Dec 17

I can’t believe I’m saying it, but I’m saying it: Tony Gwynn Jr. should start


Denis Poroy/AP
Tony Gwynn Jr.

As I walk through the valley of the shadow of no frontline left fielder, with yea but another candidate abandoning us to  aimless wanderings,  my thoughts seek a place to turn.

I believe that Xavier Paul, Jay Gibbons and Jamie Hoffmann can make positive contributions, but as I started to make a case for each of them in left field, I couldn’t finish the job. The offensive ceilings for Paul and Hoffmann just seem too low, and the defensive limitations of Gibbons too pronounced. I’m content to see them get a chance, but I just don’t have confidence it would go all that well.

The problem with turning to a 35-year-old Scott Podsednik is that his defense is pretty poor itself. Podsednik would probably post a better on-base percentage than any in-house Dodger candidate, but not so much better that he’d be worth more millions spent by Ned Colletti.

Minor-leaguers Jerry Sands and Trayvon Robinson? Despite their relative promise, only once in five seasons has Ned Colletti promoted a AA player into a major-league starting role in April, and that happened to Blake DeWitt only because injuries had left Chin-Lung Hu and Ramon Martinez as the only alternatives.  Paul, Hoffmann and Gibbons don’t fall to that level. And I’m not convinced that Colletti should break that policy right now, because unlike with Paul and Hoffmann, I imagine Sands and Robinson still have more to learn in the minors.

There’s a guy out there who would represent a pretty nice part-time addition to the roster, by the name of Manny Ramirez, but I know the Dodgers don’t want to go down that road.

That doesn’t exhaust all the possibilities, but there really isn’t much else to talk about in terms of difference-makers. And that’s why, more and more, I find myself ready to throw my lot with Tony Gwynn Jr. — if, as was discussed last week, he plays center field.

Of everyone discussed here, Gwynn offers the most elite skill, if not the only one — his defense.  He’s something of the polar opposite of Ramirez, and it seems to me that he is the one person left in the conversation who can truly transform the Dodger lineup. By placing him in center and moving Matt Kemp to right field and Andre Ethier to left, Gwynn would turn the Dodger outfield defense from a weakness to a strength.

At a minimum, it would be a low-risk way to buy some time until Sands or Robinson proves more ready to make the leap to the majors, possibly at midseason. Or, until the Dodgers decide to make their annual midseason trade.

I don’t think Colletti or Don Mattingly would be opposed to asking Kemp or Ethier to switch positions. Would either player rebel? Perhaps, although if they are that selfish, we’ve got other problems.

Here’s a Dodger lineup with Gwynn in center:

Rafael Furcal, SS
James Loney, 1B
Andre Ethier, LF
Matt Kemp, RF
Juan Uribe, 2B
Casey Blake, 3B
Rod Barajas, C
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF

Offensively, it’s shaky, but it’s not as if any of the other outfield options would save the day. But defensively, there’s actually hope.

I’ve looked at the Dodgers’ outfield dilemma many different ways — coming at the problem, in fact, with a bias against Gwynn signing with the team to begin with. There might be no more surprising event to me than making an argument for Gwynn to be in the Dodger starting lineup. But I just don’t see a better way to go right now.  Tony Gwynn Jr.  has a first-rate skill that no other Dodger has, and the Dodgers absolutely must consider taking advantage of it.

Dec 07

Dodgers to sign Chris Gwynn’s nephew

Tony Gwynn, Jr., is probably few people’s idea of an answer to the Dodgers’ outfield concerns, but now that the Dodgers are about to sign him, let’s talk about what they will do with him.

In his best year (2009), Gwynn reached the .350 mark in on-base percentage, but other than that and a good year on the basepaths last season (17 steals in 21 attempts), Gwynn has zero — or less than zero — offensive value.

Defensively, Gwynn’s another story, as he was arguably the best center fielder in the National League last season.

So if the Dodgers plan on using Gwynn as more than a fifth outfielder, should they not play him in center field, either moving Matt Kemp to left field or Kemp to right and Andre Ethier to left?

