Jun 04

Farewell, John Wooden


John Wooden, who held the city of Los Angeles tightly in his grip like the rolled-up program he clutched courtside, who along with Vin Scully was one of the city’s two true gentlemen, has passed away at age 99.

He was an influence on me as a child, like he was on so many others – an influence that wasn’t lost as I grew older. As much as anyone else outside my family, he taught me about sportsmanship, about striving for excellence without losing your bearings. And every time you heard him speak, you were reminded. The combination of Wooden’s dignity, sensitivity and acumen will never be surpassed.

Another thing he tried to teach is how to face death. I’m still struggling to learn — and today doesn’t make it any easier.

When news spread Thursday that his condition was grave, I began to prepare some thoughts about him, though I left them unfinished heading into today. This afternoon, I was walking and thinking about what I had written, thinking it was all a bit too grandiose – not for him, nothing could be too grandiose for him – but for me. I didn’t go to UCLA, though I grew up going to UCLA basketball games. I didn’t meet him, except for getting my picture with him at basketball camp. He was a hero of mine, but he belonged to so many others even more – on a deeply personal level. I will always have what I had with him. Others won’t. Think what their loss must feel like.

But still, I will miss him. I am not comfortable with the idea that someone with his life force is no longer alive. Even though Wooden would be the first, the very first, to say not to shed a tear, to say we should only celebrate the life instead of lamenting the death, I’m feeling a weakness, hearing this news. I feel him gone.

It’s not so easy to let go.

Jun 04

Kershaw LXIII: Kershawt My Dad Says

Paul Spinelli
With two hits, Chad Billingsley is the Dodgers’ Babe Ruth this year. (This picture is from last year.)

Even by pitcher standards, Dodger pitchers are stinking it up at the plate this year.

They’re the worst in the NL this season by almost every measure. Los Angeles pitchers have a .178 OPS at the plate, while their top NL West rival, San Diego, is best in the league at .502. (The Dodgers have an .086 batting average on balls in play, while the Padres are at .310.)

Through 54 games, they have a grand total of five hits — fewer hits than walks, in fact. That’s the one bright spot for Dodger pitchers — they’re tied for the league league in free passes received with eight. Last season, Dodger pitchers had 40 hits and 14 walks.

Chad Billingsley — who was the Dodgers’ best-hitting pitcher last year, not Randy Wolf (though Wolf had a noteworthy 11 RBI) — leads the Dodgers with two hits. Clayton Kershaw (1 for 17), Carlos Monasterios (1 for 5) and Jeff Weaver (1 for 1) have the others. Hiroki Kuroda and John Ely are a combined 0 for 34.

Dodger pitchers have no extra-base hits this year and one RBI – a sacrifice fly by the 0-for-6 Charlie Haeger. They do lead the NL in sacrifice hits.

Forget blaming Manny Ramirez, Russell Martin or anyone else for their slumps. It’s time for the Dodger arms to get in the swing!

* * *

  • Casey Blake went for an MRI, Joe Torre told reporters today.
  • Here’s one more take on the unperfect game and instant replay — I know we’ve overdosed on this stuff, but it’s from Josh Wilker so I can’t not push it.
Jun 04

Torre and Mattingly want Dodger batters to slow down to get better

The Dodgers are slumping at the plate mainly because of impatient at-bats, Joe Torre and Don Mattingly told Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

“I hope guys aren’t trying to hit home runs, because we’re not that kind of team,” Mattingly said after (Thursday’s) game. “But in a 0-0 game that goes into extra innings, guys always like to be the hero. That is what we talked about, that hitting home runs is all good, but you have to keep fighting for those hits. I just told them we need to get back to making sure we’re doing what we do, because we’re not a sit-back-and-wait-for-the-home-run kind of team.”

In reality, the collective struggle goes back more than a week, to the start of the last road trip. It began as the Dodgers were being shut out in two of three games in Chicago, with Cubs right-hander Ryan Dempster sailing through eight innings on 104 pitches in the opener. Then, on Saturday night at Colorado, Aaron Cook pitched into the seventh inning on fewer than 100 pitches in the only game the Rockies would win in that series.

All three Diamondbacks starters went at least eight innings, and while all three threw at least 115 pitches, the fact the Dodgers didn’t make them sweat much in terms of pitching out of jams was significant.

