Sunday, December 30, 2012

The current 25-man roster (I think)

With not a whole lot happening since the signings of Greinke and Ryu, and the trades for Schumaker and Rasmussen a few weeks ago, let's take a look at the 25-man roster (or at least what I think it will be).  For the position players, the starter is listed first.

A.J. Ellis
Tim Federowicz

1st Base:
Adrian Gonzalez

2nd Base:
Mark Ellis
Nick Punto

Hanley Ramirez
Dee Gordon

3rd Base:
Luis Cruz
Jerry Hairston, Jr.

Left Field:
Carl Crawford
Skip Schumaker

Center Field:
Matt Kemp

Right Field:
Andre Ethier

Starting Rotation:
Clayton Kershaw
Zack Greinke
Chad Billingsley
Hyun-Jin Ryu
Josh Beckett

Brandon League
Kenley Jansen
Ronald Belisario
Javy Guerra
Matt Guerrier
Scott Elbert
Chris Capuano

One thing to keep in mind is that Hairston and Schumaker can play multiple positions in the infield and outfield, so don't pay too much attention to where they're listed above.  I just had to put them somewhere.

A big question that looms is what to do with the Aaron Harang/Capuano combo.  I have Capuano listed in the bullpen because I think he can be a great power arm from the left side for an inning or two.  On the flip side, Harang could be a great option for long relief and spot starts, as we all know injuries cause pitching depth to be key.  For all we know, they both could get traded as well.

There's also injuries to Ted Lilly and Billingsley. Bills looks like he'll avoid surgery, so hopefully he can start the year on time.  The scary part is that he's not at all an effective pitcher when he's not 100%.  Lilly is kind of the forgotten man, but if healthy, it's like picking up another solid starter as a free agent.

A few other guys to keep in mind are Elian Herrera, Justin Sellers, Alex Castellanos, Jamey Wright, Paco Rodriguez, Stephen Fife, Shawn Tolleson, and John Wall.  I refuse to list Juan Uribe.  He sucks so bad, I don't even want to think about him.  Plus there's always January moves to be made, plus the inevitable Spring Training surprise.

In other words, stay tuned for more roster moves.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Dodgers make it happen with Greinke

What broke on Saturday is now official: Zack Greinke is the newest Los Angeles Dodger.

Greinke signed the biggest contract in baseball history for right-handed pitchers with a six-year, $147 million deal.  He'll team with Clayton Kershaw at the top of a rotation that features a Cy Young Award for each.  And hopefully many more to come.

Why did Magic Johnson and the boys bring Greinke in?  Simply put, they want to win.

And having all that cash doesn't hurt either.  But hey, I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.

Now that Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu have been added to the rotation, there's suddenly some decisions that have to be made.  The three most likely on the outside looking in are Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano, and Ted Lilly.  Perhaps one of them will be kept for long relief/spot duty, perhaps more than one will, or perhaps all of them will be moved.  Ned Colletti has some options to consider as the winter gets colder.

Of course, the question had to be asked to Greinke about why he chose the Dodgers.  For one, he said on paper, he realizes how good they are.  He also is happy that every year of his contract, they'll have good players.

And lastly, just for good measure, the money didn't hurt either.  No kidding!

Now that he's signed, I'm sure guys like Anibal Sanchez and Kyle Lohse will be next in line, as the Greinke signing was holding up pretty much everything else.  As for the Dodgers, they'll switch their focus to offense, such as utility players in the infield and outfield.  There's also the issue of extending Kershaw, who has to be smiling just a bit after seeing the numbers tossed at Greinke and Ryu.  Lord only know what kind of deal he'll get, as he absolutely deserves whatever is coming to him.

I'm definitely looking forward to watching this rotation next year, as the Dodgers have to feel like they have a great chance of winning no matter who is out there.  If these guys continue to put up the numbers they're capable of, then look out. 

The newest #99: Hyun-Jin Ryu

If Hyun-Jin Ryu has any sort of similar impact that the last guy wearing #99 had upon his arrival to Los Angeles, then the Dodgers just struck gold again.

The Dodgers continued their incredible makeover from cash-strapped to makin' it rain in under one year by officially signing Korean lefty Ryu to a six-year, $36 million contract on Sunday, barely beating the deadline.  That's in addition to the $25.7 posting fee just to negotiate with him, and it's nearly $62 million committed to a guy who hasn't even pitched an inning in the majors.

But the Dodgers have the cash, so they made it happen.

Here's what we do know about Ryu.  He's only 25, but has already enjoyed a great career in Korea.  He's actually pitched in Dodger Stadium before as a member of the Korean national team for the 2009 World Baseball Classic.  Scouts have commended him for his presence on the mound, command of his pitches, and ability to put a little something extra on it when needed.

Let's hope that's all true, because if it is, then the Dodgers have a very deep starting rotation.  What helps is that the Dodgers have found similar success with pitchers from overseas in the past.  Nobody will ever forget Hideo Nomo's unbelievable first year, but let's remember that Chan Ho Park and even Kaz Ishii were very good as well.  So, it's been done before in a pitcher's park like Dodger Stadium.

With the addition of Zack Greinke to team featuring Clayton Kershaw at the top, Ryu figures to be added in the 3-4 slot around Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley.  Don Mattingly could go righty-lefty through his rotation if he goes Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu, and Billingsley/Beckett.  He's got plenty of time to think about that.

A lot will be written about the Dodgers spending nearly $209 million on two starting pitchers, and rightfully so.  It could be a great thing for LA, as the Giants have shown once again that fantastic starting pitching and just enough hitting can lead to a championship.  And kudos to Ned Colletti for strengthening a rotation that needed to be tweaked.  Or in this case, injected with some completely new life.

Of course, this could also backfire, as Ryu pitches more like Kei Igawa.  You don't remember him?  Well, ask any Yankee fan about him, and I'm sure the answer will be interesting... and colorful.

Here's to hoping that the #99 jersey has some of that Manny Ramirez 2008 magic left in it.  Then we can see Ryuwood, or something like that, take over Los Angeles.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Like the Lakers, Greinke brings the Dodgers high expectations

With reports of the newest big free agent signing by the Dodgers, I can't help but take a look at another LA team for comparison's sake.

No, not the Angels.  The Lakers.

Yes, my Lakers brought in Steve Nash and Dwight Howard this past offseason to team with Kobe, Pau, and Metta, and expectations were immediately through the roof.

How's that going so far?  Nash got hurt in the second game, Howard shoots free throws like a third grader, Pau can't find his way around in any offense, Metta is inconsistent from the outside, the coach has already been fired, and the Lakers are stinking it up at 9-11.  And that's with Kobe playing out of his mind.

So, bringing in superstars doesn't automatically equal success.  It may eventually (look at the Heat), but it could take some time.  The Lakers are finding that out in some painful ways.

Now the Dodgers are trying a similar approach, as they are close to locking up Zach Greinke to a six-year, $147 million deal that would be the largest for a right-handed pitcher in baseball history.  Only CC Sabathia can claim to have topped this one.

Right away, opposing teams have to worry about the 1-2 punch of Clayton Kershaw and Greinke.  They are both legitimate #1 starters, and to have them go on consecutive days will be awesome to watch.  Throw in a revived Josh Beckett (let's hope it stays that way), a hopefully injury-free Chad Billingsley and potentially Ted Lilly, a possibly signed Ryu Hyun-jin, and veterans Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang, and the Dodgers clearly have lots of solid options in the starting rotation.  And, options to trade as well.

There's also talk of Ned Colletti not being done yet.  Kyle Lohse, Anibal Sanchez, and Ryan Dempster are still out there in the free agent bin, and there's talk of trading for James Shields or R.A. Dickey.  With the way the Dodgers are operating now, it's safe to assume that one of the above mentioned names could be in Dodger blue this April.

Let's not forget the other big contracts already in LA.  Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford are still owed a boatload of cash.  Andre Ethier extended last season, and Clayton Kershaw can expect a hefty raise coming soon.  More superstars = more cash commitments.

If you thought the expectations were high last August when the boys from Miami and Boston came over (and Shane Victorino from Philly), then you ain't seen nothing yet.  The Dodgers are clearly going to have a huge target on their backs, as other teams are going to be out to prove that big money deals does not equal championship rings.

The thing that's concerning to me is how the Dodgers responded after making those trades last season.  Simply put, they flat out stunk for a little while, coming up short time and time again in the playoff push.  When they did figure things out the last couple of weeks, the margin of error was so slim that they eventually ran out of time the last couple of days.

Make no mistake, though, I'm glad the Dodgers got Greinke.  He's not worth the monster contract (who is?), but that's what it was going to take to land him, and they made sure to make it happen.  He's also proven he can handle pitching in a big market by going 6-2 in 13 starts with the Angels last year, along with a 3.53 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.  Sure he's regressed some since winning the Cy Young Award with the Royals in 2009, but who the heck would be able to top a 2.16 ERA and 1.07 WHIP?  Those numbers are just crazy.

I'm sure Don Mattingly is pumped about this upcoming season, but he naturally can't help but be somewhat worried about making this all work, and fast.  Over at Staples Center, the boys in purple and gold are showing that even the biggest names might not automatically mesh and run over the rest of the league.  It takes a complete team effort to make that happen, and not just a guy here and there.

While the names are undoubtedly big and have absolutely been stars in this league, as the Hot Stove season ticks by and Spring Training starts to approach, the Dodgers will face scrutiny they haven't seen in a long time.  How those 25 men in the locker room come together, and not the amount of dollars on their paychecks, will ultimately show how far they will go.

That's something the Lakers have yet to figure out.  Let's hope the Dodgers are paying close attention.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Taking a look at Greinke and The Beard

There hasn't been much movement on the Dodgers front lately, which is a huge change from the hectic pace that saw them grab one player after another towards the end of the 2012 season.  But there are two big free agent pitchers being discussed, so let's take a look at both of them.

Zach Greinke - There's no doubt that the Alpha Dog of the free agent starters this offseason is Greinke.  He split his time between the Brewers and Angels last season, going 15-5 with a 3.48 ERA and 1.20 WHIP.  He also is a strikeout machine, K'ing 200 in 212 1/3 innings.  He won the Cy Young Award in 2009 with the Royals, posting one of the sickest seasons you'll ever see (16-8, 2.17, 1.07, 242).

