Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dodgers earn another sweep of Padres

For the second straight time at home, the Dodgers swept the Padres in a three-game series, as they won Wednesday afternoon's game, 4-2. The win also gets the Dodgers to within five games of .500, which seemed almost incomprehensible not very long ago.

The Dodgers got things going in the first. Justin Sellers got another start in the leadoff spot, and he responded with a single. Tony Gwynn also singled as runners were on the corners. Matt Kemp, Mr. Everything for the Dodgers this year, lined an RBI single to left, and it was 1-0. That makes 102 for the season, tied for Prince Fielder for tops in the National League.

In the second, the Padres got that run right back. It could have been worse, as Alberto Gonzalez singled with one out, but was gunned down by Kemp trying to stretch to second. With two outs, Ted Lilly issued walks to Aaron Cunningham and Rob Johnson. Wade LeBlanc found a soft spot in the outfield with a bloop RBI single to tie it up.

The tie would not last long, as the Dodgers played a bit of longball to grab the lead again. James Loney walked leading off, which is something that has just killed the Padres this series. Rod Barajas hit a high fly ball off the foul pole in left for a two-run shot and 3-1 advantage. It was his 15th shot of the season.

Lilly again walked a pair in the third, but this time escaped unharmed thanks to some great defense. With Kyle Blanks on first and Jesus Guzman on third, Orlando Hudson grounded one to Loney. Loney stepped on first for the out, then fired home to get Guzman in a rundown in which he was easily tagged out going back to third. Great play by Loney.

Speaking of Loney, he added to the lead in the fourth. Casey Blake started it with a ground rule double to left. Loney has played like he's been reborn lately, and his RBI single to right made it 4-1. He couldn't get any further because Eugenio Valez shockingly forced him at second on a grounder.

The Padres looked to make a move in the sixth. Guzman singled leading off and was forced at second on Kyle Blanks's grounder. Hudson struck out as Blanks stole second with two outs. Gonzalez then stroked an RBI double to make it 4-2, and went to third on a bad throw back in by Gwynn.

Josh Lindblom just got recalled when Matt Guerrier was placed on the paternity list as his wife is expecting a baby. Lindblom took over for Lilly to get the last out, and he indeed did by striking out Cunningham.

Don Mattingly got some use out of his bullpen the rest of the way, as they held up the two-run lead. Lindblom got an out in the seventh before walking Andy Parrino. Scott Elbert entered and struck out Will Venable. Mike MacDougal then came on to face Lance Forsythe, and he flew out to center for the final out.

MacDougal stayed on to pitch the eighth, and he got through it by only allowing a single to Guzman, who was 3-for-3 with a walk and stolen base. Javy Guerra was given the ball for another save opportunity, and despite a two-out walk to Parrino, got Venable to tap back to him to end the game. That's 13 saves in 14 chances for a 2.08 ERA.

Even though the Padres have been on a destination to nowhere all season long, it was good to see the Dodgers finish this series off with another win. The biggest difference in the Dodgers lately has been that they've played with more energy. It's obvious on both sides of the field that they don't want to finish as cellar dwellers.

There's no doubt that Kemp has led the way, as he continues to show why he's a strong MVP candidate. But there's also guys like Sellers showing his speed and glove, Barajas hitting homers, and Loney finally matching his offense with his defense. That's not even mentioning Andre Ethier's resurgence and Aaron Miles's leadership, as both sat this one out, though Ethier did collect a single pinch-hitting.

The bottom line to all of this is that the reason the Dodgers finished August at a strong 17-11 is because multiple people are chipping in. They could easily sulk and just throw in the towel, but if they can continue playing good ball, they will show the rest of the league why they can be a contender next year. And maybe, just maybe, there can be more talk about happenings on the field instead of always what happens off.

With the homestand over, the Dodgers travel to Pittsburgh for a makeup game. Dana Eveland has been called up from Triple-A Albuquerque to make the start. It's a great opportunity for him to audition for more down the road, as Nathan Eovaldi will be moving to the bullpen after starting on Saturday.

Dodgers win behind wild 2nd inning

It's safe to say that it would be hard to match the craziness of the second inning in Tuesday night's game.

The Dodgers took six walks - yes, SIX walks in one inning - and Andre Ethier belted a grand slam to post eight runs, and they made that hold up in beating the Padres, 8-5. With the Rockies' loss in Arizona, the Dodgers have third place all to themselves in the NL West.

Padres' starter Tim Stauffer entered this game with a 3.42 ERA, so it's not like the Dodgers expected to be handed walk after walk all in the same inning. Yet in the second, Stauffer must've felt like he would never get off the mound. That has to be a pretty lowly feeling.

Ethier started it all off with a single. Aaron Miles took a walk, and A.J. Ellis struck out for one down. Jamey Carroll walked to load the bases, which led to Hikoki Kuroda and his .098 average also walking to force in a run. Justin Seller lifted a sac-fly RBI to center, and it was 2-0.

Needing only one more out, Stauffer instead issued a walk to James Loney to load the bases again. Matt Kemp and Juan Rivera didn't need to take the bat off their shoulders, as their walks brought home two more runs to make it 4-0.

That finally meant the end of the night for Stauffer, as Anthony Bass relieved to pitch to Ethier, who originally led off the inning. On the first pitch he saw, Ethier blasted a grand slam to right, giving the Dodgers a huge 8-0 lead already. It was Ethier's 11th homer of the year, and his first since July 25.

Kuroda must have thought he was dreaming, because he definitely wasn't used to pitching with a big lead, let alone any lead at all. He got through the opening five frames with ease as the Dodgers looked like they would easily win.

In the sixth, however, Kuroda fell victim to the longball himself. With one out, Jason Bartlett singled and Jesus Guzman doubled for runners in scoring position. Kyle Blanks, about the only true power threat on the team, hit a three-run homer to make it 8-3. Orlando Hudson has played well against his former team, and he made it back-to-back with a solo shot, and suddenly it was 8-4.

Matt Guerrier took over in the seventh, and he got the first couple of outs on grounders. But, a walk to Bartlett would hurt, as Guzman's RBI double made the game manageable for the Padres at 8-5. Blanks struck out for the final out.

The 8-9 combination of Kenley Jansen and Javy Guerra got the job done to finish it off. Jansen allowed one walk in the eighth while gathering two strikeouts. Andy Parrino greeted Guerra with a leadoff double in the ninth, but could get no further than third as Guerra collected his 12th save.

Kuroda won his fourth straight start, and five of this last six, by going six innings for seven hits, four runs, two walks, and three strikeouts. Obviously, the sixth inning hurt his overall numbers, as he was cruising before that.

It's kind of a strange feeling when pitching with such a big lead. You know you have to throw strikes, so sometimes you become too worried about not walking batters. Kuroda admitted after the game that he fell victim to that. Still, his ERA stands at 3.03, so we all see how effective he's been this season.

The offense did all of their work in the second, as they were held off the board the rest of the way. They scored eight runs on only three hits, but a whopping six walks. Wow. 13 men went to the plate, and each player in the lineup got on base. I'd say that was their best inning of the year.

Ethier has certainly been involved in some controversy lately, as it sure doesn't appear that he's on the same page with Don Mattingly. In the four starts he's received during this homestand, he's 8-for-15 with three runs, a double, a grand slam, and four RBIs. That's the guy we got used to seeing the last few years. Maybe his knee injury has caused him to regress some this year, but when he swings like that, the offense is so much better. Let's see how he finishes the last month of the season.

The Dodgers will look for the sweep with a Wednesday afternoon start. Ted Lilly takes the mound looking for his ninth win. After the game, the Dodgers will travel to Pittsburgh for a makeup game on Thursday, then play three in Atlanta, four in Washington (including the returning Stephen Strasburg), and three in San Francisco. Add it all up, and it's 11 games in 11 days away from home.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

King Kershaw gets win #17

Clayton Kershaw just took another big step towards the Cy Young Award.

Kershaw once again completely overwhelmed the competition, hurling a complete game in downing the Padres, 4-1. The win ups his mark to 17-5 with a 2.45 ERA. The 17 wins is tied for Ian Kennedy for tops in the National League, and his 212 strikeouts are still the best.

The Dodgers got things going in the first with a run. Once again it was started by the great Matt Kemp, who took a walk with two outs, then stole his 35th base. After Juan Rivera took a walk, Andre Ethier stopped whining long enough about Don Mattingly to stroke an RBI single to make it 1-0. Of course, he was caught in a rundown as Kemp scored, which led to Rivera doing the same and getting tagged for the last out. But hey, at least he got a hit.

A couple more runs were tacked on in the third. Justin Sellers hit in the leadoff spot, and he walked with one down. James Loney has been on a tear lately, and it continued with a long two-run homer, and it was 3-0. The tater increased his hitting streak to eight games, and bumped his average from .254 to .275.

The only blemish of the night for Kershaw came in the fourth. The O-Dawg, Orlando Hudson, led off with a double off the left field wall to start. Kershaw got the next couple of outs, but Nick Hundley came through with an RBI double, cutting it to 3-1.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Dodgers got that run right back. Ethier again got a big hit, as he hit a leadoff double. A groundout by Aaron Miles got him to third, and Rod Barajas got him home on a sac-fly RBI, making it 4-1.

Even with five innings left to play, you got the feeling that the Padres knew they had two chances of coming back: slim and none... and slim just took a hike! He induced a double play from Mat Latos in the fifth, and after getting around a walk to Jason Bartlett with two outs, he didn't allow a runner until the ninth.

In the ninth, Hundley singled with two outs, then went to second on fielder's indifference, then to third on a wild pitch. Kershawn went to his off-speed stuff to strikeout Lance Forsythe to end the game. Overall, he gave up only six hits, one run, two walks, and five strikeouts while making 118 pitches.

