May 23

Dodgers play smashball but lose, 6-2

It wasn’t for lack of hitting the ball hard. Three times the Dodgers smashed Whac-a-mole shots at Tigers starting pitcher Rick Porcello, and all they got for their trouble was an infield single and three outs.

So even though the Dodgers always seemed on the verge of rallying to overcome the three runs Hiroki Kuroda allowed in the first inning Sunday, eventually things all fell apart in a 6-2 loss to Detroit.

For the third consecutive day, a different Dodger starting pitcher held the Tigers scoreless after the first inning. But unfortunately for Kuroda (six innings, six hits, one walk, five strikeouts), the Dodger offense did not have much luck on its side.

  • With Russell Martin on second base in the bottom of the first inning, Porcello snared Matt Kemp’s liner and turned it into a double play.
  • With runners on first and second base in the bottom of the fourth inning, Porcello flagged James Loney’s hot shot and turned it into an out that helped him exit the inning without allowing a run.
  • There was another shot off Porcello that went for an infield hit, and the Dodgers scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth on Xavier Paul’s single to left. But with two on and two out, Kemp rocketed one to center – deep, but not deep enough.

After that, virtually nothing went the Dodgers way. Manny Ramirez grounded out as a pinch-hitter with the bases loaded in the sixth, and Magglio Ordonez homered off Ronald Belisario in the eighth to give Detroit an insurance run. The Dodgers got their 10th hit and third walk in the bottom of the eighth inning, but pinch-hitter Ronnie Belliard hit into the team’s third double play. The Tigers added two more runs in the ninth, and Martin made it four double plays to end the game.

Martin, Paul, Garret Anderson, Blake DeWitt and Jamey Carroll each reached base twice, but it just wasn’t the Dodgers’ day.

May 23

Remembering Jose Lima: Time ticks away so fast


Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers
Jose Lima received an ovation from Dodger Stadium fans at Friday’s game.

One of the things I’ll remember most about Jose Lima is his unspoken farewell to the Dodgers.

That shutout he pitched against St. Louis in the 2004 playoffs, that unbelievable, electric night, was also the last game Lima pitched for the Dodgers. Lima had come to the Dodgers with a contract of one year and expectations of about zero. The year before, he had pitched 73 1/3 innings for Kansas City with a 4.91 ERA and all of 32 strikeouts. The year before that, with Detroit, Lima’s ERA was 7.77.

Lima only found his way onto the Dodger roster the way fringe players often do, thanks in part to the misfortune of others. If Paul Shuey hadn’t ruptured a tendon in his thumb at the end of March 2004, Dodger fans might never have heard of “Lima Time.”

It was almost as much of a miracle that Lima stayed on the roster. His ERA on May 9, after nine appearances, was 7.91.  Whatever people feel today about Ramon Ortiz (who is only six months younger than Lima), that’s about what they felt about Lima six years ago this month.

But then Lima began having those “Lima Time” moments. He didn’t allow an earned run for a month, including 5 2/3 innings of shutout ball in relief against the Cubs and eight innings of in a start against Arizona. And although bad outings would crop up here and there, he became something of an unlikely hero. His personality – which alienated some of us when he pitched for other teams – became something you couldn’t get enough of.  You just looked forward to seeing him on the mound, even if the results were unpredictable.

All this led to the pinnacle of his time in a Dodger uniform, that October night against the Cardinals, the crowd mad with delight, Lima genuflecting after the final out.

The Dodger offseason began about 24 hours later, after the team lost the third of four playoff games to St. Louis. Not surprisingly, the popular feeling in town was that the Dodgers had to bring Lima back – how could they not?  But if you looked closely at the situation, you sadly realized that it was almost inevitable that Lima would not return. Based on the rules that existed at the time, the Dodgers were actually operating at a disadvantage compared with the other 29 teams in baseball in that they had to offer him salary arbitration or forfeit the right to negotiate with him on the open market. Essentially, the system at the time required the Dodgers pay Lima more than any other team had to. And given that Lima’s performance was so fluky, it just didn’t make sense for them to do so.

