Sunday, December 18, 2011

Kemp nabs a GIBBY award

Congratulations go out to Matt Kemp, who won a GIBBY award (Greatness in Baseball Yearly) for Player of the Year. He beat out a bunch of other studs, such as Jose Bautista, Miguel Cabrera, Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson, Albert Pujols, and the synthetic Ryan Braun.

Kemp collected 33.2% of the vote, well ahead Bautista's 19.8%. Votes are from a collection of the fans, media, front-office personnel, and alumni.

The win isn't much of a surprise, as despite the Dodgers finishing well out of the playoff race, Kemp was clearly the top dog in baseball this past year. He was one homer away from joining the prestigious 40/40 club, while still leading the league with 39 homers, 126 RBIs, 115 runs, and 353 total bases. He also finished second in a bunch of other categories, and was the starting center fielder and #3 hitter in the All-Star Game.

The awards have come in waves this offseason, including a Gold Glove, Sliver Slugger, and Hank Aaron. To get a complete list, click on the link above. There's plenty there to keep you busy.

About the only award that alluded him was the NL MVP, as it went to Braun. And as we recently found out, Braun had some help from a little friend. But as Ted Lilly pointed out, Kemp should've won the award to begin with. How right he is.

Kemp recently signed an eight-year, $160 million extension, and is the clear face of the franchise for many years to come.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Gwynn is back for two more years

The Dodgers had a deadline decision to make on Tony Gwynn. Either let him walk and hope to pick up another outfielder with more offense, or bring him back for his defensive value.

In the end, defense won out, and it's a good thing.

Gwynn was resigned to a two-year, $2 million contract on Monday. In addition, they tendered contracts to reigning Gold Glove winner Andre Ethier, James Loney, and some guy named Clayton Kershaw. I don't know about you, but I really hope they don't regret this Kershaw signing. Seems pretty risky to me.

Anyway, Gwynn will slide in as the fourth outfielder behind Matt Kemp, Juan Rivera, and Ethier. Barring another outfielder being brought in, I can definitely see Gwynn getting some starts as well, especially if Rivera struggles or Ethier isn't fully healthy.

His biggest role, however, will be as a late-inning defensive replacement, a role he played splendidly last season. Who can forget those diving catches he made to seal the deal and get a win? Certainly not the players on the mound. Stick him in left field next to two Gold Glovers, and that's one tough D to beat.

His offensive numbers showed much improvement as well. He went from a putrid .204 with the Padres in 2010 to .256 last year with 22 steals, a career high. I think that's the biggest reason he was brought back - he was able to finally pull his weight for the most part at the plate and not just be labeled as an "all glove, no bat" type of player. Good for him.

With the exception of Kemp's mammoth deal, this is another signing by Ned Colletti that certainly wasn't major by any means, but fills a certain role. Now Don Mattingly knows he has a speed and defense off the bench in a close game (which is how most Dodger games are). If all goes well, he can be a good option at the top of the order to set the table for others.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Braun busted

It's been a crazy sports weekend to say the least, from Robert Griffin III winning the Heisman Trophy, to Indiana beating the buzzer to take down #1 Kentucky, to Chris Paul getting denied access to the Lakers (thanks, Dictator Stern).

But this story has topped it all: Ryan Braun has been busted for using PED's.

That's maddening enough for baseball fans, who look to Braun as a clean-cut mega-star who helped carry them past the Steroid Era. Though he is appealing (and we have to remember the whole innocent until proven guilty thing), it's a definite black eye for the sport.

If you're a Dodger fan, however, it's even more frustrating. Let's not forget that Braun won the National League MVP this year over our own Matt Kemp. Throw in knowledge that Braun actually knew about the positive test a month before winning the award, and you can't help but think that if this news broke much earlier, Kemp would've won hands down.

Of course, there's plenty of people who believed Kemp should have won it in the first place, but obviously the Brewers' postseason run played a huge role. Take Braun out of the picture, and Kemp would've raised his first place vote total from 10. The only other players to receive votes for first were Prince Fielder and Justin Upton, who got one a piece.

For those of you wondering if Braun could get stripped of the award if the positive test holds up, you can forget about that. I haven't heard one word spoken of that. The ship has sailed, unfortunately.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Dodgers add Harang and move Eveland

The Dodgers made a couple of moves today that officially rounded out their starting rotation... and brought an end to Hiroki Kuroda's tenure in LA.

Aaron Harang was signed to a two-year, $12 million deal with an option for 2014. He will join Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, and Chris Capuano in the rotation of proven arms. Ned Colletti did not want to see young Nathan Eovaldi handle the #5 role this soon, so getting Capuano and Harang turned out to be of high priority.

The other move, albiet a minor one, was to trade Dana Eveland to the Orioles for minor league starter Jarret Martin and outfielder Tyler Henson. Martin pitched in Single-A, while Henson appeared in Triple-A last season.

For awhile, it looked like Colletti would add either Capuano or Harang. After Caps signed last week, I didn't think they would even want Harang still. Fortunately, I was wrong, as I valued Harang as the better pitcher all along. Neither one of them is as good as Kuroda, but that ship has sailed regardless of who signed.

Last season was a good one for Harang, who bounced back from a horrible 2010 campaign with the Reds. After going to the Padres, he went 14-7 with a 3.64 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. He was obviously a much better pitcher at home (3.05 home vs. 4.70 road), but geez, who the heck wouldn't pitch better at PETCO Park? I think my ERA would be under four there.

Why else were the Dodgers impressed with Harang? Well, in three starts against them, he went 2-0 with an 0.45 ERA. That's one earned run in 20 innings. I'd say that's pretty good. Granted, the Dodgers didn't exactly set the world on fire at the plate (minus Matt Kemp), but those are still dominating numbers.

With the rotation now locked in, what the Dodgers really need to hope for is that Billingsley and Lilly pitch more consistently than they did last year. More so Bills than Lilly, as he has yet to match his so-called "mega-talent" to any sort of steady success. Lilly was awesome in the final two months, but pretty awful in the first four.

Kershaw will be Kershaw, as he's a legit ace now. The Dodgers know they'll have a great chance to win each of his 30+ starts he gets.

Since scoring runs should still be hard on plenty of nights, the rest of the rotation will be counted on even more to pitch solidly and give the Dodgers a chance to win in the late innings. Capuano and Harang will be at the back end, and it's good to know that while they're not dominating by any means, they are good matchups against most other team's 4-5 pitchers.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Jerry Hairston - your latest veteran utility man

The Dodgers don't have a lot of resources when it comes to signing free agents. So rather than going after the big dogs like Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, or Jose Reyes, Ned Colletti has filled in the blanks with veteran role players.

The newest example was Monday's signing of Jerry Hairstron, Jr., who agreed to a two-year, $6 million deal. He'll fill in the spot vacated by Jamey Carroll of ultimate utility man, able to play both infield and outfield whenever called upon.

Hairston split time between the Nationals and Brewers last season, hitting a combined .270 with five homers and 31 RBIs. He really came on late in the year as part of the Brew Crew's postseason run, taking over the third base spot and hitting .385 with a .422 OBP in 39 at-bats. Not too shabby for a guy expected to play off the bench.

Like I said before, his greatest quality is the ability to play practically any spot on defense. Last season he spent some amount of time at second, third, short, left, and center for both teams. It's nice to know that you can put him in and not miss a beat in up to six positions on the field. He's made a career out of that.

Much like the deals with Mark Ellis and Adam Kennedy, these are by no means major happenings. But, the Dodgers got some good production last year from Aaron Miles and Jamey Carroll, so there was a need to replace them considering the youth of Dee Gordon and Justin Sellers. Mix the vets with the young guns, and hope everyone pushes each other to get better.

Plus, it's the best Colletti can do considering the money he has... or money he doesn't have.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Hello, Capuano... Goodbye, Kuroda?

If you are reading between the lines of Ned Colletti's newest signing, Friday appears to have marked the end of Hiroki Kuroda's Dodger career.

Chris Capuano was signed to a two-year, $10 million deal, with a club option for 2014. He rounds out the rotation, for now anyway, that includes Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, Ted Lilly, Chad Billingsley, and Nathan Eovaldi.

The odd man out? By all indications, it's Kuroda, who appears to be too pricey for the Dodgers. It's not exactly clear just how much money he's looking for, but the common number I've seen is $12 million to come back for one more go-around. And even if the Dodgers could come up with that kind of cash for just a year, it's not even known if he would definitely want to come back. It's been said that he wants to either go back to Japan to finish his career, or sign with a contender.

The bottom line: Kuroda is gone. That's all there is to that.

As for Capuano, he made himself relevant again by pitching pretty well for the Mets last season. Even though his numbers aren't exactly top-notch (11-12, 4.55 ERA, 1.35 WHIP), there are indications that he actually pitched better than that. For example, in 186 innings, he struck out 168 and only walked 53.

Capuano did give up 27 homers last year, which is high. But, Kuroda actually gave up 24 himself, so perhaps Caps had a case of bad luck. With a good defense behind him, I can see his ERA easily going down.

With payroll what is it, which isn't much, signings like Capuano, Mark Ellis, and Adam Kennedy are about all we can expect as fans. Serviceable players, but certainly nothing flashy. The Dodgers have to hope that they get the most out of their role players, and guys like Andre Ethier, James Loney, and Juan Uribe put up much better numbers to support Matt Kemp in the lineup.

Kennedy added for bench depth

With Aaron Miles out of the picture, the Dodgers got to work replacing him on Thursday, signing Adam Kennedy to a one-year, $800,000 deal. He can earn up to an additional $150,000 based on plate appearances, which judging by Miles's playing time last year, is very possible.

The signing was necessary for a couple of reasons. One, he can play up to three infield positions (second and third, and a little bit of first). With Juan Uribe recovering from an injury-plagued, horrendous first season in LA, it's good to know someone else is there just in case. Second, he's a left-handed bat off the bench for pinch-hitting roles.

Kennedy has been in the bigs since breaking in with the Cardinals in 1999. He's best known for being with the Angels, as he was a big part of their postseason success in 2002, culminating with a ring. His three homers against the Twins in the ALCS helped pave the way.

He's also been described as a "good clubhouse presence." Though to be fair, I highly doubt anyone would actually say something like, "He's a cancer in the clubhouse, but we'll try it anyway." Still, I'll give Ned Colletti the benefit of the doubt.

It's going to be hard to replace what Jamey Carroll and Miles gave to the Dodgers last year, as they really came out of nowhere to give some great production. They've basically been replaced by Mark Ellis and Kennedy, two more veterans who are on their way down. Still, with payroll options very limited, it's about the best we can expect.

