Saturday, July 31, 2010

Dotel added to the bullpen

The final move of the day from Ned Colletti saw the Dodgers grab Octavio Dotel from the Pirates for James McDonald and minor league outfielder Andrew Lambo.

This season, Dotel has converted 21 of 26 save opportunities for the miserable Pirates. He has a 4.28 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 40 innings. Currently at 36, he's saved 104 games in his 12-year career.

While I wouldn't say he's a shut-down closer, he is a good one that will only help the arms in the Dodgers' bullpen. Lately, guys like George Sherrill, Jeff Weaver, and Travis Schlichting have been counted on to pitch in tight situations. Dotel will be a much better option than them.

McDonald is someone that has potential, but has been unable to put it together at the major league level. In three years with the Dodgers, he's pitched in 54 games for a 4.11 ERA and a very high 1.51 WHIP. He was good out of the 'pen, but got crushed as a starter.

He hasn't had much of a chance this year, but when he has been in there, he's done very little to impress. In watching him pitch, I couldn't help but think that he's nothing more than a Triple-A pitcher. Good enough to get called up, but not good enough to stay. I won't miss him.

I doubt many people know about Lambo, but he was one of the bigger prospects the Dodgers had. But, he's certainly had a mixed bag of results. In four seasons in the minors for 362 games, he's hit .287 with 38 homers and 209 RBIs. He's shown plenty of signs of one day being a good big league hitter.

And then there was the 50-game suspension he served for violating the drug policy earlier this year. Maybe the Dodgers wanted to just wash their hands of this guy, and they found the opportunity to do so.

Back to Dotel, and he was told he'd be in a setup role. That may be true, but with the way Jonathan Broxton has struggled at the end of games, I can easily see him getting his shot in the ninth.

Your basic Broxton choke job

Chad Billingsley battled like a warrior on short rest, Casey Blake broke out of a long slump with a solo homer, and the Dodgers looked like they were going to get another narrow win.

Leave it to Jonathan Broxton to mess it all up.

Once again, Broxton could not get the big out when he needed it. Pat Burrell hit a two-out, two-run shot in the eighth to lift the Giants to a win, 2-1. While the Dodgers may not have much hopes of winning the NL West, their Wild Card aspirations also took a hit with the loss. They are 7 1/2 in back of the Padres and 5 1/2 behind the Giants.

As is typical with any Dodger game in the second half, there aren't much offensive highlights to report on. Anytime the Dodgers got a threat, they'd strike out and generally look lost on how to get runners in. In other words, it was another day at the office for the bats.

Thanks to Billingsley, the Giants suffered much of the same. As I said before, he really battled and deserves a ton of credit for not only volunteering to pitch on three days rest for the first time in his career, but for putting forth a great start. He finished with 6 2/3 innings pitched, two hits, no runs, two walks, and five strikeouts. His ERA is down to 3.78.

The first threat for the Dodgers that they blew came in the fourth. Rafael Furcal reached on an infield hit, then stole his 18th base of the year. Matt Kemp hit third and drew a walk. Then bang, bang, bang: Casey Blake popped up, Raffy got caught trying to steal third, and James Loney grounded out.

With Bills and Barry Zito dealing, it took until the seventh to get the game's first run. I listened to the game on XM Radio, and announcer Dave Campbell was saying how Blake was awful in the month of July against fastballs. Sure enough, Blake took a Zito fastball out to left for a solo home run for the 1-0 lead.

Things got interesting in the bottom of the seventh, but the Dodgers survived. Pablo Sandoval grounded out, but Raffy made a throwing error to let Edgar Renteria reach first. Eli Whiteside then struck out in Billingsley's last batter.

In came Hong-Chih Kuo, who gave up a single to Aaron Rowand pinch-hitting. A wild pitch sent both to scoring position. Taking a page out of the Dodgers' book, Andres Torres could not come through in the clutch by striking out to end the inning.

The Dodgers could have increased their lead in the eighth, but that would require getting a clutch hit with runners on. You didn't think that would happen, did you? Foolish person, you. Anyway, Kuo (yes, Kuo) drew a walk with one out, and Scott Podsednik followed with another one.

Guillermo Mota came in and immediately struck out Raffy and Kemp.

The eighth is when the Giants took their first lead of the day, and for good. Kuo was still on, and he got Freddy Sanchez popping up and Aubrey Huff grounding out. Kuo then beaned Buster Posey. There was a question if it was on purpose considering the beanball war that's been going on between these two teams. Who knows.

Joe Torre chose to go with Broxton to get Burrell. Like Broxton ALWAYS does, he couldn't rise to the occasion. A two-run homer to left made it 2-1, and the Giants would never look back. Mota got the Dodgers in order to end the game.

It should be noted that Andre Ethier missed the game due to the birth of his second child. Congratulations to his family. But with all due respect to him, with the way he's been hitting lately, I doubt it would have made any difference if he was there, especially against the lefty Zito.

Today was just the latest example of the ineptitude of the offense. They've played 16 games since the All-Star break, scoring 36 runs. That's an average of 2.25 runs a game, which is downright pathetic. They simply don't have the big run producers that can carry the team when times are tough.

Then there's Broxton, who has a 6.75 ERA in July with two blown saves. He may have been an elite closer at one point, but that's not at all the case now. I think Joe Torre needs to accept the fact that Broxton is not the same pitcher right now, and not use him in save situations for the time being. Let Kuo, Kenley Jansen, and newly acquired Octavio Dotel give it a shot. It can't be any worse.

Broxton's fastball is his calling card, but hitters no longer are in fear of him. The fastball is still a wicked pitch, but when hitters know it's coming most of the time, they're good enough to adjust at this level. He needs to go watch tapes of guys like Eric Gagne and Trevor Hoffman to see how effective off-speed pitches can be in getting the final outs. Relying exclusively on the hard stuff is not cutting it anymore.

All the Dodgers can hope for now is that their new players (Lilly, Theriot, Podsednik, and Dotel) give them a shot in the arm to get on a roll again. We all need to remember that there's about two months left in the season, plenty of time to improve. But, that also means they can be out of pretty quickly as well if they keep losing.

Clayton Kershaw and Matt Cain will be the main event of ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. The Dodgers won right before the break on Sunday night, dismantling the Cubs. This time won't be nearly as easy, so hopefully Kershaw is on fire and someone, ANYONE, carries the offense with a big night.

Dodgers get Lilly and Theriot for DeWitt

The Dodgers made their second trade deadline move today, nabbing Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot from the Cubs for Blake DeWitt and a couple of minor leaguers. This trade has been rumored for a few days.

Let's take a look at the new Dodgers. Lilly is the centerpiece, as he is in the final year of his contract, hence the Cubs moving him. You'd think he's been having an awful year with a 3-8 record, but the Cubs give him practically no run support. His 3.69 ERA and 1.14 WHIP are good numbers.

Lilly's arrival means the Dodgers have finally found a reliable fifth starter, as they've gone through pitchers like John Ely, Carlos Monasterios, and Charlie Haeger, with mostly negative results. Lilly may only be a rental for this year, but I think he'll be solid for them.

Theriot is hitting .284 this year with one homer and 14 RBIs. He does have 16 stolen bases, so like Scott Podsednik, if anything the Dodgers get faster on the bases. Of course, that also means they actually have to be on base for that to happen, but I digress. Anyway, he's played shortstop for most of his career, but went to second when Starlin Castro came aboard in Chicago.

I wouldn't look at Theriot's acquisition as being a big deal. I can see him splitting time with Jamey Carroll at second. If the Dodgers get lucky, they can find lightning in a bottle again like Ronnie Belliard last year and ride Theriot's hot bat to the playoffs. I can hope anyway.

As for DeWitt, I honestly can't say I'll miss him much. Don't get me wrong, he plays hard all the time. But I don't look at him as anything more than a decent major league player. He's hitting .270 this year with a good OPS of .352, but has very little power.

Overall, I think the Dodgers got good value for this trade. I like Lilly, and Theriot and DeWitt are pretty much interchangeable. I think the Dodgers have to be realistic at some point and set their sites on the wild card, so maybe Lilly can help them get there.

Too little, too late for L.A.

Despite some signs of life in the ninth inning, the Giants were able to survive some tense moments and hold on for the victory, 6-5. The Padres also lost, so the Dodgers remain seven games back in the NL West.

The Dodgers came into this game losers of two straight, and have struggled mightily at the plate for quite some time. Throw in the great Tim Lincecum on the mound for the Giants, and it sure looked like an uphill battle.

Both teams traded runs in the first. With one out, Casey Blake was beaned, the first of two for him on the night. Blake DeWitt drew a walk, and Russell Martin hit an RBI single for the brief lead. A solo shot by Juan Uribe to left tied the game right back up in the bottom of the frame.

The third inning was a mixture of a good start and a typical end. Rafael Furcal led off with a home run to dead center to make it 2-1. That was the good. Andre Ethier followed with a single, and James Loney doubled for two in scoring position. Matt Kemp then grounded one to short, and Ethier was easy gunned at the plate. That was the first half of the bad.

After Blake was corked again, the bases were loaded with one down. How would the Dodgers respond with this golden opportunity? DeWitt struck out and Martin grounded out. And that would be the other half of the bad.

Aubrey Huff had a big night, and it started in the third. With two outs and two on, Huff doubled to deep right over the head of Ethier, easily scoring two. Ethier may have had a chance on it, but it was hit a long way, so it's hard to fault him for not coming up with it.

Up 3-2, the Giants appeared to put the game away in the sixth. Carlos Monasterios was still in the game, but he was chased after giving up a two straight singles to Huff and Buster Posey. In came Jeff Weaver, who got Uribe to ground into a double play. With two outs, both Pat Burrell and Pablo Sandoval hit RBI doubles, upping the lead to 5-2.

The Dodgers again had a chance to score in the seventh, and again couldn't do it. Scott Podsednik and Raffy hit singles with one out. Right on cue, Ethier struck out and Loney grounded out. Another opportunity there, and another opportunity wasted.

Huff's solo shot to right made it 6-2 in the bottom of the seventh. It's pretty funny (or sad) to see the Dodgers have to do so much to try to get just one run and not do so, then Huff gets it done in one swing.

The ninth inning was quite long and interesting, but like the title says, it was just too little, too late. Sergio Romo began the inning after retiring the side in the eighth. Martin singled and was forced at second on Jamey Carroll's grounder. Podsednik hit a long fly ball to center that bounced off the glove of Andres Torres for an RBI triple and a 6-3 deficit.