Lima signed a $2.5 million contract with Kansas City at Christmas, and the following year, his ERA soared to 6.99. After four more appearances with the Mets in 2006, Lima was out of the majors for good, at age 33.

It’s heartbreaking that a man with so much life left this world, just as he left the majors, so quickly. And it’s heartbreaking that it happened just as Los Angeles was about to spend more time with him – Lima, according to the Dodgers, had just become a member of the Dodger Alumni Association and was preparing make community appearances as well as open a youth baseball academy this summer in Los Angeles.

Our time to enjoy Jose Lima, from the start, was fleeting. Fundamentally so. There were few better to remind us to appreciate the moment while we can. For me, Jose Lima will always be one of the most important Dodgers in that respect – an infinite reminder of the finite, a beacon for savoring the precious.

* * *

Others remembrances of Lima:

May 23

Jose Lima dies of heart attack at 37


Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Jose Lima at the start of a memorable night: October 9, 2004.

Shocking news: Former Dodger Jose Lima has passed away from a heart attack at the age of 37, according to his wife. The news was first reported by ESPNdeportes.com (link via Bob Timmermann).

Lima was a 1999 All-Star with Houston and enjoyed one of his most magical seasons with the 2004 Dodgers, for whom he had a 4.07 ERA and delivered a shutout in the National League Division Series, the Dodgers’ first playoff win in 16 years. His “Lima Time” enthusiasm for the game won’t be forgotten.

From Dodger Thoughts, October 9, 2004: “Prima Lima – He’s a Dreama”

May 22

Can John Ely keep it going?


Jeff Gross/ALLSPORT
Luke Prokopec is fifth all time in major-league innings pitched by an Australian native.

Nine years ago, at the age of 23, Luke Prokopec began the 2001 season with the following three starts:

Date IP H R ER BB SO ERA
4/6 7.67 4 1 1 0 7 1.17
4/21 6.00 6 2 2 0 5 3.00
4/27 7.00 6 3 3 0 5 3.86
Total 20.67 16 6 6 0 17 2.61

Prokopec was a sight for sore eyes in a starting rotation that at the start of 2001, except for Kevin Brown, was a mixed bag, with Eric Gagne and Darren Dreifort each posting April ERAs of around 5.00.

However, Prokopec, who walked the leadoff batter in start No. 4 after having faced 78 batters in a row without a free pass, didn’t last the year in the rotation, finishing the season with a 4.61 ERA in 22 starts. That December, newly installed Dodger general manager Dan Evans made the rather prescient decision to trade Prokopec and minor leaguer Chad Ricketts to Toronto for Cesar Izturis and Paul Quantrill.

This trade was personally memorable for me because it was the first time I had ever recognized that it might be a good idea to trade a pitcher who had promise but didn’t have great strikeout totals – Prokopec was at 5.9 per nine innings. If I recall correctly, there were those who felt the Dodgers should have traded Gagne, who was 25 with a 4.75 ERA.

As it turned out, the following season was miserable for Prokopec, who had a 6.78 ERA and battled serious arm trouble. He made his last major-league appearance August 23 of that year.

So yeah, I went there. I’m telling the cautionary tale, that just because a young pitcher rips off three starts without walking anyone and looks like he can make the baseball do his bidding, doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed a bright future.

Having gotten that out of the way, let me just say that I couldn’t be more excited about John Ely’s next start, coming today in the Dodger Stadium shadows before a Fox audience. I hope in a matter of hours, the whole nation is catching Elymania.

* * *

Rafael Furcal had a good day in an extended Spring Training game today, Joe Torre told reporters, and is on track to be activated Sunday or Tuesday.

Torre added that Andre Ethier has begun hitting off a tee and is progressing.

The Dodgers don’t need to start their fifth starter again until Saturday, but might do so Friday to give Hiroki Kuroda an extra day off. Monday’s off day is the Dodgers’ last before a stretch of 17 games in a row heading into June 10.

