Sep 12

Dodgers lose game and valued executive

The Arizona Diamondbacks took a big one from the Dodgers tonight, and I’m not talking about their 7-2 victory on the field.

Dodger communications vice president Josh Rawitch is leaving the Dodgers after this season to become senior VP of communications for the Diamondbacks, whose organization and fans are sure to benefit from his presence.

It may seem strange to praise someone entrusted with helping craft public relations for Dodger fans’ Public Enemy No. 1 (with apologies to Clayton Kershaw’s curveball). But despite working at the behest of Frank McCourt (whose merits would often be touted to my skeptical eyes), Rawitch was a major asset for the franchise. He worked tirelessly not only to put the Dodgers’ best foot forward but to make the fans’ experience the best he possibly could, often going well beyond the call of duty.

Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall certainly knows this well – he was a Dodger predecessor of Rawitch as head of communications.

There is no shortage of bias toward Rawitch on my end, but it was well-earned. To this site, Rawitch was an early friend, one of the first in all of professional sports to accept that a place outside the mainstream media might still be worthy of being treated with respect. Professionally and personally, he treated me as well as anyone ever has.

I’m going to miss him, but despite how he might spin it in his final days on the job, I couldn’t be happier for him to get a fresh start – with the 2011 National League West champions, no less.

* * *

  • Matt Kemp (2 for 4) hit his 33rd homer in the first inning tonight and Ted Lilly took a no-hitter into the fifth, but things fell apart for the Dodgers in the sixth with Arizona tallying five runs. Lilly failed to complete six innings for the 14th time in 30 starts this season.
  • Unfortunately for Kemp’s pursuit of the NL Triple Crown, Albert Pujols hit his league-leading 35th homer tonight.
  • Jerry Sands went 3 for 4 with an RBI in his best major-league performance since going 4 for 4 on May 22.
  • Nathan Eovaldi, making his first career relief appearance, retired the side in order in the ninth inning.
  • Kirk Gibson used three relievers in the ninth inning to protect Arizona’s five-run lead from the Dodgers, who loaded the bases but didn’t score. Dee Gordon, in a 1-for-18 slump, made the final out.
  • San Francisco beat San Diego, meaning that the Giants are 4 1/2 games ahead of the 72-74 Dodgers.
  • Manny Ramirez “was arrested and charged with battery Monday after a domestic dispute at his South Florida home, police said.”
  • Jonathan Broxton has officially been ruled out from returning this season, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, meaning that he has most likely pitched his last game for the Dodgers.  Nothing but best wishes, Jonathan.
Sep 10

Dead cat bounce: Dodgers at .500 after another victory over Giants


Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesDana Eveland

In a year that has been so impossible, the improbable has happened.

The 2011 Dodgers, which threatened for most of the year to be the worst Dodger team since 1992 and one of the worst in the franchise’s Los Angeles history, have fought their way back to a .500 record, capping the comeback by defeating the Giants tonight, 3-0.

With 17 games left in the season, the Dodgers have 72 wins and 72 losses, going 35-21 (.625) since July 7. The Dodgers have been the fifth-best team in the majors since that time.

39-15 .722 Phillies
39-20 .661 Brewers
38-20 .655 Diamondbacks
37-20 .649 Tigers
35-21 .625 Dodgers
36-23 .610 Yankees
34-23 .596 Angels

It’s a pretty incredible turnaround, and it shows just how big a hole they dug that except for maybe the Angels, they’re the only one of those teams above that won’t be going to the playoffs – in fact, they won’t even be close. They will possibly finish as high as second place, having pulled within 2 1/2 games of San Francisco (75-70) – but they’re only a half-game closer to first place than they were July 7, thanks to the similarly ridiculous run of Arizona.

The Dodgers won tonight with their “trips right” offense – James Loney and Matt Kemp scoring the first two runs after each hit triples to right off Ryan Vogelsong and his sub-3.00 ERA in the second and fourth innings – and with the remarkable pitching of Dana Eveland.

Eveland might be doing it with mirrors, but they’re efficient mirrors. He has struck out only six batters in 15 innings over two starts with the Dodgers, but he’s been practically untouchable.

Tonight, he shut out San Francisco over seven innings, allowing two singles, a double and a walk before the eighth inning, when he walked the leadoff batter and was replaced by Kenley Jansen. Jansen gave up a single but retired the next three batters (all of them tying runs) to keep the shutout alive, and Javy Guerra put the Giants out in the ninth (after allowing two baserunners) to close it.