Danny Bautista came in and walked Raffy. Out he went, and in came Jonathan Sanchez for the lefty-on-lefty matchup with Ethier. Sanchez threw a wild pitch that allowed Podsednik to score, and it was 6-4. Ethier struck out, but Loney was beaned in the hand.

So that meant Sanchez was now out, and Chris Ray was now in. In case you're wondering, Brian Wilson wasn't available because of rest. Anyway, Kemp hit an RBI single to keep hope alive at 6-5.

Here the Dodgers were in a big spot, with runners on the corners and two outs. When things are doing well, the game gets at least tied. When they're not, it doesn't. You can probably guess how this ended up. Blake grounded into a fielder's choice at short, and that was it.

The game wasn't a total waste because of the three runs in the last inning. But it's not hard to figure out why the Giants won. They were 3-for-7 with runners in scoring position, and the Dodgers were 2-for-13. The Giants got five of their six runs with two outs. The Dodgers left 10 men on base.

With practically no talk of acquiring a bat, the Dodgers are stuck with what they have. About the only thing they can hope for is a healthy Manny Ramirez, but I'm not sure there is such a thing as that anymore. He might be back in August, but it's hard to say he can be totally relied upon.

I look at two guys that need to start producing if this thing is to get turned around: Ethier and Kemp. They both look like they have no idea what they want to do at the plate anymore, especially Ethier. It's kind of sad to watch.

Of course, it helps if others step up as well, but without those two driving in runs in the middle of the order, the Dodgers will find themselves in back of the NL West by double digits in no time.

Chad Billingsley has volunteered to go on short rest, so he'll be on the hill on Saturday. He'll go against Barry Zito, who's having a pretty solid year.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Padres walk-off on Salazar's single

On a night where their offense was again practically non-existent, the Dodgers lost it in the ninth thanks to their worst reliever.

Oscar Salazar hit an RBI single up the middle to score Scott Hairston, giving George Sherrill and the Dodgers the loss, 3-2. The Padres took two of three in this series, and the Dodgers are now seven games back in the NL West.

Um, not good.

Vicente Padilla started on the mound, and he got into a bit of trouble in the first. Jerry Hairston Jr. reached on an infield single leading off. Adrian Gonzalez singled an out later for two on. Chase Headley delivered an RBI single to go up 1-0.

James Loney made sure the deficit was wiped out as quickly as he could, as he hit a solo homer to open the second. It was his eighth of the year to go along with 65 RBIs.

The Padres got the lead back a couple batters into the fourth. Headley drew a walk this time, and Yorvit Torrealba crushed an RBI double for the 2-1 advantage. A couple men reached with two outs, but Padilla got Mat Latos swinging to end the inning.

To start the fifth, Jamey Carroll walked. Blake DeWitt struck out, but Brad Ausmus also walked. With the way the Dodgers have been hitting, or not hitting for that matter, Joe Torre chose to pinch-hit Garret Anderson for Padilla already. For a change, Anderson came through with a single, and Carroll scored on Hairston's error at left, making it 2-2.

With still only one out, new Dodger Scott Podsednik grounded one in the infield, and Ausmus was gunned out trying to get home. Rafael Furcal flied out, and the Dodgers could not cash in more with two on and one out.

James McDonald got the call next, and he did a great job in both innings he pitched. He only gave up one walk to Headley, who was soon picked off of first. Kenley Jansen pitched the eighth, gave up a double to Will Venable with two outs, but got Hairston Jr. to fly out for the last out.

The offense was still failing miserably to get anything going, so it came down to a tie game in the bottom of the ninth. Hong-Chih Kuo worked the eighth and was pinch-hit for, so he was gone. Jonathan Broxton and George Sherrill were both warming up.

I guess there's an old unwritten rule that a closer does not enter a tie game on the road. Torre's old school, so he went with Sherrill. Do I even need to tell you what happened next?

Here goes anyway: single by Hairston, sacrifice by Tony Gwynn, game winning hit by Salazar.

I wasn't thrilled about the way Torre used the bullpen the night before, and I'm definitely not now. For the life of me, I just don't understand why Sherrill continues to not only appear in games, but in big situations. The guy has a 7.23 ERA. Yes, you read that right, SEVEN FREAKIN' TWENTY-THREE. And there he is pitching in a big game against the first place team. Unbelievable.

If this doesn't warrant releasing Sherrill, I don't know what will. Maybe the Ned Colletti and Torre are being stubborn and hoping that Sherrill will turn it around. Or maybe they just don't give a damn. I don't even know what else to say about that.

At seven games back, the Dodgers can't afford to mess around anymore. The trade deadline is nearby, so maybe someone will come in to give them a lift. I can hope anyway. Because right now, this team doesn't look it has a playoff appearance in them.

The starting staff are doing all they can, but the guys at the plate are not at all backing them up. The rotation has to be nearly perfect just to get a win. Even when they were winning, I warned that they were living dangerously by not scoring many runs. The putrid offense has obviously come back to bite them in the backside.

The Dodgers will next travel to San Francisco for three. The Giants are only 3 1/2 back, so this is a big series for them as well. And wouldn't you know it, Tim Lincecum will go in the first game. Carlos Monasterios will give it his best shot in another spot start.

Padres break it open late

For a change, the offense would not be bailed out by the pitching again.

The Padres scored a pair of runs in each of the sixth, seventh, and eighth as they defeated the Dodgers, 6-1. The loss knocks the Dodgers back down to six back in the NL West.

Once again, the Dodgers' offense was largely nowhere to be found, especially as the game progressed. How bad did it get? The last 19 "hitters" (they should barely be called that for this effort) were retired, and mostly with ease. Give credit to the Padres, but it's the Dodgers that really need to figure things out.

By the end of the game, it was probably hard to remember that the Dodgers actually had a lead at one point. In the third, Blake DeWitt singled with one out. Hiroki Kuroda failed to get a bunt down, so that made two outs. Rafael Furcal walked, and Jamey Carroll singled up the middle for the 1-0 advantage.

I hope you had a good memory of that hit by Carroll, because it would be the last one of the night. They didn't even draw a lousy walk. No disrespect meant to Clayton Richard, who's having a good year, but if the Dodgers do that poorly against him, it's scary to think what might happen against an elite pitcher.

Like the Dodgers have been doing for about a week now, the pitching would make the small lead hold up for most of the game. Kuroda was rolling through five innings, giving up only one hit and one hit batsman. It sure looked like it would be another close victory.

But, I'd say the law of averages caught up to the Dodgers, because it's just way too hard to keep winning by the slimmest of margins like they have been. It all started to unravel for Kuroda in the sixth. Tony Gwynn hit an infield single and soon stole second. Chris Denorfia then walked with one down.

Adrian Gonzalez found some room in center for an RBI single to tie the game at 1-1. Kuroda again walked a batter, this time Chase Headley to load the bases. Nick Hundley lifted a sac-fly RBI to Andre Ethier in right, and the Padres went up 2-1.

Kuroda went back out to start the seventh, which seemed like a mistake when I first saw it considering how much he labored the inning before. Sure enough, Scott Hairston singled, and that was it for Kuroda. George Sherrill actually did a good job in getting the only two batters he faced out.

On the other hand, Jeff Weaver did not do a good job. In fact, he was terrible. Jerry Hairston Jr. hit an RBI double and Denorfia an RBI single to make it 4-1. I'm not one to get into questioning every move by Joe Torre, but I think Weaver shouldn't be put in those situations. He's a long reliever, not a guy who should be getting these types of outs. If Torre wanted a righty, maybe Kenley Jansen should've gotten a shot.

Then again, with Ramon Troncoso in Triple-A and Ronald Belisario still not ready to come back, the options for righties in the bullpen are limited. Still, I didn't like using Weaver there.

With the way the Dodgers were flailing away at the plate, the Padres didn't need more runs, but they got them anyway in the eighth. Travis Schlichting came in and gave up a two-run single to Hairston Jr. with two outs, making it 6-1.

Even with the loss, the Dodgers have still had a good run recently and still have a great record in the division. They just need to find some way to get more runs. Furcal has gone cold, Ethier has stayed cold, and Matt Kemp remains up and down. If those guys aren't hitting, the team will struggle.

For those of you that want Manny Ramirez gone, I'll counter by saying they need him back in the lineup and fast. I know he's not the same hitter, but I still believe he can add some power that they're desperately needing. He can't possibly do any worse. Will it all work out? Who knows with the way he gets hurt, but his bat is really missed.

The Dodgers will look to win the series by sending Vicente Padilla to the mound on Thursday afternoon. He'll go against Mat Latos, who's enjoying a fine season. It should be a good pitching matchup once again.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dodgers trade for speedy Podsednik

The Dodgers made their first trade deadline move today, acquiring outfielder Scott Podsednik from the Royals. In exchange, the Royals will receive two minor leaguers, catcher Lucas May and pitcher Elisaul Pimentel.

This move was made for a couple of reasons. One, the Dodgers needed more depth in the outfield with Manny Ramirez and Reed Johnson both injured. Two, Podsednik will add speed to a lineup that has struggled to score runs after the All-Star break.

On the season, Podsednik is hitting .309 with five homers, 44 RBIs, 46 runs, and 30 stolen bases. He's currently fourth in the majors in steals. For his career, he's hit .280 with 296 steals against 99 times caught.

I wouldn't say this is a huge move, but it's a solid one in that it gives the Dodgers another option other than Xavier Paul and Garret Anderson as the other starter with Manny out. Paul's hitting .252 and Anderson .182. The Dodgers have actually used Jamey Carroll in left more often to try and give the offense more punch.

With Podsednik in left, he can hit second in the order behind Rafael Furcal. That would allow Carroll to spend more time at second with Blake DeWitt.

Healthy Bills, sick Ethier lift Dodgers

The combination of a strong arm and a sick stomach were all the Dodgers needed in San Diego.

Chad Billingsley pitched six shutout innings, Andre Ethier hit a pinch-hit two-run single in the seventh, and the Dodgers beat the Padres, 2-0. The Dodgers have taken five of six from the Padres this season and are five back in the NL West.

With scoring at a premium (as has been the case in any Dodger game lately), the game once again came down to the pitching. And once again, the starters stepped up in a big way. Billingsley lasted six innings for three hits, no runs, two walks, and four strikeouts. Three starts ago his ERA stood at 4.61, now it's down to 4.00.

Billingsley had to work out of a couple of jams. In the second, Will Venable walked and stole second with two down. Tony Gwynn then drew a walk himself. Everth Cabrera struck out to end the inning.

