Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Lilly awful, Dodgers crushed by Rockies

In case you didn't hear, Ted Lilly threw a batting practice session at Dodger Stadium on Monday night.

Unfortunately, it was during the game and the Rockies showed up.

Four batters into the game, it was already over as the Rockies were quickly up 4-0.  They ended up winning a laugher, 12-2.  Things got so bad that Skip Schumaker was called into action to pitch the ninth.  What's even worse?  He tossed a scoreless inning, something Lilly and the horrendous Josh Wall couldn't even dream of doing.

Yes, folks, it's "A Whole New Blue" where the utility infielder pitches better than two members of the staff.  Sad.

Lilly began his BP session by giving up a solo homer to Dexter Fowler leading off.  Jordan Pacheco singled and Carlos Gonzalez doubled, which led to a three-run shot by Wilin Rosario, and it was 4-0.

The Rockies stranded the bases loaded in the second, but scored again in the third.  Lilly again loaded the bases, then issued a walk to Fowler to make it 5-0.

That was it for Lilly, who could not have possibly been any worse.  Man, that was tough to watch.  And just in case you thought things indeed could not get any worse, enter young Josh Wall.

To say Wall got lit up would be the ultimate understatement.  He gave up five more in the fourth.  Josh Rutledge hit an RBI single, starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood hit a two-run single, and Pacheco a two-run ground rule double.

A two-run homer by young phenom Nolan Arenado in the sixth was the icing on the cake, as an already empty Dodger Stadium actually became emptier at 12-0.

The only offensive highlight for the Dodgers was a two-out, two-run homer by Jerry Hairston in the seventh, which drastically cut into the Rockies' lead to make it 12-2.  Close one!  And what's even funnier is that Hairston's at-bat shouldn't have even happened because Rutledge committed an error to start the inning.

Even though the Rockies came into this one dropping six of their last eight, you just got the feeling before the game even started that the Dodgers could be in for a long night.  Hanley Ramirez was activated from the 15-day DL, which is great, but he wasn't starting.  Clayton Kershaw has been placed on the Bereavement List for mysterious reasons.  That has nothing to do with this game, but it seems like a downer.

Then you looked at the lineup and saw the names of Schumaker, Justin Sellers, and Luis Cruz in it.  They are hitting a combined 23-for-155 for a .148 average.  That is so embarrassing, I don't even know what else to say.  Well, other than good luck scoring runs with bums like them in the lineup.

Lilly obviously had an awful night, and it's another reminder of why he worries me so much.  Look, I give him all sorts of credit for winning 130 games in his career, and for approaching the 2000 inning mark.  But there are times when it literally does look like he throwing batting practice to the other team.  Monday was one of those times.  I just don't see any reason why opposing hitters should be fearful of him.  He doesn't even look like he's reaching 90 MPH on his fastball!  It's like golfers taking their drivers and teeing off at will.  It looks that easy.

The only positive is that I've also said this in the past, then he goes on a run where he puts up solid numbers.  I have serious doubts about that right now, but I'm also trying not to overreact to one bad start.  My fear, of course, is that this will lead to more bad outings.  We shall see.

And speaking of "bad," it's time to put Wall out of his misery.  In seven innings, he has an 18.00 ERA and 3.29 WHIP.  Holy crap!  I don't care if he has "good stuff," he's getting absolutely demolished each time he takes the mound.  There has got to be somebody down on the farm who can take these innings instead of this guy.

About the only thing a team can do when they get creamed like this is brush themselves off, put it behind them, and go to work the next day.  That's exactly what the Dodgers will try to do as they send Hyun-Jin Ryu to the mound on Tuesday.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Kershaw is just fine, thank you very much

Any worry about Clayton Kershaw losing his pinpoint accuracy was put to rest on Sunday at Dodger Stadium.  Eight innings of shutout ball with no walks and 12 strikeouts sort of backs that statement up.

With an assist from two solo homers by Carl Crawford, Kershaw and the Dodgers won the rubber match over the Brewers, 2-0.  It's the second consecutive series victory for the Dodgers after taking two of three from the Mets during the week.  It's also five wins in the last seven games.

Kershaw was obviously awesome, but the Brew Crew did have their chances to score the first couple of innings.  In the first, Jean Segura and Ryan Braun each singled with one out.  Jonathan Lucroy's double play ball erased that threat.  The next inning, Rickie Weeks doubled leading off, went to third on a flyout, but stayed right there.

That would be it for the Brewers' scoring chances, as they simply could not get anything going the rest of the game.  Well, Carlos Gomez did double leading off the eighth and get to third with two outs, but Khris (yes, with a K) Davis struck out.

Wedged in between the two doubles was Kershaw setting down 18 in a row, including nine strikeouts.  Wow, that's unreal.  Actually it's not, it's just Kershaw doing his thing.

The offense was supplied by Crawford and Crawford only.  He took the first pitch of the game by Kyle Lohse out to dead center for the quick 1-0 lead.  In the fifth, he pulled one out to right for another solo homer, this time with two outs.  Yup, I'd say he's healthy again.  A .307 average and .390 OBP is the proof.

We all know how lousy the bullpen has been (read my last post), but Brandon League made sure there was no letdown as he gathered his eighth save in nine chances.  He induced two groundouts to Justin Sellers at short, along with a popup that Nick Punto ran down near the right field line.  Great catch.

When you've built up the kind of resume that Kershaw sports, it's certainly a daunting task to constantly live up to it, and even exceed it.  So it was strange seeing him pitch around five innings his last two starts.  Even more concerning was his control issues, as he walked 11 over his last three starts, going 0-2 in that span. 

That wasn't the case on Sunday, as nobody got a free pass.  Over the course of eight innings, he did manage to work seven counts of at least three balls.  Remarkably, not a single one of them ever got to ball four.  The Brewers did help him out a couple times by expanding the zone on strikeouts, but that's it.  He simply bared down and made the big pitch over and over.  That's why he's the best in the business.

Because of all those full counts, Kershaw ran his pitch count up to 117, which denied him the chance of going the distance.  Don Mattingly clearly made the right call here.  I can only imagine the outcry there would be had League blown it, but I can honestly say that Mattingly was still doing the right thing even if it backfired.  Unlike yanking Matt Magill the night before, this was the right call, and it worked out quite nicely.

Ted Lilly takes the mound on Monday, as the Dodgers welcome the first place Rockies to town for three.  Kershaw won't go, but he will get the call against the Giants on Friday, so it's all good.  I don't care who's in first, it's still better watching Kershaw beat the Giants.  That never gets old.

At this rate, it's going to be a long year with this bullpen

Matt Magill had everything going for him on Saturday night.  The emergency starter who arrived at Dodger Stadium all of a few hours before the game went 6 1/3 innings for four hits, two runs, two walks, and seven strikeouts.  He left in the seventh with a 3-2 lead and in line for a win.

Did he get that win?  Nope.  Thank you, bullpen.

Paco Rodriguez gave up a single to his only batter, Matt Guerrier was atrocious in giving up a couple of two-run homers, and the Brewers once again exposed that horrible bullpen in getting a 6-4 victory.

If you're a Dodger fan, you're both frustrated and not at all surprised by this.  Plus you're probably mad at Don Mattingly for pulling Magill in the first place.  I know Magill was over 100 pitches, but the last batter he faced was a strikeout of Jean Segura, then Rodriguez and Guerrier completely blew all that hard work.  That damn pitch count excuse... UGH.

Here are some interesting numbers for the bullpen this season:

ERA: 4.41 (24th)
WHIP: 1.39 (26th)
ER: 32 (10th highest)
BB: 31 (8th highest)

Plus, you can factor in they have 65 1/3 innings pitched, which is only 25th in the majors.  So it's not like numbers such as earned runs and walks are inflated because they pitch much more than other teams.  It's actually just the opposite.

It's hard to like much of anything about this group.  Kenley Jansen has a 1.50 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 12 innings, so he's been good.  Brandon League is 7-8 in saves, but his ERA is high at 4.50.  Ronald Belisario has a 3.09 ERA, but a high WHIP at 1.46.

Everybody else has been flat out horrendous.  Here are the ERAs for the rest of this crew: Paco Rodriguez (4.93), Matt Guerrier (5.40), J.P. Howell (5.40), Josh Wall (12.60).  Shawn Tolleson doesn't have an ERA, but he walked the only two batters he's faced.  So his WHIP is infinity!

Considering that Zack Greinke, Chad Billingsley, Chris Capuano, and Stephen Fife are all on the DL, this problem is magnified even more.  And Saturday night was the perfect example that even when a starter is effective and goes pretty deep into the game, the late innings are a huge advantage for the opposing team. 

You want another interesting stat?  Over the last seven days, the Dodgers are fourth in the majors (first the NL) in runs scored at 37.  Yes, seriously.  They've actually been pushing runs across the plate, but then guys like Guerrier and Rodriguez completely flush it down the toilet.  It's hard to watch.

At this point, the Dodgers have to be thinking about making some moves to improve this unit.  How much longer can they accept watching most of these guys stumble late in the game?  For a team with an astronomical payroll and expectations, patience has to be very thin.  And rightfully so.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Who exactly is Matt Magill?

By now you may have heard about yet ANOTHER injury to a Dodgers' starting pitcher, as Stephen Fife has been placed on the 15-day DL with a right shoulder injury.  Matt Magill has been recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque to make the start against the Brewers on Saturday night.

Fans were familiar with Fife from a few of his starts last season, but it's doubtful much is known about Magill, who will be making his Major League debut.  So, let's take a look at him.

Magill was drafted in the 31st round of the 2008 by the Dodgers, straight out of Royal High School in Simi Valley, California.

He's made his way up through every level of the minors, starting with two years of rookie ball in 2008.  Here are his stats starting at Single-A Great Lakes:

2010 (A - Great Lakes): 20 GS, 7-4, 126 1/3 IP, 3.24 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 135 K
2011 (A+ - Rancho Cucamonga): 21 GS, 11-5, 139 1/3 IP, 4.33 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 126 K
2012 (AA - Chattanooga): 26 GS, 11-8, 146 1/3 IP, 3.75 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 168 K
2013 (AAA - Albuquerque): 4 GS, 0-0, 19 IP, 2.84 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 23 K
Career: 89 GS (106 G), 36-22, 532 2/3 IP, 3.77 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 532 K

What jumps out right away are the strikeouts.  The only year he didn't have more K's than IP is 2011, and even then he came close.  His WHIP has been up and down, as he hasn't come close to the 1.10 mark he reached in '10.  But, his career WHIP is 1.30, which is pretty good.

