May 08

Crass knuckles: Haeger hopeless in 8-0 Dodger loss


Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Charlie Haeger couldn’t fool anyone tonight with his knuckler.

There’s the kind of gruesome that is Joe Theismann’s leg getting crushed beneath him by Lawrence Taylor, and then there’s the kind of gruesome that was the probable end of Charlie Haeger’s Dodger career.

Haeger nearly had more runs allowed (five) than strikes (eight) in his five-batter, no-out start tonight for the Dodgers, who lost, 8-0. The knuckleballer has given up 49 baserunners in 23 1/3 innings for the year with an 8.49 ERA. Even by the sorry standards of the Dodgers’ 2010 pitching, that’s some gangrene that is going to have to be amputated from the staff.

Ramon Ortiz, Carlos Monaserios, George Sherrill and Jeff Weaver combined for nine innings of three-run relief to keep the game from becoming one for the books, but in doing so left the Dodgers with a need for a Tuesday starting pitcher. John Ely can’t be called up that quickly unless a pitcher goes on the disabled list. The other options are pulling someone from the Albuquerque rotation – James McDonald (3.97 ERA), Scott Elbert (7.77 ERA) or Josh Lindblom (5.40 ERA) are currently scheduled for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday – and saving him the upcoming start at Arizona.

Jhoulys Chacin held the Dodgers without a run for 7 1/3 innings and was only really bothered by Andre Ethier, who had three of the six hits Chacin allowed. Ethier raised his batting average to .394 and his on-base percentage to .457.  Chacin has now pitched 15 1/3 scoreless innings to start his season.

Manny Ramirez went 1 for 4 in his first game off the disabled list and ran down the line and in the outfield without trouble.

Shawn Hillegas, the last Dodger starting pitcher to fail to record an out (August 8, 1988), made his major-league debut 365 days earlier and came within one inning of a shutout. It’s a game of extremes.

May 02

Heroes aplenty as Dodgers romp over Pirates

The magnificent Andre Ethier is the Dodger cover boy these days, a fact you’ll see reflected in Monday’s edition of Dodger Cogs and Dogs. Either homered in his third straight game – homered twice today, in fact – and has an OPS this year of 1.161. But in a quick post summing up today’s 9-3 romp over Pittsburgh, a big tip of the hat must go to two others.

Hiroki Kuroda cruised for eight innings, allowing one run on a walk, four singles and a double over 98 pitches to lower his 2010 ERA to 2.08. Meanwhile, Blake DeWitt had his first career four-hit game, capped by a two-run double that lifted his season on-base percentage over .400 and his OPS to .767.

Kuroda seemed well-positioned to give the Dodgers their first complete game of the season, but Joe Torre brought in George Sherrill to close it out – leading to the day’s one sour moment. Sherrill allowed two runs on three hits and a walk and was bailed out by Ronald Belisario, who got the final out to end the game.

Either had an RBI single in addition to his two-run homer in the fifth and solo shot in the eighth. Matt Kemp singled, doubled, walked, scored three runs and made a diving catch in center. (He was also caught stealing for the sixth time this year on a close play). Ronnie Belliard made a great over-the-shoulder catch while playing third base. James Loney had a double and two singles to raise his home batting average to .500 (19 for 38), and reserves Xavier Paul and Jamey Carroll each had two hits.

The Dodgers are now 7-3 at home, 4-11 on the road.

Apr 27

Mets give Dodgers the full Flushing, 10-5

Kathy Willens/AP
James Loney can’t believe tonight’s strike three call against him – nor the downward slide of the Dodger season.

So far in 2010, these Dodgers have been something – as in, it’s always something.

With their 10-5 loss to the Mets in the second game of today’s doubleheader, the Dodgers now have the worst record in the National League – tied at 8-12 with Atlanta and Pittsburgh, which won the season-opening series between the two teams.

Not for lack of effort, the team has simply found a way to lose. The Dodgers aren’t loafing, but they’re not executing – not enough of them for long enough. You could say there were turning points today, if you could also say there are turning points when you’re sitting in a dunk booth.

I don’t think the Dodgers take the field defeated, but they’ve left me feeling that way. Lately, wins feel like aberrations.

They get bad breaks – the lowdown called strike three on James Loney with the bases loaded and two out in the top of the fourth tonight made the Dodger first baseman angrier than most of you have probably ever seen. But everyone gets bad breaks.

They get hurt – three Dodgers to the disabled list in the past week, and now Rafael Furcal’s health is back in doubt, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. You can’t win if you can’t stay healthy.

They’re out of sync – pitching, defense and hitting almost never working at once.

