Jun 15

Dodgers a-splishin’ and a-splashin’, 12-0

Al Berhman/AP
The Reds couldn’t stop Rafael Furcal – they could only hope to tag him out trying to steal in the sixth inning.

In the middle of tonight’s game, the Dodgers worried that their three-run first-inning outburst might be washed away by rain. Turns out the team was just getting started.

On a night that Rafael Furcal had five hits, the Dodgers scored nine runs after the tarp was removed at soaked and nearly empty Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, finishing off a 12-0 romp at 12:52 a.m. on the East Coast.

With Hiroki Kuroda leading the pitching before and after the rain delay, the Dodgers stayed within a half-game of San Diego for the best record in the National League. Yet for the season, the Dodgers had only outscored their opponents by two runs, 292-290, before tonight.

Furcal, who grounded out in the ninth while bidding to tie the Dodger team record of six hits, had four singles and a double, and also dazzled defensively. James Loney (now the team’s RBI leader) added three doubles and a single, giving him seven hits in his past nine at-bats. Left field also had four hits for the Dodgers, with Manny Ramirez homering and singling twice in his second consecutive three-hit game, and Reed Johnson adding a single. The Dodgers had 25 baserunners in all – Ramon Troncoso even had a bases-loaded walk.

According to the Dodger TV broadcast, the last time two Dodgers had at least four hits in a game was when Jeff Kent and Marlon Anderson did it in the 4+1 game on September 18, 2006.

Jun 15

Rain on the parade: Did Kuroda make a risky return?

Al Behrman/AP
It was a long night, but Hiroki Kuroda struck out eight in five shutout innings with no walks.

After a rain delay of more than two hours, Hiroki Kuroda came back out to pitch the fifth inning for the Dodgers tonight in Cincinnati.

I have no expertise to be able to discuss if this was a risk or not. All I know is that in my roughly 35 years of following baseball, this kind of thing is almost never done because of the fear it will bring injury to the pitcher. But on the day they announced Chad Billingsley was going on the disabled list, the Dodgers did it.

Here’s what the Dodgers stood to gain:

1) The 23rd win in the United States for Kuroda, who had thrown four one-hit shutout innings while striking out seven.
2) Possibly a better chance of winning tonight’s game, because Kuroda is better than the Dodgers’ middle relievers.
3) A little more rest for the bullpen, which figures to be taxed between now and Sunday.
4) Status as pioneers in the You Can Bring Back Starting Pitchers After Rain Delays Movement.

Here’s what the Dodgers stood to lose:

1) The game, if Kuroda couldn’t regain his effectiveness after the break. He loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth before getting the final out.
2) The sanity of Dodger fans.
3) Shine off Torre’s reputation.
4) Kuroda.

The Dodgers might have made the right decision. I don’t know. I do know that most people would say it was a bad bet, and I’m curious why they made it.

Jun 15

Chad Billingsley to the disabled list

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Chad Billingsley

Well, now that changes everything.

The Dodgers announced this afternoon that Chad Billingsley would go on the 15-day disabled list with a groin strain. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details. I’ll update this post with the news of who is being added to the roster as soon as I hear.

Billingsley was scheduled to start for the Dodgers on Thursday. John Ely could make that start on four days’ rest, with Vicente Padilla then being activated to pitch Friday in Boston. Charlie Haeger, by the way, is scheduled to pitch for Albuquerque tonight.

Kinda amusing to think of what would happen if Padilla and Haeger aren’t ready to go by Saturday. With James McDonald and Scott Elbert out, do we start talking about guys like Seth Etherton? Alberto Bastardo? Or do the Dodgers call up another reliever and give Jeff Weaver a spot start?

The road just got a little rougher.

* * *

In other malady news, another celebration yielded a big injury. UCLA’s No. 3 hitter, Tyler Rahmatulla, broke his wrist in the dogpile celebrating the Bruins’ advance to the College World Series.

* * *

Update: Joe Torre told reporters that Padilla is ready to go and will be activated. Ely starts Thursday, Carlos Monasterios on Friday, Padilla on Saturday and then back to Hiroki Kuroda on Sunday before Monday’s off day. Torre said Padilla is ready to throw 100 pitches.