While Kershaw was certainly in control, he can give a big assist to the defense behind him for turning three great double plays. Sellers started one to end the second on a hard hit ball by Forsythe. Will Venable tapped back to the mound which turned into two outs in the third. The best was the last one in the fifth. Latos grounded to Loney at first, who fired to Sellers at second for the first out, then back to Jamey Carroll covering first for next out. Three very slick plays overall.

With one month left in the season, Kershaw probably has about five starts left. Assuming he goes on regular rest, it looks like he'll pitch against the Braves, Giants, Diamondbacks, Giants again, and Padres. So, four of those starts are against teams fighting for the playoffs. If he can get through those while looking like his normal self, not only will he play the spoiler role, but he has a fantastic chance at getting the Cy Young Award.

The Dodgers have now taken six of their last seven, and are locked up with the Rockies for third in the NL West. Hiroki Kuroda will get the start on Tuesday. He's won three straight after finally getting some run support he desperately deserved.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Dodgers battle, but can't overcome bad start

From the bottom of the first through the end of the game, the Dodgers outscored the Rockies 6-2. It was just that darn top of the first that burned them.

Nathan Eovaldi gave up five runs to start the game, and despite the Dodgers fighting their way within a run, they couldn't get over the hump in taking the loss, 7-6. Even with the defeat, the Dodgers took two of three and are a game behind the Rockies for third in the NL West.

Dexter Fowler began the big inning with a walk. Eovaldi made it look like a short inning by striking out Jonathan Herrera and Carlos Gonzalez for two down. With Fowler on second from a stolen base, the Rockies were able to dink and dunk their way to four hits and a walk in the next five batters. Troy Tulowitzki hit an RBI single to make it 1-0, and Seth Smith singled as well for two on.

Needing that one more big out, Eovaldi instead walked Ty Wiggington to load the bases. Kevin Kouzmanoff then hit a soft fly ball to right, but Trent Oeltjen couldn't make the diving catch, allowing the bases to clear to make it 4-0. Eliezer Alfonso added another RBI single, and the Rockies were in full control up 5-0.

With the Dodgers looking for a sweep, they had plenty of time to fight back, and it started in the bottom of the frame. Tony Gwynn led off and tripled down the right field line. Justin Sellers came though with an RBI single, and it was now 5-1.

In the third, Sellers got in on the action again with a leadoff double. Something has gotten into James Loney lately (see: actually hitting the ball), and an out later, he stroked an RBI double to go down 5-2.

Eovaldi could only make it through four innings as his innings and pitch count are being watched like a hawk, so Blake Hawksworth relieved in the fifth. It wasn't exactly a good choice, as Gonzalez doubled leading off. Tulo struck out, but Smith hit an RBI double to make it 6-2. It got worse, as Kouzmanoff had another big at-bat with a run-scoring single, and the lead was back to five at 7-2.

The heart of the Dodgers' order did nothing in the fifth, but the bottom of the order made some noise in the sixth. Well, Jhoulys Chacin did all the work, as he walked Rod Barajas, Oeltjen, and Jamey Carroll all in a row. So much for throwing strikes and letting your defense do the work with a big lead.

Mark Reynolds relieved, and the great Eugenio Valez got a run home on a fielder's choice. And with that, Valez is still 0-for-the year. Shocking. Gwynn plated another run on a sac-fly, and it was 7-4. Sellers had a chance to do more damage, but struck out for the final out.

The Dodgers continued to climb back into this one in the seventh. Kemp led off with a walk and stole his 34th base. After Loney popped up, Aaron Miles hit an RBI double, cutting the deficit to 7-5. With two outs, Oeltjen got the Dodgers within one with an RBI single.

Maybe the Dodgers ran out of steam from fighting back all game, as their bats went silent in the final two innings. The combination of Rex Brothers and Rafael Betancourt did the trick.

It was good to see the Dodgers at least make a game out of this, as there were plenty of times this season a 5-0 deficit meant an easy loss. Eovaldi was really one or two good pitches away from keeping the game manageable, but just couldn't do it. He finished with four innings pitched for six hits, five runs, two walks, and four strikeouts. He fell to 1-2.

Hawksworth has fallen on hard times of late, as he's had a horrific August. After posting a 1.69 ERA in June, it went up to 4.15 in July, and now 7.59 in August. He's given up five runs in his last five innings, spanning three games. With Kenley Jansen back, it's hard to see him getting many meaningful innings with numbers like those.

Speaking of Jansen, another scoreless inning has once again shown the Dodgers that he could compete for the closer's job next year. Or, at the very least, be the top setup man if Javy Guerra continues to be the man. In either case, it's great to see him dominating like we know he can.

With the five-game winning streak snapped, the Dodgers will look to start another one by welcoming San Diego for three starting Monday. They'll have a good chance at another streak, as Clayton Kershaw toes the rubber looking for his 17th win.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Kemps goes 30/30 as Dodgers roll

Matt Kemp hit his 30th homer of the season, joining Raul Mondesi as the only players in Dodgers' franchise history to make the 30/30 club as the Dodgers beat the Rockies, 6-1. Mondesi pulled off this impressive accomplishment twice in 1997 and 1999, while Kemp did it the fastest in only 130 games.

Carlos Gonzalez got the Rockies on the board with a solo homer in the first. It was his 24th of the season, two behind Troy Tulowitzki for tops on the team. The Dodgers tried to fight right back on singles by James Loney and Kemp, but Juan Rivera grounded into a double play to end the inning.

For the next five innings, it was all about the dominance of Ted Lilly and Esmil Rogers, as both didn't budge. Lilly only allowed four baserunners on two singles, a walk, and an error in innings 2-7. The Dodgers put up a threat in the fourth, as Andre Ethier singled and Aaron Miles doubled with two outs, only to see Rod Barajas pop up in foul territory for the final out.

The seventh inning would be a wild one, and the one the Dodgers needed to bust the game wide open. Rogers had been cruising up until this point, but allowed walks to Ethier and Miles to open the inning. Barajas then singled to load the bases. Jamey Carroll lifted a fly ball to center in which Ethier tried to tag up on, but was gunned out at home by Gonzalez for the second out.

Just when it looked like the Dodgers wouldn't have anything to show for the bases loaded and nobody out, Tony Gwynn pinch-hit for Lilly and was put on intentionally to pitch to Justin Sellers. But, before Sellers had a chance to do anything, Rogers balked, allowing Miles to score and tie the game. Sellers took advantage of the momentum by hitting a two-run single to make it 3-1.

The damage wasn't done yet, as after Mark Reynolds relieved, Loney smacked a two-run homer, and it was 5-1. Kemp then joined the prestigious 30/30 club with a solo homer to center, and the Dodgers had a big 6-1 lead.

Kenley Jansen hasn't pitched in exactly one month since hitting the DL, and he was summoned in the eighth. He retired the Rockies in order, which was no doubt a great sign. Even though he missed a good amount of time, he still hasn't allowed a run since May 28, lowering his ERA from 6.43 to 3.55.

Scott Elbert came on and closed it out, allowing singles to Tulo and Todd Helton in the process, though they were both stranded.

It was a great night overall for the Dodgers, as in addition to the win and Kemp making history, Vin Scully announced he will be returning for a 63rd season in 2012. What would Dodger games be like without listening to Vin? I don't think any of us even want to think about it. In a season of turmoil, that's some of the best news we've heard yet.

One person who deserves plenty of credit during the Dodgers' four-game winning streak is Loney. Over his last five games, he's hitting .619 (13-for-21) with three doubles, two homers, and six RBIs. He's certainly received his fair share of criticism this season (myself definitely included), but also needs to be recognized when he plays well. After hitting a horrific .176 in July, he's up to .379 this month.

Lilly is another one who recently has found success. In this one he went seven innings for three hits, one run, one walk, and five strikeouts. His only blemish was the homer by Gonzalez in the first. He went through horrible summer months with a 7.01 ERA in June and 5.20 in July. In five August starts, however, he's at a 2.20 ERA with a 0.80 WHIP.

After getting swept by the Brewers last week in three close games, the Dodgers have won six of their last eight. Even though the playoffs won't be anywhere to be found, it's still good to see them play hard. They're now a game behind the Rockies for third in the NL West, which is where they should aim to finish this year. I know, not exactly a great goal, but a whole lot better than dead last.

Saturday afternoon's game will be on FOX, as Chad Billingsley takes the mound looking to get over .500. Unlike last week, this game might actually stay on TV. Enjoy it for those of you who can.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Early knockout gives Dodgers sweep over Cardinals

Where has this been all season?

The Dodgers took full advantage of a six-run third by gliding their way past the Cardinals, 9-4. The win also means a three-game sweep in St. Louis, the first road sweep of the season.

Cardinal fans probably forgot about this, but they were actually winning this game at one point. It occurred in the second off of Hiroki Kuroda. Matt Holliday singled and took second on a wild pitch. He then went to third on a groundout and scored on an RBI single by Skip Schumaker, making it 1-0.

That lead was short-lived, as the Dodgers jumped all over Jaime Garcia in the third. It all started on a walk to leadoff hitter Justin Sellers. Tony Gwynn also took a walk, and both advanced to scoring position on a wild pitch. Next came six straight hits in which the Dodgers took full control of the game.

Matt Kemp continued his MVP-like season with a two-run single, giving the Dodgers a 2-1 lead. Juan Rivera hit an RBI double next. Casey Blake got a run home with a single, and went to second on an error in center by John Jay. The lead then became 5-1 on an RBI ground rule double from James Loney. After a single by Jamey Carroll, then newly called up A.J. Ellis added an RBI single to close the scoring at 6-1.

The Cardinals were obviously reeling, as they couldn't get much of anything going from there on out. They got a couple straight singles Lance Berkman and Schumaker in the fourth, but Gerald Laird grounded into a double play to end it.

