Jul 07

Eight zeroes for Florida, nine for the Dodgers

Four runs, four hits in the second inning. No runs, two hits in his other six innings. Hiroki Kuroda put whatever was wrong with him in the past, but not in time to prevent a 4-0 loss to Florida and National League ERA leader Josh Johnson.

Rafael Furcal went hitless and runless, with the Dodgers striking out 10 times in all.

Jul 06

Padilla stays on track in Dodgers’ 7-3 victory


Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesVicente Padilla

Two starts ago, Vicente Padilla allowed two runs in seven innings. Last start, Padilla allowed one run in seven innings. But with a shutout through 6 2/3 innings tonight, Padilla lost a chance to keep that progression going and create a lot of anticipation among mathematicians and physicists for his next start.

Nevertheless, it’s been a real hot streak for the enigmatic righty.

Padilla left after those 6 2/3 innings in the Dodgers’ 7-3 victory over Florida, allowing five hits and no walks while striking out nine before surrendering a two-run home run on a 1-2 curve to Marlins’ rookie Mike Stanton. With the exception of a 12-pitch at-bat by Cody Ross with two runners on base to end the fourth inning, it was a breezy outing for Padilla, who allowed two runners to reach second base and none to reach third before Stanton’s homer.

Matt Kemp (2 for 5 with two of the Dodgers’ five season-high steals) followed Rafael Furcal’s two-run single in the second inning with a monster homer to left field – Kemp’s fourth homer in his past six games and 16th of the year – to give the Dodgers a 4-0 lead. Furcal tied Gil Hodges’ 57-year-old franchise record by scoring a run in his 12th consecutive game. (Correction: Furcal is the first to do this since Hodges, but Hodges does not hold the franchise record.)

Casey Blake and Andre Ethier each later hit solo home runs, while Kemp almost topped off his night with a near-three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth that was caught at the wall. Furcal bookended his evening with an RBI single in the eighth.

Blake DeWitt had a single, two walks and his first two steals of the season.

Jonathan Broxton warmed up in the bullpen with the Dodgers leading by four runs in the eighth inning, sat down after the lead went up to five, then warmed up again and entered the game once Travis Schlichting gave up three hits and his first run of the season in the ninth. With visions of the Yankee game from nine days ago and Colorado scoring nine in the ninth to beat St. Louis, 12-9 tonight, Broxton retired both batters he faced to get the save.

Jul 06

Dodgers, Ely cede middle ground in 6-5 loss


Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesRafael Furcal shows how close John Ely was to a good night Monday.

During one of Stanford’s unexceptional football seasons when I was there, the offense had become so frustratingly predictable that the student section began yelling out “Volpe up the middle” on first and second down before the plays were run. Almost invariably, we were right. Not surprisingly, defenses adjusted quickly. It wasn’t exactly sabotage on our part – we were just trying to encourage change. They told us during freshman orientation to question authority, after all.

Anyway, that all came unpleasantly back to mind Monday at Dodger Stadium, when Florida relentlessly went up the middle on the John Ely, knocking him out in the third inning of a 6-5 victory over the Dodgers. If you look at the game’s hit chart (click on “Field Controls” and then “Away Hits”), you’ll see that eight of the Marlins’ 10 hits went between the 385 and 395 markers, five to straightaway center. A potential inning-ending double-play ball in the first went off Ely himself, leading to the second run of the opening frame. Then in the third inning, the first four Florida batters all singled up the middle, three of them scoring to boost the Marlins’ lead to 6-1. A diving Rafael Furcal stopped one of the balls and almost turned an amazing double play that inning as well, but it was not to be. Ely’s night ended when he allowed a single to opposing pitcher Nate Robertson … to center field.

This is not to completely exonerate Ely for his performance, but I came away feeling the rookie righthander mostly did what he was supposed to do. He threw strikes (25 balls to 18 batters), walked only one and struck out three in his 2 2/3 innings. Clearly, Florida was able to hit the ball hard enough to cause problems, but a small amount of luck would have made a big difference. You’d rather have a pitcher that didn’t need luck to win, but I still feel encouraged that the Dodgers have a guy in Ely who at least will take advantage of it.

“It’s still not going to keep him from pressing,” Dodger manager Joe Torre told Brian Kamenetzky of ESPNLosAngeles.com. “He’s still young, and it’s still new to him. He may not be able to restore order as quickly as someone who has been down that road a time or two, but that’s how you gain your experience. Trial and error.”

