May 04

Giants walk off and walk over Dodgers’ hearts in 10

There are games that live in your memory forever. Huge ones like the 4+1 game and the Squeeze. And then less meaningful but still utterly crazy ones like 1996′s 16-15 loss at Colorado.

Tonight brought one of the crazies.

Wild from Matt Magill’s first batter, heave-inducing once the Dodgers fell behind 5-0 in the second inning, head-rushing once the Dodgers came back with seven runs in the top of the fifth and mind-blasting for nearly every moment there after, the tear-your-hair-out affair that lasted more than four hours before ending with a 10-9, 10-inning Giants victory.

Guillermo Quiroz, the last position player available to San Francisco, hit a one-out homer in the bottom of the 10th, giving the Giants a second walkoff victory in two nights.

Magill was a disaster in his second career start, allowing six hits, four walks and five runs while retiring four batters on 63 pitches. And yet somehow, he managed to allow fewer runs than Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong.

Entering the game with a 6.23 ERA, Vogelsong cruised through his first four innings, hurt only a solo home run by A.J. Ellis. Vogelsong began the fifth inning with a 6-1 lead against a team whose season-high in runs was seven.

But Vogelsong walked pinch-hitter Nick Punto to start the fifth, and things spun out of control for him thereafter. Jerry Hairston Jr. doubled, Matt Kemp singled in two, Skip Schumaker followed an Ellis walk with an RBI single, and then Juan Uribe singled home Ellis to bring the Dodgers to within 6-5.

Vogelsong exited with Uribe on first and Schumaker on second, to be replaced by Jean Machi. Dee Gordon, 0 for 2 in his first major-league game of the season, was up. Gordon 3-ironed a ball to the gap that rightfielder Hunter Pence had trouble seeing in the lights, for a go-ahead triple. Punto, still technically listed as a pinch-hitter, followed with a double that scored Gordon for a two-run lead.

The Dodgers being the Dodgers, they still managed to leave two runners on in the inning, when Carl Crawford singled but Hairston struck out. And with half the game remaining, you had to know it would matter.

Javy Guerra came in to relieve, and was almost wholly ineffective. He gave up a solo homer to Andres Torres in the bottom of the fifth, then loaded the bases with none out in the sixth on a walk, a single and a hit batter (the latter, Joaquin Arias, had been trying to sacrifice). Paco Rodriguez entered the game – in a double-switch that left the Dodgers with Luis Cruz, of all people, playing first base for the first time in his career – and was brilliant. He struck out the first two batters on seven total pitches, only to have a low 1-0 strike to Torres elude Ellis for a wild pitch that tied the game at 8. Rodriguez still finished off the inning, stranding Giants on second and third.

The Dodgers took the lead back in the seventh when Gordon drew a four-pitch leadoff walk from Javier Lopez, went to second on a sacrifice, stole third and scored on a nifty slide home thanks to Crawford’s fielder’s choice grounder. But as quickly as that lead came, it vanished in the bottom of the seventh when Ronald Belisario allowed a double, single and sacrifice fly to the first three batters he faced.

At that point, the Giants had scored in six of the seven innings played. But the teams went dry in an eighth inning that included the Dodgers having Ellis (2 for 4 with a walk) bunt into a double play. Belisario survived in his second inning of work to keep things tied.

Gordon reached base for the third time with a one-out, ninth-inning single and stole second, but he was stranded, putting Los Angeles in position of trying to maintain a tie in the bottom of the ninth for the second evening in a row. Brandon League, not one to induce calm, walked leadoff batter Torres on five pitches. Francisco Peguero forced Torres at second.

With Marco Scutaro up, Peguero broke for second. He beat Ellis’ throw but overslid the bag – but Schumaker didn’t keep his glove on Peguero long enough to record what otherwise would have been a gift out. League then went 3-2 to Scutaro before walking him, bringing up Pablo Sandoval with one out and Buster Posey on deck.

Sandoval hit, of all things, a 50-foot dribbler that Punto charged at from third base but couldn’t barehand, leaving the bases loaded for Posey, Friday’s walkoff home run hero.

