Wednesday, June 29, 2011

De La Rosa sharp, but that bats aren't

If you wanted to know anything about the 2011 season for the Dodgers, just take a look at these last three games in Minnesota: 15 runs one night, 4 the next, and 0 in the last.

The end result is simple - two losses in three games, despite winning one by 15.

Rubby De La Rosa did all he could, but the offense must have still been in bed, as Scott Baker completely shut the Dodgers down for the win, 1-0. The Dodgers are back to 10 games under .500 at 36-46.

The scoring happened quick, and ended just as quickly. Baker struck out the side to open the game, which was the ultimate symbolism for the rest of the way. Ben Revere led off for the Twins and cranked a triple over Andre Ethier's head in right. Tsuyoshi Nishioka hit a little dribbler that got the speedy Revere home for the 1-0 lead.

That, my friends, was all she wrote for scoring on this day. The Dodgers had no answers for Baker, who's a decent pitcher, but certainly not like a Cliff Lee or C.C. Sabathia. Although, the Dodgers have a tendency to make the most mediocre of pitchers look like gold... just like today.

There weren't a whole lot of threats to score considering the Dodgers only had seven hits and one walk. In the second, James Loney singled with one down, and Marcus Thames did the same an out later. Dioner Navarro flew out to center to end it.

In the third, Dee Gordon singled and took second on a sacrifice bunt by Tony Gwynn. I say "sacrifice," but it looked like Baker missed the tag of a diving Gwynn at first. Gordon then stole third and had a great chance to score with one down. Sure enough, Casey Blake popped up, and Ethier struck out for the final out.

Matt Kemp doubled to deep center off the glove of Revere with two outs in the sixth. He then stole third, and again the Dodgers had a chance with a runner on third. And once again they failed, as Loney grounded out.

Matt Capps came on and earned his 13th save, allowing only a single to the pinch-hitting Trent Oeltjen.

It's a shame De La Rosa got no support, because he bounced back nicely after a rough couple of innings to start the game. He ended up lasting seven innings for six hits, one run, two walks, and four strikeouts. It was easily his best game as a big leaguer, and his previous high was six innings. The Twins don't exactly have a powerful lineup, but De La Rosa still showed something here.

The offensive numbers are ugly, not that I really needed to tell you that after looking at the box score. The top three in the order of Gwynn, Blake, and Ethier combined to go 0-for-10 with a walk and sacrifice. Yuck. Nobody had a multi-hit game, and they struck out 11 times. Eight men reached base, and eight men were stranded. I'm pretty sure that means they scored no runs.

With the way this season has gone, I don't think anybody should be too surprised that the same team that put up a 15-spot one night ended up losing the next two games. The only thing consistent about the Dodgers is that they're inconsistent, if that makes any sense. They just aren't good enough to go on a stretch of wins. They haven't shown that ability yet.

Thursday will be an off day for the Dodgers before traveling to Anaheim for the second part of the Freeway Series with the Angels. The Dodgers dropped two of three against them last week. Hiroki Kuroda, winless since May 17, will go in the first game on Friday.

Lilly struggles again in falling to Twins

Ted Lilly started poorly, was given a reprieve, and then failed to keep the Dodgers in the game as they fell to the Twins, 6-4. One night after torching the Twins for 15 runs and 25 hits, the offense failed to do anything against the Twins' bullpen for the final four innings.

Knowing that the Twins had something to prove after getting absolutely obliterated and embarrassed the night before, it was important for Lilly to keep his club in the game. That didn't exactly happen, as the Twins struck right away. Ben Revere singled leading off, and Alexi Casilla laid down a great bunt for two on. Revere then stole third and scored on Joe Mauer's RBI single.

After the Dodgers went down in order again, the Twins got more runs in the second. Old friend Jason Repko singled to start. Following a flyout, he stole second, and took third on a groundout. Revere came through again with an RBI single and 2-0 lead. Revere stole second for his second swipe of the game, and scored on Casilla's RBI double to go up 3-0.

The Dodgers eventually got on the board in the fourth. Tony Gwynn, who's been great in the leadoff spot the last few games, walked leading off and took second on a passed ball. Casey Blake worked a walk, and Andre Ethier forced Blake at second on a grounder, putting Gwynn at third. Matt Kemp lifted a sac-fly RBI to cut the deficit to 3-1.

The Twins got that run right back in the bottom of the frame. Repko was beaned leading off, and Lilly again allowed a stolen base. Ron Rivera's RBI single made it 4-1, and it once again showed Lilly's lack of ability to hold runners on. In all, the Twins stole four bases.

Down by three, the Dodgers' offense woke up to tie the game in the fifth. With one down, they got an unlikely solo homer from Aaron Miles to make it 4-2. Not only was that his first homer of the year, but first one since 2008! A.J. Ellis then singled, Jamey Carroll walked, and Blake walked an out later. With two down, Ethier came though with a two-run single to start the game fresh.

Lilly hadn't exactly pitched that well up to this point, but still only in the fifth inning, Don Mattingly kept him in. It worked through the first two batters for a couple outs, but Danny Valencia singled to keep the inning alive. Luke Hughes, who's had all of two homers in 48 career games up to this point, made Lilly pay with a two-run shot to grab the lead back at 6-4.

Juan Uribe led off the sixth by getting beaned, and the Twins turned the game over to their beleaguered bullpen. Alex Burnett got Marcus Thames to ground into a double play right away, not that I'm surprised about that. Thames is terrible and should be released. He's hitting .197 with two homers and seven RBIs. Pathetic.

The Dodgers had a scoring opportunity in the seventh, but ran into the final out. Carroll singled with one down, which brought Glen Perkins into the game. Carroll went to second on Gwynn's groundout. With two down, Blake singled, and Carroll tried to score but was gunned down at the plate.

Matt Capps came on for the save, and he gave up walks to Trent Oeltjen and Gwynn. Blake grounded into a fielder's choice to end the game and give Capps his 12th save of the season.

The Dodgers did a good job in fighting back, but Lilly didn't do his part. He lasted only 4 2/3 innings for nine hits, six runs, no walks, and no strikeouts. It's not often you see a starting pitcher not record at least one strikeout. As I've said in the past, I don't get the sense at all that hitters are scared to face him. I know he's a control guy and won't throw hard, but he looks like he's pitching batting practice half the time. A 4.97 ERA and 5-8 record reflects that.

Lilly really needs to step up at some point. He made a few good starts at the end of May and into June, but he's gotten crushed his last three starts for three straight L's. With Jon Garland out and Rubby De La Rosa going through the ups and downs of a rookie, the Dodgers sure look like a three deep rotation now. Even Hiroki Kuroda can't get a win, but that's more the fault of the offense.

Wednesday afternoon's game will be the rubber match, as the Dodgers will look to take their second straight Interleague series. De La Rosa will get the call against Scott Baker.

Monday, June 27, 2011

15 runs, 25 hits... yup, it was a good night

Bankruptcy? What bankruptcy?

Despite all of the negative news surrounding the Dodgers today, the actual team went onto the field and kicked the crap out of the Twins on Monday night, 15-0. Needless to say, it was a season high in runs and hits for a Dodgers team that has never been confused with an offensive powerhouse this season.

Even though the Twins looked like they were dead in the water, they still sent a very solid Nick Blackburn to the mound, sporting a 3.15 ERA. Tony Gwynn got another start in the leadoff spot, and he singled and stole second opening the game. A groundout by Casey Blake advanced him to third. Andre Ethier grounded one up the middle to score a run, and he reached on an error. An RBI double by Matt Kemp made it 2-0.

From there, the Dodgers just methodically tore apart the Twins, who appeared to want nothing to do with fighting back. Back-to-back singles by Ethier and Kemp with two outs kept the third inning going, and James Loney's RBI single made it 3-0.

Trent Oeltjen had a huge night, and he launched his first homer of the season leading off the fourth. Blake added an RBI single, and it was 5-0.

The fifth and sixth brought five more runs, and ended any chance of a Twins' comeback. In the fifth, A.J. Ellis got in on the fun with an RBI single. With Anthony Swarzak relieving Blackburn, Dee Gordon's RBI single made it 7-0. A wild pitch soon sent Ellis home to score. Juan Uribe added an RBI single, and Oeltjen's sac-fly RBI in the sixth made it 10-0.

Do you happen to notice I'm typing the phrase "RBI single" over and over? Well, Blake and Kemp got runs the easy way in the seventh with solo home runs. For Blake it was his fourth, and for Kemp it was an NL-leading 22nd, one ahead of the mighty Prince Fielder.

The final runs were scored in the eighth. Oeltjen continued his hot night with a leadoff triple. Ellis walked, and Gordon added an RBI double for the 13-0 lead. A single by Gwynn and sac-fly by Dioner Navarro finally put an end to this one at 15-0.

The final tally shows some awesome numbers. The Dodgers scored in every inning but two, and had at least one runner on in every inning. They hung 12 hits and eight runs (seven earned) on Blackburn, raising his ERA to 3.64. The Twins' bullpen gave up another 12 hits for seven runs.

Lost in all of this was the great job by Chad Billingsley and company on the mound. Bills went six innings for four hits, no runs, two walks, and four strikeouts. He's won his last two starts (the Reds being the other one) for a combined 11 1/3 innings of only one-run ball. He's also lowered his ERA from 4.65 to 4.22.

The bullpen was untouchable... literally. Blake Hawksworth, Hong-Chih Kuo, and Scott Elbert pitched the final three innings of perfect ball, save for an error in the ninth by Gordon. Hawksworth struck out the side, and Kuo and Elbert had two apiece. That's some serious flames thrown.

I'm sure the Dodgers would like to put this game into a bottle and cork it, because it was everything they could have possibly asked for. Leadoff hitting, two-out rallies, sacrifices, some power hits, stolen bases, double plays turned, and big pitching. After a lousy 4-8 homestand, maybe getting away is what they needed. It sure looked that way tonight.

The headlines on Tuesday morning will still be about the McCourt family drama, and that's just reality. But, at least the side note will be about the team on the field absolutely going to town in Minnesota. It makes for a good story about the team not being affected by the idiot owners.

The Dodgers have two more games in Minnesota, and I'm sure they're looking at that as a good thing right now. Ted Lilly will go to the mound on Tuesday.

Dodgers fight back for a W... with some help

Dee Gordon used his legs to get the Dodgers back into the game in the ninth inning on Sunday.

He also used the help of the boys in blue calling the game.

Two very close calls went the Dodgers' way, as Gordon's steal of second and scamper to home on a sacrifice fly tied the game, and Tony Gwynn's walk-off single gave the Dodgers a victory over the Angels, 3-2. The win closes out the homestand at 4-8.

