Apr 12

Dodgers recall De Jesus

As the clip above shows, Bill Buckner will appear on the next season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

Rafael Furcal has officially been placed on the disabled list, and Ivan De Jesus Jr. was recalled to take his roster spot and presumably play at least semi-regularly at second base, though Aaron Miles is getting the start tonight.

Chad Billingsley and Tim Lincecum face each other for the first time as starting pitchers in tonight’s game. They did meet up in that bizarre, rain-affected game April 2, 2008 when both entered as relievers, after Hong-Chih Kuo and Merkin Valdez started. Billingsley faced four batters in the fifth inning and got a blown save for his effort.

Click this link to see how Lincecum has done in 11 previous outings against the Dodgers.

Apr 11

Broken thumb will send Rafael Furcal to disabled list


Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesRafael Furcal hurt his thumb on this fifth-inning slide.

As noted below and reported by Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, Rafael Furcal hurt his thumb tonight sliding hand-first into third base. Following the game, it was revealed that the thumb is broken, and that Furcal will be out a minimum of four weeks and as many as six.

Dylan Hernandez of the Times said that Furcal was despondent enough to be “pondering retirement,” though we’ll assume for the time being that the depression was talking then. Here’s what Jackson wrote:

Furcal actually hinted at retirement, but that seemed to be nothing more than an emotional reaction to having received the bad news.

“I’m thinking about retiring if I can’t get back to being healthy,” said Furcal, who has a history of back injuries and missed a month each last season with injuries to his lower back and right thigh. “I was feeling so good with my back, and now I break my finger.”

With Furcal out for a lengthy period, Jamey Carroll would see the most time at shortstop, though the Dodgers have to be careful with the 37-year-old. With Casey Blake also ailing, that also means more playing time for Aaron Miles. An infielder will no doubt be called up if Furcal goes on the disabled list, but I’d guess Ivan De Jesus Jr. (who is on the 40-man roster). As alternatives, Justin Sellers or Juan Castro would get the call before the still-green Dee Gordon would. (Tonight, as Jerry Sands homered for the third-straight game and Jay Gibbons had three hits and a game-winning RBI, Gordon stole his fourth base of the season but also made his fourth error and struck out four times.)

Apr 11

Dodgers 6, Giants 1: Matt Kemp is the center of the universe



Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesMatt Kemp and his helmet exult after stealing second base despite a pickoff.

Matt Kemp steals second base despite picking picked off first.

Matt Kemp scores from second on a James Loney line drive off the glove of the second baseman.

Matt Kemp walks for a second time after being down in the count 0-2.

Matt Kemp lines an RBI single that turns left fielder Pat Burrell into a jumping bean, with the ball skipping past him.

Matt Kemp is thrown out at third.

That last one was just to remind us that as long as you’re pushing for Kemp to be aggressive, you’re going to pay the price now and then. Nonetheless, 2011 has returned that Matt Kemp that everyone loves, and his role in the Dodgers’ 6-1 victory Monday over San Francisco was the latest example.

You’ve heard of the eye in the middle of the hurricane? Matt Kemp is the hurricane that surrounds the eye.

Kemp, who went 1 for 2 with two walks, is boasting a .537 on-base percentage and .647 slugging percentage, not to mention a 1.000 stealing percentage on seven tries.

The stolen base was remarkable because the Giants did so much right and so little wrong. San Francisco pitcher Madison Bumgarner threw to first base as Kemp broke for second. First baseman Brandon Belt immediately turned and threw down to short. Miguel Tejada got the ball and put down the tag. And Kemp was just plain ol’ safe.

So Kemp is back to outrunning his occasional mistake rather than eliminating them entirely, but I think we’ll take that trade, especially with the way he looks at the plate. His seventh-inning strikeout was only his fourth in 41 plate appearances this season.

Kemp and Clayton Kershaw fought for the spotlight on Opening Day: Kershaw shone brightest then, and he just as easily could have tonight. He wasn’t untouchable, allowing six hits and two walks in 6 2/3 innings, but he always had the right pitch when he needed it. Only one San Francisco baserunner made it past second base – Aubrey Huff with two out in the bottom of the fourth inning – at which point Kershaw annihilated Belt with three fastballs for strikes, the last two swinging.

Kershaw, whose seven strikeouts gave him 24 in 19 2/3 innings this season, faced 11 batters with runners on base tonight. Three of them hit the ball out of the infield: two singles, one flyout. He lowered his 2011 ERA to 1.37 and has now pitched 23 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings against the Giants. (His 117 pitches tonight were one shy of his career high.)