What is also is no doubt is the type of contract he'll command.  It'll easily be nine figures, which you have to figure is already scaring some teams off.  But don't forget, these are the new Dodgers, and money is of little to no object.  So, let the bidding wars begin.

If the Dodgers somehow do get Greinke, he'll make a great 1-2 punch with Clayton Kershaw.  Throw in a rejuvenated Josh Beckett, a hopefully healthy Chad Billingsley, and possibly Korean lefty Ryu Hyun-Jin, and the Dodgers suddenly have a deep pitching staff.  It's hard not to get excited about that.

What can't be ignored is the Dodgers' history of giving starting pitchers long-term deals.  Kevin Brown?  Flopped.  Jason Schmidt?  Abysmal.  To Ned Colletti's credit, he's been gun shy about dishing out those deals ever since then.  And who can blame him?  So, there's always a risk with dishing out such huge contracts.

If the Greinke thing doesn't work out, look for Kyle Lohse to be pursued, and even another run at Ryan Dempster.

Brian Wilson - In a surprising move (at least to me), the Giants chose to non-tender closer Brian Wilson, who was out practically the entire 2012 season with Tommy John surgery.  It was a big blow at the time, but we all know the Giants found a way to figure things out anyway, winning the World Series.  I really hate saying that.

Pre-elbow problems, Wilson was one of the top closers in baseball, and may have even been the best at one point.  In the 2010 championship season, he saved 48 games with a 1.18 ERA, plus 93 K's in 74 2/3 innings.  He followed that up with 36 saves in 2011 before the elbow injury hit this past year.

Let's say the Dodgers do sign Wilson, who supposedly would favor pitching in LA since he lives there in the offseason.  I would look at him as someone who pays off as the year progresses.  A bullpen down the stretch of Wilson, Ronald Belisario, Brandon League, and Kenley Jansen would be awesome.  The Dodgers would still need to add a lefty arm or two, but that's some serious heat late in games.

Granted, it would be really weird to watch him pitch for the Dodgers at first.  I won't go so far to say it would be like watching Mariano Rivera pitch for the Red Sox, but it's the same idea.  But let's remember the Giants chose not to keep him, so now anything goes.  That definitely includes The Beard pitching in Dodger blue.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Kershaw comes close, but Dickey takes the Cy

It takes a pretty special pitcher having a pretty special season to unseat Clayton Kershaw from winning his second consecutive National League Cy Young Award.

If you're R.A. Dickey, you are that person.

Despite more gaudy numbers from Kershaw, Dickey was the voters' choice as he claimed his first ever Cy Young Award.  There really was no doubt, as Dickey gathered 27 of the 32 first-place votes, with Kershaw getting two, and Gio Gonzalez, Johnny Cueto, and Craig Kimbrel each getting one.  Kershaw did finish in second, losing out to Dickey by a total of 209-96, with Gonzalez right behind at 93.

I can't say I'm surprised about this, as Dickey had it all going for him in another lost year for the Mets.  In many ways, his season is a reflection of what Kershaw did last season - huge numbers on a bad team, and about the only reason to watch that team every fifth day.  Seriously, take away David Wright, and can casual baseball fans even name another Met?  I think not.

Even though the voters had no doubt, let's take a look at each man's numbers to see if they made the right call.

Dickey: 33 starts, 233 2/3 IP, 20-6, 2.73 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, .226 BAA, 230 K
Kershaw: 33 starts, 227 2/3 IP, 14-9, 2.53 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, .210 BAA, 229 K

When you break the numbers down, Kershaw certainly has a case for winning his second straight award.  He has a better ERA, WHIP, and BAA, while just barely being edged in strikeouts by one.  And don't forget, he easily could have been shut down late in the season with a sore hip, but fought his way back to the tune of a 0.67 ERA in four September starts.

Obviously the big stat that Dickey has an advantage in is wins, as he reached the magical 20-win mark.  That's pretty awesome, especially on a team that finished near the bottom in runs scored.  But so did the Dodgers, who were one behind the Mets (651-650).  For whatever reason, Kershaw was hit hard by the lack of run support, while Dickey found a little more love from his hitters.

I also think it's hard to ignore the remarkable story of Dickey, who overcame all sorts of hardships growing up, including some awful stories of sexual abuse.  He was the talk of baseball all season long, and proved over and over that he wasn't just a one or two month wonder.  He was the real deal.  Even though Kershaw went on to have another fantastic season, this award had Dickey's name on it for awhile.

Congratulations go out to Dickey for a fine season, along with Kershaw and all the others who received a vote.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dodgers may (or may not) add Hunter and trade Ethier

The offseason rumor mill continues to churn, with the latest news concerning the outfield.  It's being said that the Dodgers may try to sign free agent Torii Hunter, who's coming off a fine season with the fake Los Angeles team.

How would that be possible with Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp returning from injury, and Andre Ethier in the fold?  Apparently, it's Ethier who could become available.

Here's what we know about Hunter.  Initially, it was being reported that the Dodgers approached him about a two-year contract.  Last year, he hit .313 with 16 home runs and 92 RBIs for a disappointing Angels team that failed to even make the playoffs after splurging for Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson in the offseason.  Also, he's won a Gold Glove nine times.  Not too shabby.

Since this news surfaced last week, new details show that perhaps this report wasn't entirely accurate.  On one hand, it was Hunter's agent who approached Ned Colletti at the Winter Meetings about joining the club.  Also, who's to say Hunter would even want to risk accepting a lesser role if Ethier does stay?  It would be hard to imagine him signing as a fourth outfielder with his numbers.  That doesn't make any sense.

After coming off a season hitting .284 with 20 homers and 89 RBIs, Ethier is perhaps being dangled in trade talks.  This really isn't anything new, as he's the type of player you like to have on your club, but never seems to have the big numbers you want to see.  He signed a five-year, $85 million extension this past June, which appeared to end any thoughts of moving him.  Then again, maybe not.

It sure seems like these two moves directly correlate with each other.  Since word on signing Hunter has cooled in recent days, so should talk of trading Ethier.  Hunter is a tough player who will turn 38 next July, Ethier will be 31 next April.  Obviously, youth is on Ethier's side, who also has a Gold Glove in his trophy case.  Bottom line, unless the Dodgers are wowed with a trade offer for Ethier, I wouldn't be a fan of this trade off.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

It's the offseason, so Dodgers grab a Big Mac

"I solemnly swear to turn the Dodgers into good hitters."

Wednesday marked another big addition to the Dodger family, as they officially announced Mark McGwire as the team's new hitting coach.  Reports came about a week ago, as McGwire informed the Cardinals that he was turning down an extension to head to LA.

It's a move that gets Big Mac closer to his family and home, as he lives all of 40 minutes away from Dodger Stadium in Orange County.

What McGwire has in front of him is a bunch of big names who failed to gel during the final month of the season, costing the Dodgers a playoff berth on the second to last day of the season.  With Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier already in the fold, not even the additions of Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, and Adrian Gonzalez could get them over the hump.  It was a slump that cost Dave Hansen his job as hitting coach.

Enter Big Mac, who now becomes the team's seventh hitting coach in the seven-year tenure of Ned Colletti.  What is working in McGwire's favor are the great numbers the Cardinals put up in his three years at the helm.  They finished first in the National League in batting average at .296, OBP at .337, second in runs at 2,263, and fourth in slugging % at .416.

Don't get me wrong, it certainly helped that a couple guys named Albert Pujols was there for the first two years, and Carlos Beltran last year.  But, there's also youngsters like David Freese and Allen Craig who provided a big boost, so I'm sure McGwire played some sort of role in their development.

There will always be a debate as to exactly how much a hitting coach can actually do.  I've stated in the past that I firmly believe pitching coaches have a much bigger impact on that game, as they can develop game plans, and tweak deliveries and different pitches.  Hitting coaches can game plans as well, like which pitches to attack, and can tinker with stances, but I'm not sure what else they can really do.

Nonetheless, this was an easy call for Colletti to make.  We all know about the checkered history of McGwire's, although years later we'd also find out he was just a member of a long line.  But as far as a pure hitting coach, you can't argue with the results.  Plus, there's the instant respect he earns from being a great player during his time, to being a great coach in St. Louis.

I'm excited to see him work with guys like Ethier and Ramirez, who are good hitters, but are capable of showing more consistency.  Once Kemp gets healthy, I'm sure he'll be chomping at the bit to get back to work.  Then there's Gonzalez, who went through a power outage in September and failed to be the big bopper in the middle the Dodgers wanted.  I'd like to see how McGwire can help him regain that power stroke.

The Dodgers now have their coaching staff in place, and with free agency ready to soon heat up, we'll see what else is in store for the Hot Stove season.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Should the Dodgers grab Kuroda?

One pitcher to keep an eye on this offseason: old friend Hiroki Kuroda.

As the Dodgers hope for the best on the health of Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly, Ned Colletti is faced with the task of strengthening the starting rotation with an ace at the top (Clayon Kershaw), a guy who could be a solid #2 (Josh Beckett), and two guys at the back end (Aaron Harang and Chris Capuno).

With the big dog of the free agency market being Zach Greinke and the huge price tag he'll likely demand, it's Kuroda who could very well be back in play.  After spending his first four seasons in LA, Kuroda jumped ship to the Yankees for $12 million last season, going 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA and 1.17 WHIP.

In other words, it typical, steady, effective Kuroda, even against the big boppers on the American League.

Kuroda has stated for a couple years now that he has a desire to eventually go back to Japan to finish his career.  The problem, which is more like a good problem, is that he's clearly still a top-tier pitcher, so teams will give him what he wants to stay.  The Dodgers couldn't afford him going into last year, but if he's looking for around the same one-year deal as the Yankees gave him, the Dodgers can definitely afford him his time around.