Ellis continued his big day by adding a solo homer with two outs in the fifth. Not only was it the first of the season, but it was his first career homer. His reward? The silent treatment from the boys in the dugout. Very nice.

The following inning, the Dodgers increased their lead once again. Kemp singled with two outs and Rivera stepped in and cracked a two-run shot to make it 9-1. That just added to his effectiveness since coming over to LA, as he's hitting .322 in 34 games. I certainly didn't expect that.

The rest of the way was just about getting the game over with without much harm. Kuroda did surrender a two-run homer to Laird in the seventh to make it 9-3. Aaron Craig added an RBI ground rule double in the ninth off of Matt Guerrier, but Jay flew out to Gwynn to end the game.

Even though the Cardinals have been playing poorly lately, this is still one of the best series the Dodgers have played all year. Truth be told, the best the Dodgers have done in any series is probably the very first one in which they took three of four from the Giants way back in April. Winning in St. Louis is always tough, and for the Dodgers to win three on a ninth inning comeback and two blowouts, they deserve plenty of kudos.

Kuroda got his 10th win by lasting seven innings for eight hits, three runs, one walk, and four strikeouts. Once he had the big lead, he did a great job in letting his defense go to work, as evidenced by the one walk. He's now won three straight decisions and four of his last five. It's good to see his offense give him more support as well.

With Dee Gordon on his way back soon, it will be interesting to see what happens with Sellers. Maybe he stays up and gets some time at second; maybe he goes back down to play what little is left of the minor league season. However, the logical move would be to can Eugenio Valez, who's doing historically bad. He's now 0-for-27 with the Dodgers this year and has only taken two walks.

Regardless if Gordon comes back or not, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that Valez should be gone. It's to the point where I just flat out feel sorry for the guy. He looks so lost at the plate it's just uncomfortable watching. Please, really, just put him out of his misery.

Another team who's been hot lately is the Rockies, who just swept the Astros after taking two of three from the Dodgers. Overall, they've won five straight along with six of their last seven, seven of their last nine, and eight of their last 11. Got all of that? I suppose they still have playoff hopes, but they're slim.

The Dodgers will welcome those Rockies to town for three starting Friday. Ted Lilly takes the mound in the first game. He hasn't won since July 29, but he actually has been pitching well lately. Let's see if that continues.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Navarro is shown the door

Citing "philosophical differences" (see: he's lazy), Don Mattingly has announced that Dioner Navarro has been designated for assignment. A.J. Ellis will receive his 1,763rd callup of his career.

Mattingly didn't hold back when discussing the reasons for Navarro getting the boot. Here's his exact quote:
"I didn't think he was the right guy for this team right now and what we're trying to do. He didn't fit in to that. Obviously, the performance under .200, but he didn't fit into my beliefs, the way you go about it and that means he didn't fit into Ned's beliefs also. Philosophical differences."
So there you have it. Mattingly hasn't exactly been one to call people out, so you know if he does, he must be pretty angry. I'm guessing enough was enough with this guy.

Navarro ends his second go-around with the Dodgers with a .193 average, five homers, and 17 RBIs in 176 at-bats. Um, not good. Plus his defense was criticized for his inability to block balls in the dirt. It was time to let him go.

Ellis will once again get a chance to show if he can at least be a backup. Lord knows he's been called up and sent back down enough times already. He's played in 72 games in his brief career and is hitting .222 with no homers, five doubles, and 22 RBIs. If he can't provide the power, he better be a rock behind the plate if he wants to stay in LA.

Dodgers layeth the smacketh down in St. Louis

With Clayton Kershaw on the mound and Matt Kemp crushing homers, it was a good night for Dodger fans.

Kemp hit a three-run bomb in the first and Kershaw pitched six shutout innings for his 16th win, as the Dodgers unloaded on the Cardinals, 13-2. The win sets up a rare opportunity for a sweep on Wednesday.

One night after a ninth inning comeback, the Dodgers certainly had momentum on their side. They took full advantage of that in the first. Justin Sellers got the leadoff role and singled, followed by a walk from James Loney. Kemp then cracked a Kyle Lohse pitch into deep center for the 3-0 lead. With that, Kemp became the second player in Dodgers' history to join the 30-30 club. That's some great stuff.

As good as the first was, the second inning was even better. Jamey Carroll stepped in with one out and singled. Kershaw laid down a sacrifice as the Dodgers played for a run. With two outs, Sellers hit an RBI double, and it was 4-0. Loney continued it with an RBI single for the 5-0 edge. After Kemp doubled for two on, Juan Rivera cleared them both with a two-run single, and the Dodgers were up 7-0.

The Cardinals had to know that being down 3-0 against Kershaw was bad enough, but a seven-run hole was practically impossible. Kershaw made sure it stayed that way, as he got through the second. Rod Barajas then launched a solo shot in the third, making it 8-0.

Kershaw worked around some trouble in the fourth when Matt Holliday doubled, David Freese singled, and Yadier Molina walked to load the bases. Like a couple innings ago when runners were on, Kershaw struck out the next two to escape unharmed.

The lead got into double digits in the fifth. Andre Ethier walked with an out and Aaron Miles reached on Rafael Furcal's error. Just like Monday, I'd like to thank our old friend for the help. Barajas is on a hot streak, and he smashed a three-run homer to left, and it was 11-0. That's now four homers in his last four starts behind the plate. He's got that kind of power.

Blake Hawksworth took the ball from Kershaw in the seventh, and he got through the next two innings with ease. Tony LaRusa decided to give Skip Schumaker the chance to pitch the ninth, and Trent Oeltjen became a laughingstock by striking out! But, following a walk to Ethier, Miles hit a two-run shot, the Dodgers' fourth homer of the game.

The only trouble for the Dodgers came when the game was long since decided in the ninth. Hawksworth was still in, but quickly allowed the bases loaded with nobody out. Ryan Theriot got an RBI on a fielder's choice. Hong-Chih Kuo came in, and gave up an RBI single to John Jay. However, Raffy grounded into a double play to end it. Once again, thank you, Raffy.

The whole night was awesome, and Kershaw was again a huge part of it. He lasted six innings for six hits, no runs, two walks, and eight strikeouts. He threw 108 pitches, so it wasn't his most dominating performance, but he got tougher when runners reached base. That's now back-to-back 200 strikeout seasons for him... and he's only 23. Wow.

It's not often (or, ever) that I get to mention how many big hits the Dodgers had in one game. It all came together Tuesday, as they pounded out four homers and four doubles. Three hitters had three hits apiece: Sellers, Barajas, and Carroll. Kemp had two extra-base hits and three RBIs. It was one of those nights where they could do no wrong.

Win or lose on Wednesday, the Dodgers have still won the series in St. Louis. While the Cardinals have fallen on some hard times lately, they're still one of the best teams in the National League, so winning in their house is no easy feat. Earning a sweep, however, would close the roadtrip out at 5-5. Considering they were swept in three against the Brewers to start it off, that's pretty good.

Hiroki Kuroda has pitched at least six innings in his last seven starts, so he'll be looking to continue his strong play on Wednesday afternoon. Going against him is Jaime Garcia.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Miles's triple leads to comeback win

Aaron Miles has gone from non-roster invitee in Spring Training to one of the most valuable players on the Dodgers this year.

Miles's RBI triple in the ninth against closer Fernando Salas tied the game at 1, and Rod Barajas got the winning run home on a fielder's choice as the Dodgers beat the Cardinals, 2-1. The win spoiled what sure was looking like a complete game shutout for Chris Carpenter, who was flawless through eight.

The Dodgers didn't have many chances against Carpenter, as they only gathered four hits and one walk through eight innings against him. In the second, Juan Rivera took that walk leading off, and was erased on a grounder from Andre Ethier. After Miles popped up, Barajas singled for two on. I'll bet you'll be shocked by this, but Eugenio Valez struck out for the last out.

In the bottom of the second, Lance Berkman got the game's first run with a solo homer leading off. It was Berkman's 29th of the season, and the only blemish of the night by young Nathan Eovaldi.

Eovaldi faced a little bit of trouble in the fifth, but got some help from his defense. Daniel Descalso singled with one out. An out later, Skip Schumaker laced one into left. Rivera made a nice sliding play to keep it from going to the wall, and runners had to stop at second and third. David Freese grounded back to the mound for the last out.

From there it was all about the Dodgers' bullpen trying to match Carpenter while hoping at least one run would score. Josh Lindblom pitched the sixth and got through the heart of the Cardinals' order of Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, and Berkman with ease. Scott Elbert also tossed a perfect seventh.

After Matt Guerrier got the Cards in order in the eighth, Carpenter was given a chance to get go for the shutout. However, he plunked Rivera right away, and that spelled an end to his night with the lefty Ethier coming up.

Tony LaRusa went with his own lefty in Arthur Rhodes to get Ethier. It worked, as predictably, Ethier struck out. No surprise there, as Ethier continues his awful August, which comes directly after his horrendous July. In other words, he's nowhere close to the hitter we all thought he'd be.

Despite Ethier's failure to even get the runner over to second, Salas was then summoned to pitch to Miles. The ex-Cardinal made his old team pay, as he smoked a triple to the wall in right center, tying the game at 1-1.

Enter Jason Motte to pitch to the mighty Barajas, who's been hot lately. Motte did his job in getting a grounder, but Rafael Furcal bobbled it a bit, then threw the ball away at home as Miles slid across safely. Hey, Raffy, thanks for the gift.

Javy Guerra blew his first save on Saturday in Colorado, and he had a huge challenge in facing Pujols right off the bat. Guerra looked like a pro, as Pujols popped up for the first out. Raffy did keep the game going with a two-out infield single, but John Jay flew out to Tony Gwynn in left to end the game. It was Guerra's 11th save.

