Sunday, July 31, 2011

Raffy traded to the Cardinals

Rafael Furcal's six-year stint with the Dodgers came to an end on Sunday, as the Cardinals have acquired the veteran shortstop at the trade deadline. In exchange, the Dodgers receive minor league outfielder Alex Castellanos, and the Cardinals will receive some money to help offset the $12 million Furcal is making this year.

Furcal has certainly had an up-and-down six years with the Dodgers, and it pretty much has everything to do with his health. When healthy, he was an All-Star caliber shortstop, earning the honor in 2010. In '06, he played 159 games and hit .300 with 15 homers, 63 RBIs, and 37 steals. His numbers dipped down in '07 to .270/6/47/25, and missed a big part of the '08 season with a back injury, though he did come back for the playoffs (and committed three errors in one inning against the Phillies).

While Raffy did play in 150 games in '09, his numbers were still mediocre, and he only stole 12 bases. Last year he made the All-Star team, but only played in 97 games, which was a shame since he his .300 with 22 steals. This year has been awful, appearing in only 37 games with a .197 average and 5 steals.

For the Cardinals, it's worth making a move since Raffy has played in all of July, and can be such a sparkplug if he figures things out. Plus, they're only 1 1/2 games in back of the Brewers in the NL Central, so they're right within striking distance.

As for Castellanos, he has been spending time with Double-A Springfield this year. In 93 games, he has great numbers: .319, 19 homers, 65 RBIs. So, it looks like the Dodgers got a nice prospect out of this, which is pretty much all they can ask at this point as this lost season plays itself out.

I enjoyed watching Raffy play these last few years, as few leadoff hitters are as exciting as him when he's healthy. Unfortunately, the combination of age and dwindling numbers meant it was time to make a move, so I applaud Ned Colletti for pulling the trigger. Plus, Dee Gordon will rightfully make his way back up and get the playing time he needs and deserves. It's a win-win for all sides.

Kuroda stays put

After all the talk about waiving his no-trade clause, Hiroki Kuroda wants to finish this year right where he started. Thus, one of the best starting pitchers thought to be on the market will remain a Dodger at least through this year.

I have to admit, I have mixed emotions on this. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big Kuroda fan. Very quietly, he has turned into a really good major league pitcher. His numbers this year are funny: 6-13, 3.11 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 103 K's. In his nearly four-year career, he's 34-43 with a 3.50 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 465 K's.

Needless to say, he's been getting the job done since 2008. But with the Dodgers going nowhere this year, I was intrigued by what kind of package could be put together had Kuroda agreed to be moved. The teams that were being talked about as being most interested in him were the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rangers. And it's no secret that those teams have been willing to make big deals in the past.

What worries me most is next year. Kuroda signed a one-year, $12 million deal to remain with the Dodgers in the offseason. The belief at the time seemed to be that this would be his last year in the majors, as he can always return to Japan. There's nothing set in stone, and that's what concerns me. What if he does walk after this year? The Dodgers could've gotten some talent for the future to at least make up for the loss.

Hopefully Kuroda will be back next year to at least make some sense of this. If not, then the Dodgers just lost out on a chance to get stronger for the future. Time will tell how this plays out.

Billingsley bombs in the 6th

Once again, Chad Billinglsey proved why he can't be relied on as a top-tier starter.

Up 4-1 going into the sixth, Billingsley lost all sense of the strike zone, walking four batters, and then watched Justin Upton hit a bases clearing double off of Matt Guerrier to grab the lead. It would stick, as the Diamondbacks got the win, 6-4.

The implosion in the sixth was probably foreshadowed earlier in the game. In the first, the Diamondbacks got a couple of singles from Kelly Johnson and Upton, but stranded them. They cashed in one in the next inning. Ryan Roberts and Gerardo Parra singled, and Willie Bloomquist eventually hit a sac-fly RBI to go up 1-0.

The Dodgers broke through in the third. With one down, Tony Gwynn tripled to right center. Casey Blake, playing in his first game since July 2 with a bad neck, scored him on a sac-fly to tie the game at 1. After Andre Ethier singled, Matt Kemp delivered a big fly again, hitting a two-run shot to make it 3-1. It was his 26th of the year to go with his 28th stolen base in the second inning.

Aaron Miles doubled to start the fourth. A grounder by Rod Barajas got him to third, and Jamey Carroll's RBI single gave the Dodgers a 4-1 lead.

Considering how well the Dodgers have played at home lately (9 wins in their last 11 entering this game), you had to like their chances of getting another win. After all, the offense was scoring runs and Billingsley had given up only one run in five innings. Things were looking up.

That is, until things started going down. For reasons that we'll never know, Billingsley once again hit a wall in the middle innings. And make no mistake about it, when he hits a wall, he crashes and burns.

It all started on a single by Chris Young, who then stole second. Billingsley then issued three straight walks to Brandon Allen, Roberts, and Parra, who battled back from an 0-2 count to force in a run. With the bases loaded, Xavier Nady hit a sac-fly RBI, and it was 4-3. Bloomquist struck out, but Johnson took a walk to load the bases again.

That was enough for Don Mattingly, as he brought the hook and inserted Guerrier. Billingsley deserved to be pulled, but Guerrier was not the right choice as Upton hit a three-run double to center to make the score 6-4.

The Dodgers had a couple of chances to at least tie the score, but came up with blanks. In the bottom of the sixth, Juan Rivera led off with a single. Carroll took a walk two outs later for two on. James Loney pinch-hit and weakly grounded back to the mound for the final out. You wouldn't think Loney would actually get a big hit now, would you? Of course not. That's why he's hitting .256 with four homers and 33 RBIs this year. Pitiful.

Gwynn continued his big night (2-for-4 with a run and stolen base) by singling and stealing second in the seventh. He was soon on third with two outs and Kemp up at the plate. Kemp has been hot lately, but not on this at-bat as he struck out to end the inning, and pretty much end any hope of a comeback.

Even though the Dodgers aren't going to make the playoffs, this was still a disappointing loss. With a 4-1 lead entering the sixth, they still couldn't put the game away. Good teams find a way to get it done, but the Dodgers showed their vulnerability and folded. That's why they're 10 games under .500.

Billingsley went 5 2/3 innings for seven hits, six runs, five walks, and four strikeouts. He's now 9-9 with a 4.15 ERA and 1.40. This start was your latest example for why he's not a #1-2 starter. In my mind he's nothing more than a #3 guy. There's no doubt he's got the stuff, but I've seen way too many games in which he'll be cruising along and then just fall apart out of nowhere.

It's not like Billingsley will be going anywhere based on a couple of factors. One, he signed a three-year contract before this season started. Two, there's more uncertainty in the Dodgers' rotation. Clayton Kershaw is obviously a sure thing, and perhaps Rubby De La Rosa has earned a spot. But Ted Lilly has been horrible this year, and who knows if Hiroki Kuroda will be back next year, even if he did waive his no-trade clause to stick around this year. I guess we'll just all have to accept the good and the bad with Billingsley.

One good sign in this game was Josh Lindblom. Making his first appearance since being recalled with Kenley Jansen hitting the DL, he pitched a scoreless ninth with a strikeout. He got some help from Barajas, who nailed Roberts trying to steal second for the final out. Lindblom has some really good stuff, so I hope he can stick around the rest of this year and show what he can do.

The Dodgers finish up their nine-game homestand on Sunday afternoon as De La Rosa takes the mound. They will then hit the road for a week in San Diego and Arizona.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Kemp's big bat leads the way

Matt Kemp had gone 10 games without a longball going into Friday's night tilt in Dodger Stadium. One swing of the bat reminded everyone why he's one of the best players in the majors this year.

Kemp blasted a three-run homer in the third, and later added a two-run single as the Dodgers put up plenty of runs to get the win, 9-5. It's not too often I get to say "the Dodgers put up plenty of runs," so let's enjoy this one while we can. The win gives them nine of their last 11 at home.

The game was back-and-forth all night, as neither Ted Lilly or Josh Collmenter could shut down the opposing offense when needed. After the Diamondbacks scored the game's first run, the Dodgers took over and held a slight edge throughout until a big seventh inning put the game away for good.

The Diamondbacks got the first run in the second when Ryan Roberts hit a solo home run with two outs. Lilly had retired the first five batters he faced before giving up the tater.

In the third, the Dodgers would take the lead and never relinquish it. With one out, Aaron Miles and Andre Ethier each singled. Kemp then stepped up having already struck out to end the first. He wasted no time in taking a first pitch fastball out to deep center for his 25th of the season, making it 3-1. He now stands alone in the 25-25 club with 27 stolen bases already.

The Diamondbacks would try to chip away from there, but could never get over the hump. Justin Upton led off the fourth and reached when Lilly threw the ball away at first for an error. After going to third on a groundout, Upton scored on Xavier Nady's RBI single, and it was 3-2.

The Dodgers responded, as Kemp delivered the big blow again. Eugenio Valez, who's still on the roster for some unknown reason, actually got on base with a walk leading off. A sacrifice by Lilly got him to second, and Rafael Furcal was beaned. Miles grounded out for runners on the corners, and Ethier was also beaned.

If you're keeping track, three men were on base with a walk and two hit batsmen. With two outs, Kemp smacked a two-run single to center to give him five RBIs and make it 5-2.

In the fifth and sixth, the Diamondbacks again battled back by scoring single runs each inning. First it was a solo homer by Willie Bloomquist, who's filling in for Stephen Drew after his ugly ankle injury last week. Blake Hawksworth then surrendered an RBI single to Roberts in the sixth for a 5-4 score. Matt Guerrier had to clean up the two-on, one-out mess by getting the final two outs.

Ethier also had a big night with three hits, and he came through for an RBI in the sixth. Jamey Carroll started it with a single, and Miles followed with another an out later. Ethier's RBI single made it 6-4.

