Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A strange start, but Billingsley gets a win

Three odd things occurred at Dodger Stadium on Memorial Day. One, Billingsley gave up a whole bunch of hits, but only one run. Two, the offense actually hit the ball for the second straight game.

The third? There weren't any fires!

Despite giving up a career-high 11 hits spread out over seven innings, Billingsley only allowed one run to score. The offense once again came through by pounding on Jason Hammel, and the Dodgers rolled over the Rockies, 7-1. The Dodgers are still in fourth place in the NL West, but are 5 1/2 games in back of division-leading Arizona.

The first inning showcased a great defensive play by Matt Kemp and Rod Barajas. With two outs an Carlos Gonzalez on second from a single and stolen base, Troy Tulowitzki singled to center. Gonzalez tried to score, but Kemp came up gunning, and Barajas made a nice catch and tag to keep the game scoreless.

The Rockies would go on to threaten in the following two innings, but couldn't get a run pushed across the board. Two singles opened the second inning, then three strikeouts followed. Eric Young led off the third with a single and stolen base, but was also stranded.

The Dodgers jumped on Hammel in the third. Much like Clayton Kershaw on Sunday, Billingsley singled leading off to start a rally. Next came two straight singles by Rafael Furcal and Jamey Carroll to load the bases. Andre Ethier was able to sneak one into center for a two-run single and 2-0 lead. Two more runs were collected on a groundout by Kemp and RBI single from James Loney.

In the fourth, the Rockies got their only run of the night on a solo homer by Ty Wiggington. Of course, the key word here is "solo," meaning that of all of those times they had runners on base, they flushed it down the toilet. As fellow Dodger fans, we know the feeling!

The fifth inning brought some more runs. Carroll led off with triple down the right field line. Ethier came through again with an RBI single to go up 5-1. The Dodgers then played longball, and it came from an usual source. Loney connected on a big fly to left, scoring two and going up 7-1. It was Loney's second homer in his last four games.

To show you just how frustrating of a night it was for the Rocks, in both the seventh and eighth, they put three runners on a different points, and still couldn't score. Tulo grounded into an inning ending double play to finish the seventh, and a double play ball from Ryan Spilborghs helped the Dodgers escape the eighth unscathed.

Oh, just for good measure, they also singled twice in the ninth off of Javy Guerra, and still couldn't score. It was a crazy night indeed.

Usually it's the Dodgers who are the ones that can't come through in the clutch, but not in this one. The Rockies left an incredible 13 men on base, including six with runners in scoring position and two outs. For each individual batter, they totalled 26 men left on. I'd say grounding into three double plays and getting thrown out at home were reasons why they struggled to score.

The Dodgers now have 15 runs scored in the last two games. Yes, those words are actually true. During the week of May 22-28, they scored 16 runs in six games. The week before? 19 runs in seven games. It really couldn't get a whole lot worse than that.

It was good to see Loney hit so well, as he has spent all season looking like an occasional singles hitter and nothing more. He was 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs. To his credit, he entered the month of May hitting .210, and it's now up to .249. Good for him, because I'm not sure the Dodgers could've shown any more patience with him. Let's hope he continues this streak.

Billingsley was living dangerously all night, but made big pitches when he needed them the most. He ended up throwing seven innings for 11 hits, one run, two walks, and eight strikeouts. Plus he went 1-for-3 with a run scored. The win evens his record at 4-4 with a 3.46 ERA.

The three-game set continues Tuesday night. Ted Lilly will go for his fourth win.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Kershaw shuts down the Fish

As the month of May is drawing to a close, the Dodgers finally put together a fantastic performance on both sides of the field against a good team.

The offense pounded out 17 hits and eight runs, and Clayton Kershaw completely baffled the Marlins all day with a complete game, two-hit shutout as the Dodgers got the victory, 8-0. With the win, the Dodgers won a series for the first time since taking two of three from the Pirates on May 9-11.

The Dodgers did all of their scoring in two innings. It started in the third when Kershaw singled leading off. Rafael Furcal had been in a huge slump since coming back from injury, but he got into one for his first homer of the season to go up 2-0. On the day, Raffy went 3-for-5 with two runs and three RBIs. It's not a surprise that on a day where he hit well, the Dodgers easily won.

With one down now, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp both singled before Jerry Sands popped up. No matter, as both Jay Gibbons and Dioner Navarro hit RBI singles for the 4-0 advantage.

The fourth inning didn't bring any runs, but a whole lot of action. Kershaw again singled leading off, and Raffy did the same. Casey Blake stuck out, and after Ethier was given the intentional pass, Kemp grounded into a double play. Kemp, however, was furious about a called strike during the at-bat, and got tossed for arguing. Ditto for Don Mattingly, as he stuck up for his boy.

The offense put the game away for good in the fifth. The bases were loaded with one out on a single by Gibbons, a double by Navarro, and another intentional walk, this time to Jamey Carroll. Kershaw collected an RBI on a groundout. Raffy got another RBI on a single, and Blake hit a two-run single, making it 8-0.

It was all about Kershaw from there, who was just masterful all afternoon long. To go along with his two-hitter, he struck out 10 and only walked one. He retired the Marlins in order in six of the nine innings he pitched. He was just that good.

With his 10-strikeout day, he now has 87 on the season, good for first in the majors (granted he has one more start than guys right on his heels like Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and James Shields). Plus, with two hits in this game, he now has a .240 average, which isn't bad at all for a pitcher. Not too shabby of a day, huh?

Most importantly, Kershaw showed his team that he can take the ball every fifth day and carry them on his back. He obviously got great support from the offense in this one, but only one of the eight runs were needed. With June approaching, a few more good starts will most definitely earn him another honor he's been waiting on: an All-Star berth.

After dropping Saturday's game in lowly fashion, I talked about what the offense needed to do to get on track. Everyone knows that Ethier and Kemp need to hit for the Dodgers to win. On Sunday, they combined to go 4-for-6 with a double, two runs, and two walks. Plus one sweet ejection. Ethier got on base all five at-bats.

The other guy I pointed out was Raffy, who was still trying to find his groove. Hopefully Sunday was that day in which he become comfortable at the plate again, as his average shot up from .154 to .193. Hey, you've got to start somewhere. A healthy Raffy leading off = an offense that is actually relevant.

It was encouraging to see the offense hit around a good pitcher in Ricky Nolasco, who entered the game 4-0 with a 3.04 ERA. Well, after getting pounded for eight runs on 15 hits in five innings, it's now at 3.82. Not quite as bad as Jaime Garcia's ERA jump the other night, but still pretty eye opening.

I'm just glad the Dodgers both gave their fans something to cheer about and finally won a series after tying or dropping five straight. It's about time! Do I think the Dodgers are completely turned around after one win? No. But I do think they should use this small momentum to win the upcoming three-game set against a slumping Rockies team. Now is the time to get them.

Monday's Memorial Day start will go to Chad Billingsley, who will go up against Jason Hammel.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dodgers snore their way to another loss

This season has been full of embarrassing moments both on an off the field for the Dodgers. Saturday night brought the latest examples from each.

As the Dodgers were flailing away helplessly at a bunch of middle relievers from the Marlins, a small fire broke out in a warehouse near Dodger Stadium, causing a whole mass of people to relocate seats (it wasn't hard - nobody was there) in the upper deck.

It's probably not surprising that the Dodgers lost again, 6-1. With the loss (again), the Dodgers are now seven games under .500 as they continue to challenge the Padres for dead last in the NL West. At this rate, they'll be there in no time.

Hiroki Kuroda got the start, and he was coming off a rough start against the White Sox, which came immediately after being practically untouchable in the previous two. This start would see the bad Kuroda, as he gave up a season-high 10 hits in only 5 1/3 innings of work.

In the first, Chris Coghlan led off the game with a double. That was a sign of things to come, as after Hanley Ramirez's groundout got him to third, Logan Morrison lifted a sac-fly RBI for the 1-0 lead. Gabby Sanchez then doubled and scored on a single by Gregg Dobbs, and it was 2-0 just like that.

The Dodgers got on the board in the third. Kuroda led off with a walk of all things. Rafael Furcal then singled. Now with two outs, Matt Kemp lifted an RBI double to left to cut the deficit to 2-1. That was Kemp's 35th run batted in on the season, good for seventh in the National League. Imagine if he had a good offense around him? He could be in first.

Kuroda gave that run right back in the fourth. Sanchez opened it up with a double. Kuroda got the next two out, but Omar Infante's RBI single put their lead up to 3-1.

The game was broken open for good in the sixth. Dobbs again burned the Dodgers with a double leading off. Mike Stanton walked, and Infante's sacrifice put runners in scoring position. Out went Kuroda, and in came Mike MacDougal, who got Brett Hayes grounding out. But, Wes Helms bounced one just inside the first base line for a two-run double, and it was 5-1.

The final run came in the seventh against Kenley Jansen, who was all over the place. He somehow only gave up a run on an RBI single by Dobbs. It wasn't surprising, as Dobbs is torching the Dodgers this year with a .563 average in five games.

After this latest putrid outing from the Dodgers, they're now 27th in the baseball in runs scored. They're also 26th in slugging percentage, which obviously shows a complete lack of power. Then there's RBIs, which they're 28th. You get the point by now.

