Apr 13

Harang sets Dodger record with nine straight strikeouts

Aaron Harang gave up a leadoff single to Cameron Maybin, then fanned the next nine batters tonight against the Padres to break the Dodgers’ record for consecutive strikeouts set 49 years and nine months ago by Johnny Podres on July 2, 1962.

Harang needs to strike out Will Venable in the fourth inning to tie Tom Seaver for the major-league record and needs to fan Chase Headley to break it.

A strikeout in the fourth would also get Harang halfway to the MLB record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game held by Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson and Kerry Wood. The Dodger record for strikeouts in a game is 18, held by Sandy Koufax and Ramon Martinez.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, have parlayed an error, a two-run infield single (!) by Mark Ellis, walks to Matt Kemp and Juan Rivera and a broken-bat two-run single by Andre Ethier for four runs in the bottom of the third – great for the team, maybe not so great for Harang’s groove.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, have parlayed an error, a two-run infield single (!) by Mark Ellis, walks to Matt Kemp and Juan Rivera and a broken-bat two-run single by Andre Ethier (who now leads the majors with 12 RBI) for four runs in the bottom of the third – great for the team, maybe not so great for Harang’s groove.

Update: Well, you could almost see that coming after Harang sat in the dugout for so long. Starting the fourth, Venable hit a 3-1 pitch for an opposite field home run to left field. Harang gave up two more runs in the fourth before notching his 10th strikeout – but the Dodgers came back with four more runs in the bottom of the fourth, capped by Kemp’s two-run homer, for an 8-3 lead.

Update 2: Harang struck out one in a perfect fifth and two in a perfect sixth to tie his career high with 13 strikeouts. He has thrown 97 pitches.

Remember, Harang threw six no-hit innings at his last Dodger Stadium appearance, pitching for the Padres on July 9. So if you could ignore the fourth inning tonight, Harang would have allowed one hit with 19 strikeouts in his past 11 innings at Dodger Stadium.

D.J. Short of Hardball Talk notes that Harang, who led the National League in strikeouts in 2006, had gone 44 straight starts before tonight without fanning nine in a game.

Update 3: After giving up a one-out walk in the seventh inning on his 109th pitch, Harang’s night ends with 6 1/3 innings, four hits, two walks and 13 strikeouts. Reliever Todd Coffey gave up consecutive hits to allow a fourth run to score off Harang, whose season ERA slivered from 6.23 before the game to 5.91.

Update 4: Josh Lindblom put out the fire set by Harang, Coffey and Scott Elbert, retiring all three batters he faced in the eighth inning to protect an 8-6 lead. With Javy Guerra scheduled for a night off after saving three games in a row, Kenley Jansen came in for the ninth. He gave up a walk, struck out the next two … and then, one out from victory, surrendered a game-tying home run to Headley.

Jansen then gave up a double to Yonder Alonso off yonder outfield wall. Jeremy Hermida was intentionally walked, but Orlando Hudson struck out to end the ninth inning.


Apr 13

Kuroda goes eight shutout innings in Yankee Stadium opener

I’ve probably never been happier over a Yankee win. Hiroki Kuroda pitched eight shutout innings, allowing five hits, two walks and striking out six before 49,386 at the Bronx Bombers’ home opener today, a 5-0 victory over the Angels.

Kuroda didn’t allow a hit after Peter Bourjos’ fifth-inning single until an infield single by Bobby Abreu in the ninth on the former Dodger’s 109th pitch, after which Kuroda left the game to a standing ovation. A highlight was a called strike three against Angel slugger Albert Pujols in the sixth.

I’ll always be a fan, Hiroki. Good for you.

Apr 13

The ultimate Dodger Stadium ‘Don’t try this at home’ moment

Via Kevin Kaduk at Big League Stew:

… Showing that he can rely on the elements in any situation, television survivalist Bear Grylls lit a baseball on fire before throwing it for the Los Angeles Dodgers’ first pitch on Thursday night. Why the “Man Vs. Wild” star did this is anybody’s guess, but it was worth it just to see Dodgers catcher Matt Treanor squirm behind the plate. …

Apr 12

Game 7 chat

Pirates at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, LF
James Loney, 1B
Juan Uribe, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Chris Capuano, P

Notes from earlier today:

  • When 49-year-old Jamie Moyer faced 22-year-old Madison Bumgarner today, it was the largest age differential between starting pitchers since 59-year-old Satchel Paige faced 29-year-old Bill Monbouquette on September 25, 1965. Moyer allowed only two earned runs in 5 2/3 innings, but lost to Bumgarner and the Giants, 4-2. Moyer did become the oldest pitcher with more than one start in a season.
  • For the first time since 1994, the Angels lost after leading by six runs, falling to Minnesota, 10-9.
  • Hiroki Kuroda will face the Angels in the Yankees’ home opener Friday.
  • If Ted Lilly comes off the disabled list in time to start Saturday, Josh Lindblom is likely to take his four no-hit, shutout innings to the minors. Chad Moriyama argues for avoiding a Lance Cormier fiasco and releasing Jamey Wright instead.
  • Dodger Thoughts commenter (and pitcher extraordinaire) 75Dodger passes along an NPR Fresh Air interview with Brad Ausmus.
  • The Dodgers’ hot start is summarized nicely by David Pinto of Baseball Musings. Among other things, Los Angeles has a .474 on-base percentage and 1.026 OPS with runners in scoring position and two out.
  • Dodger slugging percentages by position in 2012: pitcher .100, first base .190, third base .190, second base .240, left field .292, shortstop .308, catcher .333, center field .720, right field .783.
Apr 11

Slam dunk for the Dodgers, 4-1

Crashing the boards.

A 4-1 victory over the Pirates pushed the Dodgers to a 5-1 record in this young season. It wasn’t a perfect game, but one that was the ongoing equivalent of rebounding your missed shot and putting it in the hoop.

Chad Billingsley gives up a home run to light-hittting Clint Barmes in the third, but recovers to shut Pittsburgh out through his three remaining innings. Billingsley gives up two hits with one out in the sixth, then wraps things up when Neil Walker hits a soft liner with two on and one out for an inning-ending double play.

The Dodgers waste two baserunners in the first inning, but score a tying run in the bottom of the third and a go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth. Dee Gordon starts his night 0 for 3, then doubles to kick-start a two-run seventh.

Los Angeles is winning even as half their lineup clanks one shot off the rim after another. They’re doing so because Matt Kemp (3 for 4), Juan Rivera (3 for 4) and Andre Ethier (2 for 4) keep banging the boards, and because the bullpen (Matt Guerrier, Kenley Jansen and Javy Guerra) keeps running a nice pick-and-roll at the end of the game.

The words “enjoy it while it lasts” come to mind. Fair enough.

Apr 11

Kershaw’s winless dominance

F-18s fly over Dodger Stadium prior to the home opener. © Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers 2012

Some Tuesday postgame data, courtesy of ESPN Stats and Information:

How Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw dominated the Pirates despite not picking up a win:
– Sixty-five of Kershaw’s 88 pitches (73.9 percent) went for strikes, the highest percentage of his career.
– Kershaw went to a three-ball count to the first hitter of the game, the only one he went to all game. The one three-ball count matches his career low in a start.
– Pirates hitters were 0 for 7 with five strikeouts in at-bats ending with Kershaw’s slider.
– With two strikes, Pirates hitters were 0 for 11 with seven strikeouts.

Kershaw held the Pirates hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position on Tuesday, continuing his dominance of hitters when getting into a jam.

Lowest BA Allowed With RISP, Starting Pitchers, Since Start of 2011 Season

Ian Kennedy .142
Jeremy Hellickson .161
Ricky Romero .173
Jhoulys Chacin .173
Clayton Kershaw .185 (0-6 on Tuesday vs Pirates)

* * *

Matt Kemp went 0-4 on Tuesday, but drove in a run for the ninth straight game. The nine straight games with a RBI ties a Dodgers’ record.

Most Consecutive Games with RBI, Dodgers History
Matt Kemp 9 (2011-12)
Roy Campanella 9 (1955)
Augie Galan 9 (1944)

* * *
Andre Ethier, on his 30th birthday, hit a game-winning home run in the eighth inning in the Dodgers’ win over the Pirates. The last player to celebrate his 30th birthday by hitting a game-winning homer in the eighth inning or later was Jerry Mumphrey for the Yankees against Milwaukee on September 9, 1982. Mumphrey hit a 10th inning homer in that game. (Elias Sports Bureau)

