Apr 12

Revenge on Jackie Robinson Night?

For Sports on Earth, I look ahead to the next meeting between the Dodgers and the Padres in the wake of their Thursday brawl. It comes Monday, on Jackie Robinson Night.

Dodgers at Diamondbacks, 6:40 p.m.
Kershaw CLII: Kershawvanhoe

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

Update: “Zack Greinke was examined by Dr. Neal ElAttrache today in Los Angeles and underwent a CT scan on his left clavicle,” the Dodgers said in a statement. “It was determined that he should undergo surgery to place a rod in the clavicle to stabilize and align the fracture.  The surgery will be performed tomorrow by team physicians,  Drs. ElAttrache and John Itamura, at White Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles.  Greinke’s expected return is eight weeks.”

Shawn Tolleson has been recalled from the minors for the time being.

Apr 11

Furious Dodgers fight off Padres but lose Greinke

I was angry, so I can only imagine how the Dodgers felt.

The idea that Zack Greinke was trying to hit Carlos Quentin with a 3-2 pitch in the sixth inning of a one-run game was ludicrous. So was the idea that Quentin, who is notorious for not getting out of the way of anything in his hemisphere (already, at age 30, ranking seventh among active players in career HBPs), should have taken offense at the run-of-the-mill shoulder-high pitch from Greinke.

When Quentin paused and then charged the mound, the less composed side of myself felt that it was less out of anger and more out of seizing an opportunity to simply injure a rival team’s star. That’s probably wrong, but at best, it takes a pretty huge ego and an even larger blind spot to think what Greinke did was intentional, even if they had a spat a blue moon ago.

The consequences were serious, as Greinke didn’t run away from Quentin but lowered his left shoulder to take the initial hit from the Padre as the wrestling match began and the benches cleared. That Matt Kemp (who was buzzed near the head early in the game) and Jerry Hairston Jr. were ejected along with Quentin was one thing, but the possibility that Greinke, who left the game with trainer Sue Falsone, might be hurt was quite another.

And immediately after the game came the news. Greinke had suffered a fractured left collarbone.

The official statement from the Dodgers: “Zack Greinke sustained a left fractured clavicle.  He was immobilized with a sling and will return to Los Angeles to be evaluated by Dr. Neal ElAttrache tomorrow.”

“A 2-1 game and we’re trying to hit him 3-2? It’s just stupid,” Dodger manager Don Mattingly said after the game. “He should not play a game until Greinke can pitch. If he plays before Greinke, something is wrong.”

Mattingly’s dreaming, of course, and he knows it. “Their guy will probably be playing in three days,” he added. The Dodgers will have to move on despite the injustice.

Back to the game. On their heels, the Dodgers surrendered the tying run one batter later when Quentin’s pinch-runner, Alexi Amarista, scored on a Yonder Alonso single after going to second base on a Chris Capuano wild pitch. (The Padres’ first run also happened to score in the fourth inning on a Greinke wild pitch, halving the two-run lead Adrian Gonzalez’s first homer of the year gave the Dodgers.)

With Dodger fans’ teeth bared, Los Angeles escaped a two-out, two-on jams in that inning and the next, before Juan Uribe came up as a pinch-hitter in the top of the eighth. Rarely has a player held in such disfavor by the multitudes done himself such a service. Uribe tomahawked a Luke Gregerson pitch over the left-field wall for his second home run of the series, giving the Dodgers a 3-2 lead (and, incidentally, knocking Clayton Kershaw out of the top ranks of Dodger home run hitters after nearly nine games).

Uribe, said Vin Scully, was so emotional returning to the Dodger dugout after he blast that it appeared he was close to tears.

And so it went to the bottom of the ninth. With Brandon League having thrown 34 pitches the previous night, Kenley Jansen was given the save assignment. Cody Ransom struck out, Chris Denorfia popped out and Everth Cabrera flied out, giving the Dodgers the victory.

The Dodgers and Padres next meet Monday. April 15. Jackie Robinson Night. On an evening that is meant to honor baseball’s greatest achievement, it could be one that instead pays homage to Robinson’s competitive spirit.

Apr 11

April 11 game chat: Giants riding high, but …

More magic from the Giants today, who for the second time in under 48 hours rallied from a deficit of at least four runs. The defending champions are now 7-3.