Wednesday marks the end of a nine-game roadtrip that has already yielded six losses. We’ll see if home cooking this weekend helps fix things; we’ll see if the Dodgers are getting their bad fortune out of the way early. Time and potential are on the Dodgers’ side. The question is whether reality is.

Apr 27

Dodgers lose 4-0, just torturing their fans now


Frank Franklin II/AP
Johan Santana was on the wild side for New York today, but he got the job done.

And so the reversal is fully in motion. The Dodgers get their third consecutive quality start, this time from Hiroki Kuroda. But the offense is shutout for the second straight time, and Los Angeles falls in the first game of their doubleheader today against the Mets, 4-0.

It wasn’t a cruise for Mets lefty Johan Santana. He needed 115 pitches to battle through six innings, including a second inning when he walked the bases loaded, but twice used Kuroda as an escape out of a jam and left the game unscored upon.

On one level, Kuroda outpitched Santana, needing only 87 pitches over six innings, but a wild pitch got the first run in for the Mets in the second, and Jason Bay’s first homer of the season (in the fourth) brought in the insurance.

I was hoping that with such a low pitch count, Kuroda would stay in the game (and sacrifice) with one out and one on in the top of the seventh, but Joe Torre had Garret Anderson pinch-hit. The  Dodgers didn’t score, and rookie Jon Link came on to pitch the bottom of the seventh, allowing the first three men to reach. The Dodgers then brought in Ramon Troncoso; why you would make Troncoso available but not use him to start the inning, I don’t know. Anyway, the Mets scored two runs to double the Dodger deficit.

You’re never confident against Santana, but you know, you’re starting Hiroki Kuroda, and then he’s pitching well, Santana looks fallible, and suddenly the game looks completely winnable. But then a different reality blindsides you.

On to Game 2 …

* * *

For your between-game reading (via Baseball Musings): former Dodger minor leaguer Matt White isn’t a billionaire after all, but he’s still looking good for his post-baseball life, according to this story (which I’m having trouble really originated on the Granite Transformations blog, but that’s the only place I could find it).

Apr 25

Billingsley shines, offense dims in Dodgers’ 1-0 loss


Nick Wass/AP
Chad Billingsley averaged 14.3 pitches per inning today.

If there is a feel-good loss, the Dodgers might have felt one today.

Despite being shutout for the second time in eight games and again falling two games below .500, the Dodgers and Chad Billingsley might be moping less than normal after the righthander delivered his best start of the year Sunday, allowing one run over six innings in the Dodgers’ 1-0 loss to Washington.

Billingsley’s only unintentional walk of the day contributed to the game’s only run, but otherwise he was on top of his game. He used an efficient 86 pitches over six innings, allowing four hits and striking out five. He averaged five pitches outside the strike zone per inning, not counting a sixth-inning intentional walk following a two-out, Cristian Guzman double that was the result of a miscommunication between Matt Kemp and Garret Anderson. (Kemp called for the ball, but Anderson didn’t back off Kemp’s path.)

With runners on first and second, Billingsley went 2-2 to Josh Willingham before getting him to ground out and end his cleanest outing since September 23 at this same ballpark, when he pitched no-hit ball for 5 2/3 innings before giving up two walks and a three-run homer to Ryan Zimmerman.

Had the Dodgers been leading – which would have been a possibility had they converted three consecutive one-out singles in the first inning into a run – Billingsley would certainly have pitched in a seventh inning for the first time since July 5. But down by a run with a runner on first, Joe Torre pulled Billingsley for pinch-hitter Andre Ethier. Ethier grounded into a double play.

After Ramon Troncoso retired six of seven players he faced in the seventh and eighth innings, the Dodgers had one final chance when James Loney (2 for 4) led off the ninth with an opposite-field double. But pinch-runner Jamey Carroll couldn’t advance on Casey Blake’s, I don’t know, confusing one-hopper to Guzman. Justin Maxwell then made a diving catch on Ronnie Belliard’s blooper to right, and Anderson wrapped up a miserable, three-strikeout day with an easy pop to center.

It’s just one game in the season for Billingsley, but it was a promising one. The only time things really went wrong for him was when the leadoff single by Nyler Morgan was followed by an ugly four-pitch walk to Adam Kennedy. But between then and two outs in the sixth, Billingsley only one three-ball count and scattered two singles. Though no one likes a 1-0 loss, the Dodgers might hate this one a little less.

Apr 24

Dodgers win in extras but lose Vicente Padilla


Nick Wass/AP
Carlos Monasterios, right, gets a high-five from Russell Martin, center, and Matt Kemp after the Dodgers defeated the Washington Nationals 4-3 in 13 innings Saturday. Monasterios isn’t going anywhere for a while after his 2 2/3 extra innings of shutout ball.

