Sep 11

Another dry day in the desert for the Dodgers

This pinch-hit Dodger Thoughts post is dedicated to Mark Sweeney.

Two days after getting shut out in San Francisco, the Dodgers traveled to Arizona. This time, they would have their ace, Clayton Kershaw on the mound. Their best hitter, Matt Kemp, would be back in the lineup. And, it didn’t matter, as the Diamondbacks picked up an unearned run in the 7th on a Hanley Ramirez throwing error and a Miguel Montero RBI double to win 1-0.

The Dodgers had only one look at the game. That came in the fifth after Andre Ethier hit a two-out double. Luis Cruz then sent a drive deep to left that Jason Kubel leaped for, and, to the surprise of many, actually caught. In the seventh, Cruz reached on a one-out single and was pinch run for by Dee Gordon. Gordon never tried to steal and A.J. Ellis hit into a double play. Shane Victorino got a two out double in the ninth off of David Hernandez, but Adrian Gonzalez was caught looking to end the game.

It may finally be time for the Dodgers to retire their “the Dodgers are challenging for the NL West title” commercial. The Giants won a very Coors Fieldish 9-8 game against the Rockies to increase their lead to six games. The Rockies were mathematically eliminated from NL West contention, but they are still alive for the wild card.

But, there was good news down in San Diego. The current owner of Wild Card #2 in the National League, St. Louis, lost again, 6-4. The Cardinals lead over the Dodgers remains at one game. Even the Pirates, who have lost 11 of 16, are still just 2 1/2 games back. Even more surprisingly, the Phillies and Brewers both got to the .500 mark and they are just four games out of a playoff spot. However, if your team still needs to pass up the Pirates this late in September in order to make the playoffs, there is something inherently wrong with your team’s late season surge.

And with this I bid you adieu and go back to the world of commenting. Sorry I didn’t have better news to relate to people. But, if it were all good news, it would have been boring right? No, it would have been more interesting. Life doesn’t let you pick your spots that often.

The Dodgers, somehow, still have a decent chance at a playoff spot. All they need to do is score a run. Not a run or two. We’ll settle for one and go from there.

Sep 11

Last best hope for Dodgerkind Game Chat

Dodgers at Diamondbacks, 6:40 p.m.
Kershaw CXLVI: Kershaw Among the Ruins
Mark Ellis, 2B
Shane Victorino, LF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, CF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Andre Ethier, RF
Luis Cruz, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Clayton Kershaw, P

This pinch-hit Dodger Thoughts post is dedicated to Johnny Frederick. (Please not his 1932 HR Log.)

Today, I got a customer survey from the Dodgers, which I filled out. I do this mostly in hopes that there will be some sort of prize at the end. There usually isn’t. (For some reason, I filled one out from Southwest Airlines that took an hour to fill out and I got bupkis.)

One question asked which Dodgers figure I wanted to see on a bobblehead in 2013. I said, “Dazzy Vance.” For a guy who did not become a regular in the majors until he was 31, he put up numbers that were incredible. In 1928, he had an ERA of 2.09 when the league ERA was 3.99. In 1930, the league ERA was 4.97 and Vance’s was 2.61.

The next best ERA on the 1930 Dodgers was 3.40 by reliever Sloppy Thurston (who apparently was a neat person, but had a father who liked to give out free soup to the indigent.) The next best ERA for a starter was 3.95 by Jumbo Elliott, who was officially listed as being 6’3″ and 235 lbs (other sources put him at 6’5″, 250 lbs), which makes him smaller and lighter than me. And nobody calls me Jumbo. To my face. Twice.

The 1930 Dodgers also had Babe Herman in the outfield. He batted .393. He hit 35 home runs. He drove in 130 runs. And what did he lead the league in? Nothing.

