Jul 21

Rule 8.06 and the ninth inning

I’ve had a few people ask for comment on how the rules apparently say that Jonathan Broxton should have been allowed to stay in the game for another batter while Don Mattingly should have been ejected after the double-mound visit Tuesday. Memories of Kevin Malone has it covered.

Of course, some people were happy to see Broxton out of the game. On that, I have no comment.

Jul 20

Macho men fall down: Dodgers collapse, 7-5


Gus Ruelas/APUmpire Adrian Johnson walks alongside Matt Kemp after the Dodger outfielder was hit by a Tim Lincecum pitch in the fifth inning.

Where to begin?

Tim Lincecum getting hammered, allowing three runs in the first inning and two more in the third? Giving up a homer to Andre Ethier and 11 baserunners in 4 1/3 innings while striking out two?

Xavier Paul getting two runs, two doubles, a single and an RBI – and still nearly costing the Dodgers the game with a dropped fly ball?

Clayton Kershaw cruising, retiring 11 in a row at one point, in his first career matchup with Lincecum?

No, we can’t start there.

In the most memorable game of a season the Dodgers are desperately hoping won’t be forgettable, Lincecum-Kershaw I devolved into a B-grade beanball war and D-grade display of intelligence, one that showed the Dodgers’ fighting spirit but also highlighted their shortsightedness – and even stupidity.

If you thought the collapse against the Yankees was a nightmare, if Sunday’s meltdown at St. Louis brought you to your knees, those games have nothing on tonight’s 7-5 loss.

The unraveling took root in the fifth inning, with the Dodgers leading 5-1, when Lincecum, who had hit one batter with a pitch this year, threw consecutive knockdown pitches at Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, the second one hitting him. Kemp was angry, but there was no incident. Nevertheless, home plate umpire Adrian Johnson issued a warning to both benches that no other beanball shenanigans would be tolerated. This infuriated Dodger coach Bob Schaefer (the Dodger coach that Kemp reportedly clashed with last month), who had lots of words with Johnson.

Lincecum left the game one batter later. In top of the sixth, Kershaw gave up three hits and three runs, two of them unearned because Paul dropped a long fly ball by San Francisco’s Pat Burrell (one, admittedly, that looked at first like it might leave the park). In the bottom of the inning, Giants reliever Denny Bautista knocked Russell Martin down with a pitch, and Schaefer went ballistic, drawing an ejection from Johnson.

Gus Ruelas/AP
Joe Torre and Adrian Johnson go through the motions and emotions after Clayton Kershaw’s ejection.

Kershaw was the next batter, which was a bit surprising considering his rough top of the sixth and the fact that he had thrown 103 pitches. What was really bizarre, however, was that the fragile Hong-Chih Kuo was warming up in the bullpen while Kershaw was batting.

Soon, we found out why.

Kershaw came out in the top of the seventh and with his first pitch, drilled Aaron Rowand of the Giants. Johnson immediately ejected Kershaw, who might also draw a suspension. And while some might have thought it improbable that the Dodgers would intentionally put the tying run on base in a game they so wanted to win, it seems clear that they did.

Further explaining what happened, a Twitter user pointed out that pinch-hitter Garret Anderson was the on-deck hitter when Martin was knocked down. After Schaefer was ejected, Anderson sat down, and Kershaw remained in the game to do his dirty work.

Kershaw scored points with everyone who thinks that pride depends on revenge, who thinks that all of the Dodgers’ problems stem from Chad Billingsley not knocking down a Phillie two years ago, but in the meantime, the action risked putting the Dodgers in the very humbling position of losing a game that was very much worth winning. Rowand made it all the way to third base with two outs, before Kuo got Freddie Sanchez on a broken-bat liner to end the inning.

So the extra baserunner didn’t cost the Dodgers the game. But ultimately, we were still reminded that pride doesn’t mean victories.

Jonathan Broxton, forced into the game after Kuo threw two innings, allowed a 60-foot infield single to start the ninth, then issued an ill-advised walk to Edgar Renteria. Rowand sacrificed, and the Dodgers decided to have Broxton walk Aubrey Huff intentionally to load the bases with one out.

And then – and this is saying something – the most bizarre thing happened.

Joe Torre’s heir apparent, Don Mattingly, helming the Dodgers because Torre was automatically ejected once his pitcher hit a batter after the benches were warned, visited the mound to have a conference with Broxton and the infield. He finished, walked off the mound, and then James Loney called out a question to him. Mattingly turned and took three steps back toward Loney – a step that put both Mattingly’s feet onto the mound. Giants manager Bruce Bochy immediately came out to contend that this constituted two trips to the mound, and successfully got Broxton removed from the game.