Not going away quietly, Upton made sure his team stayed close with a solo homer to start the seventh off of Guerrier. Like Kemp, he too is having a big year with a .302 average, 21 homers, and 62 RBIs. And Prince Fielder still kept the hometown boy off the Home Run Derby team for Rickie Weeks. Yeah, that worked out well!

As has been the case all night, the Dodgers' offense responded, and this time put the game on ice. With one out, Loney singled and Dioner Navarro walked. Tony Gwynn pinch-hit and hit a long fly ball to Upton in right. I just went over Upton's big stats at the plate... but I guess that doesn't carry over to the field as he could not make the catch as the ball bounced over the fence for a two-base error, scoring Loney as well.

A sac-fly RBI by Carroll followed to make it 8-5. Raffy laced an RBI double to score Gwynn and go up 9-5.

Mike MacDougal pitched a perfect eighth, and Javy Guerra worked around a couple runners in the ninth to finish out the non-save situation.

The nine runs were the most the Dodgers have scored at home all season, and continues their recent run of impressive play at home. Quietly they're back to nine games under .500. Trust me, that's certainly nothing to brag about, but this could have easily gone the other way. Instead, they've found ways to win and at least give the home fans something to cheer for.

Lilly's final line doesn't look bad, as he went five innings for three hits, three runs (two earned), two walks, and one strikeout. What's deceiving, and even unfair, is that his own error led to an unearned run. I'm not sure what logic there is in a pitcher committing his own error and not having it count against him. Either way, he did get the win to improve to 7-10, but his ERA is still huge at 5.02.

What carried the Dodgers in this one was their 2-5 hitters of Miles, Either, Kemp, and Juan Rivera. They went 9-for-18 with four runs and six RBIs. Rivera looked good with plenty of hard hit balls, and most likely earned himself more time on the field. The Dodgers sure can use that, no doubt.

Chad Billingsley will get the start on Saturday. He's coming off a brilliant start against the Nationals in which he gave up one run in seven innings, striking out 10. He'll be looking for his 10th win of the season.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dodgers get Cooked

Aaron Cook came into Wednesday night's ballgame with a 5.84 ERA and never pitching into the seventh inning.

He left with a 5.05 ERA and seven innings pitched.

Not even a ballooned ERA could wake up the Dodgers' lifeless bats, as the Rockies got the win, 3-1. Despite Hiroki Kuroda only giving up a run, he still got the loss. With a 6-13 record, I may as well have cut and pasted that last sentence from numerous other starts this year.

Both teams put up blanks through four innings. There were some chances on each side, but nothing came of it. In the first, Rafael Furcal and Matt Kemp each singled, but Aaron Miles grounded out to end the inning. The Rockies had two runners in scoring position in the second and could do nothing with it. The Dodgers again put two on in the fourth until Jamey Carroll grounded out with two down.

It took until the fifth for the game's first run, and the Rockies were the ones that came through. It all started with two outs. Eric Young singled after striking out his first two at-bats. Dexter Fowler also singled. Troy Tulowitzki then bounced one back up the middle that just got through to score a run and make it 1-0. Seth Smith was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Kuroda got Ty Wiggington swinging for the last out.

The Rockies added another run in the seventh. Blake Hawksworth come on to relieve Kuroda, and he got the first two outs with ease. But like the fifth inning, the Rockies rallied. Tulo doubled and Smith was again put on to set up a forceout. It didn't happen, as Wiggington doubled into left to grab a 2-0 lead.

With the Dodgers dead at the plate, the Rockies scored again in the ninth. Fowler singled and stole second with an out. Tulo singled just past Raffy at short, and Fowler scored to make it 3-0.

Huston Street came on for the save, and Rod Barajas finally got the Dodgers on the board with his ninth solo homer. Nothing else happened, as Juan Rivera popped up behind the plate to end the game. It was the 27th save for Street.

If Kuroda truly is moved before the trade deadline on Sunday, then he can't possibly get any worse run support than he's received in LA. In this one he went six innings for six hits, one runs, three walks, and six strikeouts. Not one of his best starts with all the baserunners, but the bottom line was one run in six innings... and another loss.

It's almost comical when looking at the major league stats. Kuroda leads the National League in losses with 13, yet is 11th in ERA. How is that possible? Oh that's right, his team scores maybe one run a game for him. That's how. Imagine if he goes to the Yankees. He'll get more runs in three innings than he would in three starts with the Dodgers.

Cook has had a solid career with the Rockies, but he's been awful with them this year. You wouldn't know that after watching this one, as the Dodgers could only put together six singles off of him. Raffy and Kemp each had two hits. Ethier took an 0-fer. Ditto for Gwynn leading off. It just wasn't happening.

I will give the Dodgers credit in that they did take two of three from the Rocks, and have won eight of their last 10 at home. They next welcome the Diamondbacks for three starting Friday. The DBacks are right in the thick of the division battle, as they're only three games in back of the Giants. Like I said recently, all the Dodgers can do now is play spoiler. Winning this series would be fulfilling that role.

The miserable Ted Lilly, just as big if not a bigger free agent disappointment that Juan Uribe, will get the start. Can he improve on his 5.08 ERA? We shall see.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Kershaw grinds out his 12th win

On a night where Fernandomania was relived with Fernando Valenzuela Bobblehead Night, Clayton Kershaw did his best to remind everyone what those glory days looked like.

Kershaw needed 125 pitches to get through 6 2/3 innings, but he he gave up only two runs as the Dodgers got their fourth straight win over the Rockies, 3-2. As the Rockies continue to stink, the Dodgers are looking at taking over third place in the NL West, as they're only a half game back.

The start of the game showed what kind of a night was in store for Kershaw, as he certainly had to work hard to get through the innings. With one out, Jonathan Herrera grounded to short, but Juan Rivera flat out dropped the ball on the throw. Todd Helton walked, and after both men advanced on a wild pitch, Kershaw got Troy Tulowitzki and Ty Wiggington to avoid any damage.

Kershaw got a double play ball to end the third off the bat of Helton, and avoided trouble after Tulowitzki doubled leading off the fourth. Through four innings, Kershaw had only given up two hits, but flirted with some trouble.

Fortunately for the Dodgers, they would be handed a gift in the fourth. Rafael Furcal hit a fly ball to Wiggington in left, and like Rivera in the first, he inexplicably dropped it for the error. I guess both teams were even at that point. The difference is that the Dodgers took advantage of it. Andre Ethier walked for two on. Matt Kemp hit a two-run double to center for the 2-0 lead. An out later, Rivera lifted a sac-fly RBI to score Kemp and go up 3-0.

The Rockies finally broke through in the fifth after dropping many opportunities before. It all started with two outs as Dexter Fowler singled. Herrera singled to put runners on the corners. Helton just found a hole into right for the RBI single to make it 3-1.

In the seventh, the Rockies put more pressure on Kershaw and forced him from the game. Eric Young pinch-hit and singled leading off. Fowler again singled for runners on first and third. Herra grounded out to first, putting runners in scoring position. Helton also grounded to first, but Fowler scored, and it was 3-2. Matt Guerrier came on to get Tulowitski to fly to center.

Guerrier would stay on to pitch the eighth and get through it in order. With Javy Guerra given the day off for rest, Don Mattingly called on the red hot Kenley Jansen to finish it off. He did just that, striking out Seth Smith and Fowler to end the game. It was his second save and extended his scoreless inning streak to 16.

It certainly wasn't easy, but Kershaw ended up improving his record to 12-4 by going 6 2/3 innings for eight hits, two runs, two walks, and six strikeouts. His 12 wins are tied for tops in the NL with Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, and Jair Jurrjens. His 173 strikeouts are by far first in the NL, and four above Justin Verlander for the lead in the majors.

Bottom line, it was great to see Kershaw get a win when he didn't have his best outing. That shows just how good he is. He didn't need to be top-notch to still give his team a good chance to win. When the Rockies had great opportunities to score, he stepped up and delivered his best pitches.

There wasn't much happening offensively for the Dodgers, as they only gathered four hits, one walk, and one beaning. The dropped ball by Wiggington obviously gave them momentum, as that's the only inning they scored. They still may have very well put up some runs, but who knows how many if that first out is made.

With a win on Wednesday night, the Dodgers will earn a three-game sweep and third place in the NL West. That sure as heck didn't seem likely a week ago when they lost four of six games. But at home, they've won eight of their last nine, so at least they've found a groove there. The Rockies look like they've fallen apart, which is pretty surprising.

The trade deadline is looming Sunday, so this may very well be the last start Hiroki Kuroda will make as a Dodger. It's no secret that he's been sought after. I really like Kuroda, but the Dodgers have to make a move if they get some good prospects. Why not? It's not like they're a playoff team, so let's look to the future.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Guerra bails out Kuo and MacDougal

Even when the Dodgers are up 8-1 with three outs to go, it's not a sure thing.

Hong-Chih Kuo and Mike MacDougal combined to nearly blow a seven-run lead with some atrocious pitching in the ninth. Good for them that with the bases loaded and up by three, Javy Guerra cleaned up the mess with ease as the Dodgers beat the Rockies, 8-5. Somehow, the Dodgers have actually won seven of their last eight at home.

Take away the horrific final inning, and the Dodgers put it all together for the opening eight. The offense collected 12 hits, including four for extra-bases, and Rubby De La Rosa continued to strut his stuff. It's not too often that the Dodgers put both sides of the field together like this.

The Rockies were the ones who scored first. In the second, Chris Iannetta and pitcher Juan Nicasio singled for a two-out rally. Dexter Fowler hit an RBI single through the hole into right to make it 1-0.

From there, it was all about LA (at least until the ninth). The big bats came out in the third. With one down, Rafael Furcal doubled. Aaron Miles, the ex-Rockie, followed that up with an RBI double to tie the game at 1. Andre Ethier nailed the first pitch he saw for a long two-run homer into right, and the Dodgers were up 3-1.

Fast forward to the sixth, and the Dodgers extended the lead. Ethier started it all with a walk leading off. Matt Kemp struck out, but Juan Rivera picked him up with an RBI double into left, and it was 4-1. Rivera tagged to third on James Loney's deep flyout, and scored on Dioner Navarro's RBI infield single, putting the score at 5-1.

