Aug 05

Gordon lights Dodgers’ fire in 7-4 victory


Mark J. Terrill/APAnd he shall be Trayvon. And he shall be a good man.

Short-lost Dodger prospect Trayvon Robinson not only singled, he made a dazzling catch over the left-field fence for Seattle in Anaheim in his major-league debut tonight.

At least the Dodgers still have Dee Gordon.

Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesAndre Ethier congratulates Dee Gordon after the rookie scored the Dodgers’ first run.

Gordon laid a perfect bunt down the third-base line to start a six, count ‘em, six-run outburst in the third inning, and then outfought some ants for a diving grab in the seventh to help keep the Dodgers from blowing what remained of their lead, and Los Angeles outlasted Arizona, 7-4.

Gordon’s catch came with the bases loaded and the Dodgers’ 6-0 lead down to 6-3.  He dove to his right to catch a Justin Upton liner inches off the ground, then doubled up Sean Burroughs at second base.

Rod Barajas, whose two-run double capped the Dodgers’ scoring in the third inning, in the eighth became the third Dodger with double-digit home runs this year, giving the Dodgers an extra run to work with. After Mike MacDougal allowed a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth, Javy Guerra came on for a career-best four-out save.

The Dodgers had 11 hits and five walks, led by Juan Rivera’s perfect night (single and three walks), Casey Blake (3 for 5), Andre Ethier (single, double, walk) and Matt Kemp (single, walk). Chad Billingsley was charged with three runs in six innings. And, by the way, Tim Federowicz, who came in the Robinson deal, homered for Albuquerque tonight.

The Los Angeles youth movement continues Saturday with the promotion of Nate Eovaldi, whose contract was officially purchased by the Dodgers. John Ely was sent back to Albuquerque without pitching this week.

Aug 02

Dodger gloves sparkle as Kuroda finally gets a win, 1-0

From James Loney’s fallaway fling in the first inning to Matt Kemp’s somersaulting catch in the ninth, the Dodger defense gave its all. And every bit of it was needed.

Without that defense, another sterling effort from Hiroki Kuroda would have gone for naught. Instead, Kuroda’s seven shutout innings stood up, and the pitcher who lowered his ERA to 2.96 (ninth in the National League) finally won his second game since May 17, 1-0 over San Diego.

Kemp had the only RBI of the game, driving in Dee Gordon with a fourth-inning single. He went 2 for 4, raising his batting average to .321 and cutting his deficit to the Mets’ Jose Reyes down to .018.

Subsequently, Kemp did see his streak of 20 consecutive stolen bases end when he was picked off second base and thrown out trying to make it to third. It was one of three times that Dodger runners were trapped off second base – Gordon was caught going leaning wrong way from second base on a first-inning comebacker to Padres pitcher Mat Latos, and Kemp was doubled off in the seventh on a Loney liner.

Plays like those made it paramount for the pitching and defense to do their job. Kuroda struck out eight against six baserunners, putting down a first-and-second, none-out threat in the fifth and a similar scenario with two out in the seventh. Mike MacDougal survived runners on first and second with one out in the eighth, and then Javy Guerra, with the help of Kemp’s collision-defying snag of Aaron Cunningham’s blooper between Kemp and Gwynn, retired the side perfectly in the ninth for his ninth save. Since July 8, Guerra has pitched eight innings with a 0.00 ERA, allowing six baserunners while striking out nine, and stranding all four inherited runners.

After the game, I took special pleasure in the smiles and happy body-thuds between the winning Dodgers. A feel-good moment was earned.

Aug 01

Spoiler alert: Surgery looms as possibility for De La Rosa

Clayton Kershaw only starts about 20 percent of the Dodgers’ games, so you hate to see them spoiled.

But on a night that Kershaw pitched his fourth complete game of the season and Matt Kemp had a double and triple in a 6-2 victory over San Diego, the Dodgers took what I would consider to be their worst blow of the season, non-ownership division, as well as their first big blow of 2012.

Rubby De La Rosa, the prized rookie who figured to be a significant cog of the 2012 Dodger starting rotation, has a sprained ligament in his right elbow and will miss considerable time, with surgery a distinct possibility. Here’s Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

… De La Rosa faces the possibility of season-ending elbow surgery after an MRI exam on Monday revealed a sprained ulnar-collateral ligament. A team spokesman said De La Rosa and the medical staff presently are considering a handful of treatment options, one of which would be surgery.

