Sunday, June 30, 2013

Dodgers do everything they can to lose, but still win

The Dodgers were hardly a flawless team on Saturday night, grounding into double plays, committing silly errors in the outfield, and blowing a save in the ninth because of it.

But hey, they still won, and that's all that matters.

A.J. Ellis hit a walk-off single in the ninth to score Hanley Ramirez, giving the Dodgers a 4-3 win over the Phillies, their seventh victory in the last eight games.  It also puts the Dodgers five games in back of the Diamondbacks for the NL West lead, as the whole division is pretty bunched together.

Much like Thursday night's game, the Dodgers started red hot, then cooled off big time.  That's opposed to Friday's game, when the Phillies started hot, got hotter, and ended absolutely scorching hot.  Scoring 16 runs will do that for ya.

Chase Utley has been killing the Dodgers this series, and he lifted a solo shot out to right to make it 1-0 two batters into the game.  Hyun-Jin Ryu at least got the other red hot hitter, Delmon Young, to strikeout for the last out.

Yasiel Puig only had one hit, which for him is like two or three hits too low, and his single with one out started a rally.  Adrian Gonzalez took a walk, which gave Ramirez a chance to drive in runs.  Boy did he ever, as he absolutely unloaded on a long three-run bomb to dead center for the 3-1 lead.  I've seen a lot of homers at Dodger Stadium, but that's one of the farthest I can recall.

The down side is that the scoring stopped for the Dodgers after that, as he did almost everything possible to hand this game away.  The Phillies scored again in the third.  How, you ask?  That's right - a solo homer by Utley, his 11th of the season.  After missing a big chunk of last season, he looks young again, which is good news for Philly.

Despite the win, there were a couple of very frustrating moments for the Dodgers.  The first came in the fourth.  Ramirez doubled leading off, which led to two straight walks to Matt Kemp and Scott Van Slyke, who got the start in left for Andre Ethier.

Considering how well the Phillies have swung the bat this series, the Dodgers needed to score more runs.  Well, that didn't exactly happen here.  Ellis bounced one back to the mound for the 1-2-3 double play, and Juan Uribe grounded to short.  A completely blown opportunity there.

Ryu remained tough, though, as he got through the sixth and seventh without giving up anything else.  On the night, he gave up seven hits, two runs, three walks, and six strikeouts.  He should've gotten his seventh win, but was denied that thanks to some crappy defense.

Paco Rodriguez, Ronald Belisario, and J.P. Howell got through the eighth scoreless.  Actually, Belisario had nothing to do with it, because he was pathetic yet again.  Of the four hitters he faced, three of them reached on two singles and an intentional walk.  And yet again I'd like to point out how this guy should be nowhere near the mound in a close game like this.  He's terrible!

Kenley Jansen was given the ball in the ninth.  He got up 0-2 on leadoff hitter Michael Young, but Young hit a single to right that was misplayed by Puig, allowing him to go to second.  Utley's groundout got him to third.  Jimmy Rollins lifted a shallow fly ball to center which Young faked going home on.

Apparently Kemp didn't realize that, because he throw to home was so bad, Young practically walked home to tie the game at 3-3.  Kemp was bad all-around in this one, striking out three more times to go along with that horrific throw.  Definitely not the stuff of franchise players.  Give me a break.

Jansen was able to get out of the ninth tied, even though Dominic Brown tripled with two outs.  So yes, it's a blown save for Jansen, but it's of no fault of his own.  Puig and Kemp let him down big time.

Ramirez led off the bottom of the ninth with a sharp single to center off of Justin De Fratus.  Kemp, right on cue, struck out looking, barking at home plate umpire CB Bucknor.  Don't get me wrong - Bucknor did not have a good game, as his calls on the corners were very inconsistent and just downright strange for both Ryu and Cliff Lee the whole night.  But sorry, Matty, that was another poor at-bat by you.

Ethier worked a walk right after that, as he came in to start the inning for Van Slyke.  Ellis needed to redeem himself for that awful double play ball he grounded into earlier, and he did with a walk-off single to right, as Ramirez hustled around the tag at home.  It was a great end to an imperfect night.

Not to seem so negative, because the Dodgers will take any sort of win they can get, but this wasn't much fun to watch at times.  First there was Bucknor and his changing strike zone, then the offense going quiet for multiple innings again, then two atrocious errors in the outfield in the ninth.  Just some ugly stuff.

Then again, maybe it's a good thing that even with all of that, the Dodgers still won.  Right now they're 5-1 on the homestand, which is awesome.  If they can get Sunday's game, that's a very successful week in Dodger Stadium.  And that's even with the beatdown they suffered on Friday.

That win won't be easy on Sunday, as the Dodgers send Stephen Fife to the mound against Kyle Kendrick.  Fife has pitched well, but Kendrick has seven wins and a 3.46 ERA this season.  This game will finish up the homestand before taking Monday off and traveling to Colorado for three starting Tuesday.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Beckett officially done for the season

Any hope of Josh Beckett making some sort of comeback this season was put to rest on Saturday, as the Dodgers announced he will undergo season-ending surgery.  It'll be to relieve pressure on a nerve in his neck, which has caused him to experience a tingling sensation in his fingers that has not gone away.

It's a shame because I really thought Beckett would have a good season, especially after posting a 2.93 ERA in seven starts after being traded from the Red Sox last season.  It was obvious from the start to this year's campaign that he was not the same pitcher, as he was 0-5 with a 5.19 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in eight starts.  It was ugly.

The Dodgers have missed him this season, especially after watching how horrific Chris Capuano was on Friday.  He was expected to slide into the 4-5 spot of the rotation, but now he becomes another example of a pitcher who has failed to deliver.  At least he has an excuse.

Beckett is due to make nearly $16 million next season, so he's not going anywhere.  Recovery time is about three-five months, which gives him plenty of time to be ready for Spring Training.  Who knows how much he has left in the tank, but he'll get a chance to prove he's ready to go if he can properly recover.

I guess this is why the Dodgers want to trade for pitching

There's really only one way to sum up Friday night's 16-1 shellacking to the Phillies: it sucked.

End of story.

It was the worst home loss the Dodgers suffered since moving from Brooklyn, if you want to look further into it.  Chris Capuano was absolutely horrific, and the bullpen of Peter Moylan, Matt Guerrier, and Brandon League were just atrocious.

Oh, Skip Schumaker pitched a scoreless ninth.  That might be the most embarrassing stat of the night.

For those of you wondering why the Dodgers would be linked to a guy like Ricky Nolasco of the Marlins, this is it.  I wrote the other day about how the Dodgers were getting good production from the back end of their rotation during this recent six-game winning streak.  Well, you can throw that out the window after Friday.  It's hard to imagine Capuano being much worse.

Nolasco seems to be the biggest name out there so far, at least well before the trade deadline at the end of July starts sparking new names.  He's the type of guy who certainly has the potential, but is notorious for not living up to those projections.  And guess what?  He was hit around by the Padres at home before the Dodgers took the field on Friday, giving up five runs and 11 hits in five innings.  Not exactly the type of start that encourages Dodger fans.

Still, would making a move for Nolasco be worth it?  There's understandable concern that Capuano, Stephen Fife, and Ted Lilly are not the answers down the stretch.  I like the way Fife has looked lately, so perhaps he'll be fine, but I can see why management wants an upgrade to solidify the fourth and fifth rotation spots.

This season, Nolasco is 4-8 with a 3.93 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and 83 K's in 103 1/3 innings.  Those numbers aren't bad, but he's in a rough patch right now.  He was only 1-4 in May, but with a 3.57 ERA.  In five June starts, he's fallen back at 1-2 with a 4.55 ERA.  One step forward, one step back.

Money is no object for the Dodgers anymore, so they can easily cover the remaining $6 million left on Nolasco's deal.  When it comes to players with big money owed, you can automatically link the Dodgers to them after the Red Sox trade from last year.  So that gives them an edge over teams reluctant to take on all that money.

Before Friday's game, I would have said that the Dodgers should steer clear of him.  But Capuano was so bad and so discouraging, I'm completely rethinking that stance.  I can't imagine the Dodgers would have to give up much to get him as long as they take his contract, so no major players would be on the move to Miami.  Maybe Nolasco is one of those "change of scenery" type of players where getting away can only help.  Rick Honeycutt has had success with all sorts of different pitchers, so I'd like to see what he can do with Nolasco.

As for the bullpen, I haven't seen any specific names linked to them, but that will change soon.  There's no way they can feel confident about winning anytime they give the ball to guys like League, Moylan, and Guerrier.  Ditto for Ronald Belisario.  The only ones they feel good about are Kenley Jansen, J.P. Howell, and Paco Rodriguez.  As much as Don Mattingly would like to, he can't put them in there EVERY game.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Cruz's Day of Reckoning has arrived

It took the Dodgers 78 games, but they finally let Luis Cruz out of his misery.

With Scott Van Slyke being activated from the 15-day DL on Friday, the Dodgers officially designated Cruz for assignment.  The move was a forgone conclusion now that people are finally starting to get healthy.

It's shocking to know that the Dodgers don't have any use for a guy hitting .127 with one homer and six RBIs in 45 games.  Just take a moment and let those numbers sink in.  He's been to the plate 118 times and has 15 hits to show for it.  15!  You'd think he'd accidentally get like 20 or so.  Nope.

This is a move that's long overdue, but with the injuries coming in waves for the Dodgers, they almost had to keep him in the big leagues just for a healthy body.  But make no mistake about it - for every bit as bad as Juan Uribe was the previous two seasons, Cruz may have been worse this year.  It's close, but he may actually have done it.