Currently he's the #7 prospect in the organization.  According to his profile, his fastball can reach mid-90s, but mostly is about 92-93.  He gets people out with a sharp slider that he throws at any count.  His off-speed stuff is mostly a work in progress.  Maybe it's no surprise that his WHIP can get a little high since he's described as not having full control of his command yet.

Ready or not, he's the next pitcher lined up to start for the Dodgers this season, as they've already cycled through nine starters this year.  Wow, that's just crazy.  And we're still in April!

Despite 4 errors, Dodgers grab a win

The Dodgers had a major problem catching, fielding, and throwing the ball on Friday night.  But for once it didn't matter thanks to a rare display of clutch hitting.

Even with a whopping four errors in the field, the offense went 4-for-9 with runners in scoring position, and the Dodgers defeated the Brewers, 7-5.  The Brewers slapped around the Dodgers last year, so beating them was a welcome sight.  It also gives the Dodgers wins in four of their last five.

This turned out to be a good back-and-forth game... unlike the game in Staples Center at the same time, which saw the Lakers get absolutely demolished by the Spurs.  In fact, the Dodgers could have showed up and played as the Lakers and lost by less than 31.  But I digress.

Anyway, the Dodgers got the early 2-0 lead after three.  In the first, Mark Ellis singled and Matt Kemp walked.  Andre Ethier went the other way for an RBI single.  Two innings later, Carl Crawford smacked a leadoff homer.

The Brewers also played longball to tie the game.  Ryan Braun and Yuniesky Betancourt each hit solo shots to make it 2-2.  After Betancourt's homer tied it in the fifth, an RBI single by Jean Segura gave the Brew Crew a 3-2 edge.

Adrian Gonzalez had a big night for the Dodgers, and he tied it in the fifth on an RBI double to score Crawford, who was beaned with one out.  He should have charged the mound after that!  Oh wait, only idiots like Carlos Quentin do that in close games.  My bad.

Matt Guerrier has been one of the only Dodger relievers to have pitched well lately, and he got a huge double play ball from Betancourt to end the fifth.  But in the sixth, he gave up a single to Alex Gonzalez leading off, which soon led to an RBI single from Norichika Aoki off of Paco Rodriguez to make it 3-3.

Kemp can consider himself a very lucky man, as on that same play he completely whiffed on the ball bouncing right at him, allowing Aoki to get to third.  With Ronald Belisario in, Segura missed a suicide squeeze attempt, leading to an easy tag on Aoki.  Segura then struck out.

In the seventh, Gonzalez again had a big swing with his team down by a run.  This time it was a two-run double to center, though it should be noted that Carlos Gomez flat out dropped it going back.  Not an easy play, but one that has to be made.  And maybe a bit of hometown flavor in the scoring helped!

The Brewers blew a chance to score in the eighth, as Jerry Hairston committed two errors on grounders.  The Dodgers jumped on it by adding two in the bottom half.  Believe it or not, it all started on a single by Luis Cruz and double by Justin Sellers.  Hairston got an RBI groundout and Crawford an RBI single to make it 7-4.

Brandon League got the save in the ninth, though it did get a little scary.  He had an atrocious throwing error to allow one run to score.  Braun came up with a runner on second and grounded out on a full count to end it.  That could've been a disaster.

Josh Beckett didn't figure in the decision, so he remains winless on the year.  He looked decent, but was hurt by the couple of homers.  He lasted 5 1/3 innings for seven hits, three runs, two walks, and five strikeouts.  His ERA stands at 4.75, which obviously needs to get better.  I thought his stuff moved pretty well in this one, so it's something to keep building on.

How nice was it to watch a game where the offense picked everyone up for a change?  Gonzalez and Crawford were big.  Gonzo drove in three on a couple of doubles, and Crawford homered and drove in two.  Let's also give some love to the bottom of the order, as Sellers had two hits and two runs, and Cruz a big pinch-hit single to start the rally in the eighth.  Great stuff.

Right now the Dodgers are still in fourth in the NL West, but only 3 1/2 games behind the Rockies, who continue to play some great ball.  They've been getting wins, but the injury bug has struck again, this time to Mark Ellis on a quad strain.  He's been playing fantastic, so let's hope it's nothing serious.  Knowing the Dodgers' (lack of) luck, it probably is.

Stephen Fife will take the mound on Saturday night looking to give the Dodgers a series win.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Kemp finds his swing, but the BBullpen gives one away

Yes, I did spell that correctly.  When it comes to the Dodgers' bullpen, the only stat I can think of is "base on balls," or "BB" for short.

On a night where the Dodgers actually got to Matt Harvey, a combination of too many walks out the BBullpen (again), and Carl Crawford's inability to make a sliding catch late in the game (again - Red Sox fans will know what I'm talking about), the Dodgers lost 7-3 in 10 innings to the Mets.

Of course, the only way possible for the home team to win by four in extra innings is by a grand slam.  Nope, not by David Wright.  JORDANY VALDESPIN.  I assure you I am not making any of this stuff up.

This game marked the return of Ted Lilly, who pitched very well in his first start in about 11 months.  The big story was definitely Harvey, who brought in a sparkling mark of 4-0 with a 0.93 ERA.  So when the Dodgers scored on him in the first, it was completely unexpected.  An RBI fielder's choice by Matt Kemp made it 1-0.

Lilly held the Mets down until the fifth, when they tied it up.  It figures that it was the damn pitcher who did the damage, as Harvey's leadoff double led to an RBI single from Ruben Tejada.

In the sixth, Kemp reached back into a time machine and found his lost power.  With two outs, Adrian Gonzalez worked a walk.  Kemp then lifted a long fly to right which just made it over the wall.  It wasn't called that way at first, but video replay clearly saw it bounce off some moron security guy, who nearly took it off the chin.  And like that, it was 3-1.

Lilly was done after five innings and 86 pitches.  In his place came J.P. Howell, who upheld the Dodger BBullpen tradition of walking everybody they see.  Marlon Byrd and Lucas Duda both walked to start, which obviously is the worst possible thing to do with a lead.  Luckily only Byrd scored on a sac-fly RBI from Justin Turner off of Ronald Belisario.

Off to the ninth we went, where Brandon League was looking for his sixth save.  Mike Baxter led off and hit a sinking liner to left.  Crawford tried to catch it on a slide, it bounced out of his glove, and Baxter was now on second.  Not an easy play, but one that should and HAS TO be made.  With the margin of error so slim for this team, you just knew that would end up biting them in the behind.

And sure enough, it did.  To League's credit, he got the next two outs, with a big assist on a great catch by Jerry Hairston near the stands at third.  He had to reach over the railing on the run to get it, then fire home to make sure Baxter went nowhere.  Momentum had shifted back in the Dodgers' favor.

Wright smacked an RBI single to tie it up, and that was the end of the short-lived momentum.

I think even the Dodgers believed they couldn't win this one as they didn't score in the 10th and sent Josh Wall to the hill.  A single by John Buck, a walk to Ike Davis, and an intentional pass to Duda set the stage for Valdespin, who pulled the ultimate rarity with a walk-off grand slam in extra innings.

Leave it to the Dodgers to not only get some runs on Harvey, but have Kemp hit his first homer and drive in three runs, and STILL find a way to lose.  Let's be honest, that's why they're nothing more than a mediocre team right now.  They COULD be good, but they still have to prove that.  Like I said before, there's practically no margin for error, so little things like the walks from Howell and Crawford's non-catch all weigh so heavily in defeat.  That's the way it is.

At least Kemp is hitting well as he's starting to show his old self again.  When he was benched against the Padres on April 17, his average was .182.  Now it's up to .250 thanks to a .429 clip over his last five games.  When you see him driving the ball the opposite way, that's a great sign.  Is he fully healthy and ready to unload again?  We'll see, but I'll take these baby steps for now.

The BBullpen has taken such a nosedive it's hard to know who to trust anymore.  I thought Howell was the real deal to start the year, now he can barely find the plate.  I thought Belisario couldn't throw a strike, now he's baffled hitters his last couple of appearances.  Wall looked good on Tuesday, and terrible on Wednesday.  League didn't get any help from Crawford, but still gave up a big hit to Wright.  This unit is so up and down, nobody knows what to expect one pitch to the next.

Maybe Hyun-Jin Ryu can give them a deep start on Thursday afternoon so we don't have to see the BBullpen work so much again.  He'll go up against Jeremy Hafner.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mark Ellis: Your new power source

Some may ask why Mark Ellis is the one who brought the power to the Dodgers' offense on Tuesday.

And to that, I'd like to reply, "Why not?"

Ellis had a night to remember against the Mets.  He collected four hits, hit two homers, the first of which was career #100, and the Dodgers overcome a tough start from Clayton Kershaw to win easily, 7-2.  That's now a couple in a row for the boys in blue after Sunday's win over the Orioles.

The story for this game started out about Kershaw, who unexpectedly could not find the strike zone.  And you want to know what's even weirder?  His first walk was to Robert Carson, who pitched in relief of the injured Jonathan Niese after he took a grounder off his right leg.  If Carson never hits again, he can always claim to have a 1.000 OBP.  Not too shabby.

The Mets scored a couple in the third, and it all started on that walk to Carson after Kershaw set down the first eight hitters.  RBI singles by Daniel Murphy and David Wright made it 2-1.  Justin Sellers initially gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead on an RBI single in the second.

Ellis lined his first homer of the night in the fifth to tie things up.  Kershaw struggled in the bottom of the frame as his pitch count reached 100+, but a huge called strike three on a slider to John Buck ended the inning and his night.  Overall, he gave up three hits, two runs, four walks, and five strikeouts in a no-decision.

Still tied going into the seventh, it was the Dodgers' offense that finally took over from there.  Yes, you did just read that right.  With one down, Sellers reached on an infield single to third, and Juan Uribe walked.  I highly doubt anyone in their wildest, craziest dreams would have imagined those two would start a rally, but it's actually true.

In the past, this has been the point where Ellis would be very patient in trying to draw a walk for Matt Kemp to hit.  But, Kemp hasn't hit a homer yet, and Ellis was locked in.  Hence, a three-run homer out to left made it 5-2, and the Dodgers would never look back.