More tangibly, the Dodgers had just enough good performances in this one to turn what might have been a rout into a heartbreaker. Jeff Weaver and Ronald Belisario were fairly remarkable in relief of Ely, combining for 6 1/3 innings of one-hit, one-walk shutout ball (with Weaver stranding two runners inherited from Ely). Weaver threw 50 pitches in his 3 1/3 innings, while Belisario completed his career-high three innings in only 26 pitches.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers rallied, scoring a run in the third before the running-out-of-words-to-describe-how-hot-he-is Furcal hit a two-run homer to cut the deficit to 6-4. A double by James Loney to drive in Andre Ethier (2 for 3 with a walk) in the eighth drew the Dodgers within a run. However, the team went down in order in the ninth, with Garret Anderson missing a potential leadoff double as a pinch-hitter because Florida was guarding the lines. You should’ve gone up the middle, Garret – that was the winning strategy Monday.

* * *

Manny Mota was interviewed by David Laurila of Baseball Prospectus. Much of it is focused on Mota’s arrival in the States and the beginning of his career.

Jul 03

Dodgers make Diamondbacks rue the error of their ways, 14-1


Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesAfter tonight’s game, Kirk Gibson and Rodrigo Lopez have a story to rival the Andrea Doria survivors.

Clayton Kershaw and Rafael Furcal nearly had a face-to-face collision on the basepaths, and yet that mistake didn’t even register tonight. But six errors by the Diamondbacks did.

Arizona broke its club record for team trauma, making its most errors ever in what would have been the team’s worst shutout loss ever, before scoring a ninth-inning run to settle for a 14-1 defeat.

It would have been the Dodgers’ biggest shutout victory since they won 14-0 on September 24, 1975. Los Angeles’ biggest shutout victory ever was 19-0 over San Diego in 1969.

The Dodgers had a 7-0 lead before scoring their first earned runs, which came on home runs in the fourth inning by the scalding-hot Furcal and then Andre Ethier (both of them 2 for 4). According to True Blue L.A., Casey Blake became the first Los Angeles Dodger to score three runs without a hit or walk.

Furcal is now hitting .338 with a .384 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage in 226 plate appearances, 22 plate appearance short of what he needs to qualify for the leaderboards. Among those on the team with at least 248 plate appearances, only Ethier has a higher slugging percentage than the 5-foot-8 Dodger shortstop. And Furcal lost a few digits when his 400-foot blast to center field ended up being only a single, because Kershaw (running from first base) thought it was caught and started heading back from second base back to first. Furcal, trying to get Kershaw’s attention, was called out for passing Kershaw on the bases.

James Loney reached base four times, and Matt Kemp added a homer and double. Xavier Paul, in his first game back from Albuquerque, had two singles and a three-ball walk after a moment of home-plate umpire confusion. The game-winning RBI went to Blake DeWitt (2 for 5), who had a bases-loaded single in the second inning.

Arizona made two errors in that inning, then made errors on three consecutive batters in the third. Former Dodger Tony Abreu, playing shortstop tonight, made his third error of the game in the fifth inning.

Clayton Kershaw was effective, if not entirely efficient. He crossed the 100-pitch mark in the sixth inning, and with the 14-run lead, Joe Torre pulled him out. Kershaw allowed only four hits and two walks while striking out eight. By entering with at least three innings remaining, Travis Schlichting had a save opportunity, but was hit for after getting seven outs on 40 pitches. Jonathan Broxton, who hadn’t pitched since Sunday’s debacle, was eased back into action. Broxton lost the team shutout by giving up his first homer since August 15 – both the then- and now-homers were hit by Mark Reynolds, but got the next three batters to end the game.

The Dodgers have split the series so far but lead on goal differential, 19-13.

* * *

Carlos Monasterios pitched three shutout innings in tonight’s rehab start with Albuquerque.

Jun 30

The Sweeps of San Francisco: Dodgers 8, Giants 2


Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Vicente Padilla’s ERA is 3.26 since returning from the disabled list.

Good:

1) Vicente Padilla: seven innings, one run, four baserunners, five strikeouts, 98 pitches. Not sure why he didn’t come out for the eighth inning considering the state of the Dodger bullpen — does he need more rest than Ramon Troncoso — but still good on him.