There's a couple obvious concerns about bringing him back in the fold.  One is his age.  He'll be 38 entering the 2013 campaign.  Effective or not, it's hard to ignore he's getting up there.  The other is the aforementioned desire to return to Japan.  Could he possibly lose his focus pitching in the States if his focus is back home?  Probably a stretch that something like that could happen, but still worth wondering about.

Personally, I would love to see him comeback.  Suppose he's signed, then the top five would be Kershaw, Beckett, Billingsley, Kuroda, and either Harang or Capuano, with the odd man out heading to the bullpen to play the long relief role and stay ready when called upon to start.  I would definitely be a fan of that rotation.

I'm not sure how serious the Dodgers even are about Kuroda, as this is all speculation at this point.  You have to think they'll at least engage in conversation with Greinke considering money is no longer an object.  I just hope even the deep pockets of Magic and the boys don't overpay for him, as long-term deals for pitchers is risky business.  I'd rather see Kuroda come in for a year as the Dodgers continue building their roster.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

League inks 3-year deal to assume closing duties

Brandon League was given two things on Tuesday: a fresh three-year contract, and the key to the closer's role in LA.

Despite Kenley Jansen saving 25 games and seemingly healthy going into Spring Training after recent heart surgery, Ned Colletti made it all crystal clear - League not only will stay with the Dodgers, he will enter 2013 as the closer.

Citing a "thin" market for closers this winter, Colletti wasted no time in drawing up a contract for League.  In breaking it all down, the deal covers three years and $22.5 million.  According to Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times, 2016 will be a vesting option for $7.5 million, which will only vest if he finishes 55 games in 2015.

League was one of many names brought in around the trade deadline this past season, as he became expendable in Seattle after blowing six saves and only converting nine.  It's a good thing the Dodgers did get him, as after a few growing pains, he took over when Jansen went down with more heart problems.

The result?  6-6 in save opportunities, and scoreless in 20 of his last 21 appearances.  Overall, his LA run ended with a 2.30 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and .183 BAA in 28 games.

It's not hard to see why Colletti and the Dodgers wanted him back, as a trio of Ronald Belisario, Jansen, and League is pretty nasty at the back end of games.  Jansen has already commented how much better he feels after surgery, so if he somehow gets even better, that's as good a setup-closer combo in baseball.

Even though League is called the closer right now, we all know how things can change in the heat of a season.  Look no further than this past season, as Javy Guerra was quickly bounced after one month of shaky relief.  I don't care what anybody is saying now - if League stumbles, then Don Mattingly won't hesitate to flip-flop him with Jansen.  That's the uncertainly of the life of a closer.

This move is important for another reason, and that's the overall health of the 'pen.  Jansen, Belisario, Guerra, Matt Guerrier, and Scott Elbert have all battled some sort of ailment in recent times.  If anything, a reliable guy like League goes a long way.  Then again, the Dodgers also thought Guerrier was dependable, and he pitched in whopping 16 games this year after pitching to a 4.07 ERA in 70 games the year before.  So, nothing is guaranteed.

Even though we all saw the Dodgers make a million moves during the 2012 season, you have to think they  are still only getting started in the Hot Stove season.  I think it's a great first move, as the end of the game is strengthened.  Now it's time to look at the beginning and middle.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Aloha to Rivera, Treanor, and Coffey

The Dodgers have already made the decision to release the trio of Juan Rivera, Matt Treanor, and Todd Coffey.  Each will receive a buyout of $3.5 million, $800,000, and $2.2 million, respectively.

Add it all up, and it's savings of $6.5 million.  Don't expect the Dodgers to hold onto that money for too long.

I can't really say these were tough decisions, as all three were pretty much forgotten about by the end of the year.  I do like how Rivera played hard no matter if he was playing outfield or first base. He only hit .244 with 9 homers and 47 RBIs while appearing in 109 games last season.  Once Shane Victorino and Adrian Gonzalez were brought in, he was a man without a position.  About the only reason he played from September on was because Victorino slumped.

Still, it was obvious he is on the decline, as he's no longer the feared power hitter he once was.  At least he went out with a bang, hitting a two-run homer in last at-bat of the season.

Treanor backed up A.J. Ellis, but only appeared in 36 games, hitting .175 with 2 homers and 10 RBIs.  There's no way he could have envisioned such little playing time coming into the season considering Ellis was largely unproven.  However, Ellis caught fire to start the year, and never got hurt.  In turn, that only hurt Treanor.  At least his wife is a gold medalist (volleyball star Misty May Treanor, in case you've forgotten).

Coffey only pitched in 23 games before blowing out his elbow, leading to Tommy John surgery #2 in his career.  He was terrible, too, with a 4.66 ERA.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Injury updates on Kemp, Jansen, and Crawford

As the hated Giants march towards their second World Series championship in three years, here's a look at three of the Dodgers' big guns and their progress on injuries.

Matt Kemp - Remember when Kemp ran into the outfield wall in Coors Field on August 27?  It's hard to forget if you saw it, and for Kemp, it turned out to cause the unraveling of his season.

His shoulder has slowly gone from bad to worse, so when he went under the knife on October 5, he was told that rehab will be longer than he anticipated.  All he can really do now is cardio work, as he won't be allowed to even swing a bat until January.  From there, it's all about not rushing back too fast, even if it looks like he will be able to start Spring Training on time.  Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez have gone through a similar procedure, so there's a couple guys he can rely upon for advice.  Let's hope he listens to it and doesn't come back at half speed.

Kenley Jansen - The news is better for Jansen, who was finally unable to have surgery for is irregular heartbeat on October 23.  What's even better is that his recovery time is only 7-10 days, after which he's back to training like usual without restriction.  That's some great news.

Anything involving the heart is scary enough, so we can only hope this isn't something that keeps popping up for him.  The blood thinner medication that he was on during his time off caused him to not even be able to sit in the dugout for fear of getting hit by a ball.  If the Dodgers resign Brandon League, who filled in very well in the closer's role when called upon, then the trio of Jansen, League, and Ronald Belisario will be one of baseball's best in 2013.

Carl Crawford - In a bit of an odd sight, Crawford met with the media on Friday... despite the fact he was acquired two months ago.  But since he's been shelved with Tommy John surgery, he hasn't actually said a word to anyone, so I guess now's the time.

The two months also represents the amount of time he's been healing since elbow reconstruction, which is good news for Dodger fans.  The early timetable is that he may indeed be ready for Opening Day.  Keep in mind that TJ surgery requires much more downtime for pitchers, with obviously more strain they put on their arms.  Crawford pretty much has a noodle arm even at 100%, so don't expect Vlad Guerrero out there.

Crawford feels like he's ahead of schedule, so take that for what it's worth.  Like Kemp, the key is simply to be patient in an impatient world.  Like the Giants are showing right now, it's about peeking late in the year, not early.  If the Dodgers can keep their main guns grounded until they are completely ready, that will benefit everyone.

Friday, October 19, 2012

2012 Report Card

As the Tigers get set for the World Series, and with the Cardinals looking to join them soon, let's take a look back at the season that was for the Dodgers.

That's right, it's report card time!


Clayton Kershaw - Lead the NL in ERA for the second consecutive year at 2.53.  Finished one behind R.A. Dickey for tops in strikeouts at 229.  Might not be the top candidate to repeat his Cy Young Award, but is still the best in the bigs on any given night.

Brandon League - A little shaky when he first arrived, but gave up only one earned run over his last 21 appearances.  Took over the closer's role in September when Kenley Jansen went down and was a cool 6-6.

Josh Beckett - Somewhat quietly pitched very well upon arrival for Boston.  In seven starts, put together a 2.93 ERA and 1.33 WHIP.  A huge lack of run support only gave him two wins, but he was a completely different pitcher than the 5-11, 5.33 ERA he had on the East Coast.

Luis Cruuuuuuuuz - Came out of nowhere to be a fan favorite in the last part of the season.  Played both short and third with ease, hitting .297 with 20 doubles, 6 homers, and 40 RBIs.  Leapfrogged Dee Gordon in the pecking order for 2013.

Kenley Jansen - Took over the closer's role from Javy Guerra early in the season, and went on to gather 25 saves with a 2.35 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, and 99 K's in 65 innings.  The seven blown saves is a bit much, but was still dominating.


Matt Kemp - He's really only here because he played in 106 games thanks to a variety of injuries.  Still hit .303 with 23 homers and 69 RBIs, but wasn't the same player after a scorching April.

Andre Ethier - Put up good numbers at .284 with 20 home runs and 89 RBIs.  But, when his team needed him most in September, slumped to .245 with only seven extra-base hits in 98 at-bats.  He certainly wasn't alone, but became pretty much just a singles hitter.

Ronald Belisario - Certainly had "A" numbers if not for a horrendous July that produced a 6.60 ERA.  Other than that, had a 2.54 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 25 holds, and 69 K's in 71 innings.

Scott Elbert - Pretty much forgotten about due to another injury-plagued season.  In the 43 games he did appear in, pitched very well with a 2.20 ERA.  Plus, was one of the only lefty options most of the time until Randy Choate was acquired.

Chad Billingsly - Was looking like the "same old Billingsley" for much of the season, then flicked the switch in July and August.  In nine starts over that time period, lowered his ERA from 4.20 to 3.55.  Unfortunately, elbow problems shelved him for good at the end of August.

Aaron Harang - His numbers are just pretty good, going 10-10 with a 3.61 ERA and 1.40 WHIP.  But he also started 31 games anchoring the back end of the rotation, which the Dodgers gladly took.

Chris Capuano - There's no doubt that his first three months were better than the last three (plus one October start).  Ended June at 100 innings and a 2.69 ERA.  Ended the season at 198 and 3.72.  Still, much like Harang, more than solidified the end of the rotation, especially with injuries to Ted Lilly and Billingsley.

Jerry Hairston, Jr. - It's a shame the Dodgers lost him at the end of the season, because he definitely brought energy both starting and from the bench.  Appeared in 73 games playing multiple positions with a great glove, and hit .273.

A.J. Ellis - Like a few other players, was putting up "A" production most of the way, but really faded at the end.  A .216 September only added to the team's miseries.  Pretty solid overall, though, considering it was his first full season behind the plate.