Matt Guerrier struck out the side in the seventh, and the Dodgers left the bases loaded when Rivera flied out. Kenley Jansen continued his impressive run with a perfect eighth, striking out two.

The eighth is when the Dodgers put the game away for good, or so they thought at the time. In the long run, it turned out to be a good thing that they tacked on three more runs. It started when Navarro took a walk with one out. The bases then became loaded on singles by Tony Gwynn and Jamey Carroll.

The next three hitters plated runs. Raffy forced Carroll at second on a grounder, but Navarro scored to go up 6-1. Miles and Ethier each stroked RBI singles to go up 8-1. Kemp walked to load the bases for pinch-hitter Trent Oeltjen, who struck out to go to the ninth.

I can understand Don Mattingly's thinking that he wanted to give Kuo some work and hopefully get a good appearance in. With a huge lead, it was a good chance to let him figure things out. But after this appearance, I have to wonder just how patient the Dodgers can be with him. It was that bad.

Kuo faced four batters and had a line that looked like this: two walks, a single, a wild pitch, two runners advancing on fielder's indifference, and a groundout. Obviously, the most frustrating thing was the walks, as that's the last thing you want to see happen with such a big lead. After walking Iannetta with only one out, that was it for him.

In came MacDougal, who's actually had a good season. You wouldn't know it last night, as his old wild self made an appearance. Right away he walked Ryan Spilborghs to load the bases. Fowler hit an RBI single to make it 8-3. He did make Jason Giambi hit a grounder to second, but Carroll booted it, even as Giambi pulled up lame with a bad hammy. A walk to Todd Helton forced in another run, making it 8-5.

Mattingly had no choice but to call on Guerra, who was now making his third straight appearance. He only needed four pitches, as Troy Tulowitzki popped up and Seth Smith grounded out to mercifully put an end to this one. It was Guerra's eighth save in as many opportunities.

It's a shame that Kuo and MacDougal's ineffectiveness overshadowed what was a great game by De La Rosa. First, the bad. Kuo and MacDougal combined to go only 1/3 an inning for two hits, three runs, four walks, no strikeouts, and one wild pitch. Wow, that's horrible!

The good was De La Rosa. He threw another great game with six innings, three hits, one run, four walks, and five strikeouts. The best part was that he broke his four-game losing streak and is now 4-4. Six starts ago he was pounded by the Angels to put his ERA at 5.26. Five great starts later, it's now at 3.49. Good for him.

Another guy who is picking up steam is Furcal. In his case, it couldn't have come at a better time with the trade deadline looming. And for that matter, it's great for the Dodgers as well. If he can stay on the field, I would think there are plenty of teams that could use his bat and speed at short. The Dodgers would be crazy not to move him and get something in return. I like the guy, but it's time to get Dee Gordon back up and focus on next year.

The Dodgers will look to not only continue their solid play at home, but keep making the Rockies' free fall continue on Tuesday night. The ace Clayton Kershaw will take the mound looking for his 12th win.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Billingsley flips the switch as Dodgers win

Chad Billingsley needed 31 pitches to record his first out on Sunday. The previous four hitters reached base, and it was 1-0 Nationals with the bases loaded before you could even settle into your seat.

In what was sure looking like a long afternoon, Billingsley struck out the side, and then never looked back. Seven dominant innings led the way as the Dodgers won the rubber match, 3-1. It's their first series win since sweeping the Padres right before the All-Star break.

The first inning was wild all around. Roger Bernadina walked, Danny Espinosa was beaned, and consecutive singles by Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse made it 1-0. Just when you thought Billingsley was about get creamed, he struck out Jayson Werth, Rick Ankiel, and Jesus Flores to escape the huge jam.

The Dodgers made sure to get on the board right away and grab the lead. Rafael Furcal, Saturday night's hero with a walk-off double, singled into right with one out. Andre Ethier forced him out at second for the second out, but Matt Kemp kept the inning going with a single. Aaron Miles then singled home Ethier, and Kemp came around as well on some aggressive baserunning to make it 2-1.

With Billingsley completely locked in, the offense got another run in the third. Raffy again started it with a walk and a steal of second, only his fourth of the year. Kemp singled an out later, and Miles walked to load the bases. James Loney then grounded into what should have been an easy double play ball, but Ian Desmond's throw to first was way off, scoring Furcal and giving Loney an RBI for a 3-1 lead.

Billingsley didn't need anymore support, as he was simply electric from the moment he figured things out in the first. In innings 2-7, the only baserunner he allowed was a walk to Werth in the fourth. That, my friends, was it. He was lifted lifted in the eighth after 115 pitches for a final line of seven innings, two hits, one run, two walks, and 10 strikeouts. He improved to 9-8.

Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect eighth to continue his ascent. Since coming off the DL in mid-June, he has yet to allow a run. In fact, he's pitched 14 innings, given up only three hits, seven walks, and 22 strikeouts. It's gone mostly unnoticed since the Dodgers haven't been winning, but it's great to see him become the big arm in late innings his team needs.

The save went to Javy Guerra, another arm in the 'pen that continues to impress. He's now a perfect 7-7 in save situations with a 1.99 ERA. He struck out Werth to end the game.

Dodger fans haven't had a whole lot to be excited about this season, so we have to find reasons to get happy. The combination of Jansen and Guerra is a reason to be optimistic about the future. They both have the stuff to be a good duo to close out games. Two perfect innings today showed what they're capable of. I'm glad they're getting some chances to show they can pitch in tight games and be successful.

Billingsley continues to go up and down in his starts, but his ERA does stand at 3.92 after today's effort. He's definitely not an ace (thankfully Clayton Kershaw is), so the challenge for him is to be that #2 guy. Right now, I'd say he's more of a #3, but games like this show just how good he can be.

The Dodgers are still 13 1/2 in back of the NL West, so the playoffs are thrown out the window. What they can do instead is make life miserable for the teams who are battling it out for an October spot. They take on the Rockies and Diamondbacks next, and after a visit to the Padres, play the DBacks again and the Phillies. So, there's plenty of games in which they can play the old "spoiler" role. I know, not exactly what was envisioned back in April, but at least it's something.

The Rockies will be coming into town for three starting Monday. Rubby De La Rosa will get the start, and despite his ERA continuing to improve, he's on a personal four-game losing streak. He'll look to even things up at 4-4.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Meet Shawn Green at the ESPN Zone

Below is information about an opportunity you have to meet former Dodger Shawn Green. Check out the Press Release:

WHO: Shawn Green, two-time All Star and former LA Dodger great

WHAT: Book signing of his new book, THE WAY OF BASEBALL: Finding Stillness at 95 mph

Note: Green will also be able to autograph ONE (1) additional piece of memorabilia ONLY for fans with a copy of the book.

WHEN: Wednesday, Aug 3rd At 6:30 pm


1011 S. Figueroa St in Downtown


About the book:

In THE WAY OF BASEBALL: Finding Stillness at 95 MPH, Shawn Green shares the lessons the game taught him about being present and attaining inner stillness—no matter what life throws at you.

Part sports memoir, part philosophical study, and part spiritual journey, THE WAY OF BASEBALL sheds light on Green’s unique approach to living mindfully. It’s an intimate look at the life of a professional ballplayer, and a thoughtful exploration of what it means to let go and live in the moment.

Baseball was more than a sport to Green, and THE WAY OF BASEBALL is more than a sports book. Full of personal anecdotes and ballpark wisdom, it acts as a guidebook for a meaningful, well-balanced life. In today’s busy world of networking and multitasking, Green’s focused, centered, one-moment-at-a-time approach is truly inspiring. Looking at life through the lens of baseball, he shows us that everything’s easier with a clear mind and a calm attitude—whether it’s fly balls or fatherhood.

About ESPN Zone L.A. Live:

Voted one of the top 10 sports bars in the country, it has two floors with a variety of experiences for sports fans of all ages. With over 100 High Definition televisions and over 45 interactive arcade games, there is so much to choose from! Immerse yourself in the ultimate viewing environment in the Screening Room and Studio Grill. Or test your skills by competing with friends and family in our Sports Arena game arcade with interactive games and attractions. And ESPN Zone L.A. LIVE has what you need to make your meetings, team building events & company gatherings a success! We offer a wide range of elements, from elegant meeting spaces to catering to comprehensive A/V capabilities, even FREE WiFi Access!! We offer a completely unique menu of great “American Grill” food and four full bars. So come to where the pros play.


SHAWN GREEN’s Major League baseball career spanned nearly fourteen years with four teams: the Toronto Blue Jays, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the New York Mets. During his baseball career he won numerous accolades, including both the American League Gold Glove Award and the Silver Slugger in ’99. He finished in the top ten of voting for league MVP three times, was a two‑time All Star, and holds several Major League records as well as numerous individual team records with both the Blue Jays and the Dodgers. Throughout his career, he was active in countless charities and donated close to two million dollars to numerous causes, most notably the Dodgers Dream Foundation. Green retired from baseball at 34 to spend more time with his wife, Lindsay, and daughters, Presley and Chandler, at their home in Southern California.

GORDON MCALPINE has been described by Publishers Weekly as "a gifted stylist, with clean, clear and muscular prose." He is the author of three acclaimed novels: Joy in Mudville, The Persistence of Memory, and Mystery Box. His short fiction and book reviews have been featured in magazines, journals and anthologies, both in this country and abroad. He has taught creative writing and literature courses at U.C. Irvine, U.C.L.A. and Chapman University. Additionally, he has designed video games, written for television, and coached high school basketball. He lives in Southern California with his wife and three children.


Jeff Freedman / 310.277.2042 /

Tim Whiteman /213.765.7078 /

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Navarro's blast supports Kershaw's gem

When you look on paper and see "Clayton Kershaw vs. Tim Lincecum," you knew that the team that scored the first run would probably be at a huge advantage.

