Sep 09

Revisiting 1979

Rock bottom Turning point Up top All together
1979 Dodgers 36-57 (.387) July 19 43-26 (.623) 79-83, third place, 11 1/2 GB
2011 Dodgers 37-51 (.420) July 7 33-21 (.611) 70-72, third place, 12 GB (through Thursday)

After the 1979 season, the Dodgers rallied in 1980 to force a tie for the National League West title after 162 games. Proposal: We take the 163rd game away from 1980, which really did the Dodgers little good, and stick it at the end of the 2011 schedule, which is missing a game and where it will do much less harm.

Sep 04

Kershaw adds ERA title to targets

Amid all of Clayton Kershaw’s accomplishments this season, one feat has been seemingly out of reach – an ERA title.

As recently as a week ago, Kershaw trailed Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto by about half a run, 2.51 to 2.05. Today, however, Kershaw takes the mound trailing Cueto by only 0.16, 2.45 to 2.29.

Since Independence Day, Kershaw has an ERA of 1.18 with 74 strikeouts in 76 innings and an opponents’ OPS of .533.

* * *

  • The Dodgers, who have needed nine reliever innings in the past two days, added Ramon Troncoso to their roster for today’s game. More help will be on the way after the Albuquerque season ends Monday. Reinforcements from Chattanooga, if any, will take longer because the Lookouts are headed to the Southern League playoffs, running through at least September 10.
  • In the New York Times on Friday, Richard Sandomir wrote about how much the Dodgers are being billed by their bankruptcy lawyers.
  • Thanks to Ernest Reyes of Blue Heaven for the link to Vin Scully’s 1963 description of “What Is a Dodger?” Suitable for a bedtime story …

    There’s more – all on the album “Jackie Barnett Presents The Sound of the Dodgers” – from noted stage and singing stars Stubby Kaye, Jimmy Durante, Maury Wills and Willie Davis. And to wrap things up, one more piece from Vin: “The Story of the Dodgers.” Note his pronunciation of “Chavez.”

Aug 31

Ethier first in 10 years to get team’s first two hits in one inning

According to ESPN Sports and Information, the last player before Andre Ethier on Tuesday to get the first two hits for a team in a single inning was Derek Jeter of the Yankees against Tampa Bay in the eighth inning, August 8, 2001. Two Jeter singles sandwiched five walks, a hit batter and two outs.

Before that, believe it or not, it last happened in a Padres-Dodgers game, with Greg Vaughn doing it against Los Angeles in the sixth inning on September 12, 1998. And I guarantee you’re going to shake your head at the pitchers involved.

With a 7-3 lead, Dave Mlicki gave up a leadoff single to Vaughn and forced him home with three walks. Sean Maloney (14 career games) relieved and hit one batter and walked the next to make it a one-run game. The next reliever was the storied Jeff Kubenka (12 career games), who gave up a game-tying sacrifice fly to Quilvio Veras and then got a second flyball out from Steve Finley.

Kubenka then walked Mark Sweeney to load the bases again. The next batteer was Vaughn, who singled in the go-ahead run before Matt Luke (who had five RBI) threw out Chris Gomez at the plate to end the inning. San Diego won by that 8-7 score.

Jul 29

Broxton and Navarro and what a difference six years does (and doesn’t) make


Jeff Lewis/US PresswireJonathan Broxton and Dioner Navarro in 2005.

Six years ago tonight, on a Friday, the Dodgers began a weekend series against the St. Louis Cardinals with a 46-56 record, then as they are now 10 games under .500. That day, the team made two transactions.

Purchased the contract of RHP Jonathan Broxton from Double-A Jacksonville and designated RHP Scott Erickson for assignment; Recalled C Dioner Navarro from Triple-A Las Vegas and optioned C Mike Rose to Triple-A Las Vegas.

Jonathan Broxton and Dioner Navarro. Today, those two names bring up mixed emotions, to say the least.

But six years ago, making their Dodger debuts, they heralded a new era of promise for a downtrodden team: Broxton, the first of a heralded group of Dodger minor leaguers to reach the bigs; Navarro, a 21-year-old catching prodigy acquired in trade.