A third hero tonight was second baseman Jamey Carroll, who figures to play more shortstop soon with Rafael Furcal injuring his thumb while stealing third base in the Dodgers’ four-run fifth inning and leaving the game an inning later. Carroll went 3 for 5, raising his on-base percentage for the season to .452. Andre Ethier’s two hits put him at .442, while Rod Barajas hit what at the start of the fifth inning seemed a huge home run, giving the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.

And the slumping Uribe even contributed, going 1 for 4 but also making two nice defensive plays to support Dodger reliever Matt Guerrier in the eighth inning. Mike MacDougal gave up a homer to Burrell in the ninth – Burrell’s third blast in five games against the Dodgers this year.

Colorado rallied for a 7-6 victory against the Mets, so the Dodgers remain in second place, 1 1/2 games back.

* * *

One might say it’s a bit nervy, but then again, what hasn’t been nervy in the McCourt divorce saga? The law firm that drafted the disputed agreement at the center of the court battle between Frank and Jamie McCourt is suing Frank, “asking a Massachusetts court to declare that the firm met its obligations and caused him no loss when it drafted a marital property agreement with his ex-wife.”

As Josh Fisher of Dodger Divorce and Bill Shaikin of the Times note, there’s more to it than that. Shaikin:

… Bingham McCutchen, the Boston-based firm responsible for the since-invalidated agreement that would have granted McCourt sole ownership of the Dodgers, essentially asked a Massachusetts court to deprive McCourt of the chance to sue the firm for malpractice should he lose control of the team.

“Any injury, loss or expense he has sustained or will sustain were caused not by Bingham’s conduct, but by his own widely publicized financial problems, huge withdrawals of cash from the Dodgers, and strained relations with Major League Baseball,” the suit alleges. “None of this is attributable to Bingham’s work.”

The suit also claims McCourt owes Bingham “hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid legal fees.” …

… In a statement, McCourt spokesman Steve Sugerman blamed Bingham for preparing an agreement that did not stand up in court.

“Mr. McCourt is disappointed that the Bingham firm is unwilling to accept responsibility for its actions and is instead now trying to defend conduct that is indefensible,” the statement read. …

Apr 11

Dodgers, Giants come together on field in exceptional ceremony


Eric Risberg/APJeremy Affeldt and Jamey Carroll conclude the on-field ceremony with a handshake.

Monday night’s pregame ceremony by the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers against fan violence, part of a concerted response to the horrible beating of Giants fan Bryan Stow on March 31,  was unprecedented but wonderfully rendered.

Coming after a warm presentation that saw former Giant and current Dodger Juan Uribe receive his World Series ring amid applause and smiles from both teams, the event illustrated how simple it is to embrace a rivalry without being overwhelmed by it.

Dodger and Giants players gathered on the field and paused for a moment of silence on behalf of Stow. Then, Giants pitcher Jeremy Affeldt took to the microphone and thanked fans of both teams for their support of Stow.

“I don’t think I need to tell you guys about the Dodger-Giants rivalry,” Affeldt said. “It’s one of the most storied rivalries in the history of the game. But in honoring that rivalry, and honoring the Stow family, we ask that you respect the rivalry, and you respect each other as fans. You guys have rights as fans. You guys have the right to cheer. You have rights to wear the black and orange. You have rights to wear Dodger blue. You have rights to be frustrated when one team loses and excited when one team wins.

“We’re fierce competitors, but when the last out is made, that rivalry ends upon the field. So please respect that, and in your excitement or in your frustration, don’t take it out on another fan if you don’t agree with who they cheer for.”

Affeldt then introduced Dodgers infielder Jamey Carroll, whom he called a friend, an ex-teammate, a good husband, a good father and a good human being. Carroll reiterated Affeldt’s gratitude for the support of Stow and his family, as well as the call for perspective.

“There’s nothing better than rivalry in sports,” Carroll said. “And as Jeremy said, this is one of the best that’s out there. And as we do respect each other on the field, we do want you guys to have the same respect.”

Carroll said “competitive banter and passion” were praiseworthy, “but there’s no room in this game for hatred and violence.”

“It is about respect,” Carroll concluded. “It is about civility. This is America’s national pastime, and let’s keep it that way.”

They shook hands.

Apr 11

Kershaw LXXXVI: Kershawlandaise sauce

I have several different thoughts percolating about the fan and security issues surrounding tonight’s Dodgers-Giants game, as well as today’s Dodger Stadium fundraiser for Bryan Stow. I know it’s my job to get them from percolation to full boil, but I didn’t quite get there. For now, let’s just keep it simple: I am thinking good thoughts for tonight.