See what happens when you get two out of three cogs working?

The Dodger defense help cause the team to play four extra innings Saturday, but this time the bullpen was up to the task while the offense did just enough. With Carlos Monasterios getting the final eight outs, the Dodgers defeated Washington in 13, 4-3.

The glow was tempered a bit with the news that Vicente Padilla was going on the 15-day disabled list with right forearm problems – the third Dodger to go on the DL this week. Reliever Jon Link has been recalled, but the Dodgers will make another roster move by Tuesday for a starter to take Padilla’s turn in the rotation. But there was a glow nevertheless.

Clayton Kershaw (3.13 ERA in 2010) allowed 11 baserunners in six innings but went to the showers with a 3-2 lead thanks to Casey Blake’s second home run. However, a Russell Martin throwing error – the 20th of the Dodgers’ 17-game season to date – led to an eighth-inning entrance by Jonathan Broxton, who allowed the game-tying, unearned run (charged to Ramon Troncoso). Rafael Furcal’s error an inning earlier also caused trouble; the Dodgers used four pitchers to get six outs in the sixth and seventh.

But the Dodger bullpen provided five scoreless innings at a most welcome time, with Broxton pitching the ninth, George Sherrill retiring all four batters he faced and then Monasterios (his ERA shrinking to 2.08) providing the final 2 2/3 innings to end it.

It wasn’t without one more scare. Monasterios entered the bottom of the 13th with the one-run lead after Russell Martin (0 for 5 with the big error at that point) singled in Furcal, who had singled and stolen his eighth base in nine attempts this year (second in the National League). Monasterios allowed a one-out single to pinch-hitter Ivan Rodriguez and then a double to the right-field corner by Nyler Morgan. A faster player would have scored, but Rodriguez held at third – and then was thrown out at the plate by inches by Blake on the Nationals’ next at-bat.

Cristian Guzman then popped out to end it. Monsasterios had come through. The Dodgers had come through. Even though Washington had gotten a runner to at least second base in each of the first nine innings, the Dodgers won.

From Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:

Monasterios, 24, generally keeps his emotions in check on the field but was jumping up and down in the infield like a Little Leaguer when he got Guzman to fly to left and end the game.

“That’s the correct way, no?” Monasterios asked. “I’m very excited and happy to be on this team right now. This experience will give me a lot of self confidence.”

Shades of Pedro Astacio …

Blake went 3 for 5 with the three RBI from his two homers, and Furcal, Matt Kemp and James Loney each had two hits. (Furcal also had a walk.)

With James McDonald on the AAA disabled list because of a broken nail (“Why tonight?”), the leading candidates to take the Tuesday start are John Ely, Scott Elbert and Josh Towers. Ely and Towers would require a 40-man roster spot, which the Dodgers have to spare if they move Brad Ausmus or Cory Wade from the 15- to the 60-day DL. Ely has the best numbers of the three: a 3.00 ERA over three starts covering 18 innings, though he has allowed 16 hits and eight walks against 12 strikeouts, and he’d be on five days’ rest for Tuesday. McDonald could be activated from the DL next week, but would the Dodgers use him after the layoff he has had?

Elbert, who last pitched for Albuquerque five days ago and was scheduled as recently as Friday to pitch today, was replaced by Seth Etherton, so one might have concluded he’ll get the call despite allowing 13 runs in eight innings over his past two starts. (He pitched six shutout innings in his first start of the year.) But Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. points out that Elbert is with his wife for the birth of their second child, so who knows?

Also keep in mind, with the possibility of a rainout Sunday or Monday, the Dodgers might be able to postpone addressing this problem. Anyway, enjoy today’s glow – a nice alternative to what could have been another dastardly disappointment.

Apr 21

Baseball’s LMU: Dodgers edge Reds, 14-6


Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Hank Gathers and Loyola Marymount only cared about how much they scored, not how much they gave up.

The Run-and-”Shoot!” Dodgers are still at it. And I’m starting to wonder whether the team secretly replaced manager Joe Torre with former Loyola Marymount coach Paul Westhead.

It has been more than 30 years since Major League Baseball has seen a game in which both teams scored at least 20 runs, but the 2010 Dodgers are looking increasingly likely to be in the next one. The runs scored (6.6 per game) and allowed (6.2), boosted by tonight’s 14-6 victory that saw the team score in eight of nine innings, are mindblowing for this blogporter.

Al Behrman/AP
Rafael Furcal tonight: walk, single, double, triple, error.