So, look for even more small ball in LA in 2012.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Broxton Era is over

The Dodgers and Jonathan Broxton have officially parted ways on Tuesday, as he agreed to a one-year, $4 million deal with the Royals. He moves on after spending the first seven years of his big league career in LA.

Just the name "Jonathan Broxton" alone brings up so many mixed emotions in people. He was at one point one of the top 2-3 closers in the game. He started closing full-time for an injured Takashi Saito in 2008, and the Dodgers didn't miss a beat. He collected 14 saves that year to go with a 3.13 ERA, and picked up the final outs in Game 3 of the NLDS to sweep the Cubs.

Unfortunately, he didn't end the '08 season well, as it's hard to forget the moon shot that Matt Stairs cranked off him in Game 4 of the NLCS against the Phillies. To this day it's one of the longest hit balls I've ever seen.

To Broxton's credit, he bounced back very well in 2009, as he posted his best numbers by far. He went 7-2 with 36 saves in 42 chances with a 2.61 ERA, and an incredible 114 strikeouts in 76 innings.

And, in an eerie repeat of the year before, he fell apart in the NLCS... in Game 4... to the Phillies. This time he walked Stairs with one out, beaned Carlos Ruiz, and after getting the second out, lost on a two-run double by Jimmy Rollins.

Then came the 2010 season, which saw him collect 12 straight saves in the month of May. Good. But then came the infamous meltdown on June 27 against the Yankees, in which he failed to protect a 6-2 lead in the 9th, giving up four runs and throwing a whopping 48 pitches. Bad. His ERA coming into that game was 0.83. He stunk after that, blowing five more saves and finishing with a 4.04 ERA.

You can forget about his 2011 campaign, as it was a waste. He made only 14 appearances, saving seven games, but with a 5.68 ERA. May 3 was his last game of the year, as he was shut down for good in September with elbow surgery.

While many people held on to hopes that he could put the past behind him and still be a force in the 'pen, but let's be realistic here: this is a move that's the best for both worlds. Broxton needed to get away, and the Dodgers needed him to go away. A fresh start, with hopefully a fresh arm, is the best thing for him, as a Broxton-Joakim Soria combination can be really good if both are on.

I've been a vocal critic of Broxton for awhile now. My biggest complaint was that he simply could not be counted on to make the big save. His fastball was losing velocity (his elbow I'm sure had something to do with that), and his slider wasn't reliable anymore. What he needs to do is learn how to become a complete pitcher. What was Eric Gagne's best pitch when he was breaking save records? An off-speed pitch. Broxton needs to develop one as well.

Not to be a hater, but I'm really not sad to see him go. I didn't have any confidence in him, and his presence will no longer force Don Mattingly into the awkward role of defending him. Now, the Dodgers can move on with guys like Kenley Jansen and Javy Guerra to finish off opponents, as they did so well in 2011.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Kemp finishes 2nd in MVP voting

Matt Kemp did everything he possibly could to claim the National League's MVP award. Unfortunately, the players surrounding him cost him in the end.

Kemp finished second in the MVP balloting to the Brewers' Ryan Braun, whose team advanced to the NLCS before falling to the Cardinals. The Dodgers went nowhere for most of the season before getting hot at the end to just finish over .500 at 82-79.

While both players put up crazy numbers, it was Kemp who had the edge. Here's how they breakdown:

Braun: .332 AVG, .397 OBP, .994 OPS, 109 R, 38 2B, 33 HR, 111 RBI, 33 SB
Kemp: .324 AVG, .399 OBP, .986 OPS, 115 R, 33 2B, 39 HR, 126 RBI, 40 SB

Plus, there's the Gold Glove that Kemp brought home that Braun did not. Though to be fair, that award was not announced at the time of the MVP voting.

A couple of thoughts come to mind here. First, as I touched on before, Braun was obviously rewarded for being a member of the better team. There's no doubt he was a huge part of that, so he should be commended for it. It's hard to not like the guy, as he plays hard, puts up huge numbers, and stays out of trouble.

But, it's also hard not to ignore the fact that Braun had a monster backing him up in the lineup (Prince Fielder), and Kemp most certainly did not. Fielder finished third in the voting thanks to a .200 average, 38 homers, and 120 RBIs. Who had Kemp's back? Well, if you were to guess that Rod Barajas finished with the second most homers on the Dodgers with 16, you're either A) a liar (shame on you), or B) a reader of this site, as I've pointed it out over and over (thanks!).

Don't get me wrong, I'm not ripping Braun for winning, but merely making the case that the MVP award is more about overall team success than a measure of whom the best player is. Braun was awesome in 2011, but Kemp was slightly better. But the bottom line is, the Brewers were a much better team. And that's the difference.

Kemp did leave us with one parting thought - "Fifty/fifty." It could happen...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Kemp signs the dotted line

Matt Kemp finalized his contract extension with the Dodgers on Friday, agreeing to an eight-year, $160 million deal. It's the largest in the storied history of the Dodgers.

Make no mistake about it: Matt Kemp is officially the face of the franchise.

With the Dodgers in the middle of a massive change in ownership, Ned Colletti did the right thing by declaring Kemp the guy who will lead the team into the future. And why not? The guy is coming off a season in which he posted some absolutely sick numbers: .324 AVG, .399 OBP, 115 R, 33 2B, 39 HR, 127 RBI, 40 S. Plus, he won his second Gold Glove by taking home the top honor for center field.

What made the 2011 even more special for Kemp was that he looked so lost the year before. It's hard to forget the images of Colletti complaining about his laziness and the many swinging strikeouts. Who knew what to expect from him going into this past season? He was about as big a question mark as there could be. He already had the reputation of a multi-talented player with little heart.

Rather than letting that become his legacy, he went out and showed the world what a top five-tool player looks like over and over again. Whether it was making a diving catch, stealing another base, or cracking a walk-off homer in extra-innings, he gave fans a reason to actually care about the Dodgers again, despite a mediocre record. He helped carry the team along with Clayton Kershaw.

The challenge for Kemp, like all others who sign huge contracts, will be to prove the money hasn't lessened the desire to be great. If you recall, Colletti's complaints two seasons ago came not long after he signed a two-year, $11.1 deal. It didn't take long for observers to question whether the money went straight to his head. A more mature Kemp this time around should eliminate that doubt.

It will also be interesting to see where the Dodgers go from here as far as the free agency scene goes. Dodger fans were hopefully that a big bat like Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder would come aboard, but Colletti did the smart thing in letting everyone know early that that wasn't going to happen. The payroll is already looking to be shrunk from $110 million last season to around $90 million next year. So you can forget about the big dogs.

Instead, there's guys like Andre Ethier and Kershaw to worry about. Ethier missed the end of the season with right knee surgery, so it's unknown how much the Dodgers want to commit to him. Still, unless a trade partner comes calling, it's hard to imagine him leaving. Kershaw is still under team control for three more years, so they will most likely milk that for all it's worth.

The offseason already got off to a great start thanks to Frank McCourt agreeing to take a hike. With Kemp signed, sealed, and delivered for many more years to come, Dodger fans have plenty more to get excited about. I know I am.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cy Young caps Kershaw's brilliant season

After a season full of dominating hitters, Clayton Kershaw dominated something one last time: first place ballots.

Kershaw was named the National League's Cy Young Award winner on Thursday. He received 27 out of a possible 32 first place votes, which put him well ahead of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Ian Kennedy. He's the first Dodger to claim the prestigious award since Eric Gagne in 2003, and first starting pitcher since Orel Hershiser in 1988.

The reason for winning is simple: he started the year off hot, and only got better in the heat of the summer. He ended up 21-5 with a 2.28 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 278 strikeouts in 233 1/3 innings pitched. Those numbers were good enough to win the pitching Triple Crown. Heck, he even picked off nine runners, which was a big reason he won the Gold Glove as well.

And let's not forget his continued mastery of Tim Lincecum, the two-time award winner. In head-to-head matchups, Kershaw went 4-0, winning by scores of 2-1, 1-0, 2-1, and 2-1. Those numbers alone showed just how much of a big-game pitcher he's become.

Obviously I'm a Dodger fan, and naturally a big fan of his, but this was absolutely the right call. The Dodgers may have fallen out of the playoff picture much earlier than other teams, but Kershaw still did his thing. In fact, for most of the season, about the only time you really needed to turn on a Dodger game was every fifth day. He was that much fun to watch.

Kershaw has set the bar very high for himself, but the scary part is that he's only 23. Can you imagine what kinds of numbers he'll put up for the next 10 years, and he'll still be in his early 30's? If the two studs from Philadelphia are any indication, he would still have plenty more good years ahead of him even then. Wow, that's just awesome to think about.

Even though the Dodgers went through all sorts of crap on and off the field during the season, the hardware has been flowing in very nicely, which shows they have the young guns to turn things around and fast. Kershaw will lead the way on the mound, with Matt Kemp on the other side. Dodger fans have to feel great about that.

Congratulations one more time to the great Clayton Kershaw, and here's to many more years of brilliance to come!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Treanor jumps on board

The Dodgers have found their replacement for the departed Rod Barajas, signing Matt Treanor to a one-year, $850,000 deal on Tuesday. He won't be the starter, but will play a key role in helping the development of young A.J. Ellis and Tim Federowicz.

Treanor spent last season split between the Royals and Rangers. Offense is not exactly his thing, as he hit .214 with 3 homers and 17 RBIs. For that matter, offense has never been his thing, collecting a .225 average with 16 homers and 119 RBIs since 2004. He has also spent time with the Marlins and Tigers.

What he is known for, however, is defense. Described as a "catch and throw" type of guy, he gunned down 25% of basestealers last season. One part of Barajas that I thought was underrated was his ability to handle the pitching staff, especially Clayton Kershaw. If Ned Colletti is aiming for similar results, then Treanor is a good guy to replace him with.

Now is the time for Ellis to step up and be the man. Federowicz is still a little ways away from being ready for the bigs, and Treanor isn't expected to catch more than 40 games a year. If Ellis can continue where he left off in September (.323 average in 12 games), then a starting spot should be his. If he still can't claim it, I don't think he ever will.

Dodgers nab Ellis for 2nd base

With the Dodgers closing in on locking up Matt Kemp with a huge deal, they made a smaller one to address another need on Tuesday.

Mark Ellis was inked to a two-year, $8.75 million deal to play second base. The deal includes an option for a third year.