2) Red hot Rafael Furcal: three singles and a homer. In his past five games, Furcal is 14 for 21 with three walks and a slugging percentage of 1.000.

3) Jamey Carroll: single, double and two walks.

4) Matt Kemp: two singles, a walk and a homer, continuing the hot streak that began Saturday (6 for 11 with three walks, .909 slugging percentage).

5) Sweep.

Jun 28

Blake, Dodgers double up Giants, 4-2


Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Rafael Furcal runs down Pablo Sandoval to complete a 9-3-6 double play, one of five San Francisco hit into.

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Casey Blake looks good rounding the bases on his eighth-inning homer.

After a Los Angeles record-tying five double plays – including a huge 9-3-6 twin killing with runners on first and third and none out in the seventh – kept the team by the bay at bay for seven innings, Casey Blake hit an enormous two-run homer to break a 2-2 tie in the eighth inning, and the Dodger bullpen held on so that everyone could exhale after a long day of suffering with a 4-2 victory.

Unsurprisingly, Chad Billingsley wobbled in the first inning of his first start in more than two weeks, but he ended up with a satisfactory six-inning outing, allowing two runs and seven baserunners on 98 pitches.

Blake’s homer was the first the Dodgers have hit to give themselves a lead after the seventh inning since a Matt Kemp blast ended a scoreless tie against Arizona in the 10th inning on June 1.

Hong-Chih Kuo allowed two baserunners in the ninth but closed it out for the Dodgers, who said that Jonathan Broxton will be rested until at least Wednesday.

With the victory, the Dodgers moved back into second place in the National League West, four games behind San Diego, which lost to Colorado.

* * *

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles has a story tonight on Matt Kemp’s ongoing benching.

When asked whether Kemp would return to the lineup on Tuesday night against the Giants, Torre was non-committal.

“We’ll see,” he said. “We’re trying to get on a little bit of a run. If we had won [Sunday] night, it would have been three out of four. I think we have been playing a little better. Hopefully, we’re building something now, and we’ll see if we can get on a run.”

This rationale is just a ruse, considering that the Dodgers won the last game they played with Kemp starting and reaching base three times while making a fine running catch. Torre has decided to play the tough love card. Sounds like this one gets about a nine on the tension scale.

Jun 27

Simply at a loss: Dodgers collapse at finish line, 8-6


Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Curtis Granderson scores the tying run ahead of Russell Martin’s tag in the ninth inning tonight.

“An evening of Yankee screwups completely shot to hell.”

That line comes courtesy of Dodger Thoughts commenter BHSportsGuy, and that’s tonight’s 8-6 Dodger loss.

The Dodgers, who for eight innings had answered so many of the snickers about their recent peformance, who were three outs away from two convincing victories over the Yankees after a narrow loss, find once again that the joke’s on them.

The headline was going to be, “Dodgers’ triumph over Yankees draped in bunting.” The team hit the motherload with three successful bunts in a three-run third inning, two of which were thrown away by Yankees starter Andy Pettitte. (The Dodgers tied a team record tonight with six combined sacrifice hits and sacrifice flies.) Two more runs followed in the fourth, while Clayton Kershaw looked in complete control on the mound, walking no batters for the first time in his career and allowing what seemed to be a meaningless two-run homer by Alex Rodriguez in the sixth inning.

Eight innings in which the Dodgers executed flawlessly – capped by an adrenalin-rushing 3-6 double play started by James Loney –  eight innings in which the Yankees looked like the pretenders, all gone as the leader of the Dodger bullpen, Jonathan Broxton, couldn’t protect a four-run lead in the ninth.

I think even most of Broxton’s detractors would agree that tonight’s career-high 48-pitch outing, in which he allowed more earned runs than he had all season, was more about his lack of stuff than anything else. Coming off a four-out appearance Saturday, Broxton just didn’t have it, and the Yankees just ate him up like vultures. It certainly wasn’t that Broxton couldn’t do the job against an American League team on national television, considering that he had done so 25 hours earlier.

But it surely was an agonizing demise, painful to endure, good times bleeding into excruciation.

The 10th inning then completed George Sherrill’s utter fall from grace, as he was brought in specifically to face left-handed Robinson Cano (who it should be noted entered the game slugging .596 against lefties) and gave up a two-out, two-run home run for the Yankees’ first lead.

