Jul 09

July 9 game chat

From Dodger Thoughts commenter Bob Hendley: “So far in July our only wins have been when we have shut out the opposition. We have won eight of our past 18 games, with six shutouts, a one-run game and a two-run game.”

From Sons of Steve Garvey: “There are certain Dodger fans who will boycott today’s game, but would it be too much to ask for the Dodger bats not to join them? “

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.

Jul 08

Gonna fly now …

Remarkably, the Dodgers have been successful on 25 of their past 26 steal attempts, dating back to Matt Kemp stealing third on June 20.

According to the Dodger press notes, this year’s team is running second in Los Angeles history with an 81.2 percent success rate (69 for 85), trailing only the famous 1962 team (82.2 percent, 198 for 241).

Kemp is 26 for 29 this season and has stolen 18 straight bases since he was last caught, on April 20. Kemp’s baserunning coach, Davey Lopes, holds the team (and former MLB) record with 38 consecutive steals in 1975.

Meanwhile, the Dodger homerless streak now sits at at 318 plate appearances. Take what you can get.

Jul 08

Wandering Dodgers

If Chad Billingsley isn’t traded before his contract extension kicks into gear in 2013, he will have bucked a trend.

No homegrown Dodger has stayed in Los Angeles after becoming eligible for free agency since Darren Dreifort (1994-2004) and Eric Karros (1991-2002). Before them, you’d have to go back to the members of the 1988 World Series team, such as Orel Hershiser. Everyone else that came up from the farm since that time was either traded or left to roam the streets of MLB to find their riches elsewhere.

Jul 08

And a good night was had by all …

Jamey Carroll called a players’ only meeting before Thursday’s dominant 6-0 victory by Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details. Meetings like this can’t save a season, but it sounds like it was a positive event.

ESPNLosAngeles.com also has a piece that you might call “The State of Vin Scully,” featuring an interview with the man himself.

The biggest local baseball news is the Angels’ promotion of 19-year-old super-prospect Mike Trout to replace an injured Peter Bourjos. Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more.  The timing is funny because this was happening right around the time that Rich Lederer of Baseball Analysts, at Thursday’s fun Fangraphs panel (thanks to everyone there for hosting), was extolling the virtues of Trout, saying that he would sign the player to a 10-year-contract right now.

Jul 07

Buck supports Scully trip to the World Series

Fox baseball announcer Joe Buck is all for having Vin Scully participate in a World Series broadcast. Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News passes along the quotes.

… “Personally, I’d love it,” Buck said the other day. “We’ve always toyed with the idea of having the hometown guy involved in a World Series broadcast. I’m from that camp. In my dad’s era, we paid a nod of tribute to the greats. And there’s no one like Vin, or close to Vin.

“I’d happily step aside to hear his voice (on the World Series). I would not fight that at all. That’s just how I grew up.

“As far as I’m concerned, he could be part of it every year. I’m not selfish. I realize who the game’s greats are, and I always defer to them – my dad (Jack Buck), Ernie Harwell, Curt Gowdy, Harry Caray. There are only a handful of guys who are as identifiable with their organizations as any player is.” …

I think Fox might be less of a hurdle for Scully at this point than the possibility that the World Series will take place entirely on the East Coast this year.

* * *

  • The final batch of your Dodger fan stories submitted to ESPNLosAngeles.com is up on the site.
  • Bud Selig scored a victory over Frank McCourt in a bankruptcy hearing today, when Judge Kevin Gross denied a request to order Major League Baseball to turn over numerous documents. “This is clearly in my mind not an appropriate occasion to turn the hearing into a trial of the commissioner,” Gross said.
  • The Dodgers have gone 283 plate appearances since their last home run, Aaron Miles’ midgame shot on June 28.
  • Trayvon Robinson will compete in the Triple-A Home Run Derby on Monday.
  • Dodger farmhands Dee Gordon, Zach Lee and Allen Webster are in Baseball America’s midseason top-50 prospects list.
  • Andre Ethier was unable to top Shane Victorino of Philadelphia for the final fan-elected spot on the National League All-Star roster.
  • Former DodgerTalk host Ken Levine, now broadcasting Seattle Mariners games, wrote a piece on a “day in the life” of a baseball broadcaster.
  • “Don’t Stop Believin'” might finally be on its way out of Dodger Stadium, reports Sons of Steve Garvey, while “God Bless America” could be reduced to Sundays and special occasions.
  • At Bronx Banter, Jon De Rosa writes about parking at Dodger Stadium and then walking all the way to Phillippe’s for a pregame bite.