Two big plays helped the Dodger pitchers: a leaping catch by Justin Sellers, in his first MLB start at third base, of a Brandon Belt liner after two of the Giants’ hits of Eveland had put runners on second and third, and a running catch at the wall in center with one out and one on in the ninth by MVP candidate Kemp, with Belt again the victim.

Juan Rivera went 3 for 4 and drove in a run, while Loney had two hits and a walk.

Joe Block of KABC AM 790 tweeted that Eveland had never before pitched consecutive games totaling 15 innings and 193 pitches. Has the 27-year-old, who was injured in Spring Training and spent all season in the minors before September 1, resurrected his career and become a contender for the 2012 roster? It’s interesting to read what I wrote about him seven months ago in the 2011 Dodger Thoughts Spring Training Primer.

The 28-year-old (oops – not until October) has slung a 6.96 ERA the past two seasons with 204 baserunners allowed in 98 1/3 innings against 46 strikeouts. Last year, he sucked Toronto in by allowing four earned runs in his first three starts, only to finish the year back in the high sixes. In short, like many professionals, he’s capable of a solid outing every now and then, but it’s a roulette wheel you don’t want to spin.

It sounds harsh, even wrong, to be dismissive of Eveland. You should keep your guard up long-term, but feel free to celebrate him – and the turnaround Dodgers – tonight.

Sep 09

Kershaw near perfect in 2-1 victory


Marcio Jose Sanchez/APClayton Kershaw

On the 46th anniversary of Sandy Koufax’s perfect game, Clayton Kershaw was nearly so.

The emphatic brilliance of Kershaw’s pitching renders any play-by-play account of tonight’s game too mundane. But I’ll give it a try.

The transcendent lefty allowed three hits in eight innings – two of them infield hits that, if fielded cleanly, would have been outs – while walking one and striking out nine in the Dodgers’ 2-1 victory over Tim Lincecum and the Giants.

San Francisco’s only run was unearned, thanks to a Dee Gordon error on the Giants’ leadoff hitter, Justin Christian. Admittedly, after Carlos Beltran drew San Francisco’s only walk and Pablo Sandoval drove in the run with the Giants’ only hit to the outfield, Gordon then saved Kershaw further damage with a highlight-reel catch of a soft looper to left field. Nevertheless, Kershaw had perfect-game quality stuff.

It looked for quite some time that it would all be for naught, that Kershaw would be the Bob Hendley in this replica of the Koufax perfect game. But the Dodgers twice scratched across runs.

In the eighth inning, with two out, Matt Kemp (2 for 4) hit a full-swing 40-foot grounder that stayed fair. Kemp stole second, thanks in part to a high throw from catcher Chris Stewart, then came around to score on a Juan Rivera single that came on Lincecum’s 122nd pitch of the game.

In the ninth inning, Rod Barajas led off with a single. Pinch-runner Eugenio Velez – or as I dared call him, “Vele on wheels” – went to second on Justin Sellers’ easy sacrifice and third on a wild pitch by Santiago Casilla.

And then, Jamey Carroll, batting for Kershaw, hit a grounder to second base. Jeff Keppinger fired home, but not in time to get Velez with the go-ahead run.

Javy Guerra retired the Giants in a perfect bottom of the ninth on 10 pitches, and the Dodgers had won the game. Los Angeles improved to 71-72 and closed to within 3 1/2 games of the Giants for second place in the National League West.

But probably more importantly to Dodger fans, Kershaw lowered his ERA to an NL-leading 2.36 while improving his own record to 18-5. Since June 15, his ERA is 1.55. Since July 7, his ERA is 1.19.

According to Jeff Fletcher of AOL Sports, Kershaw’s ERA in four head-to-head meetings with Lincecum is 0.62 (his rival is 2.03). Kershaw’s career ERA at AT&T Park is 0.45.

His WHIP in 2001 is 1.001.

Simply tremendous. For all the tribulations of 2011, it has been a privilege to watch Clayton Kershaw.

Sep 08

Dodgers get all-hands-on-deck victory, 7-4

Tony Gwynn Jr.’s two-run double in the ninth broke a 4-4 tie and propelled the Dodgers to a 7-4 victory in the first game of their scheduled doubleheader against Washington today.

