May 16

Episode 3: ‘Nirvana: A state of bliss obtained through the extinction of the self’

This one’s going to be all about Vin. The result of the bottom of the ninth and the game won’t matter to me at all. Just his voice …

Milwaukee should have about a half a dozen runs, but they have two. The Dodgers should have what they’ve got.

John Axford … He’s a native of Dutch heritage on his mom’s side. He played soccer in elementary school.

Fouled that right into the mask of Jonathan Lucroy – nnnh.

Tried to time that thing and that pitch was on top of him, and he just did get a little bit of it and fouled it off.

So Kemp, blown away, strikes out for a second time. And now Uribe.

Boy he busted that thing – that was 97. He let that baby fly. Oh-and-two to Juan Uribe.

Ball one. Even that’s 97. Hard to see him throw as hard as he does and understand he had Tommy John surgery.

Big breaking ball. So Uribe follows Kemp and comes up empty-handed. Up here – down there.

Runs tough to come by. Dodgers shut out when Billingsley lost that one-hitter. Dodgers scrambled for one run yesterday and come back with one run tonight. And now the Dodgers down to their last strike.

And a high-fly ball. It’s playable. Gomez is calling all the way, and that’s it. So the Dodgers struggle and huff and puff and come up empty.

Just his voice …

May 15

Elbert returns triumphantly in Dodger loss


Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesScott Elbert threw 19 pitches, 12 for strikes.

Although there was another sad performance from the offense (including the end of Andre Ethier’s on-base streak) and another disappointing inning from Ted Lilly, a four-run second in today’s 4-1 Dodger loss, let’s take some time to cheer for Scott Elbert. The lefty, whose season went so awry a year ago, got off to a great 2011 start for the Dodgers by striking out the side in the eighth inning.

Javy Guerra made his major-league debut in the next inning and allowed a one-out single and nothing else.

* * *

Update: Contrary to initial reports, Rafael Furcal did not bat right-handed Saturday for Albuquerque, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Sunday, Furcal doubled leading off the game on the way to a 1-for-4 day. He also made an error.

May 14

Carroll takes blame as Billingsley’s stellar effort goes for naught


Harry How/Getty ImagesChad Billingsley retired 24 of 27 batters.

It hasn’t even been half a season since the game last September when the Dodgers won despite getting one hit, so it’s not like the concept should be entirely foreign to us.

But that doesn’t make it much less melancholy for Dodger fans to ponder the fact that Chad Billingsley went eight innings, allowed two walks, one hit and no earned runs while striking out eight and still took a 1-0 loss to Arizona.

According to ESPN Stats and Info, those are the only two games won by a road team with one hit since 1993. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time the Brooklyn-Los Angeles franchise lost when allowing one or fewer hits occurred on July 17, 1914 in Chicago.

The run came across in the second inning on a Melvin Mora sacrifice fly after a Stephen Drew double and a throwing error charged to Billingsley on a pickoff attempt – that Jamey Carroll gamely took responsibility for.

“Miscommunication. It was my fault,” Carroll told The Associated Press. “Obviously, I was supposed to cover. He threw it and nobody was there.”

Billingsley, who doubled (for the second time this season) to match the hit he allowed, lowered his season ERA to 3.36 even as his won-lost record fell to 2-3. Over his past six starts, Billingsley has a 1.91 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings against 42 baserunners.

Dodger starting pitchers have now thrown 22 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run (not counting the two rained-out frames by Jon Garland on Thursday) and have a 0.64 ERA over the past four starts.

The Dodger offense consisted of a walk and four hits – two by James Loney, including his first extra-base hit in 34 games since April 6, a leadoff eighth-inning double. What happened next – a sacrifice by Rod Barajas and a pinch-hitting appearance by Dioner Navarro in place of Jerry Sands (Navarro struck out) – I’ll just say I would have done things differently than Don Mattingly did. ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Tony Jackson said it “might have been Mattingly’s worst-managed inning since he took over.”

But let’s face it – it’s not like the Dodgers didn’t have plenty of other opportunities to get something going against Josh Collmenter, who was making his first major-league start and allowed two hits and no walks over six innings and 71 pitches. At one point, Billingsley and Collmenter combined to retire 21 batters in a row, and there were no hits by either team in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

In the ninth, Carroll singled and with one out, Andre Ethier walked (giving him 37 straight games reaching base), but Matt Kemp hit into a game-ending double play. “Arizona’s relievers have been charged with just one earned run over 33 innings during the team’s first 11 games this month,” said AP, a contrast from last season’s giveaway bullpen.