From Dodger Thoughts, July 29, 2005:

… The 5-foot-10, 189-pound Navarro, still only 21, has battled some physical issues this season – according to Nick Christensen of the Las Vegas Sun, Navarro was 2 for 18 since being activated from the disabled list July 18 – but has played 75 games overall for AAA Las Vegas, with an on-base percentage of .366 and a slugging percentage of .390. Offensively, he is lacking power for now – but down the road, some may catch up with him. Though his professional high in home runs is only eight, he did hit 31 doubles in 2003 at age 19, split between A and AA ball. Navarro’s biggest strength is his strike zone command – 38 walks against 24 strikeouts. Defensively, he is obviously more promising than Jason Phillips, but we’ll see if the Dodger pitchers still need to hold runners on better.

Broxton, four months younger than Navarro but six inches taller and around 50-100 pounds heavier, has been a stud ever since he became a second-round pick for the Dodgers in 2002. Averaging more than a strikeout per inning with a career ERA of 3.14 entering this season – primarly as a starter – Broxton has recently been used out of the bullpen for AA Jacksonville in anticipation of the Dodgers needing his help. In 28 games (15 in relief), Broxton has a 3.36 ERA and in 91 innings, has allowed 77 hits (just four home runs) and 29 walks while striking out 99. As a reliever, he has struck out 28 in 19 innings and has been clocked at 100 miles per hour, according to Baseball America, which also published a quote from an American League scout praising both Broxton’s fastball and “power curve.”

Broxton becomes the third home-grown player on the Dodgers 25-man roster, joining Jason Repko and Steve Schmoll (assuming neither is sent down). …

Yes, you could say the youth movement was just getting underway.

In the game, Navarro started for the Dodgers, batting for the first time an inning after left fielder Ricky Ledee hit a three-run home run, and reached first on an infield single. He later struck out, grounded out and walked.

Broxton, also 21, replaced Brad Penny in the top of the sixth inning with the Dodgers leading, 5-4, and had mixed results. He gave up singles to David Eckstein and Abraham Nunez, then reared back and struck out Albert Pujols, who had homered the inning before. Broxton wild-pitched the runners to second and third base, prompting an intentional walk to Jim Edmonds. With the bases loaded and one out, John Rodriguez hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game, before Broxton struck out Mark Grudzielanek to end the inning.

Because the tying run scored, Broxton was charged with a blown save in a game that gave him no chance of actually recording a save. It was these kinds of no-upside blown saves that would skew his save percentage for years and help others make the case that he was unfit to close. Despite this, Broxton did become one of the top relief pitchers in the National League – just as one of many pieces of evidence, only six relievers in the majors had a lower OPS allowed than Broxton from 2006-09, and two of those are going to the Hall of Fame – but we’re well past that debate now, with him unlikely to pitch much more than a few more innings as a Dodger, and others like Javy Guerra and Kenley Jansen stepping forward.

Navarro would be supplanted much sooner, replaced in May 2006 by Russell Martin after a combination of sluggish defense and injury. Navarro came back to Los Angeles this season after a long absence, fraught with professional and personal struggles, but it’s now a celebration when his batting average breaks .200.

Somehow, both players are surprisingly close over the hill at age 27, even perilously close to the end of their careers if they don’t reverse fortune. It fits right in with a Dodger team that has tumbled off a cliff in 2011. We’ve come full circle and gotten dizzy in the process.

The next generation of Dodgers beckons – the generation that will try to revive this team. But it’s impossible to fathom how it will play out. Broxton, Navarro, Martin, James Loney, Andre Ethier, Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp, Andy LaRoche, on and on and on – so many ups and downs.  I can’t tell if I feel that six years is long or short.

And then there’s this: That same morning, in the July 29, 2005 issue of Variety, Dave McNary published the following story about the Dodgers, in their second year of ownership under Frank and Jamie McCourt:

… Frank McCourt, the Boston-born Dodgers owner … strolls around the stadium as though he was the mayor of a small New England town. He’s not the landlord, he’s a host, eager to welcome people to his party.

Under the O’Malleys, many Angelenos felt the Dodgers represented “downtown.” McCourt has broader ambitions. … He wants Westsiders as much as Echo Park locals, and he believes the best way to get both of them is to make sure Hollywood feels welcome.