A.J. Ellis got in on the Ellis fun with a two-run double in the eighth to round out the scoring.

Before giving more Mark Ellis praise, let's give a nod of appreciation to the bullpen, which has certainly gone through a rough patch, much like the rest of the team during this down stretch.  Starting in the sixth, Ronald Belisario, Paco Rodriguez, Matt Guerrier, and Josh Wall all pitched an inning of scoreless ball, allowing one hit with no walks and five strikeouts.  You really can't ask anymore than that.  Great stuff.

Hitting in his customary #2 hole, Ellis has again quietly showed everyone around him how to get the job done.  His game contains zero flash, but plenty of grit.  He's now hitting .348 with a .370 OBP, and plays defense just as hard.  Yes, the Dodgers will make plenty of noise about making a run for Robinson Cano in the offseason, but it's time we appreciate what we have right now.  Old or not, Ellis is very important to the Dodgers' overall success right now.

Plus, I've never once seen him smile, and I think that's really cool.

One more win and the Dodgers will be back to .500 at 10-10.  It will also get them a game over .500 on the road at 6-5.  As it stands, there's only 10 teams in baseball with a winning record on the road, so that's at least a positive sign.  Not that big of a deal, but hey, I'll take it.

Then again, maybe we should all temper our expectations for winning Wednesday for one simple reason: Matt Harvey.  The unbeaten wonderkid takes his filthy stuff to the mound against the returning Ted Lilly.  It's the ultimate young vs. old matchup.  I just hope the Dodgers don't get no-hit!

Billingsley KO'd by Tommy John

Whenever Tommy John faces off against a big league pitcher, Tommy John always wins.

And so Chad Billingsley becomes the latest victim of the infamous surgery, as he will be gone for the rest of this year and a good portion of 2014.  He was originally injured towards the end of last season, opted not to have surgery, and only lasted two starts this year.

It's a shame for Billingsley, as he really thought he was getting the results he needed with injections into his elbow to repair the partially torn ulnar collateral ligament.  He rested the season's final two months, threw again in October, and felt good to go for this season.  And he was good to go in Spring Training at least, as he didn't have any problems.

He had a couple of good starts against the Padres, picking up a win with a 3.00 ERA.  All signs were encouraging... right up until he reported soreness during a bullpen session last Friday.  And that, my friends, was all it took to put him on the shelf.

Now in his eighth year in LA, Billingsley has a career record of 81-61 with a 3.65 ERA and 1.36 WHIP.  While those numbers are pretty good, I've always had the feeling that he could've done so much more.  I remember a time when it was Billingsley, and not Clayton Kershaw, who was the Dodgers' future ace.  My how quickly things can change.  Of course, that's more a credit to how great Kershaw has been, but Billingsley has certainly not been the top-tier pitcher he looked like he could have been.

And now there's elbow surgery, which can go one of two ways.  He can make a recovery and be stronger than before, which would be great for a power pitcher like him.  Or, it can be yet another reason why his once promising career looks to be unfulfilled. 

We'll all have to tune in next season to see which direction he's heading.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Dodgers finally wake up in Baltimore

After going a full week playing some horrific baseball, the Dodgers battled back from a three-run deficit in the fifth to salvage the weekend series.

With Adrian Gonzalez and Matt Kemp flip-flopping spots in the order, each man drove in runs in the fifth, which came right after a huge two-run single from Mark Ellis.  The pitching took it from there by shutting down the Orioles in a 7-4 win.  Mercifully, the six-game losing streak is over.

Before the game even started, things went from bad to worse for the Dodgers with news that Chad Billingsley is back on the 15-day DL with elbow pain.  And for a guy who didn't want Tommy John surgery this past offseason, it's pretty scary news.  We'll all wait and see what this eventually means.

In his place was Stephen Fife, who pitched pretty well in a few starts last season.  That didn't seem to matter as the Orioles plated three in the first.  Nate McClouth singled leading off, went to second on a wild pitch, and scored on Nick Markakis's RBI single.  With the bases loaded and two down, J.J. Hardy hit a two-run single to right, and it was 3-0.

Jake Arrieta started for the O's, and the book on him is that he has great stuff, but can be his own worst enemy.  He looked really good through four innings, with his only blemish a sac-fly RBI by Mark Ellis in the third to score A.J. Ellis.  Adam Jones smashed a solo shot in the bottom half to make it 4-1.

Don Mattingly was interviewed on the TBS broadcast in between one of the early innings, and he told everyone that "the big hit will come."  It looked like a joke at first considering this team was practically the worst in the majors at getting big hits.  Then the fifth inning came, and Dodger fans were actually given a reason to smile.

Arrieta helped out big time with this, as he loaded the bases on walks to Skip Schumaker and Carl Crawford, and by beaning Justin Sellers.  Mark Ellis then did the unthinkable - he got a hit with the bases loaded!  Seriously, a Dodger player did do that.  His two run single cut the deficit to 4-3.

Buck Showalter then called upon T.J. McFarland, and Gonzalez immediately laced an RBI double to make it 4-4.  We all know how lousy Kemp has done this year, but he delivered in this spot with an RBI single, and the Dodgers suddenly had a 5-4 lead.

Fife was allowed to start the fifth, and got Manny Machado to ground into a double play.  It's a shame he then gave up a single to Markakis, because that brought the hook and a chance for the win.  J.P. Howell relieved and Adam Jones singled, but the mighty Chris Davis struck out to end the inning.

Other members of the bullpen took over from there as the offense tacked on a couple more.  Matt Guerrier pitched a scoreless sixth, and Kemp started a rally in the seventh.  He showed his all-around game with a leadoff single and steal of second, with some help from a bouncing throw from Matt Wieters.  A clutch opposite field single by A.J. Ellis allowed Kemp to score on a great slide at home for the 6-4 advantage.

Paco Rodriguez got three straight groundouts in the seventh, and Kenley Jansen worked around a one-out double by Davis to escape the eighth unharmed.  A sac-fly RBI by Jerry Hairston added one more in the ninth, and Brandon League collected his fifth save in as many chances.

I criticized Mattingly's handling of the bullpen in the first game on Saturday when he yanked Jansen way too early.  I'll give him credit here for moving Kemp out of the three-hole and moving Gonzalez up.  Both men responded very well, as Gonzo went 2-for-4 with a run, RBI, and walk; Kemp went 3-for-5 with a run, RBI, and two steals.  For once both guys were clicking, and the middle of the order did lots of damage.

Let's also give both Ellis boys plenty of credit.  Mark was the one who got the floodgates to open in the fifth, as the entire offense seemed to exhale once he scored two with a bases loaded single.  A.J. has quietly hit .320 this season, and he reached base three times with an RBI.

Fife was put in a very tough spot, and if you take away the shaky first inning, actually pitched pretty well.  He lasted 4 2/3 innings for seven hits, four runs, one walk, and five strikeouts.  With the Dodgers' starting pitchers falling like flies, it was good to see him shake off the bad start.  It wasn't the prettiest of lines, but it's nice to see the offense bail him out for a change.

Let's see where this win takes the Dodgers from here.  Ron Darling correctly pointed out when they took the lead that they this was a must win since Monday is an off day and Clayton Kershaw opens the Mets' series on Tuesday.  Now they have a little bit of momentum going into New York.  And it beats the heck out of waiting a couple of days to break a seven-game skid.

Plus, Matt Harvey pitches on Wednesday.  Good luck beating that guy!

2 early leads + 2 blown leads = 2 losses

The slide has reached six with no end in sight.

Hyun-Jin Ryu and Josh Beckett both failed to hold onto early leads, the offense continued to sputter, the bullpen isn't any better, and the Orioles swept the doubleheader on Saturday, 7-5 and 6-1.  The Dodgers are now 7-10 and have been outscored by 21 runs.

And like I said, there's no end in sight.

Saturday afternoon in Camden Yards started out positively enough for the visiting team.  Mark Ellis and Matt Kemp both singled with one out, which led to a three-run bomb from Andre Ethier, his second of the season.

In the second, Justin Sellers actually got a damn hit for once with a one-out single, and Carl Crawford doubled for two on.  A sac-fly RBI by Ellis later, the Dodgers were up 4-0 and feeling good.

Over the next 16 innings, they'd go on to score two whole runs.  In other words, back to business as usual.

The Orioles played longball to get within one.  J.J. Hardy hit a two-run homer in the second, and Nolan Reimold got ahold of a solo shot in the fourth.  In the sixth, the O's took the lead on a sac-fly RBI by Hardy and RBI single from Steve Pearce.

The Dodgers did tie it up in the seventh, but again left 37 men on base to blow a bigger opportunity.  Ellis took a walk with one out, then Kemp managed to hit his second infield single of the game.  With Ellis on third, Pedro Strop uncorked a wild pitch that easily tied the game at 5-5.

Adrian Gonzalez was at the plate, so he was intentionally walked to put two on with one out.  Brian Matusz came in to strikeout Ethier and get Ramon Hernandez to pop up.  Hernandez also struck out with the bases loaded in his previous at-bat.  Just the latest example of the bottom of the order flat out sucking.

Kenley Jansen pitched the seventh and blew away the O's on only 13 pitches.  After the offense failed to do anything in the eighth, he came back out to pitch the eighth.  At this point I'm thinking, "Great, he can get through this inning and at least send it tied into the ninth."  Matt Wieters then grounded out for one down.

That at-bat took only five pitches, so Jansen was clearly still fresh enough to keep going.  But wait a minute, a lefty was coming up next!  Don Mattingly just couldn't sit by and watch a guy who once set a Major League record for K/9 innings pitch to a lefty!  Let's get him out of there and bring in some guy named Paco Rodriguez to pitch to Chris Davis!

And naturally, Davis doubled.  Ronald Belisuckio... uh, I mean Belisario came in and was wild even by his own standards.  Reimold smoked a two-run double, and it was 7-5.

Jim Johnson had a laughably easy time getting his seventh save. 

I'd love to review the nightcap, but it was more of the same.  The Dodgers scored in the first on a sac-fly RBI from Gonzalez, the O's tied it on a Davis homer in the second, and RBI doubles by Manny Machado and Adam Jones in the fifth put the game away.  There's your summary.

I'll try to start with the positives.  Ethier (three-run homer), Jansen (dominating relief), Nick Punto (2-for-3 with a walk in the second game), J.P. Howell (scoreless 1 1/3 innings), and Matt Guerrier (scoreless inning) played well.  Kemp did go 3-for-5 in the first game, but with all due respect to him, two of those hits were lucky infield hits.  Two stolen bases were good.  But once again, nothing even coming close to finding his power swing.