The situation in a nutshell: Rafael Furcal makes a unforced error at short that leads to two unearned runs off Hiroki Kuroda in the sixth inning, then comes back in the top of the seventh with an RBI triple – his fourth RBI and fourth time on base in the game.

Four times on base: Furcal, Matt Kemp (seventh home run, six of which have gone to center or right field), Manny Ramirez (.510 on-base percentage), Andre Ethier (.460 OBP/.689 slugging).

Three times on base: James Loney.

Two times on base: Russell Martin.

One time on base: Casey Blake DeWitt.

Kuroda had his worst outing of the season so far, but still would have emerged with a quality start had he gotten better play behind him. He threw 103 pitches over 5 2/3 innings, allowing three earned runs and three unearned runs.

There were a couple of encouraging signs from the bullpen. George Sherrill allowed the two unearned runs to score in relief of Kuroda, and Jeff Weaver had to leave after one batter with what appeared to be a hamstring problem, but Ronald Belisario was perfect in his first inning of the year, and Carlos Monasterios got the final five outs on 27 pitches.

The Dodgers stayed within 1 1/2 games of the National League West-leading … Padres.

* * *

The night’s most bizarre play took place in the fourth inning. With the bases loaded and two out, Cincinnati pitcher Aaron Harang hit a sinking liner into right field. Andre Ethier dove and came up with the ball for what was ruled the third out. Reds manager Dusty Baker came out steaming – but in almost no time, the umpires conferred and then called over Torre to tell him they were ruling the ball had bounced into Ethier’s glove, and so they would be awarding Harang a single and advancing all runners one base. (Torre seemed more disappointed than disgusted by the reversal, not really arguing at all).

At the time, I was with broadcaster Steve Lyons in thinking I had never seen this kind of play overturned. On TV, we kept being shown replays that weren’t entirely conclusive, because the ball, glove and grass all sort of merged together. But I didn’t even think the replays mattered. The whistle had already blown, so to speak – I didn’t think the umpires could assume what would have happened if they hadn’t initially ruled an out.

I asked baseball authority Bob Timmermann of Native Intelligence what his opinion of the play was:

… Umpires have the ability, if not the duty, to change calls in this situation. Granted, it is a judgment call, but pretty much everything is a judgment call.

The umpires then had to decide what to do with the runners. There is no specific rule to cover this. But, Rule 9.01b gives the umpires the right to rule on anything not specifically spelled out. It’s the Elastic Clause of the rulebook. (A famous example of this was Alex Rodriguez being called out in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS for slapping the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove.)

The umpires decided that the fairest way to solve the matter was to give Harang a single and let everyone else move up one base. This is not much different than the umpires deciding how many bases to award on fan interference. (It could be one, two, three, or four.)

Some calls by umpires aren’t reversed for practical reasons, like balls and strikes. (Checked swings are an exception.)

TV replay wasn’t used because it wasn’t a home run call. That’s the only time, it is allowed.

Why didn’t the Dodgers protest? Because there was nothing to protest. Those only prevail if a rule is misapplied. This was just a judgment call that was initially misjudged and then corrected.

Umpires do make mistakes. I think they should get credit for trying to make up for an error.

* * *

  • The delight of extra innings is nicely expressed by Jim Caple of ESPN.com.
  • Carlos Zambrano, the highest-paid and normally best pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, has been sent to the bullpen.
Apr 20

The story of April: Dodgers give, receive beating


Getty Images
Matt Kemp probably would have enjoyed the Hideo Nomo-led 2003 Dodger pitching, which had a team ERA barely half of what the current Dodgers have.

If you could mix the 2010 Dodger offense with the 2003 Dodger pitching, what a team that would be. It would blow your mind, man.

Instead, we’re left with the Don Drysdale paradox: “Dodgers scored nine runs tonight.” “Did we win?”

We saw it encapsulated in tonight’s 11-9 loss to Cincinnati. The Dodgers got a three-run double from Casey Blake in the first inning, then after falling behind by six, rallied to tie the game – capped by Mighty Matt Kemp’s sixth homer of the season. And still it wasn’t enough.

Chad Billingsley came out with a clear mission to throw strikes. He didn’t walk any of the 17 batters he faced and only had 21 pitches out of the strike zone. But he couldn’t back that mission with much of an ability make people miss. He got hit and hit hard, allowing five singles, a double, a triple and a home run over the next two innings. Commenting on the KCAL telecast, Steve Lyons pointed out at least three times that the Reds got hits despite good pitches by Billingsley. Small consolation, though.