I do have some doubts about San Francisco long-term, however, and they center on a somewhat surprising place — their starting rotation. Tim Lincecum hasn’t convinced anyone he’s going rally to be an effective starter this year, putting more pressure on Barry Zito’s renaissance to prove real.

Should Lincecum falter, it could be up to someone like Chris Heston, who turned 25 Wednesday, to step up and save the Giants’ staff. Heston had a 2.24 ERA with a 1.103 WHIP and 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings for Double-A Richmond last year, but he is not one of the team’s top-10 prospects, according to Baseball America. San Francisco’s best starting pitching prospects are in the lower minors.

Look, the Giants will probably find a way to solve any rotation issues, but it just feels a little more precarious than usual.

Dodgers at Padres, 7:10 p.m.

Carl Crawford, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Andre Ethier, RF
A.J. Ellis, C
Luis Cruz, 3B
Justin Sellers, SS
Zack Greinke, P

Apr 11

The myth of Jackie Robinson’s retirement

Chock Full O' Nuts president William Black with Jack R. Robinson

From 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die:

One of the great myths in Dodgers history is that Jackie Robinson retired rather than play for the team’s nemesis, the New York Giants, after the Dodgers traded him there, seven weeks before his 38th birthday. In fact, as numerous sources such as Arnold Rampersad’s Jackie Robinson: A Biography indicate, Robinson had already made the decision to retire and take a position as vice president of personnel relations with the small but growing Chock Full O’ Nuts food and restaurant chain. This happened on December 10, 1957. But Robinson had a preexisting contract to give Look magazine exclusive rights to his retirement story, which meant the public couldn’t hear about his news until a January 8, 1958 publication date.

The night he signed his Chocktract, on December 11, Dodger general manager Buzzie Bavasi called Robinson to tell him he had been traded to the Giants. Teammates and the public reacted with shock to the news and rallied to his defense, even though Robinson had no intention of reporting. When the truth finally came out, it was Robinson who caught the brunt of the negative reaction at the time. Over the years, however, the story evolved into the fable that Robinson chose retirement because playing for the Giants was a moral impossibility. Robinson left baseball and the Dodgers nursing grievances over how he was treated. The trade to the Giants wasn’t the last straw that drove him out, but rather an event that confirmed that the decision he had already made was well chosen.

The newly revised edition of “100 Things Dodgers” is on sale now.

Apr 10

Dodgers survive a League of his moan, 4-3

So Chad Billingsley was the pregame worry, but in the end it was pins and needles with Brandon League.

It’s Jackie Robinson week, but instead we got the ghost of Mickey Owen.

Despite 17 baserunners tonight, the Dodgers’ final pitch of the game came with the tying and winning runs in motion on the bases for the Padres during a full-count pitch from League. But the last swing by Yonder Alonso sent a pop fly to the glove of backup left fielder Skip Schumaker, and Los Angeles hung on to a 4-3 victory.

The game offered little you could rely upon except Carl Crawford pounding the ball and the Dodgers leaving runners on base.

After the Dodgers stranded their 10th, 11th and 12th runners on base in the top of the ninth, League entered with a 4-1 lead and gave up a one-out double and two two-out singles for a run. He then struck out Chris Denorfia for what would have been the final out of the game, had the ball not eluded A.J. Ellis for a passed ball and another run.

League got two strikes on Alonso before the Padre worked the count full. With their stomachs lurching, Dodger fans instead got a dose of Pepto from the final out.

That preserved Billingsley’s first victory of the year and seventh in a row dating back to last season. After a leadoff walk, Billingsley sailed through the first three innings on barely 30 pitches, before falling out of sync in the fourth and fifth innings. But he kept the damage to a single run, and pushed through a sixth inning before calling it a night after 94 pitches. He allowed eight baserunners in all while striking out three.

Crawford homered on the second pitch of the game and tripled before scoring his second run in the fifth inning. Ellis hit a two-run homer in the second. Every Dodger position player who started had at least a hit, including the previously hitless Luis Cruz, who had two.

Apr 10

As Billingsley returns, do armchair therapists lurk?

