Chad Billingsley’s struggles are explored in detail by Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone. Moriyama focuses on pitch selection and mechanics.
Matt Kemp probably would have enjoyed the Hideo Nomo-led 2003 Dodger pitching, which had a team ERA barely half of what the current Dodgers have.
If you could mix the 2010 Dodger offense with the 2003 Dodger pitching, what a team that would be. It would blow your mind, man.
Instead, we’re left with the Don Drysdale paradox: “Dodgers scored nine runs tonight.” “Did we win?”
We saw it encapsulated in tonight’s 11-9 loss to Cincinnati. The Dodgers got a three-run double from Casey Blake in the first inning, then after falling behind by six, rallied to tie the game – capped by Mighty Matt Kemp’s sixth homer of the season. And still it wasn’t enough.
Chad Billingsley came out with a clear mission to throw strikes. He didn’t walk any of the 17 batters he faced and only had 21 pitches out of the strike zone. But he couldn’t back that mission with much of an ability make people miss. He got hit and hit hard, allowing five singles, a double, a triple and a home run over the next two innings. Commenting on the KCAL telecast, Steve Lyons pointed out at least three times that the Reds got hits despite good pitches by Billingsley. Small consolation, though.
Billingsley also made a painful throwing error on a Homer Bailey bunt that added three unearned runs to the three earned runs in the second inning, signaling another unimpressive night for the Dodger defense. Russell Martin made a fourth-inning throwing error on a steal attempt by Drew Stubbs (with Blake DeWitt seemingly late to back up the play). And then in the eighth, working a pickle, DeWitt was late to recognize a runner trying to score from third, tossing the ball instead to Ronnie Belliard at first base – and then when he set up to throw home, Belliard dropped the ball, allowing Cincinnati’s 11th run to score.
In contrast, Reds right-fielder Jay Bruce made a sensational catch of a ripped line drive in the top of the eighth by James Loney to deep right that would have scored Manny Ramirez had it been a few inches higher.
The only bright spot for the Dodger pitching staff tonight was the major-league debut of Jon Link, who needed only 27 pitches to throw two shutout innings. Ramon Ortiz gave up two runs in the fourth to put the Dodgers down, 9-3. And in the eighth, after the Dodgers had come all the way back, their No. 2 reliever of the moment, Ramon Troncoso, walked two batters before giving up the go-ahead runs with two out.
So instead of being Manute Bol (7-6), the Dodgers are Dolph Schayes (6-7). Wednesday, the team will come back and set their sights on Gheorghe Muresan.
Update: The Dodgers optioned Link back to Albuquerque after tonight’s game. They haven’t officially announced who will take his place, but expect it to be Ronald Belisario.
The Dodgers had Hong-Chih Kuo throw a bullpen session today, so he won’t be activated until Thursday at the earliest. Joe Torre told reporters this afternoon that Ronald Belisario might be activated sooner than Kuo – maybe even Wednesday.
- Shocking and sad news for the Rockies: Team president Keli MacGregor passed away at age 48.
- The Dodgers’ 22-4 mark against Cincinnati since 2006 is the best of any one MLB team against another, according to the Dodger press notes.
- Chad Billingsley is making his fourth career start at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark. Previously: five innings, one run in 2007; 6 1/3 innings, one run in 2008; five innings, four runs in 2009.
- Juan Pierre has gotten off to a rough start this year with the Chicago White Sox, writes Scott Merkin of MLB.com.
- MLB rescinded its suspension of Cliff Lee. Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk explains why.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Matt Kemp: A genuine threat each time he bats.