The Dodgers’ three-game winning streak ended with them missing their chance to reach 20-20 this season.

May 14

Unearned run provides margin for 4-3 Dodger victory

Mark J. Terrill/APMatt Kemp executes “The Crane” to topple Kenley Jansen at the All-Valley Karate Tournament.

It says something about Clayton Kershaw that he allowed back-to-back doubles leading off the first inning and loaded the bases in the third inning and still ended up pitching shutout ball. And by the end of his seven-inning outing, when he struck out 11 and retired his last 14 batters, he had gone from backpedaling to dominating.

It was the second-straight seven-inning shutout by a Dodger starter. Meanwhile, Los Angeles scored four runs, one unearned, and that was just enough to withstand the latest bullpen meltdown for a 4-3 victory.

Matt Guerrier allowed a run in the eighth inning, and Vicente Padilla allowed two in a 32-pitch ninth before Kenley Jansen came in and struck out Melvin Mora for the final out – the 15th strikeout of the game for the Dodgers.

By holding on, the Dodgers had their second three-game winning streak of the season and moved within 2 1/2 games of first place in the National League West despite an 19-20 record.

* * *

As if we hadn’t gotten enough scary medical news lately, Zach Lee entered the picture. From Jim Peltz and Kevin Baxter of the Times:

… Lee, the Dodgers’ first-round pick in last June’s draft, was sent to the team’s minor league complex near Phoenix for an MRI test on the right-hander’s pitching elbow.

Lee complained of tightness in the elbow after his last start May 5, when he went a season-long six innings, giving up one run on five hits. But he lacked his usual sharpness, striking out just one, a career low.

DeJon Watson, the Dodgers’ assistant general manager for player development, characterized the test as a standard procedure for young pitchers. He said the test showed no damage and that Lee, 19, would return to Great Lakes of the single-A Midwest League, though Watson said he did not expect Lee to pitch for 10 to 15 days.

“There’s nothing wrong,” Watson said. “We just want to make sure he’s 100%.”

Some happier tidings: Shawn Tolleson, who struck out 33 of the 56 batters he faced at Single-A Great Lakes while allowing only 12 baserunners and a 0.00 ERA in 15 innings, has been promoted to Rancho Cucamonga. (Thanks to Dodger Thoughts commenter Mike–Tink for the link.) In addition, Rancho Cucamonga reliever Steven Ames (60 batters, 28 strikeouts, 12 baserunners, 1.17 ERA) has moved up to Double-A Chattanooga.

* * *

Gathering dust: Scott Elbert has not pitched since May 9 and has thrown only one inning since May 6.

* * *

Today’s game has an unusual 4:10 p.m. start. The shadows could be timely for the pitchers …

May 11

With Kuo headed for disabled list, Kuroda’s shutout pitching lifts Dodgers


Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireHong-Chih Kuo has struck out eight of the 27 batters he has faced this season, while allowing 12 baserunners.

As far as the result of tonight’s game goes – a 2-0 shutout of Pittsburgh – as long as Hiroki Kuroda is pitching shutout ball for seven innings, not even giving in when he wild-pitched the tying runs into scoring position in bottom of the sixth, the Dodgers will do just fine.  Now if Kuroda had committed the unforgivable sin of allowing two runs in his seven innings, it might have been another story …

But the bigger news of the day wasn’t the Dodgers’ doubling their win streak to two, or Andre Ethier extending his on-base streak to 35 games, or Jerry Sands’ RBI double following an intentional walk to Rod Barajas and his sub-.300 on-base percentage.

It was Hong-Chih Kuo being placed on the disabled list for the second time this season and sixth time in his career, for a period that is expected to be significantly longer than the 15-day minimum. From Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

… The official reason for the move was anxiety disorder, something that wasn’t revealed by the club until 20 minutes before Wednesday night’s game with the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park, well after media access to the clubhouse and manager Don Mattingly was customarily cut off until postgame.

In announcing the move to the media earlier, Mattingly was conspicuously vague in describing what is wrong with Kuo.

