Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Road games end with sweep in Coors

Matt Kemp blasted a grand slam as part of a five-run third, and the Dodgers held off the Rockies to pick up a three-game sweep in the daylight, 7-6. The win ended the away game part of the schedule for the Dodgers, who ended up 35-46 away from Chavez Ravine.

The Rockies were the first team to strike. In the second, Troy Tulowitzki got what seemed like his 700th hit of the season with a triple leading off. A sac-fly RBI by Todd Helton to right put them up 1-0.

The third is when the Dodgers broke the game open, at least for a little. With one out, Chin-lung Hu doubled. Carlos Monasterios popped up to make it two down. Trent Oeltjen got the start in the leadoff position and walked. Ryan Theriot then bounced one to third that was bobbled by Ian Stewart, and the bases were loaded. A walk to James Loney forced in a run and tied it at 1-1.

Kemp has had success in the past when hitting with the bases juiced. This season, however, he was 2-for-9 with no extra base hits. That all changed when he launched one off of Jhoulys Chacin into deep right to clear the bases and go up 5-1. It was his 25th shot of the season.

Miguel Olivo led off the bottom of the third and immediately got another run with a solo homer, making it 5-2. In the fourth, Reed Johnson hit a double leading off, went to third on a groundout, and scored on Hu's sac-fly to put it at 6-2.

Still in a hole, the Rockies tried to get some back in the bottom of the fourth, but blew a chance to really make a dent. Tulo singled, Helton walked, and Ryan Spilborghs singled to load the bases with one out. Stewart got one in on a groundout to cut the score to 6-3. Olivo was given the intentional pass to get to Chacin, who lined to short to end the inning.

Now in the fifth, Oletjen was beaned leading off, and soon went to second on Olivo's throwing error. An out later, Loney hit an RBI single, and the Dodgers got their lead up to 7-3.

Monasterios started the fifth but would soon be chased. Jonathan Herrera singled with an out, but Carlos Gonzalez lined to right for two outs. Tulo singled (again) and Helton walked, and once again the bases were loaded. Ramon Troncoso relieved and Spilborghs greeted him with a two-run single, and it was 7-5.

From there it was a matter of the Dodgers trying to hold on. The seventh inning featured the Rockies loading the bases yet again. Herrera singled, Tulo singled (like I said... again), and Spilborghs walked off of George Sherrill. Jeff Weaver came in (remember him?) and got pinch-hitter Melvin Mora to fly out and end the inning.

Hong-Chih Kuo pitched the eighth and struck out two, so Joe Torre gave the ball to Ronald Belisario to close it out. Well, it wasn't exactly pretty, because for the umpteenth time this game, the Rockies loaded the bases. This time it was on a walk to Tulo (at least it wasn't a hit), a single by Helton, and a single by Spilborghs.

With one out, Seth Smith got a run into on a groundout to make it 7-6. It all came down to Olivo, who hit a liner to short to end the game. It was Belisario's second save of a season he'd rather forget.

The Rockies doubled up the Dodgers in the hit column at 12-6. But, the two errors by the Rockies really hurt them. It led to the five runs being scored in the third, and another one on Loney's RBI in the fifth. It was a little surprising considering the they are one of the better fielding teams in the National League, but I guess it was just one of those days for them.

Kemp's grand slam was obviously the big blow, as his one swing was better than anything the Rockies did in their numerous attempts with the bases loaded. The Dodgers drove in runners today, while the Rockies left 11 on base. That was another big difference in this one.

Oletjen did a great job in the leadoff spot, taking three walks, getting beaned, and scoring twice. Loney hit his 87th RBI of the season, which is just near his normal mark of 90. His batting average is only .269, though, so he's taken a step backwards in that regard.

The bullpen was great today, which is never an easy task in Coors. Troncoso, Sherrill, Weaver, Kuo, and Belisario combined to pitch 4 1/3 innings for six hits, one run, two walks, and five strikeouts. It hasn't been an easy ride for the 'pen this year, as too many guys haven't come close to living up to their potential, but at least today they got the job done.

One positive aspect about getting the sweep is that the Dodgers are now 78-81. So, they have a chance at finishing at .500. It's a small consolation for a disappointing season, but avoiding a losing record would be nice.

The Diamondbacks come to town for the final three games of the season starting Friday. Starting pitchers don't really matter at this point, so it's subject to change, as was the case with Clayton Kershaw getting scratched today. For now, it'll be John Ely starting and trying not to get shelled for once. It won't be easy.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bullpen hands one away

Coming into this season, the Dodgers thought they had the best late-game combination in the majors. George Sherrill would get through the eighth, bridging the gap to Jonathan Broxton in the ninth.

Four runs given up in the eighth inning today is truly symbolic to just how much of a flop those two have been.

Chad Billingsley was fantastic, but it was washed away in the end as the Diamondbacks teed off on the Dodgers' horrible bullpen to take the win, 5-4. It was a new low even for the Dodgers, who have had plenty this year.

Simply put, this season cannot end soon enough.

Before the mess happened late in the game, both Billingsley and Joe Saunders put up blanks through four innings. The Dodgers did put two men on in each of the third and fourth, but came up empty both times. Not a surprise at all considering the Dodgers wouldn't be the Dodgers had they actually come through in those spots.

Believe it or not, the Dodgers did put together a two-out rally to score the game's first runs in the fifth. Ryan Theriot bunted his way on base. Matt Kemp followed with a single for two on. James Loney scored them both with a two-run double, making it 2-0.

Miguel Montero led off with a triple in the bottom of the frame, though it should have never been more than a single. A dying fly ball landed in front of Johnson in right, then bounced by him. How in the world that was scored a triple and not a single with an error is beyond me. Actually I do know - the game was in Arizona. Connor Gillespie's sac-fly RBI made it 2-1.

In the sixth, Rod Barajas hit a ground rule double with one out. Billingsley "helped himself out" (overused cliche for when a pitcher gets a hit) by singling. The problem was that Barajas couldn't score because he's painfully slow. Right on cue, Rafael Furcal grounded into an inning ending double play.

Barajas made sure to make his next hit count in the eighth. Russell Mitchell singled with one out. Johnson grounded out, but Mitchell made it to second. Barajas then belted a two-run shot to give the Dodgers what appeared to be a comfortable 4-1 lead at the time.

We should have all known better, as the Dodgers once again found a way to make an easy win into a painful loss. Billingsley got yanked for Andre Ethier to pinch-hit in the eighth, and Ethier grounded out. That meant it was bullpen time. And it also meant a long half inning.

The bottom of the eighth started off fine, as Ronald Belisario got Augie Ojeda grounding out to first. Joe Torre then went with the lefty Sherrill against Stephen Drew, who ended up walking. That was the start of the downfall.

Tony Abreu stepped in, someone who never grabbed the chance to be the everyday second baseman when he was with the Dodgers. He didn't deserve it either because he sucked. So of course that meant he launched a two-run homer to cut the lead to 4-3.

Kelly Johnson kept it going with a single. Who would Torre bring in? Yup, Broxton. And how did Broxton do on his first pitch? Oh, it was only a two-run bomb from Chris Young to give the Diamondbacks a 5-4 lead. Not only was it predictable, it was laughable. That's what Broxton's season has come down to - one big joke.

Juan Gutierrez worked around a single by Kemp in the ninth to get the save.

When the Dodgers sit down after the season and look for how they can improve, their first move needs to be getting rid Sherrill and Broxton. Sherrill has a 7.08 ERA this season, and Broxton has a 6.65 ERA since the All-Star break. They're simply way too unreliable to trust anymore. Do the right thing and dump these clowns by any means necessary.

People will surely point out the past successes of these two, especially Broxton, for reasons to keep them. I say, "Who cares?" They've bombed so badly this season, there's no way they've earned their way back into town. Pull the plug and don't look back.

Billingsley deserved a much better fate, but plenty of starting pitchers have said that, only to watch blown save after blown save. He lasted seven innings for four hits, one run, one walk, and 13 strikeouts. That many strikeouts, only one run allowed, and it's a no-decision. Un-freakin'-believable.