Hanley Ramirez - Gave a pretty good spark from Miami, hitting .271 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs in 64 games in LA.  Still is capable of doing more, and needs to cut down on his strikeouts, as 132 is way too high.

Mark Ellis - Maybe only hit .258, but something needs to be said about his leadership and hard-nosed style.  Courageously battled back from a nasty leg injury in mid-May to get back on the field in July.

Nick Punto - The last of the big names to come from the Red Sox, had a .390 OBP in 22 games.  Gave some good energy at second late in the season.


Adrian Gonzalez - Could not have possibly started his Dodgers' career off better, stroking a three-run homer in his first at-bat.  Unfortunately, it took him 26 games until he hit his next, as he failed to be the big power threat at cleanup we all thought he'd be.  Does have a 15-game hitting streak to carry into next season, though.

Elian Herrera - Much like Cruz, went from unknown to everyday player for a bit.  Unlike Cruz, couldn't keep it up.  Add it all up, and he played in 67 games, hitting .251 with a homer, 17 RBIs, and 4 steals.

Juan Rivera - Was relegated to mere spot duty late in the season when Shane Victorino and Gonzalez came aboard.  Did hit 9 homers and 47 RBIs, but was pretty much an afterthought late in the year.

Javy Guerra - Started the season as the closer with five straight saves, but lost it soon thereafter with three blown ones.  Definitely figured things out at the end with a 2.60 ERA, but a 1.49 WHIP suggests he was a bit lucky, too.

Matt Guerrier - Wasn't terrible with a 3.86 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, but still hasn't filled that role of great setup man like he was signed to be two years ago.  Injuries can be blamed this year, limiting him to only 16 games.

Randy Choate - Very average when he came over from the Marlins, which is what a "C" is all about.  After putting up a great 2.49/0.99 line with Miami, proceeded to give the Dodgers a 4.05/1.65 line.  Not exactly the shutdown lefty they hoped he'd be.

Shawn Tolleson - Had his moments where he flashed good stuff, but overall was just so-so.  In 40 games, collected a 4.30 ERA and 1.33 WHIP.  Someone to keep an eye on in the future, however.

Jamey Wright - Filled many different roles out of the 'pen, appearing in 67 games with a 3.72 ERA, but a high 1.51 WHIP.  I doubt many people thought he'd last the whole season, so that's a credit to him.

Adam Kennedy - Pretty wretched through June, but a good July and August gave him hope, raising his AVG from .217 to .262.  And just like that in early September, went down for good with a strained groin.

Bobby Abreu - Cut loose by the Angels in May, was thrust right into the action with a banged up outfield.  There's no doubt he wore down after a good start, ending with a .246 AVG, but a very good .361 OBP.


Shane Victorino - Should have been a slam dunk choice for the leadoff spot after coming over from the Phillies.  Instead, struggled with a .245 AVG and .313 OBP in 53 games.  Never was able to get things going, which was a big disappointment.

Todd Coffey - One of the last signings of the offseason for depth in the bullpen.  Ended up with a 4.66 ERA in 23 games before Tommy John reared its ugly head in early July.

Joe Blanton - The Phillies pretty much gave him away, and after watching him go 2-4 with a 4.99 ERA and 1.42 WHIP, I can see why.  Never was able to stabilize a rotation that suffered a couple of big injuries

Dee Gordon - Started the year with all sorts of promise after a great finish to '11.  Then he couldn't get on base hitting leadoff, committed 18 errors, and broke a finger on a slide on July 4 which effectively put him out of the picture with Ramirez and Cruz in the fold.  Still has all sorts of speed with 32 swipes, but 10 times gunned down is a bit much.

Tony Gwynn - Much like Rivera, was lost in the shuffle once all the trades were made.  Pretty awful at the plate with a .232 AVG and a pathetic .276 OBP.  Sent packing for good in early August.

Matt Treanor - Almost not even fair to evaluate his season considering he played in only 36 games backing up A.J.  Realistically, a .175 AVG is pretty hard to defend no matter how you slice it.


Juan Uribe - I'm a firm believer that he was the worst player in baseball this year.  66 games, .191 AVG, 2 homers, 17 RBIs.  I was actually at the game he hit a homer off of Dickey in New York.  I still haven't recovered from shock.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Wanted: Another new batting coach

With the Dodgers' late season collapse on offense, Dave Hansen is the first guy to take a fall.

The team announced he will not return as hitting coach in 2013.  He was offered a chance to be reassigned within the organization, but he declined.  And I certainly can't blame him for that decision after being fired.

Since Ned Colletti was hired seven years ago, he has cycled through six batting coaches.  First came Eddie Murray, then Bill Mueller, Mike Easler, Don Mattingly, Jeff Pentland, and Hansen.  I can only hope these coaches chose to rent in LA and not buy.

I'm certainly no expert on this subject, but I'm also a believer that batting coaches can only do so much.  I think pitching coaches have a much bigger impact on the game, as they can work on gameplans for the opposing offense and work on new pitches and deliveries.  While hitting coaches can certainly tinker with stances and gameplan on which pitches to attack, I'm not sure what else they can really do.

Let's not kid ourselves - if Matt Kemp was healthy, then the offense would've ended the year much better.  But he wasn't, so they didn't.  The other major problem was that too many guys went up to the plate trying to hit a grand slam with nobody on base.  Way too many times we'd see strikeouts, pop ups, and little dribblers with runners on because they were trying to do way too much.  I highly doubt Hansen instructed them to do that.

I do think that whoever is picked as the next hitting coach will have a lot working for him right away.  We can only hope Kemp will be 100% after his shoulder surgery, then he'll have guys like Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier, and Hanley Ramirez to work with.  Not to mention an emerging Luis Cruz, and hopefully a returning Carl Crawford.  There's plenty of horses to make you look good.

I haven't heard about any replacements yet, but I have to think that Mickey Hatcher is a candidate.  He spent years as the Angels' hitting coach for Mike Scioscia before being canned this past year.  He then finished the season with the Dodgers as a special advisor to Colletti.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

2012 ends with more Kershaw dominance

Pitching the day after the Dodgers were officially eliminated from the postseason, Clayton Kershaw does what he always does: take the ball, and wipe the floor with his opposition.

Playoffs or not, nothing was going to stop the reigning Cy Young Award winner.

Kershaw put the punctuation on another terrific season by holding the Giants down to one run over eight innings, and the Dodgers took over late to get the win, 5-1.  The final tally is a second place finish in the NL West at 86-76, eight games behind the Giants.  Playoff-wise, they were only two games in back of the Cardinals.

Playing in a virtually meaningless game since the Giants already knew they'd be playing the Reds in the NLDS, Don Mattingly and Bruce Bochy both chose to start the game with mostly a regular lineup, and a couple of stud pitchers in Kershaw and Ryan Vogelsong.  Through three innings, nobody even reached base.

In the fourth, the Giants scored their first and only run of the game.  Marco Scutaro singled with one out, and went to third on Pablo Sandoval's double.  That damn Buster Posey burned the Dodgers again with an RBI groundout to make it 1-0.  Hunter Pence struck out for the last out.

The Dodgers did break up the perfect game by Vogelsong when Andre Ethier walked with one out in the fourth.  It took until the fifth for them to score to tie the game.  With two outs, Luis Cruz reached on an error by Scutaro at second.  Tim Federowicz got his first start of the season, and he singled to put two on.  Kershaw then stroked an RBI single before Federowicz was nailed at third to end the inning.

With changes to the lineup starting to trickle in, the Dodgers took the lead for good in the sixth.  Ethier hit a one-out double to right.  Now with two outs, Adrian Gonzalez extended his hitting streak to 15 games with an RBI single, and it was 2-1.

Kershaw stayed on to get through eight innings as the Giants were still within a run.  But, in the bottom of the eighth, the Dodgers showed some muscle to put the game away.  With one out, Alex Castellanos hit his first career home run, a no-doubter to left, to make it 3-1.  Elian Herrera then singled, which led to a two-run bomb to dead center from Juan Rivera, putting the Dodgers in full control at 5-1.

There was some question as to whether or not Kershaw would return for the complete game.  He ended the eighth inning at 229 strikeouts, only one behind NL-leader R.A. Dickey.  But with the Dodgers now enjoying a comfortable lead, he decided to end the season on a high note.

Kenley Jansen came in instead, and after walking Aubrey Huff leading off, breezed through the last three, striking out Xavier Nady to end it all. 

I can imagine that there's plenty of pitchers out there who easily would have called it a season when his team was officially out of postseason contention.  Not Kershaw.  Here's a guy who started the season pitching with the flu and sick as a dog on Opening Day, and ended it by taking the ball in a meaningless game.  He also could've thrown in the towel after his recent hip issues, but nope.  Not Kershaw.

His latest effort resulted in eight innings for three hits, one run, three walks, and eight strikeouts.  He got enough offensive support for the win, which hasn't exactly been the case for much of this season, so he finishes at a record of 14-9.  Add in an NL-best 2.59 ERA and 1.02 WHIP, and he's once again in the thick of the NL Cy Young Award race.  And deservedly so.

It pretty much goes without saying that the difference in atmosphere between Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon was tremendous.  If the Dodgers could've pulled it off on Tuesday, who know how this game and the Cardinals' game would've turned out on the last day.  It's definitely an opportunity missed, and a painful one at that.

That will do it for this season, as the playoff begin on Friday.  The Braves and Cardinals will meet in the one-game Wild Card playoff, with the winner facing the Nationals.  The Giants and Reds open on Saturday.  I guess I can try to root for an NL team to take the World Series.  Just not the Giants!

If the second half of the season is any indication, then the new ownership group will definitely be busy in the offseason.  Even though many of the main guns are already locked in for next season and beyond, you know Magic and the boys won't stop adding to the roster.  Let's see how much they open their wallets this time.

To all of my readers of this site: a big THANK YOU, and talk to you real soon!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dodgers bend.... and finally break

In the end, the Dodgers weren't eliminated from the playoffs because of the Cardinals.  They did it all to themselves.