The starters underwhelmed.  Ryu looked like he was lobbing it up there at times and blew a four-run cushion.  He lasted six innings for eight hits, five runs, two walks, and six strikeouts.  Beckett fell apart in the middle innings, lasting 5 2/3 innings for eight hits, six runs, three walks, and three strikeouts.  He's still winless at 0-3 with a 4.68 ERA.

There's so many holes on this team, it's almost impossible to point to one as being the biggest.  I will say that Mattingly definitely needs to shoulder the blame in the first game.  Maybe not so much that they lost, but that he didn't put his team in the best position to win.  There's absolutely no way he should've lifted Jansen in the eighth.  This whole "right vs. right, left vs. left" crap drives me crazy at times, and none more so than in game one.  Jansen was lights out, and instead Paco Freakin' Rodriguez gets to pitch to one of the hottest hitters in baseball.  Absolutely ridiculous.

Losing the second game came as no surprise, even as they entered the fifth tied 1-1.  They just had no life to them, so it was only a matter of time.  Six hits the whole game pretty much backs that up.

I would say it's up to Chad Billingsley to snap the losing streak... but news just came that he's now on the 15-day DL with elbow pain.  That's just GREAT news for a guy trying to avoid Tommy John surgery.  Stephen Fife will go instead.  Hopefully he gets to hit cleanup and go 4-for-4, too.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Encouraging news on Hanley

For a team that ranks second-to-last in runs scored, any sort of news that helps the offense is considered a huge positive.

And positive it is, as Hanley Ramirez appears to be on track to return by the end of April.  His original timetable called for a mid-late May return, but after a great session of BP at Camden Yards before Friday night's rainout, even Don Mattingly acknowledged how smooth he looked hitting.

What Mattingly does want is a rehab assignment for a couple games, probably in a week or so .  Ramirez initially stated he didn't think he'd need to, but I don't think a day or two in the minors is a big deal.  I'm sure he'll go along with it.

What might hold up his return is throwing to first, as that appeared to be the bigger issue on Friday.  He looked somewhat "ginger" making throws across the diamond, but that might only be natural after not using his thumb since surgery on March 22.

Before the season started, one of my key points for the Dodgers was hoping that Ramirez wouldn't rush himself back.  Well, here we are on April 20, the Dodgers are 7-8, the offense stinks, and Ramirez wants to be back in the lineup about three weeks early.  We just have to trust the medical staff that this is the right thing to do, and won't be a Matt Kemp-like story from last season where he clearly came back too soon from a hamstring injury, only to be shelved again a game or two later.

I'll keep you updated once a rehab assignment becomes a reality.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Dodgers by the numbers

Let's take a look at how the Dodgers are doing in the batting order, 1-9. (Note, the ranking is based on batting average.)

#1 - .328 AVG, .377 OBP, 1 HR, 2 RBI (7th place)

#2 - .316 AVG, .394 OBP, 0 HR, 4 RBI (7th place)

#3 - .217 AVG, .273 OBP, 0 HR, 4 RBI (24th place)

#4 - .400 AVG, .479 OBP, 2 HR, 12 RBI (1st place)

#5 - .280 AVG, .429 OBP, 1 HR, 5 RBI (11th place)

#6 - .218 AVG, .274 OBP, 1 HR, 4 RBI (23rd place)

#7 - .127 AVG, .186 OBP, 1 HR, 3 RBI (30th place - dead last)

#8 - .220 AVG, .328 OBP, 1 HR, 2 RBI (18th place)

#9 - .222 AVG, .300 OBP, 2 HR, 2 RBI (16th place)

The biggest stat that jumps out is obviously the #3 hole, occupied for all but one start by Matt Kemp.  The 1-2 spots in the order are each in 7th place (Carl Crawford and mostly Mark Ellis), the cleanup hitter is in 1st (Adrian Gonzalez), yet the biggest reason the Dodgers have the second fewest runs scored in the majors at 41 is because the #3 hole is just abysmal. 

Think about this: the top two spots in the order have each reached base 26 times for 52 total.  Out of 52 times on base, Kemp has four RBIs taking nearly every at-bat in the third spot.  Ouch.  That's almost hard to believe, but that's the reality.

Gonzalez has been huge hitting cleanup, yet it's been pretty quiet because Kemp has been so bad.  Gonzalez still has 12 RBIs, which is tied with a few others for 15th place.  That's pretty good, but it could be so much better if Kemp was even decent to start the season.

From #6 on, it ranges from just OK to flat out awful.  That's when you start to see the names of guyls like A.J. Ellis, Luis Cruz, Juan Uribe, and Justin Sellers.  Ellis is hitting .311 on the season, but the next highest is Uribe at .200 in very limited action.  And we can all only hope that limited action soon becomes no action.

The last stat sums everything up:

Team OBP: .339 (7th place)
Team AVG w/RISP: .171 (28th place)

It's no surprise they can barely score a run with a stat like that.

Swept at home by the Padres? Yup, it happened

No matter what the calender says right now, it's not a stretch to say that this is definitely a low point for the Dodgers.

Despite having their ace on the mound and the offense putting 16 men on base, it hardly mattered as the Padres once again slapped around the Dodgers, 7-2.  Roll all of these scores together, and the Padres won these last three games 22-7.

So much for "A Whole New Blue."  Looks a lot like the same crap we saw for most of last year.

The Dodgers actually had the lead early.  Yes, I know, it's hard to believe their offense was capable of scoring a run before the other team.  In the third, Carl Crawford led off with a single and stole second.  Mark Ellis singled to center, and despite a bobble, Crawford chose not to come home.  Andre Ethier, hitting in the #3 hole for the resting Matt Kemp, popped up, but Adrian Gonzalez's sac-fly RBI made it 1-0.

Of course, I have to point out that A.J. Ellis singled and Skip Schumaker did nothing with it to strand two, just like the Dodgers did in the first.  Get 'em on, get 'em over... and leave 'em right there.

That would be it for positives on this night.  Kershaw was clearly not locating well and his fastball was didn't blow anyone away.  Everth Freakin' Cabrera hit a leadoff homer in the fourth to tie it up.  Then Nick Punto dropped one of the easiest pop ups in the history of baseball in foul territory at third, which led to Chase Headley walking.  Which led to Jesus Guzman singling.  Which led to Yonder Alonso walking to load the bases.

Granted, Punto made a great diving stop for a double play to only allow one run to score, but Kyle Blanks followed that up with an RBI single, and it was now 3-1.  Had Punto made the routiniest of routine plays, I would have to think this inning would've been much different.

The game may as well have ended right there, because the Dodgers would proceed to ethier go down in order, or fail to cash in when they were on base.  In other words, the same old song and damn dance since game #1 this season.

The Padres scored in every inning from 4-8.  Solo homers by Chris Denofia and Blanks made it 5-1, chasing Kershaw in the process.  J.P. Howell pitched the seventh and was scuffling to say the least.  An RBI double by Mark Kotsay scored Cabrera, who doubled leading off.  Howell did strikeout Nick Hundley to leave the bases loaded. 

In the bottom of the seventh, the game got comical for the Dodgers, or sad depending on your perspective.  Mark Ellis and Gonzalez each singled off of Joe Thatcher with an out.  Dale Thayer came in and A.J. Ellis singled, but the other Ellis somehow didn't come home on it.  That brought in Kemp for a big pinch-hitting spot, and he showed everyone why he was benched in the first place by striking out.  Punto flew out to, you guessed it, stand men on base.

The only other time the Dodgers scored was in the ninth when Kemp's sac-fly RBI scored Ethier.  Luis Cruz pinch-hit and struck out to end another crappy night in Dodger Stadium.

I think it's quite telling that two of the main guns being relied upon to drive in runs in Kemp and Cruz both started the game on the bench and both K'd when they did get to hit.  Kemp is now hitting .182 and Cruz .100.  My oh my do those numbers suck.

Kershaw had his second straight subpar performance, at least by his standards.  He lasted 5 1/3 innings for seven hits, five runs (three earned), four walks, and five strikeouts.  As I pointed out before, he just didn't have his usual dominating stuff.  I thought his off-speed stuff looked good, but nobody seemed intimidated by his fastball.  They were squaring up on it all night.

The bigger issue here isn't Kershaw not delivering his usual great performance, it's the fact that every Dodger pitcher who toes the rubber knows that they have to practically be flawless just to stand a chance of winning.  Anything less won't cut it.  There's no way you can tell me that Kershaw isn't thinking that.  He looks at the numbers of the bums in the lineup and knows he better deliver on the mound.  Lo and behold, the added pressure has a negative effect.

So here we are 15 games into the season and the Dodgers clearly don't look anything like a contending team.  Their starting pitching is banged up, their bullpen has been leaky, and they might be the worst team in baseball with runners in scoring position.  In fact, they're second to last to the Cubs, who have 24 of those runners score compared to the Dodgers' 27.  Either way, that sucks.

I think we all should be glad that Thursday is an off day, because they just played the last three games as if they were on off days, too.  Friday they go to Baltimore for three.  They are also struggling a bit at 7-7, but they've also played much harder teams than the Padres or Pirates.  Simply put, it won't be easy.  Hyun-Jin Ryu will go in the first game.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

It's early, but the Dodgers sure look flawed

Remember that good feeling the Dodgers had after beating the world champion Giants on Opening Day?  Or even after sweeping the Pirates in the next series?

It sure seems like a distant memory now.

Tuesday night's 9-2 loss to the Padres, the second straight letdown against one of the worst teams in the league, sure has raised a bunch of red flags.  The Dodgers had everything going for them: playing at home against a bad team, revenge in mind after the whole Carlos Quentin-Zack Greinke incident, and Jackie Robinson Day on Monday.  Instead, they're faced with all sorts of question marks:

  • Will Matt Kemp ever get a big hit again?  Or, well, any hit for that matter.
  • Will Greinke's injury be much worse than originally thought thanks to a deplorable start from Chris Capuano?
  • Can the bullpen get somebody, ANYBODY, out?
  • Can the offense step up and drive in runners when they're on base?
The last one might be the biggest one: Will a team with a $216 million payroll just continue to crumble thanks to injury and ineffectiveness?