The Dodgers now have to go into Colorado for three to begin the last week of the season (mercifully). The Rockies have stumbled lately to fall 4 1/2 back in the NL West and four in back of the Wild Card. Playing the Dodgers must feel like an early Christmas present to them. Ted Lilly will start it, and either Sherrill, Broxton, or most likely both will blow it.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Kershaw mows 'em down

If you blinked, you missed the latest dominating start from Clayton Kershaw.

Kershaw lasted into the ninth inning as he gave up one run with nine strikeouts. Kenley Jansen cleaned it up for the save, and the Dodgers got a win over the Diamondbacks, 3-1. The Dodgers are now on a season-best two-game winning streak.

OK, so that was a slight exaggeration. But if you've suffered through these last couple of months like I have, you know winning has been few and far between. So savor it while it's here.

It's obvious the Dodgers have nothing to play for these days, especially against a team in a similar situation. Their starting lineup included the likes of Trent Oeltjen, Russell Mitchell, and Chin-lung Hu, in addition to new starters like Jay Gibbons and A.J. Ellis. Not exactly a lineup that would send shivers down anyone's spine.

However, the Dodgers were the first team to get on the board thanks to one of those subs. In the third, Ellis walked leading off. Hu popped up and Kershaw struck out while failing to get down a bunt. Hitting in the leadoff spot, Oeltjen laced an RBI triple for the 1-0 advantage.

The following inning, the Dodgers pushed another run across. Andre Ethier took his turn hitting a triple, this time to lead off. A sac-fly RBI by Gibbons to center made it 2-0.

That was more than enough for Kershaw, who kept the Diamondbacks totally off-balanced all night. The formula was simple: fastball and hook. But boy were they effective. Granted the Diamondbacks aren't exactly tearing the cover off the ball either, but he was awesome regardless.

The Dodgers got their last run of the night in the ninth with the game flying right by. Reed Johnson entered the game in left for Gibbons in the seventh, and he smoked a solo shot to right to go up 3-0. That was only his second of the season, not that he's a big home run threat anyway.

Kershaw was given a chance to finish what he started, but that only lasted two batters into the ninth. Chris Young singled on a full count leading off. Tony Abreu, the former Dodger who's never been confused with a power hitter, took a fastball over Matt Kemp's head in center for the RBI, making it 3-1.

That was it for Kershaw, who got yanked for Jansen. Hong-Chih Kuo got the save against the Padres the previous night, so it was good to see Jansen get the opportunity (and not that other guy). Immediately, he got Kelly Johnson popping up for the first out, but walked Stephen Drew to put two on.

Even in a throwaway game that means absolutely nothing at this point, it was still a big spot for a young guy like Jansen. He has closer written all over him, but has to show if he has the moxie to actually thrive in that roll. Two on and one out on the road is a great situation to test him.

In the end, he passed with flying colors. Adam LaRoche notched his fourth strikeout of the game for the second out. Ryan Church pinch-hit and was caught looking to end the game. Jansen's fastball was just too much to handle.

I'm glad the Dodgers didn't blow Kershaw's chance for a win, which now makes him 13-10. I've gone over this before, but he definitely deserves more wins than he's gotten. In a way he's like Felix Hernandez, as both pitcher's records aren't nearly a reflection for how well they've done. That's not to say Kershaw has done as well, as I don't think anyone's been better than King Felix this year.

Still, Kershaw has a 13-10 record and 2.91 ERA. Hernandez is 12-12 with a 2.31 ERA. So, the comparisons are there. By the way, it's great to see Hernandez getting plenty of Cy Young talk, as people are wise to ignore the overrated win-loss record. If that award is for the best pitcher, then a lousy offense shouldn't penalize him. Hopefully it won't.

The Kershaw-Jansen connection is something we all can grow to love, as both showed how they can take over a game. Kershaw is clearly the top dog of the staff, and Jansen will surely be in the closer's mix for next season. These are two guys the Dodgers can certainly build around.

Next up is another start by John Ely. He's done everything he could to make people forget about his great start to the season. I'm talking a 19.80 ERA in July and 7.84 in September. It's no surprise he hasn't won since June 29. Daniel Hudson, on the other hand, has been fantastic since coming over in the Edwin Jackson deal.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Padres roll through the Dodgers

Whatever ills the Padres may have these days, their cure is simple: play the Dodgers, and get well again.

For the fifth straight time, the Padres beat the Dodgers, this time by a score of 6-0. As if I really need to say this, but the Dodgers are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention with the loss.

In other words, the loss made official something we've all known for awhile, and that's the Dodgers have taken a huge step backwards this season. Tuesday night's loss was the icing on the cake.

The game started off typically, as the Dodgers had their first two men reach on a single by Rafael Furcal and a walk to Jamey Carroll. Andre Ethier was so excited that he grounded into a double play. Matt Kemp ripped one back to... the pitcher for the final out.

In the third, the Padres got their scoring started. With one out, David Eckstein walked and was forced at second on Miguel Tejada's grounder. Adrian Gonzalez doubled to put runners on the corners. Ryan Ludwick was brought in at the trade deadline to drive in runs, and that's what happened with a two-run double.

The Dodgers again put two runners on in the third. This time Raffy walked and Carroll singled. With one out, Ethier struck out and Kemp grounded into a fielder's choice. So much for the "big RBI guys" getting the job done for L.A.

The fifth is when the Padres put the game away for good against Chad Billingsley. The bases got loaded on Will Venable's single, David Eckstein's hit-by-pitch, and Gonzalez's intentional walk with an out. Ludwick was also beaned to force in a run, making it 3-0. Yorvit Torrealba's sac-fly RBI and Chase Headley's single made it 5-0.

The rest of the game meant more of the same for the Dodgers. Some men would get on, but they'd be stranded. A.J. Ellis singled to start the fifth, but was erased on Josh Lindsey's double play. Carroll made it no further than first after his single to open the sixth.

Then there's the ninth, which featured a completely typical end to any chances the Dodgers had in making the playoffs this year. Kemp struck out for one down, which should be to the surprise of absolutely nobody. Casey Blake and James Loney then hit singles.

How would the Dodgers officially end their postseason shot? Reed Johnson grounded into a game ending double play. There was never a more appropriate way for this game to end.

Billingsley was alright through four innings, but the fifth killed him. He ended with five innings pitched, six hits, five runs, three walks, and six strikeouts. He evened his record at 11-11.

Carlos Monasterios did a good job in pitching two scoreless innings, giving up only one hit. Ramon Troncoso didn't give up a hit in two innings, but gave up a run in the ninth thanks to two wild pitches.

In looking at the hit column, the Dodgers won with an 8-7 edge. The difference, for the umpteenth time this season, was when those hits came. The Dodgers stranded five in scoring position, and the Padres got four RBIs with two outs. It's happened over and over this season.

That's why the Dodgers need to do what it takes to get some sort of slugger in the heart of the order. They thought Ethier and Kemp would be the guys, but they don't look close to handling that roll. The Padres have Gonzalez, whom they can build around.

Imagine if the Dodgers had someone like Adam Dunn hitting cleanup. Automatically, Ethier and Kemp would have less pressure on them. Dunn strikes out a lot, but he also hits for plenty of power and takes lots of walks. Instead of scratching and clawing for every run, the offense can have someone who can win a game with one swing.

Dunn is just an example, as there are obviously more guys to take a hard look at in the offseason. But the point remains the same - the Dodgers need someone with thump in the order. They can't continue to let their offense drag down good starting pitching.

There's two more games left against the Padres, and tonight's game is on ESPN. Ted Lilly was rocked is his last start, so he'll look to get back on track.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dodgers fight back to win in 11

The Dodgers showed something on Sunday we haven't seen in a few months: heart.

Despite being down 6-1 before you could barely blink, the Dodgers battled all the way back to send the game into extras. In the 11th, A.J. Ellis hit a walk-off single with the bases loaded to down the Rockies, 7-6.

The game didn't figure to be high-scoring, as the combination of the Dodgers' offense and Clayton Kershaw starting meant it could go by quickly. Instead, Kershaw was hit hard, and the game took 4:21 to complete.

