Aug 28

A warm welcome back for Jaime Jarrin

Jaime Jarrin joined Vin Scully in signing up for 2012 today:

… “It was very kind of them to ask me to return,” Jarrin said. “My desire was to stay with the team and do what I love to do and be around you guys (the media). I am especially grateful to have the chance to be the link between the Dodgers and the Hispanic community. It is great to have the chance to do something I love and to do it with the community in mind.” …

… For now, though, Jarrin said he wants to continue to call every game, although he did take an in-season vacation for the first time this year and said he likely will do so again next year.

Jarrin said that after more than a half-century of calling Dodgers games on Spanish-language radio, he still has a passion for the job.

“I love it,” he said. “Even if the team isn’t doing well, I try to see things that compensate (for that). In baseball, everything is so different from one game to the next. Really, it is fun to do it. I still love it. Otherwise, I would quit right now, because financially, I am well set.” …

* * *

This time last year, John Lindsey was the Dodgers’ feel-good story.  Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner catches up with him.

* * *

Tony Jackson’s latest view of the Andre Ethier situation is up at ESPNLosAngeles.com:

… As it stands, Ethier won’t be eligible for free agency until after 2012. But is he trying to force his way out of town a year early? That’s my theory. I don’t have enough insight to know for a fact that it’s true, or that it isn’t. That’s why they call it a theory. But I have to say, when you take the statements Ethier made in March, and to Simers this weekend, and put them together, it sure smells that way.

Could it be that Ethier is trying to become such a distraction that the Dodgers, rather than going through the expensive process of arbitration this winter — he already is making $9.25 million this season and would get a significant raise — will simply non-tender him, making him a free agent a year early?

One thing is clear: if it’s a distraction Ethier is trying to become, he is at least succeeding there. Mattingly made that fairly obvious before Sunday’s game, when he said he was “blindsided” by Ethier’s remarks. He made it clear again during the game when, with the bases loaded, nobody out, the pitcher’s spot due up and the Dodgers trailing 7-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning, he sent Eugenio Velez — that would be the 0-for-28 Eugenio Velez — to pinch hit and kept Ethier on the bench.

Although Ethier was on deck to hit for Rod Barajas when the game ended, Mattingly made it clear again immediately after the game, when asked by a reporter whether Ethier will be back in the lineup Monday night against the San Diego Padres.

“We’re kind of in a little bit of a box, really,” Mattingly said. “If he says his knee hurts and we put him out there and he blows a hammy or hurts something else, now we’re kind of in a box as far as having trouble using him. So we’re going to talk and go from there.”

It was a cryptic comment from an exasperated manager, but it hinted that Ethier’s playing time could be sporadic the rest of the way, especially with the Dodgers (62-70), who are in fourth place in the National League West and 12 games behind the division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks, far out of contention.

If Ethier is trying to outsmart the system, well, the one he is outsmarting might be himself. Let’s say he does force the Dodgers’ hand, and they do cut him loose, and he does become a free agent. In that case, how much of a market will there be for a guy who is coming off a down year? A guy who probably is going to be coming off arthroscopic knee surgery? A guy who so often lets his emotions get the better of his game? A guy who certainly isn’t helping his reputation with all these public outbursts, especially at a time when, according to various sources, scouts from other teams are starting to pick up on his moodiness and the fact he can be high maintenance?

Better yet, what if the Dodgers simply trade him? In that case, there is just as much chance he ends up in Kansas City or Pittsburgh as the promised land of New York or Boston, which his close friend and former Arizona State University teammate Dustin Pedroia reportedly has told him is a great place to play big league baseball. …

Aug 28

Andre Ethier saga another case of ‘The Code’ going wrong

Before today’s game ended, Andre Ethier, focal point of a day-long controversy, made an appearance in the on-deck circle. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has a lengthy account that you need to read in full.

The situation is kind of a mess, really, but if I could apply Occam’s Razor to it, I think what we’d be left with is this …

If the goal, weeks and weeks ago, had been to get Ethier to as close to 100 percent health as possible before putting him back on the field, there wouldn’t be this confusion, and everyone would be healthier and happier.

It would be clear: Ethier would have the necessary treatment on his knee, including surgery, before returning to the field. For all the virtues of what a partially healthy Ethier provides, it’s hard for me to see how it doesn’t serve both Ethier’s and the Dodgers’ short-term and long-term needs to have made this the goal.

