Sep 09

A certain kind of torture

That John Lindsey entered his first major-league game Wednesday but was removed for pinch-hitter Andre Ethier before he actually got to see his first major-league pitch generated the kind of national uproar on Twitter that I’m not sure has happened with the Dodgers since the Jonathan Broxton Yankee game.  (Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness has examples.) ESPN’s broadcast of the game contributed to that, but still, it indicates how galvanized people have become by his story.

Lindsey handled his close-but-only-a-cigar moment – he ended up with the suitable-for-framing first lineup card bearing his name, writes Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com – with a big smile, as if to say that the moment was anything but ironic. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com has more:

“It was exciting,” said Lindsey, who finally made a regular-season box score by being announced as a pinch-hitter in Wednesday night’s 4-0 Dodgers loss to the Padres, only to be immediately lifted when the Padres made a pitching change. “I was waiting for this all my life and I was a lot cooler and calmer than I thought.”

Lindsey, called up Monday after 16 years in the Minor Leagues, was sent up to bat for Scott Podsednik and face left-hander Joe Thatcher with one out in the top of the eighth inning and runners on first and second. But as soon as Lindsey was announced, Padres manager Bud Black replaced Thatcher with right-hander Luke Gregerson.

Dodgers manager Joe Torre countered by sending up Andre Ethier to bat for Lindsey, and Ethier bounced Gregerson’s first pitch into an inning-ending double play.

“It was something I had to do,” Torre said. “It didn’t work.” …

As Bob Timmermann noted right as it happened, Lindsey became the first player to be announced as a pinch-hitter without actually batting in his major-league debut since Cody McKay of St. Louis in 2002. Billy Ashley was the last Dodger to have it happen, in 1992.

Whether it was really something Torre had to do in a contest that would determine whether the Dodgers would be nine or 11 games back in the National League West (answer: 11), in a game that Russ Mitchell started and Trent Oeltjen pinch-hit, was debatable. It certainly was a perfect moment to bring up Ethier (the Dodgers’ fifth consecutive pinch-hitter of the inning)  from a strategy standpoint, if you put aside Ethier’s inconsistent bat of late. And maybe it was even perversely poetic. Perversely.

* * *

Dodger starting pitcher Chad Billingsley looked extremely sharp at the outset Thursday, but his defense didn’t. Billingsley cruised through an 11-pitch first-inning despite a Rafael Furcal error and didn’t allow a hit until Luis Durango’s infield single in the third inning. Durango immediately stole second base – one of 30 consecutive stolen bases the Dodgers have allowed (not counting Clayton Kershaw pickoffs) since Russell Martin’s season-ending injury – and scored the game’s first run following an Adrian Gonzalez intentional walk on a Miguel Tejada single.

In the sixth inning, San Diego loaded the bases on two more infield singles and a sacrifice bunt/failed fielder’s choice. A single to left, an error and a sacrifice fly later, the Dodgers were down by the 4-0 margin that would become the game’s final score. Los Angeles finished the game with two singles, two walks and a double. Billingsley ended up with five walks.

* * *

  • The family of our good friend and Baseball Analysts founder Rich Lederer gets a nice feature story from Bob Keisser of the Press-Telegram. Rich’s father, George, who covered the Dodgers for years, is being inducted into the Long Beach Baseball and Softball Hall of Fame.
  • Josh Fisher writes a semi-personal piece about being at the McCourt trial for Dodger Divorce.
  • At Baseball Prospectus, Ken Funck writes about Ted Lilly and his future.
Sep 07

Swing and a miss: Dodgers strike out season-high 14 times in 2-1 loss


Denis Poroy/APClayton Kershaw reacts after falling behind, 2-0, on an RBI double by Adrian Gonzalez.

Even if no one else is, the Padres are still taking the Dodgers seriously. Two batters after ace starting pitcher Mat Latos struck out 10 in seven innings, San Diego brought in closer Heath Bell to get five outs against the National League West’s fourth-place team. Bell did the job, striking out four himself, sealing the Padres’ 2-1 victory Tuesday.

Andre Ethier all but epitomized the Dodgers’ night with a second-inning at-bat in which he swung at all seven pitches he saw, fouling six and whiffing on the seventh.