A year after buying the team in early 2004, McCourt added 300 seats to the Dugout Club and expanded the restaurant. McCourt and his wife, Jaime, attend most home games, where they escort club guests to a martini bar, as well as stands that offer prime rib, fajitas, salads and, of course hot dogs, all free of charge to box holders and other guests.

A seat in the club runs an all-inclusive $400 (booze is extra), but one of McCourt’s biggest reasons for undertaking $20 million in upgrades was to attract people who may never pay at all.

McCourt wants to see the same sort of wall-to-wall celeb lineup who attends Lakers games. He’s well on the way. On a recent evening, when the Dodgers suffered a blowout loss to the San Francisco Giants, club attendees included celebs Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Lovitz, Robert Wuhl and Alyssa Milano; sports agents Scott Boras and Dennis Gilbert; former players Dave Winfield and Bill Buckner; and Dodgers icon Tommy Lasorda.

Other regulars include Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Tom Hanks, Pat Sajak, Penny Marshall, Mary Hart, Wayne Gretzky and Peter Chernin.

The McCourts’ four sons also are conspicuous, with most of the credit for bringing Hollywood into the Dodgers’ fold going to Drew McCourt, the low-key marketing director who decided to work for his dad after getting an astrophysics degree from Columbia U. The 23-year-old has been charged with glad-handing Hollywood studios, agencies, top-tier producers and music industry execs, luring them into premium seats by promising that most elusive commodity, exclusivity.

Still, in wooing Hollywood, the McCourts have a tough job. As one of the few sports facilities built in the 1960s that has aged with some grace, even minor changes to Dodger Stadium provoke anxiety among devoted fans — many of whom would never consider paying $400 for a seat.

“We’ve got an asset that’s very unique within the baseball world,” says Drew McCourt, who grew up going to Red Sox games at Fenway Park. “But we don’t take it for granted that Hollywood’s going to show up. We have to make this area attractive enough so the team’s performance doesn’t really matter whether people show up.”

Six years. Six positively head-spinning years.

Jul 26

Obscure but memorable No. 5 hitters for the Dodgers

Three weeks ago, in honor of Aaron Miles, we talked about “obscure but memorable No. 3 hitters for the Dodgers.”

Today, once again in honor of Aaron Miles, let’s look back at the Dodgers’ most unusual No. 5 hitters since their last World Series title.

Here’s the all-time Los Angeles Dodger batting order by frequency, dating back to 1958:

1) Maury Wills (1,276)
2) Bill Russell (679)
3) Willie Davis (1,250)
4) Steve Garvey (819)
5) Ron Cey (576)
6) Mike Scioscia (437)
7) Mike Scioscia (510)
8) Bill Russell (668)
9) Don Sutton (522)

* * *

From the Dodger press notes and the Elias Sports Bureau:

Most strikeouts per nine innings in one month, minimum 15 games
9.70 Cubs (August 2002)
9.53 Cubs (September 2006)
9.36 Dodgers (July 2011)
9.30 Astros (August 1998)
9.29 Cubs (May 2001)

Jul 08

Wandering Dodgers

If Chad Billingsley isn’t traded before his contract extension kicks into gear in 2013, he will have bucked a trend.

No homegrown Dodger has stayed in Los Angeles after becoming eligible for free agency since Darren Dreifort (1994-2004) and Eric Karros (1991-2002). Before them, you’d have to go back to the members of the 1988 World Series team, such as Orel Hershiser. Everyone else that came up from the farm since that time was either traded or left to roam the streets of MLB to find their riches elsewhere.

Jul 06

Latest loss leaves one longing for 2009


Two years ago tonight, the Dodgers were 52-30, seven games better than any other team in the National League, three games better than any team in the majors.

Manny Ramirez, nowadays the subject of much ridicule (renewed by his recent appearance in the Dodgers’ bankruptcy filing), had just come off the suspended list – and, contrary to what people might have expected or might remember, was about to begin a massive hot streak. Over the next two weeks, Ramirez would go 15 for 41 with seven extra-base hits and six walks, for a .458 on-base percentage and .707 slugging percentage.