Billingsley strained his right groin in the last inning of his last start, the Dodgers said. An MRI showed no structural damage. The team wasn’t expecting him to miss any time, but he felt tightness during his latest bullpen workout at the very end on his pushoff leg, and the Dodgers didn’t want that to mess up his mechanics.

Jun 15

A hint of weather

From the Dodger press notes:

RAINY DAY TUESDAY – The National Weather Center is now predicting a strong chance of severe weather (with the potential for tornadic activity) late this afternoon and early evening. If the nasty weather becomes a reality, all credentialed press will be sheltered in the left field level media interview room as the press box and broadcast booths will need to be evacuated.

The Weather Channel paints a rosier, if plenty muggy, picture.

Jun 15

Dodgers in the thick of a real pennant race

As this day breaks, the Dodgers find themselves one of three National League West teams within a half-game of the best record in the NL, all of them on pace to win at least 92 games. And Colorado, potentially the best of them all, lurks only three games behind the Dodgers.

That’s quite a pennant race to look forward to. Arguably, the best team in the NL might not be as good on paper as the third- or even fourth-best team in the American League East. But with the fourth-best team in the NBA Eastern Conference putting the hopes of our favored hometown Lakers squad in jeopardy, this seems the wrong week to be dismissive.

Jun 14

Who will Vicente Padilla displace on the roster?

Jayne Oncea/Icon SMI
Justin Miller is on the Dodger roster bubble despite a 3.48 ERA.

Vicente Padilla isn’t a 100 percent lock to rejoin the Dodger starting rotation this weekend, but you can pretty much count on it. Though he gave up four earned runs in 5 2/3 innings for Albuquerque on Sunday, he threw 81 pitches and didn’t walk a batter. Assuming he feels fine physically today, he should be on the Fenway Park mound Friday or Saturday, with John Ely starting the other day and Hiroki Kuroda going on Sunday. (It would make more sense to have Padilla wait until Saturday, thereby giving the Dodgers an extra day with an extra relief pitcher, unless that upset Padilla’s rhythm somehow.)

Padilla’s return means someone on the Dodger pitching staff must get displaced. Justin Miller presents yet another case of a pitcher whom the Dodgers would like to retain but is out of options. Miller, who gave up what turned out to be a critical eighth-inning home run Sunday, hasn’t pitched badly for the Dodgers, allowing 13 baserunners in 10 1/3 innings while striking out 10, but he is the least important person on the staff at this point. Jon Link, among others, provides insurance for the Dodgers if Miller ends up in another organization.

Risking the loss of Miller is the only viable move the Dodgers have besides finding a person to go on the disabled list. There has been some talk that John Ely would go back to Albuquerque on Saturday morning precisely because he does have options remaining, but I think it’s safe to dismiss that possibility. Ely hasn’t pitched badly enough to warrant the demotion, and Joe Torre seems eager to get Carlos Monasterios back into the bullpen. So even though the Dodgers’ June 21 off day would allow them to go with a four-man rotation through June 26, expect Ely to stick around. (If Ely were demoted, then Monasterios would be starting the middle game against the Yankees unless the Dodgers performed some more roster shenanigans).

As far as the disabled list goes, well, there’s always a recurrence of George Sherrill’s back injury, not to mention “elbow soreness” for someone like Ramon Troncoso.

At this point, this problem feels like a good one to have. Not everyone was excited about Padilla’s impending return, but they’re probably a little less unexcited after seeing Monasterios struggle Sunday. I don’t expect Padilla to be the pitcher he was at the end of 2009 – though in any short spurt he might be – but if he’s even the average pitcher he was before he came to the Dodgers, that’ll probably be fine. Let’s face it, the Red Sox are a challenge for any Dodger pitcher.

Jun 13

After the sweep, time to get dirty again

Let me tell you something about my checking account. It has a winning history and much potential, but not a lot of depth at the current time. It can build up a little cushion and then just get knocked around, a few steps forward, a few steps back. And I should probably be able to say where it’s going to finish the year, but I can’t.

Well, you don’t really need me to connect the dots for you, do you? The bills for John Ely and Carlos Monasterios came due this weekend, not to mention Matt Kemp, and so the Dodgers have to go back to earnin’. On the bright side, three games do not a season make, and we saw signs of life from Manny Ramirez and even a near-comeback victory. Still more good signs on this team than bad. The Dodgers hit the road a game behind San Diego and half a game ahead of San Francisco.