Even if De La Rosa were to decide against surgery, he could be done for the year. The Dodgers have only 54 games remaining, and De La Rosa’s innings were being closely monitored anyway because he is considered such an important part of the franchise’s future. Between the minors and majors, he has pitched 100 2/3 so far this season. …

Dodgers medical-services director Stan Conte said De La Rosa reported tightness in his elbow immediately after leaving the game, but that he initially had felt it while throwing a pitch in the third inning. De La Rosa saw team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who recommended he undergo an MRI exam.

Conte said the decision to put De La Rosa on the DL so quickly came because he likely would have missed his next start anyway. Mattingly said Ely initially will pitch out of the bullpen and that with an off-day on Thursday and De La Rosa’s rotation spot not due to come up again until Saturday night at Arizona, the Dodgers might simply skip that spot. That would mean they wouldn’t need a fifth starter again until Aug. 9 against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Aside from losing the treat of seeing De La Rosa pitch, what this may well mean is that more of the money that is needed to rebuild the Dodger offense in the offseason might now have to be reallocated to pitching.

* * *

Alex Castellanos went 0 for 4 with a walk in his debut in the Dodger organization, in a 6-4 Chattanooga victory. Juan Rodriguez pitched two shutout innings for Great Lakes in a 9-2 win.

Jul 30

Arizona walks away with victory on distracting day


Gus Ruelas/APAndre Ethier, seen here fielding a second-inning single, later made a catch that saved two runs.

This looked like it would be another game that the Dodgers might win while people’s minds were elsewhere.

There’s nothing scientific to it, but I can think of a few times when the Dodgers have cruised to victory this season while they were making headlines in other ways, whether with the McCourts or with today’s trade news. Tonight, Chad Billingsley settled down after Andre Ethier’s great catch saved him from getting blasted in the second inning, and Matt Kemp hit another home run to put the Dodgers ahead in the third, and soon it looked like the game was on cruise control.

But smart drivers stay alert. After the Dodgers built a 4-1 lead, Billingsley allowed a leadoff single in the sixth inning, then threw balls on 12 of his next 16 pitches to force home a run. Xavier Nady hit a sacrifice fly to make it a one-run game. Willie Bloomquist struck out, but Kelly Johnson became Billingsley’s fourth walk of the inning, loading the bases, and the Dodger starter was done.

It took Matt Guerrier one batter to make it hurt even worse: a bases-clearing double from Justin Upton that propelled Arizona to a 6-4 victory.

Billingsley had pitched into at least the sixth inning 16 times this year and allowed only six total runs in that frame before the five sixth-inning runs he was charged with tonight.

Jul 29

Kemp keeps Lilly at arm’s length


Danny Moloshok/APMatt Kemp pumps his fist after driving in his fourth and fifth runs of the night with a single.

These days, it’s almost strange to think the Dodgers play a team game.

Baseball has always been the sum of its individuals, but when a given team has next to nothing to play for, those individual stories threaten to bury the team’s winning or losing. This is the time of year where someone’s fate is on the front page, and the final score is buried inside.

Kenley Jansen has a heart scare. Hiroki Kuroda wonders who will be signing his August paychecks. Casey Blake tries to get healthy. And Matt Kemp and Ted Lilly battle for the Dodgers’ home-run lead.

Tonight, Lilly allowed his 22nd and 23rd homers of the season, but Kemp kept some breathing room by hitting his 25th, while also driving in five runs to take the National League lead with 80. Kemp clinched the seventh 25-25 season in Dodger history, putting himself on pace for 39 homers and 42 steals this year, made a full-extension catch in the left-center gap and generally made this a happy happy fun fun night for the Dodgers.

Who, by the way, won a loopy kind of game – and not a short one – 9-5. You thought I might forget to mention that, didn’t you? There was a reason for a team photo tonight, actually – as Vin Scully pointed out during tonight’s broadcast, it was the most runs scored by the Dodgers at home since August 4.

Anyway, in case you think the Dodgers might mail it in over the final two months of the season, keep in mind that each and every one of them have something to play for, even if it’s only an individual story like pride for Lilly and Andre Ethier (who had three hits), the best possible 2012 contract for Rafael Furcal, Jamey Carroll or Aaron Miles (4 for 10 combined) or potential memorable league honors for Clayton Kershaw and Kemp.