Eleven men, brave and true, have pitched for the Dodgers in this young season. None, with the possible exception of Zack Greinke (who has publicly acknowledged social anxiety and depression issues), have had their performances psychoanalyzed in terms of mental toughness.

But back to the couch tonight, for the first time since his 2012 midseason injury, comes Chad Billingsley. It will be a test — not just for Billingsley, but for Dodger fans, who have habitually graded the righthander’s mental toughness ever since the 2008 playoffs.

Dodgers at Padres, 7:10 p.m.

Carl Crawford, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Andre Ethier, RF
Luis Cruz, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Justin Sellers, SS
Chad Billingsley, P

The practice went on hiatus during the six-game, 1.30 ERA hot streak that came right before Billingsley was sidelined. Will it return as soon as he has his first bad inning, or will there be the kind of grace period that other pitchers get when they are coming back from an injury? I have my suspicions, but it would be nice if Dodger fans could be as clear-headed as they expect their pitcher to be.

The thing to remember is, Billingsley was having an odd 2012 even before its supernova finish. From July 28:

Continue reading

Apr 09

Baseball, you’re so baseball

Of course, the perfect Dodger bullpen would fall apart on the night Juan Uribe hit his first home run since the golden age of Vaudeville.

Just like Uribe couldn’t hit that home run without grounding into a double play with the bases loaded in the first inning.

Just like the San Diego Padres, who were 1-5 with 14 runs all season before tonight, were able to score more runs in the eighth inning than they had in any entire game all season, finishing off a 9-3 whomping of Los Angeles.

Remember, the Dodgers had allowed only six earned runs in 2013 before this one.

Carl Crawford went 2 for 4 with a walk, though he unfortunately made his third out in six starts on the bases. You can stack that alongside three double plays the Dodgers hit into, along with a 1-for-9 performance by the team with runners in scoring position, to illustrate why the team had 15 baserunners and scored thrice.

But at least those guys from Boston can hit …

… because right now, it’s not clear that Josh Beckett can pitch. But check back with me in a week, because baseball will no doubt continue to be baseball.

Some tweets from late in the game:

Apr 09

Must-read on Jackie Robinson, by Ron Rapoport

This piece on Jackie Robinson’s final days in 1972 at L.A. Observed’s Native Intelligence was written by former Los Angeles Times and Daily News sportswriter Ron Rapoport. Portions ran previously in the Los Angeles Times Magazine, but anyone interested in Robinson should read it in its entirety.

Dodgers at Padres, 3:40 p.m.

Carl Crawford, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Juan Uribe, 3B
Andre Ethier, RF
A.J. Ellis, C
Justin Sellers, SS
Josh Beckett, P

Apr 07

Player of the game: Juan Uribe

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers (April 6, 2013)

Juan Uribe didn’t have a hit this season, but when things threatened to get out of hand in the first inning for the Hyun-Jin Ryu and the Dodgers, Uribe made a diving stop to rob Michael McKenry of a double that would have given Pittsburgh a 3-0 lead.

Instead, Uribe turned a force play, sparing Ryu a possible first-inning beating, and the Dodgers rallied for a 6-2 victory, giving them a sweep of Pittsburgh for the second April in a row.

Ryu (2.13 ERA) went 6 1/3 innings, allowing a two-run homer by Andrew McCutchen but only two baserunners after the first inning. Suddenly hot-hitting Adrian Gonzalez went 3 for 4 with four RBI, Nick Punto reached base three times and Justin Sellers ended his season-opening 0-fer with a solo blast.

Ronald Belisario allowed the Dodger bullpen’s first hit of the season, but Pittsburgh never struck back after the heroic Uribe saved the day.

Apr 06

Kershaw lovely and amazing again in 1-0 Dodger victory

Luis Tiant (1966) and Harry Breechen (1948) each threw three shutouts to start the season. Since 1916, 32 other pitchers, including lone Dodger member Karl Spooner in 1954, had a pair of shutouts to open the year, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

Clayton Kershaw looked like he might join the party tonight against Pittsburgh, before settling for the consolation prize of merely maintaining his 0.00 ERA.

Kershaw threw seven shutout innings tonight before handing a 1-0 lead to the Dodger bullpen, which held the line for the team’s second consecutive whitewash victory over the Pirates.

