Apr 19

Uribe could be sidelined for some time

The Dodgers’ first significant lineup change of the season may be underway, with Juan Uribe headed to see a specialist about his injured left wrist.

Uribe, with a .257 on-base percentage and .265 slugging this season in 36 plate appearances (one walk, one double) has missed two games already on this road trip. The trip to the specialist is “an indication that the club is concerned the injury — incurred during a slide — could be something serious,” writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.

I’m not so sure a great many Dodger fans will be crushed by this news. Uribe’s value to the Dodgers has mainly been reduced to his defense at third base.

In the short term, Jerry Hairston Jr., Adam Kennedy and Justin Sellers can all play third base for the Dodgers. If Uribe goes on the disabled list, Josh Fields (.949 OPS at Triple-A Albuquerque) might head to the big club, as could infielder Luis Cruz (.995 OPS).

If the Dodgers wanted to get crazy, they could bring up Double-A third baseman Pedro Baez (.838 OPS at Chattanooga), a once-highly regarded prospect who has been beset by injuries.

Update: Gurnick now writes that Uribe “was examined by the Brewers’ team doctor on Thursday and will not see a specialist in Houston, as was considered.”

Feb 25

Curious times for Uribe and Ethier

Matt Kemp, photographed by BHSportsGuy today

Juan Uribe’s 2012 Spring Training is starting off on one good foot … and one wayward foot.

Uribe pronounced himself completely healed from his 2011 injuries, but he will miss a few days of Spring Training nonetheless because of the trial of a lawsuit filed by his 2010 San Francisco landlord. We’ll let Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com explain.

… He has to fly up to San Francisco on Monday, which is the tentative trial date for a lawsuit that has been filed against him by his former landlord stemming from alleged damage to the apartment he rented during the 2010 season while a member of the Giants. The Dodgers are scheduled for their first full-squad workout on Tuesday, meaning there is a strong likelihood Uribe will miss the first workout and possibly a few others while getting this matter resolved.

All of which begs the question of why this matter isn’t already resolved. The plaintiff is suing Uribe in the amount of $145,000. Uribe is in the second season of a three-year, $21 million contract and will receive an $8 million salary this year. That means $145,000 is less than 2 percent of his salary for this year, and an out-of-court settlement of this suit presumably would be in an amount less than the amount Uribe is being sued for. …

In a separate post, Jackson reminds us that Jerry Sands is not a candidate for third base. “He tried it,” Dodger manager Don Mattingly told Jackson. “Honestly, it looked rough to me. He is a lot better on the first-base side for me. He looked a lot better there, more comfortable, at first base and both corners of the outfield. Third is not one of those positions where you can just throw a guy over there and teach him to play third.”

Mattingly, obviously, was a contemporary of Pedro Guerrero.

Mattingly also said to Dylan Hernandez of the Times and Ken Gurnick of MLB.com that his goal was to have Uribe play exclusively at third base, rather than move around the diamond, in the hopes of preserving his health.

That didn’t stop Mattingly from reminiscing about the time he strayed from first base to become what remains the last left-handed thrower to start at third base. Jackson and Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. have more.

And in other news, weather and sports …

Oct 09

Remembering 2011: Juan Uribe


Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesJuan Uribe (11)

The setup: Glowing from his 26-homer season (including two in the playoffs) in 2010 like a rod from the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, the 31-year-old Uribe fused with the Dodgers on a three-year, $21 million deal to play second base and a little third as well. After failing to post an OPS over .700 in his final three seasons in Chicago, Uribe had turned in seasons of .824 and .749 from 2009-10 with San Francisco, convincing Ned Colletti to let him light up the Dodgers.

The closeup: Uribe started his Dodger career 7 for 49 with no home runs – perhaps hampered by getting hit by a Tim Lincecum pitch Opening Day – but seemed to get on track in mid-April. On April 29, he hit his third homer in five games to raise his season OPS to .742. But that was his peak. May turned rough at the plate, and then all of a sudden, he was sidelined by a strained hip flexor. Uribe came back to active duty on June 6, but at no time did his season really show any signs of turning around. An 0-for-5 against the Angels on June 24 dropped his OPS below .600 for good. On July 30, he was placed on the disabled list again, seven days after he last played in a game, and he did not return, topping things off with surgery for a sports hernia September 7. He finished the year with a .264 on-base percentage and astonishingly low .293 slugging percentage, making 53 starts at third base (where his defense was a bright spot), 17 at second base and three at shortstop. He went homerless in his final 85 at-bats, and really did nothing more memorable than end up the subject of the above photo and accompanying website.

