Monday, April 30, 2012

Dodgers earn a sweep in battle of division leaders

In an April to remember, the Dodgers made another big statement.

James Loney's two-run single in the sixth held up the rest of the way, as the Dodgers beat the Nationals again, 2-0.  That's now three sweeps this young season for L.A., as they improved their record to an NL-best 16-6.

Much like the other two games in this series, there wasn't a big margin of error for each team.  In fact, the Dodgers won three straight by a combined score of only 9-5.  That's a normal game over in the American League.  In this league, that passes as an entire series.

The bats were silent through five innings.  Both teams really only had one scoring opportunity.  Ian Desmond doubled leading off the fourth, then advanced to third on a bunt.  A couple strikeouts later killed that threat.  Matt Treanor singled with an out in the fifth and also moved up on a bunt, but Tony Gwynn popped up with two down.

Then came the sixth, and the Dodgers finally broke through.  Gio Gonzalez was pitching beautifully up to this point, but was his own worst enemy here.  With one out, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Juan Uribe all drew walks.  Loney came up in a big spot, and found himself in a 1-2 hole, but delivered with a clutch two-run single up the middle to make it 2-0. 

Like pretty much every other Dodger game this year, the last few innings were nail biters.  Chris Capuano was lifted two outs in the seventh and a runner on first.  Josh Lindblom has been money all year, and he got Jesus Flores to fly out.

Lindblom stayed on and got through the eighth with a couple of strikeouts.  Now Don Mattingly had another decision to make - should he stick with the suddenly ineffective Javy Guerra, or give Kenley Jansen a crack at it?

Jansen would be the answer, and he started off by walking Adam LaRoche on four straight.  After Xavier Nady got to a 2-0 count, Jansen mercifully settled down to strike him out.  Chad Tracy struck out pinch-hitting, then Bryce Harper drew a walk on a full count.  Flores struck out swinging to end the game.

Capuano was fantastic in this one, going 6 2/3 innings for three hits, no runs, two walks, and nine strikeouts.  He's gotten a little better with each start, thanks to a combination of pounding the inside part of the plate to righties, and off speed stuff.  He's now 2-1 with a 2.73 ERA and 1.21 WHIP.  I love the way he battles, and he's getting great results because of it.

Lindblom continues to turn heads, as he's gone from possible demotion to a major threat in close games.  He's given up only one run in 13 2/3 innings (0.66 ERA), and has 11 strikeouts.  Mattingly will ride him while he's hot, especially since Matt Guerrier and Todd Coffey are hurt, and Mike MacDougal is kind of all over the place.

It's good to see Loney be the one who got the game-winning hit, as he again is struggling to get going.  It seems like every time he looks like he's about to fall apart, he reminds you why he can be a good hitter.  Granted, he's only hitting .227, and has expressed frustration at being platooned with Juan Rivera.  There's really only one solution for him to play everyday, and it's simple: be a more consistent hitter.  The playing time will then take care of itself.

The Dodgers definitely made a statement with this sweep, as the Nationals have some really good starting pitching.  To be fair, it should be noted that they are a bit banged up with Ryan Zimmerman on the DL and Jayson Werth missing this game with a migraine.  Brad Lidge is hurt too, but he stinks anyway.  When they get their hitting even somewhat figured out, they're going to be a playoff contender.  If they don't, then they'll waste all of that good pitching.

Up next is a trip to Colorado for three starting on Monday.  Those games are always an adventure.  A win would get the Dodgers 11 games over .500 for month of April.  Even with a loss, it's still an incredible start.  Aaron Harang will take on Juan Nicasio.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Kemp's walk-off spoils Harper's debut

Bryce Harper showed why he is the player of the future with a double, RBI, and a cannon of an arm in the outfield.

Matt Kemp showed why is he the best player right now... and for years to come.

After the Dodgers scored two runs to tie the game in the ninth, Kemp blasted a solo shot leading off the 10th to get another win over the Nationals, 4-3.  The Dodgers are now the first to 15 wins in the National League.

This was a game that featured a little of everything, as Stephen Strasburg and Chad Billingsley matched each other pitch for pitch through most of the game.  In fact, both ended up with identical lines of seven innings, five hits, and one run.  Strasburg won the strikeout battle 9-6.

Adam LaRoche homered on Friday night for the Nats, and he did so once again to start the seventh.  His laser shot to right gave them a 1-0 lead.  With Ryan Zimmerman on the DL and very little power elsewhere, they'll need him to do much more of that going forward.

In the bottom of the frame, the Dodgers got it right back.  Jerry Hairston, Jr., who already made a terrific diving catch for a double play earlier in the game, was beaned leading off.  James Loney bounced one that Danny Espinosa booted to reach on the error.  Juan Uribe struck out, but A.J. Ellis plated a run with a single, thanks to Hairston gutting it out and knocking the ball away from catcher Wilson Ramos on the slide.

A bit lost in the Kemp hysteria at the end was another rough ninth inning from Javy Guerra.  Granted, it was Scott Elbert who made a bad 0-2 pitch to allow LaRoche to reach on a single leading off.  But, Guerra was brought in an out later to put out the fire, and once again he made it worse.  Espinosa singled and Harper's first career RBI made it 2-1.  Ramos hit an RBI single next to push it to 3-1.

Things weren't looking good for the Dodgers, as the bottom of their order was due up against the flame throwing Henry Rodriguez, who continually touched triple digits on the gun.  His own wildness, however, would be his undoing.

Mark Ellis singled leading off and went to second on a wild pitch.  Loney singled, and Uribe's ground rule double made it 3-2.  The other Ellis struck out for one down, and Adam Kennedy then pinch-hit in the pitcher's spot.  All he could do was bounce one to first, and for God knows what reason, Loney sprinted for home and was out by 12 miles.

Sure enough, another wild pitch to Dee Gordon allowed Uribe to sprint home to tie the game at three.  Gordon soon reached on a strikeout with a wild pitch, but Tony Gwynn's liner was gloved at first to send it into extras.

Jamey Wright did a wonderful job in getting the Nats in order to set the plate for Kemp.  On a 1-2 count against Tom Gorzelanny, Kemp deposited it over the wall in center, and that was all she wrote.

Kemp struggled at the plate for most of the game, as Strasburg struck him out twice.  He managed a walk and stolen base off of Tyler Clippard in the eighth, so perhaps that helped give him some momentum back.  Whatever the case, he swung the bat like the man he is to again save his best for last.  Amazing.

The Dodgers are now 8-3 in one-run games, which goes to show they are getting big hits at the right time.  They could've easily rolled over both when Strasburg was on the mound and after falling behind in the ninth, but they kept battling.  That's what's been so much fun about these guys so far this season.  They keep eyeballs glued to the TV set until the end.

As for Harper, he gave everyone a taste of just how good he's going to be, and fast.  He has incredible bat speed, a great arm, and is very fast.  It's hard not to like him.  Say what you want about his perceived arrogance, but he's going to be a star in no time.  Maybe the Dodgers should be thankful they at least got him out twice.

A sweep would be huge, and that's exactly what the Dodgers will go for on Sunday.  It'll be up to Chris Capuano, who will look to improve to 3-0.  He'll be opposed by another great, young starter for the Nats, Gio Gonzalez.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Kershaw goes 8 strong for win

The opening game of a matchup between the National League's two best teams went the Dodgers' way on Friday, as they were able to down the Nationals, 3-2.  Both teams now sport identical 14-6 records, just above the Braves and Cardinals at 13-7.

It's no surprise to anyone who follows the Dodgers that a big part of their win came from doing damage in the first inning.  With two outs, Matt Kemp hit a sharp single into left.  Andre Ethier had four homers at this point, but none against lefties.  That changed, as he took southpaw Ross Detwiler deep for a two-run blast, and it was 2-0.  The runs also gave the Dodgers a 21-5 advantage in the opening frame this year.

With Clayton Kershaw cruising, the Dodgers tacked on an extra run in the fourth that would eventually pay off big time.  As Vin Scully described so well at the end of the game, "the left hook and right cross" of Kemp and Ethier started it with singles.  Jerry Hairston, Jr. sacrificed them over to scoring position, but James Loney grounded out for two down.  Juan Uribe was just able to beat out an infield single for the RBI and 3-0 lead.

Somehow Kershaw worked around two straight errors in the fifth by Dee Gordon and Loney on routine grounders that were thrown away.  In the sixth, however, he wouldn't be as lucky.  Jayson Werth walked leading off.  Adam LaRoche then took a bad 0-2 breaking ball that stayed up out to right field for a two-run homer, and it was now 3-2.

The Dodgers had chances in the seventh and eighth to get more runs, but came away with nothing instead.  In the seventh, Kemp found himself up with Kershaw on third and Ellis on second with two outs, but grounded out.  The next inning, Uribe ripped a double to right in which pinch-runner Tony Gwynn tried to score on, but was denied by a blocked plate and was called out.

Kershaw got through the heart of the order and finished with 113 pitches in the eighth, and once again, the Dodgers found themselves in a save situation.  Javy Guerra got the night off, probably for a combination of mental (two straight loses) and physical (liner off the face) rest. 

So, Kenley Jansen was given the shot, and came within inches of blowing it himself when Danny Espinosa just missed a homer to right.  After two straight liners to Kemp in center and a beaning to Chad Tracy, Jesus Flores struck out to end the game.  It was Jansen's first save of the season to go along with five holds.

The Nationals just lost Ryan Zimmerman to the DL with a bad right shoulder, so they're not going into this series with all of their ammo.  Still, they're no longer a pushover by any means, as their starting pitching has been incredible so far.  It's a good test for the Dodgers just like the Braves series, so a win is always a good thing.