Just as you shouldn’t bat a great offensive player eighth, shouldn’t you avoid minimizing the impact of a fine defensive player?

The Dodgers’ 2011 lineup may be the most OBP-challenged we’ve seen in Los Angeles in some time. If the plan is to win with pitching and defense, while hoping that Kemp, Ethier and others hit a few home runs along the way, the Dodgers should seriously consider using Gwynn in center.

Of course, if the Dodgers want to find more offense for that third outfield slot, fine by me.

Update: R.J. Anderson of Fangraphs has more on Gwynn.

* * *

According to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, in addition to his $2 million base salary, Vicente Padilla could earn as much as $8 million in incentives as a starter or $6 million in incentives as a reliever.

Sep 17

And that’s the way it is, for Kemp and the Dodgers


Alex Gallardo/APMatt Kemp is congratulated by present and future managers Joe Torre and Don Mattingly after scoring in the second inning.

With the tying runs on, Matt Kemp struck out to end the game. He did. He swung, he missed, Rockies 7, Dodgers 5.

He had a beautiful triple in the second inning, taking an outside pitch hard the opposite way. He singled, stole second and scored in the fourth. In the seventh, with the bases loaded, he again went with the outside pitch, sending it into the stands just to the right of the foul pole.

And then he grounded out on the next pitch. And with the tying runs on base in the ninth inning, he got ahead 2-0, and he struck out.

And that’s Matt Kemp’s terrible, no good, horrible, very bad year.

And I still think he’ll bounce back. That he’ll find the way.

  • Andre Ethier walked four times, the first Dodger to do that since he did it last August. His bid to become the first Dodger to walk five times in a game since Greg Brock in 1983) was thwarted by a single up the middle on an 0-2 pitch. Five times this year, a Dodger has reached base five times in a game; Ethier twice, Rafael Furcal twice and Matt Kemp once.
  • Furcal’s first-inning error enabled a two-run home run by Troy Tulowitzki (12 taters in his past 14 games), two unearned runs that matched the margin of defeat. Furcal also went 0 for 5 and is now 8 for 45 with six walks and one extra-base hit since returning from the disabled list this month.
  • Two runs were also charged to Jonathan Broxton, who allowed three walks and two hits in two-thirds of an inning.
  • Hiroki Kuroda: six innings, three earned runs, eight baserunners, seven strikeouts.
  • Thanks to his three-hit night, A.J. Ellis (.237) actually a chance to finish the year with an unshameful batting average.
  • Jay “Pabst Blue” Gibbons had three more hits and is now OPSing .973.
  • Saturday’s game will not be televised live, but rather on tape delay at 4 p.m.
  • Tweet of the night, passed along by Dodger Thoughts commenter CraigUnderdog: “RT @charles_star: I don’t care what your contract says, Mattingly. Jay Leno will be managing the Dodgers by the All-Star break.”
Sep 16

The Big Blue Wrecked Crew: 2010-11 Dodger offseason primer


Kirby Lee/US PresswireRussell Martin: Just one of the many questions the Dodgers face this winter.

The Dodger roster heading into the 2010-11 offseason, and I don’t say this lightly, is a mess.

It’s not a hopeless mess. But it is a mess, and it’s going to take some skill from the crew in charge to clean up. It’s a goop of oil and water, an unsightly combination of having to fill holes while also figuring out which rising salaries to jettison and which to risk holding onto.

Oh, and when the 2010 season ends, the No. 5 starter on the 40-man roster, at least by major-league experience, will be someone who hasn’t pitched in a professional game in four months: Scott Elbert.

The Dodgers have one absolute jewel on the team: Clayton Kershaw. The team’s top player won’t be arbitration eligible for one more year and only figures to earn approximately $500,000 in 2011.

Then, there are a few players whose higher salaries the Dodgers won’t mind paying. Chad Billingsley, who will command somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 million, knocked down many of the questions others had about him with a resurgent 2010 season. Hong-Chih Kuo will draw low seven figures, and after the way he has persevered and performed, no one should begrudge him. Kenley Jansen will make people swoon, and only receive the major-league minimum pay and meal money in return.