The biggest problem with the Dodgers is that they're so freakin' boring to watch. I understand they don't have a lineup that will put up a bunch of runs, but geez, when's the last time you watched a game in which they just went off? In looking at the month of May, they won 10-3 over the Pirates on the 10th. They've played 16 games after that in which they never just cruised to victory. That's how awful this offense is.

So the question is, How can the Dodgers break out of this slump? That's something that's been asked for awhile now, to no avail. It's probably as simple as getting Andre Ethier and Kemp to hit again. This month, Ethier's hitting .228, and Kemp .247. If they don't hit, forget about it.

Another guy who's key to the offense is Raffy, who recently returned from injury. To say it's been a struggle is an understatement. In six games since his return, he's 3-for-26 with five strikeouts. Here's another big stat: he has zero walks... as the leadoff hitter. He'll never be the most patient person at the plate, but that's just not getting it done.

Every team goes through peaks and valleys during the season, and the Dodgers are desperately looking to get another peak going. The only way that will ever happen is if someone steps up and leads the way at the plate. I have just as many doubts as anyone else does if that will ever actually happen, but there is plenty of time left in the season. I just hope it does or they'll continue to embarrass themselves night in and night out.

Sunday's rubber match will be a great pitching duel. Clayton Kershaw will go against Ricky Nolasco. So if you expect the offense to break out of their slump in this game, you can think again. Let's just hope Kershaw makes life even tougher on the Fish.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A walk-off winner for Navarro

Despite not even averaging three runs a game in the month of May, it was the offense that stepped up and won Friday night's game.

Dioner Navarro pinch-hit with the bases loaded in the ninth inning and lined a sharp single to center to give the Dodgers a win over the red hot Marlins, 3-2. The last two weeks have been brutal for the Dodgers, so it's only their fourth win in 12 games.

Oddly enough, it was the longball that put the Dodgers' first two runs on the board. In the second, James Loney got the first hit of the game by creaming one to right. It was only his second tater of the season, and give his teammates credit for giving him the silent treatment when coming back in the dugout. It was a fun moment in a season that hasn't seen too many of them.

The Marlins tied it in the sixth. Hanley Ramirez walked leading off against Jon Garland. Logan Morrison then singled for two on. Gabby Sanchez grounded into a double play, which allowed Ramirez to get to third with two down. Needing one more big pitch, Garland couldn't do it as Gregg Dobbs singled to left to tie the game 1-1.

The Dodgers didn't waste any time in grabbing back the lead. Again with two outs, Andre Ethier took a high breaking ball out to right for his fifth homer of the year. He had two hits on this night, his first multi-hit game since May 10, or 16 games ago. It hasn't been all roses for him since his hitting streak was snapped on May 7.

With a one-run lead entering late in the game, it was almost inevitable that it wouldn't last considering it was bullpen time. Sure enough, it didn't. But it started off well, as Scott Elbert relieved Garland with one on and one out in the seventh. Elbert immediately got Chris Coghlan to ground into a double play.

The fun would be short-lived, as Don Mattingly gave the ball to Rubby De La Rosa in the eighth. He wasn't sharp at all to begin with, as he walked Ramirez and watched him steal second without a throw. Morrison lined out hard to Loney at first for one down. Sanchez singled to put runners on the corners, and another RBI single by Dobbs evened the game at 2-2.

Who knows if the Marlins would have scored again had they not completely run themselves out of the inning. With one down, Mike Stanton popped one up in foul territory that Loney made a slick catch on near the dugout. Sanchez then tried to catch the Dodgers napping with nobody covering home, yet De La Rosa was able to easily run him down for the last out. Just a horrible play by the Fish.

De La Rosa bounced back with a perfect ninth to set it up for the offense. Clay Hensley came on and all four batters reached against him. It started with a single by the returning Casey Blake, who made a terrific diving catch earlier in the game. Andre Ethier singled, and Blake went to third on Stanton's bobble.

The decision was then obvious as Matt Kemp stepped up to the plate, as he was given the intentional pass to load the bases. Navarro then hit for De La Rosa, and even with an extra infielder to get the forceout at home, Navarro lined it through everybody for the walk-off.

Both team combined for only 13 hits, with the Marlins holding the slight 7-6 edge. But, they certainly have to be kicking themselves for blowing chances with runners on base. The Dodgers turned a whopping four double plays, including the gift baserunning blunder to end the eighth.

Garland bounced back from a rough start against the White Sox to go 6 1/3 innings for five hits, one run, four walks, and two strikeouts. He was obviously helped out by his defense. His WHIP for the season is a concern at 1.44, so let's hope that starts coming down.

De La Rosa gets the blown save, but also his first career win. I think Mattingly just has to continue to let these guys get time, as guys like Javy Guerra, Elbert, and De La Rosa are the wave of the future. With news that Blake Hawksworth suffered a setback in his rehab, it's obvious that the young guns are going to get plenty of chances right now. At this point, Mattingly might as well put them in there and show their stuff.

The Dodgers caught a big break by avoiding both the injured Josh Johnson and the masterful Anibal Sanchez this weekend. So, if they're going to claim a series against the Marlins, this would be the time. So far, so good.

Saturday's game will see Hiroki Kuroda take the ball and look for his sixth win. Brian Sanches has been a great reliever this year, and with the injury to Johnson, will get his first career start after 166 games of relief.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

If the bullpen can blow it, they will

Your latest proof is Wednesday afternoon's game in Houston.

With the score tied 1-1 in the ninth, it was Matt Guerrier who became the latest reliever to blow it as the Astros got a run to take the game, 2-1. The Dodgers dropped two of three to the Astros. It sure seems like they drop two of three to everybody these days.

Ted Lilly was the starter, and on the first he pitch he threw, Michael Bourn deposited it into right for a solo shot and 1-0 lead. I'm guessing that's not the way Lilly wanted to make an impression, especially considering that Bourn hadn't hit a homer all year. Until now.

The Dodgers couldn't get anything going at the plate for much of the game. In the fifth, Dioner Navarro reached on a bunt leading off. Aaron Miles singled an out later to put two on. Lilly's sacrifice got them to scoring position, but Rafael Furcal, who's 1-for-18 since coming back from a broken thumb, grounded out to end it.

Thankfully Matt Kemp took matters into his own hands to tie the game in the sixth. With two down, he cranked his 12th homer of the season to left. He was the lone bright spot on this day by going 3-for-4 to increase his average to .317.

Mike MacDougal relieved Lilly and pitched a scoreless seventh. After the Dodgers wasted a double by Kemp in the eighth (shocking), Javy Guerra got through the heart of the order with ease to set it up for the ninth.

The Dodgers' offense played very inspired ball in the ninth by going down in order. Guerrier has pitched well this year, but not on this day. Brett Wallace doubled with one down to start the rally. Bill Hall then flew out to make it two down.

What happened next really wasn't a surprise. The way I look at it, if the Dodgers were a winning team, they would've sent that game to extra innings. But they're not, so right on cue, J.R. Towles hit a walk-off single. That's the way things are going for the boys in blue.

If you're Lilly, you're happy with how you battled after starting the game with a homer. He lasted six innings for six hits, one run, one walk, and two strikeouts. He's been fighting himself all season for consistency, but after this effort, that's two good starts in a row, and three of the last four. His ERA is slowly creeping down to 4.41.

If you're the offense, you're once again guilty of letting the team down. I know Andre Ethier was relegated to pinch-hitting duty, and that does make a difference. But if you take away Kemp's three hits, the rest of the team went 3-for-28. Holy crap! I don't care who's in there, that's just plain sad.

Plus, they were facing some guy named Aneury Rodriguez. He entered this game with a 5.72 ERA. Nothing against him, but if you're getting shut down by him for only one run in six innings, that's really pathetic. Not surprising, but still pathetic.

I'm not sure what else can even be said about the offense that hasn't already been said. Raffy is certainly better than the slump he's in, but if he's not hitting, that's no different than when he was out. James Loney and his .238 average was hitting in the #3 spot. Jay Gibbons and his .200 average was hitting fifth. That says it all right there.

It's a good thing Thursday is an off day. One, the team can use it to get home and unwind. Two, Ethier should be able to come back after getting some rest after crashing into the wall in Chicago on Sunday. At least we can hope he's back and swinging a healthy bat.

Friday starts a three-game set against the Marlins. The Fish are an impressive 27-19 and hanging right behind the Phillies in the NL East. In other words, this won't be an easy series. Jon Garland gets the call in the first game.

Dodgers win on a Sands slam

Ladies and gentleman, Jerry Sands is starting to shine.

One night after coughing away a ninth inning lead, Sands's grand slam helped lead the way as the Dodgers edged the Astros, 5-4. It was a much-needed win for the Dodgers, who are suffering losses both on the field and off of it via the injury bug with regularity.

The Dodgers were the first to strike. In the second, Jay Gibbons hit a solo homer with two outs for the 1-0 lead. It was his first shot of the year, and with a .216 average, he really needs more hits like this to justify getting any playing time going forward.

Much like the second, the Dodgers got a rally going with two outs in the following inning. Hitting in the #2 hole, Jamey Carroll took a walk. James Loney singled to center, and Matt Kemp reached on an error by Bill Hall to load the bases. Sands has been swinging a hot bat lately, and he flexed his muscle with the grand slam to go up 5-0.

Unfortunately for Chad Billingsley, the big cushion was almost completely handed right back in the bottom of the frame. Perhaps he was used to pitching in tight ballgames? I'm just saying. Anyway, Michael Bourne walked with two down. After a Clint Barmes single, Hunter Pence's RBI double made it 5-1. Carlos Lee scored two with a single, and it was 5-3.