Here’s the latest chapter of Dodger Cogs and Dogs, my ranking of the most valuable Dodgers of the year, top to bottom, mixing subjectivity and objectivity but completely looking at what’s already happened, not what’s likely to happen.
|1||5||Matt Kemp||Fell to a close third in Dodger OF OPS, but with 50% more PA than the other two.|
|2||11||Andre Ethier||.464 OBP, .759 slugging since returning to starting lineup.|
|3||1||Hiroki Kuroda||15 innings, 1.20 ERA, no unintentional walks, 14 K in two starts.|
|4||9||Manny Ramirez||1.092 OPS leaves press nothing to complain about (except him not talking to press).|
|5||2||Russell Martin||2 for 13 with a walk in past four games, but overall numbers remain strong.|
|6||13||Jonathan Broxton||Nearly perfect: Opponents have .105 OBP, .111 slugging.|
|7||6||Casey Blake||Six-game hitting streak ended this weekend.|
|8||4||Rafael Furcal||.423 OBP last week, but no extra-base hits since April 10.|
|9||24||James Loney||OPSed 1.000 last week with line drive after line drive.|
|10||20||Clayton Kershaw||Currently projects to 203 BB, 270 K this season.|
|11||12||Ramon Troncoso||Gave up homer in Dodgers’ ugly ninth inning Friday, otherwise solid.|
|12||10||Chad Billingsley||Let this man get the six-inning monkey off his back, please?|
|13||7||Ronnie Belliard||0 for 7 in two starts this weekend, but made two nice plays at first base.|
|14||14||Blake DeWitt||More walks than hits, and still looking for first extra-base hit.|
|15||25||Vicente Padilla||One of three Dodger starting pitchers to go seven innings in last outing.|
|16||3||Charlie Haeger||Crazy knuckleballers!|
|17||15||Jeff Weaver||Workload reduced to two innings/36 pitches in past week.|
|18||19||A.J. Ellis||In 10 PA, two hits, two walks, two sacs.|
|19||21||Carlos Monasterios||4.15 ERA, but would be nicer if two inherited runners hadn’t scored Saturday.|
|20||8||Reed Johnson||Not a problem per se, but wondering if he’ll raise his performance much above replacement level.|
|21||18||Jamey Carroll||Doubled on Opening Day; four singles and two BB in 19 PA since.|
|22||16||Garret Anderson||With Ramirez on deck, pulled a Mike Davis with key set-up walk Sunday. Only time on base all week.|
|23||23||Brad Ausmus||Sitting tight, literally and figuratively.|
|24||17||Ramon Ortiz||Allowed five runs in past four innings; ERA rises from 3.00 to 7.71.|
|25||NR||Jon Link||Cup of coffee … with no cream or sugar.|
|26||26||George Sherrill||Recovered from 3-0 count to get key out Sunday; has retired last six batters – woo hoo!|
|27||22||Russ Ortiz||Lasted two weeks, and was less than lowest expectations.|
Clayton Kershaw went seven innings allowing only one run, and Manny Ramirez made that hurt go away.
If Clayton Kershaw and Manny Ramirez were nothing more than a poor man’s Orel Hershiser and Kirk Gibson, it still made for a rich afternoon at Dodger Stadium.
Kershaw left Sunday’s game in the eighth inning after issuing his fourth walk of the game – an inning after Juan Uribe’s homer broke a scoreless tie – but he certainly pitched well enough to win, striking out nine. Two of his walks came after he crossed the 100-pitch mark. At age 22, Kershaw has walked at least four men in 21 of his 54 starts (39 percent), compared with Hershiser’s 71 of 466 (15 percent), but if you can put that annoying fact aside, you’re still left with a pretty swell pitcher with a career ERA of 3.40.
And then there’s Ramirez, who is this century’s go-to guy for lame home runs (in the good sense). On the heels (in the cliched sense) of his injured-hand Bobbleslam last summer, and right after Garret Anderson’s pinch-walk ended a superb performance by Barry Zito, Ramirez blasted a Sergio Romo pitch in the left-field seats to rally the Dodgers from their 1-0 deficit. Ramirez noticeably favored one leg in his trot around the bases, but though it didn’t have calf the drama of Gibson’s gimpy gem, it was a sight for sore Dodger eyes. (Video of the homer can be found at MLB.com.)
Jonathan Broxton retired the side in order in the ninth to close out the Dodgers’ 2-1 victory. Broxton has retired 17 of the 19 batters he has faced this season (including the past 14), striking out nine.
Several people, including Vin Scully, called today’s game the best of the young Dodger season, though some of that good feeling would have been tested had the Dodgers been shut out for the second afternoon in a row.
