Aug 21

Sufferin’ succotash

Injury updates

Ted Lilly and Matt Guerrier might pitch in relief for the Dodgers in September, but Jerry Hairston Jr. and Justin Sellers are eyeing season-ending surgery, reports Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.

Heavens to Murgatroyd.

What a revoltin’ development.

Sheesh.

These and other expressions summarize tonight’s 4-1 Dodger loss to the Giants.

For starters, the Dodgers lost by three runs on a night they gave away at least three runs – all after starting pitcher Joe Blanton surrendered two runs before he got an out.

Blanton allowed 10 of the first 19 batters he faced to reach base and was charged with all four San Francisco runs in another disappointing outing that actually lowered his ERA as a Dodger to 7.71. But even as Blanton struggled and Tim Linecum (who retired his first 10 batters) dominated through the first five innings, the game was very winnable, but for some ugly play by the Dodgers.

I’m not exactly a perfectionist, but I offer you the following from the top of the fourth:

  • With one out, No. 7 hitter Gregor Blanco singles to center on a ball that Hanley Ramirez seemed to approach glacially. Not an effort issue but a speed issue.
  • A Blanton pickoff throw goes awry, and suddenly instead of having a runner on first with one out and the No. 8 and 9 hitters coming up, he’s on third.
  • Brandon Crawford reaches and pokes a looper to left field. And again, I know it’s not an effort issue with Shane Victorino, but I thought it would be at best a sacrifice fly. Instead, it was an RBI single.
  • Because there is still only one out, Lincecum is able to sacrifice Crawford to second base.
  • And with two out, Angel Pagan hits a ground ball up the middle that again illustrated how important range is. Adam Kennedy (2 for 3 at the plate) couldn’t reach it, and in came the fourth Giant run of the game.

Now, it wasn’t exactly Three Stooges ball out there, but it was frustrating to know that if any one of those four plays were made, the Giants don’t score two runs in the inning, and if any of the first three plays are made, they don’t score at all.

To top it all off, the Dodgers finally got to Lincecum in the sixth inning, with their first four batters reaching base, but only got a single run out of it because A.J. Ellis was nailed at home trying to score from second on a Victorino single – down by four with nobody out. You’ll almost never see that.

The Dodgers lost in every facet of the game today. It happens. Sometimes my kids misbehave, sometimes they don’t clean their rooms, sometimes they skin their knees, and sometimes it all happens in the same day. Life can be hard to watch.

Most of me had given up on the game by the ninth inning, but thanks to Dodger relievers Scott Elbert, Brandon League, Randy Choate and Jamey Wright retiring 10 of the 11 batters they faced, part of me had hope – which grew when Matt Kemp singled with one out. (Kemp went 1 for 3 with a sacrifice fly and made hard contact in three of the four at-bats, including a deep fly to right with the bases loaded in that sixth inning, so I think you can see signs of him busting out of his mini-slump). But with Hanley Ramirez on deck as the potential tying run, Andre Ethier completed a long evening by grounding into a game-ending double play.

That’s all, folks.

Aug 21

Rubby De La Rosa is back

Giants at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Shane Victorino, LF
Adam Kennedy, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
James Loney, 1B
Luis Cruz, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Joe Blanton, P

Faster than a speeding Rubby De La Rosa fastball, the Dodgers have activated Rubby De La Rosa from the disabled list, 12 1/2 months after his Tommy John surgery. Javy Guerra will go to Albuquerque until rosters expand in September.

De La Rosa’s progress was evident, as we noted earlier Sunday, and the Dodgers’ main decision — once they became confident in his health — seemed to rest upon whether they wanted him to build up higher pitch counts in the minors or come help in the majors right away. It does seem fast, but it’s an exciting move.

Guerra is actually on a streak of 11 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings with 13 strikeouts, so he wasn’t exactly crying out to be optioned. He allowed 12 baserunners in that time and two out of five inherited runners to score. But it shows how highly the Dodgers think of Shawn Tolleson, who is unscored upon in his past 9 1/3 innings with two hits, five walks and five strikeouts. Tolleson has also allowed two of five inherited runners to score in that period.