* * *

  • In a story for Variety, I explore how much TV networks can justify bidding billions of dollars for the rights to broadcast baseball games. Nice to see Dee Gordon flying across the top of the paper …
  • In five games, Gordon has four steals in five tries, and replays showed he was safe on the time he was called out.
  • MIke Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness conveniently tackles a subject I was mulling myself: how Chad Billingsley does in his next start following a great outing. It might also be worth looking at how Billingsley does after a high pitch count in his most recent appearance.
  • Today in Jon SooHoo: A photo gallery from the home opener.
  • Sons of Steve Garvey has its own nice photo recap of Tuesday.
  • His Dodger shortstop predecessor, Rafael Furcal, is 10 for 23 with three doubles, two walks and two steals to start 2012: 1.045 OPS.
  • Here’s an Associated Press story on security at Dodger Stadium for the first home opener since Bryan Stow was attacked.
  • Joe Torre conceded to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com that at times, Matt Kemp was a difficult player for him to manage.
  • Jonah Keri of Grantland and Dave Cameron of Fangraphs discuss the need and desire to kill the save statistic and replace it with something more useful.
  • Don Mattingly and Peter O'Malley. © Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers 2012

    Another gem by Josh Wilker at Cardboard Gods, inspired by the hyphen.
  • A baseball card featuring Reggie Smith and Ryne Sandberg is the subject of a piece by Bruce Markusen for the Hardball Times.
  • Dixie Walker will be played by Ryan Merriman of ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars in the upcoming Jackie Robinson biopic, 42, reports Justin Kroll of Variety.
  • Eleven contract extensions have been signed by pre-arbitration-eligible players since the end of last season; Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors looks at the trend.
  • Carlos Santana became one of those players, signing a five-year, $21 million extension. Mike Axisa of Fangraphs examines the deal.
  • At the bottom of this Fangraphs post, you are asked to rate Dodger radio announcers Charley Steiner and Rick Monday.
Apr 10

Impressions of Dodger Stadium Opening Day

The scene approximately one hour before today's first pitch.

Seeing Vin Scully being introduced, in absentia, during the pregame ceremonies for the Dodgers’ first home appearance of the season, his image on the scoreboard without his voice, put pressure directly on my heart.

My understanding is that Scully is going to be fine and is simply doing what any sensible person with a bad cold does – staying home and getting better. I expect him to be in fine fettle in no time.

But the small reminder of the inevitable and just how devastating it’s going to be – for me, for you, for the city – turned me upside down. No person that is not a family member has meant more to me.

We are so, so lucky to have had Scully in our lives for so long. For most of us, he’s been there since before we were born. But it’s a measure of the man that it still doesn’t seem like enough.

It was hard enough to imagine a world without Chick Hearn or a world without John Wooden, or a world without my grandmother. For a moment, I was forced to confront a world without Vin Scully, and I just wanted to turn and run.

* * *

Dodger Stadium has been blessed with wonderful weather in recent home openers. Today was downright exquisite – a vista in which Scully would have found poetry.

* * *

Highlight of the pregame ceremonies: the return of Peter O’Malley and his sister, Terry O’Malley Seidler to the field of Dodger Stadium. They might still be on the ownership sidelines, but it certainly looked like they belonged.

Tommy Lasorda caught Seidler’s pitch, then took off his mitt and waved his fingers as if she had burned them with the heat.

They showed the familiar image of O’Malley with his mother Kay throwing out the original first pitch at Dodger Stadium 50 years ago, and it just is remarkable to me how young he was. Twenty-five years old, with this new stadium as your home base? Could life have been sweeter?

* * *

The appeal of daytime fireworks has long been lost on me. They take something dazzling and loud and replace them with something … loud. But, they’re a Dodger Stadium Opening Day tradition at this point, just like the release of doves in pristine white flight at the end of the National Anthem.

Never, however, had I seen the doves fly directly into the path of the fireworks.

There was a gasp in the crowd as it appeared for a moment that about a hundred birds were being blown to smithereens right before our eyes. However, they continued on their journey, deafened but unbowed, as my brother commented regarding the narrowly avoided avian calamity, “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”

* * *

I’ve always been one to downplay the legacy of Maury Wills. The subject of one of my earliest posts at Dodger Thoughts was how Wills was not as important as his reputation suggests, nor as revolutionary.

But the folks who watched Wills play insist that I can’t possibly appreciate him without having seen him.  Baseball Analysts founder Rich Lederer, as faithful an adherent to statistics as they come, would always challenge my take on Wills. And it’s not like it was a point I really was interested in strenuously contesting.

Fifty years later, the arrival of Dee Gordon has set the stage for me to have my own Maury Wills experience. On-base percentage and home runs be damned, I just know that every time this guy comes up to the plate, I’m excited, and every time he starts running those bases, even on a grounder to second, I’m on the edge of my seat.

Some people might say that Gordon is no more than Juan Pierre. That might be true, if Pierre played a promising shortstop instead of a feeble-armed outfield and was paid 5 percent of that big contract he signed instead of every penny.