“There isn’t much of the story I can really share with you today,” Mattingly said. “We’re just kind of waiting at this point for approval from Major League Baseball on the verbiage … that we want to basically talk about.” …

… Through Monday, Kuo had pitched three times in four days. For the season, he has an uncharacteristic 11.57 ERA in nine appearances and an even more uncharacteristic six walks in 4 2/3 innings, albeit with eight strikeouts. Kuo said Tuesday that he felt fine physically and that he wasn’t sure why he had been struggling so much with his command, and Mattingly said Tuesday that Kuo continued to tell team officials he felt fine physically.“When you’re talking about Kuo, he is basically always hurting,” Mattingly said Wednesday. “It’s just at what level. His elbow is always hurting. It never goes away, really. It’s just how much he can deal with. It is always there. … When I say he doesn’t complain, it means that in talking with [trainer] Stan [Conte], when he says he is good to go, that means he can deal with it. His ‘I’m OK to go’ is different than being 100 percent.

“But he isn’t good to go [now].”

Mattingly offered a definitive “no,” when asked if Kuo was retiring, but he was noncommittal on whether Kuo might pitch again anytime soon. …

Kuo’s career has always been living on a thin line, and my appreciation for how much he has contributed to the team knows few bounds. I’m betting we haven’t seen the last of him, but there’s just no telling when we’ll see him on the mound again.

Called up to replace Kuo is a man whose career hit a mighty big speed bump of its own last year, Scott Elbert. Elbert has got his strikeouts going, and will do as well as his control allows. Here’s more from Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:

… In 14 1/3 innings, Elbert has issued nine walks with 16 strikeouts. Seven of his eight earned runs allowed have come in two appearances.

He said his problems generally occurred when he was asked to pitch a second inning of relief.

“Mentally, I was prepared for one inning, which was my fault,” he said. “I should be prepared for anything.”

Elbert has had six previous Major League callups, but he said this one is different.

“I feel more relaxed,” he said. “It’s something that comes with maturity and nature, if that’s what it means to be special,” he said. “I’m not a new face to them. I’m not working to try to do too much. Let them hit it and put it in play. I’ve grown up a little bit. A lot of it is seeing my two kids and having patience with them.

“I just have to be myself and not worry what anybody else things about me. It’s part of growing up.” …

The Dodgers still might be forced to make another bullpen promotion, if Blake Hawksworth can’t make a quick recovery from his groin injury (an MRI, reports Jackson, showed nothing serious).

May 10

Dodgers squirrel away 10-3 victory but may lose Hawksworth


The blind squirrel that is the Dodger offense found an acorn tonight – 10 of them, in fact, in a 10-3 pasting of the Pirates.

Los Angeles didn’t go nuts until the sixth inning, when singles by Jamey Carroll (3 for 4 with a walk, 10 for his past 17), Aaron Miles (3 for 5, 8 for 19) and Andre Ethier (34 games in a row on base) broke a scoreless tie before Matt Kemp’s three-run homer, his team-high seventh of the year.

Ted Lilly (six innings, five baserunners, four strikeouts) gave back two runs in the bottom of the sixth, but the Dodgers added one in the seventh and five in the eighth, including bases-loaded walks to Jerry Sands and Matt Guerrier. Every starting Dodger position player reached base twice in the game except Juan Uribe (1 for 4), as the Dodgers hit double-digits in runs for the second time this season.

Lance Cormier, entering the game once the Dodgers took an eight-run lead, mopped up with reasonable janitorial effectiveness, allowing a solo home run and a double in two innings.

Oh, did I neglect to mention the latest injury? Blake Hawksworth lasted three batters before leaving with a strained right groin. He’ll have an MRI in the morning, and though he hopes to avoid it, a trip to the disabled list seems likely, rather than the Dodger bullpen operating one man short. Squirrels can be so frustrating.

May 09

Here a crack, there a crack, everywhere the roof cracks


Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesJuan Uribe rages against the dying of the light.

You’ll find good accounts of the Dodgers’ 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh tonight elsewhere, including Tony Jackson at ESPNLosAngeles.com and Mike Petriello at Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness. They speak to what appears to be an unmistakable truth.

So much has to go right for the Dodgers to win a single game, and so much went wrong.

Maybe they can afford to have a big call go against them.

Maybe they can afford to have Chad Billingsley walk the leadoff batter in the eighth inning, even after he’s pitched seven innings of one-run ball.

