Two rallies, but in the end, a second loss

Aside from the fundamental desire for the Dodgers to win and not lose, I had two hopes for tonight’s game:

  1. The offense not get shut out.
  2. Chad Billingsley not get hammered

In the bottom of the second inning, it looked like each might take place. In the bottom of the ninth, it looked like neither would.

Instead, Dodger fans were left with a third outcome – a grim-faced, walkoff loss. George Kotteras’ pinch-hit, two-run double off Javy Guerra gave the Milwaukee Brewers a 5-4 victory, the Dodgers’ second loss of the season.

One game after a triple play helped save Guerra’s bacon in the ninth inning against San Diego, no such rescue arrived. He gave up a leadoff single to Corey Hart and stolen base to pinch-runner Carlos Gomez, then walked Mat Gamel. Jonathan Lucroy struck out after failing to bunt, but Brewers manager Ron Roenicke made a fearless move, sending up Kotteras to pinch-hit for Cesar Izturis even though no other shortstop remained on his bench in the event of extra innings.

Guerra got the count to 2-2, but Kotteras launched one to right-center. Andre Ethier chased it down, but the relay home was just a half-second late to nail Gamel with the winning run.

The result spoiled the celebration that was all but set for Andre Ethier, who doubled and scored to tie the game 2-2 in the seventh inning, then hit a dramatic, opposite-field, two-out, two-run homer in the eighth off Francisco Rodriguez to rally Los Angeles from a 3-2 deficit and give the team its only lead.

For Dodger fans, riding that 9-1 season-opening wave, it was the latest in a month of exhilarations.

Kenley Jansen then retired the side in order on two strikeouts in the bottom of the eighth, before Guerra blew the third save of his career in 29 opportunities.

Still, I’ll have to call this a better alternative to the way the game unfolded at the outset. After the Dodgers had wasted a scoring opportunity in the first inning (because of Dee Gordon getting picked off by Brewers starter Yovanni Gallardo), Milwaukee hit for the cycle off Billingsley with its first eight platesmen, good for two quick runs.

However, Billingsley settled down, retiring his last 11 batters and finishing his third straight quality start to begin 2012, allowing five hits and no walks in six innings and 83 pitches. For the year, his ERA is 1.33, and he has allowed 13 hits, one walk and one hit batter in 20 1/3 innings.

It’s the absence of walks in the plural that is perhaps most exciting for Billingsley. Even when he gets in trouble, he has hardly backed down. His weakest moment tonight was throwing two balls to Izturis with a 1-2 count and a runner on third. Izturis then singled on a 3-2 pitch, driving in the Brewers’ second run. But that was the exception. Billingsley had the bad inning that he is (unfairly) notorious for, but he didn’t let it ruin him.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers withstood their own hitless streak – 10 in a row retired after Matt Kemp (1 for 4) doubled in the first to raise his batting average at that moment to .500 – and tied the game. In the fifth, Juan Rivera doubled, went to third on a James Loney single and scored when Rickie Weeks caught Juan Uribe’s pop-up but then dropped the ball before throwing home. In the seventh, Ethier and Loney hit the Dodgers’ fourth and fifth doubles to even the score, 2-2. (Loney, by the way, was thrown out on the basepaths in both innings.)

With two out and Uribe on second via fielder’s choice and wild pitch, A.J. Ellis was walked intentionally to get to Billingsley’s spot in the order. I basically agreed with Don Mattingly’s decision to hit for Billingsley, even though he was on a roll, although I’d feel a lot better about it if the Dodgers’ first hitter off the bench weren’t Adam Kennedy, who popped out.

But after Milwaukee squeezed home a go-ahead run off Matt Guerrier in the bottom of the seventh, the Dodgers came back in the eighth, with Ethier (slugging .738 this year and now the National League RBI leader with 17) once again proving to Kemp that he doesn’t have to carry the offense by himself.

Unfortunately for the Dodgers, the bullpen didn’t deliver tonight, with the Guerr boys, Guerrier and Guerra, retiring only four batters as they allowed three runs.

 

  • http://twitter.com/Derek_TC Derek TC

    I love it, Kenley blows a save and nobody cares, a few days later Javy blows one and its time for Kenley to take over his job.

    • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

      Actually as Jon pointed out there was quite an outcry when Kenley blew that save.

      • http://twitter.com/Derek_TC Derek TC

        Where exactly? I saw one or two comments but not like this. Everyone is already convinced Kenley is better and they mostly ignored his blown save and they use Javy’s blown save to justify their opinion, stats be damned. If you are talking about those tweets Jon posted the other day, clearly this people had no knowledge of the game. One guy wanted to know why Javy wasn’t pitching even though he had just pitched 3 straight games….

        • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

          So, wait: Two people on DT complain about Guerra, and somehow that counts more than people on DT complaining about Jansen plus Twitter burning an effigy of him?

          • http://twitter.com/Derek_TC Derek TC

            Yes because I when it came to Guerra I was only talking about DT and when it comes to Kenley I was only talking about twitter.

          • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

            I’m still not sure what your point is, but nothing personal, I might just be confused at this late hour.

          • http://twitter.com/Derek_TC Derek TC

            I was being sarcastic because Jon said only 2 people on DT complained about Guerra as if I was only referring to DT.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AGJN4PYDJLDR3O2PSOU3PSVJ6Q Michael

      Kenley blew a save because he was being overused. His fastball wasn’t that fast and one can’t really get mad at the guy when his “stuff” is obviously not there. But IMO, I think Jansen has a more lights out touch in comparison to Guerra.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      Is this parody? People are far calmer about Guerra tonight then they were about Kenley. 

      • http://twitter.com/Derek_TC Derek TC

        Maybe here but not on other sites and Twitter/Facebook.

        • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

          Derek, I monitor these things very carefully.  There is no comparison between the anger that was leveled at Jansen vs. what Guerra is getting tonight. It was way worse for Kenley. 

          • http://twitter.com/Derek_TC Derek TC

            So , you are claiming you follow the whole interwebs and know for a fact that more people were down on Kenley’s blown save then on Javy’s? Lol alright then, I guess I can’t argue with you there…can you seriously ignore that people are saying Kenley should have the closer spot over Javy after Javy blew this save even though Kenley just blew one the other day? I’m not arguing over who is better or who should be the closer. My point has been that the common fan has no idea that the closer role is farscicle and overrated.

          • Anonymous

            Didn’t you just say that you were referring to DT when talking about comments on JG?  I’m confused.

          • Anonymous

            I love a nice farscicle on a hot summer’s day.  It’s a lot more ridiculous than a fudgesicle. 

            Any time there are calls for replacing/firing/beheading/demoting/ eviscerating/punishing a player after one mistake, it is going to be the product of irrational anger, rather than logical thought.  Sure, the Dodgers could have won last night, but they maybe should have lost the day before, when the triple play was a boner in their favor.

            This team is 9-2, best in baseball, which is way more than any one of us here expected in our wildest dreams.  I’m just going to enjoy watching them for now, happy in the knowledge that it’s still April and there are 151 games left to go. 

          • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

            Many people have been advocating Kenley over Javy as closer since last
            winter. However, the ANGER at Kenley over his blown save, I believe, was
            much more intense – especially when you consider it didn’t cost the
            Dodgers the ballgame.

            At the end of the day, I overstated – I can’t monitor every comment
            everywhere.  However, I can’t see how you can make the case that the anti-Guerra reaction was worse Tuesday than the anti-Jansen reaction Friday.

            Finally, there’s this. “My point has been that the common fan has no idea that the closer role is farscicle and overrated.”

            I agree with that statement, but that’s a far cry from what you wrote to start
            this thread, “I love it, Kenley blows a save and nobody cares, a few
            days later Javy blows one and its time for Kenley to take over his job.”  If your point was about closers being overrated, you had a funny way of making it. 

  • Anonymous

    “…when Richie Weeks caught Juan Uribe’s pop-up but then dropped the ball before throwing home.”

    I thought his name was Ricky Weeks…did he pull a Bobby Kelley?

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      Actually, it’s Rickie, smart guy :)

  • Anonymous

    “…However, Billingsley settled down, retiring his last 11 batters”

    Steiner said that Bills had retired the last 9 batters in a row, which apart from incorrect, is impossible unless someone else got the 2nd and 3rd outs of the 3rd inning.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      Chad did retire the last nine batters. He just happened to retire two others before that. 

