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!

Sep 07

Series of Great Import, Part I Game Chat

Dodgers at Giants, 7:15 pm
Mark Ellis, 2B
Shane Victorino, LF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, CF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Andre Ethier, RF
Adam Kennedy, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Josh Beckett, P

Tonight’s pinch-hit game chat is in honor of Manny Mota.

The captain has turned on the “Fasten Seat Belts” sign, so please return to your seats. We will be going through some turbulence for the next several hours. We hope to find some smoother air later on.

Other games people might be interested in:

Cubs at Pirates, 4:05 pm, Wood vs Burnett

Brewers at Cardinals, 5:15 pm, Gallardo vs Lohse

  • Adam Kennedy’s lifetime 8 for 21 against Tim Lincecum gets him a start at third base in place of the 2012 model of “Dodgers Folk Hero,” Luis Cruz. The Dodgers also welcome back Alex Castellanos from Albuquerque.
  • According to Dodgers.com, Paco Rodriguez has been assigned #75 and his photo looks like it was taken with a cell phone. Rodriguez will become the first Dodger player to have been born in 1991. Nathan Eovaldi was the first Dodger to born in the 1990 (February 13, 1990.)
  • Did you know that McCovey Cove is not a cove? Coves are usually set off from bays or other bodies of water by a narrow entrance. However, it does sound nice. It is akin to people saying Death Valley instead of Death Graben.
  • Hanley Ramirez is listed among the top 10 most likely candidates to commit MLB’s 500,000th error.
  • The Giants have recalled pitcher Yusmeiro Petit and activated outfielder Jason Christian from the disabled list. The Giants have 18 pitchers on their roster now, as well as 18 position players. And Clay Hensley should come off the disabled list soon.

 

Sep 07

Can history repeat itself? Or does it just have a bad memory?

This pinch-hit post is dedicated to Wally Moon, whom I believe led the Dodgers in pinch hits in the 1960s. (It’s hard to figure accurately. Also, the Dodgers had bad pinch hitters at that time. They also had bad starting hitters for much of the decade too.)

So you’re thinking to yourself, have the Dodgers ever swept TWO series in San Francisco in one season? Isn’t that asking a lot?

Well, Sherman, let’s set the WABAC machine back to 2007. The Dodgers open the season by dropping two of three in Milwaukee. They travel to San Francisco and then Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, and Randy Wolf lead the Dodgers to a sweep from April 6-8.

The Dodgers returned to AT&T Park on July 13. The Dodgers won the first game easily, 9-1. Then the Dodgers survived a joint bullpen meltdown by Chun-hui Tsao (4 runs in 2/3 IP in the 8th) and Takashi Saito (walk to Bonds, who came around to score on a single by Pedro Feliz), to win 8-7 in 12 innings on a Rafael Furcal sacrifice fly. The Dodgers completed the sweep the next day, 5-3. The Dodgers were in first place by one game over the Padres with a 52-40 record.

When the dust cleared at the end of the season, the Dodgers were in fourth place, eight games out of first. The Giants were in last at 71-91. The Padres were in third place after losing a wild card tiebreaker to the Rockies, who finished behind Arizona. Does this seem like it should be familiar?  You mean we don’t all miss the Luis Gonzalez season for the Dodgers?

Prior to 2007, the last time the Dodgers had two series sweeps in San Francisco was 1977. In 1971, the Dodgers swept three two-games series in San Francisco (and still finished in second place behind the Giants.) The last time the Dodgers swept two series from the Giants at the Polo Grounds was back in 1953.

Surprisingly, the Giants have never swept two series from the Dodgers in Los Angeles. The last time the Dodgers were swept in two home series in one season by the Giants was 1938.

Most of this information does not indicate one team’s superiority over the other, but more just how the schedule was laid out in a particular season. When both teams were in New York, the Dodgers and Giants would play series of varying lengths from one to five games, depending on a variety of factors.

When the schedule became a little more regular after the teams moved west, the Dodgers and Giants would battle each other to a draw most seasons. Since 1901, the Giants lead the alltime series against the Dodgers by just 17 games: 1105 Giants wins to 1088 Dodgers wins. The Dodgers lead in California by a margin of 492-465.

And if you’re really curious, the Dodgers best record against any NL team since moving west is a .580 winning percentage against the Montington Expationals. .592 mark against the Brewers. The worst is a .500 mark against the Cardinals.

 

Sep 06

Dodgers throw down and run gauntlet

This pinch-hit Dodger Thoughts post is dedicated to Chuck Essegian.

Friday will be game one of the Dodgers intradivisional duel with the archrival Giants. It is a time when honor can be reclaimed. Or possibly lost. It’s also the beginning of a brutal stretch of games that may leave the team badly bruised and possibly out of playoff contention.

The word “gauntlet” when used in the sense of “throw down the gauntlet” refers to the medieval practice of knights throwing their gauntlet, a protective glove, on the ground to challenge some other knight to a duel of some kind. It comes from a French word gantelet which means “glove” and it’s related to the Spanish word for glove, guante. The Oxford English Dictionary ultimately believes it comes from Germanic languages.

The word “gauntlet” in “to run the gauntlet”, meaning “to run through a narrow passage of people who are ready to beat you up with ropes and clubs” comes from a Scandinavian word gantlope, which sort of means “lane course.” It is believed that the English saw Swedish sailors imposing the punishment of making people “run the gantlope” during the Thirty Years War and then corrupted the pronunciation.