Maybe they can afford to fly into a double play, maybe even two.

Maybe they can afford Hong-Chih Kuo giving up searing doubles to left-handed batters.

Maybe they can afford to go 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position.

But they sure can’t afford to have all of those things happen.

May 09

Kershaw leaves us breathless …


Kathy Willens/APHold on to your hats!

If you didn’t see Sunday’s 4-2 Dodger victory over the Mets, you missed Clayton Kershaw’s lump-in-your-throat slide into second base on a passed ball by Ronny Paulino in the third inning. He roared into the bag like a kid hitting the bottom of the slide at Raging Waters.

The play ended up being pivotal toward the Dodgers’ first run, but the best part about it was that Kershaw got up.

Kershaw was a bit of a wild ride on the mound as well, walking two of the first three men he faced and delivering only one perfect inning out of seven, but he was effective at keeping the Mets from converting their opportunities. He ended up allowing one run on six hits and three walks over 6 2/3 innings while striking out eight, lowering his season ERA to 3.12. For the game, New York went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position.

May 07

Ethier’s streak ends at 30 as late-inning tie turns into Dodger loss


Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesAndre Ethier reacts after the third of his four outs tonight in New York.

On September 3, 1969, the Dodgers and Mets were tied heading into the ninth inning with a Dodger outfielder hitless in his bid to extend his hitting streak to 31 games.

It looked like the same thing might happen tonight … but the Dodgers and Andre Ethier came up short.

New York broke a tie with two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, and Ethier watched Los Angeles go quietly in the ninth after going 0 for 4 with a walk, and so the only streak of note extended this night was the Dodgers’ losing streak to four with a 4-2 defeat.

Ethier, who struck out against lefty reliever Tim Byrdak in his final at-bat with a runner on first in the eighth inning, needed eight batters to come up in the ninth inning once the Mets broke the 2-2 tie.

After pitching a shutout seventh inning, Dodger reliever Mike MacDougal walked leadoff batter Jason Bay in the bottom of the eighth and was replaced by Hong-Chih Kuo. Ike Davis popped out, but then Kuo threw everything into chaos by throwing away a sacrifice bunt by Jason Pridie, leaving the game with two runners on and one out. (Aaron Miles backed up Kuo’s throw to prevent further damage at the time.) The third reliever of the inning, Matt Guerrier, walked Ronny Paulino to load the bases.

Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesMatt Kemp comes up short in on Justin Turner’s fly in the bottom of the eighth.

On a 1-0 pitch, pinch-hitter Justin Turner hit a deep fly to center that was catchable but certain to score one run. As it happened, the ball went off Kemp’s glove as he went back on the ball, giving the Mets a two-run cushion. Jose Reyes lined into a double play, but the damage to Ethier’s hopes had been done.

There were four extra-inning games in Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, but according to a September 1975 issue of Baseball Digest, he didn’t need extra innings to extend his streak. He had two hits in two of those four games. Like DiMaggio, Pete Rose played in extra innings during his 44-game hitting streak but did not need overtime to keep streak going.

Ethier got five chances tonight because the Dodgers were so adept at putting runners on base – but unfortunately, weren’t so skilled at driving them home.

The Dodgers left the bases loaded in the first, second and seventh innings. They were 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position Friday, and you know, that happens. But it’s unfortunate to follow it by going 1 for 13 the next night. The Dodgers stranded 14 runners in tonight’s game.

Ethier walked after swinging at the first two pitches of emergency starter Dillon Gee in the first inning, flied out with the bases loaded to end the second inning, flied out leading off the fifth and grounded out against left-handed reliever Mike O’Connor to end the sixth.

Reyes’ RBI single capped a two-run second inning off Jon Garland (six innings, 10 baserunners, three strikeouts). After the first pitch to the next batter, David Murphy, on TV you could see Dioner Navarro quickly nod in first baseman James Loney’s direction.  Following the next pitch, Navarro nonchalantly tossed the ball to Loney, picking off Reyes, who didn’t see it coming until it was far too late.

Two innings later, Navarro popped a home run down the right-field line to give the Dodgers their first tally, and in the sixth, Miles followed Jamey Carroll’s single and Garland’s sacrifice with an RBI single to tie the game.

That’s the way it stayed for a couple more innings, at a time when it looked like Ethier might have all night to tie the 3-Dog. It was not to be, but my goodness, congratulations to Ethier for making it that far.