If you’re angry, you’re not alone. The Dodgers have boiled over, with mild-mannered Garret Anderson and frustrated Russell Martin both ejected – the team’s fourth ejections in the past four games, two by Martin. (Anderson must have said something interesting, because he was about 30 feet away from home-plate umpire Chris Guccione and running toward the dugout when he was tossed).

So more than one question has been answered this week: The Dodgers do care. They also aren’t, by any stretch, the only team capable of looking bad in the field. They can play this game. They have heart, and they have talent.

But this question remains: When are they going to get some wins?

Jun 26

Fun for the whole family: Dodgers 9, Yankees 4


Mark J. Terrill/AP
Rafael Furcal had three hits, three runs and a dazzler at shortstop.

On a night they had 11 hits and drew 10 walks, there were many moments of pleasure for the Dodgers in tonight’s 9-4 victory. For example, the Dodgers took a haymaker in the top of the first inning when Hiroki Kuroda struggled with control and gave up two walks and a home run to the first three batters, but Rafael Furcal got the Dodgers off the mat. It was just a simple single to left, but it started to take the sting out right away.

Furcal also ended the night with an exclamation point, making a full-flung diving stop of Robinson Cano’s grounder up the middle, bouncing to his feet and firing to first in time to end the game.

In between, Manny Ramirez reached base four times, and James Loney drove in four runs.

But when I think of everything that happened tonight, what gave me the most pleasure was Hong-Chih Kuo. With the tying runs on base and one out in the top of the sixth inning, Kuo blew away Derek Jeter on strikes and then got Jorge Posada to fly out. Then in the seventh, Kuo came back and retired Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Cano. Five Yankees, 18 pitches, no contest. Kuo showed the nation how great his stuff is, and it felt sweet.

The Dodgers have evened it up with the Yankees, and go for bragging rights Sunday with Clayton Kershaw.

* * *

Message to Fox: There’s a line between an acceptable amount of in-game interviews and an excessive amount. And it’s not a fine line. It’s a line that can be seen from Saturn. You guys crossed it. This is not a latenight talk show – it’s a baseball game.

* * *

From Vin Scully at John Wooden’s public memorial today:

“The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives. The triumph of life is to live hopefully, kindly, cheerful, reverent and to keep the heart unwrinkled. The coach kept his heart unwrinkled. He was truly triumphant.”

Jun 25

Cruel duel leaves Dodgers blue, 2-1

In his not-so-graceful way, Vicente Padilla kind of dazzled tonight with his combination of 95 mph fastballs and 55 mph blooper curves. He kind of shone, really. He turned a Fear Factor matchup for the Dodgers against CC Sabathia and the Yankees into a “Hey, this could be kind of cool” kind of game.

But he let Alex Rodriguez get the best of one pitch in the sixth inning, and with the Dodger offense unable to muster anything after Manny Ramirez’s first-inning RBI single, Los Angeles was done for, losing 2-1 tonight.

After Sabathia completed eight innings with just the one run charged against him, 40-year-old Mariano Rivera struck out the side in the ninth on 13 pitches (the final one blowing the lid off James Loney, making as angry as perhaps we’ve ever seen him). A tough loss for the Dodgers, if perhaps a better tough loss than some of the ugly ones during the six-game losing streak.

The offense was simply smothered, unable to get a runner past first base in the final seven innings. Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp each struck out three times. Kemp at least looked better in center field. I plan to write more about his recent struggles, but probably not until after seeing him through this series.

Good atmosphere tonight. Maybe the crowd at Saturday’s game will be rewarded with a Dodger victory.

* * *

The Dodgers designated Charlie Haeger for assignment before tonight’s game and called up Jon Link.

Congrats to former Dodger Edwin Jackson on his no-hitter for Arizona! Jackson threw 149 pitches, but as long as he gets plenty of rest afterward, I’m hoping it was okay as a one-time thing. Jackson, you’ll recall, has twice exceeded 120 pitches facing the Dodgers this year.

Jun 24

If you have a Dodger voodoo doll, throw it to the sky: 10-6


Gus Ruelas/AP
Charlie Haeger let the ball leave his hand 102 times Thursday, allowing five hits and four walks in 4 2/3 innings. And his team won.