Pence did more damage when he led off the sixth with a double. Lee and Brett Wallace then walked to load the bases with nobody out. Knowing how much of a mess the bullpen has been, Don Mattingly chose to leave Bills in. It pretty much worked, as only one run scored on a sac-fly RBI by Chris Johnson making it 5-4.

Now came time for the bullpen to protect the lead, something Kenley Jansen failed miserably at a night ago. Mike MacDougal pitched the seventh and was flawless. He's been a bright spot in a giant dark cloud this year with his 1.59 ERA.

Next came the major league debut of young Rubby De La Rosa, who was just recalled from Double-A Chattanooga. I'm sure the Dodgers wanted to wait on him, but with injuries and ineffectiveness, he got the call. For one night anyway, he looked awesome. Facing the heart of the order, he struck out two in a scoreless eighth.

The youth movement continued in the ninth, as Javy Guerra was given the chance to close it out. We can all thank the Good Lord above that it actually worked, as he went 1-2-3 for his first career save.

After Monday's meltdown, I didn't think I'd be able to say for awhile that the bullpen pitched shutdown ball, but they did. MacDougal, De La Rosa, and Guerra combined to get the last nine outs in order with five strikeouts. Who would have thought that was possible? Not me. But I'm glad to be wrong.

Things will get very interesting when guys like Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, and Vicente Padilla come off the DL. Suppose De La Rosa and Guerra continue to pitch well, then what do you do? There's obviously not room for everyone. If you're one of the young guns, their goal is to make that decision difficult for Ned Colletti and Mattingly.

It was also good to see Billingsley pick up a win on a night where he wasn't as sharp as he could be. Still, he was huge in the sixth by getting out of the bases loaded, nobody out jam with only one run. Overall, he went six innings for five hits, four runs, three walks, and nine strikeouts.

The rubber match will be played Wednesday afternoon before the Dodgers use a travel day on Thursday returning home. Ted Lilly will look to even up his record by getting a fourth win.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Dodgers are a mess... and getting worse

If you wanted an idea of just how bad things have been for the Dodgers, Sunday was the perfect example. A combination of bad pitching, bad hitting, bad defense, mental errors, and injuries all reared their ugly heads.

It goes without saying that the Dodgers lost again, this time 8-3 to the White Sox. The Dodgers dropped two of three in this interleague series, and have now lost seven of nine.

Hiroki Kuroda entered this game having pitched 14 2/3 scoreless innings. He was practically unhittable his last two starts. Today? Completely hittable.

Juan Pierre singled to lead off the bottom of the first. Alexei Ramirez then cranked a two-run homer for the 2-0 lead. A couple of outs later, A.J. Pierzynski hit a solo shot to make it 3-0.

The mental errors for the Dodgers showed up in the second. James Loney singled with one down. Then Rod Barajas lifted a soft fly ball that was easily caught by Gordon Beckham in shallow right. For reasons only known to Loney, he ventured too far off of first and was doubled up. It was quite frankly one of the dumbest mistakes I can ever recall seeing. Just pathetic.

The White Sox broke it open in the fourth. It started on an error by the returning Rafael Furcal, who no doubt inspired his team by going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and an error in the leadoff spot. A Pierre double sent runners to scoring position, and also knocked Andre Ethier out of the game after slamming into the fence. Ramirez, who doubled home the fourth run in the second, got another RBI with a single, and it was 5-0. Paul Konerko's sac-fly RBI pushed it to 6-0.

Mercifully, the Dodgers got on the board in the fifth. Loney led off with a double. Barjas hurt his wrist on Pierre's slide the previous inning, so Dioner Navarro pinch-hit and naturally grounded out. Loney went to third on a wild pitch, and Jay Gibbons scored him on an RBI groundout.

In the seventh, the Dodgers at least made it look like a game by scoring a couple more. Gibbons led off with a double, only his second extra-base hit of the season. Jerry Sands singled and Russ Mitchell walked to load the bases. Jesse Crain relieved Chris Sale and got Raffy swinging for one down.

Jamey Carroll then took a walk for the easy RBI. Tony Gwynn grounded into a fielder's choice, but the run scored and it was now 6-3.

Javy Guerra got a couple outs in the seventh, but had no such luck in the eighth. Ramirez collected with fifth RBI of the day with a double for the 7-3 lead. Adam Dunn has been horrific this season, but even he got an RBI single to put the game away for good at 8-3.

Despite getting eight hits, taking four walks, and stealing three bases, the Dodgers could only get three runs. With runners in scoring position and two outs, Kemp left three on, and Raffy, Carroll, and Navarro all left one. It's the same old problem for this team - a lack of clutch hitting. They didn't get it today, and it was another L.

Then there's the pitching, which was awful today. Kuroda ended up going 5 2/3 for nine hits, six runs (four earned), two walks, and three strikeouts. He has been great this year, so this was just a bad day for him. He still has a 3.10 ERA.

The bullpen is in such bad shape right now, that any close game late automatically gives the advantage to the opposing team. Scott Elbert gave up a walk while getting a couple outs. Guerra allowed two runs in an inning of work. Ramon Troncoso got two outs to lower his ERA to... 8.10. Yikes.

I know the injury bug has really hit this team hard, maybe harder than any other team. But, even with that said, they just looked like a complete train wreck for most of this game. The White Sox blitzed them early, then you had Loney's brain fart, then Raffy's big error, then the bullpen erasing any chance at a comeback. It was just a hard game to watch from the first pitch on.

Ned Colletti has maintained that the Dodgers just need to get healthy in order to contend. I can understand his positive thinking, because he should think that way. But the reality is that even with those guys, they're not a top contending team. Take some of those guys away, and they'll be lucky to be a .500 club.

The Dodgers are only seven games in back of the NL West lead. That could be a whole lot worse. But I don't care how many injuries they have - if they play the game like the did today with one mental error after another, they can be the healthiest team in America and still lose. Banged up or not, that has to stop.

With interleague play over for now, the Dodgers will travel to Houston for three before an off day on Thursday to return home. Clayton Kershaw will get the call against Bud Norris.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

White Sox take apart the Dodgers

A horrific fourth inning in which the Dodgers gave up six runs was more than enough for the White Sox to take the Saturday afternoon game, 9-2. Both teams have split the first couple of games.

Jon Garland was back on the mound at a place that gave him plenty of success in the past. He was an 18-game winner in both 2005 and 2006 and won a ring in '05. So it goes without saying that he had this start circled ready to show he still has it.

Too bad that didn't actually happen today, as the Sox used some bloop hits and the longball to make life miserable for him. All in all, he lasted only 3 2/3 innings for 11 hits, seven runs, one walk, and two strikeouts. His ERA shot up from 3.55 to 4.75 just like that.

It all started in the first. After the Dodgers wasted a couple of baserunners, the Sox cashed them in when given the chance. Alexei Ramirez doubled with one out. Following an Adam Dunn strikeout, one of four on the day, Paul Konerko's RBI single made it 1-0.

Believe it or not, the Dodgers actually were in this game at one point, and tied it in the third. Jamey Carroll beat out an infield hit leading off. Juan Castro laid down the sacrifice bunt, but nobody covered first and was safe. Matt Kemp tied the game at 1 with an RBI groundout.

That was as good as it would get for the Dodgers in this one, as the fourth inning saw the Sox send 11 men to the plate for six runs on seven hits. It all started on a single by Konerko. He was actually then gunned at third by Jerry Sands on A.J. Pierzynski's single for one down.

It got ugly from there, as Alex Rios rocketed a two-run tater, and it was 3-1. Omar Vizquel singled, Brent Lillibridge was beaned, and Gordon Beckham singled to load 'em up. Ramirez plated two of them with a single, and Dunn walked to load the bases again. Ramon Troncoso came in and immediately watched Konerko score two more with a single. In the end, it was 7-1.

The Dodgers didn't have a whole lot happen after that. The only good thing was watching Sands hit his first career big league homer in the sixth. Of course nobody was on base, but still, it was good to see. He hasn't been the power threat the Dodgers were hoping, but now that he has the first one out of the way, maybe more are soon to follow.

The final runs of the day came on a two-run homer by Lillibridge off of Lance Cormier. But you're as shocked as I am that Cormier gave up a homer. Nope, I didn't think so either.

As funny as this may seem, I didn't think Garland was really all that bad. He fell victim to some bad luck with a couple of bloop hits, and some grounders that found holes. That's the way it goes sometimes. His pitching line is hard to look at, but I'm not worried about him.

The same can't be said for Cormier, who looks just completely lost out there. After giving up two runs in two innings, he now has a 9.88 ERA in 13 2/3 innings this year. I can't imagine he'll be around much longer once some of the DL guys start coming back. At least I hope not.

Maybe the best news from this game, other than the homer by Sands, is that Rafael Furcal may be activated and play in Sunday's finale. If not, then it will be very soon. Plus, Casey Blake could begin a rehab assignment soon. Like I said recently, they're not huge power hitters, but they can only help a lifeless offense when they do return.

For every piece of good news, there's also the negative. This time it's Juan Uribe possibly getting DL'd with a left hip flexor. He's only hitting .220, but had started to turn things around again recently. Wouldn't you know it, now he's hurt. So it goes for the Dodgers.