The biggest threat came in the fourth when Billingsley really found himself in trouble, only to make big pitches to get out of it. It started when Adrian Gonzalez singled leading off. Chase Headley followed with another single, and Yorvit Torrealba legged out an infield single to load the bases.

Venable grounded one to Blake DeWitt at second, who then fired home a little wide of Russell Martin. Martin made a good adjustment by tagging Gonzalez out for one down. Gwynn then popped up to Rafael Furcal, and Cabrera struck out looking at a breaking ball.

Through six innings, the Dodgers managed only two measly hits. They finally got going in the seventh, and it happened all with two outs. DeWitt and Garret Anderson hit consecutive singles to get a rally going. Martin was given the intentional pass to load the bases with Billingsley due up.

Joe Torre had a decision to make at this point, as Billingsley only had thrown 84 pitches. Ethier was a late scratch from the lineup because of an upset stomach, but the chance to get one swing out of him was too much to pass up. In went Ethier, and he grounded a two-run single to center for the 2-0 lead.

Hong-Chih Kuo pitched the next two innings, and came out unscathed. Cabrera singled and Jerry Hairston, Jr. reached on an error by Casey Blake in the seventh, but Chris Denorfia struck out looking for the last out. Kuo worked around a single by Torrealba in the eighth to keep it a two-run game.

Jonathan Broxton pitched a perfect ninth, including a strikeout of Matt Stairs to end the game, for his first save since July 8. I love that guy! But seriously, it was good to see him regain some confidence with an easy ninth. With Kuo still doing his thing and the emergence of Kenley Jansen, having Broxton on his game makes for a nasty bullpen.

After a horrible stretch to start the second half, the Dodgers have now won five of six. Incredibly, they've only scored 11 runs during this span. The pitching staff deserves so much credit, especially the starters. They're as locked in as can be.

Being five games back certainly isn't insurmountable. When you take into account the Dodgers are a fantastic 25-8 against the rest of the West, there's plenty of reason for optimism. Still, the offense needs to meet the pitching halfway. It's hard to survive by scoring only a couple runs a game.

Hiroki Kuroda threw eight shutout innings his last start, and he'll be on the mound Wednesday night looking to get a game closer to first. Clayton Richards counters for the Padres.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The buzz on Russell Martin

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports recently looked at the case of Russell Martin. Here are the highlights:
  • Martin's OPS has dropped in the last three years from .843 to .781 to .680.
  • His current salary is $5.05 million. He's entering the last two years of arbitration, meaning it will likely rise to the $6 million range.
  • Simply put, will the Dodgers want to shell out that kind of money for a catcher whose production has gone that far down?
  • The Dodgers are not actively shopping him, but they appear willing to listen to offers.
A similar question was brought up in the offseason, and Ned Colletti quickly shot it down. Now, Martin's numbers have gotten even worse. With the Dodgers being very careful not to give any money away, it sure looks like Martin leads to a dilemma.

While the offense is down, I think we need remember that he has thrown out 41% of base stealers (26 for 63), good for second in the majors. That number speaks for itself. So when we complain about his bat, keep in mind that he's producing on the other side of the field.

As for my thoughts, I wouldn't recommend moving him this year. Brad Ausmus is 41 and just back from a back injury. A.J. Ellis is a decent backup, but looks nowhere close to being a reliable starter. Unless another catcher is brought in, I don't think it would be a wise move.

Would I offer him arbitration again this offseason? I think that depends on a couple of factors. One, if the Dodgers pick up another couple of bats to add to their lineup. Manny Ramirez will be gone, and Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp are still showing the inconsistency of youth. Two, whom would the Dodgers replace Martin with behind the plate?

If the Dodgers find the pieces, I'd go ahead and let Martin walk. If not, I don't think they can justify not trying to resign him.

Great event at Dodger Stadium August 21

I was recently contacted by Natalie Carpenter, the Regional Director for the Huntingson's Disease Society of America, and asked to pass along the following information.

*** On Monday, August 21 at the Stadium Club, there will be an event to support HDSA from 6-9 P.M.

*** Special guests include former pitcher Tommy John, football hall of famer Mike Haynes, and actress Diane Verona.

*** The evening will be filled with stories from these celebrities, auction items, a complimentary buffet, and much more.

*** Seating is limited, so tickets can be purchased at

For more information, contact Natalie at or call 949-542-3907

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Kershaw brilliant, Jansen earns first save

Is the era of Kenley Jansen upon us?

Based on this weekend, it sure looks like it could be. Clayton Kershaw pitched eight shutout innings, and Jansen earned his first big league save as the Dodgers edged the Mets, 1-0. The Dodgers took three of four in the series and are now six games back and in third place in the NL West.

Much like their other two wins, the offense was bailed out big time by the starting staff. With Kershaw's performance today, the starters combined to give up only one earned run in 29 innings this series. It's hard to imagine doing any better than that.

R.A. Dickey was the starter for the Mets, and he was every bit as good as Kershaw the time he was in there. Unfortunately for him, he tweaked his left leg in the sixth and had to come out. He sure as heck didn't want to, as he was practically kicking and screaming to stay in, but Jerry Manuel didn't seem to care.

As for offensive highlights, well... there was little and none through four innings. David Wright doubled in the first and Matt Kemp singled in the second. And that was it.

Both teams had a chance to score in the fifth. With two outs, Jeff Francoeur and Josh Thole singled for the Mets. But that also meant Dickey was due up, and he grounded right back to Kershaw.

Andre Ethier doubled with one out to left. He then advanced to third on a wild pitch. There were two chances to drive him in, but it just didn't happen. Casey Blake struck out and Blake DeWitt grounded to first.

The Mets really had more opportunities the next two innings, but kept coming up flat when they needed a big hit. Jose Reyes singled then got picked off of first in the sixth. Sure enough, Luis Castillo doubled right after that, and ended up being stranded. Ike Davis doubled in the next inning, but Thole grounded into an inning ending double play.

With a scoreless game going into the bottom of the eighth, the Dodgers finally cashed in. Pedro Feliciano came on and struck out Ethier to start. Blake then singled to left. Rafael Furcal pinch-hit for DeWitt, but fouled out.

Now with two down, Russell Martin smoked one to the gap in left-center. Blake was on the move, and when Carlos Beltran bobbled it off the wall, Blake scored with ease for the game's first and only run.

The question then turned to who would close out the game. Kershaw was out after being pinch-hit for. Joe Torre stated before the game that Hong-Chih Kuo and Jeff Weaver were unavailable. Jonathan Broxton technically was available, but he threw 28 pitches over two innings on Saturday.

Sticking to his word, Torre wasn't afraid to put Jansen in the line of fire. And boy was he fun to watch. Beltran popped to Raffy, and Jason Bay and Davis struck out swinging to end the game.

Even with me singing his praises, we all have to be careful not to get too carried away with Jansen's spectacular start to his career. For one, he's only appeared in two games, and hitters aren't used to his stuff yet. Two, he played the Mets! They have to be the worst hitting team in the majors right now.

In a way, Jansen is similar to Ethier. Nobody was hotter than Ethier to start the year. Now, he looks completely lost. The injury to his pinkie didn't help, but I'm sure he's feeling a lot of pressure to duplicate the big numbers he put up before. The expectations when he came back from the DL were just way too high.

Which is why Jansen relates to him. He's red hot right now, but let's let the kid settle in. At some point he's going to take some lumps, but that's normal. I hope he doesn't, but it's only realistic. At 22-years-old, we need to be careful not to expect greatness so soon.

The Dodgers survived some battles the last few days, which should only make them stronger for the stretch run. They'll be tested right away, as they go to San Diego for three, then right over to San Francisco for three more. Following an off day Monday, Chad Billingsley will get the call in the opener.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Loney crushes first career walk-off homer

After four hours and 13 innings of horrible offensive baseball, James Loney hit a walk-off home run to give the Dodgers the win, 3-2. It was the first time in his career he has pulled this feat, and has only added to his stellar season.

Way back in the first inning, the Dodgers took the lead. Rafael Furcal led off with a single against Mike Pelfrey. Raffy then scampered to third when Pelfrey threw a pickoff attempt to first away. A sac-fly RBI from Xavier Paul made it 1-0.

If you're keeping track, it took the Dodgers two batters to score one run. The 2:1 ratio of hitters to runs would not exactly keep up as the game progressed.

In the fourth, the Dodgers struck again. Blake DeWitt tripled down the right field line leading off. Casey Blake then struck out. For reasons unknown, Jerry Manuel decided to intentionally walk Garret Anderson and his .181 average. Brad Ausmus, making his first start since early April, hit an RBI single up the middle for a 2-0 lead.

Carlos Monasterios was making his seventh start, and he was great. He wasn't flawless by any means, but made big pitches when he needed to. His biggest challenge was in the fourth when the bases were loaded with one down, but Rod Barajas and Pelfrey could not drive anyone in. Monasterios finished with five innings for six hits, no runs, one walk, and three strikeouts.

Like the previous night, the second the starter was pulled, the bullpen was lousy the following inning. James McDonald was brought in to pitch the sixth. After getting Carlos Beltran to fly out, he gave up a double to Ike Davis and walk to Jason Bay. Barajas then hit an RBI single, and it was 2-1.

Out went McDonald, who looked like he had no clue how to get hitters out. In came Jack Taschner. Jeff Francoeur pinch-hit and dribbled one to the mound, but Taschner had no play and the bases were loaded. Jose Reyes tied the game on an RBI single.

Just like that, the game was tied, ruining Monasterios's great effort. Thankfully Travis Schlichting got Luis Castillo to ground into a double play on his first pitch to end the inning.

There was a whole lot of baseball played from the sixth inning on, but it wasn't all that enjoyable. An extra innings nail biter is usually fun to watch, but this was an exception. It seemed like one blown chance after another, which made the game drag more than anything.

The best chance for the Dodgers during extra innings came in the 12th. Blake led off with a single. On a hit-and-run, Anderson bounced one back to the mound, but Oliver Perez threw the ball to center field, putting runners at the corners with nobody out.

Keeping up with the theme of the day, the Dodgers did nothing with it. Russell Martin pinch-hit and grounded out. Andre Ethier fouled out, though it didn't help that he took a second strike on a very questionable check swing. Raffy was intentionally walked, bringing up Jamey Carroll, who grounded into a fielder's choice to end the inning.