And then, finally, it all came to a head when Atlanta’s Kris Medlen needed fewer than 100 to pitch four batters deep into the eighth inning.

“We aren’t necessarily having real good at-bats,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. “The opposing pitchers’ pitch counts haven’t been real high. I think we aren’t having the quality at-bats we had maybe a week or so ago. We’re just going to have to keep fighting our way out of it. I think it comes down to trying to do too much. Especially with the extra-inning games the last couple of days, guys might have been trying to hit home runs.”

Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. just posted a comparison between the first thirds of the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Among others, Russell Martin is doing even worse now than he was after 54 games in 2009.

* * *

Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone has a thoughtful take on the future of web journalism, both generally and as it relates to Dodger coverage. I agree with just about all of it – even the parts where I’m not quoted. (This is where I’d insert a smiley face if I did that sort of thing in my posts.)

Moriyama passes along the pessimistic view that even if an All-Star team of Dodger bloggers were assembled, most readers still wouldn’t be willing to pay for it, which exemplifies why journalism as a business is in such dire condition. The Irony Committee approves of the fact that I agree even though much of my current career depends on me being wrong about this.

* * *

  • How my mind works: My first reaction upon hearing that Juan Samuel had been named interim manager of the Baltimore Orioles was that I would have thought the way he stunk things up in the second half of the 1991 season for the Dodgers would have disqualified him. Obviously, though, that’s not the case. Congratuations, Juan, and good luck.
  • Xavier Paul returned to the Albuquerque Isotopes just like he left: with a three-hit game.
  • Blue Heaven links to a handwritten journal of Wee Willie Keeler’s up for auction.
Jun 03

Dodgers can’t quite bounce back, fall 4-3

Danny Moloshok/AP
Manny Ramirez’s failure to come up with this sinking drive by Atlanta pitcher Kris Medlen in the sixth inning allowed what proved to be the winning run to score.

Well, the Dodger offense indeed was slumping. Shut out for the first seven innings tonight by Atlanta’s Kris Medlen, the Dodgers had only two runs to show for their past 31 innings.

Still, they almost extended their winning streak. Almost.

Danny Moloshok/AP
Takashi Saito’s Dodger Stadium homecoming was nearly perfect, until his leg gave way.

Down 4-0 and held to three runners in the first seven innings by 24-year-old Atlanta righty Kris Medlen, the Dodgers picked and poked their way back into it in the bottom of the eighth, scoring three runs on singles by James Loney, Blake DeWitt, Jamey Carroll and Ronnie Belliard, a throwing error by the Braves (which DeWitt barely converted into a run with a devilish hand-touch of home), and an RBI groundout by Rafael Furcal. But after Matt Kemp walked, mojo-free Andre Ethier struck out on a 2-2 fastball.

And then control of the game turned to our truly old friend, 40-year-old Takashi Saito, pitching against the Dodgers for the first time in his career. In the ninth, Saito retired Manny Ramirez and Loney, then got to 0-2 on Martin … when he had to leave the game with an apparent left hamstring injury. After a delay of several minutes, Jonny Venters came in and threw one pitch to strike out Martin and walk away with Saito’s save of a 4-3 Atlanta victory.

It was a disappointing night for Los Angeles, but not quite the bad taste that a shutout would have left. And the Lakers’ NBA Finals Game 1 victory will certainly provide some cover and consolation.

Hiroki Kuroda is also slumping now, by the way. His performance tonight wasn’t terrible – three earned runs in six innings – but the seven hits and four walks against two strikeouts hint at how sloppy it was. In his past two starts (the previous one an even more uncomfortable outing in Colorado), Kuroda has allowed 11 runs (eight earned) on 23 baserunners in 10 innings with three strikeouts. Yikes.

But this all, I believe, will pass. Perhaps around the time that the Dodger bullpen, which hasn’t allowed an earned run in its past 20 innings (according to the Dodger press notes), cracks.

