Jun 07

Ellis joins the one-run fun bunch


Kirby Lee/US PresswireAyyyyyyyy, Jayyyyyyyy!

A.J. Ellis’ 11th-inning single to left gave the Dodgers’ their Dodgers’ sixth win in their past eight games – all by one run, four by walkoff hit and three in extra innings. In going 6-2, the Dodgers have been outscored by one run.

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com recaps Ellis’ heroic finish, which came after a long day.

Ellis has only six hits on the season, five singles and a double, but also has seven RBI.

* * *

  • John Ely’s homerless streak to start his career ended at 196 batters, and his second homerless streak ended at two batters, as the Braves touched him for nine hits in addition to two walks. “I threw some fastballs that came back over the plate,” Ely told Jackson. “Good hitters don’t miss pitches over the plate. I can’t be missing over the plate that much, and today, I missed a couple of times.”
  • Casey Blake showed some improvement, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Times, and might avoid the disabled list. Nick Green cleared waivers and is back in Albuquerque in case the Dodgers want him to return.
  • Russell Martin, who scored the winning run after pinch-walking Sunday, almost ended up back at third base earlier in the game. Blake DeWitt had to be checked out after seeming to hurt himself on a slide, and the Dodgers had already used Ronnie Belliard as a pinch-hitter. With Blake out, that left Martin as the remaining infielder. But DeWitt stayed in the game and ultimately sacrificed Martin into scoring position in the 11th.
  • Here’s video of Jose Lima, Jr. throwing out the honorary first pitch on the day they honored his late father. Miguel A. Melendez has more details in the Daily News.
  • The Dodgers expect to activate George Sherrill from the disabled list Tuesday. Sherrill had back-to-back scoreless relief appearances this weekend. It would seem to me that Charlie Haeger is on a thinner bubble to stay on the team than Justin Miller, who has thrown 6 1/3 shutout innings since joining the team with two hits, one walk … and three hit batters. I’d also imagine it’s going to be a lot easier for Haeger to clear waivers at this point. There’s always the possibility of someone taking a trip to the disabled list, of course.
  • The enigma that is Ramon Troncoso is examined by Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness. And frankly, Petriello doesn’t see much of an enigma, but rather a pitcher who was due for a decline only in part because of Joe Torre’s frequent use of him.
  • There was a rogue fan at Dodger Stadium causing serious problems for Tim Hudson, writes The Associated Press.

    The two-time All-Star was about to make his third pitch of the eighth inning to Matt Kemp when he was distracted by someone in the crowd who had an object that was reflecting the sun right into his eyes.

    “One was a purse handle, one was a mirror, and some of the people up there were playing games up there,” (Braves manager Bobby) Cox said. “And these seats, the way they’re painted, you can’t see the ball off the bat in a day game at times. So that’s dangerous enough — along with somebody messing with mirrors to try to reflect light into your eyes.”

    The game was held up about 5 minutes until stadium security could identify the fan in question, and Kemp singled on Hudson’s next delivery. At that point, Eric O’Flaherty relieved. Kemp advanced to third on Garret Anderson’s bunt and DeWitt’s grounder, but Ellis was robbed of a bloop single on a diving catch by center fielder Melky Cabrera.

    “It kind of stinks that [the fan] screwed with the flow of the game, but you’re going to have occasions where people are idiots,” Hudson said. “I was probably just out there for one hitter, anyway, because we had O’Flaherty warming up. We were at the point of the game where we had to start going with matchups, because one run was probably going to win or lose the game.”

  • Since I wrote about them going 5 for 95 to start their season, Dodger pitchers went 3 for 7 this weekend. Ely’s 30-foot single Sunday was his first as a pro.
  • While my favorite baseball movie is “The Bad News Bears,” Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods today describes the greatness he sees in “The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training.”
  • Kyle Russell didn’t play for Inland Empire on Sunday, and Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus thinks it might be because he’s getting promoted to AA Chattanooga. Russell has a 1.140 OPS and 16 homers in 198 at-bats.
  • After getting more than halfway to Orel Hershiser’s 59 consecutive scoreless innings, Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez gave up a two-run homer in the eighth inning Sunday to reset his clock. Well, there’s always Bob Gibson – Jimenez’s ERA remains an unbelievable 0.93.
  • For those of you following the Dodgers’ playoff rivals in the East, Crashburn Alley and Phillies Nation are discussing whether the Phillies should release Raul Ibanez.
  • Another Phillies note, but much more fun: From Stat of the Day, Jamie Moyer has faced 20 players already in the Hall of Fame, and counting.
  • The Major League Baseball draft starts today – but in its new format, not until 4 p.m. and only with the first round and mini-supplemental round, before continuing Tuesday and Wednesday. The Dodgers’ first pick is 28th overall.
Jun 06

Whither Casey Blake?

The Dodgers might announce a move to the disabled list for Casey Blake before today’s game. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com had the latest after Saturday’s 9-3 loss to Atlanta.