There's no way in H E double hockey sticks that another team will put a claim in on him, so expect him to be assigned to Albuquerque in 10 days.  And who knows, maybe he gives the Dodgers a spark down the stretch like he did last year.  That seems about as likely as Brandon League pitching a perfect ninth, but crazy things can happen.

As for Van Slyke, he'll be relied upon late in game for a power bat off the bench.  He can also spell Adrian Gonzalez at first, and good for him too considering the last thing the Dodgers need is more outfielders.  Keep in mind Carl Crawford is due back soon, so I would guess Van Slyke is dusting off his first baseman's mitt right about now.

Either way, best of luck to Cruz, and it's good to see Van Slyke back.

Six straight W's as Dodgers keep on rollin'

Perhaps the best part about Thursday night's win over the Phillies?  Zack Greinke was far from his usual dominant self at home, but the Dodgers still found a way to win.

Despite being outhit 14-7, a late two-run single by Yasiel Puig gave the Dodgers a lead they would not relinquish, going on to win, 6-4.  After beating the Padres in both weekend games and sweeping the Giants in three, the Dodgers have kept the ball rolling in the opener of a four-game series.

If you were only able to watch the first inning and nothing else, you would think the Dodgers would have won this in a blowout.  Skip Schumaker played second and hit leadoff for Mark Ellis and walked to start things.  Puig lined a hard one up the middle that was kicked by pitcher Jonathan Pettibone, forcing Schumaker at second in an unlucky play.

Adrian Gonzalez singled to put two on.  Matt Kemp hit cleanup in his second start back from the DL, and his RBI single over the third base bag made it 1-0.  Andre Ethier skied one off the wall in center to bring home two, and it was 3-0.

That would be it for the Dodgers for awhile, as about the only thing they did until the seventh was have Nick Punto single, steal second, and get sacrificed over to third in the second, but get stranded.  In fact, Pettibone completely shut them down by retiring 15 straight before getting pulled in the seventh.

The Phillies not only chipped away after the first, they ended up taking a brief lead.  Dominic Brown launched his 21st homer leading off the second, tied for tops in the NL with Carlos Gonzalez.  There hasn't been a whole lot to go right for the Phillies this year, but Brown has certainly been one of them.

Greinke was far from sharp all night, as he ran many counts to 3-2 thanks to relentless nibbling at the corners.  In the fifth, he gave away the lead, though it could have been so much worse.  With one out, Pettibone singled, and Ben Revere reached on an infield single.  Chase Utley hit an RBI single to center to make it 3-2.  Jimmy Rollins followed with his own RBI single to tie the game at 3-3.

With momentum clearly on the Phillies' side, they really screwed it up.  Ryan Howard had a 3-0 count and was turned loose.  That's a good idea if you square up a fat pitch.  It's not if you bounce one in front of the plate for the 1-6-3 double play.  Just horrible execution by a veteran hitter like Howard.

Greinke stayed on to pitch the seventh and almost got out of it unscathed, but fell victim to a two-out, solo shot from Utley to put the Phillies up 4-3.  Puig nearly fell victim to a broken body after crashing into the wall trying to cach it.  Thankfully he was fine, but after starting the game on fire, the Dodgers gave it all away.

Ah, but these are not the same Dodgers from even a couple weeks ago.  These guys fight back, and it showed in the bottom of the seventh.  Justin De Fratus relieved, which was a good thing considering the Dodgers looked lost after the first inning against Pettibone.  Maybe the kid will go on to have a great career, but man... it's hard to believe he can set down 15 straight.  But he did.

Anyway, like many other times when teams have big innings, it starts with a walk, and it did here to A.J. Ellis.  Howard apparently was not done handing over favors to the Dodgers, as fell on his butt trying to field an easy bunt from Juan Uribe, failing to get anyone out.  That was pretty embarrassing and should have been an error, but that's hometown scoring for ya.

Punto laid down a great sacrifice to advance both runners to scoring position.  Don Mattingly then turned to Hanley Ramirez, who started the game on the bench.  Charlie Manuel didn't mess around, intentionally walking him to load the bases.  It was a great move at first, as Schumaker looked horrible striking out on three pitches.

Then came Puig, who looked awful in missing two outside sliders.  De Fratus did the right thing in throwing it again, but should have put it in the dirt, as Puig pulled a two-run single to left to get the lead back at 5-4.  Just when you thought the league had him figured out, he shows just how good of a hitter he is.

The Dodgers added one more in the eighth thanks to Kemp.  He singled leading off, then stole both second and third with one out, which is always good news after missing time with a hamstring injury.  Ellis hit a sac-fly RBI to right, and it was 6-4.

Kenley Jansen got two quick outs to start the ninth before Revere singled to bring up Utley.  It was quite a battle with Utley, but Gonzalez gloved a liner for the final out.  The save was Jansen's seventh.

This turned into one of those games where the bats go silent after a big start.  Credit goes to Pettibone for giving his team a chance to win.  He definitely outpitched Greinke, who lasted seven innings for 12 hits, four runs, one walk, and five strikeouts.  He's fortunate to get his fifth win, as three double play balls definitely helped him get it.

Puig left his mark with a big hit, but even more encouraging was watching Kemp in the eighth.  He looked fresh in stealing two bases and scoring on a fly ball.  I think with him we always have to be a bit cautious, as we've seen him go from looking great one day to injured the next.  Maybe he's finally healthy and ready to go the rest of the season.  He certainly looked that way in this game.

The Dodgers are only six games in back of the NL West-leading Diamondbacks, despite still being in last place.  Chris Capuano will look to keep the good times going by toeing the rubber on Friday.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Kershaw starts and Jansen ends a Giant sweep

Ladies and gentlemen, the Dodgers are ready to play some ball.

It took nearly three months, but after beating the Giants 4-2 on Wednesday night to secure a three-game sweep, the Dodgers FINALLY look ready to take off.  That's what happens when Team DL gets healthy.

Of course, it also helps that some guy named Clayton Kershaw was on the mound.

For the billionth time, Kershaw was awesome against the hated rivals, coming within three outs of going the distance.  He earned his first win since seven starts ago on May 20.  That fact alone shows just how lost his offense has been behind him.

The game started off as an old school contest between Kershaw and Tim Lincecum.  And I use the phrase "old school" since Lincecum looks like a shell of his former self.  But each looked pretty good through five innings.

The Dodgers got the scoring going in the third.  Mark Ellis hit leadoff and singled.  Yasiel Puig flew out, but Adrian Gonzalez singled right after that.  The red hot Hanley Ramirez stroked an RBI single to center, and it was 1-0.

Kershaw was rolling along through everybody not named Buster Posey in the Giants' order.  Unfortunately, Posey made sure to leave the biggest mark.  After Kershaw walked Marco Scutaro to start the fourth, Posey took a flat breaking ball over the wall in left for the two-run tater, making it 2-1.  Man, that guy is something else.  Even as a die-hard Dodger fan, he's fun to watch.

The old Dodgers may have rolled over and played dead at this point, even just being down a run.  But with new life, they came right back in the fifth.  Once again, it was Ramirez to get things going with a one-out single.  He then stole second, which is always a great sign after missing time with a bad hamstring injury.  An RBI single by Andre Ethier, starting in place of Matt Kemp in center, made it 2-2.

This is where Lincecum showed his more current self, as he pretty much fell apart.  Ethier stole second, though I get the feeling that was more luck as the throw was pretty bad.  A.J. Ellis ripped an RBI double to left to make it 3-2.  Juan Uribe reached on an infield single to third, though to be fair again, it sure looked like an error on a low throw by Pablo Sandoval.

Right after Lincecum uncorked a wild pitch to bring in Ellis to put the Dodgers up 4-2, Bruce Bochy brought the hook on a 2-1 count.  Jose Mijares struck out both Skip Schumaker and Kershaw to escape more damage.

Kershaw was fantastic in getting through the seventh and eighth, so Don Mattingly allowed him to go for the complete game as he hovered around 100 pitches.  Unfortunately for him, he walked Scutaro on a full count, which meant the end of his evening, as Jansen and Kemp entered the game as part of a double switch.

That damn Posey singled to center right away to put two on with none out.  That was all the Giants would do, as Jansen struck out Hunter Pence, did the same to Sandoval on a long at-bat, and got pinch-hitter Brandon Belt to pop to Ramirez to end it.  It was Jansen's sixth save.

Let's first take a moment to marvel at just how dominating Kershaw has been against the Giants.  In 19 career starts against them, he's 10-4 with a 1.33 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, .177 BAA, and 146 K's in 142 IP.  He pretty much shuts down any team, but it's especially sweet to see him own the Giants as much as he does.  You can imagine the Giants have tried many different approaches against him by now.  None of them work.

Let's also thank Jansen for making us temporarily forget the trainwreck that's been Brandon League.  Jansen now has nine strikeouts in his last four innings, as about the only thing hitters have done against his cutter is foul it off or whiff.  League is atrocious, so thankfully the Dodgers had someone more than capable of closing the door in the ninth.

Perhaps the best thing about this game, and this series, is that it's been about more than just Puig.  Don't get me wrong, that boy deserves all the praise in the world for doing what he does (except for trying to stretch singles into doubles... yuck).  But now people are talking about Ramirez, Kershaw, Jansen, and how guys like Ethier and Uribe are playing better.  It's now a team thing instead of just one guy.