It took until the seventh inning, but the Dodgers made that happen.

Dioner Navarro led off with a solo shot into MaCovey Cove, and Kershaw and Javy Guerra made it hold up as the Dodgers got an afternoon win, 1-0. That win snaps a four-game losing streak, and avoids a sweep in San Francisco.

Both pitchers came into the game with sub-3.00 ERA's, and they showed why they're two of the top young dogs in the majors. Actually, take away the word "young," because that doesn't even matter. They're both that good now.

Scoring chances were few and far between, but Tony Gwynn did lead the game off with a single and advanced to second on a bad throw. With two outs he stole third, but was stranded when Matt Kemp flew out.

In the third, Gwynn walked with two outs and Rafael Furcal singled. This time it was Andre Ethier who couldn't come through, as he flew out. Juan Rivera doubled in the fourth with an out, went to third, but was left there.

Then the seventh came, and Navarro got into a Lincecum pitch into deep right. The shot was somewhat historic, as it was only the second time a Dodger has hit into the cove. The last? Believe it or not, Todd Hundley in 2000, the year AT&T Park opened. Wow.

With Kershaw dealing, the Dodgers had a golden opportunity to add to their lead in the eighth. Raffy and Ethier both walked leading off, which chased Lincecum. Sergio Romo came on and was untouchable, striking out Kemp and Rivera before getting Navarro to fly to center.

Kershaw ended his day at 112 pitches by striking out the side in the eighth. He was pinch-hit for in the ninth, so Javy Guerra came on looking for his sixth save. It worked, as even though Pablo Sandoval and Cody Ross hit hard, they were retired, and Brandon Belt K'd to end the game.

It's almost impossible to look better than Lincecum, but Kershaw did just that. He went eight strong innings for three hits, no runs, one walk, and 12 strikeouts. That's just amazing. He's now 11-4 with a 2.72 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. The best part was that he actually looked stronger as the day wore on, and he was pitching in the hot afternoon sun. That was awesome to watch.

As for Navarro, his day was pretty much a roller coaster of emotions. He had two errors on a couple of horrendous attempts at throwing out runners stealing second. I mean it looked JaMarcus Russell-like. That's how off those throws were. Then he stepped up in the seventh and delivered the big hit his team needed. What a relief that was.

On a day where the Dodgers fired hitting coach Jeff Pentland and promoted Dave Hansen, the Dodgers were still hampered by the same old problem: lack of timely hitting. They left nine on base, and seven of those were in scoring position with two outs. Granted they were facing Lincecum, but those stats have popped up against all types of pitchers. Hansen sure has his work cut out for him.

It's not often you get to beat a pitcher like Lincecum, so the Dodgers should enjoy this as they enter an off day on Thursday. They will then return home and welcome the Nationals for three. Hiroki Kuroda, who's the subject of trade rumors (and rightfully so to his credit) will go on Friday.

Dave Hansen named hitting coach

The Dodgers made a coaching change on Wednesday, dismissing hitting coach Jeff Pentland and naming ex-Dodger Dave Hansen his replacement. Hansen will be the interim replacement for the rest of the season.

It's a move that may or may not be overdue, depending on if you believe hitting coaches really make that much of a difference. It's hard to pin the blame just on Pentland, as I'm sure the Dodgers know. But at the same time, it's not a bad idea to try something different, as this offense has been sucking pond water for the longest time.

Hansen was a pinch-hitting extraordinaire back in his day. He played with the Dodgers on a couple of occasions. He was drafted in the second round in 1986 before making his debut towards the end of 1990. He lasted with LA through 1996, before returning for another go-around in 2000, hitting seven homers off the bench.

What Hansen has going for him is that he knows more than anyone what it's like for role players to get a big hit. He ranks sixth all time in pinch hits, so he knows what it takes to keep rallies going. Now, he'll step up from his previous role of secondary hitting instructor.

He's got his work cut out for him, that's for sure. The Dodgers have a decent batting average at .250, but are nearly last in other categories like doubles, homers, slugging, and OPS. If Hansen can get more people contributing in the lineup, then he's done his job. Good luck with that.

Slide reaches four straight

The Dodgers are known for losing all sorts of ways. Tuesday night it was to a guy who hasn't appeared in a big league game since the end of May.

Brandon Belt hit a solo homer and two-run double in helping the Giants beat the Dodgers, 5-3. The Dodgers actually had a 3-2 lead at one point, but you knew that wouldn't last. Lo and behold, it didn't, so it's nice to know that I was right.

Rubby De La Rosa worked around two men in scoring position with one out in the first, but would have no such luck the next inning. Belt led off with a solo shot, his second of the year. His other one? Against the Dodgers, of course! There wouldn't be any other way.

Brandon Crawford singled and went to second on De La Rosa's throwing error. After going to third on Eli Whiteside's groundout, Madison Bumgarner got him home with an RBI groundout, and it was 2-0.

In a rare sign of life, the Dodgers responded right away. It started with a double by James Loney. Rod Barajas, who hasn't had a hit since the Clinton Administration, was just barely beaned on the leg, putting two on. An out later, Tony Gwynn ripped an RBI double to right to make it 2-1.

Next came something unbelievable, and I had to pinch myself to make sure it really happened. Rafael Furcal hit a two-run single up the middle to give the Dodgers a 3-2 lead. Juan Rivera kept it going with a single to left... but of course was then thrown out at first after a wide turn. Matt Kemp grounded out to end it.

The score held up until the fifth when the Giants tied it. Andres Torres and Mike Fontenot singled to open the inning. Pablo Sandoval then tied the game with an RBI single. De La Rosa was in a tough spot, but he did a good job of getting out of it on a grounder by Nate Schierholtz and a double play ball by Cody Ross.

Kenley Jansen got through the sixth just fine, but the same cannot be said for Hong-Chih Kuo in the seventh. His lousy season got even worse. He immediately gave up a double to Torres, and after Fontenot sacrificed him over to third, Sandoval was given an intentional walk for runners on the corners. Schierholtz struck out, so Ross was given another intentional walk to load the bases.

Then came another example of the difference between being a winning team and losing team. A winning team would get a big out to end the inning. A losing team would give up runs. Bet you'll never guess what happened. Belt doubled down the left field line to score two, and it was 5-3. The Giants never looked back.

Like many other loses, the Dodgers couldn't do a lick in the last couple of innings. Only Kemp could get on base with a single in the ninth off of Brian Wilson. Andre Ethier pinch-hit and flew out to give Wilson his 29th save.

De La Rosa's final line is a bit up and down, but I thought he battled when he was out there. He ended up with six innings for nine hits, three runs (two earned), no walks, and five strikeouts. Obviously not having one walk was a great step forward. Nine hits in six innings could be better. But like every other Dodgers' pitcher, it means little when the offense doesn't back him up.

Then there's Kuo. It's hard to believe just how bad he is now. Right now he has a 9.36 ERA. What was his ERA at this point last year? 0.95! Whoa! In fact, he had only given up three earned runs at this stage. Tuesday night he gave up two. I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that all of Kuo's injuries and the anxiety disorder he was suffering through have caught up to him. Hitters are no longer scared of him. It's sad to see, as he was as dominant as you could be last year.

The top four hitters in the order of Gwynn, Raffy, Rivera, and Kemp all went 1-for-4 with one extra-base hit (Gwynn's double). I'm a broken record on this, but that won't get it done. Don Mattingly tried something different with a lefty on the mound by putting Rivera in the #3 spot, but it didn't matter. He's now 4-for-16 as a Dodger with a homer. I just don't see him getting much better, either.

Wednesday's game will be an afternoon start, and it's a fantastic pitching matchup. Clayton Kershaw goes against Tim Lincecum. It's one of those games where a big advantage goes to the team that scores first.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Punchless Dodgers lose again

Remember that modest five-game winning streak the Dodgers had recently? That's been quickly replaced by a more realistic three-game losing streak.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Dodgers have returned to their crappy ways.

The Dodgers somehow left more men on base (eight) than they had hits (seven) as they lost to the Giants, 5-0. It was a close game until the sixth when everything fell apart. Not that it mattered because they didn't score one damn run anyway.

Both Chad Billingsley and Ryan Vogelsong worked around a bit of early trouble to put up blanks through three. In the top of the fourth, Matt Kemp and Juan Rivera singled with one out. James Loney hit a comebacker to the mound that Vogelson bobbled and still managed to turn the double play. It's safe to say Loney hasn't exactly been training with Usian Bolt lately. Could he have possibly been any slower?

Sure enough, the Dodgers' inability to score when the opportunity presented itself cost them, as Pablo Sandoval took a high fastball and made a splashdown to give the Giants a 1-0 lead. The Dodgers have to scratch and claw, and they still can't score, and the Giants get a run on one swing. So it goes for the Dodgers this year.

The sixth brought more frustration, as the Dodgers blew another chance, only to see the Giants run away with the game. Aaron Miles and Andre Ethier started things off with singles. The Dodgers had just the guy they wanted up in Kemp, who promptly grounded into a double play. Rivera then popped up, and just like that, that was it.

The Giants saw Mike Fontenot and Sandoval lead off with singles, and the beatdown was on from there. Nate Schierholtz hit an RBI single to make it 1-0. Aubrey Huff struck out, but Cody Ross hit a two-run double, followed by an RBI single from Brandon Crawford, and it was 5-0. Matt Guerrier had to put out the fire to escape the inning.

The Dodgers loaded the bases in the seventh on a single by Juan Uribe, a ground rule double by Jamey Carroll, and a walk to Rafael Furcal. In true Dodger fashion, Miles grounded out to end the inning.

It was over after that. The Dodgers rolled over and played dead the last two innings, going down in order both times. Shocking... or not.

Billingsley showed you why he can both look great and then come crashing back to Earth. The good: one run in five innings. The bad: four runs in the sixth to put this game out of reach. He ended up with 5 1/3 innings for nine hits, five runs, no walks, and four strikeouts. It's not really a surprise, though. He just isn't consistent enough to be a big-time pitcher. He's a middle of the rotation guy, and that's just reality.