The last game of this three-game series will come on Sunday afternoon. Hiroki Kuroda has been masterful in his last two starts, and he will be looking for his sixth win.

Russ Mitchell does it all

The Dodgers have certainly had their fair share of struggles at the plate this season. So when it came down to Russ Mitchell vs. Sergio Santos in the bottom of the ninth, the White Sox liked their chances.

Then Mitchell did something the Dodgers have been waiting to see - a solo homer to keep the game alive. Three more runs came in the 10th, and the Dodgers came out of nowhere to beat the White Sox, 6-4. With this win, the Dodgers are now 4-0 in extra inning games this year.

After dropping two straight to the hated Giants at home, maybe the Dodgers enjoyed getting out of town for some interleague action. It sure looked that way in the first, as Jamey Carroll doubled with two outs, part of his four-hit night. Matt Kemp stepped in with two outs and launched a two-run homer for the early lead.

Ted Lilly got through the first with ease, but not the second. It all started with two outs as Alex Rios doubled. Ramon Castro hit a ground rule double to score him, cutting the lead to 2-1. Gordon Beckham gave the Sox the lead with a two-run shot, and it was 3-2.

Both Lilly and Phil Humber settled down after that, as neither team put a run across the board until late. The Dodgers had a chance in the eighth with Matt Thorton in. Jerry Sands walked leading off, followed by a ground rule double by Carroll. But, Andre Ethier struck out, and with Jesse Crain now in, Juan Castro and James Loney couldn't get the job done either.

So then came the ninth inning and Santos on to close. He came into this game with an ERA of 0.00, as in no runs in 20 innings this season, with six saves. Plus he was facing the bottom of the Dodgers' order, so the chances of winning increased even more.

Dioner Navarro led off and struck out. Jay Gibbons then flew out to right. Mitchell wasn't exactly an ideal hitter to tie the game considering he didn't have a homer all season and was hitting below .100. So with a 2-1 count, Santos threw a fastball right over the heart of the plate which Mitchell just hit inside the foul pole in left to knot it up.

Kenley Jansen got through the ninth with only a single to send the game to the 10th. Carroll once again started a rally with a single. Kemp also singled with one out. Next came an RBI single by old man Castro, and an RBI double from Loney. Yes, I did just say "double" and "Loney" in the same sentence. That's only his fifth extra-base hit all season in 164 at-bats. Wow. Gibbons got the last run with an RBI single to go up 6-3.

The White Sox wouldn't go quietly in the bottom of the 10th. With Vicente Padilla on the DL, Matt Guerrier got a crack at another save. Omar Vizquel singled leading off, and Juan "For Five" Pierre (I miss saying that) followed with another one. A groundout by Alexei Ramirez put both men in scoring position.

Out went Guerrier, in came Scott Elbert to face Adam Dunn. On a hard grounder to third, Mitchell again made a big play with a great diving stop to get the out while Vizquel scored. Mice MacDougal got the save by getting Paul Konerko to ground out to end the game.

It was a pretty crazy game by the time it was all said and done. The Dodgers have to feel really good about seeing someone other than Kemp or Ethier step up and make big plays. Tonight it was guys like Mitchell, Castro, Carroll, and Jansen getting it done. That's how the Dodgers win, by getting production from a bunch of guys.

Lilly shook off a bad second inning and turned in a solid performance. He ended up with seven innings pitched for seven hits, three runs, no walks, and five strikeouts. He's the only one in the rotation who hasn't really pulled his weight, so starts like this are good.

The bullpen of Jansen, Guerrier, Elbert, and MacDougal were great, and that's not something I get to say all that much. They combined to throw the final four innings for three hits, one run, no walks, and two strikeouts. It's not often you see a pitching staff not allow a walk all game, so it's a job well done to them.

After the big win on Friday, the Dodgers and White Sox will have an afternoon tilt on Saturday. Jon Garland, who won a ring with the Sox back in '05, will get the start against Mark Buehrle.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Add Padilla to the DL club

Just in case any of you were comfortable with Vicente Padilla as the Dodgers' closer, think again. Padilla was placed on the 15-day DL with a sore right forearm. He joins a list of relievers including Jonathan Broxton, Blake Hawksworth, and Hong-Chih Kuo of the walking wounded.

Padilla took over the closer's role when Broxton was sidelined on May 4 with a bone spur in his right elbow. He appeared in three save situations and converted two of them, with the other becoming a hold when he was pulled after getting two outs. Overall, he has three saves and five holds for a 4.15 ERA.

The mess of a bullpen will get even cloudier now with a fourth arm sidelined. Expect to see Matt Guerrier and Kenley Jansen get the chance to close, with Mike MacDougal also getting key outs. After that it's a crapshoot with guys like Scott Elbert, Ramon Troncoso, Lance Cormier, and Javy Guerra. Ouch.

Needless to say, the Dodgers are in some trouble here. They have an offense that stinks and a bullpen that is leakier than my basement in all of this New York rain. If they want to win, the starting rotation will have to carry them even further now. It won't be easy.

Diving catch spoils Dodgers' comeback

The Dodgers spent eight innings failing to score against Madison Bumgarner. When they finally broke through in the ninth and had the Giants' All-Star closer on the ropes, it was a great defensive play that ruined it all.

The Giants needed a diving catch from Nate Schierholtz to prevent Jamey Carroll from at least tying the game, and the Dodgers fell, 3-1. With the loss, the Dodgers lost both games of the two-game set, and are now five games under .500. Ugh.

Going into this one, the Dodgers had to at least like their chances of winning. They were facing a guy in Bumgarner who hadn't won all season. Plus, Chad Billingsley was on the mound, and he's been great lately.

So of course that meant the offense would continue to stink up the joint. And oh that they did. Six measly hits all night were all they could muster. But really, it's not surprising. That's just who they are.

The Giants got the scoring started in the second. Buster Posey led off with a double down the right field line. Billingsley got the next two out, but then gave up an RBI double to Mike Fontenot, making it 1-0.

Bumgarner got in on the fun at the plate in the third. He doubled leading off, and soon went to third on Andres Torres's bunt single. Freddy Sanchez lifted a sac-fly RBI to center for the 2-0 lead.

In the sixth, the Giants added another run. Miguel Tejada started it with a single to left. Bumgarner had another good at-bat with a sacrifice to push Tejada to second. He soon went to third on a groundout, and scored on a single by Freddy Sanchez to go up 3-0.

If you're wondering where the Dodger highlights were, they didn't exist. But that changed in the ninth when things got very interesting. The funny thing was that it all started with two outs and Bumgarner looking for the complete game shutout. Rod Barajas singled and came around to score on Jerry Sands's RBI double, making it 3-1.

With a stud closer like Brian Wilson ready, Bruce Bochy made the switch. It nearly didn't work, as Jay Gibbons pinch-hit for Russ Mitchell and drew a walk. James Loney then pinch-hit in the pitcher's spot, and he also walked to load the bases. Carroll did all he could, but fell a victim to bad luck and great defense by the bad guys as Schierholtz ended the game.

Every loss is frustrating, but these last two have been that much more. Wednesday was all about the latest bullpen meltdown, this time courtesy of the crappy Lance Cormier. Thursday saw a great effort at the end, but eight innings before of an offense on life support. That's how things have been lately for the Dodgers.

The offense is now 27th in runs scored (155) and 25th in slugging % (.355). Those numbers just continue to trend downwards, along with their standing in the NL West. The scary part is, I'm not sure it's going to get much better. The returns of Rafael Furcal and Casey Blake should help, but it's not like we're talking about huge power hitters here. They are what they are.

It's easy to be very concerned with this team now with news that Vicente Padilla is the latest to hit the DL with a sore forearm. That makes Jonathan Broxton, Blake Hawksworth, Hong-Chih Kuo, and Padilla to be disabled. Plus some guy named Ronald Belisario still hasn't showed up all season, and probably never will.

We can all be thankful that the starting rotation is doing their thing, because if they weren't, this team would be one of the worst in baseball. Billingsley wasn't very good in this one, as he lasted six innings for six hits, three runs, four walks, and four strikeouts. Still, he has a 2-4 record with a 3.47 ERA. That's just plain wrong that he doesn't get more support.

Interleague play starts this weekend, and the Dodgers will travel to Chicago to play the White Sox. They, too, have had their fair share of issues this season, and share an identical 20-25 record. Ted Lilly will get the start.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

When in doubt, call on Kuroda

Hiroki Kuroda has once again proven to be one of the best pitchers in the league nobody is talking about.

Kuroda went over seven innings scoreless, and Matt Kemp hit a two-run homer to give the Dodgers a win over the Brewers, 3-0. The win splits the short two-game series.

As fantastic as Kuroda was, he actually ran into a bit of trouble in the first. With one out, Corey Hart hit a sharp single to left. Ryan Braun then took a walk to set it up for the dangerous Prince Fielder. The Prince, however, bounced into a forceout for two down. Casey McGehee got a hold of one to deep center, but Kemp tracked it down to end it.

Kemp made more noise in the bottom of the first. Andre Ethier took a walk with two outs. Kemp then lifted a Randy Wolf pitch out to right for the 2-0 lead. It was Kemp's eighth shot of the season, and first since May 10.

With Kuroda dealing, the Dodgers tacked on another run in the eighth. Juan Uribe singled leading off against Mike McClendon. Two outs later, Jerry Sands hit an RBI double, making it 3-0. It was good to see Sands come through considering he's only hitting .212 in the month of May.

