well.

For the offense, the next two games will present a much bigger challenge as Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright take the mound. Then again, all the "experts" (wink, wink... ESPN) claimed the Dodgers stood no chance against them in the playoffs last year, and how did that turn out? Exactly.

But, they're both really good pitchers, so it'll be a nice test. Hiroki Kuroda is looking for his first good start in a few games, as he's lost three straight.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Dodgers honor Lima with a comeback win

On a day where Dodger fans everywhere remembered the colorful Jose Lima, A.J. Ellis hit a walk-off single to give the Dodgers a victory over the Braves in 11 innings, 5-4. Both teams split the four-game series in what is a possible playoff preview.

It was Viva Los Dodgers Day at Dodger Stadium on Sunday, as the team recognized Lima all day long. It started with Jose Lima Jr. throwing out the ceremonial first pitch to Manny Ramirez. Taped footage was shown of Lima singing the National Anthem and God Bless America. It was a great celebration of his life.

On the field, it was the Braves who scored first. In the third, Omar Infante doubled with one out off of John Ely. Jason Heyward stepped up next and hit an RBI double to make it 1-0.

The Dodgers tied it for a moment in the fourth. James Loney and Matt Kemp each hit singles with one out. Garret Anderson hit a grounder to Troy Glaus at first, and he fired it wide of second, and the return throw was late as well to load the bases.

Blake DeWitt singled to center to tie the game at 1-1. Ellis had a big spot to come through... and hit into an inning ending double play.

Ely could not keep the game tied as the Braves hit him hard in the fifth. Martin Prado led off with a solo homer. Heyward then drew a walk with one out, and Brian McCann unloaded on a two-run shot to right, and it was 4-1 just like that. Coming into this game, Ely had not given up a home run. That quickly changed in this inning.

The offense was not doing much at this point, or for the last few games for that matter. But it was Rafael Furcal who started the rally, hitting his first homer of the season to lead off the bottom of the fifth. Jamey Carroll then reached on Infante's error.

Andre Ethier hit a double to put runners in scoring position. Loney laced a two-run single to center to tie the game. Kemp and Anderson both couldn't score Loney, though.

From there, both teams remained quiet for the next five innings. Jonathan Broxton worked around a leadoff double by Brooks Conrad in the ninth to strikeout the side.

The combination of Justin Miller, Hong-Chih Kuo, Jeff Weaver, Broxton, and Ronald Belisario went six innings in relief, giving up three hits, no runs, and five strikeouts. They more than gave the Dodgers chances to win.

In the 11th, the offense broke through. Russell Martin pinch-hit in Belisario's spot and walked. DeWitt laid down a nice sacrifice bunt to set it up for Ellis. At this point in the season, Ellis hadn't had a signature moment. Heck, he barely could get on the field.

But with two strikes, Ellis hit a sharp single to center that was enough for Martin to beat the throw home. Ellis will never be confused with a big-time slugger, but it was good to see one of the lesser known players come through in a big situation.

Ely had his roughest start since his first one. He lasted five innings for nine hits, four runs, two walks, and two strikeouts. It was unusual to see him give up a walk and a longball, but that's a compliment to how great he's been thus far. Even with this start, his overall ERA stands at 3.00.

Like I pointed out before, the bullpen was just awesome. They're the true stars of today's game. One night after being abused (mostly Ramon Troncoso), they showed why they're one of the best in baseball.

Neither win was easy for the Dodgers, as they had to grind it out the entire way. But they'll take it. Beating the Braves these days is not easy, especially with someone as hot as Tim Hudson on the mound.

There's no rest for the Dodgers, as they'll welcome the Cardinals in for three starting Monday. Carlos Monasterios will go in the first game. It won't be easy the next two, as the Cardinals have Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright lined up. So, winning Monday's game will be key.

Braves blitz Dodgers for big 7th

If you blinked, you missed it.

That's how quickly and easily the Braves seemed to erase a 2-0 deficit and turn it into a 7-2 lead in only one inning. Needless to say, the Dodgers got knocked down and never recovered, as the Braves took this one, 9-3. The Padres also lost, so the Dodgers blew a chance to claim first place in the NL West.

Much like the night before, the Dodgers scored early, had great starting pitching, then hit a wall late. The previous night it was Clayton Kershaw who couldn't get out of the seventh, and this time it was Chad Billingsley. As has been the case with Billingsley, he can be cruising all game, and then he'll get pounded for an inning. Saturday night was the textbook example.

It was Billingsley's bat that put the Dodgers in the lead to start with. In the second, Blake DeWitt singled with two outs. Billingsley then cranked an RBI double to center, his first of the year.

Matt Kemp opened up the third with a triple, his third this season. Andre Ethier lifted a fly ball to left that was deep enough to bring home Kemp and make it 2-0.