So much for the good news. Now, the concerns:

  • Rafael Furcal surely remains talented, but the Dodgers have $12 million going to a player who has averaged fewer than 100 games per year since 2008.
  • Slumping reliever Jonathan Broxton’s final season before free agency is tagged with a $7 million salary.
  • Coming off an injury that ended his second straight disappointing year, arbitration-eligible Russell Martin would also get as much as $7 million if the Dodgers don’t non-tender him.
  • Andre Ethier looked like an MVP at the start of the year; by the end, his $9.25 million 2011 salary for an outfielder who struggles against lefties didn’t seem like quite as much of a bargain.
  • Lightning Rod Award-winning outfielder Matt Kemp has $6.95 million coming next year.
  • Casey Blake, game but aging, gets $5.25 million in the final chapter of his three-year deal.
  • By now, James Loney should have developed enough that the $4.5 million he is projected to earn next year should have seemed closer to a bargain than a burden, but his second-half disappearance hasn’t helped matters.
  • Incumbent second baseman Ryan Theriot and his sub-.700 OPS will bring home about $3.5 million if the Dodgers hang onto him.

In sum, that’s about $55 million committed to a series of question marks, some small, some large. In addition, Los Angeles owes approximately $17 million of its 2011 budget to (swallow hard) Manny Ramirez, Juan Pierre, Andruw Jones and Jason Schmidt — the price for turning past mistakes into the playoff teams of the previous two years.

Overall, the Dodgers on paper have close to $100 million – a figure that might well be at or above their budget limit – committed before they make a single offseason move.

Now, all is not lost. The Dodgers can and probably will gain roughly $12 million in breathing room if and when they bid farewell to George Sherrill, Octavio Dotel, Scott Podsednik and Brad Ausmus (who has said he will retire). Meanwhile, free agents Jay Gibbons and Rod Barajas should start to help shore up the bench for under $2 million combined. And it should be noted that not all of the above question marks will have negative answers.

Nevertheless, that still leaves the Dodgers at about $90 million in payroll, with John Ely as their No. 3 starter and serious questions about most of their offense. As shaky as their lineup now looks, and however aggressive the Dodgers might want to be with the latest crop of prospects, the Dodgers absolutely have to add at least two more starters, whether through free agency or trade, whether Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda or outsiders.

It’s for this reason that unless the team salary budget goes up, the Dodgers almost certainly will trade or non-tender a 2011 contract to at least one from the group of Broxton, Kemp, Ethier, Loney and Martin. Loney, because he has the lowest salary, might be most likely to stay – he’s finishing the year as a disappointment at first base, but he’s not finishing the year alone as a disappointment. In any case, all of them have something to offer other teams that might be, as hard as it is for some to digest, more willing to spend than the Dodgers are.

An Ethier trade would be a shock, for example, much more than a Kemp trade, but who can say it’s out of the question now?

However this plays out, the Dodgers may well bring back many of the same players next year who boosted them to National League Championship Series appearances in 2008-09 and sunk them in 2010. In one respect, nothing will have changed: You’re always hoping players move forward, like Kershaw and Billingsley, and not backward, like Kemp and Loney and Broxton and Martin and so on. Good does sometimes follow bad, after all. But still, it’s going to be a nervous offseason for a lot of us.

Sure, BP had it tougher. But as cleanup goes, this is as thick a goop as Chavez Ravine has seen in quite some time.

Aug 10

Gibbons a new hero as Dodgers romp, 15-9


Barbara Johnston/US PresswireJay Gibbons hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning to give the Dodgers an 11-5 lead.

Newest Dodger (at least for one more day) Jay Gibbons became the Dodgers’ all-time leader in OPS – minimum five career plate appearances with the team – going 3 for 4 with a home run in the Dodgers’ unusually bloated 15-9 victory over Philadelphia tonight.