Jul 27

They coulda been a contender … but they’re the Bums


Danny Moloshok/APRod Barajas dives but misses a foul ball hit by Colorado’s Aaron Cook during the sixth inning.

The Dodgers’ four-game winning streak prompted some questions from fans here and there on the Internet about whether Ned Colletti should or would consider himself a buyer again.

Uh, no.

It’s uncanny what happens when Hiroki Kuroda is on the mound, isn’t it? Six innings, one run allowed, and yet another loss. I’ll update my recap of his last start:

Kuroda rallied to put together another decent outing, before getting his 12th 13th loss of the season. He has a 6-1213 record despite 1314 quality starts. He made a couple of mistakes, but with this offense, you just can’t do that.

Since May 22, Kuroda is 1-10 with a 3.38 ERA. Kuroda may truly be the unluckiest above-average pitcher in Los Angeles Dodger history.

Jul 26

Kershaw in the bank: Dodgers cash in 3-2 victory

Clayton Kershaw threw a career-high 125 pitches over 6 2/3 innings, while Matt Guerrier and Kenley Jansen were perfect in relief, for the Dodgers in a 3-2 victory over Colorado tonight.

Kershaw allowed eight hits and two walks along with his first wild pitch of the season, while striking out six. He began the seventh inning at 99 pitches, but needed 26 more just to get the second out of the frame, an RBI groundout after a 10-pitch at-bat by Todd Helton. After that at-bat took Kershaw from 115 to 125, Guerrier came in.

Jansen was once again out of sight with his two-strikeout performance. Since coming off the disabled list June 18, Jansen has thrown 16 consecutive scoreless innings with 26 strikeouts and only 10 baserunners.

At the plate, Matt Kemp put the Dodgers in the lead with a two-run double, and later scored from third on Juan Rivera’s sacrifice fly to second baseman Mark Ellis, who collided with right fielder Ryan Spilborghs while making the catch beyond the infield. The Dodgers had only three hits and a walk the entire game.

With their fourth-straight win, Los Angeles moved to within nine games of .500 and half a game of third-place Colorado.

Jul 25

Guerra earns most surprising save yet in 8-5 victory

Ah, the simple pleasures of watching the Dodgers roll off a three-game winning streak without worrying it will lead Ned Colletti to make a desperation trade to win the National League West.

OK, maybe not so simple.

We’ve entered the frontier of Losers’ Dividend country, where the good is usually a wonderful surprise and the bad is mostly a mere shrug. But then again, even the Losers’ Dividend would have had a hard time writing off what nearly became an epic ninth-inning collapse tonight.

Los Angeles took an 8-1 lead over Colorado into the ninth inning, then needed Javy Guerra to record the final two outs with the tying run on base to preserve an 8-5 victory. So the biggest celebration of the night ended up being not having to feel more 2011 desolation.

The Dodgers remained 13 games behind San Francisco. So no, still not contending – though they did move to within 1 1/2 games of Colorado for third place.

From the third inning on, when Andre Ethier hit a two-run homer (his sort-of-long-awaited 10th) to break a 1-1 tie, until the ninth, when Hong-Chih Kuo once again struggled mightily (17 pitches, 12 balls), it couldn’t have been breezier. Mike MacDougal (two walks and a hit) and Jamey Carroll (throwing error) then compounded the interest, with MacDougal walking Todd Helton with the bases loaded to force in the fourth run of the inning with just one out.

But Guerra, who was supposed to have the night off, looked every bit the reliable closer in rescuing the Dodgers, retiring Troy Tulowitzki and Seth Smith on a total of four pitches, giving him saves in three consecutive games and the team lead with eight.

Ethier reached base four times in the game and finished with three RBI thanks to a bloop single in the Dodgers’ three-run eighth. Tony Gwynn Jr., Aaron Miles and Carroll (off the bench) each added two hits, while Matt Kemp singled and was walked twice.

After allowing a second-inning run, Rubby De La Rosa shut down the Rockies as he eked out six innings on 113 pitches, striking out five, walking four and allowing three singles. He lowered his ERA to 3.49. Relievers Matt Guerrier and Kenley Jansen struck out five combined in two innings.