* * *

  • Jeff Weaver entered the game in the top of the seventh, only to depart with trainer Stan Conte without throwing an official pitch. No details immediately available.
  • Casey Blake is day-to-day with back spasms, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Spurred to investigate the situation by questioners during his online chat today, Jackson found that minor-league pitcher Josh Lindblom is being converted back to relief. “When he gets back, we’re probably going to transition him back to the bullpen,” assistant general manager for player development DeJon Watson told Jackson. “I think he is better suited to the bullpen. It’s just his delivery and his stuff, and I think this will give him a chance to help our big league club at some point this year. We just want to get him back to where he was at the end of last year.”
  • Pitching rehab outings for Inland Empire tonight, Vicente Padilla threw 37 pitches, allowing one hit and striking out five in three innings, while George Sherrill struck out two in an eight-pitch inning of relief.
  • Vin Scully will make a rare trip East in two weeks, broadcasting the Dodgers’ game at Fenway Park for Prime Ticket on June 18, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Lucky us.
Jun 03

Dodgers activate Charlie Haeger, option Schlichting

With their bullpen worked over by back-to-back extra inning games, the Dodgers have activated Charlie Haeger from the disabled list and optioned Wednesday’s relief hero, Travis Schlichting.

Haeger presumably will work in relief if needed tonight and be on call if Carlos Monasterios’ blister prevents him from starting Monday.

* * *

Garret Anderson’s walkoff hit Wednesday was the eighth of his career, the first since 2001. He had a walkoff walk in 2008.

Jun 03

Resurgent Dodgers can exhale … and then hold their breath once more

Getty Images
Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate

But for a blown save on an 0-2 pitch with two out in the ninth inning by Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez at San Diego on Wednesday, the Dodgers would have completed their journey from being in a tie for the worst record in the National League on April 29 to being in a tie for the best today.

Exactly four weeks ago, Dodger fans wondered, “What next?” But it turned out that Murphy’s Law had not become the law of the land – and moreover, the Dodgers showed they could overcome the adversity that remained. This team had a good side after all, and now sits at 31-22, one game from the top of the NL.

Since starting the season 8-14, Los Angeles has gone 23-8. The Dodgers reach the one-third point of the 2010 season tonight on a 95-win pace – exactly the number of games they won last season. And while they had to survive the 50-game suspension of Manny Ramirez and ongoing traumas to Hiroki Kuroda in 2009, this season has been no picnic.

Ramirez, Rafael Furcal and Andre Ethier have been out of the starting lineup a combined 73 times this season, either for injuries or attempts to avoid them, while 2009 postseason stalwart Vicente Padilla has been sidelined since April 22 and four key relievers have been on the suspended, disabled or just plain awful list: Ronald Belisario, Hong-Chih Kuo, Jeff Weaver and George Sherrill.

Gus Ruelas/APAndre Ethier goes 1 for 14 as the Dodgers win three in a row: good omen or bad?

Things haven’t stopped going wrong for the Dodgers – if you needed any more evidence of that, two runs in their past 24 innings against last-place Arizona should suffice. The Dodgers were crazy close to being swept by the Diamondbacks, which would have meant seven losses in their past 10 games, which would have meant another round of Angst Blue Ribbon being passed around the dorm.

Even having avoided that unhappy storm, the Dodgers head into a scheduling tsunami starting this evening. Their opponent for the next four games, Atlanta, has rather amazingly duplicated the Dodgers’ 8-14/23-8 split to take over the NL East lead. This series starts a stretch of 25 games in the remaining 28 days of June for Los Angeles, with the worst opponent in that time being the American League’s 27-28 Angels. Sixteen games this month come against teams on pace to win at least 90 games – the Braves, Cardinals, Reds, Red Sox and Yankees – with the stretch then capped by an out-for-blood rendezvous at San Francisco, playing .633 ball at home.

By July 1, all the doubting and even a good chunk of the loathing from April might return to Chavez Ravine. And no matter how resourceful the Dodgers are, they might find it nearly impossible not to fall farther behind the endlessly underestimated Padres, who get 10 games against the Phillies, Blue Jays and Rays this month but overall have an easier go of it. The Dodgers came within a strike of first place in the NL West on Wednesday; it could be weeks before they’re that close again.

Or not. Because after all, as opposed to a month ago, now the 2010 Dodgers have something more than hope. They now have, if nothing else, an established record of success.

Jason Bridge/US PresswireThe pending return of Vicente Padilla by the end of June could be an injection if not a distraction.

Even without Padilla – some might say especially without him – the Dodgers’ starting rotation of Kuroda, Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, John Ely and Carlos Monasterios has a combined ERA of 3.08 for the season. Furthermore, all but Monasterios are now regularly pitching six innings or more, putting the Dodgers in position to take advantage of a bullpen that has begun to match last year’s excellence. These guys won’t shut down the opposition each time out. They’ll ebb and flow – Kuroda, the hero of April, is struggling more of late, while Billingsley’s recovery Monday showed signs of a warrior – but in any case, they’ve passed enough tests to inspire confidence. The worst-case scenarios are no longer the only ones anyone can see.