The Dodgers have gone through this dance before with other players, most notably this year – though with much less bitterness – with Jonathan Broxton. It’s a weird game of chicken where each party puts the burden on the other to determine when to sit an injured player, and all it does is kick the can down the road until the problem is worse. And the team isn’t much better in the interim.

Mythology aside, injured players, however gutty, generally aren’t as good as healthy backups. Ethier certainly hasn’t been. And whether the Dodgers were fighting for first place or fighting to stay out of last, a hobbled Ethier is not such a valuable asset.

We’re not talking about a hangnail here. We’re talking about an essential limb, and this is not a Monty Python movie: If you don’t have your arms and legs, you’re usually not going to be a very good baseball player. This is a sport of mechanics, of timing, and the smallest injury can knock you off your game, even if you feel like you can and should play.

If the injured baseball player doesn’t feel he can take himself out of action, because of love of the game, or arrogance, or denial, or fear of being labeled a sissy, then management needs to make the decision for him. You can’t rely on the Russell Martins and Broxtons and Ethiers to break “The Code” of manning up. There are a few exceptions to the rule (his name, I believe, is Kobe Bryant), but you need to have the rule.

Everyone’s wondering, “Is it really that bad?” If you have to ask, then the answer is yes.

Even Kirk Gibson sat out 44 of 45 innings in the 1988 World Series.

Aug 22

Andre Ethier, off (and on) the charts

Below, you can see in graphic form the ongoing power decline for Andre Ethier, discussed here last week. Charts come courtesy of ESPN Stats and Information. Note not only the reduction in balls hit over the fence but also hits to the warning track, compared with 2009.

Andre Ethier 2009 hit chart
Andre Ethier 2010 hit chart

ESPN Stats and InformationAndre Ethier 2011 hit chart

* * *

Albuquerque baseball expert Chris Jackson freelanced a feature for MiLB.com on new Dodger catching prospect Tim Federowicz.

Fair or not, catcher Tim Federowicz finds himself under some extra pressure after being traded.

Los Angeles Dodgers fans were almost uniform in their dislike of the three-team trade that sent outfield prospect Trayvon Robinson to Seattle and brought Federowicz and two pitchers to the Dodgers organization.

The stated intent by Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti was to acquire a catching prospect, something Los Angeles lacked in its farm system. Federowicz said he understands the frustration of Dodgers fans.

“Yeah, they gave up Trayvon — he’s a great player and now he’s in the big leagues, doing his thing up there,” Federowicz said. “That’s tough to lose.

“I guess there is a little bit of pressure to show fans what I’ve got. But I think it’ll eventually work out the way the Dodgers want it to.” …

* * *

Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles was kind enough to show sympathy for Dodger fans when Rubby De La Rosa went down for the count. Now, with the Giants verging toward tailspin, having lost 16 of 23, he might need some for himself. Or maybe time was ripe for a humbling, if you ask Brisbee. From the New York Times:

… Such minor hysteria — sarcastic or not — highlights the uncomfortable fact that, for some, the team’s faithful have come to resemble the type of smug, and yet strangely neurotic, supporters of certain big-money East Coast franchises.

“People get on me when I say this, but it’s kind of that first step toward the path of the Red Sox fan,” said Grant Brisbee, 33, the editor of The McCovey Chronicles, a Web site for Giants fans. “You get a little cocky, a little arrogant. And they say, ‘No, no, no, Giants fans aren’t like that.’ But they’re not that far away from getting that really obnoxious national fan base.” (Just like Yankees fans, Mr. Brisbee added.) …

* * *

Finally, here’s a cool video feature from ESPN Sport Science on last week’s triple play by Milwaukee against the Dodgers:

Aug 17

Andre Ethier’s long-ball drought belies consistency elsewhere


Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireAndre Ethier’s slugging percentage has fallen from .493 in 2010 to .428 this season.

Andre Ethier’s OPS has dropped below .800 for the first time since April 3. He has 10 home runs this season and one in his past 107 at-bats.  All this is feeding some simmering frustration about his 2011 performance and even making me wonder to myself ever so briefly whether he might be on a downward, James Loney-like trajectory.

And then, you take a step back and see that in 2011, Ethier has …

  • a .294 batting average that is .002 higher than last year’s and .003 higher than his career average.
  • a .367 on-base percentage that is .003 higher than both his 2010 and career averages.
  • 5.71 doubles per 100 plate appearances, compared with 5.64 in 2010 and 5.84 in his career.

