Friday, August 31, 2012

Slumpin' Dodgers keep falling back

Another night, another disappointing effort from the Dodgers.

And even worse, another win by the Giants.

Add it all together, and with a little over one month to go in the season, the Dodgers have plenty of work to do if they want to reach the postseason.  Chris Young's two-run homer was all the scoring that was needed on Thursday night, as the Diamondbacks handed the Dodgers another loss, 2-0.  With the Giants overcoming a four-run deficit to beat the Astros, their lead is up to 4 1/2 games in the NL West.

The game saw a matchup of Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and contender Ian Kennedy from last season.  While Kershaw has enjoyed another great season, Kennedy came into this one 11-11 with a 4.44 ERA, so it's not like the Dodgers were facing the same guy from last season.

Then again, maybe they were, because Kennedy looked every bit like the guy who battled Kershaw deep into last year for that award.  He pitched into the seventh inning and gave up only two hits and two walks without allowing a run.  Even with Matt Kemp sitting, that's a pretty sad offensive effort.

Kershaw wasn't exactly at his sharpest through three innings, as he let a couple runners reach in the first and third, escaping without any harm.  In the fourth, however, Young struck.  Miguel Montero led off with a double.  Young took a low breaking ball out to left for a two-run jack, and a 2-0 advantage.

It could have been worse, as Gerardo Parra singled and went to second on a questionable balk call.  John McDonald singled and Aaron Hill was intentionally walked to load the bases.  Jake Elmore got just what Dr. Kershaw ordered with an inning ending double play.

If you thought the offense would be rejuvenated from the double play, you would be wrong, as they continued to do absolutely nothing.  A.J. Ellis kept his team in it with some great plays in the sixth.  Both Young and Parra singled, but both were gunned down with ease trying to steal second.  Once again, the defense came up big when needed.

The Dodgers chased Kennedy in the seventh when Andre Ethier walked and Luis Cruz was beaned with one out.  Brad Ziegler came in, and sure enough, Juan Rivera grounded into a double play to squash any thoughts of a rally.

J.J. Putz came in for the save in the ninth, and the Dodgers at least made him sweat.  Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez started things with consecutive singles.  Ethier's grounder forced Ramirez at second, as there were now runners on the corners with one down.

Cruz lifted a fly ball to left that wasn't deep enough to score the slow feet of Gonzalez, so there were two outs.  Rivera had a chance to make up for his DP last at-bat, but instead popped to short to end the game.

Kershaw did all he could on a bad night to give the Dodgers a chance to win, but it wasn't enough.  He lasted six innings for nine hits, two runs, three walks, and nine strikeouts.  Lots of K's, but lots of baserunners, too.  Still, he got the DBacks to strand nine, not that it really mattered in the end.

Everyone on the offense is pressing way too much right now, and it's painfully obvious.  How many times did we see lazy pop ups in this one?  Too many times to count, probably.  Like I pointed out a couple games ago, the Dodgers have completely gone away from what made them start off the year red hot: reach base, move runners over, and get them in.  Now it looks like they're all trying to hit home runs, and failing miserably.

Don Mattingly rolled the dice with Nick Punto at the leadoff spot, and boy did that flop.  He was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.  Shane Victorino has been moved down to the #2 spot, but is still only hitting .255 in 26 games, which is not all what the Dodgers thought they'd be getting from him.  He's definitely scuffling.

When the top two guys aren't getting on, it adds pressure to the guys in the middle, and it shows.  Gonzalez, Ramirez, and Ethier reached base only 3 times in 12 plate appearances, with no extra-base hits.  With Kemp out, those kinds of numbers won't come close to getting it done.  Maybe they didn't have any swings left in them after scoring 10 a day ago.

Mattingly called a team meeting after the game, with the message being that it's time for them to do their part.  I couldn't agree more.  It's not like they can't reach the postseason even with the season dwindling down.  Just look at the run the Cardinals went on last year en route to being World Series champs.  It's possible, but it's also time to get to work.  If not, the Giants will leave them watching the postseason from their TV's at home.

With the Diamondbacks winning seven straight over the Dodgers, Aaron Harang will look to end the slide on Thursday.  He'll go up against Trevor Cahill.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Injury updates on Billingsley, Kemp, Jansen, and Elbert

The injury bug has certainly nailed the Dodgers lately, so here's an update on what's going on.

Chad Billingsley - From unbeatable to possibly lost for the season, it's been a big turn for Bills in the second half.  Stan Kasten has stated that he fears Bills will be gone for the season.  An MRI confirmed more elbow inflammation.  Right now they are waiting for the inflammation to subside before doing another MRI later this week.

Obviously the acquisition of Josh Beckett takes on even more added significance, as reading between the lines, the Dodgers don't look like they are planning on Bills making another start this season.  Nothing is official yet, so we will all wait and see.

Matt Kemp - After running face first into the center field wall on Tuesday, Kemp is lucky that he didn't break any bones.  Rather, CT scans and MRIs show only a bone bruise in his left knee and no fractures to his jaw.  Not surprisingly, he's still pretty sore, but wants to get back into the lineup on Thursday.  Whether or not Don Mattingly agrees with that remains to be seen, but expect him back soon.  And also expect all Dodger fans to exhale a huge sigh of relief.

Kenley Jansen - The news isn't so good for the Dodgers' closer, as Jansen is out indefinitely with an irregular heartbeat.  This is same problem he faced last season that forced him to miss four weeks.  And when you're talking about missing a month or so this time of year, you're facing the real possibility of being out for the season.

The issue with Jansen coming back is related to the blood thinners he may be required to take.  If he does take them, he will have to rest because of the bleeding related to playing baseball.  Anytime you're dealing with heart issues, every precaution would, and should, be taken.  Hopefully more news will come soon on this, as the Dodgers will have a serious hole at the end of their bullpen if he is lost for the year.

Scott Elbert - The news for Elbert isn't good either, as he's back on the 15-day DL with a sore elbow.  It's bad enough that he'll probably need offseason surgery.  The Dodgers only have one other lefty in the bullpen (Randy Choate), so this is obviously pretty tough to take.  He had a 2.20 ERA in 43 games, so it won't be easy to replace those numbers.

Dodgers escape with a win... barely

After watching the Rockies go off for their second huge inning late in a game this series, the Dodgers came dangerously close to getting swept by a last place team.

Thankfully that 10-1 lead they built up was enough to hang on.

An early two-run homer by Hanley Ramirez and a grand slam later by A.J. Ellis gave the Dodgers the big lead they needed, as they clung to a victory in Colorado, 10-8.  The Giants beat the Astros (like I even needed to say that), so the Dodgers still find themselves down by 3 1/2 games in the NL West.

For 7 1/2 innings, this game was all LA, as they did all of their damage in the third and eighth.  Starting in the third, Juan Rivera, who was in for a healing Matt Kemp after going splat against the wall on Tuesday, singled leading off.  Ellis followed with his own, and Joe Blanton sacrificed them into scoring position.

The scoring then started on an error by Jordan Pecheco at third, allowing Rivera to score and make it 1-0.  Shane Victorino's RBI single came next, and Mark Ellis and Victorino both advanced a base on a wild pitch.  Adrian Gonzalez found enough room in right for a two-run single, and Ramirez hit his two-run shot to make it 6-0 after three.

Blanton was having by far his best game in Dodger blue through six innings, not allowing a run.  The Rockies finally cracked the scoreboard in the seventh.  With one out, Charlie Blackmon singled and Dexter Fowler pinch-hit and drew a walk.  An RBI single by Tyler Colvin made it 1-0, but Blanton got Josh Rutledge to ground into the inning ending double play.

The Dodgers appeared to put the game away in the eighth when they added on four more runs.  Luis Cruz walked, Andre Ethier singled, and Rivera also walked to get the bases juiced.  Ellis was red hot to start the year, cooled off in the second half, but reminded everyone why he's a breakout player this year with a grand slam to deep right to make it 10-1.

All was looking good, until the bottom of the eighth hit, and the wheels nearly fell completely off the bus.  Blanton started the inning, but gave up a couple singles to Pacheco and Ramon Hernandez.  That brought in Shawn Tolleson, who was just called back up when Scott Elbert hit the DL again.  Needless to say, Tolleson shouldn't have even boarded the plane to Colorado, as he was absolutely atrocious.

Chris Nelson and DJ LeMahieu hit consecutive RBI singles, Andrew Brown walked, and Fowler hit an RBI single to make it 10-4.  Thanks a lot, Shawn.  You suck.  So out he went and in came Randy Choate, who immediately beaned Colving to force in a run.

With Kenley Jansen unavailable, Don Mattingly already had a thin bullpen, but he still went with Ronald Belisario to get out of this mess.  He got Rutledge to ground into a forceout, but a run still scored to make it 10-6.  An RBI single by Carlos Gonzalez made it 10-7, and a bobble by Victorino in center brought in another for a 10-8 score.  Mercifully, Pacheco grounded to second to end the inning.

Belisario stayed on for the save, and got LeMahieu to ground into a double play to end the game.  It was his first save of the season.

Wow, what an exhausting game this turned out to be.  I know the Dodgers weren't happy about the strike zone, especially in the final inning, but that was still way too close.  Everything they do now is under a microscope considering all of the trades they made, but if the playoffs started today, they would be on the outside looking in.  Games like this won't exactly make that path to the postseason easier.

Blanton stepped up and delivered a good game.  He lasted 7 1/3 innings for 10 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, and 5 strikeouts.  That's obviously a lot of hits, but in a place like Coors Field, it's almost bound to happen.  The bottom line is that he didn't let many of those runners score, and the Dodgers will take it. 

The bullpen, however, continues to be somewhat of a mess.  Tolleson was just atrocious, failing to get even one out before surrendering four runs.  Choate hasn't been what the Dodgers thought they'd be getting.  In 7 1/3 innings he has a 3.68 ERA and 1.50 WHIP.  Not terrible numbers, but not good either.  With Elbert out again, he really needs to get it together.

This is why Belisario is so important right now.  I've been hard on him in the past, but in looking at his numbers now, he hasn't given up a run since August 13 against the Pirates.  In this game, he got five big outs in a close game facing a sweep.  I'll give credit where it's due.  And with Jansen out indefinitely, they need him now more than ever.