Way back in the first, the Rockies went to work right away. Dexter Fowler and Jonathan Herrera walked to start the game in a bad sign of things to come. Carlos Gonzalez flied out, but both runners advanced. Already, Joe Torre chose to put Troy Tulowitzki on to load the bases. With the streak that Tulo's been on, that's the best decision Torre's made all year.

Then again, it didn't quite work out. Melvin Mora struck out for two down, but Jason Giambi cleared the bases with a double to go up 3-0. The ball had a chance to be caught, as Jay Gibbons leaped high into the air, only to just miss the catch.

Actually, Gibbons looked like he jumped two inches off the ground as the ball went off the top of his glove. Kobe Bryant he is not.

Andre Ethier got the Dodgers on the board in the bottom of the frame with a long solo homer to right. It was measured at 424 feet and went several rows into the bleachers. It was his 23rd of the season.

Kershaw didn't settle down, as the Rockies again got to him for three in the second. Some bad fielding by Jay Ramirez... uh, I mean Gibbons started the inning when he dropped a fly ball. Yes it was sunny, but come on now. Fowler singled an out later for two on.

The next three hitters brought in runs. Herrera hit an RBI double to go up 4-1. Gonzalez brought another one in with a single, and Tulo hit into a fielder's choice to make it 6-1. Giambi had another chance to drive in more runs, but his hard liner to center was right at Matt Kemp.

The score stood at 6-1 going into the third, and little did we know at the time that the Rockies would do nothing the rest of the game. In innings 3-11, they would gather only three more hits and no runs. Give the Dodgers' bullpen (minus one guy, but we'll get to him later) lots of credit.

The comeback started in the fourth as Gibbons reached on a strikeout, but with a wild pitch to get to first. Casey Blake and James Loney couldn't reach for two outs. Ryan Theriot kept the inning going with a single, and Rod Barajas followed with one of his own for an RBI to make it 6-2.

Jamey Carroll came in to replace the ineffective Kershaw, as Torre knew they had to go after the runs while they were there. It worked, as Carroll's RBI single slashed it to 6-3. Rafael Furcal hit an RBI single himself, and it was now 6-4.

Kenley Jansen relieved in the seventh and worked out of a two-on, one-out jam. In the bottom of the inning, Kemp led off with a long homer to center, his 23rd to match Ethier, and it was 6-5. Old friend (for a few weeks anyway) Octavio Dotel got the last out by striking out Blake.

Hong-Chih Kuo held the Rockies down in the ninth, and Huston Street came on looking to do the same for a save. After Reed Johnson grounded out, Raffy doubled. A wild pitch sent him to third, and the Dodgers were in business. Kemp doubled down the left field line to tie the game at 6-6. Ethier was intentionally walked, but Gibbons and Blake couldn't end the game with a big hit.

Kuo and Street stayed on to pitch the 10th and not give up a run. Now in the 11th, Torre gave the ball to good old Jonathan Broxton. He walked Ryan Spilborghs, but got Eric Young to ground into a double play. Things were looking up for Johnny Boy.

So that naturally meant that Broxton would find a way to suck. Seth Smith walked, Fowler singled, and Herrera walked to load the bases. Torre yanked him, and George Sherrill did a great job in striking out Gonzalez for the final out.

Manny Delcarmen was given the task of extending the game even more. Johnson hit a leadoff single to start a rally. Raffy then forced Johnson at second on a grounder, and the throw to first was deemed too late. It was a bad call, as replays clearly showed it should have been a double play. But it wasn't, so take that, Colorado!

Kemp singled as Raffy hustled to third. Ethier was Mr. Walk-Off in 2009, and the Rockies made sure none of that happened again by putting him on base. With a full count, Ellis smoked one over Tulo's head to end the game.

It was a great comeback for a team that hasn't shown much fire the second half of the season. Ultimately this win won't lead to a playoff berth, but maybe it will lead to some more wins to close the season. If the Dodgers can play with more confidence because of this, they can finally play the spoiler like today.

Kershaw will certainly have his better days, as he lasted only four innings for four hits, six runs (four earned), four walks, and two strikeouts. He was bailed out by the combination of Ronald Belisario, Jansen, Kuo, and Sherrill. They combined to through 6 1/3 innings of scoreless ball.

Then there's Broxton, who looked lost yet again. For the remainder of the season, he needs to be benched and not get close to appearing in a game again. Enough is enough. Torre's trying to get him figured out, which is admirable, but it's not working. Be it mental or physical, he's not right. Rest him for the final two weeks and start over next year.

On the positive side, it was great to see Raffy, Ethier, and Kemp play big roles on offense. That's what the Dodgers envisioned happening coming into this season (along with some Manny guy). They drove in four runs between them, along with two doubles and two homers. It's too little, too late to save this season, but it was still fun to see.

The Dodgers will take Monday off before welcoming the Padres for three. The Padres have struggled this month, but not against the Dodgers, whom they swept in three last week. Chad Billingsley will go against Clayton Richard in the first game.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Torre's farewell tour begins with a loss

The Dodgers put up five runs on Friday night, the second time this entire month they've reached that number. They actually gave their fans somewhat of a reason to be excited while watching the game.

Of course they gave up seven, so they lost anyway.

The offense left 11 on base, Hiroki Kuroda never really got on track, and Jonathan Broxton was his usual pathetic self. Even with some good performances at the plate, it all added up to a loss against the Rockies, 7-5. Colorado remains 1 1/2 games behind the Giants in the NL West, and 2 1/2 behind the Braves in the Wild Card.

The buzz at Dodger Stadium was obviously Joe Torre's decision to not return for the 2011 season, paving the way for Don Mattingly to take over. It's unknown if Torre will ever manage again, but regardless, his Dodger career is now down to 14 games, with eight at home.

The Rockies didn't take long to strike, and it started on an bobble by Rafael Furcal, allowing Eric Young to reach leading off the game. The error would prove costly, as Young stole second, then scored with two outs on a long two-run shot by Troy Tulowitzki to make it 2-0.

In a strange sight, the Dodgers actually battled back. In the second, Jay Gibbons singled to start. Casey Blake grounded out, but Gibbons reached second. Matt Kemp laced an RBI triple down the right field line to cut it to 2-1. A.J. Ellis had a big night, and his RBI single tied it at 2-2.

Kuroda was victimized by singles in the fourth. Carlos Gonzalez singled leading off, and advanced to third an out later on Todd Helton's single. What followed were three straight RBI singles by Melvin Mora, Seth Smith, and Miguel Olivo, making it 5-2. Overall, the Rockies hit five singles in the inning.

The bottom of the fourth brought one run back for the Dodgers. Kemp singled with one out, and actually stole a base. Cleanly. Wow! A wild pitch sent him to third, and Ellis again came through with an RBI single to go down 5-3.

The Dodgers added another run in the fifth. Ryan Theriot hasn't done much of anything in... well, forever. But he led off the inning by getting beaned. Way to take one for the team. Andre Ethier drew a walk to put a couple runners on. James Loney grounded out, but both runners moved up. Gibbons hit an RBI groundout to make it 5-4.

Unfortunately for the Dodgers, that's as close as it would get. Kuroda left after six and Broxton came in. This wasn't a save situation, so Broxton should have been more comfortable, right?


Broxton was awful, walking three (one intentionally) and giving up two hits in getting only two outs. Consecutive RBI singles by Helton and Mora with two outs brought in George Sherrill as Broxton was showered with boos. Sherrill got Jay Payton flying out to end the inning.

On a side note, I remember when Payton was supposed to be the next big star of the league. I used to watch him for the Mets' Double-A team in Binghamton. Basically, I forgot all about him. So it's good to see him still around, even if it is with the Rockies.

The offense didn't go quietly, but they still blew way too many opportunities to score. In the seventh, Ethier walked, and Loney and Gibbons singled to load the bases with one down. Matt Belisle came in to strikeout Blake and get Kemp grounding out.

Nothing happened in the eighth, but the Dodgers still tried to make some noise in the ninth. Huston Street came on for the save, and Ethier singled with one down. After Loney struck out, Gibbons singled, and Blake followed with an RBI single for a 7-5 score. Kemp struck out to end the game.