Billingsley also made a painful throwing error on a Homer Bailey bunt that added three unearned runs to the three earned runs in the second inning, signaling another unimpressive night for the Dodger defense. Russell Martin made a fourth-inning throwing error on a steal attempt by Drew Stubbs (with Blake DeWitt seemingly late to back up the play). And then in the eighth, working a pickle, DeWitt was late to recognize a runner trying to score from third, tossing the ball instead to Ronnie Belliard at first base – and then when he set up to throw home, Belliard dropped the ball, allowing Cincinnati’s 11th run to score.

In contrast, Reds right-fielder Jay Bruce made a sensational catch of a ripped line drive in the top of the eighth by James Loney to deep right that would have scored Manny Ramirez had it been a few inches higher.

The only bright spot for the Dodger pitching staff tonight was the major-league debut of Jon Link, who needed only 27 pitches to throw two shutout innings. Ramon Ortiz gave up two runs in the fourth to put the Dodgers down, 9-3. And in the eighth, after the Dodgers had come all the way back, their No. 2 reliever of the moment, Ramon Troncoso, walked two batters before giving up the go-ahead runs with two out.

So instead of being Manute Bol (7-6), the Dodgers are Dolph Schayes (6-7). Wednesday, the team will come back and set their sights on Gheorghe Muresan.

Update: The Dodgers optioned Link back to Albuquerque after tonight’s game. They haven’t officially announced who will take his place, but expect it to be Ronald Belisario.

Apr 18

Just a wee taste of ’88: Kershaw, Ramirez lead Dodgers over Giants


Getty Images
Clayton Kershaw went seven innings allowing only one run, and Manny Ramirez made that hurt go away.

If Clayton Kershaw and Manny Ramirez were nothing more than a poor man’s Orel Hershiser and Kirk Gibson, it still made for a rich afternoon at Dodger Stadium.

Kershaw left Sunday’s game in the eighth inning after issuing his fourth walk of the game – an inning after Juan Uribe’s homer broke a scoreless tie – but he certainly pitched well enough to win, striking out nine. Two of his walks came after he crossed the 100-pitch mark. At age 22, Kershaw has walked at least four men in 21 of his 54 starts (39 percent), compared with Hershiser’s 71 of 466 (15 percent), but if you can put that annoying fact aside, you’re still left with a pretty swell pitcher with a career ERA of 3.40.

And then there’s Ramirez, who is this century’s go-to guy for lame home runs (in the good sense). On the heels (in the cliched sense) of his injured-hand Bobbleslam last summer, and right after Garret Anderson’s pinch-walk ended a superb performance by Barry Zito, Ramirez blasted a Sergio Romo pitch in the left-field seats to rally the Dodgers from their 1-0 deficit. Ramirez noticeably favored one leg in his trot around the bases, but though it didn’t have calf the drama of Gibson’s gimpy gem, it was a sight for sore Dodger eyes. (Video of the homer can be found at MLB.com.)

Jonathan Broxton retired the side in order in the ninth to close out the Dodgers’ 2-1 victory. Broxton has retired 17 of the 19 batters he has faced this season (including the past 14), striking out nine.

Several people, including Vin Scully, called today’s game the best of the young Dodger season, though some of that good feeling would have been tested had the Dodgers been shut out for the second afternoon in a row.

* * *

  • Hong-Chih Kuo looks good to go. He retired the side today on six pitches today in his second minor-league rehab appearance. If he survives that outing and Monday’s plane flight to Cincinnati, Kuo should be on the active roster for the Dodgers’ next game on Tuesday.
  • Prentice Redman knocked out three home runs by the fifth inning of Albuquerque’s 11-5 victory over Omaha. Redman raised his batting average to an even .400, on-base percentage to .447 and slugging percentage to .943.
  • John Lindsey watch: 3 for 3, raising his numbers to .538/.591/.897.
  • James McDonald left his start after one inning today because of a broken fingernail.
  • Isotopes reliever Brent Leach allowed six runs in his first 3 2/3 innings this season, but has pitched 5 1/3 innings of one-hit, two-walk shutout ball since.
  • In 6 2/3 innings this season for Inland Empire, Kenley Jansen has allowed no runs, four hits and zero walks while striking out 10.
  • For the second straight game, Great Lakes’ 23-year-old righty Josh Wall allowed one earned run over five innings, this time striking out eight.
Apr 17

Dodgers have a monster mash – but Tim Lincecum awaits


Mark J. Terrill/AP
Hello … is it me you’re looking for?

Andre Ethier is just mashing the ball. And it’s not just Friday in the Dodgers 10-8 victory over the Giants. Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. notes that Ethier has hit 25 home runs in his past 81 home games. Sons of Steve Garvey has a photo essay showing just how incredible Ethier’s night was.