By itself, the first inning of the Los Angeles-Los Angeles game tonight was enough to mock Dodger fan attempts at sanity. And there was more where that came from.

In that first inning:

  • The Angels’ first batter, Howie Kendrick, hit a soft chopper that lofted over skepticism-inducing starter Charlie Haeger’s head and then died before Rafael Furcal could reach it and throw Kendrick out.
  • A pitch that crossed up Russell Martin moved the fortunate Kendrick to second base, preventing him from being erased on a potential forceout or double play when No. 2 hitter Kevin Frandsen grounded to second base. Instead, Kendrick went to third base.
  • In a game that the Dodgers could have bet the farm they’d need a lot of runs to win, Joe Torre inexplicably decided to play the infield in with one out in the first and Bobby Abreu up. Abreu hit a grounder just past the drawn-in Furcal that went for an RBI single. Haeger, who could have had a 1-2-3 inning, was down 1-0.
  • Trying to steal on the knuckleballer, Abreu was thrown out by a Martin laser.
  • Torri Hunter hit a fly ball to the gap that the doghoused Matt Kemp reached but couldn’t corral. Hunter got a double.
  • Trying to steal on the knuckleballer, Hunter was thrown out by a Martin laser.

Three baserunners, one hard-hit ball, one run, thousands of discombobulated fans.

By the time the Dodgers left the bases loaded in the second inning without scoring, after Manny Ramirez only made it from first to third base for the second night in a row on a two-out double, most everyone were presumably back to assuming the worst.

Instead, more confounding ensued.

The Dodgers scored five runs in the top of the fourth and another run in the top of the fifth to take a 6-1 lead. And while that was happening, Haeger pitched … not horribly. Over his next three innings, he allowed three walks (none scoring) and a solo home run that made the score 6-2.

None of these things was supposed to happen to the team that couldn’t possibly win this game, the team that had came to the ballpark tonight with the odds so stacked against them that the only thing missing was Tommy Lasorda calling out Bob Costas.

Even the Dodgers’ latest blunder was miscast if you read the script. In the fourth inning, Jamey Carroll was safe at second on a grounder by Andre Ethier. But the usually cagey veteran, never accused of any baseball malfeasance, either failed to call time out or thought he had been called out, and simply walked off the base, allowing Brandon Wood to tag him out. An inning later, the Dodgers caught stealing of the night went to Casey Blake. (Carroll and Blake each had a three-hit night as consolation).

So much that was unexpected was happening that it got to the point where Haeger actually seemed to find a rhythm, actually seemed like he might have turned things around, when he struck out the first two batters in the bottom of the fifth.

But then someone gave the snowglobe another shake.

Haeger allowed a walk and single, and was pulled from the game. Ramon Troncoso, continuing recent disturbing relief trends, allowed both inherited runners to score on hits to cut the Dodger lead to 6-4.

In the bottom of the sixth, Jeff Weaver replaced Troncoso after a one-out walk to Reggie Willits and allowed the tying run to reach base on a single. How’d the Dodgers escape? After Kendrick flied to shallow center, with Hong-Chih Kuo warming up in the bullpen for a potential showdown with Abreu, Willits went down on a  slightly nervewracking 1-4-3-5-2-5 pickoff. The Angel team reportedly coached to perfection by Mike Scioscia and his ex-Dodger staff had a key runner on third base picked off for the second time in three nights.

Another shake. The Dodgers score two runs in the bottom of the seventh. And then a bank of lights go out, suspending play for 18 minutes. But instead of descending into the heart of darkness, the Dodgers came back after the delay to score another two runs in the eighth. They end up with 20 baserunners in all.

And then …

Justin Miller and George Sherrill, trying to protect what had become a blowout 10-4 ninth-inning lead, can’t. Three hits and two runs to lead off the bottom of the ninth require Jonathan Broxton, the team’s seventh reliever, to try to keep the team from falling yet another circle deeper into hell.

Broxton gets a strikeout – and then of all things, Abreu is thrown out trying to advance to third base on a potential wild pitch, with his team down by four runs. I mean, that says it all about trying to say it all, doesn’t it?

Finally, more than four hours after the first pitch, a final Broxton strikeout, and the Dodgers had a 10-6 victory that ended their six-game losing streak. With the Padres, Giants and Rockies (13-11 in 10 innings) losing, the Dodgers reversed field on all their National League West rivals.