* * *
- Hong-Chih Kuo looks good to go. He retired the side today on six pitches today in his second minor-league rehab appearance. If he survives that outing and Monday’s plane flight to Cincinnati, Kuo should be on the active roster for the Dodgers’ next game on Tuesday.
- Prentice Redman knocked out three home runs by the fifth inning of Albuquerque’s 11-5 victory over Omaha. Redman raised his batting average to an even .400, on-base percentage to .447 and slugging percentage to .943.
- John Lindsey watch: 3 for 3, raising his numbers to .538/.591/.897.
- James McDonald left his start after one inning today because of a broken fingernail.
- Isotopes reliever Brent Leach allowed six runs in his first 3 2/3 innings this season, but has pitched 5 1/3 innings of one-hit, two-walk shutout ball since.
- In 6 2/3 innings this season for Inland Empire, Kenley Jansen has allowed no runs, four hits and zero walks while striking out 10.
- For the second straight game, Great Lakes’ 23-year-old righty Josh Wall allowed one earned run over five innings, this time striking out eight.
Mark J. Terrill/AP
Manny’s calf is still mooing.
Russ Ortiz has been designated for assignment by the Dodgers, who have called up righty Jon Link to replace him for the time being. Link has been hit pretty hard at Albuquerque this season – 10 baserunners against 13 outs – so at this point he might just be a different sort of mop-up man until Hong-Chih Kuo is activated.
- Today marks the 60th anniverary of Vin Scully’s Dodger debut.
- Saturday’s 20-inning Mets-Cardinals game was scoreless for the first 18 innings, the longest a game had been scoreless since Rick Dempsey’s 22nd-inning home run gave the Dodgers a 1-0 victory over Montreal in 1989.
- Josh Towers pitched six innings of one-run, seven-baserunner ball for Albuquerque on Saturday, but the Isotopes suffered a 2-0 defeat.
- Jerry Sands had two doubles and a triple in Great Lakes’ 4-2 loss Saturday. The 22-year-old is on-basing .465 and slugging .763 in 10 games this season, with seven extra-base hits in that time.
- Babe Ruth was in a near-fatal car accident in 1938, when he was a Brooklyn Dodgers coach. Blue Heaven passes along photos of Ruth and a description of the wreck.
- Video of Lefty Grove has been posted at Minor League Ball. Grove was held captive in the minors well past the point that he was major-league ready.
- Nice recap of Ubaldo Jimenez’s no-hitter for Colorado – the first in Rockies history – from Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post.
- According to the Dodger press notes, DodgerTalk with Ken Levine and Josh Suchon on KABC AM 710 will be soliciting callers for their best nicknames for Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp. Somebody better stick up for the Bison.
Phil Jackson and Joe Torre have dealt with doubt from outside and within.
What do the 2009 Dodgers and 2009-10 Lakers have in common? Both teams won their divisions and had the top record in their league/conference, but entered the playoffs having lost six of their final nine games.
Last year, there was much anxiety and a fair amount of hopelessness when the Dodgers hit the postseason with such a shaky final stretch. With the Lakers beginning the defense of the NBA title today, I asked current Laker blogger and former Dodger blogger Brian Kamenetzky of ESPNLosAngeles.com and KSPN 710 AM to compare and contrast the two teams.
It’s an interesting question, because looking back the Dodgers certainly didn’t close well. I remember the sense of doom in the air as it looked like they might somehow blow the NL West title to Colorado. Of course, they were already in the playoffs anyway, so it may not have mattered much, other than to give us media types something to talk about (and set up the Dodgers to see Philly a round earlier, costing guys in the locker room a better playoff share).
So what happened to the Lakers is similar, in the sense neither team went/will go into the postseason playing its best base/basketball. (There’s a movie in there somewhere). The difference, though, is expectations. The Lakers spent all season as the, if not prohibitive favorite to win a title, not far off, whereas the Dodgers weren’t perceived as the best Major League Baseball had to offer. A nice team, but World Series caliber?
There was similarity in the angst, but I wonder if the different feel despite similar situations reflects some of the more ingrained attitudes fans have towards the teams. Right now, people expect the Dodgers to come up short. They’re not pulling for it, but because it’s been over 20 years now since the last title, the faithful have less faith. The dark cloud forever hanging over this ownership (before the divorce, even) doesn’t help. Neither did the corporate feel of the Fox years.
The Lakers, meanwhile, are expected to succeed. Recent history gives people the strong belief they’ll be rewarded for their emotional investment. That’s the key difference, as far as I see it.
I also have to think that motivation was more of an issue for the Lakers, since winning a division title is such a non-event for them, relatively speaking. After Cleveland put the league’s best record out of reach – an event that only potentially impacts the Lakers in the seventh game of a seven-game championship series – the final week of their season became as much about getting healthy as anything else.
Certainly, poor regular-season finishes indicate at a minimum that a team is vulnerable, but is there a hangover effect? The Dodgers certainly put that theory to rest when they swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series (keeping in mind that the Cards themselves lost eight of their final 10 regular season games). And when you consider that the Dodgers were one out away from being even with the Phillies after four games in the NL Championship Series, it’s hard for me to see a convincing argument that the late-season losing made a difference – not to mention the fact that an on-fire finish to the regular season could leave a team open to accusations of being over-confident.
As recently as the second round of the 2009 NBA playoffs, when the Houston Rockets won the first, fourth and sixth games of their series with the Lakers, fans and the media were openly questioning the Lakers’ heart and ability to advance. Those doubts became a pretty distant memory within the next month, when the Lakers took out Orlando in five games to win the NBA title.
It really feels to me that the playoffs truly are a new season – and definitely not an easy one. I expect the Lakers to come out fully motivated. That doesn’t mean they might not fall short of repeating as champions, but if they do, it will be because of how well the other team played, not how poorly the Lakers did. As a footnote: Was the Kings’ thrilling overtime victory Saturday over Vancouver in Game 2 of their NHL first-round series a failure on the Canucks’ part, or more a triumph on the Kings’ part?
But I’ll give Kamenetzky the last word:
It started with … needing more motivation, but with about three or four weeks left in the regular season, I really felt the team was trying. It wasn’t an issue of complacency, they just weren’t playing well.
To me, their struggles are a sign of weakness. The alchemy going into playing the way they want to offensively is heavily influenced by continuity, and they’ve had none of it this season, thanks to their injury issues. Moreover, the Lakers have serious deficiencies shooting the ball from the outside, especially once Ron Artest fell off a cliff, accuracy wise. The Threepeat teams at the start of the decade weren’t good three-point shooting teams, either, but they compensated by using Shaq and a younger, more aggressive Kobe to live at the line. This Lakers team doesn’t do either, which historically is a bad recipe for success.
I think they’ll get through the early rounds of the playoffs, in part because most of the teams they’ll face have issues of their own (primarily health), but I don’t think it’s a matter of finally having something to play for. They’re still very good (or potentially very good, at least) and could win a title, but I wouldn’t use my money to lay a bet on it in Vegas.
Mark J. Terrill/AP
Hello … is it me you’re looking for?
Andre Ethier is just mashing the ball. And it’s not just Friday in the Dodgers 10-8 victory over the Giants. Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. notes that Ethier has hit 25 home runs in his past 81 home games. Sons of Steve Garvey has a photo essay showing just how incredible Ethier’s night was.
And Matt Kemp is just mashing the ball, too. He has homered in four consecutive games and five of his past six.
James Loney doesn’t have a home run yet, but he is mashing the ball in his own way. Loney is 12 for his last 25, raising his batting average from .167 to .327 and making him one of seven Dodger regulars hitting over .300.
And for a night, opponents stopped mashing the ball against Vicente Padilla. With the Dodger bullpen in a shambles, Padilla picked a good time to give the Dodgers his best outing of the season. But Vin Scully and KCAL noticed Padilla rubbing his pitching arm pretty vigorously just before the fifth inning – the inning in which he lost his no-hitter and was hit pretty hard. Though Padilla lasted seven innings, we’ll have to see if what Scully saw had any significance.
The Dodgers came within one run of matching their team record (since moving to Los Angeles) for most runs in the first 10 games of a season (68). At the same time, they also reached their third-highest total of runs allowed in the first 10 games of a season (60).
* * *
Manny Ramirez came out of the game after three innings because of calf tightness, but Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports that Joe Torre said Ramirez would have stayed in the game if the Dodgers hadn’t been up by seven.
Of course, there were no guarantees the Dodgers would hold such a lead. And the fact that Russ Ortiz again could not finish an easy assignment is the last straw. Ortiz needs to be released.
When you take a flyer on a pitcher who hasn’t pitched well in years, the sole (if questionable) purpose is to try to see if there’s a chance he has solved his problems or even has one hot streak left in him. When you can see that he’s just as bad as he’s always been, there is nothing to hold out for. There is no situation in which Ortiz is a reliable pitcher, and the Dodgers should not wait any longer on him.
If Hong-Chih Kuo is about to be activated, that’s a simple exchange. But if Kuo has a setback, the Dodgers still need to jettison Ortiz.
* * *
- It’s a tall order, but the Dodgers will try to “outlast” Tim Lincecum in today’s game, writes Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. It’s similar to how they were able to get a late victory against Arizona on Thursday – if they can make the great starter throw a lot of pitches, they can at least give themselves a chance against the bullpen.
- The fifth-inning Padilla pitch that hit Aaron Rowand left him with two small fractures in his cheekbone and a concussion, writes D.J. Short of Hardball Talk.
- Joe Torre recalls that when he was managing the Mets in 1977, the team almost traded Tom Seaver to the Dodgers for a package of players that included minor-leaguer Pedro Guerrero, writes Vincent Bonsignore of the Daily News.
- John Ely pitched six two-run innings for Albuquerque last night.
- Dee Gordon went 3 for 6 for Chattanooga and now has a .448 on-base percentage. Trayvon Robinson had a single, double and homer.
- Will Savage, the 25-year-old from West Hills, pitched six innings without allowing an earned run while striking out eight for Great Lakes. In 12 2/3 innings this year, Savage has allowed two earned runs and five unearned runs.
Chris Williams/Icon SMI
Back in the home opener, Russell Martin had no idea of how rough the middle of his week would get.
Last May, I wrote about Orlando Hudson in the midst of his hot start to 2009:
I’m not going to attempt to tell you how long Hudson can perform at an All-Star caliber level. Rather, my point in these giddy times for Dodger fans is to remind us that there was serious doubt whether Hudson, coming off a traumatic 2008 wrist injury, could play this well at any point in the remainder of his career — for a month, for a week, for even a day. That we now know he can is a revelation.
Things will go up and down, but just setting the ups this high is juicy. Right now, this is looking like a magical signing.
That Hudson didn’t finish the season in the starting lineup shows how a hot start doesn’t guarantee anything, but I do feel it’s worth making a similar point about Russell Martin.
In a year where expectations for Martin couldn’t have been lower – particularly after he missed most of Spring Training – the Dodger catcher leads the major leagues in on-base percentage and is 19th overall in OPS. Martin always has had a good eye, but he’s even slugging .591, compared to .329 last season and .256 last April.
Again, there are no assurances he won’t slump, especially if the Dodger pitchers keep wearing him out, but it’s nice to know that he can get this hot even for a little while.
* * *
Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness makes explicit what I implied in my last post: The Dodgers really only have Russ Ortiz, Carlos Monasterios and Ramon Troncoso available in relief of Vicente Padilla tonight, unless they make a more dramatic move. (Petriello includes Jeff Weaver among the available — Joe Torre included both Weaver and George Sherrill in his pregame conversation with reporters — but I can’t imagine the Dodgers want to go there tonight.)
If the Dodgers fall behind big early, then you pretty much can burn Ortiz and Monasterios to get through the game. But in a competitive game, the Dodgers figure to be at a huge bullpen disadvantage if Padilla has to leave before the eighth inning.
I’ve never been all that high on Padilla, but I kind of feel he’s due for a good outing. Just a gut thing I’m having.
* * *
Torre said that the day-after reports on Hong-Chih Kuo’s rehab outing showed no problems, and that he’s due to pitch again in a minor-league game Sunday. Torre pointed out that Ronald Belisario isn’t eligible to make rehab appearances, so that he will come straight to the Dodgers when his command is present.
Torre also said that he doesn’t consider carrying 13 or 11 pitchers on the staff to be an option at this time. Twelve it is.
* * *
One pitching bright spot: As a team, the Dodgers have struck out 8.6 batters per nine innings. Four pitchers are over the 9.0 mark, led not by Jonathan Broxton (15.4) but Charlie Haeger (16.7).
Dodger pitch counts this season:
Mark J. Terrill/AP
Matt Kemp is wide-eyed after hitting a game-tying homer in the seventh inning.
The other team blew the leads. The Dodgers didn’t blow the leads. The other team did.
Oh, sure, the Dodgers blew two ties, at 0-0 and 3-3, but still – progress.
Bullpen (except for Jonathan Broxton) still shaky. Fielding still shaky. But still … progress.
So that I’m not up all night, just a little stream of consciousness to wrap things up …
Hiroki Kuroda gave up 10 hits but didn’t walk anyone over seven innings, while striking out seven. That’s practically a perfect game compared to what we’ve seen lately.
Matt Kemp had trouble with another fly ball defensively but homered for this third game in a row to tie the score in the seventh – he now has 13 RBI in nine games. He drove in pinch-hitter Ronnie Belliard, who is a crazy 8-for-14 to start the season.
Dan Haren mostly stymied the Dodgers, but needed 121 pitches to get 19 outs, and that extra work cost him by requiring Arizona to go its bullpen sooner. The third pitch by Aaron Heilman was Kemp’s two-run homer.
Justin Upton then hit his second tiebreaking homer in two nights, a monster blast halfway up the left-field pavilion off Jeff Weaver, to give Arizona a 4-3 lead. Upton also made a bigtime catch of a Garret Anderson drive to the top of the right-field wall in the bottom of the eighth to preserve the lead.
Arizona added a slop run in the ninth, but the Dodgers rallied with two in the bottom of the inning to tie, thanks at the end to a blooper-reel throw by Stephen Drew that allowed Manny Ramirez to score the tying run.
Broxton dominated in the top of the 10th, and then the Dodgers won it on a leadoff single by Blake DeWitt, an intentional walk to Kemp and then, ho hum, a walkoff hit by Andre Ethier.
Here’s a list, passed along by Mark A. Simon of ESPN.com from mikemav.com, of the Dodgers’ all-time walkoff hit leaders since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958:
14 Dusty Baker
12 Manny Mota
11 Ron Cey
11 Davey Lopes
10 Andre Ethier
10 Steve Garvey
The final tally for Russell Martin in the series: three games, 571 pitches caught.
* * *
Hong-Chih Kuo struck out two in a 1-2-3 rehab inning for Inland Empire, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. He completed his 20-pitch assignment in the bullpen.
Matt Magill of Great Lakes struck out seven, walked none and allowed two doubles and a single in a scoreless five innings tonight. This year, the 20-year-old from Simi Valley has struck out 12 in nine shutout innings.
Dee Gordon went 2 for 4 for Chattanooga and has a 1.006 OPS on the season.
The Dodgers will lead Major League Baseball’s celebration of Jackie Robinson — otherwise known as Chapter 1 — tonight at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers have not made any personnel moves to address their struggling bullpen, Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles said in his live chat today. But that doesn’t mean Dodger manager Joe Torre isn’t concerned.
“I think he is very worried,” Jackson said, “and you can read between the lines of what he says after every game. Joe isn’t the type to rip on his players or his team, but he has a way of expressing when he’s not happy about something that leaves little doubt as to how he feels. Keep in mind that (Ronald) Belisario and (Hong-Chih) Kuo will be back soon, possibly by sometime next week. Once that happens, everybody can kind of settle into their usual roles. Until then, they have to try to stay afloat with these guys.
Joe Torre later told reporters that the pitching staff can’t continue to not get the job done, but the Dodgers feel they’re better than what they’ve done so far or else they wouldn’t have left Spring Training with this group.