May 22

Manny Ramirez: Still never a dull moment


Lori Shepler/AP
The Manny Ramirez ballet

Sore-toed Manny Ramirez trod gingerly in the outfield Friday, allowing two fly balls to fall for half of the four hits Chad Billingsley allowed. And he hasn’t homered in his past 56 plate appearances, since his game-winning pinch-hit shot against San Francisco on April 18. Since coming off the disabled list, he’s on-basing .419 but slugging .324.

But he still hits the ball real hard, as John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press writes:

Brandon Inge said it was the hardest ball ever to hit him at third base.

“And Larry Bowa (the Dodgers third-base coach) told me that it in his 40-plus years of professional baseball, he’d never seen a ball hit that hard to third base,” Inge said. …

This moment, perhaps as much as any stat or rave that Ramirez has been able to garner, advertised his abilities at the plate.

The ball caromed behind Inge at an angle past deep shortstop and into short centerfield. It might have gone farther after it hit Inge than before it hit him.

You know how Don Kelly has started at both third base and centerfield for the Tigers this season? Ramirez singled to third base and centerfield on the same play.

After the game, Inge pointed to the baseball-sized red welt on his right shin. It was his souvenir of the play. …

* * *

  • Houston Astros ace Roy Oswalt has requested a trade. I’m not expecting the Dodgers to be in on it, but Eric Stephen explores how they could theoretically afford him at True Blue L.A.
  • When I listen to classical music, it’s basically either pretty or not pretty. I’m wondering what it would be like to actually be this analytical about it, and whether I’d agree or disagree with the review.
  • Tweet o’ the Night, from @reflectnsofblue:
  • “After 9 1/2 years with my lady, I’m finally(!) getting married tomorrow. Now I know how AJ Ellis felt tonight.”

May 21

Dodgers face a Detroit medley


Christine Cotter/AP
Miguel Cabrera is slugging at a career-best .603 rate.

It’s always a test when the Dodgers face an American League team. That won’t change tonight, though it’s an uneven Detroit Tigers team the Dodgers will face.

Five members of the Detroit offense are hitting the ball very hard. Miguel Cabrera (1.030 OPS/175 OPS+) is moidering the ball, while Brennan Boesch (.987/161), Magglio Ordonez (.878/137), Johnny Damon (.840/127), and Austin Jackson (.825/122) are no slouches. Carlos Guillen (.834/125) is on the disabled list.

The Tiger offense is weak at catcher (Gerald Laird/Alex Avila), third base (Brandon Inge), shortstop (Adam Everett/Ramon Santiago) and second base (starter Scott Sizemore was demoted to the minors last weekend). Because its outfielder/first base/DH types don’t play those other positions, it looks as though the Tigers are stuck with four great bats and four lesser ones when they take the field tonight.

Rain on Monday pushed Tigers ace Justin Verlander’s most recent start ahead a day and his next one to next week, meaning the Dodgers will avoid him. Verlander has been the only above-average pitcher in the Tiger starting rotation this season. Tonight, the Dodgers get the enigmatic Dontrelle Willis (4.68 ERA), who pitched six shutout innings against Minnesota April 29 but has allowed seven runs in his past 8 2/3 innings (over two starts).

Detroit has won seven of its past 10, while the Dodgers have won 10 of their past 11.

* * *

  • Introducing Jamie Enterprises (via 6-4-2). I have to apologize but I had a laugh when I got to the part in her bio about her being “an avid swimmer.” Indeed.
  • At Dodger Divorce, Josh Fisher outlines the concern that I had before the McCourts bought the Dodgers. “Anyone Else” is not always the better option.
  • The “In Beard We Trust” T-shirts from The Left Field Pavilion are becoming a phenomenon.
  • The Dodgers released Josh Towers from Albuquerque and moved Seth Etherton into the Isotopes starting rotation, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Trying to make a comeback into the big leagues, Towers had an 8.05 ERA.
  • Blue Heaven passes along the news that Dotttie Kamenshek, the inspiration for Geena Davis’ character in “A League of Their Own,” passed away this week.

Update: Joe Sheehan writes for SI.com on how interleague play affects the National League West: “The Dodgers’ interleague schedule is brutal. As always they play the Angels twice, plus they see the Red Sox, Yankees and Tigers. Only the last-place Diamondbacks also get the Red Sox and Yankees. The Padres and Giants get both the Jays and Orioles, while playing just one of the top three AL East teams each. That’s a huge schedule edge, especially for the Padres, who get six games against the Mariners to boot.”