But now, what will distract us from how poorly things are going for the Dodgers?

May 06

Ethier rushes to 30, but Dodgers tackled in end zone


Frank Franklin II/APJerry Sands can’t reach Jose Reyes’ second triple, leaving Matt Kemp to retrieve.

The number 30 will always belong to Lawrence McCutcheon as far as I’m concerned, but tonight it will be shared with Andre Ethier, who extended his hitting streak with his very first swing tonight against the Mets.

Frank Franklin II/APHiroki Kuroda reacts to David Pridie’s home run.

If only we could stop there … but instead, there’s the matter of Hiroki Kuroda thrice being unable to hold a one-run lead, ultimately giving up a three-run homer to Jason Pridie in the bottom of the sixth inning of the Dodgers’ 6-3 defeat.

From the start, it was a high-wire act for Kuroda, who gave up a leadoff triple to Jose Reyes. Kuroda, known as a groundball pitcher, had only two groundouts in the first three innings, while surrendering the triple and then a sacrifice fly in the first inning and a home run by Ike Davis in the second inning. He settled down mid-start and looked like he might cruise, surviving Reyes’ second triple of the night beyond a diving Jerry Sands and taking a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the sixth.

Then the Mets suddenly lowered the boom: one-out double by Carlos Beltran, two-out intentional walk to Davis and 27-year-old rookie Pridie’s shot to right.

After a double by Josh Thole, the Mets’ sixth extra-base hit, Kuroda was lifted. New York tacked on an insurance run off Blake Hawksworth in the seventh inning, while the Dodgers didn’t get a runner past second base for the remainder of the game.

Ethier notched three hits for the fifth time this season – but the Dodgers are 2-3 in those games. Rod Barajas homered and singled, but struck out to end the Dodgers’ last good threat, a two-on, two-out situation in the seventh inning.

The Dodgers fall to 15-18, fourth place in the National League West, with San Diego two games back and leading 2-0 in the third inning against Arizona.

* * *

Ethier became the 45th player in major-league history to record a single-season hitting streak of at least 30 games and can tie Willie Davis’ Dodger hitting streak record Saturday. Ethier talked to Tony Jackson’s of ESPNLosAngeles.com about his sore elbow … and was more diplomatic than I would have been in response to critical comments from former Dodger coach Larry Bowa.

… “An inflamed elbow, if that’s what it is, I’m one of those guys that you’ve got to play through that, especially if you play in the outfield,” Bowa said on SiriusXM Radio Thursday. “If you were an infielder, you’d have to throw with that arm, and that’s another thing. But how many plays does an outfielder get? To me, unless it was really, really bad, I’m going to play him.”

Ethier had started every game this season until being scratched from the lineup about a half-hour before game time after taking a few swings in the indoor batting cage. He was available to pinch hit, but was never called upon to do so. After the game, Ethier said the problem bothered him more throwing than hitting.

Bowa, who added that he was “shocked” Ethier wasn’t in the lineup, said Ethier should have played not because of the hitting streak but because the Dodgers are struggling and he is one of the hottest and most dangerous hitters. He said he was hurting the team by sitting.

“That is his job, to put stuff out on that show that he’s on,” Ethier said of Bowa’s comments. “I’m not big on commenting on other people’s comments. … I have buddies at home saying the same stuff. I got text messages the other day saying, ‘What’s going on, why aren’t you playing,’ guys giving me a hard time.”

May 04

Wounded Dodgers suffer latest loss, 5-1

Reed Saxon/APDioner Navarro tries to settle staring pitcher Ted Lilly in the sixth.

A grim morning of injuries bled into a grim afternoon for the Dodgers today.

Ted Lilly matched zeroes with Carlos Zambrano for four innings, before homers by Geovany Soto in the fifth and Carlos Pena and Marlon Byrd (with two on) in the sixth sent Lilly and the Dodgers to a 5-1 defeat.

To add to the Dodgers’ woes, in the fourth inning, Juan Uribe was hit by a pitch for the fourth time this season, then later apparently spiked in the same spot on his left hand. He left the game in the sixth inning. If he misses any more time, it will be the third injury to sideline him in this still-young season, and the Dodgers would once again be down to one starting infielder.