I wouldn't say Kuroda pitched that poorly, as only one of his seven hits surrendered went for extra-bases (Tulo's homer). But, he just couldn't make the big pitches to get off the field. He ended with six innings, seven hits, five runs (three earned), one walk, and seven strikeouts.

Broxton sucked, but I could just cut and paste that line from every other game, so I'll skip over him. The rest of the 'pen did a good job. Sherrill got out of the seventh, and Ronald Belisario and Ramon Troncoso each pitched a scoreless inning.

The bottom of the Dodgers' order of Kemp and Ellis combined to go 5-for-9 with two runs, three RBIs, two doubles, a triple, and a stolen base. Gibbons had three hits. Ethier reached all five times thanks to a single and five walks. So it's not like they didn't put runners on.

The difference came down to hitting with two outs. The Rockies got four RBIs, the Dodgers had one. That was the game right there. If you can't deliver when the pressure is on, you won't win. That's why the Rockies continue to win down the stretch.

Hopefully the Dodgers can give Torre some wins on the way out, but I wouldn't hold my breath. They still have eight games left against contending teams in the Rockies and Padres. So far, this whole "spoiler" thing has flopped.

John Ely will get another start today against Jhoulys Chacin. The strange thing is that I don't know if it's even on TV. It's listed at 4:10 ET, which made me think it's a FOX game. But in looking at the preview, that game's not listed. My guess is that it was once a FOX game, but has since been switched to something better. In any case, if you can find the game somewhere, have fun watching it.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Torre to step aside for Mattingly

Joe Torre has made it official: he will not be coming back to manage the Dodgers after this season. His replacement will be hitting coach Don Mattingly, who has worked for Torre since 2004.

Torre came to L.A. in 2008 with a three-year contract. The previous year, the Dodgers went 82-80 under Grady Little while fading down the stretch. Torre won four World Series titles with the Yankees, but was more or less forced out of town after losing the ALDS to the Indians, 3-1.

Right away, Torre made an impact. He guided the Dodgers to an NL West title with an 84-78 record, thanks in large part to the torrid run by Manny Ramirez when he was acquired at the trade deadline. They took down the heavily-favored Cubs in the NLDS with a sweep, but fell to the Phillies in the NLCS, 4-1.

The next season brought another NL West crown with an even better record of 95-67. Despite the 50-game suspension of Manny Ramirez, the Dodgers remained one of the best teams in the league the whole season. Even with home-field advantage in the NLDS, the Dodgers were still not favored against the Cardinals. It didn't matter, as the Dodgers got another sweep. However, just like last year, the Phillies took the NLCS in five games.

This season started off with hope of getting to the next level, but reality has been much different. After being only two games in back of the NL West lead at the All-Star break, the Dodgers have gone 23-36 since then to fall 11 games back. The combination of a horrible offense and a shaky bullpen have been the downfall.

I'm not surprised that Torre made this call. I would have been more surprised if he said he was coming back. With ownership in a mess and the financial situation cloudy to say the least, I think Torre just had enough. And who can blame him? He's won enough in his career that he doesn't need to hang on anywhere he doesn't want to anymore.

I'm mixed on how I think Torre has done as a manager this year. It's not fair to totally blame him for the horrible second half. There were so many games lost from either a poor offense or a blown save. But I have to wonder if too many players tuned him out. I just don't see much, if any, fire from too many players. And that's a big problem.

Mattingly has been groomed for this spot for awhile, and despite some rumors for Tim Wallach, he ultimately did get the gig. If he can he can get his players to show the passion and fire that he brought as a player, he'll be great. Someone with as much baseball background as him deserves a shot at some point.

Still, I'm not sure if I'm too crazy about this move. I can't shake the fact that guys like Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier (excluding his red hot start) have gone backwards this year. They're both good enough to be in the MVP race year after year. But this season, they've spent more time striking out than anything else. Mattingly has to take some of that blame.

I hope this all works out for the Dodgers. Change can be a good thing. I haven't had the sense for awhile that Torre would be back, so maybe the players are relieved to have this over with and to have a different voice going forward.

If Mattingly can get the young guns back on track, and if the bullpen mess can be straightened out, the Dodgers can compete next year, even with ownership in flux. Donny Baseball has some of the pieces to succeed, now let's see if he can make things happen in 2011.

Giants thump pathetic Dodgers

The Dodgers once again proved on Thursday night just how far things have fallen this season.

Ted Lilly was pasted, the offense sucked, and the Giants didn't break a sweat in winning big, 10-2. With the Padres dropping another one, the Giants are now officially in first place in the NL West by 1/2 game.

Believe it or not, the Dodgers did lead this game at one point, all thanks to an error. Rafael Furcal doubled leading off the game. Ryan Theriot attempted to sacrifice him to third, but Jose Uribe's throwing error let Raffy score to go up 1-0. Casey Blake and Matt Kemp struck out and James Loney grounded out to end any promise of a threat.

The Giants struck back off of Lilly when Aubrey Huff tripled with two down. Unlike the Dodgers, the Giants cashed in, as Buster Posey's RBI double made it 1-1.

Things started getting ugly in the third. Edgar Renteria laid down a bunt with one down and beat it out. Freddy Sanchez doubled to put runners in scoring position. Huff got another big hit with a three-run shot to make it 4-1. Posey made it back-to-back jacks with one of his own, and it was 5-1.

When teams are down 5-1, it usually isn't a good thing. But, it's not insurmountable either, even in the late innings. With the Dodgers, it makes absolutely no difference whatsoever what inning it is. When you have a bunch of clowns they call hitters failing miserably all game long, there's no way they'll overcome a four-run deficit.

Sure enough, they didn't. Not only did they not come back, they started getting kicked around when they were down. Lilly was mercifully yanked with two on and one out in the fourth. Ramon Troncoso came on and ended up walking Sanchez with the bases juiced to make it 6-1.

The lone highlight of the night came when Russell Mitchell hit his first big league homer to lead off the fifth. Who knows where someone like Mitchell will go in his career, who's only hitting .059 (1-for-17) since being called up. Even if that ends up being his only hit this season, I'm still glad he's been given a chance. It's the right thing to do.

Not to be outdone, the Giants smacked another homer themselves. Guillen connected on a two-run shot to put it at 8-2 in the fifth. A two-run double by Sanchez in the eighth closed out the scoring for the night.

With nothing to play for, the Dodgers sure as heck reminded everyone that they'll be home watching the playoffs this October. This team has no fire, no passion, and are nothing more than whipping boys right now. It's almost impossible to even watch.

Lilly has certainly had his good days with the Dodgers, but Thursday was not one of them. He only lasted 3 1/3 innings for seven hits, six runs, no walks, and three strikeouts. He dropped to 8-11 on the season.

Six relievers were used, with Jeff Weaver and Jon Link each giving up two runs in an inning of work. Gosh, can't imagine why Weaver's ERA is 5.02 and Link's 5.40. Then again, they do blend in well with the other relievers used: Troncoso, 4.76; George Sherrill, 6.42; Ronald Belisario, 5.29; Octavio Dotel, 3.99. At least Dotel is decent. But that's about it.

I mentioned a few games ago about the Dodgers playing the role of spoiler and how they would have to embrace that. So far, forget it. They not only haven't embraced it, they look like they just want to get the hell out of the season as fast as they can. If Clayton Kershaw wasn't nearly perfect on Tuesday, this would have been a sweep.

One red-hot team just slapped the Dodgers around, now another has their crack in the Rockies. They've won 11 of 13 and are right in thick of things for the playoffs. Playing the Dodgers is just what they need to get that extra boost. Hiroki Kuroda will go against Ubaldo Jimenez.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Kershaw notches first complete game shutout

With the Giants in the middle of a push towards the playoffs, Tuesday night in AT&T Park was all about Clayton Kershaw.

After 80 career starts, Kershaw was finally able to go the distance without surrendering a run. An error by Juan Uribe in the sixth was all the Dodgers needed in edging the Giants, 1-0. The Giants remain just a bit behind the NL West and Wild Card lead.