And thus, we had trying to save the game, with almost no warmup, one George Friderich Sherrill.

Irony was not in supply. Sherrill did not defy expectations. His second pitch was hit for a two-run double, giving San Francisco its first lead of the game. Travis Schlichting came in, and one out later, allowed a single for another run.

Forced to rally for the first time tonight, the Dodgers came out in the bottom of the ninth against Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt, who no doubt entered the game with one eye on Ethier in the dugout, due up fourth in the inning. Jamey Carroll was thrown out by a hair at first base. The ever-lovin’ Rafael Furcal then lined one to left field, sliding into second base with a close double. Ronnie Belliard, pinch-hitting for Paul against the lefty, struck out feebly.

And for the second night in a row with the game on the line, Affeldt got Ethier, this time ending the contest with a strikeout.

And so yes, the Dodgers can pat themselves on the back, knowing that they were man enough to fight back against the Giants. But when they’re done with that, their next move will be to scratch their heads, wondering why that manliness feels so hollow.

It’s because it’s not about who’s mas macho. It’s about who has scored the most runs at the end of the day. Anyone who planned to point to this tough-guy act and say this was the key to the Dodgers’ season was just dreaming.

Update: Some postgame quotes from Torre …

“(Mattingly) didn’t really know where he was. He thought he was still on the mound when James called him back.

“They didn’t look upon (the brushback of Martin) as on purpose. It’s a very gray area that seems to have some flaws in it, and I don’t know how you fix it.

“I think it’s more just (Broxton) is out of sync right now, more so than anything physical to worry about. He’s pretty honest with Honeycutt as far as when he feels good.

“We’ve had some strange things happen. This is a test, and you have to bounce back and reestablish what kind of club you are.”

Update 2: Quotes from Mattingly …

“I turned to walk away, and James said something and I just kind of turned around. He asked me the depth that I wanted him, didn’t even realize that I was off the dirt, and obviously I was.

“I kind of had a little bit of a feeling, because Adrian (Johnson) was yelling, ‘No no no, you can’t go back!’ as I turned to talk to James, so I had a little bit of a feeling at that point.

“I’m aware of the rule, but again felt I had just kind of turned and turned back around, but obviously I guess I didn’t.

“That’s what I asked (crew chief) Tim McClelland. I said, ‘Can he warm up?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I won’t do that to him. I’m not gonna take a chance on letting a guy get hurt. So at that point (I’m) talking to (pitching coach Rick Honeycutt), not realizing how many throws he’s getting.

“I’m not quite sure of (why they cut Sherrill off at eight warmup tosses). Again, Honey and I talked, and pretty much turned around and George is ready to go, so I figure he’s ready to go. At that point I didn’t realize they cut him off at eight.”

Jul 20

Manny Ramirez hits the DL trifecta


Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesManny Ramirez looks on from the dugout at St. Louis on Sunday.

The news has finally come back on Manny Ramirez, and it’s not good.

The Los Angeles Dodgers announced Tuesday that they have placed Manny Ramirez on the disabled list for the third time this season, and have activated Brad Ausmus from the 60-day disabled list to take his roster spot.

Ramirez suffered a right calf strain Friday in the first inning of his second game since being activated from the DL following a right hamstring injury.

A right calf malady also sidelined Ramirez from April 23 through May 7.

Ramirez has a .409 on-base percentage and .516 slugging percentage for the Dodgers this season, but has been held to 220 plate appearances — four in July.

Xavier Paul, Garret Anderson and utilityman Jamey Carroll are rotating in left field for the Dodgers in Ramirez’s absence. Paul is in the starting lineup for Tuesday night’s game against Tim Lincecum and San Francisco.

The activation of Ausmus, who had four plate appearances in 2010 before going on the disabled list with back trouble, gives the Dodgers three catchers on the roster for the time being, along with Russell Martin and A.J. Ellis. But with Reed Johnson already on the DL, Los Angeles had only one other outfield option on the 40-man roster: Double-A outfielder Trayvon Robinson. Martin has also been nursing a thumb injury, though he returned Monday and had three hits against the Giants.

Update: Joe Torre told the media today that Ramirez’s strain was significant, and that he is expected to remain sidelined for three weeks.