At this point, the Dodgers had no more position players left, and only one reliever... George Sherrill. But, Sherrill turned back the clock as he got through the top of the 13th in only nine pitches.

Matt Kemp had a 3-0 count leading off, then weakly flew out to center. Not a problem, said Loney, who smacked one to deep center to end the game. Loney is now hitting .301 with seven homers and 65 RBIs.

The run the starters have been on the last five games has been incredible. Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Vicente Padilla, and Monasterios have combined to throw 35 innings for only three earned runs. Wow.

Even with the hiccup in the sixth, the Dodgers put together an impressive day on the mound. Jonathan Broxton pitched two scoreless innings with the game tied at 2-2. Hong-Chih Kuo had a scoreless inning, and Jeff Weaver two. On the whole, the bullpen gave up two runs in eight innings of work.

Perhaps most impressive was the debut of young Kenley Jansen. He threw absolute gas, hitting the mid-high 90s. He struck out Angel Pagan and David Wright. Beltran grounded out for a perfect inning. It was a small sampling, but he looked like he'll be a factor going forward.

Going 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position usually won't win you many games, but the Mets were equally as bad at 3-for-14. The game came down to which team would get that one big hit, and Loney stepped up and delivered.

The Dodgers will look to take three of four on Sunday. Clayton Kershaw will be taking on the surprising R.A. Dickey. It'll be fastball vs. knuckleball at Chavez Ravine.

The Dodgers want this guy

With the trade deadline only a week away (Saturday, July 31), the Dodgers are no doubt looking to add to their pitching.

Their biggest target: Roy Oswalt.

Just exactly who the Dodgers are willing to give away and how much they'll take on is the million dollar question. They currently have Clayton Kershaw, Vicente Padilla, Hiroki Kuroda, and Chad Billingsley in their starting rotation. Good starters, but not quite a true ace. Oswalt would change all of that.

Here's what we do know. Jayson Stark of ESPN has reported that the Astros and Dodgers have exchanged names. No actual names were reported, though. Ned Colletti recently told the LA Times that he doesn't want to take a huge salary (Oswalt has $25 million left this season and next, plus a $12 million option for 2012) and unload top-tier prospects.

If you're to believe all of that, then Colletti certainly doesn't appear to be interested in Oswalt at the current price.

The latest update from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports pretty much backs up what Colletti said. The Astros want major league position players and prospects. In the words of Rosenthal via Twitter, "Not happening."

As we've seen plenty of times in the past, you never know what is actually going on behind the scenes. On the surface, it sure looks like the Astros would have to lower their enormous asking price for the Dodgers to be trade partners. Could it just be both teams playing hardball? Doesn't seem out of the question.

It's hard not to like the thought of getting Oswalt. The Astros are horrible this year, so his record is only 6-11. But a quick look at his 3.12 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 117 strikeouts in 124 innings, and it's easy to see why he finally requested a trade.

I'll give Colletti a ton of credit here - he finds creative ways to make moves at the deadline without giving up the farm. In recent years, I can only recall giving up Carlos Santana in the Casey Blake deal as being a bad move. Other than that, he's added Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Jon Garland, Vicente Padilla, George Sherrill (awesome last year at least) and Ronnie Belliard without giving up much of anything.

Colletti will most likely have to weave that same type of magic again for Oswalt to be in blue this year.

Padilla's sharp, but the bullpen's not

The Mets took full advantage of some horrible bullpen work in the eighth inning to claim Friday night's game, 6-1. The Dodgers are back to six games out in the NL West.

The game featured a good pitching matchup between Vicente Padilla and Johan Santana. We all know how good Santana is, as he's one of the best lefties of all time. But Padilla has been on fire since returning from injury. Runs would probably be at a premium.

Desperate for any sort of win, the Mets struck in their first at-bat. Jose Reyes led off with a double and went to third on Luis Castillo's bunt single. Angel Pagan struck out swinging for the first out.

The Dodgers should have easily gotten out of the inning on the next play. David Wright stuck out swinging, and Russell Martin made a perfect throw to nail Castillo stealing second. The only problem was that Blake DeWitt dropped the ball, allowing Reyes to score for the 1-0 lead. I'm not sure how DeWitt managed to do that, but he did.

Ike Davis led off the second with a solo homer to give the Mets a 2-0 lead. Castillo was called out at first on a very close play to end the inning. Replays showed he was probably safe, and Jerry Manuel got ejected for arguing. Seems like every game there's someone getting tossed. At least it keeps things interesting.

It took until the fifth, but the Dodgers finally got a run against Santana. Martin doubled leading off. DeWitt grounded one back to the mound, but Martin advanced to third on the play. Jamey Carroll lifted a sac-fly RBI to right, though Ramon Castro dropped the ball at home, so Martin should have easily been out. So I guess it all evened out in the end.

After getting out the second, Padilla went on a roll, retiring 17 straight. He finished with seven innings for six hits, two runs (one earned), no walks, and six strikeouts. Even though he took the loss, he still lowered his ERA to 3.41.

Unfortunately, Padilla was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the seventh, and it didn't work out. It was still only a one-run game at the time (2-1 Mets), and when Carroll singled with two down, Joe Torre went with Ronnie Belliard. Belliard grounded out to short.

Everything that happened from there was a disaster. Jeff Weaver walked Reyes and Castillo, and Pagan sacrificed them to scoring position. Out went Weaver, in came James McDonald, who gave up Wright's sac-fly RBI and an intentional walk to Carlos Beltran.

Exit McDonald, enter Jack Taschner, making his first appearance with the Dodgers. Hopefully it will be his last, as he had a wild pitch and walked Davis to load the bases. Travis Schlichting came in with the bases loaded in a tough spot, and Jason Bay cranked a bases clearing double, blowing the game open at 6-1.

Even with the top of the order up, the Dodgers went down in order over the final two innings.

A lot of credit needs to be given to the Mets' defense. It seemed like the whole night they were making diving, sliding catches. Bay smacked himself into the fence in left catching a long fly from Carroll. Pagan had a couple nice ones as well. They definitely wanted this win, as they played hard from the start.

Beating a guy like Santana is never an easy task, and the Dodgers just couldn't get much going. They only had six baserunners the whole night on five hits and a walk. Rafael Furcal and Andre Ethier hit 1-2, and they went 0-for-8. Matt Kemp and Casey Blake each got on twice, but that was about it.

With Santana out of the way, the Dodgers will look to take a couple this weekend. It starts with Carlos Monasterios making his seventh spot start of the year. He's done pretty well in those starts. Mike Pelfrey goes for the Mets, and he's been getting rocked lately.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Kuroda follows Billingsley's lead

One night after Chad Billingsley threw the best game of his season, Hiroki Kuroda decided to get in on the fun.

Kuroda pitched eight masterful innings against the lowly Mets, and Matt Kemp drove in both runs as the Dodgers won their second straight, 2-0. The win gets the Dodgers five back in the NL West.

There wasn't a whole lot of offensive highlights in this game, as the teams combined for only nine hits. Actually, the Mets won the hits battle 5-4. But they also had two baserunners gunned down by Russell Martin and left all three on who were in scoring position.

Jamey Carroll drew a walk from Hisanori Takahashi with one out in the first. Andre Ethier lined out to make it two down. Matt Kemp has been searching for his swing pretty much all season, but he drove one off the wall in right for an RBI double and 1-0 lead. Poor Jeff Francoeur is still twisting and turning trying to find it.

Both teams went down in order in the second and third innings. In fact, Takahashi set down 10 straight at one point. He certainly did all he could to win, finishing with seven innings for three hits, two runs, two walks, and five strikeouts. Maybe he just happened to have a great start, but he sure looks better than his 4.52 ERA shows.

The best scoring chance for the Mets came in the fifth. Francoeur and Chris Carter (not the annoying ex-NFL receiver who acts like he's better than every current player while analyzing for ESPN) both singled with one out. Josh Thole struck out looking. Luis Castillo ran the count to 3-0 before given the intentional pass.

If the Mets were playing well, they probably would've done something big here. But they're a mere 1-7 since the All-Star break, so you can guess what happened next. Takahashi grounded into a fielder's choice for the final out.

Kuroda was pitching very well, but the Mets were still only a swing away from tying the game. Kemp put an end to that, as he led off the bottom of the seventh with a solo homer to left, his 17th. The score read 2-0, but with the way the Mets hit, it may as well have been 12-0.

The Mets went down in order in the eighth, Kuroda's last inning. Hong-Chih Kuo, not Jonathan Broxton, was brought in for the save. Unlike Broxton, there would be no drama. Kuo walked David Wright but struck out two and got Francoeur grounding out to end the game. It was his third save of the season.

Kuroda's shown a great ability to quickly forget about bad starts. It was only four starts ago that he was knocked out in the second inning against the Diamondbacks. Tonight, he went eight strong for five hits, no runs, one walk, and four strikeouts. His stuff was fantastic, as he was in full control from the beginning.

The offense is certainly not setting the world on fire still, which makes these last two games all the more impressive. Billingsley and Kuroda have combined to pitch 17 scoreless innings, giving up only 10 hits and striking out seven. Plus, the Dodgers were in a bad losing streak, so these two put the team on their backs.

It's not realistic to expect them to pitch like this each outing. But, if they can show more consistency, then along with Clayton Kershaw and Vicente Padilla, the starting rotation suddenly looks really good. The Dodgers will need it with their offense struggling to put up runs.

As for Kemp, this is his third multi-hit game since the break. He'll still look lost on many at-bats, but he took his double to the opposite field, and just creamed his home run. It's no secret that the Dodgers need him to step up, especially with Manny Ramirez out of the lineup again. Tonight was a good sign.

Padilla will have a very tough act to follow. Lucky him, he's up against Johan Santana as well. But, Padilla has been just great lately, so I'm sure he'll be ready to go.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Billingsley hurls a complete game gem

After 10 long days, the Dodgers are finally back on the winning side. They can thank Chad Billingsley and Casey Blake for that.

Billingsley was simply awesome, as he pitched his second career complete game shutout as the Dodgers beat the Giants, 2-0. The win snaps a horrible six game losing streak that saw the Dodgers lose pretty much every way imaginable.

The Giants' starter was Barry Zito, and he was nearly just as good as Bills. In fact, he looked like he was well on his way to a complete game (the eight inning version since he was the away team on the losing end), but was replaced with one out in the eighth. Still, he gave up only six hits, two runs, three walks, and four strikeouts.

