Apr 30

Deuces wild

Sorry for the unexcused absence over the past two days. Monday night was spent celebrating my 13th anniversary with the missus.

But I will say I like the moxie of that Schumaker kid on the mound …

Friend of Dodger Thoughts Erin Scot of Robots Took My Medicine tells us what she’s been up to since taking a hiatus from blogging — and also offers for sale this great, Vin Scully-inspired “Deuces are wild” T-shirt. Check it out.

And remember — the “100 Things Dodgers” booksigning is Saturday in Pasadena.

Rockies at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.

Jerry Hairston Jr., LF
Nick Punto, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Andre Ethier, RF
A.J. Ellis, C
Juan Uribe, 3B
Hyun-Jin Ryu, P

Carl Crawford was a late scratch with tightness in his right hamstring.

Apr 28

Kershaw CLV: Kershawp with People


Matt Kemp has a .444 on-base percentage and .513 slugging in his past 11 games. If you’re wondering about his power, that’s going to be the last thing to return following his labrum surgery.

Justin Sellers has a .385 on-base percentage and .378 slugging in his past 15 games since starting the season 0 for 13.

Brewers at Dodgers, 1:10 p.m.

Carl Crawford, LF
Nick Punto, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Ramon Hernandez, C
Juan Uribe, 3B
Justin Sellers, SS
Clayton Kershaw, P

Apr 27

You can’t have too much anything


The yanking of my brain from good to bad on a daily basis is mimicked in the fortunes of the Dodgers, who are as inconsistent in their fortune as their 11-11 record implies.

Friday’s pockmarked but resilient 7-5 victory over Milwaukee came with the latest injury, a right quad strain for sizzling second baseman Mark Ellis. Tonight’s game has served up its latest malady as a pregame appetizer: the news that Stephen Fife is going on the disabled list with bursitis. Matt Magill will make his major-league debut tonight for the Dodgers, becoming their ninth starting pitcher in the team’s 23rd game of the season. Exciting but enervating is this Los Angeles team.

The injuries to the pitchers have validated the maxim that you can’t have too much pitching (though Aaron Harang, with an 11.37 ERA and 25 baserunners allowed in 12 2/3 innings over three starts with Seattle, so far remains evidence of the opposite). But the larger point is, you can’t have too much of anything – the Dodger infield will now remain more strapped than the pitching staff even as Hanley Ramirez nears a return, assuming Ramirez himself can stay healthy.

All lamentations and pointless accusations of healthcare inadequacy aside, the Dodgers remind us that every moment of good fortune is precious, and every moment of ill fate is a challenge to be overcome. No one will feel sorry for you for long. It’s worth learning, of you can, to do well with less.

Brewers at Dodgers, 6:10 p.m.

Carl Crawford, LF
A.J. Ellis, C
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Skip Schumaker, 2B
Luis Cruz, SS
Juan Uribe, 3B
Matt Magill, P

Apr 25

The glory that is Juan Uribe

The Juan Uribe statline after today’s 3-2 Dodger victory in New York: 29 plate appearances, two singles, two home runs, eight walks. He has an .890 OPS despite a .190 batting average.

Juan Uribe has the top walk rate on the Dodgers: one every 3.6 plate appearances.

Juan Uribe.

After walking in his first three trips to the plate today, Uribe drove in the Dodgers’ second run of the ninth and third run of the game with an infield single. That proved critical because Brandon League allowed an Ike Davis home run in the bottom of the inning.

League retired the next three batters to avoid blowing his second save in less than 24 hours.

Staked to a 1-0 lead in the first inning, Hyun-Jin Ryu went seven innings and allowed only a run on three hits with three walks, striking out eight. Matt Kemp went 2 for 3 with a walk, an RBI and a run and is hitting a season-high .266.

Los Angeles split six games on its initial East Coast road trip.

Apr 25

Inches from victory

Well, I called it, didn’t I? Joy and sadness, though admittedly, there was more joy from the starting-pitching matchup than you might have expected, when Ted Lilly was pitching one-run ball in his first start in nearly a year and Matt Kemp was hitting his first homer of the season against Mets phenom Matt Harvey.

A foreboding moment began when J.P. Howell walked his first two batters after Kemp had given the Dodgers a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning, but the real crisis came when Carl Crawford couldn’t prevent a leadoff double by Mike Baxter in the bottom of the ninth against Brandon League – the ball went off the heel of Crawford’s glove as he was sliding. Los Angeles got a measure of yang to this yin with Jerry Hairston’s great catch of a foul pop-up by Daniel Murphy with one out and a runner on third, but it all went south from there, capped by Jordany Valdespin’s grand slam in the 10th for a 7-3 Mets victory.