Yes, we're only 14 games in, but I've got no issues with people wondering if this team is in a freefall.  They play such lifeless, boring baseball for the most part, it's almost hard to watch.  The last two nights they've fallen behind by scores of 3-0 and 4-0 before the end of the second inning.  And just like that, you already had the feeling that the game was over, even against the lowly Padres.  Granted, they did tie it up on Monday... only to have the bullpen blow it late.  Tuesday's game was a joke from the first pitch.

The injury to Hanley Ramirez has obviously been a huge blow.  In his place we've had to suffer through Luis Cruz (.103), Justin Sellers (.167), and Juan Uribe (.214).  Combined, they're hitting .146.  Ramirez could swing with one hand and do better than that.  A $216 million payroll, and Dodger fans have to watch this crap each night.  Unbelievable.  Hanley says he's coming back sooner than we think, and we can all thank the Lord for that.

Then there's Greinke's injury, which looks to be devastating after watching Capuano labor last night.  He lasted two whole innings, giving up five runs on five hits and two walks without any strikeouts.  Plus he somehow strained his calf covering first.  Look, I'm not at all trying to make fun of someone getting hurt, but that was just symbolic of how the night went for him.

Lastly, there's Mr. Matt Kemp.  I went into much detail about his struggles the other day, and unfortunately for him, that hasn't changed at all.  He's 10-for-54 on the year for a .185 average.  He only has four RBIs.  He has no homers.  He only has three walks.  He has struck out 17 times.  To put is simply, he's as lost as lost can be right now.  And he's still hitting in the #3 hole, effectively killing any rally when Carl Crawford and/or Mark Ellis gets on base.

I haven't even touched on the bullpen, as they started off like gangbusters, and have since walked everybody and their mother.  I just cringe when I see someone warming up.  It seems like they've even been walking people in the bullpen.  What happened to them?

So ya, it's been ugly.  The Padres came into Dodger Stadium with a paltry 2-10 record, and right now look like World Series contenders.  The Dodgers look like celler dwellers.  And with so many more question marks than solutions right now, they really have their work cut out for them as they finish the Padres series and travel to Baltimore for three.  If they don't get Wednesday's game with Clayton Kershaw on the mound, then it could very well be a o'fer week for them.

And with the Rockies, Giants, and Diamondbacks playing very well right now, it's not a stretch at all to say the Dodgers better figure things out quickly.  If they don't, it could already be too late.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

It all starts with this guy

Sunday's loss in Arizona perfectly summed up what the Dodgers have been about this young season: great starting pitching and no clutch hitting.  Josh Beckett threw a complete game, gave up one run, and lost 1-0.  How can they continue to give their pitchers a huge lack of run support?

It all comes back to Matt Kemp.

Kemp went 0-for-4, dropping his average to .174.  He also struck out three times, the ninth time in 12 games he's had at least one strikeout, and his third multi-K game.  He still doesn't have a homer, and only four RBIs.

To put things in perspective, last year through 12 games he was hitting .457 with 6 homers and 17 RBIs.  In his (should have been) MVP season of 2011, his numbers were .425/1/6.

To say it's been a frustrating start to 2013 for Kemp is an understatement.  And no surprise, it's been a frustrating overall experience for the whole offense, which went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position on Sunday.  Time and time again they've failed to cash in when needed the most.  Simply put, it's been ugly.

It's not like the Dodgers aren't getting men on base.  Right now they rank seventh in baseball with a .340 OBP.  With runners in scoring position, those numbers tank, as they're 17-for-102 for a .167 average.  That's just putrid.

Kemp is the key to these numbers taking a turn for the better.  He can't single-handedly turn them around, but he sure can be a big part of it.  He's had 16 at-bats in these situations, and only one hit to show for it (a two-run single on Saturday).  As if his .174 average isn't bad enough, an .063 average with RISP is even worse.

Anyone with even a basic level of understanding of hitting can tell that Kemp is trying way too hard to kill the ball on every swing.  Right now he's doing one of three things each plate appearance: swing and miss, fly out, or hit a weak grounder.  You can count on one hand how many solid hits he's had this year.  Heck, he only has eight total, so you don't even need two whole hands to do that.

I can only wonder if this season would be any different had Hanley Ramirez not gotten hurt in the last game of the World Baseball Classic.  I think the domino effect has been obvious.  Despite guys like Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Andre Ethier in the lineup, Kemp put more pressure on himself to pick up the slack created by that injury.  The result has been a huge negative, as the added pressure to post big numbers has made him one of the easiest guys in the league to get out right now.

Plus, I have to wonder if he's fully healthy himself.  Let's not forget that a bum shoulder from running into the outfield wall in Colorado late last August caused him to hit .245 in September.  He also missed half of May, all of June, and the beginning of July with a bad hamstring.  He rested all offseason, but for a guy who wants to hit for power, it's fair to ask if something is still physically wrong with him.

Don Mattingly can't afford to give him much time off, but a day here or there might not be a bad idea right now.  Gonzalez, Ethier and Crawford are swinging very well right now, and the Dodgers have little to show for it offensively because of Kemp.  I know he prides himself on leading the team from the #3 hole, but some more rest might be needed.

Look, I don't expect Kemp to continue to play this poorly.  It's not like he'll hit under the Mendoza Line, as there's way too much talent in that body.  But even when Ramirez makes his return, the Dodgers will only go as far as Kemp can take them.  They can still be good, but won't be great.  That's on Kemp.

And until he gets back to driving the ball all over the park, expect to see more fantastic efforts like Beckett's wasted.  That's the kind of impact he has on this team.

Ryu shines, and the bullpen barely holds on

Hyun-Jin Ryu could do no wrong on Saturday night in Arizona, pitching six strong innings and gathering three hits at the plate.  The bullpen nearly handed it all away the final three innings, but did just enough to cling to victory, 7-5.  The win creates a three-way tie for second in the NL West at 7-4, a half game behind the Giants.

Not much happened in the opening third of the game, aside from the Dodgers blowing two men on in the second and third, including a double by Ryu for his first big league hit.  It sure looked like more of the same for a team that came into this one averaging 2.7 runs/game through the first 10.

Adrian Gonzalez got the scoring going in the fourth, launching a leadoff homer.  His 3-for-4 night increased his numbers to .375 with 2 homers and 10 RBIs.  Most importantly, he looks like he's fresh and swinging a good bat, in addition to the usual slick defense he plays.

After Ryu stranded a couple in the fourth by striking out Josh Wilson, the Dodgers tacked on a couple in the fifth.  Once again, Ryu was a part of it, singling to start the inning.  Carl Crawford forced Ryu at second on a grounder, but Skip Schumaker's RBI double made it 2-0. 

Schumaker went to third on a wild pitch, setting things up perfectly for Matt Kemp.  But, Kemp struck out, continuing his slump.  Gonzalez was given the intentional pass to pitch to Andre Ethier, who made Ian Kennedy pay with an RBI single, and it was 3-0.

The Diamondbacks grabbed one back in the bottom of the frame on an RBI single from A.J. Pollock.  The Dodgers responded by finally getting some big hits with two outs in the sixth.  The bases were loaded on a single by Ryu, a double by Crawford, and a walk to Schumaker.  Kemp kept things simple with a solid two-run single into left, doubling his RBI total on the season to four.  He's still only hitting .190, but hits like this will only help to get him going again.

Gonzalez added another RBI with a single off of Mark Reynolds to make it 6-1.

The Dodgers were in full control at this point, but things started to take a turn for the worse in the seventh.  With two outs and Justin Sellers on first, Ryu had a chance for a perfect 4-for-4 night.  But, it wasn't meant to be as Sellers was foolishly picked off first by catcher Miguel Montero for the final out.  That was a bad omen.

Even with a pitch count hovering around 100, Don Mattingly allowed Ryu to begin the bottom of the seventh.  Alfredo Marte and Wilson both singled, which brought the hook.  The unpredictable Ronald Belisario came in, and because he has so much movement on his pitches, it's hard to know what to expect from him.

Well, it wasn't exactly pretty.  It started off well, though, as Chad Pennington struck out looking, then got ejected for arguing.  Eric Hinske and Eric Chavez both hit pinch-hit RBI singles, and the DBacks were back in business at 6-3.  Belisario did get Gerardo Parra to ground into the inning ending DP, which turned out to be huge.

Kenley Jansen pitched the eighth, and like Belisario, it was a bumpy ride.  Martin Prado greeted him with a laser out to left to make it 6-4.  With two outs and Montero on first from a single, Aaron Hill pinch-hit and smoked an RBI double, just barely missing a homer to tie the game.  Cody Ross struck out looking to end the inning.

The Dodgers got the all important insurance run in the ninth.  With one out, Ethier doubled off of Tony Sipp.  Heath Bell came in, and Ramon Hernandez lined an RBI double that just managed to stay fair down the right field line, and it was now 7-5.

Maybe that run took the air out of the DBacks' balloon, or maybe the Dodgers finally quit messing around, as Brandon League got his fourth save with a perfect ninth.

The star of the show was obviously Ryu, even though that was almost forgotten if the DBacks completed the late comeback.  Ryu lasted six-plus innings for six hits, three runs, one walk, and nine strikeouts.  The win ups his record to 2-1 with a 2.89 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.  It's also his 100th professional victory after winning 98 in Korea. 

Oh by the way, his 3-for-3 performance at the plate raises his average to .429, his slugging to .571, and his OPS to 1.000.  Bat him cleanup!  He's already come a long way since getting booed in his first start at home for not running out a grounder.

The offense put up a season-high seven runs, mostly due to four RBIs with two outs.  They also went 5-for-15 with runners in scoring position, which looked a lot worse in the first few innings.  Thankfully they turned it on after that.  Getting Crawford back atop the order helped, as he had two hits and two runs.  Give Schumaker credit as well for getting on base three times in the #2 spot, scoring twice.

The bullpen has had a rough couple of games, with the biggest issue not stranding inherited runners.  Shawn Tolleson walked home two straight runs on Friday, and Belisario gave up two more in this one.  To be fair, they all started off the year red hot, so any runs given up now looks worse than it probably is.  Clayton Kershaw and Ryu were the ones to put runners on in the first place, so you can't always expect perfection from the 'pen.

The Dodgers will look to win their third straight series on Sunday as they send Josh Beckett to the mound.  He's looking for his first good start after a couple of so-so ones.  Trevor Cahill will look to do the same for the DBacks.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Woeful offense snoozes their way to a loss

Not even the great Clayton Kershaw can overcome what is already shaping up to be a mediocre offense.