I would love to sit here and rehash all of the Dodgers' hits and scoring opportunities. But, they only collected one hit and one run the entire night. And they still won! I'm guessing not too many teams other than the Dodgers would be able to pull off something like that.

The lone hit came in the second when Matt Kemp led off with a single. He was soon erased when he got caught stealing with one out. Remember last year when Kemp stole 34 bases in 42 tries? Geez, you wouldn't know that by looking at his numbers now: 18 steals in 32 tries. Yikes.

Both Kershaw and Barry Zito wouldn't budge an inch through five innings. Zito hasn't won a game since July 16 against the Mets. He was atrocious in August with a 7.75 ERA. But against the Dodgers, he looked like his old Cy Young - Oakland A's form. Are you surprised? Not with the Dodgers' porous offense.

The Dodgers got their only run in the sixth, and the Giants practically handed it to them on a silver platter. Jamey Carroll started the inning by grounding out for one down. Reed Johnson stepped up and was beaned, which led to Kershaw's sacrifice to get Johnson to second.

With two outs, Rafael Furcal and Andre Ethier walked to load 'em up. Casey Blake then ripped one up the middle that would have been a clean hit had it not hit the mound. It bounced to Uribe at short, but he couldn't get the ball out in time for the force at second. Johnson scored, and it was 1-0.

From there, Kershaw continued his brilliance. The only hits he gave up the rest of the way were a ground rule double to Cody Ross in the sixth and a single by Freddy Sanchez in the ninth. The rest had no chance.

The Dodgers came into this game a whopping dead last in batting average the last 30 days at .229. Yes, that would mean all 29 other teams in the majors hit better than the Dodgers. About the only way they were going to win games was by dominating pitching. That's certainly what happened on Tuesday.

There haven't been many reasons to smile the second half of the season, but this is something to feel good about. Kershaw shut down a team that has played great baseball and can easily make a run if they get in the playoffs. Plus it was the Giants, so anytime they get the short end of the stick is a welcome sight.

By my count, Kershaw has pitched in 11 games in which he's taken either a loss or no-decision that he did well enough to get a win. His current record of 12-10 isn't even close to an indication to how well he's done. If he won about half of those 11 games he should've, a record of 16-10 or 17-10 looks a whole heck of a lot better.

Nonetheless, that's the reality of the situation he's in. Make no mistake about it, he is making a name for himself as a complete pitcher, and not someone who just has great stuff. With guys like Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda, and Vicente Padilla possibly on their way out after this season, Kershaw is clearly the top guy to build around for the future.

The Dodgers will continue to try and play the role of spoiler by locking up with the Giants again on Wednesday. Chad Billingsley will look to pick up where Kershaw left off by going against Matt Cain.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Astros strike early and pull away late

With news that Vicente Padilla's season is most likely over, Carlos Monasterios was once again given a spot start. Coming into the game, he had an ERA of 3.54 and had put in a pretty solid starts.

Sunday, however, would not be one of them.

The Astros jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead, and after letting the game get tied a few innings later, ended up pulling away late for the 7-4 win. Both teams split two games in this series.

Michael Bourne got things going with a single leading off the bottom of the first, and then stole second. An out later, Hunter Pence connected on a two-run shot and a 2-0 lead. Carlos Lee then singled, and Michael Downs reached on Chin-lung Hu's throwing error. Brett Wallace scored them both with an RBI single, and it was 4-0.

At least the Dodgers made a game out of it instead of rolling over and playing deal. In the fourth, they put up a four spot of their own. Trent Oeltjen, one of the recent call-ups, singled leading off. Andre Ethier hit an infield single an out later to put two on. Jay Gibbons was the hero a couple of nights ago, and he launched a three-run shot to make it 4-3.

James Loney then smacked a triple and came around to score on Russell Mitchell's sac-fly RBI. It was a bad start, but the Dodgers had new life with a 4-4 game.

That new life wouldn't last long, as Ramon Troncoso relieved in the fifth and was horrible. Wallace doubled with one out. Following a flyout, Jason Castro stepped in and doubled in a run to make it 5-4. Geoff Blum pinch-hit and also doubled, this time a ground rule double, and a run scored to put it at 6-4.

Loney hit a double to start the seventh but was stranded with three straight outs. Reed Johnson singled to open the eighth, but was also left on base. The Astros got another run in the ninth when Carlos Lee homered off of Octavio Dotel.

Brandon Lyon pitched a flawless ninth for his 15th save. He got the lethal combination of Hu, Brad Ausmus, and Johnson. Talk about accomplishing a nearly impossible feat!

Monasterios only lasted 1 1/3 innings for five hits, four runs (three earned), two walks, and two strikeouts. Hu's error didn't help, but the damage had been done. His ERA ballooned up to 4.29. It's hard to get too mad when he doesn't pitch well, as he's clearly not starting material. In the future, who knows, but I would think he'll have to make it in the bullpen if he's going to keep a career in the bigs.

Jeff Weaver recently said he'd like to pitch again next year, and he did a good job in pitching two scoreless innings. As far as pitching next year, his 4.75 ERA certainly does him no favors. Ronald Belisario got two outs, but Troncoso got smacked around for five hits and two runs in two innings. That's the kind of year it's been for him.

I was happy to see some of the young guns get a chance to play like Oletjan, Mitchell, and Hu. The bad part was that they combined to go 1-for-9 with one run and one RBI. But with the Dodgers on a destination to nowhere, they have to get at-bats and take some lumps. It's good to keep an eye on the future and see who, if any, can emerge.

While this game was essentially meaningless, it was nice to see Ausmus get one last start against the team he spent many good years with. This season has been pretty forgettable for him, as he missed a lot of time with a back injury and is hitting only .203. But, from what I've heard about him, I'm sure he'll be managing someday.

The Dodgers have 18 games left, and 12 of them are against the Rockies, Giants, and Padres. In the very least, the Dodgers have to play those games with some pride of being spoilers. Yes, it's obviously not the same as getting into the postseason themselves, but any misery they can bring those teams will at least be some small consolation to an otherwise dull season.

After an off day Monday, the Dodgers travel to San Francisco for three. Clayton Kershaw will take the mound looking for his 12th win against Barry Zito.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Gibbons' homer breaks the losing streak

A two-run homer by Jay Gibbons in the 11th inning snapped a 2-2 tie and propelled the Dodgers over the Astros, 4-2. The win mercifully snaps a six-game losing streak in which the Dodgers scored only nine runs.

Hiroki Kuroda came into the game having pitched beautifully since the beginning of August. It's been pretty quiet considering the Dodgers still haven't won much, but he's been great. His opponent, J.A. Happ, has been fantastic since coming over from the Phillies in the Roy Oswalt deal. So, this was a very good pitching matchup.

Both didn't disappoint, as the first four innings were nothing but blanks, with only five hits combined. In the fifth, the Dodgers broke through. Rod Barajas hit a single leading off, part of his three-hit night. Kuroda sacrificed him over to second before Rafael Furcal struck out.

With two outs, Jamey Carroll hit an RBI single to go up 1-0. Casey Blake, hitting in the #3 spot in the order for the first time this year, reached on an infield single. Andre Ethier hit cleanup, but struck out. Again. Like he's so good at doing.

The Astros responded in the bottom of the frame. Angel Sanchez and Brett Wallace each singled with one down to put runners on the corners. Now with two outs, Michael Bourne placed a single in shallow center to tie the game at 1-1.

Happ got pulled after five innings and 102 pitches. Wilton Lopez came in, and the Dodgers got another run in the sixth. Matt Kemp led off with a triple in which he hustled into third. Yes, I just said the words "Matt Kemp" and "hustled" in the same sentence, and it wasn't sarcastic either! Well alright! Gibbons scored him with an RBI single for the 2-1 lead.

Ronald Belisario relieved Kuroda in the seventh, who came out for a pinch-hitter the previous inning. Belisario got Sanchez looking to start the inning, but Wallace hit a ground rule double to dead center. With Geoff Blum due up, Joe Torre went to George Sherrill.