The Dodgers took a funky approach to building a 4-0 lead. Dee Gordon, who went 4 for 5, was thrown out at home twice on fielder’s choice grounders by Matt Kemp, and each time Juan Rivera followed with a two-run double.

After the Nationals tied the game against Chad Billingsley, the teams remained scoreless until the ninth, when Gwynn drove home Jerry Sands (who was hit by a pitch) and Rod Barajas. Gordon then followed with an RBI single to cap the Dodgers’ scoring.

Javy Guerra, the seventh Dodger pitcher (all six relievers throwing hitless ball), pitched the ninth inning to pick up his 16th save, with Mike MacDougal surviving a leadoff walk in the eighth to get the win. Josh Lindblom pitched a career-high 2 1/3 innings in relief of Billingsley.

Sep 06

Dodgers don’t stress Strasburg, rally off relievers

The Strasburg Express arrived on time Monday and operated with Strasburgian efficiency.

In his first major-league game in more than a year, the post-Tommy John surgery Stephen Strasburg positioned himself for a victory despite a reported 60-pitch limit, shutting out the Dodgers on only 56 pitches over five innings.

“They say the most difficult aspect for pitchers returning from Tommy John isn’t necessarily velocity, but control,” wrote David Schoenfield of ESPN.com. “Strasburg had no issues with location in this game.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Dodger veteran Ted Lilly suffered through a 32-pitch inning, came away with a scoreless tie (and three strikeouts), then gave up three runs in the second, two of them earned, the other coming thanks in large part to his throwing error.

But while Washington could revel in the return of their prodigy, it was the Dodgers who celebrated at game’s end. A three-run rally immediately off two relievers immediately after Strasburg’s exit tied the game, and then Rod Barajas’ two-run double in the eighth inning pushed them ahead for good in what became a 7-3 victory.

Barajas had actually grounded into a double play with the bases loaded to end the sixth inning, but seized his chance at redemption with two out in the eighth, driving home Andre Ethier (who had a two-run single in the sixth and a two-run double in the ninth) and Aaron Miles with two out in the eighth.

Lilly, who struck out only three in his last start, had nine in five innings tonight and retired 11 of his final 12 batters. Matt Guerrier, Hong-Chih Kuo and Kenley Jansen combined for six strikeouts in two innings. In the bottom of the eighth, Justin Sellers saved Mike MacDougal a run with a leaping catch of a Chris Marrero drive toward right-center with Steve Lombardozzi on third.

Finishing the game, Javy Guerra loaded the bases but got the Dodgers’ 16th and 17th strikeouts in the ninth, matching the Dodgers’ highest total in a nine-inning game since 1990, one shy of the team record. Ramon Martinez struck out 18 by himself in that June 4, 1990 game.

Gordon, who speed-doubled to lead off the game for one of the two baserunners off Strasburg, had three hits and a stolen base.

Nationals relievers allowed 14 baserunners in four innings. The Dodgers would have scored more, but speedster Tony Gwynn Jr., who entered the game as a pinch-runner managed to get thrown out at third base and home in consecutive innings.

Sep 05

Bing bang boom: Nationals drum out Kuroda, Dodgers

Hiroki Kuroda, who had never allowed more than two home runs in a game in his major-league career, somehow served up three in the first inning today in Washington and four total in the Dodgers’ 7-2 loss to the Nationals.

Leadoff hitter Ian Desmond homered on Kuroda’s fourth pitch, and after Rick Ankiel singled, Ryan Zimmerman flied deep to left, setting the stage for back-to-back jacks by Michael Morse and Jayson Werth.

Morse later hit another home run in the sixth inning off Kuroda, who struck out nine and walked none (Dodger starting pitchers have 21 strikeouts since their last walk) but ended up allowing six extra-base hits.

Jamey Carroll and Matt Kemp hit consecutive doubles in the first inning for the Dodgers for a 1-0 lead, but that was it for the Los Angeles scoring until the ninth. Today’s spotlight player, A.J. Ellis, had a single and a double, coming around to score after the latter with two out in the ninth on Justin Sellers’ double.

More from Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.:

… Per the Prime Ticket broadcast, the last time the Dodgers allowed three home runs in the first inning was June 25, 1988 in Cincinnati against the Reds. Fernando Valenzuela was pulled with two outs in the opening frame after allowing four runs on those three taters, hit by Barry Larkin, Eric Davis, and Paul O’Neill. The Dodgers did come back to win that game, 6-4.

