Jul 08

Save la Guerra: Dodgers escape with 1-0 victory


Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireCelebrating survival.

The last Dodger save was June 19, when Javy Guerra pitched a final shutout inning after the Dodgers scored the game’s only run in the bottom of the eighth.

That was a romp in the park compared to what happened tonight.

Guerra again pitched a final shutout inning after the Dodgers scored the game’s only run in the bottom of the eighth, but not until after he allowed a leadoff double and hit two consecutive batters – one bunting – to load the bases with none out.

As panic, bitterness and despair reigned and rained, Guerra pulled himself together and struck out the next two batters, before Matt Kemp chased down a sinking liner by Jason Bartlett to preserve the Dodgers’ 1-0 victory.

Rafael Furcal’s RBI single drove in the go-ahead run (after A.J. Ellis and Tony Gwynn Jr. each reached base for the second time in the game), boosting Chad Billingsley to victory in his second consecutive eight-inning performance and the Dodgers’ second shutout in two nights. Billingsley lowered his ERA in his past four starts to 1.32.

Jun 04

Majestic Bison and the Bisonettes rescue Dodgers, 11-8


Al Behrman/APFly away, ball. Fly away.

Al Behrman/APClayton Kershaw struck out nine of the first 15 batters he faced, but then the game got crazy.

Clayton Kershaw worked the Reds over for the first five innings today like Ali worked the ring. The fifth inning in particular was just athletic poetry, Kershaw striking out the side, and I was in thrall.

Leading 1-0, Kershaw had faced the minimum number of batters in taking a one-hitter heading into the sixth inning, and then things just went haywire. Ramon Hernandez singled, and two outs later, Drew Stubbs walked. Brandon Phillips then fisted a 1-1 pitch to right field, just over the head of second baseman Aaron Miles, a them’s-the-breaks hit to tie the game.

And then Joey Votto blasted a three-run home run.

And before he was out of the game in the seventh, Kershaw had given up six runs, and Mike MacDougal had allowed another, and I was bereft.

So of course, you know what happened next. No, not that. No, not that either. No, keep going down the list.

First, Matt Kemp went bananas. Bananas, I say! A solo homer and a grand slam in back-to-back innings to tie the game at 7.

The slam followed an out-of-the-blue rally started with one out in the top of the eighth on a pinch-hit single by Tony Gwynn, Jr., his first hit to the outfield in a full month. Jamey Carroll and Aaron Miles followed with singles to make the score 7-3, and then Andre Ethier (who threw a runner out at home minutes before) drew a walk off Reds lefty reliever Bill Bray. The Bison came up, and on a 1-0 pitch from Logan Ondrusek, who had allowed two homers in 32 innings this season, sent one over the left-center-field fence to tie the game.

The home runs, Kemp’s 14th and 15th of the season, gave him more home runs than steals for the first time this year and put him on a pace for 41 homers and 38 steals this season. According to the Dodgers, he is the team’s first player to hit 15 homers in his first 59 games since Shawn Green in 2001. Green finished that season with a club-record 49.

That put the Dodgers in position for quite an event. According to Fox, the Dodgers’ last win after trailing by 5+ in the eighth inning was May 9, 1994, and Los Angeles has won only three such games since 1958. (Of course, Reds manager Dusty Baker has seen a five-run lead disappear painfully in the past.)

But there was still the matter of pushing across the winning run. Scott Elbert held off the Reds with a 1-2-3 eighth, and Matt Guerrier pitched a shutout ninth. Javy Guerra retired Scott Rolen and Jay Bruce with two on to survive the 10th.

Finally, in the 11th, the Dodgers busted through with Scrub-ball, scoring two runs on singles by … Juan Castro … Gwynn … Carroll (4 for 5) … and Miles (3 for 5, 3 RBI). Reds pitcher Carlos Fisher, the losing pitcher in Cincinnati’s 19-inning epic against the Phillies on May 25, then threw away an Ethier double-play grounder, opening the door for the Dodgers to score two more runs, Kemp getting his sixth RBI of the game on a fielder’s choice.

In only 27 of their previous 58 games had the Dodgers scored more runs than they scored in today’s 11th inning.

Guerra, who last pitched two innings May 4 in Chattanooga, was left to start the bottom of the 11th despite his hard-working 23 pitches in the 10th. (He actually walked in his first major-league plate appearance.) He gave up a leadoff single to Ryan Hanigan and one out later was replaced by Ramon Troncoso. A groundout by Paul Janish drove in a run charged to Guerra (his first since May 22), but the Dodgers were one out away.