Instead of Blum, Jason Michaels pinch-hit and flew out. But, Bourne again came through with an RBI single to it at 2-2, though he was thrown out trying to get to second to end the inning.

Jonathan Broxton pitched the eighth and got through it in order. He hasn't done that since August 25, six appearances before this one. But I'm sure he'll take it - anything positive at this point he'll gladly take with open arms.

New closers Brandon Lyon and Hong-Chih Kuo each got through the ninth to send the game into extras. In the bottom of the 10th, Bourne tripled with one down to get that close to a win. But, Octavio Dotel struck out Jeff Keppinger and Hunter Pence to move the game to the 11th.

Finally, in the 11th, the Dodgers stepped up. Kemp singled leading off the inning. Gibbons then crushed one to right-center for a two-run shot and a 4-2 lead. Dotel stayed on to get through the Astros in the bottom of the frame to earn the win.

Gibbons was great all night, and he didn't even start. He pinch-hit for Reed Johnson in the sixth and ended up going 2-for-3 with a homer and three RBIs. Kemp also had a good night with two hits and two runs, and same for Barajas with three hits and a run.

Kuroda didn't last long enough to get the win, but he was still very good when he was in there. He ended up going six innings for four hits, one run, two walks, and three strikeouts. He's lowered his ERA to 3.32. He's not signed past this year and he's not getting any younger at 35, but I would think the Dodgers have to consider trying to resign him. I think he's earned it.

The Dodgers are what they are at this point, and that's a team that will have to scratch and claw for every win. It was actually pretty shocking to see then win on a home run. That's a rarity these days. It's great for a guy like Gibbons, who deserves to stay in the majors with a .343 average after being called up from Triple-A on August 8.

On Saturday the Dodgers will look to do the unthinkable: win two whole games in a row! Hey, crazier things have happened. John Ely hasn't started since getting bombed against the Cubs on July 10, but he'll look to get back on the good side of things.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Belliard is out of here

Ronnie Belliard has been designated for assignment by the Dodgers. It was mostly done to clear room on the 40-man roster for outfielder Trent Oeltjen. It was also an acknowledgment that resigning Belliard just never worked out they way they had hoped.

Belliard came aboard to L.A. and played in 24 games at the end of the 2009 season, and he made his impact felt. He hit .351 with five homers and 17 RBIs, giving the Dodgers a great jolt. In fact, he was so good that he took over the second base spot from Gold Glove winner Orlando Hudson during the playoffs. The Dodgers lost in the NLCS, but Belliard hit .300 in eight games.

I was happy to see the Dodgers get him back for this season, but it clearly never panned out. Reduced to mainly a pinch-hitting role with a start here and there, he hit a terrible .216 with two homers and 19 RBIs in 82 appearances. Simply put, he looked lost and took way too many strikeouts to be effective.

It's never good to see someone get released, but if the Dodgers are trying to build a better team for next season, this was a good move. Belliard just wasn't getting it done anymore, so it's time to move on.

Kershaw shows up, the rest don't

Clayton Kershaw did all he could, surrendering two runs in seven strong innings. But when you play for a team that hits like a bunch of minor leaguers, that's probably not enough.

Sure enough, on Tuesday night, it wasn't.

The Padres got a big start from Mat Latos to claim a victory, 2-1. Before this series started, the Padres were completely lost with a 10-game losing streak. That's all been erased the last two games the second the Dodgers came to town.

After striking out two in the first inning, Kershaw ran into some trouble in the second. Adrian Gonzalez led off with a single. Miguel Tejada followed with one of his own to put two on. Chase Headley struck out, but Nick Hundley's single loaded the bases. Aaron Cunningham gave the Padres a 1-0 lead on a sac-fly before Latos struck out to end the inning.

With the top of the order now back up, the Padres pushed another run across the board. Chris Denorfia singled leading off and went to second on David Eckstein's sacrifice. Gonzalez came up an out later and stroked an RBI double for the 2-0 lead.

Through five innings, the Dodgers could manage only a single by Casey Blake. The "big" bats of Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, and James Loney couldn't do anything. Surprised? You shouldn't be.

Finally something positive happened in the sixth. With two outs, Scott Podsednik doubled. Rafael Furcal hit an RBI single to cut the deficit to 2-1. Raffy stole second to get in scoring position, but Loney grounded out. Once again, don't be surprised.

Latos came out in the eighth, which must have felt like Christmas morning for the Dodgers. Mike Adams relieved and gave up a double to Jamey Carroll right away. Jay Gibbons pinch-hit for Kershaw and lined out to center on a great play by Denorfia.

Out went Adams and in came Heath Bell to try for the five-out save. He did, as Podsednik stuck out before Raffy walked. Loney had a chance to come through again. What did that mean? It meant that he failed again with a strikeout. For the umpteenth time... don't be surprised.

Kenley Jansen did a good job in getting through the eighth in order with two strikeouts. He gave the Dodgers a chance for a comeback, but Bell easily closed the door for his 39th save.

Like I said before, Kershaw was a stud, going seven innings for five hits, two runs, one walk, and six strikeouts. His record is 11-10, but that's not nearly a reflection of how well he's done this season. He also has a 2.99 ERA, a 1.23 WHIP, and 197 strikeouts in 183 1/3 innings. He's done all he could to lead the Dodgers to the top.

Problem is, he just gets little to no support. In this game it was five hits, one walk, and one run. They can't claim they didn't have their best lineup out there, because none of the regulars were resting. It was just another embarrassing effort from an offense that continues to sink to new lows.

People have pounded on Kemp all year long (myself very much included), but let's not let Ethier off the hook either. Since the All-Star break, he's hitting a pathetic .239 with 52 strikeouts. After all of his heroics last year, maybe he put too much pressure on himself to keep it up. Whatever the reason, he hasn't come close.

I'm just glad the Dodgers have brought up some prospects to give a shot to. It's time to let guys like Trent Oeltjen, Russell Mitchell, and Chin-lung Hu get in the game. Why not? They've shown they can do it at the Triple-A level, and with the Dodgers' playoff chances dead and gone, let the young boys play.

The least the Dodgers can do is try and avoid the sweep on Wednesday. Chad Billingsley will give it his best effort. Just like Kershaw, he'll need much more from the offense if that's to happen.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How to end a losing streak? Call the Dodgers!

The Dodgers had every reason to think they would be victorious on Monday night. The Padres had lost 10 straight, Mat Latos was a late scratch with the stomach flu, and Vicente Padilla was coming off the DL to make the start.

The result? A 4-2 win for the Padres.

That's the way it goes for the Dodgers this year, who just don't have what it takes to pound on other teams when they're down. And make no mistake about it, the Padres were just awful coming into this game. It's hard not to be when you lose 10 games in a row. But in the end, it hardly mattered.

Padilla got through the first couple of innings without any harm. In the third, Nick Hundley hit a leadoff homer for the 1-0 lead. It was his seventh of the season.

The Dodgers were able to respond in the fourth. With one out, James Loney doubled. Casey Blake flied out, but Andre Ethier picked him up with an RBI single to tie the game at 1-1. Matt Kemp drew a walk with two outs. Ryan Theriot lined out to first to end the threat.

The tie was short-lived, as the Padres went to work in the bottom of the fourth. Adrian Gonzalez started it with a one-out single. Miguel Tejada followed with one of his own, and Chase Headley walked to load the bases. Will Venable got an RBI on a groundout to go up 2-1.

Hundley came up next, already with a home run to his credit. This time he hit an RBI infield single for the 3-1 lead.

Both teams put two runners on in the fifth but came up empty. To start the sixth, Blake and Ethier both hit singles to get a rally going. As good as that opportunity looked, it was quickly wiped away on a strikeout by Kemp and two groundouts by Theriot and Brad Ausmus.

Scott Podsednik did get the Dodgers closer in the seventh with a solo homer off of Luke Gregerson. Rafael Furcal singled and Blake walked with two outs, setting up an RBI chance for Ethier. It didn't happen, as Ethier struck out.

George Sherrill and Octavio Dotel got through the sixth in order, and now Jonathan Broxton came on in the seventh. Take a wild guess how he did...