And no, you don’t cut a Brandon League nor a Jamey Wright with 10 days until the rosters expand. On the other hand, the Dodgers could have found a way to go with a three-man bench …

Aug 20

Bumgarner delivers maverick performance to stifle Dodgers

OK, maybe Madison Bumgarner will win the NL Cy Young Award.

In the kind of pitching duel that helped catapult Clayton Kershaw to top pitcher honors in the league last year, it was the San Francisco lefty who delivered the extra squeeze, shutting out the Dodgers with 10 strikeouts and no walks over eight innings in a 2-1 Giants victory.

Kershaw also had 10 strikeouts in eight innings – not to mention two of the four Dodger hits off Bumgarner, and a diving catch in foul territory – but he gave in for single runs in the first and sixth innings, each driven in by Pablo Sandoval, and ended up on the short end. The second run was safe at most by milliseconds.

Kershaw has the lowest career ERA against the Giants that any pitcher has against any single team in major-league history since 1920 – 1.32 going into tonight’s game, 1.39 now – but after going 5-0 with a 1.07 ERA against San Francisco last year, he is 1-3 despite a 1.74 ERA against the Giants this year.

Folk hero Luis Cruz had the other two hits against Bumgarner, who threw 123 pitches while getting the rest of the Dodgers to go 0 for 21. Hanley Ramirez homered off Sergio Romo with two out in the ninth, but lefty Javier Lopez came in to shut down Andre Ethier to end the game and put San Francisco back in first place in the National League West by half a game.

Aug 20

Looking ahead to a wild finish

Giants at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Kershaw CXLII: Kershawleanna
Shane Victorino, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, 1B
Luis Cruz, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Clayton Kershaw, P

Within the National League standings you’ll find the following four teams separated by only two games:

67-54 Pittsburgh
67-55 Los Angeles
66-55 San Francisco
65-56 St. Louis

What would happen if these four teams finished the regular season tied, with two playoff spots available to them — one for the NL West champion, one for the second NL wild card spot — under the new MLB playoff format for 2012?

Unless I’m mistaken …

1) The Dodgers and Giants would play for the NL West title on October 4.
2 & 3) The loser of that game would be involved in a three-team playoff for the second wild-card spot that would take two days. In theory, this could mean two of the teams (chosen by lottery) play each other Oct. 5, with the winner of that game hosting the third team October 6.
4) The survivor of that two-day set would play the No. 1 NL wild-card finisher October 7.
5) The wild-card champion would then host the NL team with the best record to start their NL Division Series on October 8.

Keep in mind that potentially, these five games against five different opponents could each require overnight travel from a different city. Wild!

* * *

  • Jim Peltz of the Times writes that Hanley Ramirez has been getting lots of off-field support for his transition to Dodger-hood from Manny Mota.
  • Triple-A outfielder Jerry Sands has set the Albuquerque franchise record with a 20-game hitting streak. According to the Dodger press notes, Sands is hitting .440 with two doubles, a triple, nine homers, 33 RBI and 20 runs scored during the streak.

 

Aug 19

Billingsley, Cruz and sunshine energize Dodgers, 5-0

Chad Billingsley is cruising, and Luis Cruz is, well, chadding.

The Dodger starting pitcher and infielder each continued their hot ways, pushing the Dodgers to a 5-0 victory at Atlanta today, completing a 7-3 East Coast roadtrip.

Allowing three hits over seven innings underneath the summer Georgia sun, Billingsley improved to 6-0 with a 1.30 ERA since coming off the disabled list. Billingsley gave up only three hits and walked two while striking out four, throwing 101 pitches.

Billingsley’s only trouble inning was the fourth, when the Braves fouled off 13 of his pitches before Jason Heyward hit a two-out triple. Freddie Freeman then walked on five pitches, but Billingsley got Dan Uggla to pop out on the 30th pitch of the inning.