Kershaw put up his usual awesome numbers, even on a night he wasn't quite as sharp as he could be.  He lasted eight innings for three hits, two runs, one walk, and six strikeouts.  The homer by LaRoche was obviously his biggest blow, but he shut 'em down the rest of the way.  He improved to 2-0 with a 1.78 ERA and 0.89 WHIP.

Four of the Dodgers' seven hits came from the "left hook and right cross" combo, not that anyone should be surprised by that.  Uribe had two himself.  The funny thing is, he actually has five multi-hit games this season, good for a .275 average.  Considering he was hitting .211 as recently as April 22, we'll all take it.

Hopefully Guerra is able to come back soon, as he's still the closer according to Don Mattingly.  Jansen got the job done on this night to his credit.  Still, and I know this will seem picky, but he worries me a bit.  He's a power pitcher, which works quite often.  But I can't help but think he's one fastball down the middle away from giving up a big run.  He needs to keep developing his cutter and slider so he's not relying on just the pure heat so much.

Another guy who's worrying me is Gordon, who went 0-for-4 and committed his sixth error already.  He's young, he's got blazing speed, and is just an electric player when he's clicking.  Right now he's not, as his average has dipped to .224 with only five walks all season.  I have to wonder if he'll be dropped in the order soon, maybe just temporarily.  He's definitely pressing now and he's having some bad at-bats because of it.

Those negative things aside, the Dodgers have won 14 of the first 20, which is just awesome considering nobody thought they'd come close to winning the division.  So far they are showing that their hot end to last season has carried over, and maybe, just maybe, they actually are a good team and aren't just getting lucky over and over.  We'll see if the "baseball experts" agree or not.

Saturday night will be a fun one in Dodger Stadium.  Chad Billingsley will take on young stud Stephen Strasburg.  But what's being talked about even more is the Major League debut of Bryce Harper, who replaced Zimmerman on the big club.  It would have been something else if Kershaw somehow got this start, but it wasn't meant to be.  Regardless, this will be a great game to watch for both sides.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A forgettable night for Guerra

It's safe to say that Wednesday night, April 25, 2012 is not a night Javy Guerra would like to remember.

Guerra suffered a blown save... and a blow to the face on a line drive as the Braves used a three-run ninth to beat the Dodgers, 4-2.  In an anticipated matchup for the Dodgers this early in the season, they dropped two of three to their old National League rival.

The pitching matchup was a good one, as wily veteran Ted Lilly took on young gun Brandon Beachy.  Both did not disappoint, as blanks were thrown the first three innings.

In the fourth, the Braves scored first.  After a fantastic diving grab at short by Dee Gordon, Freddy Freeman doubled to center.  A groundout got him to third, and he came around to score on Dan Uggla's RBI single, making it 1-0.

The Dodgers weren't doing a lick through four, but Tony Gwynn finally got something going in the fifth.  He singled leading off and stole second.  A single by A.J. Ellis put runners on the corners, and Lilly's sacrifice put two in scoring position.  Gordon grounded out, but it was good enough for the game-tying RBI at 1-1.

There had been a threat of rain all day, and in the sixth, it started to show itself.  That didn't phase Mr. Matt Kemp, as he led off and blasted his ML-leading 10th jack of the season to make it 2-1.  He's still easily ahead in average at .449, and is just edging teammate Andre Ethier in RBIs at 23 to 22.  Add it all up, and there's another Triple Crown run in him.  So far, so good.

What wasn't so good was Guerra.  The formula was working for awhile, as Lilly was dominant through seven, and Kenley Jansen got it done in the eighth.  For Guerra, however, he made it two straight nights of taking the L.

Martin Prado led off the ninth with a liner that was gloved by Either in right.  Freeman is the reigning NL Player of the Week, finally unseating Kemp, and his single started it all.  Then came Brian McCann, who ripped a fastball right off of Guerra's face for a hit.  I'm not sure how, but he popped right back up and stayed in the game, to the amazement of us all.

Unfortunately, the results didn't get any better.  Three straight RBI singles came next from Uggla, Chipper Jones, and Jason Heyward, and just like the that Braves were up 4-2.  Josh Lindblom came in to put out the fire, but the Dodgers went down in order against Craig Kimbrel to end the game.

First things first, and that's the health of Guerra.  For someone who was beaned in the face, he avoided a lot of potentially bad news by passing the post-game concussion test.  I don't care how he pitched - his health is most important, and it appears he'll be fine.

On the pitching side of things, it's certainly not encouraging to watch your closer crumble two straight nights against a good team.  There were whispers about Jansen taking over that role coming into this season, and that will only now get louder.  Don Mattingly did say after the game that Guerra will still be the closer, which is expected considering he doesn't want any drama right now.

Lilly did all he could, as he went seven innings for three hits, one run, one walk, and two strikeouts.  He's been outstanding in his three starts this season with a 0.90 ERA and 0.85 WHIP.  Those numbers won't always stay that way, but I think he's proven that his strong end to last year has only carried over.

The Dodgers can somewhat be encouraged that they had a chance to win all three of these games.  Their two losses have happened late, and their one win was a no-doubter.  Because they pounded on lesser teams this year (Padres, Pirates, Astros), it's a little disappointing that they didn't win either series against the Brewers and Braves.  But, it's still very early, so it's hard to make a big deal about it either way.

Thursday will be an off day, which is a good thing as guys like Guerra, Mike MacDougal, and Juan Rivera can all rest up after dealing with various ailments.  Then the Nationals come to town for three, and they're playing very well this year at 14-4, tops in the NL East.  Friday night's game won't disappoint, as Clayton Kershaw takes on Ross Detwiler.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Injuries mount as Dodgers fall to Braves

The losses were felt all over the place on Tuesday night.  Before the game, Matt Guerrier was placed on the 15-day DL with a sore elbow.  During the game, Juan Rivera (hamstring) and Aaron Harang (foot) both had to leave early.  And after the game, the Dodgers were handed their first home loss of the season to the Braves, 4-3.

Everything started off well enough in the first.  As has been the case all season, the Dodgers pounced in inning #1.  Mark Ellis singled with an out.  Matt Kemp flew out, but Rivera picked him up by clobbering a ball into the left field pavilion for a 2-0.  It was Rivera's first longball of the season.

Harang was rolling until the fifth.  Celebrating his 40th birthday, Chipper Jones led off with a homer to right to make it 2-1.  Jayson Heyward and Tyler Pastornicky followed with singles.  An out later, Martin Prado tied the game up with a fielder's choice, and we were back to square one

Both teams tacked on a run in the sixth.  Harang stayed in the game, even though he would later admit his foot was only getting worse thanks to a foul ball that struck it early on.  Brian McCann singled and Dan Uggla walked, but a double play soon put McCann at third.  Heyward was walked intentionally to pitch to Pastornicky, yet a wild pitch brought home a run to make it 3-2.

Dee Gordon and Ellis immediately started the comeback, as they singled to start the bottom of the inning.  In an odd play, Gordon eventually scored on Kemp's grounder and Uggla's error.  But, Kemp was called out for rounding first too much for two out.  Andre Ethier flew out to end the inning.

The score remained deadlocked until the ninth.  Javy Guerra was called upon to keep it that way, but it wasn't meant to be.  Pastornicky again singled leading off.  Now with two outs, Prado hit a long fly ball to Kemp in center that was just out of his reach for the RBI triple, and the Braves led 4-3.

The Dodgers put a couple of men on in the ninth from a single by Jerry Hairston, Jr. and a walk by A.J. Ellis.  Tony Gwynn struck out swinging to end it and give Craig Kimbrel his sixth save.

The injuries to Rivera and Harang don't appear serious, but it's still a case of bad timing considering Guerrier was just placed on the DL.  Rivera is about the only other threat besides Kemp and Ethier to drive in runs, and he's versatile because he can play outfield and first base, so he'll be missed if he's gone for an extended period.  Hopefully not.

Harang was putting together a solid start until fading late.  The foot issue definitely didn't help things.  He went six innings for six hits, three runs, four walks, and two strikeouts.  He's now 1-1 this season, but with a 5.16 ERA and 1.63 WHIP.  Those numbers will eventually come down as he builds up his arm strength.  We're not talking All-Star numbers here, but something in line for a respectable 4-5 starter at least.

Guerra has been asked to do a lot already this season, and for the most part he's been great.  Tuesday night was a bump in the road, as he just barely wasn't able to keep the game tied.  Still, though, he's 7-for-8 in save situations with a 2.89 ERA, so one bad night isn't going to ruin him.

Thursday night is the rubber match, and it's a battle of good pitchers.  Ted Lilly and his 0.69 ERA will take on Brandon Beachy and his 0.47 ERA.  Basically, it's old school vs. new school.  A win by the Dodgers would be another positive sign early this season in winning a series against a perennial contender.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

There was a Juan Uribe sighting

If you were to quiz people on which current Dodger has the most World Series championships, you might either get some clueless looks, or claim it's a trick question.  When you find out the answer is Juan Uribe (two), you might have forgotten he was even on the team thanks to numerous injuries, and a .204 average last year and .211 this year.

Well, Uribe is still starting at third base, and Monday night he finally showed up.

Uribe went 4-for-4 with three RBIs, and the Dodgers won the opener of a three-game set with the Braves, 7-2.  The Dodgers are now a flawless 7-0 at home this year as they begin their six-game homestand.

Chris Capuano took the hill for the Dodgers, and he was immediately in some trouble.  Michael Bourn walked leading off, Freddy Freeman singled, and Matt Diaz walked to load the bases with two outs.  On a big 3-2 pitch, Capuano went off-speed to get Jayson Heyward swinging to end the threat.

Like a good team does, the Dodgers took advantage of the momentum.  Dee Gordon singled and stole his ninth base.  A flyout to right got Gordon to third, and Matt Kemp took a walk.  Andre Ethier found just enough room to bloop an RBI single into center, and it was 1-0.