Clayton Kershaw (seven innings, six baserunners, six strikeouts) gave up single runs in the second and third innings, and the Dodgers couldn’t come back despite placing the tying run in scoring position in the sixth and eighth innings. Latos, three months older than Kershaw and taken in the 11th round of the same 2006 draft (10 picks after the Dodgers took Justin Fuller), lowered his league-leading ERA to 2.21.

The Dodgers fell below .500 for the first time since May 11. Since holding the best record in the NL with a 36-24 record on June 9, the Dodgers are 33-46, 26th in the majors.

Sep 06

Since they aren’t needed elsewhere, three cheers for John Lindsey!

Let’s start with Sunday’s best story: John Lindsey is finally a major leaguer. From Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

Lindsey, 33, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Triple-A first baseman who has played more seasons in the minors without earning a call-up to the majors than any current player, was among five players the Dodgers promoted Sunday afternoon.

Lindsey will be joined by third baseman Russ Mitchell, who is also making his major league debut, infielder Chin Lung Hu, and pitchers Jon Link and John Ely.

For Lindsey, set to join the team Monday, it was the realization of a lifelong dream. He’s spent nearly half his adult life in the minor leagues, since the Colorado Rockies took him in the 13th round of the 1995 draft.

He’s had a career season in 2010, batting .354 with 25 home runs for the Albuquerque Isotopes.

“Oh man, the second [Isotopes manager Tim Wallach] told me my whole brain kind of shut down. I was hearing what he was saying, but I couldn’t even believe it,” Lindsey said.

“He went to shake my hand and I had to hug him because my legs were so weak.”

Lindsey said Wallach had initially tried to fool him by asking him to come into his office, then slamming the door.

“I think he was trying to mess with me, but [hitting coach] Johnny Moses was in the corner, trying to keep a straight face the whole time, but he couldn’t stop smiling,” Lindsey said.

“Wally told me it was the happiest day as a manager he’s ever had. I walked out of that office and hugged all my teammates, called my wife, and I haven’t stopped smiling or pacing around the clubhouse since.

“I probably won’t sleep the next three or four days.” …

Sometimes, it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s that you get to play the game.

Says Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.: Lindsey, who is 33 years, 219 days old today, will be the oldest non-Japanese Dodger to make his MLB debut since Pete Wojey (34 years, 213 days) on July 2, 1954.

* * *

As for Sunday’s results – yes, the team looking to make a miracle comeback in the standings suffered a blow. Arizona fell to Houston, 3-2, missing a chance to close within 12 games of the fourth-place Dodgers, who lost to San Francisco, 3-0.

The Dodgers’ magic number to clinch non-last place is 12. Los Angeles has clinched the tiebreaker against Arizona by winning the season series, so even though six of the Dodgers’ final nine games are against the Diamondbacks, the odds remain in the Dodgers’ favor.

Oh, as for the other races? Can’t say the Dodgers are doing much there.

The Padres are the first team to stay in first place despite a 10-game losing streak since the 1932 Pittsburgh Pirates, and looking to be the first team to make the playoffs despite a 10-game losing streak since the 1982 Atlanta Braves, according to Stat of the Day. That was the year that the Dodgers took advantage of the Braves’ slump to regain the National League West lead, only to run into a most bitter ending. This year is looking bitter in a different way.

Greg Zakwin wraps up Sunday’s Ack-loss at Memories of Kevin Malone: “(Andre) Ethier, Jamey Carroll, and Matt Kemp struck out a combined eight times. Five baserunners. Thirteen strikeouts in total against just a single, solitary walk drawn. Just a single extra-base hit. No Dodger reached base more than once. Pitiful is a word that seems to perfectly describe the offensive side of things since the All-Star Break.”

Hiroki Kuroda made his sixth straight start of at least seven innings, with a 2.47 ERA and .179 opponents batting average in that time, according to the Dodger press notes. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com notes that it was the sixth time this year that Kuroda has been on the wrong end of a shutout. As Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com writes, opportunities to watch Kuroda in a Dodger uniform might be dwindling to a precious few.

