Jul 27

Chicken soup for the soul: Ethier lifts Dodgers, 2-0


Gregory Bull/APAndre Ethier breaks a scoreless tie in the seventh inning with a two-run, pinch-hit single.

Too sick to start Tuesday’s game in San Diego, Andre Ethier made the Padres feel ill in their showdown with the Dodgers.

Ethier, a late scratch from the starting lineup with the flu, came off the bench in the seventh inning to deliver a two-run single – all the medicine the Dodgers needed to come away with a 2-0 victory.

Chad Billingsley and Jon Garland each pitched shutout ball through six innings, though both starting pitchers had one inning of major tightrope-walking in that time. In the bottom of the fourth, three singles loaded the bases before Billingsley retired the next three batters on a groundout, popout and strikeout. In the top of the sixth, with runners on first and second, Garland nabbed Rafael Furcal, Xavier Paul and Matt Kemp on 3-2 pitches.

But the pivotal moment came in the seventh inning, when Blake DeWitt (on an 0-2 pitch) and Garret Anderson singled with two out. Padres manager Bud Black forced the Dodgers hand, walking Russell Martin (1 for 2) intentionally. That caused Joe Torre to have the flu-stricken Ethier pinch-hit for Billingsley, even though the righty had thrown only 84 pitches. (Billingsley lowered his ERA to 4.00 on the season by extending his scoreless inning string to 15 tonight – remarkably, Dodger starting pitchers have allowed one earned run in their past 43 innings.)

It was an echo of Friday’s game, when Torre pinch-hit for Vicente Padilla despite a low pitch count. But this time, with Garland left in to pitch despite lefty Joe Thatcher warming in the bullpen, Ethier grounded a 1-1 pitch hard, just past a diving Everth Cabrera, driving home the first two runs of the game.

That put the game in the hands of the Dodger bullpen, starting with Hong-Chih Kuo. Despite being interrupted by a single and a Casey Blake error, Kuo struck out the side. After throwing 20 pitches that inning, Kuo came out in the eighth to face Padres slugger Adrian Gonzalez and struck him out on three pitches. He faced Chase Headley, and struck him out on three pitches. He threw two more strikes to Yorvit Torrealba before finally missing, and then gave up a single. On his season-high 34th pitch, Kuo got Will Venable to ground out, taking the game to the ninth.

In the bottom of the ninth, Jonathan Broxton breezed through the first two hitters on three pitches. That brought up his nemesis, Matt Stairs, with a .597 OPS this season. Broxton missed with his first three pitches, but came back to strike Stairs out and bounce off the mound with the save.

First step. The Dodgers were held to two runs or less for the eight time in 12 games since the All-Star break, but they closed their gap in the National League West to five games. Los Angeles remained 2 1/2 games behind San Francisco for the NL wild card.

Jul 27

Juan’s a Dodger, always a Dodger

The Dodgers can’t quit Juan Castro. The team once again signed him to a minor-league contract, setting him up for a critical sacrifice bunt in September. Castro had a .237 on-base percentage and .238 slugging percentage with Philadelphia this season — including one sacrifice.

* * *

That August 6 Clayton Kershaw-Steven Strasburg showdown may have fallen by the wayside with the news that Strasburg was scratched tonight from what would have been his 10th major-league start.

Kershaw told David Lassen of the Press-Enterprise that he decided to drop the appeal of his suspension because of the scheduling of the hearing Thursday.

“In the event that I did lose the appeal,” he said, “… I’d have four days rest, and then the appeal would come, and then I’d have five more games.” That would mean he wouldn’t be able to pitch again before August 4, truly missing a turn rather than just having a start pushed back a day.

* * *

Joe Torre confirmed to reporters today that Carlos Monasterios will start Friday. Torre hasn’t officially named a Saturday starter.

Torre also said that the Dodgers have underachieved, but that he isn’t worried, and that he senses Ned Colletti will make a move.

* * *

From the Dodger press notes:

Rookie-advanced Ogden clinched a playoff berth last night by winning the first-half Southern Division title and improved to 22-13 with an 11-2 win over the Missoula. Jake Lemmerman, the club’s fifth-round selection in the 2010 draft, leads the Pioneer League with a .380 batting average and the Dodgers’ third-round selection Leon Landry ranks third with a .372 average.

On Sunday, right-handed pitchers Daniel Tamares (5-2, 1.69) and Abdiel Velasquez (2.66) combined to throw a no-hitter in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League Dodgers’ 3-0 win over the Mets. Tamares, who was named to the league’s All-Star team, struck out six over his 6.0 innings and has not allowed a run over his last 20.0 innings.