Coming attractions: Whenever I think of new Dodgers who disappoint with only four home runs, I think of Dusty Baker, who hit four in his first season in Los Angeles, then came back the next year with 30. While I’m not exactly holding my breath for Uribe to do the same, nor am I expecting him to again turn in a slugging percentage that was his lowest in nine years by more than 100 points. In short, it’s hard to imagine Uribe’s production going anywhere but up (like his salary) in the second year of his contract. Here’s hoping for adequacy!

Sep 07

Does Matt Kemp need a rain dance?

While I ponder what a potential rainout of Thursday’s Dodgers-Nationals doubleheader — with the games unlikely to be replayed — might do to Matt Kemp’s MVP chances, here are some links:

  • Juan Uribe’s season-ending surgery for a sports hernia is today, the Dodgers announced.
  • Rob Neyer of Baseball Nation offers a history of suicides among baseball players, with some particularly grim anecdotes from the distant and more recent past.
  • Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. on the broken dreams of Ivan DeJesus Jr.:

    … In addition to his two walks in 35 at-bats with the Dodgers, DeJesus had just 16 walks in 245 plate appearances over 57 games in Triple A through July 21, just 6.5% of his plate appearances. However, as the season wore on DeJesus showed improvement with 29 walks in his final 43 games, walking in 14.6% of his plate appearances during that span, showing glimpses of his prior days as a viable prospect. DeJesus even hit six of his eight home runs this season in a 16-game span in mid-August.

    Whether it was for attitude, or performance, or both, DeJesus did not get the call. Again. If the Dodgers thought anything of DeJesus, he would be up with the big league team. It appears his days in the Dodger organization are numbered, which is a shame.

    It’s not clear to me why, even if De Jesus doesn’t loom large in the Dodgers’ future plans, he would get buried by Eugenio Velez, who is 0 for his last 40 in the majors — unless the Dodgers’ share the same perverse fascination with how long Velez’s streak can go on that we do.

  • Stephen also points out that Andre Ethier now has at least 30 doubles in five consecutive seasons, a figure exceeded by only four players in Dodger history: Zack Wheat, Dixie Walker, Jackie Robinson and Steve Garvey.
  • Don Mattingly gave an interview to Jim Rosenthal of Los Angeles Magazine (link via L.A. Observed, which also points to a science-flavored Times op-ed piece by Frederick M. Cohan related to Sandy Koufax’s perfect game). An excerpt from the Mattingly interview:

    Managers have people second-guessing them all the time. But even you’ve second-guessed some of your decisions in the press.
    If you don’t second-guess yourself, then you are not trying to get better. Joe would always tell me that you are going to make decisions. Some of them are not going to work out, and it does not mean that they were the wrong decisions. I have had many occasions this year where I questioned and second-guessed my decision in a game, but it comes down to learning from mistakes and being accountable for what you did right or did wrong.

    Can you think of a decision you second-guessed recently?
    The Mets had Jason Bay waiting on deck with an open base, and I could have walked the lefty hitter and pitched to Bay. Instead the lefty got a hit, and I kicked myself for not challenging Bay and walking the other guy with an open base. We all have the temptation to be backseat drivers when it comes to decisions that don’t work out the way we want. …

  • Is Biz of Baseball founder and Dodger Thoughts friend Maury Brown bringing down the Jim Crane ownership of the Houston Astros (with an assist from Frank and Jamie McCourt) before it even begins? Take a look at this piece and this one by Brown and judge for yourself.
  • J.J. Cooper of Baseball America stacks Minor League Player of the Year Mike Trout’s 2011 season against the best ever by age-20 players.
  • Satchel Price of Beyond the Boxscore looks at the offseason market for catchers (in case the Dodgers decide they need to stick a dagger in A.J. Ellis’ heart one more time.
  • A big topic of conversation in the online sabermetric world Tuesday was this piece appearing on It’s About the Money, which calls into question the value of the Wins Above Replacement stat because of its reliance on fielding metrics that are questionable. This led to a discussion at Sean Foreman’s Baseball-Reference.com blog (including the comments) about how much consistency one should expect in fielding stats for individual players from year to year.
  • Baseball Toaster founder Ken Arneson explores on his new blog why he’s not ready to “commit to a life as a chicken.” I can relate:

    … It’s partly because I don’t have all my ducks in a row in my personal life to make that practical right now. I quit writing regularly two years ago because I was juggling too many balls in my life, and I ended up doing a half-assed job on all of them. I hate feeling like I’m not living up to expectations, I hate feeling like I need to work 24/7 in order to avoid feeling like I’m not living up to expectations, so I resist making commitments that would create any expectations. Hence, for now, this blog, where I can do what I like, when I like, how I like with maximum flexibility and minimum commitment. …

Aug 16

August 16 game chat

Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors provided the fun conversation topic of the day, suggesting that the Cubs might consider trading troubled starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano — and cash — for woebegone Dodger infielder Juan Uribe.

Of course, anytime Milton Bradley’s name comes up for comparison’s sake, many people will have strong feelings. Conversely, my initial response was to be intrigued by the possibility of Zambrano (.848 OPS this season) playing first base and batting sixth, but Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness weighed things a bit more carefully.

Elsewhere, Steve Dilbeck of the Times points out that the three leading National League Manager of the Year candidates — Arizona’s Kirk Gibson, Milwaukee’s Ron Roenicke and Philadelphia’s Charlie Manuel — are all ex-Dodgers.

Jun 20

Kershaw outdoes himself again, 4-0


Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesClayton Kershaw

That blankety-blank Clayton Kershaw – and I mean that in a good way.

As in, that Clayton Kershaw blankety-blanked the Detroit Tigers tonight, 4-0, for his second two-hit shutout in the past three weeks and, in his 99th career start, the top performance of his career.

On May 29, Kershaw struck out 10 in his 116-pitch two-hitter of Florida. Tonight, Kershaw struck out 11 members of one of the better offenses in baseball – including all three batters in the ninth inning – to complete his 112-pitch outing. The 23-year-old leads the majors in strikeouts with 117.

Kershaw faced only 29 batters in the game – with a tip of the cap to Dioner Navarro’s perfect pickoff of Ryan Raburn at third base in the third inning – matching Sandy Koufax in Game 5 of the 1965 World Series for the quickest shutout and quickest victory over an American League team in Dodger history, regular season and postseason.

Kershaw also gave himself some breathing room in the bottom of the eighth with a two-out, two-run single to double the Dodger lead. Combined with his third-inning walk, Kershaw raised his 2011 on-base percentage to .333 – better than opponents are doing against him this year.

Since the bumpy blown leads of Cincinnati and Colorado, Kershaw has pitched 16 innings and allowed one run on six hits and three walks while striking out 15. And the Dodgers have thrown back-to-back shutouts, reducing their deficit in the National League West to seven games,

The game-winning RBI went to Juan Uribe, batting second tonight ahead of Andre Ethier as manager Don Mattingly tries to jump-start his season. Uribe didn’t see many fastballs in his first trip to the plate but belted a 3-2 changeup from Brad Penny for his fourth homer of the year and first in more than 100 at-bats since April 29.

Update: The following is from ESPN Stats and Information:

How Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw dominated the Tigers:
- Kershaw went to his slider as his out pitch. He threw 21 sliders for the game, 16 of which came with two strikes. All 12 outs he got on his slider came with two strikes, including a career-best 10 strikeouts (all swinging).
- Tigers hitters couldn’t lay off his slider. They swung at 17 of the 21 (81 pct) he threw, including 14 of 16 (87.5 pct) with two strikes. No Kershaw opponent has swung more often at his slider in his career (min 3 sliders).
- Kershaw had good command of his slider, keeping it primarily down in the zone. He threw 10 sliders down in the zone, all with two strikes. Tigers hitters swung at eight of them and missed on seven.

Clayton Kershaw’s Slider
Monday vs Tigers

Pitches 21
Swings 17
Misses 11<<
Hits 0
>>10 strikeouts (career high)

From Elias:
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw two-hit the Tigers in a 4-0 win, posting his third career shutout. Kershaw finished his shutout in style by striking out the side in the 9th. According to Elias, the last Dodgers starter to finish a shutout by striking out the side in the 9th was Sandy Koufax in his perfect game on Sept. 9, 1965 against the Cubs.

Kershaw’s performance Monday tied him for the second-highest game score this season.