With a runner on second and two outs in the ninth, Mark Ellis' sinking fly ball to center was caught by Angel Pagan, ending both the game and the playoff chances for the Dodgers, 4-3.  The six-game winning streak coming into this game was history as well.

History... something the Dodgers will keep adding to in a negative way.  As in, 24 years since that magical 1988 World Series championship.  Another year added to the tally.

There was plenty of reason for optimism as Chris Capuano toed the rubber to begin this game.  The Reds were on their way to taking care of the Cardinals, holding onto a 3-1 win.  The magic number for the Cards remained at one, and the Dodgers stayed alive to fight another day.

After both teams went down in order to start the game, it was Buster Posey who once again imposed his will.  Leading off the second, he crushed a long solo homer to center, putting the Giants up 1-0.  I'm not sure what the point was of even pitching to a guy who is clearly their top hitter, but Capuano wanted to challenge him, and he got burnt.

The Dodgers did get that run back in the bottom half.  Hanley Ramirez took a one-out pitch down the right field line for a triple.  Luis Cruz got him home on an RBI groundout, and it was 1-1.  Andre Ethier doubled, so A.J. Ellis was given an intentional walk to pitch to Capuano, who struck out.

Just like the last inning, the Giants started the third with a boom.  This time it was Joaquin Arias who belted a long shot leading off, making it 2-1.  Pagan and Marco Scutaro singled with an out, and just as Capuano was on the ropes, he got a big double play ball from Pablo Sandoval to escape more trouble.

Capuano was soon chased in the fourth, as Don Mattingly clearly wasn't messing around with his starter.  Posey singled to start, which brought a hook for Caps, and an opportunity for Jamey Wright to keep the game manageable.  He sure did, as Hunter Pence struck out on three pitches, and Xavier Nady grounded into a DP.

As the Dodgers were clearly pressing on offense against Barry Zito, the Giants added to their lead in the fifth.  Once again, the leadoff hitter reached as Hector Sanchez singled.  Arias grounded out, but Sanchez went to second on an error by Wright.  Zito struck out for two down, and with Pagan due up, he was put on to pitch to Scutaro.

Who knows if the Dodgers knew this at the time, but the whole Dodgers' season pretty much came down to Scutaro's at-bat.  And that's because Scutaro lined a two-run double into right to go up 4-1.  That was bad enough, and made even worse because of the intentional walk to Pagan right before that.  Donny Baseball gambled and lost.

The fifth and sixth brought chances for the Dodgers, but no results.  In the fifth, Juan Rivera pinch-hit and singled, and Shane Victorino doubled with two outs.  Matt Kemp had a horrible night by going 0-for-4 with three K's, and his only contact was here on a groundout back to the pitcher.  Ouch.

The next inning, a double play from Cruz erased a leadoff single from Adrian Gonzalez.

The seventh, however, finally brought Dodger Stadium back to life.  Zito's last pitch of the night came here when he beaned Ethier to start.  Out he went, and in came Guillermo Mota.  A.J. Ellis greeted him with a two-run homer to right center, just out of the reach of a leaping Pagan, and it was 4-3.

Now, the seventh was also an equally frustrating inning for the opportunity the Dodgers wasted.  With one out, Mark Ellis doubled into center, and maybe forgetting that he's no longer 20-years-old, he tried to get to third and was gunned down with ease.  That mental lapse was made even worse when Victorino stepped up and tripled next, only to be stranded by a Kemp strikeout.

Still, it was only a one-run game, and Kenley Jansen blew away the Giants in the eighth by striking out the side.  The Dodgers couldn't do any better, but Brandon League kept the Giants in check again with a scoreless ninth.

The whole season came down to the bottom of the ninth, as Ethier greeted Jeremy Affeldt with a single.  That brought in Sergio Romo, who got A.J. Ellis swining for the first out.  Mattingly turned to Dee Gordon to run for Ethier, and to Bobby Abreu to hit for Elian Herrera.

Abreu ended up flying out to center for the second out, but Gordon kept the night alive by swiping second, his 32nd in only 86 games.  Mark Ellis had a great chance to make up for his baserunning blunder a couple inning before, but flew out to end it all.

Obviously, this was a really tough way to end the season for the Dodgers.  They went from red hot in April, to cooling off thanks to the injury bug, to making a few huge trades, to playing like crap with those players, to getting hot again at the end, to running out of time.  That, in a nutshell, is the story of the 2012 Dodgers.

One constant of the winning streak was the starting pitching, but Capuano definitely did not add to that run.  He lasted a mere three innings for five hits, two runs, no walks, and no strikeouts.  He was on a short leash as it was, but to only last three innings is very disappointing.  He just never got anything going.

The other big letdown was Kemp.  He was as good a hitter as one could be for the last week, but on Tuesday, he flat out stunk.  Three strikeouts and a dribbler back to the mound.  I was shocked to see that happen, as I was very confident he could get to Zito.  Obviously that didn't happen, and boy did the Dodgers pay because of it.

Of course, Gonzalez and his one single in four at-bats didn't exactly set the world on fire either.  The 3-4 part of the order went 1-for-8 with no extra-base hits and four K's.  It's a wonder how the Dodgers didn't get blown out.

I guess one of the only minor consolations from this game is that even with a win, the Dodgers still didn't control their own destiny, as the Cardinals had the one-game edge.  Just losing that opportunity to put even more heat on them sucks enough, though.

Wednesday will be an afternoon start, as Clayton Kershaw will take the mound.  This start has gone from a chance to pitch into next week to solely impressing the Cy Young voters.  Man, I was really looking forward to a big game #162, and hopefully #163 on Thursday, but it wasn't meant to be.  Sigh...

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

It's simple: win 2, and hope the Cardinals lose 2

There is no other way.

After another successful night for both the Dodgers and Cardinals, the Dodgers know exactly what they have to get done and hope to get done on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Beat the Giants in the remaining two games, and hope the Reds can take down the Cardinals for two.  Anything else isn't good enough.

A couple hours after the Cardinals beat the Reds 4-2, the Dodgers found themselves deadlocked with the Giants 2-2 in the ninth.  That's when Elian Herrera stepped in with the bases loaded and smoked a walk-off single off of Marco Scutaro's glove at second to keep the Dodgers alive another day.

The second NL Wild Card spot is the lone remaining playoff spot up for grabs, and thanks to a six-game winning streak, the longest of the season for the Dodgers, the race gets extended again.

The night didn't start off so hot, as when the Cardinals were taking a lead for good from the Reds, the Giants struck in the first.  Scutaro took a one-out walk before Pablo Sandoval popped up.  Buster Posey, a clear MVP candidate thanks to a fantastic season on both sides of the field, cracked an RBI double off of Aaron Harang to make it 1-0.

Both teams traded double plays in the second, as Xavier Nady and Shane Victorino pulled the tricks.  Harang and Matt Cain breezed through the third as well.

It took until the fourth for the Dodgers to get their first runs.  Mark Ellis was back in the leadoff spot, and he singled to start.  Andre Ethier has seemingly always had a good time against Cain, and that continued here with a long two-run shot to center, making it 2-1.  Ethier has certainly had big hits in his career, but it's a little hard to explain just why he drives a great pitcher like Cain so nuts.  Just one of those things, I guess.

The Dodgers had chances to score in both the fifth and sixth, but couldn't make a dent.  In the fifth, Victorino and A.J. Ellis were in scoring position with two down, but Mark Ellis grounded out.  The next inning, Adrian Gonzalez doubled and Hanley Ramirez was intentionally walked with two down.  Victorino singled, but for whatever reason, third base coach Tim Wallach sent Gonzo home.

How exactly did that work out?  Uh, not so well.  Gonzalez was thrown out by about 12 miles, and the inning was over.  I'm not sure why Wallach felt the need to send him there, as even Juan Rivera can claim to be faster than Gonzalez.  That's probably not a good thing.

Still up 2-1, Don Mattingly turned the game over to his power-throwing bullpen.  Ronald Belisario was first up, and he got the first couple of outs before running into a little trouble.  Brandon Belt singled and stole second before Nady drew a walk.  Brandon Crawford struck out swinging, though.

Kenley Jansen was summoned next, and for the first time since coming back on September 20 from his heart issues, he gave up a run.  With one out, Angel Pagan doubled to right.  Scutaro tied the game with RBI single on a fastball up, and we were once again back to square one.

The Dodgers couldn't do anything in the bottom of the eighth, but Brandon League still came in to start the ninth.  He gave up a two-out single to Aubrey Huff, and as Emmanuel "Tiki" Burriss pinch-ran, Ellis gunned him down trying to steal second for the final out.

Bruce Bochy sent in Santiago Casilla to try and get the game into extras.  Ramirez got everything started with a leadoff single.  Victorino sacrificed him over to second.  Luis Cruuuuuuz singled, but perhaps learning his lesson from earlier in the game, Wallach kept Ramirez at third.  A.J. Ellis as then given the intentional pass to load the bases.

Herrera has had an interesting season.  He wasn't on the big league roster to start the year, then went from unknown to everyday player when Dee Gordon got banged up and Juan Uribe (remember him?) still couldn't hit.  Then Herrera forgot how to hit, and was sent back down.  Then rosters got expanded, and he was brought back up.

Looking for any sort of spark to keep the Dodgers' playoff hopes alive, Herrera lined a single off of Scutaro's glove as the ball bounced into center to end the game.  It was a great moment for a hard worker who can play so many different roles.

As a Dodger fan, it's great to see them play so well over the last week.  It's also just as frustrating, because if they started this run even a week earlier, they could easily be in the position the Cardinals are in right now.  You can't help but wonder what could have happened if they just figured this thing out a little sooner.

While the offense has certainly picked it up (not that they could've gotten any worse for most of September), one constant of the six-game run has been the starting pitching.  That continued with Harang's solid effort, going six innings for two hits, one run, two walks, and three strikeouts.  He didn't look so good in the first, but he certainly found his groove against a playoff team featuring their regular players.  That was very encouraging.