Oh what were we supposed to be discussing today? Oh yeah, a Dodgers-Diamondbacks game. The Dodgers have brought in reinforcements from Albuquerque, to bring the active roster total up to 34. Elian Herrera (who can make it less likely that Juan Uribe will play), Stephen Fife (who will be waiting around to see if another starting pitcher gets hurt), and Dee Gordon (who will get to pinch run if Juan Rivera is fortunate enough to reach base) are all back from Albuquerque. Since Gordon was on the 40-man roster, another player had to be taken off. And that was …. Adam Kennedy, exiled to the 60-day DL.

Adam Kennedy looks to have taken over Orlando Hudson’s spot as “Dodger who homered in his last at bat with the team.” Hudson had taken over that spot from Tom Wilson. The last Dodger to homer in his last at bat with the team in the regular season, also did it against the Giants, Tony Brewer back in in 1984. Of course, I’m piecing this facts together mainly using my memory and some poorly-sourced websites. But, Philip Roth and I agree on these facts at least.

But Kennedy’s homer could very well be the last one in his major league career. I need to reanimate John Updike and have him write “Kid Bids Angeleno Fans Adieu.” The last player to homer in his last MLB at bat was Jim Edmonds, who like Ted Williams, was taken out of the game early after hitting a home run.

Sep 11

A Happier 9/11

Per Jon’s request, I’m reposting his piece that he first published nine years ago today.

* * *

Twenty years ago today, Dodger Stadium hosted its greatest game.

It began swathed in bright blue skies and triple-digit temperatures. When it ended, 228 crazy brilliant minutes later, shadows palmed most of the playing field, and every Dodger fan who witnessed the spectacle found themselves near joyous collapse.

The game was between the Dodgers of Steve Sax and Pedro Guerrero, of Greg Brock and Mike Marshall … and the Braves of Dale Murphy, of Bruce Benedict, of Brad Komminsk.

In the end, however, it came down to one man. A rookie named R.J. Reynolds.

Continue reading

Sep 10

The NL Wild Card race continues its reverse stampede

This pinch-hit Dodger Thoughts post is dedicated to Robin Ventura.

The Dodgers found perhaps the best way to gain ground in the NL Wild Card and NL West races: they didn’t play. While the Dodgers spent a day off in Phoenix, the two teams the Dodgers are pursuing, the Giants and Cardinals, both lost.

The Giants started a three-game series in Denver Monday against a Rockies team that had lost five straight and had been swept in a split doubleheader the day/night before in Philadelphia. The Giants were coming off a 4-0 shutout win over the Dodgers. So, the vagaries of baseball made the Rockies a 6-5 winner. Ryan Vogelsong took the loss for the Giants. In his last six starts, Vogelsong has a put up a 9.57 ERA. And he’s still managed to win two of those games. But it does appear that Vogelsong is pitching himself into a long relief role for the Giants in the playoffs. (Yes, I’m assuming that the Giants will make the playoffs.)

** Checking back in history, the 1951 Giants, with 21 games left in the season were trailing the Dodgers by six games. They went 16-5 before the tiebreaker. In 1962, with 21 games left, the Giants trailed the Dodgers by 1/2 game, although that would increase to four games with seven left to play.

Down south (as Vin likes to refer to San Diego), the Cardinals started a seven-game road trip to Southern California with an 11-3 pounding by the Padres. Old Friend Eric Stults improved to 6-2 on the season. NL RBI leader Chase Headley drove in … none.

So, as the Dodgers get ready to play Arizona Tuesday night, they will be trailing the Giants by five games in the NL West and trailing the Cardinals by one game for the NL’s second wild card.

The Pirates lost to the Reds, 4-3 in 14 innings to remain 2 1/2 games behind the Cardinals. Making very late runs are Milwaukee and Philadelphia, both of whom are now 70-71. The Brewers have won 16 of their last 21 and the Phillies have won 13 of their last 17. So, if you’re looking for a 2007 Rockies-like run to the wild card, keep an eye on these two teams.