All the Dodgers are playing for now is avoiding last place in the NL West, but that was still a big win for them. They showed they can beat a good team in the Cardinals without Matt Kemp doing all the damage. In fact, he didn't do any damage with an 0-for-4 night. Ethier was also 0-for-4, but that's to be expected.

Eovaldi has started four games, and they've all been impressive. In this one he went five innings for five hits, one run, one walk, and two strikeouts. He's been given a golden opportunity to win a starting spot for next year, and boy is he showing what he's got. He now has a 2.05 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. Great stuff.

When this season is all said and done in over a month, there will only be a few players that fans should absolutely want to see back for next year. Miles should be on that list. He plays three infield positions (second, short, and third), and has literally hit anywhere in the lineup, with one at-bat in the cleanup spot. He makes Don Mattingly's job that much easier by being so flexible. Plus, you know you'll always get his best effort.

That's what drives me nuts about watching a player like Ethier. I'm not trying to say he's dogging it, but he sure doesn't give the impression that he's playing with a lot of fire. Rather, his hitting has gone into the tank, as he seems to only strikeout or groundout anymore. I don't know what's going on, but maybe it's time he starts seeing some days off, as an outfield of Kemp, Rivera, and Gwynn seems better right now.

The Dodgers are 3-5 on their road trip right now with two more to go in St. Louis. Getting at least one more win would be nice. With Clayton Kershaw and Hiroki Kuroda on the mound coming up, they have a good chance at that.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dodgers can't put the Rockies away

Anytime the Dodgers and Rockies tangle in Coors Field, there's potential for a long, crazy game.

Saturday was no exception.

Playing for just over five hours, the Dodgers blew a two-run lead in the 12th inning before falling to the Rockies in the 13th, 7-6. The loss puts the Dodgers back into fourth place in the NL West, and dangerously close to last with only a 1/2 game lead over the Padres. Ugh.

The back-and-forth game started with the Dodgers scoring in the first. Tony Gwynn hit in the leadoff spot and singled. Justin Sellers then hit a ground rule double, and the Dodgers were in business right away. Aaron Miles flew out, and Matt Kemp was shown the ultimate sign of respect with an intentional walk. Juan Rivera made them pay with a two-run single and 2-0 lead.

The Rockies got one back in the bottom of the frame. Eric Young made it all happen, as he walked, then stole two straight bases. An RBI groundout by Carlos Gonzalez made it 2-1.

Todd Helton had a big day at the plate, and it started in the second. His solo homer leading off tied the score at 2. An inning later, the Rockies grabbed the lead thanks to the speed of Young again. He walked for the second time, stole his third base, and went to third on a wild pitch. An RBI single by Gonzalez made it 3-2.

The Dodgers fought right back in the fourth. Jamey Carroll started it with a single. Ted Lilly struck out and Gwynn grounded out, but Sellers came though with an RBI single to make it 3-3. After Miles hit an infield single for runners at the corners, Kemp's RBI single gave the Dodgers a 4-3 lead.

The score remained the same until the seventh when the Rockies tied it. It started with Chris Iannetta's double leading off. A sacrifice by Jonathan Herrera got Iannetta to third, and Young's RBI single an out later made it 4-4. Shockingly, Young was erased on a rundown for the final out.

Both teams got through the ninth unharmed, and both blew chances with runners on in the 10th. The Dodgers went down easily to start the 11th, but the Rockies did all they could to end it. Helton singled, went to second on a sacrifice, then to third on a wild pitch with one out. Iannetta and Seth Smith were both intentionally walked to set up forceouts anywhere. It worked, as Mike MacDougal got Chris Nelson and Mark Ellis on grounders to move the game along.

The new momentum seemed to help the Dodgers, as they got a couple in the 12th. With Mark Reynolds now on the mound, Miles greeted him with a solo homer to go up 5-4. Now with two outs, Trent Oeltjen hit a sinking liner to center in which Dexter Fowler dove and missed. Oeltjen came all the way around for the inside the park homer, and it was 6-4.

Javy Guerra entered, and he was a perfect 10-10 in save opportunities entering this one. But like I said before, crazy things can happen at Coors, and this was no different. Despite the two-run cushion, the Rockies fought all the way back to tie it up.

It started with a walk to Fowler, a cardinal sin when pitching with a late lead. An out later, Troy Tulowitzki singled for runners on first and third. Helton then battled Guerra for a 15-pitch at-bat which resulted in an RBI double to make it 6-5. Eliezer Alfonso pinch-hit and tied it up with an RBI groundout, and the game continued on.

Carroll did his best to get the Dodgers a lead again, as he singled leading off, but that was it. Blake Hawksworth came on and got the first two outs. But, Ellis doubled and Fowler walked off with an RBI single.

The Dodgers' bullpen was put to some serious work after Lilly exited after only 4 2/3 innings with a sore neck. The entire 'pen was emptied: Hong-Chih Kuo (1 IP, 0 R), Josh Lindblom (1 1/3 IP, 1 R), Scott Elbert (1 1/3 IP, 0 R), Matt Guerrier (1 2/3 IP, 0 R), MacDougal (1 IP, 0 R), Guerra (1 IP, 2 R), and Hawksworth (2/3 IP, 1 R). In all, they pitched 8 innings for nine hits, four runs, four walks, and seven strikeouts.

It was good to see Kuo pitch so well, as he struck out all three batters he faced, which were Gonzalez, Tulo, and Helton. Where has that been all year? Unfortunately, it's been nowhere to be found. With an 11.25 ERA, he'll take any good performance he can get.

The offense did a good job in pounding out 17 hits, but only three were for extra-bases. So, it's no surprise that 11 men were left on base, including six with runners in scoring position and two outs. Once again, the Dodgers just can't get those big hits. Granted, in a 15-inning game, there's bound to be more men left on base, but that's still too many. But the Dodgers are what they are.

The rubber game will be played Sunday afternoon, as Chad Billingsley gets the ball. He's coming off a great start in Milwaukee with only one run in seven innings. That probably means he's due for a bad one. That's how inconsistent he's been this year.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Dodgers ride the power of Barajas

Rod Barajas provided the power on Friday night, hitting a three-run homer and RBI single in helping the Dodgers beat the Rockies, 8-2. It was a rare night of run support for Hiroki Kuroda, who has now won two of his last three starts.

The Dodgers' bats were aggressive from the start. Justin Sellers has been turning heads since his callup on August 12, and he hit a double with one out hitting in the #2 spot. With Andre Ethier sitting the game out with an ingrown toenail, Aaron Miles hit third and delivered with an RBI single for the 1-0 lead.

Kuroda got through the first with ease, and the bats kept things going in the second. Juan Rivera led off with a double. An out later, Barajas began his big night with an RBI single, making it 2-0.

The third is when the Dodgers poured it on and gave Kuroda a rare big lead to work with. It started when Miles took a walk with one out, then went to second on a wild pitch. Matt Kemp struck out, but a rally started with two outs anyway. Speaking of rare, James Loney hit a rare RBI with a single. Barajas then flexed his muscle with a big three-run homer, and it was 6-0 just like that.

The Rockies got on the board in the third. Jonathan Herrera pinch-hit for Jason Hammel, who was yanked already, and walked with one out. Chris Nelson then singled with two outs, which led to an RBI single from Carlos Gonzalez to make it 6-1.

In the fourth, the Dodgers got that run right back from an unlikely source. Tony Gwynn only had six home runs in 474 career games coming into this one, but he turned on one and it went out to right for a solo shot, putting the score at 7-1.

If the Rockies were going to comeback, their best chance to get it done was in the sixth. Gonzalez walked leading off and Troy Tulowitzki followed with a double to put runners in scoring position. Todd Helton grounded out to second, but a run scored to make it 7-2. Kuroda then induced two straight lineouts to Kemp in center, and the Rockies never threatened again.

The final run of the game came in the seventh. Sellers reached on an infield single and Miles walked with one out. Kemp then hit an RBI single, his 90th of the season, and it was 8-2. The RBI puts him six behind Ryan Howard for tops in the National League.

The bullpen took over from there, as Kuroda exited after six. Matt Guerrier worked the seventh and only walked Eric Young. With rain falling in the eighth, Scott Elbert got a couple outs as well as surrendering a double to Tulo. Mike MacDougal got the last out. Blake Hawksworth pitched a perfect ninth to put it in the books.

With the win, the Dodgers are now deadlocked with the Rockies for third in the NL West. It doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot, but regardless of how disappointed each team is with how the season has gone, nobody wants to finish in last, currently occupied by the Padres. Going through an entire offseason knowing you finished in the cellar is a bad feeling.

Kuroda continues to be one of the top pitchers in baseball this season, despite a 9-14 record. In getting his first career win over the Rockies, he went six innings for four hits, two runs, three walks, and five strikeouts. A 2.88 ERA puts him 10th best in the NL. I just hope he resigns for next year, as a Kershaw-Kuroda combo would be tough to beat.

Barajas had to exit the game early with a mild groin strain, so his availability is most likely limited for the weekend. I mentioned the other day how he's pretty much all or nothing, but he's been on the "all" side the last couple of games with four hits, two homers, and five RBIs. With Kemp as the only other power source on the team, the Dodgers will gladly take the hot streak.

Pitching well in Coors Field is never an easy task, even if the place isn't quite the launching pad it used to be. Still, the Dodgers have to be thrilled with the work they did in this one. To only give up five hits the whole game was great. The bullpen has been much maligned all season long, but if they got this kind of effort earlier in the season, who knows how much better their record would be.

The Dodgers will look to grab third place alone by sending Ted Lilly to the hill on Saturday. Lilly has actually put together three straight good starts, giving up only four runs in 21 innings. Sadly, the offense has given him no help, so it's been an 0-3 stretch. He'll look for some better luck.