And Matt Kemp is just mashing the ball, too. He has homered in four consecutive games and five of his past six.

James Loney doesn’t have a home run yet, but he is mashing the ball in his own way. Loney is 12 for his last 25, raising his batting average from .167 to .327 and making him one of seven Dodger regulars hitting over .300.

And for a night, opponents stopped mashing the ball against Vicente Padilla. With the Dodger bullpen in a shambles, Padilla picked a good time to give the Dodgers his best outing of the season. But Vin Scully and KCAL noticed Padilla rubbing his pitching arm pretty vigorously just before the fifth inning – the inning in which he lost his no-hitter and was hit pretty hard. Though Padilla lasted seven innings, we’ll have to see if what Scully saw had any significance.

The Dodgers came within one run of matching their team record (since moving to Los Angeles) for most runs in the first 10 games of a season (68). At the same time, they also reached their third-highest total of runs allowed in the first 10 games of a season (60).

* * *

Manny Ramirez came out of the game after three innings because of calf tightness, but Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports that Joe Torre said Ramirez would have stayed in the game if the Dodgers hadn’t been up by seven.

Of course, there were no guarantees the Dodgers would hold such a lead. And the fact that Russ Ortiz again could not finish an easy assignment is the last straw. Ortiz needs to be released.

When you take a flyer on a pitcher who hasn’t pitched well in years, the sole (if questionable) purpose is to try to see if there’s a chance he has solved his problems or even has one hot streak left in him. When you can see that he’s just as bad as he’s always been, there is nothing to hold out for. There is no situation in which Ortiz is a reliable pitcher, and the Dodgers should not wait any longer on him.

If Hong-Chih Kuo is about to be activated, that’s a simple exchange. But if Kuo has a setback, the Dodgers still need to jettison Ortiz.

* * *

  • It’s a tall order, but the Dodgers will try to “outlast” Tim Lincecum in today’s game, writes Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. It’s similar to how they were able to get a late victory against Arizona on Thursday – if they can make the great starter throw a lot of pitches, they can at least give themselves a chance against the bullpen.
  • The fifth-inning Padilla pitch that hit Aaron Rowand left him with two small fractures in his cheekbone and a concussion, writes D.J. Short of Hardball Talk.
  • Joe Torre recalls that when he was managing the Mets in 1977, the team almost traded Tom Seaver to the Dodgers for a package of players that included minor-leaguer Pedro Guerrero, writes Vincent Bonsignore of the Daily News.
  • John Ely pitched six two-run innings for Albuquerque last night.
  • Dee Gordon went 3 for 6 for Chattanooga and now has a .448 on-base percentage. Trayvon Robinson had a single, double and homer.
  • Will Savage, the 25-year-old from West Hills, pitched six innings without allowing an earned run while striking out eight for Great Lakes. In 12 2/3 innings this year, Savage has allowed two earned runs and five unearned runs.
Apr 15

Dodgers unlose! Dodgers unlose!


Mark J. Terrill/AP
Matt Kemp is wide-eyed after hitting a game-tying homer in the seventh inning.

The other team blew the leads. The Dodgers didn’t blow the leads. The other team did.

Oh, sure, the Dodgers blew two ties, at 0-0 and 3-3, but still – progress.

Bullpen (except for Jonathan Broxton) still shaky. Fielding still shaky. But still … progress.

So that I’m not up all night, just a little stream of consciousness to wrap things up …

Hiroki Kuroda gave up 10 hits but didn’t walk anyone over seven innings, while striking out seven. That’s practically a perfect game compared to what we’ve seen lately.

Matt Kemp had trouble with another fly ball defensively but homered for this third game in a row to tie the score in the seventh – he now has 13 RBI in nine games. He drove in pinch-hitter Ronnie Belliard, who is a crazy 8-for-14 to start the season.

Dan Haren mostly stymied the Dodgers, but needed 121 pitches to get 19 outs, and that extra work cost him by requiring Arizona to go its bullpen sooner. The third pitch by Aaron Heilman was Kemp’s two-run homer.

Justin Upton then hit his second tiebreaking homer in two nights, a monster blast halfway up the left-field pavilion off Jeff Weaver, to give Arizona a 4-3 lead. Upton also made a bigtime catch of a Garret Anderson drive to the top of the right-field wall in the bottom of the eighth to preserve the lead.

Arizona added a slop run in the ninth, but the Dodgers rallied with two in the bottom of the inning to tie, thanks at the end to a blooper-reel throw by Stephen Drew that allowed Manny Ramirez to score the tying run.