Unfortunately, the Dodgers could not repeat that comeback performance on Monday.

According to MLB Gameday, Kuroda threw six sliders in the first inning. Two were hit out of the park, two more were hit for singles, and two were out of the strike zone. Kuroda was able to settle down after that shaky first, retiring 13 of 14 batters at one point. Between the second and fifth innings he threw only five sliders, and all were out of the strike zone.

Kuroda tried another slider in the sixth inning, and Morse took him deep for his second home run of the game. In his six innings of work, Kuroda threw 13 total sliders. Eight were called balls, three were deposited in the seats, and two more were hit for singles. It’s safe to say Kuroda didn’t have command of that pitch on Labor Day.

The last Dodgers pitcher to allow four home runs in a game was D.J. Houlton on August 29, 2005. In fact, in the last 34 years only 14 Dodgers have allowed four circuit clouts in one contest, including Kuroda today. …

Sep 04

An encore to abhor: Braves rally past Kershaw, Dodgers

It happened again. Just like that day in Arizona four weeks ago.

Once more, the Dodgers were streaking, Clayton Kershaw was looking dominant, and then all of a sudden, it fell away. Today, Atlanta scored three runs in the seventh and then one in the ninth to edge the Dodgers, 4-3.

So vexing.

Kershaw faced five batters today before he was called for a pitch out of the strike zone. Here was his pitch count for the first four innings:

  1. 0 balls, 11 strikes, 11 total
  2. 3 balls, 11 strikes, 14 total
  3. 2 balls, 10 strikes, 12 total
  4. 2 balls, 9 strikes, 11 total

In four shutout innings, Kershaw threw 48 pitches and only seven balls. Meanwhile, Kershaw singled in his first at-bat, went to second on a wild pitch, third on a 30-foot single by Dee Gordon and home (after Gordon stole second) on Matt Kemp’s three-run home run with first base open.

Kershaw wavered on his command slightly over the next two innings (36 pitches, 12 balls) but still appeared in complete control of the game. But in the seventh, things went awry.

After striking out David Ross, Kershaw allowed back-to-back singles to Alex Gonzalez and Jack Wilson, before the pivotal play. Jose Constanza, the Braves’ speed equivalent of Gordon, hit a hard grounder to third base. Aaron Miles threw as quickly as he could to try to start an inning-ending, shutout-preserving double play, but the throw was to the center-field side of second base and Justin Sellers wasn’t able to catch it while coming across the bag. Everyone was safe, and Atlanta had cut the Dodgers’ lead to 3-1.

To make matters worse, Kershaw wild-pitched so that both remaining runners were in scoring position. And then Brooks Conrad, whose name might ring a bell for his home run off Hiroki Kuroda in a 1-0 victory by the Braves last August, supplied a different kind of excruciation, hitting a broken-bat single to short center that drove home the tying runs.

Kershaw stayed in to get the next two batters and complete the seventh inning on his 115th pitch of the game 31st of the inning. Charged with two earned runs on eight hits while walking none and striking out 10 (giving him a career-high 222), his ERA rose from 2.4463 to 2.4505.

Kershaw also got his 15th and 16th hits of the season, matching Brad Penny (2007) and Jeff Weaver (2005) for the most by a Dodger pitcher since Ramon Martinez had 18 in 1994. Martinez got his 18 hits in only 24 games.

In the bottom of the ninth, with Blake Hawksworth pitching, Constanza singled with one out. Hawksworth wild-pitched him to second base, causing Don Mattingly to order an intentional walk to pinch-hitter Chipper Jones.

Andre Ethier then saved the game, at least for the moment, with a long run and diving grab of Michael Bourn’s drive to right-center. But the last batter, Martin Prado, lashed a 3-2 pitch down the left-field line for the game-winner.

Sep 03

Magic or not, Dodgers keep winning

Yeah, I’m scoreboard-watching.

I’m scoreboard-watching because the bumbling fools suddenly look like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

The Dodgers edged the Braves tonight in 10 innings, 2-1. The Dodgers won their sixth straight game and 11th of their past 12. As I type this, they are exactly 10 games behind Arizona – which represents progress.