Most of Ethier’s game is the same as it ever was. Except for this one thing.

  • Ethier has 2.04 home runs per 100 plate appearances, compared with 3.93 in 2010, 4.53 in 2009 and 3.27 for his career.

I’ll say up front that I don’t know the reason for this — though I still don’t believe it has anything to do with his early season hitting streak. Ethier was showing little home-run power even before it really got going, and has had plenty of time to self-correct since it ended on May 7. That being said, Fangraphs shows that Ethier’s line-drive and ground-ball rates have risen to near-career-high levels, while his fly-ball rate is the lowest it has ever been.

Just another observation in passing — Ethier seems to be having particular trouble with sliders this year.

But the kicker is this: According to Fangraphs, Ethier has been more valuable this year than he was in 2010 or 2009, thanks to what the site reports as a dramatic improvement in his fielding. I know numerous people take advance fielding metrics with a grain of salt — thanks in part to wild fluctuations like these — but it’s something to consider.

Jul 10

Step 1: Sweep the Padres


Gus Ruelas/APTony Gwynn Jr. scores the Dodgers’ first run as Padres third baseman Chase Headley throws the ball away.

It’s a small step no matter how you look at it – back toward the division race, or away from the rebuilding that need take place – but it’s a step nonetheless.

Andre Ethier hit two home runs, ending the Dodgers’ drought, and Ted Lilly allowed one but otherwise pitched solidly for five innings, and Los Angeles defeated San Diego, 4-1. For the Dodgers, it’s their first series sweep and first four-game winning streak of the year.

The first inhale of the last gasp has been a healthy one. After the All-Star break, six straight games against the National League West leaders.

May 23

Ethier, Barajas out of lineup but not on DL

Andre Ethier and Rod Barajas are being held off the disabled list, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

In addition, Aaron Miles has returned to the playing field. He’ll give Jamey Carroll, who has played in 46 of 48 games this season, a theoretical day off — although it seems very likely we could see Carroll off the bench.

Dodger batting leaders for May appear in the chart below. James Loney, who is batting third in the Dodgers’ latest makeshift lineup, does in fact have the third-best May OPS among tonight’s starting nine:

Update: More from Jackson:

Ethier said he woke up without soreness one day after injuring his left big toe, left elbow and lower back when he banged into the right field wall chasing a ball.

“I’m going to go out and see how I feel [during batting practice] and go from there,” he said. “I don’t know if it was a good sign or a bad sign, but I really wasn’t all that sore when I woke up this morning.”

Mattingly said he wouldn’t hesitate to use the left-handed-hitting Ethier as a pinch hitter, but with the Dodgers scheduled to face Astros lefty J.A. Happ on Tuesday night, Mattingly said that might be a good excuse to rest Ethier for one more day.

Barajas, who suffered a sprained right wrist on a play at the plate, was sent for an MRI exam on Monday morning. Just as the X-rays he underwent on Sunday, the MRI showed no fracture and nothing seriously wrong.

“It’s still sore, but it hasn’t gotten any worse,” Barajas said. “I think I could [play], but I love to play. I feel like I could tough it out even if I’m not 100 percent.” …

“At this point, we have a couple of guys we can put back there [to catch],” Mattingly said, adding that infielder Russell Mitchell is his primary emergency catcher for now. “But obviously, you don’t anticipate Navarro getting hurt.”

Meanwhile, third baseman Casey Blake (left elbow) and reliever Blake Hawksworth (right groin) were set to begin their minor league rehabilitation assignments on Monday night at Triple-A Albuquerque and advanced Class A Rancho Cucamonga, respectively. Outfielder Marcus Thames (right quad) is tentatively slated to report to Albuquerque on Friday, and Mattingly said he likely will need a longer rehab than Blake, whom team officials hope to activate in about a week.

May 22

Andre Ethier, Rod Barajas leave game with injuries

A day that has gone poorly from the start for the Dodgers has become a real nightmare.

With the White Sox leading 4-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning, Juan Pierre muscled up on a Hiroki Kuroda slider and send it toward the right-field wall.  Andre Ethier chased it, and at the last moment, turned the right side of his body into the fence and slammed into it in his vain attempt to make the catch. As Gordon Beckham went into third base and Pierre into second, Ethier retrieved the ball but clearly looked shaken up afterward.