Thursday starts a four-game set at home against the Diamondbacks.  A month ago this same team came to LA and swept the Dodgers.  Hopefully Kemp can get back into action soon, but if not, the Dodgers still have a good enough offense to win.  Clayton Kershaw will go in the first game.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Dodgers get trounced in Colorado

Taking into account the recent buzz about the Dodgers, and how their lineup is now loaded with many more impact hitters, and how on the mound was a guy who already has two rings, one thing became obvious when Monday night's painful game was over.

This was the worst loss of the season for the Dodgers.  Period.

Josh Beckett pitched pretty well, but the offense was terrible, and the bullpen was even worse as the Rockies stomped all over the Dodgers, 10-0.  The Giants were idle, so their lead gets bumped a bit to 2 1/2 games.

After the Dodgers couldn't do anything with a two-out double from Matt Kemp, Beckett took the mound for his first start in the National League since 2005.  The first batter he faced was Tyler Colvin, and let's just say that Colvin left his mark.  A towering solo homer that landed in the second deck gave the Rockies an early 1-0 lead.  Beckett did get a couple of K's to end the inning.

The Dodgers couldn't get anything going on offense, but Beckett was keeping it a one-run game until the fourth.  With two outs, Chris Nelson tripled to left center.  D.J. LeMahieu did something that Dodgers have failed to do the last couple of games, which is deliver in the clutch with an RBI single and 2-0 lead.

To start the fifth, Luis Cruz singled and A.J. Ellis came within inches of a homer to left, but settled for a double to put two on.  It was a tough decision for Don Mattingly whether or not to pinch-hit for Beckett.  But considering how taxed the bullpen was on Sunday, Beckett stayed in and struck out.  Shane Victorino had a chance for a big hit... and promptly struck out.

The Rockies tacked on another run in the sixth and chased Beckett in the process.  Nelson singled with one out, and Jonathan Herrera did the same an out later.  Josh Rutledge pinch hit and singled up the middle to score a run and make it 3-0.  Randy Choate struck out Colvin to keep the deficit within a reasonable amount.

The eighth inning saw the Dodgers go from the verge of making this a close game to getting completely blown out.  Victorino tripled with two outs, then Mark Ellis was beaned by Mark Belisle.  Kemp was looking to kickstart the offense, but instead grounded into a double play.

As for the bottom half of the eighth... forget it.  The Rockies sent 10 hitters to the plate to make a joke of this game.  Kenley Jansen started the inning, and for those of you who believe that closers are only effective when a save is on the line, here is your support.  Jansen was horrible, giving up an RBI single to LeMahieu and two-run triple to Colvin. 

Josh Wall was recently recalled for Shawn Tolleson, and he was the sacrificial lamb to finish the inning.  Jordan Pecheco's RBI double made it 8-0, and Wilin Rosario put the cherry on top with a two-run bomb, giving the Rocks a double digit lead.

Before getting to all of the negatives, let's start with something that was pretty much a positive, and that's Beckett's first start.  His final line only looks OK: 5 2/3 innings, seven hits, three runs, three walks, six strikeouts.  He recovered quite nicely from Colvin's 457-foot bomb to start the game, but couldn't escape the sixth with two outs.  Still, I'm encouraged by this start, and Dodger fans should be as well.

The negative?  Oh boy, was the offense bad!  Here's the thing about high expectations: when things don't go well, it looks even worse than normal.  The 3-6 hitters of Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, and Andre Ethier went a combined 1-for-14 with two walks.  Wow, that's really bad.  Yes, I know it's just one game, but still, that's bad.

Much like Sunday's game, it was obvious to me that those guys are just trying to do too much right now.  It seems like every swing they take is geared towards the upper deck, instead of trying to move runners along.  Ramirez looks the guiltiest of this, as he's now hitless in last 12 at-bats.  It's easier said than done, but he really needs to just settle down and become a gap hitter again, letting his legs do the talking.

Even I'm not crazy enough to suggest that this offense will continue to come up empty in big situations, as there's just too much talent there for that to happen.  As I stated for Ramirez, the key in my mind is to simply not try to hit homers everytime runners are on.  The Dodgers started the year off red hot because they moved runners along, and that's the mindset that's needed here.  The homers will still come.

The Dodgers will lick their wounds and try to bounce back on Tuesday, as they send Chris Capuano to the mound looking for his 12th win.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Looking at who the Dodgers sent to Boston

A lot has been made about the huge acquisitions the Dodgers just received from the Red Sox in the last few days.  Right now I want to take a look at the flip side, as in the players the Dodgers gave away.

James Loney - It's safe to say the Dodgers tried and tried again when it came to Loney.  Yet, he was never able to find his offensive groove.  And when it came apparent that his days driving in 90 runs were already behind him, they made the right call in letting him go. 

Let's not take anything away from him on defense - he can definitely "glove it" over at first.  In fact, I believe that's a big reason why he was held onto for so long in the first place.  You hoped you would get more run production from him, but you knew he could play D.  But eventually that gets old, and that's precisely what happened here.

He saved his job at the end of last year by hitting .320 after the All-Star break, including .367 in August and .348 in September.  After failing to land the big dog in Prince Fielder in the offseason, the hope was that he'd continue to build on those numbers.  Well, that obviously never happened.  Instead, it seemed like he would either groundout to second or into a double play.  It was time for him to move.

Jerry Sands - He's appeared off and on in the majors since last season with mostly mediocre results.  Right now he's labeled as a guy who's too good to be in the minors, yet constantly finds himself back there because he can't do enough to stay in the majors.  In 70 career games, he's hitting only .244 with 4 homers and 27 RBIs.

It's best for Sands to move on, especially since Carl Crawford was brought over and still has many years left on his contract.  It's hard to imagine Sands getting much of any playing team over Crawford, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier.  That's a lot of production and bucks for those guys.  Sands has dabbled a bit at first base, so perhaps he can find some time there.  He's got the tools, so there is a good chance he can be a good big league player.

Ivan De Jesus - There's not a whole lot to say about him since he's only played in 40 games the past two seasons.  He hit .231 with only one extra-base hit and one steal.  He'll fill some sort of a utility role, as he can play both middle infield positions.  But he's easily replaceable, so it's no big loss at all for the Dodgers.

Rubby De La Rosa - When it's all said and done, this could be the one player the Red Sox will cherish the most from this trade.  He definitely has the makeup of an elite starter, as he can touch triple digits on the gun, and has already had some great starts in his young career.

In July of last season, he made five starts and went 1-2 with a 2.89 ERA and 1.29 WHIP.  He also struck out 29 batters in 28 innings, a great indication of his power stuff.  Unfortunately for him, he then went down for Tommy John surgery, and has only recently come back.  As is the case with any pitcher, there's always a risk that he won't be the same type of pitcher after major surgery.  I think in today's baseball world, this surgery is practically a common thing, and the results have shown that it definitely works.

I'm sure the Dodgers didn't want to give him up, as he would've competed for a starting spot next season.  If you're a Red Sox fan, you have to like the move in that it's the first step towards improving their horrific pitching.  I'll miss him, but as the old adage goes, you have to give up something in order to get something.

Allen Webster - I'll admit that I don't know as much about him since he has yet to appear in LA.  From all I've read about him, though, he looks to be the real deal.  In five minor league seasons, he's 34-24 with a 3.34 ERA and 1.36 WHIP, along with 456 K's in 485 innings.

Much like De La Rosa, I know the Red Sox definitely wanted pitching in this deal, and with two young arms who have good numbers coming to them, they have to like it.  For the Dodgers, it's always tricky to project just how good "prospects" are ultimately going to be, so I can see them being willing to let one of them go.  I do know that Zach Lee is probably their top prospect, so I'm happy he isn't going anywhere.

Clutch hitting eludes the Dodgers

After two games and 19 runs against the Marlins, the well finally ran dry on Sunday.

The Dodgers left a whopping 16 men on base, and four homers by the Marlins prevented them from being swept by picking up the win, 6-2.  With the Giants' loss to the Braves on Sunday night, their lead in the NL West remains at two games.

For the first time in six games, the Dodgers actually prevented the opposing team from scoring in the first, though it sure looked close to happening again.  Justin Ruggiano singled and stole second with two outs.  Carlos Lee grounded one up the middle that looked like it was going through, but Nick Punto made a great diving stop at second, then threw behind to third to nail Ruggiano in a rundown for the last out.

Punto kept the momentum going with a one-out walk.  A single by Matt Kemp put two on.  Adrian Gonzalez had a big first at-bat with the Dodgers on Saturday, and he delivered again with an RBI single for the 1-0 lead.  Andre Ethier struck out to end the inning, and also ended his hitting streak at 10 straight at-bats.

Aaron Harang got through the opening third of the game unscathed... and then grooved one to some guy named Giancarlo Stanton.  Um, not a good idea.  His solo shot to dead center tied the game at one.  It also gave him a homer in all three games this series.

The long ball again plagued Harang, as the Dodgers lost the lead for good in the fifth.  Donovan Solano singled to leadoff the inning.  Rod Brantly stepped in and hit his first major league home run, a two-run shot to make it 3-1.

The Dodgers had a perfect chance to strike right back in the bottom half, but came up empty.  Shane Victorino and Punto each singled to start.  Kemp flew out to center, but Gonzalez took a walk to load the bases.  Hanley Ramirez and Ethier, however, failed to get even one run home, so that was that.

After the Dodgers again failed with a couple on in the sixth, the Marlins had the bases loaded and one down in the seventh, but also couldn't score.  In the bottom of the frame, Kemp walked against Mike Dunn leading off.  Gonzalez ripped a single on an 0-2 count down the right field line, sending Kemp to third.  Ramirez struck out again, but Ethier found room on the left side for an RBI single, and it was now 3-2.

Chad Gaudin entered the game to pitch to Luis Cruz, and that's when things got a little weird.  Cruz popped on up in front of first, and as Lee was going after it, he made contact with Ethier.  After much confusion, Ethier was called out, but Cruz was allowed to resume his at-bat since it was a foul ball.  It didn't matter, as he flew to left to end it.