For reasons only known to MLB, the game isn't on TV anywhere, as FOX didn't pick it up. My guess is it was once a FOX game, but then got the boot. So, fire up those radios, kids.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The ace stops the slide

When in doubt, call on Clayton Kershaw.

Kershaw turned in yet another fantastic performance, hurling eight scoreless innings in leading the Dodgers past the Brewers, 5-1. The win avoids a sweep, as the Brewers are darn near impossible to beat at home.

The Dodgers got things going early. In the second, Rod Barajas got the team's first hit with a solo homer to left, making it 1-0. That was his 11th homer of the season, and broke a streak of being hitless since August 6. He's pretty much all or nothing at the plate, but he's actually second on the team in homers. And that's pretty sad.

In the third and fourth, the Dodgers wasted chances by grounding into inning-ending double plays. First up was Andre Ethier, who grounded to first and saw Prince Fielder nail Tony Gwynn at home. Barajas had one the next inning. Like I said, all or nothing. In two at-bats, he had them both.

There wasn't much going for either team until the seventh, when the Dodgers got a couple. It all started with two outs and a double by Barajas (all or nothing...). Jamey Carroll then hit an RBI single to center, as Barajas hustled home to beat the throw. Kershaw then laid down a perfect bunt in which pitcher Kameron Loe threw to the outfield, allowing Carroll to score and make it 3-0.

The eighth inning broke it open for good. Ethier started it with a single, which isn't at all surprising considering his only hits are singles. Matt Kemp followed with another single. With Ethier on third, Kemp stole second, his 33rd of the year, one below Jose Reyes for second in the NL. Juan Rivera lifted a sac-fly RBI to make it 4-0, and Aaron Miles followed that up with an RBI single, and it was 5-0.

Kershaw got through the eighth in order before handing the ball over to Javy Guerra after 104 pitches. Guerra gave up his first run in the month of August when Ryan Braun tripled and Prince Fielder hit a sac-fly RBI. Casey McGehee singled with two outs, but Mark Kotsay flew out in foul territory in left to end the game.

Like I even need to say this, but Kershaw was awesome. He lasted eight innings for five hits, no runs, no walks, and six strikeouts. He's upped his NL-leading strikeout total to 199, which is just behind Justin Verlander's 204 for tops in the majors. Also, his 15 wins are tied with Ian Kennedy and Roy Halladay for the best in the NL. Wow, those are some great numbers.

It's not like the Dodgers got blown out this series despite dropping three of four. They only gave up nine runs total. Rather, the problem was same old, same old - they can't get a big hit. Kemp was only 4-for-15 with no extra-base hits or RBIs. Ethier was 2-for-13 with no extra-base hits or RBIs. Considering they make up the heart of the order, it's hard to win like that, no matter how good the pitching is.

One person who I will give credit too is Rivera, who quietly has done a nice job in LA since arriving on July 15. In 28 games and 99 at-bats, he's hitting .333 with two homers, seven doubles, and 15 RBIs. Not exactly great power numbers, but at least he's getting hits, which is a lot more than others on this team can say. Plus, he's been versatile in playing both outfield and first. He can thank crappy James Loney for that.

Speaking of Loney, he's now down to .255 after receiving only six AB's this series. Have I mentioned how anxious I am for him to be gone after this season? Well, I am.

In peaking at the NL West standings, the Dodgers are now back in fourth place, a game behind the Rockies for third. That can easily go the other way, too, as they're only in front of the Padres by 1 1/2 games. It would be nice if the Dodgers could finish in third at the very least. But does it really matter? Probably not.

The Dodgers will now take on those very Rockies for a three-game set in Coors starting Friday. Hiroki Kuroda has won two of his last three starts, pitching seven inning shutouts both times. He'll look for his ninth win.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dodgers run straight into a loss

If there was a way for the Dodgers to run into outs on the bases Monday, they figured it out.

The Dodgers hit into a triple play, four double plays, and were gunned down twice at home in falling to the Brewers, 3-0. Despite seven hits and five walks, they came away with nothing to show for it, mostly due to some horrendous decisions on the bases and lack of clutch hitting.

Andre Ethier started the double play fun in the first, as his ended the inning. Then came the second, and an unusual triple play was turned. Matt Kemp walked and Juan Rivera singled to get a threat going. James Loney then did what he does best - ground a puny ball to the infield. Josh Wilson made a slick play to flip to second for one, then on to first for the second out.

Kemp likes to take chances on the base paths, and who can blame him with that speed. But, it was bad timing as Prince Fielder fired to home to complete the triple play. It was a close call, but the ball clearly beat Kemp to home, so it was almost automatic that he would be out.

The next inning, the Dodgers ran into yet another out at home. Dioner Navarro hit a ground rule double to dead center leading off. Sunday's hero Justin Sellers stepped up and singled to center. Apparently third base coach Tim Wallach didn't learn from the last inning, as he gave Navarro the green light, only to be thrown out by about 70 feet. Seriously, it wasn't even close and just a horrible decision.

Just in case you thought the Dodgers couldn't possibly be worse on the bases, they struck again in the fourth. Ethier took a walk with one out to give Kemp an RBI opportunity. Kemp hit a sinking fly ball to center that was gloved on a great diving catch by Jerry Hairston Jr. Ethier apparently forgot how to be smart as he was easily doubled up at first for the final out. Pathetic.

All along, Ted Lilly was throwing a great game, and got through the Brewers' first 11 hitters in order. Then he grooved an 0-2 pitch right in the heart of the plate to Ryan Braun, and it was gone to make it 1-0. After all the runners the Dodgers put on, they came up with nothing, and the Brewers scored on one swing. Unreal.

Loney added to the misery by grounding into his own DP in the fifth. Why did he do that? It's simple, because he sucks. Bad. He might have a good glove, but I can't wait until the end of the season so that Dodgers can non-tender him. He's hitting .258 and is a complete non-factor at the plate.

The Dodgers wasted a bases loaded opportunity in the seventh when Navarro flew out for the last out. Still, Lilly got around a couple runners on with one out to keep the score at 1-0 entering the final couple of innings.

After 93 pitches, Don Mattingly chose to pinch-hit Lilly in the top of the eighth, and although Jamey Carroll singled, nothing came of it. In came Scott Elbert to start the bottom of the frame. He had been great lately, but not on this night, as Jonathan Lucroy homered leading off to make it 2-0.

Following an out, Mattingly then went to Mike MacDougal. Once again, the decision flopped, as Corey Hart hit a solo shot to make it 3-0. That's right - three runs scored on three home runs.

Jonathan Axford came on looking for his 35th save. Kemp singled off him with one out. How would this game end? Fittingly, as Rivera lined into a double play at first. It was a hard hit ball, so you can't fault Rivera there. But, it was still an appropriate end to a frustrating night.

Lilly did all he could, but got zero help. He lasted seven innings for two hits, one run, two walks, and six strikeouts. It's funny because he's had a bad year, but over his last two starts in facing good teams in the Phillies and Brewers, he's given up three runs in 15 innings. The result? Two losses. Shocking.

I know the Dodgers aren't even close to a playoff team this year, but their futility in running the bases was very disappointing. There's just no excuse for getting thrown out twice at home, and watching a guy like Ethier make a boneheaded play getting doubled up. But I can't say I'm too surprised by Ethier; he just looks like he's not mentally in the game this year. He's hitting .297, but with only 10 homers and 59 RBIs. Add to the fact that he whined about his contract before the season, it just hasn't been a good season for him.

Ethier should be a guy that steps up and leads the way, but he's doing anything but that. He's not getting big hits, he ran the bases like a moron, and you know he thinks he should be paid more. Maybe the Dodgers would be better off without him. Or at least checking to see what they can get for him. To me, he doesn't have leadership qualities that this team needs to win.

I can at least hope that it turns around, because it did for Kemp after last year. We shall see.

Chad Billingsley will get the start on Tuesday, and we all know how he's struggled lately. He'll go against Yovani Gallardo, who's pitched very well the last couple of months.

Sellers shines in blowout win

Justin Sellers had the kind of day he will never forget, and maybe one that Dodger fans can get excited about for next year.

Sellers hit a three-run homer to left for his first big league shot, and Hiroki Kuroda completely manhandled the lowly Astros to get the win, 7-0. The win also meant a three-game sweep, only the second of the year for the Dodgers. Also, with the Rockies loss, the Dodgers are now in third place in the NL West.

The scoring started in the second. James Loney led off and singled. Dioner Navarro will never be confused with a power hitter, but he cracked a two-run shot to center for the 2-0 lead. With the homer, four of his five this season have come during the day. So I guess that means he'll get more starts when the sun is out.

Matt Kemp got in on the fun in the third. With two outs, he took a Jordan Lyles pitch to deep center for his 28th of the season, tying his career high. With a couple more, he'll be in the prestigious 30-30 club, as he's already at 31 stolen bases.

The Astros were able to keep the game close heading into the sixth. But, it all fell apart from there. It started with a single by Kemp and swipe of second. Aaron Miles hit in the #5 spot, and his RBI single made it 4-0. An out later, Navarro took a walk to put two on.

That's when Sellers stepped up and delivered his three-run tater to make it 7-0. Dodger fans haven't had much to cheer about this year, other than Kemp of course, so it was great to see the crowd give Sellers a well-deserved curtain call, which was graciously accepted.

Kuroda got through the seventh inning thanks to an inning-ending double play off the bat of Alex Sanchez. Blake Hawksworth pitched a flawless eighth, and Hong-Chi Kuo (yes, Hong-Chih Kuo) was perfect in the ninth to call it a day.