The next batter was Alexei Ramirez, who homered earlier in the game. The Dodgers had the infield in, while the staggered Ethier was playing deep. Ramirez hit a 3-1 pitch for a pure Texas Leaguer in between the oncoming Ethier and backpedaling second baseman Jamey Carroll. The ball fell in for an RBI single.

After that play, as Ethier retreated back to his position, Tony Gwynn Jr. came running out of the dugout on manager Don Mattingly’s direction to replace Ethier in right field. It was unclear to me whether Ethier signaled that he needed to replaced.

Though Ethier had been in a 1-for-30 slump (including 0 for 2 today) when the play occurred and has only one extra-base hit this month, there’s no doubt that any kind of injury to him would be a significant blow to a reeling Dodger team. Of course, Ethier has already been nursing a troublesome left elbow, which some think might be responsible for the hitting woes that followed the end of his 37-game on-base streak.

In the meantime, the Dodgers were hoping that Kuroda could just stabilize things, not out of any realistic hope of winning the game, but just to spare a Dodger bullpen that used mop-up relievers Ramon Troncoso and Lance Cormier for outings Saturday of 30-plus pitches each.

Kuroda ended up allowing two runs in the inning (both unearned, thanks to an error by Rafael Furcal), but at least he made it through four frames, albeit on 89 pitches. Rookie reliever Javy Guerra, who warmed up in the fourth inning, would probably combine with Scott Elbert to take the role of long man today.

However, the sixth White Sox run of the day brought about another injury, as Pierre, sliding home on Paul Konerko’s sacrifice fly, brought his right leg right into catcher Rod Barajas’ face. Dioner Navarro pinch-hit for Barajas in the top of the fifth.

Update: The Dodgers tried to come back, managing to score three runs and get Matt Kemp to the plate as the tying run in the seventh, before ultimately losing, 8-3. A day after his first major-league home run, Jerry Sands went 4 for 4 with his 10th double of the season and third stolen base. James Loney reached base three times. Rafael Furcal made an error and went 0 for 5 with three strikeouts, including one with the bases loaded, in his return from the disabled list.

Chicago’s Ramirez went 4 for 5 with his home run and two doubles, driving in five runs.

Ethier and Barajas are currently day-to-day with their injuries, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. The Dodgers said Ethier had injuries to his right elbow, right lower back and left big toe, while Barajas had a right wrist injury.

Even if Barajas is only going to be out for a few days, it’s hard to imagine the Dodgers won’t have to call up catcher A.J. Ellis from Albuquerque, rather than rely on Dioner Navarro and emergency catchers – regardless of whether it’s Barajas, Ethier or Aaron Miles who goes in the disabled list. (Miles has been said to be improving enough to be ready to play Monday in Houston.)  If two players went on the DL, then Jamie Hoffmann would be the likely second callup.

After the three-game Houston series that starts Monday, the Dodgers play 19 consecutive games against teams with winning records. Brace yourselves.

May 19

Andre Ethier faces discipline for obscene gestures

From Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

Major League Baseball is looking into photographs that show Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier making an obscene gesture at a photographer before Monday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Dodger Stadium.

“We are aware of the pictures and will talk to the appropriate people about them,” MLB spokesman Pat Courtney wrote in an e-mail.

The incident — in which Ethier was snapped flipping his middle fingers at a photographer — occurred during the Dodgers’ batting practice at approximately 4:45 p.m. PT on Wednesday, before the stadium was opened to the general public.

Ethier said Thursday that he had been contacted by the league and had already discussed the matter with Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. He had yet to receive any indication of whether he’d be disciplined by either the league or the team.

The incident occurred, Ethier said, when he repeatedly asked a photographer standing behind the batting cage whether he was finished taking pictures of him because it was interrupting his preparations for the game.

“I just got kind of annoyed, so to that extent I guess I slipped up and that temper you guys like to write about got ahead of me,” Ethier said. “I didn’t use my head or use the best judgment in that situation. Sometimes you make a mistake and it’s unfortunate.”

Ethier denied the initial report, published on TheBigLead.com, in which a source claimed he used profanity with the photographer and was loud enough for children standing nearby to hear him. …

Steve Dilbeck of the Times was less than impressed with Ethier’s contrition, or at least his sense of when a joke has gone on too long.