Old Dodger David Ross smacked a solo shot leading off the second, and the score was tied.  The Dodgers grabbed the lead right back, as James Loney started it with a double.  Uribe got his first hit wth an RBI single, making it 2-1.  An RBI single by A.J. Ellis increased it to 3-1.

After Capuano again stranded a couple of baserunners in the fourth, the Dodgers started to add to their lead.  And again, it started on hits by Loney and Uribe, this time a couple of singles.  Ellis collected another RBI on a single to make it 4-1.  With Livan Hernandez now on the mound (yes, he is still pitching 73 years later), a sac-fly RBI by Gordon pushed it to 5-1.

Josh Lindblom came in to pitch the eighth, but he immediately watched Dan Uggla launch a solo shot to make it 5-2.  And just as they've done all game, the Dodgers responded.  Kemp and Ethier both singled leading off, and went to third on Adam Kennedy's sacrifice.  Loney was walked to load 'em up, and Uribe found enough room in right for a two-run single, closing the scoring at 7-2.

Scott Elbert went through the Braves in order in the non-save situation.

The story of the night was obviously Uribe, who had to feel a whole lot of weight coming off his shoulders with this performance.  It's not like he was crushing the ball, but he played small ball like the rest of the team, who's only extra-base hit out of 15 as Loney's double.  That's a lot of singles, but it's not too surprising considering Kemp and Ethier are the only true power threats.

Uribe did go 3-for-3 against the Pirates earlier this season, but he had a bigger impact in this game.  Only twice last year did he have three hits in a game, which helps explain his pathetic average.  You've got to start somewhere, so hopefully he can build on this and be a bigger threat in the bottom part of the order.  To his credit, he's played very solid defense all along, so this will only make him more complete.

As for Capuano, he's doing his part in the back end of the rotation with his third straight good start.  This was his best one, as he lasted seven innings for six hits, one run, four walks, and five strikeouts.  He lives a little dangerously with all those baserunners, but he's also among the league leaders in strikeouts with his buddies Aaron Harang and Clayton Kershaw at 20.  He's a veteran hurler, and he's showing how to get big outs when needed.

The Dodgers will look to grab another one on Tuesday night when Harang takes the hill.  He'll be opposed by Mike Minor, whose numbers continue to get better in his third season.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sloppy Dodgers suffer a Houston beatdown

Sunday was getaway day in Houston, as the Dodgers were finishing up their road trip before heading back to LA for a six-game homestand.

Apparently somebody forgot to tell the Dodgers they had a game to play before departing.

The Dodgers committed three errors, Chad Billingsley was awful, and Jordan Schafer's grand slam helped the Astros cream the Dodgers, 12-0.  Even with the loss, the Dodgers took two of three to win another series.

The defense let Billingsley down right away, as Juan Rivera's throwing error let Jed Lowrie reach in the first.  Sure enough, instead of getting the 'Stros in order, Carlos Lee lifted a two-run homer with two down.

The second inning put the icing on the cake already.  Chris Johnson singled leading off and Jason Castro walked.  Jose Altuve flew out, and as Wandy Rodriguez was trying to bunt, Billingsley walked him instead to load the bases.  Lowrie had an easy fly out for two out, but Schafer's granny was just out of the reach of Andre Ethier in right to make it 6-0.

The ugliness for Billingsley and the defense reached an even lower point in the fourth, as the Dodgers looked like they were mentally back in LA already.  Castro hit a liner that was completely misjudged by Matt Kemp in center for a triple, even though Kemp knows he should've made the play.  Following a walk to Altuve, Rodriguez hit a comebacker to Bills, who threw low to second and was dropped by Dee Gordon for an error.

A wild pitch let Schafer score to make it 8-0.  Jamey Wright came in and gave up an RBI fielder's choice to J.D. Martinez to close the inning at 9-0.

Wright would go on to give up another run on a single by Castro in the fifth.  The final two runs came in the eighth off of Mike MacDougal, who was terrible to say the least.  Johnson and Altuve chipped in with RBI singles to mercifully end the scoring.

There's just not a whole lot of positive to say about this game... probably because nothing good happened for the Dodgers.  The only other bad loss this year was to the Padres on Easter Sunday 8-4.  But, this was a whitewashing from start to finish.  No question about it.

Billingsley came into this game 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA and 0.69 WHIP.  After a line of 3 1/3 innings for four hits, nine runs (five earned), four walks, and two strikeouts, he's now 2-1 with a 3.04 ERA and 0.93 WHIP.  Like usual, the story with him is his control - he either has it or he doesn't.  This game he didn't have it with four walks, and he got burned.  The defense did him no favors, and that's not his fault, but he still wasn't sharp at all.

Someone else who wasn't sharp was MacDougal, who now sports a 7.71 ERA and 2.57 WHIP in six appearances.  Last year he let hitters reach, but seemed to always make big pitches when he needed to.  This year, not so much.  He likes to live dangerously, and he's paying the price for it.  The Dodgers need better middle relief, and he's playing himself right out of that role with numbers like those.  Yuck.

Kemp looked human for the first time all year, as he went 0-for-3 with a strikeout, not to mention the misplayed fly ball in the fourth.  He was lifted for Tony Gwynn in the sixth.  It was a good move by Don Mattingly, as the game was already over and Kemp can now focus on the Braves and Nationals this upcoming week.

The Dodgers will get right back to work on Monday by welcoming the Braves for three.  The Braves are playing some great ball themselves lately, as they've turned an 0-4 start into a current 10-6 mark.  Do the math, and that's 10 wins in the last 12.  Chris Capuano will look to slow them down as he takes the hill first.

Another homer from that guy, another gem from the other

If you looked at the lineup card before Saturday night's game in Houston, you saw that Matt Kemp was hitting in the third spot, and Clayton Kershaw was on the mound.

Fast forward to the end, and it's no surprise it was another Dodgers' victory.

Kemp crushed his ninth homer, the fastest through 15 games in Dodgers' history, and Kershaw went seven scoreless as the Dodgers cruised by the Astros, 5-1.  At 12-3 now, the Dodgers are just continuing to get better and better each night.

The scoring started in the second.  James Loney hasn't been helping his cause for being an everyday first baseman with another rough start, but he pulled a long solo shot to make it 1-0.  Even with that hit, he's still only hitting .200, but you've got to start somewhere, right?

Kershaw wasn't being threatened too much, but neither was Kyle Weiland through five frames.  In the sixth, however, it was Kemp who made Weiland pay.  Dee Gordon bunted his way on with one out, then went to third on a bad pickoff attempt.  Adam Kennedy popped up for two outs.

So now up came Kemp with two outs and first base open.  Should he be pitched to?  Well, I wouldn't think so, but with Andre Ethier hitting behind him, Weiland went after him.  It was a big mistake, as he launched a two-run bomb to dead center to go up 3-0.

Speaking of Ethier, he added to the cause in the eighth.  A rally started with two outs when the bases became loaded on a double by Gordon, and walks to Kennedy and Kemp.  Ethier ripped a two-run single into right to push the lead up to 5-0.

Mike MacDougal was called upon to get through the eighth, but his old nemesis the walk got the best of him.  A single by Justin Maxwell followed by walks to Jordan Schafer and Jose Altuve got him pulled with one out.  Kenley Jansen walked a run in, but put out the fire right after that with two straight outs.

Jamey Wright continued his resurgence by going through the ninth in order to close it out.

After the game, Kershaw admitted he didn't feel like he had much control over his fastball.  That's a scary though considering how good he was anyway.  He lasted seven innings for three hits, no runs, two walks, and nine strikeouts.  He finally got on the board with his first win after three straight no-decisions.

As for Kemp and Ethier, there's just only so many ways you can keep saying how good they are.  It seems like every game we have to try and think of something new.  They're by far the best 1-2 punch in baseball right now, as four more RBIs gave them 43 on the year.  The rest of the team has 24 combined!  That's just crazy.

I said this yesterday, but the key to the Dodgers going forward is how the others will step up once these two start to cool off a bit.  Saturday was a good start, as Gordon had three hits leading off and Loney homered.  We'll see going forward how the supporting cast continues to improve, as the Dodgers can become a more complete team if they do.

A win on Sunday afternoon would give the Dodgers a sweep, which would be their third already.  Chad Billingsley has been cool as ice (in a good way) through three starts, so he'll look to keep that up.  He has a tough matchup, as the Astros will send their ace, Wandy Rodriguez, to the mound looking to grab a win.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The planet belongs to Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp has proven that, once again, he can do no wrong.

Kemp's two-run homer in the first held up the whole way, as the Dodgers downed the Astros on the road, 3-1.  The record is now upped to 11-3, which is still tied with the Rangers and Nationals for tops in the majors.

Justin Sellers got the start at short and in the leadoff hole, giving Dee Gordon a needed day of rest.  Sellers made the most of it by singling to open the game.  An out later, Kemp hit his eighth homer of the year to grab the quick 2-0 lead.

Somewhat overshadowed in all of the Kemp hysteria has been the great start by Andre Ethier as well.  He got in on the act in the third.  Mark Ellis started it with a single, and Kemp did something that pitchers should be doing a lot more of - issuing a walk.  Juan Rivera hit a hard one, but it was gloved at third for a double play.  Kemp went to third on the play, and he scored on Ethier's RBI single to make it 3-0.

Lilly was rolling until running into a bit of trouble with two outs in the fourth.  Brian Bogusevic singled and stole second.  He came around to score on Chris Snyder's RBI single, and it was now 3-1.