Gibbons’ OPS of 2.200 (three singles and a homer in five trips to the plate) breaks the record of 1.467 previously held by Pat Diesel of the 1902 Brooklyn squad and Orlando Mercado, who had two singles and a double in five at-bats at the end of the 1987 season, which I never knew about because I was traveling through Europe. Ah, those were the days.

Well, to quote Natalie Merchant, these are days, as well. Andre Ethier had three singles, a double, a walk and was hit by a pitch tonight, becoming the first Dodger to reach base six times in a game since Russell Martin on April 25, 2008. Before that, the last Dodger to do it was Shawn Green during his four-homer game in 2002. The feat has been achieved 22 times in Los Angeles Dodger history.

Casey Blake also homered as the Dodgers reached base 25 times in all, scoring a season-high in runs and giving them 23 in their past two games. Perhaps we can say they emerged from their slump: The Dodgers have broken the five-run barrier four times in their past eight games. On the other hand, tonight’s pitching …. we won’t get into that.

* * *

Rafael Furcal, already sidelined for eight days with back issues, finally submitted to spending at least the next week on the disabled list, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Juan Castro is expected to be Wednesday’s newest Dodger – his third sojourn with the team.

Aug 04

Near no-no still a yes-yes for Vicente Padilla and Dodgers: 9-0


Jae C. Hong/APVicente Padilla

Vicente Padilla’s extraordinary run of starts since returning from the disabled list in June nearly peaked with a no-hitter tonight at Dodger Stadium.

Padilla came within eight outs of the gem before allowing a line shot off the glove of a diving James Loney by Ryan Ludwick. Padilla gave up one other hit over his 105 pitches, settling for the fourth shutout of his career and second of the two-hit variety, and the Dodgers defeated the Padres, 9-0.

With the Dodgers seemingly losing a player a day, Padilla let everyone take their minds off their troubles. After walking two batters (one intentionally) in the second inning, Padilla retired 14 in a row before the Ludwick single. Since June 19, Padilla has pitched 60 innings and allowed 12 earned runs for a 1.80 ERA. His nine strikeouts tonight give him 52 in that time. He has not allowed more than two runs in his past eight starts.

The Dodgers, who have won consecutive games following their six-game losing streak, scored three runs in the second inning, the crowning blow a two-RBI dunker by Scott Podsednik. Ronnie Belliard added an RBI double in the third, and then Padilla – left to bat for himself in the bottom of the eighth following much suspense – drove in a run with his second hit of the night.

That kicked off a five-run inning for the Dodgers – their biggest output since a six-run inning July 3 – capped by a two-run homer by Andre Ethier. Ethier also had two doubles, while Casey Blake and Jamey Carroll added two hits for the Dodgers.

Dodger pitchers have held San Diego to a single run on five hits over the past two games combined. Since the All-Star Game, Dodger starting pitchers have allowed 35 earned runs in 123 innings for a 2.56 ERA.

If not a turnaround, tonight might amount to a false positive for a crumbling Dodger team, but temporary relief is better than none.

Jul 31

A second trade: James McDonald and Andrew Lambo for Octavio Dotel

Octavio Dotel, 36 years old with 52 baserunners allowed in 40 innings for Pittsburgh this season against 48 strikeouts, comes to Los Angeles as the Dodgers give up on James McDonald and minor-league outfielder Andrew Lambo.

Dotel has had a brief resurgence since mid-June, so the Dodgers will try to ride that wave and hope this isn’t another Edwin Jackson for Danys Baez.

In a way, the Dodgers are copying the Padres’ formula – trying to smother the opposition with pitching options, and hope the offense scores just enough to make it worthwhile. It’s a plan that could work, especially if Manny Ramirez comes back and Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier step things up. I’m just not in love with the guys they acquired this week to try to make it happen.

* * *

In other news, Andre Ethier is away from the team for the birth of his second child.

Jul 27

Chicken soup for the soul: Ethier lifts Dodgers, 2-0


Gregory Bull/APAndre Ethier breaks a scoreless tie in the seventh inning with a two-run, pinch-hit single.

Too sick to start Tuesday’s game in San Diego, Andre Ethier made the Padres feel ill in their showdown with the Dodgers.