More bad tidings came overnight with the news that Shawn Tolleson will have back surgery later today to repair a herniated disc in his low back, putting him out of action for three to five months.

Dodgers at Mets, 10:10 a.m.

Carl Crawford, LF
Nick Punto, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Ramon Hernandez, C
Justin Sellers, SS
Hyun-Jin Ryu, P

 

Apr 24

Mark Ellis powers Dodgers, 7-2, after Kershaw struggles

What can baseball do?

Baseball can give you joy when you can imagine only sadness.

It can also give you the reverse, but enough about last week with the Dodgers. This is this week.

For two consecutive games, the Dodgers have won when you would have thought they would lose. They won when Chad Billingsley was unable to start Sunday, and they won in New York, 7-2, after an uncharacteristic disintegration by Clayton Kershaw on Tuesday.

Kershaw, to be fair, only allowed two runs, but it was shocking how it happened. Twelve pitches in into the third inning, 39 pitches into the game, Kershaw had retired all eight batters he had faced and had a 1-2 count on an emergency relief pitcher making his first career plate appearance. Moments later, he was trailing 2-1 and barely escaping a bases-loaded jam with a Marlon Byrd groundout, and after two more innings and 111 total pitches – matching the most he has ever thrown in the majors without reaching the sixth inning – his night was over. It was the second consecutive outing in which an opposing pitcher ended a perfect start by Kershaw.

Photos by Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Fortunately for the Dodgers, Mark Ellis has shown up like a combination of Florence Nightengale and the Tooth Fairy. Ellis, who Sunday drove in the Dodgers’ first three runs and also made a critical defensive play, all but singlehandedly put the Dodgers on his back Tuesday, with a game-tying home run in the fifth inning – the 100th of his career – and then a leap-from-your-seat three-run blast with two out in the seventh to put Los Angeles ahead to stay. (Not for nothing, Ellis also knocked out Mets starter Jonathon Niese in the third inning with a hard shot up the middle.)

Ellis’ second home run, as Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. noted, made him only the third Dodger second baseman in a century and first in 39 years with four hits and two homers in a game. The 35-year-old (how can such a veteran’s veteran be 10 years younger than me) himself has now thrice homered twice in a game. I also dare say that you won’t find another night in history when Dodger and Angel second basemen each hit two home runs, including tiebreaking homers for both, but I leave you the research challenge.

Not to be lost amid Ellis’ glory is the day Justin Sellers had – three hits, including an RBI single in the second and another coming ahead of Ellis’ second homer. (Juan Uribe drew a walk to keep that inning alive.) After starting the season 0 for 13, Sellers is 11 for 37 with a homer and five walks in his past 12 games (.409 on-base percentage, .378 slugging) and hasn’t made an error since his unfortunate second game of 2013. As hot as Dee Gordon has been at the plate in Albuquerque, Sellers has allowed the Dodgers to remove the yellow caution tape around shortstop.

A.J. Ellis doubled in two insurance runs in the eighth and now leads all major-league catchers with a .446 on-base percentage and NL catchers with a 159 adjusted OPS, and not because the pitcher is batting behind him – he has batted no lower than seventh except for in the third game of the season. Matt Kemp had two more hits and is now 17 for his past 55 (.309) with four doubles, as MLB.com noted, while Andre Ethier doubled ahead of A.J. to slow a 2-for-25 slump.

In addition, the topsy-turvy Dodger bullpen of 2013 has gone back to topsy, pitching at least four innings of shutout ball for the second consecutive game, sparked by a comeback performance by struggling Ronald Belisario (three batters, three outs on 15 pitches, 12 for strikes).

Los Angeles is now 9-4 when it isn’t losing six games in a row. Joy and sadness, that’s our game. With Ted Lilly against Matt Harvey tonight, it figures to be more of the same.

Apr 23

Billingsley loses longshot bet, headed for surgery

Look, it didn’t take hindsight to question Chad Billingsley’s decision to put off the Tommy John surgery the Dodgers announced he will now get Wednesday. The guy made an optimistic gambit and lost. It’s unfortunate, but far be it from me to criticize someone betting on himself.

Though Stephen Fife takes his spot in the rotation for now and Chris Capuano will move back in once his calf is healed, I think there is a strong possibility we’ll see minor-leaguers Matt Magill or Zach Lee before the summer’s out.

Dodgers at Mets, 4:10 p.m.
Kershaw CLIV: Kershawnce Upon a Time in America

Carl Crawford, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
Andre Ethier, RF
A.J. Ellis, C
Justin Sellers, SS
Clayton Kershaw, P

 

Apr 23

The standings

San Diego Padres vs. Los Angeles Dodgers: 4-2

San Diego Padres vs. every other team: 1-12

The Padres scored 22 runs in their most recent three-game series against the Dodgers. They have scored three runs in four games since.