Torre also said that the Dodgers will return to having two catchers as soon as Wednesday. Robinson is not a possibility for a callup, but the team is considering purchasing the contract of Jay Gibbons, who has a .915 OPS for Albuquerque.

Ramirez was placed on the disabled list retroactive to July 17, which would mean he could come off the disabled list August 1 at the earliest. However, because Ramirez would certainly clear waivers because of the size of his contract, the Dodgers could still trade him after the July 31 non-waiver deadline.

Jul 20

Tuesday, Tuesday, Tuesday: Tim Lincecum vs. Clayton Kershaw


Icon SMITim Lincecum (2.94 ERA, 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings)
Clayton Kershaw (3.16 ERA, 10.0 strikeouts per nine innings)

Forget about everything else. Tonight, we’ve got a pure baseball matchup that you don’t want to miss.

Tim Lincecum for the Giants.

Clayton Kershaw for the Dodgers.

First time ever.

The current Dodger roster has a .239 slugging percentage against Lincecum. Andre Ethier has done the best, while Casey Blake and Russell Martin are a combined 0 for 23.

Kershaw had been having a statistically better 2010 than Lincecum through the All-Star break, but that changed when Kershaw stunk and Lincecum shined last week.

Also of note, Kershaw has allowed 11 runs and 30 baserunners in 19 first innings this season. By comparison, Kershaw has appeared in 18 fifth innings and allowed one run.

The momentum is on Lincecum and San Francisco’s side. But that didn’t matter when Kershaw faced Ubaldo Jimenez and the Rockies in May. We’ll see if it matters tonight.

Jul 19

File another one under defeat for Dodgers, 5-2


Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesBuster Posey is safe at home with San Francisco’s second run of the game.

Madison Bumgarner has the same last name that James Garner was born with, which is enough to make me wish that Jim Rockford would solve the Dodgers’ criminal woes. Or that at least there might be an appearance by an angel.

Instead, the Dodgers dropped their fifth straight game, 5-2 to San Francisco. The Dodgers fell six games behind San Diego in the National League West and 2 1/2 behind Cincinnati for the NL wild card.

In his first major-league appearance of 2010, James McDonald looked good in a 1-2-3 first inning and escaped a bases-loaded, none-out jam of his own creation in the second inning. But then came two runs with two out in the third, and then more painfully, a two-run homer by No. 8 hitter Nate Schierholtz in the fourth that gave the offensively challenged Giants a 4-0 lead behind their talented rookie Bumgarner. McDonald finished the night allowing 11 baserunners in his five innings.

Starting the bottom of the sixth, NL batting average leader Rafael Furcal moved into fifth place on the team in homers with his seventh of the season. Jamey Carroll singled, and two outs later, James Loney walked, sending the tying run to the plate and Bumgarner to the dugout. But the Dodgers didn’t tie the game, settling for a gift run thanks to a wild pitch by Guillermo Mota and a fielder’s choice grounder by Matt Kemp (3 for 4) on which Carroll was ruled (incorrectly, it appeared) to have touched home before Loney was tagged out.

In the bottom of the seventh, the Dodgers got another look at the game when two-out walks to Garret Anderson and Carroll sandwiched a Furcal single. Lefty Jeremy Affeldt came in to pitch to Ethier, who hasn’t done a whole lot with them all year. Ethier grounded to first.

San Francisco got an eighth-inning insurance run on what might have been another umpire mistake, a bases-loaded sacrifice fly on which other baserunners might have passed each other.

One more chance came for the Dodgers in the bottom of the ninth when Russell Martin and Furcal each got their third hits of the night, putting two runners on and the tying run at the plate with one out. Blake DeWitt struck out after taking a close 2-0 pitch for a strike.

That brought up Ethier, and it had been, what, a couple months since his most recent waving of walkoff magic. Giants closer Brian Wilson pitched carefully, walking Ethier to load the bases. But Wilson then struck out his sometimes-nemesis Casey Blake on three pitches.

There was no Rockford in Mudville tonight.

McDonald’s turn in the rotation comes next Saturday afternoon against the Mets. He, Carlos Monasterios (two shutout innings tonight) or John Ely are all candidates to take the turn.

Jul 19

Dodgers edge Yankees on Piazza homer

ESPN.com is staging a simulation between the all-time Dodger and Yankee teams chosen by the site’s readers. Despite poor relief outings by Mike Marshall and Eric Gagne, the Dodgers won Game 1, 8-7, on a walkoff single in the 12th by Mike Piazza.