The first run came in the second, and it held up for a long time. Leading off, Blake took a breaking ball out to left for a solo shot, his 10th of the season. He's only hitting .254 on the season, and was really struggling through July. But, he's collected four hits the last two games, so it's at least a positive sign.

For the next five innings, Bills and Zito may have bent a little, but certainly didn't break. The Giants took two walks in the third, but got nothing. They also singled twice in the sixth, but again came up empty. The Dodgers didn't put together any serious threats during that time.

With the game flying by, the Dodgers chased Zito in the eighth. It started with a single by Rafael Furcal, who is now tops in the National League with a .337 average. Jamey Carroll laid down a great sacrifice bunt to get Raffy to second. Zito stayed on to face Andre Ethier, but walked him.

A frustrated Zito exited for Sergio Romo. Matt Kemp struck out on some nasty sliders for two outs. Blake came through again with an RBI single for the 2-0 lead.

Hong-Chih Kuo was warming up during the eighth, which was a surprise given that he pitched two innings the night before. It would have been unexpected if he came in, but that certainly looked like the backup plan if Bills faltered.

Fortunately for the Dodgers, that didn't happen. A stikeout to Pablo Sandoval, and two groundouts to Juan Uribe and Travis Ishikawa ended the game. Overall, Bills went nine innings for five hits, no runs, two walks, and three strikeouts. It was by far his best effort of the year.

What was the best thing about this game? Not seeing George Sherrill or Jonathan Broxton come in to screw things up.

Billingsley has certainly suffered his fair share of poundings for about a year now. This season alone, he's had three starts of six-plus runs. But quietly, he's also put together some good outings. Tonight marked his eighth quality start, which is no easy task.

Clayton Kershaw has taken over as the team's ace, and Vicente Padilla has certainly looked really good when healthy. But Billingsley still has all the talent to be a top-tier starter. He's often his own worst enemy with control issues. That didn't happen tonight, and he showed how well he can do when he's on the mark.

At this point, the Dodgers didn't really care how they won, they just needed to mercifully get it done. The losing streak they just suffered was one of the more frustrating ones they've gone through lately. That's now history, so they need to make sure it stays that way.

There's no rest for the Dodgers as they welcome the Mets for four starting Thursday. The Mets have also played pretty poorly recently. Hiroki Kuroda will get the call in the first game.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Humiliating 9th burns the Dodgers

Dodger fans, it may be time to start focusing on football.

Up 5-1 and with Clayton Kershaw on the mound, the Dodgers did a whole bunch of things wrong that lead to a loss to the Giants, 7-5. The defeat leaves the Dodgers six games back in the NL West.

It's not an overreaction to say that for a variety of reasons, this was one of the most embarrassing losses they've suffered in recent memory.

First, the good. A Buster Posey double play ball ended the first for the Giants. The Dodgers then put up a three spot in the bottom of the frame. Rafael Furcal led off with a walk and a steal of second, his 16th of the year. Xavier Paul then laced an RBI double for a 1-0 lead.

Andre Ethier stepped in next and took a breaking ball from Tim Lincecum into the right field stands for his 16th shot of the season. Against the great Lincecum, it was already 3-0.

The Giants got one back in the second. With one out, Pablo Sandoval drew a walk, and Juan Uribe doubled for runners in scoring position. Edgar Renteria grounded one to short, but Raffy's only play was to first, as the Giants now were down 3-1.

The next inning, the Dodgers tacked on two more. Paul singled and Ethier walked to start the inning. Following a couple of outs, Blake DeWitt hit an RBI single for a 4-1 lead. Casey Blake then hit an RBI double, and the Dodgers were in full control at 5-1.

Lincecum would soon be lifted in the fifth after allowing a couple of baserunners. You would think the Dodgers would cruise to an easy win considering they (a) Had a decent lead. (b) Had their ace on the mound. (c) Knocked the opposing ace out of the game.

Unfortunately, the Dodgers have found creative ways to lose lately, and tonight's final few innings would make for a good tutorial video to show Little Leaguers how to screw up.

It actually started in the fifth. Matt Kemp was knocked to the ground on a pitch high and inside. I guess Lincecum didn't think it was that close, because Kemp was then plunked. For reasons only known to Major League Baseball, that meant both teams were warned. Nevermind the fact Lincecum should have logically been tossed, now both teams were penalized.

Kemp got picked off of first last night, and tonight got thrown out trying to go first to third on a single. Speaking of tutorial videos, please DO NOT show young kids how to run the bases like Matt Kemp! It may cause permanent damage.

Then in the sixth, young Paul must have forgotten how to squeeze the ball when it hits the glove while falling in the air. With Freddy Sanchez and Posey on via singles, Pat Burrell lifted a long one to left. In a scene that actually made Manny Ramirez look good, Paul flat out dropped it, bringing home a run.

A two-run double by Sandoval came next, and the Dodgers were only up 5-4.

Leading off the seventh, Kershaw plunked Aaron Rowand, and was therefore ejected. Ditto for Joe Torre. Lincecum, the instigator, was only warned. This rule is so screwed up, I don't even know where to start.

Hong-Chih Kuo came on and did a fantastic job, retiring all six batters he faced. His ERA now stands at a mere 0.89.

With some crazy things going on, it only got worse in the ninth. Enter Jonathan "Blown Save" Broxton, who yet again wilted when the pressure was on. An infield single by Uribe, a walk to Renteria, and an intentional walk to Aubrey Huff loaded the bases with none down.

The newest screwup came from acting manager Don Mattingly. He visited Broxton to no doubt tell him to throw a damn strike. Mattingly started to leave, then took a step back to say something else. It was probably along the lines of, "Oh ya, it's OK to develop another pitch at some point." Bruce Bochy immediately pointed out that Mattingly technically visited the mound twice. That meant Broxton had to be replaced.

It was a petty, ticky-tack call... and the right one. For some insane reason, George Sherrill got he call. What happened next? Why of course, a two-run double by Andres Torres! Why in the world Sherrill continues to pitch is something I completely do not understand.

The rest of the game didn't matter much. Posey added another run on a single. Ronnie Belliard and Andre Ethier both represented the tying run in the ninth, but struck out. It was pathetic.

This was no doubt one of the craziest games I can remember. But at the end of the night, only one thing mattered: the Dodgers were their own worst enemies and choked this one away. And that's all there is to it.

It's gut-check time for them now. They can either continue to mess up in big situations and roll over the rest of the year, or they can actually play professional baseball for the first time in over a week. Any hope at making the playoffs is slowly fading away. It's not completely gone, but it's vanishing.

Chad Billingsley will get the next crack at ending the losing streak. He was horrendous his last start against the Cardinals. Barry Zito will go for the Giants.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Manny back to the DL, welcome back Ausmus

Manny Ramirez has once again hit the 15-day DL, this time with a strained right calf. The move is retroactive to last Saturday. He's expected to be gone for three weeks.

It's no secret Manny hasn't had nearly the season Dodger fans have hoped for. When he has played, he's done pretty well. In 61 games (the Dodgers have played 92), he's hit .317 with eight home runs and 39 RBIs. A good average, but not nearly the power numbers they were expecting.

He's 38-years-old, so the Dodgers have to be cautious with him. They're still thinking long haul, and hopefully he'll be good to go in the final couple of months. Then there's the playoffs, which they can only hope will happen. It's a lot of hoping, but that's the reality of the situation.

In his place will be the return of Brad Ausmus. He's played in only one game this year, then went on the 60-day DL for back surgery. It wasn't a given at the time, but he's worked very hard to get back to the active roster. It's good to see that hard work pay off.

Not only does he bring veteran leadership to a team that has floundered lately, but he hit .295 last year. A.J. Ellis has filled in since April, and is hitting .204 with eight RBIs. Nothing against Ellis, but Ausmus is a clear upgrade.

Lifeless Dodgers drop 5th straight

The Dodgers got down 4-0, put together somewhat of a threat late, but could not cash in when opportunities came. The end result was their fifth straight loss, this time to the Giants, 5-2. They're now six games back and in fourth place in the NL West.

James McDonald was recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque and had a mixed bag of results. He looked great in the first inning as the Giants went down in order. Then the second came, and a walk and two singles loaded the bases with nobody out. But then a strikeout, groundout, and flyout ended that threat.

In the bottom of the second, Matt Kemp singled to left with two outs. He was no doubt so thrilled about it that he decided to get picked off of first. And this is one of the many reasons he's underachieved this season.

McDonald wouldn't be so lucky in the third. Andres Torres doubled to lead off. Freddy Sanchez and Aubrey Huff couldn't reach, so there were now two outs. But, Buster Posey hit an RBI single and Pablo Sandoval an RBI double for the 2-0 lead.

The next inning brought two more runs for the Giants. Travis Ishikawa singled to start, and Nate Schierholtz hit a two-run homer to right just out of the reach of Andre Ethier for the 4-0 lead. Actually, Ethier never jumped for it, but maybe it was higher than it appeared.

The Dodgers finally got something going in the sixth. Rafael Furcal led off with a long solo homer to left to make it 4-1. Jamey Carroll then singled and James Loney walked two outs later. Old friend Guillermo Mota came in and threw a pickoff attempt at second into center, sending both runners into scoring position.

What happened next was a little weird, but it benefited the Dodgers. Kemp hit a grounder to third that Sandoval gloved and tagged Loney. Since Sandoval never made the putout to first, the home plate umpire ruled that Carroll crossed the plate in time (in reality he didn't) and the run would score, so it was 4-2 after all of that.

If the Dodgers got a questionable run in the sixth, then the Giants got one right back in the eighth. With one out and the bases loaded, Sanchez hit a sac-fly RBI to Ethier. For reasons only known to Torres, he decided to run past second, then head back to first way too late. The Dodgers made the easy throw to first for the double play.

Joe Torre argued that Torres ran past the runner ahead of him, Edgar Renteria. The umps either didn't see it or didn't agree, so the run counted, keeping the score at 5-2.

In the end, it was all a wash. Both teams were given runs they probably shouldn't have gotten.

The ninth brought a great scoring chance against Brian Wilson. That was also the case in the seventh against three relievers, but Ethier grounded out to end the inning. This time, Russell Martin and Raffy singled, and Ethier walked with two outs. Casey Blake had a chance to be a hero, but struck out to end the game.

It was an appropriate ending for a horrible stretch that has started the second half.

It's not like the Dodgers didn't put anyone on base. They collected 10 hits, took five walks... and scored two runs. Of course, leaving 11 men on base and going 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position won't win you much of any games.