Kuroda turned in another gem, which is something we've all gotten used to and probably taken for granted. He went seven innings for five hits, no runs, one walk, and six strikeouts. He's now up to eight wins this year, and six of them have been without allowing a run. Good thing considering he's rarely received a lick of run support.

It's good to see Sellers have a good game, because he'll get a chance to show if he can make the team next year. In 89 game with Triple-A Albuquerque this year, he was hitting .304 with 14 homers and 49 RBIs. Of course, numbers at that place can be fickle because of the elevation, so who knows how that translates.

If Sellers can prove he can hang with major league pitching, then looking forward to next year, you have to wonder if a Dee Gordon-Sellers combination up the middle might be in the works. Sellers is very versatile, as he's played all three outfield spots along with short, second, and third in Albuquerque this year. I doubt Gordon will switch spots, so second or third would be a more likely destination.

Heading into the last month-and-a-half, the goal of the Dodgers should be to finish no worse than third. The Diamondbacks and Giants are battling it out for first and have plenty of separation with the rest of the pack. If the Dodgers can sneak out a #3 spot in the division, it will at least look better at the end of the year.

Next up is a 10-game road trip starting Monday in Milwaukee. After playing four, it will be off to Colorado and St. Louis for three each. Right now, the Brewers have a five game lead over the Cardinals in the NL Central, so the Dodgers have some important games coming up. Ted Lilly will go in the first game against old friend Randy Wolf.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Kershaw's K's, Gwynn's speed key a victory

Clayton Kershaw got his 14th win, young Justin Sellers got his first big league hit, and the Dodgers got a win over the Astros for the second straight game, 6-1. It was a matchup of two teams... going pretty much absolutely nowhere. But hey, they printed the tickets well ahead of time, so the game had to be played.

The first couple runs of the game were a gift courtesy of Carlos Lee. Jamey Carroll hit leadoff and grounded one to him. As Wandy Rodriguez was covering the bag, Lee's toss was off the mark, and Carroll reached via the error. A couple outs later, Matt Kemp smashed a two-run homer, and it was 2-0. It was Kemp's first home run of the month.

With Kershaw on the mound, even a two-run lead was good enough, but the Dodgers got more cushion in the fifth. Tony Gwynn had a great night, and he singled and stole second leading off. Sellers then collected his first career major league hit to put runners on the corners. Kershaw was asked to lay down a bunt, and as he did, Gwynn raced home and scored on a fantastic slide to make it 3-0. A sac-fly RBI by Casey Blake put it at 4-0.

In the sixth, Gwynn's legs again made plenty of noise. With one out, he singled into left. Sellers grounded out, but Gwynn got to second. With Kershaw now up, Gwynn took off for third, and Carlos Corporan's throw went sailing into left allowing him to score and make it 5-0.

The Dodgers tacked on their last run in the seventh. Blake and Andre Ethier hit consecutive singles with one out. Kemp struck out, but Juan Rivera picked him up by roping an RBI single into center, and it was 6-0.

Kershaw nearly made it a scoreless outing, but he finally gave up a run in the eighth, albeit kind of a cheap one. Jason Bourgeois led off and hit a bloop fly ball to right that fell in. Maybe Ethier was playing too deep, but it sure looked like he should have caught it. But who knows. J.D. Martinez took an 0-2 pitch into right for an RBI double to make it 6-1. Kershaw got Lee swinging, then took a gift final out when Martinez was tagged out at third on a horrible play.

Scott Elbert, the birthday boy, got the Astros in order to end the game. That's now 10 straight appearances without giving up a run, lowering his ERA from 5.73 to 3.00 in the process. The Dodgers sure can use numbers like that in the bullpen.

Kershaw had a typical performance for him, which only adds to his Cy Young candidacy. He lasted eight innings for six hits, one run, one walk, and nine strikeouts. He's still tops in the National League in strikeouts at 193, and only one win behind Roy Halladay and Ian Kennedy. In other words, it's hard to imagine him possibly doing any better this year.

Gwynn gave the Dodgers a couple of runs that they may not have gotten all because of his aggressiveness and speed on the bases. With a logjam in the outfield, he's still fighting for playing time, but is trying to make the most out of what he gets. After a horrific May in which he went 2-for-30, he hit .309 in June and .303 in July. He's dipped down to .231 this month, but still with plenty of time to go.

In my mind, Gwynn has every opportunity to be the everyday left fielder if he can end the year swinging the bat well. You know you're going to get stolen bases and great defense from him regardless, which is why he appears late in so many games. But, if he can hit a little more like dad, he can be such a force at the top of the order.

There's not a whole lot else to say about this game considering how awful this year has been for both teams. Actually, Dodger fans may actually be somewhat thankful that our team isn't the Astros. If you're a fan of that team, I feel for you. They traded away their two best players in Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn, and don't have a much of anything left other than an aging Carlos Lee. Man, that's rough. A 38-82 record proves it.

For the Dodgers, about all they can do is continue to stay out of the cellar, currently occupied by the Padres. The Rockies have also fallen apart, so all three teams are only separated by three games. Hiroki Kuroda will go on Sunday afternoon looking for the sweep.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dodgers self-destruct in losing to Phillies

Spotted a 5-0 lead after one inning and 6-0 after three, the Dodgers had every reason to believe they'd avoid the sweep at the hands of the mighty Phillies.

Then the Dodgers remembered they were the Dodgers, and it all fell apart.

The Phillies used homers from Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, and even an RBI from Vance Worley, as they came all the way back to get the win, 9-8. Predictably, the Dodgers were swept at home, and further positioned themselves as one of baseball's worst teams.

Did I mention they had a 6-0 lead?

In better times, the Dodgers put up a five spot in the first as they looked to finally get a damn win. Casey Blake and Andre Ethier walked with one out. Matt Kemp has been scuffling a bit lately, but he found a hole for an RBI single, and it was 1-0. Juan Rivera then did the unthinkable, for the Dodgers anyway, as he cracked a three-run shot, making it 4-0.

Following a walk to James Loney, Dioner Navarro's RBI double shockingly gave the Dodgers a 5-0 lead after one inning. It seemed too good to be true that they'd win in a runaway. And it was.

Chad Billingsley wasn't exactly flawless, but he did get through three innings unharmed. In the third, Kemp doubled leading off. A single by Rivera put runners on the corners. After Loney struck out swinging (he's terrible), Navarro's sac-fly RBI made it 6-0.

So here we go again, as Billingsley had a big lead to work with. How would he do? Naturally, he crumbled. Like he ALWAYS does. It started in the fourth. Howard walked leading off, and Pence hit a two-run homer to go down 6-2. It didn't seem like a big deal at the time, but it was. The inning was then prolonged as Loney (he's terrible) booted a grounder from Miguel Martinez with two outs. Worley grounded an RBI single up the middle to go down 6-3.

Still, with a 6-3 lead, the Dodgers were in control. Aaron Miles doubled in the fourth, but nothing came of it. So back out to the mound went Billingsley.

Living up to his sorry reputation, the Phillies tacked on a couple more. Shane Victorino walked to start, which is always a bad sign. Howard singled an out later for two on. Pence then grounded one to Blake at third, and he pulled a Loney (he's terrible) and booted it, taking away a potential inning-ending double play and scoring Victorino.

Out went Billingsley (thank God), and in came Hong-Chih Kuo, who's been absolutely awful this year. He got Raul Ibanez to ground out, but Howard scored, and it was suddenly 6-5.

The Dodgers did get a run back in the fifth to at least try and maintain a lead. Rivera continued his good day by hitting a single with one out. Loney stepped in and stroked an RBI double to bump the lead to 7-5. OK, so he wasn't so terrible in that at-bat. But he is in pretty much every other one.

Then came the sixth, and the Phillies showed the Dodgers how to win big league games. With Kuo still in, Ben Francisco drew a one-out walk. You didn't think Kuo would actually not allow a baserunner now, would you? Of course not! Ha! Anyway, Blake Hawksworth came in and immediately gave up a single and stolen base to Jimmy Rollins for two runners in scoring position.

A two-run by Chase Utley knotted the game at 7. Howard gave the Phillies their first lead with a big two-run shot to right, and it was 9-7. I gotta say, that was some GREAT bullpen work by the Dodgers. Not.

Ryan Madson came on for another save opportunity, and Blake greeted him with a single. Ethier flew out, but that's not surprise because he can't get a clutch hit anymore. Kemp singled to put runners on the corners and at least present a chance at a comeback. Rivera hit a slow grounder to force Blake at second, but Kemp scored to make it 9-8. Rod Barajas pinch-hit and flew out to center to end it, giving Madson his 22nd save.

The saddest part about watching this game was that even when the Phillies came all the way back, it wasn't a surprise. In fact, I didn't even blink. You practically come to expect these things from the Dodgers. I'm surprised they're only 12 games under .500. They deserve to be even worse.

The downfall all started with Billingsley, who proved yet AGAIN that he shouldn't be a starting pitcher. He had an odd line of 4 1/3 innings, seven hits, five runs (two earned), three walks, and no strikeouts. I understand and acknowledge that his defense did him no favors. But still, he showed everyone that the bigger the situation, the worse he gets. In many ways, he's like this year's version of Jonathan Broxton. Guys who look like they should be so good, yet constantly wilt under pressure and show they're not.

At this point, I'm just ready for this crappy season to get over with. In the last few days, the Dodgers have been swept by the Phillies, watched Billingsley suck, the defense suck, and 1,000 men left on base. Oh ya, and Dee Gordon has been placed on the 15-day DL with a bad shoulder. Good Lord, just waive the white flag already.

Thursday will be an off day, and Friday starts a three-game series with the Astros. As of this writing, both teams are a combined 90-142. I'm sure ratings will go through the roof! Nathan Eovaldi will get his second start.