There's no rest for the Dodgers as they welcome in the Phillies for four.  They, too, have had a rough season, as they're three games under .500.  Zack Greinke will get the call on Thursday night.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Is this turning point in the Dodgers' season?

Just as Matt Kemp made a fantastic catch near the wall in center to give the Dodgers a 6-5 win on Tuesday night, something became apparent that hasn't happened all season.

The Dodgers may finally be ready to start winning.

The win marked four straight, which hasn't happened all year.  That's hard to believe that at no point in a three-month span they've managed to even accidentally win four in a row, but it's true.  Issues on both sides of the field to go along with countless injuries have made this a first half to largely forget.

Over the last few days, however, things have slowly started to look up.  Here are five things that have gone right and are giving Dodger fans reasons for getting excited.

1) Yasiel Puig.  To put in perspective just how enormous he's been this season, take this into account: an 0-for-4 night on Tuesday DROPPED his average to .420.  Yup, I'd say he's pretty darn good.

His average won't always be this high, so he'll start to gradually level off.  But that's OK.  He's been so electric in the field and powerful at the plate, his mere presence gives the Dodgers an added edge, much like the arrival of Manny Ramirez in 2008.  His impact alone hasn't carried the Dodgers, but combined with the returns of Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp, it certainly can.

2) Hanley Ramirez.  For the first time all season, Ramirez is healthy and letting it rip.  He is absolutely smashing the ball right now.  In 50 at-bats since coming off the DL earlier in June, he's hitting .340 with three doubles, four homers, and 12 RBIs.

Perhaps most encouraging are the comments made my Ramirez himself.  In his mind, this is the best he's felt at the plate since 2009.  How good was he that year?  .342, 42 doubles, 24 homers, 106 RBIs.  Holy crap.  If he truly does feel this good, then look out.  He's going to remind people all over again why he's one of the best in the majors.

3) Matt Kemp is back from the DL.  Time will tell how effective he'll be, or even how healthy he is.  But in one game, he already showed how much the Dodgers need him.  He singled in the sixth, then ended up scoring from second on a single by Tim Federowicz, showing great speed.  Then there was the catch to keep the lead in the ninth as the Giants had two on and two out.  He had to range back and make the catch without crashing into the wall.  A very difficult play, especially for someone who hasn't played center in about a month.

It's easy to think that Kemp should automatically be the powerhouse performer circa 2011, but he's a different player right now.  Injuries have taken their toll the last couple of seasons.  What the Dodgers can hope for is that he plays a great center field and doesn't strikeout too much.  The big hits will come if he can stay disciplined and not try to win it all every at-bat.

4) Kenley Jansen is the closer.  Need more proof that Jansen was the right call over Brandon League as the team's closer?  Look no further than Tuesday night.  Jansen needed rest, so League was given a chance to close out a three-run game and was absolutely abysmal.  Three straight hits nearly handed the lead right back.  Thankfully Paco Rodiguez and Kemp's final catch helped keep the lead, but barely.

Jansen blew his first save after being named closer a couple weeks back, but has since made three straight dominating appearances, striking out eight in three innings, while collecting two saves.  That's the type of pitcher we know he can be.  But let's face it, anybody is better than League!

5) The back end of the rotation is stepping up.  The Dodgers have cycled through starting pitcher after starting pitcher the whole season with mixed results.  For every great Clayton Kershaw start, there's been a walkfest by Matt Magill.  But, the last handful of starts by Stephen Fife and Chris Capuano have been very encouraging.  Combine that with Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu, and the Dodgers may finally have a settled rotation.

Keep in mind that Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett, and Ted Lilly are currently on the shelf.  We know Billingsley is gone for the year and Beckett is a giant question mark.  Lilly seems like he's close to returning, so I'm sure he'll get some action either in the bullpen or as a spot starter.  If we've learned anything about this team, it's that they can use all the healthy arms they can get.

It's not like the Dodgers are without flaws, but I will say this: if Kershaw can once again outduel Tim Lincecum to complete the three-game sweep of the Giants on Wednesday, then this is definitely the turning point of the season.  In the NL West where the division-leading Diamondbacks are a mere six games over .500, the improved Dodgers can start chipping away at their seven-game deficit heading into the All-Star break.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Gonzo and Hanley power up for late win

Needing a lift after blowing a late lead again, the Dodgers turned to the heart of their order.

Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez took it from there.

With the score tied 1-1 and closer Huston Street on the mound, Gonzalez hit a laser out to right for the 2-1 lead.  As the Dodgers were celebrating, Ramirez smashed the next pitch over the wall in right as well to continue his hot hitting.  Kenley Jansen struck out Kyle Blanks for the save, giving the Dodgers a 3-1 victory.  The win gives them two straight, something they haven't done since beating the Braves on June 6 and 7.

Yes, it's been that long.  But like I said after last game, you have to start somewhere, right?

On paper, this one didn't look like much of a pitcher's duel between Chris Capuano and Andrew Cashner, but that's exactly what it turned into.  Capuano was especially impressive considering he was going on three-day's rest, and was limited to a pitch count of 75.  He made it through five innings unharmed, with only two hitters reaching second.

Cashner was just as good if not better, as the Dodgers couldn't do a lick against him through six innings, only gathering two hits.  It sure looked like one of those days where the first team to score would win.

Well, that ended up being true, but each team did score in the seventh.  It started with the Dodgers, as Gonzalez hit a leadoff double to right.  He went to third on a groundout by Ramirez.  Andre Ethier had a chance to drive in a run, but predictably grounded out.

That left it up to Juan Uribe, who came through with a sharp RBI double to right, making it 1-0.  That was his second one of the day, which are two more than he had in his first couple of years combined in LA.  Or something like that.

Peter Moylan pitched the inning before without any problems, but it took all of one batter to turn that around in the seventh.  Of course it had to be that damn Carlos Quentin to tie it up with a long homer out to left.  Figures.

Paco Rodriguez and Brandon League combined to shut down the eighth, so Bud Black turned to Street to keep the score as is in the ninth.  Um, it didn't work.  Street did strikeout Yasiel Puig on outside sliders, which is turning into the out pitch against him.  Puig will have to learn to not chase those, no matter how badly he wants to kill everything.  That's youth for ya.

Gonzalez and Ramirez hit their back-to-back jacks with one out, paving the way for Jansen.  Chris Denorfia hit a soft liner to center that held up just long enough for Ethier to make a sliding catch on.  Hey, at least Ethier's defense hasn't suffered, as that was a great play.  Quentin singled to keep the game going, but Blanks K'd to end it, giving Jansen his fourth save.

If Matt Kemp truly is on his way back, then Don Mattingly may finally be able to pencil in a lineup that actually makes him smile.  Imagine putting Puig, Gonzalez, Ramirez, and Kemp consecutively in some sort of order.  That has some serious potential.  Of course, "potential" means they haven't done anything yet, so they'll have to prove it on the field.  But the track records are there, even for young Puig.

The late offensive heroics were sweet, but let's not forget the strong start of Capuano, who started the year in the bullpen, has spent time on the DL, and now made a start on short rest.  Five innings, four hits, no runs, no walks, and five strikeouts.  That's some good stuff.  His off-speed pitches were located well, and he made the big pitch when needed.  Good for him.

The All-Star break is slowly creeping closer, so the Dodgers don't have much time to at least get out of the cellar before it comes.  They will spend the next week at home, as they welcome the Giants for three, then the Phillies for four.  Hopefully Kemp will join them at some point during this homestand, although going 0-for-5 with four K's in a Triple-A rehab start probably means he's not quite ready.

Up first is a Monday night battle with the Giants.  Hyun-Jin Ryu will get the call against Madison Bumgarner.  The Dodgers have already lost five of six to their rivals this season, so they'll look to get a couple back.

Greinke's best start is sweet revenge

Zack Greinke needed a big start to get back on track.  He chose no better place to do so than Petco Park on Saturday night.

Returning to the scene of the crime, Greinke pitched eight dominant innings in his first start in San Diego since breaking his collarbone in a brawl this past April.  His offense took six innings to get going, but homers by Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez helped get the win, 6-1.  The victory was only their fourth in the last 13 games.  But hey, you have to start somewhere, right?

The game was quite odd for awhile because the Dodgers had no hits through five innings, yet held a 1-0 lead.  With one out in the fifth, Edinson Volquez lost all control by walking Juan Uribe, A.J. Ellis, and Greinke to load the bases.  Skip Schumaker hit leadoff and bounced one to second for the sure first double play ball, but was called safe after a head first slide into first.

Was he really safe?  Uh, no.  But who cares?  I'll take it.

Still hitless entering the sixth, old Padre Gonzalez changed all of that.  He launched his first homer since June 3 with a solo shot out to center to go up 2-0.  He's been slumping lately, so if he can start hitting again to go along with Ramirez, Yasiel Puig, and the returning Matt Kemp, maybe the Dodgers really can score some runs again.  Maybe.

Andre Ethier took a walk with one out and Mark Ellis singled.  After Ellis stole second, A.J. Ellis grounded an easy one to short that went underneath Pedro Ciriaco's glove, scoring both to make it 4-0.  An RBI single by Schumaker soon followed, and it was 5-0.

Ramirez got in on the fun in the seventh, as he absolutely unloaded on a solo shot measured at 434 feet.  Considering how high it landed off the building in left, I'm guessing that's a bit short.  Anyway, he's been scorching the ball since coming off the DL, which is a great sign.