And they also showed that judging players or a team at their worst isn’t the best way to judge them. No one’s going to take tonight’s game and suggest the Dodgers are unbeatable. But that’s why Wednesday’s game shouldn’t have been allowed to suggest such hopelessness.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it on the way to facing the mighty Yankees. Vicente Padilla against CC Sabathia? Ha ha – laugh at the danger.

Jun 23

2-1: The mourning after


Lori Shepler/AP
Joe Torre argues with second-base umpire Jim Reynolds as the Angels celebrate their win.

It was hard to watch the Dodgers tonight, hard to watch Matt Kemp hit into hard luck (even with an RBI double), hard to watch the return of John Ely (seven innings, one earned run) get wasted, and hardest of all watch Rafael Furcal make two critical errors in his first game back from burying his father.

And then …

With runners on first and second and none out in the ninth inning, Dodgers down by a run, Casey Blake, who sacrificed with runners on first and second and none out in this one-run victory over St. Louis on June 9, struck out.

And then …

With the count 3-1 to Russell Martin (after a questionable 3-0 strike call), Kemp is picked off second base.

And then, and then, and then ….

After Martin walks to keep things alive, pinch-hitter Jamey Carroll bloops a single to left field. And with pinch-runner Reed Johnson coming home to score the tying run unchallenged, Martin rounds second base too far and is tagged out before Johnson crosses the plate.

Game over.

“I thought we gave it away,” Joe Torre told Prime Ticket after the game. “I thought Russell was safe getting back to second, but he can’t put himself in peril like that. … It was stated (to the team before the game) that Fuentes has a move, just be careful of his spin-around move, and we got caught. We need more than ability to play this game.”

I want my thoughts to be with Furcal, and the worst part of the way the ninth inning went down is that it makes it hard.

It’s not for me to say what was going on in Furcal’s head, it’s not for me to say whether the errors were coincidence or whether he came back too soon, it’s only for me to say that I feel for him. Tonight’s loss will pass within a day or days, but Furcal will carrying his burden, I can imagine, the rest of his life.

The wolves will be out for the Dodgers, fierce. I want my thoughts to be with Furcal.

Jun 22

Dodgers shot down again, 6-3

The Dodgers dodged a bullet when Russell Martin picked off the go-ahead run at third base with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning Tuesday.

Then they got hit by a fusillade.

Clayton Kershaw, who had a one-hit shutout for five innings, ended up the losing pitcher as he and Ronald Belisario combined to allow four consecutive two-out hits in that destructive seventh, the Angels completing their comeback from a 3-0 deficit for a 6-3 victory. The Dodgers lost their fifth straight game to fall three games behind San Diego in the National League West and 1 1/2 behind second-place San Francisco.

Andre Ethier and James Loney, who each reached base twice Tuesday, had RBI hits in a two-run third inning, and Matt Kemp homered to right-center in the fourth, to give the Dodgers their lead. But in the bottom of the sixth, Kershaw walked No. 9 hitter Brandon Wood, then surrendered a single to Howie Kendrick and a booming homer by Bobby Abreu to tie the game.

And then after nearly getting out of the next inning thanks to Martin’s laser throw, the Dodgers were buried.

To illustrate how things seem to be going for the Dodgers, Kendrick and Kemp both hit grounders up the middle tonight. Kendrick’s went through for the single that set up Abreu’s home run. Kemp’s, with runners on first and second in the eighth and none out, was smothered on a diving stop by Wood, the Angels’ emergency shortstop, and turned into a double play.

* * *

The Dodgers signed second-round draft pick Ralston Cash with a signing bonus estimated at $464,000. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

Jun 20

Your 2010-11 offseason headlines today

Dodgers look for pitcher to replace free agent Kuroda
36-year-old priced himself out of range with standout campaign

Matt Kemp vows to focus on fundamentals in repairing five-tool kit

Casey Blake returning, but Dodgers seek more production at third

Something disturbing about a McCourt or two

Who will fill the Manny Ramirez void?

L.A. reports numerous cases of post-traumatic stress syndrome
2011 Dodger interleague schedule released

First crack in the core: Broxton enters final season before free agency

Despite Kershaw, Dodger World Series hopes are dimming

* * *

What can you say? This weekend in Boston, the Dodgers hit when they couldn’t pitch and pitched when they couldn’t hit, getting swept with tonight’s 2-0 loss. Andre Ethier went 0 for 12. The team has lost seven out of nine, its worst stretch since April, dropping Los Angeles into third place in the National League West.