Last season, Ellis split time between the A's and Rockies, hitting .248, 7 homers, 48 RBIs, and 15 stolen bases. For his career, he's hit .266 with a .331 OBP. He was a member of the A's organization since 2002 before being traded last season.

When it's all said and done, the Dodgers have basically swapped Jamey Carroll (who signed with the Twins) with Ellis. But which of the two is better? Well, Carroll is 38 and Ellis is 34. Both look to be locked in at starting positions, as Carroll will be at short.

I have to think it will be hard for Ellis to top the production of Carroll, who put together a good couple of years playing many different roles. Carroll hit .290 in 2010 and .291 last season. He also averaged playing in 140 games a season, and started in both the infield and outfield. I was disappointed to see him leave, but certainly can't blame him for taking Minnesota's offer.

Ellis has more pop, as he had five straight seasons of 10+ homers. He hit .291 in 2010, but really tanked to start the 2011 season with a .217 in 62 games. After moving over to the Rockies, though, he hit .274 in 70 games.

Both are good defenders, but the edge has to go to Ellis, who owns a career .990 fielding %. In playing second between both teams last year, he committed three errors in 636 total chances. Wow.

What the Dodgers have to hope for is that Ellis is more like the hitter he was in Colorado and not at the end of his Oakland tenure. They definitely will get a slick double play combination with Dee Gordon up the middle, as both can flat out get it done. That should be fun to watch.

It's not a major signing by any means, but with Kemp in the fold and second base taken care of, it's time to look at locking up the other big guns (Clayton Kershaw, possibly Andre Ethier) and improving their starting pitching.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Kemp on the verge of massive deal

If the news of a deal for Matt Kemp is true, he is about to become a very rich man.

The Dodgers look to be all set to extend Kemp's contract for eight years and $160 million, the largest in franchise history. It would easily outpace Kevin Brown's lousy seven year - $105 deal signed in 1998. Let's just hope this one turns out slightly better than that.

Kemp is scheduled to take a physical on Monday, which is a mere formality before it can officially be announced. When it does, I'll be back for more analysis on just how big of a move this is to the franchise.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Barajas goes to the Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates swooped in on Thursday and signed Rod Barajas to a one-year deal with a club option for 2013. He'll get a bump in salary from $3.5 million last year to $4 million this year.

Barajas is a streaky hitter, but one with pretty good pop. This past season he appeared in 98 games, hitting .230 with 16 homers (good for second on the team, which is a little sad) and 47 RBIs. He also stole... zero bases. But he does have two for his career!

I'm a little bummed about losing Barajas because he you knew what you were going to get with him - around 15 homers and a tough presence behind the plate. It's by no means a huge loss, but I think he was good for the pitching staff.

The new catching options for the Dodgers are young in A.J. Ellis and Tim Federowicz. Ellis has been up and down like a damn elevator between the minors and majors. Last year he played in 31 games, hitting .271 with 2 homers and 11 RBIs. To his credit, he played very well in September, hitting .323.

Federowicz was acquired at the trade deadline, so he only appeared in seven games, going 2-for-13 with an RBI. He's known for his defense, a major reason why Ned Colletti got him.

It wouldn't surprise me to see Colletti go after a veteran catcher, as that seems to be his forte. Ellis and Federowicz are decent options, but I'd hardly consider them difference makers behind the plate, especially right now.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

McCourt to sell... and the fans rejoice!

November 2, 2011... the day the Dodgers turned around?

Only time will tell, but regardless, this is a day that will forever be etched in Dodgers' lore. Frank McCourt has agreed to sell the team after a lengthy fight to hold on. The decision comes at a time when the free agency frenzy will soon begin.

McCourt sent out an email on Tuesday to inform his employees of the decision. In part, it read:

"I have made this decision because I believe it is in the best interests of our
organization, our loyal fans and the community at large."

Well, that's nice. Granted it came years too late, but it's safe to say there were plenty of fans who thought this day would never come. But thankfully, it has, and now we can all look forward to improving the team for the 2012 season and beyond.

One point I do have to caution fans about is not to think this will automatically make the Dodgers the team to beat. Yes, it will certainly help their long-term future, but there's plenty of work left to be done. Just as all of other teams are facing right now, it's all about which players to resign, which players to dump, and which players to seek after in free agency.

I'm sure we'll be hearing in upcoming days and weeks about possible suitors, including the Mavs' Mark Cuban, who must be loving this news. As usual, I'll keep you posted on any breaking news.

Kemp, Kershaw, and Ethier are GOLDEN

Mark down the dates of November 1 and November 2, 2011 as huge moments in the history of the Dodgers' organization.

First things first, and a big congratulations go out to Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier for winning the National League Gold Glove awards at pitcher, center fielder, and right fielder, respectively. It's the second time for Kemp, and the first for Kershaw and Ethier.

It's also the first time in the history of the Dodgers that a trio have won these awards. After a season full of letdowns, this is a sign that great things could be to come.

For the first time, Rawlings split the award for outfield into all three positions, as opposed to any three outfielders winning it. That no doubt helped Ethier, who admitted that he didn't have much thought of winning. He outlasted Carlos Beltran and Jay Bruce.

Kemp, on the other hand, outpolled Shane Victorino and Chris Young in center, two fantastic fielders. And deservedly so, as he became the ultimate five-tool player this year with his monster offensive numbers and diving plays in the field. He last won this award in 2009.

Kershaw won over fellow teammate Hiroki Kuroda, and Kyle Lohse. If you watched the presentation show on ESPN 2, you saw highlights of Kershaw making diving plays to get outs at first. He's looking to join the great Orel Hershiser as the only Dodgers to win the Gold Glove and Cy Young Awards in the same season. It's highly likely he will indeed do so.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Kemps wins the NL Hank Aaron Award

Matt Kemp's monster 2011 season became even sweeter on Thursday by winning the National League Hank Aaron Award. The award is in recognition of the best offensive player in each league. Hall of Famers vote on the award, including Aaron, Tony Gwynn, and Robin Yount.

While it remains to be seen if Kemp will also claim the MVP, there's no denying that he put together the total package to get this award. In addition to hitting .326, he led the NL with 39 homers, 126 RBIs, and 115 runs. He also had 40 steals to just barely miss joining the prestigious 40/40 club. But hey, 30/30 ain't too shabby.

The MVP award will be announced on November 22, so there's still a month to wait and see.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Cardinals can thank the Dodgers

Now that the World Series has started, it's worth noting that the Dodgers played a big role in helping the Cardinals get home field advantage. In addition to giving away Rafael Furcal to hit in the leadoff spot, it was the solid performances of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Clayton Kershaw in this year's All-Star Game that helped pave the way for home field advantage for the National League.

Kemp got the start in center field and hit third. He hit three times and went 1-for-2 with a walk. Ironically, his one hit was against the Rangers' Game One starter, C.J. Wilson. His single followed one by Carlos Beltran (then with the Mets), which led to Prince Fielder's three-run homer to put the NL up for good.

Ethier was one of the last additions to the team, but made his sole at-bat count. With two outs in the fifth, he singled off of Joe Walden to score Rickie Weeks and go up 4-1. It was the first RBI by a Dodger in the All-Star Game since Mike Piazza in 1996.

Kershaw got the ball in the fifth with a 3-1 lead. He struck out David Ortiz swinging to start, then got Robinson Cano and Alex Avila to ground to Fielder at first to retire the side in order. In all, he made only eight pitches.

Friday, October 14, 2011

2011 Report Card

As the MLB postseason rolls on towards the World Series, let's take a look back at the season the season that was for the Dodgers. Here are my grades from this past season.


Clayton Kershaw - 21-5, 2.88 ERA, 248 strikeouts. An absolute monster season from one of the game's best pitchers. A pleasure to watch every fifth day.
Matt Kemp - A Triple Crown threat until the very end, he erased any doubt about his desire by hitting .324 with 39 homers, 126 RBIs, and 40 stolen bases. Plus his defense in center was top-notch.
Kenley Jansen - Started the season off rocky, but after returning from injury in June, was absolutely untouchable. Finished with an MLB record 16.1 K's/9 innings.
Javy Guerra - Came out of nowhere to go 21-23 in save opportunities with a 2.31 ERA.
Dee Gordon - Mr. Excitement finished with a strong .304 average in 56 games. His blazing speed got him 24 steals, and made even routine grounders into close plays at first.
Hiroki Kuroda - I don't care if he had 16 losses, his 3.07 ERA and 202 innings pitched were the real reasons this was his best season to date.
Mike MacDougal - Quietly had a great year with a 2.05 ERA and 14 holds in 69 appearances. Was a stable force in a bullpen that struggled for most of the year.


James Loney - It's hard to believe just how much his season turned around once August hit, as he was as hot a hitter as there was in the majors. Raised his average over 30 points in that span, and perhaps played himself back onto the team.
Scott Elbert - A quiet contributor, he showed some great stuff from the left side with a 2.43 ERA in 47 appearances.
Nathan Eovaldi - A quality starter (but not a reliever). Gave up two or less runs in five of his six starts to perhaps lead the way to a starting spot again next season.
Juan Rivera - Picked up for practically nothing from the Blue Jays, proceeded to drive in 46 runs in 62 games. Gave the Dodgers a legit run-producing threat to pair with Kemp.
Tony Gwynn - Only hit .256, but did steal 22 bases, and flashed some serious leather, especially as a defensive replacement late in close games.
Jamey Carroll - A scrappy, gritty competitor who hit .290 and led the way with his hustle.
Aaron Miles - A non-roster invitee to Spring Training, ended up playing in 136 games. Hit well above .300 in July before sliding some in the last couple of months.
Dana Eveland - Not much of a sample size, but a 3.03 ERA in five starts is pretty darn good. Was fantastic in his three wins (1 run in 20 2/3 innings) and terrible in his two losses (9 runs in 9 innings).
Josh Lindblom - Was up and down between the majors and minors, but showed he can get the job done with a 2.73 ERA out of the 'pen. Another power arm to keep an eye on.