By the time the Dodgers throw the first pitch on Tuesday night, the Cardinals will already be well into their game, just like Monday.  So, it can either be a depressing sight, or another opportunity to stay alive.  In St. Louis, it's a great pitching matchup between Mat Latos and Chris Carpenter.  Let's hope the Reds send out their big guns like Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Phillips.  Please don't do what the Red Sox did against the Yankees and send out the equivalent of a Triple-A team!

At Dodger Stadium, it'll be Chris Capuano against Barry Zito.  Capuano has certainly not been the same pitcher as he was in the first half, but he is coming off his first win since mid-August against the Padres.  Zito somehow has 14 wins despite a 4.19 ERA.  Not terrible, but I do like the Dodgers' chances in scoring runs off of him.

I just hope those runs lead them to a big game on Wednesday, and not an early start to winter.

Monday, October 1, 2012

5 straight wins keeps the pressure on

Say what you want about the Dodgers and their late surge, but this much is true: they're at least making the Cardinals sweat a little.

Not too long after the Cardinals slapped around the Nationals 10-4, the Dodgers went right out and won again, blowing past the Rockies, 7-1.  And with that, the Dodgers remain two games in back of the Cardinals for the final Wild Card spot, eliminating the Brewers in the process.

The Rockies and their 97 losses at least made the game interesting through 3 1/2 innings.  Both Jorge De La Rosa and Josh Beckett put some runners on, but nothing came across early.  Becket was especially helped out by a fantastic double play to end the third, as Mark Ellis ranged to his left to nab Jordan Pacheco's grounder to start it.  If that goes through, who knows if the Rockies put a big rally together.

Leading off the fourth, Andrew Brown took one out to left for a solo shot go to up 1-0.  That would mark the first run of this pitiful series for the Rockies, as they had been outscored 11-0 up to that point.

The fun for them would be short-lived, however, as the Dodgers immediately went to work in the bottom half.  Shane Victorino was in the #2 spot for this game, and he singled leading off.  Matt Kemp then stepped in and hit another home run, a two-run shot to right that just found it's way over to the wall for the 2-1 edge.  It's his third in the last two games, as he's clearly found his stroke again.

Adrian Gonzalez kept things going with a single before Hanley Ramirez flew out.  Luis Cruuuuuuuuz out-Kemped Kemp with a two-run laser out to left, making it 4-1. 

The Rockies did put two on to start the fifth, as Cruz threw away a grounder from Josh Rutledge, and Rafael Ortega successfully bunted.  Nothing came of it, though, as a strikeout, pop up, and fielder's choice ended that threat.

Another run was added in the fifth for the Dodgers.  With two outs, Victorino and Kemp singled, and Gonzo walked.  Ramirez ripped an RBI single to left to go up 5-1, but Kemp was thrown out at home trying to get more.  It was a good throw out in left by Chase Blackmon, so it was worth a shot.

The third two-run homer of the game ended the scoring in the seventh.  Andre Ethier drew a one-out walk, which led to a big fly from A.J. Ellis, his 12th of the season, to make it 7-1.

Over the final three innings, the Rockies put five men on base, including loading the bases in the seventh, but could never get that big hit.  It was very much like watching the Dodgers from earlier in September.  The Rockies were that miserable in scoring opportunities.  No wonder why they stink.  Really, really stink.

The guy who once again led the way was Kemp.  His 23rd tater of the season only shows how much better the Dodgers are when this guy's right.  He started September with a .331 average, only to watch it nosedive down to .298 on 25th.  In the five games since then, he's 11-for-20 (.550) with four homers and nine RBIs.  I'm not sure if he's simply healthy now or just seeing the ball better, but whatever the reason, he is on fire.

And no surprise, as Kemp is hitting, the Dodgers as a whole are hitting, and the wins have piled in.  They've won by scores of 8-2, 8-4, 8-0, 3-0, and 7-1.  Add it all up, and they've outscored the Padres and Rockies 34-7.  Hey, that's about what the Raiders lost to the Broncos by on Sunday.  Sorry, but as a Raider fan, not all is rosy in the sports world.

Anyway, it's clear the Dodgers feed off of Kemp's energy, and as he goes, so goes the offense.  I know the Padres and Rockies aren't the world's greatest baseball teams, but the Dodgers looked bad against everybody not long ago, even teams like them.  To see them finally score like they're capable of is refreshing.

Beckett gave a good lift as well, going six innings for six hits, one run, three walks, and five strikeouts.  I remember Curt Schilling saying how Beckett would be the big winner in the Boston trade, and although I'm no Schilling fan by any stretch, I have to say he is correct.  Forget the 2-3 record, his 2.93 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in seven starts show how effective he's been.

The magic number for the Cardinals is two, so despite the much-improved play of the Dodgers over the past week, it could all be over after Monday.  Simply put, if the Cardinals win and the Dodgers lose, then it's back to the golf course starting Thursday.  Of course, if the opposite happens and the Dodgers are only a game back, then Tuesday and Wednesday become so much more interesting.

For now, the Dodgers have to focus on the hated Giants, who just enjoyed an awesome September.  Aaron Harang will need to step up and deliver one of his best starts of the season, as he'll go against Matt Cain. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

With 4 games left, Dodgers are 2 in back of the Cards

As the Cardinals overcame a 4-0 deficit only to lose in 10 innings to the Nationals, Matt Kemp made sure the Dodgers pounced all over the opportunity.

Kemp's two homers, one of which was a 461-foot bomb, gave the Dodgers all the offense they'd need behind Joe Blanton in downing the Rockies, 3-0.  Four games remain in the regular season, so the Dodgers still have to find a way to close the two-game gap on the Cardinals.

The scoring didn't get started until the fourth.  That's when Kemp stepped up first and absolutely unloaded on a missile out to deep left, which landed only a few rows away from the top for the 1-0 lead.  He looked free and easy on the swing, maybe a sign that he finally is healthy after scuffling away for weeks as the whole offense slumped.

With one out, Hanley Ramirez collected one of his three hits, a single.  He followed that up by stealing second, and Shane Victorino walked.  Luis Cruz struck out, but A.J. Ellis picked him up with an RBI single, and it was 2-0.

The score remained as is until the eighth, when the Dodgers tacked on another.  Who was responsible for it?  That's right, that Kemp guy again.  Once again he led off, and once again he lifted a big fly to make it 3-0, this time out to right center.  That gave him 22 on the season, along with three in the last four games to go along with seven RBIs.

Brandon League got a 1-2-3 save in the ninth, striking out Chris Nelson to end it.  It's his sixth with the Dodgers.

While Kemp was the star, it was Blanton who put together a gem on the mound.  He went six innings for seven hits, no runs, no walks, and six strikeouts.  He also earned his 10th win of the season.  While his Dodger tenure didn't start off so hot, he's only given up one run in his last two starts, and has a 3.38 ERA in September.  I'd say that's slightly better than his 6.67 ERA last month.  Yup, just a bit.

Going forward, it's also a great sign if the Dodgers somehow do sneak into the playoffs.  Clayton Kershaw is back and doing his thing, Josh Beckett has been very effective with the Dodgers, and now Blanton has seemingly figured things out.  As the Cardinals showed last year, it's huge when your guys are peaking at the right time.

The bullpen was also big in this one, as Ronald Belisario, Kenley Jansen, and League threw a perfect final three innings.  I can't imagine that's a good feeling for the opposing team to see those three guys lined up ready to go.  Jansen and League are both proven closers, and Belisario is more proven to be a setup man.  Nine up, and nine down.

The Cardinals will send Lance Lynn to the mound today against the Nationals' Ross Detwiler.  They then stay home to face the Reds, who have already wrapped up the NL Central, and are pretty much only playing for the top record.  I'm not sure if that's a huge priority for them, so expect them to not exactly play all their regulars.

As of now, the Reds are planning on pitching their regulars, so here's the what the matchups look like: Bronson Arroyo vs. Jaime Garcia, Mat Latos vs. Chris Carpenter, and Homer Bailey vs. Adam Wainwright.  As you can see, it's pretty much flip a coin in any of those.

Regardless of what the Cardinals are doing, the Dodgers know they still have to take care of their own business to even have a chance.  They have the last few games, and look like a completely different team than even a week ago.  Of course, actually hitting the ball and scoring some runs makes a world of difference.

The Dodgers will go for the sweep on Sunday by sending Beckett to the mound against Jorge De La Rosa.  The Giants will then come to town, and much like the Reds, they are only playing for more home-field advantage.  The pitching matchups will be Matt Cain vs. Aaron Harang, Barry Zito vs. Chris Capuano, and Ryan Vogelsong vs. Kershaw.  We'll see how it all plays out.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Dodgers ride the Ace and 8's

The Ace?  He did his thing, throwing shutout ball over eight innings, striking out 10.

The 8's?  That's three straight wins by scoring eight runs.

The end result?  Well, it was another win for the Dodgers by beating the Rockies, 8-0.  The flip side is that the Cardinals easily beat the Nationals, 12-2, so the deficit is still three games with five to play.

After Clayton Kershaw struck out five in the first couple of innings, the offense went to work in the second.  Adrian Gonzalez singled leading off, and Hanley Ramirez took a walk.  Andre Ethier found just enough room to bloop an RBI double into left to make it 1-0.  It was one of those hits where if the Dodgers were still losing, that would be caught.  Since they've gotten hot the last few games, it found grass.

Shane Victorino stepped in and lifted a long fly to left center that found its way out, a three-run bomb to make it 4-0.  It was his second big fly in 48 games with the Dodgers.

The Dodgers added another in the fourth.  The first three hitters reached when Ethier singled, Victorino singled, and A.J. Ellis was beaned.  Kershaw grounded into a "double play," though in reality he was clearly safe at first.  Ethier still scored to make it 5-0, but there would be no RBI for the pitcher.

Each team made a great defensive play in the next couple of innings.  In the fifth, the Dodgers had two on from a single by Luis Cruz and a walk to Matt Kemp.  With one out, Ramirez hit a long one to right center that sure looked like would bring in some runs.  Instead, Matt McBride made a fantastic catch at the wall, keeping the Dodgers from increasing the lead.

