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Police hold back crazed fans in the 1960s lining up to see John Ely pitch 45 years later.
Gosh, I’m sort of flummoxed – so flummoxed that I’m googling video of a show I never watched. I really just planned to talk about Chad Billingsley and his very interesting outing.
But I can’t exactly ignore the Dodgers coming back to tie tonight’s game against Arizona with two out in the eighth on a double error by Kelly Johnson. And I really can’t ignore the Dodgers winning, 5-4, in the most esoteric way I can recall, on a blink-and-you-missed-it, don’t-blink-and-you-still-might’ve-missed-it balk by Esmerling Vasquez to score Casey Blake.
All I can tell you is I watched the replay about a half-dozen times, and I didn’t see enough of a balk that I would have expected it to be called. Valdez’s twitch could easily have been written off as part of his movement off the rubber – especially at this stage of the game. If it had happened against the Dodgers, it would have been an infuriating way to lose – more infuriating than seeing Andre Ethier’s two-on, one-out line drive in the third inning turned into a double play, more infuriating than James Loney’s leap and subsequent crisis of faith, trying to advance to third base when the infield creeped in front of him with none out in the ninth and getting caught.
But thankfully, this infuriation is not on my plate. It’s over at places like AZ Snakepit, whose Jim McLennan points out that since 1954, there have been fewer walkoff balks in baseball than perfect games.
Part of me wonders whether the Dodgers won this game Thursday in Chicago, when Blake made himself a public expert on balk rules while protesting Ted Lilly’s position on the pitching rubber. Maybe he’s really got the umpires’ attention now. Who knows?
In any case, the Dodgers took a balkoff walk for the second time since 1969 and first time since 1989, according to the Dodger press notes. And in doing so, averted a sour start to the homestand … and completed the journey of Billingsley’s outing from bizarre to quietly kinda awesome.
Billingsley faced 10 batters before his fielders recorded an out, allowing a double and three homers while striking out six in the first two innings. Pretty crazy. But from that point on, he gave up two hits and no runs over the next six innings, finishing the night with 11 strikeouts and no walks in eight innings. You wanted a Billingsley who throws strikes, you wanted a Billingsley who’s resilient after a rough start – you wanted, in other words, the Billingsley that has been there almost his entire career – you got him. (You also got a Billingsley who threw 120 pitches, his most since May 14 of last year and the second-most of his career.)
Not to be forgotten completely: Manny Ramirez hit his 550th career homer, while Matt Kemp and Rafael Furcal combined for five of the Dodgers’ seven hits on a night that Rodrigo Lopez otherwise owned them.
Update: A.J. Hinch saw the balk and didn’t argue.
My best, if inadequate, thoughts to everyone on this Memorial Day. It’s a humbling day that makes me feel fortunate. At Cardboard Gods, Josh Wilker posts a lengthy exchange he has had with a soldier in Afghanistan.
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For the first time since April 22, 35 games ago, the Dodgers are fielding their intended starting lineup. As David Young writes at True Blue L.A., the Dodgers have gone 21-14 (.600) despite being without Manny Ramirez, Rafael Furcal and/or Andre Ethier in that time – not to mention Vicente Padilla and other pitchers. Celebrate Ethier’s return (and embrace of “Yo Gabba Gabba!” by reading Ramona Shelburne’s long feature story on him for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
As of this writing, the expected option of Xavier Paul to Albuquerque had not been made official.
It just doesn’t go the way you think it will on paper.
In March 2008, I took on the job of writing 100 Things the week my third child was about to be born. On paper, this was practically a suicide mission. How was I going to write a book with a full-time job, this blog and a newborn baby to go with two other children? But that baby, as I wrote in the book’s dedication, did me the great favor of asking nothing of us except for milk, sleep and a clean diaper. If he had all three of those things, he did not complain at all. You put him in the bassinet and later the crib, and he would go to sleep like angels had told him so. I wrote the book tired, but couldn’t have asked for more support from that baby.
Now my youngest is a third-year veteran. This should have been the year he matured as a sleeper. But he’s regressed to the mean – below it, in fact. Sweet as can be, but sleeps lighter than a feather on the jet stream. Wakes up in the middle of the night for no apparent reason other than to just get a quick confirmation that we’re all still around, wakes up for good at dawn or earlier. His older brother has moved out of his room most nights to sleep in his sister’s room – partly because older brother adores older sister, but partly because we’re worried about older brother being conscious at school the next day.