For the time being, the offense has emerged as the greater concern, averaging 2.8 runs in the past 10 games – not exactly Phillies-level slumpage, but poor enough. Still, Dodger fans know the team is capable of better – the 68 runs in the first 10 games of the season, for example, a spiritual facsimile of the 31 consecutive scoreless innings the pitching has just thrown.

In a significant way, the 31-22 Dodgers are in the exact same position the 8-14 Dodgers were in four weeks ago: capable of brilliance, dilapidation and everything in between. At the end of this month, Dodger fans will combine another 25 equations of whether the good outweighed the bad on each and every given day, but right now, not one person can say how it will go. The Dodgers won their past three games thanks to an inexplicable double error and a balk, a seven-inning two-hitter from a guy no one cared about a blink ago, and four innings of shutout relief from their 19th pitcher of the season combined with a by-inches single from a .146 hitter. They won a three-game series with four RBI. That’s as great as it is scary for a team trying to win it all. How do you tell the future from tea leaves so mischievous?

As we move toward the season’s second trimester, perhaps the most salient thought is this. Every single team has its worries, its injuries, its Garret Andersons and George Sherrills, yes, even its hurdles to making a midseason trade. Yes, every single one of them. The Dodgers might have more than some, but not too many yet. A month ago, Dodger fans had reason to doubt whether they’d ever make it into the 2010 pennant race. One thing they can say now: They’re in it.

Jun 02

Schlichting might have earned the most positive of demotions

Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US Presswire
Travis Schlichting allowed four baserunners in four unexpected but indispensable innings of relief today.

The pitch counts for the relievers in today’s 14-inninger: Ramon Troncoso 11, Justin Miller 41, Jonathan Broxton 11, Ronald Belisario 10, Travis Schlichting 60 – none of whom pitched Tuesday except Belisario, who threw 11 pitches. That gives the Dodgers four relievers they can easily use Thursday against Atlanta in back of Hiroki Kuroda: Troncoso, Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo and Jeff Weaver.

The Dodgers might make a move to add a reliever – that move would probably include optioning Schlichting to Albuquerque. If that happens, Schlichting can make the trip knowing that he made quite a positive impression on this organization, not to mention a lifetime memory for this converted infielder who has been plagued by back trouble in his career and was pitching for the Kansas City T-Bones of the independent Northern League inside of three years ago.

Schlichting is the 19th pitcher the Dodgers have used this season, and the 11th to get a victory.

Options for the Dodgers for Thursday don’t include Charlie Haeger (turf toe), James McDonald (bad hamstring), Scott Elbert (not eligible for a recall yet – and the Dodgers probably don’t want him right now) or Brent Leach (threw 70 pitches for Albuquerque today). Perhaps most likely would be the temporary return of Jon Link, who hasn’t pitched since Sunday and has an ERA of 0.87 in his past six appearances (10 1/3 innings) with eight strikeouts.

“Kim [Ng] is out there waiting to talk to me,” Joe Torre said about a potential roster move after today’s game, reports Chris Volk of DodgerFan.net. “She’s going to come in and ask me the same question. I haven’t really digested this yet and I don’t know where we would make room for that person, but we are going to be a bit short, so we’ll have to see.”

Torre added that he would have used Weaver after Schlichting, but beyond that, Reed Johnson might have been the next arm.

“I don’t know,” Torre told Volk. “I didn’t poll anybody. Short of one of those things, I was hoping that if we weren’t going to score, that it would be Garrett making the last out so at least the next inning I’d have Johnson leading off and I’d have nine guys. Pick one of those guys to pitch. But if I had to use him in the 14th inning, then I was going to have to probably use a pitcher to play a position and not pitch, which is something I’ve never had to do.”

As for Carlos Monasterios, he is winning a convert in the manager’s chair, and the plans to move him out of the rotation in favor of Haeger might indeed be shelved a little longer – skin permitting. Monasterios would have gone out for a sixth inning today but for a blister on his right middle finger, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Jun 02

The 28-out perfect game

Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga lost a perfect game with two out in the ninth inning tonight because of a blown call at first base. Alex Belth’s reaction at Bronx Banter suits me perfectly.