Then, Chris Heisey singled. Then, Stubbs singled. That meant that the Reds would in fact get the tying run to the plate in Phillips, with Votto on deck and Rolen in the hole.

Strike. Ball. Strike. Ball.

Just as he did to drive in the first run against Kershaw hours before, Phillips went to right field. It looked very much like a potential hit off his bat. But this one went a little deeper, and Ethier was able to come in and catch it.

Dodgers 11, Reds 8. Wow, and whew.

Jun 01

Despite loss, kids continue to carry Dodger bullpen


Icon SMI/US PresswireRubby De La Rosa and Scott Elbert brought relief from the minors.

The kids have come to the rescue of the Dodger bullpen, and not nearly enough has been said about it.

Jonathan Broxton went on the disabled list May 6, followed within 10 days by Hong-Chih Kuo, Vicente Padilla and Blake Hawksworth. To replace them, the Dodgers brought up Kenley Jansen (who had temporarily gone down to Chattanooga), Scott Elbert, Javy Guerra and Ramon Troncoso.

Another week later, the Dodgers dispatched mop-up man Lance Cormier and replaced him with Rubby De La Rosa. Then in the past week, Jansen went on the disabled list and was replaced by Josh Lindblom, who made his major-league debut with an inning in the finale of the Colorado series Wednesday.

Of the replacements, Troncoso was the veteran with all of 177 1/3 career innings. The combined career experience of Jansen, Elbert, Guerra, De La Rosa and Lindblom was 39 2/3 innings. Their average age: 23 1/2. Think about it – more than half of the bullpen handed over to runts.

Here’s how they’ve done, including the 3-0 Dodger loss to Colorado, in which the bullpen followed Jon Garland’s six-inning, three-run start with shutout ball:

  • Jansen: 7 2/3 innings, 13 baserunners, four earned runs (4.69 ERA), 13 strikeouts, 0 of 5 inherited runners scored
  • Troncoso: six innings, six baserunners, no earned runs (0.00 ERA), two strikeouts, 2 of 5 inherited runners scored
  • Guerra: seven innings, nine baserunners, two earned runs (2.57 ERA), five strikeouts, 0 of 0 inherited runners scored
  • De La Rosa: five innings, four baserunners, one earned run (1.80 ERA), five strikeouts, 0 of 0 inherited runners scored
  • Elbert: 4 2/3 innings, six baserunners, no earned runs (0.00 ERA), seven strikeouts, 1 of 6 inherited runners scored
  • Lindblom: one inning, two baserunners, no earned runs (0.00 ERA), no strikeouts, 0 of 0 inherited runners scored

Total: 31 1/3 innings, 40 baserunners, seven earned runs, 32 strikeouts, 2.01 ERA, 3 of 16 inherited runners scored

That’s remarkable, especially considering we can assume that we can possibly attribute three of the seven runs allowed to the shoulder inflammation that sent Jansen to the disabled list.

The news that Padilla is expected to return to active duty Friday will, barring injury, start pushing the runts back to the minor leagues, but each has made the case to stay with the big club. Considered a weakness less than a month ago, the Dodger bullpen will in less than 48 hours have eight effective relievers to choose from, with more to come as Broxton, Kuo, Hawksworth and Jansen get back on their feet.

The other noteworthy thing is that with all the injuries, Dodger manager Don Mattingly has basically been forced to throw the idea of a designated closer out the window, instead bringing in pitchers simply based on the situation rather than their title or status. Unshackled from a pecking order, the Dodger kids haven’t suffered – they’ve thrived. Jansen, Guerra and De La Rosa have all finished close games, while Elbert and now even Lindblom have pitched in situations where giving up a single run could be a killer. De La Rosa, whose destiny remains starting pitcher, could be a circa-1992 Pedro Martinez-like smokejumper, giving you a couple innings at a time as long as there’s sufficient rest in between.

Message to Mattingly: Do yourself a favor. As the veterans return to the pen, don’t get caught up in who your closer is. Just keep doing what you’re doing. Manage according to the situation, not according to resume.

May 24

Rookies shine in Dodgers’ 5-4 victory


Brett Davis/US PresswireWith the third inning extended by a Houston error, Jerry Sands hit a no-doubter blast to center field for his first career grand slam. Rubby De La Rosa struck out two of three batters in a perfect eighth-inning major league debut, and fellow rookie Javy Guerra weathered a long foul ball by Bill Hall to close in the ninth for his first career save and a 5-4 Dodger victory.
May 15

Elbert returns triumphantly in Dodger loss


Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesScott Elbert threw 19 pitches, 12 for strikes.