The Marlins tacked on another run in the eighth.  With Ronald Belisario in, Greg Dobbs doubled, Brantly walked, and Austin Kearns pinch-hit and did the same.  That was enough of Belisario, as Randy Choate came in to pitch to Bryan Petersen.  It's safe to say this wasn't Ramirez's finest hour, as his error allowed Dobbs to score to make it 4-2.

The last threat the Dodgers had was in the eighth, but like they did all game long, they failed to really make an impact.  Heath Bell started the inning, and Mark Ellis and Victorino each singled with one out.  Punto struck out for the second out.  Closer Steve Cishek got the ball next and walked Kemp to load 'em up for Gonzalez.  It could have been another magical moment, but Gonzalez's deep drive to right was caught near the warning track.

Back-to-back solo homers by Jose Reyes and Lee in the ninth wrapped up the scoring at 6-2.

This game was pretty much your classic case of trying to do too much with runners on.  The Dodgers got 11 hits, which were all singles.  They also took six walks, all from the top guys in the order.  But then you see that Ramirez was hitless and left eight on himself, Ethier left six on, and Kemp and Gonzalez four apiece.  It was obvious, too, as there were way too many swings going for it all instead of playing small ball to get runners over and in.

Then again, after the excitement of Gonzalez's arrival and impact on Saturday, it's hard not to get too caught up in the moment and go for the big blow.  Let's just hope they find that balance going forward and not leave 16 on base again.

Harang started off well enough, but the two homers were hard to overcome.  He went 5 1/3 innings for six hits, three runs, one walk, and four strikeouts.  The bullpen didn't do a whole lot better, as Belisario and Shawn Tolleson ran into too much trouble.

The Dodgers will now hit the road for a brief trip for three in Colorado starting Monday.  This will start 15 straight games home and away against all four NL West foes.  And when the margin of error is so thin, you know these games take on added significance.  Josh Beckett will make his Dodger debut in Coors.  I'm sure he's thrilled about that!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Gonzo goes boom in LA debut

It took all of one at-bat for Dodger fans to already love this Adrian Gonzalez guy.

Gonzalez crushed a three-run shot in his first plate appearance, become the sixth Dodger in history to do so.  Mark Ellis and Andre Ethier would soon add homers of their own, and the Dodgers easily won over the Marlins, 8-2.  With the Braves defeating the Giants earlier in the day, the lead for them in the NL West is down to two games.

The night didn't start off so well, as for the fifth straight game, the Dodgers let their opponent score first.  Gorkys Hernandez led off the game with a double down the left field line.  A grounder by Donovan Solano got him to third, and Jose Reyes' RBI groundout made it 1-0.

It didn't take long at all for the Dodgers to erase the deficit, and then to take the lead for good.  With Shane Victorino scratched late because of a sore back, Ellis hit in the leadoff spot and had a big night, starting here with a double.  Luis Cruz was bumped up to the #2 spot, and his RBI single tied the game at one.

Matt Kemp had a three-hit night, and he singled to put two on.  That brought up Gonzalez, who certainly knew how to seize the moment, as his three-run jack made it 4-1.  He would go hitless the rest of the night, but it hardly mattered, as his debut could not have possibly gone any better.

It took all of one swing from the mighty Giancarlo Stanton to quiet the crowd, as he unleashed a 458-foot bomb to left, cutting the score to 4-2.

Clayton Kershaw would settle down from there, giving up only one more hit the rest of the way, and the Dodgers' offense would continue to go to work.  Ellis got that run right back with his fifth homer of the season in the bottom of the second, and it was 5-2.

In the third, Ethier kept his hitting streak going with a leadoff double.  He then went to third on Juan Rivera's grounder, and scored right after that on an RBI single from A.J. Ellis, making it 6-2.

With eight consecutive hits at this point, it was all a matter of setting history for Ethier.  And that is exactly what he did, as his solo homer in the fifth tied the Dodger record at nine straight, and made the lead 7-2.  He then set the record a couple inning later on a bloop single to center.  That's an impressive run.

The last run was scored in the eighth off of Heath Bell, who used to be good, but now is relegated to measly middle relief work.  Nick Punto also made his first Dodger appearance, and he walked leading off.  Mark Ellis got on again with a single, and Cruz ripped an RBI single, and it was 8-2.

Ronald Belisario pitched a perfect ninth, getting Stanton to ground to Cruz at third for the game's final out.

I can only imagine what the last couple days have been like for Gonzalez.  He went from taking BP with the Red Sox in Boston last night, to being a late scratch as the trade rumors swirled, to hopping on a plane with Punto and Josh Beckett to get to LA in time for this game, to homering in his first at-bat.  Wow, that's got to be mentally and physically draining.

Make no mistake about it, the Dodgers are clearly a better team now, and this game showed why.  With Gonzalez locked in at the cleanup spot, the offense has so much more punch to it.  If guys like Cruz and Ellis (both of them) keep getting on, then they'll be tough to beat.  And let's just hope that Ethier keeps hanging on to his second wind, as he's swinging a red hot bat right now.

Oh by the way, Kershaw was awesome again.  Seems almost like an afterthought with all of the trade drama!  But after a shaky first couple of innings, he regained his form to throw eight innings for three hits, two runs, two walks, and eight strikeouts.  He ups his record to 12-7 with a 2.84 ERA and 0.99 WHIP.  Not too shabby.

I guess it's only fitting that after getting swept by the Giants earlier this week, they're on the verge of doing the same to the Marlins.  They have got to be the streakiest team in baseball, and as I've said before, that's a dangerous way to play heading into the home stretch.  I mean hey, it's good they can put together a few straight wins, but they obviously still need to do a better job of halting slides when they occur.

Of course, they could always just score 8 runs on 16 hits while giving up only 3 hits like this game, and win every contest from here on out.  That'll work, too.

With an exciting day in Dodger history in the books, it'll now be up to Aaron Harang to end the homestand on a high note.  He'll take on wily veteran Mark Buehrle.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Signed and sealed: Another new day in LA

Just when you thought the new Dodgers' ownership couldn't top themselves... think again.

The same team that has gone out and acquired Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton, Brandon League, and Randy Choate has taken their new philosophy of "spend, spend, spend" even further.  Coming over to LA from Boston are superstars Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto.  OK, so technically Punto isn't a superstar, and Crawford and Beckett haven't been this year either, but you get the point.

Shuttling across the country to Boston are James Loney, Jerry Sands, Rubby De La Rosa, Ivan De Jesus, and top prospect Allen Webster.

The two major players in this deal for the Dodgers are obviously Gonzalez and Beckett.  In Gonzalez, the Dodgers are finally getting the cleanup hitter they've been looking for.  Now they can have Matt Kemp hit #3, Gonzalez #4, and flip-flop Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier in the #5-6 spots depending on the matchup.  That's pretty nasty, and a heck of a lot better than what they've had.

Gonzalez wasn't the same player in the first half of the season, as he hit .283 with only 6 homers and 45 RBIs.  But, in 37 games since the break, he's really found his stroke, hitting .338 with 9 homers and 41 RBIs.  That's the guy the Dodgers need in their order cleaning up the bases.

The arrival of Beckett is fantastic timing only because of the latest injury to Chad Billingsley.  It's the second time this year he's shown elbow inflammation, so who knows what kind of time he'll miss.  And when you're bringing in a guy who was a major player on two championship teams, that's a good thing.

There's no denying that Beckett has not enjoyed the 2012 season at all.  Right now he's 5-11 with a 5.23 ERA and 1.33 WHIP.  That's a heck of a lot different than last season (13-7, 2.89, 1.03).  And let's not forget about the drama that has hovered around him (chicken and beer, playing golf). 

There's also no denying that, much like Hanley Ramirez, he really needed a change of scenery, and he's got it.  Take a look at his postseason numbers: 14 games (13 starts), 7-3, 3.07 ERA, 0.94 WHIP.  You don't think the Dodgers are excited about that?  Here's a guy who won't be rattled to take the ball in October, and it shows.

It's hard to say too much about Crawford now, as he won't even be a factor this year after undergoing Tommy John surgery a couple days ago.  Here's what we do know: his time in Boston has been a disaster.  The Red Sox have to be ecstatic to simply rid themselves of his bloated contract, which was 7 years and $142 million back in 2010.  Last year he played in 130 games and hit .255, and this year played 31 and hit .288.  Not exactly the types of numbers they were expecting.

The Dodgers can now be patient with him as he recovers from surgery, as it typically takes anywhere from 6-9 months.  All things considered, he could be ready for Spring Training, or closer to the start of the season if all goes well.  And if he can find his groove that made him a superstar in Tampa, then the outfield of Crawford, Kemp, and Ethier is just awesome.  Time will tell, however.

Punto gives the Dodgers another guy off the bench, which was needed since Jerry Hairston, Jr. has been lost for the season with a hip injury, which completely sucks.  I'm sure Punto will get some playing time, as it's not like Juan Uribe should play over him.  Heck, a one-armed Crawford could switch positions to infield and still play better than Uribe.

Needless to say, it's a historic deal for the Dodgers, and no doubt once again jolts some life into a team that has fallen back a bit in the playoff push.  Now they have no excuses.  Management has added plenty of positive pieces, so it's time to get the job done.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Dodgers and Red Sox working on a MAJOR deal

Word has come Friday afternoon that the Dodgers and Red Sox are piecing together a blockbuster deal that involves some major players.

Accoring to ESPN Boston, the Dodgers are about to receive Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto.  The Dodgers have been rumored to do anything from sending over players like Rubby De La Rosa, James Loney, Ivan De Jesus, and Jerry Sands, to simply taking on all of those contracts.  The Dodgers' part of the deal is still being worked out.

For the Dodgers, the deal means a HUGE upgrade at first (Gonzalez for Loney/Juan Rivera).  Plus, Beckett has plenty of big game experience, and could use a change of scenery to regain his fire, ala Hanley Ramirez.  And for the Sox, it's a great way to shed some mega contracts and somewhat start over.  It makes sense on both sides.