Although Billingsley didn't give up a run through six innings, there were signs that it was only a matter of time. He got through the first and sixth in order, but walked two in the second, gave up two hits in the third, and singles in both the fourth and fifth. Each time, he made big pitches to avoid trouble.

Then in the seventh, it all fell apart. Consecutive singles by Yunel Escobar and Nate McClouth started it. Brooks Conrad pinch-hit for Tommy Hanson and hit an infield single that scored Escobar to make it 2-1. At 110 pitches and already given up three hits, Ramon Troncoso came in from the bullpen.

That obviously didn't work out, as Troncoso was hit around with ease. Martin Prado sacrificed both men into scoring position, and Omar Infante's two-run single put the Braves up 3-2. Brian McCann soon followed with a two-run double. Then Ronald Belisario came on and gave up a two-run homer to Troy Glaus. All in all, it was 7-2 Braves.

McCann added a two-run single the next inning for good measure. Rafael Furcal scored a run on an infield single in the ninth, but it was obviously way too little way too late.

Every team goes through good wins and bad losses throughout the season. The Dodgers have had many good wins lately after starting the year very poorly. Last night was definitely a bad loss. They had a good team down in the seventh and then got smacked around. While Billingsley started it all, the normally reliable bullpen was terrible.

Of course, scoring three runs won't do them any favors. And really, the last run meant nothing, so it was as if they scored a couple. They got 11 hits, but left 10 on base. Six of those runners were left in scoring position with two outs. The lack of clutch hitting burned them in the end.

It's a good thing the Dodgers came back and won on Friday, or the Braves would be looking for a four-game sweep today. Nonetheless, John Ely has a chance to earn a split against Tim Hudson. With a day game after a night game, look for guys like Manny Ramirez and perhaps Rafael Furcal to get the day off.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Loney's single ends Braves' streak at 9

The Dodgers spotted Clayton Kershaw an early 4-0 against the red hot Braves. But, because of Kershaw's own wildness, someone needed to step up late.

That someone was James Loney.

Loney greeted reliever Eric O'Flaherty with an RBI single up the middle to take a 5-4 lead, and it held up as the Braves' winning streak ended at an impressive nine games. The Dodgers are now 4-1 on their current 13-game homestand.

Kershaw started out on fire, as he struck out the side in the first, mostly because of a passed ball third strike that Jason Heyward reached on. Heyward, by the way, had his worst night as a pro by going 0-for-5 with five strikeouts.

The offense got going right away, as Rafael Furcal walked to start. On a hit-and-run, Matt Kemp sent Raffy to third with a single. A deep sac-fly RBI from Andre Ethier made the score 1-0. Kemp then stole second, and Loney was given an intentional walk to get to Ronnie Belliard. Bad move, as Belliard's ground rule double scored Kemp and made it 2-0.

After Kershaw worked around two hitters reaching in the second, Jamey Carroll doubled to lead off. Kershaw laid down a bunt that Carroll was nailed at third on. But, Raffy hit an RBI triple to score Kershaw to make it 3-0. A sac-fly RBI by Kemp put the lead at 4-0.

With the way Kershaw was going, it looked like the Dodgers were in for an easy night. However, it was Kershaw's Achilles' heel that caught up to him. Over 6 2/3 innings, he walked five men, including the opposing pitcher. As good as he looked to start the game, he was scuffling soon after.

The Braves cut the lead in half in the third. Martin Prado singled and Oman Infante walked to lead off. Heyward and Troy Glaus struck out, but Yunel Escobar hit an RBI single. Carroll then booted Melky Cabrera's grounder to third to allow Infante to score, and it was 4-2.

Kershaw managed to get into the seventh even as he was struggling at times. Infante singled with one down, then Heyward struck out swinging for two outs. Joe Torre left Kershaw in to pitch to Glaus, but an 0-2 count was turned into a walk. Hong-Chih Kuo was summoned, and Escobar ripped a 3-2 pitch for a two-run double to tie the game.

Fortunately for the Dodgers, their offense didn't go to sleep as they have been the last few games. Ethier doubled with one out and Manny Ramirez was intentionally walked. O'Flaherty came in to face Loney, who promptly hit a sharp one back up the middle to plate Ethier for the 5-4 lead.

Kuo mowed through the Braves in the eighth to get the ball to Jonathan Broxton. Broxton got two strikeouts for his 14th save in 16 chances. In fact, he hasn't blown a save since May 6, converting 13 straight.

The Braves are proving to be a tough win, as they didn't panic from being down four early. They kept plugging away like good teams do. The Dodgers also showed resilience by not folding after blowing the early lead. As I was watching the game, I kept thinking how we'll be seeing these two play again in October.