Unfortunately, tonight’s outing will renew questions about Kuo’s ability to pitch for the Dodgers this season.

Jul 24

Billingsley rallies himself, Dodgers rally to victory

Chad Billingsley needed 31 pitches to get his first out today, but only 84 pitches to get the next 20 outs. His own personal rally cap led to a seven-inning, 10-strikeout, two-hit performance in the Dodgers’ 3-1 victory over Washington today. Tony Jackson has more at ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Billingsley had a day to remember, while Albuquerque’s Tim Sexton had a night to forget. Forced to take one for the team because of a pitching shortage, Sexton was charged with 16 runs in five innings of a 17-9 Isotopes loss to New Orleans.

We’ll wrap up this quick post with this video, provided by Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy. Dancing Vinny?

Jul 23

The long view


Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images (file photo)And then, depression set in …

From time to time I think back to when I was most in despair about my personal life, in large part because I honestly wasn’t sure that the bad times would end.  A bit melodramatic mixed with self-pity, sure, but the feelings were real.

You can always imagine the light at the end of the tunnel, and if you’re a positive-thinking person, imagining is all you need.  But if you waver, then it’s not.  Even today, the relative joy in my life is dotted – on some days even clouded – by worry about things that could go wrong.

That, I believe, is where Dodger fans find themselves today. A bad season is one thing. But it’s the uncertain future that dims Dodger Stadium.

A therapist, I believe, would tell Dodger fans to believe that joy is not on some unattainable height, not trapped in some remote snow cave on Mount Everest, but within reach. You’ll keep going, and eventually it’ll be there.  I think that’s the theory to go with. And when we get there, the reunion will be all the sweeter.

The thing to remember is that a rebirth of baseball at Dodger Stadium is truly possible. If it weren’t, that would be another matter entirely. (At which point, at least we’d be able to walk away to alternate pastimes.)

In the meantime, don’t forget to enjoy the smaller pleasures. And Vin Scully.

* * *

Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. has a surprising number of good notes from Friday’s stumbling 7-2 loss to Washington, while Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com wrote about how Hiroki Kuroda having to pitch through all the trade rumors.

Despite giving up the Dodgers’ second home run to a pitcher this week, Kuroda rallied to put together another decent outing, before getting his 12th loss of the season. He has a 6-12 record despite 13 quality starts. He made a couple of mistakes, but with this offense, you just can’t do that.

Jul 20

Forget it, Jake: It’s Kershawtown


Kyle Terada/US PresswireClayton Kershaw retired 25 of 29 batters, striking out 12, in eight shutout innings, outdueling Tim Lincecum, who allowed a seventh-inning home run into McCovey Cove by Dioner Navarro. Javy Guerra pitched a perfect ninth to save the Dodgers’ 1-0 victory. Navarro (who had two throwing errors today) has 11 RBI all season, but this was the third time in 2011 that he had the only RBI in a 1-0 Dodger win. If not for three Dodger errors, the Giants would not have gotten any runners past second base today.
Jul 19

Comeback kids? Dodgers rally once but fall

When the Dodgers fell behind 2-0 in the second inning tonight to the Giants, and you thought the game was over, you were wrong, but your pessimism would be understandable.

The Dodgers hadn’t taken the lead after trailing by at least two runs in a game since way back on June 12 in Colorado. In fact, in 29 games between then and tonight, Los Angeles had only scored more than two runs in an entire game 14 times.

Tonight, the Dodgers came back right in the top of the third, with an RBI double by Tony Gwynn Jr. and a two-run single by Rafael Furcal, his first hit since July 8. They had a 3-2 lead. Just like that.

And then, after Juan Rivera overran first base on his single and was thrown out, 16 Dodgers in a row went down against San Francisco 21-year-old Madison Bumgarner. Rubby De La Rosa showed his stuff but couldn’t hold the lead, and then Hong-Chih Kuo couldn’t hold the tie, and the Dodgers fell behind in the bottom of the seventh, 5-3.

That meant the Dodgers would have to do twice in one game what they hadn’t done once in the previous six weeks: rally from down two runs to go ahead.

Brian Wilson came in to pitch the ninth inning for San Francisco and retired the first two batters, before Matt Kemp singled to end a 10-pitch at-bat, his first career hit against Wilson.