May 20

Unsung Jamey Carroll boosts Kershaw, Dodgers: 4-1


Mark J. Terrill/AP
Casey Blake and Jamey Carroll congratulate each other after Carroll’s sacrifice fly in the second inning tonight.

Just two seasons ago, Rafael Furcal went down with an injury, and the Dodgers were saddled with Angel Berroa as their primary shortstop – which wasn’t very pretty.

However, with Furcal out for more than half of the 2010 season to date, the Dodgers have been much more fortunate. Jamey Carroll, whose signing I’ve questioned, has at least for now more than shown his value.  The 36-year-old Carroll had two more hits and two RBI in tonight’s 4-1 Dodger victory, raising his season on-base percentage to .391.  He has only three extra-base hits in 115 plate appearances, so he’s hardly an unqualified success. But still, his consistent OBP has given the Dodgers a threat at the bottom of the order, and that combined with his steady if rangeless defense has given Dodger fans one less thing to fret over in this down-and-up season.

Carroll, amusingly, also had his career-high fourth sacrifice fly tonight – not long ago, I made a point in the Dodger Thoughts comments about how rare it was for him to hit sacrifice flies, and since then he’s gone on a sac fly tear, with all four in the past 16 days.

In fact, three of the four Dodger runs in support of Clayton Kershaw came in without the benefit of a hit: scoring fly balls by Carroll and Anderson, and a wild pitch by Kevin Correia. Kershaw had his usual first-inning walk but delivered his sixth quality start of his past seven, going 7 1/3 innings and allowing seven hits and two walks while striking out seven. Kershaw has pitched at least seven innings in three straight games for the first time in his career, and lowered his season ERA to 3.23.

With two out in the top of the ninth, Jonathan Broxton faced nemesis Matt Stairs with a chance to close out the game. Broxton sent him fishin’ on four pitches, and the Dodgers won their 10th game in their past 11 to move back within a game of first place, leapfrogging San Francisco in the process.

May 19

Nine in a row …

Under the gun this morning, so my quick recap is this: Dodgers doing well at minimizing damage while maximizing opportunities in each game. The streak is at nine in a row, three teams are within a game of first place in the National League West, and Ramon Ortiz will test the Dodgers’ good fortune tonight.

Link of the morning: “A Game of Failure,” by Brian Akin of Dear (Tommy) John Letters.

May 17

Dodgers try to get by on reserve power


Ed Wolfstein/Icon SMI
Ronnie Belliard has an .872 OPS in 12 starts this season. The Dodgers are 5-7 when he is in the starting lineup.

Until further notice — hopefully days but possibly weeks — the Dodgers will be playing without two starting position players, Andre Ethier and Rafael Furcal. It’s the second time this season this has happened: Furcal and Manny Ramirez were both on the sidelines from April 27 through May 7.

Those injuries, combined with scheduled rest for older players and the semi-platooning of Blake DeWitt, have meant there have been 11 games this year in which the Dodgers have started at least three reserves. The Dodgers are 4-7 in those games, averaging 3.5 runs per game.

Los Angeles is 16-10 when it has at least six regulars starting.

Oddly, in games with four or more reserves starting, the Dodgers are 2-2, but in games with three reserves starting, the Dodgers are 2-5.