Broxton dominated in the top of the 10th, and then the Dodgers won it on a leadoff single by Blake DeWitt, an intentional walk to Kemp and then, ho hum, a walkoff hit by Andre Ethier.

Here’s a list, passed along by Mark A. Simon of ESPN.com from mikemav.com, of the Dodgers’ all-time walkoff hit leaders since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958:

14 Dusty Baker
12 Manny Mota
11 Ron Cey
11 Davey Lopes
10 Andre Ethier
10 Steve Garvey

The final tally for Russell Martin in the series: three games, 571 pitches caught.

* * *

Hong-Chih Kuo struck out two in a 1-2-3 rehab inning for Inland Empire, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. He completed his 20-pitch assignment in the bullpen.

Matt Magill of Great Lakes struck out seven, walked none and allowed two doubles and a single in a scoreless five innings tonight. This year, the 20-year-old from Simi Valley has struck out 12 in nine shutout innings.

Dee Gordon went 2 for 4 for Chattanooga and has a 1.006 OPS on the season.

Apr 14

Goodness gracious, forsaken alive: Billingsley, Dodgers drag fans into 7-7 marathon

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Chad Billingsley retired nine of his first 10 batters, but only got eight more outs from his next 18.

Chad Billingsley, who was looking ever-so-close like that guy who could always be counted on to get the job done, is now the guy getting the Job done.

Close to scintillating in the first three innings Wednesday against Arizona – he threw 45 pitches and faced one over the minimum while striking out four, lowering his season ERA at that point to 1.08 – the be-plagued Billingsley staggered through 61 pitches over the next 2 2/3 innings, allowing six runs on eight hits in all while walking three. And what looked like a breeze for Los Angeles became an even longer endurance test than Tuesday’s 3:42 game, with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks headed into extra innings, 7-7, exactly four hours after the game’s 7:10 p.m. start time.

It took some doing for Billingsley to not outpitch Arizona’s Rodrigo Lopez, who allowed five runs and 11 hits to the first 22 Dodgers he faced, but Billingsley did it, and he is now facing his latest calamity.

In the fourth, trailing 3-0, Arizona surrounded a Justin Upton infield hit with four big fly balls off Billingsley – a homer by Stephen Drew, a double by Adam LaRoche and sacrifice flies by Mark Reynolds and Chris Young. Billingsley then issued a walk before he got out of the inning, after which Matt Kemp put the Dodgers back in front with a two-run homer.

In the fifth, Billingsley came very close to making his previous inning look like an aberration, retiring the first two hitters before making a great 1-1 pitch to Drew that was called a ball. Drew eventually drew a 3-2 walk, and then Upton doubled and LaRoche singled to tie the game again.

And in the sixth, Billingsley again came within one strike of making it through, but Conor Jackson doubled right down the third-base line on an 0-2 pitch to give Arizona a 6-5 lead and cast Billingsley adrift. He finished the night with 116 pitches to get 17 outs, and his ERA leaped to 5.73.

Mark J. Terrill/AP
Rodrigo Lopez looked like a sure-fire losing pitcher in the early going, but it didn’t turn out that way.

Starting in the top of the fourth, of the nine baserunners Billingsley allowed (leaving out an intentional walk), six did their damage with two strikes. Last year, opponents had a .245 on-base percentage against Billingsley with two strikes, though it’s safe to assume that figure was higher in the second half of the season. Tonight, Billingsley couldn’t shut the door, on the Diamondbacks or his doubters.

The Dodgers tied the game in the bottom of the sixth inning on a Kemp sacrifice fly but didn’t get any more runs despite loading the bases with one out. Then, Carlos Monasterios was called upon for the first time in his career in a close situation and gave up a dead-center leadoff homer to Upton in the seventh. Ramon Ortiz bailed Monasterios out of a two-walk, one-out jam that pushed the game past the 3:00 mark with nearly three innings to go by inducing a double play. George Sherrill, trying to recover from his bad start to 2010, also got a double play and then a strikeout to handle the eighth, while Charlie Haeger made himself useful in relief with a shutout ninth. (For the record, yes, that’s a Jonathan Broxton situation too if he’s available.)

Manny Ramirez doubled to lead off the bottom of the ninth with the Dodgers’ 18th baserunner, but after James Loney struck out, Casey Blake doubled home pinch-runner Jamey Carroll to tie the game at 11:06 p.m. A Blake DeWitt grounder moved Blake to third. Russell Martin was intentionally walked, but pinch-hitter Reed Johnson grounded out to send the game into the 10th.

Despite my stating the obvious, the offense and the pitching stayed at their weird extremes. Kemp, Ramirez, Martin and Andre Ethier each reached base at least three times. But regardless of what was to come in extra innings, Los Angeles will be practically desperate for Hiroki Kuroda to deliver another sharp performance Thursday against Dan Haren.