As we learned near the trade deadline with Ryan Dempster, let's not assume any trade is finalized until we get official word.  But if this does go down... whoa, baby!  This is a big day!

For updates on this, keep checking out

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pagan and the Giants complete a Dodger sweep

For any of you who thought the Giants would be reeling from losing Melky Cabrera... think again.

Powered by another strong game from leadoff hitter Angel Pagan and dominant starting pitching, the Dodgers looked lost again in going down for the sweep, 8-4.  The Giants have opened a 2 1/2 game lead in the NL West.

If the Giants keep playing like that, maybe the Dodgers need to look at the Wild Card standings, where they are a game in back of the second spot held by the Cardinals.

Pagan once again set the tone for the evening with a leadoff double.  Maybe the Dodgers should've just intentionally walked him to start the game.  I'm guessing that would be a first!  Marco Scutaro singled next for runners on the corners, and Pablo Sandoval's sac-fly RBI already made it 1-0.

Chris Capuano got Hunter Pence swinging for two down, so the damage could have been limited.  Then Joaquin Arias stepped up and smashed a two-run homer to make it 3-0.  Arias would go on to have a big night with three hits and five RBIs.

The Dodgers could only get one hit the first time through the order, a one-out double by A.J. Ellis in the third.  In the fourth, Mark Ellis hit a leadoff double, but the big guns of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Hanley Ramirez all failed to score him.

Still down 3-0, the Dodgers suffered more frustration in the fifth.  James Loney started things by singling off of Matt Cain.  A.J. Ellis' single put two on, and Capuano's sacrifice gave Shane Victorino a chance for a big hit.  Well... it didn't happen.  He struck out to end the inning.

The game was pretty much over from there, as the Giants took advantage of the Dodgers' bumbling on offense.  Pagan singled, Scutaro doubled, and Sandoval's RBI single chased Capuano at 4-0.  Shawn Tolleson came in to strikeout Pence, but an RBI double by Arias made it 5-0.  With two outs and the bases loaded, Justin Christian took a walk to force in a run, and it was now a blowout at 6-0.

The Dodgers finally got a run on the board in the sixth, as Ethier doubled with two outs, and Ramirez hit an RBI single to make it 6-1.  Arias got that run back and then some, as his two-run double in the seventh put the Giants up 8-1.

At least the Dodgers got something going on offense in the eighth, not that it really mattered at that point.  Mark Ellis hit his second double of the night, and Kemp came through with an RBI ground rule double.  With the bases loaded and two outs, Luis Cruz hit a two-run single off of Santiago Casilla to make it 8-4.  Any though of making a big comeback was dashed when A.J. Ellis grounded into the inning ending double play.

Needless to say, it was another disappointing night for the home team.  Not only did they get swept by the hated Giants, but once again showed vulnerability at home.  It's hard to explain why they're so bad at home right now, but they definitely don't look like a postseason team when they play like that.  They look like the same old team that struggles on offense by not getting big hits.

Capuano had a bad start and bad end, as he failed to match Cain pitch-for-pitch.  He lasted five innings for six hits, six runs, no walks, and two strikeouts.  That's his lowest strikeout total since six starts ago when he had one against the Cardinals, which was also a bad loss.  I guess it's pretty simple for him - the more strikeouts he gathers, the better he is.  And vice versa as well.

The funny thing about the Dodgers is that as bad as they looked in this series, they're so streaky that they can turn right around and look great the next series.  The problem with that is obvious - it's hard to win in the playoffs by being that inconsistent.  There's no second chances in the postseason, so they need to do a much better job of halting slides when they happen.

If there was one positive from this game, it was the return of Rubby De La Rosa, making his first appearance of the season following Tommy John surgery last year.  He gave up a couple walks in addition to two outs, but Jamey Wright couldn't help him out by giving up the two-run double to Arias in the seventh.  Still, it's good to see De La Rosa back in the bullpen, and it should pay off.

Thursday will be an off day, which the Dodgers clearly need.  The Marlins will be in town next for three starting Friday.  They're one of the biggest disappointments in baseball this year, but with the way the Dodgers just played, nothing is a guarantee.  Chad Billingsley will go against the returning Nathan Eovaldi.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dodgers can't solve Bumgarner

In a battle of two of the top southpaws in baseball, Madison Bumgarner showed the world why the Giants aren't going anywhere, despite the Melky Cabrera mess.

Even with Clayton Kershaw striking out 10 over eight innings, the offense never got a thing going against Bumgarner, and the Giants retook first place in the NL West by winning 2-1. 

The Giants established themselves right away, as Angel Pagan led off the game with a double to center.  Marco Scutaro sacrificed him over to third, and Pablo Sandoval's sac-fly RBI made it 1-0.

There wasn't exactly a whole lot going on from there, as both Bumgarner and Kershaw made life miserable for the hitters.  The Dodgers did put two on in the second when Juan Rivera was beaned and Luis Cruz singled, but A.J. Ellis struck out.

Trying to make something happen, the Dodgers ran into a couple of outs on steal attempts.  Shane Victorino was erased to make it two down in the second, and a strike 'em out, throw 'em out double play ended the fifth when Ellis K'd and Cruz was gunned down by Buster Posey.

The Giants made some noise with two outs in the sixth to increase their lead.  Pagan started things again by singling.  Scutaro did the same to set things up again for Sandoval.  Fighting off an inside pitch, Sandoval softly singled into left, and Victorino's throw home was just a hair too late, allowing Pagan to score and make it 2-0.

Kershaw tried to get the offense going on his own by hitting his second single of the night leading off the bottom of the sixth.  Victorino forced him at second, and Mark Ellis lined out to right on a nice play by Hunter Pence.  Victorino finally got his legs going, as he stole second and then third.  Matt Kemp had a great chance to drive in a run, but struck out on a full count.

It all came down to the ninth, as Bumgarner was lifted after eight innings of shutout ball, striking out 10.  Sergio Romo struck out Ellis for the first down, then got Kemp grounding out to short.

Just when all looked lost, Hanley Ramirez cranked a solo shot to deep left center, giving Dodger Stadium some life at 2-1.  Bruce Bochy brought in lefty specialist Javier Lopez to pitch to Andre Ethier, and it worked with a groundout to first to end the game.

There's not a whole lot more Kershaw could have done to keep the Dodgers' hot play going.  He really only made one bad pitch the whole game (Pagan's double in the first), and the rest of the way were soft singles.  He took the loss to fall to 11-7, but still has great numbers with a 2.87 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.

This is one of those games where the opposing pitcher deserves all the credit in the world for throwing an incredible game.  The Dodgers certainly are upgraded on offense and have been clicking lately, but they had absolutely no chance on Monday night.  Cruz looked good with two singles, and Kershaw actually did the same.  But the top five in the order of Victorino, Ellis, Kemp, Ramirez, and Ethier all went hitless against him.  It was truly one of those nights.

Even though Bumgarner was awesome, there's still no denying that it's another loss at home for the Dodgers.  Since the All-Star break, they're only 6-10 at Dodger Stadium, which is really weird considering they were so good at home in the first half.  I have to think this will eventually change, as I just can't see them struggling so much like they have.  Let's hope it happens during these next two games.

Speaking of struggling, Joe Blanton will get the start on Tuesday.  And when you throw in Tim Lincecum starting for the Giants, I'd say it's all about pitchers looking to turn things around.  Blanton is 0-2 with an enormous 8.22 ERA in three starts with the Dodgers.  Lincecum has barely done a lick all year, as he's been one of the biggest disappointments in baseball at 6-13 with a 5.45 ERA.  Something has to give.

Monday, August 20, 2012

It's all sun and games in Atlanta

The Dodgers ended their road trip in style on Sunday, and they can give a big assist to Mother Nature for that.

Jayson Heyward lost two fly balls in the sun, Mark Ellis hit a huge three-run double in the ninth, and Chad Billingsley was awesome again as the Dodgers beat the Braves, 5-0.  And with that, the 10-game roadie has concluded at 7-3 with series wins against the Marlins, Pirates, and Braves.

The bonus on the day was that the Giants lost to the Padres, so the flip-flopping in the NL West continues as the Dodgers are now back in front.

The Dodgers blew a bases loaded, nobody out situation in the third when Shane Victorino flew out and Ellis grounded into a double play.  Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, and Andre Ethier went down in order in the fourth, all part of their 0-for-13 day at the plate.

No need to worry, as the bottom of the order led the way.  It started on a solo shot by Luis Cruz in the fifth, his fourth of the season.  A.J. Ellis and Billingsley both singled after that, but Victorino and Ellis again couldn't score them.

The eighth is when the nightmare began for Heyward in right, as not even a good fielder like him could overcome the vicious gleam of the sun.  Juan Uribe pinch-hit for Billingsley and walked, which was probably not the smartest thing to do considering he's hitting .094 on the road.  Victorino then singled on a hit-and-run.

Ellis was having a tough time at the plate up to this point, and it looked like that would continue when he lifted a lazy fly to right.  But, Heyward simply could not see it, allowing it to drop for an RBI single and 2-0 edge.  Once again the Dodgers blew a chance with the bases full, although the pinch-hitting James Loney did hit a hard liner that was gloved by Freddie Freeman at first.

Ronald Belisario looked like his old self (for one game anyway) by blowing through the Braves in the eighth.  It was his 21st hold of the season, which is really good, and hopefully he can continue to improve upon his 2.08 ERA this month.  Seeing that his ERA was 6.60 in July, I suppose he can only get better.

After failing way too many times with runners on up until this point, the Dodgers finally broke it open in the ninth.  And once again, they can thank their good friend the sun for the help.

A.J. Ellis started things with a one-out double to right... which happened only because Heyward lost the ball in the sky again.  Adam Kennedy hit for Belisario and blooped a single into left.  Victorino walked to load the bases.  Ellis hit a hard grounder by the diving Juan Francisco at third, and as the ball was slowly rolling to the corner, all three runs scored to make it 5-0.

Scott Elbert was just activated off the DL, and he got the Braves in order to put a stamp on this one.