Jun 13

Matt Kemp rests

After 62 games, Matt Kemp is rested for the first time in 2010. “I’m giving Matt Kemp a day off, which is something he hasn’t had,” Joe Torre told reporters today. “He’s fighting himself a little bit, and I noticed yesterday that he was just trying to put the ball in play. I wanted to give him a mind day off, it’s not a physical thing.”

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has the recap of Saturday’s game.

Torre on Vicente Padilla: “We’ll talk Tuesday when we see him in Cincinnati, he’ll throw his bullpen on Wednesday. I need him to be honest, I don’t want him to be almost there, I want him all the way back.”

Steven Strasburg is at it again: eight strikeouts in five innings so far today. Though he has walked three, he has allowed only one hit, a home run.

Jun 11

Dodgers get Munched, 10-1

Solum, Stian Lysberg/AFP/Getty Images

If I were the Dodgers, I would not have planned the bizarre Ozzy Osbourne-led screamfest take place for right before Chad Billingsley was taking the mound at the start of the fifth inning. Why not let the opposing pitcher wait that out?

Anyway, moments after the scream, Joel Pineiro reached base for the second of three times tonight, and eventually scored the second of his three runs when Andre Ethier’s diving attempt to catch Hideki Matsui’s bases-loaded drive in a 1-1 game came up empty. Billingsley walked Pineiro again with two out and the bases loaded in the sixth, launching a four-run sixth inning. (George Sherrill, in his first game back from the disabled list, allowed three inherited runs to score.) It ended up a 10-1 Angels victory.

Pineiro personally outscored the Dodgers while going the distance on a five-hitter. Ken McBride in 1962 is the only other Angel pitcher to score three runs in a game. It was the first time in 25 years that the Dodgers allowed an opposing pitcher to score three runs.

Jun 11

The Angels brought on Chad Billingsley’s demons in 2009

When the Angels last faced Chad Billingsley at Dodger Stadium, on May 24, 2009, they ended Billingsley’s streak of consecutive quality starts at nine, scoring three runs in the sixth inning to take a 5-4 lead. When Billingsley faced the Angels again on June 19, at Anaheim, he had a 4-1 lead before giving up three runs in the sixth inning again.

Billingsley gave up three runs in the sixth inning of his next start, against the Chicago White Sox on June 25, and suddenly, a pitcher who was on his way to the All-Star Game began to have a reputation as a pitcher who would melt down in the sixth inning — even though, as you can see from his game log, it was hardly a regular occurrence even in the second half of 2009.

Fortunately, Billingsley has done a lot in 2010 to repair his reputation. The skeptics will no doubt return should Billingsley falter again, even once, but it’s just a reminder to keep the big picture in sight when evaluating a player. Nearly 70 percent of Billingsley’s starts in 2009 were quality starts, yet people wanted to give up on him.

I don’t know if he’ll make it past the sixth inning against the Angels today, but I sure look forward to seeing him try.

* * *

In his afternoon media session, Joe Torre made a comment to reporters about the Dodgers’ recent streak of one-run victories to the effect of “the bulk of those have been at home, where the main ingredient is that you can use your closer in tie games.”

Someone needs to remind Torre that you actually can use your closer in tie games on the road — and that you’re better off doing so than using a lesser pitcher to try to keep you in the game.

I don’t know why it’s so hard for managers to grasp that it’s easier to protect a one-run lead than a zero-run lead, but such is life.

* * *

While comments remain welcome here, of course, you can also join me and ESPNLosAngeles beat writers Tony Jackson (Dodgers) and Mark Saxon (Angels) for a Cover It Live chat during tonight’s game. They’ll be chatting live from Dodger Stadium, I’ll be chatting live while putting the kids to bed.

Editors at ESPNLosAngeles.com also picked their all-Los Angeles-named-baseball-team stars. You can make your own picks here.

Jun 11

Scream saver

ESPN’s Page 2 asked me to write about The Scream, and I said I would, and then it turned out they didn’t want an Edvard Munch piece at all. They wanted this.

Anyway, I didn’t say this in the Page 2 piece, and I realize this is all for a good cause, but tonight’s scream strikes me as just an extraordinarily bad idea. But I guess I’m biased against the idea of people being involuntarily subjected to the loudest scream in history …

* * *

He’s here — or more accurately, he’s there. Cleveland has called up Casey Blake tradee Carlos Santana.