* * *

  • Al Wolf of the Times (via Keith Thursby of the Daily Mirror) predicted in 1960 what the team’s 1962 Dodger Stadium opener would be like. His conclusion: “As broadcaster Vince Scully said in his dulcet tones: ‘Wotta show! Wotta show! Come on out tomorrow night, those of you who missed it. But if you can’t be with us, plunk down a dollar in your pay TV set and watch it that way. Or better yet, put in two bucks and see it all in living color.’”
  • Fred Claire, who acquired Tim Wallach for the Dodgers on Christmas Eve 1992, puts his support at MLB.com for the Wallach for Manager campaign, though not with the Dodgers specifically. Claire, of course, was the Dodger general manager throughout Mike Scioscia’s post-playing Dodger career. His departure preceded Scioscia’s by about a year.
  • Four of the Dodgers in Sunday’s game – Carroll, Ryan Theriot, Ethier and Reed Johnson – finished with a .289 batting average.
Sep 05

With Jonathan Broxton struggling, just how radical will the Dodgers’ 2011 reconstruction be?

With the continuation Saturday of Jonathan Broxton’s nightmare second half, allowing the game-winning homer in the Dodgers’ 5-4 loss to San Francisco, we double-down on the Russell Martin question and ask whether another member of the Dodgers’ core of homegrown talent will be playing for another team next season.

Broxton’s situation is not identical to Martin’s. Broxton’s decline is more recent, and the potential to bounce back stronger. Though Broxton has always insisted otherwise, it’s still hard to imagine that something physical isn’t at least partly responsible for the onslaught of baserunners and bummers in the past two-plus months: 41 baserunners and a 7.25 ERA in 22 1/3 innings since the June 27 Yankee game, 32 baserunners and a 0.83 ERA in 32 2/3 innings before that this season. So you shouldn’t close the door on Broxton’s career as an effective reliever any more than you should have closed the door a year ago on Chad Billingsley’s career as an effective starter.

But the fact is, relievers that are effective over the longterm are exceptions to the rule. And thanks to the two-year deal Broxton signed January 19, he is set to earn $7 million in 2011, his final year before free agency. No matter where you stand on the question of Broxton’s abilities to play or the McCourt ownership’s ability to pay, you can imagine that the Dodgers might think twice before giving Broxton that kind of dough now. And Broxton still has plenty of ability to bring something in a deal.

So in addition to the uncertain Dodger futures of free agents like Hiroki Kuroda and several others, add Broxton to a separate list that includes Martin (declining performance), James Loney (disappointing power) and Matt Kemp (you know the drill). Four players that at the start of 2009 were cornerstones of the Dodgers’ future, with combined 2011 salaries in the neighborhood of $25 million. In my mind, the question is not whether the Dodgers will trade one of them, but whether they will trade all of them.

* * *

In the near-term, this has been something of a nine-lives season for the Dodgers, but Saturday’s loss knocked off yet another. With National League West-leading San Diego losing its ninth-straight game, and backup outfielder Jay Gibbons hitting a three-run home run, the Dodgers were close to moving with seven games of the division lead, a day before beginning a three-game series with San Diego.

Ted Lilly’s one-hitter through six innings turned into a home run fest. The Dodgers hadn’t allowed four homers in a game all year, but Lilly (two), Octavio Dotel and Broxton accomplished the feat in 2 1/3 innings. Los Angeles did not allow a single in Saturday’s game until Cody Ross’ ninth-inning hit, right before Juan Uribe’s final blow.

Here’s a description of the fateful pitch from Broxton, via Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:

“I’m assuming [Uribe's] looking for a fastball, he’s going to cheat a bit, get the barrel ready, try to catch the fastball out in front,” said catcher Rod Barajas. “We threw slider, it didn’t break. It just spun, stayed over the middle plate. Obviously, if he was looking for the fastball, he was able to react.”

“Well, it just hung, straight down the middle. It didn’t move like it should have,” said Broxton. “He capitalized on a mistake.”

It was the first time Broxton had ever given up a ninth-inning lead on a home run at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers then put the tying run at third base with one out in the bottom of the ninth, but couldn’t score him.

* * *

Giants at Dodgers, 5:10 p.m.

Aug 30

Kuroda no-hit miss still a feel-good experience


Kirby Lee/US PresswireHiroki Kuroda

You know, it might have been enough of a silver lining just to be celebrate Hiroki Kuroda’s first hit of the season, coming in his 46th at-bat.

But we were five outs away from something even more transcendent – the cathartic thrill of celebrating a Kuroda no-hitter – before Shane Victorino’s one-out single to right field in the top of the eighth inning of the Dodgers’ game against the Phillies tonight.

Part of the thrill would have been feeling that the no-hitter could hardly have happened to a nicer Dodger.