Unbelievably – and never have I used an adverb with greater emphasis – the Dodgers lived to play another inning. Unbelievably, Posey swung at the first pitch from the erratic League. And unbelievably, Posey hit it a foot to the right of second base, directly at Schumaker, who stepped on second and threw to first to give the Dodgers their escape and send the game into the 10th inning, about 10 minutes shy of four hours.

In the bottom of the 10th, League struck out Pence and then threw two strikes before giving up the game-winning blast to Quiroz. And just like that, it was over.

Apr 25

The glory that is Juan Uribe

The Juan Uribe statline after today’s 3-2 Dodger victory in New York: 29 plate appearances, two singles, two home runs, eight walks. He has an .890 OPS despite a .190 batting average.

Juan Uribe has the top walk rate on the Dodgers: one every 3.6 plate appearances.

Juan Uribe.

After walking in his first three trips to the plate today, Uribe drove in the Dodgers’ second run of the ninth and third run of the game with an infield single. That proved critical because Brandon League allowed an Ike Davis home run in the bottom of the inning.

League retired the next three batters to avoid blowing his second save in less than 24 hours.

Staked to a 1-0 lead in the first inning, Hyun-Jin Ryu went seven innings and allowed only a run on three hits with three walks, striking out eight. Matt Kemp went 2 for 3 with a walk, an RBI and a run and is hitting a season-high .266.

Los Angeles split six games on its initial East Coast road trip.

Apr 24

Mark Ellis powers Dodgers, 7-2, after Kershaw struggles

What can baseball do?

Baseball can give you joy when you can imagine only sadness.

It can also give you the reverse, but enough about last week with the Dodgers. This is this week.

For two consecutive games, the Dodgers have won when you would have thought they would lose. They won when Chad Billingsley was unable to start Sunday, and they won in New York, 7-2, after an uncharacteristic disintegration by Clayton Kershaw on Tuesday.

Kershaw, to be fair, only allowed two runs, but it was shocking how it happened. Twelve pitches in into the third inning, 39 pitches into the game, Kershaw had retired all eight batters he had faced and had a 1-2 count on an emergency relief pitcher making his first career plate appearance. Moments later, he was trailing 2-1 and barely escaping a bases-loaded jam with a Marlon Byrd groundout, and after two more innings and 111 total pitches – matching the most he has ever thrown in the majors without reaching the sixth inning – his night was over. It was the second consecutive outing in which an opposing pitcher ended a perfect start by Kershaw.

Photos by Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Fortunately for the Dodgers, Mark Ellis has shown up like a combination of Florence Nightengale and the Tooth Fairy. Ellis, who Sunday drove in the Dodgers’ first three runs and also made a critical defensive play, all but singlehandedly put the Dodgers on his back Tuesday, with a game-tying home run in the fifth inning – the 100th of his career – and then a leap-from-your-seat three-run blast with two out in the seventh to put Los Angeles ahead to stay. (Not for nothing, Ellis also knocked out Mets starter Jonathon Niese in the third inning with a hard shot up the middle.)

Ellis’ second home run, as Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. noted, made him only the third Dodger second baseman in a century and first in 39 years with four hits and two homers in a game. The 35-year-old (how can such a veteran’s veteran be 10 years younger than me) himself has now thrice homered twice in a game. I also dare say that you won’t find another night in history when Dodger and Angel second basemen each hit two home runs, including tiebreaking homers for both, but I leave you the research challenge.

Not to be lost amid Ellis’ glory is the day Justin Sellers had – three hits, including an RBI single in the second and another coming ahead of Ellis’ second homer. (Juan Uribe drew a walk to keep that inning alive.) After starting the season 0 for 13, Sellers is 11 for 37 with a homer and five walks in his past 12 games (.409 on-base percentage, .378 slugging) and hasn’t made an error since his unfortunate second game of 2013. As hot as Dee Gordon has been at the plate in Albuquerque, Sellers has allowed the Dodgers to remove the yellow caution tape around shortstop.

A.J. Ellis doubled in two insurance runs in the eighth and now leads all major-league catchers with a .446 on-base percentage and NL catchers with a 159 adjusted OPS, and not because the pitcher is batting behind him – he has batted no lower than seventh except for in the third game of the season. Matt Kemp had two more hits and is now 17 for his past 55 (.309) with four doubles, as MLB.com noted, while Andre Ethier doubled ahead of A.J. to slow a 2-for-25 slump.