Gil Hodges went 4 for 5 while Piazza (who also homered) and Willie Davis each had three hits; Pee Wee Reese was 0 for 7. Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle homered for New York.

Find out more details by clicking the link above for the play-by-play and box score.

* * *

Blue Heaven points to a rare 1949 album recording of Reese and Jackie Robinson.

Jul 18

Defeated

One of the constant refrains I hear this year, whether it’s tied in with the McCourt debacle or the 22 years since the last World Series title or whatever, is that Dodger fans deserve better. And I get that, I totally do.

I just come at things from a different place. I don’t feel like I deserve better with the Dodgers. Big media market, big tradition, big talent base – I don’t care. That doesn’t matter to me.

As someone who was never anything but a Dodger fan, I was born on third base, as they say – but I don’t think I hit a triple. I think I got lucky. I was born into Jackie Robinson’s franchise. I was born with Vin Scully as my broadcaster. The Yankees, the Red Sox – I don’t care. I can’t imagine a better team to root for than Jackie and Vin’s team.

A game like today’s, and I don’t feel cheated. I feel, that makes sense. The McCourts, the bullpen collapses – they’re plot points in a drama that otherwise would be very nice but very sterile. Very tidy. Life isn’t tidy. That’s why it makes sense.

I’m not saying that’s right. I totally get why other people feel differently.

And it doesn’t mean I don’t feel disappointment. God, do I.

I just really don’t feel I’m owed anything. And it could be another 50 years without a World Series title (it really well could be), and I don’t think that will change. Some of you feel you’re owed, and that’s fine. I don’t feel it. I feel we’ve been given gifts, and expecting, demanding more is nonsensical.

I won’t stop being disappointed if there’s nothing under the tree this year, but I don’t blame Santa for passing us by.

And then there’s this.

I’m not going to defend Jonathan Broxton today. From what I saw, he should have pitched better.

But this. People look at what he does and then they say he doesn’t have a killer instinct or a heart or a brain or whatever other option “The Wizard of Oz” offers. They say it about Chad Billingsley, or Matt Kemp. They’ve said it about guys long gone, and they’ll say it about guys yet to come. And maybe they’re right. I don’t think they’re right – this ultimate judgment that boils down to “all winners have heart, all losers lack heart” – but maybe they’re right.

I think part of the reason I get so bothered is that when they say those things, I feel they might as well be saying it about me. Because I am no different than Broxton, Billingsley or Kemp. I have my good points and my bad points. And in particular, in my life, I have been lacking in grace under pressure. Rising to the occasion is not so easy for me.

It’s my hope that my family, friends and colleagues see the good that I do alongside my failings. Because if I’m judged only on my failings, I’m done for.

I think people are spoiled. But I’m spoiled, too. Just in different ways. So who am I to criticize?

In fact, I don’t even like this ending, but I don’t have the heart or the backbone to change it. So there you go.

Jul 18

July 18 game chat

It continues.

But you think it’s been all bad news this weekend? In consecutive days, Juan Castro and Nick Green have become available. It’s like Christmas in July.

Claudio Vargas and Ramon Troncoso combined on a shutout for Albuquerque on Saturday. John Ely starts for the Isotopes today.

I like this Jon SooHoo photo of Fernando Valenzuela, linked by Ernest Reyes of Blue Heaven.

Jul 16

Cardinals can’t miss against Billingsley

One night after Clayton Kershaw had a career-low in strikeouts as a starter, Chad Billingsley matched his. For the second time in his 117 career starts, Billingsley had no strikeouts, while allowing 10 hits and two walks to the 22 batters he faced.

Billingsley was charged with seven runs in the brutal outing, and the Dodgers trailed 8-2 in the fifth inning after George Sherrill gave up a homer to Yadier Molina.

Jul 16

Manny Ramirez injured again

Manny Ramirez left tonight’s Dodger game in the first inning with right calf tightness. We don’t know yet if it’s serious enough to send him back to the disabled list, but if it is, the Dodgers face an interesting roster quandary.

With Reed Johnson already on the disabled list, the Dodgers have only one other outfielder on the 40-man roster: 22-year-old AA outfielder Trayvon Robinson. For that matter, the only other available infielder on the 40-man that’s healthy is 23-year-old Ivan DeJesus, Jr. They could activate Brad Ausmus and carry three catchers, or they could purchase the contract of someone like Jay Gibbons or John Lindsey.

Hopefully, Ramirez will only be out a short time.