Highest Game Score – 2011 Season
June 14 Justin Verlander 94
Monday Clayton Kershaw 93<<
May 22 James Shields 93
May 29 Clayton Kershaw 92
Apr. 14 Cliff Lee 92
>>Kershaw: career best

It also ties for the fifth-highest ever in interleague play (behind a perfecto, a no-no, and a pair of 1-hitters).

Highest Game Score, interleague play (all-time)
David Cone, NYY 07/18/99 vs MTL 97 (PG)
Justin Verlander, DET 06/12/07 vs MIL 95 (NH)
Chris Carpenter, STL 06/14/05 at TOR 94
Mark Mulder, OAK 07/06/01 at ARI 94
Clayton Kershaw, LAD 06/20/11 vs DET 93
James Shields, TB 05/22/11 at FLA 93
Pedro Martinez, MTL 06/14/97 vs DET 93

Jun 11

A tale of two signings: Jamey Carroll and Juan Uribe

How does this happen? Is the lesson to bet on on-base percentage once players hit their 30s? Or is this just an anomaly?

Jamey Carroll

Signing date: December 18, 2009
Contract terms: Two years, $3.85 million ($1 million signing bonus, $1.05 million in 2010, $1.8 million in 2011), plus incentives for plate appearances
Age when signed: 35 years, eight months
Performance over previous two years: 206 games, 656 plate appearances, .355 on-base percentage, .343 slugging percentage, adjusted OPS of 89 (100 being average)
Performance as a Dodger: 195 games, 656 plate appearances, .374 on-base percentage, .348 slugging percentage, adjusted OPS of 103

Juan Uribe

Signing date: November 30, 2010
Contract terms: Three years, $21 million ($5 million in 2011, $8 million in 2012, $7 million in 2013, plus $1 million in 2014)
Age when signed: 31 years, four months
Performance over previous two years: 270 games, 1,007 plate appearances, .318 on-base percentage, .464 slugging percentage, adjusted OPS of 106
Performance as a Dodger: 46 games, 177 plate appearances, .282 on-base percentage, .319 slugging percentage, adjusted OPS of 70

Contract information source: Cot’s Baseball Contracts

Jun 08

Hanging out on the corner, still waiting to turn


Jim McIsaac/Getty Images (file)Juan Uribe has three doubles and zero home runs in his past 75 at-bats.

There was no mistaking the foreboding, the fear threatening to smother the excitement.

Andre Ethier doubled, and Matt Kemp singled him to third with none out in the seventh inning and the Dodgers trailing Cole Hamels, 1-0 … but the next three batters were Juan Uribe, Marcus Thames and Rod Barajas.

All three are hitters who have produced in the past. But these guys against Hamels at the top of his game, that was going to be an uphill climb, with full packs, in the heat, on a muddy trail, with the sun in their eyes, with aliens firing lasers all around, while having to listen to Wham! – just to even get a sacrifice fly or RBI groundout.

They failed – Uribe spectacularly so, popping up on the first pitch before Thames struck out and Barajas also popped out. And that was followed by wasted baserunners in the eighth and ninth innings of what became a 2-0 loss to Philadelphia.

* * *

This was not a loss that I think twice about.  The Dodgers fell to one of their toughest opponents, on the road and with an offense that, despite its occasional spurts of greatness, is mostly, objectively awful. That’s not news.

If Los Angeles had won, that would have made me think twice about this team.  A victory would have given the Dodgers’ four straight series wins, two of those series on the road against division champions from last year, including one series against the best starting pitching east of Yosemite. An 8-4 record in their last 12 games, against mostly good competition.

In a 162-game season, a road loss to Phillies means next to nothing. Hiroki Kuroda vs. Hamels in Philadelphia is not a game that the Dodgers would have been favored to win even if they were in first place. But at the same time, if something’s going to change my opinion that this team doesn’t have the strength to seriously compete this year, then it’s going to have to be something not just dramatic, but kind of epic. It’s going to have to be more than 7-5 in their past 12, no matter the competition. It’s going to have to be more than a massive comeback from down five runs in the eighth inning against the Reds. There has to be more than a mere flashes of greatness. There has to be something sustained. Even then, there would be doubt, but there’d be more than just blips.

If even the losers get lucky sometimes, then you can’t decide on a moment’s notice that a loser has become a winner.