Kuroda walked two, hit a batter, struck out six and raised his season batting average to .022 before the first H went up against him. He struck out a seventh batter, and then Hong-Chih Kuo relieved him with two out in the eighth, inducing a first-pitch force-out from Mike Sweeney. Kuo then pitched a perfect ninth to wrap up the combined one-hitter, a 3-0 Dodger victory.

“The funny thing is, decisions will be made, games will be won or lost, we’ll all think we know more than we did – and then we’ll still be blindsided by something new, as Dodger fans always have been,” I wrote two days ago. Kuroda almost singlehandedly proved that. And although he fell short, to quote from the movie “Diner,” it’s a smile.

Aug 26

‘You think I’m licked?’ Dodgers gain ground again, 7-1


Jeffrey Phelps/APCasey Blake gets a post-homer high-five from James Loney.

Cynicism be damned, the Dodgers are still playing meaningful games.

With Manny Ramirez’s future still uncertain, Los Angeles defeated Milwaukee, 7-1, to complete a three-game sweep of the Brewers and move within five games of the National League wild-card lead.

“It doesn’t mean the Dodgers are a good team, let alone a playoff team,” I wrote 10 days ago. “But you don’t need to be a good team to have a good week. And, rightly or wrongly, a good week can change your outlook significantly.”

Though the Dodgers are living on the edge, their next three series are against three of the four teams ahead of them in the wild-card race: Colorado, Philadelphia (swept this week by lowly Houston) and San Francisco. So if you had stopped paying attention or were planning to, you might still be forced to take a peek. (You can keep one eye closed if you want).

The Dodgers nursed a 1-0 lead until starter Carlos Monasterios gave up a fourth-inning solo homer to Prince Fielder. The Dodgers got a run back in the top of the fifth, positioning Monasterios to get the win, but the youngster walked opposing pitcher Yovanni Gallardo and then hit his second and third batters of the game to load the bases.

Joe Torre, who used three pitchers for a batter apiece in Wednesday’s ninth inning, continued on his “You think you’ve seen me manage? You haven’t begun to see me manage” crusade. He brought back Ronald Belisario (pitching in his third straight game) and George Sherrill to each get an out and extract the Dodgers from the bases-loaded, none-out jam.

After that, the offense took over. Casey Blake hit a two-run homer in the sixth, and then a one-out walk to Kenley Jansen (who walked one and struck out four in two innings) keyed a three-run seventh inning that broke the game open. And the bullpen not only didn’t blow the lead, it allowed no hits, as Octavio Dotel and Jeff Weaver wrapped up the combined two-hitter.

By comparison, Scott Podsednik, starting in left field while Ramirez took his scheduled day-game powder, had three hits by himself, as did Rod Barajas’ understudy Brad Ausmus. Ryan Theriot added two knocks.

The two teams combined to strike out 23 batters, 11 by Dodger pitchers, 12 by Milwaukee. Gallardo, who entered the game with a 3.28 ERA, struck out 10 but was charged with six runs in 6 1/3 innings.

Aug 25

Dodgers make it two in a row, 5-4

On a night that the Dodgers’ National League West wild-card rivals each took leads after being down by nine runs, the Dodgers had a more modest rally task: a two-run deficit.

But you don’t get points for difficulty in baseball – just for wins. Los Angeles scored three in the fifth and one in the sixth, then held on for a 5-4 victory over Milwaukee. The Dodgers closed within 5 1/2 games of the wild-card co-leaders Philadelphia (which took a loss to Houston with Roy Halladay on the mound) and San Francisco (which trailed 10-1, led 11-10 and lost 12-11 in 12 innings).

Manny Ramirez had two doubles and two walks on waiver day, driving in one run and scoring another (as well as being thrown out at home when inexplicably sent around the bases by Larry Bowa). He might have made himself more attractive to other teams; he might have made himself more attractive to the Dodgers. Bottom line: Tonight might at least stop this from being a complete Ramirez giveaway with nothing in return.

Andre Ethier had a solo homer, and James Loney, Casey Blake and Ryan Theriot each had two hits. The latter three and Ramirez combined for six doubles.

Hiroki Kuroda allowed four runs on seven baserunners in seven innings, striking out seven, before Jonathan Broxton pitched a 1-2-3 eighth. Joe Torre played matchups to the hilt in the ninth inning, using Ronald Belsiario, George Sherrill and Octavio Dotel to each get an out. It was suspenseful and a bit harrowing (the last two outs required running plays by Jamey Carroll and Matt Kemp), but it succeeded.