For good news, we’ll turn to Hong-Chih Kuo, who walked the first batter he faced in relief of Lilly on four pitches but then retired the next three, two on strikeouts. Mike MacDougal and Vicente Padilla also pitched shutout relief innings as the Dodgers awaited word on Jonathan Broxton’s MRI.

The Dodger offense was limited to a sixth-inning leadoff double by Tony Gwynn Jr., a single by Aaron Miles (2 for 4) and a sacrifice fly by Jay Gibbons. James Loney (2 for 4) and Dioner Navarro were the only other Dodgers with hits, and Gwynn had the only walk off Zambrano, who threw 107 pitches over eight innings and struck out four.

Matt Kemp went hitless, as did Russ Mitchell, who started the game at third base and finished it in right field. There was never really a situation where Don Mattingly had to think about inserting Andre Ethier and his 29-game hitting streak as a pinch-hitter.

May 03

Sure Broxton isn’t injured? Reliever looks all wrong in Dodger loss


Gus Ruelas/APJonathan Broxton leaves the game after walking two of three batters.
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesChad Billingsley allowed only one run in seven innings, all for naught.

Jonathan Broxton has given Dodger fans a lot of heartache this year, but tonight he looked as sickly as he ever has in my memory.

Broxton entered tonight’s game in the ninth inning of a 1-1 tie. After retiring Aramis Ramirez on two fouls and a popout, Broxton walked the next two batters on eight pitches, and few of them were close to the strike zone. According to MLB Gameday, the pitches were all fastballs, one reaching 93 miles per hour and the average at 91. That’s just not the Broxton of 12 months ago, and I’m not convinced it’s even the Broxton of 12 weeks ago.

People have been strangely fascinated with Broxton’s facial expressions and posture, but here’s a suggestion: Someone needs to look at his arm. Even if they’ve looked at it before, look at it again.

After the first walk, Blake Hawksworth began warming up in the bullpen, and after the second, Don Mattingly came to the mound. He talked to Broxton and the other assembled Dodgers, clearly stalling for time as Hawksworth raced to get ready, before finally telling home-plate umpire CB Bucknor to call for a rare mid-inning hook of the Dodger reliever.

Though I’ve always suspected Broxton’s been off physically since his serious struggles began in late June, this was possibly the first time I watched him and said to myself, “There’s a guy that’s headed straight for the disabled list.” Of course, what I observe from my seat far from the pitcher’s mound has no real relevance, but I just offer it as an impression.

It is, I will say, a little peculiar to me that it doesn’t occur to the people who are calling for Broxton’s head and questioning his mental makeup that Broxton is possibly pitching hurt, and maybe has been for some time. If he has been concealing an injury, I sure hope he comes clean. (Update: From KABC 790 AM via True Blue L.A.: “After the game, Don Mattingly told reporters that Broxton was still his closer, but didn’t sound convincing. “When guys tell you they’re fine, you believe that. The inconsistency in velocity concerns me. You don’t know if you’re getting the whole story. We need to figure this thing out.”)

Hawksworth looked like he would bail the Dodgers out after he got Alfonso Soriano on a can of corn to Matt Kemp, but the next batter, Geovany Soto, drove one to right-center that split Kemp and Andre Ethier for a double, driving in two runs. Blake DeWitt followed with his second pinch-hit single in two nights, capping the Cubs’ 4-1 victory over Los Angeles.

On the bright side, Ethier got the business of taking his 28-game hitting streak to 29 out of the way in the fourth inning with a single over leaping second baseman Darwin Barney, tying Ethier with Zack Wheat’s 1916 skein for the second-longest in Dodger history. For anyone complaining about Ethier getting a couple cheap hits this week, he got robbed of one by a diving Barney in the eighth inning.

Two innings later, after a single by Jamey Carroll, a sacrifice by Jerry Sands and a groundout by Ethier, Kemp gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead with a single to center – the only run the Dodgers got against Ryan Dempster, who entered the game having allowed 33 earned runs in 31 innings this season.

Another struggling Cub, Carlos Pena (.171 slugging percentage), got well with one out in the top of the seventh. Pena tied the game with a high fly over the short fence down the right-field line for his first homer of the season, this coming off Chad Billingsley, who only allowed three other hits and two walks all night while striking out eight. And that took us to the ninth.

Elsewhere …

  • Emo Juan Uribe is an instant Hall-of-Fame website. (Thanks, Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.)
  • Marcus Thames is likely to be out at least four weeks, Don Mattingly told reporters today.
  • No combo of two players has ever contributed a higher percentage of a team’s offense than Ethier and Kemp, writes Jonah Keri for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Francisco Liriano walked six but threw the first no-hitter for the Twins since ex-Dodger Eric Milton in 1999. By the score of 1-0, he beat former Dodger Edwin Jackson, who threw an even wilder no-hitter in 2010.
  • As David Schoenfield of ESPN.com’s Sweet Spot notes, this was the first two-strikeout no-hitter since the Dodgers’ Jerry Reuss in 1980.
  • From KABC 790 AM’s Joe Block on Twitter: “How rare is a 30-game hitting streak? There have been 43 since 1900. Liriano’s no-hitter was the 228th in MLB since 1900.”
  • How do major-league cities rank if you go strictly by the value of sitcoms that were set there? Grant Bisbee of McCovey Chronicles answers the question at SB Nation. Fun list – now quibble away!
  • The soon-to-be Pacific 12 Conference on Wednesday will officially announce a 12-year TV deal with Fox and ESPN networks that is going to bring in approximately $3 billion to member schools over a 12-year period. You can get a hand on some of the details in my Variety story.
  • Alex Belth’s Bronx Banter has a cool new redesign, co-produced by Baseball Toaster’s Ken Arneson.
May 02

Halftime: Ethier hits 28 as Kershaw, Dodgers dump Cubs


Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesAndre Ethier’s 28th straight game with a hit was barely within reach.

Streak of inches.

Two games in a row now, Andre Ethier has extended his hitting streak with a single off an infielder’s glove: San Diego Padres first baseman Brad Hawpe on Sunday, and Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro on Monday night in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 5-2 victory over Chicago. Both plays were correctly called hits because each would have required an expert play to get Ethier, but that doesn’t mean that Ethier isn’t a little bit lucky that the expert plays didn’t come.

As a result, Ethier is three games from tying Willie Davis for the Dodger record, 16 games from Pete Rose’s post-1900 National League record of 44 and halfway to the hallowed ground of Joe DiMaggio’s 56. It’s crazy to think that Ethier can repeat what he’s done to reach DiMaggio, but moments like those two infield hits certainly keep the dream alive.

Vin Scully and Prime Ticket noted in Monday night’s broadcast that of the 42 hits Ethier has had during his streak, eight have been infield hits and four of those have kept the streak going. Considering Ethier’s no speedster, that’s quite a stat.

As for the game, it was a bit of an unusual night for Clayton Kershaw in that he didn’t have a strikeout until the fifth inning. But after allowing three two-out hits for a run in the first inning, Kershaw (who walked none) breezed until giving up Alfonso Soriano’s 11th homer of the year to lead off the seventh.

One out later, Kershaw put Don Mattingly in what has recently become a familiar position. Ex-Dodgers Reed Johnson and Blake DeWitt singled, bringing the tying run to the plate. In Kershaw’s past three starts, Mattingly has tried to coax him to the end of an inning, only to see Kershaw give up multiple runs. Finally reversing the trend, Kershaw retired Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney to get out of the jam.

In fact, the Cubs didn’t muster another baserunner again, with relievers Vicente Padilla and Jonathan Broxton finishing out the game on 19 pitches combined. The beleaguered bullpen really slammed the door this time.

As for the offense, Dodger rookies played a big role. After Matt Kemp singled, stole second and scored on Juan Uribe’s double to tie the game in the second inning at 1, Ivan De Jesus Jr. got his first major league RBI by singling home Uribe with two out. In the fifth, Jerry Sands, who just missed his first big league homer in the first inning, stroked a nice two-out, two-run double — the sixth double of his young career — to right-center to give the Dodgers a 4-1 lead. Sands took third on an error and scored on Ethier’s hit.

Sands started at first base in place of James Loney, whom Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports isn’t going to be platooned but is being asked to stop hitting fly balls to left field.

In other news:

  • The Dodgers are offering members and veterans of the military and their families free tickets to Dodger Stadium for the month of May. Details:
  • All members of the joint services with a valid military ID, including active, reserve and retired veterans as well as their dependents, may take advantage of this offer by showing their military ID at any Dodger Stadium ticket booth day of game. Each military ID will be good for two complimentary tickets, based on availability.