Impressively, Billingsley also blew Heyward away on a swinging strike three measured at 93 miles per hour with Michael Bourn on third base with two out in the sixth.

According to the Dodger press notes, Billingsley is the first Dodger to win six consecutive starts since Kevin Brown won seven in a row from May 14-June 17, 2003.

Meanwhile, Cruz homered for the second consecutive game while going 2 for 4, giving him a .484 on-base percentage and .852 slugging percentage in 31 plate appearances on this roadtrip. He also pushed his 2012 major-league OPS over .800 for the first time since his first week in a Dodger uniform.

It appeared that the Dodgers might have to rely on Cruz’s fifth-inning home run for their entire offense, but Los Angeles tacked on a run in the eighth and three more in the ninth, all of the scoring flowing directly from Heyward losing fly balls in the sun in each inning. Mark Ellis, who earlier in the game stranded five runners on base in two at-bats, took advantage to collect all four RBI, the last three on a bases-clearing double.

Ronald Belisario pitched a perfect eighth while the score was still 2-0, and Scott Elbert returned from the disabled list to finish things off with a spotless ninth.

Heart-of-the-orderers Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier combined went 0 for 13 with a walk. Kemp is hitless in his past 15 at-bats (with two walks).

Aug 19

Dodgers activate Elbert, De La Rosa making progress

Dodgers at Braves, 10:35 a.m.
Shane Victorino, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, 1B
Luis Cruz, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Chad Billingsley, P

In the end, it might just be a confidence booster for 2013, but for the first time, I get the feeling the Dodgers are thinking about trying to get some starts out of Rubby De La Rosa in September.

While it’s still a ways from taking a major-league mound in September, De La Rosa pitched a season-high four innings Saturday for Rancho Cucamonga, allowing no runs on two hits and a walk with two strikeouts.

In four minor-league outings since his comeback from Tommy John surgery began, De La Rosa has thrown 12 scoreless innings with 12 strikeouts, allowing five hits and three walks. At a minimum, De La Rosa might soon to be primed to help the bullpen in September.

Last year in the majors, De La Rosa had a 3.88 ERA with 55 strikeouts in 55 2/3 innings as a starter, while allowing a run in five innings with five strikeouts as a reliever.

* * *

In shorter-term relief news, Scott Elbert – who struck out all six batters he faced in his two minor-league rehab outings – was activated from the disabled list in the next day or so. The Dodgers sent Elian Herrera, who was 1 for 3 while mostly idling on the bench behind Hanley Ramirez and Luis Cruz since his recall, to the minors. Herrera would have played even less had Matt Kemp not been ejected Thursday.

That move lengthens the Dodger bullpen and shrinks the bench (at least for now), and kept the team from having to choose between sending Javy Guerra or Shawn Tolleson to the minors. Each was wild last night, each has allowed two inherited runners to score this month, but neither has been scored upon since late July.

For my part, I think Ronald Belisario would benefit from a two-week “elbow soreness” vacation. Matt Guerrier also pitched a shutout inning in the Rancho Cucamonga game, by the way.

* * *

We were trying to figure out how unusual Saturday’s no-singles game was, and Diane Firstman of Value Over Replacement Grit came up with the answer – and it’s a doozy.

The Dodgers and Braves combined for nine hits without any singles. The previous major-league record was four.

It was the sixth game in MLB history with no singles, including the Sandy Koufax perfect game against Bob Hendley’s one-hitter in 1965.

The biggest play of Saturday’s game was A.J. Ellis catching a foul tip, writes Ron Cervenka of Think Blue L.A.

Aug 18

Dodgers win home run derby

If you’re crazy for the Dodgers, well tonight, they were crazy for you.

Los Angeles hit four home runs – including three in a row for the first time since 2007 – yet had no other hits while coming away with a 6-2 victory over Atlanta.