Dotel has a sparkly necklace, almost like something a kid might wear in the crowd during a fireworks show. Maybe it looks different on the field, but I’m surprised he’s allowed to pitch with it.

Aug 24

Merry Barajasmas: New catcher stars in 5-3 victory


Morry Gash/APThe home run hit by Matt Kemp tonight sits lodged in the center field scoreboard in Milwaukee. (Update: New reports are saying this isn’t Kemp’s ball. Oh well.)

Morry Gash/AP
Rod Barajas homers in the sixth inning.

Rod Barajas figures to command in 2011 salary about the $850,000 that Brad Ausmus made in 2010, give or take a few bucks. After what happened in just one night, it seems almost assured that the catcher who grew up in Norwalk idolizing Fernando Valenzuela will be commanding that salary from the Dodgers.

Barajas  doubled twice and hit a three-run homer in an unprecedented Dodger debut, lifting the Dodgers to a 5-3 victory over Milwaukee. He is the first Los Angeles Dodger to have three extra-base hits in his first game with the team, according to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.

While the Dodgers wouldn’t position Barajas as a starter, he could fit in rather smoothly as a reserve for a team that might be tired of no-hit backups.

Matt Kemp hit a massive two-run homer in the second inning for the Dodgers to give them an early lead. Ted Lilly, though he didn’t come back to earth following his 1.29 ERA inauguration with the team, at least re-entered the solar system by falling behind, 3-2 in the fifth inning. But Lilly (6 1/3 innings, three runs, eight baserunners, two strikeouts) was rescued by a rare Dodger rally, featuring Barajas’ homer, the 11th three-run homer by the Dodgers this year.

In six innings, Barajas generated as many extra-base hits as A.J. Ellis and Brad Ausmus combined had this year.

Pitching the ninth inning with the two-run lead, Hong-Chih Kuo threw away a potential game-ending double-play ball, leaving the tying runs at first and second with one out. But pinch-hitter Corey Hart popped out, and Rickie Weeks (who homered earlier off Lilly) struck out.

Lilly is now 5-0 as a Dodger.

Aug 21

Dodgers bash four homers, as Vin Scully prepares to make God laugh

On Sept. 18, 2006, the Dodgers came back with four consecutive homers in the ninth inning and then one in the 10th to beat San Diego in the legendary 4+1 game.

Tonight, the Dodgers almost matched the feat, hitting four homers in a five-batter stretch (interrupted only by a Manny Ramirez third out in the bottom of the second inning), and then held on to most of their 7-1 lead for an 8-5 victory over Cincinnati. Call it the 4-minus-1 game.

Ryan Theriot and Andre Ethier went deep with two out in the second, and then Jay Gibbons (with a bouncer off the top of the center-field wall) and Matt Kemp (pulling a high and somewhat outside pitch) copy-catted leading off the bottom of the third.

Chad Billingsley cruised for the first five innings, then was pulled after giving up a couple of runs in the sixth. Cincinnati made the game close with two runs off Travis Schlichting in the seventh (inherited runs allowed to score by Hong-Chih Kuo), but the Reds got no closer. The Dodgers added an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh, and Jonathan Broxton retired the side in order in the ninth despite two three-ball counts for the save.

Ramirez went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts in his return, but Gibbons went 2 for 3 with a walk batting cleanup. Ethier, Kemp and Casey Blake each reached base three times.

Tonight’s news was overshadowed by Vin Scully telling T.J. Simers of the Times that he plans to announce his future plans before Sunday’s game. Given that Scully has said he hasn’t wanted a farewell tour, I’m going to go to sleep thinking it’s an announcement he’s coming back, at least to do home games.

Aug 19

Wherein I bow to King Ted: Dodgers 2, Rockies 0


Chris Carlson/APThe Manny Ramirez of Dodger deadline-day pitching acquisitions

I’m trying to think of the last time someone made me look as bad as Ted Lilly and his 1.29 ERA as a Dodger have. Not sure anyone has done it quite like this since I’ve been doing Dodger Thoughts. Maybe someone during my woebegone dating adventures of the 20th century? Or maybe I have to go all the way back to the time in grade school I challenged Brad Saunders to a tennis match and he waxed me, 6-0, 6-1 (and that 1 might have been charity).