In this blogger’s opinion, however, the Dodgers need to replace at least one of the white flags in their bullpen. They are being given more rope than the younger, more promising alternatives were, and it isn’t deserved.
* * *
More Torre tidbits:
1) He hopes to avoid using Jonathan Broxton tonight, with Broxton having pitched in two consecutive games, and also hopes to continue resting Jeff Weaver.
2) I thought Jamey Carroll was starting for defensive reasons to support Hiroki Kuroda, whom the Dodgers need to really stay in the game for a long time tonight. But Torre said that Blake DeWitt was being given a day off to regroup for offensive reasons – saying that his swing is getting long and he is fouling balls off that he should put in play.
3) Torre expects Ronnie Belliard to get two starts this weekend, one of them at first base in place of James Loney against Barry Zito .
4) Andre Ethier’s ankle is still bothering him, but he is ready to go tonight.
* * *
Arizona pitcher Dan Haren is making his third start of the season tonight. After allowing three baserunners and a run in seven innings against San Diego on Opening Day, Haren allowed five earned runs on 11 baserunners in 6 2/3 innings against Pittsburgh.
* * *
The Dodgers are last in the National League in first-pitch strikes, notes Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.
* * *
Dodgerama has an interesting chart showing how long it took each Dodger to reach the majors.
* * *
John Lindsey Watch: A homer and three doubles in Albuquerque’s 13-5 victory today. Lindsey is now on-basing .611 and slugging .969. Lindsey, Jay Gibbons and Prentice Redman, batting fourth, fifth and sixth, each had four hits. Gibbons had his second consecutive four-hit game.
Josh Lindblom struck out five but allowed four earned runs in five innings of his second start of the year, lowering his ERA to 7.88. Brent Leach pitched two shutout innings.
If Ronald Belisario has really turned into a pumpkin, does that mean the Dodger season will too?
You know I know it’s early, but if certain things don’t go the Dodgers’ way, it’s true that this could be a downer of a year. I’ve rated the probability of these ifs on a scale of 1-10, 10 being most iffy, on a scale I call “The If Factor” (IF for short). Here are some examples:
|Vicente Padilla doesn’t become Cy Young.||1|
|A major injury hits a productive player.||2|
|Hong-Chih Kuo can’t stay healthy.||3|
|The offense’s scoring average drops from 6.5 runs per game to 4.5.||4|
|Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw both can’t get their act together.||5|
|Ronald Belisario turns into a pumpkin (figuratively).||6|
|No one from the minor leagues steps up.||7|
|One or more Ortizes aren’t released by the end of the month.||8|
|Ronald Belisario turns into a pumpkin (literally).||9|
|The whole team is made up of pumpkins.||9.9|
Torre — who used every position player, every reliever except Jeff Weaver (who wasn’t available because he had pitched in six of the previous seven games) and even starter Charlie Haeger in Wednesday night’s game — when asked who would have pitched if the Dogders had tied the score in the 11th and sent it to the 12th: “It would have been one of those guys out on the field. If it had stayed tied [in the 11th], Russ would have hit for himself and gone back out there. But if we had tied it, I’m sure we would have found a volunteer in there somewhere.”
Russ Ortiz came into pitch in the top of the 11th, and Matt Kemp misplayed a ball in center field. You can fill in the rest.
Russell Martin has caught 407 pitches in the past 35 hours. Vin Scully has called 795 of them – slop-free, I might add, unlike the way most of the Dodgers are pitching.
Chad Billingsley retired nine of his first 10 batters, but only got eight more outs from his next 18.
Chad Billingsley, who was looking ever-so-close like that guy who could always be counted on to get the job done, is now the guy getting the Job done.
Close to scintillating in the first three innings Wednesday against Arizona – he threw 45 pitches and faced one over the minimum while striking out four, lowering his season ERA at that point to 1.08 – the be-plagued Billingsley staggered through 61 pitches over the next 2 2/3 innings, allowing six runs on eight hits in all while walking three. And what looked like a breeze for Los Angeles became an even longer endurance test than Tuesday’s 3:42 game, with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks headed into extra innings, 7-7, exactly four hours after the game’s 7:10 p.m. start time.