Cabrera raised his arms as soon as he threw the ball and the runner was out. But Jim Joyce called him safe. He blew the call. Right in front of him. Blew it. Trevor Crowe grounded out for the 28th and final out.

I felt sick to my stomach watching it on TV. It was like getting kicked in the gut or lower. The fans in Detroit booed. It seemed like half of the Tigers team had to be restrained from jumping Joyce whose professional life may never be the same after one blown call. From what little I know about umpires, they take their mistakes to heart, so I can only assume this is the worst night of Jim Joyce’s life (and I feel for him as I imagine nobody feels worse about this than he does).

After the game, Joyce told reporters, “I just cost that kid a perfect game,” Joyce said. “I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay.”

Joyce’s mistake surely spoiled the best night of Galarraga’s life, but instead of letting this sickening feeling overshadow Galarraga’s brilliance, let’s just flip it—this was a wonderful feat. Joyce’s mistake only allowed Galarraga to accomplish something even more unique than a perfect game. A 28-out perfecto.

No matter what the record books say, this was perfection by Galarraga, plus one. An untimely mistake by Jim Joyce can’t spoil what we all saw and know to be true.

At the Hardball Times, Josh Fisher is part of the Million Fan March calling for expansion of instant replay in baseball.

Update: Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk looks at the pros and cons of Bud Selig overturning Joyce’s call and retroactively making the perfect game official.

Jun 02

Dodgers outlast Diamondbacks again, 1-0 in 14 innings

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Carlos Monasterios looks towards the sky in the second inning, as if he knew how long this day would be for the Dodgers.

It was — or should have been — Edwin Jackson’s game.

Instead, it was … Garret Anderson’s?

The maligned Dodger reserve, with 12 hits in 82 at-bats this year, singled home Matt Kemp in the bottom of the 14th inning to give the Dodgers their second-straight 1-0, extra-inning victory over Arizona — capping a series in which the Diamondbacks were held scoreless for their final 31 innings.

The Dodgers, whose scoreless pitching streak is their longest since a 37-inning skein July 24-28, 1991, according to the Dodger press notes, entered this series with a 4.21 team ERA, and left it at 3.99. It was the first time two MLB teams had gone scoreless into extra innings in consecutive games since 2001, and the first time for the Dodger franchise since 1919. The Dodgers also have three consecutive walkoff wins for the first time since August 5-7, 1982.

We’ll talk about the Dodger offense another time, but for now we’ll tip our hat once more to Arizona’s starting pitcher. More than six years after Jackson’s memorable Dodger debut against the Diamondbacks, nearly five years after his last appearance at Dodger Stadium, Jackson returned and put on a show. It was against a lineup that missed Manny Ramirez, Russell Martin, and Rafael Furcal (and for half the game, Casey Blake), but it was a show nonetheless. Jackson pitched shutout ball for nine innings, allowing three hits and three walks while striking out six.

But Jackson didn’t get the win — and neither did Arizona, which was held scoreless by six Dodger pitchers, the last Travis Schlichting, who pitched four shutout innings in his 2010 Dodger debut despite not having thrown that many in a game all year in the minors.

The tone was set early by Jackson and Carlos Monasterios, who, like John Ely, has had to fight a lot of natural-born skepticism to get into the starting rotation. But with five shutout innings today, Monasterios lowered his 2010 ERA to 1.87 and threatened to give birth to Monahysteria. He allowed two singles, walked none and struck out three. He was also, like Ely, reasonably efficient with his pitch count — except for a rather bizarre stretch in the fifth inning when Adam LaRoche and Rusty Ryal combined to foul off 11 of 13 pitches. Monasterios also had to battle several three-ball counts in the second inning, but still got his five innings completed in 81 pitches.

After Ramon Troncoso, now being rationed by Joe Torre, was used for one shutout inning, it fell to recent callup Justin Miller to keep Arizona at bay. Miller immediately tattooed Arizona by hitting Stephen Drew and LaRoche with pitches, but in between came a strikeout and throwout by A.J. Ellis of Drew attempting to steal, to interrupt the scoring bid. Ryal then flied deep to Kemp in center field to end the inning.