Friday, Zack Greinke retired 14 batters in a row between the two hits he allowed. Tonight, Kershaw gave up a leadoff single to Starling Marte, then set down 17 in a row before Marte’s two-out infield single in the sixth.

With two out in the seventh, Kershaw issued his first walk of the season on a 3-2 pitch to Russell Martin. Three pitches later, he picked Martin off first base to bring on the seventh-inning stretch, but after 97 pitches, Don Mattingly decided not to start a new inning with his ace and told him – in a not-so-brief dugout conversation – his night was over.

Paco Rodriguez struck out left-handed hitting Pedro Alvarez to start the eighth, then Kenley Jansen retired the next two batters on 10 pitches. The fact that Jansen had also thrown 18 pitches 24 hours earlier helped mitigate any debate over the inevitable decision to turn to Brandon League to close the game in the ninth.

League issued a two-out walk with Pirates All-Star Andrew McCutchen on deck, but McCutchen grounded out to Mark Ellis on League’s next and last pitch. As the Dodger postgame press notes stated, the Dodger bullpen has pitched 10 1/3 scoreless and hitless innings in 2013, walking two and striking out nine.

In his seven innings, Kershaw struck out nine, giving him 16 in 16 innings. Opponents are 6 for 53 against him this year with a .132 on-base percentage.

Fernando Valenzuela, in case you’re wondering, allowed a run in his second career start in 1981, in between throwing shutouts in four of his first five starts. Valenzuela also allowed no earned runs but four unearned runs in his first four starts of 1985.

The Dodgers got their run on an infield single by Carl Crawford, his first stolen base and an RBI single by Mark Ellis. Crawford went 2 for 3 with a walk and is now 7 for 16 with two walks as a Dodger; Ellis (2 for 4) is 6 for 16 with a walk in 2013.

Adrian Gonzalez went 2 for 3 with a walk to raise his on-base percentage to .450 and his OPS to .888.

That trio is 18 for 48 this year. The rest of the Dodgers are 13 for 103, and tonight, the team went 2 for 14 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10.

The left side of the Dodger infield is 0 for 33 this year with two walks, one intentional, leaving it within striking distance Sunday of making Eugenio Velez’s 0 for 37 in 2011 look quaint. Matt Kemp, meanwhile, went 0 for 4 and is now hitting .056.

Five games into the season, the Dodgers have allowed four earned runs in 45 innings for an 0.80 ERA. Total runs: 11 for the Dodgers, 8 for the visitors.

 

Apr 06

Dodgers trade Aaron Harang for neither Ramon Martinez nor Carlos Hernandez



The Dodgers have traded Aaron Harang to the Colorado Rockies for, broadly speaking, the second coming of Rod Barajas – an old, slow catcher with perhaps some vestiges of power.

The acquisition of catcher Ramon Hernandez is much more like an NBA salary-cap maneuver than a traditional baseball trade, especially considering the Rockies immediately designated Harang for assignment. Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. parses the details.

… Hernandez has a salary of $3.2 million this season, and was designated for assignment on Mar. 29. Harang is due $7 million this season, and has an option for 2014 that could vest with at least 180⅓ innings pitched in 2013, or a buyout of $2 million.

The Rockies designated Harang for assignment immediately upon making the trade.

Counting Sunday, Mar. 31, six days of the 183-day season have lapsed. That means the Dodgers are on the hook for $3,095,082 of Hernandez’s salary, and the Rockies responsible for $6,770,492 for Harang, plus the $2 million buyout in 2014, though Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported the Dodgers would send $4.25 million to Colorado.

So, instead of having $9 million guaranteed to Harang, the Dodgers will instead pay approximately $7,574,590 ($3,095,082 for Hernandez, $229,508 for Harang, and $4.25 million to Colorado). Subtract the major league salary that would have been paid to Tim Federowicz and the Dodgers save approximately $2 million and upgraded their catching depth. …

Major League Baseball’s first Ramon Hernandez had a 3.03 ERA in 403 1/3 innings from 1967-77 (including 2.36 from 1971-75), peaking with a 1.67 ERA in 70 innings for the 1972 National League East champion Pirates.