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    Until people realize that the ninth inning isn’t inherently more difficult than the eighth, these kinds of discussions will always remain ridiculous. 

  • Anonymous

     Let’s just hope this game doesn’t end up as a momentum turner.  After the last loss, the Dodgers won six straight.  I’d take that. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/michaelgreen327 Michael Green

    It’s easy to say nobody’s perfect, but it has the virtue of being true.  Pitchers have slumps and off nights, but we expect them more from starters, I think, than relievers.  That said, on the plus side, Bills is looking good; I hope he sustains it.  On the minus side, I confess, Guerrier never has overwhelmed me, or even whelmed me.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    Stan Kasten: “Do you think these people spent their last $2 billion? Give me a friggin’ break.” http://cbsprt.co/Je3Yg8

    • Anonymous

      Do you think Kasten actually said “friggin’” or was he attempting to avoid a Rule 1 Violation?

  • http://www.facebook.com/ryan.hindinger Ryan Hindinger

    I think I hate a close loss more than a blow-out.  Also, can someone please tell Loney to never attempt to steal a base again?  He got thrown out by a car-length.

  • T.M. Brown

    This comment doesn’t really stem from the loss but I always thought Kenley was the closer candidate all along and that Guerra coming along last year was just sort of a nice surprise. Of course I have to deal with the sports echo chamber of NYC on a daily basis so it could have corrupted my memory. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/Vashkan Anthony Forkush

    There were many positive aspects to tonight’s game, I thought. Remember, this is a near historic franchise, the Brewers, at home. If I heard Collins correctly, they were 47 and 0 when leading after the seventh inning in Miller Park. That defies description. The fact that the Dodgers came within two outs of halting that monumental home advantage is impressive, to say the least. Loney looks to be hitting the ball with more authority, although he provided two rather head scratching base path decisions that appeared to have had implications. The defense was shaky on both sides, but I think the biggest aspect to this game was its barometer for playoff truth, at least in the sense of the environment. This is very likely the closest the Dodgers have come to a “real” post-season primer. I thought the results were very good, for the most part. In Miller, tonight, the post Fielder Brewers were just a slightly better team, give or take a Guerrier and Guerra. It will be fascinating to see if the Dodgers can win either of the next two games, which on paper look quite daunting. Good to have a healthy gauge as to their competitiveness and their resilience.

    • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

      Well said. There was plenty of good to see in this game, despite the loss at the end. It’s such a long season, we got spoiled by some great success real early but I see the Dodgers 2012 version as a team that seems pretty tight with each other but loose on the field, and won’t take it too hard.

  • Anonymous

    Stay calm everyone!!… Before the start of the season would we have taken 9-2 after 11 games? I think we would have.

  • http://twitter.com/MrLASportsFan Mr. LA Sports Fan

    Just wondering: How long before people stop using Jonathan Broxton as the standard for Dodger closers?

    • http://twitter.com/Derek_TC Derek TC

      I think more importantly people should stop using Gagne as the standard.

  • Anonymous

    Friends, I’m no math genius, but I’m pretty sure that 162 minus 11 means there’s plenty of games to be played and for our friend Mr. Guerra to “redeem” himself. I’d rather have him and Kenley up there than anyone that any other team in the division has available.

  • http://twitter.com/Derek_TC Derek TC

    I think the main point here is, reliever roles are completely screwed up, you should use your best option in the most difficult point of a game. Sometimes a hold is more important than a save and sometimes your best pitcher isn’t your best option if he has had too much recent work. I just feel that everyone has already decided Kenley should be the closer and Javy should be a set up man but it think tey are both very good and should be used when the game is up for grabs and not just in the 8th and 9th inning in a specific order in specific situations. If you are in a tight spot in the 6th don’t bring in a lesser pitcher because you have to save Javy/Kenley for the 8th and 9th. Use them both when they will make the most impact.

  • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

    Saw the last few innings on tape after seeing the first part of the game, and I’d literally left it two batters before Ethier’s home run. And was excited, briefly. Until I noticed on my MLBTV player how much time was left in the 9th. Even when they hide spoilers, you can kind of get a sense of what may be about to happen. And lo! It happened.  Oh well. Javy was definitely wobbly tonight. I like his mettle usually and he’s been a great surprise, and as noted above, there is no doubt Jansen has better stuff, but he wasn’t perfect to start the season either. I think Guerra is still learning a bit, too, so this could be one of those growing pains games. 

    Oh well, we can still take the next two and make the 2 out of 3 required to have the Dodgers taken seriously, as per Jon’s earlier post. ;)

  • Anonymous

    I don’t like this losing stuff.  Oh. well.

  • Anonymous

    The ‘Blue’ Crew vs. The ‘Brew’ Crew..

    Baseball won last night!!

    audi’.. 

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    The Dodgers, Lakers and Kings went 13-0 last week for best combined week ever. http://bit.ly/I4rfgL

    • Anonymous

      So after last night (Dodgers and Lakers) we are even?

    • Anonymous

       Don’t forget the Clippers! They were 3-1, thus the LA teams were 16-1 last week.

      • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

         I didn’t set the criteria for the challenge – it was Relatively Old School L.A. teams. 

        • Anonymous

           Yeah,  I know and to be fair, we should also include the Galaxy and Chivas USA, but then the record wouldn’t look as good: 17-2; but its still very good especially when you consider that you’re dealing with 5 teams.

          • Anonymous

             I mean 6 teams.

        • Anonymous

          The Rams were undefeated during that stretch, too.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=713935344 Jason Ungar

         it’s easy to forget the clippers. it isn’t anyone fault. they have been over 500 in only 3 seasons since the dodgers won a World Series.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Terry-Pruett/1707390003 Terry Pruett

    Re: last night’s game…
    1. I am no believer in Billingsley, but I have wanted to be proven wrong. Maybe he’s in the process of doing this…I hope so.
    2. As far as the bullpen goes, my main concern is always to have our best pitcher facing their best hitters. In my opinion that’s EXACTLY what happened last night. I wanted Jansen facing the meat of their order, and that’s what happened: he faced the 3 and 4 hitters in the 8th. As it turned out, Guerra couldn’t get the job done against the tail end of the order in the 9th. Sometimes, that just happens.

    • KT

      I agree totally  with #2

    • Anonymous

      “Sometimes, that just happens”.  Well said.

  • Anonymous

    They’re human.  Kenley one night (I was concerned about his velocity more than the fact he gave up the home run) and Guerra last night.  Guerra points to his losing focus after throwing over to first 4 times and still having that stolen base, but we’ll see.  Bills has been great.  He’s cut way down on the walks, which always got him in trouble, and he has been really hitting the corners on his fastball.  I always hated his cutter, and the less he uses it the better his fastball will be.  My biggest complaint about last night was actually the baserunning.  Was Loney really trying to steal a base, or was it a botched sign or hit and run?  Then getting thrown out at third?  Gordon getting picked off was bad as well, but at least that does happen from time to time.  The other two are mental errors and kill rallies and games.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

       The first Loney play looked to me like a botched hit and run. The second looked like really poor judgment.

  • Anonymous

    My opinion is what it takes to be an effective closer, not entirely has to do with better, nastier stuff.  We all saw it in the Saito / Broxton years, where it was obvious that Brox had better stuff than Saito, more so biecause it  where the better years Brox pitched.   But it was later proved that Saito was a better pitcher in the 9th.  And that’s the point.  For me, it is more worrysome the Jansen blown save than Guerra’s.  Guerra has already 5 saves this season, 3 in consecutive days.  Jansen was his 1st chance.  That he felt the pressure? That it that was the reason the velocity was down?  That’s where i’m going.  Someones got it, other don’t.      

    • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

      I don’t think this applies to Jansen at all. He has the “mettle” to be a closer. But it seems like the first 2 weeks of the season both this year and last year, his velo was down slightly and he wasn’t quite hitting his spots. Seeing him last night just reminded us all of how good he can be. Guerra’s been great, too. But I think both Javy and Jansen have the mindset to be a closer. But the 8th inning can be just as pressure-filled as the 9th, depending on who’s up and the score. Last night Jansen set down the best hitters in the BRewers lineup like they were cat toys. As noted above, Guerra faced lesser hitters and didn’t finish them. That’s fine, it will happen. I won’t question his ability to face pressure since he’s done it just fine in the past. But the 8th vs 9th stuff and “saves”, are overrated. What is not overrated is how good Jansen is. 