Sometimes, people have tried to differentiate the two words by spelling one as “gantlet” and the other as “gauntlet,” but when you’re talking about words that describe objects or events that rarely happen in real life now, the proper spelling of a word is hard to find or defend.

The Giants begin the series Friday night with, to borrow a “Seinfeld” term, “hand.” The Giants are 4 1/2 games ahead of the Dodgers, they are playing at home, and there isn’t a lot of season left. (24 games for the Dodgers, 25 for the Giants.)

However, for all the stumbling around the Dodgers have done, the Giants have been trying to match them misstep for misstep. The Giants burned through 24 pitchers in their three games at home with Arizona, including a record-tying 11 on Tuesday night. The DBacks scored 22 runs against the Giants. During the Dodgers last trip to the Bay Area, they dominated the Giants sweeping them by a combined score of 19-3. However, in the first series in San Francisco, the Giants swept by a combined score of 13-0.

On Friday, Josh Beckett will face Tim Lincecum in a pitching matchup that only a year or two ago would have been the subject of a 3000 word Bill Simmons ramble, but now it’s just a game between two guys who used to be big. (And the pictures have gotten larger, despite what you’ve been told.) The game will be shown nationally on the MLB Network for those outside of Los Angeles, but it should be with the Prime Ticket feed allowing everyone to enjoy Vin Scully calling a Dodgers-Giants game in a pennant race. This will be a 7:15 pm game.

Saturday’s game will be a daytime affair, starting at 1:05 pm. It will be on Fox, which means that if you are in the fortunate areas that get the game aired to them, you can enjoy the stylings of Matt Vasgersian and Tim McCarver, or you can … not see the game. Chris Capuano will start for the Dodgers, who has been the Dodgers shakiest starter recently.

Since Capuano overwhelmed the Marlins on August 12 (8 IP, 0 R, 10 K), he’s given up 18 runs in 23 1/3 IP in four starts. On the bright side, he’s only walked one batter in that stretch.

Matt Cain will start for the Giants. Cain beat the Dodgers in his last start against them on August 22 at Dodger Stadium. Since then, he’s made two more starts, both on the road, and both were no decisions against Houston and Chicago. In Cain’s only start against the Dodgers at AT&T Park, he had a no decision in a game on July 27 that the Dodgers ultimately won in 10 innings 5-3 on a Hanley Ramirez home run.

Sunday’s game will be a 5:10 pm start and it will be the ESPN Sunday Night game with Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser, and Terry Francona. Clayton Kershaw will start for the Dodgers against Barry Zito.

The Dodgers will come out of San Francisco trailing the Giants by 1 1/2, 3 1/2, 5 1/2, or 7 1/2 games. If the final two figures are the ones that we see, then it’s time to start paying very close attention to how the St. Louis Cardinals are doing because the Dodgers will likely have no path to the playoffs other than the second wild card spot.

After this coming series, the Dodgers will be off Monday. In fact, the Dodgers are going to be off the next three Mondays. The only Monday game left on the schedule is Game 159 160 against the Giants on October 1 at Dodger Stadium.

On Tuesday, the Dodgers will start a two-game series at Arizona.  The DBacks have beaten the Dodgers 10 of 16 times. (Bonus note: The 1977 Clint Eastwood film, “The Gauntlet,” is set mostly in Phoenix.) Then, they come home for four games against the Cardinals, a series that may make or break the Dodgers season. Or maybe it won’t. Because on Tuesday,  September 18, the Dodgers start a 9-game, 10-day road trip that will see them starting off with three games against the current best team in baseball, Washington, followed by three games agains the second best team in baseball, Cincinnati. Then, a day off, and three games in San Diego, the team that has been playing about as well as anyone else in the NL West since the All-Star Break.

From September 7 through September 27, the Dodgers will be running a gauntlet against a group of opponents all of whom will be ready to thrown down the gauntlet at the same time. Someone is going to get hurt.

 

Sep 06

Resting up for the trip Up North

This pinch-hit Dodger Thoughts post is in honor of Elmer Valo.

While pinch hitting for Jon, I’ll try to keep up with the news as best I can, but I think most of you will probably know it before I do.

Wednesday’s night game against the Padres was quite typical of the Dodgers in the past two weeks. There was disappointment (down 3-0 early), hope (tied 3-3), some more disappointment (down 4-3), hope (Kemp almost hit it out, Victorino got an HBP!), and then disappointment more bitter than yogurt left in the refrigerator two weeks too long. (Gonzalez grounds out to end the game as the Padres bullpen retires 12 of the 14 batters it faces.) On the other hand, I did get to come home with TWO Hello Kitty Dodger tote bags.

There is a small slate of games in baseball on Thursday, just five, and only one of them will have any bearing on the Dodgers. Colorado will be playing at Atlanta at 9:10 am. The Dodgers are presently 4 1/2 games behind the Braves for wild card spot #1, which is the same distance they trail the Giants in the NL West. The Cardinals lead the Dodgers for wild card spot #2, but now the Dodgers are behind Pittsburgh by .0005. (Or you can just look at it as the Pirates having two games in hand.)

Later tonight, I’ll be back, I hope with a preview of the upcoming series the Dodgers will be playing in California’s fourth largest city.