Within a quartet of pitches from Ben Sheets in the second inning, Hanley Ramirez, James Loney and Luis Cruz hit the Dodgers’ first back-to-back-to-back home runs since Hong-Chih Kuo bat-flip night, when he followed Wilson Betemit and Matt Kemp with dingers.

Then in the sixth inning, after walks to Kemp and Andre Ethier, Ramirez hit his second homer of the game on a 3-0 pitch, giving the Dodgers’ a 6-1 lead. On the roadtrip, Ramirez is 17 for 38 with a .463 on-base percentage, three home runs, 14 RBI in nine games and 28 total bases.

But before, during and after the four home runs, there were no other Dodger hits.

To my shock, two teams this year (Colorado and Baltimore) have had games with five home runs and no other hits, joining the 2004 New York Yankees as the only squads since at least 1918 to do so. The record-holders in this category are the Cleveland Indians, who hit six home runs (three by Joe Carter) with no other hits on June 24, 1989.

Nevertheless, the Dodgers tonight became only the third team in MLB history to hit four home runs and have no other hits. One of those teams was the 2002 Dodgers, who got two home runs by Shawn Green and solo shots from Eric Karros and Alex Cora off Ramon Ortiz – who still threw a complete-game victory on June 14 that year.

The Dodgers also came within one batter of winning a game without leaving any runners on base for the first time since June 1, 2002, as Bob Timmermann noted, but Loney drew a two-out, ninth-inning walk and was stranded there by Cruz.

And finally, the two teams completed the rare feat of combining for nine hits without any singles.

The effort made a winner of Aaron Harang, even though the righty began the game with a simply awful first inning. He started by walking leadoff hitter Michael Bourn on four pitches and then allowing an RBI double to Martin Prado two tosses later. Jason Heyward flew out on a 2-0 count for the first out, before bench coach and acting manager Trey Hillman decided to walk Chipper Jones intentionally. Freddie Freeman did a favor by fouling out on the first pitch he saw, but Dan Uggla walked on four straight balls to load the bases.

On a 3-2 count, David Ross struck out on a high and inside pitch to allow Harang to escape the first inning with only one run against him, despite facing seven batters and being credited with only eight strikes.

But Harang found his center of gravity after that. Though he only retired the side in order once all night, from the first inning on he held the Braves scoreless into the bottom of the seventh on two walks, two doubles, and a triple, striking out four of the last five batters he faced (capping a 115-pitch outing that featured 57 balls and 58 strikes). Randy Choate entered the game with two out, Bourn on third and Heyward at the plate. And just as people were hoping would happen Friday before the Dodgers’ that night lead was lost, Choate struck Heyward out.

The eighth inning was nearly a repeat of the first. Javy Guerra and Shawn Tolleson combined to walk the bases loaded despite the five-run lead, before the well-rested Kenley Jansen came in to strike out Friday’s hero, Juan Francisco, on three pitches.

Jansen did give up a ninth-inning home run to Prado, but retired Chipper Jones to wrap things up.

Aug 18

Mattingly suspended two games

Don Mattingly was suspended for two games and fined by Major League Baseball for “excessive arguing” during Thursday’s game at Pittsburgh.

No discipline has been announced for Matt Kemp, and apparently will get none. There had been speculation that MLB was holding off punishing Kemp until after this weekend’s Civil Rights Game festivities (see photos), at which Kemp was presenting Don Newcombe with an award. But it appears that the fact that Kemp was ejected while cheering for Andre Ethier has been considered a mitigating circumstance.

Dodgers at Braves, 4:10 p.m.
Shane Victorino, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
James Loney, 1B
Luis Cruz, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Aaron Harang, P
Aug 17

Braves break through in 11th, down Dodgers

Kenley Jansen had thrown six pitches since Friday, and there’s no report that he’s injured. That didn’t dissuade Don Mattingly from insisting on holding back Jansen for a save situation in extra innings that might never come.

And it didn’t.

One inning after Brandon League barely escaped a 10th-inning jam, the righty allowed two 11th-inning singles with two out. The fourth Dodger reliever not named Jansen, Jamey Wright (who threw 16 mostly ineffective pitches Thursday), entered the game and served up a single to Juan Francisco that gave Atlanta a 4-3 victory.