The bullpen at least did a good job. Guerrier got out of the sixth with a couple of outs with one hit. Scott Elbert pitched a perfect seventh with a strikeout, and Blake Hawksworth pitched a perfect eighth with two strikeouts. It didn't matter, but at least they did well.

Once again, the lack of power hitting really hurt the Dodgers. If Kemp isn't hitting homers, then nobody is. They rank nearly last in the majors in stats like slugging and OPS. They're about middle of the pack in hits, but low once again in doubles and homers. Adding guys like Rivera won't make the difference. It's just another hopeless attempt at adding someone with past stats (Marcus Thames, Jay Gibbons) and hoping he'll find his groove again. Not gonna happen.

With another loss and a win by the Padres, the Dodgers would once again be in the basement of the NL West. If that doesn't convince Ned Colletti that he should be a seller with the trade deadline coming up, I don't know what will. Time to face reality and get some young guys.

Two guys with ERA's of 3.74 will take the mound tonight, as Rubby De La Rosa will go against Madison Bumgarner.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

It's Daniel Hudson's world

The Dodgers were just living in it.

Daniel Hudson not only pitched a complete game, but drove in three runs with a homer and two-run single as the Diamondbacks won the rubber match over the Dodgers, 4-1. The Dodgers have now dropped two straight after winning the previous five.

Ted Lilly worked around a leadoff bunt single by Willie Bloomquist in the first, but gave up the game's first run in the second. With one down, Ryan Roberts belted a solo shot, his 12th of the season, for the early 1-0 lead.

The Dodgers had a chance to score in the fifth, but as is usually the case, couldn't get a big hit. Aaron Miles singled to start, and believe it or not, Juan Uribe singled an out later. Rod Barajas was getting his first start since coming off the DL, and he grounded into a force play, which left Lilly to hit with two outs and ground out.

Lilly again fell victim to the gopher ball when Hudson took a high "fastball" (this was Lilly pitching, so I use that term loosely) and lined it over the left field fence for his first career homer.

In the seventh, the Dodgers finally scored a damn run, but that would be it on the day. Matt Kemp singled, and he went to third with one out on James Loney's single. Uribe then had a great at-bat with a foul out to first. You wouldn't expect this worthless, overpriced nobody get a clutch hit now, would you? Because you shouldn't. Anyway, a wild pitch by Hudson brought in Kemp, and it was 2-1.

Down by only a run now, Lilly stayed on in the bottom of the seventh, but soon found himself in trouble. Chris Young singled and went to second on Stephen Drew's sacrifice. Roberts was given the intentional walk, which led to Miguel Montero's groundout to first, advancing both runners. Once again, an intentional walk was issued, this time to Xavier Nady.

Don Mattingly and Kirk Gibson then had some decisions to make. Mattingly gave the ball to Blake Hawksworth, perhaps hoping to get Hudson out of the game. Gibson, however, stuck with Hudson, who delivered a two-run single through the hole between third and short. It figures.

Hudson pitched the last two innings with ease, striking out Miles to put an exclamation mark on his wild day.

I'm sure Mattingly will be questioned about taking Lilly out at that point, but to me the biggest issue was Hawkworth's pitch selection. He threw fastballs either by Hudson or for foul balls. On his two-strike pitch, he went with a breaking ball. He should have just stayed with the heat, because as good a hitter as Hudson is (.359, which is outstanding for a pitcher obviously), I didn't see him getting a hit off the fastball. We'll never know.

Then again, even if Hawksworth got out of that inning unscathed, it wouldn't have mattered. Once again the offense showed the rest of the world just how weak they are. Five hits, no walks, no stolen bases, no nothing. It was just sad. That pretty much sums up their bats as well.

Of course, maybe if they were getting something, ANYTHING, out of Uribe and Rafael Furcal, they'd be winning more. Uribe is hitting .206 with four homers. Raffy is hitting .168 with two extra-base hits. That is just absolutely embarrassing. No wonder guys like Miles and Jamey Carroll have gotten so much playing time.

The Dodgers can only be so patient with these guys, but if things don't turn around, they have to go. Raffy can maybe be traded to a contending team who will role the dice on him. Uribe probably can't be traded, so just release him. I'm serious. I don't care what his contract situation is, just ship him out. He gives the Dodgers absolutely nothing to be excited about. Bring Dee Gordon back up, and get rid of this overrated clown.

Lilly ended up going 6 2/3 innings for four hits, four runs, two walks, and nine strikeouts. He seemed to pitch better than his final line indicates, especially when looking at his K's. After Hawksworth got the final out of the seventh, Kenley Jansen struck out the side in an impressive eighth.

Things won't get any easier for the Dodgers as they will now travel to San Francisco for three. The Giants hold a 3 1/2 game lead in the NL West over the DBacks. Chad Billingsley will take the mound against All-Star Ryan Vogelsong.

One mistake costs Kuroda

The Dodgers brought a five-game winning streak into Saturday night's game in Arizona. One swing by Brandon Allen is all it took to end it.

Allen's three-run bomb put the Diamondbacks up for good, as they would hold on for the win, 3-2. The Dodgers dropped their first game since Wednesday, July 6. Granted there was the All-Star break, but still, for the Dodgers that's a good thing.

Matt Kemp used his mighty swing to give the Dodgers an early lead. Leading off the second, he lifted a long fly to dead center that was a no-doubter. It was his 24th of the season. I'm sure it was also a swing that he wished he brought with him for the Home Run Derby in the same stadium earlier this week. Oh well.

Given a rare early lead, Hiroki Kuroda gave it up right away. Miguel Montero singled up the middle to start things off in the bottom of the second. Geoff Blum nearly hit one out himself, as his double was lined off the right field wall to put runners in scoring position.

Allen was the one caught looking to end Friday's game, so you knew he had a little bit of revenge on his mind. He sure did that, as he just crushed a shot out to right to get the early 3-1 edge.

The Dodgers had their best chance to make some noise in the fifth, but couldn't get that one big hit they needed. Aaron Miles walked leading off. Juan Uribe struck out, which is no surprise considering he's struck out in every single at-bat this season. Or close enough. Dioner Navarro got just enough of one to single into left, and after a great sacrifice by Kuroda, Tony Gwynn walked to load the bases.

Rafael Furcal has been just as bad as Uribe, so thankfully he kept the bat on his shoulder and took an RBI on a walk to make it 3-2. In a big spot, Andre Ethier could only pop up to end the threat. It was not Ethier's night, as he went 0-for-4.

Kuroda settled down from there, but it didn't much matter, as the Dodgers could only put two runners on the rest of the way as Ian Kennedy and friends shut them down.

Take away Allen's big blast, and it's very possible the Dodgers win. The DBacks still had two on with none out in that inning, so even if Allen didn't get them in, there's still a chance they score at least one of them. But when the Dodgers only put eight runners on base all night, and fail to get more than one run with the bases loaded in a tight game, it's not hard to see why they lost.

For Kuroda, it was more of the same in that he pitched well, but didn't get the runs he needed to win. He lasted six innings for five hits, three runs, no walks, and seven strikeouts. The guy has a 3.13 ERA and a 6-11 record. Unreal.

Scott Elbert did a nice job out of the bullpen, as he threw two perfect innings of relief, striking out two. When's the last time he's done that? Well, never. He's gone at least two scoreless before, but not without giving up a hit or walk. So good for him.

If the Dodgers can get a win today, then that's two straight series they've won over NL West opponents. Even if one of them was the lousy Padres, the Dodgers need all the good vibes they can get. Beating a team playing as well as the DBacks in their house would be great to see.

Ted Lilly pitched well in his last start against the Padres last Sunday, so he'll look to build on that. Daniel Hudson will look for his 10th win.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Barajas back; Rivera joins

A couple of notes to pass along before the second half of the season starts later tonight.

Rod Barajas has made his way back from the 15-day DL. Who's been sent down? You guessed it - Mr. A.J. Ellis. The guy has sort of made a career out of this. Unfortunately for him, he just can't show he's a good enough hitter to stick around. In 16 games, he's hitting .222 with no extra base hits. The good news is that he does have a .364 OBP, but on a team without any power, they don't need another singles hitter.

Barajas will slide right back into the starting catcher's role, as he provides some good pop with eight homers. He hit 17 between the Mets and Dodgers last year.

The other note is that Juan Rivera has been acquired over the All-Star break. Marcus Thames was shown the door. Rivera is two years removed from 25 homers, but that dipped to 15 last year and only six thus far. Thames showed he wasn't the answer (.197 AVG, 2 HR, 7 RBI), so it's worth a shot. Rivera can also play some first base, so look for some platooning, at least initially, between he and Loney. It's the latest attempt by the Dodgers to find any sort of spark on offense.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Looking back at 10 questions for '11

Before this season started, I posted 10 key questions the Dodgers would face throughout the year. Let's take a look and see how each question is shaping up.

1. Will Clayton Kershaw be the ace?
Kershaw has been awesome to say the least. He's 9-4 with a 3.03 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, .215 BAA, and 147 K's in 130 2/3 innings. He's thrown three complete games, and two of them shutouts. He also got named to his first All-Star team and threw a perfect inning. He's the Dodgers' money pitcher.

2. Can Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier provide the power?
Yes and no.
Kemp has been huge with 22 homers, 19 doubles, 2 triples, and 67 RBIs. Ethier has a .311 average, but his power numbers are down with 9 homers, 23 doubles, and 44 RBIs. What Ethier has going for him is that he hit two jacks in the final game before the All-Star break, so it's possible that was a sign of big things to come. The Dodgers have to hope so if they want to win more.

3. Which Jonathan Broxton will show up?
The bad and injured one.
What Broxton has going for him is seven saves in eight chances. The rest is a whole lot negativity. He has a 5.68 ERA, 1.89 WHIP, .283 BAA, and 9 walks in 12 2/3 innings. After refusing to admit that anything was wrong with his arm, the Dodgers forced him to shut things down after discovering bone spurs in his elbow. He hasn't made an appearance since May 4, and after a few rehab innings, was shut down again until late July after feeling tightness on June 25. Who knows what we'll see from him the rest of the way, but it doesn't look good.