This Ramon Hernandez has 166 home runs and a .744 OPS in 14 seasons, dipping sharply in 2012 when he had a .601 OPS in 196 plate appearances for Colorado (though he did go 3 for 4 against the Dodgers in a game last May). He turns 37 next month. Lucille IV, anyone?

Federowicz will probably remain on the Dodger roster until the team activates Chad Billingsley for his Wednesday start. It’s a sad but not altogether surprising turn for Federowicz, who essentially is enduring what current Dodger starter A.J. Ellis did in previous years – watching a veteran take the backup spot. The upside is that Federowicz, still only 25 and unlike Fernandez, the first of his name in the majors, can play regularly for Albuquerque.

I didn’t have the highest hopes for what the Dodgers would get for Harang, but I did dream that he might bring an actual bat off the bench instead of more filler. In a sense, that’s what Harang himself had become, despite the $12 million, two-year deal he signed in December 2011.

Harang leaves with two great Dodger Stadium memories – throwing six no-hit innings on July 9, 2011 and setting a team record with nine consecutive strikeouts 51 weeks ago today, on April 13, 2012.

Pirates at Dodgers, 6:10 p.m.
Kershaw CLI: Kershawrgo

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

Apr 05

Greinke looks marvelous in Dodger blue debut

Zack Greinke didn’t throw a perfect game in his Dodger premiere, but that’s the only way he disappointed.

Greinke allowed only a questionable single in his first six innings for Los Angeles, whose bats came ever so slightly to life in a 3-0 victory tonight against Pittsburgh.

The new Dodger righty had thrown 84 pitches in retiring 18 of 19 batters over six innings, then gave up consecutive hard-hit balls to start the seventh. One was caught, but after the other by Andrew McCutchen went up the middle for a single, Dodger manager Don Mattingly rightfully decided that Greinke, whose Spring Training was interrupted by a tender elbow, had done quite enough.

Paco Rodriguez relieved and put out the mini-threat with a strikeout of Pedro Alvarez, with A.J. Ellis throwing out McCutchen trying to steal. Kenley Jansen retired the side after a leadoff walk in the eighth, and Brandon League closed the door perfectly in the ninth for the year’s first Dodger save.

Los Angeles got ahead to stay in the second inning when Andre Ethier hit the Dodgers’ first non-Clayton Kershaw homer of 2013, off Pirates starter Jonathan Sanchez. It was Ethier’s third extra-base hit in his first seven at-bats off portsiders this season.

Greinke was living with that narrow margin until the bottom of the sixth, when Mark Ellis drew the Dodgers’ first walk of the game and Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez (2 for 4) followed with RBI doubles. The Kemp hit, of course, was his first of the season (ending an 0-for-12 streak), and he beamed at second base.

Los Angeles, which got nice glovework tonight after giving up a pair of unearned runs in each of the previous two contests, has a team ERA of 1.00 after four games. Opponents are batting .177 with three walks and 29 strikeouts.

On the other hand, the left side of the Dodger infield is 0 for 25 with two walks and two errors.

Below: a fantastic play by Dee Gordon for Albuquerque tonight

Apr 05

Twenty years

Twenty years ago, I ditched my graduate school classes at Georgetown to watch the Dodgers’ season-opening game, which happened to be the Florida Marlins’ franchise-opening game.

Twenty years.

That just ain’t right.

I was outlining my first screenplay and just beginning to dream of my second major life decision in a year, moving back from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles to pursue writing for the screen.

I was interested in a girl in school, whom the following month I would have my first date with, and soon fall in love with, greatly complicating the thoughts laid out in the previous paragraph.

I had already loved and lost, both in my personal life and my professional life, the culmination of which helped send me to Washington in the first place.

I was four years out of college and already so much had happened. In four years. And now it’s been 20.

How can this be?

I hardly feel any different from the 25-year-old on the futon in that Woodley Park apartment. But everything around me is so different.

On April 5, 1993, Charlie Hough and the Marlins beat the Dodgers, 6-3. Hough, almost impossibly old for a pitcher, was the same age then that I am now.

Pirates at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.

Carl Crawford, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Luis Cruz, 3B
Andre Ethier, RF
A.J. Ellis, C
Justin Sellers, SS
Zack Greinke, P