But as I type that, Arizona and Ian Kennedy are leading San Francisco and Tim Lincecum in the sixth inning, 4-1. If that lead holds, it will be the Diamondbacks’ 79th win, putting them on pace for 92.

Arizona is not giving ground. The Diamondbacks, who finished last season 65-97 and started this season 17-23, are 61-37 since and counting.

The Dodgers’ biggest problem right now is that there is one too many magicians in this fable.

* * *

Joe Murphy/Getty ImagesPower-hitter A.J. Ellis rips another homer.

Look at who the Dodgers’ heroes were tonight:

  • A.J. Ellis, the hitter without a professional home run during the Obama administration, hits his second in two weeks to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead.
  • Russ Mitchell, 9 for 68 in his career entering the game, pushing things along with two hits in four at-bats.
  • Nathan Eovaldi, the pitcher who was in Single-A ball last year, scattering three hits and five walks to hold Atlanta to one run over six innings.
  • Kenley Jansen, completely off his game when the season began and twice on the disabled list as it progressed, showing more of his dominant form, striking out consecutive batters after balking the potential go-ahead run to second base in the seventh inning.
  • Hong-Chih Kuo, who earlier this season couldn’t be counted on to confront a single batter, coming back 24 hours after pitching two shutout innings and inducing three soft ground balls.
  • Mike MacDougal, a non-roster invitee to Spring Training who has been asked to pitch above his paygrade most of the season, making Brooks Conrad miserable with three straight breaking balls for strikes to end the ninth inning.
  • Dee Gordon – scheduled arrival, 2012 – sprinting to second base on a simple hit to right-center to lead off the 10th inning.
  • James Loney, the DOA first baseman, adding a 2 for 3 night to his current hot streak while also following his manager’s inexplicable commands not only to bunt Gordon from first to second in the eighth inning, but from second to third in the 10th. (Each bunt led to an intentional walk for Matt Kemp, meaning that the Dodgers’ hottest hitters of late and of the season were not allowed to swing.) Loney’s previous career-high in sacrifice bunts for a season was one.
  • Juan Rivera – this year’s dumpster dive – producing again, hitting a sacrifice fly in the 10th to score Gordon with the Dodgers’ second run.
  • Javy Guerra, the unassuming closer, closing out the 10th on nine pitches.

You can be excused for wondering what exactly happened to the team you suffered through most of this season. You could be excused for thinking, for a moment, “Could they … ?”

But those Diamondbacks …

* * *

Clayton Kershaw is pitching Sunday. Kershaw was the pitcher on a Sunday four weeks ago, when the Dodgers were making their biggest move in the pennant race this summer. They had won four out of five games to move within nine of Arizona for first place in the National League West. If Kershaw could beat Kennedy, the Dodgers would be eight games behind with 7 1/2 weeks remaining, with a sweep of the Diamondbacks in their rear-view mirror. The Dodgers wouldn’t need magic to make a move – they could use simple physics.

But Cody Ransom homered, and the Dodgers were back to wishful thinking.

Four weeks later, the Dodgers are on an 11-1 run. But when an 11-1 run only pulls you within 10 games of first place, you are dreaming. So what’s the point?

What can I tell you? Winning and wondering are still fun, whenever they come. Even the Sorcerer’s Apprentice puts on a good show.

Sep 02

Oblivion can wait: Dodgers rally from 5-0 hole to win

Would this have been considered the game of the year to date, if only it had meant something?

The also-ran Dodgers have had no shortage of highlight moments despite a season in which a .500 record has become an unexpected quest, but there’s something about coming into Atlanta, the home of an almost certain playoff team, and rallying from a 5-0 deficit in September for an 8-6 victory.

Overcoming Chad Billingsley’s 12 baserunners and three earned runs allowed in four innings (with Dee Gordon’s error contributing to two more runs), the Dodgers chipped away with Juan Rivera’s two-run single in the fourth and one-run single in the sixth. Then, with one swing, James Loney matched Rivera’s RBI total with a bases-clearing double to put Los Angeles ahead in the seventh. Andre Ethier’s two-RBI hit added insurance in the same inning.

And talk about stirring: Hong-Chih Kuo, in the wake of season-long struggles, pitched two shutout innings of relief to get the win, in the process lowering his ERA below 10.00. Scott Elbert, Mike MacDougal (pitching out of a two-on, one-out jam of his own making in the eighth) and Javy Guerra (who allowed a solo homer to Dan Uggla and a walk to Chipper Jones with one out in the ninth) finished things off against a team that was 81-55, second-best in the National League, going in.