Cliff Lee dazzles and overpowers LA

The Dodgers have found plenty of ways to lose this season. With a 52-63 record, that's pretty obvious. Tuesday night they found yet another way: striking out 10 times against Cliff Lee, then watching him hit a solo homer.

Wouldn't you know it, the Dodgers lost to the Phillies by a run, 2-1. In a season full of eye-rolling moments, watching the opposing team's pitcher be the main difference because of his bat is pretty embarrassing to say the least.

Ted Lilly was the Dodgers' starter, and he's had his fair share of bad outings this season after ending last year on such a high note. In the first, Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino singled leading off. Chase Utley then grounded to Dee Gordon at short, and Gordon tagged Rollins and flipped to second for a slick double play. Ryan Howard grounded out to end the threat.

Lee was awesome all night, but he left the door open in the first, and like usual, the Dodgers ran into it instead of kicking if over. Gordon singled and then stole his 12th base to start. Jamey Carroll laid down a great bunt that froze Howard at first, and there were two on.

This was the perfect situation for the Dodgers, as they had their two big guns in Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp up. What happened? Ethier struck out, then Kemp struck out. Carroll stole second, but Aaron Miles popped up to end the inning. You just knew from there that the Dodgers would be in for a long night.

The Phillies got the game's first run in the fourth. Wilson Valdez singled leading off, and Lee sacrificed him over to second. Rollins hit an RBI double to right to take the 1-0 lead.

With the Dodgers doing zip at the plate, it was Lee who "helped his own cause" (famous pitcher's cliche) in the seventh. Lilly must have forgotten that Lee is actually a pretty good hitter for a pitcher, as he grooved a horrible pitch down the middle that was taken out to deep right. It was Lee's second tater of the season.

Lee stayed on to pitch the eighth, and Eugenio Valez pinch-hit and reached on a walk. Good thing, because there's no way that bum would actually get a hit. Gordon was up next, and he reinjured his shoulder on a swing, which just added to the crap season the Dodgers are having. Trent Oeltjen pinch-hit with two strikes, and of course he grounded into a double play. Carroll struck out swinging to send the game to the ninth.

Ryan Madson came on for the save opportunity, and Ethier chose now to finally get a hit. It wasn't surprising since nobody was on base. Kemp grounded into what should have been a double play, but Utley slipped at second and couldn't complete it. After Juan Rivera grounded out, Casey Blake kept the game going with an RBI single to make it 2-1.

If the Dodgers were a contending team, they probably would have found a way to score the tying run. But, they're not, and Rod Barajas stuck out to end the game.

I know Lee is a good hitter as I've already pointed out, but it's still pretty sad that that's what the difference was in this one. There's just no way Lilly can allow that to happen. If it were Howard, Utley, or Hunter Pence I can certainly understand. But Lee? Pathetic.

Other than that awful pitch, Lilly did put together one of his best efforts this season. He lasted eight inning for six hits, one run, two walks, and five strikeouts. For a change, his off-speed stuff actually seemed to fool people. Can he go on a little run these last two months? I doubt it, but for his sake I hope so.

Aside from Lee's homer, the most disappointing thing about this one was, once again, the lack of clutch hitting. Ethier and Kemp combined to go 1-for-8 with four K's. For Kemp, he looks a little worn down. He hasn't had an extra-base hit since August 1, and no homers since July 30. He's getting hits, but all singles, and that's the last thing the Dodgers need - another singles hitter.

Ethier's power has been non-existent pretty much all season long. He'll throw in some doubles, as he does have 28 this year. But he only has 10 homers, and hasn't hit one since July 25. Any memories of him being a clutch, walk-off hitter seem to be long gone. It just isn't happening.

Granted, it's hard to be too critical when it was Lee who shut them down, as he's one of the top pitchers in the game. But the Dodgers can't get big hits against anybody. They'll put people on and steal bases, but that's it. Same old story over and over.

These two teams will mercifully wrap up this series on Wednesday afternoon. The Dodgers probably thought they could relax after facing Roy Halladay and Lee, but now they have to face Vance Worley, who's 8-1 with a 2.35 ERA. And to top it off, Chad Billingsley goes for the Dodgers. Grrrrrrrreeeeeaaaaaaat. This might not be pretty.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Kershaw pays a Ransom

And still lost.

Cody Ransom's two-run homer in the seventh gave the Diamondbacks a lead they would not relinquish, as they got the win, 4-3. The Dodgers were close to gaining a sweep, but still settled for two of three against a hot team.

After the Dodgers wasted away a couple singles in the first by Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, Kershaw fell victim to the longball. Ryan Roberts led off and walked. Kelly Johnson then stepped in and took a pitch to deep center for a two-run shot and 2-0 lead.

With the Dodgers' offense facing the tough Ian Kennedy, they were blanked through four. But, in the top of the fifth, an unlikely source got them on the board. James Loney led off and launched a solo shot into right to make it 2-1. It was only his fifth home run of the year, and his 18th extra base hit. So needless to say, don't get used to the power.

As Kershaw settled down after a rough first, the Dodgers took the lead in the sixth. Aaron Miles singled with one out. Ethier then lined a hard one into right for an RBI double to make it 2-2. Kemp usually thrives in these situations, but he grounded out for a couple down. No matter, as Juan Rivera's RBI single up the middle put the Dodgers ahead at 3-2.

Kershaw mowed through the sixth inning and was given a chance to do so again in the seventh. He got Miguel Montero to fly to left, but Collin Cowgill singled. Ransom only had nine career home runs playing with the Giants, Astros, Yankees, Phillies, and DBacks. You wouldn't know that, however, as he absolutely crushed a two-run homer to left to grab the lead back at 4-3.

A double by Sean Burroughs chased Kershaw with one out in the seventh. Josh Lindblom did a great job in getting out the jam, and then pitching a flawless eighth to keep it a one-run game.

It hardly mattered, as the bats were kept silent by the David Hernandez-J.J. Putz combination, as all six batters went down in order. It was save #26 for Putz.

I know Don Mattingly had to love his chances of getting a sweep with his ace on the mound late in the game. Kershaw was most likely only going to pitch through seven, as his pitch count was over 100. It just didn't work out. But even in the situation presented itself again, I doubt anything would change. Kershaw deserves that chance to get as many outs as he can.

In all, Kershaw lasted 6 1/3 innings for five hits, four runs, three walks, and seven strikeouts. For only the second time this season, he allowed two home runs in a game. The other time was in his second start in Colorado, so that barely counts. He was on a five-game winning streak before this, so he'll be fine.

The offense did a good job of hanging in there against a tough pitcher in Kennedy, as they scored a couple in the sixth to take the lead. The end of the game was disappointing. They had their 3-4-5 part of the order up in Ethier, Kemp, and Rivera. What happened? Strikeout, groundout, groundout. Not exactly putting pressure on the other team's closer.

Ethier showed you the best and worst of him in one game. He got the big RBI double to tie the game in the sixth. When he somehow, someway needed to get on base in the ninth to give Kemp a chance to drive him in, he strikes out on three pitches, with the last one being a breaking ball in the dirt. His average is good at .306, but I wouldn't exactly say he's Mr. Clutch anymore. Those days seem like a long time ago.

And by the way, can we finally end this ridiculous Eugenio Valez experiment? The guy is 0-for-19 with one walk. Enough already! He may be fast, but it's hard to be that way when you're never on base. Just demote him or designate him for assignment. He sucks!

Even with the loss, the Dodgers have played better ball lately in taking two of three from both the Padres and DBacks. Things won't get any easier on Monday, as they welcome the mighty Phillies in town for three. The good news is that they avoid Cole Hamels. The bad news is that they face Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee the first two games! Ouch! Hiroki Kuroda will look to match Halladay in the first one.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Big 3rd carries the Dodgers

The Dodgers did all sorts of damage in the third, sending 10 batters to the plate in scoring six runs, as they went on to beat the Diamondbacks, 7-4. Despite Chad Billingsley's best efforts to hand a huge lead right back, the offense was too much.

Josh Collmenter was the starter against the Dodgers, and he was hit around in his last start against them on July 29. This time would be no different. He actually got plenty of help in getting out of the first without any damage. A couple of great catches did the trick.

With one out, Casey Blake and Andre Ethier hit singles. Matt Kemp then lifted a long fly to right that was just tracked down at the wall by Justin Upton for two down. Juan Rivera took a walk to set things up for Aaron Miles, who hit a sinking fly ball that was caught on a diving sprawl by Gerardo Parra in left.

The third inning is when the Dodgers went off in a big way. It all started on a perfect bunt single by Dee Gordon. Sure enough, he stole second in no time. Blake then singled to Upton, who kicked the ball, allowing Gordon to score for the 1-0 lead. A passed ball sent Blake to second, and Ethier went opposite field for an RBI double and 2-0 lead. Kemp things going with a single for runners on the corners.

Rivera came through with an RBI single, making it 3-0. Miles lifted a long fly that was caught on the warning track by Upton, but Kemp easily scored. Micah Owings relieved Collmenter and immediately watched Rod Barajas smack a two-run double, ending the damage at 6-0.

Now here's the funny part about having a big lead with Billingsley on the mound: he just can't handle it. For whatever reason, he has made a career out of looking golden for the beginning of the game, and then completely falling apart in the mid-late innings. Would Friday night be any different? Uh, no.

Through five innings, Billingsley gave up only three hits and a walk with no runs. In the sixth, Upton tripled and scored on Chris Young's sac-fly RBI, cutting the score to 6-1. Still, one run in six innings was great, and surely he could cruise the rest of the way, right? Uh, no.

The Diamondbacks gave Don Mattingly even more grey hairs in the seventh. Ryan Roberts walked leading off, which is the worst thing that could happen with a big lead. Peter Goldschmidt singled on an 0-2 pitch right down the middle, and Parra's single made it 6-2. Sean Burroughs pinch-hit and loaded the bases with a single.