Kemp and Ethier will rebound – look at what Ramirez has been doing lately as a guide. But watching Kuroda, who went seven innings and arguably allowed only one earned run in another outstanding 2010 performance, made me think how much I’ll miss him after this season. And this is not a campaign to re-sign him, because just like Randy Wolf and Derek Lowe before him, Kuroda’s next contract after Dodger success might not make any sense. But I’ve just really enjoyed having him on the team.

The sweep in Boston is pretty insignificant – a moment in a 162-game season. None of the recent losses to American League teams tell us much about the Dodgers’ ability to win the NL, and I think we all pretty much would have agreed before Friday that the Dodgers would be the underdog in any World Series if they got that far. But after this season, win or lose, the Dodgers are going to have a great many questions. They might find answers for some of them, but there’s a level of uncertainty that makes me really want to see this year’s team step up.

Jun 18

Oh, Manny … that would have been something


Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Manny Ramirez is rendered powerless by the final pitch of the game.

Down 10-3 after five innings, the Dodgers actually found themselves not only they poised to send the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning at Fenway Park on Friday, but a tying run in the person of Manny Ramirez.

With two on and one out and Ramirez on deck, eyeing a grand slam that would tie the game at 10-10, a highlight that would have rivaled or even surpassed 2009′s Bobbleslam for radioactivity, the Dodgers suffered a blow when Andre Ethier’s hard grounder was turned into an out by Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youklis.

And then Ramirez, who had made good contact his first three times up this evening, was frozen on a 2-2 slider from Boston reliever Daniel Bard, taking a called game-ending strike that sealed the Dodgers 10-6 defeat.

The end delighted the Fenway Park crowd, which all in all treated Ramirez fairly enough. Maybe more than half booed, but there were plenty of cheers and no significant viciousness.

As badly as Carlos Monasterios pitched today – and he was fooling next to no one, allowing eight hits and in four innings, including two home runs (one by David Ortiz to deadest center, one off the top of the Green Monster by J.D. Drew that was approved via instant replay) – the Dodgers still had chances to wrestle this game away. After rallying from an initial 3-0 deficit to tie the game, Monasterios finally got the hook when he gave up the go-ahead run on a single, walk and double to start the bottom of the fifth.

Ramon Troncoso relieved Monasterios, and everything that has gone wrong for Troncoso this season seemed to crystallize in his five-batter outing. Darnell McDonald singled in two runs, and then Adrian Beltre slugged a two-run homer from his knees. Jason Varitek then doubled and Mike Cameron singled before Troncoso hit Daniel Nava with a 2-2 pitch.

Two so-called productive outs off Travis Schlichting scored the remaining Troncoso baserunners, inflating the beleaguered reliever’s ERA to 5.81 this season. The Dodgers are certainly revisiting some starting pitching worries this week – Ned Colletti is definitely targeting an acquisition at the trade deadline, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com – but Troncoso is a nagging concern. Worse ideas than giving him 15 days of time off continue to occur to me.

But like I said, there were bright spots for the Dodgers – Matt Kemp’s triple to right-center on a 2-for-5 night being one of them. Garret Anderson had a home run in the ninth inning. And the team continued to battle. Aside from the ninth inning, the team’s best look at the game after the Red Sox’ seven-run fifth inning came immediately thereafter, when they scored two runs with none out in the sixth. But Anderson and Jamey Carroll struck out, and Kemp grounded out.

The one player who didn’t reach base for the Dodgers on Friday: Ethier, who went 0 for 5.

* * *

Kemp thinks he has solved his basestealing problems, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:

“I saw that I was raising up instead of leaning toward the next base,” said Kemp. “You wouldn’t think that raising up would get you out of whack, but it did. And I need to get bigger leads. I know I’m better than this.

“I ain’t going to lie — I know you’re not supposed to think like this, but you get caught nine times, you start wondering if you shouldn’t go. I’ve got to get back to stealing bags and get into scoring position for Andre [Ethier] and Manny [Ramirez]. I haven’t even tried to steal third base. I’ve got to be aggressive.”