In baseball news: Rafael Furcal is back in the lineup after a couple of days off because of wrist issues. But after resting Sunday, Casey Blake is also sitting out tonight’s game against San Francisco lefty Madison Bumgarner. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com said that Blake’s left leg has been bothering him since Saturday’s game-ending collision with the Padres’ Chase Headley.

Additionally, the Dodgers have sent John Ely back to Albuquerque, paving the way for Jon Garland’s activation before Friday’s game. In the meantime, Jamie Hoffmann gets a callup. Here’s Jackson’s story.

Apr 11

Three questions

J-school:

1) Has James Loney’s swing gotten messed up, either by himself or by the Dodgers, in an attempt to get more home runs out of him?

2) Is Juan Uribe, who was hit by a Tim Lincecum pitch Opening Day, still hurt?

3) Will we see Jerry Sands, who is 6 for 16 with two homers, an .813 slugging percentage and one strikeout, in Dodger blue by June 1?

Apr 10

Ely can’t get one last strike, Dodgers can’t avoid blowout


Lenny Ignelzi/APJamey Carroll caught Rod Barajas’ throw on the short-hop and made a tremendous tag of Will Venable trying to steal in the second inning.

John Ely had thrown 5 2/3 innings and allowed two runs. He had struck out his last two batters, giving him five on the day. He had a three-ball, two-strike count on Padres left fielder Ryan Ludwick.

Ludwick fouled off three more pitches. An out on any one of those, and Ely can walk tall off the mound.

The next two pitches: ball four, home run.

Nick Hundley’s shot to center with Ludwick aboard gave the Padres a 4-1 lead, on their way to a 7-2 victory over the Dodgers.

Ely’s line ends up looking ugly: four runs and nine baserunners in 5 2/3 innings, but he really did mostly pitch a good game.

With all that in mind, Padres starter Aaron Harang nearly handed the Dodgers the lead in the sixth and seventh innings. He walked Ely and gave up a single to Tony Gwynn Jr. to start the sixth, but Ely got picked off second base during a missed bunt attempt by Aaron Miles.

Then in the seventh, Harang had a play to throw out Matt Kemp at third on a comebacker by James Loney, but threw the ball away, allowing Kemp to score. However, after reliever Luke Gregeron hit Juan Uribe with a pitch, Rod Barajas grounded into a double play.

Harang ended up allowing one earned run over six innings. Dodger relievers Kenley Jansen and Lance Cormier combined to give up three runs in the final two innings.

The Dodger offense consisted only of Gwynn (1 for 3 with a walk and stolen base), Kemp (2 for 4 with a steal) and Ethier (1 for 4). The remaining position players went 0 for 16. The team’s only earned run came on a first-inning walk to Gwynn, a steal, a sacrifice and a groundout.

This season, Uribe has a .172 on-base percentage, and nearly half of that has come from being hit by pitches. He has two HBPs, two singles, a double and no walks in 29 plate appearances.

* * *

In his rehabilitation start, Jon Garland went 4 2/3 innings for Rancho Cucamonga, allowing four runs on six hits and no walks while striking out three.

Apr 10

The Wheel of Timely Injury lands on Hector Gimenez

The Dodgers placed Hector Gimenez on the disabled list to make room on the roster for John Ely.

“It wasn’t immediately known whether the pain in Gimenez’s knee was of such severity that he would have been placed on the DL if the club didn’t need a roster spot,” wrote Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. “But the Dodgers have been carrying three catchers all season partly because Gimenez is out of minor league options, a situation that could come to a head when backup catcher Dioner Navarro comes off the 15-day disabled list sometime in the next few weeks.”

If you were hoping Ramon Ortiz would take today’s start, no such luck. The Cubs signed him to a minor-league contract.

Apr 09

Kuroda glides as Dodgers win nightcap


Lenny Ignelzi/APAn elbow salute to Andre Ethier’s first homer of the year.

The smoothest Dodger victory of the season, 4-0 over the Padres, had a rough-and-tumble ending.

On a night that the Dodgers were concerned enough about their bullpen to hold Chad Billingsley in reserve, Hiroki Kuroda, a good man and true, took a one-hitter into the seventh inning (last year, you’ll recall, he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Phillies) and came within one out of a shutout. He threw 117 pitches, the most by a National League pitcher in this young season.

Kuroda gave up his fifth and sixth hits with two out in the ninth, and Jonathan Broxton came in to try to save his second game of the day and fifth of five Dodger victories this season. Broxton had Chris Denorfia down 1-2 in the count before walking him, bringing up the tying run in Cameron Maybin.