It's simple - he sucked. Like he ALWAYS does. Aaron Cunningham led off and whacked a double. A groundout by Chris Denorfia got him over to third, and David Eckstein's sac-fly RBI scored him. That's right, David Eckstein, a man who in 4,957 career at-bats has 35 home runs, hit a sacrifice fly to score a run. Nice going, Broxton.

Of course, many people will take this as me taking a shot at Broxton. Well, you're right, because I am. But it's because he deserves it. Every appearance he has ends up in some sort of failure. That's what the season has come down to for him - failure.

Mike Adams and Heath Bell got through the Dodgers in order in the last two innings to close it out.

Considering Padilla was coming off the DL, he wasn't too bad, all things considered. He ended up only going four innings for five hits, three runs, one walk, and five strikeouts. His biggest problems came in the fourth. Take that away, and he was fine.

The bullpen of Ronald Belisario, Sherrill, Dotel, and Kenley Jansen combined for three innings, one hit, no runs, and six strikeouts. Broxton gave up a run, but that's the norm for him. It's not like he'd actually put together a decent inning. That would be asking way too much of him!

The offense was also par for the course, which is saying that they were terrible. They faced Tim Stauffer, who had a 1.68 ERA coming into the game. So he obviously was no slouch. But, he's also not Latos either. The Dodgers couldn't put much of anything together against him, nor could they against their great bullpen.

There's two more games left in San Diego, so the Dodgers still have a chance to claim the series. It's not likely, but they'll try anyway. Clayton Kershaw gets the start, and Latos should be good to go against him.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Another nail in the coffin

As if the Dodgers weren't dead enough, getting blanked by the Giants was just the latest setback in a season full of them.

The Dodgers had absolutely zero answers for Jonathan Sanchez, and the Giants used another two-run homer from Juan Uribe to get the win, 3-0. The Padres have now lost 10 straight, so amazingly, the Giants are only one game in back of the NL West lead. The Dodgers? Blah, who cares?

There weren't many highlights considering there were as many hits as innings (nine, not six like Little League). When there were highlights, they all belonged to the Giants.

It started in the second. The red-hot Buster Posey walked with one out and went to second on a wild pitch from Hiroki Kuroda. Jose Guillen singled to center to put runners on the corners. A sac-fly RBI Pablo Sandoval made it 1-0, though Andre Ethier's throw to home was very close, just a bit too late.

The score stayed as is until the seventh. Sandoval singled leading off. Uribe had yet to record an official at-bat as he was intentionally walked twice to get to Sanchez earlier in the game. When he did get a chance to swing, he made it count. A two-run homer into left put the score at 3-0.

Sergio Romo took over in the eighth and got the Dodgers in order. Brian Wilson struck out the first two in the ninth before Mike Fontenot made a diving catch off of Kemp's weak liner to end the game. It was Wilson's 40th save.

Kuroda did all he could, but when your offense does jack squat to back you up, any mistake will be huge. Unfortunately, the offense was so bad, that even without Uribe's blast, the Dodgers still would have lost on Sandoval's sac-fly. Kuroda ended up going eight innings for six hits, three runs, three walks, and eight strikeouts. He fell to 10-12.

The bats managed three lousy hits: two singles by Ryan Theriot and Rod Barajas, and a double by Jamey Carroll. Casey Blake drew a walk. James Loney was beaned. And that would be it. So if you're counting, that's five baserunners the entire game. Sanchez is a pretty good pitcher, but the Dodgers made him look like the combination of Nolan Ryan, Greg Maddux, and Randy Johnson.

The so-called "heart" of the batting order of Ethier and Kemp went a combined 0-for-8 with six strikeouts. That's just pathetic. Even for two guys who are slumping, that's still pretty sad. Ethier did hit .305 in August, but Kemp just continues to embarrass himself at the plate more and more each game. He's now down to .251 with a .311 OBP.

I think Kemp should get the Jonathan Broxton treatment. Joe Torre said after Saturday's game that Broxton would no longer be put in closing situations (good move, though about a month too late). Kemp should never hit in the cleanup spot. He's nothing more than a strikeout waiting to happen these days. Put him low in the order or don't put him in there at all.

With the Albuquerque season ending, the Dodgers will be bringing up Chin-lung Hu, Josh Lindsay, and Russell Mitchell, among a couple of other pitchers. At this point, I'd love to see them get a chance to swing the bat. It's not like they can do any worse than some of the clowns in there now.

Who knows, maybe the Dodgers will find a spark in one of these guys for next year. It's worth a shot anyway. Lindsay and Mitchell have great numbers and deserve an opportunity, and Hu can finally show if he's the long-term replacement for Furcal. Let the guys go and see what they can do.

Ahead for the Dodgers is a three-game set in San Diego. Labor Day should be a good matchup with Vicente Padilla coming off the DL to face Mat Latos. The Padres are desperate for a win, so let's see if the Dodgers can keep the losing streak alive, or if they're just what the doctor ordered to get back on track.

No bullpen love for Lilly

With a 4-2 lead in the eighth, the Dodgers turned to two former closers to try and seal the deal.

Saturday night proved exactly why Octavio Dotel and Jonathan Broxton are now former closers instead of current ones.

Dotel gave up a run in the eighth before getting bailed out by Hong-Chih Kuo. Joe Torre then tried to turn back the clock by giving the ball to Broxton in the ninth. A long two-run homer by Juan Uribe won it for the Giants, 5-4.

The Dodgers certainly looked like they were going to cruise to a victory based on the majority of the game. The Giants put two men on in the first, but couldn't score. Neither team could get much of anything going through three innings.

In the fourth, the Dodgers got all of their runs. Rafael Furcal hit second in the order and drew a walk leading off. With one out, he stole second and went to third on James Loney's single. Casey Blake doubled down the left field line to score one and go up 1-0.

Jay Gibbons got the start in left field with Matt Kemp getting the night off. It worked, as Gibbons unloaded on a low pitch into deep right for a three-run shot, his third of the season.

Lilly was well in control, as he gave up only one hit and no runs through six innings. Up 4-0 going into the seventh, Buster Posey got the Giants on the board with a solo shot into left. Lilly got the next three in order.

The eighth is when Lilly got chased and the lead was nearly blown. Leading off, Edgar Renteria connected on a solo homer to left, making it 4-2. That was it for Lilly, who ended up going seven innings for three hits, two runs, two walks, and seven strikeouts. He deserved a win, but can thank his awesome bullpen for denying him of that.

Dotel came in to pitch to Pat Burrell, who was pinch-hitting for Matt Cain. Advantage, Burrell, as he hit another solo homer, cutting it to 4-3. Aaron Rowand then popped up, but Freddie Sanchez drew a walk. Aubrey Huff stepped in, and Torre chose to bring in Kuo to keep the score as is.

It worked, as Kuo did a great job in getting Huff to pop up and Posey to fly out. The problem was that since Kuo pitched the night before, he pretty much had to be done for the night. Would Torre give youngster Kenley Jansen a shot at the save? Nope, he went with Broxton.

Broxton, as he's done so often this season, was awful. He gave a glimmer of hope by blowing away Jose Guillen with fastballs. But then Cody Ross reached on a slow grounder that Raffy nearly made a great play on. Next came Uribe, who took a lousy slider right over the plate and crushed it into deep center.

Brian Wilson nearly pulled a Broxton in the bottom of the ninth. Blake singled leading off. Kemp entered the game a few innings before to play center, and he was now in a big spot at the plate. Naturally, he easily flew out to center, failing to advance the runner. Big shock, I know. Jamey Carroll singled to put two on.

Rod Barajas has been swinging a hot bat lately, but he couldn't get the job done with a flyout to shallow right for two outs. Reed Johnson pinch-hit and hit one hard on the ground, but right at third for the forceout to end the game.

While the whole loss can't be pinned on Broxton, he continues to show just how messed up he is right now. There is absolutely zero trust in this guy to get big outs. Torre said after the game that using him in the ninth was a "no-brainer." Well, he's somewhat right. Nobody with a brain would have used him there. I guess Torre left his at home.