  • Dodgers 10, Pirates 2 (April 8): Brad Ausmus (C), Ronnie Belliard (3B), Reed Johnson (LF), Garret Anderson (RF)
  • Marlins 6, Dodgers 5 (April 11): A.J. Ellis (C), Ronnie Belliard (3B), Garret Anderson (LF), Reed Johnson (RF)
  • Giants 9, Dodgers 0 (April 17): A.J. Ellis (C), Ronnie Belliard (3B), Jamey Carroll (SS), Garret Anderson (LF)
  • Dodgers 2, Giants 1 (April 18): Ronnie Belliard (1B), Jamey Carroll (2B), Reed Johnson (LF)
  • Nationals 5, Dodgers 1 (April 23): A.J. Ellis (C), Ronnie Belliard (3B), Garret Anderson (LF)
  • Nationals 1, Dodgers 0 (April 25): Ronnie Belliard (2B), Garret Anderson (LF), Reed Johnson (RF)
  • Mets 10, Dodgers 5 (April 27, Game 2): A.J. Ellis (C), Ronnie Belliard (3B), Jamey Carroll (SS), Reed Johnson (LF)
  • Mets 7, Dodgers 3 (April 28): Ronnie Belliard (2B), Jamey Carroll (SS), Xavier Paul (LF)
  • Dodgers 9, Pirates 3 (May 2): Ronnie Belliard (3B), Jamey Carroll (SS), Xavier Paul (LF)
  • Brewers 11, Dodgers 3 (May 5): Ronnie Belliard (2B), Jamey Carroll (SS), Reed Johnson (LF)
  • Dodgers 1, Padres 0 (May 16): Nick Green (2B), Ronnie Belliard (3B), Jamey Carroll (SS), Garret Anderson (LF), Reed Johnson (RF)

Sunday’s 1-0 victory over San Diego was the first time since in nearly three weeks that Joe Torre rested more than one healthy player in the same game. The Dodgers are 3-4 when they rest more than one healthy player (again, keeping in mind that some of these decisions involve a platoon situation).

May 14

The San Diego Padres: Juggernaut or jugger-not?


Andy Hayt/Getty Images
Jon Garland and the Padres are out to prove they’re the real deal.

And moving now to the Nobody Knows Anything portion of the show, let us turn to the San Diego Padres.

A popular pick to finish last in everything in 2010 but trade deadline rumors, San Diego is a National League-best 22-12, with a 3 1/2-game lead over San Francisco and five games ahead than the Dodgers. And that’s even with their best-known player (their only known player?), Adrian Gonzalez, having what’s for him a subpar season. Gonzalez’s .836 OPS this season (.319 EQA per Baseball Prospectus) barely puts him ahead of his Los Angeles counterpart James Loney’s .826 (.306).

But Gonzalez is so far a footnote to the Padres’ Cinderfella story, which has been written by their incredible pitching.  Petco Park provides a boost to almost any hurler, but that doesn’t entirely account for a San Diego team ERA that currently sits at 2.67. The home ERA is 2.13, but the road ERA is still a pretty nifty 3.16. And all this in the Padres’ first full season without Jake Peavy in years.

Jon Garland, who has gotten the most attention in these parts because of his erstwhile Dodger status, brings a 1.71 ERA to tonight’s start against the Dodgers despite having nearly as many walks (21) as strikeouts (25) in 42 innings over seven starts.  Garland exemplifies the uncertainty that surrounds the Padres – can he stay this good? Signs, including a seemingly luck-filled batting average allowed on balls in play of .225, point to no. On the other hand, early indications (underscore “early”) are that the Padres have one of the best team defenses in baseball, according to Fangraphs. So if that holds up, that could help sustain pitchers like Garland.

Meanwhile, the Padre pitching success hardly stops with Garland; there’s also 29-year-old Kevin Correia (3.97), 26-year-old Clayton Richard (3.21), 25-year-old Wade LeBlanc (1.61!) and 22-year-old Mat Latos (3.32). Latos came within an infield single of a perfect game Thursday as San Diego completed its road sweep of San Francisco – and in his past two starts, Latos has faced 54 batters and retired 51, giving up three singles and walking none. According to Stat of the Day, he is just the fifth pitcher since 1952 to have consecutive starts of no more than two hits allowed with no walks.

Thursday’s 1-0 victory was the Padres’ eighth shutout of the year. In their past 13 games, San Diego has held its opponent below three runs 10 times. As for the bullpen, opponents have a .580 OPS against it in 434 plate appearances. With few exceptions, the Padre offense certainly hasn’t been anything impressive (again, even accounting for park effects). So far, that hasn’t mattered.

In a sense, the Padres are like one big bowl of John Ely – dazzling at the outset but still leaving open questions about whether they can sustain it for the long haul. Most feel the Padres are a fluke, but for now it’s been left up to the Dodgers to begin to prove that. The high-powered Dodger offense and suspect pitching (at least in tonight’s starting relief pitcher, Ramon Ortiz), playing in a park that hasn’t always been kind to Los Angeles even in the best of years, have much more of a challenge this weekend than anyone would have thought a month ago.

* * *

  • The Times’ version of Casey Blake/Blake DeWitt – Kevin Baxter and Baxter Holmes – feature Dodger pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and Angel pitching coach Mike Butcher in answering the question, “What does a pitching coach do?”
  • Elymania? Michael Becker of the Press-Enterprise has a fun profile of May flower John Ely. And yes, Andre Ethier has now heard of him.
  • Hot-hitting Great Lakes prospect Jerry Sands is analyzed by Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone.
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Wright are in early talks to join Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in “Moneyball,” reports Tatiana Siegel of Variety.
  • Watch what can be done with a whimsical photo of Washington outfielder Nyjer Morgan (at Lookout Landing). I can’t tell you how many different times I laughed.
May 12

Diamondbacks walk but can’t hide: Ramirez blast lifts Dodgers, 6-3


Ross D. Franklin/AP
Manny Ramirez follows through, literally and figuratively.

A year ago, Andre Ethier was being told he couldn’t hit at all unless Manny Ramirez was batting behind him.

Tonight, the Arizona Diamondbacks told Ethier that they were so scared of how well he can hit, they’d rather face Ramirez.

It was an awe-wow moment that punctuated the Dodgers’ 6-3 victory over Arizona Wednesday, yet not at all shocking considering Ethier’s unbelievable season – and it was hardly a slight against Ramirez, who brought a 1.064 OPS for 2010 into the at-bat. But with runners on second and third with two out in the top of the seventh inning, and the Dodgers leading 3-2, Diamondbacks pitcher Edwin Jackson simply didn’t feel he could mess around with Ethier, who boosted his Triple Crown numbers earlier in the game with a two-run homer.

The logic was simple: Walking the left-handed Ethier eliminated the platoon advantage for the Dodgers and created a force at every base for Ramirez, who turns 38 at the end of the month. But still, here it was, the bases being loaded on purpose for one of baseball’s most dangerous hitters (still) – only because the Dodgers have come up with a player 10 years younger and even more dangerous.

Ross D. Franklin/AP

Edwin Jackson wipes his forehead after loading the bases ahead of Manny Ramirez in the seventh inning.

Jackson shouldn’t have even been in the situation. He had pitched well overall, allowing three runs on nine baserunners in 6 2/3 innings and striking out eight before the intentional walk. He had already thrown 114 pitches when Ethier came up.  But the Arizona bullpen has been such dogmeat that Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch decided he didn’t have a better hope against Ramirez with the bases loaded than the gassed Jackson.

Ramirez fouled off two pitches to fall behind 0-2 in the count, but on the next pitch, he cannoned a ball high off the center-field wall, 407 feet away, easily a grand slam in Dodger Stadium but a mere three-run double tonight. The smash blasted  Jackson’s valiant effort into ruins, and gave the Dodgers a most exuberant and comfortable four-run lead.

The moment stole the spotlight from what I think we can call a vintage Hiroki Kuroda performance. Kuroda’s first four pitches of the game were low and outside, but he didn’t walk a man after that in 7 1/3 innings, while allowing three runs on six hits and striking out nine. The third run – the run that would have tied the game were it not for Ethier and Ramirez – came across on a sacrifice fly off Hong-Chih Kuo in the eighth, after walks by Ronald Belsiario and Kuo loaded the bases and brought the tying run to the plate. But nothing more came across.

Jonathan Broxton, who hadn’t been needed in the series up to now, fell short of a 1-2-3 inning for the sixth time in his past seven chances but got the save, interspersing a single and walk with three strikeouts, giving him 22 in 12 2/3 innings this year.

The Dodgers won their ninth in their past 12 games, reached the .500 mark (17-17) for the first time since they were 7-7 on April 21 and moved within two games of second-place San Francisco. And another threshold in Andre Ethier’s mammoth season was crossed.

