Apr 13

Raise the Ryuf! ‘Babe’ dominates in Dodger victory

If Hyun-Jin Ryu keeps playing like this, we’re going to have quite a run at the Pun Store.

The rookie Dodger lefty had a barrel of fun against Arizona tonight, striking out 9 in 6 1/3 innings while going 3 for 3 at the plate – with his parents watching from the first row behind the Dodger dugout – in Los Angeles’ 7-5 victory over the Diamondbacks.


Ryu baffled Arizona, allowing only four hits, a walk and an RBI groundout before the seventh inning, along with doubling and singling twice. His bid to become the first Dodger pitcher with four hits since Claude Osteen in 1970 was enabled and then disabled by Justin Sellers, who singled with two out in the top of the seventh but was picked off.

Player Date Tm Opp Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI
Claude Osteen 1970-05-26 LAD SFG W 19-3 5 5 3 4 1 0 1 4
Don Newcombe 1955-07-15 BRO STL W 12-3 5 5 2 4 1 0 1 3
Chris Van Cuyk 1952-05-21 BRO CIN W 19-1 5 5 3 4 0 0 0 2
Carl Erskine 1950-08-31 BRO BSN W 19-3 6 5 1 4 0 0 0 0
Kirby Higbe 1941-08-17 (1) BRO BSN W 5-1 4 4 1 4 1 0 0 1
Kirby Higbe 1941-08-11 BRO NYG W 15-7 5 5 3 4 1 0 0 4
Bobby Reis 1935-09-24 (2) BRO BSN W 6-5 5 5 1 4 0 1 0 1
Sloppy Thurston 1932-08-13 (1) BRO NYG W 18-9 5 5 2 4 1 0 0 2
Dazzy Vance 1927-05-12 BRO CIN W 6-3 4 4 2 4 1 0 0 0
Burleigh Grimes 1925-04-22 BRO PHI L 7-8 5 5 0 4 0 0 0 2
Dutch Ruether 1924-09-04 (2) BRO BSN W 9-1 4 4 1 4 0 1 0 2
Burleigh Grimes 1924-08-18 BRO PIT W 7-4 4 4 0 4 0 0 0 0
Dutch Ruether 1922-04-16 BRO PHI W 10-2 4 4 2 4 0 1 0 1
Burleigh Grimes 1921-07-06 BRO NYG W 11-4 5 5 2 4 1 0 1 3

Ryu wasn’t alone in providing offense, as the Dodgers knocked out a season-high 14 hits and got an Adrian Gonzalez homer in the fourth, two runs in the fifth and three in the sixth, building a 6-1 lead. Gonzalez went 3 for 4 with a walk, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier each singled and doubled and Matt Kemp doubled his season RBI total from two to four.

Crossing the 100-pitch mark, Ryu gave up two hits to start the bottom of the seventh, and like Clayton Kershaw the night before, watched from the bench as the first Dodger reliever, in this case Ronald Belisario, allowed both to score. (Ryu’s ERA rose from 1.93 to 2.89.) Martin Prado homered off Kenley Jansen in the bottom of the eighth to cut the Dodger lead to 6-4, and Aaron Hill’s pinch-hit RBI double later in the frame made it a one-run game.

Jansen struck out Cody Ross to end the inning and preserve the lead, but back-to-back doubles by Ethier and Ramon Hernandez built it back to 7-5. Brandon League retired the side in order to end the game.

The Dodgers (7-4) are tied with Arizona and Colorado for second place in the National League West, half a game behind San Francisco.

Apr 13

Stay classy, Los Angeles: The problem with the Dodgers’ tweet

The Dodgers’ satirical invocation of Anchorman on Twitter in the wee hours Friday, before the anger over Thursday’s brawl had begun to die down, has earned a lot of praise for its bold comic timing, with even U-T San Diego taking note.

I wish it didn’t make me uncomfortable, but it does.

The past two years have been an ongoing effort to rebuild the reputation of the Dodger fanbase following the 2011 attack by two men on Bryan Stow in the stadium parking lot. It should go without saying that the actions of those men don’t represent Dodger fans overall, but – with no small help from what had become a rough atmosphere in some sections of the stadium – we have needed to make the point over and over again. We support our team, but you have the right to support yours. Every city has its bad apples, but they don’t speak for us.

“You stay classy San Diego” undermines all that. The Dodgers themselves have told the world that it’s okay to label a city based on the unfortunate actions of just one individual.