Single-A Great Lakes outfielder Brian Cavazos-Galvez homered twice last night to extend his Loons franchise-record hitting streak to 24 games.

Jul 27

Dodgers in San Diego: The season isn’t on the line

By and large, the Dodgers’ three-game series that begins tonight San Diego has been painted in the media as a must-win affair.

It’d certainly be nice for the team if they won the series, but it’s not a make-or-break event.

Say the Dodgers win only one of the three games. That would leave them seven games out of first place in the division (fewer behind in the wild card) with nine weeks to go.

Last year, the Dodgers nearly blew a six-game lead in the National League West with nine games to go. Four years ago this week, the Dodgers were swept by San Diego to fall into last place in the NL West, 7 1/2 games out of first, and they still made the playoffs.

Obviously, the Dodgers don’t want to wait until the last minute to make a move — comebacks are anything but automatic. But the idea that it’s now-or-never time is just silly.

The matchups:

Tonight: Chad Billingsley vs. Jon Garland
Wednesday: Hiroki Kuroda vs. Clayton Richard
Thursday: Vicente Padilla vs. Mat Latos

* * *

  • The rejiggering of Clayton Kershaw’s pitching schedule following his suspension set up a likely showdown between him and fellow 22-year-old phenom Steven Strasburg of Washington on August 6 at Dodger Stadium.
  • The duffel bag that Jackie Robinson carried on a bat over his shoulder in his famous Dodger farewell photo appears to be up for auction, writes Ernest Reyes of Blue Heaven.
  • I don’t think Matt Kemp has done anything this year that bugged me more than his extra-effort tackle of James Loney on Saturday, and this is why. This isn’t about me being a sourpuss: There was plenty of celebration underway before Kemp almost took Loney out.
  • Mike Piazza was the subject of a long interview at Athletics Nation.
  • Back in Spring Training, Dodger video cameras caught Kenley Jansen chatting it up with DeJon Watson, Logan White, Rodney McCray, Joe Torre and Sandy Koufax.
Jul 26

Clayton Kershaw to start serving suspension Tuesday

And more news … methinks John Ely is headed back to Los Angeles …

Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers have decided to have the lefty drop the appeal of his five-game suspension, which he will serve this week, postponing Kershaw’s next start until Sunday in San Francisco.

Kershaw was suspended for hitting Giants outfielder Aaron Rowand with the first pitch of the seventh inning July 20, after both teams had been issued warnings earlier in the game. Dodgers manager Joe Torre and coach Bob Schaefer served one-game suspensions related to the game last week.

The 22-year-old Kershaw pitched eight shutout innings against the Mets on Sunday, lowering his ERA for the season to 2.96, 10th in the National League. He is fifth in the NL in strikeouts, and after a history of control problems, has walked only 14 in his past nine starts.

After using Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda and Vicente Padilla from Tuesday-Thursday against the NL West-leading Padres, the Dodgers will probably have their two most commonly used fifth starters, Carlos Monasterios and John Ely (now in Albuquerque), pitch Friday and Saturday in San Francisco, not necessarily in that order. Both will be on at least four days’ rest by Friday.

Unless he turns things around this week, James McDonald would be the most likely player to be sent to Albuquerque to make room for Ely. That’s assuming that Jack Taschner retires a batter in the interim.

Jul 26

Ronald Belisario resumes workouts with Dodgers

News on the beleaguered reliever:

Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisario, who has been on Major League Baseball’s restricted list since July 7, has resumed workouts at Dodger Stadium, according to the team, though no timetable has been set for his return to the active roster.

The Dodgers offered no further comment. Belisario hasn’t pitched for the team since July 5, when he threw shutout ball over a career-high three innings against Florida. Players can be kept on the restricted list for a maximum of 30 days, meaning that Belisario has until approximately Aug. 6 before the Dodgers (need to) make a decision on him.

After a 2009 rookie season in which he posted a 2.04 ERA with 64 strikeouts in 70 2/3 innings, Belisario opened the 2010 season on the restricted list following visa problems that detained his arrival in the States from his native Venezuela. He made his season debut April 21, and after performing inconsistently through the end of May, had a 1.45 ERA from June 1 on. For the year, Belisario has a 3.79 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings.

Belisario was arrested for driving under the influence in June 2009 and subsequently pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.