Jerry Hairston, Jr. got plenty of attention for his sharp defensive play in the Brewers' series, and he again raised some eyebrows in this one.  The bases became loaded for the Astros in the fifth on a walk to Jose Altuve, a single by J.D. Martinez off of Lilly's glove, and an intentional pass to Chris Johnson.  Jed Lowrie then grounded a hard one to Hairston at third, who made the play, then dove to the base to just get a sliding Martinez by a hair.  It was a bang-bang play, but looked to be the right call.

Then again, I'm a Dodger fan, so of course it looked good to me.

Much like the last series, the game was turned over to the bullpen to close it out.  Don Mattingly is showing more and more confidence in Josh Lindblom, and for good reason.  Lindblom got a double play ball and struck out Martinez in the seventh.

The combination of Kenley Jansen and Javy Guerra did the rest.  Jansen walked Carlos Lee leading off, but struck out the side after that.  Guerra added two more K's for his seventh save, tops in the majors.

Lilly continued his hot start to the year with another great outing.  He lasted six innings for four hits, one run, six walks, and five strikeouts.  Six walks is too high, but he got the big outs when he needed to.  He did a good job of attacking the hitters he knew he could get out, and not giving in to the other ones.

As good as Lilly, the bullpen, and the defense of Hairston was, nothing compares to Kemp, who is by far the best player in the world right now.  His numbers through 14 games are just crazy: .481 AVG, .525 OBP, 1.525 OPS, 16 R, 4 2B, 8 HR, 20 RBI, 1 SB.  He's not going to be this hot the whole year, but boy is it fun for now.  What he will do is provide that threat each time he's up to the plate, ala Manny Ramirez during his scorching hot run at the end of the '08 season.

When Kemp and even Ethier start to cool off a bit (and even by "cooling off," they can still hit vey well), the Dodgers will need others to step up more.  The highest average for another starter is Rivera, who's at .267.  From there the numbers dip even more, such as Mark Ellis at .245, Gordon at .192, and James Loney at .190.  The positive side is that those numbers are bound to get better, and hopefully soon.

The Dodgers will look for their third straight win by sending their ace Clayton Kershaw to the mound on Saturday.  Kershaw is coming off a mediocre start against the Padres last Sunday, and is still at 0-0, so he'll be pitching with something to prove.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dodgers get one back on the Brew Crew

One night after being jobbed into a loss on a terrible call at home plate, the Dodgers were able to grab one in Milwaukee on Thursday afternoon, 4-3. With the win, the Dodgers have now 10 wins to join the Rangers and Nationals as the first to the double-digit club.

It was another back-and-forth game, as both teams were about as evenly matched as you could get. The Dodgers got a run in the second. Andre Ethier doubled with one down, followed by Jerry Hairston, Jr. getting beaned and James Loney walking. Matt Treanor got a start at catcher and hit a sac-fly RBI for the 1-0 lead.

The Brewers surged ahead immediately after that, as they put up a two-spot in the second off of Aaron Harang. Singles by George Kottaras and Alex Gonzalez started it. Travis Ishikawa hit an RBI double to tie it, and Randy Wolf's sac-fly RBI gave them a 2-1 advantage.

As has been the theme these three games, the losing team responded. The Dodgers used four straight singles to get the lead right back in the third. It started with Mark Ellis and Matt Kemp, and followed with RBI singles by Juan Rivera and Ethier, and it was now 3-2.

With Harang settling in, Mr. Everything Matt Kemp did what he does best in the fifth. His seventh homer of the season came leading off, as the Dodgers increased their lead to 4-2.

You knew the Brewers wouldn't go away quietly, and they started chipping away at their deficit in the sixth. Aramis Ramirez reached base leading off on a single, and two outs later Gonzalez did the same to keep the inning alive. Ishikawa hit an RBI single to make it 4-3. Mat Gamel pinch-hit for Wolf, but struck out to end the threat.

The game was now turned over to the bullpen, something the Dodgers haven't had any success with through the first two games. Whom did Don Mattingly call upon in this spot? If you guessed Jamey Wright, it's probably because you either watched the game, or were lying. He's not exactly the guy you would think of late in the game like that.

But, with Matt Guerrier ineffective the last two days, and with Kenley Jansen more of an eighth-inning guy, Wright got the ball, and boy was he lights-out. He stayed two innings and struck out the first five batters he faced. He did walk Kottaras, but got pinch-runner Carlos Gomez to be stranded at third to end the inning on a fantastic, diving stop by Hairston at third.

Javy Guerra blew his first save on Tuesday, so he was looking for some revenge. Once again, it was the defense of Hairston that helped, as his barehanded throw on a bunt by Ishikawa got the first out. Two strikeouts later, Guerra had his sixth save.

Like I said before, both of these teams played to a virtual standstill throughout. The Brewers took two of three by a score of 11-10. But it's not like the Dodgers were giving much of a chance on Wednesday, as they were screwed on a terrible call at home plate. Just watch the replay, and you'll know.

After starting off the season getting roughed up in San Diego, Harang has turned things around since. He got his first win by going six innings for eight hits, three runs, one walk, and four strikeouts. Even without Prince Fielder, the Brewers can still hit, so the Dodgers will take a start like this out of their #5 guy.

Hairston and Wright were the true stars, as they put on a serious show. Hairston made a loud claim to get more starts at third, especially with Juan Uribe sidelined for now with a wrist injury. Wright has been scoreless in four of his five appearances.

With the Dodgers now at 10-3, they have a great chance to get even better as they travel to Houston to take on the hapless Astros. The first game won't be easy, though, as Ted Lilly makes his second start against the solid J.A. Happ.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Blown save halts winning streak at 6

A seven-game winning streak looked like a distinct possibility when Andre Ethier blasted a go-ahead, two-run homer in the eighth.

And then Javy Guerra gave it all right back.

George Kottaras sent the Brewer fans home happy with a pinch-hit, two-run, walk-off double to give the Brewers a 5-4 victory over the Dodgers. It's the first blown save of the season for Guerra after converting five straight.

Dee Gordon started off the game right where he left off on Sunday by hitting a single. The down side is that he then got picked off of first by about three miles. Wouldn't you know it, Matt Kemp soon cracked a double to dead center but was stranded.

Chad Billingsley had been practically untouchable coming into this game, but was hit around in the second. It started on a long solo shot from young Mat Gamel, who's taking over the spot vacated by Prince Fielder at first. Jonathan Lucroy then tripled and scored on an RBI from old friend Cesar Izturis, who was a Dodger All-Star back in 2005. Rickie Weeks added a ground rule double but was left on, as the Brewers led 2-0.

Not much was happening for the Dodgers until the fifth. Juan Rivera doubled leading off, and runners were on the corners on James Loney's single. Juan Uribe then popped one up to shallow right that was gloved by Weeks, but was then dropped on the transfer as Rivera easily scored, making it 2-1.

The game became tied in the seventh. Ethier had a big night, and he doubled leading off. A groundout by Rivera sent him to third. He then scored on... you guessed it, another double, this time by Loney, as the game was tied 2-2.

With a fresh start, Matt Guerrier was called upon to get through the seventh, but scuffled a bit. Gamel singled leading off and stole second with one out. Izturis singled again (I swear those have been his only two hits since leaving the Dodgers). Norichika Aoki pinch-hit and laid down a beautiful suicide squeeze to give the Brewers a 3-2 lead.

Like the Dodgers have done in almost every game thus far, they showed a lot of fight in battling back. Francisco Rodriguez is a top setup man, but he didn't get the job done in this spot. With one down, Mark Ellis singled. Kemp struck out in a big spot, but Ethier immediately picked him up with a two-run tater to center, giving the Dodgers a 4-3 edge.

Kenley Jansen mowed through the heart of the Brew Crew's order in the eighth, looking every bit like the dominant setup man that he is.

Unfortunately for Guerra, he looked human last night, which is bound to happen for a young closer. It started by letting Corey Hart reach on a single. Carlos Gomez pinch-ran and stole second, as Gamel drew a walk. An out later, Kottaras smacked a game-winning double to hand the Dodgers their second loss.

Billingsley did a great job battling back from an uneven start, as he lasted six innings for five hits, two runs, no walks, and two strikeouts. He's been pounding the strike zone this year, which is why he's had so much more success than the last couple of years. It was a good sign that he was able to settle down after the second, as I'm not so sure that would've happened in the past.

Guerra will have better nights, as even the best of closers have off nights. His stuff just appeared too hittable, and he ultimately paid for it. Guerrier wasn't too bad, but a couple of singles did him in. Jansen's outing was a big positive.

Ethier's homer vaulted him above Kemp for the Major League lead in RBIs at 17 to Kemp's 16. The rest of the Dodgers combined have 20. I really don't need to say a whole lot else, as those numbers just show how dominating the Big 2 have been.

It's no secret the Dodgers haven't exactly been challenged by playoff contenders to start the season, but they are right now in the Brewers. There's two games left, so it would be good to get the next one on Wednesday before a day game on Thursday. Ex-Brewer Chris Capuano will go against Zack Greinke.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Wild 9th completes perfect homestand

If you were looking for one of those "little bit of everything" type of games, this was it.

The Dodgers started off the last inning turning a triple play, then watched Dee Gordon hit a walk-off single to down the Padres, 5-4. The win gives the Dodgers a perfect 6-0 homestand, and once again increases the best record in the majors at 9-1. Pretty good stuff.

The day started off well enough, as the Dodgers got an early 4-1 lead, and they had their ace on the mound in Clayton Kershaw. But, to the credit of the losing team, they hung in there and made a ballgame of it.

Once again, the damage was done early by the offense. Gordon reached on a slug bunt to short leading off, something we should get used to seeing. Something we've been used to seeing is watching him steal second, as he did here for his sixth of the season. Mark Ellis worked a walk, and Matt Kemp reached on an infield single to load the bases.

Andre Ethier ripped one to first, but Jesus Guzman made a nice play to get a forceout at second, as the run scored. Juan Rivera hit a sac-fly RBI, and it was now 2-0.