Vicente Padilla got the night off to rest his sore forearm, so Don Mattingly had a choice in whom to give the ball to in the ninth. Kenley Jansen came on to get the final out in the eighth, but he didn't get the chance to stay on. Instead, it was Matt Guerrier who got the call, and he responded with a perfect ninth for his first save.

The story of the night was obviously Kuroda, who wouldn't let any baserunners do a thing. He finished with 7 2/3 innings, six hits, no runs, two walks, and seven strikeouts. The win makes his record 5-3 with a 2.80 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. Plus, he now has gone 14 2/3 innings without allowing a run, dating back to his last start in beating the Pirates. He also has 15 strikeouts over that span.

Once again, Kuroda has stepped up and carried the Dodgers on his back at a time when the offense is struggling mightily. Yes, Kemp's homer gave him an early lead, but that was it until later in the game. So it's not like he was pitching with a big cushion. The margin of error was still low, and he was fantastic nonetheless.

With exception of Ted Lilly, who has yet to find his groove, the starting staff can in no way be blamed for this team's misfortunes. Clayton Kershaw's ERA is 2.47, Kuroda 2.80, Chad Billingsley 3.36, and Jon Garland 3.55. When your worst starter is Lilly, that's a pretty good sign that the rest of the staff has stepped up.

The fear, of course, is what if a starter or two goes through a slump. Then what? That's a scary thought considering the offense is 26th in the majors in runs scored. I'm not saying the staff will start to slump, because they have so much talent. If anything, they might get better if Lilly figures things out.

The bottom line is that the guys with the sticks need to perform under the pressure like the starting rotation continually does. This game was pretty good since they scored early for the lead, but three runs a night won't bring you many wins. In order to get a winning streak going, the offense needs at least a couple more guys to get hot.

With the Brewers here and gone, the Giants are now in for two. Wednesday night's game will be great as Clayton Kershaw battles Matt Cain. This is one of those games where the team that scores first has a great shot at winning since it won't happen often.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Big 2nd carries Diamondbacks to victory

With injuries and ineffectiveness found all throughout the Dodgers' offense, it's no wonder why four runs was more than enough to spell doom.

The Diamondbacks hit two homers en route to a four-run second inning, and Ian Kennedy made sure the lead held up as they downed the Dodgers, 4-1. The Dodgers dropped two of three in this series, and scored only one run this weekend. In other words, the beat goes on.

Ted Lilly came in with a 3-3 record, but was still trying to search for more consistency. Well, today it didn't happen. He only had one bad inning, but he was victimized by the long ball.

The inning started, not too surprisingly, with a walk to Stephen Drew. Xavier Nady then launched his first tater of the year with a two-run shot for the 2-0 lead. Ryan Roberts next stepped up and hit a solo home run to left, and it was 3-0. Miguel Montero then got beaned, but on a breaking ball that looked more like a slow pitch softball pitch. He was soon brought in on a sac-fly RBI from Chris Young, and it was 4-0.

Of course, the Dodgers had an opportunity to score first, but once again didn't come through with runners on. Rewind to the first inning. Jamey Carroll and Aaron Miles each singled on 0-2 counts. Andre Ethier struck out, but both guys stole bases to get into scoring position.

Matt Kemp then worked a walk to load the bases with one out. But when it rains, it pours, and the Dodgers didn't do a damn thing with it. James Loney flew out and Dioner Navarro struck out, one of three on the day for him. It was very Dodger-like I must say.

The DBacks loaded the bases themselves in the third, but Lilly got out of it unharmed. In the bottom of the frame, Carroll doubled leading off. Miles hit an RBI single to make it 4-1. The heart of the order consisting of Ethier, Kemp, and Loney all failed to get anything else going, and the score stayed that way.

The only other threat of the day came in the ninth. J.J. Putz was on for the save, but Loney greeted him with a double just in front of a diving Gerardo Parra in left. Navarro then struck out (I can't believe it...). Juan Uribe came on a couple innings before and walked for two on.

Rod Barajas was summoned to try and get that one big hit. With seven homers this season, it was a good choice. He then lifted a high fly ball to dead center that had a chance... and was caught by Young right near the wall. It was symbolic for just how this season has gone: close, but not close enough. Jerry Sands popped up to end the game.

In a way I do feel badly for Don Mattingly, as he has to put together a lineup that features little to no punch. Injuries to Rafael Furcal and Casey Blake have hurt, and even to Marcus Thames, who at least is a power threat. Instead, he has to pencil in guys like Loney, Navarro, and Tony Gwynn, none of whom are hitting over .230. His pinch-hitters are Uribe, Sands, and Jay Gibbons, who are hitting even worse.

In summary, there's not much to work with. And when Ethier and Kemp combine to go 0-for-7 with a walk, the chances of winning are as slim as you can imagine. This team is desperately searching for someone to step up with the stick and get involved, but it's not happening.

Lilly had one of those days in which his stuff looked completely hittable. He ended up going six innings for five hits, four runs, two walks, two hit batsmen, and five strikeouts. With a 4.83 ERA, he certainly hasn't carried the lower end of the rotation like I thought he would. Instead, I'm worried it won't get any better with some of those pitches he threw.

At least the bullpen looked good. After Mike MacDougal pitched a scoreless seventh, both Scott Elbert and Javy Guerra made their season debuts. Elbert struck out the side in the eighth. Guerra, who was making his major league debut, got through the ninth by only giving up a bloop single. With Hong-Chih Kuo and Blake Hawksworth missing time, these guys will be given chances to prove their worth. So far, so good.

The homestand continues with a couple of unusual two-game sets. First up will be the Brewers followed by the Giants. Jon Garland will go on Monday after pitching a rain-shortened two innings in Pittsburgh last Thursday.

1 hit surrendered... and the Dodgers lose

It's not too often you can say that you lost a game while giving up one hit. So congratulations, Dodgers, you can now say what so few else can.

Despite giving up only a double to Stephen Drew the entire game, a botched pickoff throw ultimately led to the Dodgers' downfall as they fell to the Diamondbacks, 1-0. The last time the Dodgers lost while pitching a one-hitter was 1914.

19. 14. Wow.

All of the offensive highlights for the night came in the second. Drew led off with a double against Chad Billingsley, who was awesome once again even without getting the W. Billingsley then wheeled around to try and pickoff Drew. Good idea, right? Apparently not to Jamey Carroll, who never covered the base, allowing Drew to scamper to third. A sac-fly RBI by Melvin Mora made it 1-0.

The Dodgers certainly had their chances to at least scratch and claw their way to one run, but couldn't do it. In the eighth, James Loney hit a ground rule double to right leading off. Yes, Loney actually showed some sign of power. Whodathunkit? Rod Barajas of all people sacrificed pinch-runner Tony Gwynn over to third with one down.

Dioner Navarro pinch-hit for Jerry Sands, who was 0-for-2 to drop his average down to .200. Navarro, though, struck out. Jay Gibbons then pinch-hit for Billingsley and flew out to end the inning. The funny thing was that Bills actually doubled earlier in the game, one of the Dodgers' four hits on the night.

In the ninth, the Dodgers again had a chance to score and came up with blanks. With J.J. Putz in to seal the deal, Carroll singled to start. After Aaron Miles struck out, Andre Ethier worked a walk to set the table for Matt Kemp. We've already seen two walk-off homers from Kemp this season, so he was the perfect man for the job.

What did Kemp do? Grounded into the 6-4-3 double play to end the game.

One day after just holding on to beat the Diamondbacks, a loss like this shows why the Dodgers aren't yet a .500 team. There's just no way they should have lost this one, especially considering they were facing a guy named Josh Collmenter who was making his first career start. He was fantastic, but I would like to think the Dodgers could've done better than being shutout. I guess I thought wrong.

Like I said before, Billingsley was terrific. He went eight innings for one hit, one unearned run, two walks, and eight strikeouts. After giving up four runs in six innings to the Marlins on April 27 to put his ERA at 4.46, Bills has turned in four great starts in a row to lower it to 3.36. His 50 strikeouts this season have placed him among the league leaders. He's really doing all he can do to help his team win.

So when you see that he's sporting a record of 2-3, that speaks volumes about the Dodgers' offense, or lack there of. They're now 24th in the majors in runs scored, even as their .256 batting average places them in 13th. Obviously, that shows a lack of timely hitting, which has burned them all year long. And it's not getting any better.

The month of May has been a bit unkind to Kemp, who has taken his average down to .336. Of course, that's still a great average, but in 12 games this month, he's at .256. He started the season off so red hot that he really had to come back to Earth at some point. Still, if he had the same situation on Saturday occur earlier in the season, I think he would've come through. He's just going through a small slump right now.

Ethier's walk in the ninth extends his streak of reaching base safely to an amazing 37 games. Like Kemp, however, May has been a bit unkind in that he only has one extra-base hit, a homer on May 8. Before the season started, it was speculated that for the Dodgers to win, they needed Kemp and Ethier to hit home runs. Ethier only has four at this point, which is his only flaw right now. He's getting his hits, but they need him to be the one driving people in, not setting the table for others.

Sunday's game will be the the rubber match. Ted Lilly takes to the hill. He has gone 3-1 in his last five starts, so there's a positive. He's going against Ian Kennedy, who has an ERA of 3.23 after five straight terrific starts.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Kuroda throws a gem, Padilla slams the door

One day after scoring 10 runs, the Dodgers' offense reverted back to form. That is, not very good, as in only scoring two runs. Fortunately for them, the guys on the mound led the way.