In addition, the topsy-turvy Dodger bullpen of 2013 has gone back to topsy, pitching at least four innings of shutout ball for the second consecutive game, sparked by a comeback performance by struggling Ronald Belisario (three batters, three outs on 15 pitches, 12 for strikes).

Los Angeles is now 9-4 when it isn’t losing six games in a row. Joy and sadness, that’s our game. With Ted Lilly against Matt Harvey tonight, it figures to be more of the same.

Apr 21

Thanks – we needed that

I’m not going to say that Dodger fans needed this one, this 7-4 victory today over Baltimore, because for one thing, it seemed unlikely following Chad Billingsley’s latest health calamity that “this one” was going to come. Certainly, after replacement starter Stephen Fife gave up three runs in a 35-pitch first inning, “this one” seemed very unlikely to wander the Dodgers’ way.

Even I, after my funereal post Saturday, had my own set of Washington Generals jokes at the ready in the early innings. “You don’t see the Washington Generals’ fans having trouble holding it together, do you?” Such a great, great line. How I savored the thousands of retweets and acknowledgments of superiority it would engender. Yet I held off, because I didn’t want to have egg on my face if the Dodgers surrendered their three-run deficit as easily as they surrendered a three-run lead the previous morning.

And sure enough, it happened. Baltimore’s pitching fell apart in a four-run Dodger fifth, Los Angeles added insurance runs in the seventh and ninth, and Fife, J.P. Howell, Matt Guerrier, Paco Rodriguez, Kenley Jansen and Brandon League combined to shut out the Orioles over the final six innings. Just like that, the zephyr (to use a Vin Scully favorite) was every so gently at our backs, and the Dodgers had won.

We might not have needed it, but if only for a day, it sure was a relief.

Special praise is due to Mark Ellis, who drove in the Dodgers’ first three runs with a sacrifice fly and a two-run single, and also made a superb defensive play ranging far to his right with the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the eighth. For a No. 2 hitter, Ellis has a disappointing two walks all season, but he is batting .311, including .435 (10 for 23) with runners on base, and playing his usual steady defense.

Matt Kemp struck out with the bases loaded and two out in the third, but followed that with hits in three consecutive at-bats, showing a ton of seventh-inning hustle in stealing second and then scoring on an A.J. Ellis single, capped by a nifty slide at home. Though still homerless, Kemp went 8 for 22 (.364) with a walk this past week.

Every little bit helps.

Apr 14

Josh Beckett pitched very well

Cruising through eight innings only to get snakebit in the ninth by Arizona today, 1-0, Josh Beckett joins this group of Dodgers who have pitched complete games and lost since 1988.