A postgame replay showed Mattingly cursing as the winning hit went into left field.

Dodger relievers tonight faced allowed seven of 17 batters to reach base. Braves relievers allowed four of 16 batters to do so.

With San Francisco scoring eight runs in the third inning at San Diego, the Dodgers figure to begin play Saturday half a game behind the Giants.

Previously tonight:

Dodgers, Braves tied 3-3 in 10th

Dodgers survive 10th-inning scare, head into 11th

Aug 17

Dodgers survive 10th-inning scare, head into 11th

With the Dodgers and Braves tied heading into the bottom of the 10th inning, Randy Choate entered the game for the Dodgers (a little late for those who would have liked to have seen him face Jason Heyward in the eighth with the tying run on base). Choate struck out his first batter but allowed a single to Michael Bourn.

As the Dodgers’ top reliever, Kenley Jansen, idled away, Don Mattingly turned to struggling July acquisition Brandon League.

Then came a critical error. Matt Treanor threw down to second base trying to catch Bourn stealing, and the ball skidded past both Hanley Ramirez and Mark Ellis into center field, allowing Bourn to take the winning run to third base with still only one out.

League went 3-0 to Martin Prado, but came back to strike him out (on a low 3-2 pitch). Then, after walking Heyward, League induced a harmless fly to center from Chipper Jones.

And we moved on to the 11th …

Aug 17

Dodgers, Braves tied 3-3 in 10th

If at third you don’t succeed, hit a home run.

Andre Ethier was thrown out trying to score from first base on a Hanley Ramirez double in the fourth inning. But with the Dodgers still trailing 1-0 in the sixth, Ethier towered a no-doubt shot into the right-field stands to put the Dodgers on the path toward a 3-1 victory at Atlanta.

Unfortunately, the Braves weren’t entirely sold on that outcome, coming back to tie the game 3-3 and send it into the 10th inning, which is when I greet you with this post.

In the fourth, Ethier was thrown out by a good 10 feet at home plate following textbook fielding and throwing work by leftfielder Martin Prado and shortstop Paul Janish. Though frustrating, the decision to send Ethier by third-base coach Tim Wallach was somewhat excusable, coming with two outs and James Loney on deck. Wallach, by my estimation has been more reliable with Dodger baserunners than his recent predecessors such as Rich Donnelly.

But it didn’t look good for the Dodgers then, and looked even worse when Loney and Luis Cruz singled to start the next inning, before being stranded. That meant four consecutive Dodgers had reached base without a run scoring.

Finally, in the sixth inning of Braves starting pitcher Tommy Hanson’s longest outing since July 7, the Dodgers broke through on a groundball double off the glove of Chipper Jones (who had homered in the first to give Atlanta its early lead) followed by Ethier’s homer, his first since July 14.

That, plus a seventh-inning insurance run that came on doubles by Cruz and Shane Victorino, ideally would have been all Dodger starter Chris Capuano would need. The lefty entered the eighth inning with eight strikeouts against three baserunners on 84 pitches, but he gave up leadoff singles to Janish and pinch-hitter Reed Johnson and a sacrifice to put the tying runs in scoring position.

Don Mattingly then turned to the up-and-down Ronald Belisario, who surrendered an RBI groundout to Prado that cut the lead to one run. Jason Heyward then lined a clean single the opposite way into left-center, tying the game.

Belisario, who allowed 11 runs of his own along with three inherited runs in 11 innings from July 8-31, had come back with five scoreless innings to start August – before giving up two more runs in Pittsburgh in his last outing on Monday.

Ace Atlanta reliever Craig Kimbrel blistered the Dodgers with two strikeouts in a perfect ninth, leading to the bottom of the inning, which began, surprisingly, with Belisario back on the mound. And go figure – Belisario struck out the side, taking us to the 10th.