Jackson then became the second Arizona starting pitcher in as many games to bat for himself in the eighth inning of a scoreless game — and worked Miller with an 11-pitch single. But on his 41st pitch of the game, Miller got Kelly Johnson to fly to Kemp.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Arizona’s offense denied Edwin Jackson his second career shutout.

In the bottom of the eighth, Jackson once again faced Manny Ramirez with a runner on first and the game on the line, as he did May 12 in Arizona. But instead of hitting a home run, Ramirez was called out on strikes — the third consecutive game Ramirez failed to bring home the go-ahead run in the eighth inning.

After Jonathan Broxton pitched a scoreless top of the ninth, the valiant Jackson went back to the mound. He was one strike from completing his ninth shutout inning when he gave up a line single to Jamey Carroll, who had the only three hits Jackson allowed, along with a walk. Kemp then walked on a 3-2 slider, leaving it up to Andre Ethier. In a situation seemingly scripted in the Dodgers’ favor, Hollywood rejected it, with Ethier lining out to LaRoche at first base on Jackson’s 123rd pitch.

Ronald Belisario’s scoreless 10th inning fed into James Loney’s double to start off the bottom of the 10th, the only extra-base hit in the 101 combined plate appearances by the two teams today. Ronnie Belliard walked after Anderson struck out, but pinch-hitters Furcal and Martin couldn’t bring the run home.

From that point on, you could say the Dodgers’ otherwise significant bullpen advantage was starting to bleed out, especially with Hong-Chih Kuo unavailable because he threw 1 1/3 innings Tuesday and Torre also wanting to give a day off to Jeff Weaver, who threw 21 pitches Tuesday night.

That left Schlichting, with two career major-league games, the last nearly a year ago, and a history of injury issues. Schlichting pitched a perfect 11th inning, survived two singles in the 12th and then completed a 1-2-3 13th. All the while, the Dodger offense remained silent.

But that wasn’t all. Schlichting, whose longest minor-league outing of the year was 3 2/3 innings, batted for himself in the bottom of the 13th and stayed in to pitch the 14th. He gave up a hit and a walk with one out, but escaped on two fly balls to cap his 60-pitch effort.

Finally, in the bottom of the 14th, Kemp ended an 0-for-14 drought by the Dodger outfielders with a single. Ethier lined out for the third time in his hard-luck 0-for-6 day, but Kemp advanced to second base on a wild pitch, went to third on a Loney grounder and then, unbelievably or mercifully, scored on Anderson’s hit.

With three walkoff victories, this was a series the Dodgers won’t soon forget — but Arizona will sure try its best.

Jun 02

Why John Ely will have trouble becoming Rookie of the Year

Howard Smith/US Presswire
Jason Heyward

A Rookie of the Year campaign for John Ely becomes less far-fetched by the day — heck, the guy has practically been Cy Young (if not Ubaldo Jimenez) in every appearance since his first, with a 1.80 ERA. But then there is the matter of one Jason Heyward.

Heyward, who doesn’t turn 21 until August, has a .410 on-base percentage, .567 slugging percentage and 160 adjusted OPS for Atlanta this year. For fans of Wins Above Replacement, Heyward is sixth in the National League. In other words, he’s been spectacular, and spectacular since Day 1 of 2010.

ESPN Stats and Information adds the following:

Entering play Tuesday, Jason Heyward had played 47 games. Just for comparison’s sake, here is what Alex Rodriguez did in his first 47 games (also at age 20).

     Heyward     Rodriguez
BA     .292        .237
HR       10           3
RBI      38          14
K        36          47

There’s also, to say the least, the matter of St. Louis’ Jamie Garcia (1.32 ERA) and Cincinnati’s Mike Leake (2.45 ERA).

At least Ely has a bouncy leg up on Aroldis Chapman, though Chapman provided intriguing viewing for Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk.