The Padres got one back in the third, as Gordon's error with one down allowed Cameron "Tiki" Maybin to reach. Chris Denorfia's RBI double made it 2-1.

Right away, the game's best player responded, as Kemp cracked a solo homer leading off the bottom of the third to make it 3-1. Ethier followed with a double, and Rivera got another RBI on a single for a 4-1 lead, putting the Dodgers in full control.

For whatever reason, Kershaw never really was able to be his usual, overpowering self. The unraveling started in the sixth, as three walks to Guzman, Nick Hundley, and Andy Parrino jammed the bases full with one out. Orlando Hudson hadn't done squat thus far at the plate, but his RBI single made it 4-2.

Josh Lindblom was called upon for the frustrated Kershaw, and it didn't get a whole lot better. Jeremy Hermida pinch-hit and had a great at-bat, working 10 pitches which resulted in a two-run single to tie the game at 4.

The Dodgers had a chance to take control again in the seventh, as the bases were loaded on walks to James Loney and Adam Kennedy, and a single by Juan Uribe. Gordon struck out swinging, and looked pretty lost in the process.

So here's where things got a little crazy. Javy Guerra came on in the ninth, but was immediately in a jam on a single by Yonder Alonso and walk to Chase Headley. Next up was Guzman, who wanted to bunt, but instead found himself trying to bail out of the way from a pitch aimed at his head.

The only thing was that Guzman still made contact, and the ball rolled just in front of the plate. A.J. Ellis didn't skip a beat as he fired to Uribe at third, who threw to Gordon at second, who completed the triple play by tossing to first. It sure looked like home plate umpire Dale Scott initially singled "foul," but he actually was just getting out of the way before saying it was fair.

It was the right call, but still a break for the Dodgers. They took advantage of it, as Rivera walked and Loney singled off of Brandon Bach. Uribe laid down the sacrifice bunt to advance the runners before Ellis was walked intentionally to load the bases.

Jerry Hairston pinch-hit, but popped up for two down. At this point, Gordon had a hit and a couple steals, but had a rough day in the field by misplaying a few he should've easily made. Well, to steal a little kid's phrase, he turned that frown upside down by delivering the walk-off single into right.

This indeed was another example of why the Dodgers have started off red hot. They've been able to come through late and in close games. They could've closed up shop after blowing the early lead, but they got the job done.

Kershaw just had one of those days, as he finished with 5 1/3 innings pitched for eight hits, four runs (three earned), three walks, and three strikeouts. He again received a no-decision, so he's yet to get on the board in any way through three games. The strikeouts were obviously low for him, but the Padres just didn't seem fooled by much of anything. But ya, he'll be fine, so no worries.

There was a lot of good about this homestand, and here's why: a 6-0 record, four wins by a run, and a combined score of 29-17 against the Pirates and Padres. Yes, it was the Pirates and Padres, and the competition will only get tougher, but running off 9 of the first 10 is awesome no matter who they played.

Monday will be an off day, then the first real test of the season will come with three games in Milwaukee starting Tuesday. Kershaw will have to wait until the Houston series to go, so let's see how the Dodgers do on the road without their ace. Chad Billingsley is pitching like an ace, and he'll go first against the solid Yovani Gallardo.

Kemp's bombs back Lilly's strong return

The Dodgers had it all going on Saturday night, getting homers by their big guns and great starting pitching.

That, my friends, is why they're the best team in baseball right now at 8-1. And hopefully just getting started.

Lilly only allowed one run, and that was by no fault of his own. Leading off the game, Cameron "Tiki" Maybin grounded one to Dee Gordon at short, who promptly threw it away, moving Maybin up to second. Chris Denorfia sacrificed him over to third, but Chase Headley fouled out for two down. Jesus Guzman came through with an RBI single for the 1-0 lead.

No worries, as the offense didn't waste any time emphatically taking the lead back. Gordon drew a walk and went to second on Tony Gwynn's sacrifice. Matt Kemp stepped in and launched a two-run homer to make it 2-1. Andre Ethier liked the sound of that, as his solo shot, his third of the season, put the advantage at two.

James Loney kept it going with a double and Jerry Hairston a single for two on. Adam Kennedy's sac-fly RBI closed the inning at 4-1.

The next inning, Kemp got greedy again, as he crushed his second straight two-run shot, and it was 6-1. He ended up 3-for-4 on the night with two runs, a double, two homers, and four RBIs. Last year ended with a Triple Crown run, and this year he leads those categories with a .457 average, 5 homers, and 15 RBIs.

With all of the run support, Lilly cruised from there. The only other runners he let reach were by a walk to Nick Hundley in the fifth and a single by Headley leading off the seventh. Overall, he tossed seven innings for two hits, one run (unearned), one walk, and four strikeouts. He only made 79 pitches, which showed how efficient he was. Not a bad way to start the season.

Mike MacDougal and Jamey Wright each tossed scoreless frames to finish it off. MacDougal is usually good for a baserunner or two, but actually went in order this time. Wright is still trying to find his role in the bullpen, but outings like this will only help him get in there more.

As great as Lilly and the 'pen were, the true story, once again, was the combination of Kemp and Ethier. In the nine games the Dodgers have played, Kemp has failed to reach base in only one of them, and even in that he still had an RBI. Ethier has also reached base in every game but one, and still scored a run in the one he didn't. In other words, they're doing just about everything you can ask of them.

I already discussed Kemp's Triple Crown stats, but Ethier isn't far behind with 3 homers and 14 RBIs (good for second to Kemp). He's a notorious quick starter in April, as in 127 career games this month, he's hitting .323 with 22 homers and 95 RBIs. If you can recall, he was doing even better in 2010 when he was the one leading the TC categories before a broken pinkie derailed his season.

Throw in the fact that they're both Gold Glove outfielders, and it's easy to see why they're one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball. There's not a whole lot they can't do, especially since Ethier is now hitting .333 against lefties this year, something that has plagued him his whole career. Assuming the maturity issues are a thing of the past, and that Ethier gets his extension, these two can carry the Dodgers for many years to come.

The Dodgers will again look to sweep the Padres as the did last week. After taking the first three games of the season, the Padres pounded the Dodgers last Sunday. This time around it's that Clayton Kershaw guy on the mound, so I'm liking the chances for a sweep. Edinson Volquez will go for the Padres.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A typical game for Friday the 13th

If you're looking for a baseball game that featured a little bit of everything, then Friday night in Dodger Stadium was for you.

To start off with, there was nearly a rain delay, which is a rarity for the Dodgers as it is. The last time they had a home game rained out was April 17, 2000... a whopping 972 games ago!

The game started without a hitch, and it quickly became the Aaron Harang Show. Yes, I did just type that. Cameron "Tiki" Maybin led off the game with a single. Right after that, Harang struck out the next nine hitters, setting a Dodgers' record and nearly topping Tom Seaver's all-time record of 10. All from Aaron Freakin' Harang. Unbelievable.

In between all of that, the Dodgers scored some runs. And you shouldn't be surprised to hear this, but it was the Padres' shoddy defense that helped. Justin Sellers started at short for Dee Gordon and walked leading off. A.J. Ellis hit an easy grounder to Jason Bartlett at short, who turned a double play into an error for two on.

Two-run singles by Mark Ellis and Andre Ethier gave the Dodgers a 3-0 lead.

About the only negative thing about that inning was that Harang had to sit some 21 minutes as he chased a spot in Major League history. Sure enough, he gave up a solo shot to Will Venable leading off to make it 3-1. An RBI double by Yonder Alonso and RBI groundout by the O Dog made it 4-3.

The Dodgers answered right away in the fourth, and appeared to put the game away... or so we thought. Sellers started it again with a double, and the younger Ellis scored him on a double. Tony Gwynn started in left and got in on the act with an RBI single to make it 6-3. Matt Kemp then whacked a two-run shot in right, and it was 8-3 just like that.

The Padres refused to go away, and the comeback was on against the shaky Dodgers' bullpen. Harang ran out of gas in the seventh by walking Hudson with one out, so in came Todd Coffey. That was definitely not the right call by Don Mattingly, as Coffey surrendered a single, RBI double, and hit by pitch without retiring a batter.

Out went Coffey, in came Scott Elbert, who walked in a run right away. Chase Headley had a huge night, and it started here with a sac-fly RBI to put the score at 8-6.

Still, the Dodgers had to feel comfortable enough to win this game, right? Well, not if you consider that Javy Guerra was unavailable because he pitched in three straight games. But, Kenley Jansen would easily shut the door anyway, right?

Not so fast. I'm not sure if Jansen just wasn't letting it all loose or if something else is going on, but Jansen was clocked at around 90 MPH, which is a far cry from what he normally can dial up.

In the ninth, Chris Denorfia walked on a full count, but Jansen got Andy Parrino and Kyle Blanks swinging for two down. Just when you thought the game was over, Headley creamed a two-run blast into right, and it was the first blown save of the season for the Dodgers. Two more men reached before Hudson struck out to send the game to the bottom of the ninth.

It was a deflating way to continue the game, but the Dodgers ended up walking off... literally. Andrew Cashner was summoned, and he got the first two outs with ease. Then the walks came, as the older Ellis worked one on a full count, then Kemp got the free pass as well. Add James Loney to the walk list to load the bases.

Lefty Joe Thatcher came in to pitch to Ethier, and that was a giant flop, as four straight horrendous pitches handed the Dodgers a 9-8 win. Wow.

This will be a hard game to top as far as craziness, and in matching the roller coaster of emotions that baseball has to offer. I'm sure when you look at the final score and nothing else, you'd have a hard time believing that there was nearly an MLB record set for consecutive strikeouts along the way.