And believe me, I know the division looks weak. Frankly, the entire National League doesn’t strike me as all that wonderful. I know everyone’s unhappy about tonight’s game, but let’s look at it another way – if Hamels gives up a hit to a guy hitting about .220, the Phillies are poised to drop two of three to a sub-.500, offensively challenged NL West team.

The weaker the league, the easier it is you to compete – but also, the easier it is for other mediocre teams. Nearly every Tom, Dick, Harry, Orson and Mary Beth has a right to think they can win this year. So this isn’t really about worrying that the Dodgers would sneak into the playoffs only to be swept in the first round. This is about worrying that, just like in 2005, there’s a land of opportunity out there, but this covered wagon still doesn’t have the horses even to make it past the Appalachians.

* * *

My theme for this year has been that the Dodgers need everything they can to go right. No margin for error. Despite some of the season’s most exciting moments coming in the past two weeks, it’s still not happening. First base and left field are still nightmares, catcher is close to it, third base is heading in that direction. We’re faced, for example, with the burning (not in a good way) question of whether Aaron Miles is actually better than Uribe.

The young replacements in the bullpen have been practically spectacular, as has Matt Kemp. The starting pitching remains as good as advertised, and Andre Ethier, though his home-run power has gone AWOL, is still productive. The defense has been better than expected.

It’s still not enough. We’re now in the third month of the season. Where’s the extra help going to come from?

Will James Loney, Uribe, Thames (6 for 42 with two walks in 2011), Barajas (7 for his last 49 with a walk and two doubles) and Jerry Sands (3 for his last 35 with two walks) pull out of their slumps?

Will Dee Gordon be a game-changer, at least until Rafael Furcal comes back? Will Furcal come back?

That’s a lot of guys who can help – if they can help. But what I find is that we’re asking mostly the same questions we’ve been asking for some time now. Those questions will not go away overnight.

Years ago, I wrote that if you’re asking “Does this win mean the Dodgers have turned the corner?” then you know the team hasn’t done so. If you have to ask, it hasn’t happened. It means the losing is still too fresh. You’ll know subconsciously your team has turned the corner when it doesn’t occur to you to wonder.

The Dodgers have had a decent road trip, a decent past couple of weeks. But they are still on the other side of the street.

Jun 06

Dee-Day: Whirlwind of roster changes ends with Gordon callup


Norm Hall/Getty ImagesUnderneath that helmet is newest Dodger major-leaguer Dee Gordon.

Jerry Sands getting an early promotion to the bigs didn’t surprise me much. Nor did Rubby De La Rosa.

But Dee Gordon getting the call — now that’s a commitment to youth.

With Rafael Furcal once again relegated to the disabled list for weeks, the Dodgers have called up the 23-year-old Gordon from Albuquerque, where he had a .361 on-base percentage and 22 steals in 25 attempts, but also only 14 walks and nine extra-base hits (.370 slugging) in 50 games. (Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has the news story.)

Gordon has also had many questions about his fielding, particularly his ability to make the ordinary play (as opposed to the extraordinary one). On the bright side, his surge of errors in April has slowed considerably.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that while everyone has always raved about Gordon’s blinding speed, that .880 stolen-base percentage is a new bright spot. No one’s expecting power from Gordon, so if he can just get on base and stay out of his own way defensively, he could be a thrill to watch.

Gordon is not in tonight’s starting lineup, but unlike with someone such as Ivan De Jesus, Jr., you don’t call someone like Gordon up to ride the bench. Cynics might wonder if Gordon is being showcased for a trade, but I’ve never gotten the sense he’s someone the Dodgers want to part with.

To make room for Gordon and Marcus Thames, who was activated from the disabled list, the Dodgers designated Juan Castro and Jay Gibbons for assignment. This is also something of a surprise, given the Dodgers’ proclivity to protect depth — and by 2011 Dodger standards, the .668 OPS for Gibbons and .619 OPS for Castro aren’t the worst you could imagine. Sands could easily have been sent to the minors. But clearly, general manager Ned Colletti buys into the reality that they’re not going to miss much by losing Castro and Gibbons. (There’s also the not-slim possibility that the pair could end up back in Albuquerque if they clear waivers.)

Perhaps the way the young Dodger bullpen replacements have risen to the occasion has influenced Colletti.

Finally, the Dodgers optioned John Ely and De Jesus to make room for the return of Blake Hawksworth and Juan Uribe from the DL.

On the current 25-man active roster, 15 are below the age of 30.

* * *

Three years ago, I transcribed a Vin Scully excerpt on the anniversary of D-Day. This rubbed some people the wrong way, and a long discussion ensued in the comments of that thread. Just want to link to it to say I hadn’t forgotten what Scully said, nor the response that followed. It was a learning experience for me.

May 20

Dodgers keep knocking, White Sox let them in


Jerry Lai/US PresswireRuss Mitchell

Banging against the door.

White Sox 3, Dodgers 2. None out, top of the eighth, bases loaded.

Banging against the door, like they were down 5-2 in the eighth Wednesday.

Banging against the door, like they were down 3-1 in the ninth Thursday.

Banging against the door, and no one will let them in.

Wednesday, tie the game then lose.

Thursday, hit a line drive with the bases loaded and lose.

Tonight, strand the bases loaded and …win?

Lose another starter, Juan Uribe, to injury and … win?

Two out, bottom of the ninth, bases empty and …  win?

Russ Mitchell, 1 for 14 on the season, 7 for 56 in his career and … win?

Sergio Santos, 20 2/3 innings pitched on the season, 0.00 ERA and … win?

Bang that door down.

Mitchell, whose seven career hits included two home runs, drove a 2-1 fastball just inside the left-field foul pole to tie the game at 3.

Then in the 10th, after Jamey Carroll’s fourth hit of the game and Matt Kemp’s second, Juan Castro, who had wasted bases-loaded opportunities in his two previous at-bats this week, looped one over a leaping Paul Konerko for a 150-foot single, driving in Carroll. James Loney, who had been 0 for 4, doubled to right for a 5-3 lead. Then, after an intentional walk to Dioner Navarro (you got me), Jay Gibbons singled home the third run of the extra inning.

Was that enough? It would have to be, after Mitchell grounded into a double play. It would have to be, even as Matt Guerrier gave up leadoff singles to 77-year-old Omar Juan Vizquel Pierre.

Mitchell’s heroics weren’t done, as it turned out. The third baseman dove to his left to corral Alexei Ramirez’s grounder for the first out of the inning.

Then Don Mattingly started playing percentages. He brought in Scott Elbert – who head-butted all kinds of doors last year – to retire Adam Dunn on a groundout to Loney for a meaningless RBI. And then Mattingly brought in Mike MacDougal, who faced Konerko.

Konerko hit it to Castro, who bobbled it but had plenty of time to pick it up and throw the final batter out.

And so finally, the script had changed.  A first-inning home run by Kemp wouldn’t go to waste. A three-run second inning off Ted Lilly wouldn’t spell doom. The sight of Jerry Sands in center field next to Jay Gibbons in left in the late-night fog wouldn’t lead to a comedy of errors. A final-inning rally would actually succeed.

On to the next door …

* * *

To recap the last five Dodger victories:

May 20: Dodgers 6, White Sox 4 (10) – Juan Uribe left hip flexor
May 17 – Dodgers 3, Brewers 0 – Vicente Padilla unavailable
May 13 – Dodgers 4, Diamondbacks 3 – Zach Lee MRI revealed
May 11 – Dodgers 2, Pirates 0 – Hong-Chih Kuo to the disabled list
May 10 – Dodgers 10, Pirates 3 – Blake Hawksworth hurts groin

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has a length update on all the injured Dodgers.

May 03

Sure Broxton isn’t injured? Reliever looks all wrong in Dodger loss


Gus Ruelas/APJonathan Broxton leaves the game after walking two of three batters.
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesChad Billingsley allowed only one run in seven innings, all for naught.

Jonathan Broxton has given Dodger fans a lot of heartache this year, but tonight he looked as sickly as he ever has in my memory.

Broxton entered tonight’s game in the ninth inning of a 1-1 tie. After retiring Aramis Ramirez on two fouls and a popout, Broxton walked the next two batters on eight pitches, and few of them were close to the strike zone. According to MLB Gameday, the pitches were all fastballs, one reaching 93 miles per hour and the average at 91. That’s just not the Broxton of 12 months ago, and I’m not convinced it’s even the Broxton of 12 weeks ago.

People have been strangely fascinated with Broxton’s facial expressions and posture, but here’s a suggestion: Someone needs to look at his arm. Even if they’ve looked at it before, look at it again.