May 19

Andre Ethier’s new streak: hitless games

Andre Ethier has gone hitless in five straight games, going 0 for 17 in that span. The Los Angeles Dodger record for consecutive hitless games is 29 by Kazuhisa Ishii (0 for 44) from 2002-2003. For a non-pitcher, Jose Gonzalez holds the mark with 20 straight games (0 for 31) from October 1990 through July 1991.

For consecutive hitless at-bats by a Los Angeles Dodger non-pitcher, I believe the record belongs to Larry Burright with his 0-for-37 streak in 1962. Charles Johnson went 0 for 33 in 1998.

Ethier’s has the most consecutive at-bats without a hit by a Dodger non-pitcher this season, but Ted Lilly is currently 0 for 18 this season and on an 0-for-36 run dating back to 2010. Ryan Theriot had an 0-for-25 skein last year.

May 09

Ned Colletti has not repeated Bradley-for-Ethier magic

The trade of Milton Bradley (and Antonio Perez) for Andre Ethier has often been cited as a great, maybe even the greatest, achievement by Ned Colletti as a Dodger general manager. What was impressive about the yield is that everyone knew that Colletti was under orders from up top (with the support of much of the Dodger fanbase, it should be said) to unload Bradley, after the outfielder reached the point of no return in his tumultuous two years with the Dodgers. It was the kind of trade that could easily have netted a prospect that would never sniff the majors.

The news comes up again because Bradley, who has generated a .649 OPS and lots of angst in his two seasons with Seattle, has been designated for assignment by the Mariners, possibly signaling the end of his major-league career.

My purpose is not to talk about Bradley, who has been discussed here at great length, but just point out how rare it has been that Colletti has ever tried to repeat the method of this trade — exchanging a veteran in his 20s, at or near his peak value, for prospects that could contribute down the road. (Bradley was 27 and coming off a .835 OPS season when Colletti traded him for Ethier in December 2005.)

Looking quickly at the Dodgers’ transaction logs on Baseball-Reference.com, I can’t find one similar deal in the Colletti era. The closest might be the trade of Juan Pierre for John Ely and Jon Link before the 2010 season, but Pierre was already 32 and into his decline phase when the trade occurred. If you want to make a case to include this, I won’t stop you, but I’m not sure it qualifies.

It might come as no surprise that a team that regularly contends for the playoffs, like the Dodgers have under Colletti, has arguably not made a single boffo trade for a highly regarded prospect — even one who could have as much near-term impact as Ethier, who was in the majors months after the trade. But it’s interesting. We used to wonder whether Colletti would use any of the Dodgers’ exciting young players to get a proven veteran — will he ever again use a proven veteran to get any exciting young players? It did work for him before.

* * *

Bud Selig spoke to ESPN 1050 AM radio in New York about the Dodgers today:

… Selig was asked why he approved the deal that sold the Dodgers to McCourt in 2004 in the first place. Ironically, Fox had held controlling interest of the club beforehand.

“I’ll tell you what happened. There’s a lot of history here, which a lot of people don’t seem to understand,” Selig said. “There were two other bidders. Fox was anxious to get rid of the team. They were all really anxious. I’ll tell you what happened. There were a couple of groups: A group led by Dave Checketts and another group. And for whatever reason, they weren’t around at the end, so Fox sold the club to the McCourts and presented them to us. So this idea that we ought to examine ourselves, there was nobody else. We have a long relationship with Fox. There were no other bidders.” …

Selig said that MLB has added former Pittsburgh Pirates COO Richard Freeman to its team monitoring the Dodgers.

* * *

Dodger minor-leaguer Dee Gordon can be seen scoring from first base with Roadrunner speed on a sacrifice bunt and an error, in this video posted by Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness. Albuquerque Isotopes play-by-play man Robert Portnoy has the call.

* * *

From the In Case You Missed It file: the torpedoes have been damned, and back-to-back outings for Hong-Chih Kuo have been approved. Hope for the best …

May 09

Now that his streak is over, how can Ethier be even better?

Kathy Willens/APThe Dodgers are 4-0 when Andre Ethier homers.

Rebooting after the end of his 30-game hitting streak, Andre Ethier went 2 for 4 Sunday, including a big, breathing-room two-run homer in the seventh inning, the likes of which the Dodgers seem to have rarely seen this season, especially of late. (Los Angeles is averaging 2.7 runs over its past 12 games, and 3.1 runs per game this season in the 32 games that haven’t been played in Wrigley Field.)