4. Will Hong-Chih Kuo hold up?
Not really.
Kuo was just about the perfect reliever last year, but certainly not this year. He missed time earlier in the year with a back strain and anxiety disorder. He's back now, but has a 8.71 ERA, 1.74 WHIP, and 8 walks in 10 1/3 innings. He does have 14 strikeouts, so that's one positive sign. But it's hard to expect him to regain his old form, at least not like we saw last year.

5. Who will emerge in left field?
There certainly have been a number of candidates, but none of have emerged as the clear-cut choice. Tony Gywnn, Marcus Thames, Jerry Sands, and now Juan Rivera have all been given their chances, not to mention guys like Trent Oeltjen and Jay Gibbons (I'm sure there have been more, but I lost count). Sands was given 33 starts in 41 games, but just couldn't emerge with a .200 average and two homers. Gwynn has played much better lately, hitting .309 in June and .324 in July, so maybe he'll be the guy. Now throw Rivera in the mix, as he was just acquired from the Blue Jays.

6. Who will emerge behind the plate?
Rod Barajas.
It's not like he's been lighting the world on fire, as he has a measly .220 average. But, he does have eight homers, six doubles, and 17 RBIs, so the power has been there for the most part. A.J. Ellis is hitting .222 with no extra-base hits. Dioner Navarro is hitting .183. I think it's safe to say Barajas will reclaim the starting nod when he gets back from injury.

7. Will Juan Uribe provide a spark, ala last year in San Francisco?
Uribe has been a big disappointment. He's hitting .207 with four homers and 27 RBIs. Lately he's been losing some playing time, which I can't at all blame Don Mattingly for doing. Uribe really needs to step up in the second half, because these numbers are just plain ugly.

8. Will the 'pen get back to business?
Injuries are a big part of it. At one point they had their top guys in Vicente Padilla (done for the year), Broxton, and Kuo all injured. Ronald Belisario never even showed up. Lance Cormier, Ramon Troncoso, Scott Elbert, and Kuo have all been terrible. Kenley Jansen and Matt Guerrier have been decent. The bright spots have been a resurgent Mike MacDougal, Blake Hawksworth, and Javy Guerra, the new closer. Still, the inconsistency in this group has been hard to watch.

9. Is James Loney here for the long haul?
Who knows?
With the All-Star break over, the trade winds will start whirling soon. I haven't seen Loney's name come up, but that could easily change. There's not much different about him, as he provides a great glove, and just so-so offense. If I had a guess, I still think he'll be moved at some point. Even with the bleak financial situation, I just don't see him fitting into the long-term plans of this team.

10. How will Mattingly leave his mark?
Too early to tell.
If this were a report card, he'd get an "Incomplete." This has not been an easy year for him at all. I don't care who the manager is, it's still a tough spot to lead this team right now. From off the field crap to injuries to mediocre players, he's had a lot to juggle. If the Dodgers had been a little healthier, I think we'd have a fairer judgment of how he's done. We'll have to give this more time and see how the season plays out.

A great All-Star Game for the Dodgers

For the second straight year, the National League won the All-Star Game over their American League rivals, this time by a 5-1 score. The big blow was Prince Fielder's three-run shot that gave the NL a lead they would not relinquish.

The Dodgers had three representatives, and they all contributed to the win a big way. Let's take a look at how they performed on the big stage.

Matt Kemp
Kemp got the start in center and played six innings before coming out for Andrew McCutchen. Hitting in the #3 spot, he took a walk in his first at-bat with two outs in the first, but was stranded when Fielder flied out. His next at-bat was hit biggest, as he followed Carlos Beltran's leadoff single with his own single into left. That set up Fielder's homer to grab the lead. His night was over after flying out to right in his final plate appearance.

Andre Ethier
I wasn't so sure if Ethier would get an at-bat considering he was one of the last additions to the team, but there he was stepping to the plate in the fifth. Subbing at DH for Beltran, he waited for Rickie Weeks to swipe second for a two-out RBI opportunity. He delivered with an RBI single into right, but was caught in a rundown for the final out. No matter, as the damage was done to give the NL a 4-1 lead. It was only at-bat of the night as Gabby Sanchez came on in the seventh.

On a side note, Ethier's RBI broke a 15-year drought for the Dodgers. You have to go all the way back to Mike Piazza's MVP performance in 1996 for the last time a Dodger drove in a run. That's pretty crazy!

Clayton Kershaw
Don Mattingly was worried that Kershaw would get overworked, and possibly not be 100% for Friday's game in Arizona. Thankfully Kershaw was on the money, as he got through his only inning of work in the fifth with eight pitches. He struck out David Ortiz on a check swing, then got Robinson Cano and Alex Avila to ground out to Fielder at first. Jair Jurrjens took over in the sixth.

All in all, the Dodgers have to be thrilled with how well their boys played. I know this fan was. Not that home field means a whole heck of a lot to them... but nonetheless, it's good to get the NL a couple straight wins.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Kemp hitting 3rd for the National League

The resurrection of Matt Kemp took another big step when he learned that he will be hitting third for the National League in the All-Star Game. The lineup will look like this:

1. Rickie Weeks, 2B, Brewers
2. Carlos Beltran, DH, Mets
3. Matt Kemp, CF, Dodgers
4. Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers
5. Brian McCann, C, Braves
6. Lance Berkman, RF, Cardinals
7. Matt Holliday, LF, Cardinals
8. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies
9. Scott Rolen, 3B, Reds

To get a feeling on just how much Kemp has improved from this year to last, take a look at his numbers at this point in 2010:

'10: 88 G, .261 AVG, .318 OBP, 58 R, 17 2B, 4 3B, 16 HR, 51 RBI, 99 K, 15 SB, 10 CS
'11: 92 G, .313 AVG, .398 OBP, 55 R, 19 2B, 2 3B, 22 HR, 67 RBI, 82 K, 28 SB, 3 CS

The averages, homers, RBIs, and stolen bases all jump right out. That shows just how well-rounded he is this season. Not only is he powering people in, but he's using his speed to make more noise. If the Dodgers had guys behind him who can hit, he'd have a lot more runs.

Want an analytical look at why Kemp is better this year? Check out this inside look from Bill Chuck over at The secret has been his speed on inside fastballs. Look at the pictures and see for yourself.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ethier powers up in sweeping the Padres

The Dodgers have most certainly not had a first half to remember in the 2011 season. From off-field distractions (that whole bankruptcy thing) to injuries and ineffectiveness on the field, it's not a surprise that they're 41-51 heading into the All-Star break.

For all of these reasons alone, it's refreshing to finally write something positive right now. Led by Andre Ethier's two solo blasts, the Dodgers finished off a three-game sweep of the Padres with a Sunday afternoon win, 4-1. That makes four straight and a 4-3 homestand.

Both teams got on the board in the third. Catcher Rob Johnson led off the inning with a solo home run to left off of Ted Lilly for the game's first run. Chris Denorfia singled and Chase Headley walked, but Lilly got Ryan Ludwick to ground into a fielder's choice to end it.

The Dodgers fought right back. Not that they needed to do much fighting, because Tim Stauffer walked the bases loaded without an out. With Tony Gwynn on third, Rafael Furcal on second, and Ethier on first, Matt Kemp hit a hard grounder that Headley made a diving stop on. Without a play near him, he inexplicably fired wide of home. Gwynn would have scored anyway, and Raffy sped home also to make it 2-1.

Still with nobody out, James Loney grounded one to first that Anthony Rizzo fired to home to nail Ethier. Juan Uribe's double play ball kept it only a one-run game.

From this point on, it was all about Ethier. He was recently named an All-Star replacement for the injured Shane Victorino, and it was well-deserved with a .308 average coming into this one. But, he only had seven homers, and his lack of longballs has been a bit of a concern. Games like today remind people just how good he can be.

His first home run came with two outs in the fifth, a shot to center to make it 3-1. His next at-bat came in the eighth, and he launched another one off of lefty Josh Spence to close the scoring at 4-1. It was his first multi-homer game since May 2, 2010 against the Pirates. His first homer was also the first one the Dodgers have had in 10 games! Geez!

Up by three in the ninth, Don Mattingly again turned to Javy Guerra for the save opportunity. Much like Friday night, Guerra struggled at first. He gave up consecutive singles to Orlando Hudson and Rizzo leading off. He settled down from there, getting Johnson flying out, Will Venable striking out, and Denorfia popping up to end the game. It's his fourth save in as many chances.

Not to be lost in the shuffle was the effort by Lilly, who has certainly had his own struggles in the first half. He lasted five innings for four hits, one run, two walks, and seven strikeouts. The win gets his record up to 6-9 with a 4.79 ERA. Not pretty numbers by any means, but a positive step today.

The bullpen also had a good day, as four relievers collected holds before Guerra's save: Kenley Jansen, Hong-Chih Kuo, Matt Guerrier, and Mike MacDougal. Combined with Guerra, all five pitched the last four innings without allowing a run on only two hits. You could tell that Mattingly wasn't holding anyone back with the upcoming four days off.

While the four-game winning streak is sweet, I can't help but note that playing the Padres and their pitiful offense absolutely helped. As two straight 1-0 games and today's score shows, they're just struggling mightily to get anything going. The Dodgers should be thrilled with their pitching, but it's not realistic to think it'll be this easy against better teams. They know that.

All of that aside, today's win at least gives the Dodgers a little something positive to talk about as we now watch the All-Stars in action on Tuesday. They're now in fourth in the NL West, 11 games in back of the Giants. I still don't see them coming anywhere close to the playoffs, but of course I hope I'm wrong. Just playing better baseball should be a more realistic goal, no matter where they end up in the standings.