Thankfully Mattingly yanked Billingsley's sorry butt, though I thought it came a couple hitters too late. Matt Guerrier allowed Willie Bloomquist to drive in one with an RBI single, and it was 6-3. Scott Elbert relieved to pitch to the lefty Cody Ransom, and it worked as Ransom struck out.

Now Mike MacDougal entered and was in charge of getting Upton out with the bases loaded and one down. Upton lined a hard one, but Gordon made a fantastic diving catch and easily flipped to second for the double play. Boy am I glad he's back up where he belongs.

Both teams traded runs in the eighth. Barajas continued his big game with a solo homer, his 10th of the season, and it was 7-3. He's been swinging a much better bat lately, as he continues to split time with Dioner Navarro behind the plate.

The bottom of the eighth was also interesting, as MacDougal went back to some old habits with control problems. He walked Young leading off, and as he was then trying to steal second, MacDougal threw the ball into center on an attempted pickoff. Miguel Montero's sac-fly RBI made it 7-4. Javy Guerra got the last out of the inning by striking out Parra on a nasty breaking ball.

Guerra would stay on in the ninth to earn his 10th save, getting Upton to fly to Kemp to end the game. Who would have thought that his guy would be 10-10 in save opportunities with a 1.69 ERA? He's been amazing.

I'll focus on the good of this game first. The offense obviously got to Collmenter early and often. They could have very well scored a few runs in the first, but they didn't let that affect them as the game wore on. The third inning was a great example of small ball, sacrifices, and clutch hitting, all without the aid of a home run.

Now, the bad. And that would be Mr. Billingsley. To say I've seen about enough of him would be an understatement. To me, he is what he is at this point, and he's not a very good starting pitcher. Sure, he has great stuff and SHOULD be better. But you know what? He's not. Time and time again he's shown that he can't pitch deep into games, and no lead is big enough for him.

If the Dodgers had more options for starting pitchers, then I would seriously consider putting him in the bullpen. Make him a long reliever or someone who can get you a couple innings late in the game. But as a starting pitcher? Constant underachievement. There's no reason whatsoever this game should have been as close as it was. But that's the way it is with him.

All of that aside, the Dodgers have a great opportunity to play spoiler this weekend, even if it does mean helping out the hated Giants. With Rubby De La Rosa out for the year (and then some), the Dodgers have promoted Nathan Eovaldi for Saturday's start. He went 6-5 with a 2.62 ERA in Double-A Chattanooga. Let's see what he can do.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

No trade? No problem for Kuroda

For Hiroki Kuroda, staying with the Dodgers was an easy decision. Shutting down the Padres looked even easier.

Kuroda pitched like a man free of all distractions, as his seven shutout innings led the Dodgers over the Padres, 1-0. It's his first win since July 1, all thanks to some anemic run support all season long. With only one run of support in this one, he took matters into his own hands.

The Dodgers started the game with promise, as Dee Gordon singled and stole second. But, Gordon was nailed trying to get to third on Casey Blake's grounder. Aaron Miles then grounded into a double play.

Not much happened until the fourth, when the game's only run was scored. Once again, it was Gordon who made some noise, reaching on a bunt single leading off. Groundouts by Blake and Miles advanced him to third.

I'll be you'll never guess which Dodger drove in the run? Mr. RBI himself, Matt Kemp. His single drove in Gordon for the 1-0 lead, which as you know, held up the rest of the game. It was Kemp's 84th RBI, just one ahead of Ryan Howard, who's swinging a red hot bat lately himself.

From there, both team's pitching staffs would bend a bit, but not break. The nice thing was that the Dodgers were the ones with the lead, and that never changed. So we'll take it.

Both teams put a couple runners on in the fifth. The Dodgers had singles by Juan Rivera and Dioner Navarro, but nothing came of it. The Padres put two on right away on a single by Blake Tekotte and a walk to Kyle Blanks. In true Padre fashion, the next two hitters struck out, and Cameron "Tiki" Maybin lined out to end the inning.

The seventh and eighth also brought scoring opportunities for the Padres, but the Dodgers made sure to get the big outs when they needed. In the seventh, Tekotte singled with an out and stole second as Blanks struck out. Will Venable was given the intentional pass to pitch to Latos. Instead, Logan Forsythe pinch-hit and watched a called strike three.

The following inning, Jason Bartlett and Chase Headley each singled with an out off of Mike MacDougal. Juan Guzman then hit a long fly to right that was caught by Andre Ethier, allowing Bartlett to tag to third. Orlando Hudson homered the night before off of Clayton Kershaw, but MacDougal got him to ground to second for the final out.

Still locked in a close game, Javy Guerra was once again called upon to get the save. He strutted his stuff for the ninth time, getting the Padres in order.

The story was obviously Kuroda, who was just brilliant. He lasted seven innings for four hits, no runs, two walks, and eight strikeouts. His 2.96 ERA ranks him eighth among starting pitchers in the National League. Even when he'd get into a bit of trouble, he would come up with a big strikeout to end the threat.

I'm sure there are many teams who weren't too happy after looking at Kuroda's line after the game. You know teams that were hot on his trails like the Yankees and Red Sox sure could use a pitcher like him. Like I said after the trade deadline passed, I just hope the Dodgers can re-up him for next season, especially after news came along that Rubby De La Rosa needs Tommy John surgery. Losing him to another team or back to Japan would be a big blow.

Tuesday night's win gives the Dodgers seven victories in their last 10 games. It should have been eight of 10 had Billingsley not blown it last Saturday against the Diamondbacks, but I digress. I don't care who the Dodgers play, any win is a good win, and if they keep playing well, they can overtake Rockies for third in the NL West. The Rockies have a 1/2 game edge currently.

The Dodgers will have a chance for a sweep tonight. Actually, they really don't considering the awful Ted Lilly takes the mound. Now if he can't put together a good start in Petco Park, the mother of all pitcher's parks, then I don't know if he ever can. Tim Stauffer, who like Kuroda has put together a great year, goes for the Pads.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Kemp and Kershaw on full display

In a season where the Dodgers have done a nosedive in the standings, two players have managed to stand out: Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw.

So who was responsible for Monday night's win in San Diego? That's right, Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw.

Kemp doubled and tripled, and Kershaw went the distance as the Dodgers downed the Padres, 6-2. Kemp extended his RBI lead with 83, and Kershaw did the same with his strikeout lead at 177.

The Padres took the early lead, something they failed to capitalize on as the game progressed. Cameron "Tiki" Maybin walked and stole second to start things. He went to third on a couple of groundouts and scored on Jesus Guzman's RBI single to make it 1-0.

In the second, the Dodgers grabbed that run right back. Juan Rivera singled with one out and went to second on a wild pitch. Rod Barajas hit the first of his two singles to put runners on the corners. James Loney lifted a long fly to center which was plenty deep enough for the sac-fly RBI, and it was 1-1.

The Dodgers took the lead for good in the fourth. Kemp doubled leading off. Following an out, Barajas found just enough room in the outfield for a bloop RBI single and a 2-1 lead. For Barajas, it was his first multi-hit game since going 3-for-5 against the Rockies on June 12.

With Kershaw finding his groove, the Dodgers put up a couple more runs in the fifth. Jamey Carroll led off with a double down the left field line. Kershaw then laid down a bunt, and instead of letting it go foul, pitcher Cory Luebke picked it up and fired late to first for the infield hit. He had to make a quick decision, but it was obviously the wrong one.

Dee Gordon then grounded out back to Luebke on the mound, but Carroll hustled like he always does and easily beat the throw home to make it 3-1. A wild pitch moved both runners up to scoring position, and Casey Blake's sac-fly RBI put the lead at 4-1.

The Padres tried to chip away at the deficit in the seventh. Believe it or not, it was the O-Dog, Orlando Hudson, who did the damage. He took the first pitch he saw out to center for his third homer of the season. That came out of nowhere!

Not wasting any time, the Dodgers responded in a big way. Blake singled to start the eighth. Andre Ethier forced Blake at second for the first out. Ernesto Frieri relieved Luebke to pitch to Kemp, and it backfired, as Kemp's RBI triple made it 5-2. Another sac-fly RBI, this time by Rivera, ended the scoring at 6-2.

The question from there was whether or not Kershaw would get the final six outs for another complete game. He most certainly did, only allowing a single to Maybin in the eighth. All in all, he gave up six hits, two runs, two walks, and four strikeouts. We're used to seeing him strikeout more, but he forced a lot of groundouts, as Blake and Gordon were busy all night.

The offense collected 11 hits and three sacrifice flies. Carroll also added a couple stolen bases. They did a great job of moving runners along, and taking productive outs, as evidenced by the sacrifices. Kemp did his thing, but it was good to see others contribute as well. It sure hasn't been that way for much of the season.

I'm glad to see Gordon getting another start at short, as Don Mattingly has seemingly made it clear that he will be the everyday starter from here on out. I thought he should have been up all along, but maybe it worked out for the better that he got more seasoning in the minors, and Rafael Furcal played good enough to get the Cardinals to trade for him. If those two were splitting time, it's possible Raffy wouldn't have gone anywhere. So, it seems to have all worked out in the end.

With Kershaw on a five-start winning streak and taking seven of his last eight overall, the challenge for the Dodgers is to now follow it up. Kershaw is as close to a sure thing as they can get, so let's see if the others (Hiroki Kuroda, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly) can keep the momentum going.

Well, I probably shouldn't include Kuroda in that list, because he receives practically no run support, which is why he's 6-13 with a 3.13 ERA. I didn't think he'd be with the Dodgers at this point, but he is, so let's enjoy it while we can. He'll go against Mat Latos, who's having a a bit of down year for him, but is still capable of big things.