Greinke's only blemish was giving up an RBI double to Jesus Guzman in the eighth.  After getting out the inning, Kenley Jansen finished things off with two strikeouts in the ninth.

There are three reasons why this was a great start for Greinke.  One, he personally needed to get some revenge for that idiot Carlos Quentin charging the mound in April.  How great was it to see Greinke strike him out in the first?  Maybe that moron should worry more about his .256 average and less about people supposedly throwing at him.  Why bean someone who can't hit anymore?

Two, the Dodgers dropped a bad one on Friday night, which saw Clayton Kershaw get roughed up.  Kershaw has picked up so many guys in the past after bad starts, it's nice to see someone have his back for once.

Lastly, Greinke simply needed to start pitching better.  He entered this game with a 5.02 ERA in seven starts since coming off the DL.  Not exactly ace-like stuff.  The Padres have been playing much better lately, and while there's no way they're a true contender, this was still a big start for him.  Four hits, one walk, and eight strikeouts reflect his best line of the season.

The offense still left 10 on base, but did more than just hit singles the whole night.  I don't think any of us expected to see two homers in the same game.  Yes, that's how futile they've been at the plate this season.  Granted, the horrible error by Ciriaco gift wrapped the Dodgers two runs, but they still would have been winning even without that.

Let's see how the Dodgers come out on Sunday.  Chris Capuano talked Don Mattingly into making the start on short rest (three days), and he'll be limited to about 75 pitches.  So that means we can expect plenty of bullpen action.  Oh joy.  Maybe the bats can lead the charge.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Kemp on pace to return in a week

For a team still struggling mightily to score runs, the return of Matt Kemp can't come soon enough.

That return looks like a reality as Kemp will play three games with Triple-A Albuquerque with an eye on returning against either the Giants or Phillies at the end of next week.  His biggest hurdle was running the bases, which he did without incident before Friday night's game in San Diego.

Unfortunately with Kemp, he's been so banged up the last couple of years, we have to temper our expectations when he does return.  It's easy to expect the MVP-like numbers he had in 2011, but this is not the same player because of injuries.  He COULD be the same player, no doubt, but it's not going to happen overnight.  Give it time.

Unfortunately (again), time is not something on the Dodgers' side these days.  They're sitting in last place of the NL West with an embarrassing 30-42 record, 9 1/2 games in back of the Diamondbacks.  That same record would put them even further back in every other division, so they can consider themselves lucky at the same time.

Assuming Kemp returns when it's speculated, that'll give him about 15 games before the All-Star break, minus some time off here and there.  Those games should get him back into the rhythm of baseball again.  His goal should be to be at full strength after the break, where he will hopefully put the bad start to the season behind him and be ready to roll.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Back to reality for the Dodgers

One day after putting it all together in Yankee Stadium for a big win, the Dodgers came crashing back down to Earth on the other coast.  Errors, no clutch hitting, and horrible relief led to a 6-3 loss to the Padres.

Basically, when the Dodgers stink, they really, REALLY stink.  And guess what?  They really stunk on Thursday night.

The game started off well, as Yasiel Puig took the first pitch he saw out to right center to go up 1-0.  He was certainly the star the day before in New York, and picked up right where he left off.  The only bad news was that he went hitless in his next four at-bats, including three strikeouts.  How dare he!  Send him back down!  OK, maybe not.

Stephen Fife did a great job keeping the Padres scoreless through four.  In the fifth, the gloves let him down.  Alexi Amarista singled leading off.  An out later, Pedro Ciriaco bounced one to second that Mark Ellis completely whiffed on for the error.  Forget turning a double play, they didn't even get one out.  Pretty sad.

Ciriaco stole second to put two in scoring position, and freakin' Jason Marquis hit an RBI single to make it 1-1.  Logan Forsythe did the same to give the Padres a one-run lead.

Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier both singled to start the sixth.  Juan Uribe got Ramirez home on a sac-fly RBI to make it 2-2.  A.J. Ellis had a chance to do more damage, but grounded into a double play.

Fife made it through the sixth, then gave way to Matt Guerrier to start the seventh.  Well geez, the Dodgers may as well have just walked off the field and declared it a loss at this point.  Naturally, Guerrier sucked, as Yasmani Grandal hit a ground rule double and scored on an RBI triple by Ciriaco.  Paco Rodriguez came in and soon allowed an RBI single to Chase Headley to make it 4-2.

Both team traded homers late as the Padres finished off the win.  In the eighth, Ciriaco continued his big night with a two-run shot off of Peter Moylan.  A.J. Ellis added a solo home run in the ninth, but it was too little, too late.

You can't fault Fife for this loss, as he pitched strongly through six, allowing four hits, two runs (one earned), one walk, and six strikeouts.  His ERA has gone down in each of his five starts, as it started at 7.71 and is now at 3.25.  It's nice to have a call-up perform well, unlike Matt "Ball Four" Magill, who will likely get the start on Sunday.  So here's your Sunday headline: "Dodgers lose."

The three areas the Dodgers are terrible at - fielding, hitting with RISP, and the bullpen - were once again a major weakness.  They are dead last in the NL in errors at 54, 11th with a .237 average with RISP, and 13th in bullpen ERA.  I don't care how good Puig has been, he can't do it all.  These numbers show why.

At least the Dodgers can send Clayton Kershaw to the mound on Friday, as he had a league-leading 1.84 ERA.  Of course, he only has five wins, which is pretty embarrassing to say the least.  Maybe he has a complete game shutout in him and the Dodgers can win on a solo homer by Puig.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Puig stars in the bright lights of NYC

If the rest of the country hadn't had the chance to witness Yasiel Puig, a couple of games in Yankee Stadium on Wednesday told them everything they needed to know.

Simply put, Puig was awesome in the day-night doubleheader.  He collected a couple of hits in each game, to go along with four runs, a solo homer, a double, and a stolen base.  After dropping the afternoon game thanks to four errors by some of the bums around him, he led the charge in winning the nightcap, 6-0.

Dodger fans already know through 15 games of his young career how special he is, and how special he looks heading into the future.  As for the rest of the country, unless you're a big fantasy baseball player, you may have heard about him, but hadn't witnessed the hype for yourself.

Wednesday night changed all of that.

The game was broadcast on ESPN2, which should come as no surprise considering the Yankees or Red Sox are always on ESPN.  After showing highlights of the early game, which included Puig being thrown out at second trying to stretch a single into two, and of him trying to throw someone out at first on a single into right, the show was just getting started for him in the second game when he laid down a perfect bunt and soon scored in the first inning.

Following a strikeout in his second at-bat, Puig stepped back up in the fifth and was plunked by Phil Hughes, who's been awful this season.  No problem, as he swiped second, went to third on a groundout, and scored on an RBI single by Hanley Ramirez, who had an awesome day himself with six total hits.

The last mark he left was the biggest one.  Up 5-0 heading into the seventh, the Dodgers didn't fold for a change.  They actually increased the lead, as Puig went opposite field for his fifth homer.

Peaking at his overall stats, it's hard not to get overly excited about what this guy has brought to the table.  Through 15 games, he's hitting .474 with a .500 OBP and slugging .789.  Throw in 11 runs, 3 doubles, 5 homers, 11 RBIs, and 2 steals, and you get the picture.  Oh ya, he also has two outfield assists.  He's done it all.

Now let's see if "Puig-Mania" will lead to more wins for the Dodgers.  They're still languishing in last place of the NL West, where the division leader has the lowest winning percentage in baseball (Arizona at .542).  Puig has been held hitless in only two games, but the Dodgers have a 7-8 record with him in the lineup.  That's a testament to just how lousy the team around him has been.

But, if the Dodgers can start to turn things around, Puig will see his star rise even more.  Think back to the arrival of Manny Ramirez in 2008.  He helped catapult the Dodgers to the NLCS, which was not at all in the cards when he first got there.  Manny got plenty of help along the way from guys like Rafael Furcal, Andre Ethier, and Takashi Saito, so Puig needs his boys to step up as well.

Is Puig another version of Mike Trout or Bryce Harper?  He's already made the big splash, now let's see how he maintains it going forward.  With his ability to display all five tools (hit for average, power, steal bases, catch and throw), I definitely like his chances.  And I also like his chances of giving people something positive to talk about on the Dodgers, rather than the usual negativity that they've earned.

"Puig-Mania" is running wild, brother!  Enjoy the ride!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

dodgErs losE in thEir rEturn to yankEE stadium

One day after the Dodgers and Yankees were rained out, delaying their much-anticipated matchup in Yankee Stadium for the first time since the 1981 World Series, both teams went at it on Wednesday afternoon in the first game of a day-night twinbill.

Maybe the Dodgers had a little too much fun in The City on Tuesday night.

A huge two-error play by Ronald Belisuckio in the eighth led to three runs for the Yankees, and despite a perfect day at the plate from Hanley Ramirez, the Dodgers fell, 6-4.  All in all, the Dodgers committed four errors, something good Little League teams don't even do.  Or even bad ones.  That's just awful.

Yasiel Puig may as well have been charged with an error in the first, as he singled to center with one out, then tried to stretch it to second and was thrown out by Brett Gardner.  You have to respect his hustle, but not so much his intelligence on that one.

The Yankees got to Hyun-Jin Ryu in the second.  Thomas Neal singled leading off, which Ichiro followed with an infield single.  After David Adams sacrificed them both to scoring position, Lyle Overbay knocked them in with a two-run double, making it 2-0.