Gordon had three singles, three runs and two steals in trying to compensate for his miscue.

Los Angeles has won 10 of 11 matches, but all of them essentially coming on Court 12.

Sep 01

Dodgers bask in Eveland shade

Pitching with the authority normally reserved for colonels and Kershaws, first-time 2011 Dodger starter Dana Eveland needed only 99 pitches to cruise through eight innings of one-run ball in the Dodgers’ 6-4 victory over Pittsburgh today.

The 27-year-old Eveland, the ace of the ’11 Albuquerque Isotopes with a 4.38 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 154 innings, allowed six hits while walking none and striking out three. After allowing a run-scoring double-play grounder in the second inning to cut the Dodgers’ lead to 3-1, Eveland set down 18 of the final 21 batters he faced.

Eveland had a 5.74 major-league ERA in 330 2/3 innings with 6.0 strikeouts per nine innings entering the game.

The Dodgers got off to a 3-0 first-inning lead thanks to a leadoff glad-to-be-back single by Dee Gordon (2 for 5), a single by Matt Kemp (followed by his 36th steal), an intentional walk to Andre Ethier, a two-run single by Aaron Miles and a sacrifice fly by Tony Gwynn Jr.

In the seventh, singles by James Loney (2 for 5) and Kemp (the same) an error and a passed ball provided the Dodgers’ fourth run, and Gordon had a two-run double in the eighth. A.J. Ellis, who scored one of the runs in the eighth, was 2 for 3 with a walk.

Los Angeles teased a nightmare in the ninth. Blake Hawksworth started the inning by serving up a single and a two-run Alex Presley homer. Kenley Jansen relieved and allowed his first hit and run since the Middle Ages, but then struck out Josh Harrison and Brandon Wood to end the game.

The Dodgers have won nine of their past 10 games to improve to 66-70 (.485), their highest winning percentage since they were 19-20 (.487) on May 13. Los Angeles is 29-19 (.604) since July 6, yet because of Arizona’s surge, is only a half-game closer to first place in the National League West.

Aug 30

Blue crew special: Walks by the dozen

That was a heck of a lot of walks. Matt Kemp had four by himself. And yet, after Andre Ethier’s grand slam gave the Dodgers an 8 2 0 linescore in the second inning, it was a surprisingly narrow 8-5 escape over the Padres on Tuesday.

I didn’t see the second inning tonight, but I gather it was about as long as Marcel Proust’s “Remembrance of Things Past.” Don’t feel bad though, Tim Stauffer: I couldn’t get out of the second inning of that book, either.

Update: I’ve made the following inquiry – How often in baseball history has a player had the first two hits in an inning, as Ethier did in the second inning tonight?

The Dodgers’ 12 walks, by the way, were their most in a nine-inning game in more than 30 years, notes the team PR department.

Aug 28

Carlos terrorizes Dodgers, 7-6


Mark J. Terrill/APCarlos Gonzalez was 8 for 13 at the plate this weekend and also killed the Dodgers with his glove.

Today, according to the ledger, was my 581st game at Dodger Stadium in the past 20 years. I would guess that in no more than five of those games have I sat on the left side of home plate. But today, I was in Aisle 119 of the Loge Level, eight rows from the front, just to the left of the screen behind home plate.

It just so happened that from that vantage point, I had the best possible view of what I believe is one of the best catches I have ever seen at Dodger Stadium: Carlos Gonzalez’s all-out, mid-air, backhand grab of a Justin Sellers drive near the right-field line with two out and two runners on base in the bottom of the fourth inning. That catch represented the difference between another Dodger comeback victory over the Rockies and what turned out to be Los Angeles’ 7-6 defeat.

It also happened that I had a dead-on view of the blooper that Colorado third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff hit with two out and the bases loaded in the top of the first, a ball that backup right fielder Trent Oeltjen was slow to spot in the Mad Dogs and Englishmen sun and that ultimately went off his wrist. A catch there would have meant Dodger rookie Nathan Eovaldi escaping the first with just a 1-0 deficit. (In fact, a diving attempt by Tony Gwynn Jr. on Troy Tulowtizki’s sinking liner earlier in the inning would have delivered Eovladi back the dugout scoreless.)