Maybin hit a slow roller inside of third base. As he went for the ball, Casey Blake and Chase Headley collided, sending both players tumbling. Umpire Ed Hickox called interference, and just like that, the game was over. Blake would have had a tough play to get Maybin at first base.

Tonight’s twin victories didn’t do all that much to alleviate concerns about the Dodger offense, but they have done wonders for some Dodger batting averages and on-base percentages. Check out these numbers from tonight’s starting lineup:

.484/.568 Matt Kemp
.400/.478 Jamey Carroll
.357/.500 Casey Blake
.353/.436 Andre Ethier
.353/.353 Tony Gwynn Jr.
.250/.500 A.J. Ellis
.147/.189 James Loney
.107/.138 Juan Uribe
.143/.143 Hiroki Kuroda

Like I said – some.

Kemp, Carroll and Ethier (who hit his first home run of 2011) each had three hits; Gwynn added two. Kemp and Gwynn also combined to steal five bases, and Kemp had an outfield assist. Kuroda, who started last season 0 for 45, got his first hit of this season in his second game.

Loney did walk twice, and he continues to shine on defense. Uribe, meanwhile, is off to a 3 for 28 start with no walks.

Apr 09

Tony Gwynn Jr. lifts Dodgers to opening victory in San Diego

Tony Gwynn Jr. didn’t make his first appearance as a Dodger in the city that made his dad famous until the bottom of the ninth, but he was central to the Dodgers’ 11-inning 4-2 victory, completed almost exactly 24 hours after the first pitch.

After singling but being stranded in the 10th inning, Gwynn had the game-winning RBI on a single with two out in the top of the 11th, driving in Juan Uribe.

The Dodgers added an insurance run, and then Jonathan Broxton used a double-play grounder to help him get through a one-hit, one-walk save.

Blake Hawksworth retired six of seven batters he faced in the ninth and 10th innings to get the win.

Los Angeles triumphed despite San Diego stealing six bases in six tries.

* * *

Rafael Furcal is nursing a sore wrist, writes Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. He’s expected to play Sunday, but Furcal injuries bring out the cynic in me.

Apr 09

The lowest moment of James Loney’s career?

Tie game, 11th inning, Juan Uribe on second with none out. A single gives you the lead. No double-play threat. Right-handed pitcher on the mound.

And Don Mattingly has James Loney bunt.

So much for Mr. RBI. If that’s not the lowest moment of Loney’s playing career, it’s the lowest moment of Mattingly’s managing career.

Loney took three pitches, fouled off a bunt, hit another foul swinging away, then popped out.

Apr 09

Thirty years later, Fernando Valenzuela’s legacy is his tenacity


Focus on Sport/Getty ImagesFernando gettin’ ready …

Today is the 30th anniversary of Fernando Valenzuela’s first start in the majors, the 2-0 Opening Day shutout that launched Fernandomania.

But I’m going to take this occasion to focus on a different start, one that I think came to define Valenzuela as much as Fernandomania did, if not more: Game 3 of the 1981 World Series.

At age 20, Valenzuela sizzled through the first eight starts of his career like no one we’d ever seen, but the story of his career was one of perseverance. In fact, even on Opening Day 1981, Valenzuela allowed baserunners in five of his first six innings, including runners on second and third with one out in the sixth inning of a 1-0 game.

But nothing captured Valenzuela’s endurance like his marathon in the ’81 Series, played before what at the time was the largest recorded attendance at Dodger Stadium, a legitimate 56,236.

Thanks to indispensable friend of Dodger Thoughts Stan Opdyke, I was able to listen to the radio broadcast of the October 23, 1981 game, with play-by-play by Vin Scully and color commentary by Sparky Anderson. It was a resplendent broadcast, full of detail to match any televised high-def TV closeup, a broadcast that really brought home how Valenzuela struggled and survived.

‘The worst’
The Dodgers had lost six consecutive World Series games, all to the Yankees, when the two teams met at Dodger Stadium on this night. Valenzuela had most recently pitched 8 2/3 innings in the Dodgers’ National League Championship Series’ clincher won by Rick Monday’s ninth-inning home run, so he wasn’t new to pressure. But keep in mind also that he was throwing in the World Series on three days’ rest. (The World Series started barely 24 hours after the NLCS ended.)

Scully was on his game well before Valenzuela, who walked leadoff hitter Willie Randolph on a ball four that was way outside and, one out later, also walked Dave Winfield. Cleanup hitter Lou Piniella hit a 6-4-3 double-play grounder which Davey Lopes turned despite the onrushing presence of Winfield, who didn’t slide. “Davey Lopes had Dave Winfield coming at him like some Redwood Tree,” Scully said, later adding, “It was as if Davey was trying to throw over the Empire State Building.”