After the first walk, Blake Hawksworth began warming up in the bullpen, and after the second, Don Mattingly came to the mound. He talked to Broxton and the other assembled Dodgers, clearly stalling for time as Hawksworth raced to get ready, before finally telling home-plate umpire CB Bucknor to call for a rare mid-inning hook of the Dodger reliever.

Though I’ve always suspected Broxton’s been off physically since his serious struggles began in late June, this was possibly the first time I watched him and said to myself, “There’s a guy that’s headed straight for the disabled list.” Of course, what I observe from my seat far from the pitcher’s mound has no real relevance, but I just offer it as an impression.

It is, I will say, a little peculiar to me that it doesn’t occur to the people who are calling for Broxton’s head and questioning his mental makeup that Broxton is possibly pitching hurt, and maybe has been for some time. If he has been concealing an injury, I sure hope he comes clean. (Update: From KABC 790 AM via True Blue L.A.: “After the game, Don Mattingly told reporters that Broxton was still his closer, but didn’t sound convincing. “When guys tell you they’re fine, you believe that. The inconsistency in velocity concerns me. You don’t know if you’re getting the whole story. We need to figure this thing out.”)

Hawksworth looked like he would bail the Dodgers out after he got Alfonso Soriano on a can of corn to Matt Kemp, but the next batter, Geovany Soto, drove one to right-center that split Kemp and Andre Ethier for a double, driving in two runs. Blake DeWitt followed with his second pinch-hit single in two nights, capping the Cubs’ 4-1 victory over Los Angeles.

On the bright side, Ethier got the business of taking his 28-game hitting streak to 29 out of the way in the fourth inning with a single over leaping second baseman Darwin Barney, tying Ethier with Zack Wheat’s 1916 skein for the second-longest in Dodger history. For anyone complaining about Ethier getting a couple cheap hits this week, he got robbed of one by a diving Barney in the eighth inning.

Two innings later, after a single by Jamey Carroll, a sacrifice by Jerry Sands and a groundout by Ethier, Kemp gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead with a single to center – the only run the Dodgers got against Ryan Dempster, who entered the game having allowed 33 earned runs in 31 innings this season.

Another struggling Cub, Carlos Pena (.171 slugging percentage), got well with one out in the top of the seventh. Pena tied the game with a high fly over the short fence down the right-field line for his first homer of the season, this coming off Chad Billingsley, who only allowed three other hits and two walks all night while striking out eight. And that took us to the ninth.

Elsewhere …

  • Emo Juan Uribe is an instant Hall-of-Fame website. (Thanks, Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.)
  • Marcus Thames is likely to be out at least four weeks, Don Mattingly told reporters today.
  • No combo of two players has ever contributed a higher percentage of a team’s offense than Ethier and Kemp, writes Jonah Keri for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Francisco Liriano walked six but threw the first no-hitter for the Twins since ex-Dodger Eric Milton in 1999. By the score of 1-0, he beat former Dodger Edwin Jackson, who threw an even wilder no-hitter in 2010.
  • As David Schoenfield of ESPN.com’s Sweet Spot notes, this was the first two-strikeout no-hitter since the Dodgers’ Jerry Reuss in 1980.
  • From KABC 790 AM’s Joe Block on Twitter: “How rare is a 30-game hitting streak? There have been 43 since 1900. Liriano’s no-hitter was the 228th in MLB since 1900.”
  • How do major-league cities rank if you go strictly by the value of sitcoms that were set there? Grant Bisbee of McCovey Chronicles answers the question at SB Nation. Fun list – now quibble away!
  • The soon-to-be Pacific 12 Conference on Wednesday will officially announce a 12-year TV deal with Fox and ESPN networks that is going to bring in approximately $3 billion to member schools over a 12-year period. You can get a hand on some of the details in my Variety story.
  • Alex Belth’s Bronx Banter has a cool new redesign, co-produced by Baseball Toaster’s Ken Arneson.
Apr 11

Three questions

J-school:

1) Has James Loney’s swing gotten messed up, either by himself or by the Dodgers, in an attempt to get more home runs out of him?

2) Is Juan Uribe, who was hit by a Tim Lincecum pitch Opening Day, still hurt?

3) Will we see Jerry Sands, who is 6 for 16 with two homers, an .813 slugging percentage and one strikeout, in Dodger blue by June 1?