I adore my family the way I adore the Dodgers – more so, of course – but my wife and I now feel the strain of three children the way the Dodgers feel the strain of trying to manage that fifth starter. No matter how much you love the game or its players, it is a chore. It’s nothing new as far as the history of this planet, but for us it’s a real test. And my wife’s been under the weather a good amount this year – think about a Dodger having nagging injuries. I’m working this labor of love plus my day job and other freelance work – think of Ramon Troncoso getting thrown into game after game ’til his arm’s about to fall off. It gets testy, inside my head as well as outside. I’ve snapped some words that I regret. But it’s no mystery why I snapped ’em.
This afternoon, while I was out in the yard with my youngest, escaping from my worries and self-loathing with some semblance of idyllic parenting, my wife and my two oldest built the fort to end all forts in my daughter’s room. A domestic work of art. At bedtime, the two kids camped under it, high as kites. I let them have their fun, but as time passed after the lights went out, I got angry with them out of fear they’d wake the light-sleeping baby, out of fatigue that they just wouldn’t end their day so that I could end mine, out of frustration that for the nine billionth consecutive day, they just won’t do what I want when I want ’em to.
I had a drink – something I do one or twice a month, usually when I’m upset about something – and watched a screener of Treme, next week’s Mardi Gras episode, the combination affecting me quite strongly.
My oldest son came out of the bedroom. His sister had moved out of the fort into her bed, and he was feeling alone. The fort, so fun on paper, wasn’t fun anymore. I hugged him and soothed him. I told him his sister was still with him even though she wasn’t in the fort anymore. We were all there for him. He went back into his sleeping bag in the fort and went to sleep.
Fifteen minutes later, my daughter came out. She wasn’t sleeping. She couldn’t sleep. I hugged her and soothed her. We had fought today. Long story short, I thought she was being selfish. She went in the backyard to stew. In the ninth inning of today’s Dodger game, with the tying runs on against Jonathan Broxton, I went outside into the yard to talk to her. And didn’t solve anything. It was that kind of thing. She’s 7 now – think how this is gonna go when she’s 17.
But for now, it was 9:45 p.m., more than an hour past her bedtime. I hugged her and soothed her. I held her. I want to stop the clock at these moments. She is so precious, but she is a live wire, and I have a temper. And yet we both have fun together. I don’t know which is gonna win out in the long run. We’re gonna have to play the games to see what wins – happiness or the other.
I brought her back to bed. My oldest was asleep under the fort. My youngest was asleep in the next room. And within moments, the girl who couldn’t fall asleep fell asleep. My poor wife came upstairs to the bedroom, and the house is quiet, and I realize I’m writing this because for all my complaining, this is what I want to feel. I was wrong when I started writing this. This is how it’s supposed to be, on paper, when you have five crazy, uncontrollable, volatile people under the same roof. This is how it goes. You feel like a loser, and then it catches you by surprise: You have more innings to play, and you’re still alive.
Clayton Kershaw might be a roller coaster, but he’s a mere Gold Rush compared to the Colossus that is the Dodger defense.
Surviving a pop-up that Blake DeWitt lost in the sun in the first inning, a grounder through the legs of Casey Blake in the ninth inning and two other errors in between, the Dodgers survived Sunday against Colorado, 4-3, to win the series, split their six-game road trip and stay within two games of the top team in the National League, San Diego.
And what was the key play? A diving catch by Matt Kemp in the fifth inning that saved at least two runs.
Kemp scored his NL-leading 41st run on James Loney’s first-inning double to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead, before Kershaw continued his vexing first-inning struggles, hitting the first batter he faced, walking the third and giving up an RBI single to the fourth. DeWitt’s sun blindness on Chris Ianetta’s pop-up let a second Colorado run score and helped extend Kershaw to 30 pitches in the inning. But Kershaw ended up getting all three outs that inning on strikeouts – then struck out the side in the second inning as well.
The Dodgers loaded the bases with none out in the third against Jhoulys Chacin (walk, bunt single, hit by pitch) but settled for a game-tying sacrifice fly by Loney. Kershaw then got out of jams in the third and fifth innings, the latter capped by Kemp’s sprawling grab with the bases loaded and two out. Just a huge moment in the game.
Casey Blake, robbed of an RBI single in the first inning by Rockies center fielder Carlos Gonzalez, doubled to lead off the sixth inning and scored the tiebreaking run on a single by Xavier Paul, who is likely headed to Albuquerque on Monday to make room for Andre Ethier (unless the Dodgers suddenly cut bait on Garret Anderson). Paul later scored on a fielder’s choice, and for the second time in three games, the Dodgers asked for four innings out of their bullpen, and the bullpen answered.