Anyway, it wasn’t like I thought Lilly would be bad, but I certainly never dreamed he would be this good. I tip my embarrassed hat to him.

Dodgers 2, Rockies 0. Nine innings, two hits, two walks, 11 strikeouts and no runs for Lilly, his third career shutout (first since 2004) on 110 pitches.

Reed Johnson’s two-run homer, his first of the season, gave Lilly the chance at the win.

Aug 18

Starting pitching again gallant, but Dotel brings the Goofus in 3-2 defeat


Chris Carlson/APLogan White introduces Zach Lee to Dodger fans before tonight’s game.

In the three games that Jonathan Broxton has pitched in since he lost his status as the Dodgers’ top reliever, he has twice been used in situations that, if I were manager, I would probably use the team’s top reliever.

Friday at Atlanta, he was the first reliever used with the Dodgers down by a run in the eighth inning. Tonight against Colorado, he was the first reliever used with the Dodgers tied in the eighth inning.

Those, for some reason, are considered lower-pressure situations, even though they are situations when it’s almost imperative you don’t give up a run. Certainly, they are tougher assignments than when you enter a game needing three outs with a three-run lead, as was the case Thursday in Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, in the last two games he has pitched in since he was promoted to co-closer status, Octavio Dotel has flailed, giving up a walk and a game-winning single Monday, and then tonight’s crazy appearance in the 10th, walking three and throwing three wild pitches to bring about the Dodgers’ 3-2 loss to the Rockies.

Not trying to make too much of this, just that it’s kind of goofy. But then, such is the baseball scene in Los Angeles. Broxton certainly knows how ridiculous it can get.

Once again, Hiroki Kuroda pitched well: seven innings, seven baserunners, seven strikeouts. Once again, the Dodger offense struggled, compounded by a missed suicide squeeze attempt by A.J. Ellis. And once again, the Dodgers lost more of what little ground they have left in the playoff race.

The game’s final play had its own brand of poetry. With Reed Johnson on first base and two out, Scott Podsednik hit a blooper to center. Dexter Fowler dove but couldn’t glove the ball. Johnson, racing around the bases, tried to score, but was nailed at the plate in “from you to me” fashion by Troy Tulowitzki’s relay. Even Steve Lyons, on the postgame show, questioned why Bowa would send the runner on a longshot attempt against Tulowitzki’s arm.

Anyway … Manny Ramirez walked, singled and struck out as a designated hitter in his rehab game tonight. He had no health issues, according to the Dodgers, and is expected to play the field tomorrow.

Aug 16

Well, I mean, come on now … Dodgers collapse in ninth again


John Bazemore/APChad Billingsley’s seven innings of one-run ball went for nought.

Brooks Conrad won the first game of the four-game Dodgers-Braves series with his bat. He nearly lost the fourth game with his glove.

But the reorganized Dodger bullpen got in the way of that symmetry.

Los Angeles blew a ninth-inning lead yet again, allowing three runs to Atlanta in its final at-bat, turning a 3-1 victory into a 4-3 defeat.

On a night that saw the Dodger offense pull another disappearing act, Conrad made two errors in the eighth inning of tonight’s game, allowing the Dodgers to score twice to break a 1-1 tie. Update: The official scorer changed Conrad’s error on Reed Johnson’s at-bat to a hit.

Hong-Chih Kuo entered the game and worked a perfect eighth inning on seven pitches, then came out for the ninth and allowed two singles and a wild pitch to put the tying runs in scoring position with none out. Troy Glaus fouled out, but Conrad was walked on four pitches. Octavio Dotel then replaced Kuo.

Dotel walked pinch-hitter David Ross, and the Braves cut the lead to 3-2.

And then Melky Cabrera singled on a 3-2 pitch to drive in the tying and winning runs.

* * *

I know it’s a bit beside the point after what just happened, but I am just wondering …

Chad Billingsley pitched seven innings for the Dodgers and allowed one run on five hits and a walk while striking out eight. Billingsley struck out the side after issuing his only walk of the game in the fifth inning, then gave up a triple and sacrifice fly in the sixth. Otherwise, he was near impeccable. (Coincidentally, James McDonald also pitched seven innings of one-run ball for Pittsburgh tonight.)