Getty ImagesRon Cey (shown here in a later Series game) put on an offensive and defensive showcase in Game 3.

The Dodgers, who had yet to lead in the Series, finally took the upper hand in the bottom of the first. Lopes doubled, and a perfectly placed Russell bunt put runners on first and third. A struggling Dusty Baker popped out and Steve Garvey struck out, but Ron Cey drove a 2-2 fastball from the game’s other rookie starting pitcher, Dave Righetti, over the left-field wall for a 3-0 lead.

“I’ve seen him hit more good high fastballs out of the park than you’d ever want to see,” said Anderson, the former Cincinnati Reds manager who had moved on to Detroit.

Los Angeles had a chance to pad the early lead when Pedro Guerrero was hit by a pitch and Rick Monday drove him to third on a hit-and-run single, but Steve Yeager popped out.

Valenzuela had his shutout for only one more pitch. Bob Watson drilled an 0-1 offering to center. “Going in on the ball is Guerrero,” Scully said, “and it goes into the seats for a home run! That’s how hard Watson hit the ball.”

The next hitter, Rick Cerone, doubled down the left-field line directly off the railing, with Yankees manager Bob Lemon arguing for a home run. Six Yankee batters into the game, the Dodger bullpen began warming up for the first time, starting with Dave Goltz. Aurelio Rodriguez flied out, but Larry Milbourne (playing for the injured Bucky Dent) singled home Cerone to cut the Dodger lead to 3-2.

After a Righetti sacrifice, Valenzuela walked Randolph again before getting out of the second inning on a comebacker.

Righetti was faring little better. He walked Valenzuela to lead off the bottom of the second inning. Lopes bunted Valenzuela to second base, prompting Scully to ask Anderson how concerned the Dodgers should be about Valenzuela being out on the bases. Anderson didn’t seem to think there was much to worry about. Valenzuela went to third base on a Russell groundout, but stayed there when Baker popped out for the second time in two innings.

To start the third, Valenzuela kindled hopes that his worst was behind him when he struck out Winfield. “That’s the first true Valenzuela screwball I’ve seen tonight,” Scully commented. But Piniella singled. Lopes briefly saved Valenzuela with an over-the-shoulder catch of a Watson blooper, but Cerone, who narrowly missed a homer in his previous at-bat, left no doubt this time, whacking a screwball over the wall in left-center to give New York a 4-3 lead.

By this time, Scully couldn’t avoid the reality.

“This might be the worst game I’ve ever seen Valenzuela pitch,” he said.

Batting for Valenzuela …
Valenzuela’s troubles continued with the next batter. Rodriguez reached second base on an infield single that Lopes threw into the photographers’ well. That compelled Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda to have Valenzuela walk Milbourne intentionally, so that he could use Righetti as an escape valve with a strikeout.

Still, to this point, Valenzuela had allowed 10 baserunners in three innings, surrendering the Dodgers’ early lead while throwing no fewer than 71 pitches. Said Scully of the crowd, “That wave of enthusiasm has suddenly crashed upon the shores.” Anderson, meanwhile, wondered whether New York fans might have misgivings of their own. “The Yankees, you know, have left five (runners), so they could have torn this thing wide open.”

Righetti remained wobbly. When Garvey singled on a 3-2 pitch to lead off the bottom of the fourth, George Frazier began warming up in the Yankee bullpen for the third time, and when Cey walked, Frazier was called in.

Lasorda did his best to make Frazier feel comfortable by asking Guerrero to bunt. He had three sacrifices in the 1981 regular season and hit into four double plays in the NLCS, but the idea of it still raises howls. Not surprisingly, Guerrero flailed twice and then struck out.

Scully: “That must kill you (as a manager).”

Anderson: “The bunt, I promise you Vinny, over the course of the whole season will cost you more runs than any play we do. Bad baserunning and bunting will kill more rallies than any other thing in the game.”

After Monday flied out, Lasorda made an even bolder move, pinch-hitting Mike Scioscia for Yeager in the third inning. Scioscia grounded to short, and the Dodgers remained behind by a run.

Because he was due to lead off the bottom of the fourth inning, Valenzuela was pitching to stay in the game at this point. He responded with his best inning so far that night, retiring the side on 12 pitches, though even then, he walked Winfield with two out and had to survive a Piniella liner to Baker to left.