As frustrating as the sun was for Heyward, the Dodgers have to be thrilled at the recent developments of Billingsley.  He's now won six straight starts, the first time a Dodger pitcher has done so since Kevin Brown won seven in 2003.  Wow, that seems like forever ago.  He pitched seven innings for three hits, no runs, two walks, and three strikeouts. 

The best part about Billingsley right now is the command of his fastball.  As John Smoltz was accurately pointing out on the TBS broadcast, he no longer looks afraid to use it to attack hitters.  Finally!  The ball is definitely popping out of his hand right now, and he is really making hitters look uncomfortable.  Let's hope it lasts, because if it does, the Dodgers look a lot more lethal.

The other encouraging thing about this game was the play of "the others," as in guys not named Kemp, Ethier, and Ramirez.  Cruz had two hits and a homer, A.J. Ellis had three hits, and the other Ellis had four RBIs thanks to his big hit in the ninth.  As I stated in a previous post, it's great to know the Dodgers aren't a one-man show right now.  They're getting contributions all over, which is why they're suddenly in first place again.

With a successful road trip in the books, the Dodgers come right back home on Monday for their biggest series of the year, a three-game set against the Giants.  It's always a big deal when these two teams played, and with the season winding down, it's even more so now.  It's a great matchup of stud lefties in the first game, as Clayton Kershaw takes on Madison Bumgarner.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

As Donny sits, Dodgers go yard

There's not many times you will see the following statement, so here goes: The Dodgers had four home runs on four hits.

Maybe even the suspended Don Mattingly broke out a smile or two watching that.

Hanley Ramirez hit two of them, and James Loney and Luis Cruz added the other two as the Dodgers rolled over the Braves, 6-2.  The Giants narrowly held on to beat the Padres, so the Dodgers still find themselves behind by a 1/2 game in the NL West.

The Braves started this game on top.  Michael Bourne led off with a walk against Aaron Harang.  An RBI double came next from Martin Prado, and the Dodgers were already in a quick hole.  It could have been worse, but Harang struck out David Ross to strand the bases loaded.

The second saw the rarest of all rarities - three straight homers from the Dodgers.  With one out, Ramirez took Ben Sheets deep for his 17th of the season, tying the game at one.  Loney followed that up with his fourth tater, and Cruz made it back-to-back-to-back to put the Dodgers up 3-1.

Fast forward to the sixth, and the Dodgers played long ball again.  It all started with a two-out walk to Matt Kemp.  As you know, that's usually a recipe for disaster, and the Dodgers took advantage of it.  Kemp stole second and Andre Ethier walked.  Ramirez hit his 18th of the season with a three-run shot to left, and the Dodgers were in full control at 6-1.

Harang got into the seventh by only allowing one run, but did walk too many with five.  Randy Choate got out of a little bit of trouble by striking out Jayson Heyward with one on to end the inning.

Javy Guerra had a chance to impress by starting the eighth... and then proceeded to do anything but that.  He immediately walked Chipper Jones, got Freddy Freeman to fly out, but walked Dan Uggla as well.  Not exactly the smartest thing to do late in a game with a big lead.

Out went Guerra and in came Shawn Tolleson, who got Ross to flyout for two down.  And then Paul Janish also walked to load the bases.  Kenley Jansen had to come in to strikeout Juan Francisco to end the inning.  I'll bet Jansen didn't think there's any way he'd enter a five-run game in the eighth, but I guess it's a good thing he was ready.

Jansen stayed on in the ninth and gave up a solo homer to Prado, but otherwise finished out the non-save situation with ease.

The box score was definitely an odd one, as the Dodgers might be the last team you would guess to have all of their hits be homers.  All three guys, though, have been swinging hot bats as of late.  Ramirez is now hitting .330 in 23 games with the Dodgers, showing why he was one of the top players in the game not too long ago.  Loney has hit in five straight, and homered in two of his last three.  Cruz continues to get big hits by hitting .325 this month.

Add it all up, and it's great to see the Dodgers get production up and down their lineup.  Even though they had four home runs in this game, you know that's not exactly the norm, so they need to rely on everybody.  A healthy Kemp certainly helps judging by another stolen base, but with a comfortable Ramirez and Shane Victorino, along with guys like Cruz hitting towards the bottom, they looked locked in right now.

The pitching played with fire all night long with eight walks, but got the Braves to leave 11 on base.  Harang improved to 9-7 with a 3.65 ERA, but the walks are something that needs to improve.  Guerra did nothing to help his cause by failing to put the ball over the plate.  How far has he fallen this season?  From closer to not even getting out of an inning with a big lead.  Not good.

What is good is this roadtrip, as the Dodgers have won six of nine.  There would be no better way to finish this off than with a win on Sunday.  Donny Baseball will sit out his last game, so Trey Hillman gets a chance to go 2-for-2.  Chad Billingsley will look for his 10th win.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Dodgers let one slip away in Hotlanta

Up 3-1 in the eighth inning and with Chris Capuano cruising, the Dodgers thought they had a great start to their three-game tilt in Atlanta.

That is, of course, before the first two hitters reached, Ronald Belisario couldn't put out the fire, and the Braves went on to win in extras.

So much for a great start.

Juan Francisco's walk-off single in the 11th inning capped a late comeback for the Braves as they downed the Dodgers, 4-3.  The daily back-and-forth atop the NL West continues, as the Giants creamed the Padres, so they now own a 1/2 game lead.

Capuano's only blemish for most of the game was a leadoff home run in the second to old man Chipper Jones.  Jones might be "old," but he's still putting up good numbers at .313 with 13 homers and 54 RBIs.  Pretty amazing when you consider that the guy probably hasn't been fully healthy since his rookie year.  I'll miss watching him after this year.

The Dodgers came alive in the sixth.  Mark Ellis started things with a double.  After Matt Kemp lined out, Andre Ethier crushed a two-run bomb to right to make it 2-1.  It was his 12th of the year and first since way back on July 14.  The hit was also big considering he was thrown out at home trying to score on Hanley Ramirez's double in the fourth.

The lead was increased by one in the seventh.  Luis Cruz has been swinging a hot bat lately, and he doubled leading off.  A groundout by Matt "Don't Call Me Misty" Treanor got him to third, and an out later, Shane Victorino's RBI single made it 3-1.  As for Cruz, he reached base all five times (three hits and two walks), and is hitting .333 this month.

All was looking good for the Dodgers... this is, until Capuano let the final two hitters in the Braves' order reach to start the eighth.  Paul Janish and pinch-hitting Reed Johnson each singled.  Leadoff hitter Michael Bourne then laid down a good sacrifice to advance them to scoring position.

That brought in Ronald Belisario, who... well, you pretty much know he couldn't wiggle out of the jam.  Martin Prado got the Braves within one with an RBI groundout, and Jason Heyward's RBI single made it 3-3.  Belisario didn't let those hitters reach, but he still showed just how far he's fallen this season by not leaving with the lead intact.

After both teams didn't do anything in the ninth, they each let opportunities slip away in the 10th.  Elian Herrera reached via error to start the inning, but couldn't get past second.  Michael Bourne singled off of Randy Choate with one out, went to third on a steal and bad throw by Treanor, but was also stranded.

Ramirez tried to get things going again in the 11th with a single, but a double play ball from Juan Rivera erased all of that.  Brandon League got out of the 10th, so he stayed on to start the next inning.  After getting the first couple outs, light-hitting David Ross and Janish both singled.  Jamey Wright came in and gave up Francisco's walk-off single to end it.

A day after a frustrating final game in Pittsburgh in which Don Mattingly, Joe Blanton, and Kemp were all ejected, this was another defeat that ranks up there in the "tough loss" category.  The Braves will be right in the thick of things when it's all said and done, so it's a good measuring stick for the Dodgers.  I know the Dodgers can play with these guys, so now they have to show they can finish them off as well.

Capuano put forth a good effort, just with a bad ending.  Overall, he lasted 7 1/3 innings for five hits, three runs, one walk, and eight strikeouts.  His trouble started when he gave up a leadoff hit in the eighth to a .227 hitter in Janish.  Who would have thought?  The positive thing to take away is that he's had three great starts after a couple of lousy ones, so maybe his arm isn't as tired as I thought it might be.

Like I said before, it's not Belisario's fault that two hitters reached to start the eighth, but he again proved how ineffective he is by letting them both score.  Then again, it's not like guys such as League, Wright, or Choate showed much either.  It's a tough call for Mattingly, but he's got to try someone else in this spot.  Belisario is flat out not getting it done.

There's two games left on this roadtrip, which has been successful so far at 5-3.  It'll look like Old Timers Day on Saturday, as Aaron Harang will take on Ben Sheets, who has come from nowhere to look awesome this year.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Dodgers take over 1st on Melky's bad day

Could Melky Cabrera's stupidity be the Dodgers' fortune?

It sure looked that way for one day anyway.  After Cabrera was busted for 50 games for elevated testosterone levels, the Giants lost an afternoon tilt to the Nationals, 6-4.  The Dodgers then took over sole possession of first place in the NL West with a win at night over the Pirates, 9-3.

The first inning saw another score and another early lead for the boys in blue.  Shane Victornio beat out an infield single, then advanced to second on Josh Harrison's wild throw to first.  Mark Ellis followed with a single for runners on the corners, and Matt Kemp's grounder scored a run, making it 1-0.

The Pirates tied Clayton Kershaw in the second.  Gabby Sanchez led off with a ground rule double to right.  Two straight deep fly balls got him home, with the RBI coming from Garrett Jones.  Harrison also flew out deep to right, and the Pirates temporarily made it look like they'd make a game of this.

"Temporarily" being the key word, as the Dodgers took the lead back in the third and never relinquished it.  It started on a single by Ellis and a walk to Hanley Ramirez an out later.  Andre Ethier loaded the bases with a single.  A sac-fly RBI from Juan Rivera made it 2-1.

The Dodgers started to take full command of this game in the fifth.  Kershaw singled with one out, followed by one from Victorino.  Ellis grounded out but advanced both men.  Kemp got his only hit on the night with a two-run double, and it was 4-1.  Ramirez stepped up next and doubled as well to score Kemp, making it 5-1.

Andrew McCutchen tried to lead the Pirates back with a solo homer in the bottom of the fifth, his 24th of the year for the MVP candidate. 