The Dodgers catch a bit of a break by getting an extra day off after the mandatory three for the All-Star Game. They will then be in Arizona for three games starting Friday. Clayton Kershaw will pitch the first game, followed in the rotation by Hiroki Kuroda, Lilly, Chad Billingsley, and Rubby De La Rosa.

Good luck to Kemp, Kershaw, and Ethier in the All-Star Game! Should be fun to watch!

Two hits? Not good. One run? Good enough!

Leave it to the Dodgers and Padres to play a game like this.

After being no-hit through 26 outs on Saturday, Juan Uribe's double led to Dioner Navarro's walk-off single as the Dodgers beat the Padres, 1-0. Both teams combined for a blistering three hits. Lost in the shuffle was that this was the third straight shutout for the Dodgers, who have not done so since June of 1991.

It's safe to say that it'll probably be a long time before you see a game like this again. For the Padres, they have to be feeling sick to their stomachs. One day after blowing a bases loaded, nobody out opportunity to at least tie the game in the ninth, they don't allow a hit through 8 2/3 innings and still don't win. Wow, that's pretty bad.

Aaron Harang was making his first start in exactly one month after sitting out with a stress fracture in his right foot. You wouldn't know he missed any time, because the Dodgers' offense was just lost. Thankfully he was pulled after six innings and 95 pitches.

About the only time the Dodgers could do anything against Harang was when Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp took walks in the first, but James Loney popped up. In the third, Rubby De La Rosa was robbed of a hit by Orlando Hudson at second. Tony Gwynn walked, but was soon erased on a stolen base attempt.

De La Rosa was also throwing blanks, as he lasted six innings for one hit, no runs, four walks, and eight strikeouts. He ran into some trouble in the fifth when Chris Denorfia walked leading off and Cameron "Tiki" Maybin singled. De La Rosa got the next three in order to prevent a run from scoring.

Josh Spence was the first to relieve Harang in the seventh. He got Ethier swinging for the first out. Chad Qualls entered and saw Kemp reach on an error at short by Jason Bartlett. Loney was intentionally walked, only to see Uribe and Navarro fail to come through. Thankfully that soon changed.

The Dodgers again put two on in the eighth on a walk and error, but still couldn't get that one hit. At this point, it was looking like the Padres had a shot at their first ever no-hitter. That would be the icing on this season's cake, getting no-hit by a team that has never done it before! The only problem, of course, was that the Padres couldn't score themselves.

Luke Gregerson got Kemp and Loney for two outs in the ninth. Just when it looked like we'd be going extras, Uribe lined one to the wall in left for a double. Navarro looped a single into center to end the game.

Who knows what would have happened if Harang could have kept going, but his relievers did about everything they could to seal the deal. The problem, as is usually the case for the Padres, was their horrific offense. Take away the Mariners, and the Padres would be in dead last in so many offensive categories. It's a wonder how Adrian Gonzalez ever put up big numbers there.

De La Rosa has now put up three straight great starts, allowing only four runs in his last 20 innings. Naturally, he doesn't even have a win to show for it, and has two losses instead. Like the Padres, the Dodgers don't exactly have their starting pitchers' backs on most nights.

The bullpen did a great job in holding the Padres down. Matt Guerrier, Mike MacDougal, and Blake Hawksworth threw three perfect innings. MacDougal has the strange line of a 1.80 ERA with a 1.43 WHIP. That shows he's letting people reach, but knows how to get out of trouble. He's always had a lively arm, and often uncontrollable, so I can't say I'm surprised.

At the start of this homestand, the Dodgers had to like their chances of getting some wins with seven games against the Mets and Padres. Well, they soon found themselves down 0-3 and nearly getting swept by the Mets. Clayton Kershaw was able to get the first win, and they've picked up two more since. I guess it's better to get the losses over with first and gets some wins before the All-Star break.

A win on Sunday would make it a 4-3 homestand, which is pretty good considering how poorly the Dodgers have played in the first half. Ted Lilly, who has underachieved this season with a 4.94 ERA, will look to get some positive vibes back with a win.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Guerra bends but doesn't break

Javy Guerra had every reason to come unglued in the ninth inning Friday night. After being given the ball in a rare save opportunity, he quickly watched the bases become loaded with no outs.

Then Guerra relaxed, and three batters later, had his third save.

It was a roller coaster of emotions late in the game, but the Dodgers held onto their slim lead in downing the Padres, 1-0. The win makes two straight after dropping the previous five.

Chad Billingsley was matched up with Mat Latos, and both pitchers refused to budge in allowing the first run for most of this one. That's not to say either team didn't have chances, as the Padres left 11 men on base and the Dodgers seven.

The Padres had some good scoring chances throughout the game, but Billingsley would continuously come up with the big pitches when he needed. In the first, Will Venable singled leading off, stole second, and went to third on a flyout. The next two hitters stranded him there.

In the third and fourth, the double play ball became Billingsley's best friend, as each inning ended in this manner. Jason Bartlett pulled the trick first, and then Cameron "Tiki" Maybin followed it up with two on in the next inning.

As far as Dodgers' scoring chances, well, you can forget about that through seven innings. Just how lost were they against Latos? It took until the eighth inning for a runner to reach second base. In the previous seven, they had only four baserunners. Not exactly a recipe for success. Thankfully the Padres were awful hitting with runners on.

Once Billingsley worked around a two on and one out situation in the top of the eighth, the offense finally got something done in the bottom of the frame. A.J. Ellis led off with a single to left. He was lifted for pinch-runner Trent Oeltjen, and Jamey Carroll hit for Bills and sacrificed Oeltjen to second.

Tony Gwynn hit a soft liner that just made its way to right, but Oeltjen could only get to third as he had to hold up for a potential catch. Rafael Furcal stepped in, and to say he's been struggling since returning from the DL would be an understatement. At this point he was hitting .105 (2-for-19), so I guess he was due. His RBI single into right scored the game's first, and only, run of the game.

Then the ninth came, and if you can recall, Don Mattingly quietly named Guerra his closer some time ago. You wouldn't know that because the Dodgers never have a save opportunity for one reason or another. But Guerra got his chance, and right away watched "Tiki" Maybin double to the wall in center. Anthony Rizzo saw one pitch and was beaned in the foot. Rob Johnson squared around to bunt and was drilled, and was given first after some deliberation if it hit his hand or bat.

So here we were, the bases loaded and nobody out. What Guerra had going for him was that the Padres are just horrendous in driving runners in. As much as I might complain about the Dodgers in these situations, the Padres are that much worse. Padre fans, I feel for ya. This can't be easy to watch.

Anyway, Kyle Phillips pinch-hit and struck out on a full count for the first out. Venable stepped in and also struck out. Bartlett had a two-strike count, hit a liner to center, but Matt Kemp made a good play on it for the last out.

Billingsley upped his record to 8-7 with his fourth straight good start. That's not to say he was flawless, but like I said before, he was big when they needed him. He lasted eight innings for four hits, no runs, five walks, and four strikeouts. Five starts ago he was shelled against the Reds for seven runs in four innings to put his ERA at 4.65. Now that he's settled down and doing a much better job at mixing pitches, his ERA is 3.87.

Two more wins this weekend would get the Dodgers to 10 games under .500. Is that good? Uh, no. But at least they'd be out of the cellar in the NL West. The next goal would be overtaking the Rockies for third, as they too had a five-game losing streak this past week.

First things first, as each team has two more battles before the All-Star break. The Dodgers send Rubby De La Rosa to the mound against a returning Aaron Harang. It's a FOX game, so it'll be Braves-Phillies in my neck of the woods. I guess it'll be XM Radio time for me.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Second in voting, but Ethier is an All-Star anyway

All of the voting fans did to try and send Andre Ethier to the All-Star Game actually did work after all.

With news that Shane Victorino, who was voted in by the fans in the Final Vote, has landed on the 15-day DL with a sprained thumb, Ethier will be the replacement and make his second consecutive All-Star appearance. He joins teammates Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw.

Ethier made headlines earlier this season with a 30-game hitting streak, good for second in LA Dodgers' history. Currently he's hitting .316 with seven homers, 42 RBIs, 23 doubles, and 100 hits total. His power has been lacking after hitting 31 in '09 and 23 last year battling a broken pinkie finger. However, his OBP has been high at .382.

I'm not sure Ethier will get an at-bat considering he's the last guy selected right now, although as Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez showed today, more injury replacements are probably coming. Still, it's an honor for Ethier to get chosen and give the Dodgers three representatives despite a lousy season.

Dodgers do the unthinkable: win

For all of the negativity and pure crap associated with the Dodgers' organization this season, there's two reasons to be thankful: Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp.

Kershaw struck out nine in eight scoreless innings and Kemp doubled home a pair as the Dodgers ended a five-game slide by beating the Mets, 6-0. The win saves the humiliation of getting swept at home.

The scoring got started in the second, with some help. Juan Uribe was beaned with one down. James Loney then hit one back to the mound that Dillon Gee turned and fired into center for the error, putting runners on the corners. Aaron Miles hit a fly ball to left in which Uribe tagged up on. It was a close play at the plate that went Uribe's way, but replays clearly showed he was out. But I don't care, I'll take it.

Both Kershaw and Gee were cruising along until the sixth when the Dodgers finally did something with the bats. Tony Gwynn singled leading off, stole second, and took third on a bad throw by Ronny Paulino. Jamey Carroll grounded out and Andre Ethier took a walk. Kemp then stroked a two-run double to make it 3-0.

The Dodgers kept adding on from there, as they put the game away. Uribe hit a ground rule double to right to score Kemp. After Loney struck out to make it two down, Miles hit an RBI double to go up 5-0. Manny Acosta relieved Gee, and Dioner Navarro greeted him with an RBI triple to push the lead to 6-0.

Kershaw stayed on to pitch the eighth, and he found himself in some trouble. Two singles by Ruben Tejada and Angel Pagan, and a walk to Carlos Beltran loaded the bases with two outs. Don Mattingly came out to check on his ace, and Kershaw stayed in the game to pitch to Paulino. With two strikes, Kershaw pulled the string and got him swinging to end the inning.