Over the past 24 hours, I’ve seen speculation that the end of the hitting streak will make Ethier a more productive hitter, on the theory that he won’t afraid to swing for the fences and give the Dodgers the power they desperately need. (Ethier’s home run was his fourth of the season in 34 games.) I don’t want to dismiss the theory out of hand, but it strikes me as a bit hard to believe. Let’s just say that if Ethier becomes even more productive, that’ll be something.

During the streak, Ethier had a .462 on-base percentage and .560 slugging percentage (1.022 OPS). Those 30 games were not cheap ones and shouldn’t be dismissed. If he can do better than that, more power to him (figuratively and literally).

May 07

Ethier’s streak ends at 30 as late-inning tie turns into Dodger loss


Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesAndre Ethier reacts after the third of his four outs tonight in New York.

On September 3, 1969, the Dodgers and Mets were tied heading into the ninth inning with a Dodger outfielder hitless in his bid to extend his hitting streak to 31 games.

It looked like the same thing might happen tonight … but the Dodgers and Andre Ethier came up short.

New York broke a tie with two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, and Ethier watched Los Angeles go quietly in the ninth after going 0 for 4 with a walk, and so the only streak of note extended this night was the Dodgers’ losing streak to four with a 4-2 defeat.

Ethier, who struck out against lefty reliever Tim Byrdak in his final at-bat with a runner on first in the eighth inning, needed eight batters to come up in the ninth inning once the Mets broke the 2-2 tie.

After pitching a shutout seventh inning, Dodger reliever Mike MacDougal walked leadoff batter Jason Bay in the bottom of the eighth and was replaced by Hong-Chih Kuo. Ike Davis popped out, but then Kuo threw everything into chaos by throwing away a sacrifice bunt by Jason Pridie, leaving the game with two runners on and one out. (Aaron Miles backed up Kuo’s throw to prevent further damage at the time.) The third reliever of the inning, Matt Guerrier, walked Ronny Paulino to load the bases.

Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesMatt Kemp comes up short in on Justin Turner’s fly in the bottom of the eighth.

On a 1-0 pitch, pinch-hitter Justin Turner hit a deep fly to center that was catchable but certain to score one run. As it happened, the ball went off Kemp’s glove as he went back on the ball, giving the Mets a two-run cushion. Jose Reyes lined into a double play, but the damage to Ethier’s hopes had been done.

There were four extra-inning games in Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, but according to a September 1975 issue of Baseball Digest, he didn’t need extra innings to extend his streak. He had two hits in two of those four games. Like DiMaggio, Pete Rose played in extra innings during his 44-game hitting streak but did not need overtime to keep streak going.

Ethier got five chances tonight because the Dodgers were so adept at putting runners on base – but unfortunately, weren’t so skilled at driving them home.

The Dodgers left the bases loaded in the first, second and seventh innings. They were 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position Friday, and you know, that happens. But it’s unfortunate to follow it by going 1 for 13 the next night. The Dodgers stranded 14 runners in tonight’s game.

Ethier walked after swinging at the first two pitches of emergency starter Dillon Gee in the first inning, flied out with the bases loaded to end the second inning, flied out leading off the fifth and grounded out against left-handed reliever Mike O’Connor to end the sixth.

Reyes’ RBI single capped a two-run second inning off Jon Garland (six innings, 10 baserunners, three strikeouts). After the first pitch to the next batter, David Murphy, on TV you could see Dioner Navarro quickly nod in first baseman James Loney’s direction.  Following the next pitch, Navarro nonchalantly tossed the ball to Loney, picking off Reyes, who didn’t see it coming until it was far too late.

Two innings later, Navarro popped a home run down the right-field line to give the Dodgers their first tally, and in the sixth, Miles followed Jamey Carroll’s single and Garland’s sacrifice with an RBI single to tie the game.

That’s the way it stayed for a couple more innings, at a time when it looked like Ethier might have all night to tie the 3-Dog. It was not to be, but my goodness, congratulations to Ethier for making it that far.

But now, what will distract us from how poorly things are going for the Dodgers?

May 06

Ethier rushes to 30, but Dodgers tackled in end zone


Frank Franklin II/APJerry Sands can’t reach Jose Reyes’ second triple, leaving Matt Kemp to retrieve.

The number 30 will always belong to Lawrence McCutcheon as far as I’m concerned, but tonight it will be shared with Andre Ethier, who extended his hitting streak with his very first swing tonight against the Mets.

Frank Franklin II/APHiroki Kuroda reacts to David Pridie’s home run.

If only we could stop there … but instead, there’s the matter of Hiroki Kuroda thrice being unable to hold a one-run lead, ultimately giving up a three-run homer to Jason Pridie in the bottom of the sixth inning of the Dodgers’ 6-3 defeat.

From the start, it was a high-wire act for Kuroda, who gave up a leadoff triple to Jose Reyes. Kuroda, known as a groundball pitcher, had only two groundouts in the first three innings, while surrendering the triple and then a sacrifice fly in the first inning and a home run by Ike Davis in the second inning. He settled down mid-start and looked like he might cruise, surviving Reyes’ second triple of the night beyond a diving Jerry Sands and taking a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the sixth.

Then the Mets suddenly lowered the boom: one-out double by Carlos Beltran, two-out intentional walk to Davis and 27-year-old rookie Pridie’s shot to right.

After a double by Josh Thole, the Mets’ sixth extra-base hit, Kuroda was lifted. New York tacked on an insurance run off Blake Hawksworth in the seventh inning, while the Dodgers didn’t get a runner past second base for the remainder of the game.

Ethier notched three hits for the fifth time this season – but the Dodgers are 2-3 in those games. Rod Barajas homered and singled, but struck out to end the Dodgers’ last good threat, a two-on, two-out situation in the seventh inning.

The Dodgers fall to 15-18, fourth place in the National League West, with San Diego two games back and leading 2-0 in the third inning against Arizona.

* * *

Ethier became the 45th player in major-league history to record a single-season hitting streak of at least 30 games and can tie Willie Davis’ Dodger hitting streak record Saturday. Ethier talked to Tony Jackson’s of ESPNLosAngeles.com about his sore elbow … and was more diplomatic than I would have been in response to critical comments from former Dodger coach Larry Bowa.

… “An inflamed elbow, if that’s what it is, I’m one of those guys that you’ve got to play through that, especially if you play in the outfield,” Bowa said on SiriusXM Radio Thursday. “If you were an infielder, you’d have to throw with that arm, and that’s another thing. But how many plays does an outfielder get? To me, unless it was really, really bad, I’m going to play him.”

Ethier had started every game this season until being scratched from the lineup about a half-hour before game time after taking a few swings in the indoor batting cage. He was available to pinch hit, but was never called upon to do so. After the game, Ethier said the problem bothered him more throwing than hitting.

Bowa, who added that he was “shocked” Ethier wasn’t in the lineup, said Ethier should have played not because of the hitting streak but because the Dodgers are struggling and he is one of the hottest and most dangerous hitters. He said he was hurting the team by sitting.

“That is his job, to put stuff out on that show that he’s on,” Ethier said of Bowa’s comments. “I’m not big on commenting on other people’s comments. … I have buddies at home saying the same stuff. I got text messages the other day saying, ‘What’s going on, why aren’t you playing,’ guys giving me a hard time.”

May 05

Mets (and health) stand in between Andre Ethier and Willie Davis

The heat map above shows Andre Ethier’s “hot” and “cold” zones against left-handed pitching since 2009. The red areas are his “hot” zones. The blue are his “cold” zones.

Hi everyone – the following is a guest post from Mark Simon of ESPN Stats and Information:

The last time a Dodger brought as long a hitting streak as Andre Ethier into a meeting with the Mets, an ESPN baseball analyst named Bobby Valentine was making his big league debut.

Willie Davis was able to extend his hitting streak to a club record 30 games in a meeting with the Mets on September 2, 1969. But later in the game, after a call of “In comes Valentine!” from Dodgers radio voice Vin Scully on a two-run single by Andy Kosco, Mets reliever Tug McGraw struck Davis out with the tying run on third base to end a 5-4 Mets victory, one of many amazing wins for the eventual champs. Davis got his streak to 31 the next day, a number that still stands as the top Dodgers mark.