McDonald was decent, as he went five innings for nine hits, four runs, two walks, and five strikeouts. I think he showed some signs that he can improve. It's only his first start of the season, so he'll need more time to settle down.

As for the rest of the team, they're really at a crossroads now. They have a tough second half schedule, and so far have not at all risen to the occasion. The three teams ahead of them, the Padres, Rockies, and Giants, don't look like they're going to slow down.

The bottom line is, if the Dodgers don't start playing better and quick, they may find themselves in too big a hole to dig out of.

Tuesday's pitching matchup should be a great one, as Clayton Kershaw goes against Tim Lincecum. Kershaw didn't look very good in St. Louis his last start, but he's still had a great year. Lincecum is still Lincecum. It won't be easy, but maybe this will be the game that jumpstarts the Dodgers again.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Broxton bumbles one away

Today was the latest example of why Jonathan Broxton is not a big-game closer.

The Dodgers had seemingly everything going for them, only to blow a 4-0 lead in the final two innings to lose to the Cardinals, 5-4. The Cards earned the sweep, and the Dodgers are slowly free-falling down the standings in the NL West.

Vicente Padilla opened up the game facing a Cardinals' lineup without All-Stars Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina. The Dodgers are still without Manny Ramirez and Russell Martin, Casey Blake got a day off, and James Loney sat out after leaving Saturday's game with bad leg cramps.

Through four innings, both Padilla and the great Jeff Suppan (yes, sarcasm) kept it scoreless. Neither team put more than one man on at a time.

The fifth is when the Dodgers took the lead. It was Padilla "helping himself out" (one of the oldest baseball cliches I know). Ronnie Belliard singled to lead off the inning and was forced at second by Xavier Paul. A.J. Ellis singled for two on. Padilla then hit an RBI double to score Paul and send Ellis to third. Rafael Furcal and Jamey Carroll could not score him, though.

Maybe Padilla was tired from running, because he walked the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth. With Matt Holliday up, it was a big situation. Unlike another L.A. pitcher (you know who), Padilla got him flying out to end the inning.

In the seventh, Mitchell Boggs relieved Suppan, and the Dodgers pounced on him. Belliard started it again with a single. An error by Felipe Lopez allowed Ellis to reach with one out. Up stepped Garret Anderson, who's done his fair share of... well, nothing this year. Temporarily, that changed, as he stroked an RBI double for a 2-0 lead.

Raffy was given an intentional pass, and Ellis then scored on a wild pitch to Carroll. Carroll struck out, and this time Ethier was intentionally walked to load the bases. Matt Kemp got an RBI on a walk for the 4-0 lead. Blake DeWitt grounded into a fielder's choice for the last out.

Padilla exited after only 80 pitches, though it probably seemed like more because of the heat. In came Travis Schlichting, who quickly gave up a double to Randy Winn, but got the next three in order.

Schlichting was given another chance in the eighth, and it didn't work out. He faced three batters and walked two of them. Who would Joe Torre turn to? Hong-Chih Kuo pitched yesterday, so he wasn't available. Ronald Belisario is on the restricted list. George Sherrill... sucks.

That meant only one man would get the ball: Broxton. He was asked to get five outs while protecting a four-run lead with two men on. Keep in mind, he was playing a really good team in the Cards. Could he do it?

Of course not! Because the bigger the situation, the bigger the chance is that he blows it. And please, don't even bring up the All-Star Game. He was helped out by a great throw from Marlon Byrd on the slowest person in the ballpark, David Ortiz.

Anyway, here's how it went down in the eighth. Allen Craig hit a two-run double to cut the lead in half to 4-2. Holliday flew out, but Winn connected on an RBI single, and it was 4-3. Skip Schumaker then walked, and Pujols came in to pinch-hit. He grounded out to short, though.

With the Dodgers stranding two in the top of the ninth, it was up to Broxton get the save. Molina singled in his only at-bat to start it. Brendan Ryan sacrificed him over to second. Lopez the flew out for two down.

Jon Jay had a 1-2 count, but worked a walk. Craig also had a 1-2 count, but still tied the game with a single. Holliday's RBI single then won the game. What was the count on him? You guessed it, 1-2.

Not only does the loss sting, but Padilla was flat-out robbed of a win. He went six innings for one hit, no runs, five walks, and one strikeout. His ERA has gone down by three runs since coming back from injury.

The offense did a decent job, but failed to hit around a guy in Suppan who's been awful this year. Still, they woke up later and had some good at-bats in the seventh for the four-run cushion.

But who am I kidding? The reason the Dodgers lost is because of Jonathan Broxton. It wasn't ALL his fault, but 99% of it is. Big-time closers finish this game out. But once again, he just can't rise to occasion when facing a playoff-caliber team.

The Dodgers will have to lick their wounds, go back home, and start a three-game set with the Giants on Monday. Maybe that's a good thing, because the last time the Dodgers suffered a bad, late-inning loss was the Yankees on June 27, and they turned right around and swept the Giants. James McDonald will make his first start of the year.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cardinals move closer to a sweep

The Cardinals used a big game from Adam Wainwright and good defense to move a game within a sweep with a 2-0 win over the Dodgers. It's the 10th time already this season the Dodgers have been blanked.

With temperatures in the 90s, both Hiroki Kuroda and Wainwright put in great efforts for six innings. Kuroda gave up four hits, one run, one walk, and eight strikeouts. Wainwright surrendered five hits, no runs, one walk, and three strikeouts.

The game was scoreless through three innings, though both teams had chances. The Dodgers got singles from James Loney and Blake DeWitt to open the second, but ultimately had Xavier Paul hit into an inning ending double play. The Cardinals had two men in scoring position with one out in the third, but Colby Rasmus and Albert Pujols couldn't deliver.

In the fourth, however, the Cards came through. Matt Holliday singled leading off, and Jon Jay forced him out at second. Yadier Molina singled for runners on the corners and one down. Skip Schumaker hit an RBI double for the 1-0 lead.

Little did everyone know at the time that that's all the Cards would need on this day. The only other threat the Dodgers put forth was in the sixth. Rafael Furcal doubled to lead off. Matt Kemp flied out, but Raffy tagged to third. Andre Ethier walked, and the Dodgers looked to have a good thing going.

In hindsight, that walk would prove to be a bad thing. Loney has been great in RBI situations this year, but not this time, as he grounded into an easy double play. A walk to Ethier in the ninth is the last baserunner the Dodgers would get.

This loss was certainly no fault of Kuroda. He shook off some very hot conditions and pitched great. He just didn't get any help. The first inning was an indication that he was locked in, as Felipe Lopez hit a leadoff double, but the next three struck out.

Hong-Chih Kuo worked an inning in the seventh. Maybe still feeling a bit of a hangover from a shaky first All-Star appearance, he walked two. But he also got a flyout and two lazy pop-ups to the infield for no runs.

Jeff Weaver is the one who gave up the second run in the eighth. The bases got loaded on a walk to Pujols, a single by Holliday, and an intentional pass to Molina. A sac-fly RBI by Brendan Ryan brought in Pujols.

Wainwright is a fantastic pitcher, but the Dodgers did hang a loss on him back on June 9 in Dodger Stadium. It's a shame they wasted a bounce back performance from Kuroda, who was lousy his last three starts. Kyle McClellan, Trever Miller, and Ryan Franklin were the other pitchers they couldn't figure out.

Of course, with the way the Dodgers failed in any clutch hitting situation, it didn't matter how good the pitching was. Both Paul and Loney hit into double plays to end innings. The team was 0-for-6 with runners in scoring positions, with Casey Blake going 0-for-3. That obviously won't get it done.

The effort was better, but that was only because of Kuroda. The offense has still been in hibernation since the break. Five runs, three games, three losses. It's as simple as that.

For the first time this series, the Dodgers will have a clear pitching advantage in Sunday's finale. Vicente Padilla has been awesome since coming back from injury. He'll face Jeff Suppan, who is somehow still a starting pitcher despite being 0-5 with a 6.59 ERA. If the offense is ever going to wake up, this is the time.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Cardinals jump on Dodgers early

For the second straight night, the Cardinals scored early and often against the Dodgers. The result on this night was a Cardinals' victory, 8-4. The Dodgers have dropped both games since the All-Star break by a 15-5 margin.

The result could have been different had the Dodgers capitalized on some baserunners in the first. Rafael Furcal singled leading off. Matt Kemp struck out and Andre Ethier lined to third. Manny Ramirez only had one at-bat (more on that in a bit), and walked. Casey Blake had a big chance to get something going, but he feebly popped up for the third out.

Before Chad Billingsley threw even one pitch, Manny already was coming out of the game with a tight calf. That mean Xavier Paul would come in, which was a good thing, except that he was now the cleanup hitter. That's not exactly what Joe Torre had in mind when making out the lineup card before this game.

Billingsley was following Clayton Kershaw's subpar performance, and the Dodgers sure could've used a big start from him. To be blunt, it just didn't happen. The Cardinals got three runs in the first and put the pressure on from the start.

Colby Rasmus singled with one down, and Albert Pujols grounded him to third. Matt Holliday drew a walk with two down. Needing to make a big pitch, Billingsley couldn't do it, as Randy Winn ripped a two-run triple for a 2-0 lead. Yadier Molina hit an RBI single to get a 3-0 lead.

The next inning, the Cardinals tacked on another run. Skip Schumaker singled leading off, and was sacrificed to second by Jaime Garcia. After a flyout, the Cardinals again came through with two outs, getting an RBI single from Felipe Lopez for a 4-0 lead.

The Dodgers tried to wake up in the third by getting a couple of runs. Kemp and Ethier hit consecutive singles with one out. Paul then flew out in Manny's spot. Blake delivered this time with an RBI single, which was soon followed by James Loney's RBI single, making it 4-2.

With a bit of new life, Billingsley gave one run right back. The bases were loaded on singles by Pujols, Holliday, and Winn. The only run that came out of it was from Molina's RBI fielder's choice for the 5-2 advantage.

The fourth saw the Dodgers threaten, but come up empty. Jamie Carroll singled to start. Billingsley made his bad night worse by failing to advance Carroll to second, striking out instead in a very poor at-bat. Raffy singled, but Kemp and Ethier could not reach on new pitcher Kyle McClellan.

Three more runs would come across the next couple of innings for the Cards. In the fourth, Tyler Greene scored on a double play ball from Rasmus. The next inning, Molina connected on a two-run shot, scoring Holliday as well, and it was 8-2.