Hiroki Kuroda went seven scoreless innings, and Matt Guerrier and Vicente Padilla teamed up to close the door late as the Dodgers beat the Pirates, 2-0. That's two straight for them as they are now two games in back of .500. Hey, you have to start somewhere.

The game featured only nine hits, with five of them by the visiting team. Kuroda was matched up with an improving Paul Maholm. His record is 1-5, but he can thank his lousy team behind him for that. His ERA of 3.50 proves that he has no luck.

Nothing much was doing for either team until the Dodgers scored the game's only runs in the sixth. Ivan DeJesus, hitting in the #2 hole, walked leading off. Like most rallies, it quite often can get traced back to an early walk, and such was the case here. Andre Ethier legged out an infield single and Matt Kemp took a walk of his own to load the bases.

Up came Juan Uribe, and I had a sinking feeling that a double play ball was coming next. Of course, I was right, but thankfully it still pushed a run in to make it 1-0. Rod Barajas was given the intentional walk to pitch to Jerry Sands, who then ripped an RBI double for the 2-0. Choke on that, Clint Hurdle!

From there, it was all about Kuroda, as he was locked in from the start. The first hit of the night he surrendered wasn't until Brandon Wood's blooping single in the fifth. In the sixth, Xavier Paul singled and Lyle Overbay walked, and both advanced on a wild pitch with two outs. Kuroda then got Chris Snyder swinging for the last big out.

Guerrier pitched the eighth and got through the top of the Pirates' order with ease. Padilla gave up a two-out double to Pedro Alvarez, but struck out Wood to end the game. It's his third save in as many chances.

Don Mattingly got exactly what he wanted out of this one: a strong start from Kuroda, and his top bullpen guys closing it out. With Jonathan Broxton out, the roles have pretty much been settled into Padilla closing, Guerrier setting up, and guys like Blake Hawksworth, Kenley Jansen, and Hong-Chih Kuo coming before that. They still have a ways to go to improve their ugly numbers, but tonight was a great step.

As for Kuroda, he continues to quietly go about his business and get the job done. Tonight he went seven innings with three hits, no runs, three walks, and eight strikeouts. I'm not sure many people outside of Dodger fans (and fantasy buffs) really know much, if anything, about this guy. But for those of you in the know, you appreciate just how solid he is. The Dodgers will miss him after this year when he will most likely call it a career.

After Monday's letdown, I said that the next few games were really big for the Dodgers. So far, they've responded very well. They got late runs on Tuesday to run away with that one, and stayed on top in a close one today. If they're ever going to get back into the division race, they have to beat teams like the Pirates. There's just no other way about it.

The final game of the series will be on Thursday night. Jon Garland will toe the rubber. He's had four great starts in a row, but only has one win to show for it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mattingly and Uribe tossed in loss

The Pirates put up a three spot in the eighth inning as they took the first of a four-game set in Pittsburgh over the Dodgers, 4-1. The game featured a controversial call in which Don Mattingly and Juan Uribe were run. It was that kind of a night.

Fresh off a win to avoid an embarrassing sweep against the Mets, Chad Billingsley took the mound and did everything he could to get two in a row. Unfortunately, a combination of bad hitting and bad luck prevented that from happening.

The Dodgers did score in the first. With one out, Aaron Miles singled, and Andre Ethier followed with another on a hit and run. Matt Kemp then struck out, setting it up for the ice cold Uribe. Finally, though, Uribe came through, this time with an RBI single for the 1-0 lead.

Andrew McCuthchen flashed some serious leather to stop any more runs from scoring in the third. With Miles on first and one out, Kemp lifted a long fly to deep center. McCutchen made a great catch at the wall, and doubled up Miles at first, who obviously thought it was going to land. The sad part is that would not be the last time the Dodgers would run into trouble on a catch in the outfield.

In the third, the Pirates got on the board. Ronny Cedeno singled leading off, and Jose Tabata walked with two down. That walk would hurt, as Garrett Jones's RBI single tied the game at 1-1.

The controversial call of the night occurred in the eighth. Kemp led off and was beaned. Uribe then hit a sinking liner to left in which Tabata made a sliding play on. Replays showed the ball bounce... but of course you can't look at the replay on plays like this, and sure enough, it was called an out. Kemp took off on the "hit" and was doubled off first.

Once the Dodgers returned to the field, a frustrated Uribe and Mattingly were ejected for arguing. I guess it's wrong to complain when you're right. Whatever.

Anyway, the ejections ended up energizing the Pirates, not the Dodgers. The bottom of the eighth saw Billingsley still in the game. He walked Jones leading off, then gave up an RBI double to Neil Walker to make it 2-1. Hong-Chih Kuo then entered, and 68-year-old Lyle Overbay lined an RBI double, followed by Ryan Doumit doing the same. Lo and behold, it was 4-1.

The Dodgers did put two on with one out in the ninth. But these are the Dodgers keep in mind, so nothing came of it as Joel Hanrahan earned his 11th save.

On one hand, I was glad to see some fire in these boys, as they have a tendency to slightly put people to sleep. OK, they are as flat out boring as they want to be. If Ethier and Kemp aren't getting hits, then you can forget about any excitement. It's just not going to happen.

Billingsley battled like crazy, and deserved a better fate then getting his second loss. He ended up going seven innings for seven hits, three runs, three walks, and four strikeouts. It's a shame he didn't get any support, but such is life with this team.

Kuo didn't look good at all, which unfortunately isn't very surprising these days. He does have an 11.57 ERA after all. Give credit to Mike MacDougal for getting three big outs to close the eighth to at least keep the game close. He's been excellent this year with a 1.46 ERA. Who would have thought that?

I'm not sure what the Dodgers can do to get their offense going. Rafael Furcal being injured (again) hurts. Guys like Uribe and Loney have got to do something. But then again, I've been saying this since the start of the season. I think the ship may have sailed on Loney. He shows absolutely nothing offensively that makes me think he can be a threat. And that's just the truth.

The Dodgers have three games left in Pittsburgh, and they're pretty big. Really, they are. If they lose a couple more, then that's another mediocre team they didn't beat. If they can't beat those types of teams, who can they beat? That's a scary thought.

Ted Lilly will get the call on Tuesday. He's in a slump himself, as he has yet to really find any consistency. He's definitely a control pitcher, so I guess he hasn't had much control yet. Let's hope that changes and fast.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

At least the Dodgers won

On a day where the Lakers ended their season in embarrassing fashion, Clayton Kershaw went nearly seven strong to help the Dodgers avoid the sweep against the Mets, 4-2. The win also snaps a four-game losing streak.

Kershaw started the day looking a little shaky as the Mets scored in the first. Justin Turner and David Wright took a couple of walks with one out. After Jason Bay struck out, Ronny Paulino hit an RBI single for the 1-0 lead.

The Dodgers tied the game up in the second. Kershaw led off and was beaned, then took second on a passed ball. Jamey Carroll grounded out but advanced him to third. Aaron Miles came though with an RBI single to tie it.

In the fourth, the Dodgers grabbed the lead, which eventually turned out to be one they would not relinquish. With one out, James Loney and Jerry Sands each singled for runners on the corners. Rod Barajas hit a slow dribbler to Wright at third for the out, but Loney easily scored to make it 2-1.

The fifth inning was interesting in that the Dodgers once again had the bases loaded, and once again blew it. Carroll, Miles, and Andre Ethier all singled to open. Matt Kemp then reached for a horrible pitch and grounded into the 1-2-3 double play. Juan Uribe grounded out, and you got that feeling that the Dodgers would find a way to blow it again.

Except that they didn't. Hey, it had to happen sometime. In fact, the lead was increased in the seventh. Carroll had a great series with seven hits, and he singled leading off. Miles then sacrificed him into scoring position. Ethier stepped up and started a new hitting streak with a two-run homer to right, making it 4-1.

Things got interesting in the bottom of the frame, as the Dodgers would bend, but did not break. Kershaw was lifted with two on and two out. Kenley Jansen walked Wright to load the bases. Bay could not get the big hit, as he flew out to left to end the inning.

Fast forward to the ninth, and it was Vicente Padilla time. He is the official closer now that Broxton is on the DL (and should stay the closer when he comes back). It wasn't easy, but he got his second save. David Murphy singled with one down. Jose Reyes ripped another triple to cut the score to 4-2. Carlos Beltran then flew out, and Wright struck out swinging to end it.

The win was obviously a much needed one for the Dodgers, who have looked completely lifeless lately. Kind of like watching the Lakers attempt to play D, but not quite as bad. Anyway, it's a good sign that they could give the ball to their ace and get the job done.

Speaking of the ace, Kershaw went 6 2/3 innings for six hits, one run, three walks, and eight strikeouts. He shook off some early trouble to take control on the mound. It's his fourth win of the season, and his ERA is now at 3.12.

The bullpen had a good day as well. Jansen got Bay for a huge out in the seventh. Matt Guerrier pitched a flawless eighth. Padilla gave up the triple to Reyes, but got two big outs after that to close the door. Any sign of progress for that group will gladly be taken.

Today marked the fourth straight series in which the Dodgers dropped two of three. I'm no math expert, but I believe that's good for a 4-8 record. And that, my friends, isn't good. They won't have any time for rest, because they just began a stretch of 20 straight days of games.