Kershaw set out to top that play in the seventh.  With all eyes watching him because of his recent hip injury, he didn't help his cause by walking Andrew Brown leading off.  DJ LeMahieu then grounded one back up the middle in which Kershaw gloved between his legs, threw to Mark Ellis to second for one out, then back to Gonzo to complete the double play.  It was a bit of a lucky play, but still awesome nonetheless.

The game was put away for good in the eighth, when the Dodgers reached the eight-run plateau again.  Ethier hit another single with one out, and soon advanced two bases on two wild pitches.  A.J. Ellis doubled into left center to bring him home, and it was 6-0.  Bobby Abreu pinch-hit for Kershaw, took a pitch high and tight, then smashed a two-run shot into right to make it 8-0.  He also took one of the slowest damn trots I've ever seen.  Good for him!

Josh Wall did a great job in setting the Rockies down in order to end the game.

It's hard to describe Kershaw in many more ways than we already have.  The guy just continues to go out there and dazzle start after start.  There's no way he's 100% right now either.  But completely healthy or not, there's no denying that he's once again a Cy Young contender.  On this night, he went eight innings for five hits, no runs, two walks, and 10 strikeouts.  He's now 13-9 with a 2.58 ERA and 1.03 WHIP.

To put things in perspective, Kershaw is first in ERA and WHIP, and one K behind R.A. Dickey for first.  He obviously won't win the pitching Triple Crown again because he only has 13 wins (thanks for some bad run support), but he's every bit the dominant pitcher this year as we was last.  And boy is he fun to watch.

All the bats needed to do was score one run thanks to Cy Kershaw, but it was great to again watch them string together some big innings.  Hitting a couple long balls certainly helps as well.  So now they have 24 runs in the last three games.  You want to know how many games before that it took to get to 24?  Try nine.  Uh, not good.

The game was a bit of a letdown before it even started thanks to the Nationals getting their clocks cleaned in St. Louis.  But like the saying goes, all the Dodgers can do is win their games and hope for some help.  It would be nice if that "help" maybe doesn't lose by 10 runs this weekend.  That would be nice.

Don Mattingly will now turn to Joe Blanton to make it four straight, and to slowly chip away at the Cardinals' Wild Card lead.  Blanton didn't get the win last start in Cincinnati, but still pitched very well.  As for the Rockies, they're just trying to win one of their last five games to avoid the magical 100-loss mark.  That's a full season of some really bad baseball.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Kemp powers Dodgers past the Padres

The old Matt Kemp found his way back in the lineup, and for the first time all month, the Dodgers enjoyed a blowout victory.

Kemp was a triple short of the cycle, belting his 20th homer of the season to go with four RBIs, and the Dodgers beat the Padres, 8-2.  Almost exactly one month ago on August 25, the Dodgers beat the Marlins by the same 8-2 score.  Since then, it's been a bunch of close game, a bunch of loses, and barely any margin for error in the wins.

What this game did do was put the Dodgers 3 1/2 back of the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot with seven left.  They'll need a few more nights of wins and Cardinals' losses to even think about pulling it off.

The tone was set from the get-go, as the Dodgers put a couple on the board in the first.  Nick Punto had a great night at second, and his single with one out got things going.  Kemp got his first hit with a single to put runners on the corners.  Adrian Gonzalez followed with an RBI single up the middle, and Hanley Ramirez added one into left to make it 2-0.

In the third, Punto started things with a bunt single.  Kemp recorded his only out of the night by grounding one hard back to the mound, but Punto did get to second.  Another RBI single from Gonzo later, it was 3-0.

The runs soon kept coming, which was a welcome sight for a team that has struggled to consistently score anything.  Juan Rivera started in right to face the lefty Clayton Richard, and he crushed a solo homer to left, his eighth of the season, making it 4-0. 

Matt Treanor then reached on an error in left on a misplayed fly ball by Jesus Guzman, and he went to second.  A couple outs came next, but a single by Punto kept the inning alive, which led to an RBI double from Kemp for a 6-0 lead.

At this point, Aaron Harang was well on his game, as his mix of fastballs and breaking stuff held the Padres hitless entering the fifth.  He got a couple of outs, but with Cameron "Tiki" Maybin on first from a walk, Everth Cabrera legged out an infield single, just beating a great effort from Ramirez.  Logan Forsythe flew to left to end it.

The Dodgers got their last runs of the night in the sixth.  Harang slooooooowly doubled leading off.  Two outs later, Kemp launched a two-run bomb into deep center to go up 8-0.

The Padres did chase Harang in the sixth when Yasmani Grandal, Yonder Alonso, and Will Venable all singled with one out.  Shawn Tolleson came in and did an excellent job in striking out Guzman and getting Maybin to pop up for the last out.

The only runs the Padres could muster came in the seventh.  With Tolleson still on, Chase Headley's double and Grandal's single each brought in a run, and the scoring ended at 8-2.

While it was great to see the Dodgers put together a complete effort on both sides of the field, it does seem like quite a long time ago that Gonzalez and the boys from Boston came over via trade, then lit it up in that first game against the Marlins I mentioned before.  Never at one point when I was watching that game did I think the Dodgers were about to go into a huge slump.  If anything, I'm sure we all thought the pitching might let them down.  Not the other way around.

But in this one, it all went right.  Kemp had four hits, Punto had three hits and four runs, Gonzalez had two hits and two RBIs, and Ramirez and Rivera each had two hits and a run driven in.  Production up and down the lineup... it's been awhile.  But hey, at least it finally happened again.

Harang did a fantastic job of keeping the Padres held in check as the offense was going to work.  He lasted 5 1/3 innings for four hits, no runs, four walks, and three strikeouts.  Most importantly, he earned his 10th win of the season.  He won't get to the 14 wins he had in San Diego last year, but his ERA this year (3.68) is nearly identical to last (3.64).

Let's see if this win can springboard the Dodgers towards bigger things, as their last three wins were followed by losses.  With only seven games left, they obviously can't keep doing that.  They pretty much need to run the table, or win six of seven, and still get plenty of help.  We all saw the Cardinals sneak in last year and win it all, but even as a die hard fan, it's hard to imagine the Dodgers doing that now.  I wish I could say differently, but I'm just being realistic.

All they can do is keep winning the game in front of them, and they wrap up their road schedule on Thursday night.  Chris Capuano will try to get over .500 by getting his 12th win.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The playoff flame still slightly flickers

Adrian Gonzalez could not have possibly made a bigger splash in his Dodgers' debut on August 25, slugging a three-run homer in his first at-bat.

His 115 plate appearances since then?  Exactly zero balls sent over the wall.

On Sunday night, however, Gonzo turned back the clock to late August by hitting two solo homers, helping the Dodgers get the win over the Reds, 5-3.  With nine games left in the season, the Dodgers remain three games in back of the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot.

The major story coming into this one was the start by Clayton Kershaw, who not too long ago looked to be lost for the season, and possibly into the next one, with a hip injury.  We can all be thankful that the early diagnosis looks to have been too harsh, as Kershaw took the ball and went five strong, giving up only one run.

The Reds did make him sweat, though.  In the first, they loaded the bases.  Chris Heisey led off by getting beaned in the forearm, Joey Votto walked an out later, and Miguel Cairo singled with two outs.  Denis Phipps hit a long fly to center, but Matt Kemp was easily able to glove it to end the inning.

The second is when Gonzalez finally broke through with a solo homer to right leading off.  Any home run for the Dodgers is big, as Andre Ethier and Kemp are tied for the lead with 19.  Seriously, that's it.  Gonzalez loves to hit against Homer Bailey, as he's now 8-for-15 with five homers in his career against him.  Talk about having someone's number!

In the third, the Reds got their lone run against Kershaw.  Wilson Valdez started things with a walk, and Votto followed with his second straight base on balls as well.  Todd Frazier took a low breaking ball near the dirt to center for an RBI single, and it was 1-1.  Kershaw was able to get Cairo to ground into a double play, and Phipps struck out.

As Bailey was settled in against a lifeless Dodgers' offense (a phrase I have cut and pasted for the last few weeks now), the Reds again blew a golden chance with the bases juiced in the fourth.  Daniel Stubbs led off with a single, but was picked off by Kershaw at first.  Ryan Hanigan grounded out before Bailey hit what looked like an innocent two-out single.

That single turned into a big scoring chance as Heisey also singled and Valdez walked.  The Reds rested some of their big guns like Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce, so Votto was the perfect guy for them in this spot.  Kershaw manned up, though, and got him swinging for the final out.

Kershaw lasted through the fifth before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the sixth, much to his dismay.  Just who exactly hit for him?  You guessed it (or not), Juan Uribe.  It was his first at-bat since Game 5 of the 2010 World Series with the Giants.  OK, just kidding, that's wishful thinking on my part.  In his first swing since August 26, he hit a single!  Holy crap!  Nearly one whole month of being on the roster, yet never getting a chance to hit.  Too bad for him, he was stranded at first.

The Dodgers put up a four spot in the seventh, which seemed like a long time coming.  It started with another solo bomb from Gonzo, this time to left center, to make it 2-1.  Hanley Ramirez gritted out a single moments after fouling one off his left ankle.  Dee Gordon came in for him, and he scampered to third on Luis Cruz's single.

After Elian Herrera struck out, A.J. Ellis laid down a bunt to Bailey.  For some reason, Bailey never really looked Gordon back, and on the putout to first, Gordon flew home to score easily and make it 3-1.  That's the different dimension to the game that Gordon can so excel at.  Bobby Abreu pinch-hit and took a walk, bringing in Jose Arredondo.  Mark Ellis greeted him with an RBI double, and Ethier with an infield RBI single, putting the Dodgers up 5-1.

Kenley Jansen struck out the side in the seventh, handing the ball over to Ronald Belisario in the eighth.  Cairo reached right away on an error by Gordon, which unfortunately is one of those "dimensions" that he also does so well at.  Sure enough, Phipps launched a two-run shot to make it 5-3.

Brandon League was given another chance for save, and with two outs, Gordon's throw to first was wide to Gonzalez, but he made a great tag on Frazier just before he got to first to cap off the night.  It was League's fifth save.