Had Dotel done a better job and got out of the eighth, I would think that Kuo would have been closing the game. He did pitch the night before, but only threw 13 pitches. But, with Dotel not getting it done, and with the only other lefty in the 'pen being George Sherrill, Torre had to go with Kuo in that spot.

What I don't like is once again thinking that Broxton can get the save. Joe, I've got news for you, it's not going to happen! Whether it be physical, mental, or whatever, the bottom line is that he should never be in that spot when you're trying to make the playoffs. I know those chances are slim, but putting Broxton in there makes those chances even worse.

This has pretty much how it's been for the Dodgers this year. They get a good win one night to show some promise, and suffer a painful loss the next night. The reasons have ranged from the bats going into hibernation to the bullpen imploding all year long. That's why they haven't been able to get on the roll that they need to get into the playoffs.

The Dodgers can still claim the series with a win on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. Hiroki Kuroda will be on the mound against Jonathan Sanchez.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The battery leads the way

The combination of Chad Billingsley and Rod Barajas held the Giants to two unearned runs through eight innings on Friday night.

More importantly, they also drove in all four runs.

A two-run homer by Barajas and two-run single by Billingsley was enough to get a win over the Giants, 4-2. The Dodgers are still eight in back of the Padres in the NL West, but the Giants failed to gain another game on the Padres, who have lost eight straight.

The Dodgers got on the board first in the second. Casey Blake led off and singled into right. Ronnie Belliard and Reed Johnson then struck out for two down. Barajas has really enjoyed his time in Dodger blue, and it got even better with his two-run shot to left, putting the Dodgers ahead 2-0.

In the fourth, the Giants were able to tie it up. It started on an error by Rafael Furcal, who was activated for his first game since August 2. With Freddie Sanchez on first, Aubrey Huff reached on an infield single. Pat Burrell popped up, and Jose Guillen grounded both men into scoring position. Buster Posey came through with two outs by stroking a two-run single, making it 2-2.

Right away, the Dodgers responded. Two straight walks opened the bottom of the fourth, as Matt Kemp and Blake drew them off of Barry Zito. Belliard sacrificed them both into scoring position. Johnson didn't have a productive at-bat again, as he popped up for two down. Barajas, who is now one of the more dangerous hitters in the lineup, was given the intentional pass.

Billingsley is a career .126 hitter, so it made perfect sense to pitch to him. Zito, on the other hand, has struggled mightily after a solid start to the season. That continued, as Billingsley lined one just in front of Guillen in left to score two and go up 4-2.

From there, it was all about the pitching, as Billingsley refused to let the slim lead disappear. From innings 5-8, he allowed one one baserunner on a walk to Burrell. Overall, he went eight innings for two hits, two runs (none earned), two walks, and seven strikeouts. Quietly, he's really turned in a good season, as he's now 11-8 with a 3.54 ERA. Keep in mind, his ERA stood as high as 4.61 in mid-July.

The ball was turned over to Hong-Chih Kuo in the ninth, who easily mowed through three straight hitters to earn his eighth save. He has yet to blow a save since taking over for Jonathan Broxton in August.

Even though he had an error and only went 1-for-4, it was good to see Raffy back in the leadoff spot. You never quite know when he'll play and when he won't, but when he is in the game, he is still a sparkplug. He still has one year left on his contract with an option for 2012. He's not getting any younger, so the Dodgers can only hope he avoids the injury bug next season and provides that leadership at the top of the order.

Another thing the Dodgers can hope for is that they resign Barajas. The Dodgers haven't seen this type of production at catcher since Russell Martin was an All-Star in 2008. In eight games since being traded from the Mets, he's hitting .375 with four homers and eight RBIs. He, too, has had to deal with injuries this season, but when he's been right, he's been awesome.

Looking forward, the Dodgers have to win each of their remaining series if they have any hope for the playoffs. Actually, they probably need to gets sweeps, but that's a whole lot easier said than done. But who knows, this is baseball, and crazy things can happen.

Ted Lilly suffered his first setback with the Dodgers, so he'll look to get back on track against Matt Cain on Saturday.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Kershaw K's 11, but falls to Oswalt

Clayton Kershaw registered double-digit strikeouts, but was unable to avoid the gopher ball as the Phillies beat the Dodgers, 5-1. The Phillies took two of three in Dodger Stadium, which helps their quest for the Wild Card. The Dodgers, obviously, did nothing to improve their standing.

It didn't take long for the Phillies to strike, as Jimmy Rollins led off the game with a home run. An inning later, Shane Victorino copied that feet with a blast himself, and the Phillies grabbed an early 2-0 lead.

All the Dodgers could muster for much of the game were walks off of Roy Oswalt. That's not bad, but then they couldn't get a hit if their lives depended on it. And it's not like they have any home run threats in the lineup, especially with Manny Ramirez no longer around.

Through four innings, the Dodgers took four walks, but did nothing with them. In the fifth, Jayson Werth dropped a fly ball off the bat of Rod Barajas for a two-base error. It didn't matter, as after Kershaw sacrificed him to third, Scott Podsednik struck out and Ryan Theriot flew out.

Entering the sixth, Oswalt had yet to give up a hit. Boy, wouldn't getting no-hit be the icing on the cake, huh? Thankfully Casey Blake singled into right after James Loney drew a walk. With two outs, Ronnie Belliard (who used to be able to hit, not that you would know that based on this year's lousy performances) popped up.

The Phillies upped their lead in the seventh. Carlos Ruiz and Oswalt both struck out to begin the inning before Kershaw ran into a bit of trouble. Rollins walked and stole second. Chase Utley hit an RBI double for the 3-0 lead.

Theriot walked with one out in the bottom of the seventh to end Oswalt's day. In came J.C. Romero to face the speedy Podsednik. It worked for them, as Podsednik grounded into an easy double play to end the inning.

The Dodgers were still well within striking distance at being down only 3-0 in the eighth. Just in case you had any thoughts that they might be able to have a big inning, Mr. Five Tool Star Matt Kemp made sure those thoughts were flushed down the toilet.

Here's the skinny. Ryan Madson came on to pitch, and Jamey Carroll singled leading off. Ethier flew out, but Kemp got a break by reaching on an error by Rollins. With runners on first and second, Loney lifted a long fly ball that smacked the wall in right to score Carroll.

The ball was smoked, so it was an obvious double. The only problem was that Kemp somehow rounded second without touching it. He then had to go back and touch it, and was forced to stay with the ball back in the infield. Larry Bowa stood in the third base box shaking his head, which may as well have been representing every Dodger fan on Earth.

You should know what happened next: Blake grounded into a double play. It wouldn't have been if Kemp had any clue what it's like to play hard and concentrate. But nope, that's asking too much of the Hollywood star. There's just no way he can be bothered with the fundamentals of baseball.

Rollins and Utley both drove in runs in the ninth off of Hong-Chih Kuo, who entered with Dominik Brown on second and one out. I was surprised to see Kuo out there again considering he should be the closer and the Dodgers were losing. The other option was George Sherrill, and he offers practically nothing. The lack of lefties in the bullpen was fully exposed in this spot.

Brad Lidge struck out a couple in the ninth to end the game.

There's no guarantee at all that anymore runs would have scored had Kemp at least gone to third. But, with runners on second and third, perhaps Blake's grounder scores one, cutting it to 3-2. Even if nobody scored there, at least someone else would have been given the chance to drive in two with a single. We'll never know.

It's a shame to see just how far Kemp has fallen this season. It's not like he's just slumping at the plate and nothing else. The issue with him is that his focus sometimes doesn't enter the ballpark with the rest of his body. He's clearly the best athlete on the team, yet it doesn't matter when he can't even run the bases correctly. It's pretty sad.

Add Kemp's blunder to a season full of horrible baserunning mistakes for the Dodgers. They have got to be the worst in the majors at this. There's just no excuse for constantly screwing up on the bases time and time again. Maybe Kemp's bad vibes have rubbed off.

Thursday will be an off day, but maybe Joe Torre will bring the whole team in to learn how to run the bases. Or maybe just Kemp anyway. Friday starts a three-game set with the Giants as Chad Billingsley takes the mound.