May 11

Wa happen? Dodgers blindside Haren and Diamondbacks, 13-3


Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire
Manny Ramirez is congratulated by Matt Kemp during the Dodgers’ victory.

“John Ely” is “John Elway” minus “wa,” the Japanese term made famous to baseball fans in the U.S. in Robert Whiting’s book “You Gotta Have Wa.” “Wa” means “group harmony,” so I’m told, and I get the sense that a heroic John Ely gave up his “wa” for the good of the Dodgers.

That is my best explanation for how, on a night when Arizona pitcher Dan Haren got all nine outs in the first three innings via strikeout, the Dodgers ended up coming away with a 13-3 slaughter of the Diamondbacks – and how Ely defied the odds and took a shutout into the seventh inning for the second game in a row.

Ely has now faced 48 batters over 12 2/3 innings in his past two starts and allowed only 10 singles – and no walks or extra-base hits – while striking out 13. He has allowed three runs in that period, all of them in the seventh inning. He has been indisputably critical in turning around the season for the Dodgers, who have now won eight of 11 games to move into third place by themselves, 4 1/2 games behind San Diego and three games behind second-place San Francisco.

As for the offense, after weathering Haren’s strikeout storm, the Dodgers got three consecutive doubles in the fourth inning to take a 2-0 lead and doubled that margin by the bottom of the seventh, when Ely, Jeff Weaver and George Sherrill combined to allow three runs and make it a tight game again. (Ramon Ortiz was called into get the final out of the seventh inning, throwing four pitches and raising questions about whether this will impact his scheduled start Friday.)

Just when nervous time seemed to be approaching, Jamey Carroll and pinch-hitter Garret Anderson singled before Russell Martin hit a three-run homer to give the Dodgers breathing room in the top of the eighth, an inning that ended up with Los Angeles sending 12 men to the plate and scoring seven runs. Two more tallies came across in the ninth, while Carlos Monasterios (lowering his ERA to 2.18) retired all six batters he faced to wrap things up.

The Dodgers had 23 baserunners in all. James Loney had two doubles and two singles, Manny Ramirez two walks and two singles, Martin a single and hit-by-pitch to go with his homer, and Andre Ethier two doubles. Ramirez’s on-base percentage is now at .507 for the season, Ethier’s league-leading OPS is at 1.175, and thanks in no small part to Ely, the Dodgers are looking like a real team again.

May 11

Have you noticed the Dodgers are playing .700 ball?

Some mid-day snacks:

  • The Dodgers have won seven of their past 10 games, but as Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness writes, it doesn’t quite feel that way, does it?
  • What has gone wrong with the Dodger defense? Neil Paine tries to break down the breakdown at Baseball Reference Blog.
  • Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone explains why he thinks James Loney might be getting worse, not better.
  • Bryan Morris, who was included in the Manny Ramirez trade, has pitched 26 consecutive scoreless innings, notes Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus. His ERA for the season is 0.66 in 40 2/3 innings. Keep in mind he’s a 23-year-old in A ball.
May 10

Dodgers eye Ramon Ortiz for Friday start


Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Ramon Ortiz’s last major-league start was in 2007.

Joe Torre told reporters tonight that as of this moment, he plans to start Ramon Ortiz on Friday instead of taking advantage of Thursday’s off day to skip the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Torre wants Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley to get the extra day of rest.

Ortiz has a 5.24 ERA in 22 1/3 innings with 31 baserunners allowed (including four home runs) against 16 strikeouts. In relief against Colorado on Saturday, he was charged with two runs on eight baserunners in five innings. He’d be taking the mound next in pitching-friendly San Diego.

Torre indicated that he expects John Ely to stick around for a while, that this second callup isn’t a one-time thing. A start Friday by Ortiz would bump Ely’s next outing from San Diego to Monday in Houston.

Torre also said that Charlie Haeger’s heel has been bothering him and that he wasn’t letting on about it. If Haeger’s injury isn’t invented and he really has been pitching hurt, well, you know, that was really irresponsible of him.