Ethier, a late scratch from the starting lineup with the flu, came off the bench in the seventh inning to deliver a two-run single – all the medicine the Dodgers needed to come away with a 2-0 victory.

Chad Billingsley and Jon Garland each pitched shutout ball through six innings, though both starting pitchers had one inning of major tightrope-walking in that time. In the bottom of the fourth, three singles loaded the bases before Billingsley retired the next three batters on a groundout, popout and strikeout. In the top of the sixth, with runners on first and second, Garland nabbed Rafael Furcal, Xavier Paul and Matt Kemp on 3-2 pitches.

But the pivotal moment came in the seventh inning, when Blake DeWitt (on an 0-2 pitch) and Garret Anderson singled with two out. Padres manager Bud Black forced the Dodgers hand, walking Russell Martin (1 for 2) intentionally. That caused Joe Torre to have the flu-stricken Ethier pinch-hit for Billingsley, even though the righty had thrown only 84 pitches. (Billingsley lowered his ERA to 4.00 on the season by extending his scoreless inning string to 15 tonight – remarkably, Dodger starting pitchers have allowed one earned run in their past 43 innings.)

It was an echo of Friday’s game, when Torre pinch-hit for Vicente Padilla despite a low pitch count. But this time, with Garland left in to pitch despite lefty Joe Thatcher warming in the bullpen, Ethier grounded a 1-1 pitch hard, just past a diving Everth Cabrera, driving home the first two runs of the game.

That put the game in the hands of the Dodger bullpen, starting with Hong-Chih Kuo. Despite being interrupted by a single and a Casey Blake error, Kuo struck out the side. After throwing 20 pitches that inning, Kuo came out in the eighth to face Padres slugger Adrian Gonzalez and struck him out on three pitches. He faced Chase Headley, and struck him out on three pitches. He threw two more strikes to Yorvit Torrealba before finally missing, and then gave up a single. On his season-high 34th pitch, Kuo got Will Venable to ground out, taking the game to the ninth.

In the bottom of the ninth, Jonathan Broxton breezed through the first two hitters on three pitches. That brought up his nemesis, Matt Stairs, with a .597 OPS this season. Broxton missed with his first three pitches, but came back to strike Stairs out and bounce off the mound with the save.

First step. The Dodgers were held to two runs or less for the eight time in 12 games since the All-Star break, but they closed their gap in the National League West to five games. Los Angeles remained 2 1/2 games behind San Francisco for the NL wild card.

Jul 13

Count it for Broxton and the NL: 3-1


Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireJonathan Broxton and Brian McCann shake on it.

Coast to coast, Jonathan Broxton naysayers revved their engines as he came out to save for the National League against the American League in tonight’s All-Star game.

And coast to coast Broxton silenced them, at least until the fall.

Whether Broxton truly stripped away any of the cynics’ ammunition in preserving the NL’s 3-1 victory – the NL’s first victory since 1996 – is doubtful. If the Dodgers are fortunate enough to play in October, the doubters will surely return, because past success has never slowed the cynics before.

But considering the alternative, Team Broxton will take it.

“It felt awesome,” a smiling Broxton told Fox’s Eric Karros after the game.

Employed as closer by the manager who profited from Broxton’s twin NLCS disappointments, Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel, Broxton raised the stakes with his first pitch, lined to right field by David Ortiz. That brought up former Dodger Adrian Beltre, in his first All-Star game. Broxton blew Beltre away on three fastballs between 97 and 99 miles per hour.

Broxton then started John Buck off with three balls that missed, followed by two fastballs for strikes. Buck hit the next pitch as a blooper to right, and it looked like the NL would be victimized by their maligned outfield defense. But Marlon Byrd fielded the ball on a bounce and quickly and alertly fired to Rafael Furcal covering second base for a 9-6 forceout – a huge play that wiped out what would have been an unlucky hit.