Harang certainly showed the best and worst of him, as he ended up going 6 1/3 innings for 4 hits, 4 runs, 2 walks, and 13 strikeouts. As is the case with Chris Capuano, I think they just need time to build up their arm strength a little more so they don't hit a wall in the mid-late innings. Still, 13 K's is very impressive.

The great thing about this 7-1 start is that the Dodgers are finding ways to win close games. They aren't just blowing teams out and strutting to easy victories, they have to work the full game to get it. That's a great sign going forward.

Ted Lilly will make his return from the DL to make his first start of the season on Saturday. It'll be interesting to see the corresponding roster move that has to be made, but perhaps it'll be to DL Coffey, who's been battling a sore knee. And with the way he's pitching, it's obvious he needs a break. Lilly will go against rookie Joe Wieland.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Sweep has Dodgers feeling like it's 1981

Sweeping the Pirates? Eh, no big deal.

Starting the year 6-1, which matches the World Series championship year of 1981, not to mention the birth of Fernandomania? Pretty big deal.

The Dodgers got all three runs in the opening inning and made them hold up, downing the Pirates, 3-2. The win gives them a three-game sweep, and also matches their best start since that magical '81 season.

The damage was all done in the first. Mark Ellis singled with one out, and Matt Kemp placed a double into left for two on. Andre Ethier was the NL leader in RBIs at this point, but he was plunked to load the bases. Hard to tell if there was intent there or not, but if there was, it didn't make a whole lot of sense to put three runners on so early.

Juan Rivera continued to deliver with a sac-fly RBI to make it 1-0. Two straight RBI singles came next from two struggling hitters. James Loney finally got hit #1 of the season, to which Kemp could be heard yelling to get him the ball. Funny stuff! Juan Uribe's came next, and the Dodgers had an early three-run cushion.

Chris Capuano took over from there, as he was looking to rebound from his self-implosion in San Diego. He worked around two singles in the first inning, then struck out the side in the second. He retired seven hitters in a row early on.

In the fifth, the Pirates got a run on Mike McKenry's solo shot to dead center, a clear no-doubter, making it 3-1. The Dodgers put two runners on but came up with blanks, as they did the previous inning.

The Pirates got another run in the sixth, but really blew a chance to do a lot more. Andre McCutchen got three hits and reached base safely four times, and his single started it. Casey McGhee had two hits, one of them here with a single. Yamaico Navarro's sac-fly RBI made it 3-2.

That was all she wrote for Capuano, as Mike MacDougal came in and immediately gave up a single to Clint Barmes. Following a fielder's choice by Pedro Alvarez, McKenry walked to load 'em up. Garrett Jones was called on to pinch-hit, so Don Mattingly countered with Scott Elbert... only to have Clint Hurdle counter with Matt Hague. It didn't matter, as Hague's lineout to center ended it.

With the offense already in bed, the bullpen took over and turned the lights out for good. Josh Lindblom got help from a double play ball and A.J. Ellis's strong throw to catch McCutchen stealing in the seventh. Matt Guerrier tossed a flawless eighth.

The question then became whether Mattingly would use Javy Guerra again, and he did. Guerra needed a mere 11 pitches to set the Pirates down in order for his fifth save, tops in all of baseball.

The early runs almost turned out to be a curse, because the Dodgers ended up stranding seven runners, four of those with two outs and in scoring position. They got runners on, yet the clutch hits stopped. Fortunately, they were playing the lowly Bucs, so it barely made a difference.

Capuano righted the ship with his strong outing, going 5 1/3 innings for six hits, two runs, no walks, and seven strikeouts. He was able to pound the inside corner against righties, freezing them time and time again. The no walks was obviously the big thing, especially since he walked five Padres. In fact, Dodger pitching had 2 walks and 27 strikeouts this series. Wow.

This year has started about as well as anyone could have hoped for. The opponents have been easy, though. That doesn't automatically guarantee wins, but it's good to see the Dodgers take care of business. There's been no letdown thus far.

Yes, the Dodgers will run into a rough patch at some point, just as every team does. They don't have a whole lot of thump in their lineup, save for Kemp and maybe Ethier. So, they'll have nights they'll need the big hit, but won't get it.

What has been and should remain solid, however, is the pitching. Their team ERA is 2.67, fourth in the NL (the Pirates are third, which shows just how bad their hitting has been). They're third in strikeouts at 63, and tops in saves at 5 thanks to Guerra. Getting Ted Lilly back should only help those numbers, too.

If there's a reason to get greed and want more wins, it's that the Padres are coming to town for three. The Padres, well, stink at 2-6. No surprise there. But they do have Clayton Richard going, who shut down the Dodgers last Sunday. The Dodgers will counter with Aaron Harang, who took the loss that day after scuffling the whole time.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Here's a picture we can get used to seeing

Long live Cy Kershaw!!!

Two straight great starts for Billingsley

Chad Billingsley is slowing starting to turn some heads, one dominant start after another.

Bills followed up his fantastic first start against the Padres by limiting the Pirates to one run over six innings, and the Dodgers beat the Pirates again, 4-1. The win gives the Dodgers a hot 5-1 start, their best start since 1999. I was just about to graduate high school at the time. Just thought you'd like to know.

Anyway, Bills had a tough act to follow after setting the bar so high in San Diego (8 2/3 innings, 0 runs, 11 strikeouts). If there's one thing that's been consistent about him, it's that he's inconsistent. That's his biggest hurdle to climb.

With nothing doing through two innings, the Pirates struck in the second. Old Rockie Clint Barmes (yes, he still plays baseball) led off with a solo shot just over Jerry Hairston's reach in left. The Dodgers answered in the bottom of the frame, as Mark Ellis walked, went to second on Matt Kemp's single, and scored on Juan Rivera's first of three RBIs.

Both teams played to a standstill, as Erik Bedard was just as good as Bills for much of the game. In the sixth, however, the Dodgers took the lead for good. Shockingly, it started with a single by Kemp. Rivera did the same for two on. Andre Ethier, hitting #5 against the lefty Bedard, came though again with an RBI single, and a 2-1 lead.

Two more runs were added the next inning. The top of the order started it all, as Dee Gordon doubled leading off. Ellis and Kemp both struck out, but Rivera got another big hit with an RBI single to go up 3-1. Ethier singled, and Tony Gwynn hit a pinch-hit RBI single by make it 4-1.

The game was turned over to the bullpen for the final three frames, and that's a good thing if you're a Dodger fan. Matt Guerrier pitched a perfect seventh, Kenley Jansen gave up one single in the eighth, and Javy Guerra pitched a perfect ninth, highlighted by striking out Garrett Jones to end the game for his fourth save.

The Pirates aren't as bad as they used to be, but with all due respect to them, these are winnable games for the Dodgers. When you looked at the schedule before the season and saw that they'd be playing the Padres and Pirates to open up the year, a hot start was a realistic possibility. So far, so good.

Even with mediocre competition, the Dodgers still had to go out and get the job done, and they have. In their wins, they've gotten great starting pitching, big hits from Kemp, Ethier, Gordon, and even Rivera, and the bullpen has closed the door. You know the offense won't pound the ball every night, so the pitching is key to keeping them in games. Like I said before, so far, so good.

Speaking of Rivera, let's give the guy lots of credit here. Last year he played in 60 games and collected 46 RBIs. This year, thanks to a 3-for-4 night on Wednesday, he's hitting a red hot .364 with no strikeouts. His days of powering 20+ homers are over, but he's showing how to still be effective by having good at-bats. It's no wonder why Don Mattingly trusts him so much.

The Dodgers will look for the sweep on Thursday night. Chris Capuano went from awesome to wild in his first start against the Padres, thanks to good old ball 4. He'll look to put it all together against Jeff Karstens.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Birthday celebrations all around in home opener

Tuesday was all about celebrating birthdays in Los Angeles. Dodger Stadium turned 50, and members of the 1962 team were on hand to celebrate.

Andre Ethier turned 30, and he got to celebrate with 56,000 of his closest friends.

Ethier gave everyone a reason to smile, as his solo homer in the eighth gave the Dodgers a 2-1 lead that would hold up over the Pirates. It was a dramatic way to commemorate 50 years at one of the best ballparks in baseball, even after all this time.

Luckily for everyone who roots for the Dodgers (and those who wear the uniforms), Clayton Kershaw was at full strength for the start. His last start, if you recall, went only three innings in San Diego on Opening Day thanks to the flu. It's a wonder how he even pitched at all.

But today he showed no signs of sickness, as he cruised his way to seven innings of four hits, one run, no walks, and seven strikeouts. A typical ho-hum day for him. He just barely missed getting a win by an inning, but with an ERA of 0.90 after two starts, I'm pretty sure the wins will come.

The Dodgers got things going in the first. After setting down the Pirates in order, Dee Gordon led off with a single. On the very first pitch to Mark Ellis, he swiped second with ease. Small ball was played next, as Ellis got him to third on a groundout, and Matt Kemp collected another RBI with a groundout, making it 1-0.

The second inning saw scoring chances for both teams, but no runs. Casey McGehee hit a long fly ball leading off to Kemp in center, and thanks to a whole lot of sun, Kemp was unable to grab it for a triple. No worries, as two strikeouts and a flyout to left ended that threat. The Dodgers put two men on, and Kershaw was almost able to get a run in, but a slick play by Neil Walker ended the inning on a forceout at second.

I'd love to tell you that a whole of action happened in the middle chunk of this game, but I'd be lying if I did. The Pirates couldn't do much of anything, as they were scoreless through six. The home team put runners on here and there, but couldn't get the big hit.

The Pirates, to their credit, kept plugging away against the reigning Cy Young Award winner and tied the game in the seventh. Alex Pressley and Andrew McCutchen hit singles leading off. McGehee then hit another long fly ball that was gloved by Juan Rivera in left, yet both runners were able to tag on the late throw to third. Not getting the ball to second proved costly, as Matt Hague's grounder to short was able to score a run instead of being a double play.