Of the 64 runs San Diego has scored this season, 36 (56.3 percent) have come in their six games against the Dodgers. The Padres are averaging 6.0 runs per game against Los Angeles and 2.1 runs per game against the rest of baseball.

Pitching? The Padres allowed 17 runs in six games with the Dodgers (2.8 per game). Against everyone else: 75 runs in 13 games (5.7 per game).

And yet, the Pittsburgh Pirates are 0-3 against the Dodgers and 10-6 against everyone else.

Unfortunately, the showdown for the ages – Padres vs. Pirates – won’t come until August 19.

Apr 21

Thanks – we needed that

I’m not going to say that Dodger fans needed this one, this 7-4 victory today over Baltimore, because for one thing, it seemed unlikely following Chad Billingsley’s latest health calamity that “this one” was going to come. Certainly, after replacement starter Stephen Fife gave up three runs in a 35-pitch first inning, “this one” seemed very unlikely to wander the Dodgers’ way.

Even I, after my funereal post Saturday, had my own set of Washington Generals jokes at the ready in the early innings. “You don’t see the Washington Generals’ fans having trouble holding it together, do you?” Such a great, great line. How I savored the thousands of retweets and acknowledgments of superiority it would engender. Yet I held off, because I didn’t want to have egg on my face if the Dodgers surrendered their three-run deficit as easily as they surrendered a three-run lead the previous morning.

And sure enough, it happened. Baltimore’s pitching fell apart in a four-run Dodger fifth, Los Angeles added insurance runs in the seventh and ninth, and Fife, J.P. Howell, Matt Guerrier, Paco Rodriguez, Kenley Jansen and Brandon League combined to shut out the Orioles over the final six innings. Just like that, the zephyr (to use a Vin Scully favorite) was every so gently at our backs, and the Dodgers had won.

We might not have needed it, but if only for a day, it sure was a relief.

Special praise is due to Mark Ellis, who drove in the Dodgers’ first three runs with a sacrifice fly and a two-run single, and also made a superb defensive play ranging far to his right with the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the eighth. For a No. 2 hitter, Ellis has a disappointing two walks all season, but he is batting .311, including .435 (10 for 23) with runners on base, and playing his usual steady defense.

Matt Kemp struck out with the bases loaded and two out in the third, but followed that with hits in three consecutive at-bats, showing a ton of seventh-inning hustle in stealing second and then scoring on an A.J. Ellis single, capped by a nifty slide at home. Though still homerless, Kemp went 8 for 22 (.364) with a walk this past week.

Every little bit helps.

Apr 21

Billingsley heads to disabled list, Fife recalled

No, really – just keep pouring it on.

This moming, the Dodgers placed Chad Billingsley on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow pain (retroactive to April 16). Stephen Fife – ninth on the Dodgers’ starting-pitcher depth chart when the season began three weeks ago – will start today’s game in Baltimore, trying to help the Dodgers end their six-game losing streak.

Fife has started three games for Triple-A Albuquerque this year, posting a 4.61 ERA in 13 2/3 innings with 20 hits allowed, three walks and 14 strikeouts. As a major-leaguer, Fife had a 2.70 ERA in five starts covering 26 2/3 innings in 2012, with 25 hits and 12 walks allowed against 20 strikeouts.

Fife’s longest outing this season so far is five innings, in the game he last pitched, Monday at Iowa. He allowed four runs and struck out eight, throwing 91 pitches.

We’re waiting for details on the timing of Billingsley’s trip to the DL. The right-hander, of course, eschewed surgery last year despite missing the final six weeks of the season with his elbow problem. He has a 3.00 ERA in 12 innings this year with 12 hits allowed, five walks and six strikeouts.

By the way, 21-year-old former first-round pick Zach Lee has a 1.17 ERA after four starts for Double-A Chatanooga this year, allowing 26 baserunners in 23 innings while striking out 21. (His teammate, Yasiel Puig, is on the seven-day minor-league disabled list with a sprained thumb.)

Update: “Chad Billingsley is not making his scheduled start today due to increased tightness and pain in his right elbow that he experienced during his last bullpen session,” the Dodgers said in a statement. “After consulting Dr. Neal ElAttrache, it was decided that he will return to Los Angeles on Tuesday for further medical evaluation. More information will be forthcoming after that examination.”

Dodgers at Orioles, 10:35 a.m.

Carl Crawford, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Skip Schumaker, DH
Justin Sellers, SS
(Stephen Fife, P)

Apr 20

The reviews are in

Grim, gruesome, ghastly, hideous, horrific, putrid, petrified, repugnant, revolting, rotten, foul.

I want to laugh, but give me some material to work with.

Let’s try this again next week with a bit more zest, shall we?