Andre Ethier - Might seem a big harsh for a guy who hit .292 and made the All-Star team, but his lack of power (11 homers) and whinny comments made it a season unfulfilled.
Ted Lilly - Bounced back great to end the season, but it was too little, too late. A 5.02 ERA through July is hard to forget.
Rubby De La Rosa - Was lost at the end of July because of Tommy John surgery, but looked pretty good with a 3.71 ERA. Someone to remember in the future.
Jerry Sands - Came in with the reputation of having all the tools, but it's taken him awhile to get on track. Fortunately he did towards the end, as his .342 September average raised his overall to .253.
Rod Barajas - His 16 homers were (sadly) second on the team. Still has good pop, but a .230 average is pretty poor.
Chad Billingsley - Maddeningly inconsistent, as he just never seems to have the numbers to match his stuff. One step forward, and one step back meant an 11-11 record with a 4.21 ERA.
Blake Hawksworth - A solid arm for most of the season, but the wheels fell off the bus at the end, as a lousy last two months raised his ERA from 2.95 to 4.08.
Matt Guerrier - Wasn't bad, but wasn't worth the big contract (3 years, $12 million) either. Ended with a 4.07 ERA in 70 games.
A.J. Ellis - Hit a decent .271, but with only four extra-base hits in 85 at-bats. Still hasn't exactly done enough to show he should even be the backup.


Rafael Furcal - Injuries once again left their toll, as he hit a lousy .197 with five stolen bases in 37 games. Traded to the Cardinals at the deadline... where he of course is enjoying postseason success. Figures.
Jon Garland - Was signed to be the #5 starter because of his durability... and then made only nine starts before ending his season with shoulder surgery. Collected a 4.33 ERA in those starts.
Casey Blake - Still plays hard when he can, but his days of starting are clearly over. Hit only .256 as he appeared in a measly 63 games. The ship has sailed.
Ramon Troncoso - He stunk. That's pretty much it.


Jonathan Broxton - Had the luckiest seven saves you'll ever see, as he had a 5.68 ERA in 14 games. Elbow injuries ended his season in May, as it's unknown if he'll ever come anywhere close to the All-Star he was only a couple seasons ago.
Juan Uribe - The big free agent signing after winning a ring with the Giants in 2010, proceeded to absolutely suck. Hit .204 with four homers and 60 strikeouts in 77 games. A colossal disappointment.
Eugenio Valez - 0-37. 'Nuff said.
Lance Cormier - Complained after Spring Training that he deserved to be on the big league roster. So he was... and then earned his way off of it with a 9.88 ERA in nine games.
Hong-Chih Kuo - From shutdown All-Star in 2010 to a 9.00 ERA and monumental flop in 2011. Unbelievable.
Marcus Thames - So much for being the power righty in the outfield. Instead hit .197 with two homers in 36 games before being shown the door.
Dioner Navarro - Horrendous effort led to putrid defense, and a .193 average. Was mercifully sent packing in late August.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Options declined on Blake and forgotten Garland

The Dodgers made their first official roster moves of the offseason on Tuesday, buying out the last year of Casey Blake and Jon Garland's contracts. Both men are officially free agents as a result.

Blake was bought out for $1.25 million, as he ended his three-year/$17.5 million deal. The Dodgers had a $6 million option for next season, but that won't happen.

Garland got paid $5 million this season to basically do a big pile of nothing, as his season was cut way short thanks to shoulder surgery on July 11. He'll receive $500,000, as opposed to the $8 million he could've earned had he been brought back. Um, that's a no-brainer.

Going into the 2011 season, both men figured to play key roles in Don Mattingly's rookie season as manager. Instead, injuries just crippled both of them, as their best days are clearly long behind them. Blake appeared in only 63 games this year, hitting .252 with four homers and 26 RBIs. He actually hit very well when he did play in April and May, but his body wouldn't hold up.

The irony of Garland's situation was that he was brought in to be an innings-eater at the back end of the rotation. He had never appeared on the DL during his 11-year career up until this season, and had thrown at least 190+ innings since 2002. So naturally, he only made nine starts, going 1-5 with a 4.33 ERA.

I'd be shocked if Garland was resigned, but don't be too surprised if Blake is. I can see Mattingly using Blake as a utility guy, making starts at the corner infield spots along the way. At this point in his career, it might be the best offer he can get.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dodgers hang on to win season's final game

The Dodgers nearly found a way to blow a huge lead for the second straight night, which would have been one more dark cloud to add to this season.

Thankfully for them, Matt Kemp and Kenley Jansen made sure that didn't happen.

Kemp hit a two-run homer to end the season as the National League's leader in homers and RBIs, and Jansen got the last couple of outs to avoid another collapse as the Dodgers won their last game of the season over the Diamondbacks, 7-5. The Dodgers have ended their season with an 82-79 record, which is a 2 1/2 game improvement over last year's 80-82.

Much like the night before, the Dodgers were in full control until very late. With Ted Lilly on the mound taking care of business, the offense went to work in the first. Dee Gordon, the NL's Rookie of the Month, singled and swiped his 24th base right away. A groundout by Justin Sellers got Gordon to third, and Kemp was beaned. Juan Rivera's sac-fly RBI made it 1-0.

Another run was added in the third. It started again with Gordon, who singled with one down. Sellers then roped an RBI double to left, and it was 2-0.

The fourth inning brought a couple more runs. Jerry Sands finished the season with hits in 15 of his last 16 games, and he singled with an out. With two outs now, Jamey Carroll lined an RBI triple to make it 3-0. Lilly got in on the fun with a single up the middle, scoring to Carroll to make it 4-0.

The Dodgers played longball in scoring their final three runs. In the sixth, James Loney launched a solo shot, putting his team up 5-0. To say his resurgence was unexpected would be a giant understatement. At the end of July he was hitting .256 with four homers. At the season's end, he was up to .288 with 12 homers. Who knows what got into him, but I'm glad it did.

With the Dodgers comfortably ahead, there was really only one story left to unfold, and that was Kemp's battle to lead the league in the power categories. A three-homer night from Prince Fielder on Tuesday deadlocked him with Kemp at 38. One more dinger would put Kemp in a class by himself.

So, after Sellers doubled with one out, it was time for Kemp to shine. He lifted a big fly into deep left for a two-run shot, putting the Dodgers up 7-0 and putting him at 39. He did have one last chance at getting a 40/40 season, but struck out in the ninth. Still, 39/40 is just awesome.

Much like Blake Hawksworth the night before, Don Mattingly gave the ball to a struggling reliever with a huge lead. And just like Hawksworth, it was a pure disaster for Ramon Troncoso. The bases became loaded with one out on singles by Peter Goldschmidt and Collin Cowgill, and a walk to Ryan Roberts.

I guess the DBacks have this thing for grand slams, because they made it two games in a row when Cole Gillespie blasted one to make it 7-4. Troncoso stayed on to pitch to Henry Blanco, so naturally Blanco also homered, and it was 7-5.

We can only thank the big guy above that Jansen was able to get out of this mess, as he got Sean Burroughs and Josh McDonald flying out to end the game and the season. It was Jansen's fifth save. Oh by the way, he also set a major league record with 16.1 K's/9 innings. Incredible.

There was a lot to like about this game, even if the Dodgers nearly handed it all away again. Lilly ended the season as one of the game's best pitchers over the final couple of months. He lasted seven innings for three hits, no runs, one walk, and five strikeouts. His ERA at the end of July was a horrendous 5.02. Wednesday's great effort improved it to 3.97. That's the kind of stability in the middle of the rotation the Dodgers signed up for when they gave him a three-year deal this past offseason.

The three young guys in the lineup - Gordon, Sellers, and Sands - combined to go 6-for-13 with four runs, an RBI, two doubles, a stolen base, and a walk. Most importantly, they showed once again that they can perform on the big stage and win games. They're young, they're exciting, and you can believe in them.

Kemp may not have gotten his Triple Crown that he made a late charge for, but his final line is still tremendous: .324 AVG, .399 OBP, 115 runs, 195 hits, 33 doubles, 4 triples, 39 homers, 126 RBIs, and 40 stolen bases. MVP? I certainly think so when you look at the his total game. He tracks down numerous fly balls in the outfield, and had 11 assists. He is the most complete player in the game, hands down.

Yup, there was certainly plenty to be excited about, even in a non-playoff season. But then there's the tale of poor Eugenio Valez. His groundout in the eighth inning put him at a final tally of 0-for-37, a new major league record for non-pitchers. Going back to last season with the Dodgers, he's 0-for-46. How in the world he managed to stay on a big league roster this long is anybody's guess. Watching his futility went from funny to just plain sad. I really do feel badly for the guy. That's just brutal.

Since July 7, the Dodgers put together a 42-25 record. That's an incredible turnaround for a team that looked like it could finish anywhere from 10-20 games behind .500. It still doesn't makeup for the lousy start they had, as they were long out of the playoff race. But at least they showed some very positive signs for the future.

Now the Dodgers will sit back, relax, and join 21 other teams in watching the postseason from home. The focus will now shift to the offseason in getting extensions for the Big 2 in Kemp and Clayton Kershaw. Plus there's the ownership drama. And there's also a couple of huge first basemen who will be free agents. Will one of them be in LA next season? Hmm...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

DBacks shock the Dodgers in 10

It's a good thing the Dodgers weren't playing in their last game of the season on Tuesday night, because a loss like this would leave a bad taste in their mouths... even if they aren't in playoff contention.

The Dodgers scored five runs in the top of the 10th to go up 6-1, then gave them all right back as the Diamondbacks stunned everyone, 7-6. For the DBacks, the win was big as they are still battling for that second seed in the playoffs.

For the Dodgers, it was one final reminder of why they've been long out of the postseason mix.

In looking at the final score, it's hard to believe that the game's starting pitchers, Hiroki Kuroda and rookie Jarrod Parker, were both fantastic. They both combined to pitch 11 2/3 innings without allowing a run.

It took until the seventh inning for a run to be scored, and it was first from the Dodgers. With one out, Rod Barajas singled and Jamey Carroll walked. Tony Gwynn then forced Carroll at second as pinch-runner Eugenio "o'fer" Valez advanced to third. Dee Gordon hit an RBI single into left to go up 1-0, but was gunned down at second for the final out.

The DBacks responded right away, which was their calling card for the night. Matt Guerrier relieved Kuroda and was terrible. He walked Chris Young right away and then gave up an RBI double to Lyle Overbay to tie the game. Scott Elbert walked his only batter in Aaron Hill, but Mike MacDougal did a great job in getting out of the inning still tied.

Both teams put runners on in the ninth, but came up empty, so it was off to extra innings. The DBacks sent Micah Owings to the hill, and boy was he awful. Gordon doubled right off the bat, then scored when Owings threw away a grounder from Jerry Sands at first. Matt Kemp stroked an RBI single, and it was 3-1.

The runs kept coming, as with one out, James Loney's RBI single made it 4-1. Miles drew a walk to put two on. The big blow was a two-run triple from A.J. Ellis to put the Dodgers in a commanding 6-1 lead.

With a five-run lead late in the game, you would think Don Mattingly could put just about any of his pitchers on the mound and get three outs. So, Blake Hawksworth got that honored distinction. Three outs before five runs? Yes, it seemed possible.

Until it wasn't. Oh, Hawksworth did get the first couple of outs with ease. Then came the onslaught. Connor Gillespie and Miguel Montero both singled, as they both soon were in scoring position. Young drew a walk to load the bases.

Josh McDonald hit a hard one to Miles at third that should've ended the game, but Miles couldn't handle it, and a run scored to make it 6-2. Javy Guerra was then given the ball, but forced in a run by walking Hill, and it was now 6-3.

Still, the Dodgers had a big lead, and just need one more damn out. Did it happen? Nope. Ryan Roberts lined the first pitch he saw out to left for the walk-off grand slam. Simply stunning.

I know the Dodgers aren't playing for anything, but regardless, this was a really tough loss. They looked every bit the team that was lifeless for the most of the season, and not the team that has really turned it on since the middle of August. Their bullpen and defense betrayed them at the worst possible moment.

Lost in all of this was the possible last career start of Kuroda, who might be back in Japan next season. He went six innings for five hits, no runs, no walks, and five strikeouts. He ends the season with a 13-16 record, 3.07 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 161 strikeouts in 202 innings. The wins, strikeouts, and innings pitched are career highs.

Kuroda was never someone who got a lot of recognition, but Dodger fans know just how valuable he's been. Over his four-year career, he's 41-46 with a 3.45 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. He also was a big part of the Dodgers' postseason success in 2008, going 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. If he really is done with the Dodgers, I'll really miss the steady hand he provided every fifth day.

As for Hawksworth, while the error by Miles certainly wasn't his fault, the three hitters he allowed to reach base with two outs before that was. He had an ERA at the end of July of 2.95. But two horrible months since then has pushed it up to 4.08. It's hard to imagine him being back next season with such a lousy end to this one.

Right now the Dodgers are at 81-79. Last season they went 80-82. So win or lose on Wednesday, they improved ever so slightly. But, it's a pretty nice accomplishment considering all the crap going on in the organization and the bad stretch of play they endured for much of the season. The fact that they even got over .500 is something not even the most positive of Dodgers' supporters could have envisioned.

The final game of the season will see Ted Lilly take the mound against Joe Saunders. Since the DBacks are still trying to get home field advantage in the first round, it will certainly be a meaningful game. Playing a bit of a spoiler would be a cool way to end the season.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dodgers assured of winning record

No, really!

In what seemed like a complete improbability about a month and a half ago, the Dodgers will finish in the black when the season is over thanks to a 4-2 victory over the Diamondbacks on Monday. And, for a pretty laughable fact, they also are three games over .500 (81-78) for the first time the entire season.

Better late than never, right?

With Daniel Hudson on the mound, the most likely #2 starter for the Diamondbacks come playoff time, the Dodgers went to work right away. Dee Gordon began the game with a double thanks to his blazing speed. Jerry Sands took a walk, and up came that Matt Kemp guy.

Kemp, as we all know, still has hopes of winning the Triple Crown, thanks to leading the National League in homers and RBIs, and being close in batting average. Still needing more good at-bats, he delivered. Kemp creamed one to dead center for a three-run shot, and it was already 3-0. It was Kemp's 38th of the season to go along with 123 RBIs. It was also his last hit of the game, which didn't exactly help his cause.

Dana Eveland was put in charge of keeping the lead, despite being lit up his last couple of starts. How did he respond? Very nicely, thank you very much. He mowed through the first 11 hitters he faced before Chris Young broke up a shot at perfection with a two-out single in the fourth. Miguel Montero grounded to first to end the inning.

The Diamondbacks had a great chance to get right back into the game in the sixth. Hudson singled leading off, and Ryan Roberts followed with his own. After getting Aaron Hill to fly to center, Young singled again, and the bases were juiced.

Eveland stayed on to pitch to Montero, and it worked as he struck out. With Peter Goldschmidt coming up, Don Mattingly gave the ball to Josh Lindblom to leave all three runners stranded. One strikeout later, Lindblom did just that to keep the score at 3-0.

The Dodgers added their final run in the seventh. James Loney has been a big piece of the puzzle in getting the Dodgers over the hump in recent weeks, and he doubled to start. A sacrifice by Aaron Miles sent Loney to third, and A.J. Ellis was beaned. Justin Sellers came through with an RBI single, and it was 4-0.

Matt Guerrier plowed right through the DBacks in order in the seventh, and handed it over to Nathan Eovaldi in the eighth. Unfortunately, as has been the case since Eovaldi went to the bullpen, he was hit around. It all started on a walk to Sean Burroughs. Roberts grounded into a fielder's choice for the first out, but Hill and Young both walked to load the bases again.

Out went Eovaldi, who did about the worst thing possible by walking everyone with a lead, and in came Scott Elbert. Ellis allowed a passed ball to bring home Roberts, and it was now 4-1. The bases became loaded again on another walk to Montero.

That meant the end of Elbert, and the arrival of Mike MacDougal. Goldschmidt struck out again in a big spot, which added to his 0-for-4 night with three strikeouts and six men left on. The DBacks did get a second run in, though. How did it happen? You guessed it - another damn walk! Gerardo Parra flew out to end the inning. I'm surprised he didn't walk just for kicks.

Javy Guerra had to work around Gordon's throwing error to start the inning, but got through the next three in order to earn his 21st save.

Much credit goes to Eveland, who certainly bounced back from a couple of poor outings. He lasted 5 2/3 innings for five hits, no runs, no walks, and five strikeouts. As the Dodgers found out later in the game, when their pitchers don't issue walks, they're pretty good. He improved to 3-2 with a 3.03 ERA to finish out the season. Not too shabby.

As for Eovaldi, he clearly is not the same guy coming out of the 'pen as he is starting the game. In six starts, he was 1-2, but with a really good ERA of 3.09. In four appearances out of the bullpen covering 2 2/3 innings, he's given up three runs on three hits and three walks, and without any strikeouts.

Kemp has a nice 10-game hitting streak in which he's raised his average from .314 to .324. The negative side is that in his last four games, he's collected only one hit apiece. With Ryan Braun and Jose Reyes both at .334, Kemp will pretty much need to be flawless and those two hitless over the final couple of games in order to grab the batting average crown. In other words, try hard to keep the faith, because it's not likely to happen.

The Dodgers will look to continue their strong play over the last couple of games in Arizona. Hiroki Kuroda will make the start on Tuesday in what very well could be his final appearance with the Dodgers. I sure hope not, and despite the Dodgers certainly wanting him to come back in 2012, he may not be able to resist a return to his native Japan as he wraps up his career. Time will tell, so enjoy him while we have him.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Kershaw finishes historic season with 21st win

If there was ever any doubt that Clayton Kershaw should win the Cy Young Award, another masterful performance on Sunday put an end to all of that.

Kershaw hurled 7 1/3 innings of two-run ball, and Rod Barajas's two-run blast keyed the Dodgers in beating the Padres, 6-2. The Dodgers took two of three in this series to up their record to 80-78 with a three-game set to go in Arizona.

While Kershaw came into this game as the most likely favorite to win the award, this was still a big start in that he had to put that one last great effort in to convince the voters. What was important as well was getting the win and tying Ian Kennedy for tops in the National League at 21.

The offense made sure to back him up, as they got on the board right off the bat. Jamey Carroll took a walk with one out. Matt Kemp, who as we know is battling for the MVP and Triple Crown all at once, got his only hit of the day with an RBI double to make it 1-0. Juan Rivera's fly ball got Kemp to third, and he came home on an RBI single from Aaron Miles.

Would Kershaw not be his normal self and perhaps try too hard to win? Nope. He struck out three of the first four hitters he saw, and kept the Dodgers in the lead.

Another one-out walk to Carroll led to more runs in the fifth. Kemp dribbled one to third, but it went right underneath Alberto Gonzalez's glove for two on. No controversy here, because it was a clear error. Rivera smoked one into center for an RBI single, and it was 3-0. Miles followed that up with an RBI on a fielder's choice, and the Dodgers were in full control at 4-0.

The Padres finally gave themselves a little bit of hope in the bottom of the frame. Up until this point, Kershaw had only faced one over the minimum, issuing a walk to pitcher Cory Luebke in the third, and picking Nick Hundley off of first after his single in the fourth. With two outs, Aaron Cunningham got into one to left for the solo shot, going down 4-1.

Both teams didn't have much going at the plate until Barajas changed that in the eighth. Erik Hamren was brought in with two outs to pitch to Jerry Sands, and Sands responded with a walk. Barajas then launched his 16th jack of the year out to left, putting the Dodgers in full command at 6-1.

After Kershaw got through the seventh in order, I thought Don Mattingly should've turned the game over to the bullpen and called it a season for him. But, with his pitch count still manageable, and with a new five-run lead, he was sent back out there. Right away, Orlando Hudson doubled leading off, and scored on Gonzalez's RBI triple an out later.

That would be the last batter of the season for Kershaw, who gave way to the flamethrower, Kenley Jansen. Like usual, Jansen was simply overpowering, striking out pinch-hitter Will Venable (after Venable sent his bat flying by swinging and missing twice) and Cameron "Tiki" Maybin. Those poor batters looked as lost as could be.

Javy Guerra pitched the ninth, and gave up a single to Hudley and a walk to Jesus Guzman with one out. After Barajas called him down, Chris Denorfia grounded into the game ending double play. It was a non-save situation, but Guerra still lowered his ERA to 1.97.

There isn't a whole lot left to say about Kershaw, other than giving him another "WOW." His last loss on the season was on August 7 in Arizona, which put his record at 13-5 with a 2.79 ERA. Since then, he's gone 8-0 in nine starts, and his ERA is 2.28. That's as remarkable an end-of-season run as you can get.

As Kemp is hanging on to his Triple Crown hopes, Kershaw has all but locked up the pitching Triple Crown. He's tied in wins with Kennedy at 21, and first in ERA at 2.28 and strikeouts at 248. The only man standing somewhat in his way is Cliff Lee, who will start on Monday against the Braves. Lee's ERA is 2.38 along with 232 strikeouts. Obviously, he'll have to pretty much throw a no-hitter with a ridiculous amount of strikeouts to overtake Kershaw. But he is Cliff Lee, so don't fall asleep on him.

In switching gears to Kemp, for the second straight game, he collected a hit in his first plate appearance, then struggled the rest of the way. His 1-for-5 day puts his average at .324. Ryan Braun came up big again by going 2-for-3 to raise his average to .333, and Jose Reyes was 2-for-4 to jump to .331.