A somewhat close game was blown wide open for the second straight night with a big inning late.  Ramirez and Ethier started the seventh with singles.  James Loney pinch-hit for Rivera and delivered with an RBI single, and not a double play.  Hooray!  Luis Cruz continued his hot series with an RBI ground rule double, putting the score at 7-2.  A.J. Ellis and Kershaw both hit sac-fly RBIs to give the Dodgers at 9-2 lead.

Kershaw stayed on to pitch the eighth, and eventually gave up an RBI single to Clint Barmes for the game's last score.  Brandon League pitched a scoreless ninth, which included a double play ball from Sanchez.

This was really the perfect night for the Dodgers to take advantage of some really bad news for the Giants, and they sure did.  Just like the night before, it was a combination of great starting pitching and production all throughout the lineup that got the job done.  And hopefully will continue to do so going forward.

First, let's start with the offense.  They collected 15 hits, 10 of which came against Wandy Rodriguez.  By the way, he's been awful since coming over from the Astros, going 0-3 with a 5.47 ERA.  Not exactly what the Bucs thought they'd be getting.

Anyway, Victorino and Ethier had three hits each, and Mark Ellis, Ramirez, and even Kershaw had two.  The offense also did the little things like hitting three sacrifice flies.  This is obviously not a team that will light it up by hitting it out of the ballpark over and over, so this is how they need to win: get 'em on, get 'em over, and get 'em in.

Kershaw was awesome yet again, this time going eight innings for six hits, three runs, no walks, and eight strikeouts.  Like Chad Billingsley, he's on a great run as of late, winning his last four straight starts.  The eight K's were the most he's had since collecting nine against the Mets on July 1.

Although this was a minor part of the game, I'm glad League had a good appearance.  It didn't look that way at first, as he walked McCutchen leading off in a blowout game, which is never a smart thing to do.  But he got Sanchez on the double play ball, then Mike McKenry grounding out.  I still think that once he settles in, he can be a great setup man, especially with Ronald Belisario struggling.

The Dodgers have a chance for a four-game sweep on the road as they send Joe Blanton to the hill Thursday afternoon.  The Pirates counter with A.J. Burnett, who's probably just the guy the Pirates would want to try and stop a skid.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A blowout victory in Pittsburgh

The Dodgers did it all on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh, from hitting to pitching to patience as they waited out a 55 minute rain delay.

The end result was an 11-0 pummeling of the Pirates, as the Dodgers now move within a 1/2 game of them for a Wild Card spot.  The Giants bounced back from their own shellacking of the Nationals on Monday to get a win, so the NL West lead remains tied.

There were offensive highlights galore, beginning in the third.  Luis Cruz had a big night, starting here with a leadoff single.  A.J. Ellis walked, and Chad Billingsley laid down a good sacrifice to get them to scoring position.  An RBI groundout from Shane Victorino made it 1-0.

After Billingsley struck out Andrew McCutchen with two on to end the third, the Dodgers started to put it away in the fourth.  Matt Kemp legged out an infield single, Andre Ethier reached on Neil Walker's error, and Hanley Ramirez basically had a swinging bunt to load the bases.  James Loney grounded out to first (bet you'll be shocked to read that), but Kemp was able to come in and make it 2-0.

The big night of Cruz only continued from there, as he lined a two-run single to put the Dodgers up 4-0.

Two straight singles by Ramirez and Loney started things with one out in the sixth, and once again, that Cruz guy delivered.  This time it was a run-scoring single, moving Loney to third in the process.  A sac-fly RBI by Ellis later, and it was 6-0.

If things weren't bad enough for the home team already, then they only got worse in the ninth.  The Dodgers turned a big lead into a joke as they put five more on the board.  Chad Qualls got Ellis to start the inning, then it only went downhill from there.  Adam Kennedy hit for Billingsley and singled, and Victorino did the same.  After both advanced on a passed ball, Juan Uribe walked to load the bases.

The next three hitters produced runs, starting with another infield single from Kemp for a 7-0 lead.  Ethier came back from a foul ball off his foot to stroke a two-run single.  Ramirez put the finishing touches on things with a two-run double, and it was 11-0.

Shawn Tolleson pitched the final inning and put the Bucs down in order.

There were plenty of stars to go around in this one, but let's start with Billingsley.  It was another strong post-DL start for him, going eight innings of five-hit ball, striking out five.  In fact, he's a perfect 5-0 in his last five starts with a 1.56 ERA.  And again, he reminded people just how good he COULD be.  I've been plenty critical of him in the past, but I'll give the devil his due here - he's been fantastic.  Now keep it up!

Four starters had multi-hit games, as Ramirez and Cruz had three hits, and Kemp and Loney had two.  Every position player scored a run except Ellis, but he added an RBI.  Even Uribe scored, though his 0-for-4 night came hitting in the #2 hole.  I'm just guessing... well, more like hoping we've seen the last of that.  His average is down to .186.  Yuck.

As I stated the other day, I really believe the Dodgers play better on the road right now.  They just look more relaxed.  And what do you know, since the All-Star break, they're 11-4 away from Chavez Ravine.  That's good news when it comes playoff time, assuming they get in.  Any team would rather play at home, but when they do have to travel, they still have a great chance of winning.  I like that.

There's two games left in Pittsburgh before traveling to the other Wild Card leader, the Braves.  It's a good matchup of lefties today, as Clayton Kershaw battles Wandy Rodriguez.  The Dodgers need to smell blood at this point, as taking at least three of four would be sweet.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Pirate-killer Victorino strikes again

The Dodgers have the perfect answer to catching the Pirates for one of the two Wild Card spots: Shane Victorino.

Just like his days in Philly, the Pirates had little success in holding down Victorino, as his double and homer led to three RBIs, and the Dodgers held off a late charge to get the win, 5-4.  The Giants and Ryan Vogelsong were uncharacteristically creamed at home by the Nationals, 14-2, so the NL West is once again tied up top.

As the Pirates have done way too often lately, they found themselves losing early.  In the third, A.J. Ellis hit a leadoff double.  A sacrifice by Aaron Harang got him over to third, and Victorino had his first RBI of the night on a double, making it 1-0.  Mark Ellis walked, which is always a dumb thing to do when Matt Kemp is hitting behind him.  Sure enough, Kemp hit an RBI single to go up 2-0.

The lead could have been stretched out even more, but credit Garrett Jones for making a great catch at the wall off of Andre Ethier's bat, and then doubling up Kemp.

The Pirates got those runs right back in the bottom of the inning.  With one out, Starling Marte singled, and then an out later, Andrew McCuthen walked.  Jones continued his big night with a two-run double, and we were back to where we started.

Victorino gave the Dodgers the lead again in the fifth.  Harang was the one who started the rally, singling with one out.  Victorino then lined a low pitch out to deep right for the two-run shot, his first as a Dodger, and it was 4-2.

The biggest scare of the night came in the seventh, and not just because the Pirates threatened to score.  Javy Guerra got the first two outs, walked Josh Harrison, then saw Marte reach on a rare error by Mark Ellis.  In came Randy Choate, who thankfully was just able to get his glove up in time to catch a rocket hit right at his head by Neil Walker.  Whoa, was that close!

Another run was added in the seventh by the Dodgers.  With Juan Cruz in, Kemp walked, Ethier was beaned, and Hanley Ramirez walked, all with one down.  Tony Watson relieved to pitch to James Loney, but Don Mattingly countered with Juan Rivera.  It was a good move, as Rivera lined an RBI single for the 5-2 lead.  The Dodgers did leave the bases loaded with one out though, failing to really push the lead ahead.

Wouldn't you know it, not getting more runs in that spot almost cost them the lead, mainly because it meant Ronald Belisario came in.  He started things off by failing to glove a simple bouncer back to the mound by McCutchen, then giving up an RBI double to Jones to make it 5-3.  A flyout and groundout came next, but Mike McKenry's RBI single made it 5-4 before Clint Barmes grounded out to end the inning.

Kenley Jansen was not nearly as dramatic in the ninth, easily setting down the Pirates in order for his 24th save.

In 39 career games against the Pirates, Victorino is hitting .331 with a .410 OBP.  Most importantly for the Dodgers, he's really getting settled in as the leadoff man, safely hitting in 9 of 11 games this month, including 7 straight.  Even though he's a veteran and a winner in the past, even he had to go through an adjustment period of moving from one coast to the other.  I think now he's ready to roll.

Harang got his record above .500 at 8-7 with a solid effort.  He lasted six innings for five hits, two runs, three walks, and four strikeouts.  His ERA is pretty good at 3.76, though his WHIP is a little on the high side at 1.39, so you'd like to see that come down a bit.  He did himself a favor with his single in front of Victorino's homer, which turned out to be the difference in the game.

As for Belisario, well... you can pretty much just look at what I've said in recent times about him, because it hasn't changed.  At this point, there's just no way he should be the sole setup man.  Hitters have obviously figured him out.  That doesn't mean his stuff isn't good, it just means that hitters know what's coming and are good enough to adjust.  It's time the Dodgers do the same.

After going 4-5 on their recent homestand, the Dodgers have started their 10-game roadie at 3-1.  I actually think they play better on the road, at least as the season has progressed.  At home they're 33-25, and 30-28 on the road.  There's only three other teams in the National League with winning road records (Nationals, Braves, and Giants), so it's clearly not an easy thing to do.  But in my view, they look more relaxed and play better.  At least from where I sit.

Chad Billingsley will look to make it four of the first five on this trip when he takes the mound Tuesday night.  He'll be opposed by Kevin Correia.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Hanley's return solid as Dodgers topple Fish

Hanley Ramirez may not be the future of the Marlins anymore, but the Dodgers sure will take him.

Ramirez collected a couple RBIs on three hits, and a big two-run homer by Juan Rivera helped carry the Dodgers over the Marlins, 5-2.  And as a nice bonus, the Rockies beat the Giants, so it's a tie atop the NL West.

After the Dodgers went down in order against Mark Buehrle in the first, Clayton Kershaw went to work.  Justin Ruggiano continued his red hot start since being called up in late May by hitting a solo home run with one out, his 10th of the season.