Next up will be a four game set in Pittsburgh. The Pirates at least aren't a complete joke anymore, as they have a 17-17 record. They're still not very good, but at least not the laughingstock they're so used to being. Chad Billingsley gets the call.

Ethier's streak ends at 30 as Dodgers lose

Andre Ethier got five at-bats to try and extend his hitting streak to 31 games. One walk, two flyouts, a groundout, and a strikeout later, Willie Davis still holds the team record.

Ethier ended his amazing hitting streak at 30 games, and the Mets were the clutch team once again by scoring two late runs to take the win, 4-2. The Dodgers are on a streak of their own now - four straight loses.

The first inning was a sign of things to come, as time and time again, the Dodgers came up empty with runners on base. The bases became loaded with out on a single by James Loney, a walk to Ethier, and Kemp being hit by a pitch. Jay Gibbons then popped up and Juan Uribe flied out.

Jon Garland ran into some trouble in the second. After the Dodgers flushed away runners on second and third with nobody out, Ike Davis took a walk leading off. Jason Pridie, whom the Dodgers made look like an MVP, hit a double for two on. A sac-fly RBI by Jason Thole made it 1-0. Jose Reyes added an RBI single for the 2-0 advantage.

Dioner Navarro was finally able to get a big hit for the Dodgers with a home run in the fourth. Unfortunately, it came leading off and not with runners on base. You get the feeling after watching this one that if runners were on base, Navarro wouldn't have gotten that hit.

In the sixth, the Dodgers were mercifully able to drive in a runner on base. Jamey Carroll was 3-for-3 with a walk hitting out of the #8 hole, and he singled leading off. Garland laid down a great sacrifice to get him over to second. Aaron Miles grounded one through the middle for an RBI single, knotting the game at 2-2.

The Dodgers certainly had their chances to get more runs, and one of those came in the seventh. Kemp reached on an error at second by Daniel Murphy, then easily stole second off of Ryota Igarashi. Gibbons and Uribe couldn't get on (big shock), but consecutive walks to Navarro and Carroll loaded the bases. Jerry Sands pinch-hit in the big spot, then stood there frozen as he took a called strike three.

It was still anybody's ballgame in the eighth when the Mets seized control. Jason Bay led off with a walk against Mike MacDougal.< span=""> Hong<>-Chih Kuo came in and got Davis popping up. Then Pridie dribble a slow one that < span="">Kuo<> launched over Loney's head at first for the error. Thankfully Miles backed up the throw to prevent further damage.

Matt Guerrier was then given the ball to keep the game tied. It didn't work. Ronny Paulino of all people walked to load the bases. Justin Turner's two-run single broke the tie and gave the Mets a 4-2 lead. Reyes lined into a double play to at least keep the Dodgers within striking distance.

Then again, the Dodgers had to now face Francisco Rodriguez, and coupled with the fact that they couldn't get a clutch hit, the game may as well have been over. K-Rod pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his ninth save.

It was pretty much depressing watching the Dodgers look totally helpless with runners on. They left an incredible 14 men on base. 14! With runners in scoring position and two outs, Ethier, Uribe, and Sands left two men each and Loney and Navarro one each. You would think that maybe they would've accidentally gotten a hit in those spots, but I guess not. It was pretty pathetic.

Garland hung in there to end up pitching a pretty good game. He went six innings for seven hits, two runs, three walks, and three strikeouts. That's a lot of baserunners, but he really only had one bad inning in the second. His ERA stands at 3.66, which is great for a fifth starter.

Every time you either read about this series or see highlights on TV, the common theme is that this is a battle between two floundering franchises in financial trouble. Plus, both teams are just so average. So if the Dodgers get swept by an average team by losing on Sunday, that would be just pitiful. The offense has got to find a way to get runners in. It's that simple.

This was overall just a pretty boring game to watch. Ethier ended his streak, and the team just looked like it was in slow motion. There's just no excitement watching the Dodgers right now. I know every team goes through these rough patches, but with the Dodgers, they practically put people to sleep in the process. I guess that's what happens when they don't have any power hitters to get excited about.

The Dodgers really need a win on Mother's Day, as they are looking to break their four game funk. Clayton Kershaw will get the call against knuckleball specialist R.A. Dickey.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Broxton's elbow lands him on the DL

In a move that may be long overdue, Jonathan Broxton has been placed on the 15-day DL with a sore right elbow. He will be shut down for at least 2-3 weeks, and probably won't appear for over a month. Kenley Jansen has been recalled to take his spot.

Broxton has certainly gone through his fair share of troubles since last year's All-Star Game. I don't know if I've ever seen a guy literally go from untouchable to completely touchable overnight. But the numbers don't lie. In the second half last year, he had a 7.13 ERA, 2.13 WHIP, and five blown saves.

Rest and relaxation didn't do anything for him, as this year he has a 5.68 ERA and 1.89 WHIP. He does have seven saves in eight chances, but he can thank multiple run leads for most of that. Only twice this year in 14 appearances has he not allowed a baserunner. That's just plain ugly.

Dodger fans have long suspected that something must be physically wrong with him in addition to mentally. Well, that has been confirmed to some degree, as Broxton admitted to having a stiff elbow after he pitches. He claims it doesn't hurt when he pitches, so who knows. Nonetheless, the Dodgers absolutely did the right thing in shutting him down for the time being.

The new closer will be Vicente Padilla, who has one save and four holds this season. He, too, was hurt earlier in the year, but since his return, has only given up one run in six innings. Pitching on consecutive days might not happen, so hopefully guys like Hong-Chih Kuo and Jansen can pick up the slack.

Like the LA basketball team, Dodgers blow a lead

Must be an LA thing.

Hours before the Lakers blew yet another late-game lead to the Mavs, the Dodgers couldn't protect a 3-2 lead as the Mets fought back and won, 6-3. The Dodgers have dropped three straight.

With the mess the Dodgers are in financially and the so-so team they put on the field, all eyes are on Andre Ethier these days as he was looking to extend his hitting streak to 30 games. He got what he wanted in the first, as after a Jerry Sands single with one out, Ethier followed with one of his own for runners on the corners. A Matt Kemp RBI single made it 1-0.

Jose Reyes has been involved in many trade rumors lately, mostly to the Giants, and he showed his worth to stroking a leadoff triple. Carlos Beltran's sac-fly RBI tied the game at 1.

Both teams traded solo shots in the second. The first came from Rod Barajas, who hit his sixth of the season. The dude is only hitting .226, but as long as he provides the longball, that's good enough. Ike Davis then led off the bottom of the inning with a homer, and it was 2-2.

The Dodgers took their last lead of the game in the fifth. Jamey Carroll started it with a walk. An out later, Ethier singled again and went to second on the throw. Kemp was given the intentional walk to load the bases and pitch to Juan Uribe. Uribe got an RBI, but on a groundout to make it 3-2. James Loney grounded out to end it.

The Mets rolled the dice with the intentional walk and it paid off by only giving up a run. The Dodgers would try to do the same thing in the sixth... and got burned. Beltran doubled with one out, but Jason Bay grounded out for two down. Davis was due up, and he already homered earlier, so Don Mattingly chose to put him on to pitch to Jason Pridie. He was only hitting .242 with three home runs in his brief career, so it seemed like a good move.

The result? A three-run homer to put the Mets up 5-3. Figures.

An RBI single by Bay in the seventh off of Blake Hawksworth capped the scoring. Francisco Rodriguez recorded his eighth save.

After dropping four of six on the recent homestand against the Padres and Cubs, it was another disappointing sign that the Dodgers couldn't get back on track against the Mets. With so much drama and turmoil going on around them, all the players on the field can do is go out and play ball. So when they lose like this, it's only natural for people to think they are feeling the effects of this mess.

I highly doubt the players take the field thinking about the management situation, though. The bottom line is that they are just a mediocre team, ownership trouble or not. If their pitching doesn't come through, it's going to be really hard to win since the offense won't score much. It showed again on Friday night.

Hiroki Kuroda has had a good year, but suffered his second bad start in seven outings. He ended up going 5 2/3 innings for seven hits, five runs, three walks, and three strikeouts. Obviously, the home runs hurt him badly. Four of the five runs surrendered came via the longball. It's hard to win when that happens.

At least the headlines will be all about Ethier's streak, with the subheading about another loss. For Ethier, he is now one game away from tying Willie Davis's club record of 31. He'll go against Chris Young on Saturday, a righty. Ethier is a career .414 hitter against him, so the odds are definitely in his favor of extending.

The Dodgers will send Jon Garland to the mound Saturday to try and snap the losing streak. He only has one win, but has pitched well in his last three outings and hasn't shown any ill effects from the oblique injury he had during Spring Training.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ethier sits as Cubs roll

The offense slugged three home runs, Carlos Zambrano went eight strong innings, and the Cubs took an afternoon game at Dodger Stadium, 5-1. With the loss, the Dodgers dropped two of three in this series, and only won two of six during the homestand. Not exactly the best way to try and catch the Rockies for first.

Ted Lilly got the start, and he was able to open the game cruising through the Cubs' order with ease. He got through the first four innings in order thanks to a couple of double plays. One came in the second when Alfonso Soriano tried to tag up on Carlos Pena's flyout to left and was gunned out by Tony Gwynn. The other came on a grounder from Darwin Barney in the fourth.