On July 21, Ramirez was hit by a pitch on the left hand. That injury forced him to the bench the following night, the night the Dodgers were giving away Manny Ramirez bobbleheads.  He came on to pinch-hit in the bottom of the sixth inning with the bases loaded and … Bobbleslam.

The Dodgers were 61-34.

The contrast between then and now is so sharp. The idea of a losing Dodger team is no longer alien, the fact that the team’s losing streak grew to five games with tonight’s 5-3 loss to the Mets is no surprise. These Dodgers are 37-51, all but reversing the performance of their 2009 counterparts. Then – Manny’s curtain call. Now – scrub’s scrub Eugenio Velez tagged out, not even halfway to first base, on a grounder to end the game.

Every single game this week, a Dodger starting pitcher has pitched well heading into the sixth inning, before faltering without rescue. Every single game, you might have cynically felt the inevitability of defeat, yet if you’re anything like me, not quite believed that the result could be so predetermined every single time. In fact, after Hiroki Kuroda let a 1-1 tie become a 4-1 deficit in the top of the sixth, the Dodgers came back to score two runs in the bottom of the inning. They had scored three runs, their highest total since Friday.  And there were still three innings to go.

But we are a long, long way from 2009.

Chris Pizzello/APJoe Torre waits as Manny Ramirez, with an OPS of 1.129 at the time, has his hand examined after being hit by a pitch on July 21, 2009.

The 1988 season has been our touchstone, and will continue to be for some time, maybe for our entire lifetimes. But it’s clear to me that 2009 is an underappreciated season. The offense was solid at every position, with the weakest link being Russell Martin, who still managed a .352 on-base percentage at catcher. Juan Pierre split the Dodger community in two, but even if you thought he was overrated as the team’s spiritual MVP, he was useful and sometimes heroic. Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp were blossoming. James Loney was still promising. Casey Blake was one of the better third basemen in the NL. Rafael Furcal managed to stay healthy for 150 games. Cycle-hitter Orlando Hudson sparkled until he was overtaken by the red-hot Ronnie Belliard. Other than handwringing over Ramirez’s suspension, there was little more to gripe over than Kemp batting eighth nearly a couple dozen times.

The starting rotation wasn’t spectacular, but it was capable, with 21-year-old Clayton Kershaw posting a 2.79 ERA and Jon Garland and Vicente Padilla providing late season assistance after Chad Billingsley hit a rough spot. Jonathan Broxton, Ramon Troncoso and Ronald Belisario, none older than 26, led a dominant bullpen that went into overdrive when midseason pickup George Sherrill allowed only two earned runs in 27 2/3 innings.

It is Broxton, of course, who is considered the poison in this tale. He began the 2009 playoffs with five consecutive games of doing his job. In the sixth, Game 4 of the 2009 NLCS, he brought on infamy. And it’s understandable that fans today might be even more bitter toward the reliever, who spoiled a great team’s chance to even up the NLCS at 2-2 and catapult toward that long-awaited World Series title.

Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesJuan Uribe and Eugenio Velez, two of your 2011 Dodgers, look for some cheer before the game.

But whether you credit Broxton, who in the regular season had 36 saves in 42 opportunities and 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings, for helping the Dodgers get in position to win a championship, or whether you hold him accountable for the failure to achieve the dream, it’s remarkable to think of where the Dodgers and their fans were two years ago. Out of our minds with elation at the rebounding hero Ramirez. Somersaulting over the Game 2 NLDS bottom-of-the-ninth comeback win over St. Louis. On seats’ edge as Broxton threw that 1-1 pitch to Jimmy Rollins, one out away from the latest, biggest victory.

I am someone who asks what might have been. There isn’t a year that goes by that I don’t question decisions I made a decade or two ago. I’ve made mistakes as bad as the fastball Broxton threw to Rollins and wondered “what if?” But I can’t look back at 2009 now without instinctively feeling good about it, recalling so many wonderful times. And thinking that even with its short-circuited ending, how gladly would I take it back. And thinking how far away it seems.