* * *

  • Hong-Chih Kuo surely won’t be available to pitch today and Jeff Weaver might be limited, but five other Dodger relievers — Jonathan Broxton, Ronald Belisario, Ramon Troncoso, Justin Miller and Travis Schilchting — can back up Carlos Monasterios after limited-to-no use over the past two nights.
  • Andre Ethier has moved into third place in the N.L. All-Star balloting for outfielders.
  • Seth Etherton had his second straight superb outing for Albuquerque on Tuesday, allowing no runs and six baserunners over seven innings while striking out seven. Despite his performance and Jamie Hoffmann going 3 for 4 to raise his OPS to .809, the Isotopes’ Scott Dohmann allowed four runs in the ninth inning to take a 5-4 loss.
  • Prodigal Dodger Travis Denker, 24, went 4 for 5 for Inland Empire on Tuesday to raise his on-base percentage with the 66ers to .419. Austin Gallagher, 21, went 4 for 4.
  • Trayvon Robinson of Chattanooga was named Southern League Hitter of the Week for May 24-30 after going 6 for 21 with three home runs.
  • While everyone waits for Jerry Sands to get promoted from Great Lakes, the slugger is slumping a bit. After going 0 for 3 with a walk in the Loons’ 6-2 victory Tuesday, Sands is 2 for his last 18 with no home runs and three walks. Longshot story Will Savage won again, allowing two runs over six innings so that his ERA rose to 2.26.
Jun 01

Bison buys one for the Dodgers, 1-0

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
“The Dodgers are going to have to take an ad to get a run for him,” Vin Scully commented after John Ely’s seven innings of shutout ball left him with a no-decision.

And so we’ve found the kryptonite for John Ely – the Dodger offense. With his seven innings of two-hit, two-walk shutout ball tonight, Ely has allowed one run on 10 baserunners over 14 1/3 innings – a 0.63 ERA – but in that time, the Dodgers haven’t scored for him.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Matt Kemp: Glory be.

They did score for Jeff Weaver, however. With one out in the bottom of the 10th inning of a scoreless tie, Matt Kemp hit a hanging fastball hard, deep and winningly. His blast to the left-field bleachers off Juan Guiterrez gave the Dodgers a slightly more conventional walkoff victory, 1-0 over Arizona.

With walkoff wag Andre Ethier on deck, Kemp tied his outfield colleague with his 11th homer of the year and moved the Dodgers within a game of San Diego for the best record in the National League. It was the first 1-0 extra inning victory since Russell Martin hit that game-winning homer against the Giants on August 13, 2006, according to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. For the year, the Dodgers are now 2-2 in 1-0 games.

Kemp stole the spotlight from Ely, but the wunderkind pitcher still glows.

Ely took a no-hitter into the fifth inning before a Rusty Ryal single got past a somewhat immobile Casey Blake. To be honest, that wasn’t the first hard-hit ball off Ely – on MLB Gameday, the “Away Outs” portion of the hit chart in the bottom left-hand corner shows five balls caught at the warning track or deeper. But that doesn’t mean Ely wasn’t mesmerizing. At one stretch, he threw first-pitch strikes to 11 consecutive batters.

Ely even mesmerized Russell Martin, who committed a passed ball on what would have been an inning-ending strikeout in the top of the seventh but instead allowed Arizona to put Ely in some of his biggest jeopardy of the night – runners at first and second. (Martin also committed a throwing error after an Ely wild pitch that allowed Ryal to reach third base in the fifth.) But two pitches later, LaRoche practically mimicked the James Loney blunder of Monday’s game – actually did worse, considering how many outs there were – by getting himself thrown out by Martin trying to advance on another ball in the dirt.

That, as it turned out, was the last we’d see of Ely tonight. With a runner on first base and one out, Joe Torre decided to have Garret Anderson pinch-hit for Ely, who had thrown 92 pitches, in what I commented at the time was not exactly going to be a popular decision. Anderson then did himself no favors by hitting into a routine 4-6-3 double play.

Ely went to the showers with his ERA lowered to 2.54 and his sixth consecutive quality start in which he allowed no more than two runs. (The six straight quality starts are the most by a Dodger rookie since Hideo Nomo in 1995, according to the Dodger press notes.) Ely struck out five, and his K/BB ratio actually declined to 4.63. Interestingly, he’s getting close to having enough innings to qualify for the National League ERA race, and even more interestingly, it’s kind of relevant. As of now, Ely is 12th in the league in ERA among pitchers with at least 40 innings and third in K/BB.

“The Dodgers are going to have to take an ad to get a run for him,” Vin Scully commented.

Dodger fans who were doubly disappointed by the Anderson-for-Ely exchange might have felt that disappointment redouble when Ronald Belisario gave up a leadoff single in the eighth, and, after a Chris Snyder bunt, Dan Haren was left in the game to bat. The explanation: Haren was 14 for 34 (.412) this season, plus Arizona’s bullpen is notoriously poor. But Haren flied out, and Hong-Chih Kuo came in to get Kelly Johnson to ground out.