The Dodgers couldn't capitalize with runners on in the fourth and fifth, but sure did in the sixth.  Shane Victornio started things with a leadoff double.  Mark Ellis sacrificed him over to third, and Matt Kemp ripped an RBI double to make it 1-1.  Ramirez found a hole on the right side for a single, which turned into an RBI thanks to a speedy Kemp.

Andre Ethier struck out for two down, bringing up Rivera.  It had been since July 22nd that Rivera went yard, but he picked a good time to get another one here, lining a two-run shot out to left, and it was 4-1.

The Marlins tried to get things going against Kershaw in the bottom of the frame.  John Buck and Gorkys Hernandez hit consecutive singles to start.  Donovan Solano also reached on a fielder's choice, and just like that the bases were loaded with nobody out.  Ruggiano grounded into a forceout at home for the first out, and the Marlins could only score on Carlos Lee's sac-fly RBI to make it 4-2.

The final run came in the seventh.  The Dodgers loaded the bases on one-out singles by A.J. Ellis and Kershaw, and an intentional walk an out later to Kemp.  Ramirez hit a little dribbler along the third base line, which was the equivalent to a perfectly placed bunt, for an RBI single and 5-2 edge.

Kershaw would get the first out in the seventh, but Don Mattingly had to turn to three different relievers just to escape unscathed.  Jamey Wright struck out Buck for two down, but Randy Choate walked Bryan Peterson to load the bases.  Ronald Belisario got Solano to ground weakly to first to end the threat.

Belisario stayed on to set the Marlins down in order in the eighth.  He got a big assist from James Loney, who made a great backhanded play on Lee's grounder, then threw him out from his back in foul territory.  And that is why he still has a job - his glove is second to none.  It's his bat that can't catch up.

Kenley Jansen got his 23rd save, but not without nearly melting down with two outs again.  He struck out Austin Kearns and got Greg Dobbs flying out with ease.  Then he watched Nick Greene hit a double and issue a walk to Buck.  Scott Cousins grounded to Loney to end the game.

Maybe the mixed reaction Ramirez received only motivated him, as he was a big reason the Dodgers won hitting in the cleanup spot.  I was also surprised he didn't get more cheers considering how good he was there at one time.  On the other hand, he was terrible for them last year, and only was hitting .246 at the time of his trade this year.  So, the negative stuff is still fresh in their minds, hence the boos.

Anyway you slice it, the Dodgers are glad to have him, as he slowly looks like he's regaining his old form.  One guy who's happy to have him is Kershaw, who collected his 10th win by going 6 1/3 innings for three hits, two runs, one walk, and seven strikeouts.  That's three straight wins in as many starts since getting punked by the Cardinals on July 24.

One guy who did have a rough game was Ethier, as he went hitless in four at-bats.  At the end of May he was hitting .324, but it's gone all the way down to .284 now.  This month he's hitting .185 with only one extra-base hit (a double).  Do you realize he only has two home runs since the beginning of June.  Wow... that's a pretty bad power outage.

I know Mattingly likes to hit Ethier in the cleanup spot against righties, but I have to wonder if he should just roll with Ramirez there for now.  At the very least, let Ethier hit fifth until he gets his stroke going again.  I'm just not crazy about a cleanup hitter who only hits singles, if that.  Something to think about.

Joe Blanton will make his second start as a Dodger on Saturday.  He was good in his first start with two runs in six innings, but didn't get a decision.  He'll go against Ricky Nolasco, who at one point was supposed to be good, but just... isn't.

Friday, August 10, 2012

News on Abreu, Gwynn, Kennedy, and Sands

The Dodgers have seen a lot go down in the last couple of days with roster movement, so here's the lowdown.

Adam Kennedy has been activated from the 15-day DL, where he was on since July 26 with a strained groin.  In 70 games this year, Kennedy is hitting a blistering .250 with 8 doubles, a homer, and 15 RBIs.  To his credit, he actually was having a great July before going down with a .342 AVG.  Plus, he can play nearly every infield position, which is key late in games when it's substitution time.

Still, I'm pretty confused about why Sands is already going back down.  Here I was a few days ago going on and on about how he'll play more first base in addition to the outfield... and then he gets sent back down after one game!  Obviously he'll be back up when it's time for rosters to expand to 40 in September, but still, I didn't realize he was just keeping Kennedy's seat warm.

Speaking of biding time until September, a couple of veterans have accepted outright assignments to Triple-A Albuquerque: Bobby Abreu and Tony Gwynn.  Both became victims of new blood and declining numbers, and both are willing to stick it out for a few weeks before coming back.

I wasn't too surprised when Gwynn accepted his assignment, but I have to admit, I all but forgot about Abreu.  So when his name popped up as heading to the minors, I was really surprised.  I actually have to give these two guys a ton of credit for even going to the minors in the first place.  There's no way this would have happened if it were early in the season, and understandably so.  But with September on the horizon, it's worth a shot.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Kemp's homer gives Dodgers a much-needed jolt

It took all of one batter on Wednesday night to make the Dodgers think they were on the verge of being swept, as Eric Young hit an inside-the-park home run.

Thankfully they still have that Matt Kemp guy.

After being down 2-0 in the first, Kemp hit a three-run homer off of Jeff Francis, and the Dodgers scored two more in the sixth to break a tie and beat the Rockies, 6-4.  It was obviously a win they badly needed, as they faced the very real possibility of being swept by the worst team in the NL West at home.  The Giants clobbered the Cardinals 15-0, so their lead remains at 1 1/2.

Young's homer started the game thanks to long fly ball to dead center just over Kemp's head, and the fact that he can absolutely fly around the bases.  I don't even think he needed to slide, but he did for good measure.  A double by Dexter Fowler led to an RBI single by Tyler Colvin, making it 2-0.

Something positive needed to happen, as the Dodgers put up a whopping one run in the first couple of games against a terrible pitching staff.  Shane Victornio finally got things going at the top of the order, singling to lead off.  Mark Ellis took a walk to set things up for Kemp.  You might be asking yourself, Why would you walk a light-hitting second baseman when Kemp is up next?  Well, I asked myself that same question... three times total, as the Rockies appeared clueless in doing so.

Anyway, Kemp cranked a three-run homer to deep left, and the Dodgers mercifully got a big hit after two days of failing over and over. 

The Rockies tied it up in the fourth.  Jordan Pacheco doubled with one out.  Now with two outs, DJ LeMahieu singled to left, and it was 3-3.

The Dodgers broke the tie in the fifth, though they really could have done so much more.  Victorino singled and stole second to start things.  Ellis then walked before Kemp's singled loaded the bases.  Hanley Ramirez hasn't done a lick since his game-winning RBI on Sunday (granted, nobody else has either), and he watched four straight balls to force in a run and make it 4-3.

Andre Ethier moved to the #5 spot with the lefty Francis starting, and he lined one sharply to the left, only to see it gloved by Pacheco.  Sure enough, the snail slow Juan Rivera grounded into a double play, and the Dodgers could only get one run with the bases loaded and nobody out.

Fortunately, they got a couple more in the sixth to put the game away for good.  Matt Treanor, the proud husband of three-time Olympic gold medalist Misty May-Treanor, was beaned with one out.  Chad Billingsley laid down a good sacrifice, and Victorino's RBI single made it 5-3.  Ellis also collected an RBI single as Victorino scored all the way from first on some great hustle.  That's the kind of excitement the Dodgers need from him at the top.

Things got iffy in the seventh, as Billingsley was chased after LeMahieu singled and Chris Nelson walked with one out.  Ronald Belisario came in and watched Young hit an RBI single to make it 6-4.  Belisario did get two straight groundouts after that to keep the score as is.

The bullpen did the rest from there, as Belisario got through the eighth, and Kenley Jansen breezed through the ninth for his 22nd save in 28 chances.  His two strikeouts gave him 79 in 51 2/3 innings, which is still amazing.

Billingsley probably had the worst start of the three games, yet was benefited by an offense that finally came alive.  It's not like Billingsley was bad, as he went 6 1/3 for seven hits, four runs, two walks, and five strikeouts.  He just had a rough beginning and end.  Still, that's four straight wins for him since his return from the DL in mid-July, improving his record to 8-9.

The guys at the top of the order won this game.  Victorino had three hits and three runs, Ellis reached base all four times, and Kemp had three hits to go with his three-run jack.  You can see how good Victornio is when he hits the ball on the ground and isn't trying to overpower it.  That play where he scored from first on Ellis's single was just awesome.

The Dodgers have ended their homestand at 4-5.  It started off with getting swept by the Diamondbacks in three, then sweeping the Cubs in three, and dropping two of three to the Rockies.  Let's by honest here - if the Dodgers got swept by the Rockies, that would have been a season lowlight, and awful timing with how well the Giants and DBacks have been playing. 

Thursday will be an off day as the Dodgers travel to Florida for three with the Marlins.  It'll be a homecoming for Ramirez and Randy Choate, as the Marlins went from looking like a contender early in the season to another fire sale.  Clayton Kershaw will take on Mark Buehrle.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Dodgers recall Sands while designating Gwynn

The Dodgers made another move to improve their offense on Monday, calling Jerry Sands back up from Triple-A and designating Tony Gwynn for assignment.

Sands has mostly been an outfielder throughout his minor league career, but he also has started 27 games at first base.  That's exactly what he'll be asked to do since the arrival of Shane Victorino means there are no open outfield spots anymore.  So, look for Sands to start against lefties for the time being, swapping spots with Juan Rivera.

In 95 games this season at Albuquerque, Sands is hitting .286 with a .367 OBP, 14 doubles, 21 homers, and 82 RBIs.  Keep in mind that numbers at that place can get inflated thanks to the thin air.  But still, he's definitely shown that he's ready to ply his craft in LA again.  In two years covering 69 games, he's hitting .248 with 4 homers and 27 RBIs, so hopefully he's ready to show that those numbers will only go up.