The game featured a matchup of two stud aces in Clayton Kershaw and Jared Weaver, and boy did they not disappoint. Unless you're a fan of hitting, that is. You can take the opening six frames and throw them out since nobody could score.

The Angels were the first team to break through in the seventh. Erik Aybar led off with a double. Howie Kendrick then lifted a sinking liner to Matt Kemp in center, but Kemp's dive was unsuccessful as Aybar scored to go up 1-0. Playing the ball straight up would have held him at third, but you can't fault Kemp's effort.

In the bottom of the inning, the Dodgers tied it right up. With two down, Kershaw was given the go-ahead to hit, even though this would normally be a pinch-hitting situation. It was the right call from Don Mattingly, as Kershaw singled to keep the inning alive. Gwynn was the leadoff hitter in this game, and he stroked an RBI triple to tie the game.

With the game still deadlocked heading into the ninth, Mattingly stuck with his ace. It worked for two outs, but then Vernon Wells stepped up and deposited a pitch into deep left for a solo homer and 2-1 advantage.

In came closer Jordan Walden, and Juan Uribe greeted him with a walk. Gordon got the day off until this point when he was summoned to pinch-run. With Dioner Navarro up, Gordon took off for second and was called safe on a play in which it looked like he may have slid right off the bag. Navarro then walked to put two on.

Jamey Carroll laid down a great sacrifice to put runners in scoring position with one down. Aaron Miles hit for Kershaw, and on a two-strike count, lifted a fly ball to center fielder Peter Bourjos. As Gordon came home, Jeff Mathis had the plate blocked and Gordon had to slide through him. Once again, it looked like he was out, but instead, was called safe and the game was tied.

Trent Oeltjen ran for Navarro at second, and Gwynn gathered his third hit of the day with a single to left to give the Dodgers a feel-good moment to close out the long homestand.

The Dodgers only won four games in a span of two weeks, so it's not like they can be happy about how they played. They started off by losing five straight to the Reds and Astros, then won three straight, including two of three against the Tigers, then dropped two more against the Angels. They just can't find any sort of consistency.

But, Sunday was a great win in that they had to fight back to win it. Granted, the calls in the ninth could have (maybe should have?) gone against them, but the Dodgers still had to earn this one. It was good to see guys not named Andre Ethier or Kemp do the damage.

Kershaw has battled like crazy all year long, and once again showed why he needs to be one of the top pitchers selected for the upcoming All-Star game. He lasted the whole game for six hits, two runs, no walks, and 11 strikeouts. He's now at 8-3 with a 2.93 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. That's just fantastic.

With Gordon's recent struggles at the plate, it was good to see Gwynn get his shot and come through with flying colors leading off. He's only hitting .230 on the season, but has yet to receive any consistent playing time in left. He's certainly been used as a defensive replacement on many occasions, and has done very well in that role. Maybe now that Jerry Sands is in the minors and Marcus Thames has a bad leg, he can get more starts and show what he can do.

The Dodgers have a lot of work to do if they plan on getting back into the race in the NL West, as they remain 9 1/2 games in back of the Giants. They now venture off to Minnesota to play the lifeless Twins, who have tumbled to the bottom of the AL Central with five straight loses. Chad Billingsley will go against Nick Blackburn on Monday.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Angels run away from Dodgers

Those signs of the life the Dodgers showed against the Tigers have quickly faded away.

For the second straight game, the Angels turned it on late to pull away from the Dodgers. This time it was on a late three-run homer by Vernon Wells to get the win, 6-1. The Angels have outscored the Dodgers 14-4 in the first couple of games.

Hiroki Kuroda got the start, and he's been stuck in a miserable slump where he's pitched well, but his team hasn't supported him for a win since May 17. He got through the first eight hitters in order before pitcher Tyler Chatwood singled to keep the third inning alive. Leadoff hitter Eric Aybar stroked an RBI triple to make it 1-0.

The following inning, Marc Trumbo made some more noise for the Angels with two outs, this time on a solo shot for a 2-0 lead. The Dodgers got their first hit of the game on a single by Jamey Carroll with one out, but was quickly erased on a double play ball from Andre Ethier.

The fifth inning was interesting for a couple of reasons. Matt Kemp led off and struck out looking. As he was in the dugout, he continued jawing to home plate umpire Chris Conroy and was given the boot. It looked like Don Mattingly brought up the age old debate if umpires should just ignore conversations from the dugout, but Kemp seemed to earn this one.

James Loney and Aaron Miles each singled next, and both advanced a base on an error by Bobby Abreu. Chatwood then walked Trent Oeltjen to load the bases and A.J. Ellis to force in a run, making it 2-1. Casey Blake pinch-hit for Kuroda, ripped one that would have scored a couple, but instead it was snagged at second by Howie Kendrick, who then flipped to first for the double play. So it goes for the Dodgers.

You got the feeling that that play deflated any hope of the Dodgers coming back, as they went into an offensive shell the rest of the way. It's not Kenley Jansen's fault, as he did a great job getting through the sixth and seventh in order with a couple of strikeouts to keep the score as is. Since making a return from injury, he's pitched 4 2/3 innings in three appearances without a run and seven strikeouts. Now that's more like it.

You definitely can blame Matt Guerrier and Hong-Chih Kuo, who combined go surrender four runs in the eighth to send Dodger fans to the exits. It started on a double with an out by Russell Branyan. Now with two outs, Kendrick hit an RBI single, and it was 3-1. Kuo came in, walked Abreu, then watched Wells crush a three-run homer for the 6-1 lead.

The Dodgers put a couple of runners on in the ninth on a walk by Tony Gwynn and single by Loney, but as usual, couldn't drive them in, and mercifully the game was over.

Kuroda pitched well, as he went five innings for three hits, two runs, one walk, and two strikeouts. In fact, he's pitched well enough in his last five starts to earn wins, yet never gets the offensive support. It's pretty embarrassing that he has a 3.10 ERA and only a 5-9 record. It should be the other way around.

The offense managed only five hits and four walks the entire game. They were completely shut down by Chatwood, who must love this Interleague stuff considering he's pitched 14 innings of one-run ball against the Mets and Dodgers combined. Plus, you eliminate a couple more at-bats from the ejected Kemp, and it's an uphill battle to say the least.

The biggest disappointment was watching Guerrier and Kuo get smacked around in the eighth. Before the season, these were two of your top guys penciled in to get big outs late in the game. 78 games into the season, Guerrier's ERA is 4.50, and Kuo's is 12.79. It's no wonder this team is 10 games back in the NL West. What appeared to be their calling card has instead turned into a disaster.

The final game of this series will be on Sunday afternoon before the two meet again next weekend in Anaheim. The matchup on the mound will be awesome, as Clayton Kershaw goes against Jared Weaver. Two of the best young hurlers in the game should make scoring runs at a premium.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Navarro's long drive just inches short

Dioner Navarro's long fly ball to dead center field nearly gave the Dodgers their first four-game winning streak of the season. Instead, they'll have to settle for two out of three.

Austin Jackson had to get on his horse to snag Navarro's shot, which would have easily cleared the bases and given the Dodgers a win. But, the Tigers made good on four home runs and held on for the win, 7-5. The Dodgers are now 3-6 on their homestand.

The Dodgers finally had some reasons to feel good about themselves, as they sported wins in three straight games coming into this one. Ted Lilly was given the ball to try and extend that streak, but one batter into the game, he knew he'd be in for a long day. Casper Wells led off the game with a solo shot.

Looking to respond, Juan Uribe singled with one out. Andre Ethier flew out, but Matt Kemp cranked an RBI triple to tie the game. James Loney was able to find some room in left for an RBI single and 2-1 lead.

The lead didn't last long, as Lilly just couldn't get on track. Victor Martinez walked to set things up for Magglio Ordonez, who lifted a two-run shot to left to grab the lead back at 3-2.

The following inning, the Tigers went deep again, this time on a two-run bomb by Miguel Cabrera, putting them up 5-2. They definitely have some muscle, and it was on full display in this one.

Kemp singled to start the bottom of the fourth, and soon stole his 21st base. Loney walked to put two on with none out. Marcus Thames actually had a good at-bat for the first time in... well, forever, with an RBI single. An out later, Jamey Carroll flew out to right, and Ordonez gunned down Loney trying to scamper home. I'm pretty sure being fleet of foot is not a way to describe him.

Both teams went back and forth in the fifth. After Lilly gave up a two-out single to Brandon Boesch, Mike MacDougal relieved to try and get the last out. He didn't, as a single by Cabrera led to an RBI single from Martinez for the 6-3 lead.

The bottom of the fifth got very interesting, as the Dodgers sent eight men to the plate, but only came away with two runs. Tony Gwynn and Aaron Miles both singled to start. Uribe grounded into a double play, sending Gwynn to third. Ethier collected an RBI single to make it 6-4, and Kemp singled to keep the inning going.

Charlie Furbush then relieved Rick Porcello, and Loney greeted him with an RBI single to go down 6-5. Thames took a walk to load the bases for Navarro, who struck out to end the inning. Navarro has played well lately, but he didn't come through twice with the bases loaded, which has to be as frustrating as it gets.

Don Kelly added an insurance run for the Tigers with a solo homer off of Matt Guerrier leading off the eighth. Blake Hawksworth got a double play from Andy Dirks to get out of it. The Dodgers put two on in the bottom of the frame, only to see Joaquin Benoit blow away Miles for the final out.

It all came down to the bottom of the ninth, and the Dodgers showed some heart. Jose Valverde was in looking for his 17th save, and with one out, the Dodgers loaded the bases on a single by Ethier, a walk to Kemp, and a single by Loney. Don Mattingly called on veteran Casey Blake to hit for Dee Gordon, and he struck out. Navarro came so close to ending the game with a mighty swing, but give Jackson credit for tracking it down.

A sweep would have been great, even downright shocking, but the Dodgers will gladly take two of three. With the lifeless ball they played last week, they at least showed grit these three games, even in a losing effort in this one. They're only 34-42, so getting back to .500 will still require plenty of work.

Lilly never got rolling, as he went 4 2/3 innings for six hits, six runs, one walk, and eight strikeouts. The strikeouts were nice, but there aren't many pitchers who can survive three taters. His previous two starts have been awful, which is disappointing considering he had five good ones before that.

The offense outhit the Tigers 13-10, and took more walks at 5-3. But, a quick look at the men left on base tells the story, as the Dodgers left 14, and the Tigers left 5. Needless to say, that's a huge difference. Four homers to none for the away team made a difference as well.