The game remained knotted at one heading into the bottom of the eighth, as the Dodgers were desperate for that one big hit. Ethier morphed into Andre the Giant again, as his two-out shot to right gave the Dodgers the lead for good.

Javy Guerra surrendered a single to Pressely with one out, but the double play combination of Gordon and Ellis was able to get the speedy McCutchen to end the game. It's Guerra's third save in as many chances.

For a place that's seen many historic hits in its time, Ethier's game-winner was a nice little nod to that history. Plus it's another indication that he's back and completely healthy, as he's hitting .316 with two homers to start the year. The lethal duo of Kemp and Ethier in the 3-4 spots looks to be back.

Even though the Dodgers didn't have the lead again until the eighth, they effectively followed their blue print of getting seven innings out of the starter, then turning to another lethal duo on the pitching side, Kenley Jansen and Guerra. Jansen was just untouchable, as he pretty much threw it anywhere over the plate, and nobody could hit it.

The general consensus before the season was that Jansen will be the closer at some point this year. And to that, I say that I hope not. What I mean by that is that I hope Guerra continues to show that he has the ninth inning on lockdown. If he falters at all, then Jansen deserves a shot. But if ain't broke, don't fix it. And trust me, it ain't broke.

With the home opener out of the way, the Dodgers will be back in action Wednesday night. It'll be a good pitching matchup, as Chad Billingsley goes against Erik Bedard. Both men pitched with something to prove in their first starts, as Bills shut down the Padres on 11 strikeouts, and Bedard was a tough-luck loser to Roy Halladay on a 1-0 score.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Headley's slam helps Padres avoid sweep

Aaron Harang returned to his old stomping grounds of 2011 on Sunday in Petco Park. He enjoyed some success there, going 8-5 with a 3.05 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, holding opponents to a .240 AVG.

That guy, however, didn't show up.

The one that did allowed 13 baserunners in a little over four innings of work as the Dodgers fell behind 4-0 early. Chase Headley's grand slam off of Scott Elbert put it away for good, as the Dodgers suffered their first blemish of the season, 8-4. The first series is wrapped up at 3-1.

The tone for the afternoon was set early on, as the Dodgers went down in order to start the game, and Cameron "Tiki" Maybin was beaned leading off. An RBI single by Jesus Guzman and sac-fly RBI by Yonder Alonso made it 2-0 after one.

Harang didn't go one inning without allowing a runner, and gave up another run the following inning. This time it wasn't so much his fault, as Dee Gordon's two-out error gave the Padres new life. Following a walk to Alonso, Jeff Baker's RBI single made it 3-0.

Andy Parrino stretched it 4-0 with a solo homer in the fourth. After Parrino walked to load the bases in the fifth, Jamey Wright had to come in, and he did the unthinkable: throw a strike. Seriously, you would have never thought it was possible after watching Saturday's game. But this time he got Clayton Richard to ground into an inning-ending double play to at least keep the game manageable.

The Dodgers tried to make a run in the sixth, and it started thanks to another Padres' error. Mark Ellis reached on Will Venable's bobble leading off. With two outs, Matt Kemp hit his second big fly of the season to make it 4-2.

Any thoughts of a comeback were erased in the eighth, as Todd Coffey and Elbert combined to do a big pile of nothing. Coffey started by giving up singles to Jeremy Hermida and Maybin. Elbert was summoned, and immediately watched Venable bunt his way on to load the bases. Headley hadn't gotten a hit all year, but with one mighty swing, he put that aside as his grand slam made it 8-2.

Andre Ethier hit a two-run homer in the ninth, but it was obviously too little, too late at that point.

Harang looked every bit like the last starter that he is, as he was never able to settle in at any point. He lasted 4 1/3 innings for seven hits, four runs (three earned), five walks, and six strikeouts. Like Chris Capuano the night before, that's just way too many free passes to a weak-hitting team.

I'll give Wright credit for getting a big double play ball in the fifth, as he needed a good outing. Josh Lindblom put in another great appearance, tossing two scoreless frames. He's looking good.

Coffey and Elbert, however, do not. Their poor work in the eighth took away any hope at a big ending for the Dodgers. I'm not so sure much is expected from Coffey, as he's just average at best. But Elbert is the only lefty in the 'pen, so he needs to get it going. He appeared in two games and gave up hits both times. He did end last season with a 2.43 ERA in 47 appearances, so hopefully this is just a little bump in the road.

Even with the loss, the Dodgers will take three of four to open the season, no matter how bad the Padres may be. And if you peek at the schedule, they have plenty of more chances to win against bad opponents. The Pirates come to town for three starting Tuesday, followed by the Padres for three more. They then visit the Brewers for three, who are good, but then play the Astros on the road for three more.

Total it all up, and that's 9 winnable games in the next 12. Of course, the flip side is that if they don't win as many of those games, the opponents soon get harder too. But it's not a stretch to say they should be right at the top of the NL West by the time May rolls around.

Monday is an off day to travel back home. The home opener is Tuesday against the Pirates. The Dodgers will be celebrating 50 years at beautiful Dodger Stadium, which is just amazing. Clayton Kershaw will get the start, and our fingers are crossed that he will go as scheduled after a bout with the flu this past week.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The New Flash Gordon saves the day

If Dee Gordon needed a coming out party, Saturday night was it.

The son of former big league star Tom "Flash" Gordon had three hits and three stolen bases, including the go-ahead RBI single in the 11th to lift the Dodgers over the Padres, 6-5. The win gives the Dodgers a major league-best 3-0 record.

Hey, it's good to be on top of the world, no matter how short it may last.

This game was certainly looking like a laugher early on, as the Dodgers built up a 5-0 lead against a hapless-looking Padres team. It started in the first when Gordon singled leading off, and then swiped second for his first of the season. A groundout by Mark Ellis sent him to third, and Matt Kemp's sac-fly RBI made it 1-0.

The lead was stretched to 4-0 in the third. It all began with two outs, and once again with Gordon reaching base, this time via walk, and then stealing second. Ellis drew a walk, which was a huge mistake by Dustin Moseley considering the mighty Kemp came up next. Kemp delivered with an RBI single.

Andre Ethier has also been red hot to start the season, and he laced a two-run double to grab a four-run lead.

A.J. Ellis has played every inning thus far, and he got in on the fun with his third career homer in the fourth. Through three games this year, he's hitting .333 in the #8 hole. After all the time he's been sent up and down, it's great to see.

The game had all the signs of being a blowout... until the Dodgers decided to Run DMC the Padres back into the game. In one of the crazier innings I can remember, the Padres got all five runs back in the fifth by sending 10 men to the plate... and collecting only two hits. That's right - five runs on two hits.

You might be wondering how that's possible, and if your answer was "walks," then you're right. Chris Capuano had only surrendered one hit and one walk at this point, but he completely fell apart. The bases became loaded with two outs on a single by Jason Bartlett, and walks by Kyle Blanks and Chris Denorfia.

What came next was some of the ugliest pitching you'll ever see. Three straight runs came in on walks by Chase Headley, Jesus Guzman, and Nick Hundley. The later two were courtesy of reliever Jamey Wright, who literally threw every pitch out of the strike zone. If he was trying to pitch his way out of town once Ted Lilly comes off the DL, he did a great job.

Scott Elbert came in, and the Padres immediately scored again on a wild pitch. After Yonder Alonso was beaned to load the bases again, Orlando Hudson singled in the tying run, but Hundley was caught in a rundown to mercifully end the painful inning.

I will say this - I didn't think the Dodgers had much of a chance to win at this point, mainly because the momentum had completely changed sides. But give them credit, they kept plugging away and eventually found a way to win.

In the 11th, Ellis singled leading off to begin the rally. Justin Sellers got his first at-bat of the season, and it was a productive one with a sacrifice bunt. Juan Rivera popped up for two down. It was all up to Gordon, and his liner into right proved to be the game winner.

It's a shame Capuano couldn't stay around long enough to get the win, but he really was his own worst enemy with the walks. In fact, 10 walks were issued by the Dodgers, and one more free pass from a beaning. I'm not sure why they were scared to pitch to these guys considering... well, considering they're the Padres.

Anyway, Capuano went 4 2/3 innings for two hits, four runs, five walks, and four strikeouts. Wright was terrible with eight straight balls, but the rest of the bullpen combined to shut it down the rest of the way: Elbert, Mike MacDougal, Matt Guerrier, Kenley Jansen, Todd Coffee (for the win), and Javy Guerra (for his second save).

The top and bottom of the order got the job done, as Gordon and Ellis teamed up for five hits, four walks, a homer, a double, two RBIs, and three stolen bases. That's refreshing to see since the Dodgers can't always rely on Kemp and Ethier to get all the big hits.

Right now the Dodgers have a golden chance to get a sweep and come home 4-0. Here's an interesting stat: the last time they won their opening four games was 1981. Does that year ring a bell for anyone? You got it, World Series champs. Old Padre Aaron Harang will look to get it done against Clayton Richard.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Filthy Billingsley dominates the Padres

If Chad Billingsley was looking to make a statement to begin the 2012 season, I'd say he did just that. And then some.

Billingsley was untouchable for over eight innings on Friday, as the Dodgers used four RBIs from Andre Ethier to easily down the Padres, 6-0. The Dodgers have now won the first couple of games to start the season.

The tone was emphatically set in the first inning, as the offense went to work and Billingsley struck out the side. Mark Ellis hit a one-out single, and Matt Kemp came a couple feet away from hitting his second homer of the year. Juan Rivera kept the inning going with a single, which led to a long two-run double from Ethier to go up 2-0.