AAA Albuquerque slugger John Lindsey has been placed on the Isotopes’ disabled list with a strained calf, according to the team’s press notes. For the time being, Justin Sellers is taking Lindsey’s roster spot.

There were other Albuquerque roster moves that I mentioned in the Dodger Thoughts comments Thursday – so in case you missed them, here’s the press note version:

“Lefty Brent Leach has been sent to Double-A Chattanooga in the place of starter Alberto Bastardo, who joins the ‘Topes after going 5-3 with a 4.85 ERA in 11 starts for the Lookouts. In the bullpen, Jon Link returns from his latest stint in Los Angeles and Major League veteran Kiko Calero joins the Dodgers organization after signing as a free agent. Calero started the season at Triple-A Buffalo in the Mets organization but was released on May 16 after going 2-0 with a 10.59 ERA (20 ER / 17.0 IP) in 10 games. To make room for Calero and Link, Scott Elbert was placed on the Temporary Inactive List and Eric Thompson was transferred to Ogden’s roster.

Jun 10

Dodger Cogs and Dogs: Edition 6

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Clayton Kershaw, whose May 8 excellence marked a turning point in the Dodger season, leads the major leagues in strikeouts per nine innings.

In this edition of Dodger Cogs and Dogs, we’re giving it over to the pitchers, who have taken things over. The hitting has remained timely enough, but the pitching has been just shy of dominating – and not just in the recent homestand. In the 30 games since May 8, the day Clayton Kershaw shut out Ubaldo Jimenez and Colorado – we’re talking half the season now – the Dodger team ERA is 2.88.

No Cogs and Dogs on Monday’s off day – that’s too soon. The next C&D will be June 21.

6/10 . 5/24 . 5/13 . 5/3 . 4/19 . 4/12 . Player Comment
1 1 1 1 2 11 Andre Ethier Only OPSing .736 since return from DL, but we’ll let him slide.
2 3 5 6 10 20 Clayton Kershaw Out of 13 starts this year, 12 allowing three earned runs or less.
3 2 2 2 3 1 Hiroki Kuroda Brief decline reversed in a big way Tuesday, lowering ERA to 3.30.
4 11 10 5 6 13 Jonathan Broxton When the ERA goes down to 0.95, you get extra credit.
5 7 8 26 NR NR John Ely If Sunday’s counts as a bad Ely start, I’ll take it.
6 8 11 12 12 10 Chad Billingsley With 230 pitches in past two starts, extra day off might help.
7 18 14 16 18 21 Carlos Monasterios Forget where he came from: He’s fifth on the team in innings and ERA.
8 16 18 NR NR NR Hong-Chih Kuo Lefty batters: 0 for 20 with a walk and a sac fly. Righties only OPSing .520.
9 4 4 3 1 5 Matt Kemp Less spectacular than before but still solid, reaching base in 24 of past 25 games.
10 14 9 7 8 4 Rafael Furcal Looking better almost every day.
11 9 16 11 7 6 Casey Blake Blake was on verge of passing Ramirez in offensive value (let alone defensive) before Wednesday.
12 5 3 4 4 9 Manny Ramirez With days off and DHing, might only play four games in LF through June 24.
13 10 6 8 9 24 James Loney Would just love to see him have one of those red-hot months before September.
14 12 12 15 14 14 Blake DeWitt Hitting and fielding are improving gradually.
15 6 7 10 5 2 Russell Martin I was propping him up for too long. Hang in there, Russell.
16 13 17 18 21 18 Jamey Carroll Best walk rate on the team.
17 25 24 NR NR NR Ronald Belisario Bumped up by popular demand and belief that despite ERA, he has been key.
18 21 22 21 17 15 Jeff Weaver Has faced eight batters in past 11 days.
19 17 15 9 11 12 Ramon Troncoso A phantom DL trip wouldn’t be the worst idea and would be easy to sell.
20 20 20 17 20 8 Reed Johnson .852 OPS vs. lefties, .642 vs. righties. Would help more if reversed.
21 19 13 14 13 7 Ronnie Belliard Numbers are holding up, but just doesn’t play a lot.
22 15 19 19 NR NR Xavier Paul Still happy with what he did, but he was ranked too high last time.
23 NR NR NR NR NR Justin Miller Six strikeouts, 1.23 ERA in 7 1/3 innings.
24 NR NR NR NR NR Travis Schlichting Just one game for the Dodgers, but what a game.
25 22 23 20 15 25 Vicente Padilla His return could come at just the right time. But he won’t be as fun as Carlos.
26 23 25 22 19 19 A.J. Ellis He should be able to stay in the majors as backup for some time to come.
27 29 29 28 25 NR Jon Link Reestablished himself as viable emergency reliever with two shutout innings.
28 24 26 24 23 23 Brad Ausmus His .750 OPS is third-highest of his career (minimum four plate appearances).
29 26 21 23 24 17 Ramon Ortiz Still sixth on team with 30 innings, 1 2/3 more than Broxton. That gets a “Yikes!”
30 27 27 NR NR NR Nick Green Biggest achievement of ’10: reminding Ned Colletti that some players do clear waivers.
31 28 28 27 26 26 George Sherrill I think he can, I think he can, I think he can …
32 30 30 29 27 22 Russ Ortiz This is it, Russ. Next time, I’m bumping Anderson up for intangibles.
33 32 32 30 22 16 Garret Anderson Two RBI in his past seven games … and his average is still tumbling
34 31 31 25 16 3 Charlie Haeger I think he actually is hurt; I also think he’d clear waivers.
35 NR NR NR NR NR Scott Elbert Don’t call up a struggling pitcher for a game at Colorado, okay?
Jun 09