Instead, by the time his 41-pitch first inning was over, five runs were adhered to Eovaldi’s name. He pitched admirably enough afterward, before hitting the showers with a four-inning, 89-pitch stint, but “what might have been” was written all over those first four frames.

Nevertheless, the Dodgers almost pulled this one out, chipping away with single runs in the first and third and then two pair in the sixth in the seventh. There were no baserunners in the eighth or ninth, however, as the Rockies bullpen prevented a repeat of its Friday and Saturday downfalls.

Aug 27

Dodgers leave it all on the field: Kemp’s 11th-inning homer wins it


Jeff Golden/Getty ImagesAnother throwback uniform day …

Unless someone served him breakfast in bed or left flowers on his doorstep, it’s safe to say that Chad Billingsley’s day got off to a gruesome start.

It was as if he were Charlie Brown raking the same pile of leaves, and then Snoopy was jumping in and exploding them all over the yard, and Charlie Brown would get back to raking. Billingsley allowed three baserunners in the first inning; none scored. He allowed runners to reach second and third with none out in the second inning; none scored.

Then in the third, Mark Ellis doubled, Carlos Gonzalez (4 for 6) singled and Troy Tulowitzki homered, and it was Billingsley who was getting raked.

Billingsley was on the verge of leaving the game as early as the fourth inning, when he was already approaching 100 pitches and falling even further behind, 4-0, on an unearned run driven home by Gonzalez. Somehow, on the hottest day of the year at Dodger Stadium, Billingsley managed to understay his lack of welcome all the way to the sixth. After walking pitcher Kevin Millwood with one out, Billingsley benefited from an 8-4 sun-aided forceout at second base and then struck out Ellis on season-high pitch No. 123.

The ledger left by Billingsley when pinch-hitter Trent Oeltjen popped up for him showed six innings, four runs (three earned) 10 hits, two walks and five strikeouts.

And yet, Billingsley almost was the winning pitcher.

That’s because for the fourth game in a row, the Dodgers unfurled a surprising big-and-tall inning. Aaron Miles and James Loney singled. Matt Kemp was safe at first when third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff threw errantly home, Miles scoring the Dodgers’ first run.

Kemp was credited with his 99th RBI of the season, somewhat inexplicably but perhaps on the theory that Kouzmanoff should have thrown to first base. Then, the error was switched to catcher Chris Ianetta, but still Kemp’s 99th RBI remained in the boxscore.

Rivera drove in the second run, with Kemp nearly making a costly baserunning mistake, only to be safe at third when Kouzmanoff muffed Gonzalez’s throw for another error. Casey Blake then ripped a double to the wall in left-center. Kemp and Rivera scored to tie the game, but Ethier, waved home by Wallach a day after running through a Wallach stop sign, ended up with the same result – out by a rod.

Still, the Dodgers took the lead when (after A.J. Ellis was hit by a pitch) and Jamey Carroll singled home Blake. The Dodgers led, 5-4.

But Hong-Chih Kuo, who had warmed up when the Dodgers were trailing by four, entered the game in the seventh and on his first two pitches allowed a bunt single to Gonzalez and Tulowtizki’s second home run, which took high-speed rail over the short fence in left for a 6-5 Rockies lead.

The Dodgers threatened a second rally in the bottom of the eighth when they put two on with one out, but Carroll flied out and pinch-hitter Tony Gwynn Jr. popped out on a 3-2 pitch from Rafael Betancourt.

The out gave Betancourt 18 consecutive scoreless innings in which he had struck out 30 and walked one. But after Miles popped out to start the bottom of the ninth, Loney lowered the boom on Colorado once again, hitting a no-doubter into the right-field bleachers for his second homer in 24 hours against Colorado and sixth against the Rockies this season.

Soon after Kemp just missed winning the game with a high fly ball to left, we were headed into extra innings.

After Javy Guerra pitched a shutout 10th, the Dodgers loaded the bases against Jason Hammel when walks to Blake and Justin Sellers sandwiched a Rod Barajas single, but Miles struck out on three pitches.  After Mike MacDougal’s shutout 11th …

KEMP!

Thirty-one home runs. One hundred runs batted in. Dodgers 7, Rockies 6.

Aug 26

A night not to balk at being a Dodger fan


Mark J. Terrill/APMr. 30-33, Matt Kemp, is now on pace for 37 homers to go with 41 steals this season.