Ian Kinsler then hit a high fly to center field, which Chris Young of Arizona gloved for the final out. And Broxton could wear the All-Star S across his big chest.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Hong-Chih Kuo

Short of a blown save for Broxton, a Kuworst-case scenario seemed to be ripening for Dodger fans midgame, when Hong-Chih Kuo walked the leadoff American League batter in the fifth inning, made a throwing error that put runners at first and third and then surrendered a deep sacrifice fly that scored the game’s first run.

But Brian McCann provided the relief (if sadly reminding us that we used to think Russell Martin was a better-hitting catcher not too long ago) with a bases-clearing double in the seventh inning, taking Kuo off the hook.

McCann also relieved himself, if you will, from an earlier disappointment. In the top of the fifth, Dodger outfielder Andre Ethier (1 for 2) had a chance to be a hero when he lined a single to right field with David Wright on second base. But the ball was hit too hard for Wright to be sent home. Corey Hart struck out, and McCann then flied out to strand the two runners.

Kuo faced four batters and retired two, throwing 18 pitches. Furcal walked in his only plate appearance, before getting in position to complete the key play of the game in the ninth.

Jul 13

Andre Ethier and the proving ground


Kirby Lee/US PresswireAndre Ethier has earned the right to smile.

I think Andre Ethier has some of me in him.

I have high expectations of myself. I have a sense of pride in my abilities, but at the same time, frustration when I am not equal to the task before me. I get angry when I fail, and then the questioning of my self-worth revives.

I want people to know that I know that my failings are unacceptable, and sometimes there isn’t a graceful way to do that. If I know that I’m making my best effort, if I know I’m capable of better, and if the people around me know these things, then this shouldn’t be a problem.

But sometimes, I just feel like I have to keep proving myself — to myself and to others. And that’s when the frustration comes out for everyone to see.

I’m glad that Ethier is having his moment in the sun today — and surely hope that it isn’t clouded by playing out of position in center field. I hope that he can revel in this honor, because the next proving ground is just around the corner.

Congratulations, Andre.

* * *

National League at American League, 5:00 p.m.

Jul 04

Andre Ethier to start for NL All-Stars, Broxton in bullpen


Getty Images/US Presswire Anaheim Time

Andre Ethier was named to the National League All-Star team, announced this morning. Jonathan Broxton was selected for the NL bullpen.

Ethier has been coming on for some time now, but grabbed the nation’s attention with his Triple Crown start to 2010. Interestingly, this announcement comes with Ethier feeling something to prove again, following his post-pinkie injury slump. But he should come around.

Rafael Furcal (.884 OPS, 142 OPS+, 12 steals) is the NL’s most valuable shortstop this season, according to Fangraphs, but his surge unfortunately came too late to make an impact on the fan/player/manager selectors. Jose Reyes (.741 OPS, 100 OPS+, 19 steals) got the call to back up Hanley Ramirez ahead of Furcal.

Moreover, in its desire for versatility the NL found a spot for Atlanta utility player Omar Infante (.721 OPS in 56 games).

Former Dodger third baseman Adrian Beltre, an MVP candidate this year for Boston, made his first All-Star game.

Who chose whom? MLB.com has the answer:

NL Player Ballot position players include catcher Brian McCann of the Braves, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres, shortstops Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies, third baseman Scott Rolen of the Reds, Prado, and outfielders Corey Hart of the Brewers, Matt Holliday of the Cardinals and Marlon Byrd of the Cubs. Because Tulowitzki is on the DL and unavailable, he is replaced by Reyes, who was the next choice on the Player Ballot behind him.

NL Player Ballot pitchers include starting pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez of the Rockies, Roy Halladay of the Phillies, Josh Johnson of the Marlins, Tim Lincecum of the Giants and Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals, along with relievers Matt Capps of the Nationals, Brian Wilson of the Giants and Jonathan Broxton of the Dodgers.

From there, Manuel, in conjunction with MLB, filled out his roster with the following: first baseman Ryan Howard of the Phillies, second baseman Brandon Phillips of the Reds (replacing Utley), infielder/outfielder Omar Infante of the Braves, outfielders Michael Bourn of the Astros and Chris Young of the Padres, and pitchers Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals, Yovani Gallardo of the Brewers, Tim Hudson of the Braves, Evan Meek of the Pirates and Arthur Rhodes of the Reds.