Ramon Troncoso and Hong-Chih Kuo each pitched perfect innings, while Ronald Belisario allowed a walk but got a double-play grounder to end the eighth. In the ninth, Colorado put the tying runs on base with one out thanks to an Ian Stewart double and Blake’s error on Seth Smith’s grounder. Gonzalez’s fielder’s choice brought Colorado within one, but just like Friday, Broxton struck out Ryan Spilborghs to end the game.
Kershaw, who got his first hit of the season in his 16th at-bat, finished with nine strikeouts in five innings against four hits and four walks, throwing 96 pitches. If he figures out what’s bedeviling him in the first inning – of the 22 runs he has allowed in 11 starts this season, nine of them have come in first innings – it’d be pretty wonderful.
After the game, the Dodgers sent control-troubled lefty Scott Elbert back to the Isotopes and called up Travis Schlichting in his place. The 25-year-old righty has a 4.02 ERA with 19 strikeouts against 41 baserunners in 31 1/3 innings, which tickets him for mop-up duty for the time being.
If Ethier comes off the disabled list Monday, the Dodgers will have gone 10-5 in his absence and 12-7 for the year in games he hasn’t started. Not everything went right for the Dodgers this past week, but considering how close the team came to losing six of their past seven games, Dodger fans might be relieved to be heading home for an Ethier reunion with the three victories they got.
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Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy posted memorial video for Jose Lima in the Dominican Republic.
Andre Ethier had another successful rehab appearance Saturday, in Albuquerque’s 16-6 victory over Memphis, and remains on track to be activated from the disabled list Monday.
In other notes:
Update: Joe Torre told reporters this morning that Haeger’s foot isn’t ready. As of now, Ely starts Tuesday, Carlos Monasterios on Wednesday for the Dodgers.
Also, Vicente Padila talked about the incident/non-incident from Friday night/Saturday morning.
Curious to know what you all thought of Joe Torre’s decision last night to have Jonathan Broxton walk Carlos Gonzalez intentionally, with tying run Dexter Fowler on second base and two out in the bottom of the ninth, to face Ryan Spilborghs. I suppose it’s no more complicated than choosing to face a less dangerous hitter: Gonzalez’s OPS and batting average were about 75 points higher than Spilborghs’ – plus, it created a force out at all three bases. The risk was that it meant that the Rockies could win the game with a double – and that if Spilborghs walked, Todd Helton would be batting with the bases loaded.
I’m going to credit Joe Torre with the right decision here – though I don’t know that I would have done it, I think he might have had the right idea. What do you think?
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This afternoon brought a bit of unwanted mystery, with a local Denver TV news report emerging at lunchtime that Denver police were investigating allegations against Vicente Padilla made shortly before 4 a.m. at the Ritz Carlton Hotel near Coors Field. At a 3 p.m. press conference, however, Denver police said that after an investigation by detectives, the police department found no evidence that any crime occurred and has no intention to cause Padilla with a crime. The initial call was a domestic violence call, according to police.
Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details. Padilla went on to throw a simulated game at Coors Field today.
Dodgers 5, Rockies 4. Monasterios (W, 2-0). Did you see that coming when the sun was going down?
The irony of Joe Torre’s apparent determination to get Charlie Haeger back into the Dodger starting rotation is that Torre couldn’t wait to get him out of the rotation last summer, when Haeger was pitching better. In any case, Carlos Monasterios’ 1.90 ERA entering tonight’s game, at least in the moment, wasn’t enough for Torre to take a “let’s see what happens” stance regarding whether Monasterios would make another start.
And it was fine to be a bit wary of how Monasterios would come out of tonight’s game at Colorado – it still featured someone who was in A ball last year pitching in an notoriously difficult environment. But lo and behold, Monasterios was efficient and effective: 67 pitches and two earned runs over five innings.
After the first inning, in which he gave up two unearned runs (they came two outs after Ronnie Belliard’s error at first base), Monasterios allowed only three baserunners. Two came in the fourth inning – a Miguel Olivo triple (followed by an Ian Stewart sacrifice fly) and a Clint Barmes homer that was contested in vain after a fan reached out to catch it. That put the Dodgers down, 4-0. Monasterios then retired the side in his fifth and final inning. Maybe I’m rooting too hard, but I’m having trouble putting this down as a poor effort.