Player Date Tm Opp Rslt IP H R ER BB SO Pit GSc
Chad Billingsley 2011-07-03 LAD LAA L 1-3 8.0 3 3 3 2 6 108 68
Derek Lowe 2008-08-26 LAD WSN L 1-2 8.0 6 2 2 1 6 112 67
Derek Lowe 2007-06-09 LAD TOR L 0-1 9.0 4 1 1 0 3 98 78
Derek Lowe 2007-05-20 LAD LAA L 1-4 8.0 9 4 3 0 6 112 56
Derek Lowe 2007-05-10 LAD FLA L 0-3 8.1 5 3 2 3 6 94 66
Jeff Weaver 2005-09-17 LAD SFG L 1-2 8.0 5 2 2 0 4 93 68
Kevin Brown 2001-04-10 LAD ARI L 0-2 8.0 3 2 1 0 8 88 78
Kevin Brown 2000-06-05 LAD TEX L 0-2 8.0 5 2 2 0 9 109 73
Kevin Brown 1999-09-14 LAD MON L 0-3 9.0 9 3 2 0 6 110 65
Kevin Brown 1999-05-25 LAD CIN L 2-3 8.0 5 3 1 1 12 111 75
Brian Bohanon 1998-09-23 LAD SDP L 2-3 9.0 8 3 3 3 6 127 62
Chan Ho Park 1998-09-15 LAD COL L 4-5 9.0 7 5 3 4 8 131 61
Brian Bohanon 1998-09-11 LAD SDP L 0-1 8.0 7 1 1 5 8 132 67
Hideo Nomo 1998-04-23 LAD MIL L 1-2 8.0 3 2 2 2 6 89 72
Pedro Astacio 1997-05-13 LAD CHC L 1-2 8.0 6 2 2 2 4 104 64
Orel Hershiser 1993-06-24 LAD HOU L 0-1 9.0 8 1 1 2 4 104 69
Tom Candiotti 1992-08-31 LAD CHC L 0-2 8.0 2 2 0 1 7 104 80
Mike Morgan 1991-07-28 LAD MON L 0-2 9.0 4 2 0 1 5 111 79
Mike Morgan 1991-04-30 LAD MON L 0-1 8.0 2 1 1 2 5 112 77
Orel Hershiser 1989-08-18 LAD NYM L 2-3 8.0 6 3 3 3 7 118 62
Orel Hershiser 1989-07-28 LAD SDP L 1-2 8.0 7 2 2 5 4 117 59
Fernando Valenzuela 1989-07-15 LAD STL L 0-2 9.0 10 2 2 3 1 140 57
Tim Belcher 1988-09-25 LAD SFG L 0-2 8.0 7 2 2 4 5 117 61
Tim Belcher 1988-09-16 LAD CIN L 0-1 8.0 3 1 0 1 7 114 80
Orel Hershiser 1988-08-24 LAD NYM L 1-2 9.0 7 2 2 3 6 127 68
Player Date Tm Opp Rslt IP H R ER BB SO Pit GSc
Orel Hershiser 1988-06-04 LAD CIN L 2-5 9.0 11 5 5 5 6 153 46
Fernando Valenzuela 1988-04-14 LAD SDP L 0-2 8.0 9 2 2 4 3 150 55
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/14/2013.

I will not be rehashing the characteristic details of the Dodgers’ run-scoring difficulties today.

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 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 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 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 07

Player of the game: Juan Uribe

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 06

Kershaw lovely and amazing again in 1-0 Dodger victory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sep 11

Another dry day in the desert for the Dodgers

This pinch-hit Dodger Thoughts post is dedicated to Mark Sweeney.

Two days after getting shut out in San Francisco, the Dodgers traveled to Arizona. This time, they would have their ace, Clayton Kershaw on the mound. Their best hitter, Matt Kemp, would be back in the lineup. And, it didn’t matter, as the Diamondbacks picked up an unearned run in the 7th on a Hanley Ramirez throwing error and a Miguel Montero RBI double to win 1-0.

The Dodgers had only one look at the game. That came in the fifth after Andre Ethier hit a two-out double. Luis Cruz then sent a drive deep to left that Jason Kubel leaped for, and, to the surprise of many, actually caught. In the seventh, Cruz reached on a one-out single and was pinch run for by Dee Gordon. Gordon never tried to steal and A.J. Ellis hit into a double play. Shane Victorino got a two out double in the ninth off of David Hernandez, but Adrian Gonzalez was caught looking to end the game.

It may finally be time for the Dodgers to retire their “the Dodgers are challenging for the NL West title” commercial. The Giants won a very Coors Fieldish 9-8 game against the Rockies to increase their lead to six games. The Rockies were mathematically eliminated from NL West contention, but they are still alive for the wild card.

But, there was good news down in San Diego. The current owner of Wild Card #2 in the National League, St. Louis, lost again, 6-4. The Cardinals lead over the Dodgers remains at one game. Even the Pirates, who have lost 11 of 16, are still just 2 1/2 games back. Even more surprisingly, the Phillies and Brewers both got to the .500 mark and they are just four games out of a playoff spot. However, if your team still needs to pass up the Pirates this late in September in order to make the playoffs, there is something inherently wrong with your team’s late season surge.

And with this I bid you adieu and go back to the world of commenting. Sorry I didn’t have better news to relate to people. But, if it were all good news, it would have been boring right? No, it would have been more interesting. Life doesn’t let you pick your spots that often.

The Dodgers, somehow, still have a decent chance at a playoff spot. All they need to do is score a run. Not a run or two. We’ll settle for one and go from there.

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.