If Belisario makes it back, he would potentially rejoin a Dodger bullpen fronted by Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Kenley Jansen and Jeff Weaver just in time for the final weeks of the season.

Jul 26

Dodger Cogs and Dogs: Edition 10


Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireVicente Padilla: No. 12 with a bullet (not in the leg).

James Loney at No. 5? Casey Blake at No. 11? The Dodger corner infielders each have two homers in July, but the team has been so strange that they still rank high.

And no, Kenley Jansen did not break in at No. 1 on our list, but he was high in our hearts. Remember, these rankings are a combination of objectivity and personal subjectivity …

         
7/26 7/12 High Low Player Comment
1 1 1 20 Clayton Kershaw Anyone outside of L.A. noticed that Roy Oswalt isn’t having a better year than Kershaw?
2 2 2 14 Rafael Furcal Finally slows down: 3 for last 19, but still with five walks
3 5 1 5 Hiroki Kuroda One inning from matching last year’s season total.
4 3 1 11 Andre Ethier OPS remains sub-.700 since the pinkie.
5 6 6 24 James Loney Leads team in doubles and game-winning homers vs. Mets.
6 4 3 12 Manny Ramirez At 220 plate appearances and holding.
7 8 7 18 Hong-Chih Kuo Best adjusted ERA in Los Angeles Dodger history, minimum 32 innings.
8 9 1 11 Matt Kemp Since June 29, an .863 OPS.
9 7 4 13 Jonathan Broxton Has had four perfect innings in 19 appearances since June 1.
10 10 6 12 Chad Billingsley Gets an extra day off today after 125-pitch outing.
11 11 6 16 Casey Blake After starting month 6 for 48, he’s 8 for last 23.
12 17 15 25 Vicente Padilla ERA, K/9, BB/9, H/9 all now better than Kuroda’s.
13 12 5 26 John Ely Consecutive good outings for Albuquerque.
14 15 2 15 Russell Martin Caught-stealing percentage has improved to career-best 40%.
15 13 12 15 Blake DeWitt Seriously, why has he gone from nine homers in ’08 to one this year?
16 14 13 21 Jamey Carroll Slacker has only played four positions this year.
17 21 7 21 Carlos Monasterios 0.82 ERA in 11 innings since return from disabled list.
18 16 15 22 Jeff Weaver Still fourth on team in wins.
19 18 17 25 Ronald Belisario Last outing on July 5 was best of season.
20 19 8 20 Reed Johnson Snuck in a 66th game this year to pass last year’s mark by one.
21 22 22 24 Travis Schlichting With eight inherited runners allowed in 20 innings, it’s a deceptive 2.25 ERA.
22 23 15 23 Xavier Paul .350 OBP vs. LHP this season.
23 20 7 21 Ronnie Belliard .107 slugging percentage in July.
24 24 9 24 Ramon Troncoso Taking longer than expected to come back: has allowed six runs in past 8 1/3 innings for Isotopes.
25 25 23 25 Justin Miller And now to the other Justin Miller: 2.55 ERA in Chattanooga.
26 NR NR NR Kenley Jansen It’s exciting, but pace yourself, Torre.
27 26 19 26 A.J. Ellis .286 OBP, .224 slugging percentage in first extended L.A. stay.
28 27 25 29 Jon Link Retired four of six batters in most recent Dodger stint.
29 28 23 28 Brad Ausmus Mr. 1-for-4, like clockwork, every three months.
30 29 29 29 Chin-Lung Hu Tuesday marks four weeks since his last game.
31 30 17 31 Ramon Ortiz Six Dodger relievers have worse ERAs than Ortiz’s 6.30.
32 31 27 32 Nick Green DFAed by Toronto, signed with Padres organization last week.
33 33 3 36 Charlie Haeger ERA is 4.99 at Albuquerque in 30 2/3 innings.
34 34 16 34 Garret Anderson OBP by month: .159, .216, .217, .250. Trending up!
35 36 26 36 George Sherrill Approaching anniversary of coming to L.A., Sherrill’s Dodger ERA is 3.58.
36 35 22 36 Russ Ortiz Stayed ahead of Sherrill until Saturday.
37 NR NR NR James McDonald Don’t tell my heart, my achy-breaky heart …
38 32 32 35 Scott Elbert … I just don’t think it’d understand.
39 NR NR NR Jack Taschner His callup and Jansen’s a study in contrasts.
Jul 25

Dan Haren takes Angels’ flight out of NL West

Debate on the Dan Haren-to-the-Angels trade seems mainly to mainly not whether the Angels won this trade, but by how much.