Thursday will be an off day for the Dodgers. They will then welcome in the rival Anaheim Angels to finish up the homestand for three games. Rubby De La Rosa goes in the first game against a very solid Dan Haren.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Picture me rolling: 3 straight for LA

The Dodgers started their 12-game homestand looking dead in the water. Five straight losses bumped them to nine games in back of the NL West lead.

Three wins later, the Dodgers have at least a glimmer of hope of better days to come.

Chad Billingsley pitched into the sixth, the bullpen was flawless, and Andre Ethier's two-run homer all helped propel the Dodgers to another win over the Tigers, 6-1. The Dodgers have won the last two games a combined 10-1.

It's hard to imagine that this is the same team that got swept by the Reds and were on the verge of getting the same treatment against the lowly Astros. But, to their credit, the Dodgers have really put it together against a solid Tigers team. I'm not sure many of us saw this coming.

James Loney took a walk with one out in the second to start the first rally. Aaron Miles started at second, and he singled for two on. A.J. Ellis, who's made a small career out of being recalled and demoted, came through with an RBI single for the 1-0 lead.

The Tigers tied it up in the fourth. Don Kelly led off and drew a walk, and soon went to second on Brendon Boesch's single. Victor Martinez knotted the game with an RBI single. Still with nobody out, Billingsley struck out the next two and induced a groundout to end the threat.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Dodgers took the lead for good. Loney again got things going with a leadoff double, his ninth of the season. But, he was soon erased at third trying to advance on a grounder by Miles. Ellis grounded out for two down. Tony Gwynn legged out an infield single to score Miles and take a 2-1 lead.

Ethier got into one in the fifth to give the Dodgers and Billingsley some cushion. Juan Uribe singled with one down in another start in the #2 hole. Ethier lifted his seventh homer of the season to right for the 4-1 lead. It was his only hit of the night, but was much better than watching him spray dinky little singles. The Dodgers need him to be that power bat in the #3 spot.

The Tigers made things interesting in the sixth, but ultimately came up empty. Boesch and Martinez singled to start the inning and immediately put Billingsley in some hot water. Andy Dirks struck out, but Alex Avila walked to load the bases.

Out went Billingsley, in came Mike MacDougal, and Jim Leyland countered by sending the mighty Miguel Cabrera to the plate. The game was pretty much on the line right here, and MacDougal won the battle with a 6-4-3 double play to escape the jam.

The game was put away for good in the bottom of the sixth, as the Dodgers added two more. Miles singled leading off. Two outs later, Trent Oeltjen pinch-hit and doubled home Miles for the 5-1 lead. Dee Gordon's RBI single made it 6-1.

The story then turned to the bullpen and the great job they did. Matt Guerrier pitched the seventh and got a double play from Kelly to end the inning. Hong-Chih Kuo made his return from hiatus and threw a perfect eighth. Blake Hawksworth struck out the side, ala Clayton Kershaw the night before, to emphatically end the ballgame.

There were a couple of tense moments in this one to test the Dodgers, but they passed with flying colors. They induced two inning-ending double play balls, which went a long way in keeping the Tigers' offense in check. The pitching held their offense without an extra-base hit.

Billingsley bounced back from some horrific outings lately to last 5 1/3 innings for six hits, one run, two walks, and six strikeouts. His WHIP for the season is still very high at 1.52, but tonight he stranded those runners, with a little help from MacDougal in the sixth. He evened his record at 6-6.

The bullpen was great. MacDougal, Guerrier, Kuo, and Hawksworth combined to throw the final 3 2/3 innings for one hit, no runs, one walk, and five strikeouts. You really can't get a whole lot better than that. A healthy Kuo makes a huge difference, as he's the best lefty reliever in baseball when he's right. One strong outing doesn't make him magically cured, but it's as good a start as he could've asked for.

Worth noting is that Matt Kemp stole two bases, both in the seventh, to get up to 20 on the season. To put in perspective just how impressive that is, he stole 19 all of last season. He's now at the 20-20 mark, and 30-30 is on the horizon. That's practically a rarity these days.

The Dodgers will now look for the sweep, which seemed improbable a few days ago. Ted Lilly will get the ball looking to earn his sixth win.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Kershaw builds his All-Star resume

That wall Clayton Kershaw had been running into in recent starts? He just broke through it.

Kershaw posted his latest dominant outing on Monday, throwing a complete game, two-hit shutout as the Dodgers beat the Tigers, 4-0. How did two of those runs score? On a single by Kershaw. You could say he did it all.

The Dodgers got things started in the first. Juan Uribe has been in a horrible slump pretty much all season, so Don Mattingly gave him a second straight start in the #2 hole. It worked in this one, as he took a full count pitch out to left for his fourth homer of the year and a 1-0 lead.

The defense gave Kershaw some support in the third. The Tigers mustered only two hits on the night, but one of them came here on a leadoff double by Ryan Raburn. He went to third on a groundout and stayed there when Brad Penny struck out. With two down now, Dioner Navarro executed a perfect throw behind to nail him at third to get the last out. It was great communication between he and Uribe.

After wasting a couple of good opportunities in the fourth and fifth, the Dodgers tacked on another run in the sixth. James Loney started it with a double, his eighth of the season. An out later, Navarro stroked an RBI double to go up 2-0. The Dodgers still aren't hitting much, but that's two straight games in which Navarro has provided big at-bats.

From there it was all about Kershaw, as he refused to let the Tigers get settled in. In fact, he got even better as the innings wore on. And when he wasn't dealing, he was giving himself some room for comfort with his bat. In the eighth, Matt Kemp walked leading off and Loney singled for two on. Kemp then stole third and Loney took second on an error by Victor Martinez.

Navarro was soon given the intentional walk to pitch to Jamey Carroll, who grounded into a forceout for two down. Kershaw didn't exactly kill the ball, but found a perfect spot to ground one through the infield for a two-run single and 4-0 advantage.

The ninth inning was the sweetest, as Kershaw struck out the side to put an exclamation point on arguably the best outing of his career. He finished with 11 strikeouts and only one walk to run his record to 7-3 with a 3.01 ERA.

Over his last two starts, Kershaw has thrown 16 innings, giving up only one run on six hits, walking three and striking out 15. If you recall, he went through a couple of rough patches before that in which he started off the game very well, then got hit hard in the middle innings. That seems like a distant memory now.

The National League is loaded with power arms, so to make the All-Star game as a starting pitcher, you know you earned it. There should be no doubt after last night that Kershaw has earned it. He leads the league in strikeouts at 117 (Halladay has 114 with one less start), and is right up there in innings pitched, ERA, WHIP, and BAA.

By my calculations, if the Dodgers stay on the current rotation, then Kershaw's last start before the All-Star game will be on Thursday, July 7 against the Mets. That means when the All-Star game hits that following Tuesday, he will be pitching on his normal rest. If he can look good over his next three starts before the break, then he has a legitimate shot at being named the starter simply because of rest. Come on, Bruce Bochy, throw him a bone!

But that's looking way ahead, so let's focus on this one for now. Loney and Uribe had good games, and Lord knows they could use it. Loney went 3-for-4 with two runs and a double. To his credit, he's been hitting very well in June to the tune of a .322 average. He still doesn't provide much power, but at least he's hitting.

The Dodgers now have two straight shutout victories, which is tough to do against anyone. Tonight's starter is Chad Billingsley, and he has a lot to prove. As great as Kershaw has been, Bills has not. At the end of May his ERA stood at 3.46. Three horrible starts later, it's now at 4.65. He'll look to turn things around against Max Scherzer, who's had a great year with a 9-2 record.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Navarro provides the wake-up call

Just when you thought the Dodgers were well on their way to getting shut out and swept, Dioner Navarro woke up from hibernation.

Navarro's solo shot with one out in the eighth broke open a scoreless ballgame, and Javy Guerra picked up the save as the Dodgers won, 1-0. The win is the first in a week for the Dodgers, who were on a five-game losing streak to begin their 12-game homestand. Oh by the way, they just barely avoided getting swept by the lowly Astros.

It's nothing to brag about, but it's nice to actually get a win for a change.

Hiroki Kuroda was given the ball and was the latest starting pitcher to try and break the losing streak. Not only were the Dodgers on a bad losing streak, but Kuroda had a personal five-game losing streak of his own. He was once 5-3 on May 17... now he's 5-8.

It's a shame that his record will remain 5-8, despite pitching his butt off today. He lasted seven innings for three hits, no runs, two walks, and six strikeouts. Even though his record has tanked, this is his fourth straight good start. In other words, four straight starts in which the offense didn't back him up. Gee, what a shock.

Bud Norris was every bit as good as Kuroda, as he pitched six scoreless frames himself. He could have gone longer, but with two outs in the seventh, Matt Downs pinch-hit for him with Chris Johnson on second from a leadoff double. It didn't work, as Downs popped up for the final out.

The Dodgers had a great chance to score in the seventh and give Kuroda that elusive sixth win. Andre Ethier walked leading off, and one out later, James Loney singled. Wilton Lopez relieved Sergio Escalona to pitch to Casey Blake. Right on cue, Blake grounded into the 5-4-3 double play to waste another scoring opportunity.

It's a good thing Navarro got into one in the eighth, because you got the feeling that these teams would just go on and on, boring everyone in the process. With Rod Barajas now on the 15-day DL with a bad ankle, Navarro is going to get more chances to play. Today was a good start for him with a 2-for-3 day, raising his average to a blistering... .175. Hey, you've got to start somewhere, right?

Matt Guerrier is the one who picked up the win, as he's now pitched three scoreless innings in three appearances. He started off the year a house of fire with a 2.45 May ERA, but June hasn't been so kind. He's been searching for that consistency for a little while now. Like Navarro, today was a positive step.

Guerra made only one appearance this past week against the Reds, so he's been used sparingly. But, he looked really good in getting his second save with a perfect ninth, all on grounders (with a great play by Blake for support). He only has one outing in which he's allowed multiple runs, and with a current 2.70 ERA, he should be getting more chances late in games. Of course, that's pending on the Dodgers actually having a lead.

The homestand is now halfway through, and even with a win today, 1-5 is just an utter disaster. The Tigers now come to town for three, and they're right on the heels of the Indians for first in the AL Central. Thankfully the Dodgers avoid the great Justin Verlander, who completely shut down the Rockies today. I can't even imagine what he'd do to this offense. The Angels soon follow for three.