However, all the losing by teams in front of them won’t help the Dodgers until they actually win games. The Dodgers last trip to Arizona was at the beginning of July before the All-Star Break and they lost three of four games. The Dodgers lineup on the day before the break:

Tony Gwynn, CF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Bobby Abreu, LF
Juan Rivera, 1B
Jerry Hairston, 3B
Elian Herrera, RF
Luis Cruz, SS
Matt Treanor, C
Chris Capuano, P

The Dodgers lost the game 7-1, with the only run scoring on a pinch hit sacrifice fly by Juan Uribe in the ninth inning.

Tuesday should bring the return of Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp to the lineup. And Dodgers fans can only hope in the healing power of cortisone. And rest. (Or else we can read more about the relative levels of manhood shown by people in 1965 as opposed to today. Or maybe not.) The Diamondbacks will be countering with Ian Kennedy.

In other games of note Tuesday, the Giants will be at Coors Field in a 5:40 pm game matching up Madison Bumgarner and Jhoulys Chacin. The Cardinals and Padres start at 7:10 pm with Adam Wainwright pitching against Edinson Volquez.

There will likely be news during the day regarding injured players and maybe some minor league call ups, but I may not be able to get to them unless they are all announced while I’m on my lunch hour. And that never seems to happen.

Sep 10

Taking half measures

The Dodgers are off today as they will be the two Mondays after that. So, for a few days, the half-games that appear in the “GB” column in the standings will disappear.

Or at least for some teams, the Dodgers and Cardinals will have the same number of games to play until September 24, when the Dodgers will be off and the Cardinals will be playing in Houston. All the teams in the majors won’t be on equal footing (barring rainouts that can’t be made up) until September 28 when all 30 teams play the final six days of the year.

The Dodgers have an off day on the road as they head off to Phoenix to play a two-game series at Chase Field against the Diamondbacks. They will both start at the traditional screwball Arizona time of 6:40 pm. (Although Arizona is in the Mountain Time Zone, that state, with a few exceptions, doesn’t use Daylight Saving Time, so it’s effectively the same time zone as the Pacific Time Zone during baseball season.) The last time the Dodgers ventured to Arizona was in early July when they lost 3 of 4.

If the Dodgers can survive those two games, and there’s no guarantee they will, they will have their last best chance to get into a playoff spot with four games at home against the Cardinals.

Today, while the Dodgers are off, the Cardinals will be starting their West Coast road trip with a game in San Diego. The Giants will be travelling to Denver to take on the Rockies, who will be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs with a combination of losses or Cardinals wins that add up to three.

 

Sep 09

Series of Great Import Part III Game Chat

Dodgers at Giants, 5:05 p.m.

Mark Ellis, 2B
Shane Victorino, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Luis Cruz, 3B
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, LF
A.J. Ellis, C
Joe Blanton, P

This pinch-hit Dodger Thoughts post is dedicated to Ron Coomer.

I had come up with my own clever Clayton Kershaw pun for today’s game. But do I get to use it? No. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. If all goes well, I can use it on Tuesday when Kershaw should make his next start. Oh, and Matt Kemp should start that day too.

And so we come to: END GAME. Oh wait, there are games after this. Regardless, this should be the Dodgers last game in San Francisco unless they meet in a divisional tiebreaker (although it would be more likely that if the teams tied, the Dodgers would host that tiebreaker because they would have to win the season series). Or they could meet in the wild card game if Arizona goes on a 2007 Rockies-like streak. Or they could meet in the Divisional Series. Or in the NLCS.

Down on the farm, Albuquerque is playing Omaha in a decisive fifth game in their PCL semifinal playoff series. In Game 4, the Isotopes scored nine times in the ninth to turn a 10-3 deficit into a 12-10 win, channeling their inner Petaluma Little League. However, Game 5 is shaping up to be worse for the Isotopes. And at the rate that Dodgers players are dropping by the side of the road, the Dodgers could use a few bodies from the Duke City to help out with the big club.

Update: No late-inning magic for the Isotopes. Their seasoned ended with a 16-7 loss to Omaha.

 

Sep 08

Dodgers lose Kemp, win game, confuse fans, and run bases in unusual manner

This pinch-hit Dodger Thoughts post is dedicated to Dave Hansen.

After having nearly nothing go right for them in Friday’s 5-2 loss to the Giants, the Dodgers, despite their best efforts, pulled out a 3-2 win over the Giants Saturday afternoon at AT&T Park. And now they are back to where they were Friday afternoon, 4 1/2 games behind the Giants.

It looked like it would be a game like just about every other game the Dodgers played this week when the Dodgers failed to score in the first after getting the leadoff man and then the Giants pushed across a run with three hits to take a 1-0 lead. Chris Capuano looked to be headed for yet another disappointing start.

Then, Capuano started mowing down Giants hitters, retiring 12 in a row at one point.

Still, there was the small matter of the Dodgers scoring runs off of Matt Cain. The Dodgers hadn’t been able to score much off of anybody. And Matt Kemp was out of the lineup with a sore shoulder that required an MRI.

The luck then started to change a bit for the Dodgers. Gregor Blanco reached first on a bunt single in the fifth, although replays indicated he was out. Cain sacrificed Blanco to second. Blanco then took off for third seeing the base uncovered, but AJ Ellis hustled up the line to take the return throw and tag Blanco. Who was called out. We’ll leave it at that.

Capuano had a one-out single in the sixth. Mark Ellis singled Capuano over to third. With the Dodgers in desperate need of either a sacrifice fly or a wild pitch, they got the former. Shane Victorino’s fly ball to center was plenty deep enough to score Capuano to tie the game.

But, like a typical Dodgers-Giants game, it would not be easy the rest of the way. Buster Posey led off the seventh with a double off of Capuano. Hunter Pence sacrificed Posey to third. Brandon Belt then belted the ball, but right at Capuano’s glove. Instead of line out, it turned in to a 1-3 ground out and Posey scored to make it 2-1 Giants.

The Dodgers got up off the deck in the eighth however. Juan Rivera hit a drive to right that Pence fielded like a guy who is new to AT&T Park. Rivera ended up at second with a double. AJ Ellis sacrificed Rivera over to third, and then Rivera departed for pinch runner Alex Castellanos.

Don Mattingly then called on Bobby Abreu to bat for Capuano. With Adam Kennedy likely done for the year, the Dodgers choices for pinch hitters from the left side, pretty much begin and end with him. (Unless you really like Nick Punto, who is a switch hitter.)

With visions of a 1997 Eddie Murray batting against Rod Beck, Dodgers fans hoped for a sacrifice fly or a wild pitch. This time, they got the latter. Cain’s ball four pitch to Abreu went to the backstop to allow Castellanos to score the tying run, making Charlie Steiner go crazy on radio and starting Rick Monday on a scolding lecture of Posey’s pitch-blocking technique.

The Giants got two on with two outs in the eighth against Ronald Belisario, but Pence fanned to end the inning.

Now, the stage was set for one of the Dodgers most exciting and annoying innings of the season. Adrian Gonzalez hit a drive to deep right that was so far away that even he could get a triple. Hanley Ramirez doubled to give the Dodgers a 3-2 lead. Then, on a ball four to Andre Ethier, Ramirez tried to steal third. He was … not safe. With Luis Cruz up, Ethier tried to steal second. He was … not safe. The Dodgers took a 3-2 lead into the ninth.

Enter Brandon League, the Dodgers closer du jour. He retired Joaquin Arias and Belt, but then gave up a double to Blanco. Pinch hitter Hector Sanchez had a chance to make the Dodgers day miserable. Sanchez hit a line drive, but it ended up in Cruz’s glove, and, for a day, the Dodgers had moved their NL West pennant status from “grave” to “critical.”

The race for the second wild card spot is still going on. The Pirates are playing the Cubs and the Cardinals are taking on the Brewers as this is being posted.