As for Gwynn, the writing was definitely on the wall when Victorino arrived that his days could be numbered.  He's really a prototypical substitute, as he has plenty of speed and defensive ability.  Unfortunately for him, his hitting was getting so bad, there was just no use for him anymore.  It's not like Victorino, Matt Kemp, or Andre Ethier would need a defensive replacement late in games since they've all won Gold Gloves, so that option was out the window.

Over two years with the Dodgers, Gwynn hit a horrible .245, and even worse .294 OBP.  The 35 stolen bases are good, but when you're never on base, it's pretty hard to steal.  He needs to be given plenty of credit for his defense, which combined with his legs will still earn him a spot on some team.  But as his recent 0-for-13 slump showed, it was time to let him go.  He simply wasn't getting any better.

Overall, this is a smart move by the Dodgers.  The additions of Victorino and Hanley Ramirez will only help the offense in the long run, but that lineup can still use more thump.  Maybe Sands can be that guy who drives in runs at the bottom of the order.  That way their lineup can be more consistent top to bottom.  We shall see.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Big sticks bail out the bullpen

It's a good thing Hanley Ramirez had a good swing left in him so the bullpen didn't have a chance to blow another lead.

After the Cubs tied the game in the ninth off of Kenley Jansen, Ramirez lined a walk-off single into left to score Matt Kemp and give the Dodgers a 7-6 victory.  The walk-off also gave the streaky Dodgers a three-game sweep... which came right after getting swept in three, which came right after sweeping three from the Giants, which came right after dropping three to the Cardinals, which came right after winning five straight, which came right after losing four straight.

You get the point.  The Dodgers do things in bunches.

Back to this one, and it was newly acquired Joe Blanton who made his Dodger debut.  The Cubs greeted him rudely in the first.  David DeJesus walked leading off, which must have been the result of some nerves considering Blanton had only walked 15 all year to that point.  A groundout got DeJesus to second, and Anthony Rizzo's RBI single made it 1-0.

Like the night before, it took awhile for the offense to come alive.  It happened in the fifth, as James Loney singled to left with one out in a rare piece of opposite field hitting.  A.J. Ellis continued his big series with a double to the wall in left center, and Loney rumbled his way home to make it 1-1.

That lead was short-lived, as Welington Castillo launched a big fly into deep center with two outs in the sixth, and the Cubs were back up 2-1.

The Dodgers fought right back in the bottom half with a three spot.  Mark Ellis was beaned with one out.  Alberto Cabrera relieved to pitch to Kemp, who easily walked.  Andre Ethier struck out, but Ramirez also walked to load the bases. 

Scott Maine came in to pitch to the lefty Loney, but Don Mattingly turned to Juan Rivera instead.  On a full count, Rivera took ball four inside to force in a run and make it 2-2.  Luis Cruz got another clutch hit with a two-run single, and the Dodgers were in control at 4-2.

It was bullpen time now, as Brandon League came on for the hold.  Darwin Barney greeted him with a single before Josh Vitters flew out.  With three straight lefties due up, Mattingly called on his only southpaw, Randy Choate.  Needless to say, it wasn't pretty.  DeJesus took another walk and Brett Jackson singled to load the bases.  Rizzo hit a sac-fly RBI, and it was 4-3.

Now it was Javy Guerra's turn to get a big out.  Instead, Alfonso Soriano smoked a two-run double to left, and all of a sudden the Cubs were back up 5-4.  Guerra ended up walking Starlin Castro before striking out Castillo for the final out.

Back-and-forth we went, as the Dodgers grabbed the lead right back.  Manny Corpas came on and struck out Tony "Not Even Close To My Dad" Gwynn.  Ellis then drew a walk and Kemp singled for runners on the corners.

Out went Corpas and in came James Russell to pitch to Ethier.  Ethier battled and lined a two-run double to right center, and the Dodgers were back up 6-5.

Ronald Belisario pitched the eighth and wiggled out of trouble, as he allowed the first two hitters to reach before keeping them there.  He still doesn't look good, or like someone who should automatically pitch the eighth.  But as you can see, the other choices aren't much better, if at all.

Now it came down to Jansen, looking for his 23rd save.  Rizzo wasn't hearing any of that, as he lifted a long fly ball just out of the reach of Ethier into the bullpen in right, making it 6-6 and a whole new game. 

The only positive was that the beef of the Dodgers' order was due up, and Kemp drew a walk with one out.  Ethier found room to single into right, as Kemp went to third.  After a conference on the mound, Ramirez lined the first pitch he saw off of Shawn Camp into left to end it.

As a baseball fan, this was definitely an entertaining game to watch.  Both Blanton and Justin Germano pitched well the first half of the game.  The bullpens, on the other hand, were terrible.  As bad as I thought the Dodgers were, the Cubs were even worse.  Pretty ugly stuff from both sides.

Blanton had a good start to his Dodgers' career, going six innings for five hits, two runs, three walks, and five strikeouts.  He wasn't thrilled with missing some borderline pitches from home plate umpire Dale Scott, as even three walks is unlike him.  But he more than did his job, and for one start anyway, looks like a solid addition to the rotation.

The bullpen is still unsettled, and boy do they need to get better if the Dodgers want to win anything going forward.  The combination of League, Choate, Guerra, Belisario, and Jansen pitched the final three innings, giving up four runs on four hits and three walks, while striking out four.  Maybe it was just a bad day, but all five men were shaky at one point or another, and aren't exactly giving fans much confidence.  At least not this fan.

But a win is a win, and with the Giants winning again, the Dodgers remain a 1/2 game back in the NL West.  The homestand will conclude with a three-game set against the Rockies starting Monday.  Chris Capuano has been slapped around his last two starts, so he'll look to get things going again in the first game.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Dodgers add Blanton while missing on Lee

A few days after acquiring Shane Victorino, the Dodgers raid of the Phillies continues.

Both teams agreed to a trade that sends Joe Blanton to the Dodgers for a minor league player to be named later.  Blanton will immediately fill a role in the rotation, which became more of an urgent matter after Ted Lilly was recently shut down while rehabbing.

Even more interesting was the Dodgers' waiver claim on Cliff Lee and his massive contract.  And that's massive as in $100 million still owed to him.  But these are the new Dodgers, and had the Phillies agreed on which players to acquire, the deal would have gone through.  Alas, it was not meant to be.

As for Blanton, he hasn't exactly had a great season, but has turned things around of late.  Overall, he's 8-9 with a 4.59 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 115 strikeouts in 133 1/3 innings.  Most impressive is that he has issued a microscopic 15 walks all season long, hence his strong WHIP. 

His splits show that he actually just went through his best month in July, where he was only 1-3, but with a 3.82 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and .241 BAA.  He's been victimized by the long ball, as he's given up 22 on the season.  The silver lining is that 14 of those have been in the hitter's park known as Citizens Bank Park, so a change of scenery to Dodger Stadium must feel like heaven to him.

Obviously, an acquisition of Lee would have been huge, as he would have immediately made a ridiculous 1-2 punch with Clayton Kershaw.  Blanton is not as sexy of a trade, but what it does do is strengthen the back end of the rotation.  He also has plenty of postseason experience, winning a ring in 2008 with the Phillies.

Blanton's arrival is a solid addition.  It's certainly not spectacular, but I'm pretty sure Ned Colletti and Don Mattingly know that anyway.  It will be good to give him the ball instead of patching together starts from guys who aren't ready yet.

The trending #AJEllis lifts the Dodgers

A.J. Ellis became the man on and off the field Friday night.  He homered twice for the first time in his career to carry the offense on the field.

Off the field?  The legendary Vin Scully successfully got him trending on Twitter.  I guess this whole tweeting thing is pretty cool to Vin!

With the suddenly resurgent Chad Billingsley on the mound, Ellis got things going in the third with his first solo home run for the 1-0 lead.

The Cubs tied it up in the fifth, which is the closest they would be all night.  Darwin Barney singled with one out to center.  Luis Valbuena doubled to the right field corner in which Barney hustled home on.  Billingsley got the next two to keep it tied.

The Dodgers got two more in the bottom of the frame and never looked back.  Hanley Ramirez took advantage of an infield shift to the left to hit one through the right, then scampered to second for a leadoff double on a great play.  Luis Cruz flew out to get Ramirez to third, and with two outs, Ellis had another great at-bat with an RBI single to make it 3-0.

Billingsley got out of a two-on, two-out jam in the top of the sixth, and the Dodgers further distanced themselves in the bottom half.  Mark Ellis singled leading off.  Matt Kemp doubled into right in which both runners hustled to get to second and third.  Ramirez lined a two-run single into center, and the Dodgers were in full command at 5-1.

The last run came into the seventh when Ellis again homered to go up 6-1.  It was his 10th of the season... and first as a trending topic!  Hey, even I got in on the fun by showing some #AJEllis love.  It was worth it.

Shawn Tolleson walked a couple in the ninth, but got Barney to ground into a game ending double play.

The story of the game was the reemergence of two somewhat forgotten players in Billingsley and Ellis.  Since coming off the DL July 23, Billingsley is 3-0 with an 0.89 ERA.  I guess his elbow was worse than people thought.  Maybe it's that, or maybe he's just pitching with more confidence, too.  Whatever the case, once again we're talking about how he's the #2 behind Kershaw, and for now anyway, he looks every bit the part of that.  He's on track to make his next start at home against the Rockies as he looks to keep the ball rolling.

Ellis has gradually seen his numbers dip this year, which isn't too surprising considering he's a catcher and has never been known for having a big bat anyway.  On Friday, though, he reminded everyone why he's a threat at the bottom of the order.  I'm sure knowing everyone is healthy, and with the additions of Ramirez and Shane Victorino, he can relax and do his thing with much less pressure.  It sure showed in this one.

A couple of new arrivals had good moments as well.  It took Victorino until his eighth at-bat, but he finally got on the board with a single and a stolen base.  Even with a bit of a slow start, he's still a big upgrade in the leadoff spot.  Brandon League pitched a scoreless eighth, striking out two and inducing a pop up to right.  He looked good.

The Dodgers are obviously a streaky team, so after dropping three straight, maybe this is the start of winning three straight this weekend.  Clayton Kershaw will take the mound on Saturday, and he's coming off a complete game shutout in San Francisco.  Needless to say, I like the Dodgers' chances here.