Haren, who had an 8.68 ERA over his past three starts, continued through the eighth inning. Ethier got his first hit since coming off the disabled list, meaning that for the third time in three weeks, Manny Ramirez would bat in a potential game-winning situation in the eighth inning against a tiring Arizona starter. Ramirez hit a grand slam off Edwin Jackson on May 12, then struck out with the score tied 4-4 Monday against Rodrigo Lopez. Tonight, Haren just missed striking out Ramirez on his 125th pitch, and then on his career-high 126th pitch, Ramirez popped to center field. Amid chatter that Haren might be left in for infinity and beyond, he instead ended his night with eight shutout innings, allowing seven hits and striking out seven while walking nada.

Neither team scored in the ninth, despite two-out hits by Martin and Jamey Carroll, and so the Dodgers and Arizona took their scoreless game to extra innings. Weaver allowed a hit in an otherwise harmless top of the 10th, and then one out after Rafael Furcal lined to short, Kemp made Ely the valued best supporting actor in a victory.

* * *

Sour note: James McDonald’s hamstring injury is significant, writes Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.

… McDonald is presently on the seven-day DL and is at the Dodgers’ spring-training facility in Glendale, Ariz., where he is throwing off flat ground. But he isn’t expected to return to pitching competitively anytime soon.

“It’s a significant strain,” Dodgers trainer Stan Conte said. “It’s not a small one. We call it a Grade 2 out of a possible three. We’ll just have to see how long it takes. We don’t believe it’s a matter of days. It’s longer than that.”

Jun 01

It’s nice to know you can come back to win, but getting an early lead is fine as well

Kirby Lee/US Presswire
Casey Blake is embraced by Matt Kemp at the end of Monday’s game. Clayton Kershaw’s white cap makes me feel that he has come in to celebrate from another era.

Hear James Loney talk about the “dumbest play I’ve ever done.” And then hear Charley Steiner with Loney’s redemption.

This was a bitter loss (among many) for Arizona. What’s your choice for 2010’s most bitter Dodger loss?

Elsewhere …

  • Earl Pomerantz writes about pressure. As usual, it’s a great read.
  • What song has the lyrics, “Trees fade out in the black of the night/Sometimes it don’t hardly seem worth the fight/But at least tonight I get to hear the golden voice of Vin Scully.” Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News has the answer.
  • The Dodgers’ ThinkCure! auction is about to launch. In the meantime, Darin Erstad’s upcoming charity auction, including an Erstad Gold Glove, will send 100 percent of the final sale price to support the Child Abuse Prevention Center in Orange.
Jun 01

Dodgers to pay tribute to Jose Lima on Sunday

The Dodgers will fill Sunday’s game against Atlanta with tributes to the late Jose Lima — including his 2004 rendition of the National Anthem and an honorary first pitch from his son.

From the Dodgers’ press release:

… Prior to his untimely passing, the charismatic pitcher had been planning to perform at a Viva Los Dodgers Day this summer, much like he did at the Viva Los Dodgers festival in 2004 when he was an active player. Lima’s longtime friend and bandleader of L.A.’s Conjunto Amistad Johnny Polanco will perform a set in his honor this Sunday, followed by Estrellas de Tuzantla. Polanco has performed with various notable musicians including Prince, Cachao, Johnny Pacheco, Tito Puente Jr., Charlie Zaa, Ray De La Paz and Tito Nieves.

Several of Lima’s friends and family members will recount stories of his life while fans will be encouraged to sign a book of memories for his family.

Lima performed the National Anthem and God Bless America at a Dodger home game in 2004. Lima’s anthem rendition will be shown on DodgerVision before Sunday’s game against the Braves and his version of God Bless America will run during the middle of the 7th inning. Lima’s son, Jose Jr., is expected to throw out an honorary first pitch and there will also be an in-game video tribute to the right-hander. …

Starting two hours prior to the game, fans can enjoy live music, a family-friendly celebration and a beer garden presented by Bud Light in Lot 6. Auto gates open at 11 a.m., Estrellas de Tuzantla will perform at 11:15 a.m. and Johnny Polanco and Conjunto Amistad will take the stage at 12:15 p.m. Jose Jr.’s first pitch will take place at approximately 1:00 p.m. followed by the 1:10 p.m. game against Atlanta.