  • ESPN.com’s Keith Law doesn’t think much of the Joe Saunders-plus-minor leaguers package.
  • Zach Sanders of Fangraphs notes that even if the deal doesn’t help the Angels rally to make the playoffs this year, it puts them in better position to bounce back next year.
  • Matthew Carruth of Fangraphs sat “for an hour and still cannot even come close to justifying this. … The Diamondbacks just acted like Dan Haren was Scott Kazmir.”
  • Echoes Joe Sheehan for SI.com: “If there’s a model for how not to handle the trade of a high-priced, high-value player, this is it.”
  • Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com plays devil’s advocate for a brief moment to present the risk for the Angels – that Haren is declining (and overpaid) as his 4.60 ERA this season would suggest.
  • Aaron Gleeman of Hardball Talk points out that the deal might hinge on a player to be named later, but that player is not Mike Trout, the Angels’ top prospect.
  • Haren himself is excited, even if he’ll miss Arizona, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.

Should the Dodgers have swooped in? For this price, maybe. I haven’t thought much of Haren’s performance this season, but it’s not as if Arizona overcharged for him – although, as others have pointed out, the Diamondbacks might have charged more from a division rival than they did from the Angels.

* * *

And in other news …

  • Callups to come? John Ely pitched a seven-inning complete game, allowing two runs on seven baserunners while striking out five, and Jay Gibbons went 4 for 4 in Albuquerque’s 14-2 victory over Nashville.
  • From the postgame press notes: “Carlos Monasterios was examined by Dr. Neal ElAttrache after being struck in the right side of the head by a foul ball off the bat of Carlos Beltran in the fourth inning. He never lost consciousness and did not appear to have a concussion.”
  • Here’s a great profile on Dodger Stadium organist Nancy Bea Hefley from Dodgerfan.net.
  • The new LACMA exhibition, “Manly Pursuits: The Sporting Images of Thomas Eakins,” is reviewed by Christopher Knight of the Times.
  • Former “Happy Days” star Anson Williams sang God Bless America today like he thought he left the oven on at home. Kudos for not milking it.
Jul 25

Kershaw, Jansen shut down Mets, 1-0


Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesKenley Jansen has struck out four of the first six hitters he has faced in the majors.

Old man Kenley Jansen, six months older than Clayton Kershaw but about a dozen or more pitching years younger, struck out two batters in the ninth to preserve a 1-0 victory for Kershaw and the Dodgers over the Mets today.

“It’s just crazy,” said Jansen, who made his pitching debut in the minors last July, on the Prime Ticket postgame interview. “It’s just a dream come true.”

After Kershaw threw eight shutout innings (eight baserunners, three strikeouts), the Dodgers pushed across the only run when a Russell Martin double scored a hustling Casey Blake all the way from first base in the bottom of the eighth. Blake, who had singled, also had a diving catch in the sixth inning to save a hit and likely a run with two out and a runner on second in the top of the sixth.

Allowing Jonathan Broxton to rest after the Dodger closer went two innings Saturday, Jansen needed 15 pitches for his second scoreless inning in as many days. Kershaw said after the game to Prime Ticket that Jansen was the first catcher he threw to in the minor leagues.

“It’s amazing how life changes,” Jansen said. “I’m just having fun and at the same time, focused.”

Jul 25

Kershaw LXXII: Kershawmpty Dumpty

Brad Ausmus will retire at the end of this season, the Dodger catcher told Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

… In Ausmus’ typically understated way, his so-called “announcement” was nothing more than an answer to a reporter’s question. It came immediately after he played in his first game in more than three months, catching the first 12 innings of the 13-inning marathon four days after being activated from the 60-day disabled list.

“This year is it,” Ausmus said.

Ausmus had played in just one previous game this season, on April 8 at Pittsburgh. He went onto the 15-day DL with back soreness two days later and learned shortly thereafter that he would need a surgical procedure that would sideline him for at least three months, leading to questions of why the seldom-used, 41-year-old backup to Russell Martin didn’t just retire immediately instead of going through a grueling rehabilitation process in what everyone assumed would be his final season as a player anyway.

Ausmus’ answer then was the same as it is now.

“I signed a contract,” he reiterated on Saturday. “It was my job to get back on the field and do it as quickly as possible, hopefully without having any setbacks.”

* * *

If Jonathan Broxton had blown the game against the Mets, people would have called it another huge loss on the national stage. But since he overcame early control problems to pitch two shutout innings – striking out the Mets’ best hitter, David Wright, to end the ninth before throwing a perfect 10th – the game became inconsequential (c.f. Saturday, June 26, 2010).

* * *

From the Dodger press notes: “Six Dodger starters have combined to post a 1.38 ERA (8 ER/52.0 IP) and limit opposing hitters to a .211 average (40-for-190). In that span, Dodger starters have 36 strikeouts and only 14 walks. Overall, Dodger starters lead the big leagues with an average of 7.79 strikeouts per 9.0 innings (487 SO/563.0 IP) and rank third in the National League with a .256 opponents’ batting average.”

Jul 24

Loney walks it off in 13th, 3-2


Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesMatt Kemp looks to win the Kendry Who? Award with his takedown of James Loney after Loney’s walkoff homer gave the Dodgers a 3-2 victory over the Mets today in 13 innings. The 21st Dodger used in the game, George Sherrill, pitched a 1-2-3 inning for the victory. Carlos Monasterios pitched five shutout innings. and then after James McDonald disappointed in a two-run sixth, Kenley Jansen’s two-strikeout major-league debut kicked off seven consecutive game-saving scoreless (and hitless) innings of relief for Los Angeles.
Jul 24

Torre concedes error in 6-1 loss

Joe Torre told Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com that he made a mistake Friday having Ronnie Beliiard pinch-hit with two out in the bottom of the seventh for Vicente Padilla, who had allowed one run on 77 pitches through seven innings.

If the Dodgers had been scoring more, Torre wouldn’t have been faced with that choice. But with rare exceptions like Bizarro Tim Lincecum night, the Dodger offense hasn’t been doing much lately, and facing the Mets’ Johan Santana didn’t help.

Jeff Weaver compounded Torre’s ill-fated decision. Weaver, who had walked seven batters in his first 28 games this season (through the end of June) and never more than one in a game, walked the first two batters he faced in the eighth – giving him eight walks in 7 2/3 innings in July.

It all went downhill from there.

* * *

Andre Ethier is in a 1-for-24 slump, though he has walked seven times and homered. His batting average (.302), on-base percentage (.367) are at their lowest marks since the second game of the season.

* * *

John Ely had his Friday start for Albuquerque was postponed. Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner said Ely was struck by a batting practice ball.

* * *

Here’s a preview of my brother’s latest producing effort, “Young Justice,” which will premiere on Cartoon Network next year with 26 episodes. I have written two and will be writing two more.

Jul 23

Broxton was illin’

Jonathan Broxton was sent home before Thursday’s game after he ate something that apparently really didn’t agree with him. His availability tonight will be a game-time decision. Kenley Jansen might get the call to close if he makes his major-league debut tonight.

* * *

Josh Fisher provided his services to ESPNLosAngeles.com with some answers to frequently asked questions about the McCourt conflict.

Jul 23

Dodgers recall Kenley Jansen

The Dodgers announced they have designated Justin Miller for assignment and recalled the tantalizing Kenley Jansen.

Jansen has struck out 50 in 27 innings since his promotion to AA Chattanooga this season. He was converted from catcher to pitcher in 2009, when he caught 34 games and pitched in 12.

Miller had a 4.44 ERA with 33 baserunners allowed in 24 1/3 innings and 30 strikeouts. He allowed 12 runs and seven inherited runs in his last 18 innings.

Jul 22

Back-to-back: 2-0, 2-0

Wednesday it was Chad Billingsley and Casey Blake; tonight it was Hiroki Kuroda and Matt Kemp – with a Hong-Chih Kuo cherry on top, and perhaps that’s the biggest news of the evening.

After pitching two innings Tuesday and warming up Wednesday, Kuo pitched the ninth inning tonight for the save – further suggesting that the protective gloves have come off the precious reliever. It might not be quite accurate to say the Dodgers are going for broke, but it’s definitely a different mentality than we’ve seen for the past year and a half. Actually, maybe it is accurate to say they’re going for broke, figuratively if not literally.

Earlier today, Joe Torre talked about the bullpen situation with Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Before signing off this short post, a quick tip of the cap not only to Kuroda for his eight standout shutout innings and Kemp for his RBI double and solo homer, but to Russell Martin, who threw out two runners stealing tonight in a tight game.

* * *

Bill Shaikin of the Times has some new and interesting Dodger attendance analysis. Check it out.