* * *

  • A.J. Ellis would have pitched the ninth inning for the Dodgers had they had an opportunity to pinch-hit for Charlie Haeger, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Haeger didn’t pitch all that well, but he would have had two shutout innings had Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier not let a Martin Prado fly ball fall between them for a hit.
  • Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods is scheduled to be the guest of Ken Levine and Josh Suchon on KABC AM 790 at 6:05 p.m. tonight.
Jun 06

When Los Angeles met John Ely


Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US Presswire
In seven starts, John Ely has walked eight batters, throwing nearly two-thirds of his pitches for strikes.

In Hollywood, they call it a “meet cute.” Like when Harry met Sally. The circumstances are more oddball than auspicious. A and B are thrown together, often in chaos, might not even like each other at first.

But from such quirky beginnings, love can bloom.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and John Ely met cute April 28, sharing a mostly unfulfilling cab ride in New York. Thanks to injuries and inadequacies, the Dodgers were stuck with this nobody, this fix-up date dressed in a cheap fastball – tell us someone has a “good changeup,” and you might as well be trying to sell us on a “good personality” – instead of someone more desirable, whether that was Vicente Padilla, Randy Wolf, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay or Sandy Koufax. The Dodgers deserved better, right?

As for Ely, he mostly was happy to be there, but this wasn’t exactly the team of his dreams, the team he’d written love poems to in his diary. That dream team was where he grew up, Chicago’s South Side, and in his late-night fantasies would have had a better record than the 8-12 Dodgers, losers of three in a row and practically the worst squad in the National League.

Expectations were low on that first date, and initially they weren’t exceeded. In just the second inning, Ely came undone, allowing four runs on a combination of poor pitching and a fielding mistake that made dinner conversation awkward to say the least. After another run in the third … well, not that Ely wasn’t a nice guy or good to his mother, not that the Dodgers didn’t pick up the check, but both were eying the door.

And then, as they lingered, a spark.

Adam Davis/Icon SMI
He’s Elyful, he’s elicious, he’s elovely.

Just about the time Ely should have been heading for a cold shower, he retired 10 of the last 11 he faced in New York. The Dodgers and Ely didn’t see each other again for another week, but they did arrange for a second date. And on that May 6 evening, with the 11-16 Dodgers still down in the dumps (after hard losses incurred by Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley) and starting to feel pretty sorry for themselves, this unassuming specimen stepped up and kept them from drowning their sorrows in ice cream or bourbon. Ely threw 6 2/3 innings before finally allowing a run, retiring 16 batters in a row at one point and overall giving up four hits, striking out seven and walking none. For a second date, it sure was better than a hole in the head.

Even so, the Dodgers continued to play hard to get. They optioned Ely back to Albuquerque. Oh, maybe they planned on a third date all along – this other fella they had been dallying with, Charlie Haeger, was looking so lame that no one objected when he was placed on the disabled list – but it wasn’t like the Dodgers and Ely were quite going steady yet.

Then came May 11, the third date. And you know what they say about third dates.

Once again, Ely made it into the seventh inning before allowing a run. Once again, he walked no one. And this time, there was no mistaking it – the Dodgers, whose 13-3 victory over Arizona gave them eight wins in their most recent 11 games, and John Ely, who had allowed no walks or extra-base hits to has most recent 48 batters – were definitely clicking. The Dodgers stopped being aloof – they wanted to keep seeing this guy with shades of Matthew McConaughey’s looks and Mark Fidrych’s personality, this guy who mesmerizes batters with his ability to mix speeds.

And so they entered that blissful time of the courtship where every night just seems more and more magical. May 17: Ely extends his streak without allowing a walk or extra-base hit to 84 batters. May 22: Ely shows his human side by allowing two runs on two doubles, a single and a walk in the first inning against Detroit, but then just becomes even more alluring by shutting the Tigers down for the next five innings. May 27: A two-hit shutout through seven innings before allowing a single run in the eighth. June 1: C’mon, now. A no-hitter into the fifth inning, another two-hit shutout through seven.

Is this heaven? I’ll tell you one thing – it ain’t Iowa.

This afternoon, Ely and the Dodgers go on Date No. 8, and it’s safe to say that their relationship has gone deeper than anyone would have thought that first time in New York 5 1/2 weeks ago. Ely has a 2.54 ERA in 46 innings with 37 strikeouts, allowing only 44 baserunners and still not a single home run. He has gone at least six innings in every appearance, averaging 15.1 pitches per inning. And not coincidentally, since his arrival, the sun has shone brighter on Los Angeles, the grass has smelled sweeter, and the wins have come easier. The Dodgers are 24-12 since Ely first went to the mound for the team, and while he doesn’t deserve all the credit, it’s not so absurd to think that on some level, he completes them.

There are no wedding bells yet; the Dodgers have not committed to Ely until retirement do them part. But let’s just say they find Ely rather engaging. “Meet cute,” indeed. At this point, this is one they’re going to try to make work for the long haul, so they’re going to put up with the occasional flaw, the occasional sour day, because like Mama said, who doesn’t have days like these? And because Ma, this one looks like a keeper.

Jun 04

Farewell, John Wooden


Johnwooden.com

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.

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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.