The next two games feature great pitching matchups. On Saturday, it'll be Chad Billingsley against Tommy Hanson, to be followed on Sunday by John Ely against Tim Hudson. For Billingsley, he bounced back very nicely after the Diamondbacks his three early homers against him on Memorial Day. He'll look for his seventh win.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Late push not enough to beat Braves

The Dodgers' offense was largely in hibernation for most of Thursday night's game. When they did come alive, they got close, but lacked one more big hit. The end result was a loss to the Braves in the opener of the four-game set, 4-3.

It didn't take long for the Braves to start Hiroki Kuroda's struggles, as Martin Prado doubled on the first pitch he saw. After a couple of outs and Prado advancing to third, Troy Glaus continued his hot streak by hitting an RBI single to make it 1-0.

The only person to get anything going in the first four innings for the Dodgers was Andre Ethier. In the first, he hit a ground rule double to left. In the fourth, he singled. Both times Manny Ramirez would strand him, once on a groundout and another on a double play.

The Braves tacked on a couple more in the fourth, beginning was Glaus's towering drive to left. Kuroda just missed a close pitch before that and then grooved one down the middle. Eric Hinske then singled and Yunel Escobar hit a grounder to James Loney. The out was made at first, but then Kuroda somehow couldn't catch the return throw to first for an error.

Sure enough, Kuroda's error would cost him, as Nate McClouth's RBI double put the Braves up 3-0. Kuroda didn't get charged with an earned run on his own error, which is a pretty dumb rule if you think about it.

After Blake DeWitt grounded into a double play to end the fifth, the Braves got another run off Kuroda. Hinske walked and Escobar singled with one down. Kris Medlen (yes, the opposing pitcher) doubled in a run and it was 4-0.

It sure seemed like there was no life in Dodger Stadium, probably because everyone was focused on the NBA Finals anyway. But, at least the Dodgers pumped some energy back into their crowd in the eighth.

Loney, DeWitt, and Jamey Carroll all singled to load the bases with one out. Ronnie Belliard pinch-hit for Justin Miller and scored a run on a single. DeWitt scored as well on Jason Heyward's error to put the score at 4-2.

With runners in scoring position, Rafael Furcal plated Carroll on an RBI groundout. Matt Kemp walked for runners on the corners. Ethier had another chance to make a big impact, but Eric O'Flaherty got him swinging to end the inning.

Old friend Takashi Saito retired Manny and Loney to start the inning, then had to leave with an injury. Billy Wagner was getting a day of rest, but it didn't matter as Jonny Venters struck out Russell Martin for the final out.

Kuroda labored all game long, as he missed with some close pitches, then got badly burned on ones that floated right down Broadway. His final line was six innings for seven hits, four runs (though three earned because of the dumb rule), four walks, and two strikeouts. The walks standout because his control is usually very good. He's in a bit of a rut right now, but I'm sure he'll figure it out soon.

The Braves are as good as any team in baseball right now, so these games won't be easy. But the offense really needs to wake up. They've won two of the last three, but have only scored five runs. That's a dangerous way to live. Manny and Raffy need to pick it up, as they've been ice cold lately. Once they get back on track, everything should be fine.

But let's be honest here, if you're a true L.A. fan, this loss didn't bother you one bit. The Lakers won Game 1 of the Finals, so that's all that matters!

Since the Lakers don't resume until Sunday, it's time to concentrate on the Dodgers again. They've got their ace Clayton Kershaw going tonight. After getting pounded in his first start in May (1 1/3, seven runs), he ended up with four wins and a 2.86 ERA for the month. He'll look to start June off on a better note.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Baseball is a game of inches

A few of those inches was all it took for the Dodgers to get a win.

Garret Anderson, who's pretty much done a big pile of nothing all season, was barely able to land a single in front of the outstretched Chris Young in center to score Matt Kemp in the 14th inning to give the Dodgers a win, 1-0. That hit completed a three-game sweep and sent the Diamondbacks to their 10th straight loss.

Much like the night before, hits were at a premium, as neither pitching staff would budge. Today's starters were Edwin Jackson and Carlos Monasterios. For Jackson, he looked more like the young phenom that he once was with the Dodgers and less like the punching bag he turned into. He went nine innings for three hits, no runs, three walks, and six strikeouts.

Monasterios was once again effective in his spot start. Well, he was better than that, as he pitched five innings for two hits, no walks, and three strikeouts. He lowered his ERA to 1.87 with a 1.04 WHIP.

On the previous night, the Dodgers didn't score until the 10th, but managed to get at least one hit every inning. That would not be the case today, as they got seven hits on the day with five walks.

The game was moving along at a brisk pace for much of the game. In fact, Jackson faced the minimum amount of hitters through seven innings. He got two double plays, and Jamey Carroll was gunned out trying to stretch a single into a double in the fourth. Not quite like Roy Halladay, but still very impressive.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Dodgers had their first big scoring opportunity. With two outs, Carroll (who went 3-for-5 with a walk) singled and stole second. Kemp drew a walk to bring up Andre Ethier. Ethier got good wood on it, but lined to first.

James Loney hit a double to start the bottom of the 10th, and the Dodgers looked to be in business. But, Anderson had a horrible at-bat by striking out and failing to advance the runner. Ronnie Belliard then drew a walk. Both Rafael Furcal and Russell Martin pinch-hit and popped up to the infield.

The Dodgers wiggled out of trouble in the 12th when the Diamondbacks stranded two runners. In the 13th, Martin walked and Casey Blake singled. Carroll came within inches of ending the game with a liner to left that was just foul. He then struck out.

After the Diamondbacks again failed to capitalize on putting two runners on, the Dodgers brought up the heart of their order. If they were ever going to score, now was the time. Kemp started it all with a hard single to center.

Ethier then lined to third for one out. Loney stepped in, and a wild pitch allowed Kemp to go to scoring position. Loney grounded to second to put Kemp on third. Desperately needing to do SOMETHING right, Anderson just dropped one in front of Young to end the game.

I mentioned Monasterios and his good start, but the bullpen deserves a whole boatload of credit. Travis Schlichting got the win by pitching four innings of shutout ball. He was just awesome. Before him, Ramon Troncoso went an inning, Justin Miller two, and Jonathan Broxton and Ronald Belisario one each.

Winning late is always a sign of a good team. The offense has largely been non-existent the last couple of games, and it's something that needs to improve with the Braves and Angels coming to town. But, with Ethier still getting back into form and a few regulars sitting out today, it's hard to get too critical.

Like I said, the Braves are now on their way in for four. As lousy as the Diamondbacks have been, the Braves have been red hot. They just swept the Phillies to overtake first place in the NL East. They've also won eight straight.

So, it'll be a nice challenge for both teams. Hiroki Kuroda scuffled all last start against the Rockies, so he'll look to figure things out against Kris Medlen.

Kemp walks-off with homer in 10th

Stuck in an 0-for-4 game, Matt Kemp was looking for any way to reach base to begin the 10th inning.

Instead, he sent everyone home with one swing.

Kemp's 11th blast of the season gave the Dodgers a 1-0 walk-off win over the Diamondbacks. It's the second night in a row the Dodgers have won late, as they have now taken 17 of the past 22 games. On the flip side, the Diamondbacks have lost nine straight. Ouch.

If you're a fan of pitchers on their games, this was the game for you. Dan Haren and John Ely were simply awesome, as neither man would budge from the scoreless tie. Haren went eight innings for seven hits, no walks, and seven strikeouts. Ely went seven for two hits, two walks, and four strikeouts.

While the Diamondbacks could muster only six baserunners all game (four hits, two walks), the Dodgers actually had some chances as the game progressed. They collected 10 hits, but the Diamondbacks' staff did a great job in not issuing a walk all night.

The first serious threat for the Dodgers came in the sixth. Kemp reached on Adam LaRoche's error to start the inning. After Andre Ethier flew out, Manny Ramirez singled to put two on. James Loney struck out, then Manny went to second on a wild pitch. But, Casey Blake struck out to end the threat.

Things got interesting, and quite heated, in the seventh. Russell Martin led off with a single. Jamey Carroll grounded into a fielder's choice, and Stephen Drew took exception to Martin's hard slide. Why Drew would get upset when the game was 0-0 and Martin was doing what every other runner should do is beyond me. Anyway, benches emptied, but nothing came of it.

Speaking of "nothing came of it," Garret Anderson pinch-hit and grounded into a double play. He's now hitting a blistering .156. So yes, I'd say this in response to his signing this offseason: "nothing came of it."

Back to the game, and it was Ronald Belisario who took over to start the eighth. Connor Jackson singled to start. With two outs and Jackson on second, Hong-Chih Kuo got Kelly Johnson to ground to second.

Kuo mowed down the Diamondbacks in order in the ninth. The Dodgers tried to rally in the bottom of the frame when Martin and Carroll singled with two down. Ronnie Belliard, however, struck out looking to send the game to the 10th.

Jeff Weaver worked around a single to put up another blank. Kemp wasted little time in ending the game off of Juan Guitierrez.

For the Dodgers, it's two straight games of finding a way to win late. If you're a Diamondbacks fan, I'm not sure you can be more frustrated after the last two nights. Losing on a double error and balk one night, then turning around and wasting a terrific start by Haren the next. When it rains, it pours.

When you win a game in 10 innings by only scoring a run, you have to credit the pitching. Ely has blown away anyone's expectations thus far. His record is 3-2, but he should have more wins because of his ridiculous 2.54 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. It's hard to expect him to keep up those numbers, but he's more than solidified his spot in the rotation.

The Dodgers will look for the sweep to begin this 13-game homestand with a Wednesday afternoon game. Carlos Monasterios will get his third start of the season.