Subsequently, a leadoff double in the top of the fifth inning by Watson caused Tom Niedenfuer to begin warming up, but two outs and another intentional walk to Milbourne later, Frazier was left to bat for himself by the same manager who would infamously hit for Tommy John in Game 6. Frazier struck out, stranding the Yankees’ seventh and eighth runners of the game.

APAurelio Rodriguez nearly did the Dodgers in at third base the same way as Graig Nettles once had.

In the bottom of the fifth, Garvey reached first on an infield single that Rodriguez (starting in place of an injured Graig Nettles) did well to keep from becoming a double. Cey walked on a 3-2 pitch. Once again, Guerrero was up with two on and no outs, but this time, the bunt was off. Guerrero hit a big chopper over Rodriguez’s head for an RBI double that tied the game.

Monday was walked intentionally to load the bases for Scioscia with none out. As lefty Rudy May came in to face the Dodger catcher, Reggie Smith came out on deck to hit for Valenuela, whose night appeared over after five innings and 95 pitches. Steve Howe was throwing in the Dodger bullpen.

Scully and Anderson agreed that Scioscia did the one thing to keep Valenzuela in the game. He grounded into a double play, driving in the go-ahead run while putting two outs on the board. With more baserunners or fewer outs, the announcers believed that Lasorda surely would have pulled Valenzuela, but with two out and a runner on third, the manager decided to stick with his pitcher. What’s interesting is that for all his struggles, Valenzuela’s walk to the batter’s box earned roars of delight from the crowd.

Valenzuela grounded to short, stranding the Dodgers’ sixth runner. But he headed into the sixth inning staked once more with a lead.  This time, could he hold it?

‘If that don’t help him, nothing will.’
If you can believe it, Valenzuela went back out on that hill and walked the first batter he faced – Randolph for a third time. Lasorda immediately came out to the mound to talk to Valenzuela. Niedenfuer and Howe were up in the bullpen. “No command of the breaking ball,” said Scully.

Valenzuela was truly at the end of his rope.

And then, Scioscia saved his pitcher again – this time, in a more positive fashion. Randolph broke for second on a steal, and Scioscia nailed him.

“That’s a big play right there for Fernando,” Anderson exclaimed. “If that don’t help him, nothing will.”

It did help him. Jerry Mumphrey struck out on three pitches, Winfield grounded to third, and Valenzuela completed his third consecutive 12-pitch inning. For the first time all night, he put up a zero while the Dodgers had the lead.

The seventh was positively svelte for Valenzuela, though not without a scare. He retired the side in order on 10 pitches, but not before the middle batter, Watson, belted one to the left-field wall, where Baker caught it. In a precursor to his famous line that capped Valenzuela’s no-hitter nine years later, Scully said of the hanging curve to Watson, “You could have hung your sombrero on that one.”

The Dodgers certainly weren’t doing much in the way of providing insurance runs. In the bottom of the seventh, Cey (who went 2 for 2 with two walks) singled to become the sixth Dodger to reach base leading off an inning. But Guerrero struck out, and just as Anderson had finished describing Derrel Thomas (batting for Monday) as someone “of limited ability who has made the most of it,” Thomas hit into a double play.

The top of the eighth featured what might have been the definitive defensive play in the nine years of the Garvey-Lopes-Russell-Cey infield. Rodriguez and Milbourne started off the inning with singles, becoming the 15th and 16th batters to reach base off Valenzuela, compared with 21 outs. Bobby Murcer, a 35-year-old veteran, came up to pinch-hit. (Dodger nemesis Reggie Jackson was on the Yankee bench with an injury suffered running the bases in Game 2, and though it was believed he was healthy enough to bat, he did not.)

On the first pitch he saw, Murcer squared to bunt – and popped it in the air, foul. Cey came charging in … and made a remarkable diving catch, before doubling up Milbourne off first base. The Dodger Stadium crowd let out a deafening roar.

Valenzuela then came within a pitch of walking Randolph for a fourth time, before the future Dodger hit a difficult ground ball to Cey. It would have been an infield single – if Rodriguez had held back at second base. But he came close enough to third for Cey to tag him directly.

Scully simply marveled.

“I tell you what (Valenzuela) is doing – a high-wire act in a windstorm,” he said.

El Toro
When Scioscia singled to start the bottom of the eighth (yes, another leadoff hitter aboard), Valenzuela took his bat up to home plate. He had now been nursing a one-run lead for three innings, and had thrown 131 pitches in the game. And thanks to Scioscia’s lack of speed, Valenzuela would spend the rest of the eighth inning standing at first base after bunting into a force play.

Lopes struck out and Russell popped out, and Valenzuela quickly prepared for his final inning on the mound. Dave Stewart joined Howe in the bullpen – by this time, it seemed the only pitcher that hadn’t gotten ready to relieve for the Dodgers was Lasorda himself.

Six Yankees had reached base at least twice against Valenzuela. Mumphrey, the only position player who hadn’t reached at all, grounded to Lopes on a 2-2 pitch. Two outs to go.

Winfield, whose World Series lack of performance would become the stuff of Steinbrennerian legend, hit a high drive to right-center field. Thomas and Guerrero converged, and Guerrero made the catch.  One out to go.

Piniella came to bat. “Garvey on the line at first,” Scully said, “Cey on the line at third, and the ballgame on the line.”

Tempting fate one last time, Valenzuela fell behind in the count, 2-0. A called strike, and then a foul.

George Rose/Getty ImagesHero.

Valenzuela wound up and threw his 146th pitch of the October evening.

“Fastball – got him swinging!” Scully exclaimed.

Scully immediately recognized and conveyed what the night meant.

“This was not the best Fernando game. It was his finest.”

Valenzuela, this game showed, was in it for the long haul.  He pitched in the majors until 1997, and tales of him going back to pitch in Mexico have been recorded to this very year. El Toro was simply as tough as they come.

Apr 09

Yawn Day’s Journey Into Night: Dodgers-Padres tie enters Day 2


Lenny Ignelzi/APTime for lullabies …

It’s funny to think that in the space of an entire work week, the Dodgers only finished two baseball games.

At 1:40 a.m., in the midst of a fourth rain delay that had left the score tied 2-2 in the ninth inning, umpires sent the Dodgers and Padres back to hotel and home, telling them to resume play at 5:35 p.m. today.

Here’s the report from The Associated Press on where things stand:

It was a long, wet and cold Friday night that stretched into early Saturday morning.

When the umpires finally decided to suspend the game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, there had been four rain delays totaling 3 hours, 36 minutes.

The game was tied 2-2 in the top of the ninth inning and only a few hundred fans were still at Petco Park when the umps called it.

The final delay began at 1:13 a.m. Matt Kemp had just hit a leadoff single when it started pouring. The game was suspended at 1:40 a.m.

Clayton Richard, who started the game for the Padres but didn’t return after the second rain delay, had never seen anything like it.

“We were talking about that,” Richard said. “It’s so late now, I’m trying to stay awake, to be honest.”

During the long breaks, the players sat around and talked, hit the weight room or snacked.

“We played baseball every now and then, so that kept us awake a little bit,” Richard said. …

Two of the rain delays came with Kemp on base. The Dodger center fielder is 3 for 3 with a walk and stolen base so far in the game, raising his season on-base percentage to .519.

Casey Blake singled and walked and stole third, scoring the tying run on a throwing error. The rest of the Dodgers were 1 for 23 with a walk. Both Dodger runs so far have been unearned.

Juan Uribe and Marcus Thames each have gone 0 for 3 with two strikeouts in the batting spots behind Kemp, though Loney at least was having a fine defensive game.

Ted Lilly failed to complete the fifth inning for the second consecutive start, but as Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com writes, Lilly was anything but wilting.

… It began at the end of a one-hour, 34-minute rain delay, long enough that Padres manager Bud Black judiciously pulled his starter, Clayton Richard, after just 16 pitches. But Lilly was having none of that. When the game resumed, so did he. Already he had escaped a first-and-third, one-out situation in the first inning by getting Jorge Cantu to fly to shallow right and Ryan Ludwick to fly out to left.

After the delay, Lilly’s high-wire act continued. The Padres would strand at least one baserunner in each of the first four innings, at least one in scoring position in three of them. But each time, Lilly would pull off a daring escape, punctuating his performance with back-to-back strikeouts of Todd Hundley and Cory Luebke to strand two runners in scoring position in the fourth.

The definitive Lilly moment, though, came at the plate in the top of the fifth. With two outs and nobody on. The sort of situation when most starting pitchers take their obligatory hacks, make the obligatory last out of the inning and get back to business. But not Lilly. He worked Luebke for a full count. And when he finally popped up on the sixth pitch, almost three hours after he had thrown his first pitch of the evening, Lilly took two steps out of the box, raised his bat above his head and slammed it into the dirt of the basepath in frustration.

Lilly finally reached the end in the bottom of that inning, leadoff hitter Will Venable reaching second when Matt Kemp bobbled his base hit to center for an error and the Padres eventually scoring twice to take a short-lived 2-1 lead. Lilly had thrown 85 pitches, with a long rain delay between pitches No. 13 and 14. He had been in constant trouble and had gotten virtually no run support from a Dodgers offense that seems to be getting weaker by the day. He had been so deliberate in his delivery that the Padres had stolen three bases behind him. But he had never flinched. …

Hong-Chih Kuo, who got the final out in the eighth inning in relief of Matt Guerrier, is the current Dodger pitcher. If he can’t pitch on consecutive days, the Dodgers have four relievers behind him: Blake Hawksworth, Lance Cormier, A.J. Ellis and Jonathan Broxton. I’d like to remind Dodger manager Don Mattingly to use his relievers in order of quality, rather than holding his best reliever back for a save situation.

The Dodgers, if they desired, could make a player transaction in between the end of the suspended game and the start of tonight’s regularly scheduled game if one becomes a marathon and they want to beef up the bullpen. On the other hand, the workload this week has been so slim, I don’t expect the Dodgers to make a move until they add a fifth starting pitcher to the roster. That’s expected to happen Sunday, though Clayton Kershaw could always pitch that day on four days’ rest.

Here’s more from Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:

Manager Don Mattingly said he’ll “have to be careful” with his pitching decisions when the game resumes, saying Kuo might be able to pitch on consecutive games. But he ruled out the possibility that Saturday’s scheduled starter, Hiroki Kuroda, would finish up the suspended game and then start the regular one.

Mattingly said he spoke with general manager Ned Colletti about calling up a pitcher, “but we don’t have a lot of flexibility” because the Dodgers are already planning on calling up a fifth starter (probably John Ely) for Sunday in place of the disabled Jon Garland.

Heath Bell, the Padres’ closer who entered the game in the ninth inning, was their sixth pitcher of the game.

Two Dodger wins today and a Rockies loss would put Los Angeles back in first place in the National League West – despite being the division’s only team to have been outscored so far this season.

* * *

Wee-hour discoveries …

  • Beer sales at Dodger Stadium are a source of controversy, but Sons of Steve Garvey finds a new reason: this Yumsugar post by Katie Sweeney indicating that a large beer is a smaller value than a small beer.
  • Joel Torres, a 21-year-old who has played in the Indians’ farm system, scratched $1 million off a lottery ticket, according to the New York Post.
  • Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette suspects that former Dodgers and Pirates manager Jim Tracy got “hoodwinked” by former Rockies manager Clint Hurdler at the end of the Rockies’ 14-inning loss to Pittsburgh on Friday. Tracy’s team allowed a two-out, game-winning double to Jose Tabata instead of walking Tabata to pitch to the next hitter, Garrett Olson, who was the Pirates’ last remaining pitcher.

    According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 11 1/3 innings of shutout relief by the Pirates’ bullpen was the team’s most since the start of the 20th century, wrote Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com.

Apr 08

Rain delay notebook


Lenny Ignelzi/APDelay of game penalty.

A rain delay of close to two hours was scheduled to end at about 9:20 p.m., bringing the Dodgers and Padres back into action. When play was suspended, Matt Kemp had just doubled to lead off the second inning of a scoreless game.

  • Jon Garland is aching (not literally) to pitch Sunday for the Dodgers, writes Tony Jackson of the ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Zach Lee’s debut went well: four shutout innings, two hits, three walks, five strikeouts.
  • Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com expands on today’s Dodger Stadium security news.
  • Triple-A Albuquerque knocked out former major leaguer Jeff Suppan with seven runs in four innings, en route to a 10-6 win despite only seven hits. Justin Sellers homered twice off Suppan. Ramon Troncoso relieved Carlos Monasterios and pitched three shutout innings for the win. Dee Gordon is 3 for 10 in two games but has two errors.
  • Al Michaels tells Chris Erskine of the Times the following story:

    … When I started my career in Hawaii in minor league baseball, our big rival was the Spokane Indians. The president of the team was Peter O’Malley, the manager was Tommy Lasorda, and they were our rival. … Tommy loves to tell this story, they’re in Hawaii and after every game he’d have to call Al Campanis to tell how the minor leaguers did, so one night, Lasorda says, “Hey, Al, there’s one more thing: There’s this guy on the radio here, really good. If you ever need a guy, his name’s Al Michaels. I know you got Vinny, but down the line, you know.” Campanis says, “Hey Tommy, this announcer, how do you even know about him?” Tommy says, “Well, I’ve been thrown out of the last four games.” So the irony was, here’s Tommy, he discovers me in 1970 and tells someone I could be the successor to Vinny. And here we are in 2011 and I’m ready to retire before Vinny is. …