The Dodgers couldn't get anything going for the first part of the game.  If they weren't meekly grounding out with runners on, they encountered some bad luck.  In the fourth, Adrian Gonzalez singled and Ramirez doubled to start.  Andre Ethier then laced one, but naturally it was gloved by Hiroki Kuroda, who flipped to third for the double play.  Juan Uribe then grounded out.

Ichiro got into one in the sixth, as he hit his third homer of the season to make it 3-0.  That was one of his three hits and three RBIs on the day.

The seventh inning finally brought some noise for the Dodgers.  Ramirez started it with a single and Ethier walked.  After Uribe popped up, Skip Schumaker singled to load the bases.  A.J. Ellis hit a sac-fly RBI to right, and the Dodgers were on the board at 3-1.

Jerry Hairston then hit for Alex Castellanos, and he hit an RBI single to go down 3-2.  Shawn Kelley relieved Kuroda and got Nick Punto swinging for the final out.

If the Dodgers felt good about getting back into this game, then they did everything possible to go right back to feeling like crap in the bottom of the frame.  J.P. Howell entered the game for Ryu and gave up consecutive singles with one out.  Not only was that a bad job in relief, but it also brought in Belisario.

My oh my was Belisario bad.  Really, really bad.  And you know what?  He actually made the perfect pitch to Vernon Wells, who softly popped one back to the mound.  Belisario appeared to intentionally let it hit the ground with the intention of turning a double play.

Good thinking, right?  Wrong.  The ball got away from him for an error.  Then to make things worse, he fired the ball into centerfield, which allowed Jayson Nix to score and Robinson Cano to scamper to third.  For the icing on the cake, Belisario beaned Neal on the next pitch, and the bases were loaded.

Paco Rodriguez was given the tough task of pitching to Ichiro with nowhere to put him, and a two-run single put the Yankees up 6-2.  At least Paco got the next two to keep the score as is.

In the eighth, the Dodgers experienced both the joy and frustration of their beleaguered offense.  After Puig beat out a double leading off, Ramirez lined a two-run tater to left to make it 6-4.  David Robertson came in and walked Ethier and Uribe.

Schumaker had a 2-0 count, but soon popped up for the second out.  Needing one more big hit, the Dodgers predictably couldn't do it, as Ellis grounded into a forceout. 

It should come as no surprise that the greatest of all-time, Mariano Rivera, got the Dodgers in order for his 25th save.  Puig struck out looking to end it.

Four errors in one game.  A bullpen that turned a one-run deficit into four runs.  Surprise, surprise, these are the reasons the Dodgers dropped the first game.  The offense got some hits with runners on, but still could've done more.  It's just more of the same.

Ryu wasn't too bad, as he lasted six innings for five hits, three runs, two walks, and four strikeouts.  Obviously, he didn't get any help from the offense, which did not score during his time out there.  Then the bullpen threw the ball away in more ways than one, so his record drops to 6-3.

The second game is coming up in about an hour from now as I type this.  For fans who were clamoring to see a matchup of Clayton Kershaw vs. CC Sabathia... forget it.  It's Chris Capuano vs. Phil Hughes instead.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

It's time to cut ties with Cruz

The Dodgers dropped the finale of a three-game series in Pittsburgh today, 6-3.  Zack Greinke was bad, Matt Guerrier gave up another run, and the offense had only one extra-base hit.

Through all of that, there's one guy who continues to further and further establish himself as the worst player in baseball.  And with Monday being a travel day before starting a two-game set in Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, the Dodgers need to mercifully get rid of Luis Cruz.

And fast.

Right now Cruz has played in 44 games, including 29 starts.  In 114 at-bats, he's hitting .132 with a .180 OBP, along with two doubles, one homer, six RBIs, five walks, and no steals.  Today he was up with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth.  He struck out looking.

It was the perfect chance to erase some (but not nearly all) of the bad memories to start the 2013 season.  Even a single would've been fine.  But nope, he failed to come through again.

Now all I have to say is this - for the love of everything that is good in the world, STOP PLAYING HIM!!!  I could not possibly care less anymore who's hurt and for how long.  That is completely irrelevant at this point.  His bat has ZERO impact in the lineup.  I don't want to see him start at third.  I don't want to see him start at short.  I don't want to see him pinch-hit.  I don't even want to see him warming anybody up in between innings.

It's easy to blame Don Mattingly for constantly putting him in there, but management needs to do the right thing and not even make that an option.  Ship his ass back to the minors where he belongs!  Major League pitching has obviously figured him out after his good run at the end of last season, and he hasn't come close to adjusting.  As a big fan of the Dodgers, he's as frustrating to watch as anyone I can remember.  Maybe not quite on the Andruw Jones level of frustration, but close.

It's not that I don't like the guy, I actually do.  Coming into this season, I thought Cruz would be a good player based on what I saw in 2012.  He played hard, had a good glove, and had some pop in his bat.  But now there's a big enough sample size to see that he needs time away from LA.  There is no way anyone with even the littlest of baseball knowledge can say that he's doing anything to help this team win.  Not even close.

Hanley Ramirez is slowly making his way back from injury.  Nick Punto has definitely slowed down after a great April, but he's still versatile.  Skip Schumaker and Jerry Hairston can also play multiple positions.  And yes, even Juan Uribe has been decent this year, and hasn't completely embarrassed himself for a change.

So, there's other options.  And Cruz should NOT be one of them anymore.  Don't even give Mattingly the thought of trying to work him in the lineup.  Enough is enough!!!

Kershaw is about to be a very rich man

On a day where the Dodgers' putrid bullpen couldn't hold a lead for Clayton Kershaw, but ended up winning in 11 anyway, the front office made even bigger news.  And for Mr. Kershaw, it's the extension he's been waiting for.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports is reporting that Kershaw is on the verge of becoming the richest pitcher in Major League history.  Yes, richer than Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, C.C. Sabathia, and teammate Zack Greinke.  The major reason?  Kershaw is obviously really, really good, but he's also younger than all of those guys at 25.

The highest contract belongs to Verlander at $180 million.  Kershaw's could completely blow that out of the water with a couple deals he's discussing.  One is for 10 years and $250 million.  The other is for 12 years and $300.  Good Lord, that's a lot of money!

As he currently stands, Kershaw is 5-4 with a 1.84 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and 104 K's in 107 1/3 IP.  Opponents are hitting .191, well below his career average of .212.  Ten times this season, he's pitched at least seven innings with three or less runs, and if his bullpen and offense weren't so bad, he'd he have double the wins right now.

So, it's no secret why the Dodgers feel the need to take him off the market right now.  He's a fierce competitor, and with uncertainty surrounding Matt Kemp and his injuries, he's turned into the face of the franchise.  And I'm pretty sure the Dodgers have the cash.

As awesome as Kershaw is, and will most likely continue to be, there's obvious risk involved whenever massive contracts are dished out.  The Dodgers have a $200+ payroll and are dead last in the NL West.  They have many big contracts on this team, including Kemp, Greinke, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Hanley Ramirez, and nearly all of them have been hurt at some point, causing their numbers to tank.  Simply put, big money has not translated to big wins, at all.

Still, this is great news for Dodger fans who may have been worried that Kershaw could leave, especially when the team around him isn't nearly on his level.  The front office pretty much has no choice but to make this happen, regardless of the other contracts on this team.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Hanley's return does nothing to help the offense

Trey Hillman was given the reigns to the Dodgers on Friday night, as Don Mattingly was serving his one-game suspension.  Hillman was able to pencil in Yasiel Puig leading off, Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez in the 3-4 spots, and A.J. Ellis back behind the plate.

Did it do anything to help the offense?  Nope.

The red hot Jeff Locke completely overwhelmed them for seven innings, and the offense failed (again) to cash in with runners on in the final two innings.  A two-run double by Andrew McCutchen early in the game was more than enough for the Pirates to win, 3-0.  And with that, the Dodgers have fallen 10 games under .500.

Puig avoided suspension and was back in the leadoff spot.  He laid down a perfect bunt past Locke to open the game.  Naturally, that led to a double play ball from Nick Punto, one of two the Dodgers grounded into this game.

The Pirates blew two on with none out in the second, but McCutchen made sure that didn't happen again in the third.  The top of the order of Alex Presley and old friend Russell Martin singled to start.  McCutchen lined one down the right field line to score both, and it was 2-0. 

A hitter in the heart of the order coming through with runners on?  Hmm... must be nice.

Locke cruised through seven, and J.P. Howell took over in the sixth and was flawless for two innings.  Mark Melancon took over for the hold in the eighth.  With one out, Andre Ethier legged out an infield single, then Jerry Hairston hit a two-out double.  Hillman turned to Juan Uribe to drive them in, but he struck out.

Matt Guerrier took the ball from Howell, and has been the case for his three miserable years with the Dodgers, he couldn't get the job done.  Both McCutchen and Gaby Sanchez singled.  Paco Rodriguez only allowed a sac-fly RBI to Neil Walker before striking out the next two.

That led to the ninth and the dominating Jason Grilli.  It was a tough situation, but Puig starting things with an infield single.  Punto executed a perfect bunt along the third base line to get a couple on.

At the very least, the Dodgers could hope to score both of them while someone else could step up to tie it.  The meat of the order was due up in Gonzalez, Ramirez, and Mark Ellis.  How did it go?

Strikeout.  Popup to catcher behind the plate.  Strikeout.  That's right, not a single ball was even put into play by the 3-5 hitters.  It was absolutely pathetic.

This game summed up everything wrong with the Dodgers: no clutch hitting, bad bullpen work, and no ability to step up in tight situations.  Fife was good enough, tossing five innings for six hits, two runs, three walks, and four strikeouts.  Howell and Rodriguez were also great, but Guerrier flat out stunk.  Like I said before, that's his legacy with this team.

The offense managed six hits and one walk the whole game.  Hairston had the only extra-base hit, and Puig was the only one with two hits.  Ramirez, Ellis, Gonzalez, and Uribe all failed to get a hit with RISP.  I don't care what the pitching does, with an offense as putrid as this, there's no way this team can string off a bunch of wins to get back into things.  It's just painful.

This weekend will feature the Dodgers running their two aces out to the mound in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.  Kershaw goes first on Saturday.  Forget about throwing a complete game shutout, the Dodgers need him to hit a homer like he did on Opening Day.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Want to lose? Just plug in Belisario and League

Another night, another bullpen meltdown.  And there appears to be no end in sight.

Two of the main guys being counted upon to get big outs late in games, Ronald Belisario and Brandon League, were completely useless in the 12th inning against the Diamondbacks on Wednesday.  They combined to turn a 4-4 tie into an 8-4 blowout.  A rally in the bottom half fell short, and the Dodgers lost again, 8-6.

The game featured a solid pitching matchup of Hyun-Jin Ryu and Patrick Corbin.  But, like many other times two good pitchers get together, the offense had their way.  Ryu gave up 11 hits and three walks in six innings, but somehow only gave up three runs.  Corbin gave up eight hits for four runs in five innings of work.  Niether factored in the decision.

The DBacks got up 3-0 in the fourth.  Cody Ross and Miguel Montero each singled leading off.  The next three hitters brought in runs.  Martin Prado and Didi Gregorius each hit RBI singles, and Cliff Pennington's double play ball was still good enough to bring in another.

The Dodgers got going in the fifth, as they took the lead.  It all started on a double by Juan Uribe, who quietly is having a pretty good season.  Yes, I really did just say that.  Then again, compared to his absolutely useless last two seasons, he can do just about anything this year and automatically be better.  But with a .277 AVG and .369 OBP, he deserves credit.

Ramon Hernandez scored Uribe on an RBI groundout to make it 3-1.  Alex Castellanos, who got the late start when Yasiel Puig was scratched with a sore shoulder, hit a ground rule double and went to third on a passed ball.  He scored on an RBI triple by Ryu, though Gerardo Parra misplayed it on a slide.  I'll admit, it probably should have been caught.  RBI singles by Nick Punto and Adrian Gonzalez made it 4-3.

With a one-run lead and nine outs to go, the Dodgers couldn't get the job done.  I know, I know... so shocking!  Chris Withrow made his Major League debut in the seventh and got two outs right away.  Then came a couple of singles, and Montero found just enough room for an RBI single into left to tie it at 4-4.

Not much happened over the next several innings, save for Hanley Ramirez pinch-hitting in the ninth and grounding into a DP.  The word is that he'll be back in the lineup on the road trip starting Friday in Pittsburgh, so hopefully that goes well.  He makes me nervous, though.

After stranding a couple in the 11th, the Dodgers' bullpen showed their true colors in the 12th.  Belisario started it and couldn't retire any of the four hitters he faced, with Prado's RBI ground rule double the big hit.  "Blown Save" Brandon League entered next, and while the damage wasn't all his fault, he still did absolutely nothing to help his own cause.  An RBI single by Pennington and two-run single by Parra made it 8-4.

I'll give the offense credit for putting up a fight in the bottom half, but when you're down four runs in the last inning, it's almost impossible to come all the way back.  Hernandez hit a solo shot leading off against Heath Bell.  Puig pinch-hit, singled, and scored on Mark Ellis's groundout.  Tim Federowicz grounded into a forceout to end the game.

As has been pointed out many times in the past, the Dodgers have virtually no margin of error for winning.  Many things have to go right for it to happen.  And when the bullpen is CONSTANTLY giving away leads or can't hold a tie, it's very disheartening. 

Belisario was charged with the loss, and rightfully so, which is already his fifth of the season.  Right now he has a 4.94 ERA and 1.81 WHIP.  League's numbers are 5.76 and 1.52.  That's terrible!  I'm almost embarrassed to think I was really excited about those two coming into the season.  It's hard to imagine them being much worse.

At this point, I'd much rather see guys like Peter Moylan, Paco Rodriguez, and J.P. Howell get the chance to bridge the gap to Kenley Jansen.  Heck, even Withrow wasn't that bad in this one, as his three hits were all singles, and the last one a little blooper.  Let's see what else he can do.  If Belisario and League aren't going to be released, then only give them the ball when the Dodgers are losing.  They're just that bad.

Thursday is a rare off day for travel, their first one since May 23.  Stephen Fife will go up against the Pirates' ace, A.J. Burnett.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Let's FACE it, you don't bean someone up there

Take a good look at the two photos above.  Find anything in common?

Apparently if you're Ian Kennedy, you find nothing wrong with throwing at someone's head... twice.

That's what the main controversy was of the bench-clearing brawl Tuesday night between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks.  It led to six ejections and who knows how many suspensions and fines.  Here's the rundown of why it all happened:

1. Cody Ross was beaned (barely) in the hand leading off the fifth.  Jason Kubel hit a two-run homer next to make it 2-0.
2. Yasiel Puig was beaned in the nose with one out in the sixth and somehow remained in the game.  Andre Ethier (yes, really) tied the game with a two-run shot right after.
3. As a receipt for Puig nearly getting decapitated, Zack Greinke plunks Miguel Montero in the back leading off the seventh.  Benches clear, but nothing happens.
4. Instead of declaring everything done, Kennedy again goes headhunting and nails Greinke in the left shoulder with one out in the seventh.  All hell breaks loose after that.

So here we are again, with the Dodgers once again in the middle of a beanball war.  Last time it resulted in a broken collarbone for Greinke after Carlos Quentin bull rushed the mound in April.  This time it could have resulted in a broken nose for Puig, who amazingly escaped major harm or even a slight concussion.  That's a tough kid.

I know I come from the biased point of view of the Dodgers, but I also am not afraid to express my displeasure with them when needed.  And, uh... take a look at the numerous things they've done wrong already this year.  It's hard to put a positive spin on a team eight games under .500.

But with that said, I have no idea how the Dodgers are at fault here.  As I was watching the game, I had the Diamondbacks' broadcast on, and even they were debating if Ross was really hit in the fifth.  The other beaning was in the back of Montero, and NOT the head, to get even for Puig.  It should have been over after that.

The fault here is clearly with Kennedy, who took it upon himself to be the center of attention, ala Quentin a couple months ago.  It's bad enough that Puig got hit in the head, but then trying to do the same to Greinke is completely classless.  And in baseball terms, it's totally bush league.

Now it's up to Major League Baseball to determine the proper punishments.  Kennedy should, and BETTER, get the harshest one.  Because he plays once out of every five days, a wimpy suspension like 7-8 games does nothing.  How about more like 15?  That would make him miss 2-3 starts.  Seems appropriate for a guy who could've seriously injured not one but two key players for the Dodgers.  That's just ridiculous.

By the way, all of this nonsense seemed to light a rare fire in the Dodgers, as they rallied to win in the eighth.  Down 3-2, David Hernandez walked the bases loaded of Adrian Gonzalez, Ethier, and Juan Uribe.  Tim Federowicz had his best big league moment with a bases clearing double, making it 5-3.  Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his third save.

Combine the big hits from Ethier and Federowicz along with the intensity the entire team showed in going after the Diamondbacks, and maybe the Dodgers just took a big step in regaining some toughness.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

OK, so can we PLEASE get League out of the closer's role?

Two home runs on offense, plus seven innings of one-run ball from Clayton Kershaw apparently STILL isn't enough for Brandon League.

One of, if not THE, worst closers in baseball blew it again on Monday, as the Diamondbacks scored a whopping four runs off of him in the ninth to erase a 3-1 deficit.  A late solo shot by Juan Uribe got the Dodgers close again, but they came up short, 5-4.  It was their third loss in a row to drop them even further back in the cellar of the NL West, which is exactly where they belong.

Kershaw got the Diamondbacks in order to start the game, then the offense actually strung together some hits for a run.  Mark Ellis took a walk with one out, and then another out later, Yasiel Puig continued his scorching hot start with another single.  An RBI single by Jerry Hairston came next, and it was 1-0.

The second and third saw Kershaw scuffle some, as he seemed to have a hard time getting his breaking stuff over for strikes, causing the DBacks to sit on the hard stuff.  He only gave up one run, though, which was an RBI single by Miguel Montero in the second.  Two hitters reached in the third, but Montero struck out to end it.

Uribe and Ellis had good nights at the plate, as they combined for five hits, three runs, and three runs driven in.  In the fourth, an RBI double by Uribe scored Hairston to make it 2-1.  Of course, the Dodgers managed to score only once despite three singles and a walk.  That's our boys!

The next inning, Ellis golfed out a solo shot to left, his third on the season, increasing the lead to 3-1.  Kershaw pitched through the seventh, and things were looking good.

Kenley Jansen continued that good vibe.  He mowed through the DBacks with a strikeout, flyout, and popout, needing only 13 pitches.

Then League came in, and once again gave the Dodgers absolutely zero reason to feel confident in him.  Here's what his inning looked like: strikeout, single, double, RBI infield single, walk, popout, two-run infield single.  Peter Moylan had to come in and watch Peter Goldschmidt plate another run with an RBI single, then mercifully retired Cody Ross.  Add it all up, and it was four runs on five hits and a walk.

Uribe tried to get the Dodgers back into it with a solo homer leading off the bottom of the ninth to make it 5-4.  A double by Tim Federowicz and an error off a bunt by Skip Schumaker put runners on the corners with nobody out.  Once again, things were looking up.

And then Nick Punto flew out, Ellis struck out, and Adrian Gonzalez grounded back to Heath Bell to end the game.  Pathetic.

That's exactly how I would classify this whole ninth inning for the Dodgers: pathetic.  From a closer who has no out pitch and a 6.00 ERA, to an offense that can't execute the simplest of plays and leaves two men in scoring position with nobody out in the ninth.  It's all just embarrassing. 

Don Mattingly absolutely HAS to get League out of the closer's role.  I know the DBacks didn't scorch the ball off of him, and I know the offense fails again and again in big situations, but enough is enough.  Jansen has closed before and clearly has better stuff to do it.  Donny, make it happen!  I'm all for showing confidence in players, but you also have to do the right thing for the team.  And that right thing is getting League the hell out of the ninth inning.

Think about it - League is making everyone look bad.  He makes himself look bad everytime he takes the mound.  He makes his team look bad when he can't get big outs.  He makes Mattingly look bad for continually running him out there.  And he makes Ned Colletti look bad for that atrocious contract he signed this past offseason.  There's nothing good about him right now.

Maybe Zack Greinke will throw a complete game shutout on Tuesday, because that's about the only way I see him getting a win.  Please don't leave it up to League.  You may as well just declare it a loss at that point.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Sunday is not Funday for the Dodgers

If it could go wrong, it did.  That sums up Sunday afternoon in Dodger Stadium.

After winning the opening two games of the four-game set, the Dodgers dropped Saturday's game by a run, then proceeded to get absolutely squashed on Sunday.  The offense was a joke, Matt Magill was embarrassing, Adrian Gonzalez is definitely not a Gold Glover anymore, and the Braves got the easy victory, 8-1.

Oh ya, and Hanley Ramirez might by placed on the DL (again), Ted Lilly already was (again), and Matt Kemp suffered a setback (AGAIN).  What a glorious day indeed!

Magill walked a couple in the first, but somehow got out of it.  The Dodgers then proceeded to do what they do best: get runners on and leave 'em right there.  Yasiel Puig singled leading off, Nick Punto reached on a bunt single, and Gonzalez took a walk.

The downside to all of this is that Kemp and Ramirez are hurt, so rather than true RBI guys like them coming up, it was Scott Van Slyke, Luis Cruz, and Skip Schumaker instead.  Van Slyke grounded into a forceout at home.  Cruz, who unbelievably got the start in the #5 hole, struck out right on cue.  At least Schumaker dribbled a little one along the third base line for the RBI infield single to make it 1-0.  Tim Federowicz fouled out to first, and the offense yet again wasted a great opportunity.

The Braves took total control in the fourth.  Jayson Heyward and his .200 average walked with one out.  Gonzalez then was unable to cleanly glove an easy grounder to him, allowing Justin Upton to reach.  A single by Freddy Freeman loaded the bases.

The mighty Evan Gattis hit a sac-fly RBI to make it 1-1.  Magill needed to make a big pitch to keep it at that, but couldn't.  A three-run homer by Dan Uggla out to left made it 4-1, and the game was pretty much over at that point.

But just for fun, the Braves kept piling on.  A bases clearing double by Freeman in the fourth made it 7-1.  Of course, that came after two more walks by Magill to run his total to six on the day.  Uggla finished things off with a solo shot, his second tater of the day, the next inning.

Like the title up above says, between injuries off the field and ineffectiveness on it, it was no Sunday Funday in LA.  More like Sunday Everything Can And Did Go Wrong Day.  I discussed the other day about how great it would be if the Dodgers could take three of four at home from a really good team.  Well, that all got flushed down the toilet by the fourth inning.

Magill didn't get helped by Gonzalez's error in the third, but even with that, he was flat out awful.  He didn't even make it out of the fourth and had six walks.  That runs his total to 28 in 27 2/3 innings.  I know he's been yanked up and down like a yo-yo between the minors and majors, but there's still no excuse for giving away so many free passes.  The Dodgers need to seriously look elsewhere for spot starts.  He simply cannot get the job done.

The silver lining for the Dodgers was once again Puig, who went 3-for-5 with a double, raising his average to .464.  And here's the funny (in a sad way) part: he didn't even score a run.  The leadoff hitter reaches base three times, and not once does he score.  That's pathetic.  If I'm a hitter in that lineup, I'm completely embarrassed by that. 

I guess we shouldn't expect much to change, because healthy bodies are at a premium.  And GOOD healthy bodies... well, those are few and far between.  So maybe seeing Cruz's name penciled in so high will be the norm.  UGH.

It's a good thing that Clayton Kershaw is scheduled to take the mound on Monday, as the Dodgers need their ace to get back on the winning track.  He'll go up against the Diamondbacks' Wade Miley.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Medlen the complete difference in downing the Dodgers

When Kris Medlen wasn't beating the Dodgers with his arm, he was doing it with his bat.

Medlen pitched shutout ball into the seventh and added a solo home run in the fifth.  That turned out to be the game-winner as the Braves held on to beat the Dodgers, 2-1.  The loss erased a chance for the Dodgers to win three straight games since early April.  Nope, not May... April.  It's been that long.

For young Stephen Fife, he was able to match Medlen through four innings as the game was scoreless.  The fifth is when the Braves got going.  Dan Uggla led off and smashed a solo shot to center to make it 1-0.  After a strikeout, Medlen stepped in and lifted one out to right for his first career tater, and it was 2-0.  Not bad for a guy who grew up making trips to Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers' offense featured more of the same - failing to capitalize with runners on.  Nick Punto hit a leadoff double in the sixth and advanced to third with an out.  Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke couldn't cash him in.  Tim Federowicz singled with an out the next inning, but went nowhere.

In the eighth, the Dodgers at least cut the deficit in half.  The newest LA hero Yasiel Puig hit a single to start, which featured a scary head first slide into first.  I'm pretty sure Don Mattingly and Davy Lopes will have a nice talk with him about NEVER doing that again!  At least we can hope.

A grounder by Punto forced Puig at second, but a wild throw by Andrelton Simmons put Punto at second.  Adrian Gonzalez grounded out and Punto went to third.  Hanley Ramirez pinch-hit, which Fredi Gonzalez countered with flamethrower Jordan Walden.  Ramirez came through anyway with an RBI single right up the middle and through Walden's legs to make it 2-1.  Jerry Hairston popped up to end the inning.

The Dodgers had the tough task of trying to score against Craig Kimbrel in the ninth, but Skip Schumaker led off with a single.  Nothing came of it, however, as Federowicz struck out, Ramon Hernandez pinch-hit and grounded out, and Mark Ellis struck out on a full count to end the game, stranding Puig in the on-deck circle.  It was Kimbrel's 18th save.

Medlen was the true star of the game, but the rookies of Fife and Puig did all they could to grab a win for their team.  Fife had his second straight solid start, even in a losing cause.  He lasted 6 2/3 innings for nine hits, two runs, one walk, and seven strikeouts.  The longball was his downfall, but obviously his offense gave him no support.  He's lowered his ERA from 7.71 after his first start to 3.78 a couple starts later.  It's something to build on, especially since he's shown the ability to strike batter out.

Then there's Puig, who's turning into "Must See TV."  He's riding a wave of excitement where every at-bat is a big deal.  He collected a couple more hits in this one, and has hit safely in five of six games.  The only problem I had with him is that he didn't homer.  How dare he!  OK, so he's forgiven.

The hits are nice, but the play he made with his arm in the fifth was even nicer.  With Fife already reeling a bit from giving up a couple of homers, Simmons hit an infield single, and Jayson Heyward followed with a single to right.  Simmons decided to test Puig's arm on the play, and Puig nailed him on a perfect throw to third for the second out.  It was very Raul Mondesi-like, as the throw was an absolute bullet and right on the money.  Don't run on him!

The Braves are 14 games over .500, and the Dodgers are... well, not even close to that.  Seven games under to be exact.  But, if the Dodgers can win on Sunday, they will have taken three of four from them, which would be awesome.  Ted Lilly was the scheduled starter.  So naturally, that means he's going to be scratched and placed on the 15-day DL... again.  I like the guy, but enough is enough.  His best days are clearly in the rearview mirror.  Matt Magill will be recalled to take the hill instead.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

So... what happens when the outfield is fully healthy?

The emergence of young Yasiel Puig this week has been amazing to watch, and a jolt the Dodgers oh-so-desperately needed.  He's already thrown a runner out at first to end a game, hit two homers, and even mixed in his first 0-for-4 night.  A little bit everything in three short days.

Of course, had Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford not been DL'd, this would have never happened.  But they are, and it did.  And that leads to a question that will soon need to be answered...

How will the Dodgers juggle five healthy outfielders?

Right now there's Puig, Andre Ethier, and Scott Van Slyke getting the playing time, with Skip Schumaker and Jerry Hairston also available.  Kemp and Crawford have big time numbers in their careers... and big time contracts, so they're not going anywhere.  Let's break it all down.

Yasiel Puig
.417 AVG, 1.000 SLG, 1 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI
He's got the power, the arm, and a name value that is only getting bigger and bigger with each hit.  He knocked on the door with a huge Spring Training, put up great numbers in Double-A, and is getting LA as excited as Manny Ramirez's run in 2008.  Yes, his impact can be that big.

He's only played three games, so everything he does good or bad will get blown up.  If he continues to play well, and he certainly has all the tools to do so, there's just no way the Dodgers can send him back down.  In fact, they HAVE to keep him with the big club starting in the outfield.  They can't possibly send him down, can they?  Well, they shouldn't.

Scott Van Slyke
.255 AVG, .673 SLG, 5 2B, 6 HR, 11 RBI
He got a taste of the bigs last year, and he's really putting it all together this time around.  Of his 14 hits, 11 have been for extra-bases.  You don't think the Dodgers welcome that with open arms?  Of course they do!  He should be given a 10-year extension with those numbers.

Another part of his game that shouldn't go unnoticed is how hard to attacks the ball on defense.  Whether he's in right or left, he's not afraid to give up his body to make a diving/sliding catch.  For a big dude like him, that's great to see.

Andre Ethier
.230 AVG, .351 SLG, 9 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 15 RBI
Ugh.  That's the best way I can sum up his performance this season.  Mr. Ground Ball is another way.  He still plays well on defense, and that needs to be pointed out.  But that's the only thing that's gone right this year.

Simply put, he just isn't an impact hitter anymore.  It's getting pretty sad watching him fail over and over to make anything happen.  The worst part is that he's more than likely killing his own trade value with each at-bat.  I don't see any reason why teams would want to get him, other than the age old "change of scenery" excuse.  That's about it.

Matt Kemp
.251 AVG, .335 SLG, 10 2B, 2 HR, 17 RBI, 7 SB
Speaking of struggling, there's this guy.  He's currently on the 15-day DL with a sore hamstring, so at least he was smart enough to let the injury heal this time.  It's obvious, though, that he's not even close to fully recovered from his offseason shoulder surgery, zapping him of his power.  It looks like another lost year for him.

We've seen the best and worst of Kemp, and we should all know that he's bounced back from bad numbers in the past to put up MVP-like ones.  I don't see that happening this year, but hopefully rest will make him a pretty good one for the stretch run.  Then the power can return in 2014.

Carl Crawford
.301 AVG, .470 SLG, 12 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 13 RBI, 9 SB
He started off the year red hot, and has since fallen back some mostly due to an injury here or there.  He's on the 15-day DL with a hamstring injury as well, which obviously is scary for a leadoff hitter and stolen base threat.  He absolutely needs to be 100% before he comes back, as someone who plays a running style needs strong legs.

The good thing about Crawford is that he's not fully established as an everyday player at this point.  So, that will help Don Mattingly in getting him in and out of the lineup.  His body can't handle starting every game, which creates less headaches when filling out a lineup card.

Bottom Line:
If I'm Ethier, I'm very worried.  He clearly looks like the bottom of the list, even with Kemp struggling so mightily as well.  Kemp you can excuse for injuries, but not Ethier.  He's been just awful, plain and simple.  I have to think Ned Colletti is exploring more trade options for him. 

That leaves Crawford, Kemp, Van Slyke, and Puig as the top four.  As I said before, Crawford can play a lot, but can't start every game at this point.  I think Kemp should also be given that treatment when he first makes his return.  He's probably received too many starts based on his past numbers.  Now that he's banged up again, and with Puig and Van Slyke playing so well, it's not against the rules to let Kemp rest a little more often.  When Kemp becomes Kemp again, then you can write his name in permanent marker and move on.

I think Puig has to keep starting in right, if for no other reason that he's so exciting to watch.  I'm a little worried that Van Slyke could be the odd man out again, and it would be a travesty if he got shipped back to Triple-A again.  His average isn't high, but he gets powerful hits and plays great D.  Don't send him down!  Hopefully this isn't being considered, but I worry anyway.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

It's time for Yasiel Puig

On a day where the Dodgers looked lifeless and boring in a 7-2 loss to the Rockies, at least they did one thing right: Yasiel Puig has been promoted to the big club from Double-A Chattanooga.

With Matt Kemp on the 15-day DL, Carl Crawford nursing a left hamstring injury, and Andre Ethier about as lost and ineffective as one can possibly be, the Dodgers made it official after Sunday's game in Colorado.  There was some talk that it could be Tony Gwynn recalled, or even Joc Pederson, but Puig is the guy everybody wants to see, and here he is.

Who knows how long Puig will stay in LA, but this is clearly the right move to make. The Dodgers have ZERO punch in their lineup outside of Adrian Gonzalez, who is playing very well this season but isn't the big power threat of year's past.  This team only wins games by stringing together a bunch of hits, and definitely not by playing longball.  Puig was Mr. Everything in Spring Training, and is hitting .313 with 8 homers and 37 RBIs in 40 games this season.

As a fan, there's a couple of things I would like to see.  One is a combination of Puig and Scott Van Slyke playing together in the outfield.  In fact, I have no problem seeing Skip Schumaker out there with them as long as Crawford can't go, and definitely NOT Ethier.  For that matter, I would love to see Ethier's playing time drastically decrease.  None would be perfect for me.

The other thing we all have to be careful of is unrealistic expectations.  Look, I'm as excited as anyone to see what he can do.  But, let's not expect him to hit three home runs every game and be Manny Ramirez circa 2008.  There will be some growing pains along the way like there is for anybody.  There will also be plenty of fun moments as long as he gets the chance to perform.

In a disastrous season for the Dodgers, this is a positive step that needed to be taken, and I applaud them for it.  Let the boy play, force management to trade Ethier, and once (or if) guys like Kemp and Crawford get healthy, they can definitely make some noise in the second half... or even sooner.

What's wrong with the Dodgers? Start with the bullpen

After the Dodgers blew a lead for the second consecutive game, this time resulting in a loss to the Rockies on Saturday, Don Mattingly is once again searching for answers.  If the middle relief does well, the closer stinks.  If the middle relief stinks, the closer doesn't get a chance.  It's been that ugly.

Let's take a look at some key stats for the team and individually for the 'pen.

Team Bullpen Stats:
ERA: 4.24 (23rd)
Losses: 14 (1st)
Saves: 14 (14th)
Blown Saves: 11 (tied for 2nd)
Save %: 56 (27th)
Earned Runs: 75 (tied for 8th)
Batting Average Against: .262 (26th)

It's hard to put any sort of positive spin on these numbers.  The loses could be inflated a bit because the offense doesn't score enough runs.  But still, a 56% save percentage is really bad.

Brandon League
20 1/3 IP, 1-2, 5.31 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 11 SV, 3 BS, 10 K
Things have gotten a little worse and worse for League, as he continues to give shaky performances when they count the most in the ninth.  He's certainly not blowing anyone away, which suggests that he'll have a tough time turning things around.  I just don't see him as a reliable closer anymore, which is a shame considering he was signed for three years before the season.  I'm guessing Ned Colletti would like to take that contract back.

Kenley Jansen
26 2/3 IP, 1-3, 3.04 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 2 SV, 1 BS, 11 HLD (Holds), 37 K
While Jansen may not be quite as dominant as previous seasons, it's hard to ask him to continually match that success.  He still has nearly 12.5 K/9, which is outstanding.  I still wish he had another pitch other than a cut fastball, but at this point, it's time he gets save opportunities.

Ronald Belisario
27 1/3 IP, 3-4, 3.62 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, 1 SV, 3 BS, 5 HLD, 21 K
Belisario emerged last year as a very good reliever, but once again has fallen off.  This has been his MO during his career: one good year, then one bad.  His ERA is pretty high, but his WHIP is very high, which obviously means way too many baserunners allowed.  He shouldn't be handed the ball late in the game with a lead anymore.  You never know what you're going to get with him.

J.P. Howell
24 1/3 IP, 1-0, 2.22 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 0 SV, 0 BS, 3 HLD, 23 K
I know Howell is looked at as more of a situational left-handed pitcher, but that needs to change.  Think about it - would you rather see Howell pitch late, or Belisario or Matt Guerrier?  Exactly.  Howell doesn't allow many baserunners and has a good strikeout rate.  That's a great sign.

Matt Guerrier
20 2/3 IP, 1-2, 3.92 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 0 SV, 1 BS, 3 HLD, 10 K
Much like League, here's another guy with a three-year deal who has underwhelmed, to say the least.  His numbers are just OK.  He'll look good one day, then bad the next.  A good way to sum him up is Saturday's game.  He relieved with one out in he 10th, got the next batter with ease, then three straight hits led to the a Dodgers' loss.  I trust him a little more than Belisario, but that's not saying much.

Paco Rodriguez
18 2/3 IP, 1-2, 2.89 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 0 SV, 2 BS, 7 HLD, 20 K
Not only are Paco's numbers very good, but they've only gotten better as the season has progressed.  After posting a 4.32 ERA in April, he lowered it to 1.93 in May.  He knows how to strike people out, and opponents are only hitting .133 against him.  Like Howell, I'd like to see him get the ball later in the game, as he's earned the opportunity.

To sum it all up, here's how I would like to see the pecking order in the bullpen:
Closer: Jansen
Setup: Howell, Rodriguez
Middle Relief: League, Belisario, Guerrier

The wild card in all of this is Peter Moylan, a righty who pitched sparingly with the Braves the last couple of seasons.  He was once one of their most reliable relievers, gathering 25 and 21 holds in 2009 and 2010, respectively.  If Mattingly insists on using a righty in the eighth, why not give him a shot?  Better than watching guys like League, Belisario, and Guerrier flop again.