    • Anonymous

       I don’t know.  Saito didn’t throw as hard as Broxton, but he sure was nasty.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    One of the weird things that is part of the freakout over closers is the assumption that they should NEVER give up the tying or go-ahead run.  Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw is not even held to the same standard. But whether it’s Jansen, Guerra or whomever, even blowing one save is a reason for people to start asking questions. It’s just bizarre.

    And that’s why my response to these people is, “Have you never seen baseball before?” No closer is successful every time out. 

    And particularly with young pitchers, you’d think there’d be just a tad more patience before people decided “he doesn’t have it upstairs.”  As if it were some terminal condition.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Vashkan Anthony Forkush

     This from a Reds blog of last year:
    “Pitching coach David Duncan suggested the possibility that the
    Brewers are stealing signs from the catcher when playing at home. The
    Brewers have a 40-14 record at home (74%) and a record of 21-35 (37.5%)
    on the road. Is there something rotten in Milwaukee, or are the cards
    just doing what they do best?”
     
    I believe the above has merit, particularly coming from Duncan.  The
    Brewers are a preternaturally successful team at home, now 48-0 when
    leading after the 7th inning. While K-Rod and Axford are solid, there
    clearly is something else going on. The first five hits Billingsley
    allowed were extra-base hits, I believe with a walk in there.
    Billingsley struck Braun to police the game at that point, as it has
    been done throughout the history of Baseball. There was no retaliation
    because the unspoken rule of the game was applied, tacitly admitting
    their crime. The HBP was not a slip nor collusion, it was Billingsley
    keeping the game clean.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

     [Jamie Moyer's fastest pitch Tuesday] – [Jamie Moyer's age] = 30. bit.ly/ImeVLr

    • Anonymous

      Bonus points for very attractive wife.

    • Anonymous

      Another interesting Jamie Moyer fact, I peeked across during a live look in and the commentators were talking about the lineup for the Padres when Moyer first played them in 86 (yes 86) and catching was none other than Bruce Bochy

  • foul tip

    As many expected given her medical concerns, Pat Summitt is stepping down at Tennessee.

    From the following linked story:  “Her impact reaches beyond wins and losses. Every Lady Vol player who has completed her eligibility at Tennessee has graduated, and 74 former players, assistants, graduate assistants, team managers and directors of basketball operations are currently among the coaching ranks at every level of basketball.”

    The graduation number simply cannot be topped.  It probably never will be equaled.

    None of this even begins to address the coaching record.

    Farewell, classy lady.  It will be great seeing you still around as long as possible.

    http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120418/SPORTS0601/304180155/Pat-Summitt-era-ends-UT-Warlick-named-coach

  • Anonymous

    Farewell Dick Clark

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/MW2R2Q72LP22HKPEXB2ZZPHSZM dud dew

    Aramis Ramirez, slightly north of .100 in almost 40 at-bats.

    No surprise; had a reaction similar to those regarding Andruw
    Jones, Jason Schmidt, and Juan Urribe, when Dodger interest
    was first mentioned.

    This could be a disaster for the Crew,  I said to Self.
    Could be, Self replied.

    Like Jones, I said.
    Don’t think that bad, Self thought.  Probably low bang
    for buck, but not Andruw bad.  Not Juan bad.  Know how
    hard it is to be THAT bad?

    Aside: Can’t believe the level of excitement, even 
    outside Manny-the Dogboy Land, over 9-1 start.
    Always counsel in any circumstances, well-built team or
    not, wait until at least June for beginning judgment.
    Just beginning…

    Worried last year about Clayton-the-Kid’s work load.
    Still worried.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/MW2R2Q72LP22HKPEXB2ZZPHSZM dud dew

    Anthony: Interesting.  Those splits are other-worldly.
    I will keep an occasional eye on that.  Thanks for the heads-up:-).

  • Anonymous

    Anything on Honeycutt’s emphatic chest pounding directed at K-Rod? I didn’t see any headline. Hopefully nothing happens.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    NPUT