Aug 23

Ex-Marlins 2, Red Sox 0: Dodgers win behind Nolasc00000000

This was the Dodgers’ No. 4 starter?

On a spectacular night of pitching, Ricky Nolasco absolutely stifled the Boston Red Sox, 2-0, pitching the Dodgers to their second consecutive shutout and a 10 1/2 game lead in the National League West, their biggest margin since 1977.

Nolasco matched Clayton Kershaw’s Thursday performance and then some, pitching eight shutout innings on 101 pitches, allowing two hits and no walks (hitting one batter) while striking out six.

With Carl Crawford (2 for 3 with two steals) on second base, two outs and a 1-2 count, fellow ex-Bostoner Hanley Ramirez hit a towering two-run home run to center field off John Lackey in the bottom of the fifth. Lackey allowed no hits to the remaining seven Dodger starters.

In the top of the next inning, Juan Uribe got Nolasco out of his biggest jam, fielding a grounder with runners on first and second and throwing from one knee to second base to start an inning-ending double play. Nolasco followed that with three perfect innings to finish his night, and then Kenley Jansen came on to retire the side in order to wrap up the team’s 46th victory in their past 56 games. The Dodgers are 29-5 since the All-Star break.

The game hadn’t passed the two-hour mark when the ninth inning began and finished at 2:07, the Dodgers’ fastest since July 9, 2008. Los Angeles has allowed one run in its past 30 innings.

The team ERA of the Dodgers in 34 games since the All-Star break: 2.12. The team ERA of the Dodgers in 22 games in August: 1.86.

After going seven innings in his first Dodger start July 9, Nolasco didn’t make it out of the sixth inning in his next five. But he now has three consecutive quality starts, and in his Dodger career has a 2.53 ERA over 53 1/3 innings in nine outings with Los Angeles.

With Atlanta losing, the Dodgers moved to within a game of the best record in the major leagues.

Aug 07

Starter Seeks Six in Sixth Start

Facing St. Louis pitcher Shelby Miller and his 2.89 ERA, the Dodgers could stand to get something extra tonight from Ricky Nolasco, who hasn’t made it through the sixth inning in the last four of his five Dodger starts.

Nolasco hasn’t been pounded — no more than three runs have scored against him in any of his Dodger appearances — and he has taken only one loss. It’s just that he could do mo’ better for the Blues.

Miller, for his part, has a 4.89 ERA in seven starts since June 22.

Dodgers at Cardinals, 5:15 p.m.

Jul 06

Glancing at the Dodger starting rotation of 2014 and beyond (Hola, Julio)

Forgive me for getting ahead of myself here, but the Ricky Nolasco trade interests me as much for what it might mean for future seasons as it does for the current one.

I imagine the Dodgers will re-sign the newly acquired Southern California native, who is eligible to be a free agent after this season, if he does half-decently. Assuming Los Angeles parts ways with Chris Capuano and Ted Lilly by Veterans Day, the Dodgers would greet 2014 featuring Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Nolasco in the first four spots of the starting roation, with Josh Beckett and Stephen Fife among the contenders for the fifth slot. (Hint: Ned Colletti doesn’t figure to want to settle for those two.)

But it could get more fun as springtime progresses, if and when Chad Billingsley (a year removed from Tommy John surgery in April) and Zach Lee (2.79 ERA, 1.121 WHIP, 8.2 K/9 with Double-A Chattanooga) enter the mix. Heck, maybe even someone like a Ross Stripling (2.29 ERA, 1.039 WHIP, 8.6 K/9 with Chattanooga) or a Rob Rassmussen (2.42 ERA, 1.074 WHIP, 8.5 K/9) gets run up the flagpole.

All that aside, I’ll admit that my biggest future question about the Dodger starting rotation is whether Julio Urias will still be a teenager when he arrives in Los Angeles. Urias is so young, he was born August 12, 1996 – the second anniversary of the shutdown of the 1994 baseball season (I was supposed to take my then-girlfriend to the game that night) – giving him three years and change to become a teen team player. He is the youngest pitcher in the Midwest League in decades, and though he initially wasn’t meant to stay there, it’s been hard to kick him out.

The 16-year-old from Mexico has a 2.78 ERA, 1.268 WHIP and 10.6 K/9 with Single-A Great Lakes, for whom Lee – the Dodgers’ No. 1 pitching prospect entering this year – had a 3.47 ERA, 1.220 WHIP and 7.5 K at age 19 in 2011. If Lee is on track for a mid-2014 arrival in the majors (notwithstanding a potential cup of coffee this September), Urias could realistically hit Dodger Stadium before his 20th birthday in 2016.

Like I said, I’m getting ahead of myself.  Just having fun thinking about it.

For perspective, Clayton Kershaw had a 2.77 ERA, 1.253 WHIP and 12.4 K/9 with Great Lakes at age 19 in 2007. He was in the majors one year later, two months after turning 20. Urias is arguably the Dodgers’ best pitching prospect in the seven years since they drafted Kershaw, the gold standard.