Before Gonzalez made the night about him, it was all about Kershaw and his surprise start.  He certainly didn't have his best stuff, walking five to tie a season high.  But he also struck out five to put himself back in the NL lead at 211.  His one run surrendered lowered his ERA to 2.68 as well.  It was just awesome to watch him step up and get big outs when he needed them.  The guys is a true warrior and a pleasure to watch.

I think this was the kind of night we all envisioned Gonzalez having when he was acquired from Boston.  It's not like we expected two homers each game, but I certainly think we thought he'd give more than 3 homers and 11 extra-base hits in 27 games.  It was nice to watch him make an impact with the long ball again.

There's really not a whole lot the Dodgers can do other than win every, or very, VERY close to every, game the rest of the way.  They've got three coming up in San Diego, followed by three each at home against the Rockies and Giants.  The Cardinals have the Astros, Nationals, and Reds.  The Brewers are only three back as well, and they've got the Reds, Astros, and Padres.

No matter which teams play which, no matter how good, bad or ugly the opponents are, and no matter if it's home or away, the Dodgers just need to win.  That's it.  Win and then pray for some help.  Don't win, and none of this matters.  They've dug their own grave, so let's see if they can claw their way out.

Monday is an off day before traveling to play the Padres in the final road trip of the year.  Josh Beckett has a 3.45 ERA in five starts with LA, and his team will need another big start from him.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

With backs against the wall, Kemp comes through

Matt Kemp has certainly experienced a tale of two seasons this year.  From the best player in baseball to start the season (by far), to an injury-plagued, frustrating end of the season, he's been through it all.

Friday night reminded everyone that even at less than 100%, he can still deliver the big hit.

With the bases loaded, two outs, and an 0-2 count, Kemp lined an inside fastball to right for a two-run single, giving the Dodgers an advantage they would not relinquish, winning 3-1 in 10 innings.  The Reds came into this one needing a win to clinch the NL Central, but they'll have to wait a little bit longer.

A ninth inning comeback by the Cubs in Wrigley led to a win in extras for them over the Cardinals, so the Dodgers are back to two down for the final Wild Card spot.

There obviously wasn't much scoring in this game, not that news like that should surprise any of you considering the Dodgers have a personal vendetta against scoring runs in September.  Both of the big guns for each team, Kemp and Joey Votto, singled in the first, but nothing came of it.

The Dodgers did crack the scoreboard in the second.  Hanley Ramirez legged out an infield single leading off, with a little help from a bobble at short by Zack Cozart.  He then stole second and took third on Luis Cruz's single.  Juan Rivera got the start for an ailing Shane Victorino (sore wrist), and his RBI groundout made it 1-0.

Both Joe Blanton and Bronson Arroyo turned back the clock a bit, as they gave the hitters pretty much nothing to work with.  In the fifth, however, the Reds finally broke through.  With two outs, Xavier Paul (remember him?) hit a ground rule double.  Ryan Hanigan was given the intentional pass to pitch to Arroyo.  And wouldn't you know it, Arroyo came up with an RBI single to tie the game at one.

Each team had chances to score in the sixth, and each blew it.  For the Dodgers, Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez singled with two outs, but Ramirez could only muster a pop up in foul territory at first.

The Reds again made some noise with two outs.  Scott Rolen kept the inning alive with a single, which also brought the hook for Blanton.  Randy Choate came in to pitch to Jay Bruce, but after Rolen stole second, Bruce was put on intentionally.  Scott Tolleson entered, walked Drew Stubbs to load the bases, but got a called third strike to set down Paul for the last out.

That was really the last threat in paid baseball, as Ronald Belisario struck out five of the six batters he faced in the eighth and ninth.  The Dodgers also saw the return of Jonathan Broxton, who also went 1-2-3 in the ninth.  I'm surprised the Dodgers didn't try and sign Matt Stairs for this series, just to see Broxton sneak out of the stadium and disappear until Monday.

In the 10th, the Dodgers came within a hair of blowing a golden opportunity to score, but mercifully got that one big hit they needed.  Seth LeClure started the inning by beaning Elian Herrera.  A.J. Ellis then grounded one to Bruce at first, who tried to force Herrera at second, but came up empty because of a low throw.  Nick Punto sacrificed both them into scoring position before Mark Ellis walked to load the bases.

So here the Dodgers were with the bases loaded and one out.  Sean Marshall was summoned to pitch to Andre Ethier hitting in the #2 spot.  It worked, as Ethier struck out and failed to at least push one run home.  Marshall stayed on to pitch to Kemp and got two quick strikes, but Kemp collected his third hit of the night with a two-run single, making it 3-1.

Brandon League is still the closer right now as Kenley Jansen slowly makes his way back, and he recorded his fourth save when another old friend, Dioner Navarro, grounded to Gonzalez at first to end the game.

The Dodgers are only 8-10 in the month of September, and it's a good thing they actually won three straight to start.  In fact, six of their wins have been a single run, and Friday night's game by two.  About the only game you can call a "comfortable" win was back on September 15 when they beat the Cardinals 8-5.  But even in that, they game was 5-5 until Cruz hit a three-run homer in the sixth.  The bottom line is that it's been one grind after another.

It's an old saying, but the Dodgers sure will take any win they can get.  Blowout or nail biter, it doesn't matter.  They just have to find a way as they battle through an offense that looks lost most nights and a starting rotation that is permanently without Ted Lilly and Chad Billingsley, and with Clayton Kershaw on the mend.  Things sure haven't been easy.

Blanton deserves a whole lot of credit for this win.  I wasn't exactly feeling confident when I saw he was starting, especially considering he was sporting a 4.97 ERA coming into it.  But much to his credit, he looked very good by going 5 2/3 innings for four hits, one run, one walk, and six strikeouts.  I think a veteran start like this is exactly what the Dodgers had in mind when they traded for him.  He's someone who shouldn't be afraid of the moment.  On Friday night, he pitched like it.

Once again, let's give big props to the bullpen for their flawless work.  Choate didn't exactly do much, but Tolleson, Jansen, Belisario, and League pitched the final 4 1/2 without giving up a hit and striking out eight.  The Reds bullpen has widely been regarded as the best in baseball, and rightfully so, but the Dodgers can be just as good when everyone's healthy.  They sure were in this game.

Every time the Dodgers get a win, the question is then asked if it will propel them to a bunch more.  Well, that hasn't happened yet, as a win is usually followed up by a dud.  We all know there's no time for slumps anymore if they want to play in that one-game Wild Card playoff.  If they lay an egg this weekend, their margin for error becomes super slim.

Young Stephen Fife will get another start as the Dodgers await word on Kershaw's status for Sunday.  It won't be easy for him, as he goes up against Matt Latos and his 12-4 record.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Nationals roll right over the Dodgers

With the Nationals coming into Thursday night's ballgame sporting a magic number of one, you know they wanted to get the win themselves, and not back their way into the postseason.

And fortunately for them, they got to play the Dodgers. 

The Dodgers only got one run to continue their trend of futility, and the Nationals were able to easily dispose of them to get the win, 4-1.  While the Nationals are 5 1/2 in front of the Braves for the NL East crown, the Dodgers continue to tumble by falling three games in back of the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot.

There's not much to report here after another frustrating night, but what the hell, here goes nothing.

Chris Capuano was put in charge of getting the Dodgers back on track, but in the third, the Nationals started their scoring.  Jayson Werth singled leading off, but a Bryce Harper grounder forced him at second for one down.  Ryan Zimmerman then hit an RBI double to make it 1-0.  Zimmerman advanced to third on a grounder and came in to score on a wild pitch.

Down 2-0, the Dodgers had the top of their order due up after going down in order the first time through.  Mark Ellis got into one leading off, as his solo shot to left made it 2-1.  Shane Victorino then struck out and Matt Kemp popped up.  Adrian Gonzalez singled, but of course Hanley Ramirez popped up for the final out.

Any thought of a comeback was quickly erased in the bottom of the inning.  Ian Desmond walked leading off.  Danny Espinosa then doubled him in to go up 3-1.  A sac-fly RBI by Kurt Suzuki later, and it was now 4-1.

When you look at a Dodgers' lineup of Victorino, Kemp, Gonzalez, Ramirez, and Andre Ethier, normally you'd think that an early three-run deficit isn't a big deal.  At least that's what you should think, right?


These current Dodgers couldn't string together a good inning if it was their sole job on Earth (which it kind of is if you think about it...).  From the fifth inning on, only Kemp and pinch-hitter Bobby Abreu singled, and that was it.  A whole lot of swings, and a whole lot of nothing.

A whole lot of nothing, kind of like what the Dodgers have shown the world this entire pitiful month of September.

Capuano had a couple of rough innings, and unfortunately, that's not nearly good enough to get a win these days.  He went only five innings for six hits, four runs (three earned), one walk, and three strikeouts.  Through June he was 9-3 with a 2.69 ERA.  Now he's 11-11 with a 3.65 ERA.  It hasn't been very pretty.

I guess the only positive is that the bullpen did a good job.  It didn't matter one bit with the offense sucking so bad again, but I digress.  Jamey Wright, Paco Rodriguez, Kenley Jansen, Randy Choate, and Shawn Tolleson pitched a nearly perfect final four innings, giving up only one hit and one walk.  It was especially good to see Jansen back in the mix.  Glad he's healthy and ready to go again.

Honestly, there's just not much I can even say anymore about these guys.  It's the same old story over and over.  The lineup looks like it should be lethal, yet it's strikeouts, pop ups, and weak grounders all game.  They still look like they're all trying to hit grand slams with nobody on base.  I'm stunned they haven't even considered changing their approach at the plate, but I guess that's just not gonna happen.

At only four games over .500, not only are the Dodgers dangerously close to being left in the dust for the postseason, but they might not even finish with a winning record anymore.  At this rate, it wouldn't even surprise me.  Like Don Mattingly admitted after the game, the season is definitely slipping away.

And lucky them, they get to go to Cincinnati for three starting Friday.  The Reds' magic number for the NL Central is down to two, so beating the Dodgers will get them a pass into the Division Series.  Joe Blanton and his sparkling 4.97 ERA takes on Bronson Arroyo.