Jun 27

Kershaw LXVII: O Kershaw, Curtain, Lights


Gary A. Vasquez/US Presswire
Andre Ethier has as many home runs with at least two runners on base in 2010 as the rest of the Dodgers combined.

You know what I look forward to seeing? The Dodgers breaking open a close game or rallying with a three-run home run.

But in 74 games this year, the Dodgers have only eight three-run homers, along with two grand slams by Andre Ethier. That total comes in 443 plate appearances with at least two runners on base.

The Dodgers were on a pretty good pace until shortly before Ethier’s pinkie injury. In nearly seven weeks since May 11, the Dodgers have two three-run home runs.

Manny Ramirez is 16 for 31 (.516) with three doubles and six walks with at least two runners on base, but doesn’t have a homer this year in those situations.

James Loney, who broke the 50 RBI barrier Saturday, is second on the team with two three-run homers. He is 21 for 53 (.396) with four doubles, two homers and four walks with at least two runners on base.

Here are the 10 three- or four-run home runs.

  • April 13: Andre Ethier, ahead 6-2 in the sixth.
  • April 16: Andre Ethier (grand slam), ahead 3-0 in the second.
  • April 20: Matt Kemp, down 9-6 in the eighth.
  • April 30: James Loney, ahead 2-1 in the third.
  • May 1: Andre Ethier, down 1-0 in the third.
  • May 4: James Loney, down 11-3 in the eighth.
  • May 6: Andre Ethier (grand slam), tied 3-3 in the ninth.
  • May 11: Russell Martin, ahead 4-3 in the eighth.
  • June 7: Blake DeWitt, ahead 7-1 in the fifth.
  • June 16: Andre Ethier, ahead 2-0 in the sixth.

The Dodgers are actually pretty decent at keeping rallies going. But sometimes, you just want to see them hit the heights.

Jun 20

The Jonathan Broxton lament


Gary A. Vasquez/US Presswire
Jonathan Broxton (shown earlier this month) has not allowed any runs or inherited runs to score in 25 of 30 appearances in 2010.

I like Andre Ethier. Like him a lot. I like Jonathan Broxton a lot, too.

I don’t like that Andre Ethier is allowed to fail, but Jonathan Broxton isn’t. Or maybe that’s the wrong way to put it – maybe it’s just that Broxton’s excellence is taken for granted in a way Ethier’s isn’t.

Because of Ethier’s history of walkoff success, no one holds it against him when he doesn’t come through in the clutch – which, quite frankly, is often. Part of that is the nature of hitting, which is very difficult.

Nevertheless, it’s something that when Ethier walks off with a victory, the fans build statues in his honor, and when Broxton walks off the mound with a Dodger victory, people shrug. That includes the past two postseasons. In his 11 appearances, Broxton did his job nine times.

Oh, but he didn’t do it 11 times.

In Game 4 of the 2009 National League Championship Series, Broxton entered the game in the same situation he entered Saturday’s game against Boston: runners on first and second, two out. And he got the out.

Then, after having had four consecutive scoreless appearances against the Cardinals and Phillies in the playoffs, he gave up the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. But does anyone remember what happened in the top of the ninth, with Rafael Furcal on third base and two out against Phillies reliever Brad Lidge?

Ethier struck out.

But I suppose some Dodger fans would rather have had Lidge on Saturday. After all, he did win a World Series once.

Here’s Broxton’s game log for this year before Saturday. I mean, it’s incredible. Those of you who can only focus on Broxton’s failures, you’re missing a heck of a show.

Jun 16

Dodgers win a close rout, 6-2


Al Behrman/AP
Dude – nice work.

Clayton Kershaw didn’t walk anyone in the first inning. Or the second, the third, the fourth or the fifth.

In the bottom of the sixth, the first moment he pitched when the game wasn’t close, he walked the leadoff batter.

Pitching is such a mystery, isn’t it? And so is baseball, for that matter.