Although there was another sad performance from the offense (including the end of Andre Ethier’s on-base streak) and another disappointing inning from Ted Lilly, a four-run second in today’s 4-1 Dodger loss, let’s take some time to cheer for Scott Elbert. The lefty, whose season went so awry a year ago, got off to a great 2011 start for the Dodgers by striking out the side in the eighth inning.

Javy Guerra made his major-league debut in the next inning and allowed a one-out single and nothing else.

* * *

Update: Contrary to initial reports, Rafael Furcal did not bat right-handed Saturday for Albuquerque, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Sunday, Furcal doubled leading off the game on the way to a 1-for-4 day. He also made an error.

May 15

Rafael Furcal’s return might be imminent, while Hawksworth looks DL-bound

In a rehabilitation appearance with Albuquerque on Saturday, shortstop Rafael Furcal went 2 for 3 with a walk, drove in three runs and – most importantly – batted right-handed for most of the game.

Hitting from the right side had been said to be the final hurdle to Furcal’s return to the Dodgers’ active roster from a broken left thumb.

Furcal has been out since April 11 and has missed 33 of the Dodgers’ 40 games this season. On Saturday, he walked in the first as a left-handed batter, then turned around to bat right and had RBI singles in the second and fourth innings, as well as a sixth-inning RBI groundout. No issues were reported about his performance in the field.

My hunch is that if he makes it through today unscathed, we’ll see Furcal in Los Angeles on Monday.

When he returns, Jamey Carroll will likely move over to second base, pushing Aaron Miles to the bench and Russ Mitchell to the minors. One question that will have to be answered when Casey Blake returns is whether the Dodgers will reduce the playing time of Juan Uribe or James Loney to preserve playing time for Carroll, who has the highest on-base percentage in the National League among shortstops. Certainly, Blake will get his share of rest. And might an occasional start in left field become part of the equation for Carroll?

In other roster talk, Dodger reliever Blake Hawksworth may go on the disabled list today after failing to show progress Saturday, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Los Angeles is expected to promote Javy Guerra, who has a 1.06 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 17 innings (against 13 baserunners) with Double-A Chattanooga. Guerra had pitched 11 straight shutout innings over his last nine outings until giving up a home run Monday. He’s been idle since then.

Guerra did a tiny bit of blogging in 2009. Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A., in his Saturday posting “Dodgers Lose Battle, Win Guerra,” noted that the pitcher said on his Facebook page that he had gotten the call.

* * *

Some more notes on Chad Billingsley’s Saturday performance, from ESPN Stats and Information:

- The Diamondbacks missed on 11 swings against Billingsley’s fastball, the most against the Dodgers’ right-hander in exactly two years (May 14, 2009).

- Billingsley’s fastball was particularly effective on the first pitch. He threw 21 fastballs on the first pitch of a plate appearance. Seventeen of those fastballs went for strikes, tied for his most in a start in the last three seasons. More remarkable is that the Diamondbacks put none of Billingsley’s first-pitch fastballs in play. They swung at eight, missing three and fouling off five.

- By throwing first-pitch strikes that didn’t end up in play, Billingsley started 18 of 27 hitters with an 0-1 count, his second-most 0-1 counts in a start since 2009. All eight of Billingsley’s strikeouts were in at-bats he started with a first-pitch strike. It also enabled him to rack up his strikeouts efficiently, as six of his eight were in at-bats lasting three or four pitches, tied for his most in the last three seasons.

Jan 16

Stopping by the Internet on a Snowy Evening

And miles to link before I sleep …

  • The state of Don Mattingly is profiled by Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Evan Bladh Sr. of Opinion of Kingman’s Performance continues to knock ‘em out of the park – here’s a great story about the Dodgers and Mister Marty.
  • The frustrating thing with Russell Martin is that he keeps telling us in April that he’s training like he’s never trained before, and then the following winter he inevitably tells us, “No, not really.” Anyway, Martin tells the Canadian Press that he had some personal “distractions” and “frustrations” during his last two years with the Dodgers, but this year, he’ll be back.
  • Dodger pitching prospects Javy Guerra and Chris Withrow were continuing their rehab from injuries at the team’s recent minicamp in Los Angeles, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Delino DeShields Jr., the 18-year-old reigning first-round draft pick of the Houston Astros, was charged with a DUI, according to Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle.
  • Danny’s Farm, the Altadena animal farm tailored for special-needs children that was founded by former Dodger pitcher Jim Gott and his wife Cathy, has been closed because of zoning restrictions, reports Corina Knoll of the Times.
  • Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend by Larry Tye gets praise from Rob McMillin at 6-4-2.
  • Steve Dilbeck of the Times has a praiseworthy recap of Dennis Gilbert’s annual Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation dinner Saturday.

Update: