Saturday, April 30, 2011

Gwynn saves bumbling Broxton

If there was such a thing as saves for outfielders, Tony Gwynn would have earned one Friday night.

With the tying run on second and a sharp fly ball hit to left by Nick Hundley, Gwynn made a fantastic diving catch to end the game and seal a win for the Dodgers over the Padres, 3-2. The catch saved more embarrassment from Broxton, who fell apart after getting two outs to open the inning.

The Dodgers got going right away in the first. Jamey Carroll hit leadoff and doubled. Jerry Sands was given his first start in the #2 hole and grounded out, but Carroll went to third. Another groundout by Andre Ethier scored him, and it was 1-0.

Ted Lilly had a great night on the mound, and his only blemish was in the third. Chase Headley doubled to open the inning. Lilly then got called for a balk, so over to third went Headley. Another double by Hundley tied the game at 1.

The Dodgers played longball to open up a two-run lead. First came one by Juan Uribe, who was making his first start since April 22 because of a thigh injury, in the fourth. Looking to get a bigger lead later in the game, Matt Kemp delivered with a solo shot in the seventh, his sixth, making it 3-1.

Now came another tough decision from Don Mattingly in who he would use out of the bullpen. Vicente Padilla has only appeared in three games since coming back from injury, but he was still given the ball to get through the eighth. Padilla got into a little bit of trouble with two walks, but a strikeout and double play ball killed the threat.

So now it was up to Mr. Broxton, who was once again trusted by his manager to get the job done. Once again he started off fine, as Ryan Ludwick struck out and Jorge Cantu grounded out.

And once again, the second one little thing went wrong, everything got all messed up.

Well, it almost got all messed up if it wasn't for Gwynn. With two down, Will Venable singled, and after taking second on fielder's indifference, scored on Orlando Hudson's RBI single. Headley also singled to put runners on the corners. Gwynn was inserted into the game as a pinch-hitter in the eighth, and Mattingly's decision to put him into left turned out to be perfect.

Yes, it was a save for Broxton. Yes, I realize he is 6-for-7 in save opportunities. And yes, I fully realize that even the best closers have rough spots, such as Mariano Rivera's two recent blown saves. But I don't care what the stats say, Broxton should not be the lone closer. Mattingly needs to give the ball to other guys at the end of the game. To say that Broxton is still the full-time closer is just blowing smoke at this point. It's not working, plain and simple.

As Padilla gets back into form, he should earn the chance to close games out. Hopefully Hong-Chih Kuo will return to form when he's back, so there's another arm. If Kenley Jansen can gain more consistency, there's another option. All of those guys would be better than Broxton at this. Enough is enough!

But enough about him. Congrats once again go out to Ethier for extending his hitting streak to 25 games with a fifth inning double. The only game he hasn't hit in was April 1, the second game of the season. He's as hot now as he was to start last season.

Kemp's homer ended up being the difference. Just like Ethier, he has really stepped up in big spots this year for a team that doesn't have much power. He's been striking out more lately, but when he has hit, they've made a difference.

Lilly was very sharp. He ended up going six innings for five hits, one run, one walk, and four strikeouts. He looked a whole lot better than his last start against the Cubs. Matt Guerrier pitched scoreless seventh.

Saturday night's start will see Hiroki Kuroda take the mound. Four out of his five starts have been good, so he'll be looking to get his fourth win.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

There's no stopping Andre the Giant

Andre Ethier set a record yesterday. Today he added more heroics.

Ethier led off the 10th inning and cranked a homer off of the previously untouchable Brian Sanches, and Vicente Padilla slammed the door shut as the Dodgers took down the Marlins in 10, 5-4. The win avoids a sweep and gives the Dodgers and even 3-3 record on their road trip.

The Marlins had every reason to think they would get this one, as the game started at 9 A.M. Pacific time. Plus the fact that they went up 4-0 and had a guy who threw a one-hitter on the mound, things were looking up.

Chad Billingsley got through the top of the order with ease in the first, but ran into plenty of trouble in the second. With one out, Mike Stanton singled. Next came two straight singles to load the bases by Greg Dobbs and Emilio Bonafacio. Brett Haynes got one in with an RBI single to make it 1-0. Billingsley got Anibal Sanchez swinging, but couldn't escape the inning when Chris Coghlan, that damn little Dodger killer, stroked a three-run double to make it 4-0.

The Dodgers needed someone to step up if they wanted any chance to win, and it happened in the fourth. Ethier extended his hitting streak to 24 straight games with a single with one out. Matt Kemp struck out, but James Loney singled to set it up for Rod Barajas. Barajas was resigned for his power, and it showed with a huge three-run homer, and it was now 4-3.

Still needing another boost to at least tie the game, Juan Uribe came through despite still not being in the starting lineup with a sore thigh. Aaron Miles started the seventh with a single, and he went to second on Ivan DeJesus's sacrifice bunt. Miles was then handed third base via a a balk. Uribe pinch-hit for Billingsley and delivered a big RBI double to tie the game at 4.

From there, both teams had plenty of chances to end the game in regulation, but couldn't get that one more big hit. For the Dodgers, it came in the eighth. Kemp, Loney, and Miles all walked to load the bases with one down. Edward Mujica came into pitch to DeJesus, and it worked with a double play ball to end the threat.

Matt Guerrier found himself in a bad situation in the ninth. He immediately gave up to singles to Dobbs and Bonafacio, with the latter reaching on a bunt. Hayes sacrificed them both over to scoring position, and it wasn't looking good. But Guerrier stepped up by striking out Scott Cousins and getting John Buck grounding out.

The good vibes carried right over into the 10th, as the Dodgers took the lead for good on Ethier's third longball of the season. His 2-for-5 day puts his average at .380, which is slightly above Kemp's .378. Two All-Star starters? It's got to happen if this keeps up.

As if Ethier's day wasn't good enough, perhaps an even greater sight came in the bottom of the 10th. Needing to protect the one-run lead, Padilla was given the ball, not Jonathan Broxton. It worked, as Padilla set the Marlins down in order for his third career save, and first of the season.

The official reason given by the Dodgers was that Broxton had a sore elbow, so he was unavailable. Not that I'm doubting people when they say they're hurt, but I have to think Padilla would have been given a chance regardless. I think it only makes since considering Broxton is still on shaky ground.

The Dodgers deserve all sorts of credit for getting a win in this one. They could've easily rolled over and played dead after being down by four, but they didn't let that happen. Games like this give me plenty of hope that they can hang around and contend.

Of course, the flip side is that they could just as easily have won two of three if not for Monday's letdown. Then again, maybe both teams can claim they're even now after blowing leads they had every chance to hold onto.

Thursday will be a day off as the Dodgers travel back home. Friday they will welcome the Padres for three. Ted Lilly only has one good start out of five, so he will look to get going.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

6th inning woes cost Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw found himself locked in a battle with Chris Volstad of the Marlins through five innings of Tuesday night's ballgame in Florida.

Then the sixth inning came, and Wild Kershaw made his return.

After looking sharp through the first five innings, including five strikeouts, Kershaw was all over the place in the sixth. Three singles and two walks later, the Marlins broke a 2-2 tie with two runs, and that score would hold up as they won, 4-2. The Dodgers have dropped two straight in this three-game set.

A day after such a disappointing loss, the offense went to work right away in the first. Aaron Miles again hit leadoff and singled, and soon advanced to second on a passed ball. Andre Ethier collected a hit in his 23rd straight game with an RBI double, and it was 1-0.

For Ethier, the hit was historic. He now has the record all to himself for consecutive hits in April. And here's the kicker - he broke a tie with Joe Torre! Talk about strange. Congrats to Andre on the impressive streak.

Down by a run, Gabby Sanchez led off the bottom of the second with a solo homer, his third of the season.

The Dodgers got that run back in the fourth. With one out, Jerry Sands stroked a double. James Loney singled to left, all part of his 4-for-4 night to raise his average from .170 to .204, and Sands went to third. Rod Barajas did his job by producing a fly ball for an RBI, and it was 2-1.

Another lousy play with the gloves, ala the night before, resulted in the Fish tying the game again in the fourth. Hanley Ramirez singled with one out. Sanchez then hit a grounder to third in which Miles recorded the out at first. Ramirez kept running, so Loney tried to throw him out at third, which was a smart play... right up until Miles let the ball sail by to score Ramirez. The error was given to Loney, but from where I was sitting, it sure looked like a catchable ball.

The sixth inning is where it all came apart for Kershaw and the Dodgers. It started with that pesky Chris Coghlan, who just torched the Dodgers the previous night. He singled leading off, and soon went to third an out later on Ramirez's single. Sanchez then took a walk to load the bases. Kershaw couldn't make the big pitches to end the inning, as Matt Stanton's two-run single with two strikes gave the Marlins the lead for good at 4-2.

The final three inning brought exactly one baserunner for the Dodgers - Loney's single in the ninth. The bullpen of Randy Choate, Clay Hensley, and Leo Nunez emphatically shut the door the final three innings of this one. Nunez now has seven saves.

Kershaw finished with 5 1/3 innings for six hits, four runs, two walks, and five strikeouts. He seems to have settled into a pattern of a great start followed by a so-so one. He's certainly not getting shelled, but the next step for him is to put together consecutive quality outings. He'll get there soon.

Mike MacDougal continues to impress out of the 'pen. He has now only given up one earned run in nine innings of relief. Everyone knew he could throw hard, but his command was the issue. Well, he does have five walks, but he's getting the big outs when needed. It's good to see him getting the job done.

Kenley Jansen was also impressive, as he pitched two scoreless innings with three strikeouts. Unfortunately for him, he has two horrific outings that have completely ballooned his ERA up to 8.03. But, outings like this are what he needs to get back on track, and he looks like he's doing that.

You can't blame the Dodgers for having a case of tired legs, and that looked to be the case at times tonight. Matt Kemp was 0-for-4, and Ethier was hitless after the first. The Dodgers have played 19 straight days, and the Marlins are quietly one of the best teams in the majors with a 15-7 record. That's why blowing last night's game was so tough - it was a chance to hang a loss on a good team. But it is what it is.

Wednesday's game will be a noon start, as Chad Billingsley takes on Anibal Sanchez. Sanchez is coming off a start in which he was three outs away from a no-hitter. After 20 straight days of baseball, the Dodgers will mercifully get a day off on Thursday before a weekend set against the Padres starting Friday.

More Broxton drama

Was there every any doubt?

Up 4-3 and looking for the save in the ninth, Jonathan Broxton did was he does best: blow it again. Without getting any support from the gloves behind him, the Marlins rallied late to take the victory, 5-4. It was Broxton's first blown save of the season after five straight saves to open the year.

Before the late-inning meltdown, the Dodgers battled back from deficits twice. Jon Garland got the start, and Chris Coghlan opened the scoring by hitting a solo homer with two outs in the third.

To start the fourth, Jamey Carroll singled to center. Andre Ethier took a walk to put two on. Matt Kemp was just the right guy to step up to the plate, but he grounded into a double play. The only positive was that Carroll scampered to third and came in to score on Jerry Sands's RBI single to tie the game at 1.

Coghlan would again strike with a longball to lead off the bottom of the sixth. The guy showed some good power for only having 18 career home runs. Those would be the only blemishes of the night for Garland, as he put together seven innings for four hits, two runs, one walk, and two strikeouts. It's his second consecutive great start, as his ERA has gone from 11.25 to 3.60 in that short span.

The Dodgers used the next two innings to give their bullpen a chance to protect the lead. In the seventh, Rod Barajas struck out leading off, but reached on a wild pitch. Tony Gwynn came into pinch-run (slight difference of speed). Ivan DeJesus singled, and Garland sacrificed them both over to scoring position. A groundout by Aaron Miles and single by Carroll later, and the Dodgers now had the 3-2 lead.

In the eighth, Matt Kemp hit a long double to left to start. After going to third on a groundout, he scored on James Loney's RBI single to go up 4-2.

Once Garland exited, the Dodgers' bullpen woes were soon in the spotlight. With Hong-Chih Kuo out, and with Kenley Jansen and Matt Guerrier both lit up recently, Vicente Padilla was given the chance for a hold. Well, he got the hold, but it wasn't exactly pretty.

Padilla walked Scott Cousins right off the bat. That damn little Coghlan singled to continue his superb night to put a couple on. Omar Infante foolishly tried to bunt for a hit and instead got Cousins forced at third. Gabby Sanchez then hit a sharp grounder off of Padilla's leg and through for an RBI single to make it 4-3.

Now came in Mr. Broxton. Like usual, when things are going well, he's really good. When he does even the slightest thing wrong, everything goes to Hell. He started off by striking out Greg Dobbs and getting John Buck to ground to first. Then up came Emilio Bonifacio, who has a career one home run. How would Broxton pitch to him after a 2-2 count? Carefully. In fact, too carefully, as he walked him.

And just like that, everything went crazy. Hanley Ramirez pinch-hit and laced a single to put runners on the corners. Cousins then grounded a slow one to Carroll, who promptly let it go right underneath his glove while charging in, scoring the tying run. Coghlan was given the intentional pass to pitch to Infante. Infante lined one to Sands in left that sailed over his head to end the game.

Simply put, the ninth inning was a disgrace. It's hard to imagine just how the Dodgers lost so much focus in such a short amount of time. It all started with Broxton's walk to a guy who can barely hit a fly ball to the outfield. Then the defense fell apart. Would Carroll have made the play at first? It would've been close, but we'll obviously never know.

Still, Broxton deserves plenty of blame for this. When the going gets tough, he goes into his little shell. He just cannot make the big pitches when needed. Have I said this before? Yes, like a hundred times. But I guess Don Mattingly is determined to keep him in this role. Sad, but it's the way it is.

At least the Dodgers can take some satisfaction that without the resurgent Casey Blake and Juan Uribe, they still had a chance to win. It was good to see them mount a couple of comebacks. But these are games that need to be finished out with a win. It's really that simple.

The Dodgers will hand the ball to their #1, Clayton Kershaw, on Tuesday. He'll be opposed by Chris Volstad.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dodgers jump all over Zambrano

A day after suffering a disappointing loss by blowing a late three-run lead, the Dodgers went to work right away against the Cubs. Eight batters and four hits later, the lead was 5-0, and the Dodgers would cruise to a win from there, 7-3. The Dodgers took two of three in Chicago, and have won six of their last eight.

Carlos Zambrano was given the Sunday afternoon start for the Cubs, and he was coming off a great outing in which he shut down the Padres for eight innings with 10 strikeouts. OK, so I can think of high school pitchers who can blank the Padres, but still, that was a great start. The Dodgers, however, didn't seem to care.

Aaron Miles started the game with a triple in a sign of things to come. Casey Blake was then beaned. What came next was five straight batters in which an RBI was hit. Andre Ethier extended his hitting streak to 21 games with an RBI single and 1-0 lead. Matt Kemp also singled in a run, and Jerry Sands collected an RBI double. A groundout by James Loney and sac-fly by Rod Barajas also pushed runs across the board, and it was already 5-0.

Hiroki Kuroda was handed a big lead on a silver platter, but was shaky himself to start the game. Thankfully, not nearly as bad as Zambrano was. Kosuke Fukudome led off with a double, and Darwin Barney's single put two on. Fukudome came in to score on an error by Jamey Carroll to make it 5-1. After Aramis Ramirez struck out, Carlos Pena hit an RBI single to make it 5-2.

Kuroda was then able to settle down by striking out Marlon Byrd, and following a wild pitch to put both runners in scoring position, struck out Alfonso Soriano as well to end the inning.

There wasn't much scoring going on after that, which was obviously fine with the Dodgers. In the third, Kemp doubled with an out. Jerry Sands struck out for two down, but Loney picked him up with an RBI single, and it was 6-2.

The final run of the day for the Dodgers came in the sixth. With Zambrano out and John Grabow in, Barajas singled with one out. With two outs, Kuroda reached on an error by Starlin Castro, and it would come back to haunt the Cubs, as Miles collected an RBI single to go up 7-2.

In the seventh, the last threat of the day for the Cubs saw them get one run, but nothing more. Kuroda got a couple of outs, but was chased by a double from Geovany Soto and singles by Fukudome and Barney. Mike MacDougal got Castro grounding out to end the inning.

Blake Hawkworth and Jonathan Broxton worked the last two innings, respectively, each allowing only one baserunner.

The offense has definitely awaken after so many tough games to start the season. Sunday marked the fifth straight game in which they've put up five runs or more. Compare that to the 18 games to start the season in which they pulled this off only four times, and you see what I mean. Kemp and Ethier have been fantastic, but plenty of credit goes to guys like Blake, Carroll, Miles, and Uribe (who sat out again today). Without their production at different parts of the lineup, no matter how good the big two have done, the Dodgers still wouldn't have won much.

Kuroda shook off some early difficulties to get the win with 6 2/3 innings pitched, nine hits, three runs (two earned), no walks, and seven strikeouts. Throw out Lilly's bad start yesterday, and the starting rotation has been awesome for about a week now. Everyone from Kershaw down through Garland has stepped up big time.

So if you put the two together - production from hitters not named Ethier or Kemp along with great starting pitching - it's no wonder why the Dodgers have played on a whole different level lately. The key will be the hitting. We know the rotation will continue to get the job done, now the hitters need to keep backing them up.

The roadtrip ends up in Florida for three with the Marlins before a much-deserved day off on Thursday. John Garland has two starts this year - one horrible, one fantastic. Let's hope for the latter to show up again when he takes on Ricky Nolasco on Monday.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Cubs rally late to beat the Dodgers

The Dodgers went through every possible emotion on Saturday in Wrigley Field: doubt when finding themselves down 5-1, hope when tying the game at 5, happiness when up 8-5, and ultimately agony when blowing it all in the eighth. The end result was a Cubs' win, 10-8.

The Cubs got the scoring started in the first off of old friend Ted Lilly. Starlin Castro, who collected four hits on the day, singled off the wall in left, but was gunned out by Jerry Sands at second. That would be the end of the good day in the field for Sands, as he would later misplay a couple of fly balls. Darwin Barney doubled after that, and soon scored on Aramis Ramirez's sac-fly RBI for the 1-0 lead.

In the third, the Dodgers tied it for a little while. With one out, Casey Blake walked and went to second on Andre Ethier's groundout. Matt Kemp came through again with an RBI single to make the game even again.

Lilly never really looked comfortable in this one, and it showed in the third and fourth. He was lucky to avoid series trouble in the third, as Barney's RBI single gave the Cubs the lead against at 2-1. Marlon Byrd also reached base on a single, but both men were stranded with one out.

The luck would not be the same the next inning, as Geovany Soto singled leading off. Reed Johnson hit an RBI double and went to third on Kemp's fielding error. Castro and Barney struck again with consecutive RBI singles to make the lead 5-1.

With the wind whipping all over the place, the Dodgers took advantage in the fifth. Aaron Miles was the leadoff hitter today and singled. Blake then lined a two-run homer to left. An out later, Kemp hit his fifth of the year, and it was now 5-4.

The sixth inning was just as nice, as the Dodgers tacked on three more to take the lead. Big Rod Barajas started the inning with a solo shot, his fourth of the season, and the game was now 5-5. Two more men reached base as Tony Gwynn pinch-hit and tripled past a clumsy Alfonso Soriano in left, and Blake walked. Left Sean Marshall was brought in to pitch to Ethier, but Ethier ripped a two-run double, making it 7-5. That hit extended his streak to 20 straight.

It looked like the Dodgers were going to cruise to another victory in the seventh. Sands singled leading off, stole second, and went to third on Soto's bad throw. Barajas collected another RBI with a sac-fly, and it was 8-5. Matt Guerrier, by far the best reliever for the Dodgers so far, mowed through the bottom of the inning with ease.

Since Guerrier barely threw any pitches, and with Hong-Chih Kuo still on the DL, he went back out to get through the eighth. Well... it didn't work. Instead, the Cubs rocked him for five runs on four hits. For whatever reason, his stuff wasn't fooling anyone, as the 8-5 advantage quickly disappeared into a 10-8 deficit.

That little Castro dude chipped in again with a two-run single. The game became tied at 8 on Barney's RBI groundout. Blake Hawksworth entered to try and get Jeff Baker for the third out, but Baker instead laced a two-run double to regain the lead.

Carlos Marmol only gave up a walk to Sands to earn his fifth save.

The recent run of great starts by the Dodgers' starting rotation ended at six with Lilly's dud. I'm not sure if the wind was getting to him or the emotions of returning to Chicago, but whatever the case, his stuff looked flat. He didn't get the loss thanks to the comeback in the middle innings, but ended up with 4 1/3 innings pitched for 11 hits, five runs, one walk, and three strikeouts.

For Guerrier, his run of nine straight appearances to start the season without a run came to a crashing halt. It was bound to happen sooner or later, but still, I didn't think it would be five runs in 1 2/3 innings. But I'm not worried about him.

It was good to see Vicente Padilla get his first action of the season. He pitched a perfect inning in the sixth with one strikeout. His role will be in long relief, so expect to see him increase his workload as time goes by. He's a great option for a couple innings of some nasty stuff.

I'll give the offense plenty of credit for fighting back. If this game took place at the start of the season, I think the Cubs would've won easily. Even without the recently hot Juan Uribe today, who sat out with tightness in his right thigh, the bats collected 11 hits. The big difference was that the Dodgers got two hits with runners in scoring position, but the Cubs had six.

The rubber match of the three-game set with be Sunday afternoon on TBS. Hiroki Kuroda will take on Carlos Zambrano.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Dodgers clock the Cubs in Wrigley

Maybe the Dodgers shouldn't take batting practice the rest of the season.

After waiting out a rain delay of just over an hour and having batting practice canceled, the Dodgers went out and collected 14 hits in a 12-2 rout over the Cubs. The win makes three straight and five of the last six.

As Chad Billingsley was holding the Cubs in check, the offense went to work with six runs in the third. It all started with a one-out double by leadoff hitter Jamey Carroll. Casey Blake followed with a single, and Andre Ethier hit another for a run and a 1-0 lead. Matt Kemp struck out, but Juan Uribe picked him up with an RBI single to make it 2-0.

From there, Cubs' starter Casey Coleman was his own worst enemy, as he walked James Loney to load the bases, then walked Jerry Sands to force in a run. A two-run single by A.J. Ellis and RBI single by Billingsley ran the score to 6-0.

In the fourth, Uribe continued his hot streak with a two-run homer to make it 8-0. After starting the season about as slow as you can possibly expect, he has picked it up big time in the last five games. He has nine hits over that span, including two homers and nine RBIs, to raise his average from .154 to .236. As the guy hitting behind Ethier and Kemp, he's getting plenty of RBI chances, and he's cashing in.

The Dodgers added another run in sixth when Uribe hit a sac-fly RBI to score Blake and go up 9-1. In the ninth, a two-run bomb by pinch-hitter Marcus Thames and RBI single by Tony Gwynn made it 12-2.

Billingsley got the win to improve to 2-1 and continue the recent string of great starts by the rotation. He let runners reach base, but did a good job in not letting much of anything come of it. Overall, he finished at 6 1/3 innings for seven hits, two runs (one earned), three walks, and three strikeouts.

Kenley Jansen got a much-needed boost of confidence with 1 2/3 innings of relief, with four strikeouts. He basically just blew everyone away with fastballs. After getting just lit up against the Braves on Tuesday, it was good to see him pitch with confidence.

The Dodgers did a great job of making Coleman throw plenty of pitches early, as he just unraveled in the third. Check this out: he lasted only 2 2/3 innings and threw 90 pitches. 90! I can't recall the last time I saw a stat like that. And that includes the second inning in which the Dodgers went down in order. That's pretty crazy.

Maybe the shellacking at the hands of the Cardinals helped wake this team up. Ever since getting crushed again on Saturday, they've played with a whole new focus and intensity. It's not a surprise at all that it's started with the guys on the mound. Once they settled in, everything else fell into place. Guys like Blake and Uribe have contributed in a big way, and for the Dodgers to win, everyone in the lineup needs to chip in.

Also, it's nice to see that all of the CRAP going on with MLB taking over the Dodgers hasn't affected the players on the field. Heck, maybe it's motivated them. If that's the case, then thank you, Bud Selig!

The Dodgers will be right back in action with more afternoon baseball on Saturday. Ted Lilly will take on his former team as he looks to even his record at 2-2. The Cubs counter with Ryan Dempster, who's a solid pitcher, but currently has a 6.84 ERA. Let's hope he doesn't find his groove in time for this one.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Go ahead, pitch to Kemp!

He'll burn you.

Matt Kemp once again found himself in a heroic situation late in a tight ballgame. After Andre Ethier's one-out double in the 11th, Kemp deposited a Cristhian Martinez pitch over the wall for a two-run, walk-off homer, giving the Dodgers a 5-3 win over the Braves. The Dodgers took three of four in this series.

Before all of the late dramatics, this game was all about Clayton Kershaw's bid to follow up Jon Garland's complete game gem with one of his own. And boy did he come oh so close. He got as far as two outs in the ninth, but was unable to finish the deal. He was still superb in this one, as he went 8 2/3 innings for five hits, three runs, four walks, and seven strikeouts.

The day started off with some promise for the Dodgers, as Kershaw needed a mere nine pitches to get through the first. In the bottom of the frame, the Dodgers loaded the bases on a single by Tony Gwynn and walks to Ethier and Juan Uribe. James Loney then struck out. So much for promise.

The scoreless game would last until the fifth. With one out, young Freddy Freeman, already a Sports Illustrated cover boy, hit a solo homer for the 1-0 lead. That would be the last run Kershaw would give up until the ninth.

The Dodgers battled back, starting in the sixth. Uribe was coming off his best game as a Dodger after gathering four RBIs the night before. He picked up where he left off with a solo homer to knot the game at 1.

Now in the seventh, the Dodgers took the lead. Scott Linebrink relieved with one out and got pinch-hitting Jerry Sands right away with a strikeout. Casey Blake then turned back the clock and hit a solo shot, his first of the year, to give the Dodgers a 2-1 advantage.

Everything looked like it was lining up quite nicely for a complete game for Kershaw, as he got Martin Prado and Alex Gonzalez with relative ease to open the inning. Then, little by little, the Braves took the lead. It started with a single by Chipper Jones. Jason Heyward came in to pinch-run for him, and that would be key, as he advanced to third on Dan Uggla's single.

Both plays on Heyward and Uggla were very close, as it sure looked like Uggla could've been called out at second. Nonetheless, Freeman then walked to load the bases. Don Mattingly had a tough decision to make: keep a tiring Kershaw in, or turn to Jonathan Broxton? He chose to stay with Kershaw, a decision we all liked...

...right up until David Ross hit a two-run single on an 0-2 count to give the Braves a 3-2 lead. Broxton struck out Nate McClouth to end the threat.

Needing a jolt after being dealt a serious blow, the offense delivered in the bottom of the ninth. With Craig Kimbrel on to close, Jamey Carroll walked and soon went to second on a wild pitch. With two outs, Blake was clutch again, as his single scored the tying run to send it into extras.

It would take until the 12th for this game to be decided, as Ethier and Kemp just continue to sparkle. Much like last Sunday against the Cardinals, first base was open when Kemp came up, yet Fredi Gonzalez chose not to put Kemp on. Big mistake.

The bullpen of Broxton and Matt Guerrier deserve a lot of credit for keeping this game even. Broxton has certainly taken his licks, and isn't well-liked by this guy, but got four big outs. Guerrier has been just awesome so far, as his scoreless streak is now up to 10 2/3 innings. He's been everything the Dodgers have hoped for and more in middle relief.

After getting slapped around silly by the Cardinals to open the homestand, the Dodgers have now taken four of five, starting with Kemp's first walk-off on Sunday. They're now at 10-10, which is probably about where they should be at considering their offense is so inconsistent. But with their starting rotation posting great starts their last turns, there's plenty of reasons to think they can start winning more games.

The Dodgers will now hit the road for six against the Cubs and Marlins. Friday afternoon's game will see Chad Billingsley looking for his second win. He's coming off a tremendous start against the Cardinals last Sunday.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

MLB takes over control of the Dodgers

The big news of the day is Bud Selig's announcement that Major League Baseball will now take over control of the Dodgers. The major reason, of course, is the cloudy financial situation created by the divorce of Frank and Jamie McCourt. Selig will soon appoint a representative to oversee operations of the club in the upcoming days.

To read Selig's statement, click here.

It's pretty shocking news, as I'm not sure I've heard much talk at all of Selig actually doing something like this. But it seems like the right move. Frank McCourt was recently granted a $30 million loan from FOX just to cover expenses.

On a side note, I have barely made mention of the shady McCourt family mostly because I don't care. Well, I very much care about my favorite team, but I want to actually discuss baseball, not these clowns. So that's why I haven't covered it. Today's news was worth the mention, however. But that pretty much goes without saying.

Jansen bombed in the 9th as Braves roll

April 19, 2011 is not a date that young Kenley Jansen would like to remember.

Entering a 2-1 ballgame in the top of the ninth, Jansen would only get one out before surrendering five runs, and Ramon Troncoso gave up three more as the Braves ended up creaming the Dodgers, 10-1. Both teams have split the first couple of games.

If you just looked at the final score and nothing else, you wouldn't know that this game was once a pitchers duel. Hiroki Kuroda and Brandon Beachy were able to toss blanks through the opening five frames.

The Braves struck first in the sixth. Martin Prado hit leadoff and slugged a solo homer, his second of the season. Freddy Freeman followed that up with a leadoff homer of his own, and it was 2-0. Blake Hawksworth did a great job of stranding the bases loaded with one out to keep the Dodgers in the game.

Scott Linebrink came on for Beachy in the seventh, and the Dodgers finally got on the board. Juan Uribe absolutely unloaded on... and infield single leading off. Hey, I'll take it. James Loney's single put runners on the corners. Jerry Sands grounded out to third, but Uribe scampered home to cut the score to 2-1.

The Dodgers' inability to drive in runners reared its ugly head once again during this inning. A.J. Ellis singled to again put runners on the corners. Marcus Thames pinch-hit, and in came Johnny Venters, who got the strikeout. Jamey Carroll walked to load the bases with two down. Casey Blake couldn't be the hero as he grounded out to end the inning.

Jansen was given the ball to start the ninth and at least give the Dodgers a fighter's chance to win. Wow did that not work. I'd love to recap how all of the runs scored, but I'd be here all damn night. Let's just say that the damage all started with a walk to Nate McClouth, and Erik Hinske's pinch-hit, two-run shot. From there the Braves just went off.

In all, Jansen faced six hitters and retired only one of them. Troncoso wasn't any better, as he faced seven hitters in all, and didn't get an out until a double play from Prado to end the inning. These two combined to allow eight runs on eight hits, two walks, and one wild pitch. Ouch.

What should be a strength for the Dodgers is quickly turning into their biggest weakness in the bullpen, and that's a big problem. Of the eight relievers used thus far, two have been great (Matt Guerrier and Mike MacDougal), two have been average (Hong-Chih Kuo and Blake Hawksworth), and the other four have been horrible (Jonathan Broxton, Kenley Jansen, Ramon Troncoso, and Lance Cormier). They've been very much responsible for the team's 4.87 ERA, 25th in the majors.

Obviously, that needs to change. There's just no way a team that doesn't put up a lot of runs like the Dodgers can even think about contending if they have so many holes in the 'pen. Jansen is definitely going through a sophomore slump. Troncoso has only appeared in two games, but has gotten rocked in both of them. Broxton looks like anything but a good closer. Cormier looks lost. It's not pretty no matter how you slice it.

With Kuo's injury, it looks like Guerrier is about the only sure thing to give the ball to late in the game. And he was signed mostly to pitch in the seventh or eighth innings. Well, his role has suddenly become much more important almost by default. We can only hope he doesn't start to get hit around as well.

The Dodgers will try to pick themselves us, dust themselves off, and get back into action on Wednesday against the Braves. Jon Garland will make the start against old friend Derek Lowe. Garland was awful in his first start against the Cardinals. It may take a little while to get him going, so tonight should be interesting.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The new kid leaves his mark

The debut for young Jerry Sands could not have gone any better. Two straight productive at-bats to start his major league career combined with a great effort from Ted Lilly gave the Dodgers a win over the Braves, 4-2.

After receiving the callup earlier in the day and promptly being placed in the starting lineup, the Dodgers' offense looked like it had a hop to its step to start the game. Leadoff hitter Aaron Miles singled followed by a walk to Casey Blake. An out later, Matt Kemp continued to ride his scorching start with an RBI single for the 1-0 lead.

Juan Uribe's groundout advanced both runners to scoring position to give an RBI chance to the ice cold James Loney. For a change, Loney actually delivered, as his sharp single up the middle scored two for the 3-0 advantage. Sands then stepped in and hit a double to right for big league hit #1. Lilly struck out with the bases loaded to end the inning.

In the third, two straight singled by Uribe and Loney came with one out. Yes, I really did just say that. Sands hit a long sac-fly RBI to right to score Uribe, putting the Dodgers up 4-0.

That's all Lilly would need on this night, as he put together his first great effort in four starts. He did face some trouble here and there, but made all of the big pitches. Overall, he finished at seven innings pitched for four hits, no runs, two walks, and six strikeouts. He lowered his ERA from 6.00 to 4.09.

Once Lilly exited after seven, Matt Guerrier was given the ball to get through the eighth. He did just that, getting all three men in order, including K'ing Chipper Jones to end the inning.

Then came the ninth inning, where Don Mattingly went with good old Jonathan Broxton, despite it not being a save situation. Brian McCann singled to start, Dan Uggla doubled, and Freddy Freeman scored one on a groundout. Alex Gonzalez struck out, but Nate McClouth's RBI double made it 4-2. Thankfully Eric Hinske struck out to end the game.

I can already hear the Broxton supporters making every excuse in the world why it wasn't hit fault. "It wasn't a save situation." "He still held the lead." "Nobody else can close, so he has to." It's all a bunch of garbage. He has five saves, but with a 6.14 ERA and 1.77 WHIP. There's just no way Mattingly should keep him as the sole closer. Guys like Guerrier, Kenley Jansen, and Hong-Chih Kuo (when he comes back) need to get their chances as well.

Back to the positives, and Sands was definitely one. His presence seemed to be a breath of fresh air, as it sent a message to the other guys that they need to step it up. And what do you know, Uribe and Loney each had two hits. Coincidence? Quite possibly, but I'm sure they couldn't help but feel some pressure to perform.

Only time will tell how good Sands will be, but for now, he obviously deserves more starts. Anyone who even shows the threat of being a power hitter should get their chance. If that means sitting guys like Uribe and Loney, then so be it.

The Dodgers and Braves have three more games to go, and Tuesday it will be Hiroki Kuroda taking the mound. He won his first two starts, then got rocked against the Cardinals last start. He'll look to improve to 3-1.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sands will get his chance

In an effort to spark a lifeless offense, the Dodgers have called up outfielder Jerry Sands and designated Xavier Paul for assignment. Sands could play in left field for an ailing Marcus Thames, or slide over to first to spell an ineffective James Loney.

Wherever he plays, it's a good move by the Dodgers. Rather than just sitting back and hoping guys like Loney will step up, Don Mattingly can now give someone else a chance to make some noise. And make no mistake about it, Sands has been on fire in Triple-A Albuquerque this season. He's hitting .400 with five homers, 17 RBIs, and a 1.297 OPS.

Last season, he was named the organization's player of the year by hitting 35 homers between Single-A and Double-A. Mattingly already has him in the lineup for Monday night's game against the Braves.

I'm very much looking forward to seeing what this kid can do. It's not like the offense can get much worse, so why not put him in there? It would be a welcome sight for Dodger fans if he can have a big game sometime soon. If he struggles early, then it will be interesting to see how long Ned Colletti and others will stick with him. Either way, this is the right move to make.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

It's the Kemp and Ethier show

The Dodgers have two things going for them right now: Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. So it was quite fitting that Sunday's game was won because of their clutch hits.

Down 1-0 entering the bottom of the ninth, Ethier doubled and Kemp cranked a two-run, walk-off homer to finally beat the Cardinals, 2-1. The win avoids a sweep of the four-game series.

Chad Billingsley had the tough task of trying to limit a Cardinals' offense which scored a whopping 29 runs in the previous three games. Hiroki Kuroda, Jon Garland, and Clayton Kershaw all got raked. Billingsley came into the game with an ERA of 9.00.

Today, however, Bills stepped up. He was tremendous in completely shutting down a hot offense. He finished the day by going eight innings for two hits, no runs, two walks, and 11 strikeouts. Not that I need to say it, but it's obviously his best start of the season, and couldn't have come at a better time.

Of course, that great effort was almost wasted as the Dodgers' offense did a big pile of nothing against Chris Carpenter. He ended up pitching seven innings for five hits, no runs, no walks, and six strikeouts. He more than bounced back from a rough start in Arizona.

With a 0-0 score through eight innings, there weren't many highlights to report about. Only once did either team put more than one man on in any inning, and that was in the third for the Dodgers. With two outs, Tony Gwynn reached on an error by Ryan Theriot. Jamey Carroll walked, but Ethier lined to Albert Pujols at first for the final out.

Fast forward to the ninth, and "closer" Jonathan Broxton was brought in to keep the game as is. Could he do it? Nope. For the whatever number of time, he couldn't make the big pitches when he needed to. He got two outs right away in Colby Rasmus and Pujols. Then Matt Holliday doubled to center. Rather than regrouping after an intentional walk to Lance Berkman, Broxton surrendered a bloop RBI single to David Freese, and it was 1-0.

Look, I'm fully aware that Freese's hit wasn't exactly scorched, but the bottom line remains the same. Broxton simply cannot be counted on in big situations. Every excuse in the world can be given, but a run is a run, and if not for Kemp's homer, the story would once again by Broxton's downfall.

Thankfully for Big John, it wasn't the story. Lefty Trever Miller entered to start the ninth to face Ethier, and Ethier greeted him with a double down the right field line.

Quickly Miller was gone, and in came Ryan Franklin, who like Broxton, has really struggled. That continued, as on a 1-2 count, Kemp unloaded on a long two-run shot to dead center for the victory. It was a signature moment for Kemp, who is playing like one of the best players in the league right now.

And it's a good thing he is, because take away his .474 average and Ethier's .377, the rest of the team is just pathetic at the plate. Before Kemp's homer, Vin Scully gave a very eye opening stat: take away these two, and the rest of the team is hitting .088. Holy crap does that suck! I can't imagine that will remain that poor, but it needs to get a whole lot better for the Dodgers to start winning more consistently.

Today's win was great, but as I pointed out before, it's scary in that the Dodgers have to rely so much on Kemp and Ethier just to even get close to winning. Juan Uribe and James Loney have got to wake up at some point. It seems like this is being said every game, but it's true. They are just a couple of slugs right now. Hey, guys, the 2011 season has started... feel free to show up anytime now!

There's no rest for the Dodgers, as they will welcome the Braves for four starting Monday. They get a little lucky in that they avoid Tommy Hanson since he took the mound against the Mets today. Ted Lilly will look for his first solid start of the year against Tim Hudson.

Kuo lands on the DL

The news for Hong-Chih Kuo is concerning, as he has landed on the 15-day DL with a bad back and, get this, a case of the "yips." Yes, the yips, which is the same ailment that golfers have when they suddenly can't hit the ball correctly. Bizarre stuff indeed.

Kuo wasn't getting pounded by any means this year, but is clearly not the same pitcher as last season. He's made four appearances for a 3.37 ERA with four walks and four strikeouts. Again, not bad numbers, but we all know how dominant he can be when he's on.

The Dodgers apparently discovered that Kuo wasn't right during fielding practice on Friday. When trying pickoff throws to second, the ball was going all over the place. Then when he tried to warmup during that night's game, he was missing the strike zone with regularity. That was when it was decided to give him rest and recall Ramon Troncoso.

Hopefully some time away from pitching does the trick, because if it doesn't, the Dodgers are weakened automatically if Kuo's not the same. While it's asking way too much to duplicate last season's filthy numbers, he's capable to dominating anyway. Take him out of the equation, and the already struggling Dodgers will have an even harder time closing out games. Let's just hope for the best on this one.

Cardinals smoke the Dodgers again

This is quickly turning into the homestand from Hell.

For the third straight day, the Dodgers were absolutely no match at all for the Cardinals, as they took this win, 9-2. On the three days combined, the Cards have outscored the lowly Dodgers 29-9. Yikes.

Going into this game, the Dodgers had to at least like their chances of turning their misfortune around. On the mound was Clayton Kershaw, who was coming off a great start against the Giants. This one, however, wasn't nearly as kind. He spend most of the night either missing the strike zone or watching foul ball after foul ball. He just didn't have his good stuff going.

After wiggling out of a bases loaded jam in the second, the Cardinals got a run in the third. The bases were again loaded on a single by Ryan Theriot and walks to Colby Rasmus and Matt Holliday. David Freese's sac-fly RBI made it 1-0.

An RBI double by Theriot in the second made it 2-0. The Dodgers got one back in the bottom of the frame. Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, about the only reason to watch the Dodgers right now, hit singles to start it. Juan Uribe flew out, which is not a surprise at all, but Ethier went to third and soon scored on James Loney's RBI groundout on a great slide to avoid the tag at home.

From there the Cardinals took over and put the game away early. Kind of like the other two games. Don Mattingly left in a clearly laboring Kershaw to start the fifth, and Allen Craig made them both pay with a three-run homer to make it 5-1. It was not a good decision at all from Mattingly, who had Mike MacDougal warm in the bullpen. Live and learn, I guess.

A play that perfectly summed up how this series has gone came in the sixth. Tyler Greene was on second, and MacDougal wheeled around for a pickoff throw. Greene would've been toast, but the ball sailed into center, allowing him to come all the way around to score for the 6-1 lead.

The only other run scored by the Dodgers came in the eighth. And what a shock, it was Ethier and Kemp needing to do all the work. Casey Blake walked leading off, Ethier doubled, and Kemp's RBI single made it 7-2. If you're wondering what Uribe did with two on and none out, he popped up. Bet you didn't see that one coming!

While the pitching was terrible, I'm going to put plenty of blame on Uribe here. He was signed by the Dodgers not for his huge on-base ability, but for getting clutch hits. Well, we certainly haven't seen a lick of that yet. He went 0-for-4 to lower his average to a pathetic .143, left six men on base, has no homers, and only three RBIs. If he's going to continue hitting behind Kemp, he has got to get the job done, end of story.

Kershaw ended up going 4 2/3 for six hits, five runs, five walks, and five strikeouts. MacDougal and Kenley Jansen each did a nice job, but Ramon Troncoso got torched for seven hits and three runs in two innings. He was just recalled recently in place of Hong-Chih Kuo, who's on the DL with a bad back.

While we're only 15 games into the season, the Dodgers are learning a lesson about what they need to do to compete with the big dogs. The Cardinals put men on base and hit them in. The Dodgers time and time again look lost with men in scoring position. Someone other than Ethier and Kemp need to step up. Loney and Uribe are terrible. Blake is hitting in the #2 hole, so it's not like he's in an RBI position. Rafael Furcal is hurt.

Bottom line, the Dodgers need to play with more fire. They start getting behind against the Cards, and instead of battling back, they keep getting pounded. Definitely not a good sign. And to make matters worse, their supposed calling card in pitching is nearly dead last in the majors in ERA. I don't expect that to remain that way, but then again, I didn't expect it to be this bad either. So who knows.

The Dodgers really need to win Sunday's game. Chad Billingsley will take the mound against Chris Carpenter. Carpenter has yet to win a game in three starts, and is coming off a rough one against the Diamondbacks. For Billingsley, it's a perfect chance to step up and be the man.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

New night, same result

For the second straight night, the Dodgers found themselves in the lead against a good starting pitcher from the Giants.

And once again, they couldn't hold onto the lead.

Two solo home runs by Pablo Sandoval and Mike Fontenot in the sixth off of Ted Lilly handed the Giants a lead that they would not relinquish as they won, 4-3. The Dodgers dropped two of three in this series, and also dropped back to .500 at 6-6.

The Giants scored a single run in each of the first couple of innings. In the first, Aaron Rowand led off with a double to right. He went to third on Miguel Tejada's groundout, and then scored on Aubrey Huff's sac-fly RBI.

The next inning, Brandon Belt singled with one out. Fontenot had a big night, and it started here with an RBI double and a 2-0 advantage. Lilly wasn't sharp all to start the game, so he was probably pretty lucky to only be down by two.

Once Lilly settled down, the offense finally gave him some support. With two outs in the fourth, Marcus Thames singled to left. Rod Barajas was signed for his power, and he flexed his muscle by cranking a two-run shot, and the game was now tied at 2.

The Dodgers were able to take the lead in the sixth. Thames again started the rally by walking with one out. Barajas struck out swinging for two outs. Jonathan Sanchez was then left in to face Aaron Miles, and Miles made him pay by ripping an RBI double, and the Dodgers were now up 3-2.

That lead would be short-lived, however. Lilly stayed in in the bottom of the sixth, and with one out, Sandoval tied the game with a homer. Belt grounded out for two outs, but Lilly again made a mistake by surrendering Fontenot's first tater of the season.

The only other time the Dodgers seriously threatened was in the eighth, but they pretty much beat themselves this inning. Tony Gwynn went into left and doubled with one down. Barajas again struck out on some high heat. Gwynn then got caught trying to advance on a ball in the dirt in which Buster Posey cleanly fielded and threw to third. A bad mental mistake by Gwynn.

Brian Wilson barely broke a sweat for the second straight night by notching his second save this year.

This game wasn't quite as frustrating as the night before when the Dodgers blew a three-run lead. But, it's still one they could've taken. Lilly started poorly, found his rhythm, then fell victim to the gopher ball late. He finished at six innings for seven hits, four runs, no walks, and two strikeouts. His ERA now stands at 6.00, and he has yet to put in a good start in three tries.

Hong-Chih Kuo started the eighth inning, and was pretty much all over the place. He got Pat Burrell and Sandoval swinging to start off, though both hitters chased pitches off the plate. Then came two straight walks in which the ball was flying everywhere. Kuo will never top last season's numbers (nobody could), but it's a bit concerning that he has a 1.88 WHIP. His arm looks lively, though... maybe too lively. If he can start locating better, he'll be fine.

Miles had a good night by going 3-for-4 with an RBI. Thames also scored a couple of runs, including great hustle from first to score in the sixth. Matt Kemp went 0-for-4, Uribe 0-for-3 with a walk, and Ethier 1-for-4. The Dodgers won't win many games if those guys put up those numbers, plain and simple. It was one of those nights for them.

The Dodgers now return home after a 3-5 road trip. One more win would have looked much better, but that's the way it is. Now they welcome in the Cardinals, who have Matt Holliday back and just put up 15 runs in Arizona. Hiroki Kuroda will look to cool those hot bats in the first game against Jaime Garcia.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dodgers chase Lincecum, but still get the L

*** Note: This is post #1000 on here. It's a pretty big deal... OK, not really. But it's still pretty cool. So thanks for reading and please stop back!


The Dodgers couldn't have asked for a better start to Tuesday night's game in San Francisco. Facing two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, the bats got up 3-0 in the fourth, and Chad Billingsley was cruising.

Then Billingsley stopped cruising, and it all came crashing down.

The Giants battled back to take the lead in the fifth, then broke a tie in the seventh to get the win, 5-4. Despite getting six hits and three runs against Lincecum, the Dodgers just couldn't hold on.

Billingsley got through the first nine in order with help from a stike 'em out, throw 'em out in the third when Brandon Belt K'd and Miguel Tejada was out stealing second. The offense then got going in the fourth, as Jamey Carroll and Andre Ethier singled with one out.

Matt Kemp, who ended up 2-for-2 with a run, an RBI, and two walks on the night, hit an RBI double to plate Carroll for the 1-0 lead. James Loney then dribbled one to Belt at first, but Belt bobbled it, and Ethier scored. Juan Uribe drilled an RBI double to right, and it was 3-0.

You really couldn't ask for a better situation against a stud pitcher like Lincecum, but Billingsley couldn't make the big pitches when he needed to the most. In the bottom of the fourth, Freddy Sanchez hit a one-out double. Aubrey Huff flew out for two down. Buster Posey's single and Pablo Sandoval's double both scored runs, and the lead was cut to 3-2.

Billingsley followed up that bad inning with another one in the fifth. Belt singled leading off, went to second on Lincecum's sacrifice, and scored on Aaron Rowand's single to tie the game at 3. Again with two outs, Posey hit an infield single to score Rowand, and the Giants were now up 4-3.

Jeremy Affeldt relieved in the seventh, so Don Mattingly turned to Marcus Thames to pinch-hit. It worked, as he launched a solo shot to left, knotting the game 4-4. Ethier doubled with two outs, so Bruce Bochy intentionally walked Kemp to get to Loney. That, too, worked, as Loney harmlessly grounded out. Once again, the Dodgers could not capitalize with runners on.

Blake Hawksworth was in charge with getting through the seventh unscathed. As good as he was in his last appearance against the Padres, he was awful in this one. Rowand led off with a triple and soon scored on a wild pitch. If you blinked, you missed it. Just like that, the Giants were up for good, 5-4.

The combination of Sergio Romo and Brian Wilson plowed through the Dodgers the last two innings, including Wilson striking out the side. The Giants have to obviously like their chances when leading after seven, as those two are nasty.

I really believe that this is one of those games the Dodgers can look back on later in the season and kick themselves for letting it get away. They get rid of Lincecum early by hitting him around, have their #2 pitcher on the mound, and still can't finish it out. That's frustrating.

It seems like every loss I point out how runners were left on base, and tonight there were seven. Another stat is how they hit with runners in scoring position, and it was 2-for-8. Plain and simple, there just wasn't enough timely hitting. They got it in the third, but not after that, save for Thames's homer.

Even with this loss, the Dodgers can still win the series on Wednesday. Ted Lilly will take the mound against Jonathan Sanchez in a matchup of southpaws. Lilly has yet to get out of the fifth, though last start was the crazy rain delay one in San Diego. Still, he needs to get deeper in the game if the Dodgers want to win.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Broken thumb will cost Raffy 4-6 weeks

The news has become official, as Rafael Furcal suffered a broken thumb in Monday night's win over the Giants. The result will be a trip to the 15-day DL and most likely cost him somewhere between 4-6 weeks.

It's a tough blow for Raffy, as the injury bug just will not go away for him. After seemingly getting rid of a pesky back injury, now he breaks his thumb while being aggressive and stealing third. He wasn't too happy about it either, as he even mentioned the word "retirement" when talking with reporters.

I'm sure that was just a heat of the moment comment, as some time away should get him thinking clearly again. It's pretty simple for the Dodgers - when he's in the lineup and is feeling right, the offense is a whole lot better. When he's not, then it's a struggle.

The Dodgers will now have to rely on guys like Jamey Carroll and Aaron Miles to pick up the slack. Ivan DeJesus could be called up again, or possibly Juan Castro. DeJesus had a cup of coffee in the first few games and didn't do much of anything.

Giants have no answers for Kershaw

For the second time already in this brief season, the Giants found themselves matched up with Clayton Kershaw.

And for the second time, Kershaw mowed right through them.

Kershaw went nearly seven innings strong, and the Dodgers used a big fifth inning to cruise to a victory in San Francisco, 6-1. It's the fourth win in five games for the Dodgers against the Giants.

The scoring started in the second, as Matt Kemp led off with a walk. Juan Uribe struck out (no shock there), but Kemp stole his seventh base of this young season. James Loney then lined one to Freddy Sanchez at second, but he couldn't snare it, allowing Kemp to score for the 1-0 lead.

Both teams traded inning ending double plays in the third to keep the score as is. In the fifth, the Dodgers broke through in a big way against Madison Bumgarner. Rod Barajas started it with a solo shot just over the wall in left, and it was 2-0. Kershaw then singled, though he was erased on a pickoff at first.

Rafael Furcal took a walk, and Jamey Carroll singled for two on. Raffy swiped third, even if it was a bad call (but I'll take it). Andre Ethier hit an RBI single, and Kemp stroked a two-run single past a clumsy Pat Burrell, and suddenly it was 5-0.

The final run was tacked on in the seventh. Raffy hurt his thumb on that steal, so Aaron Miles came in for him and singled leading off. Carroll did the same, part of his 3-for-5 night, and Ethier got another RBI single to go up 6-0.

Matt Guerrier relieved Kershaw in the seventh and got Miguel Tejada to fly out to end the inning. He then stayed on and pitched a flawless eighth. Mike MacDougal gave up a long solo homer to Burrell before getting the next three to end it.

It was a great night for the Dodgers, as they put it all together. But for any of you who happened to catch the pregame, both teams deserve a ton of credit for their ceremony honoring Bryan Stow, who was severely beaten on opening night in Dodger Stadium. Jeremy Afeldt and Carroll had a couple of nice speeches. Great stuff overall.

On the diamond, it was all Kershaw. He ended up with 6 2/3 innings, six hits, no runs, two walks, and seven strikeouts. He allowed some baserunners, but the Giants could do nothing with them. His hook and heater were just filthy, as usual.

The bats were looking good, as they hit plenty of liners all over the place. Plus, they stole two more bases, so their speed made a difference. That's the way the Dodgers will win this year - pitching and speed. It was all clicking tonight.

We'll have to see how long Raffy and Casey Blake are out (who missed with a bad leg), but it's good to see guys like Tony Gwynn, Miles, and Carroll contribute so well recently. Don Mattingly will definitely need to keep using his bench as the year progresses, especially with some older legs as starters.

Tuesday's pitching matchup will be good, as Chad Billingsley takes on Tim Lincecum. The Dodgers beat Lincecum the first game of the season, though not much fault of his. Bills is coming off a rough start in Colorado, but did beat the Giants in his first start. Should be a good one.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Gopher balls doom Ely

John Ely's spot start didn't go so well on Sunday, as two homers surrendered led to his undoing as the Padres won the finale, 7-2. The Dodgers are now 5-4.

The Dodgers were looking to complete the sweep after taking the first couple of games on Saturday. Tony Gwynn hit leadoff and started in left, and he walked and stole second. Aaron Miles then laid down the sacrifice, advancing Gwynn to third. Andre Ethier grounded out, but Gwynn scored for the 1-0 lead.

Ely worked around a couple of baserunners in the second, but had no such luck starting in the third. With one out, Will Venable walked, but was soon caught stealing for two outs. Orlando Hudson doubled and scored on Jorge Cantu's RBI single to tie the game at 1-1.

It was from there that Ely fell victim to the Padres' power. You might wonder why I would say that considering the Padres barely have any power, but you wouldn't know that after Sunday's game.

First came Ryan Ludwick's solo shot in the fourth to give the Padres the 2-1 lead. In the sixth, Ely struck out the first couple of hitters, but walked Ludwick and watched Nick Hundley crank a two-run shot for the 4-1 advantage.

The Dodgers had their best chance at getting back into the game in the seventh, but once again couldn't get that big hit with runners on. The red hot Matt Kemp singled and stole his sixth base to open up the inning. James Loney then hit one back to the mound, but Aaron Harang threw the ball away at third, allowing Kemp to score and cut the deficit to 4-2.

Luke Gregerson then relieved Harang and promptly plunked Juan Uribe for two on. Rod Barajas had a chance to come through, but he grounded into a double play. Jamey Carroll struck out, and that pretty much ended the day for the Dodgers.

Kenley Jansen gave up a solo shot to Cameron "Tiki" Maybin in the seventh, making it 5-2. Lance Cormier pitched the eighth and was hit around, giving up an RBI single to Alex Gonzalez and an RBI triple to Maybin.

One day after pounding out 13 hits, the offense was non-existent, gathering only four. Two of them were by Kemp, who is now hitting a blistering .438 with six steals. Obviously we're way early in the season, but he is making some serious noise and has to be in the lead for an All-Star start if he keeps running wild like this.

Gwynn is another good sign. He's gotten hits in the last four games for a .429 average. He's a career .246 hitter, so he'll have to stay more consistent to prove he's turned things around. But if he can keep getting on base like this, then his legs will be a huge lift for the lineup.

Ely, on the flip side, once again proved why he is not ready to be a regular starting pitcher in the bigs. He lasted 5 2/3 for six hits, four runs, three walks, and five strikeouts. The strikeouts were good, but he couldn't find a way to make the big pitch to get out of innings. That's the biggest concern to me. With John Garland and Vicente Padilla on their way back, who knows when we'll see Ely again.

Through the opening three series of the season, the offense ranks nearly last in the majors in runs scored. They're about middle of the pack in batting average, so once again, that shows the lack of timely hitting. Some days they'll get it, some days they won't. With Kemp scorching the ball and Ethier hitting .353, Uribe and Loney still have to pick up the slack. They're hitting a combined .254. That's a lousy average for one person, let alone two!

Monday the Dodgers travel to San Francisco for three games. Considering the fiasco with those couple of IDIOT fans beating up the one Giants' fan, I'm sure there will be a fair amount of tension in the crowd. I can't blame those fans either. I just hope those two dumbasses are caught soon and thrown in jail. And of course, that the victim fully recovers.

The pitching matchup will feature two good lefties, as Clayton Kershaw takes on Madison Bumgarner. Kershaw already shut down the Giants in the opening game, so they'll be looking for some revenge.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Kuroda is the man in beating Padres

Hiroki Kuroda has quietly been one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball during his brief three plus years.

Performances like Saturday night will get more people's attention and fast.

Kuroda was simply awesome as he came just shy of pitching a complete game shutout in San Diego. Instead, he settled for going 8 2/3 innings of six-hit, shutout ball, as the Dodgers got the win, 4-0. Couple that with a win from the continued game before this one, and the Dodgers got two wins in one day. Not a bad night.

Facing Dustin Moseley, the Dodgers got going right away. Tony Gwynn was the hero in the previous game by driving in the winning run in the 11th, and he led off here with a double. Casey Blake laid down the sacrifice to move him over to third, and he scored on Andre Ethier's RBI single for the quick 1-0 lead.

With Kuroda dealing, the Dodgers tacked on two more in the fifth. It all came with two outs, starting with Ethier's first homer of the year to make it 2-0. Matt Kemp kept it going with a single, and he came all the way around to score on Chris Denorfia's error off Juan Uribe's bat.

The final run of the evening came in the eighth. Gwynn again made some noise, as he singled with one out, stole second, and took third on a wild pitch. Blake scored him with an RBI single for the 4-0 advantage.

Kuroda did all he could to get the complete game shutout, and got the first two outs in order in the ninth. Unfortunately, Brad Hawpe and Chase Headley both singled to chase him. Jonathan Broxton came in, and he walked Denorfia (of course).

The end of the game was an unusual play to say the least. With the bases loaded and two down, Cameron "Tiki" Maybin grounded a slow one to Blake at third. As Blake was charging in, Headley inexplicably collided with him, causing interference and ending the game. Maybin probably would have beaten a throw to first, and who knows what would've happened after that.

Nonetheless, it's a win for the Dodgers, who are now 5-3 and just behind the Rockies for tops in the NL West. They pounded out 13 hits, including three each from Ethier, Kemp, and Jamey Carroll. Gwynn and Kemp ran wild on the bases, as Gwynn had two steals, and Kemp three, a career high for him.

The flip side is they left a whopping 14 men on base, including at least one in each inning. Had Kuroda not pitched so flawlessly, then this would have been the focus. Thankfully he did, so the offense gets credit for doing just enough to get the win. Still, 14 left on is pretty nuts.

Saturday night could have been a taxing night for the bullpen, but because of Blake Hawksworth, Kuroda, and Broxton, it wasn't. Hawkworth went two scoreless in the continued game early, and Kuroda did his thing late. Broxton picked up two saves. The Dodgers have just started what will be 20 straight days of baseball, so any rest the bullpen can get is much needed.

The Dodgers will look for the sweep today, as John Ely gets the call. It would have been Jon Garland making the first appearance by the #5 starter, but he needs a rehab start first. Ely started out red hot last year, then pulled a Titanic and... well you know the rest. He'll be opposed by Aaron Harang.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Gwynn's single in the 11th gets the win

Tony Gwynn's two-out single in the 11th inning broke a 2-2 and led the Dodgers to a win over the Padres, 4-2. This game was the continuation of Friday night's suspended rainout, and it started in the top of the ninth.

The Dodgers had chances in all three innings they played in this brief game, and finally came though late. In the ninth, Matt Kemp started on first because of his single the previous night. Right on cue, Juan Uribe grounded into a double play. James Loney and Xavier Paul both singled with two outs, but Rod Barajas couldn't do anything with it.

The next inning, Gwynn singled leading off, and soon went to second on a sacrifice by Jamey Carroll. It didn't matter, as Casey Blake and Kemp both failed to get the RBI.

Mercifully in the 11th, Gwynn came through. It started on a double by Uribe, who certainly needed a big hit. Loney was then asked to sacrifice, and when that didn't happen, he popped up. Not exactly Loney's one shining moment. Aaron Miles was then plunked for two on.

Barajas struck out for two down. Gwynn then did something only Kemp had been able to do thus far: get a clutch hit to drive in a run. A wild pitch soon scored Miles as well to go up 4-2.

Jonathan Broxton earned the save, his fourth already. It wasn't easy, as he gave up a single to Nick Hundley and a walk with two outs to Will Venable on four pitches. But he got out of trouble, and that's all that matters.

The win goes to Blake Hawksworth, and it's well-deserved. He pitched hitless ball in the ninth and tenth, giving up only one walk and striking out three.

The next game is about to start with Hiroki Kuroda taking the mound.

Dodgers and Padres held up by rain

The Dodgers and Padres tried and tried again, but after four rain delays totaling over three and a half hours, the game was finally suspended tied at 2-2. It will now resume on Saturday at 8:35 ET with the Dodgers batting in the top of the ninth and Matt Kemp on first with no outs.

All of the rain delays made for a hard game to watch, as seemingly every time the teams got back on the field, the rain returned with them. 11 pitchers were used, including six for the Padres, who did not allow starter Clayton Richard to return to the mound after the delay (Ted Lilly did return).

The offense was few and far between for both teams, who clearly have a hard time capitalizing on baserunners. The Padres had a chance to get things going in the first, as Jason Bartlett and Orlando Hudson singled with one down. Bartlett stole third, but flyouts by Jorge Cantu and Ryan Ludwick stopped any rally.

That wasn't quite as sad as what the Dodgers then did in the second. Matt Kemp, who seems to be about the only one hitting anything, led off and doubled. Still with nobody out, he soon scampered to third on a wild pitch. How did the Dodgers respond? Strikeouts by Juan Uribe, James Loney, and Marcus Thames. Way to come through and score that run, boys.

The first run scored came on a gift from the Padres in the fourth. Casey Blake again hit in the #2 hole and walked leading off. After a whimpy little pop up from Andre Ethier, Kemp also walked. As Uribe was hitting, both men executed a double steal in which catcher Nick Hundley threw the ball clear into center field, allowing Blake to score and go up 1-0.

Lilly hadn't given up a run through four, but wasn't exactly that sharp either. He was chased in the fifth, as Will Venable led off with a single and went to second on an error by Kemp. A groundout and an RBI single by Hudson later, and it was 1-1. Cantu soon doubled to put two on, which brought out Mike McDougal from the 'pen. Ludwick's RBI groundout made it 2-1.

The Dodgers did come back, thanks to Kemp. Blake singled with one down, and soon went to second on a passed ball. A single by Either put runners on the corners. With the rain again coming down hard, Kemp just got one over short for an RBI single, knotting the game at 2. Of course, that still gave time for Uribe to strikeout and Loney to ground out, ending the inning.

Not much happened after that, as Kemp ended up singling off of Heath Bell to begin the ninth. It's unknown who will be back on the mound considering both teams need to finish the first game before going right into the next game tonight. Hong-Chih Kuo was the last pitcher used for the Dodgers, but I'd be surprised if he came back out. I'm hoping Bell is gone, too.

If you're a Dodger, you have to be kicking yourself for blowing so many opportunities with runners on. They were 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position, which is only slightly better than the Padres' 1-for-12. In other words, both teams were terrible with the sticks.

I'm glad Kemp can hit, as a 3-for-3 night upped his average to .409. Uribe (.111), Loney (.154) and Thames (.182) are doing absolutely nothing. I know none of these guys will battle for any batting titles, but they have got to do better than that. They look just horrible.

As I was watching MLB Network yesterday, one of the analysts (I believe it was Dan Plesac) said that if the Dodgers want to contend, Kemp and Either have to each hit 30 home runs. After watching a game like last night, that's looking true. Kemp is doing his part so far. Ethier is hitting .320, but with no extra-base hits and only two RBIs. He has to pick up the slack.

Then again, maybe he was doing some foreshadowing when he complained before the season that bad year would leave him non-tendered. Here's an idea for you, Andre: hit the ball, and get your money. It might work.

After completion of the suspended game on Saturday, Hiroki Kuroda will take the ball for his second start of the season. He got he win last Sunday against the Giants, so he'll look to build on that. Let's just hope someone other than Kemp shows up at the plate.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Blake returns as De Jesus takes a hike

Casey Blake was activated from the 15-day DL on Wednesday after missing time with a bad back. He will take the spot of Ivan De Jesus, who was sent back to Triple-A Albuquerque.

Blake had been lobbying to make his return as soon as he could, and he got his way. He had a good first start to the season, starting at third on Wednesday and going 2-for-3 with an RBI triple in the #2 hole behind Rafael Furcal. He's the main guy at third, but won't play everyday. Juan Uribe will now move back to second.

As for De Jesus, the decision to demote him was pretty easy. He got two starts against the Giants and went 0-for-7 with five strikeouts and a walk. With Aaron Miles and Jamey Carroll as backups, the at-bats just wouldn't have been there. He'll be back down the line.

Rockies take two straight in Coors

The offense showed up, but Chad Billingsley did not. The result was the second loss in as many days for the Dodgers, as the Rockies won, 7-5. The Dodgers now drop to 3-3 as they lost both games of this short series.

A day after Clayton Kershaw started hot but struggled late, Billingsley was already in trouble in the first. Seth Smith doubled with one down to set the table. Carlos Gonzalez didn't wait long to contribute, as his RBI double made it 1-0. After walking Todd Helton an out later, Jose Lopez plated another with a single, and it was 2-0.

The Dodgers played some big ball to get the next two runs. James Loney hit his first homer of the year in the second to right, cutting the deficit in half. Rod Barajas connecting on one of his own in the third, and it was back to even.

Still in the third, Rafael Furcal worked a walk with one out. The returning Casey Blake, hitting in the #2 hole, cranked an RBI triple for the 3-2 lead. Andre Ethier's RBI single made it 4-2.

That's as good as it would get for the Dodgers on this day, as Helton's three run homer in the bottom of the third scored Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, and it was 5-4 in favor of the Rocks. Bills did wiggle out of two runners on to end the inning, but the damage was done.

Blake Hawksworth came on in the fourth, as Bills was pinch-hit for the previous inning. Tulo must have liked that, as after a single by Gonzalez, he hit a two-run shot to make it 7-4. No wonder the Rockies signed these guys long-term - they are filthy hitters.

To the Dodgers' credit, they tried to battle back in the final two innings. In the eighth, Matt Kemp led off and hit a double off of Matt Lindstrom. Loney's groundout got Kemp to third, and Juan Uribe scored him on another groundout, cutting it to 7-5.

Now in the ninth, Barajas and Jamey Carroll hit consecutive singles off of closer Huston Street. With the top of the order up and nobody out, the Dodgers were in business. Too bad they never actually did any business, because Raffy flew out, pinch-hitter Hector Gimenez struck out, and Ethier K'd to end the game. So much for a rally.

It's good to see the Dodgers hit for some power, but still discouraging to see them not even get one run in the last inning. That's the product of not having a legit power threat - they have to get hit after hit to score. Without those big boppers, there will be plenty of games in which they put runners on, then do nothing with them. It happened yesterday, and again late today.

Billingsley will gladly get out of Colorado, as he lasted only three innings for six hits, five runs, three walks, and three strikeouts. He just could never get going. Kenley Jansen and Matt Guerrier combined for four innings (two each), one hit, no runs, and four strikeouts, so that's a great sign.

With a record of 3-3, the Dodgers are right back to where they started the season. They played well against the Giants, but had a lot of breaks go their way as well. The Rockies will be right in the thick of things in the NL West, so the Dodgers will have to prove they can beat them if they want to contend.

Thursday will be an off day, as the Dodgers enjoy a rare week in which they're off twice. They will then be in San Diego for three starting Friday. Ted Lilly will look to rebound from a poor first start against Clayton Richard.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Dodgers show the champs they're ready

With memories fresh of a butt kicking from Saturday, the Dodgers scored early and late to down the Giants, 7-5. The win means three wins in the first four games of the season, and against the world champions and hated rivals no less.

All in all, the Dodgers have exactly the start to the season they wanted.

The offense got the party started right away. Facing Barry Zito, Rafael Furcal singled in the bottom of the first leading off. Jamey Carroll then lined one just in front of Aubrey Huff in right for an RBI triple, making it 1-0. To say Huff looks uncomfortable in the outfield would be a huge understatement. So far, he's made Manny Ramirez look like a Gold Glover.

Following Andre Ethier's strikeout, Matt Kemp continued his red hot start by launching a two-run homer, and it was 3-0. Kemp has hit safely in all four games thus far, and has a .533 OBP to boot.

Pablo Sandoval crushed a homer himself in the second to cut the lead to 3-1. Both teams remained scoreless until the sixth.

The Giants were able to tie things up with single runs in the sixth and seventh. In the sixth, Freddy Sanchez hit an infield single with two outs. Huff singled for runners on the corners, and Buster Posey laced an RBI single, making it 3-2. Kuroda stayed on for the next inning and surrendered a solo shot to Pat Burrell leading off, and it was 3-3.

After starting the game teeing off on Zito, it was actually a good thing when he left after six, as the bats were completely silent. Dan Runzler came on, and James Loney greeted him with a single. An out later, Marcus Thames's RBI triple put the Dodgers back in the lead at 4-3.

Aaron Miles pinch-hit for Kuroda and came through with an RBI single, and Raffy's RBI double put it at 6-3. Santiago Casilla relieved and struck out Carroll, but Ethier's RBI single with two outs made it 7-3.

It's a good thing the Dodgers tacked on more runs, because the bullpen of Hong-Chih Kuo, Matt Guerrier, and Jonathan Broxton looked anything but dominant. Kuo was shaky on opening night, and he continued that with a double to Huff and a walk to Posey. He did strikeout Sandoval to get two outs.

Don Mattingly then gave the ball to Guerrier, the $12 million middle reliever. I'm guessing walking two straight batters, one to force in a run, wasn't quite in Ned Colletti's mind when he was signed. Unfortunately, that's what happened, as it was now 7-4. Miguel Tejada then had a mind-bogglingly bad at-bat, as he popped up the first pitch to Loney after the previous two guys walked. I'm shocked a veteran like him did that. But I'm glad, of course.

If Kuo can be described as "shaky" after two outings, then Broxton would be on the "super extra scary shaky" mode. Once again he entered in the ninth, and once again he made us all sweat it out. Aaron Rowand led off with a solo homer, and it was 7-5. Sanchez was able to single with an out, but Posey's groundout soon ended it.

Broxton may have three saves, but only one of them was solid. I know closers are a pretty fickle bunch, as any of you fantasy baseball players know just how up and down they can be. But there's no ignoring the fact that Mattingly has to be open to using others in the ninth. How many bad pitches does it take? Not that the rest of the bullpen has been lights-out, but it's the same old thing with this guy over and over. I just don't trust him.

With all of that said, three wins in four games against any team is a job very well done. The Giants definitely helped this out, as they were their own worst enemy on defense the whole series (see Huff, Aubrey). That won't be the case as the season progresses, so while the Dodgers should be happy, they need to get better as well.

Monday is an off day, then the road schedule begins. Clayton Kershaw will go Tuesday on regular rest in Colorado. Jhoulys Chacin gets his first start of the season for the Rockies. It'll be a short two-game series, with an off day again coming Thursday.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A real clunker results in first loss

For everything that went right for the Dodgers the first two games, the Giants made sure that didn't happen again for a third.

After their own miscues possibly cost them chances of winning previously, the Giants put it all together on Saturday afternoon as they crushed the Dodgers, 10-0. It's the first loss of the season for the Dodgers after taking the first two games.

Playing a day game after a night game, and with Juan Uribe still out nursing a sore elbow, Don Mattingly used what was pretty much a "B" lineup. Out were Rafael Furcal, Tony Gwynn, and Rod Barajas, in were Aaron Miles, Xavier Paul, and Hector Gimenez. Plus, Jamey Carroll and Ivan De Jesus got starts in the infield.

If you're saying to yourself, "Wow, that is one weak lineup, even with Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier," well... you're right. Because it was.

The Dodgers got nine hits, which is pretty good, including a 3-for-4 day from Ethier, but could do nothing with those runners on. Eight were left on base, and the other was erased on a double play ball from Kemp. The only extra-base hit of the day was Kemp's double in the second leading off.

The Giants started the scoring in the third off of Ted Lilly. Mark DeRosa and Aaron Rowand singled leading off, and Matt Cain sacrificed them to scoring position. An RBI groundout by Miguel Tejada made it 1-0.

That's as much of a lead that Cain needed, because like I said before, the Dodgers couldn't capitalize on any baserunners they got against him at all. He went six strong for five hits, no runs, no walks, and three strikeouts. He may be listed as the #3 starter, but he's good enough to be an ace on so many other teams.

Lilly's unraveling came in the fifth. A little bit of controversy was thrown in there, as he was called for a balk after picking off Rowand going to second. It could have been two on and none out, but instead, Cain's strikeout didn't end the inning. What followed were RBI singles by Tejada and Aubrey Huff, and an RBI double from Freddy Sanchez, making it 4-0.

The next inning brought more of the same, as Kenley Jansen's season debut was awful, allowing four runs on four hits. And what do you know - a leadoff walk to Brandon Belt started it all. Even Cain walked. It wasn't pretty. Damn walks.

Lilly ended up going 4 2/3 for six hits, four runs, one walk, and three strikeouts. Had he gotten the call in the fifth on the pickoff, it could have been a whole different story. But he didn't, and that's the way it goes. I wouldn't worry about him. He'll be fine.

Lance Cormier appeared for the first time, eating up the last three innings while surrendering two runs. At that point with the game well in hand for the bad guys, it was all about saving the other arms, so mission accomplished.

Through three games, we've seen what the Dodgers need to do to win: pitch and get hits when they need them. Oh, and a little luck may factor in as well. A lineup like today's would have been hard to beat a stud like Cain, but still, losing by 10 is tough to swallow. The hope was that Ethier and Kemp would carry the load, and while they did go a combined 4-for-7, it wasn't nearly enough.

If the Dodgers get a win on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, then three of four at home to start the season against the defending champs is a great start, even with the stinker today. Hiroki Kuroda will get the call. Barry Zito is scheduled to go for the Giants, but we'll see if that happens considering he was just in a car accident. Thankfully he's doing well, so it would be good to see him pitch tomorrow, or soon at least.

Dodgers battle back to stay unbeaten

If the Dodgers' goal this season is to play with a new attitude, then they are off to a good start.

After watching rookie Brandon Belt, uh, belt a three-run homer, the Dodgers got three back in the sixth and held on for the victory, 4-3. It's the second win in as many days over the Giants, and Don Mattingly continues to enjoy this whole managing thing.

Chad Billingsley was charged with trying to follow Clayton Kershaw's brilliant performance from yesterday, and a bunt single by Andres Torres and Freddy Sanchez's hit-by-pitch to start the game immediately put that in doubt. But, a groundout by Aubrey Huff and double play ball from Buster Posey ended that threat.

The third inning is when the scoring started, and it all started when Jonathan Sanchez pulled off the cardinal sin of pitching - walking the opposing pitcher leading off. After Bills reached base, Ivan De Jesus walked an out later for two on. Andre Ethier flied out, moving Bills to third. Matt Kemp smacked an RBI ground rule double for the 1-0 lead.

Everything was going smoothly for Bills until Posey and Pablo Sandoval singled to open the fourth. Belt has plenty of hype surrounding him, and a three-run homer to dead center confirmed all of that. It's no wonder why the Giants are excited about his future.

Down 3-1 against a good pitcher, it was Kemp who ignited the comeback. The Kemp of last year probably would have been asleep at this point, but in this game he started the bottom of the sixth with a single. In a piece of great baserunning, he advanced to third on a groundout by Marcus Thames, catching the Giants by surprise.

James Loney lifted a sac-fly RBI to make it 3-2. Consecutive singles by Rod Barajas and Aaron Miles put two more on, and they both advanced on Sandoval's error at third. Hector Gimenez pinch-hit and dribbled one to Sanchez, who somehow bobbled it for an error, allowing the tying run to score. A sharp RBI single by Rafael Furcal put the Dodgers ahead for good, 4-3.

A couple of offseason signings in the bullpen worked the seventh and eighth, starting with Blake Hawksworth. He ran into trouble by loading the bases on singles by Miguel Tejada (on a great bunt) and Freddy Sanchez, and a walk to Aubrey Huff. On a 3-2 count with two outs, Posey struck out swinging, sending his bat flying into the stands.

Matt Guerrier then stepped in and got through the next inning, only surrendering a single to Sandoval. Jonathan Broxton got the save with a perfect ninth, something he really needed. Say what you want about him (and I certainly do), but he's 2-for-2 thus far, so we'll all take it.

This is a game the Dodgers could have easily rolled over on, so I give them all credit for fighting back. A lot of that credit goes to Kemp, who is using his speed and defense to make a difference already. In two games he's 3-for-5 with three runs, an RBI, a stolen base, and three walks. The key now is to make sure he keeps up the effort. It doesn't matter if it's game #2 or #122, this is the kind of effort that makes him better than so many others.

Billingsley would like his one pitch back to Belt, but other than that, he threw well. He finished at six innings, five hits, three runs, one walk, and four strikeouts. The bullpen of Hawksworth, Guerrier, and Broxton went three scoreless.

So far, so good for the Dodgers, who will be back at it on Saturday afternoon with the Giants. Ted Lilly goes against Matt Cain, who quietly is one of the best pitchers in the league. Lilly had a great half-season in blue last year, so it's another quality pitching matchup. It'll be a FOX game, so this guy is stuck listening to his XM radio while the Yankees-Tigers are on. Enjoy for those of you who can see it.