For a game the Dodgers just about ran away with and eventually won, 6-2, there were more than a few tense moments. The Dodgers would get up, but never too far up. They’d be in peril, then escape like Bugs Bunny.

They’d break a 0-0 tie with two runs in the fifth inning on yet another James Loney double, but strand runners on second and third with one out. They’d give up a fourth-inning single with a runner on second, only for Manny Ramirez to throw the guy out at home. They’d enter that bottom of the sixth with a 5-0 lead, but would escape the none-out, bases-loaded inning only thanks to a controversial, two-ejection strikeout.

The bottom of the eighth might have been most vexing of all. With a 5-1 lead, Joe Torre had Clayton Kershaw bat for himself in the top of the inning despite being past the 100-pitch mark, then removed him from the game following a one-out error by Blake DeWitt. Two relievers and two baserunners later (including a Hong-Chih Kuo walk to load the bases), the Dodgers used a line-drive double play, Rafael Furcal unassisted, to amscray.

In the ninth, with the Dodgers up 6-1, Kuo gave up his first run since April 22 on the first homer he allowed since Game 5 of the 2009 National League Championship Series, before getting the final out on a lunging catch by Matt Kemp, but that was a pocket full of posies compared to what had preceded. And so on a night that Andre Ethier singled twice and hit a three-run homer, that Loney had two more hits to raise his OPS to .810, that Manny Ramirez homered for the third time in seven games, that Kershaw lowered his ERA to 2.96 with 7 1/3 innings of seven-hit, seven-strikeout, one-run and yes, one-mystery-walk pitching, the Dodgers ran away with the victory … and hid. So close to disappointment, instead it’s two straight victories over the NL Central leaders and, once again, the best record in the National League. They’ll take it.

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Happiness is a married bullpen catcher: A love story involving former Dodger Jason Phillips, culminating in a bullpen wedding ceremony, told by Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times (via Baseball Think Factory).

May 23

Lakers trainer Gary Vitti comes to Andre Ethier’s aid


Matt Kartozian/US Presswire
Andre Ethier has fallen out of the National League home run lead while on the disabled list.

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com writes that Dodger trainer Stan Conte asked his Lakers counterpart Gary Vitti for guidance about Andre Ethier’s pinkie fracture, and Vitti recommended a special splint that appears to have accelerated Ethier’s timetable for returning to the playing field.

… Conte put in a call to Vitti because he knew some of the Lakers players had dealt with similar injuries.

“This was the day before their playoff game,” Conte said. “But he called right back and couldn’t have been nicer.”

Vitti recommended a special splint that immobilizes the first knuckle but leaves the second knuckle flexible. What that does is allow Ethier to swing a bat more-or-less unfettered, which he has been doing in the indoor batting cages. Conte said Ethier already has progressed from hitting off a tee to hitting soft-toss pitches and even catching a ball because the split also allows him to squeeze his glove.

The knuckle that is broken has to be immobilized in order to heal. However, because of the splint, that knuckle can be immobilized without immobilizing the entire finger. That means the fracture doesn’t have to heal completely in order for Ethier to get back on the field. Conte said that when Ethier does return, he will play while wearing the splint, which he will wear constantly until the fracture heals.

This is a major step forward that conceivably could allow Ethier to return from the disabled list as soon as he becomes eligible to do so May 30 at Colorado. And while Conte wouldn’t go so far as to predict that, he did concede that the process is moving much more quickly than it would have without the splint.

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  • Dodger starters have allowed three home runs in their past 99 2/3 innings, notes David Pinto of Baseball Musings. John Ely hasn’t allowed a homer in 31 2/3 innings, and Clayton Kershaw hasn’t given one up in 22 1/3 innings since May 4.
  • Blue Heaven posts a vintage snapshot of a young Bill Russell.
  • Not sure I’ll be in front of the computer if activation news about Rafael Furcal comes later this morning, but despite the reports of the past 24 hours that Blake DeWitt might be sent down to make room, I find that almost impossible to believe. You don’t send down the starting second baseman in order to keep a guy like Nick Green at the back of your bench.