Jul 05

Obscure but memorable No. 3 hitters for the Dodgers

In honor of Aaron Miles batting third for Los Angeles tonight, here’s a link to all those who have started No. 3 in the batting order for the Dodgers since the end of the 1988 World Series.

The list includes Bill Bean (career OPS .574), who went 3 for 4 on October 1, 1989. That’s the time of year you’d expect to find someone of Bean’s ilk batting third in the lineup.

Then there’s Orel Hershiser, who officially started at third base on September 15, 1993 so that Dave Hansen could bat for him in the first inning in pursuit of a pinch-hitting record. Pedro Martinez did the same thing five days later.

There’s Mike Kinkade, Mark Sweeney, Delwyn Young, Tom Goodwin (!), Antonio Perez. … Oscar Robles hit third 11 times for Jim Tracy’s 2005 Dodgers.

Aw, sweet memories.

Jul 05

Gordon gets his stolen-base trifecta

From the Dodgers’ press notes:

Following a lengthy debate, official scorer Ed Munson has changed a seventh-inning fielder’s choice from last Friday night’s game in Anaheim to a stolen base for Dee Gordon. The scoring change gives Gordon nine steals on the season and makes him the first Dodger since Harvey Hendrick on June 12, 1928 to steal second, third and home in the same inning. The last Major Leaguer to accomplish the feat was Jayson Werth, who did so on May 12, 2009 vs. the Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park.

Did Bob Timmermann’s tweet play a role?

Jul 01

The first commercial Dodgers broadcast, 70 years ago today

Cynthia Littleton of Variety and Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News have pieces on today’s 70th anniversary of what’s said to be the debut of commercial television – with both noting that a Dodgers-Phillies (Brooklyn loses, 6-4) game was part of the original programming. The Dodgers also played in the first televised baseball game, in 1939.

… Television sets had been available in Gotham department stores such as Macy’s since the 1939 World’s Fair broadcast got early adopters excited about the potential of television. But most of the sets in use in 1941 were set up to receive 441 lines of picture while the FCC had set the commercial telecasting standard at 525. That made for some muddy visuals early on.

Variety was unimpressed by the overall presentation, the hucksterism and production value.

“It was all pretty corney,” Daily Variety reported on July 2, 1941. “Especially a crowd of announcers and radio hangerson eating chocolate layer cake made with Spry and yumyumming. Practically all the sets in the New York area were picking up 525 line images on old sets adjusted to 441 lines. This cut down definition, but it was not engineering definition that was hard to bear. It was the low grade showmanship.”

WNBT and WCBW broadcast about 15 hours a week in those first few months. But the flagship stations for the Peacock (NBC) and the Eye (CBS) didn’t get much time to refine their product before the U.S. entry into WWII put the kibosh on virtually all commercial telecasts. The technology and resources that David Sarnoff and William Paley were plowing into TV were immediately diverted to the war effort.

The growth of TV would be stymied for the better part of the 1940s, until a manic vaudevillian named Milton Berle hit it big with “Texaco Star Theater” in 1948 and TV sets starting flying off the shelves.

* * *

  • Ken Arneson, retired Baseball Toaster chieftain, has a guest piece on Baseball Prospectus today. As I always say, ‘nuf said.
  • Here’s a new baseball cartoon blog: Gary Finkler’s 7th Inning Sketch, complete with requisite Frank McCourt image.
  • The Collected Sins of the Frank & Jamie McCourt era, by Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness. Unenjoy!
Jun 05

Where’s Kempo

Where Matt Kemp ranks among National Leaguers, according to Baseball-Reference.com:

1. – offensive wins above replacement (2.9)
1. – power-speed number (14.5)
1t – RBI (46)
1t – total bases (125)
2. – games played (59)
2. – home runs (15)
2. – slugging percentage (.576)
3. – runs created (49)
3. – win probability added (2.6)
4. – at-bats per home run (14.5)
4t – adjusted OPS (170)
4t – intentional walks (6)
4t – times on base (98)
4t – wins above replacement (2.9)
5. – offensive win percentage (.759)
5. – OPS (.971)
5t – stolen bases (14)
6t – strikeouts (55)
7t – hits (69)
8. – on-base percentage (.395)
8t – extra-base hits (26)
9. – batting average (.318)

Kemp is fifth in the NL in total average (.341), according to Baseball Prospectus. Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness has more on what Kemp could achieve this year.