Close and yes cigar for the Dodgers, 4-3

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Blake DeWitt and Aaron Miles star in Series Metaphor Theater.

‘Twas a fortuitous bounce.

Leading off the top of the ninth against the Dodgers’ Jonathan Broxton for the second night in a row, down by a run for the second night in a row, St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols this time coaxed a 3-2 single after it appeared he had been struck out. Two outs later, he was still at first base when Yadier Molina hit a drive in the right-center gap. Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier both pursued, but it landed just out of reach on the warning track – and then, as if on classic Cardinal AstroTurf, bounced into the bleachers. Pujols, who would have scored the tying run, was pinged back to third base on the ground-rule double.

Repreived, Broxton induced a slow ground ball from Randy Winn to Casey Blake, who narrowly completed the throw to James Loney for the final out of the Dodgers’ 4-3 victory, the franchise’s first three-game sweep of the Cardinals at home since A.D. 1988. With San Diego rained out, Los Angeles now leads the National League West by one game, and heads into Thursday’s off day having gone 11-5 since their last. Nine of those victories were by one run. In consecutive series against (at-the-time) division leaders, the Dodgers went 5-2.

The Dodgers led this one all the way and at one point seemed to be headed for a surprising, dominating and even history-making romp. Through three innings, the Dodgers cuffed the normally nemesing Adam Wainwright (1.38 ERA in his past five starts vs. Los Angeles, per True Blue L.A.) for four runs on six hits and four walks, two of the runs coming on a Manny Ramirez first-inning homer.

While Wainwright needed 70 pitches to get through those three frames, Clayton Kershaw allowed only a first-inning walk to Pujols while striking out six. But Kershaw faltered briefly but significantly in the fourth inning, surrendering a three-run home run to Ryan Ludwick.

Kershaw only allowed two baserunners thereafter while completing seven innings and striking out a total of 10 (he now has 90 on the season, one behind Wainwright’s MLB-leading 91), but even with a 4-for-4 night from Loney (and thanks in part to his line-drive snag in the eighth), the Dodgers could not press their advantage. And so it came down to the reverb from the Dodger Stadium warning track to keep a spring in the Dodgers’ step.

* * *

This story by Bill Shaikin of the Times is quite something. It’s sure to be overblown, but it doesn’t mean it’s not quite a read. All I’ll say is, it seems now the McCourts heard all our cries to sign Vladimir – they just signed the wrong one.

Of a different sort of interest: Ted Miller of ESPN.com reports (based on an anonymous source) that the Pac-10 is on the verge of becoming the Pac-16. It depends on Nebraska moving to the Big 10. “The new conference would be split into divisions with Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado forming an Eastern Division with Arizona and Arizona State opposite the former Pac-8 (USC, UCLA, Stanford, Washington, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State) in the Western Division,” Miller writes.