Sunday evening the Dodgers turn to Clayton Kershaw to give them a series win and a level of hope that is slightly above that of “glimmer.” Barry Zito will pitch for the Giants. ESPN will carry the game, so expect lots of discussion about how Terry Francona got along with Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez.

Update: Dylan Hernandez of the Times tweets that Kemp is out with shoulder inflammation and a fraying of the labrum. He may return to the lineup Tuesday.

 

Sep 08

Series of Great Import Part II Game Chat

Dodgers at Giants, 1:05 pm
Mark Ellis, 2B
Shane Victorino, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Andre Ethier, RF
Luis Cruz, 3B
Juan Rivera, LF
A.J. Ellis, C
Chris Capuano, P

This pinch-hit Dodger Thoughts post is in honor of Lenny Harris.

Enjoy the stylings of Matt Vasgersian and Tim McCarver on this Saturday afternoon on Fox. Get ready to hear Ken Rosenthal say the word “jell” a lot. I’m missing this game because of work, but I think it will be a pain in the aspic.

Matt Kemp, 3 for 29 since he came up second in a battle with the fence at Coors Field, is out for the remaining two games of this series. And potentially more as an MRI on his shoulder is planned, according to Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times via Twitter. Time to reacquaint yourself with the excitement that is Juan Rivera, although don’t be surprised to see Bobby Abreu or Alex Castellanos wandering around left field if the situation with Kemp persists.

The other outfielders on the 40-man roster who could still be recalled include Scott Van Slyke and Matt Angle. Officially, Jerry Sands and Yasiel Puig are on the 40-man roster, but they are both likely off-limits. Elian Herrera, who can play many positions, although maybe not any of them particularly well, could also be recalled.

 

Sep 08

So, you want to start following the wild card race?

This pinch-hit post is dedicated to Mitch Webster.

The Dodgers now find themselves 5 1/2 games behind the Giants in the NL West race. With just 23 game left for the Dodgers and just five of them against the Giants, the Dodgers playoff fate is no longer in their own hands. In fact, even if the Dodgers went 23-0 the rest of the way, they might not even make the playoffs at all. The only teams in the NL that control their own destiny are the five current playoff spot holders: Washington, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Atlanta, and St. Louis.

There are three main contenders for the second wild card spot, or, as I like to call it in shorthand, WC2: St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles. The Cardinals have a 1 1/2 game lead over the Bucs and Dodgers.

We know how the Dodgers did last night, but how did Friday night go for the other teams?

Not well.

The Pirates played the games and played a game that might have been the worst of all possible worlds. The Cubs had lost 16 of their last 17 games on the road. And the Cubs parlayed SEVEN Pittsburgh errors in to a 12-2 win that was not as close as the score would indicate.

The sixth inning was one for the ages. Brett Jackson led off for the Cubs with an infield hit. A.J. Burnett then had a pitch get past Old Friend Rod Barajas to let Jackson advance. Darwin Barney hit a grounder to shortstop Josh Harrison who tried to throw out Jackson at third. Jackson looked to be out, but managed to slide around the tag attempt of Pedro Alvarez. Bucs manager Clint Hurdle argued with umpire Gary Darling and got himself ejected.

Then, it got worse. Travis Wood dropped a horrible sacrifice attempt in front of the plate. Barajas threw to second to start what should have been an easy double play. But, the throw was wide and everyone was safe. David DeJesus followed with a grounder to first baseman Gaby Sanchez, who threw home for what should have been a 3-2-3 DP. But, Barajas couldn’t handle the throw and a run scored. (Sanchez drew the error.) The Pirates made a double switch, removing Barajas. Reliever Justin Wilson came in and gave up a 2-run double to Luis Valbuena. It was not the Pirates’ night. They committed seven errors in a game for the first time since September 16, 1985. You can watch the errorfest here.