In the first inning today, more than any pregame ceremony could, the Roadrunner brought us back to 1962. A single. A stolen base on the next pitch. A jaunt to third on a 4-3 groundout by Mark Ellis, and another jog home on Matt Kemp’s grounder to short. A 1-0 lead, Kid Koufax on the mound. These are days …

* * *

When Clayton Kershaw throws a pitch that isn’t a strike, I’m surprised. When he gives up a hit, I’m a bit taken aback. And when he gives up a run … give up a run?

Leading off the top of the second inning, Casey McGehee hit a deep fly to center that had a hint of home run potential. One thing’s for sure: Kemp didn’t look like he was going to catch it.  At best, Kemp was in the same zip code – he never got a good read on the soaring sphere in the afternoon sun, and it landed at warning-track distance for a stand-up triple.

(If Vin were here: What’s the old Noel Coward line? ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun …‘)

The play cost Kershaw a no-hitter – which I know I wasn’t alone in speculating about. It also threatened to cause the Dodgers’ lead to disappear just like that.

Strikeout. Strikeout. Fly to left.

These are days, to remember.

* * *

Those of us waiting to see James Loney and Juan Uribe get untracked got mixed results today. Loney drew a walk in his first at-bat, but went 0 for 2, including a meek, check-swing groundout in the fourth, leaving him 0 for 12 this season.

Uribe, on the other hand, went 3 for 3, but his first hit was a tit-for-tat sun single to center field in the bottom of the second, and his third hit was a dribbler well shy of the infield basepaths. But you take what you can get in this game.

A.J. Ellis, who has been my unsung hero in this season’s outer atmosphere, went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts. Not once in 2011 did he have a hitless game with two strikeouts.

But Kershaw nearly was the game’s other offensive gem. With Loney and Uribe at first and third, it took a strong play by second baseman Neil Walker to steal an RBI single from Kershaw.

* * *

I had a chocolate malt and it seemed less rich than I was used to. The ingredients were led by “skim milk.” Is this something new, or have I just noticed it for the first time?

* * *

Bottom of the sixth inning. Two out. Juan Rivera takes a 1-2 pitch for a ball.

“Deuces wild,” my brother says.

Vin.

* * *

One to nil into the seventh inning, the game proceeding at the quick step. Aside from the triple, Kershaw has allowed one other baserunner, a fourth-inning single by Pirates pitcher Kevin Correia (who was then picked off), while striking out seven.

Alex Presley begins the new frame with an infield single, and Andrew McCutchen sends him to second with the Pirates’ fourth hit. Nobody out, and it’s all on Kershaw’s shoulders again.

McGehee hits another fly ball, this one to left field. Rivera catches it, but thinks he can throw out a tagging Presley at third base. No dice, and McCutchen glides into second. Fundamental error that won’t go in the boxscore.

Sure enough, the next batter, Matt Hague, whom I know nothing about but can only hope hails from The Hague, hits what would be an inning-ending double-play grounder to Gordon. But Gordon can only make the play at first. The game is as tied as can be.

Pirates 000 000 1 – 1 4 0
Dodgers 100 000 - – 1 4 0

Kershaw gets another grounder to end the top of the seventh. He’s thrown only 88 pitches, and I’m not sure there’s anyone on the Dodger bench the fans would rather see at the plate. But he’s still on the mend from his sad stomach of yesterweek. So with Uribe on first and two out, Adam Kennedy pinch-hits. And singles.

Gordon takes a ball, fouls off two pitches, and strikes out swinging. Kershaw’s row in the ledger for 2012 is updated: 0-0, 0.90 ERA, 10 innings, 10 strikeouts.

* * *

Kenley Jansen enters in the eighth inning with Merlin Olsen’s No. 74 on his back. Jansen sacks Rod Barajas and Clint Barmes, then tackles Garrett Jones for no gain as the two-minute warning approaches.

* * *

Bottom of the eighth. It’s not even 3:30 p.m. But I’m wondering if we might still be here when 7 o’clock rolls around.

Mark Ellis and Kemp strike out, bringing up Andre Ethier. I’m watching, languidly. I probably should be expecting more, but my thoughts have already turned to whether the Dodger bullpen can keep the Pirates scoreless into dusk.

And then Ethier just blasts one. Boom! Somewhere, a white dove has an aftershock. High, far, long, deep, distant, going, gone.

“Happy birthday, Andre Ethier” flashes the scoreboard. The guy who fought for his job for what must have seemed so long to him, the guy who has fought for respect even after he seemingly earned it … the fighter is now 30. He’s 30 and he’s taking a curtain call from 50,000-plus agog fans at Dodger Stadium.