  • The Long Beach Press-Telegram has eliminated its sports department, outsourcing sports to the Daily Breeze, according to the Long Beach Post (via L.A. Observed). Frank Burlison, Bob Keisser and Doug Krikorian are among those whose jobs are up in the air.
May 01

Ethier hits 27, but Padres shut out Dodgers

Hong-Chih Kuo is back, but he isn’t back. Four of the five batters he faced in the ninth inning today reached base, and all of them scored thanks in part to a sacrifice fly and double off Mike McDougal in the Dodgers’ 7-0 crumble to the Padres.

Andre Ethier extended his hitting streak to 27 games with a seventh-inning infield single, but that was just about where the offensive highlights ended for the Dodgers, who fell to 14-15. The Dodgers are 4 1/2 games behind first-place Colorado in the National League West and 2 1/2 ahead of last-place San Diego.

Juan Uribe had a nice defensive game at third base, but his double-play grounder after a one-out walk to Ethier and single by Matt Kemp (2 for 4) in the fourth inning ended the Dodgers’ best offensive threat while the game was still in doubt. With two out in the ninth, the Dodgers finally got a runner to third base for the first time in the game thanks to singles by Aaron Miles and Kemp, but Uribe blooped out to right to end it.

The Padres scored their seven runs despite going 26 consecutive batters without a hit from the second inning, after they scored three runs off Dodger starter Jon Garland, into the ninth. Garland went six innings, allowing three hits and four walks while striking out eight.

Identical twins: Ethier and Kemp have each reached base 56 times in 125 plate appearances (.448 OBP) this season.

Apr 30

Streaking, diving Ethier can’t save Dodgers from 5-2 defeat


Harry How/Getty ImagesMatt Kemp couldn’t believe he was called out at first base in the sixth inning.

Andre Ethier extended his hitting streak to 26 games tonight, but it was a rare defensive show on his part that almost saved the Dodgers from what eventually became a 5-2 loss to San Diego.

With the Dodgers leading 1-0 in the top of the fifth inning, Ethier made a diving catch in right field with the bases loaded and one out. He then got to his feet and fired home, just in time to get Cameron Maybin (who had thought Ethier wouldn’t catch the ball and had to go back to third base to tag up). But Dodger catcher Rod Barajas couldn’t hold onto the throw, and Maybin scored.

Mark J. Terrill/APDioner Navarro couldn’t convince the ball to stay in his glove to get Chase Headley.

The Dodgers later came back from a 2-1 deficit to tie on Tony Gwynn Jr.’s pinch-hit RBI single in the bottom of the seventh, but more misfortune near the plate in the top of the eighth helped the Padres put across three runs. With the bases loaded and two out, Matt Guerrier bounced a curveball that backup catcher Dioner Navarro tried but failed to backhand, allowing the go-ahead run to score. Soon after, an error by Navarro on a throw home by Jerry Sands enabled the Padres fifth run to score.

Say what you will about Jonathan Broxton, but the Dodger relief pitching continues to be shaky almost entirely across the board. After Vicente Padilla walked two batters and barely escaped Friday’s eighth inning, Guerrier had his second-straight Saturday eighth-inning loss, allowing the three runs on three hits (interspersed with two intentional walks).

Of course, the Dodger offense didn’t offer much, outside of Ethier, who went 2 for 4 to finish April with 40 hits, tying a Dodger record with Rafael Furcal (2008) and Mike Piazza (1996). Matt Kemp had one hit and was robbed of a second on a questionable call at first.

Outside of the fifth inning, Hiroki Kuroda was just about in seventh heaven, allowing seven baserunners in seven innings with seven strikeouts.

Before we go, this from the Dodgers:

Tomorrow morning Dodger players will sign autographs in exchange for a $5.00 suggested donation to help raise funds and awareness for the Southern United States tornado relief efforts. The signing will take place at Viva Los Dodgers between 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m. in Lot 6. The club will hosting another signing on Tuesday at Autograph Alley and will also be accepting donations or school supplies at donation booths during the upcoming series against Chicago. Those expected to participate in the signing sessions tomorrow include Manager Don Mattingly and Pitching Coach Rick Honeycutt and players Clayton Kershaw, Jonathan Broxton, Chad Billingsley, Matt Guerrier, Lance Cormier, Marcus Thames, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Rod Barajas.