The Dodgers had six hits, no runs, and no win on Friday night.  Patrick Corbin looked like Greg Maddux in completely dismantling them, 3-0.  Throw in Zack Greinke getting shelved for at least eight weeks, and it wasn't the greatest night for them.

Or in LA at all, as Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles against the Warriors.  What a crappy night all around in the City of Angels.

The fourth was a telling inning.  The Dodgers loaded the bases on walks to Juan Uribe and A.J. Ellis, and an infield single from Justin Sellers.  That brought up Kershaw, who grounded out.  The DBacks got their first couple of hitters on, and Martin Prado scored on Paul Goldschmidt's double play ball, making it 1-0.

Matt Kemp finally got a single with one out in the eighth off of David Hernandez.  He went to second on a wild pitch, then liked that so much he did it again to third.  Adrian Gonzalez walked for runners on first and third.  Carl Crawford pinch-hit and struck out, then Andre Ethier grounded out to blow a great chance to tie the game.

Wouldn't you know it, the DBacks made them pay for it right away.  Kershaw stayed on and got Chad Pennington to fly to left, but the next three hitters reached: a single by Jason Kubel, a bunt single by A.J. Pollack, and a walk to Gerardo Parra.  Don Mattingly brought the hook after that.

Shawn Tolleson made his first appearance with the bases loaded and one out, which is no doubt a tough spot to be in.  But, tough spot or not, he was flat out awful in walking home two straight runs.  J.P. Howell had to put out the fire with two straight outs.

The Dodgers did put together a bit of a threat in the ninth against closer J.J. Putz.  Nick Punto singled with one out, and Skip Schumaker followed with a walk.  Putz was having a hard time finding the strike zone... so naturally, Jerry Hairston grounded into a double play to end the game.

Kershaw did all he could, but even he has nights where he appears somewhat human.  He lasted 7 1/3 innings for six hits, three runs, three walks, and nine strikeouts.  One more strikeout and he'll join the 1,000 K Club.  But I'm guessing he's not concerned with that now, and is more ticked at himself for letting the game slip away in the eighth.  He still has a 1.16 ERA after three starts.  I think that's pretty good.

What's not pretty, or any good at all, are the bats.  It all starts with Kemp, who went 1-for-4 to RAISE his average to .189.  We all know he won't continue to do this poorly all year, but the concern right now is that he's trying to hit a home run every swing.  The one time he didn't was when he singled in the eighth.  Mattingly won't take him out of the #3 hole, so we all have to hope he gets this thing figured out soon.

Not that anybody else helped the cause, either.  Hairston got the start for Crawford in the leadoff spot and went 0-for-5 with a DP.  Ethier was 0-for-4 with a DP.  Adrian Gonzalez was 0-for-3 with a walk.  The only guys to reach base more than once were Uribe with two walks and Ellis with a hit and walk.  And that is it.

It's no secret by now that the Dodgers badly need a healthy Hanley Ramirez back.  They have so many dead spots in the order right now, his bat alone will help ease that burden.  There's not much to fear about these guys right now.  Kemp is still feared, but as long as he's swinging like this, opposing teams will think they can get him out.  Crawford and Gonzalez are the only two I'd be careful with.  The rest are fair game.

The Dodgers will send Hyun-Jin Ryu to the mound on Saturday night to take on Ian Kennedy.  Let's hope they put up at least a one-spot.  That's more than Kershaw got.

Friday, April 12, 2013

No matter how long Quentin's suspended, the Dodgers still get hurt worse

Based on Thursday night's brawl in San Diego, Zack Greinke will miss two months for surgery to place a rod in his fractured collarbone.

Compare that with the rumored length of Carlos Quentin's suspension, which could be anywhere from 5-10 games. (UPDATE: he got eight games, which he's currently appealing, of course.)

No matter how you slice it, a nobody like Quentin for a nothing team like the San Diego Padres has greatly altered the season for the Dodgers.  And if the length of suspension for him is accurate, then that doesn't nearly do justice to the pain this causes the Dodgers going forward.

For those of you who somehow didn't hear, Greinke beaned Quentin in Thursday night's game... in the sixth inning... with the score 2-1... on a full count.  Quentin then charged the mound, and Greinke lowered his left side to take the blow, causing the fracture.  Obviously Quentin thought the pitch was intentional.  You know, because so many pitchers are looking to put men on base to lose such a huge lead.  That's what any successful starting pitcher is looking to do.  Makes perfect sense to me.

But seriously, the thing that pisses me off the most about this is that a guy can get injured, Major League Baseball will hand out a suspension to the other guy who charged the mound in a foolish act, and the injured player's team will suffer the longest.  There's no justice to it whatsoever.  And of course, that's the way it'll be.

I think somebody needs to tell Quentin that he's not nearly a relevant enough player anymore to be charging the mound like that in the first place.  He's not with the White Sox anymore, where he at least was a legit power threat, despite never appearing in more than 131 games in his career.  He plays for the forgotten Padres now, where he appeared in only 86 games last season thanks to more injuries.  I mean really, how many people even knew he was playing for the Padres right now?  Maybe a handful of people in San Diego, and that's it.

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what anyone on the Padres does.  They were eliminated from postseason contention on Opening Day.  They can do whatever they want, whenever they want - it makes no difference.  The bottom line is that they can start brawls every game for all they care - it's not like they have the worry of losing guys to hurt their postseason chances.  Those chances are never there anyway.

They only have two guys other teams would really want: Chase Headley and Luke Gregerson.  There's a few other guys teams would MAYBE want, but that's it.  Like I just said, when your team consists of mostly bad and average players, they can go after anybody they want.  Suspensions mean nothing.

Now the Dodgers have to hope the rest of the rotation holds things together while Greinke is shelved.  Even with the recent trade of Aaron Harang, they still have Ted Lilly and Chris Capuano to turn to.  So it's not like there's no options.  But with all due respect to them, they're not Greinke.  And with the way the offense has struggled to score runs, this injury sucks even worse.  All thanks to a CLOWN like Quentin.

I guess Padres' fans can thank Quentin for affecting the Dodgers' playoff chances.  They stand no chance in hell of getting there themselves, so why not ruin it for others instead?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Dodgers by the numbers

Today I am starting a new feature on Inside Dodger Baseball, "Dodgers by the numbers."  Basically, I will take a look at a bunch of different stats from either the team or individual players.  Let's go...

Record: 5-3

Batting Right: 31-159 (.195), 3 HR, 11 RBI, 38 K, 2nd to last in baseball
Considering two of the coldest players on the team are Matt Kemp (5-30, .167) and Luis Cruz (2-22, .091), it's no surprise this stat is so low.  Justin Sellers's 4-21 (.190) isn't helping things either.

Batting Left: 34-94 (.362), 3 HR, 10 RBI, 20 K, 2nd place
Carl Crawford (13-28, .464) is red hot, Adrian Gonzalez (11-28, .393) is right behind, and Andre Ethier (8-25, .320) has hit in seven straight.  Long live the lefties.

Batting Third: See Kemp's stats, 3rd to last

Batting First: 13-32 (.406), 1st place
Carl Crawford has started nearly every game, and his production is the best from the leadoff spot.  Talk about the early leader for NL Comeback Player of the Year

Scoring Position: 11-71 (.155), 0 HR, 12 RBI, 23 K, 5th to last
I'm surprised there's teams that are actually worse, to be perfectly honest.  There's been some really bad AB's in these situations.

Scoring Positions w/ 2 outs: 5-33 (.152), 1 HR, 5 RBI, 10 K, 2nd to last
Just to add further insult.  It's been ugly.

Starters: 5-2, 1.73 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 52 IP, 8 BB, 44 K, 1st place
When Clayton Kershaw is on your team, there's a good chance your team will rank towards the top.  But Greinke and Billingsley have had strong starts, and Ryu has chipped in as well.  Now they just need Beckett to settle in.

Relievers: 0-1, 3.31 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 19 IP, 10 BB, 17 K, 12th place
These numbers took a hit the last couple of games in San Diego, as they were flawless before then.

2 Outs: 3.22 ERA, 1.25, 5th place
This reflects a good ability to get out of innings.

Scoring Position: 9.90 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 7th place
Keep in mind that the lowest ERA is the Braves at 5.40, so this isn't as bad as it looks.  ERA's should be high with runners in scoring position.

Behind in Count: 2.14 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 1st place
Maybe they should always fall behind, considering they rank 12th when they're ahead. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Billingsley is back as Federowicz is sent down

As expected, the Dodgers made official the roster move of activating Chad Billingsley to start on Wednesday.  He will be replacing Tim Federowicz, who became expendable once the Dodgers acquired Ramon Hernandez from the Rockies on Saturday to be A.J. Ellis's backup catcher.

Billingsley made a rehab start five days ago for Class A Rancho Cucamonga, so he's right on schedule to throw against the Padres.  Last season he went 10-9 with a 3.55 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 29 starts.  He was shelved late in the year with elbow problems, but avoided surgery.  His latest injury was a bruised right index finger after attempting a bunt in Spring Training.

Federwicz only made one start this season, going 0-for-3 with a walk against the Pirates last Sunday.  The Dodgers seemed to be satisfied with the Ellis-Federowicz combo in the spring, but that's obviously changed.  Maybe the Dodgers got the best offer they could for Aaron Harang, so they went with another catcher in Hernandez.  Or maybe they just don't think much of Fed.

Monday, April 8, 2013

An offensive explosion!... and the Dodgers sweep the Pirates

Hey, you can't blame me for getting exciting.  When you watch your favorite team rank nearly dead last in every offensive category to open the season, even six runs would get you excited, too.

The Dodgers began their first homestand of the season at a 4-2 clip thanks to a strong start from Hyun-Jin Ryu and some production with runners on base.  Despite being down two runs before you barely got comfortable in your favorite chair watching this, the bats fought back to turn this into a weekend sweep, 6-2.

The only blemish on the day came right away.  Starling Marte singled leading off, one of his two hits on the day.  Ryu got Neil Walker popping up for the first out, but Andrew McCutchen cranked a two-run shot out to left.  Believe it or not, that homer was the first of the entire season for the Pirates, who certainly aren't giving their fans much of a reason to believe they'll finally get over the .500 mark for the first time since... well, forever.