Two more runs were added in the fourth. Once again, it was Ellis who started it all, this time with a one-out double. Kemp then dribbled one to third, which was thrown away by Yonder Alonso, allowing Ellis to score. With Kemp now on third, River continued his hot start with an RBI single, and it as 4-0.

The final runs were scored in the fifth, all thanks to Ethier's great night. With two down, Kemp singled and stole second, and Rivera walked. Ethier creamed a two-run triple to extend the lead even further at 6-0.

As great as the offense was, it was Billingsley who was without a doubt the star of the night. He was given the chance to get a complete game, but was yanked after surrendering a one-out single to Cameron "Tiki" Maybin and 108 pitches. Overall, he lasted 8 1/3 innings for three hits, no runs, one walk, and 11 strikeouts. Jamey Wright got the final two outs in order.

This pretty much goes without saying, but Bills seriously needed a start like this. After dragging his way to a mediocre 2011 where he went 11-11 with a 4.21 ERA and 1.45 WHIP, it looked like he might never become the pitcher he's capable of. It's still very early, but he couldn't have started any better than this.

Realistically, it's not like we can expect this kind of outing every time from Bills. But, if he can FINALLY put together any sort of consistency to match his great stuff, then he can form quite the 1-2 punch with Clayton Kershaw. His next start is scheduled against the Pirates on Wednesday, so he has a great chance to build on this start.

The other story of the night was Ethier, who went 2-for-4 with a double, triple, and four RBIs. The best part was that he did it against lefty Cory Luebke, as Ethier only hit .220 last year against lefties. A performance like this will get him on the field every game, no matter who the pitcher is.

The season has started about as well as anyone could have hoped, for a couple of reasons. One, their pitching has been fantastic, even with only getting three innings out of a sick Kerhaw Opening Day. Two, they're playing the Padres! Seriously, they look like a Triple-A team at best. They may have some young talent, but they're shooting blanks right now. Plus, they stink in the field, with five errors already. Yuck.

Chris Capuano will get his first start in Dodger blue on Saturday. He had a great Spring Training with a 2.75 ERA. With a win, the Dodgers would start 3-0 for the first time since 1999. Dustin Moseley will go for the Padres.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Kemp picks up the flu-ridden Kershaw

Not even the flu can defeat Clayton Kershaw.

Despite being hit hard by illness, Kershaw insisted on making his second consecutive Opening Day start in San Diego. He only lasted three scoreless innings, but a two-run homer by Matt Kemp helped the Dodgers win the season's first game, 5-3.

It was obvious that Kershaw wasn't feeling up to par, as his whole body language suggested that he's seen better days. However, he plowed through the first eight hitters in the Padres' order to open up the game. Edinson Volquez did the same for his squad.

In what has to be a rarity, it was those same two pitchers who each got their team's first hit of the game. Kershaw singled down the left field line with two down in the third, but was stranded on Dee Gordon's strikeout. Volquez started a two-out rally by dropping a liner in front of Kemp. Cameron "Tiki" Maybin singled, and after a wild pitch to put runners in scoring position, Chris Denorfia walked to load the bases. The Padres came up empty after Chase Headley struck out.

The Dodgers got things going in the fourth to back up their courageous pitcher. Kemp started it with a one-out single. A wild pitch put him up to second, followed by a walk to Andre Ethier and a single by Juan Rivera to load the bases. Volquez then became his own worst enemy by issuing a walk to James Loney, making it 1-0.

Ethier found himself running into an out, as he was just tagged out at home on a wild pitch to Juan Uribe. Well, I'm not so sure he was out on the replay, but that's a tough call when seeing it live. Uribe did indeed draw a walk to load the bases again, and then it was A.J. Ellis's turn to collect an RBI on a walk, and it was 2-0. Adam Kennedy hit for Kershaw and flew out.

From there it was Don Mattingly's job to piece together pitchers the rest of the game, and that he did. It started with Josh Lindblom's great performance. He pitched the fourth and fifth with ease, getting all six in order.

Also in the fifth, the Dodgers struck for another run. Gordon led off and hit a long fly to center that Maybin could not glove. Gordon went all the way to third on the error, and soon scored on Kemp's grounder to short in which Jason Bartlett bobbled for another error, and it was now 3-0.

Next up were Mike MacDougal and Matt Guerrier, who went the sixth and seventh, respectively. MacDougal got himself in a little bit of trouble, as he walked Will Venable with one out, who then stole second. With two outs, Jesus Guzman stroked an RBI double to make it 3-1. Guerrier got a double play ball from Bartlett to finish off the seventh.

Looking to increase their lead, Kemp made sure that happened with one mighty swing in the eighth. It started on a leadoff double by Mark Ellis, hitting in the #2 hole. Kemp then muscled one out to right for his first shot of the season, giving the Dodgers a 5-1 advantage.

It's a good thing Kemp got some extra runs, as Kenley Jansen gave those two runs right back in the bottom of the frame. Jeremy Hermida pinch-hit and hit an infield single leading off. Maybin then took a full count pitch and absolutely crushed it out to left, slashing the lead to 5-3. Jansen was able to settle down, getting the next three hitters in order.

In the ninth, the Dodgers threatened to blow the game wide open by loading the bases on a single by Ellis, a walk by Jerry Hairston, and a beaning by Ellis. Kemp had the big chance, but grounded out.

No matter, as Javy Guerra coolly picked up right where he left off last season, setting the Padres down in order and with ease to finish it off.

I give Kershaw all the credit in the world for toughing it out and giving the Dodgers all he could. He only lasted three innings for two hits, no runs, one walk, and three strikeouts. Obviously, he didn't qualify for the win because starting pitchers have to go at least five innings to do so. But on the flip side, his ERA stayed at zero! He'll take it.

The bullpen was great for a couple of reasons. One, they were able to hold onto the lead they were given starting in the fourth. Two, there's no way they could have possibly imagined getting some action so early in the game. They probably thought they wouldn't get any at all! Can't blame them when Kershaw's on the mound.

In all, Lindblom, MacDougal, Guerrier, Jansen, and Guerra combined for six innings, three hits, three runs, two walks, and four strikeouts. Lindblom was especially impressive, as he was the last pitcher to make the roster, yet looked untouchable. Guerra reminded everyone how he got 21 saves last year. That was great timing on his part considering that Jansen struggled a bit.

About the only downsides were Gordon and Uribe's struggles at the plate. Gordon was 0-for-5 and looked a bit lost on breaking balls. Uribe looks just plain slow against fastballs. Not that I'm surprised about that, considering that he still looks like a giant bust. I hope I'll eventually be wrong, but it is what it is.

With the first win under their belts, the Dodgers will send Chad Billingsley to the mound on Friday. It seems like we say this a lot, but let's say it again - he has the stuff to be a front-end of the rotation guy, yet is so inconsistent, he becomes his own worst enemy. Let's see if he get off on the root foot.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

2012 Opening Day roster set

The Dodgers have put the finishing touches on their 25-man roster, and here's how it shakes out:

Starting Pitchers (4)
Clayton Kershaw
Chad Billingsley
Chris Capuano
Aaron Harang

Relievers (8)
Javy Guerra
Kenley Jansen
Mike MacDougal
Matt Guerrier
Scott Elbert
Todd Coffey
Josh Lindblom
Jamey Wright

Catchers (2)
A.J. Ellis
Matt Treanor

Infielders (6)
James Loney
Mark Ellis
Dee Gordon
Juan Uribe
Justin Sellers
Adam Kennedy

Outfielders (4)
Matt Kemp
Andre Ethier
Juan Rivera
Tony Gwynn, Jr.

Anywhere But Pitcher or Catcher (1)
Jerry Hairston, Jr.

Hey, Hairston's a guy with many talents, so one spot just wouldn't do.

Keep in mind also that Ted Lilly is on the 15-day DL, and Ronald Belisario is on the Restricted List for 25 games. Obviously a move will have to be made for Lilly's return (possibly Lindblom). As for Belisario, there's still plenty of time to try and figure out what to do with him once he returns. What's working against the Dodgers is that he is out of options, so there's that risk of somebody claiming him if he's placed on waivers.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A look back at the last 4 Opening Days

When the Dodgers take the field against the Padres on Thursday, I will officially start my fifth year of covering games on this blog. With that unbelievable milestone fast approaching (OK, it's not that big of a deal, but still pretty cool for me), let's take a look at the previous four Opening Days.

2008: Dodgers 5 - Giants 0

Joe Torre made his debut as Dodgers' skipper, a year after ditching the Yankees. It was also the 50th anniversary of the Dodgers' move from Brooklyn. Oh, and it was also the heroic debut of Andrew Jones. Sigh. Take that last part away, and it was quite the memorable day in LA.

Here is my original report from this game.

2009: Dodgers 4 - Padres 1

Manny Ramirez began his full-time stint with the Dodgers, a year after going on an absolute tear following his trade from the Red Sox. The Dodgers finally beat Jake Peavy, who won his previous 11 decisions against them, thanks in large part to a homer from Matt Kemp.

Original Report

2010: Pirates 11 - Dodgers 5

Ugh. Talk about a gigantic thud on Opening Day. The Pirates looked like World Series contenders, and the Dodgers... well, pretty much looked the Pirates of any other game. The Dodgers actually used a Kemp single in the first to go up 2-0, only to watch Vicente Padilla and George Sherrill get rocked. Not a whole lot changed that year as Torre's final season came to a disappointing, postseason-less close.

Original Report

2011: Dodgers 2 - Giants 1

The opening contest of the Kershaw-Lincecum feud went Kershaw's way, which soon turned into Kershaw 4 - Lincecum 0 in 2011. Kershaw pitched seven flawless innings and Kemp reached base all four times. Don Mattingly's debut was victorious.

Original Report