Monasterios isn’t long for the Dodger rotation no matter what, but in the short term, with this game under his belt and a 2.20 ERA in 28 2/3 innings, it’s hard for me to see how he hasn’t earned the opportunity to start again Wednesday against Arizona at Dodger Stadium. He has six unintentional walks all year, he had 15 first-pitch strikes against 22 batters in Colorado – isn’t this the kind of John Ely-like boldness that the Dodgers are looking for, at least until Vicente Padilla comes back? I’m not assuming that Haeger hasn’t solved his problems and can’t do the job. It’s just that again, I’m wondering what has tilted the scales toward Haeger and away from Monasterios in Torre’s eyes. And I’m wondering if those scales might tilt back, as they did with Ely.
Anyway, this all appeared it would be an academic discussion to occupy us after a Dodger beating, what with Jeff Francis taking a one-hitter into the fifth inning, having faced the minimum 12 batters. Matt Kemp began the fifth with his 10th homer of the season, but that was seemingly the result of a pitcher with a lead just throwing the ball across the plate – Francis retired the next three batters.
But the Dodgers shredded Francis’ exquisite origami in the sixth, tearing a small opening with a Jamey Carroll leadoff walk and then busting through with a Garret Anderson pinch-hit double, a Rafael Furcal sacrifice fly to score Carroll, a Russell Martin double to score Anderson, and then, Manny Ramirez’s first home run in his past 58 at-bats and first career homer at Coors Field period. Suddenly, the Dodgers were ahead, and Monasterios was poised to be the winning pitcher.
From that point on, the rested Dodger bullpen took control of the game (a fine thing, since none of the final nine Dodger batters reached base). In the final four innings, Ramon Troncoso, Hong-Chih Kuo, Ronald Belisario and Jonathan Broxton faced 16 batters and struck out eight – two apiece. Troncoso pitched a perfect sixth, Kuo got out of a two-on, two-out jam in the seventh and Belisario pitched a perfect eighth.
In the ninth, Broxton who had walked two of 77 batters this season and hit none, plunked leadoff pinch-hitter Jason Giambi, who was replaced by pinch-runner Dexter Fowler. Broxton struck out Barmes, but Melvin Mora hit a fly down the line in right that Xavier Paul made a nice play to catch for the second out, only for Fowler to tag up and take the tying run to second base. The Dodgers then chose to walk Carlos Gonzalez intentionally even though he was the winning run, preferring to have Broxton face Ryan Spilborghs – who had singled twice and homered in five career chances against Broxton. But after working the count to 2-2, Spilborghs couldn’t catch Broxton’s 97-mph fastball and went down swinging.
Monasterios (W, 2-0). That’s right.
Having not only survived this game to even their record on the road trip at 2-2 and move within one game of first-place San Diego in the National League West – the Padres entered the bottom of the ninth trailing Washington, 5-2, and got four straight singles for a run before striking out twice and grounding out – the Dodgers get to come back with Hiroki Kuroda and Clayton Kershaw for the next two games of the series. Beyond that, Andre Ethier singled and walked twice in four incident-free plate appearances in his first rehab game, keeping him on track to return to the Dodgers Memorial Day in Los Angeles. The Dodgers are 9-4 without Ethier, but don’t think they don’t want him back.
Update: From Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:
Although Torre had given a strong indication before the game that knuckleballer Charlie Haeger will come off the disabled list in time to reclaim the fifth spot in the rotation the next time it comes up either Tuesday or Wednesday, Torre at least paid lip service after the game to the possibility Monasterios pitched well enough to warrant another shot.
“I don’t think we have figured it out yet,” Torre said. “But I certainly wouldn’t be afraid to do that. He enhanced his chances if we were going to consider it.”
Joe Torre can be aggressive with the bullpen in support of Carlos Monasterios’ second start and first in Colorado. The Dodger bullpen only threw five pitches Thursday (Jeff Weaver) and has thrown only 89 pitches in four days since Sunday. The shaky and oft-used Ramon Troncoso has thrown only 13 pitches since Saturday. Bottom line: Nine innings, eight pitchers.
The Dodger press notes said that Cory Wade, who turned 27 today, has begun to throw on flat ground in the latest step of his rehabilitation.
Update: Nick Green has been designated for assignment, the Dodgers announced 45 minutes before gametime.
Believe it or not, the Dodgers’ two shutout losses over the past three games was not the worst offensive performance by a 2009 National League Championship Series participant. Philadelphia has been shut out for three straight games (by the Mets) and in four of their past five. Check out the linescores at Beerleaguer: In 46 of their past 47 innings, Philadelphia has come up empty.