A realistic goal for the Dodgers would be to split these next six games, though if I had to guess, I'd say they'll maybe win a couple of them. I certainly hope I'm wrong, but with an offense that's still on life support, I just don't see them running off a few wins in a row. Getting a couple from the Tigers would be nice.

Clayton Kershaw will take the ball on Monday. He'll be matched up with old Dodger Brad Penny, who went to a couple All-Star games, including one start, when he was in blue.

No runs, no excitement, no hope

You know it's a bad season when the Astros cream you two straight games.

Add Saturday night as the latest in a long line of embarrassing losses this season as the Dodgers fell to the 'Stros, 7-0. The Dodgers are now 10 games under .500 at 31-41 and have a six-game home losing streak.

And there's no reason to believe any of this is going to get better.

Much like the night before, the game was close until the middle innings. Rubby De La Rosa was great through four innings. Wandy Rodriguez was the same, but he's a good pitcher, so you knew the Dodgers' pathetic offense wouldn't stand a chance. They barely stand a chance against scrub pitchers, much less All-Star caliber ones.

Then the fifth inning came, and that started to send fans to the exits. It all started off with a walk to Brett Wallace. Chris Johnson singled and Clint Barmes bunt singled to load the bases with nobody down. There was then a glimmer of hope when Carlos Corporan and Rodriguez struck out.

That glimmer of hope quickly went away, as Michael Bourn walked in a run, Jason Bourgeois hit an RBI single, and Jeff Keppinger followed with a two-run single, and just like that it was 4-0. Mike MacDougal came in and soon uncorked a wild pitch that both scored a run and sent Rod Barajas out of the game with a twisted right ankle.

The Dodgers could've at least cut into the five-run deficit in the fifth, but didn't. Dee Gordon and Casey Blake singled with two outs. Andre Ethier had a big opportunity to drive at least one in, but struck out instead. Not that I'm surprised because his magical year of clutch hitting seems like forever ago. Now he's a singles hitter and nothing else.

In the eighth, the Astros put the game away for good, not that they really needed to. One run was all it took to beat these bums. Anyway, Ramon Troncoso was now in, so runs naturally followed. Johnson hit an RBI single with one out to make it 6-0. Corporan did the same with two outs to close the scoring at 7-0.

By the way, the Dodgers put two on in the eighth on singles by Ethier (big shock) and Kemp leading off, but Juan "Him To Be Traded" Uribe grounded into a double play and Marcus Thames grounded out to appropriately end the inning.

When you tally it all up, the Dodgers collected 10 hits and no runs. That's because only one was for extra-bases. They took one walk and didn't steal any bases. If you didn't see the game and just saw these stats, you're probably saying to yourself, "Wow, that's pretty lifeless." And you would be right.

De La Rosa went from great to horrible in the flick of a switch. He ended up with 4 2/3 innings, six hits, five runs, three walks, and six strikeouts. It's all a learning experience for him, so he has to keep getting chances to start. He just needs to take that positive start to the game that he had and build on it.

The other day I took a look at some problems on the team, and since they're even worse now, let's take a look at some more. I'll start with Uribe. Good Lord has he been awful. In 52 games this year, he's hitting .210, and mostly hitting in the #5 spot. I don't care what his contract is or how many rings he's won - if he continues to stink the joint up like this, the Dodgers either need to trade him or just let him walk. There's no point in continually running him out there.

Thames is also horrendous. He's appeared in 50 games this year and is hitting .180. He was signed to be a power hitter from the right side, and has two homers, one triple, and no doubles. Wow, what great power! That's just so pathetic. Cut the cord with him, please. Nobody will miss him.

The last bum is Troncoso. Not that I needed to remind any of you of this, but he sucks. So let's get this straight. You bring Kenley Jansen off the DL and have a decision on whom to send down. Instead of getting rid of Troncoso and his 6.23 ERA, you dump Josh Lindblom and his 1.69 ERA? Huh? The Dodgers need to correct this terrible mistake and soon.

I'll stop right there because I could go on all day. That's how bad these guys are. I would say they have to win today to save some face, but it doesn't matter. Win or lose, they are still terrible, and one win against a bad team won't change that.

Hiroki Kuroda will take the mound today looking to break a personal five-game losing streak. Not that he gets any run support, so that looks a lot worse than it actually is. Bud Norris goes for the Astros.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

0-fer homestand continues

As if getting swept in the first three games of the homestand wasn't bad enough, now the Dodgers were completely shut down by a guy with a 5.03 ERA coming in.

Brett Myers threw a complete game, the first of the season for the Astros, as the Dodgers dropped their fourth straight, 7-3. The 12-game homestand is quickly turning into a nightmare with an 0-4 record.

Ted Lilly was put in charge of trying to erase the bad memories of the Reds series, and he got a little offensive help in the first. Dee Gordon walked leading off and went to second on Aaron Miles's single. After Gordon went to third on a grounder by Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp's sac-fly RBI made it 1-0.

Apparently one run was just way too overwhelming for the Dodgers, as they wouldn't score again until garbage time in the ninth. In fact, over these last four games, they've put up 11 runs, good for 2.8 a game. That's just pathetic even by their lowly standards.

Lilly would be fine until the Astros tied the game in the fourth. Carlos Lee singled with one out and stole second. The next batter, Chris Johnson, doubled to left to score Lee and tie the game at 1-1.

All signs pointed towards a pitcher's duel through five innings. But that totally came apart in the sixth when the Astros just pounded on Lilly to the tune of five runs on five hits. Jeff Keppinger started it all off with a ground rule double. An out later, Lee's RBI single gave the Astros the lead for good at 2-1.

It was on from there, as the next four hitters reached to send Lilly to the showers. Johnson singled for two on, and Brett Wallace walked to load the bases. Clint Barmes and his .219 average scored two with a double for the 5-1 lead. The last run came on an error by Miles to score Barmes and make it 6-1.

Even with someone as crappy as Myers on the mound, a five-run deficit late in the game meant the Dodgers may as well have just gone home. In the sixth they went down in order. In the seventh Loney singled and was erased on a double play ball from Juan Uribe. In the eighth they again went down in order.

The ninth was the only other time they got anything going, but that was due in large part to an error by Wallace to allow Gordon to reach. Gordon then stole second and scored on Ethier's two-run homer. Kemp struck out and Loney grounded out to end the game.

With the win, the Astros are now 26-45. They're far and away the worst team in baseball, as every other team has at least a .400 winning %. Yet after watching this game, it was the Dodgers who looked like they were the ones ready take over that title. There's just nothing about this team that would make anyone think they can turn things around.

The problems are many, but I'll start with a guy like Ethier. Tonight he was 1-for-4 with a two-run homer. His average is a solid .312. Yet when you dig deeper, you start to see some truths. He only has six homers, and this was his first since May 27. He has 17 doubles and no triples. So when you round it all up, out of his 79 hits, 23 of them have been for extra-bases.

I'm in no way trying to say it's all Ethier's fault, but for a guy hitting third in the order, hitting mostly singles just won't get it done. Not when you're surrounded by a bunch of guys who don't hit well, save for Matt Kemp of course. If Ethier continues the power outage, the offense won't be turning much around anytime soon.

Uribe is a much bigger part of the problem. Simply put, he's been a disaster this year. If he's not hurt, then he's not hitting when he is playing. He's hitting .215 with three homers and 22 RBIs. In 10 games this month, he's 7-for-36.

Lilly has pitched better lately, but he was hit around in this one, giving up six runs (five earned) in 5 1/3 innings. His ERA shot back up to 4.26 after being at 3.98 coming in. Then there's Chad Billingsley, who's been getting creamed lately. Jon Garland went from inning-eater to DL member twice.

Don't even let me get into the bullpen's problems. We'd be here all day.

Add it all up, and there's not a whole lot to be excited about as Dodger fans. And I haven't even mentioned the organizational drama with the idiot McCourt family. Simply put, it's ugly both on and off the field.

If the Dodgers want to save any sort of face whatsoever, they have to win the next two games against the worst in baseball. If not, then maybe the Dodgers deserve that moniker. I don't care who's hurt and who's not - they have to get these next two wins. That's all there is to it.

Wouldn't you know it, the Astros send their best pitcher to the mound today in Wandy Rodriguez. After a rough start to the season, he's really put it all together lately, not that anyone notices. The Dodgers counter with Rubby De La Rosa, who's filled in nicely no matter which role he's been assigned to.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Reds win the bullpen battle

Tie game, eighth inning, bullpens at work. Who would get the edge?

Not the Dodgers. Not with this bullpen.

The Reds scored a couple of late runs to edge the Dodgers, 3-2. After a 5-5 road trip that included some tough stops, the Dodgers have dropped the first two games of a 12-game homestand. Not exactly the best way to create momentum.

The Dodgers were given a gift run in the first. Dee Gordon got another shot at leadoff, and he singled. Jamey Carroll then took a walk. Andre Ethier hit a grounder that forced Carroll at second, but his hard slide into Brandon Phillips caused a bad throw to first, as Gordon came home for the 1-0 lead.

Clayton Kershaw got through the first three frames with ease thanks to a double play in the second. Daniel Stubbs led off the fourth with a single and stole second an out later. With two outs, Jay Bruce walked to prolong the inning. Scott Rolen then tied the game with an RBI single, but Tony Gwynn nailed Bruce at home to keep the score at 1-1.

That's the way the score would remain until late in the game. Gorden used his speed to try and give the Dodgers a lead in the sixth, but it was all for naught. He reached on a bunt single and took second on Johnny Cueto's error. He soon stole third with two outs, but Ethier struck out to end the inning.

With the score tied at 1, Don Mattingly turned the ball over to Blake Hawksworth starting in the eighth. Hawkworth proceeded to allow singles to Miguel Cairo and Phillips with one out. Needing a lefty to face Joey Votto, Scott Elbert was summoned, and promptly gave up an RBI single to him. Mike MacDougal came on to get the final out of the inning to keep it at 2-1.

MacDougal stayed on to pitch the ninth, and once again the 'pen could not keep the score as is. Ramon Hernandez walked with one down. An out later, Fred Lewis singled to keep the inning going. MacDougal couldn't get out of the inning as Daniel Stubbs hit an RBI single to make it 3-1.

Francisco Cordero came on for the save, and Ethier flew out to deep right leading off. Kemp then walked and stole second. James Loney cut the deficit to one with an RBI single, and the Dodgers were in good shape to tie the game. But, Casey Blake struck out and Rod Barajas popped up to end the game.

In a way, the results the last couple of nights aren't too surprising. The Dodgers just aren't a consistent enough team to build on some positive momentum from this past weekend. It seems like the second they show signs of life, they go right back to where they started. Now at 31-38, they are going to have to turn it on to even get to .500.

Kershaw bounced back from a couple of disappointing outings in which he started off well and then fell apart. In this one he lasted seven innings for four hits, one run, two walks, and four strikeouts. He took a no-decision, his third straight one, so his record remains at 6-3.

The offense collected only seven hits, which isn't too surprising considering they are very streaky and were facing a great pitcher in Cueto, who's putting it all together this year with a 4-2 record an 1.68 ERA. Gordon was the only one to make any noise, collecting two hits with a run and stolen base. That's a very positive sign for the future.

So, once again, the Dodgers had to trust their bullpen to come through, and it didn't happen. Hawkworth has now given up a run in two straight appearances, raising his ERA from 2.57 to 3.27. Elbert is the only lefty option with Hong-Chih Kuo out, and his ERA is 5.19. MacDougal has pitched well all year, and even he gave up a run. Nothing could go right.

The Dodgers will try to avoid a sweep with a Wednesday afternoon tilt. They then get an off day Thursday before welcoming the Astros in town for three. Hopefully Chad Billingsley can get this team back on the winning side.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Big bats pound on Ubaldo

The Dodgers entered Sunday afternoon's game against the Rockies with a couple things in mind: even up their tough road trip at 5-5 and get some revenge on Ubaldo Jimenez.

Mission accomplished.

Despite the bullpen's best efforts to once again spoil a big lead, the Dodgers held off a late Rockies' charge to take the game, 10-8. With the win, the Dodgers took two of three in Colorado to end the road trip.

On paper, the pitching matchup looked like a clear advantage for the Rockies, especially considering that Jimenez shut down the Dodgers last week to earn his first win. Rubby De La Rosa is the pitcher of the future, but he also was recently in Double-A.

But that's why they play the game, and De La Rosa was great. He lasted five innings for three hits, three runs, three walks, and six strikeouts. He got the win to put his record at 3-0 with a 3.00 ERA. Good for him.

The first inning didn't start off so hot, though. Carlos Gonzalez had a big day, and it started off with a double leading off. Two outs later, Troy Tulowitzki walked to set things up for Seth Smith, who unloaded on a three-run blast for the 3-0 lead.

De La Rosa settled down from there, and the offense got to work in the second. He singled leading off, something Dodger pitchers have had good success with lately. Jamey Carroll reached on an error by Ty Wiggington, and a couple outs later, Matt Kemp walked to load the bases. James Loney has certainly never been confused with a power hitter, but he uncorked a grand slam to give the Dodgers a 4-3 lead. A single and stolen base by Juan Uribe led to Rod Barajas's RBI single to go up 5-3.

The Dodgers added a couple more in the fifth via the longball. For the first time in Jimenez's career, he gave up three homers in one start thanks to two solo bombs by Kemp and Barajas to make it 7-3. Kemp is now up to 20 homers, good for first in the National League.

In the seventh, the Dodgers broke it open even more. With Barajas and Trent Oeltjen on, Tony Gwynn laid down a perfect bunt that led to Barajas scoring on an error by Rex Brothers. With Matt Belisle now in, Carroll greeted him with an RBI single, making it 9-3.

Now if you thought that a six-run lead in the late innings was sufficient enough, then you obviously haven't been paying attention to Dodger baseball this season. Ramon Troncoso relieved De La Rosa in the sixth, who had to leave with a forearm cramp, and held the Rockies down.

Then the bottom of the seventh hit, and it was all downhill. Jose Morales doubled leading off, which led to a two-run homer by Gonzalez to make it 9-5. Troncoso continued to show his worth by then allowing another two-run shot, this time to Tulowitzki, and it was 9-7. Troncoso now has a 6.75 ERA and 2.02 WHIP after getting shelled today. Can you say "minors?"

The offense put another run on the board in the eighth. Loney continued his big game with a one-out double. Uribe then hit an RBI single to center, and it was 10-7.

Mike MacDougal got the last out of the seventh, and he gave up only a single to Morales in the eighth. The Dodgers put a couple of runners on in the ninth, but couldn't score.

Now it was closing time, and today's contestant was Blake Hawksworth. He got the first two outs to show a glimmer of hope for his first career save... right up until Todd Helton belted a solo homer and Tulo singled to chase him. Scott Elbert, who was awful the night before, got Smith grounding out to first on a nice play by Loney to end the game.

We all know how horrendous the bullpen is, so I won't rehash it right now. I know they have plenty of injuries, but the guys who are in their spots aren't exactly making their best cases to stay in the bigs when they're back. Time is running out for them.

Let's instead focus on the offense, which obviously fell in love with Coors Field. Over these last four games, they put up 33 runs, good for 8.3 runs a game. Needless to say, that's a hell of a lot better than what they had been doing most of the season. I know numbers get slightly skewed there, but it's not nearly the launching pad it used to be. Bottom line - give the bats credit for scoring lots of runs to grab a couple games.

We all know how great Kemp has been, and how Loney, Barajas, and Uribe each had three hits. But how about Mr. Carroll? He went 15-for-30 on the 10-game trip, and is now among the NL's leaders with a .320 batting average. He's been an unsung hero all season long, and even into last year. He quietly works his butt off, and he should be recognized for showing how it's done.

The Dodgers are still five games under .500 at 31-36. But, they should feel good about this trip. Now they're at home sweet home for the next 12 games. They start off with the Reds on Monday, then host the Astros, Tigers, and Angels. The Reds and Tigers are pretty good, but the Astros and Angels should be winnable games. Let's see how the offense does away from Coors. Hopefully there's a carryover effect.

Hiroki Kuroda was once 5-3... now he's 5-7 after dropping four straight starts. But, he's only given up three runs in his last two starts, so he's been pitching well. He'll go up against Bronson Arroyo.

Bullpen to Tony Gwynn: Thank You!

Tony Gwynn just picked up his first career save.

Clinging to an 11-7 lead in the bottom of the ninth, the Dodgers' pitiful bullpen was bailed out on a diving catch by Gwynn with the bases loaded to get the win over the Rockies. With the win, the Dodgers have snapped a three-game losing streak.

It was your latest wild affair between these two teams, who have both battled back from huge deficits through the first three games. It's not a surprise considering their history of crazy games in Coors Field.

There wasn't much scoring during the opening four innings, which is surprising considering there were 18 total runs in this game. In the second, Ty Wiggington led off with a solo homer off of Ted Lilly to grab the 1-0 lead.

The Dodgers wasted a bases loaded opportunity in the third when James Loney popped up. Rod Barajas and Aaron Miles each singled to open the fourth, but they were stranded. At this point, it sure looked like another one of those games in which the Dodgers wouldn't get a clutch hit.

Luckily for the Dodgers, that all changed starting in the fifth. With one out and Andre Ethier on first, Matt Kemp came through yet again with an RBI double to knot the game at 1. Where would the Dodgers be without Kemp this year? That's a scary thought.

Lilly worked around a bases loaded, one-out jam to escape the fifth, setting things up for the Dodgers to take the lead in the sixth. Barajas and Miles both reached again to start. Gwynn laid down a great bunt to load the bases. Don Mattingly called on Casey Blake to hit for Lilly, and it worked to perfection as Blake laced a three-run double for the 4-1 lead.

More runs were added in the seventh. Kemp reached on an error by Wiggington, and Loney singled for two on. Miles had a huge night against his former mates with four hits, and one of them was a two-run double to make it 6-1. Marcus Thames pinch-hit with two outs and got an RBI single to go up 7-1.

At this point, it sure looked like a blowout was in the Dodgers' hands. But much like the night before when the Rockies nearly blew a six-run lead, the Dodgers' horrible bullpen almost did the same.

You can't blame Josh Lindblom, who pitched a perfect seventh. Then the ball was given to Scott Elbert the next inning, and boy did he completely stink the joint up. A double by Carlos Gonzalez, single by Eric Young, and walk to Jason Giambi later, Elbert was out of there. Matt Guerrier came on and immediately gave up a two-run single to Troy Tulowitzki, and it was 7-3.

With Guerrier still on, Giambi and Tulo scored on an error by Kemp. An RBI single by Charlie Blackmon made it a whole new ballgame at 7-6.

Needing to respond, the Dodgers did just that against Matt Lindstrom in the ninth. Loney singled leading off an scored on an RBI single by Barajas. Gwynn got an RBI on a fielder's choice to make it 9-6. The big blow of the inning was a two-out, two-run single by Carroll to make it 11-6.

The Rockies wouldn't go quietly, as Javy Guerra had all he could handle in trying to end this one. With two outs, Young, Giambi, and Tulo singled, and Wiggington scored one on a single. After Ryan Spilborghs walked to load the bases, Gwynn made an absolutely fantastic diving catch to end the game.

Both teams deserve credit for not quitting in this one. The Rockies were down by six late and found a way to come back, and the Dodgers added some insurance runs in the ninth that were desperately needed. There were a combined 31 hits in this one.

Lilly ended up getting the win, as he went five innings for four hits, one run, two walks, and three strikeouts. He now has his ERA under four at 3.98. That's five straight great starts from him.

The bullpen was terrible again, specifically Elbert. There's not much Mattingly can do about it, however, as he is without the services of Hong-Chih Kuo, Vicente Padilla, and Jonathan Broxton (not that he makes much of a difference). That's why you see guys like Guerra and Elbert pitching big innings when they normally never would. But that's the way it has to be right now.

If the Dodgers can earn a Sunday win, then they will finish their road trip at 5-5. Considering they played the Reds, Phillies, and Rockies, they would have to be happy with that. In fact, they should be downright giddy. With all of the injuries they've been through, I'm not sure anyone expected them to even win half of these games.

Sunday's game, however, won't be easy. Rubby De La Rosa gets his second career start against Ubaldo Jimenez, who just handcuffed the Dodgers in his last start.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Dodgers flip the switch a little too late

Give the Dodgers this - at least they made a game of it.

Down 6-0 going into the ninth, the Dodgers put the tying run on base before Huston Street got Trent Oleltjen swinging to get the win, 6-5. The Rockies have taken the first couple in this four-game set.

Chad Billingsley got the start for the Dodgers, and he was pretty much playing with fire all night. He got through the first fine, then surrendered a leadoff homer to Troy Tulowitzki in the second to go down 1-0.

The fifth is when both Billingsley and the Dodgers' usual stellar defense just fell apart. Carlos Gonzalez singled with one out and went to second on an error by Casey Blake. Chris Nelson also singled and went to second on Oeltjen's error. Sure enough, Todd Helton didn't waste any time in stroking a two-run single, and it was 3-0.

From there, Billingsley gave up four hits and a wild pitch to chase him two outs into the inning. Seth Smith's two-run single made it 5-0. With two outs, Chris Iannetta got in on the fun with an RBI single, sending Bills to the showers with a 6-0 deficit. Ramon Troncoso got the last out to end the inning.

Troncoso stayed on to pitch through the seventh and did a great job in holding a hot offense off the board. It was a bit of a flashback to a great 2009 season in which he had a 2.72 ERA in 82 2/3 innings. Let's hope it's a sign of things to come as well.

The ninth inning was a wild one in which the Dodgers came up just short of a huge comeback. After Ethier struck out to start the inning, Matt Kemp pinch-hit and absolutely unloaded on a bomb to left for the Dodgers' first run. That's his 19th of the season, and also extends is major league-best streak of 269 consecutive games. A sore left hamstring could keep that streak in some jeopardy in the near future.

James Loney would then single before Juan Uribe popped up for two down. The Dodgers refused to leave quietly, as they started a big two-out rally. It was helped, however, on an error by Nelson that allowed Dioner Navarro to reach. Tony Gwynn then doubled to score a run and make it 6-2.

Huston Street came on for the save, and Aaron Miles greeted him with a two-run single on an 0-2 count, and it was 6-4. Rod Barajas pinch-hit and softly placed one into center, and incredibly it was 6-5. Oeltjen had a chance to be a hero, but struck out on a check swing to put this one in the books.

Overall, the Dodgers sent nine hitters to the plate in the ninth and got five runs on five hits. The error may have been the biggest play considering that would have ended the game. Still, it was good to see the bats come alive even for one inning.

At the end of the day, a loss is still a loss, and the Dodgers are once again looking for answers. They didn't find any in Billingsley, who lasted only 4 2/3 innings for 13 hits, six runs, one walk, and three strikeouts. His numbers have shot up to a 4.13 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. Not exactly the numbers you want to see from your #2 guy.

The Dodgers have to hope that their late run will carry over to the weekend, because they can't suffer through the humiliation of getting swept by the division rivals in four straight. They've scored 12 runs in the first two games, but haven't done it on the mound and even in the field as today showed. They have got to find a way to put it all together.

Ted Lilly will be given the ball to try and get that first win. He's had four straight quality starts, so maybe he can be the one who gives his team the best chance to win. We can hope anyway.

Four-run lead goes to waste

The Dodgers had it all going on in the first part of Thursday night's game in Colorado: good pitching from Clayton Kershaw, big hits from Matt Kemp, and a comfy four-run lead.

Then Kershaw hit a wall in the sixth, and the wheels fell off the bus.

For the second straight start, Kershaw started off a house of fire and then fell apart in the middle innings as the Rockies scored six unanswered runs to beat the Dodgers, 9-7. The Dodgers had leads of 4-0 and 7-3, yet their pitching once again let them down.

Chalk this one up to one of the most frustrating loses of the 2011 season.

First, the good. In the fourth, the Dodgers broke the scoreless game when Kemp led off with his 18th bomb of the season. That's good for first in the NL and two behind the mighty Jose Bautista for the league's lead. In fact, Kemp went 3-for-5 with three RBIs, and was a single away from the cycle. Not that any of it mattered in the end.

Kershaw got a rally going in the fifth when he singled with one out. Dee Gordon, getting another start in the leadoff spot, singled to left for two on. An out later, Andre Ethier hit an RBI single, and it was 2-0. Kemp then smacked a two-run triple to push the lead to 4-0.

Getting through the fifth was no problem at all for Kershaw, who by that point had given up only two hits. But then, for whatever reason, he looked just awful in the sixth. Carlos Gonzalez started it with a one-out single. Chris Nelson then grounded one hard off of Kershaw's glove to put two on.

Todd Helton worked a good at-bat by taking a walk to load the bases. The dangerous Troy Tulowitzki then hit a two-run double to slash the score to 4-2. Ty Wiggington plated another run with a groundout, and it was 4-3.

Despite looking lost, Don Mattingly kept Kershaw in to hit, and for the time being it actually paid off when he singled leading off. Gordon laid down a great bunt for a hit, and Kershaw came all the way around to score on a horrible throw by catcher Jose Morales. Casey Blake's double easily scored Gordon, and Ethier collected a sac-fly RBI to push the lead back up to four at 7-3.

And just when you thought the Dodgers were safe again, the Rockies went to town. Leaving Kershaw in was not the smart choice, as he immediately gave up two singles and a walk to load the bases. In came Scott Elbert, who gave up an RBI single to Gonzalez and bases loaded walk to Helton, making it 7-5.

Bringing in Mike MacDougal did diddly squat, as he was just as horrendous as the others. He surrendered a two-run single to Tulo, beaned Ty Wiggington, and walked Jason Giambi to force in another run to give the Rockies an 8-7 edge. Blake Hawksworth got the last two outs in order to at least keep in close.

The offense for the Dodgers disappeared from there, as only Ethier reached base the final two innings with a double. I can't say I'm too surprised that they couldn't rally. They were probably deflated from watching the pitching staff just hand this one away. It was pathetic.

What concerns me the most about this one is how Kershaw just melted down once again. It's easy to dismiss this as just a bad night, but that's twice in a row he went from dominant to batting practice in the flick of a switch. I'm not sure if he's feeling a dead arm in the middle of games or what, but the Dodgers can't afford to watch their ace implode like that.

The other concern, obviously, is the atrocious bullpen work. Elbert and MacDougal combined to face six batters and only get one out, with two hits, two walks, and a beaning going to the rest. The seventh inning alone saw two runs score on walks. That's just completely inexcusable. It would be inexcusable on the high school level, let alone the majors.

It seems like the second you start feeling good about the Dodgers playing solid baseball again, they do something like this to remind everyone that they are as mediocre as you can get. They have no killer instinct to bury teams like this. Instead, they mess around way too much and let other teams battle back. I probably don't need to tell you that that's not exactly the way playoff teams play.

The Dodgers have three more in Colorado, and maybe that's a good thing that they get more cracks at putting this one behind them. It starts with Chad Billingsley taking the mound, looking for his fourth straight win after starting the season 1-3. He'll go against Jhoulys Chacin, who's sporting a 6-4 record with a 3.19 ERA.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Please no more Hamels... please?

When it comes to Cole Hamels, the Dodgers would much more prefer the motto of "less is more."

Once again, Hamels was virtually untouchable for eight innings as the Phillies blanked the Dodgers, 2-0. With the loss, the Dodgers dropped two of three in Philadelphia.

One night after backing up rookie Rubby De La Rosa in winning 6-2, the offense could do absolutely nothing to have Hiroki Kuroda's back. Kuroda tried his best to match Hamels pitch for pitch, but ultimately fell short.

There wasn't much happening over the beginning four innings. Both teams only collected one hit. In the fifth, the Phillies did everything but score. With two outs, Michael Martinez tripled. Hamels took a walk on a full count. Kuorda uncorked a wild pitch to move Hamels up, but Martinez inexplicably didn't try to take home. Shane Victorino was given the intentional walk before Domonic Brown flied out to end the inning.

Even though Kuroda was pitching well, he was still wearing down. Ryan Howard, who along with the rest of the Phillies' offense haven't hit a home run the month of June, changed all of that with one swing. His solo homer with one down put the Phills up 1-0.

Kuroda was then yanked after surrendering a double to Raul Ibanez. Mike MacDougal came on and walked Carlos Ruiz, but got the next two hitters to keep the score as is.

The Dodgers had their best chance to at least tie the game up in the seventh, and bumbled it away. Andre Ethier led off with a double. Matt Kemp singled to put runners on the corners with no outs. What would the rest of the hitters do? Juan Uribe popped up, Marcus Thames struck out, and Rod Barajas flew out.

In other words, it was your latest example of the guys not named Ethier and Kemp not pulling their own weight. Those two combined for four hits, the rest of the team went 3-for-25. That pretty much says it all right there.

The Phillies added another run in the seventh. With Matt Guerrier in, Victorino hit a triple with one out and scored on Brown's fielder's choice RBI.

There was another good opportunity to score against Hamels in the eighth, but you all know already how it turned out. Aaron Miles pinch-hit for Guerrier and singled. After James Loney flew out, Casey Blake singled. Ethier was now given a chance to come up with something big, but came up empty instead with a groundout.

Ryan Madson got a double play ball from Uribe to help him get his 14th save.

Without any help from the bats, Kuroda wasn't given any chance of winning, but he still pitched pretty well. He lasted 5 1/3 innings for four hits, one run, three walks, and seven strikeouts. He seemed to just kind of hit a wall in the fifth. Still, he could've gotten a win with any sort of support. His 5-7 record is in no way reflective of the season he's having, especially considering he has a 3.35 ERA.

Guerrier has given up a run in two straight appearances now, so it's a bit of a concern. Maybe he's just not as lucky as MacDougal, who's sporting a shiny 2.14 ERA despite a high WHIP of 1.52. It could be luck, or it could be he's making big pitches when he needs them. The truth is somewhere in between most likely.

Six games into the road trip, the Dodgers are 3-3 against playoff teams from last season. All things considered, that's actually pretty good. Considering how poorly they were playing recently, I think the Dodgers will take this. It would be hard for any team to play six straight against the Reds and Phillies in their houses, so the Dodgers should be somewhat satisfied with this.

There's no rest for the Dodgers, as they will now travel to Colorado for four in trying to take over third place in the NL West. Clayton Kershaw will look to bounce back from a tough start in Cincinnati in which he gave up six runs.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Offensive surge halted by Lee

The Dodgers entered Monday night's game in Philadelphia with a red hot offense that scored 20 runs in two games. They knew they'd be put to the test against the Phillies' great arms. How would they do?

So far, uh... not so good.

Lee struck 10 in seven dominant innings, and the Dodgers only managed a single run the whole night as they fell to the Phillies, 3-1. The loss came on the same day that Juan Uribe, Blake Hawksworth, and Marcus Thames were activated from the DL, and hot prospect Dee Gordon was called up.

The game started out with plenty of promise, as Jamey Carroll and Aaron Miles hit consecutive singles to lead off the game. Andre Ethier sat out this game with some soreness, so Don Mattingly had a decision to make on whom to place in front of Matt Kemp in the #3 hole. That spot went to Thames, who promptly hit into a double play. Kemp then struck out, and just like that, it was an opportunity lost.

Ted Lilly was given the unenviable task of going against Lee, and he got through the first couple of inning fine. But, in the third, Wilson Valdez doubled and soon went to third on a sacrifice. Shane Victorino took a walk for runners on the corners. Placido Polanco hit an RBI groundout to make it 1-0. After Chase Utley lined out to center, Ryan Howard's RBI single pushed it to 2-0.

That's all Lee would need, as the Dodgers tried to chip away here and there, but couldn't crack the scoreboard. Carroll and Miles again singled with two outs in the fifth, but Thames struck out. In fact, Lee's curveball had the Dodgers off balanced all night. It was that nasty.

Hawksworth pitched a flawless seventh in his first appearance since May 10. Mike MacDougal was then given the ball in the eighth and gave up a run. He gave up a couple of walks to Utley and Ben Francisco before Carlos Ruiz doubled off the left field wall to score a run to make it 3-0.

With Brad Lidge still on the DL, Ryan Madson has been a perfect 12-for-12 in save opportunities. The Dodgers tried to mount a comeback anyway when Uribe doubled leading off. Speedy Gordon came on to run, and he went to third on James Loney's single, who came in for Casey Blake when he was tossed earlier in the game for arguing a horrible called third strike. Ethier pinch-hit and got an RBI on a fielder's choice. Rod Barajas and Dioner Navarro then struck out to end the game.

I don't care what team it is, the arms in the Phillies' rotation are good enough to shut anyone down. The Dodgers were without Ethier in the starting lineup, so it was already an uphill climb. What I didn't agree with is hitting Thames third. I'm all for showing confidence in guys but after going 0-for-4 to lower his average to .158, it's not looking like a good decision. Uribe had two hits, so he probably should've been in that spot.

Lilly battled, as he lasted six innings for five hits, two runs, one walk, and four strikeouts. His ERA is down to 4.13 after being at 4.98 early in May. I was plenty worried about him considering he wasn't locating well at all, but he's turned it around nicely.

After Sunday's game, I talked about how tough it would be for the Dodgers to win in these three games. I'd be happy if they get just one of these. They had a chance early on in this one to get to Lee, but blew it. Now they'll have to try and figure out Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. Oh joy.

Matched up against the veteran Oswalt will by young Rubby De La Rosa, making his first big league start. With the millions of injuries the Dodgers have suffered this season, he was not only rushed up to the bullpen, but now to the starting rotation. He has great stuff, and what bigger way to make a splash than with a road win over the Phillies. It'll be fun to watch.

Monday, June 6, 2011

It's Dee Gordon time

The Dodgers activated three men off the Disabled List today in Blake Hawksworth, Juan Uribe, and Marcus Thames. The question then turned to which players would be replaced.

After making some roster moves today, Dodger management made one thing clear: the youth movement is upon us.

Not only were those three men activated, but shortstop and top prospect Dee Gordon has been given the big league call. Designated for assignment were Juan Castro and Jay Gibbons. Sent back down to Triple-A Albuquerque were John Ely and Ivan De Jesus.

It's obviously a big day for Gordon, and most likely an unexpected one because there wasn't much talk of calling him up. But his time has come, and with Rafael Furcal sidelined once again, he will get his chance to show what he's got.

In 50 games with Albuquerque this season, he was hitting .315 with a .361 OBP, plus 22 steals in 25 chances. Stealing bases is his forte, as he stole an incredible 73 in '09 with Great Lakes, and 53 the next season with Chattanooga. That's some unbelievable speed.

The down side? He commits errors, and a whole lot of them. In four years of minor league ball (369 games total), he's made 106 errors for a .937 fielding %. I'm no expert, but that's not very good. The slight silver lining is that he's up to .949 this year, his highest mark.

In addition to Gordon's arrival, Jerry Sands will be staying aboard, as Gibbons was the one given the boot. There had been speculation that it would be the other way around in order to keep both men in the organization, but give the Dodgers credit for doing the right thing. Sands is only hitting .210, but after dominating the minors for a few years, he still needs more time to get comfortable and produce.

I was a fan of the Gibbons signing this past offseason, but it clearly hasn't worked out. First he had problems with his eyes in spring training, which delayed the start of his season. When he has played, he's hitting .255 with one homer and five RBIs. So much for being a power bat from the left side. I do like Castro, so hopefully he can hang around and get called back up at some point.

It's about time the Dodgers got some good news on the injury front, as they have just been hit hard all season long. So, it's nice to see Uribe, Hawksworth, and Thames back. Plus with Gordon coming up and Sands staying around, there's finally some reasons to get excited again. It's not like we're talking major contenders here, but maybe more guys not named Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier will give Dodger fans something to cheer about.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Billingsley bulks up

Chad Billingsley got the win on Sunday, despite not having the greatest of pitching performances. What made the difference was his damage done with the bat.

Billingsley hit a a solo homer, took a bases loaded walk, and stroked an RBI double as part of his 2-for-2, 3 RBI day as he led the Dodgers past the Reds, 9-6. The win was a big one for the Dodgers, as they took two of three on the road against a reigning playoff team. Not too shabby.

The Dodgers pushed 11 runs across the board on Saturday, and fought back from a 7-3, eighth inning deficit to stun the Reds. They picked up right where they left off in the first, as Jamey Carroll walked and Aaron Miles doubled. Andre Ethier scored one with a sac-fly RBI, and it was 1-0. Matt Kemp was a monster yesterday with two homers, and he picked up another one with a three-run shot for the early 4-0 lead.

With the big cushion already, Billingsley gave up a solo home run to Daniel Stubbs, the Reds' leadoff hitter. He did wiggle out of trouble later in the inning after getting Miguel Cairo grounding out with two on.

The top of the second saw Billingsley uncork his second career longball, and first since 2009. In his last two games, he's gone 3-for-5 with a homer, three RBIs, two runs, and a walk. Maybe he should hit in the #5 hole behind Ethier and Kemp!

The Reds would fight back to draw within one in the bottom of the frame. Paul Janish and starting pitcher Travis Wood singled with one out. Stubbs then walked to load the bases. Brandon Phillips has turned himself into one of the best hitting second basemen in baseball, and he continued to show why with a two-run single, making it 4-3.

Not wasting any time, the Dodgers got more runs in the third. With one out, Ethier doubled. The Reds had already seen enough of Kemp, so he was given the intentional pass to pitch to Casey Blake. Blake responded with a single to load the bases. Jerry Sands struck out, but big Rod Barajas smacked a two-run double, and it was 6-3. Following an intentional walk to James Loney, Billingsley collected his second RBI by taking a walk to make it 7-3.

Both teams would trade single runs soon thereafter. In the fourth, Joey Votto's RBI groundout cut the lead to 7-4. Who would respond for the Dodgers? Why it was Billingsley, of course! Loney took a two-out walk, and came around to score on Billingsley's RBI double, pushing the lead back up to 8-4.

The sixth inning saw both teams trade runs again. Sands got an RBI on a single to score Ethier. Votto again gathered an RBI with a single off of new pitcher John Ely.

Ely would stay on to pitch the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. He started the ninth to go for the unusual save, but was lifted one batter in with a walk to Ryan Hanigan. In came young Josh Lindblom, who made his first big league appearance a few days before. It didn't start off so well, as he walked Cairo and plunked Ramon Hernandez to load the bases.

Following a visit to the mound by pitching coach Rick Honeycut, Lindblom relaxed, as he got Janish to pop up, Chris Heisey to fly out to right (scoring a run), and Stubbs swinging to end the game. It was a big moment for him, as he really had to man up with the Reds building some momentum.

20 runs in the last two games is especially impressive considering they scored only one on Friday. It seems as if the Dodgers either hit the crap out of the ball or don't show up. Once again, it was the big two of Ethier and Kemp leading the way. They combined to go 4-for-7 with a homer, a double, four runs, three RBIs, and four walks. Also impressive was that they did not strike out. Ethier has the slight edge in average with a .325 compared to Kemp's .323. I'll take them both.

Carroll had another good day leading off, reaching base three times. Miles reached twice, and Barajas made his one hit count with the two-run double. Overall, the Dodgers had 13 hits and took 10 walks. That's some great stuff.

It's good to be able to say that Billingsley has two straight wins without having his best stuff. In this one he went five innings for eight hits, four runs, three walks, and three strikeouts. Ely was making his first appearance since April 10 (his only appearance of the season thus far), and he really did a nice job in giving the Dodgers some good innings out of the 'pen. Lindblom bent, but he did not break to finish out the non-save situation.

The Dodgers should feel very happy about the way they showed plenty of grit in taking both weekend games. The Reds' pitching really isn't that great, but the Dodgers still went to work and pounded the ball. 20 runs on 28 hits in two games is awesome no matter whom it's against.

The scary part is that the Dodgers now have to go into Philadelphia and take on baseball's best starting rotation. The good news is that they avoid Roy Halladay. The bad news is that they instead get Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels, three #1's on any team but their own. If the Dodgers get one win, they should probably take it and feel good. Two wins is like a bonus. That's how good those guys are.

Someone has to try and take down the great Lee, and it will be Ted Lilly, who's given up only six runs in his last three starts, covering 20 innings. The three-game set begins on Monday before scooting off to Colorado for four.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Kemp's granny leads wild comeback

Normally when a team is down 7-2 with two innings to go, the chances of winning are very slim. When that team losing is the Dodgers, it's hard to seriously think they would be capable of turning it around for a win.

Well, the darnedest thing happened on Saturday afternoon in Cincinnati: not only did the Dodgers erase a five-run deficit in one inning, they scored four runs in the 11th inning to win a crazy one over the Reds, 11-8.

To say the game featured a roller coaster of emotions for both teams would be a giant understatement. Clayton Kershaw was matched up with Johnny Cueto, so it figured to be a low-scoring game. Of course, when seeing that the final score reflected 19 runs, it goes to show that anything is possible in this sport.

The Dodgers were the first to strike. In the third, Dioner Navarro singled leading off, and went to second on a sacrifice by Kershaw. Jamey Carroll then hit an infield single to put two on. Aaron Miles's sac-fly RBI gave them an early lead at 1-0.

Kershaw was absolutely phenomenal through five innings. He got through the Reds' lineup in order the first time around, and his first hit was in the fourth on a single by Joey Votto, who was soon thrown out stealing. He then struck out the side in the fifth, and it was looking very much like a tight one, similar to Friday night's 2-1 win for the Reds.

Then the sixth came, and it all came apart. Trying to battle through 100 degree heat, Kershaw gave up a leadoff single to Ramon Hernandez. After going to second on a sacrifice by Cueto, Daniel Stubbs took a two-out walk. That would be costly, as Brandon Phillips hit an RBI single to make it 1-1. The big blow then came on a three-run shot by Votto, as the Reds were now up 4-1.