Andre Ethier, out of the starting lineup to rest his knee, came up to pinch-hit as the tying run. But he flied out, sealing the Dodgers’ 5-3 loss. The Dodgers trail San Francisco by 14 1/2 games, their biggest deficit since the end of the 2003 season.

The Giants pitched seven perfect innings out of nine. But the Dodgers had that one comeback.  No one can take that away. Not that anyone would bother to try.

Jul 17

Diamondbacks’ Danny H. does Dodgers in


Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesOne-man band gets a hand.

In a down season, at least the Dodgers had the best-hitting pitchers in the National League. They couldn’t take that away from them, could they?

Meet Daniel Hudson of Arizona.  Nine innings pitched, one run allowed, three runs driven in. While throwing his complete game, Hudson went 2 for 3 with a home run and a two-run, two-out, bases-loaded single to manhandle the Dodgers today, 4-1.

Dan Haren might be a distant memory for the Diamondbacks, but they’ve found his replacement and don’t even have to change the monogrammed spikes.

The hits gave Hudson a .375 on-base percentage and .513 slugging percentage this season, not to mention 12 RBI, in 47 plate appearances. That puts the 24-year-old righthander, who also lowered his ERA to 3.56, in prime contention for the pitchers’ Silver Slugger award that, along with Matt Kemp’s, figured to be one of the few consolation prizes arriving at Chavez Ravine this year.

Did I mention consolation prize? San Francisco defeated San Diego in 11 innings today, dropping the Dodgers to 12 1/2 games out of first place in the NL West. The Dodgers’ five-game winning streak ended just Saturday night, and yet Los Angeles now faces its biggest deficit of the season.

The Dodgers avoided a shutout only after Diamondbacks shortstop Stephen Drew failed to catch James Loney’s hit-and-run line drive in the seventh inning. Instead of a double play, it put Loney on first and Matt Kemp (1 for 4) at third. Kemp then scored on a wild pitch.

That cut the Dodgers’ deficit at the time to 2-1, with Arizona scoring its runs on solo homers by Ryan Roberts in the second inning and Hudson in the sixth off (this won’t surprise you) Ted Lilly, who otherwise pitched well enough, striking out nine and walking none unintentionally.  In fact, Lilly was in better position than Hiroki Kuroda on Saturday to find a way to win when the bottom of the seventh came, but after a single and ultimately two intentional walks, Blake Hawskworth allowed Hudson’s big hit.

* * *

This is truly neither here nor there, but Juan Uribe’s batting average stubbornly refuses to drop below .200. He has ended every game since June 24 with a batting average between .210 and today’s .204.

Jul 16

Old Dodgers return in 3-2 loss

Hiroki Kuroda had one inning to regret, allowing a single, double and three-run home run to Brandon Allen, and the Dodgers (despite Matt Kemp’s 24th home run) couldn’t rescue him and lose to Arizona, 3-2, ending their five-game winning streak.

Kuroda, who struck out seven and allowed six baserunners over six innings, combined with Scott Elbert (two innings) to retire the final 15 Diamondbacks. But following a gift run on a bases-loaded walk to Rafael Furcal, Los Angeles didn’t threaten after Andre Ethier popped out to end the top of the fifth.

Despite making his 12th quality start of the year in 19 tries, Kuroda’s record fell to 6-11.

Jul 15

Rivera, Kemp power Dodgers

Juan Rivera homered on his first pitch as a Dodger, Matt Kemp threw out a runner at the plate, hit his 23rd homer and drove in four runs, and Clayton Kershaw allowed no earned runs over seven innings.

Yet thanks to a Juan Uribe error that paved the way for four unearned runs off Kershaw in the bottom of the seventh (including a three-run homer to deep center by Xavier Nady), the Dodgers had to sweat out a 6-4 victory.

The error effectively cost the Dodgers their fourth shutout in their past five games.

Hong-Chih Kuo started the ninth and was in position to become the eighth Dodger to get a save this year, but the final out ended up going to Javy Guerra (with the tying run on first base) on a called strike three. By the way, the Dodger team record is 11 pitchers with a save in a single season, last achieved in 1979.

The Dodgers have won five in a row, but all that’s done is get them to 11 games out of first place in the National League West, with a half-game drop imminent because San Francisco is romping over San Diego.