And they’ve done so with an arrogance that, with the memory of the Stow tragedy so fresh, they shouldn’t necessarily possess.

The text on the Dodgers’ tweet, “See you on Monday in Los Angeles,” even seems to encourage confrontation.

Yes, some people in San Diego defended Carlos Quentin’s actions. And yes, the tweet was all in good fun – though clearly fun mixed with exasperation at what had happened. It rallied together the Dodger fan base, thousands laughed and even many outsiders now think the Dodgers have, if nothing else, good comic taste.

That doesn’t change the fact that the Dodgers have opened the door for anyone to mock the entire city of Los Angeles any and every time something goes wrong. I’m not happy about it.

Humor can defuse a fight, but it only exacerbated this one.

Perhaps I shouldn’t care what other people think of us, but I’ve got too much pride in Los Angeles, the Dodgers and their fans to just ignore perception. I’ve spent about four decades watching people make fun of a fan base for being dilettantes, even as evidence ceaselessly appears around the country of others acting in the same way. (Here’s but one example of many.) Following the Stow attack, the ridicule only intensified, drowning out the voices of those who were disgusted by the criminal behavior and support their team as well as anyone else in the country. In the eyes of countless baseball fans around the country, Dodger fans became thugs.

With better security, new ownership, improvements to the stadium and what I believe to be some level of collective soul-searching about behavior at the ballpark, I like to think the negativity surrounding Dodger fans is dissipating. Some wil never credit us for being great fans – certainly, many in our rival cities have no incentive to. But I do think it’s important to put our best face forward. This is a proud franchise with a glorious history, and it deserves to be seen that way. Not to mention the fact that the atmosphere at Dodger Stadium is best when everyone feels secure.

The city of San Diego did not fracture Zack Greinke’s collarbone. Carlos Quentin did. Yet the Dodgers themselves chose to make it about the city. Now, when almost inevitably someone in Los Angeles does something unthinkably stupid at a baseball game – perhaps as soon as Monday, when tensions toward the Padres hit a fever pitch – the rest of the baseball world will have carte blanche to make it about all of us. Will we still be laughing then?

Apr 12

Diamondbacks waste Kershaw and Dodgers, 3-0

The rule about who covers second base on a stolen-base attempt isn’t hard and fast. Generally, you choose the opposite-field defender (second baseman for a right-handed batter, shortstop for a left-handed batter), but scouting and sixth senses might convince you to do the opposite, as the Dodgers did in the fourth inning tonight when Arizona’s Gerardo Parra took off from first base with right-handed hitting Martin Prado at the plate.

Justin Sellers vacated his shortstop position, and Prado pulled a 94-mph Clayton Kershaw fastball right where Sellers’ shadow sat, into left field for a hit-and-run single. Instead of a double play, the Diamondbacks had runners on first and third with none out against Kershaw, who to that point was still unscored upon in 19 innings this season.

The 6-4-3 double play came from the next batter, courtesy of Paul Goldschmidt, but it delivered the first run of the season against Kershaw … and ennervatingly for the Dodgers, the critical piece of a 3-0 Arizona victory.

The Dodgers, who left 10 runners on base tonight for a total of 85 in their first 10 games, had two key opportunities to score on behalf of Kershaw. In the top of the fourth, they loaded the bases against Arizona starter Patrick Corbin on two walks and an infield single by Sellers, before Kershaw himself had a potential RBI single taken away by second baseman Josh Wilson.

Then in the eighth, Matt Kemp singled and went to third on two wild pitches by Diamondbacks reliever David Hernandez, the second of them ball four to Adrian Gonzalez. The red-hot Carl Crawford, lurking on the bench, came up as a pinch-hitter, but he struck out on a pitch in the dirt, and then Andre Ethier grounded out.

Kershaw came to the mound for the bottom of the eighth needing one strikeout for 1,000 in his career, but was forced out of the game after a single, a bunt single and a 3-2 walk to Parra. Kershaw threw 111 pitches, allowing six hits and three walks while striking out nine.

Shawn Tolleson, the high-school contemporary of Kershaw who was called up from Albuquerque to temporarily replace Zack Greinke on the Dodger roster and help a suddenly depleted Dodger bullpen, was chosen ahead of lefty J.P. Howell to pitch to Prado and Goldschmidt, but walked them both to force in the game’s second and third runs. Each was charged to Kershaw, whose ERA rose from 0.39 to 1.16 while he watched from the bench. Howell then came in to strike out left-handed Miguel Montero and retire right-handed Alfredo Marte on a liner to third.