Kemp would play a huge role in this game, and it started with a solo homer to lead off the seventh. Now only down two, Kershaw couldn't get through the bottom of the inning, as Jay Bruce singled to lead off, but was soon erased at home on a single by Paul Janish.

Once again the Dodgers could not close an inning out with two down. Mike MacDougal relieved Kershaw, but he quickly surrendered a two-run single to Chris Heisey, making it 6-2. An RBI double by Stubbs gave the Reds a commanding 7-2 lead.

It's safe to say that not many people were expecting the Dodgers to catch fire and win at this point. About the only way it was possible was for one of their two big guns in Andre Ethier and Kemp to do something huge. Luckily for them, one of them did.

It all started with Nick Masset on in relief and Tony Gwynn singling with one out. Carroll followed with another one, part of his 4-for-5 day with one walk in the leadoff spot now that Rafael Furcal is on the DL again. Miles then hit an RBI single as Carroll advanced to third on an error by Stubbs in the outfield.

Bill Bray was brought in to get Ethier, but instead Ethier walked to load the bases for Kemp. Logan Ondrusek came on with the sole job of keeping Kemp in the park and preserving the lead. Kemp has already had a bunch of big at-bats this season, including a couple of walk-off homers. This one wasn't a walk-off, but it was just as dramatic as he lifted a grand slam to center to tie the game at 7 all.

The game then went into the 11th, where the Dodgers just unloaded on the Reds' bullpen once again. This time it was against poor Carlos Fisher, who gave up a single to Juan Castro leading off, and another single to Gwynn an out later. What followed were two straight RBI singles by Carroll and Miles, a run scored on an error by Fisher off the bat of Ethier, and an RBI groundout by Kemp. All in all, it was now 11-7.

Javy Guerra stayed on to pitch the 11th after wiggling out of a little bit of trouble in the previous inning. Ryan Hannigan singled to start, then went to second on a wild pitch. After getting Fred Lewis grounding out, Don Mattingly went with Ramon Troncoso.

Troncoso retired Janish, but the run scored to make it 11-8. Singles by Heisey and Stubbs sent the tying run to the plate in the dangerous Brandon Phillips. Phillips, though, lined out to right to end the game at 3 hours and 58 minutes.

Kemp will be remembered as the hero, as his two homers and six RBIs led the comeback charge. Games like this should help his push for a starting spot in the All-Star game. I know he's trailing behind guys like Ryan Braun, Matt Holliday, and Lance Berkman, but there's still time for him to make a push. He's definitely deserving of a starting nod after another clutch performance today.

Let's not forget a few others who were huge in this one. Carroll continues to plug along despite not getting much attention. He reached base five times and showed he can produce leading off. Miles went 3-for-5 with two runs and three RBIs hitting behind Carroll. Gwynn was a late sub and still went 2-for-3 with two runs scored.

Kershaw went from one extreme to the other, and ended up going six innings for six hits, six runs, two walks, and nine strikeouts. The bullpen deserves a hand, as MacDougal, Scott Elbert, Matt Guerrier, Guerra, and Troncoso combined for 4 1/3 innings of two-run ball. Not bad considering both teams combined for 19 runs on 28 hits on the day.

As sweet as this win was, winning Sunday would be even better. That would give the Dodgers a road series victory over a team that was picked to contend in the National League. It will be up to Chad Billingsley, who has won his previous two starts, to keep the momentum going forward.

More losses on and off the field

As both Rafael Furcal and Jon Garland were ready to hit the DL once again, and as Vicente Padilla is ready to stay on the DL, the Dodgers could not muster enough offense in Cincinnati as they fell to the Reds, 2-1. The loss is the opening game of their 10-game road trip.

Hiroki Kuroda and Bronson Arroyo both got through the first three innings unharmed, though Kuroda had to survive a wild ride in the second. Jay Bruce and Scott Rolen singled leading off. Bruce was then caught stealing, and Fred Lewis singled. Ryan Hanigan struck out for two down. Paul Janish walked, but Arroyo grounded into a forceout. That's three singles and a walk, yet no runs.

The Dodgers loaded the bases themselves in the fourth. Andre Ethier led off with a single, followed by Matt Kemp also singling. Jay Gibbons was then beaned to load the bags with nobody out. James Loney produced a sac-fly RBI for the 1-0 lead. Unfortunately, Kemp was tagged out in a rundown going to third, and Dioner Navarro grounded out to take away any chance of a big inning.

In the fifth, the Reds got on the board. Daniel Stubbs singled with one out. An out later, both Joey Votto and Bruce took walks, which proved to be big, as Rolen hit a two-run single with two outs to give the Reds a 2-1 advantage.

The Dodgers would go on to put two runners on base in the sixth and eighth, but came up empty both times. Lo and behold, it was Ethier and Kemp reaching base in both innings, yet nobody around them could do anything with it. Not a surprise when it's guys like Gibbons (.255), Loney (.241) and Navarro (.196) whom you're relying on.

Kuroda was coming off of two pretty poor starts, but did well in this one. He ended up with six innings pitched for six hits, two runs, four walks, and three strikeouts. The two walks with two outs in the fifth were what burned him in the end, because that set up what would eventually be the game-winning hit by Rolen.

As for the other story, it was once again the Dodgers having to deal with injuries. It's just incredible how crippling the injury bug has been for this team. This time it was Raffy once again going down after making a throw to third in the second inning. I love the guy, but I have to wonder if it's time to let him go. He's a special player when he's healthy... which seems like only 10% of the time now.

I'm not saying to release him, but maybe put him on the trade block if he does prove to be healthy for the trade deadline. Get some sort of value if a contending team wants to take a shot with him. It's not like the Dodgers are a contending team, so it's worth dangling him out there to what they can get.

The other injury news concerns Garland and Padilla. Garland is scratched from his next start which will instead go to young Rubby De La Rosa. Garland was brought in because he's an innings-eater who's never hurt. So of course that means he now will be making his second DL trip this season.

Padilla was supposed to be activated, but experienced pain in his neck when trying to warm up. The scary part is that this was the same injury that derailed him last year, so it's obviously a big concern. Much like Furcal, he's just so unreliable, it's hard to ever feel like he'll be a big contributor again. The second you feel good about either guy, something goes wrong, and here we go again.

All Don Mattingly can do is put a ragtag lineup out there of people who actually are healthy and see what happens. Either and Kemp combined to go 4-for-6 with two runs and a walk, so they did their part. Now the Dodgers are just desperate to see if someone else can step up and join the fun. Juan Uribe is eligible to come off the DL Saturday, so maybe it can be him? We can only hope.

A couple of aces will take the mound on Saturday. Clayton Kershaw and his 2.62 ERA takes on Johnny Cueto and his 2.20 ERA. That should be a fun one to watch. Not that I'll get to because it's on FOX, so I get Cubs-Cardinals instead. Oh well. Enjoy it for those of you who can.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Three straight blowout victories

As little as a week ago, I don't think even the most opportunistic of Dodger fans would think they would cruise to a three-game winning streak. Thanks to an offense that is finally pulling their own weight, business is starting to pick up.

An early homer by Matt Kemp and impressive pitching from Ted Lilly was more than enough for the Dodgers to defeat the Rockies, 8-2. The win makes three in a row, and four of the last five. The last three game winning streak they had was earlier in May when they beat the Pirates for two and then the Diamondbacks for one.

The scoring started right away for the Dodgers. Casey Blake, hitting in the #2 hole, walked with one down. After Andre Ethier forced him at second with a groundout, Kemp stepped up and delivered his 13th home run of the season for the 2-0 lead. Kemp only hit .253 in May, but he has shown signs of breaking out again lately.

The Rockies got one back in the third. Chris Nelson doubled leading off, and stole third on Chris Iannetta's strikeout. Clayton Mortensen, the starting pitcher, then lifted a sac-fly RBI to make it 2-1.

Blake and Kemp again teamed up to increase the lead in the bottom of the frame. Jamey Carroll took a walk with one out, and Blake turned a pop up into a ground rule double in left. Ethier was given an intentional walk to load the bases, in which Kemp made them pay with a two-single and 4-1 lead.

The Dodgers took off from there, as they tacked on a few more runs. In the fourth, Jerry Sands singled leading off. Aaron Miles then hit an RBI double to right, and it was now 5-1.

Ty Wiggington did his best to get the Rockies back in the game in the seventh with a solo home run. The Dodgers quickly responded with a longball of their own. Jay Gibbons pinch-hit for Lilly and singled, followed by another one from Carroll. Blake then cranked a three-run homer, his third of the year and first since April 23.

Rubby De La Rosa came on in the eighth and was fantastic. He got through that inning in order, then stayed on and finished the ninth with only one hit surrendered. In five innings thus far in his brief career, he's only given up one run with five strikeouts, good for a 1.80 ERA. Who knows how good he'll end up being when it's all said and done, but he's off to a great start at least.

As for Lilly, he's turned in three great starts in a row after starting the year pretty shaky. After losing to the DBacks on May 15 (four runs in six innings), he has since lowered his ERA from 4.83 to 4.22. He's now showing why he's a great option in the middle of the rotation.

With Blake in the lineup in the #2 hole, the Dodgers now have three plus-.300 hitters right in a row with Ethier and Kemp following. Blake looked pretty much washed up after last season, and still has battled injuries this year. When he has played, he's been great with a .319 average in 18 games. It was as little as two years ago when he hit .280 with 18 homers and 79 RBIs, so maybe he has more left in the tank than people (myself included) have given him credit for. Good for him.

There's no surprise that the recent resurgence at the plate has coincided with Ethier and Kemp's great play. In this one, they combined for 2-for-6 with a homer, four RBIs, two runs, and two walks. Guys like Blake, Carroll, and Miles also played well, but it's pretty simple to see that the Dodgers will only go so far as the big two can take them.

In looking ahead at the Dodgers' schedule, they will close their homestand on Wednesday night before hitting the road. They first go to Cincinnati, then to Philadelphia, then finally to Colorado. Needless to say, it's a tough stretch. That's two playoff teams from last year and a dangerous offensive team in the Rockies. So, as well as the Dodgers have played in the last few games, they'll need to play even better if they want to make it a successful trip.

Tonight's pitching matchup will be an interesting one. Jon Garland hasn't picked up a win since his second start on April 20, not that he hasn't deserved a couple more along the way. He's up against Ubaldo Jimenez, last year's Cy Young Award winner. But, he's struggled this year with an 0-5 record an 5.86 ERA.