Ted Lilly giving up an early home run? Typical game.

The Dodger offense struggling to put a single run on the scoreboard? Typical game.

A six-run rally driven by two balks, a James Loney homer and a Dodger joining the 30-30 club? Not such a typical game.

Mark J. Terrill/APJim Tracy wasn’t seeing straight after two balks were called on his team in the seventh inning.

The Dodgers trailed 1-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh, but they rolled a six on the Rockies and moved directly to a 6-1 victory.

It was the Dodgers’ fourth straight victory, their second in a row with a six-run inning, and their first with confirmation that Vin Scully would be back for more in 2012.

Working on a 1-0 shutout, Colorado starter Esmeril Rogers walked Andre Ethier and Aaron Miles, and Rod Barajas (after being forced to bunt for two pitches) singled to load the bases. However, the Dodgers seemed doomed – rather typically doomed, as it were – when Ethier tried to score on Jamey Carroll’s fly ball to center field and was thrown out, as we’ll get to continue hearing Vinny say, “from you to me.”

But after pinch-hitter Tony Gwynn was intentionally walked – I’m not sure about the smarts behind that one, by the way – Miles goaded Rogers into committing a balk that moved everyone up and tied the game. And then, with runners on second and third, Justin Sellers’ single drove in two more runs to give the Dodgers the lead.

A bitter Rogers was relieved by Matt Reynolds, who immediately picked off Sellers – only to have another balk called. That was all Jim Tracy could stand, and he couldn’t stands no more, his determination to protest the call getting him thrown out of the game.

With the reprieve, the Dodgers doubled their fun. Loney hit his seventh home run of the season – five of them against Colorado – to make the score 5-1. And then Kemp hit his crowning-glory absolute rocket to center.

Loney, 2 for 4, is now 13 for his last 21 with a walk and 22 total bases: a .636 on-base percentage, 1.048 slugging percentage and 1.684 OPS.

Kenley Jansen made a successful return from the disabled list with a 14-pitch perfect eighth inning, and Scott Elbert took on the ninth, allowing two hits but no runs. Lilly got the win with his fourth outstanding start out of his past five, a stretch in which he has a 2.20 ERA.

* * *

Tweets from Beto Duran of ESPN Radio:

  • Vin Scully held impromptu press conference in elevator after game. By far coolest ride ever!
  • Vin “winning and losing doesn’t bother me, it’s just love of people. Just don’t know what I’d do”
  • Vin on announcing return during game. “Didn’t want to make big deal. Not trying to be a Brett Favre”

Aug 24

Never-jealous Ellis can relish without embellish in latest Dodger romp


Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesA.J. Ellis on his first official trot.

Since there’s no way you can’t be rooting for A.J. Ellis, there’s no way you can’t be a happy camper today.

Less than a day after bidding farewell to Albuquerque — quite possibly for the last time after spending most of the past three seasons there — the 30-year-old Ellis hit his first major-league home run, the icing on the Sara Lee of the Dodgers’ 9-4 victory over St. Louis.

The Dodgers swept the three-game series from the Cardinals and, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted, at this moment are the same distance out of first place as St. Louis in their respective divisions.

The day after washable-tattooing the Cardinals with 13 runs, Los Angeles stamped it up again with a six-run third inning in which the first eight batters reached base. Matt Kemp’s two-run single (RBI No. 96 and 97) put the Dodgers ahead to stay, 2-1, and the hits just kept coming after that, including an RBI single from Ellis.

Ellis’ home run — the third by a Dodger catcher in two days — came in the fifth inning, in his 200th career plate appearance. Juan Rivera hit a two-run homer in the seventh.

The 22 runs in two games were the most by the Dodgers since they rolled 23 on the Reds on April 20-21 last year. All eight Dodger starting position players had hits — James Loney’s two singles and a double gave him 17 total bases in his past 17 at-bats — while pinch-hitter Eugenio Velez extended his major-league hitless streak to 27 at-bats this year and 36 overall.

Hiroki Kuroda allowed a first-inning run, shut out the Cardinals for his next five innings, then allowed a two-run homer to Gerald Laird (scoring a 4-for-4 Skip Schumaker) in the seventh. Kuroda finished his seven innings with eight hits allowed, one walk and four strikeouts.

In 12 starts from June 1 through August 8, Kuroda had 24 runs of support. He has matched that in his past three starts.