Just whom did Molina hit the homer off of? That's right, George Sherrill. Once again Sherrill was given a chance to put up a scoreless inning, and once again he failed miserably. With a current 7.17 ERA, I cannot wait until he's either claimed by another team, released, or sent to the minors once his waiver time expires. He's unfathomably bad.

The Dodgers made a late push to try and get back into this one, but it was ultimately too little, too late. In the eighth, the bases were loaded with one out on Loney's single, Carroll's walk, and Garret Anderson's single (yes, he actually got a hit). Raffy drew a walk on a full count to force in one run. Kemp got another on a sac-fly RBI, and it was 8-4.

Ethier had a chance to make this game close, but grounded out against Dennys Reyes. Ethier ended up 1-for-5 to lower his average a bit to .324.

Ryan Franklin gave up a ground rule double to Paul leading off the ninth, but retired the next three in order. It was a non-save situation with a four-run lead.

Watching this game, the one thing that struck me as the major difference between these two teams right now is energy. The Cardinals are playing like they have something to prove, the Dodgers look lifeless. The Cards got some great defensive plays and big two-out hitting. On the flip side, the Dodgers just haven't done much of anything clutch.

It's only two games, but the Dodgers have to be a bit concerned about how lousy they've looked thus far. Manny's hurt again, two of their main starters got hit around, and they left 12 men on base tonight. They need to pick up their intensity this weekend if they want to avoid getting swept in four games.

It'll be Hiroki Kuroda getting the start on Saturday, and he's been terrible his last three starts. Plus he's facing Adam Wainwright, who has 13 wins. Winning won't be easy, but the Dodgers have to start somewhere, so getting one here would be a big start.

Second half begins like the first half

Much like Opening Day, the second half of the baseball season brings optimism for each team. A little R&R from the All-Star break, and everyone feels ready to go.

And much like Opening Day, the Dodgers got slapped around in the first game back.

The Cardinals chased Clayton Kershaw in the fifth, as they cruised to a win, 7-1. With the Padres idle, the Dodgers are now 2 1/2 games back in the NL West.

Coming into this four-game set, the Cardinals had plenty of reasons to be motivated. They had their ace Chris Carpenter on the mound, the Dodgers had swept them in Dodger Stadium this year, and out of the playoffs last year. For one game at least, the Cards made sure to get some revenge.

Carpenter got the Dodgers down in order to start the game. Felipe Lopez and Colby Rasmus then led off with walks. Albert Pujols got a check-swing single to right to load the bases. Matt Holliday and Aallen Craig followed with RBI fielder's choices, and it was 2-0.

In the fourth, the Dodgers cut the lead in half for a little bit, then gave it right back. Andre Ethier was the only one to get to Carpenter, as he hit a solo homer to right center, his 15th of the season. That would be only one of four hits the Dodgers would get on the night.

Kershaw couldn't hold the lead, though bad defense and some bad luck were the main reasons why. Yadier Molina singled to left, and Manny Ramirez, playing in his first game back from the DL, booted it to get Molina to second. Aaron Miles blooped an RBI single over Rafael Furcal's head to go up 3-1. Lopez hit a two-out RBI double for a 4-1 lead.

Joe Torre let Kershaw start the fifth, but it didn't last long. Pujols greeted him with a double and Holliday a single for two on. Craig lifted a sac-fly RBI to center for a 5-1 lead, and that would be it for Kershaw. Justin Miller came in, balked Holliday to second, but settled down to get out of the inning.

Travis Schlichting pitched a perfect sixth, but gave up a couple in the next inning. After Holliday walked with one down, Jon Jay doubled him home. The last run came on Molina's RBI single.

There's not a whole heck of a lot that went right for the Dodgers, as the Cards outplayed them in every way. Ethier collected two hits to get his average up to .326, which is now good for first in the National League. Other than that... blah.

The wild side of Kershaw made an appearance to start the game, and it hurt him. Two walks leading off led to two runs scoring. He finished at 4 1/3 innings, eight hits, five runs (four earned), three walks, and one strikeout. I think the line looks worse than he actually did, as Manny's error and a couple of lucky hits did him no favors. He'll bounce back.

George Sherrill got another chance to show he can get batters out. It worked for the first two, getting Brandon Ryan and Lopez. But, Randy Winn singled, and Torre yanked him. Sherrill recently said that he gets paid too much money to only pitch to lefties. Well I have an idea - stop giving up so many damn hits and you'll be in there more. Just a thought.

The Dodgers will look to shake this one off on Friday, as they send Chad Billingsley to the mound. He'll go against Jaime Garcia, who's really tough to hit at home. Let's hope that changes for one night anyway.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sherrill placed on waivers

Ed Price of AOL FanHouse is reporting that George Sherrill has been placed on outright waivers. What this means is that if another team puts in a claim on him, the Dodgers can't claim him back. If nobody claims him, then he's free to go to the minors.

Sherrill is making $4.5 million this season. After having a fantastic run with the Dodgers after the trade deadline last year, he's been just plain awful this year. In 19.2 innings, he has a 7.32 ERA. The lowest ERA he had for any month was 5.39 in June. Yes, he's been that bad.

Given his bloated salary and horrible numbers, I can't imagine another team claiming him. Even with his past success and being a lefty, it would still be pretty surprising. It looks like he's on a fast track to the minors.

Right now, the Dodgers have Hong-Chih Kuo as their only other lefty in the bullpen. Kuo's been terrific this season, but he can't pitch on consecutive days thanks to his long history of arm trouble.

Because of the lack of lefties in the 'pen, I still think Sherrill can play a big role down the stretch. Of course, it's not going to happen if he continues to get hammered in the minors. If he can show any sign of regaining his old form, he'll be back up.

Broxton earns the All-Star save

For the first time since 1996, the National League has won the All-Star Game. Thanks to a really dumb rule, the NL will now get home field advantage in this year's World Series.

There were four Dodgers who made and participated in this game, so let's take a look at how they performed.

Andre Ethier - Voted in as a starter, Ethier hit seventh and played center field. He got a pretty good amount of playing time, going four innings in center and two more in right. At the plate, he went 1-for-2. Andy Pettitte made him look silly his first at-bat, striking him out in three pitches. With David Wright on second and one out in the fifth, Ethier singled, but it was hit too hard to Josh Hamilton to allow Wright to score. Wright was soon stranded.

He was this close to getting another big at-bat in the seventh, but it didn't happen. With one out, Scott Rolen was on third and Matt Holliday on first. Joe Girardi brought in lefty Matt Thorton to face Ethier. Charlie Manuel countered with Chris Young, who popped up. Understandable given the lefty-righty situation, but Ethier has been so clutch for the last year and a half, I wonder what would have happened.

Hong-Chih Kuo - One of the several last minute additions, Kuo entered the scoreless game in the fifth. Obviously feeling some nerves, it didn't go so well. Evan Longoria walked leading off. Joe Mauer then bounced one weakly near the mound, and Kuo completely sailed the ball off the wall in foul territory. A sac-fly RBI from Robinson Cano put the AL up 1-0.

It could have been worse, though. With Mauer on second, Carl Crawford grounded to shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who easily threw out Mauer at third. Heath Bell came in to get Torii Hunter flying out, so after all of that, only one run scored.

Rafael Furcal - Another addition from last weekend, Raffy had a good night. He only had one at-bat and walked in the seventh. He was involved in the defensive play of the night when Marlon Byrd gunned out David Ortiz for a huge second out in the ninth. It wasn't an overly difficult play, but Raffy did catch the ball on a hop.

Jonathan Broxton - With the NL closer to winning for the first time in about 15 years, it was all up to Broxton to keep the two run lead. Thankfully, he did. Ortiz singled in the first pitch he saw, but thanks to a depleted bench, he had to stay in the game. Adrian Beltre struck out quickly on some nasty fastballs. John Buck was the one who placed the hit just in front of Byrd, leading to the great play at second. Ian Kinsler represented the tying run and put a good swing on it, but flew out to Young in center.

I've been critical of Broxton for fading in the spotlight, especially after giving away the lead in the last game against the Yankees. Going into the game, I thought Manuel would have Bell be the closer. I'm glad I was wrong, because Broxton had to face great talent in getting the save. It was fun to watch.

Overall, three of the four Dodgers really played well. Kuo really didn't do that bad, but in such a close game with little margin for error, his errant throw was magnified even more. I'm just glad that wasn't the focus at the end of the night and the Dodgers played a part in winning this game.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

First-half NL West awards

The first half of the 2010 season is in the books. The NL West has been a very competitive division, with only four games separating the Padres, Rockies, Dodgers, and Giants.

Here I will give out my mid-season awards, NL West style.

MVP - Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Rockies
It's just too hard to ignore how fantastic he has been this season. He's 15-1 (15-1!) with a 2.20 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 113 strikeouts in 127 innings. The Rockies have won 16 of the 18 games he's started. He also has a no-hitter over the Braves.

Honorable mention: Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Padres

Cy Young - Jimenez
He barely has my MVP, but he clearly is the best pitcher.

Honorable mention: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers; Tim Lincecum, Giants

Rookie of the Year - Buster Posey, C/1B, Giants
Posey wasn't called up until June 11, but has not disappointed. After a slow June, he's really picked it up in July, swinging a red-hot bad. Overall, he's hitting .350 with a .389 OBP, seven homers, 23 RBIs, and 22 runs.

Honorable mention: Carlos Monasterios, RP, Dodgers

Comeback Player of the Year - Rafael Furcal, SS, Dodgers
Furcal has been the sparkplug of the Dodgers' offense. He's hitting .333 with a .383 OBP, six homers, 35 RBIs, 51 runs, and 14 stolen bases. Take him out of the lineup, and the Dodgers are a completely different team.

Honorable mention: Aubrey Huff, 1B, Giants; Chris Young, OF, Diamondbacks

Now here's some random awards I just made up.

Best Team - San Diego Padres
Who could have possibly imagined the Padres would be in first place with a 51-27 record? I'm not sure even Padre fans would admit that. They might not have gotten much respect in the All-Star voting, but they have been the best team since the beginning. The main ingredient has been an incredible bullpen.

Worst Team - Arizona Diamondbacks
When Brandon Webb went down after making only one start, it was a sign of things to come. With Dan Haren not pitching like an ace, no other starters to turn to, and an offense that has been a disappointment, it's easy to see why the D-Backs are bringing up the rear. Kirk Gibson has recently taken over as interim manager, but it hasn't made much of a difference.