I spent my 30th birthday at a Westside pool hall, wondering if I might get a kiss from a girl that I didn’t even like that much, then settling in for drinks and bar food with a few close friends. Same thing, right?

* * *

Javy Guerra, future ex-closer according to Jansen’s fantasy league owners, enters in the ninth inning. He strikes out Jose Tabata, but Presley singles.

“Andrew McCutchen is the Pirates’ best hitter,” I tell my brother. “He’s the guy who can hurt us.”

That double play the Dodgers didn’t get in the seventh inning? McCutchen gives it to us in the ninth, Gordon to Ellis to Loney. Ballgame.

Is it over too quick? Too busy celebrating the win to decide.

* * *

The Dodgers are 4-1. They have won four games without Kershaw getting credit for any.

Andre Ethier sounds like the mayor of Los Angeles on the radio postgame show.

Just 76 more wins, I say to myself. That sounds doable, especially if they can keep beating the likes of the Padres and Pirates.

Hours later, I realize I meant 86. Oh well.

* * *

I’m driving home at 4 p.m. after a day at the ballpark. Every day should be like this. Only with Vin.

Apr 10

Vin Scully resting at home with cold

The 1962 Los Angeles Dodgers - (c) Los Angeles Dodgers/Walteromalley.com

Pirates at Dodgers, 1:10 p.m.
Kershaw CXVIII: Kershawmazing Grace
Dee Gordon, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, LF
James Loney, 1B
Juan Uribe, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Clayton Kershaw, P

The Dodgers’ home opener celebrates the 50th anniversary of Dodger Stadium and the exciting 1962 team, but it will be missing a central component. This morning, the Dodgers announced that Vin Scully is resting at home with a bad cold and will miss today’s game. I know everyone is wishing him the fastest and easiest possible recovery, while being relieved he is putting his health first rather than trying to gut it out.

And, as we all know, Vin would want the rest of us to have a fun, exciting and responsible home opener. So here’s to a great day.

Apr 09

The 50 greatest Dodgers of all time

Who are the Dodgers’ all-time 50 greatest players? It was no easy task to determine, but for this ESPNLosAngeles.com photo gallery, I made my best effort, in honor of Dodger Stadium’s 50th anniversary.

A few other quick links:

  • Dodger Stadium’s top-50 moments also got some ESPNLosAngeles.com play, presented in reverse chronological order by former Times sportswriter Mike Downey.
  • Vin Scully shared some Dodger Stadium thoughts with Dylan Hernandez of the Times.
  • Similarly, Frank Howard talked to Lance Pugmire of the Times about the early days of Dodger Stadium.
Apr 07

A.J. Ellis, Dee Gordon carry Dodgers to winning finish

In a sense, too much is being asked of A.J. Ellis and Dee Gordon this year. Neither has held a full-time job in baseball before this year, and yet one is the team’s leadoff hitter and infield anchor, the other is quite possibly expected to deliver the team’s best on-base percentage.

But each player had a whale of a game in tonight’s 6-5 Dodger victory that elevated the team to 3-0. Ellis homered, walked twice and singled in the 11th before scoring a go-ahead run that was driven in by Gordon, who recovered from his slow offensive start in the Dodgers’ first two games to go 3 for 4 with two walks and three steals.

The heroics lifted the Dodgers on a night that they surrendered a 5-0 lead to a five-run Padres fifth inning that featured two singles, a hit batter, a wild pitch and five walks, including four in a row with two out. Chris Capuano, who had been pitching decently to that point, faltered by walking three after a one-out single. Jamey Wright relieved and threw eight straight balls for two more runs, and then Scott Elbert wild-pitched a fourth run in, hit a batter and gave up the game-tying single.

However, Mike MacDougal, Matt Guerrier, Kenley Jansen (pitching two innings), Todd Coffey and closer Javy Guerra held San Diego scoreless on four baserunners over the final six innings, enough time for Ellis and Gordon to deliver once more.

The Dodgers had taken a 1-0 lead in the first inning after Matt Kemp drove in Gordon with a sacrifice fly, boosted it to 4-0 when the Roadrunner crossed the plate on Kemp’s RBI single and Andre Ethier doubled in Mark Ellis and Kemp, and then made it 5-0 on Ellis’ fourth-inning home run.

Early season OPS: A.J. Ellis 1.205, Kemp 1.198, Ethier 1.021, Juan Rivera .955, Gordon .732, Mark Ellis .670, James Loney .111, Juan Uribe .111.