* * *

  • Fasten your seat belts. Here are the scheduled pitching matchups for the upcoming Philadelphia series:

    Monday – Ted Lilly vs. Cliff Lee
    Tuesday – Rubby De La Rosa vs. Roy Oswalt
    Wednesday – Hiroki Kuroda vs. Cole Hamels

    The Phillies have lost four straight games, two each to Washington and Pittsburgh.

  • Via Baseball Think Factory comes this March 1957 Sports Illustrated piece that is said to be the first mention of “Chavez Ravine” in the magazine. It acknowledges that Walter O’Malley’s primary desire was to stay in Brooklyn, but here’s my favorite line: “It was even suggested that with the coming of the jet age, when the Atlantic and Pacific coasts will be only three or four hours apart, New Yorkers could get to a Dodger game in Chavez Ravine in less time than it now takes to reach Ebbets Field.”

    Conclusion: “The next chapter in the serial will now have to be written by the City of New York some time before next October. Should they fail to get busy, O’Malley and his Dodgers will almost surely head west like so many other overcrowded, ill-housed Easterners. In that event, major league baseball will be a coast-to-coast reality no later than 1960.”

  • Orel Hershiser has joined Steve Garvey’s group that’s interested in purchasing the Dodgers, reports Jill Painter of the Daily News. It’s still not clear what kind of financing the Garvey-Hershiser group would have, because initial reports linking it to billionaire Ron Burkle have been disputed.
  • Red-hot Dodger minor-league reliever Shawn Tolleson (0.63 ERA, 52 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings this year) and Dodger ace Clayton Kershaw were groomsmen at each other’s weddings this offseason, notes Inside the Dodgers, which passes on a link to an upcoming Dodgers Magazine feature on the pair.
  • Dennys Reyes, who made his major-league debut with the Dodgers in 1997, is one of 21 players to steal a base in his first game and then never do so again in his career, according to Baseball-Reference.com. Reyes has by far the most appearances of anyone on the list. On July 13, 1997, Reyes walked, went to second on a single, stole third and scored on an error. He pitched six innings that game and got the win, one of 10 in his career as a starting pitcher.
  • Oakland has designated former Dodger Andy LaRoche (.654 OPS) for assignment.
  • Not a Dodger note, but I thought it was cool: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Jose Reyes is only the second player since 1926 to have 10 triples by June 4. Willie Wilson in 1985 was the other.
Jun 04

Majestic Bison and the Bisonettes rescue Dodgers, 11-8


Al Behrman/APFly away, ball. Fly away.

Al Behrman/APClayton Kershaw struck out nine of the first 15 batters he faced, but then the game got crazy.

Clayton Kershaw worked the Reds over for the first five innings today like Ali worked the ring. The fifth inning in particular was just athletic poetry, Kershaw striking out the side, and I was in thrall.

Leading 1-0, Kershaw had faced the minimum number of batters in taking a one-hitter heading into the sixth inning, and then things just went haywire. Ramon Hernandez singled, and two outs later, Drew Stubbs walked. Brandon Phillips then fisted a 1-1 pitch to right field, just over the head of second baseman Aaron Miles, a them’s-the-breaks hit to tie the game.

And then Joey Votto blasted a three-run home run.

And before he was out of the game in the seventh, Kershaw had given up six runs, and Mike MacDougal had allowed another, and I was bereft.

So of course, you know what happened next. No, not that. No, not that either. No, keep going down the list.

First, Matt Kemp went bananas. Bananas, I say! A solo homer and a grand slam in back-to-back innings to tie the game at 7.

The slam followed an out-of-the-blue rally started with one out in the top of the eighth on a pinch-hit single by Tony Gwynn, Jr., his first hit to the outfield in a full month. Jamey Carroll and Aaron Miles followed with singles to make the score 7-3, and then Andre Ethier (who threw a runner out at home minutes before) drew a walk off Reds lefty reliever Bill Bray. The Bison came up, and on a 1-0 pitch from Logan Ondrusek, who had allowed two homers in 32 innings this season, sent one over the left-center-field fence to tie the game.