Ethier will get a chance to better Davis at Citi Field, with Jonathon Niese the first moundsman in his way.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he’ll be the fifth hitter to bring a hit streak of 29 or more games into a meeting with the Mets, along with Davis, Pete Rose, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. Rose was able to set the NL record for a hitting streak by hitting in his 37th, 38th, and 39th straight games against the Mets in 1978 (the streak would stretch to 44 games before ending).

Rollins reached 33 games with hits in three straight games against the Mets late in 2005. The one hitter the Mets stymied was his teammate, Utley, who had his 35-gamer snuffed on August 4, 2006 by Orlando Hernandez, Darren Oliver and Pedro Feliciano.

Let’s take a closer look at the potential matchups that could come between Ethier and history this weekend, presuming he’s healed enough from his elbow injury to play.

Friday vs. Jonathon Niese

Never faced

Ethier is 8-for-35 against left-handed pitching this season, a .229 batting average that is 200 points below what he’s currently hitting against right-handed pitching. But keep in mind that he went hitless in his first 11 at-bats of the season against lefties. Since then, he’s 8-for-24 against them, his most recent hit being an infield single against James Russell that pushed the streak to 29.

There are significant differences in how Ethier hits right-handers, compared to how he fares against lefties for his career. He’s a .312 career hitter against righties, averaging a homer every 22 at-bats. Against lefties, he’s hitting .246 (.214 since 2009), with a homer every 49 at-bats.

Ethier’s biggest issue against lefties is his propensity for swings and misses. Since 2009, he’s missing on one out of every four swings against a left-handed pitcher, compared to one of every six swings against righties.

At the top of this piece is a heat map, that shows Ethier’s performance when he puts the ball in play against a lefty. He has two vulnerable spots—the blue shaded areas that are up-and-in and down-and-away.

The one area in which he’s working from a position of strength is the red-shaded area, down and in. Closer examination of the pitch type data from video review shows that most of Ethier’s hits come against fastballs to that area.

Comparatively speaking, Mets starter Jonathon Niese is a much easier target for Ethier than most left-handed pitchers, as he’s not someone who generates a lot of swings and misses.

Lefty hitters are hitting .286 in 217 at-bats against Niese for his career (11-for-40 in 2011). That’s among the worst for any active lefty pitcher who has faced at least 200 lefties.

Saturday vs. Chris Young

.414 BA, 6 HR in 29 AB

If Ethier can get to Saturday with his hitting streak intact, he’s probably going to be feeling pretty good heading into that day’s matchup. His numbers, particularly his power numbers, against Mets starter Chris Young, are amazing.

Whether that’s enough of a sample size to predict future performance is another discussion for another time. The history available says Ethier should feel confident. He has six home runs against Young, against whom he’s hitting .414 in 29 at-bats. There’s no other pitcher against whom he has more than two homers. Their last meeting was June 9, 2009, a game in which Ethier went deep three times against the then-Padre. Two of the fly balls left the ballpark. The other was well-struck but caught in center field.

“He seems to punish me,” Young told the media after that game.

Most left-handers don’t hit Young with the same rate of success that Ethier does. Lefty hitters are hitting just .223 against Young in a career sampling of 1,420 at-bats. The only active starting right-handed pitchers with better success against lefty hitters are Diamondbacks starter Ian Kennedy (.218) and Giants ace Tim Lincecum (.222).

Left-handed hitters are 5-for-48 with 16 strikeouts against Young this season., a .104 opponents batting average. The Phillies loaded their lineup with batters who hit left-handed against Young on Sunday Night Baseball last week, but they were a combined 1-for-17, with 0-fors from among others, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Ryan Howard.

Sunday vs. R.A. Dickey

.500 BA, 2 AB

If Ethier survives to Sunday, he’ll see a pitch with which he has not had a lot of familiarity over the last two seasons, the knuckleball.

Dickey and Ethier met last July 25 and it was a fastball on which Ethier got one of the two hits the Dodgers mustered that day through 5 2/3 innings of facing him. In Ethier’s other turn, a Dickey knuckleball yielded a ground-ball double play.

According to our video review data, Ethier has seen 15 knuckleballs since the start of the 2009 season. He’s swung at 10 of those pitches, missing four of them (including once when he was struck out by Tim Wakefield) and putting five into play.

Whoever figures to be the Mets second baseman on Sunday should come prepared. Of the five times that Ethier has put a knuckler into play, four of those balls have been hit right to the spot where a second baseman would normally play. His next hit against a knuckleball will be his first since 2009.