Over in St. Louis, the Cardinals and Brewers were delayed by rain for two and a half hours. The Cardinals led 2-0 after the first inning, but the Brewers tied the game with single runs in the fourth and seventh.  In the top of the eighth, the Brewers took a 4-2 lead and turned the lead over to Jim Henderson, one of their less shaky relievers. Henderson gave up a game-tying 2-run homer to Yadier Molina in the bottom of the 8th.

The game pressed on into the night. The Best Fans in Baseball became the sleepiest fans in baseball. And then they went home. Why? Because they were still playing at 2 am local time. And it was around 2 am, when Ryan Braun homered off of Lance Lynn in the 13th. (In the link you can listen to Brewers announcer Brian Anderson say, “Braun unbreaks the tie!” Hey, it was late.) The Brewers held on for a 5-4 win. The Cardinals had left the bases loaded in the 11th and left two runners on in the 12th.

Despite the disappointments that the Dodgers, Pirates, and Cardinals all had last night, they will all be back at it today. Because that’s the nature of baseball, there’s almost always a game the next day. Although after October 3, many teams won’t be able to say that.

 

Sep 07

Dodgers waste a lot and end up wanting

This pinch-hit post is dedicated to Vic Davalillo.

Game 1 of the Series of Great Import between the Dodgers and Giants at AT&T Park ended with the gentlemen in the orange jerseys winning 5-2. The Dodgers offense acted like someone trying to grow a garden by buying a bag of seeds and then pouring them on the sidewalk and wondering why he doesn’t end up with 40 heads of lettuce.

The Dodgers had 13 men reach base, seven of them on walks by Giants starter Tim Lincecum. However, the Dodgers could only get two of them home. One run scored on a ground out by Matt Kemp and the other came on a home run by Adam Kennedy that scraped the top of the right field fence. The Dodgers didn’t ground into any double plays. They just couldn’t get a hit with a runner in scoring position

The Giants pinged out 10 hits, all singles, with few of them being hit hard. However, the Giants parlayed their scoring chances into runs with annoying and relentless effectiveness.

After the Dodgers took a 1-0 lead in the third, the Giants tied the game on a Brandon Crawford single, a Lincecum sacrifice, and an RBI single from Angel Pagan.

After Kennedy’s homer in the sixth, the Giants used a bunt single by Pagan, a stolen base, a ground out, and then an RBI infield hit by Hunter Pence to tie the game.

The seventh inning was one of those innings that tries manager’s souls. Mark Ellis led off with an infield hit. Shane Victorino was given the bunt sign. After failing to get the first attempt down, Victorino took a called strike, an event that Victorino seemed unable to fathom. Don Mattingly kept the bunt on and Victorino struck out bunting foul on an attempt that seemed quarter-hearted at best. After Adrian Gonzalez walked to end Lincecum’s night, Sergio Casilla got Kemp to ground out and then struck out Hanley Ramirez.

In the bottom of the seventh, Hector Sanchez singled. Pinch runner Gregor Blanco stole second. Crawford walked. Bruce Bochy then sent Manny Burriss up as a pinch-sacrificer. Burriss did his job. Angel Pagan was purposely passed to load the bases. The question now before the House was: should Josh Beckett stay in the game or should Brandon League come in to pitch to Marco Scutaro?

Beckett stayed in. Scutaro looped a single to right, two runs scored. The Giants would score another run in the eighth, aided by a pair of infield hits.

And now the Dodgers must wait to see how the Cardinals game against the Brewers turns out. It’s tied 4-4 in the 10th as I type this. (There was a lengthy rain delay at the outset.) The Pirates were demolished by the Cubs, 12-2.

Chris Capuano versus Matt Cain Saturday afternoon. Enjoy!

Update: The Brewers beat the Cardinals, 5-4 in 13 innings in a game that ended after 2 am St. Louis time. Ryan Braun’s 39th homer of the season was the decider. The Cardinals remain 1 1/2 games up on the Pirates and Dodgers for the second wild card spot.

Also, more surprisingly, the Cubs stay alive for another day!