If I’m being perfectly honest, with every day that passed since my release, two things became more and more clear to me:
- The likelihood of a team taking a chance on me started low and diminished with time.
- I wasn’t missing the game as much as I had anticipated.
I definitely miss my teammates and I miss the camaraderie. But I think the best part about playing baseball was having that clearly defined goal in your sights and pursuing it relentlessly. The good news is, I started to realize that I can find that elsewhere. Any disappointment I’m feeling is not because I no longer get to play baseball, it’s because I didn’t achieve my goal of pitching in the Major Leagues. And since I have no regrets about the way I chased that goal, this disappointment has been a surprisingly easy pill to swallow.
… walked Matt Stairs … hit Carlos Ruiz with a pitch … and then came back to strike out Jimmy Rollins.
Today’s story, as far as I’m concerned, is that the remarkable John Ely raised his game yet another level. Pitching in his hometown (albeit not on the South Side), Ely took a two-hit shutout into the eighth inning. That’s the story.
That the Dodgers hadn’t and ultimately wouldn’t score any runs in support of Ely, that Ely ultimately allowed two more hits and a run, that the Dodgers lost, 1-0, those are indeed significant details, but I’ll not let them divert me from the main story: John Ely keeps bringing it, and bringing it, and bringing it.
Ely’s final totals: 7 1/3 innings, four hits, two walks, four strikeouts, 98 pitches, 19 first-pitch strikes to 27 batters. For the first 6 2/3 innings, Derrek Lee was the only Cub to reach base against him. Lee had two walks and a double, making him 7 for 9 with three walks against the Dodgers in the three-game series. But Lee never scored.
Instead, the real damage came in the eighth inning. Mike Fontenot hit a shot down the right-field line leading off the inning, a double (maybe a single) that outfielder Xavier Paul played into a triple. After Ely struck out Geovany Soto, Tyler Colvin hit a bounder past James Loney to score Fontenot.
Paul made an error on that play, but this loss can’t be put on the defense. The hits were legitimate and together probably would have added up to a run, unless Paul made a great play to hold Fontenot at first and everything thereafter went the Dodgers way. Further, Paul, second baseman Blake DeWitt and left fielder Reed Johnson each made fine catches today — as did Ely himself, on a liner back at the mound. Russell Martin also threw out Lee attempting to steal in the seventh inning, a play that at the time might have seemed a game-saver, considering that Kosuke Fukudome singled one out later.
Rather, it was the Dodger offense that couldn’t make hay against Ted Lilly, who combined with Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol on the Cubs’ second shutout in three days. Paul popped out with the bases loaded (on walks) to end the fifth inning — the only inning the Dodgers had a runner on third. And in the only other inning the Dodgers put a runner on second base, after Martin and Matt Kemp singled, Casey Blake (who, along with Martin, was the only Dodger to reach base twice) and James Loney could not drive them home.
In the ninth, DeWitt walked with one out, but Marmol struck out pinch-hitters Manny Ramirez and Garret Anderson to end the game.
All of these details mattered, all of these details add up to another tally in the loss column, one that puts the Dodgers further behind the persistently pesky Padres. But still, for me this game remains primarily about John Ely working his magic, yet again. He lowered his ERA to an even 3.00 — 13 runs in 39 innings — and gave the Dodgers even more hope about his future, even if today didn’t bring much of a homecoming present.
Update: Want to know what the sixth-inning brouhaha was about? Rob Neyer of ESPN.com explains.
Update 2: MLB.com has video.
The Dodgers did a little bait and switch: After telling us 18 hours ago that Ramon Ortiz would back up Carlos Monasterios in the latter’s start Friday, they designated Ortiz for assignment., according to manager Joe Torre (via the Dodgers’ public relations department).
Los Angeles has brought up Justin Miller from Albuquerque, just in time for Vin Scully to talk about the ex-Giant’s many tattoos on this weekend’s telecasts from Colorado. Miller has a 2.22 ERA for the Isotopes in 24 1/3 innings with 25 baserunners allowed against 25 strikeouts.
Miller had a 3.18 ERA with 36 strikeouts in 56 2/3 innings for San Francisco in 2009, a year that ended with arm trouble.
Torre told reporters that the Dodgers have offered Ortiz a minor-league assignment and that Ortiz is discussing it with his agent. Torre also said that Charlie Haeger will rejoin the Dodgers sometime soon.
Finally, Andre Ethier will play in minor-league rehab games for Albuquerque at Memphis on Friday and Saturday.