The uphill climb for the Triple Crown became even tougher, with lots of credit to the two guys in front of him. Albert Pujols was hitless, so Kemp is still tied with him at 37. Ryan Howard collected his 115th RBI, but Kemp matched that with one of his own to get to 120.

Kemp has three games to go, and figuring he'll get 4-5 at-bats per night, he'll have between 12-15 more trips to the plate to make his final push. It's going to take a combination of big swings from him and Braun and Reyes cooling off for the deed to happen, but it's still possible. Maybe not probable, but certainly possible.

There's three games left in the season, and they'll start Monday against the Diamondbacks. The DBacks have already clinched the NL West, so I'm sure we'll see some strange lineups out there, from both teams for that matter. Dana Eveland got rocked his last couple of starts, so he'll look to end on a good night in the first game.

Harang has his way

One night after the Dodgers shutout the Padres in Petco Park, the Padres flipped the script, as Aaron Harang's eight masterful innings gave the Padres a win, 3-0. The loss sends the Dodgers back to one game over .500 with four games left in the season.

Harang may have also derailed Matt Kemp's chances at the Triple Crown. After singling in his first at-bat, Kemp went hitless over his next three, dropping his average to .325. Ryan Braun was 2-for-3, so he's at .331, and Jose Reyes's 1-for-3 day put him at .330. Needless to say, Kemp's going to have to get hot again to have a crack at this.

The Padres did all of their scoring, and the game's scoring for that matter, in the fifth. With Chad Billingsley on the mound, Anthony Rizzo singled with one out. Andy Parrino then walked for two on. Harang struck out to make it two down, and Billingsley had a great chance to escape the inning unharmed.

But, as has been the case far too often this season, Billingsley couldn't make the big pitches when he needed to. Will Venable drove in a run with a single, and it was 1-0. Orlando Hudson did the same on an RBI single, and it was 2-0. Then young Tim Federowicz made a bad throw, allowing Venable to score for the 3-0 lead.

The Dodgers never got anything going after that. Kemp did send a long fly ball to deep center in the sixth, but it came up just short. A leadoff single by Dee Gordon in the ninth off of Heath Bell gave a glimmer of hope, but Kemp grounded into a double play to put this one in the books. It was that kind of night for the boys in blue.

Billingsley sailed threw the first four innings, giving up only a couple of walks, and one hit (in which Jeremy Hermida was gunned out by Jerry Sands at third trying to stretch a double). Then the fifth inning came, and it was time for his annual "hit a wall" inning. Three singles, one walk, and one hit batsmen gave the Padres three runs. True, the last run wasn't his fault, but he still unraveled with two outs.

Overall, Billingsley went five innings for four hits, three runs (two earned), three walks, and three strikeouts. He dropped his record to 11-11 in his final start of the season. He also set a career-high for ERA at 4.21, and his WHIP jumped from a solid 1.28 last year to a sky high 1.45 this year.

Needless to say, it was a disappointing year for him. He ended last year on such a high note, posting a 3.52 ERA in August and 3.06 in September. But after ending the month of May with a 3.46 ERA, he seemed to fall apart. One start he'd show some promise, then he'd follow that up with stinkers.

We hear all the time about how good he could be, but maybe it's time we face reality that he's just an average starting pitcher. He's just way too inconsistent to be counted on anything more than that. Yes, I realize he was an All-Star in 2009, but he even stunk at the end of that year. He is what he is, and that's a low-end rotation guy and nothing more.

As for Kemp, he'll have to really turn it on the last five games to win the batting title. The problem isn't so much that he only had one hit, it's more that he has to count on great hitters like Braun and Reyes to go o'fer, and that's just so hard to fathom. Those guys are just too good. But Kemp has already proven how hot he can get, so there's still a chance the Triple Crown could happen. Just keep the faith.

With the Diamondbacks having already wrapped up the NL West (and congratulations to them for doing so), Don Mattingly will keep Clayton Kershaw on schedule and have him start on his regular rest Sunday. You see, had the Giants still been alive, Mattingly would've saved Kershaw until Monday against the Diamondbacks in the interest of competition. And rightfully so.

Much like Kemp is chasing the offensive Triple Crown, Kershaw has a great chance at winning the pitching version's. He leads in ERA at 2.27 and strikeouts at 242. The next closest in those categories is Cliff Lee at 2.38 and 232, and he'll make his final start of the season on Monday in preparation for the NLDS. Ian Kennedy has 21 wins after winning on Saturday, and Kershaw is at 20 with one start to go.

So, Kershaw can put the finishing touches on his Cy Young push with another good start on Sunday. He definitely has momentum on his side, as he's 7-0 in his last eight starts, with his last "bad" start on August 7 in Arizona (4 runs in 6 1/3 innings). He'll be matched up against Cory Luebke.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Lilly and Kemp dominate the Padres

Matt Kemp had only one hit on Friday night against the Padres, but he made it count with a solo homer to keep his Triple Crown hopes alive. Combine that with over six fantastic innings from Ted Lilly, and the Dodgers shut down the Padres, 2-0.

The Dodgers are now 79-77, and are two games over the .500 mark for the first time since... April 11! Holy crap! Winning 22 of the last 30 games may be too little too late, but it's sure been refreshing to watch after struggles for most of the season.

Somewhat lost in all of this Kemp hype has been the emergence of young Jerry Sands, who found himself hitting in the cleanup spot thanks to a 10-game hitting streak. He made that 11 as he doubled leading off the second. Trent Oeltjen nearly beat out a bunt, but was still plenty good enough to sacrifice Sands to third with an out. Russ Mitchell started at first, and his RBI groundout made it 1-0.

That score held up all the way until the seventh when Kemp did his work. At this point, he was 0-for-2 with a strikeout and a flyout. He changed all of that with one mighty swing, hitting a 426 foot shot to right center for the 2-0 lead. With Albert Pujols going homerless on the night, Kemp is now tied with him for the NL's lead at 37.

Lilly was barely threatened all night. In the third, he walked Andy Parrino and Cameron "Tiki" Maybin, but got around it. After giving up a leadoff double to Aaron Cunningham and a groundout to Alberto Gonzalez in the seventh, Mike MacDougal relieved to pitch to Kyle Blanks. It worked, as Blanks grounded to third, and Justin Sellers got Cunningham in a rundown. Jeremy Hermida walked, but Maybin K'd to end the inning.

The bullpen took over from there, as the Kenley Jansen-Javy Guerra combination was practically untouchable. Jansen struck out the side in the eighth to improve his ERA since returning from injury in June to a minuscule 0.61. He also has 56 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings pitched. Filthy, just plain filthy. He's credited a new Mariano Rivera-like cutter for his success.

Guerra got a groundout, popup, and struck out Gonzalez to end the game. He recorded his 20th save in 21 chances, which is awesome considering he made his first appearance on May 15. Also, his ERA went down from 2.27 at the start of September to 2.01 currently.

Unfortunately, for all that went right in this game, there's the story of poor Eugenio Valez. As if his season hasn't been bad enough, he now is tied in the record books for futility at the plate by going hitless in his last 45 at-bats with three other men, including Craig Counsell this season. It's gotten so bad, it's almost uncomfortable watching him flail away.

I feel just awful for the guy. But I honestly do think that Don Mattingly should keep starting him until he gets that hit. I just can't even imagine going hitless for the entire season. There's five games left in the season, which means around 20 at-bats. If that's what it takes to get this poor guy one damn hit, then do it.

Lilly quietly put in another great performance, putting 6 1/3 innings for four hits, no runs, two walks, and seven strikeouts. I saw a great stat on him after the game: in his last 11 starts, he's put together a 2.42 ERA and .174 batting average against, good for tops in the majors. That's awesome, especially considering how hittable he was for much of the start of the season. He's gone 4-1 in his last six starts.

In looking at Kemp's Triple Crown race, Ryan Braun also went 1-for-4 with a homer, which actually lowered his batting average a point to .329. Jose Reyes was rained out against the Phillies, so those two are tied for the lead with .329, and Kemp is at .326. Another RBI by Kemp increased his lead by one to 119.

It's a fun race to keep track of, but here's an interesting fact that people are probably forgetting about: the Dodgers will only play in 161 games this year. They were rained out in Washington on September 7, and they tried to play two the next day, but only got in one. Wouldn't it be crazy if Kemp lost out on the Triple Crown by the smallest of margins, and playing one more game could've made the difference? I'm sure Major League Baseball wouldn't like that scenario to play out.

Nonetheless, Kemp and the Dodgers will look to take full advantage of the five games they have left, as Chad Billingsley takes the mound on Saturday. He'll go against Aaron Harang, who has a 3.29 ERA at home in 16 starts.

Friday, September 23, 2011

On Tommy's birthday, Kemp puts on a show

Tommy Lasorda probably wishes this Matt Kemp guy was around when he was managing.

Kemp helped the Dodgers close out the home season in style, hitting a homer and three doubles, as the Dodgers beat the Giants, 8-2. The win gave the Dodgers two of three, and even sweeter, helped push the Giants on the edge of playoff elimination. Yes, it was a good night.

With Lasorda serving as Don Mattingly's honorary coach, Hiroki Kuroda took the mound for what very well could be his last time in front of the home crowd. He got a couple of grounders to begin, but then watched Carlos Beltran laser one out to center to give the Giants a 1-0 lead.

No matter, as the Dodgers took the lead for good in the bottom of the frame. It all started with Kemp, who hit the first of his career-high three doubles with two outs. Juan Rivera stepped in and absolutely crushed a no-doubter to left to make it 2-1. It was his fifth as a Dodger.

In the third, Dee Gordon and Jerry Sands hit consecutive singles to open up the inning. The only blemish on Kemp's night was a long fly to right that was just tracked down by Beltran for the first out. With Gordon on third, Rivera hit one back up the middle for the RBI single and 3-1 advantage.

The Dodgers kept the pressure on against Madison Bumgarner as Kuroda settled in. Rod Barajas singled with one down in the fourth. An out later, Kuroda did damage with his stick, singling for two on. An RBI single by Gordon later, and it was 4-1.

With Steve Edlefsen now in, the Dodgers increased their lead even more in the fifth. It was Kemp who started it with his second double. Two straight walks an out later to Aaron Miles and James Loney loaded the bases. Waldis Joaquin came in, and Barajas also took a walk to force in a run. Jamey Carroll's RBI grounder gave the Dodgers a commanding 6-1 lead.

The rest of the game was gravy, as it was all about what else Kemp could do. After Pablo Sandoval hit a homer in the seventh to make it 6-2, Kemp returned the favor, and then some, in the eighth. With Gordon on base from a walk, Kemp smashed one to center for his 36th of the season, ending the scoring at 8-2.

Kemp received a curtain call that he most assuredly deserved, as the home crowd paid their proper respects to the MVP candidate. Scott Elbert struck out Hector Sanchez to end the game.

Before getting to Kemp's bloated numbers, Kuroda deserves plenty of respect as well. He added to his career-high total by winning his 13th. He lasted seven innings for five hits, two runs, no walks, and four strikeouts. His only two runs were on solo homers. With a 3.17 ERA, Dodger fans can only hope he'll be back for even more next year.

Because of Kemp's 4-for-5 outburst, a realistic question can now be raised: Can he win the vaunted Triple Crown? Well, it may not be so unrealistic after all. He's third in average at .326 to Ryan Braun's .330, second in homers at 36 to Albert Pujols's 37, and first in RBIs with 118, five in front of Ryan Howard. And with the Phillies wrapping up a postseason berth in April (seems like it anyway), Howard's been resting his sore ankle.

It's obviously a very difficult accomplish to pull off, but if anybody is up for it, it's Kemp. His average on September 15 was .314, and it's now .326. He needed to get on a homer role again, and he has with three since then. He also drove in eight runs. In other words, just when you thought he didn't have much gas left in the tank, he refuels and looks even better.

So what needs to happen over the last six games to make this thing happen? For starters, he can't go all or nothing with his at-bats by thinking about only homers. His average will dip a bit if he does that. He'll get his homers if he relaxes and swings like he has been the last week.

Of course, he'll also need some help from Braun and Pujols, as a few hitless games from them can go a long way.

If the tentative pitching matchups don't change, then Kemp get a nice little boost by avoiding Ian Kennedy. The toughest pitchers he'll face look to be Aaron Harang and Daniel Hudson, who are solid, if not spectacular hurlers.

The home schedule has concluded with the Dodgers at 42-39. They will now hit the road for the season's last six games, as they look to also get over the .500 mark with a current 36-38 record. Ted Lilly will take the mound against Wade LeBlanc.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Kemp does work, but Eveland doesn't

Matt Kemp did his best to put the Dodgers on his back on Wednesday night, hitting a three-run homer and scoring a couple of runs.

Dana Eveland, on the other hand, came crashing back to Earth.

Eveland suffered his second straight sub-par performance, getting knocked around in only four innings, as the Dodgers lost to the Giants, 8-5. The Dodgers continued their yo-yo of going above .500, back to .500, and below .500. For now, it's all even after 154 games.

The Giants didn't waste anytime in thanking the Lord that Clayton Kershaw wasn't on the mound again, as they came out swinging in the first. Justin Christian led off and singled. Jeff Keppinger grounded into a double play, and it looked like an easy inning for Eveland. But, Carlos Beltran doubled and Brett Pill hit an RBI single to make it 1-0.

Eveland then became his own worst enemy, as he issued two straight walks to Brandon Belt and Mark DeRosa to load the bases. Mike Fontenot delivered on a two-run single, and the Giants were up 3-0.

The Dodgers put a couple men on in each of the first couple of innings, but came away with blanks. The Giants made them pay for that by increasing the lead to 5-0 in the fourth. DeRosa singled to start, Chris Stewart walked with an out, and both men advanced to scoring position on Ryan Vogelsong's sacrifice. Christian against came through, as his two-run double gave the Giants a big lead.

After again wasting a couple of singles in the fourth, the Dodgers finally got something going in the fifth. Eugenio Valez still doesn't have a hit, but he was beaned leading off. Dee Gordon singled to put two on, and Jamey Carroll hit an RBI single to make it 5-1. Kemp then deposited one into deep center for a three-run shot, and just like that, it was now 5-4.

The bullpen couldn't hold the Giants' offense down, as Josh Lindblom pitched the sixth. DeRosa led off with a single, but the next two batters were retired in order. The two-out bug struck the Dodgers again, as Conor Gillaspie walked, and that darn Christian had another big at-bat with an RBI single, and it was 6-4.

In the seventh, the Giants pretty much put the game away. This time it was Hong-Chih Kuo in, and he again got roughed up to add to his miserable season. Andres Torres walked leading off, and scored on Pill's RBI double. Pill then went to third on Belt's fly ball, and was plated on DeRosa's sac-fly RBI off of Matt Guerrier, making it 8-4.

The Dodgers did get a little two-out rally in the ninth, as Kemp singled and Juan Rivera walked against Santiago Casilla. Brian Wilson was then summoned, and James Loney greeted him with an RBI single to make it 8-5. Aaron Miles flew out to end the game.

At this point of the year, the Dodgers really have three goals: finish above .500, get Kershaw the Cy Young, and get Kemp the MVP. Well, they're at 77-77, Kershaw has vaulted into the lead position for the Cy, and Kemp had another big night to add to his MVP push.

In looking at the big three stats, Kemp is third in average (.322), second in home runs (35), and first in RBIs (116). Plus, he's first in runs (108), third in hits (184), second in steals (40), and second in OPS (.969). Just like his teammate is doing on the mound, those are some awesome stats.

Will Kemp actually get the MVP? Right now, Ryan Braun seems to be the frontrunner, as his unbelievable August and September have not only catapulted him into the MVP lead, but the Brewers on the verge of a playoff berth. Unfortunately for Kemp, the Dodgers haven't been anywhere close to the playoff race all season, which may hurt him in the end.

As for Eveland, he's started to look more like the erratic pitcher who's already playing on his sixth team since 2005. In this one, he went four innings for six hits, five runs, three walks, and one strikeout. His ERA two starts ago was 0.60. Now? 3.75. Um, not good.

Eveland was bad, but Kuo was even worse, giving up two runs and only getting one out. There's not a whole different to say about him at this point. He just continues to completely stink up the joint with a 9.72 ERA and 1.84 WHIP. How many other pitchers out there would even be sent to the mound with those numbers? He's obviously pitching just on past performances, as he looks like he has no business being out there. What a shame that is.

The Dodgers will finish up their home schedule on Thursday night. Win or lose, they'll finish over .500 at home with a current 41-39 record. Hiroki Kuroda will make his last start, possibly for good in front of the home crowd, looking for his 13th win.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kershaw downs Lincecum for win #20

Clayton Kershaw reached the magical 20-win plateau on Tuesday night, becoming the first Dodger to do so since Ramon Martinez in 1990.

What may be even more impressive, however, has been Kershaw's repeated dominance over Tim Lincecum and the Giants all this season.

Kershaw upped his record to 5-0 against the defending World Series champions this year, including 4-0 against the two-time Cy Young Award winner, as the Dodgers beat the Giants, 2-1. It was your latest example why Kershaw should clearly be the front runner for this year's Cy Young Award.

The Giants actually put a couple runners on to start the game: one on an error by Aaron Miles to allow Andres Torres to reach, the other on a bloop single by Carlos Beltran. But, they were their own worst enemy, as Torres was gunned trying to steal second, and Beltran was picked off of first by Kershaw.

Knowing runs would once again be at a premium with these two flamethrowers on the mound, the Dodgers were able to put some pressure on right away. With two outs in the first, Matt Kemp and Juan Rivera hit hard singles. James Loney lined one right back up the middle for an RBI single and a 1-0 lead.

The next inning, the Dodgers again got a run. Jerry Sands led off and crushed a solo shot in to deep left, making it 2-0. It was the fourth of the season for him, who's clearly settled in at the plate. In 12 September games, he's hitting .386 with a .460 OBP, along with two homers and five RBIs.

A 2-0 lead in a game like this may as well have seemed like a 10-run lead, as Kershaw got locked in. Even when he'd allow hits, they'd get stranded. In the third, Justin Christian hit a leadoff double, stole third with one out, but couldn't score. Two singles were hit in the fifth, but Christian was the latest to get erased on the bases to squash a threat.

After mowing down the Giants in order during the sixth and seventh, Kershaw got Christian flying out to start the eighth. But, Chris Stewart came out of nowhere and hit a solo home run, cutting the lead to 2-1. Kershaw has pitched five complete games this year, but he clearly ran out of gas by walking Pat Burrell and Torres.

If there's another pitcher who's been just as impressive as Kershaw, it's Kenley Jansen, who's been absolutely on fire since returning from injury on June 18. The Giants were still clinging onto their slim playoff hopes, and sent Pablo Sandoval and Beltran, the heart of the order, up to the plate.

The result? Two strikeouts from Jansen, preserving Kershaw's chance at his 20th win.

Javy Guerra has also played a huge role as the season rolled on, and he was summoned to close it out. However, he immediately threw one away to allow Mark DeRosa to reach on an error. No matter, as Brett Pill flew out and Aubrey Huff grounded into a double play to end it. It was Guerra's 19th save.

The story was once again Kershaw, who was making his final home start of the season. He lasted 7 1/3 innings for six hits, one run, two walks, and six strikeouts. Jansen was huge in getting the last couple of outs in the eighth, and Guerra in closing it out.

It's been fun to look at Kershaw's stats, especially as the year has worn on and winning a Cy Young has become more and more realistic. His 2.27 ERA, 242 strikeouts, and .208 BAA are tops in the National League, and his 20 wins are tied for the lead with Ian Kennedy. He's also right near the top in complete games (six), shutouts (two), and WHIP (0.99).

For good measure, he also leads the NL with eight pickoffs. Hey, why not? Everything else has gone right.

As if Kershaw's stats aren't reason enough to give him the award, his last start of the year is scheduled to be Sunday against the feeble Padres. To put in perspective just how bad the Padres are at the plate, they're dead last in the National League in average, slugging, hits, and home runs. In other words, it's pretty much the perfect matchup to improve on his stats even more.

Even if Kershaw is just so-so, there's no way he can be denied winning the Cy Young this year. On a team that has struggled all year, he has given them a huge advantage every fifth day, no matter what team the Dodgers are playing. He's just that good. And his numbers more than reflect his dominance.

The Dodgers are down to two home games remaining on the season, and they will continue to try and spoil the postseason hopes of the Giants. Dana Eveland came back to Earth a bit in his last start, as the Pirates handed him his first loss. He'll look to bounce back against Ryan Vogelsong.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Red hot Loney flexes more muscle

Ted Lilly needed one more good start to reach double digits for the ninth straight season. James Loney made sure he did just that.

Loney homered for the second straight night, Kemp reached 100 runs and 40 steals, and the Dodgers slapped around the Pirates, 6-1. The Dodgers have taken two of the first three with one game to go.

After Lilly got the Pirates in order with a couple of strikeouts to start the game, the offense went to work. Dee Gordon singled leading off, but was quickly erased on the bases. Justin Sellers drew a walk, and an out later, Juan Rivera singled. Loney gave the Dodgers an early 3-0 lead with a three-run shot to right, his 11th of the season.

The Pirates scored their only run of the night in the second. Lilly issued two straight walks to Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick to open it up. A flyout by Brandon Wood got Lee to third, and Josh Harrison delivered an RBI double to make it 3-1.

That was as close as the Pirates would get, as the Dodgers played longball again in the third. Kemp started it off with a single. Rivera then smacked a two-run shot, and it was now 5-1. It was Rivera's 10th homer of the season, and fourth with the Dodgers. It all gave Kemp a nice, round 100 runs.

The young guns got into the act in the fifth to close out the scoring. Well, old man Aaron Miles was the first to reach on an error by Wood at third. Sands then singled for two on. Tim Federowicz, acquired at the trade deadline for prospect Trayvon Robinson, had his big league moment with an RBI single to make it 6-1.

Once Lilly exited after seven innings, Nathan Eovaldi struggled in the eighth. The Pirates loaded the bases on singles by Chase d'Arnaud and Andrew McCutchen, and a plunking of Lee, all with one out. Out went Eovaldi, who's clearly struggling after transitioning to the bullpen, and in came Kenley Jansen. Two strikeouts of Ludwick and Garrett Jones later, the threat was over.

Mike MacDougal pitched the ninth, and despite allowing a couple of runners, didn't allow a run.

There were plenty of positive happenings in this game. Lilly went seven innings for four hits, one run, two walks, and seven strikeouts. He went through a horrendous couple of months in June and July, but posted a 2.35 ERA in August and 3.12 in September. His ERA has gone down from 5.02 to 4.27 in the process.

In addition to Kemp getting that one more run and steal, a couple more hits raised his average to .317. For MVP purposes, I'm sure he'd like to bump that up to .320, as well as up his homers from 33 to 35. He could go o'fer the rest of the season and still have awesome numbers, but a late push for those voters would be huge.

Rivera continues to quietly be a good addition. He's now played in 53 games for the Dodgers and is hitting .283 with four homers and 37 RBIs. I'm sure he'd like to have a little more power than that, but I didn't expect him to even hit that high, especially since he was hitting .243 for the Blue Jays before coming over. Still, he's a decent power threat for a team that needs power, so I can see him being brought back next season.

Finally, there's Loney, who has put the game away for the second straight night with a three-run jack. The knock on him his whole career has been a strange lack of power, especially for a tall guy with a seemingly good swing. His defense has always been sharp, to his credit. I'm not sure anyone will ever be able to figure him out, as he either appears red hot or ice cold at a moment's notice.

With the organization in such a mess right now, it's hard to see someone like Prince Fielder being signed to a huge deal in the offseason to play first base. So, after looking like absolute garbage for much of the season, Loney could realistically be resigned again for next year.

The Dodgers finish their set against the Pirates with an afternoon game on Sunday. Chad Billingsley will look to get over the .500 mark with his 11th win.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Loney puts the game away

With the Dodgers in the middle of a youth movement during their four-game set against the Pirates, James Loney found himself getting the night off.

That is until he pinch-hit in the sixth and put the game out of reach.

Loney's three-run blast backed up Hiroki Kuroda's solid effort, and the Dodgers beat the Pirates, 7-2. The Giants have run off six straight wins, so it looks like the Dodgers will have to settle for third place in the NL West, as they have a four-game edge over the Rockies.

Kuroda was making the start despite a stiff neck, though an MRI showed no new damage. The Pirates got to him in the second. Garrett Jones led off the inning with a single. An out later, Pedro Alvarez took a walk. Ronny Cedeno then grounded one that should have been a double play, but after getting the out at second, Dee Gordon's throw sailed past first, as Jones scored to make it 1-0.

The Dodgers battled right back in the bottom of the frame. Jerry Sands doubled to start things off. Rod Barajas followed with his own double, and just like that, it was 1-1.

Gordon began to atone for his error with a leadoff single in the third. Sellers walked to set things up for the mighty Matt Kemp, who delivered his 111th RBI on a single. With Sellers at third, Juan Rivera's RBI fielder's choice put the Dodgers up 3-1. Believe it or not, big man Rivera actually stole second but was stranded.

Clinging to a two-run lead, Kuroda had a scare in the sixth. Alex Presley led off the inning with a long solo shot to right, and it was 3-2. Neil Walker and Ryan Doumit then hit consecutive singles to start a threat. Kuroda, however, relaxed, and got two popups and a strikeout to escape with the lead.

The Dodgers put the game on ice in the bottom of the sixth. Russ Mitchell started at first, and he singled with one out. Jamey Carroll also singled, and Aaron Miles did as well pinch-hitting for Kuroda. Gordon then hit a slow roller that forced Miles at second, but easily scored Mitchell to make it 4-2.

Don Mattingly then went for the knockout blow by sending up Loney in Sellers's spot. It worked, as after Gordon stole his 18th base to leave first base open, Loney still got to swing with Kemp lurking on deck. On a fastball, Loney cranked one to right that hit the top of the wall and out for three-run blast, and it was 7-2.

The bullpen took care of things from there. Hong-Chih Kuo looked like his old self (for a change) with two strikeouts and a groundout in the seventh. Scott Elbert worked the eighth with ease. Matt Guerrier worked around a rare error by Kemp on a liner and a passed ball by Barajas to finish the game off.

The win gives Kuroda a career-high of 12. It's hard to believe he's never had more than that despite an ERA that's never been above 3.76 on the season. But, that's a result of some poor run support along the way. With a career 3.49 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, he's more than proven his worth. In this one, he lasted six innings for five hits, two runs (one earned), two walks, and seven strikeouts.

To continue Kemp's MVP watch, he was 2-for-4 with an RBI. He's stuck on 99 runs and 39 stolen bases, so one more of each of those would look a little better. He also has 33 homers, so tacking on a couple more there will only help his cause. With 12 games left, there's no doubt he has a great chance at getting all of the above accomplished.

Loney was absolutely on fire in August, hitting .367 with a 1.066 OPS. He slowed down some this month, but Friday night's blast again showed what he's capable of. I'm not sure what's going on with him, but something clicked in his head. The question now is, Will he be back next year with this resurgence? To his credit, he's making that decision tougher and tougher.

The Dodgers have two more games this weekend before getting their first scheduled day off since August 25, though they did get rained out in Washington on September 7. Ted Lilly will look to get in the double digits by taking the mound on Saturday.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Kershaw gets the win... and the boot

Clayton Kershaw did it all on Wednesday night. He allowed only hit in five scoreless innings. He won his 19th game. Heck, he even laid down a sacrifice bunt.

He also got ejected in a crazy sixth inning.

Luckily for him and the Dodgers, they were able to hold on to beat the Diamondbacks, 3-2. After dropping the first couple of games, the Dodgers got one back and are now two games under .500.

After Kershaw got through the first on only nine pitches, the Dodgers sent seven batters to the plate for a couple of runs. Dee Gordon singled leading off, and Tony Gwynn beat out a bunt for two on. Gordon showed his youth (that is, made a boneheaded decision) by trying to swipe third with Kemp up and got nailed. Actually, he sure looked safe to me, but that's not how the call went, so it was a dumb move.

Gwynn took second on the play, and he hustled around to just beat the throw home on Kemp's single to make it 1-0. Kemp then went to third on James Loney's grounder, and Aaron Miles walked to keep the inning going. Jerry Sands hit an RBI single off shortstop Willie Bloomquist, and it was 2-0.

Kershaw looked to be well on his way to another gem, possibly the complete game version considering he was only at 63 pitches when he got tossed. The trouble actually stemmed from the night before when Gerardo Parra admired his home run off of Hong-Chih Kuo. Kershaw didn't like that and yelled at him from the dugout. Who's the only person to get a hit off him in this one? That's right, Parra, on a double in the third.

So with Parra getting plunked to start the sixth, you had to wonder if something would happen. It did, as Kershaw was immediately run from the game. The pitch hit Parra's elbow, which was close to the plate, so it wasn't the traditional beaning of the back. Still, as is usually the case these days, umpires don't mess around with this stuff and opt for the ejections.

Josh Lindblom relieved and struck out the side to keep the Dodgers on top. He then gathered a couple more strikeouts in the seventh for an impressive two innings. Let's hope he can keep that up.

With Javy Guerra taking the night off after taking the loss on Tuesday, that also bumped Kenley Jansen from the setup role to the closer spot, and Don Mattingly had a decision to make. Nathan Eovaldi was given the ball in the eighth, and it didn't start off well as Ryan Roberts doubled. Smug little Parra then lifted a long fly ball to right that almost went out, but was caught by Sands. Geoff Blum got a run in on a groundout, and it was now 2-1.

The Dodgers responded off of Ryan Cook, who was relieving Daniel Hudson. Kemp took a walk with one out, then got his 39th stolen base. Loney also drew a walk. Aaron Miles came through with an RBI single to go up 3-1 and grab that important insurance run.

It's a good thing Miles did get that hit, because Jansen gave one back in the ninth before closing it out. Aaron Hill singled leading off, and after advancing to second a couple outs later, scored on Miguel Montero's RBI single. Chris Young struck out to end the game and give Jansen his fourth save.

It's a shame Kershaw didn't get a chance to finish what he started, but Lindblom more than picked him up. With five shutout innings, Kershaw's stats are even filthier: 19-5, 2.30 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 236 K's in 218 2/3 innings. In addition to leading the National League in strikeouts, he's 0.01 ahead of Johnny Cueto for the ERA lead, and tied with Ian Kennedy for tops in wins.

Call me biased, but I'm pretty sure those numbers alone are Cy Young worthy.

There's now 13 games left in the season, and the Dodgers will face the Pirates for four, then Giants for three, then hit the road to play the Padres and DBacks for three each. Mattingly has already stated that in the upcoming Pirates series, he will play the young guns. So look for lineups that include Gordon, Sands, Justin Sellers, Russ Mitchell, Trent Oeltjen, and even Tim Federowicz. Not sure how that'll play out, but the Pirates are back to sucking again, so maybe it'll be fine.

Dana Eveland has been fantastic in his only two starts, and he'll look to improve to 3-0 on Thursday.