The Cubs again ran themselves into an out in the fifth. Jeff Baker singled with one out and was thrown out trying to stretch to second for two outs. Geovany Soto then stepped up and hit a solo shot for the 1-0 lead.

Looking to build on the lead, the Cubs did just that in the sixth. Pena again burned the Dodgers with his second homer in as many games to go up 2-0. That would also be his second homer all season. Yup, they both came against the Dodgers. Shocking. Zambrano then singled and Barney followed with another an out later. Marlon Byrd cranked a three-run homer to make it 5-0.

All the Dodgers could muster on this day was a single run in the sixth. Gwynn doubled leading off. Aaron Miles then singled to put runners on the corners. Jay Gibbons was seeing action for the first time this year, and he hit a sac-fly RBI to make it 5-1. Matt Kemp ended that momentum with an inning ending double play ball.

That's about it for the Dodgers' highlights on this day. The rest of the game only saw singles by Dioner Navarro and James Loney. With Andre Ethier resting a sore elbow and Jamey Carroll not starting (but appearing later on), it figured to potentially be a tough day for scoring. And not to disappoint, it most certainly was.

Ethier currently is riding a 29 game hitting streak. It was only natural for people to think that Don Mattingly was trying to protect him from facing a tough pitcher. But, Ethier has had plenty of success in the past against Zambrano, so that notion should be put to bed. It seemed to honestly be a case of giving an everyday guy a chance to breathe.

Lilly started off very well, but he fell apart in the middle innings. Overall, he went six innings for eight hits, five runs, one walk, and four strikeouts. Three homers just killed him. He now has a 4.93 ERA this season.

I have to admit, Lilly worries me. I know he's a finesse pitcher, but it just seems like opposing hitters aren't the least bit intimidated by him. It almost looks as if they're ready to tee off at any moment. The problem with being a control pitcher is that when you miss spots, you get burned. So far, that's how it's been for him. I can only hope he finds his groove soon.

At least we can take the three innings of work by the bullpen as a positive. Hong-Chih Kuo was flat out atrocious his last outing, but he went a scoreless inning today with a couple of strikeouts. Mike MacDougal let a couple baserunners reach but nobody scored. Vicente Padilla continues to impress with a perfect ninth of two strikeouts.

Right now the Dodgers are in a rut where it seems like they win won, then lose one. With an inconsistent offense and bullpen, that's not surprising. Kemp's average has gone down in recent games, though there was no way he could keep up his torrid pace. Juan Uribe left today's game after being hit by a Zambrano pitch on the hand. Add that all in with Ethier's sore elbow, and it's easy to question if the production will get any better in the near future.

It looks like the Dodgers will have to rely on their starting rotation and a collection of role players if they want to get wins. We can only hope that Uribe isn't out long, as he has been swinging a much better bat lately. Ethier sounds as if he is fine, but just needed a little bit of time for rest. I'm sure he'll play on Friday against the Mets.

The last thing the Dodgers need is more people added to the DL, where Rafael Furcal and Casey Blake already reside. We shall soon see.

Thursday will be an off day for travel as the Dodgers go to New York. Hiroki Kuroda will get the call in the first game.

Broxton crumbles again

This is starting to be a weekly headline for the Dodgers.

Asked to keep a 1-1 game as is, Jonathan Broxton walked two consecutive batters with one out in the ninth. Blake Hawksworth couldn't clean up his mess, and the Cubs added three runs to take the win, 4-1. It's basically your latest of example of why Broxton shouldn't pitch anywhere near the ninth inning.

The sad part is that Chad Billingsley's great start was washed away by that bumbling idiot. Not that the offense did anything to help, because they managed to score only one run all night. But it doesn't matter, the story is, and has been since last season, Broxton's inability to pitch under pressure.

Both Billingsley and Ryan Dempster put up blanks through five innings. In the sixth, the Dodgers were first to strike. Jamey Carroll led off with a single, and was sacrificed to second by Jerry Sands. After an out, Matt Kemp delivered on an RBI single to make it 1-0.

Billingsley was rolling along, but unfortunately for him, one mistake is all it took to cost him an opportunity for a win. With one out in the seventh, Carlos Pena hit his first homer of the season. He was signed to provide power in the Cubs' offense, and only has one home run. Of course, it had to happen against the Dodgers, right?

Matt Guerrier got through the eighth after giving up an leadoff single to old Dodger Reed Johnson. It was a good bounceback appearance after suffering a couple beatings lately.

Then there's the ninth inning, and Mr. Broxton. Things started off well when Aramis Ramirez popped out to foul territory. Then the bad came with a walk to Marlon Byrd. And when bad happens to Broxton, it only gets worse. Next was a walk to Pena for two on.

At least Don Mattingly had the presence of mind to take out that buffoon and put in Hawksworth. It almost worked as Alfonso Soriano flied out. But, Geovany Soto hit a two-run double, and Blake DeWitt an RBI single for the 4-1 lead. Carlos Marmol got the Dodgers in order for his eighth save.

To be fair to Broxton (which is really hard to do), the offense was terrible. They managed only six hits and two walks all night. Dempster has been a good pitcher in the past, but by allowing one run in seven innings in this game, his ERA was LOWERED to 8.05. That should put into perspective just how lousy he's been this year.

Billingsley did all he could by going seven innings for four hits, one run, two walks, and eight strikeouts. He was pitching on a tightrope and nearly pulled it off. Then again, even if he didn't surrender Pena's homer, Broxton would've just blown the save anyway, so it really doesn't matter.

I've said this before and I'll say it again: Broxton should not appear in anything that even resembles a close game. Make him the first reliever that appears in games. And if can't handle that, ship his ass out. His teammates can't possibly have any confidence in him, and it's just plain depressing to see him struggle so much.

I know Hong-Chih Kuo looks like a shell of his former self, and guys like Hawksworth, Guerrier, and Vicente Padilla aren't true closers. But who cares? Try them anyway. They can't possibly do worse than the clown they have in there now. Mattingly has got to make the switch. Enough of playing the confidence card - do what's right to help your team win.

The Dodgers will look to get back to .500 with an afternoon game to close the three-game set with the Cubs. Ted Lilly will take on Carlos Zambrano. After the game the Dodgers will fly across the country to play the Mets starting Friday.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Dodgers smoked at home by lowly Padres

The Padres did all of their damage in the second and ninth innings. The Dodgers did all of their damage... never, because they didn't score one damn run. The result was a laugher for the Padres as they took another win, 7-0. The Dodgers dropped two of three at home to one of the weakest hitting teams I've ever seen in my life. Not good.

Jon Garland got through the first with ease, but ran into trouble the next inning. Nick Hundley led off with a walk, and it was mostly downhill from there. Orlando Hudson singled for runners on the corners. Cameron "Tiki" Maybin hit an RBI single for the 1-0 edge. Brad Hawpe followed that up with a two-run single, and it was 3-0.

The game may as well have ended right there, because for whatever reason, the offense could do absolutely nothing against the great Dustin Moseley. Granted, he had a career 4.89 ERA coming into this one, but that didn't matter. He's just plain nasty!

But in all seriousness, Moseley was a hard-luck 0-3 entering this game because he sported a 1.99 ERA. It's not like the Dodgers shouldn't have been able to get something going against him, but quietly, he's having a very good year.

Going into the last inning, the Dodgers still had a chance, even though they were playing like they were down 10. Hong-Chih Kuo was activated before today's game, and I'm guessing that was a bad idea. He immediately walked Maybin and surrendered a single to Hawpe. After striking out Chris Denorfia, the next two hitters reached on a Jorge Cantu RBI single and Will Venable's beaning to load the bases.

Overall, Kuo lasted 1/3 of an inning for two hits, four runs, one walk, one hit-by-pitch, and one strikeout. Ouch. His ERA has ballooned up to 15.00 with a 2.67 WHIP. It's hard to imagine that this was the same guy who last year was practically unhittable. He doesn't look anything close to that guy anymore. Couple that with the fact that he has a fragile arm, and it's scary.

So scary in fact that I can't help but wonder if the Dodgers got everything they could out of him last year. For those of you who have forgotten, check out these numbers from 2010: 1.20 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 12 saves, 21 holds, and 73 K's. Now he isn't nearly as feared as he once was. We can only hope it turns around, but for the first time, I'm having some serious doubts.

About the only thing that went right was Andre Ethier extended his amazing hitting streak to 27 games. His lone hit came on a seventh inning single off Hawpe's glove at first. Since Hawpe had to dive after it, there was no doubt it was a hit.

Garland had a rough second, but he settled down nicely to finish at six innings pitched, three hits, three runs, four walks, and eight strikeouts. Even with the loss today, he's done a good job as the last man in the rotation. Too bad his offense didn't give him a chance to atone for that one bad inning today.

For the Dodgers, after winning six of eight game back in April, they've now dropped four of six since then to stand at 14-15. It's not hard to see why they haven't been able to find consistency: lack of clutch hitting and bullpen issues. Today they grounded into two double plays and couldn't score a run. The bullpen has given away any chance at winning the last two games. It's obviously not a good combination.

Tony Gwynn should be thanked once again for that spectacular diving catch to seal Friday's win. Could you imagine if he didn't make that play and the Dodgers got swept? Wow, that would have been ugly.

Nonetheless, the Dodgers will have to pick themselves up as the Cubs come to town for three. The Dodgers took two of three from them a week ago in Chicago. Clayton Kershaw will take the mound looking for his third win.