After that, it was all Dodgers.  It started in the bottom of the frame, as they got those two runs right back.  Nick Punto got the start at second in place of the resting Mark Ellis, who eventually entered the game later anyway, and singled.  Matt Kemp has had a slow start to the season, which isn't a whole lot different than the others, but his double put two on.  Adrian Gonzalez singled up the middle to score two, and it was 2-2.

The healthy Carl Crawford continued his hot start with a double to center leading off the third.  Punto's bunt got him to third, and he scored on Kemp's sac-fly, making it 3-2.  Get him on, get him over, and get him in.  That's National League baseball, and something the Dodgers need to get better at if they want their offense to catch up to their pitching.

Crawford again started a rally in the fifth by singling.  Punto singled next, but Kemp grounded into the dreaded DP.  Gonzalez picked him up with another RBI single for the 4-2 lead.

Ryu struck out Pedro Alvarez to begin the seventh, which isn't that big of a deal considering EVERYBODY strikes that guy out.  He was then lifted for Ronald Belisario.  Jose Tabata reached on an infield single and an errant throw by Punto at third, but nothing came of it.

The bottom of the seventh brought the year's first shocking moment.  Nope, Clayton Kershaw didn't homer again.  But Justin Sellers did!  His first hit of the season cleared the fence in left, and it was 5-2.  Walks to Punto and Kemp again gave Gonzalez an RBI opportunity, and he delivered by singling home Punto for 6-2 advantage.

Belisario made it through the seventh in order.  Matt Guerrier (remember him?) entered in the ninth... and was quickly yanked after a one-out walk to light-hitting catcher Michael McKenry.  Good call by Don Mattingly, who clearly was annoyed, and rightfully so.  J.P. Howell struck out Alvarez and Clint Barmes to seal the deal.

Ryu bounced back from a shaky first start in which he surrendered 10 hits in just over six innings to the Giants to be much more efficient in this one.  Here he lasted 6 1/3 innings for three hits, two runs, two walks, and six strikeouts.  Get rid of the first inning, and he gave up only one hit and one walk the rest of the way.  He clearly found a groove, and it showed.

Of course, it was good to see some production out of the bats, who haven't had much to be happy out so far.  Granted, it's still so early in the season, but 11 runs in five games is pretty poor.  In this game, they went 3-for-8 with RISP, including the two-out, two-run single by Gonzalez to tie things up in the first.

Crawford and Gonzalez are both raking with their averages of .450 and .400, respectively.  Now they just need Kemp and his .100 to get going, along with Andre Ethier's modest .278, who got the day off.

Juan Uribe went 0-for-3, keeping his average at an incredible .000.  Quit playing him!  Geez!

Playing in front of a packed Dodger Stadium is always fun, but now the Dodgers will take their talents on the road for the next six: three with the Padres, followed by three with the Diamondbacks.  The Padres are still atrocious, and have pretty much zero impact players left on that roster.  Tony Gwynn, Trevor Hoffman, and even Greg Vaughn are rolling over in their graves.  The DBacks look good so far at 5-1, so that will be a good test.

Josh Beckett will look to get his first win on Tuesday against Clayton Richard in the Padres' home opener.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Kershaw overcomes Dodgers' anemic offense

Five games into the 2013 season, there's two things you can count on from the Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw can barely be hit, and the offense can barely get a hit.

Despite only one run of support, Kershaw still found a way to win with seven innings of shutout ball as the Dodgers beat the Pirates, 1-0.  It's the second straight game the Pirates have been blanked.

Kershaw started the game off very poorly - he gave up a single to Starling Marte.  If I'm Don Mattingly, I'm yanking him right there.  With the Dodgers' offense, they can't possibly afford to have their starting pitcher give up leadoff singles.  Unacceptable.

OK, back to reality.  Marte ran himself out of the inning by trying to advance to third from second on a grounder to short, and was easily tagged out.  Carl Crawford drew a walk leading off his half of the inning, stole second... and stayed right there when A.J. Burnett struck out the side.

The only run of the game came in the third.  With two outs, Crawford again got on base with an infield single.  And once again, he stole second.  Mark Ellis came through with an RBI single to left, and it was 1-0.

With the way Kershaw is pitching right now, one run is all he would need.  He retired 17 straight hitters from innings 1-6, with another single by Marte with two outs in the sixth breaking the streak.

The Dodgers blew a huge opportunity to at least score another run in the sixth.  Adrian Gonzalez singled with one out, followed by a walk to Andre Ethier and single by A.J. Ellis.  That brought up the struggling Luis Cruz and Justin Sellers.  They have a combined zero hits this year.  And guess what?  It stayed that way when Cruz popped up and Sellers grounded into a forceout.  Ugh.

Paco Rodriguez took the ball to start the eighth and got Pedro Alvarez swinging to continue his strong start to the season.  Kenley Jansen got the final two outs.  They bridged the gap to Brandon League, who walked one en route to his second save.

Every start by Kershaw seems to bring the new challenge of coming up with more ways to describe just how awesome he is.  After going seven innings of two-hit ball with nine strikeouts, here I am again with that challenge.  But let's just keep it simple - he's the best in the business right now.  Other teams can have Justin Verlander, Stephen Strasburg, and Felix Hernandez.  I'll take Kershaw.

I'll also take the work of the bullpen, who have not given up a run in five games covering 10 1/3 innings.  Coming into this season, I knew that if the Dodgers had the lead after six innings, they're going to be very hard to beat.  So far, so good on that thought.

The flip side, of course, is the offense.  Wow are they bad right now.  They rank nearly dead last in every category, and can thank their pitching staff for helping to make the Giants and Pirates just as bad or even worse.  It's hard to imagine a team scoring 11 total runs in five games, yet still winning three of them.  I guess they're doing just enough to squeeze out victories.

Maybe Sunday will be the day that Matt Kemp, Gonzalez, Ethier, and the rest of the boys bust out for 10+ runs.  It has to happen at some point, right?  Hyun-Jin Ryu would appreciate it as he looks for his first win.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Harang traded to Rockies

Aaron Harang's Dodger tenure has come to an end, as he has been traded to the Rockies for catcher Ramon Hernandez.  Harang is expected to be moved again, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  It's mostly a salary relief type of deal for the Rockies, while the Dodgers are clearing up their cluttered starting pitching situation.

Harang inked a two-year, $12 million deal in December of 2011.  He was one of the few durable starters for the Dodgers last season, posting 31 starts.  In those, he went 10-10 with a 3.61 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, and 131 strikeouts in 172 2/3 innings.  His WHIP was high thanks to a career-high in walks of 85, but his .246 BAA was just shy of his career-best .242 set in 2007 with the Reds.

While he proved to be a solid contributor to the starting rotation, the writing was on the wall that his days of taking the ball to start every fifth day were over. This offseason the Dodgers went out and signed Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu to massive deals, and with Josh Beckett aboard from the Red Sox at the trade deadline, spots were scarce.

The Dodgers tried to compromise by sending Harang to the bullpen to start the season, but he supposedly wasn't thrilled with that.  I can't say I blame him, as it was obvious that he can still be a starter somewhere, and that the Dodgers didn't really have a need for him anymore.  We all know injuries can, and most likely will, happen, but with Chris Capuano also in the long relief role, the right decision was made to move him elsewhere.

In return the Dodgers get a backup catcher in Hernandez.  He was DFA'd by the Rockies before Opening Day when he lost out to Yorvit Torrealba to be Wilin Rosario's backup. 

Hernandez had a good couple of season with the Reds in '10 and '11 before moving to the Rockies last season.  His numbers in '12 could be a big reason why he became expendable, as he hit only .217 with 5 homers and 28 RBIs in 52 games.  The fact that he's turning 37 in May probably didn't do him any favors.

I would think Hernandez's arrival means that departure of Tim Federowicz to Triple-A for now.  I'm not sure why the Dodgers would trade for Hernandez if that wasn't going to happen.  I really don't see a need to carry three catchers.  They could always keep both and get rid of Juan Uribe!  But that's just wishful thinking at this point.

With Chad Billingsley due back to start next Wednesday in San Diego, the Dodgers will have another roster move to make.  Plus there's the status of Ted Lilly, who's fighting his way back from shoulder surgery last year.  In other words, the wheelings and dealings involving the starting pitchers does not appear to be done.

Dodgers even up on Greinke's terrific debut

After one start, Zack Greinke's $147 million contract looks like money well spent.

The Pirates had no answers for Greinke for six-plus innings, and the big three of Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, and Adrian Gonzalez drove in the runs as the Dodgers got the win, 3-0.  They're now back to .500 at 2-2 on the season.

We've all seen the Dodgers' struggles offensively in the Giants series, as they only managed seven runs in three games against their strong pitching staff.  They went down in order in the first, but with two outs in the second, Ethier took a high fastball out to right for the 1-0 lead.

Neither team could get much of anything going at the plate through five innings.  The Dodgers may have scored another if Carl Crawford could count balls and strikes.  He took off for second with A.J. Ellis at the plate in the fourth, but must have thought it was ball four instead of ball three, as he started to trot and was easily tagged out.  Um, Carl, the Dodgers installed new million dollar video boards this offseason.  You might want to take a peak at one of those to see the count.  I'm just sayin'.

Anyway, the Dodgers got the rest of their runs in the sixth.  It started on a walk to Mark Ellis.  Kemp hadn't had a hit to this point, and Pedro Alvarez made sure it stayed that way with a diving stop to rob him in the fourth.  In this inning, however, Kemp plated Ellis with an RBI double to make it 2-0.  Gonzalez followed up with his own RBI double, and it was 3-0.

Greinke pitched into the seventh and was pulled after Andrew McCutchen's one-out single.  Paco Rodriguez came in and was fantastic.  Well, it helped that McCutchen was thrown out trying to steal second on the first pitch.  Alvarez looked silly flailing away helplessly on breaking balls for the last out.

The formula for the victory was then put into play of Kenley Jansen in the eighth and Brandon League in the ninth.  Jansen walked old friend Russell Martin leading off, but got the next three in order with two strikeouts.  League got his first save with a flawless ninth, striking out Neil Walker to end it.

This win is more what the Dodgers expect to see.  Like the Giants have shown, it's big-time pitching with clutch hitting along the way.  The offense was just abysmal last game with their 1-for-14 performance with runners in scoring position.  This game they went 2-for-5, with one of the hits actually coming from Greinke.  Like Kershaw, I guess he can do it all.