Had the bullpen bailed Kershaw out of that last jam, Kershaw would have tied four other pitchers for the second-longest streak in major-league history of allowing no more than one run, as Jim McLennan of AZ Snakepit noted. Kershaw settled for seven starts in a row.

In their last-gasp ninth inning, Nick Punto hit a one-out single up the middle off J.J. Putz, who then walked Skip Schumaker. But Jerry Hairston Jr. hit into a game-ending double play, the double play that didn’t come soon enough for Kershaw in the fourth.

Even in defeat, Kershaw continues to astonish.  His 19-inning scoreless streak to start 2013 is the second longest by a starter in Dodger history and the longest by anyone on the team since Jim Gott’s 19 1/3 innings in 1993. Ridiculously, Kershaw has lost his last four starts against Arizona and is 7-6 lifetime despite an ERA against them of 2.37.

Los Angeles (6-4, a game behind Arizona in the National League West) finished its first 10 games of 2013 with 27 runs.

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 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 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

Apr 05

So why not a designated free-throw shooter?

If you’re in favor of the designated hitter in baseball, are you also in favor of a designated free-throw shooter in basketball?

At ESPN.com, the estimable Christina Kahrl revived the arguments for placing the DH in the National League, arguments that have as little effect on me as I’m sure mine against the DH would have on her.

Concidentally, there was a front-page story in the Times sports section today on the free-throw woes of Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, indicating that – like Lakers center Dwight Howard and many other big men before them – Jordan is so poor at shooting free throws that it is limiting his playing time and generally causing headaches.

My first thought was wondering how, with so many years in which you’re paid to do nothing but play basketball, players can still be so poor at free-throw shooting. But I realized, look, some skills are just never going to materialize for some players.

And then it hit me: I’ve just described hitting for many major-league pitchers.

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers (April 1)

Some pitchers can learn to hit, but most won’t. Because of that, many people think that no pitchers should hit at all. That has never made sense to me, because I don’t think the pitchers who can hit should lose that advantage. And I still think it’s a worthwhile goal to strive for. Look at our friends old and new, from Rick Rhoden and Terry Forster to Clayton Kershaw, who over the years has improved at the plate while still developing on the mound.

Having the pitcher’s spot in the lineup enhances baseball strategy, and stories of pitchers getting hurt while playing offense are overblown. Pitchers deliver far more memorable moments at the plate than injure themselves.

But let’s put all that aside and ask yourself this – if you’re pro-DH, shouldn’t you also be pro-DFTS?

Bad free-throw shooters are almost never going to get better. They are painful to watch. They are otherwise key players who aren’t able to play as often.

Most of all, unlike in baseball, where so many of us enjoy trying to think ahead like a manager, bad free-throw shooting brings out the worst in basketball strategy. No one fantasizes about instructing their imaginary team to foul other players; no one salivates over the last two minutes of an NBA game taking 20.

Other than the exceedingly rare injury for pitchers while on offense, there’s little argument for the DH that doesn’t make more sense for the DFTS. The DFTS would discourage fouling, keep the best players on the floor and make the end of a basketball game more entertaining.

I’m against the DH and the DFTS. But whether you’re pro or con, they go together — and yet the world is silent on the latter.

Apr 03

Does loud equal fun?

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers (March 29, 2013)

“Boy, the music is loud,” said Vin Scully with some apparent irritation as the Dodger broadcast came back from commercial tonight, before following with his usual geniality, “Let’s get back to this one.”

It was the top of the sixth inning – typical storytelling time for Scully – but one of two things happened. Either the telecast came back too late to capture the bulk of a story for which “Boy, the music is loud” was the punchline, or the music was just so loud that no one could think straight.

It doesn’t really matter, because this much we know: The music at Dodger Stadium is loud.

And here’s the thing. One assumes the music is loud because loud equals fun in the modern-day math. But what I don’t understand is whom they’re making it loud for.

In general, older people a) don’t want loud music and b) have more trouble hearing than younger people. So if the music was a touch softer, it would still be plenty loud for the hipsters, and the old folk would be just as happy.

This is before we even address how rarely Nancy Bea Hefley gets to play anymore.  Am I wrong? Millennials, give me the straight scoop. I know how writing this makes me sound, but would anyone care if there were fewer decibels at the diamond?