Best Offense - Colorado Rockies
The Dodgers are a close second, but the Rockies have the edge in power numbers. Yes, they play in Coors Field, but they still produce. Their .342 OBP and 430 runs are second in the NL, and 95 homers fourth.

Worst Offense - San Diego Padres
It's almost contradictory that they are the best team and have the worst offense, but the numbers don't lie. In the West, they rank last in runs, home runs, average, and OBP. The Diamondbacks are certainly close, but have slightly better numbers.

Best Pitching - San Diego Padres
Here's why the Padres are winning: they can out-pitch anyone. They rank first in the NL with a 3.25 ERA, hits, and earned runs. Their starters have been a pleasant surprise, and their bullpen closes the door each time.

Worst Pitching - Arizona Diamondbacks
Uuuuuuggggggly. That's the best way to describe a team ERA of 5.27. They've just never recovered from Webb going down. Haren hasn't been the same, their bullpen is a joke, and they constantly find ways to give away games. It's not pretty.

Best Moment - Jimenez's no-hitter against the Braves on April 17
Arizona's Edwin Jackson also tossed a no-no, but Jimenez did it with less walks and more strikeouts. This was only his third start of the season, and it started the string of no-hitters/perfect games that have dominated baseball thus far. It was also his calling out party, as the world began finding out just how good he is.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Blowout victory ends the first half

The Dodgers put it all together on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, as they won the last game of the first half of the season in easy fashion, 7-0 over the Cubs. The win meant the Dodgers took three of four, and are tied with the Rockies two back of the Padres in the NL West.

Vicente Padilla got the Cubs in order to begin the game, then James Loney took over. Rafael Furcal doubled to lead off, and Matt Kemp walked. Andre Ethier struck out, but it didn't hurt as Loney crushed a three-run homer for the early lead. Loney has only six home runs, but 63 RBIs, good for fifth in the NL.

The second inning brought more runs, and pretty much ended any hope for the Cubs already. Blake DeWitt singled leading off. Padilla then laid down a perfect bunt in which the Cubs barely missed the tag. Raffy walked, and the bases were loaded.

Kemp lifted a sac-fly RBI to center, and it was 4-0. Everyone tagged up on the play, so the Cubs then chose to intentionally walk Ethier with first base open. Loney then ripped a grounder to first in which Silva was late covering. Umpire Brian Runge ruled Loney safe on a close play, even though the truth is he should have been out. Silva then got tossed for arguing.

Now up 5-0 on another Loney RBI, Xavier Paul closed out the scoring with a bases loaded walk for a 6-0 lead. Paul brought home another run in the fourth, though it was on a double play grounder, so no RBI.

With the Dodgers well ahead, the attention switched to Padilla's strong outing. Through five innings, he had given up no hits and struck out four. Would it be a night for a no-hitter?

Well... no. But it was fun while it lasted. Starlin Castro's leadoff double in the sixth ended that dream. Padilla would go on to pitch eight innings for two hits, no runs, one walk, and six strikeouts. That's now four straight fantastic starts by him, and he's no doubt given a big boost to the pitching staff that doesn't have a lot of depth.

The new All-Star Hong-Chih Kuo finished out the game in the ninth. He gave up a couple of hits with one out, but got Aramis Ramirez flying out and Xavier Nady grounding out to end the game.

Everything was clicking for the Dodgers on this night, as they couldn't have asked for a better way to strut their stuff to a national audience. We all remember the last time they played Sunday on ESPN, which was the Yankee meltdown. They've actually gone 9-4 since then.

It's been over three months since Opening Day, so people may have forgotten about Padilla pitching that first game and getting shellacked in Pittsburgh. Joe Torre received a fair amount of criticism for that decision. Well, we are all seeing now why Torre did that. When healthy, Padilla has some nasty stuff.

The other star of the show was obviously Loney, who continues to produce big at-bats. He's not a home run threat, but launched one tonight. He's probably one that wishes the All-Star break wasn't here since he's scorching the ball this month with a .447 average.

The Dodgers ended April with a 9-14 record, and their lack of offseason moves looked even worse. They've gone 40-25 since then for a 49-39 record. The NL West is very competitive again this year, so they'll need to keep their momentum going if they want to make the playoffs again.

Jonathan Broxton, Ethier, Furcal, and Kuo will now take the short trip to Anaheim for all the All-Star festivities. Once that's all over, the Dodgers will be back in action on Thursday for a four-game set in St. Louis.

Belisario on the restricted list, who knows for how long

Ronald Belisario was placed on the restricted list on Wednesday by the Dodgers. The official reason given was "personal reasons." That's slang for "We're not telling, so don't ask."

Unfortunately for Belisario, he's already been arrested for suspicion of DUI last June 27. He also had visa issues that delayed the start of his season. He's currently at 1-1 with a 3.79 ERA in 35 2/3 innings.

His season never got going until April 21, and a few bad appearances bloated his ERA to 6.35 at the end of May. However, he's given up only three runs in 17 appearances (18 2/3 innings) since then, lowering his ERA to 3.79. He was looking more and more like the Belisario of last season.

And that's exactly why this news is pretty disappointing. His agent said he's dealing with anxiety, and The Los Angeles Times reported Friday that he's entered a substance abuse program.

No matter what's going on, he's only allowed be on the restricted list for 30 days. Let's hope everything turns out OK.

Ely sent back down, Link is back up

After getting pounded in his last two starts, the Dodgers have officially sent John Ely back to Triple-A Albuquerque. In his place will be Jon Link, recalled for the fourth time already this season.

Ely has ridden a roller coaster of success and failure this year. He was 3-1 in May with a 2.18 ERA, and looked like quite the hidden gem in the Juan Pierre deal. The rest of the league sure caught up to him and fast, because his ERA has shot up over two runs since the start of June.

The biggest issue has been his command. On June 1 after his seventh start, his ERA was at 2.54 and he walked only eight hitters. In seven starts since then, his ERA is up to 4.63 and he's walked 17 hitters.

He's shown the ability to gave good control, so maybe he just needs some time to get that confidence back. It's not like the Dodgers have a whole bunch of starters they can turn to, so if he figures things out in the minors, he'll be back.

The Dodgers won't need a fifth starter until June 19 against the Giants, and the early favorite appears to be James McDonald (remember him?). In 13 starts this season in the minors, McDonald is 5-1 with a 4.45 ERA. Keep in mind that playing in Albuquerque inflates numbers, so it's not quite as bad as it may appear. He's struck out 63 in 62 2/3 innings, a very good stat.

Of course, there's also the possibility of acquiring a starter via trade. Stay tuned on that.

The new All-Stars: Raffy and Kuo

Congratulations to Rafael Furcal and Hong-Chih Kuo for being added to the National League All-Star squad this weekend. Both were chosen as injury replacements by NL manager Charlie Manuel, with Raffy in for Jose Reyes and Kuo in for Jason Heyward.

Raffy's battled some injuries himself along with a short leave for the unfortunate death of his father this season. He doesn't quite have enough at-bats to qualify, but his .333 average would be tops in the league if he did. Throw in six homers, 35 RBIs, and 14 stolen bases, and he looks like the Raffy of old (or young if you think about it) again.

Kuo is not someone you would typically think of being an All-Star, but middle relievers have received their just due this season. Arthur Rhodes of the Reds and Evan Meek of the Pirates are on the NL squad, and Matt Thorton of the White Sox is on the AL squad. Obviously, managers are looking at the late-inning matchups as a reason to bring along this type of pitcher.

On the season, Kuo has been filthy. In 26 1/3 innings, he has a very low 1.03 ERA and a very high 36 strikeouts. Against lefties, he's been just plain unfair, as they are 0-30 against him. Wow.

Both players join starter Andre Ethier and Jonathan Broxton in Anaheim on Tuesday.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cubs roll all over Ely

For as good as John Ely was to start the season, the tide has definitely turned.

Ely was once again pounded and knocked out early as the Cubs put up six runs after three innings and won, 7-3. The Rockies have won six straight, and they are now a game back of the Padres in the NL West, while the Dodgers are two back.

The Cubs got things rolling in the second. Marlon Byrd led off with a walk. He then moved over to second on Alfonso Soriano's groundout, and scored on Starlin Castro's RBI single. Geovany Soto then launched a two-run shot, and it was 3-0.

In the bottom of the frame, the Dodgers put together a two out rally, only to come up empty. A.J. Ellis walked and Xavier Paul singled. It's the National League, and that meant the pitcher was due up last as Ely struck out to end the inning.

The third would represent Ely's last inning, as he just never got things going in the right direction. The bases got loaded with one down on Derek Lee's single, Aramis Ramirez's infield single, and Byrd's plunking. Soriano is not the most patient man in the world, but even he drew a walk to force in a run for a 4-0 score.

That was all she wrote for Ely, as Travis Schlichting was summoned. Castro singled home a run, which could have been worse had Paul not gunned down Byrd at home. Soto then got another RBI with a single, and it was becoming a blowout at 6-0.

It took until the fifth for the Dodgers to get on the board. Paul led off with an infield single on a bad call at first. An out later, Rafael Furcal hit a single for two on. Now with two outs, Andre Ethier hit an RBI single to score Paul, and Raffy came around to score on Byrd's throwing error, making it 6-2.

Carlos Monasterios relieved Schlichting to start the sixth and stranded a couple of baserunners. Actually, the real highlight of the inning was Lou Piniella getting tossed, still mad about the call the previous inning.

The Cubs stretched their lead by one on Ramirez's solo shot to center. He's been atrocious this year, but you wouldn't know that by the way he's pounded the Dodgers. Maybe he's figuring things out. Or maybe the Dodgers are just unlucky.

Carlos Marmol came on to finish the game and struggled a bit. Blake DeWitt walked, went to second on fielder's indifference, and scored on Ethier's RBI single. Matt Kemp also singled, but James Loney lined to short to end the game.

The red flags are definitely out on Ely, who's been just awful lately. He lasted a mere 2 1/3 innings for five hits, six runs, three walks, and one strikeout. His ERA is now up to 4.63. His three walks might not seem like much, but it was considering he never got out of the third.

I'm not sure what the Dodgers can do other than hope Ely figures everything out. Maybe Jeff Weaver or Monasterios get spot starts, but I doubt Joe Torre wants them taken out of the bullpen. Regardless, the Dodgers really need Ely to be more effective than this.

The Dodgers will look to take three of four from the Cubs on Sunday. Once again, the game will be on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. It's the third time in the last four weeks the Dodgers get national TV treatment. The first two were close losses to the Red Sox and Yankees, so it would be nice to see them win one of these games for a change.