Greinke was simply fantastic in shutting down the Pirates.  He lasted 6 1/3 innings for two hits, no runs, no walks, and six strikeouts.  I wouldn't say he was overpowering, as his fastball was mostly around 88-92 MPH.  But, his late movement on that pitch along with his breaking stuff was nearly unhittable.  His location was strong as well, hence a dominating night.

The early results show the 1-2 punch of Kershaw and Greinke can be a lot of fun to watch this year.  They've tossed a combined 15 1/3 innings of one-run ball, striking out 13 and walking no one.  Wow, that's pretty darn good.  They haven't faced the greatest offenses in the world, but shutting down any MLB team like that is hard (well, maybe not the Astros, but you get the point).  I think it's safe to say that Greinke's elbow is doing just fine.

Justin Sellers got was back at short after the debacle on Wednesday.  He went hitless again (to the surprise of nobody).  But, it should be noted that he made a great diving stop on a grounder in the fifth, robbing Garrett Jones.  Even if he stays hitless, which looks entirely possible over the course of the entire season, I'll still take him over watching Juan Uribe stink it up at third.  Hey, Hanley, how's the thumb?

Final Four Saturday night will see Kershaw looking for his second win.  I vote he just pitches a shutout and homers in every start.  That's not asking too much, right?  A.J. Burnett will go for the Pirates.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

News on my updated and upgraded blog

With the start of the new season, I've spent some time recently updating the look of my blog.  Here's a few of the changes and new gadgets that you can now find when you visit my site:
  • A look at game day weather.
  • A continuously updated look at the NL West standings.
  • A detailed (and because it's from baseball-reference.com, a VERY detailed) breakdown of that day's pitching matchup, which is found right underneath the next game.
  • Various links to the full schedule, all of the minor league sites, where to buy tickets, video highlights, top prospects, and some team stats, among other things.
In addition, I have created a Facebook page for this site, which you can click on and "Like" for updates.  I also post quite often on my Twitter page, especially during games.  I'm always looking for new followers and fans!

What hasn't changed is that his site will bring you tons of news, information, and opinions on the Dodgers.  Just with a new look and few more toys to play around with!

I hope you enjoy the new look.  Happy reading, and go Dodgers!

The Dodgers need to thank Kershaw

Think about it: no Clayton Kershaw, no wins this season.

After being on Cloud 9 from an incredible Opening Day win, the Dodgers have come crashing back down to Earth the last two games.  The Giants took advantage of a four-run third, in addition to two more errors and a pathetic 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position by the Dodgers, in winning the rubber game, 5-3.  The Dodgers have dropped two of the first three this season.

This game certainly had an interesting pitching matchup, as the Giants ran out Tim Lincecum, while the Dodgers turned to Josh Beckett.  It's safe to say that both men would like to forget about 90% of last season.  The only good thing for them is that they ended well, with Lincecum doing very well out of the bullpen in the playoffs, and Beckett finding his groove after the trade from Boston.

The Dodgers didn't score at all on Tuesday, so it was encouraging to see them get on the board in the first.  Carl Crawford was back in the leadoff spot and had a great night with three hits and a walk, and he singled.  Skip Schumaker did not have a good night, but he at least walked here, and Matt Kemp's flyout to center got Crawford to third.

Adrian Gonzalez took a walk, and as ball four got away from catcher Hector Sanchez, Crawford scampered home to make it 1-0.  Andre Ethier popped up and Luis Cruz struck out to end the inning, which was a small part of a huge problem of leaving men on base.

The Giants had their big inning in the third.  Gregor Blanco singled and Brandon Crawford doubled to open the inning.  An RBI groundout by Lincecum tied the score at one.  Angel Pagan picked up an RBI with a grounder to Schumaker at second, which was then booted for an error.  Two hitters later, Pablo Sandoval launched a two-run shot, making it 4-1.

Two walks led to nothing for the Dodgers in the fourth, but they did get one back the next inning.  Kemp walked leading off and Gonzalez reached on an error by Buster Posey, who started at first.  Kemp soon scored on a sac-fly RBI by Cruz, which was his only good at-bat in three games.  A.J. Ellis flew out with two men on.

Hunter Pence's solo shot in the sixth gave the Giants a 5-2 lead.  The Dodgers loaded the bases in the bottom of the frame, and even though the Giants cycled through three different pitchers, they only scored one.  Kemp came up with the bases loaded when Mark Ellis and Crawford singled, and Schumaker was beaned.  In yet another effort of trying to do too much, Kemp grounded into a double play, and only one run scored.

The seventh was really the last threat for the Dodgers.  Andre Ethier doubled leading off, a good sign considering he has two doubles so far against tough lefties.  Chad Gaudin relieved, and he got Cruz and Juan Uribe to pop up, and A.J. Ellis to fly out. 

Sergio Romo pitched a scoreless ninth for his second save.

Beckett was pretty good at times, but was done in by a couple of longballs.  And of course, a bad lack of run support.  He went six innings for six hits, five runs (three earned), one walk, and four strikeouts.  Not the greatest of lines, but I thought his stuff moved well.  I still think he's going to have a good year, so I'm not worried.

Let's give some credit to the bullpen, specifically the work of J.P. Howell, making his Dodgers' debut.  He pitched two scoreless innings and showed a great breaking ball.  He'll be a big weapon in later innings.  Brandon League got in a scoreless inning as well.

Let's not give any credit, however, to the offense.  The stat "1-for-14 with RISP" is just pitiful.  Right now, I can't stand their approach with runners on.  It's plainfully obvious that they're trying to send one to the bleachers on every swing.  The 3-6 hitters of Kemp, Gonzalez, Ethier, and Cruz are a combined 4-for-41 this season for an .098 average.  I know it's still early but Good Lord, that sucks!  Kemp and Cruz are still looking for their first hits.  I guess losing Hanley Ramirez looms much larger than we though.

The Giants have tough pitching, as they've proven with two rings in three years.  But like I said before, the Dodgers need to change their mindset when they step up to the plate.  How many popups have we seen already?  Seems like every Cruz swing that happens.  Kemp is trying so hard to prove he's back that he's overswinging as well.  Gonzalez just looks plain lost.  Thankfully Crawford looks good so we can at least feel good about something.

And let's get this perfectly clear - Uribe should not be allowed to start.  Or even play at all.  An 0-for-3 night starting at third once again shows why he shouldn't even be on the team.  When Ramirez comes back, it's time for Ned Colletti to admit to this colossal mistake and release him.  End of story!  Enough already!

Thursday will be an off day before the Pirates come to town for three.  I think a day off is a good thing right now, as the offense needs a day to relax and try to get rolling again.  Zack Greinke will make his first start with the Dodgers after signing his massive offseason deal.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Giants see your Kershaw and raise you a Bumgarner

If there was any possible way for the Giants to counter Clayton Keshaw's terrific opening day, it was accomplished by Madison Bumgarner.

As he's done his entire brief career, the Dodgers had no answers for Bumgarner, getting only two hits in eight innings.  A bad error by Justin Sellers at short in the seventh broke the game open as the Giants rolled to an easy win, 3-0.  Both teams have split the first couple of games of the 2013 season.

The Dodgers trotted out Korean sensation Hyun-Jin Ryu in what was almost an impossible task of following up on Kershaw's Opening Day start.  Sure enough, both Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro singled to open the game.  After Pablo Sandoval flew out, Buster Posey grounded into a double play, which turned out to be one of four the Giants hit into in this one.

With the Dodgers only getting a double from Andre Ethier in the second, the Giants were first on the board in the fourth.  Posey and Hunter Pence each singled with one down to put runners on the corners.  Joaquin Arias's RBI single to center made it 1-0.

It was still anybody's game for awhile, which was pretty amazing considering the Giants had nine hits going into the seventh, but only that one run to show for it.  The Dodgers, on the other hand, didn't have much of a clue against Bumgarner, who mowed through these guys without breaking a sweat.

The seventh is when the Giants scored a couple thanks in large part to the defensive efforts of Sellers.  Arias reached on a bad throw from Sellers to start the inning, which was a sign of things to come.  With one out and runners on second and third, Ronald Belisario relieved and got Bumgarner to bounce one up the middle to Sellers.  Rather than conceding the run and taking the out, Sellers threw wide of home and to the backstop, allowing both runs to score to make it 3-0.

Sergio Romo picked up the save, getting Mark Ellis looking to end it.

To say that Sellers picked a bad time to commit two errors in one inning is quite the understatement.  He's already a surprising choice to replace Hanley Ramirez at short, and controversial one at that.  We already knew he can't hit, but he was supposed to have a sharp glove.  Well, that was thrown out the window in a matter of one inning.  Ouch.

That's not to say that Sellers is all of a sudden a poor fielder, but games like this will only shorten his leash.  He's already hitless in six at-bats this season, lowering his career average to .197, so it's not like he has his great numbers at the plate to fall back on.  It's easy to overreact after one game, but with other options like Nick Punto and Jerry Hairston to fill in, maybe it's time to give them some starts.

Ryu certainly didn't have his best stuff, and was the definition of a pitcher who "scuffled."  He lasted 6 1/3 innings for 10 hits, 3 runs (1 earned), no walks, and 5 strikeouts.  That's a lot of men he let on base, as the Giants didn't seemed fooled by him.  His defense (pre-Sellers in the seventh) definitely had his back with the three DP's turned.

I found three cases of silver linings for Ryu, however.  One, he didn't walk anyone.  Two, all 10 hits were singles, as the Giants dinked and dunked their way all night.  Three, he found ways to make big pitches when he needed to and kept his team well within striking distance.  He knows there's plenty to improve upon, but he'll get there eventually. 

It's safe to say the offense has started the season in a slump.  It's obviously a small sample size, but when your leading hitter is Kershaw, that's probably not good.  Matt Kemp is looking for his first hit, though he did swing pretty well in this game.  Luis Cruz is trying to kill the ball each swing and already has way too many popups.  He needs to relax and just hit, and not try to become the next LA home run king.  It ain't gonna happen.

Josh Beckett will take the hill on Wednesday looking to give the Dodgers their first series win.  The Giants counter with Tim Lincecum, who was once on Kershaw's level, but had a horrific 2013 season.  To his credit, his 2.55 ERA out of the bullpen last postseason showed he can possibly still get it done, but even with that, he has plenty to prove if he's ever going to regain his old form.