It took some doing for Billingsley to not outpitch Arizona’s Rodrigo Lopez, who allowed five runs and 11 hits to the first 22 Dodgers he faced, but Billingsley did it, and he is now facing his latest calamity.
In the fourth, trailing 3-0, Arizona surrounded a Justin Upton infield hit with four big fly balls off Billingsley – a homer by Stephen Drew, a double by Adam LaRoche and sacrifice flies by Mark Reynolds and Chris Young. Billingsley then issued a walk before he got out of the inning, after which Matt Kemp put the Dodgers back in front with a two-run homer.
In the fifth, Billingsley came very close to making his previous inning look like an aberration, retiring the first two hitters before making a great 1-1 pitch to Drew that was called a ball. Drew eventually drew a 3-2 walk, and then Upton doubled and LaRoche singled to tie the game again.
And in the sixth, Billingsley again came within one strike of making it through, but Conor Jackson doubled right down the third-base line on an 0-2 pitch to give Arizona a 6-5 lead and cast Billingsley adrift. He finished the night with 116 pitches to get 17 outs, and his ERA leaped to 5.73.
Rodrigo Lopez looked like a sure-fire losing pitcher in the early going, but it didn’t turn out that way.
Starting in the top of the fourth, of the nine baserunners Billingsley allowed (leaving out an intentional walk), six did their damage with two strikes. Last year, opponents had a .245 on-base percentage against Billingsley with two strikes, though it’s safe to assume that figure was higher in the second half of the season. Tonight, Billingsley couldn’t shut the door, on the Diamondbacks or his doubters.
The Dodgers tied the game in the bottom of the sixth inning on a Kemp sacrifice fly but didn’t get any more runs despite loading the bases with one out. Then, Carlos Monasterios was called upon for the first time in his career in a close situation and gave up a dead-center leadoff homer to Upton in the seventh. Ramon Ortiz bailed Monasterios out of a two-walk, one-out jam that pushed the game past the 3:00 mark with nearly three innings to go by inducing a double play. George Sherrill, trying to recover from his bad start to 2010, also got a double play and then a strikeout to handle the eighth, while Charlie Haeger made himself useful in relief with a shutout ninth. (For the record, yes, that’s a Jonathan Broxton situation too if he’s available.)
Manny Ramirez doubled to lead off the bottom of the ninth with the Dodgers’ 18th baserunner, but after James Loney struck out, Casey Blake doubled home pinch-runner Jamey Carroll to tie the game at 11:06 p.m. A Blake DeWitt grounder moved Blake to third. Russell Martin was intentionally walked, but pinch-hitter Reed Johnson grounded out to send the game into the 10th.
Despite my stating the obvious, the offense and the pitching stayed at their weird extremes. Kemp, Ramirez, Martin and Andre Ethier each reached base at least three times. But regardless of what was to come in extra innings, Los Angeles will be practically desperate for Hiroki Kuroda to deliver another sharp performance Thursday against Dan Haren.
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Hong-Chih Kuo is scheduled to make a 20-pitch rehab appearance in the first inning Thursday for Inland Empire. Elsewhere in the minors for the Dodgers:
- Scott Elbert struggled in the unfriendly confines of Albuquerque, allowing five runs on five hits and three walks while striking out four in four innings. Jay Gibbons (4 for 5) won the game for the Isotopes with an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth after reliever Jon Link (8.10 ERA) blew his second save in as many nights.
- Great Lakes righty Brett Wallach, who pitched five no-hit innings with eight strikeouts in his first start of the season, came back with another five innings tonight and allowed one unearned run while striking out six. Opponents are 5 for 34 (.147) against him this season. Brian Cavalos-Galvez went 3 for 4 with two doubles and has a .394 on-base percentage on the season.
- Chris Withrow of Chattanooga got hammered tonight: six runs (five earned) in 2 2/3 innings with one strikeout. The Lookouts made five errors and lost, 15-2.
- Aaron Miller went six innings for Inland Empire tonight and allowed six baserunners and one run (on a sixth-inning squeeze). That was a 1-0 game until Pedro Baez singled in the tying run with two out in the bottom of the ninth, and then the 66ers won in the 10th.