* * *

Hong-Chih Kuo is scheduled to make a 20-pitch rehab appearance in the first inning Thursday for Inland Empire. Elsewhere in the minors for the Dodgers:

  • Scott Elbert struggled in the unfriendly confines of Albuquerque, allowing five runs on five hits and three walks while striking out four in four innings. Jay Gibbons (4 for 5) won the game for the Isotopes with an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth after reliever Jon Link (8.10 ERA) blew his second save in as many nights.
  • Great Lakes righty Brett Wallach, who pitched five no-hit innings with eight strikeouts in his first start of the season, came back with another five innings tonight and allowed one unearned run while striking out six. Opponents are 5 for 34 (.147) against him this season. Brian Cavalos-Galvez went 3 for 4 with two doubles and has a .394 on-base percentage on the season.
  • Chris Withrow of Chattanooga got hammered tonight: six runs (five earned) in 2 2/3 innings with one strikeout. The Lookouts made five errors and lost, 15-2.
  • Aaron Miller went six innings for Inland Empire tonight and allowed six baserunners and one run (on a sixth-inning squeeze). That was a 1-0 game until Pedro Baez singled in the tying run with two out in the bottom of the ninth, and then the 66ers won in the 10th.
Apr 13

Winning 9 to 5 – what a way to make a living



Manny Ramirez hit his first homer of 2010.

I didn’t have the league bylaws with me to see when the pitchers’ mercy rule would kick in and they would bring out the tees, but I know the Dodger and Diamondback parents must have felt it was close.

There was an offensive display at Dodger Stadium Opening Day — particularly offensive if you were a fan of good pitching. Arizona and Los Angeles combined to walk 14 and needed 362 pitches to get through nine innings, but ultimately it was the Dodgers who enjoyed their postgame snacks and juiceboxes most with a 9-5 victory.

Manny Ramirez added to the pregame fireworks with his first homer of 2010 to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning, and Casey Blake, Andre Ethier (back from his injury) and Matt Kemp followed with more round-trippers in a game that the Dodgers seemed to own basically the entire way — only their pitchers seemed practically determined to lease it back to the Diamondbacks.

Clayton Kershaw threw only four pitches out of the strike zone in the first inning, but once again increasingly battled his control as the game progressed and couldn’t make it through the sixth inning despite a comfortable lead. He walked No. 8 hitter Chris Snyder and Arizona pitcher Ian Kennedy to lead off the top of the fifth and later hit a batter before escaping a bases-loaded jam. Then in the sixth, he again walked the first two batters and was clearly laboring to find himself. Kershaw left after 5 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts and only two earned runs, but five walks and another four days to come of pitchers’ soul-searching.

But Kennedy, whom Arizona is counting on to hold down a spot in its starting rotation, was certainly little better after a 1-2-3 first inning for the Diamondbacks, allowing six runs and nine baserunners while using 100 pitches to get 13 outs.

No reliever really impressed for either team until the ninth, when Jonathan Broxton — who received a warm reception from a good-mooded crowd that held nothing from the end of 2009 against him – struck out two in a perfect final frame. Dodger fans worried about rising ticket prices at least got 222 minutes of game action today for their trouble, and a happy ending as they hit the postgame traffic.

The Dodger offense now has 45 runs in seven games (6.4 per game), though it is a slow-starting group. Russell Martin’s sacrifice fly provided the Dodgers’ first second-inning run of the season, and all but eight runs in 2010 have been scored from the fourth inning on. Kemp and Ethier each went 2 for 5, James Loney had two doubles and Blake DeWitt walked three times (once with the bases loaded) to give him 11 on the season against one strikeout. Yes, folks, your National League 2010 walk leader is none other than Mr. DeWitt.

As indicated above with Broxton, the atmosphere at Opening Day was positive, though perhaps not as euphoric as a year ago when Ramirez was making grand entrances from the left-field bleachers and Vin Scully was saying “It’s time for Dodger baseball” instead of Larry King. In particular, the staff working the scoreboards seemed a little disengaged from the festivities, rarely showing fans in the stands and being sluggish with stat updates. In addition, they’ve made a peculiar choice to air random trivia (not baseball trivia, but things like the temperature of lightning) in paid spots for Mega Millions, and even the bloopers segment had nothing to do with baseball.  They seemed to be marching to their own, odd drummer.

As for me, I’ll be marching home with a Russell Martin foul ball that I caught after it caromed off the hands of a fan behind me. It’s the fifth of my career – one for my fortunately not sore thumb.