The home runs, Kemp’s 14th and 15th of the season, gave him more home runs than steals for the first time this year and put him on a pace for 41 homers and 38 steals this season. According to the Dodgers, he is the team’s first player to hit 15 homers in his first 59 games since Shawn Green in 2001. Green finished that season with a club-record 49.

That put the Dodgers in position for quite an event. According to Fox, the Dodgers’ last win after trailing by 5+ in the eighth inning was May 9, 1994, and Los Angeles has won only three such games since 1958. (Of course, Reds manager Dusty Baker has seen a five-run lead disappear painfully in the past.)

But there was still the matter of pushing across the winning run. Scott Elbert held off the Reds with a 1-2-3 eighth, and Matt Guerrier pitched a shutout ninth. Javy Guerra retired Scott Rolen and Jay Bruce with two on to survive the 10th.

Finally, in the 11th, the Dodgers busted through with Scrub-ball, scoring two runs on singles by … Juan Castro … Gwynn … Carroll (4 for 5) … and Miles (3 for 5, 3 RBI). Reds pitcher Carlos Fisher, the losing pitcher in Cincinnati’s 19-inning epic against the Phillies on May 25, then threw away an Ethier double-play grounder, opening the door for the Dodgers to score two more runs, Kemp getting his sixth RBI of the game on a fielder’s choice.

In only 27 of their previous 58 games had the Dodgers scored more runs than they scored in today’s 11th inning.

Guerra, who last pitched two innings May 4 in Chattanooga, was left to start the bottom of the 11th despite his hard-working 23 pitches in the 10th. (He actually walked in his first major-league plate appearance.) He gave up a leadoff single to Ryan Hanigan and one out later was replaced by Ramon Troncoso. A groundout by Paul Janish drove in a run charged to Guerra (his first since May 22), but the Dodgers were one out away.

Then, Chris Heisey singled. Then, Stubbs singled. That meant that the Reds would in fact get the tying run to the plate in Phillips, with Votto on deck and Rolen in the hole.

Strike. Ball. Strike. Ball.

Just as he did to drive in the first run against Kershaw hours before, Phillips went to right field. It looked very much like a potential hit off his bat. But this one went a little deeper, and Ethier was able to come in and catch it.

Dodgers 11, Reds 8. Wow, and whew.

Jun 02

Off-day links

The next edition of Dodger Cogs and Dogs will be June 16. In the meantime …

  • MLB’s Dodger hall monitor, Tom Schieffer, was interviewed by Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

    … “I don’t think there is any question there is a strain between the franchise and the community right now,” Schieffer said. “And that isn’t the community’s fault.” …

    “Have you been approached by anyone in support of Frank?” I asked.

    Schieffer laughed, then gave me the answer I fully expected.

    “I’m not going to go there,” he said. …

  • Steve Henson of Yahoo! Sports has a wonderful personal remembrance of Sparky Anderson.
  • The saga of Vin Scully’s covered-up star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, first uncovered (the story, not the star) by Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy, has only gotten crazier, writes Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News.
  • Chris Jaffe of the Hardball Times writes about the 50th anniversary of what he calls “baseball’s most surreal bottom of the ninth,” and (insert Vin Scully’s voice here) it had to be the Giants and the Dodgers.
  • Brandon Lennox of True Blue L.A. has capsules on seemingly every 2011 MLB draft-eligible player who is related to a past or present Dodger. You’ll love looking at the names.
May 24

May bitter blues

May has historically been a good month for the Dodgers since they moved to Los Angeles. So it might come as no surprise that the 2011 Dodgers are on pace for their West Coast worst.

They’ll need to go 4-3 over their final seven games this month just to avoid matching Los Angeles’ worst May ever.

Worst Mays in Los Angeles Dodger history
.333 7-14, 2011 (seven games remaining)
.393 11-17, 1958
.393 11-17, 2005
.393 11-17, 1995*
.423 11-15, 1984
.423 11-15, 1987
.433 13-17, 1998
.452 14-17, 1959*
* reached postseason

Tony Jackson has more on the woebegone Dodgers at ESPNLosAngeles.com.