The game should have been over at this point, as Kenley Jansen came on to get to the last three outs with a big lead. Jansen started off well by striking out Jason Bay. But, he then gave up a single to Daniel Murphy and walks to Willie Harris and Tejada. Mercifully he was yanked, and Hong-Chih Kuo gave us a flashback to last year with a strikeout of Lucas Duda and getting Pagan grounding out to end the game.

After another gem by Kershaw, he now ends the first half of the season with some awesome stats: 9-4, 3.03 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 147 strikeouts in 130 2/3 innings. Now the question will be if he gets to start the All-Star Game. As I pointed out a few starts ago, with the start on Thursday, he'll be on his regular five-days rest by Tuesday. NL manager Bruce Bochy has plenty of great pitchers to choose from, but if they're going by who's on proper rest, Kershaw is the guy.

The best part of watching Kershaw pitch was actually when he was facing trouble in the eighth. When Mattingly came out with the bases loaded, everyone assumed he was being pulled. But when he was left in to get he last out, the crowd went nuts, and they stayed that way through the strikeout. When's the last time Dodger Stadium has been excited like that? Opening day? I'm glad the fans appreciate just how good he is.

The guy who we know is definitely starting next Tuesday, Kemp, showed once again why he's an MVP candidate. His two-run double started the wave of runs in the sixth. Plus, he stole another base to make 25 on the season, good for fourth in the majors behind speedy little dudes Michael Bourn, Jose Reyes, and Jacoby Ellsbury.

With the Mets' series thankfully over, the Dodgers will now entertain the Padres for three games. I can see the headlines now - "The battle for the cellar." The Padres are 10 games in back of the Giants, and the Dodgers are 12. Chad Billingsley will get the start against Mat Latos.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Dodgers continue their free fall

Here's your latest indication that the Dodgers are terrible: they are one game away from suffering a four-game sweep at home against the Mets. It's that bad.

The Mets continued to do plenty of damage with two outs, as a three-run sixth lifted them to a victory over the pitiful Dodgers, 5-3. The Dodgers are now 14 games under .500 and remain in dead last in the NL West.

Hiroki Kuroda, despite his misleading record, has been the second best Dodgers' pitcher this season, just behind Clayton Kershaw. Kuroda got through the opening three innings just fine, but of course was given no run support to work with. As usual, his luck would soon run out.

In the fourth, Carlos Beltran, who's revived his career quite nicely with a well-deserved All-Star selection this year, doubled leading off. He went to third on a groundout, but Jason Bay grounded back to the mound for two outs. Unlike the Dodgers, who are horrendous with two outs, the Mets drove the runner in on an RBI double from Lucas Duda, making it 1-0.

Somehow, the Dodgers actually got that run back in the bottom of the frame. Jamey Carroll laid down a great bunt to reach leading off. Andre Ethier forced him out at second, but Matt Kemp's single put runners on the corners. Juan Uribe got the run in on a groundout, and it was 1-1.

The Mets took the lead for good in the sixth. Again, Beltran doubled leading off. Apparently James Loney didn't get the memo that he likes to hit down the line. Daniel Murphy flied out to Eugenio Velez in left, but Velez airmailed a throw to the infield, allowing Beltran to move up. Just a horrible play overall, and made even worse when Kuroda uncorked a wild pitch to score Beltran and make it 2-1. After two more singles, Ruben Tejada's two-run double scored them both for the 4-1 lead.

About the only time the Dodgers showed any fight all night came in the bottom of the sixth where they nearly tied it up. Rafael Furcal walked, about the only positive thing he's done since coming back from injury #7,625. Carroll singled again, and Ethier went the other way with an RBI single to make it 4-2. Kemp got Carroll over to third on a grounder, and Uribe got a sac-fly RBI to go down 4-3. Kemp stole second, but Loney grounded out to end the inning.

The score remained the same until the ninth when the Dodgers' crappy bullpen gave up another run. Javy Guerra was in, and Willie Harris doubled with one out. Angel Pagan flied out, but once again the Mets came through in the clutch as Justin Turner hit an RBI single for the 5-3 lead.

Frankie Rodriguez got his 22nd save as he only gave up a single to Uribe.

Kuroda tried, but was ultimately done in by one bad inning and hardly any offensive support. He lasted six innings for eights hits, four runs, one walk, and two strikeouts. He's now 6-10 with a 3.06 ERA. That's just laughable that the guy has that many losses and that strong of an ERA. Such is life when you pitch for the Dodgers.

The offense managed only seven baserunners the entire game. In other words, it was another day at the office. Carroll had a good game with three hits, and Uribe had a couple of RBIs. Kemp stole his 25th base. That's it when it comes to highlights on the offensive end. These guys are so boring, I'm surprised I didn't fall asleep watching them.

What makes me even angrier is watching Velez stink up the joint just knowing that he's the guy who replaced Dee Gordon. I know it's a small sample size, but Velez is 0-for-6 and had that horrible throw from left in this one. There is absolutely no reason Gordon should be sent down. Especially when the guy replacing him looks lost right now. The Dodgers have to correct this soon if they have any common sense.

I'm not sure what else to even say about the Dodgers at this point. They just continue to fall deeper and deeper in the standings. Kemp and Kershaw are the only ones to fear on this team. The starting rotation is decent, the bullpen is terrible, and the hitters can't drive people in. And that's the harsh truth.

The Dodgers will look to avoid a sweep on Thursday, something I never pictured myself saying before the season started. Kershaw will get the call in his last start before becoming an All-Star. I'm sure he can't wait to get the hell out of LA and join other players who actually know how to play this game.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Garland is done for the year

Well that was quick.

Jon Garland's season is over before it barely even started, as he will have season-ending surgery on his right shoulder. The surgery is exploratory, so he can only hope that more damage isn't found once he's under the knife. Either way, he won't be back this year.

It's a shame that Garland's season is already over, mostly because he was considered a lock to pitch lots of innings as the #5 starter. It was a good idea to sign him in theory since he has been so stable in his 12-year career, never once appearing on the DL. But even for someone who's been incredibly healthy to this point, the bottom line is a pitcher is always at risk of arm trouble just from wear and tear alone. Wouldn't you know it, this is the year it all caught up to him.

When Garland has pitched this season, it wasn't too bad. He went 1-5 with a 4.33 ERA, and 28 strikeouts in 54 innings pitched. Take away two starts in which he was bombed, and he really was the pitcher the Dodgers thought they were getting for the back end of the rotation. But alas, it wasn't meant to be.

In his place will be Rubby De La Rosa, who's been filling in the starting rotation since June 7. Right now he's 3-4 with a 4.39 ERA. He's given up only four runs in 14 innings his last two starts, but zero offensive support led to loses. The stuff is definitely there, so he'll get plenty of time to adjust to the big league level as the year progresses.

Bay and the Mets slap around LA

Leave it to the Dodgers to wake up Jason Bay from his two-year hibernation.

Bay went deep twice in driving in four runs, and the Dodgers left 13 men on base in getting creamed by the Mets, 6-0. The Dodgers are now a season-high 13 games under .500 at 37-50.

Ted Lilly got the start, and he had been awful lately. Through four innings at least, he managed to keep the Mets off the board. The Mets put two men on in both the second and third, but Lilly wiggled out of trouble.

Not that it much mattered, because the Dodgers couldn't drive in a run if their lives depended on it. Matt Kemp reached on an error in the second, and soon was on third after a stolen base and groundout. Trent Oeltjen got the start for a sick Andre Ethier and struck out to end it.

Then came the third, where Lilly doubled with one out and went to third on Tony Gwynn's single. Rafael Furcal grounded back to pitcher Mike Pelfrey and Aaron Miles grounded out, once again failing with runners on.

The fourth and fifth were the icing on the cake for just how bad the Dodgers are with runners on. Kemp singled leading off the fourth. An out later, Juan Uribe doubled, sending Kemp to third. Third base coach Tim Wallach got aggressive and sent Kemp home as the throw went to second, and he was easily gunned down.

Now down 2-0 on a Carlos Beltran homer, the Dodgers wasted another golden opportunity in the fifth. With two outs, Miles was beaned, Kemp singled and stole second, and James Loney walked to load the bases. Like they've done all season, the Dodgers failed, as Uribe did hit one hard, but right to center to end the inning.

That sucked the life right out of the Dodgers, as Bay hit his first of two homers leading off the sixth to go up 3-0. Two innings later, Bay put the game away for good with a three-run shot off of Blake Hawksworth to make it 6-0. Kemp struck out against D.J. Carrasco to end the game.

Lilly hung on for awhile, but this loss can't be pinned on him. He went six innings for six hits, three runs, two walks, and three strikeouts, and he hit a double. It was a much better effort from him than we've seen recently. But when his offense fails over and over, there's nothing he can do.

The story once again came down to the Dodgers doing zip with runners on base. 13 men reached, 13 men didn't score. Of those runners left on, 10 of them were in scoring position with two outs. That's just sad.

Not having Ethier in the lineup hurt, as he was battling a high fever. Don Mattingly went with Miles in the #3 hole. I understand his reasoning that Miles was red hot in June with a .419 average, and early on in July has a .438 average. But, it still struck me as a little odd. I thought maybe moving Loney up in the order would have been a better option since a righty was on the mound and he has been hitting much better lately as well (.337 in June).

Even if the lineup was different, it most likely wouldn't have mattered. They only have one guy in Kemp who's a legit threat right now, and even he made a bad baserunning decision. There's just nothing to fear about this offense. It's not like anyone (other than Kemp) would step up and hit a big home run with runners on. That's not going to happen.

The Dodgers have five games left before the All-Star break, so getting back to 10 games under might be a realistic goal. How sad is it that I'm looking at a goal of being ONLY 10 games under .500? That's what it's come to for these guys. Hiroki Kuroda will go against Jonathon Niese on Wednesday.