I realize some people won’t get back on board the Billingsley bandwagon until he completes a perfect October, but surely he must have won a few converts back this season. He’s challenging hitters, pitching deeper into games, and his ERA in 20 starts since April 25 is 3.23.

Has anyone who de-friended him re-friended him?

Aug 15

Deadline for Dodgers to sign top draftee: 9 p.m. Monday

With little for me to talk about regarding today’s 13-1 defenestration of the Dodgers – Tony Jackson has everything you could possibly want to know, including the tidbit that the Dodgers have gone three straight games without a run-scoring hit – I can finally turn my attention to Monday’s 9 p.m. deadline to sign 2010 draft choices, including No. 1 pick Zach Lee.

Bullet points:

  • The Dodgers aren’t the only team going down to the wire on their first-round draftee, as the chart accompanying Ken Gurnick’s MLB.com article indicates.
  • Kevin Baxter of the Times details how little the Dodgers have been spending on amateur talent lately.
  • Steve Henson of Yahoo! Sports bucks the conventional wisdom and suggests that the Dodgers will make Lee a legitimate bid, with lots of explanation why. Henson has a quote from Lee saying, “I know I’m going to have to make a decision if they make an offer.”

No single draft pick is a referendum on the Dodgers’ amateur talent strategy. The cupboard isn’t barren. But let’s just say that a team that spends its past year not signing its first-round pick, not offering salary arbitration to free agents and thereby forfeiting more first-round picks, not investing in international signings and not stopping from trading away handfuls of prospects each year is checking off a lot of boxes on the negative side of the ledger.

Let’s see what the news is at 9 p.m. Monday.

Aug 14

Dodgers 2, Braves 1: Newcomers lead the way, but …


John Bazemore/APTed Lilly

In a relief of a win that could have been another vexatious loss, the Dodgers funneled 12 hits into only two runs, but made them stand up for a 2-1 victory over Atlanta on Saturday.

Major credit for the result goes to Ted Lilly, who had his third consecutive sharp start since coming to Los Angeles. Lilly allowed five baserunners over six shutout innings, lowering his ERA with the team to 1.89. He has allowed 10 hits and two walks while striking out 15, and if the rest of the team were jelling, we’d be talking in glorious tones about how he was spearheading the Dodgers’ pennant drive.

As it is, even if he keeps up this pace and makes me look bad for questioning his consistency (though I also said “undoubtedly, Lilly will provide some short-term gain in the rotation”), he does figure to have only about 10 or fewer starts left in a Dodger uniform before leaving as a free agent. So I’m still feeling a little bittersweet about him. But so far, he has absolutely pitched well – a perfect fit for the team.

Octavio Dotel even chipped in 1 1/3 perfect innings tonight; he has retired 14 of 19 batters as a Dodger since coming from Pittsburgh.

Staying with the theme of new players, I’ll even throw a little love Scott Podsednik’s way, reluctantly. Podsednik went 3 for 5 tonight and now has 12 hits and two walks in his past five games. Of course, that’s outstanding.

Now, without this incredible hot streak – which he won’t be able to maintain – Podsednik will revert to being that ordinary player that I still don’t really want much part of. Even as well as he has played for the Dodgers, Podsednik has two extra-base hits in 74 plate appearances with the team. I’m willing to live with a sub-.400 slugging percentage from my catcher (Russell Martin) or my utility infielder (Jamey Carroll) if they’re getting on base a lot. But from my left fielder, I think the offense needs more. And if a hot streak of singles convinces the Dodgers that this is the guy they want starting in left field next year, at age 35, that’s going to make me even more unhappy.

Living in the now, though, Podsednik has provided an admitted boost. I’m going to be even more of a sourpuss with regard to Ryan Theriot, however.

Theriot has been a poor man’s Podsednik, going 2 for 4 tonight to give him a .283 batting average as a Dodger. That has made a lot of observers feel good about the trade, but it’s an empty .283: accompanied by a .328 OBP and .302 slugging percentage. He may be a better fielder than Blake DeWitt, but again, I feel like this has opened the door for the Dodgers to settle for aging mediocrity when they need something better. (By the way, DeWitt’s numbers since leaving the Dodgers and his overall 2010 numbers remain better than those of Theriot.)

Right now, there’s no doubt the Dodgers added talent in the short term last month, at a time when there was legitimate postseason hope. That pretty much fulfills the mission as Ned Colletti saw it, I imagine. He has gotten results.

And yet it all feels so temporary …