Aug 17

While on Matt Kemp Suspension Watch …

However justified his anger might have been, Matt Kemp sowed the seeds of his own suspension by making physical contact with umpires, writes Chad Moriyama at his blog. So as we wait for that unpleasant news to wend its way, here are some other happenings around town:

  • Don Newcombe, who is being honored at the annual Civil Rights Game on Saturday (between the Dodgers and Braves), is the subject of a nice piece by Spencer Fordin of MLB.com.
  • Good gravy — Brett Tomko is still out there plying his trade. Arizona signed the 39-year-old to a minor-league deal, reports Matt Eddy of Baseball America.
  • Will Rubby De La Rosa be in the same innings quandry next year as Stephen Strasburg is this year? Evan Bladh of Opinion of Kingman’s Performance is curious.
  • Former Dodger prospect Ethan Martin was interviewed at length by Jay Floyd of Phillies Nation.
  • “Major League Baseball owners have agreed to test two different advanced replay systems live during games starting next week, and if they prove accurate they could precede an overhaul of the system for the 2013 season,” reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports.
  • Sandy Koufax biographer Jane Leavy has a piece at Grantland on neuropathologist Ann McKee, who is doing extensive research on head trauma that could have an impact on the NFL.
  • Some fun history of Los Angeles roadways prior to the Arroyo Seco Parkway comes via Kevin Roderick of L.A. Observed.
Aug 16

Angry Dodgers drop finale in Pittsburgh

Vin Scully would have had a bleep of a time lip-reading had he been in Pittsburgh today.

In what might have been the wildest Dodger game of the season and what was certainly the angriest, the Dodgers lost to the Pirates, 10-6, with Matt Kemp, Don Mattingly and Joe Blanton ejected along the way.

The Dodgers were unhappy with home-plate umpire Angel Campos’ ball-and-strike calls from the first inning on, but according to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A., the trouble really started in the second inning, in bizarre fashion:

… What made Kemp and manager Don Mattingly so irate, as both heartily argued their points while needing to be restrained, especially Kemp, was that the center fielder was kicked out for cheering his teammate.

“Guys were barking about pitches. Angel looked over and said, ‘I don’t want to hear anymore.’ Just a little bit later, Matt said, ‘Let’s go Dre’ and got thrown out,” Mattingly said after the game. “We’re in a pennant race. I got the guy that was second in the MVP last year. You can’t get thrown out for cheering for your teammate. That’s unacceptable behavior.” …

Those ejections — and the ferocious reactions, which can be seen here — came after Blanton allowed a three-run home run in the first inning to leading Dodger-killer Garrett Jones. The Dodgers then rallied to take a 4-3 lead, thanks in part to James Loney’s first home run since May 21 and a two-run shot by Hanley Ramirez — but the Pirates tied it in the bottom of the fourth and then went ahead in the fifth on a second three-run homer by Jones, who entered the game with a career .946 OPS against Los Angeles.

One batter later, Blanton allowed his third home run of the game and league-leading 26th of the season, to Pedro Alvarez — at which point he was removed from the game by the Dodgers before having words with Campos, leading to that ejection.

Blanton has now allowed 14 runs, 18 hits (including four homers) and seven walks in 15 1/3 innings since Los Angeles acquired him from Philadelphia. He had not walked more than two in a game all year, but now has done so twice in three starts.

Amazingly, despite their starter allowing eight runs in 4 1/3 innings, the Dodgers remained in the contest, cutting the deficit to two runs in the seventh (thanks in part to two batters being hit by pitches and putting Andre Ethier up with the bases loaded. But lefty Pirates reliever Tony Watson came in for starter A.J. Burnett and got Ethier to ground out, and then Jamey Wright surrendered two of his own in the bottom of the inning. Shawn Tolleson extended his scoreless streak to nine innings with a perfect bottom of the eighth, but the Dodgers drew no closer.

Loney, Ramirez and Mark Ellis each had two hits for the Dodgers, who are a half-game ahead of idle San Francisco.