    … It seemed very straightforward, the only tricky part was crossing the 110. The walking map/GPS on my phone had it pegged as a 25 minute walk. The phone is lucky it was not smashed on the sidewalk.

    Maybe if you were one of the Elves from Lord of The Rings, it would have been a 25 minute walk. But my family moves at Dwarf or Hobbit-speed, especially in the heat.

    Did I forget to mention my wife was pushing a double stroller? Disaster. You can imagine that an area not expecting pedestrians would skimp on sidewalks. There’s maybe 50 feet of sidewalk around Dodger Stadium that can accommodate the girth of the doublewide stroller. The road ahead was so treacherous that we had to send a scout 100 yards in advance in order to map where we could walk.

    The sandwich at Phillippes is good, and probably deserves a Tasters Cherce, but the lines go on and on and noboby eles has planned to walk back – ever. So as we ate, the spectre of the return journey hung above us.

    But as with any disaster, it’s all about the people you’re with and how they react. We couldn’t stop laughing at ourselves, for thinking like New Yorkers and getting ourselves in this mess. My wife put a gob of their mustard on her sandwich before realizing how hot it was. We cracked up again. We missed the first pitch, and the first inning, but we caught the other eight and didn’t leave early.

    Good thing, because the Dodgers won in a walkoff. We even hung around so the kids could run the bases. As we were leaving, my older son said, “When I grow up, I’m going to play baseball like those guys.” I think we were the last non-employees to leave Dodger Stadium. Great day and a walk I’ll probably never forget.

  • I’m off to Fangraphs Live, but I’ll be taking my car.
Jul 06

Latest loss leaves one longing for 2009

Two years ago tonight, the Dodgers were 52-30, seven games better than any other team in the National League, three games better than any team in the majors.

Manny Ramirez, nowadays the subject of much ridicule (renewed by his recent appearance in the Dodgers’ bankruptcy filing), had just come off the suspended list – and, contrary to what people might have expected or might remember, was about to begin a massive hot streak. Over the next two weeks, Ramirez would go 15 for 41 with seven extra-base hits and six walks, for a .458 on-base percentage and .707 slugging percentage.

On July 21, Ramirez was hit by a pitch on the left hand. That injury forced him to the bench the following night, the night the Dodgers were giving away Manny Ramirez bobbleheads.  He came on to pinch-hit in the bottom of the sixth inning with the bases loaded and … Bobbleslam.

The Dodgers were 61-34.

The contrast between then and now is so sharp. The idea of a losing Dodger team is no longer alien, the fact that the team’s losing streak grew to five games with tonight’s 5-3 loss to the Mets is no surprise. These Dodgers are 37-51, all but reversing the performance of their 2009 counterparts. Then – Manny’s curtain call. Now – scrub’s scrub Eugenio Velez tagged out, not even halfway to first base, on a grounder to end the game.

Every single game this week, a Dodger starting pitcher has pitched well heading into the sixth inning, before faltering without rescue. Every single game, you might have cynically felt the inevitability of defeat, yet if you’re anything like me, not quite believed that the result could be so predetermined every single time. In fact, after Hiroki Kuroda let a 1-1 tie become a 4-1 deficit in the top of the sixth, the Dodgers came back to score two runs in the bottom of the inning. They had scored three runs, their highest total since Friday.  And there were still three innings to go.

But we are a long, long way from 2009.

Chris Pizzello/APJoe Torre waits as Manny Ramirez, with an OPS of 1.129 at the time, has his hand examined after being hit by a pitch on July 21, 2009.

The 1988 season has been our touchstone, and will continue to be for some time, maybe for our entire lifetimes. But it’s clear to me that 2009 is an underappreciated season. The offense was solid at every position, with the weakest link being Russell Martin, who still managed a .352 on-base percentage at catcher. Juan Pierre split the Dodger community in two, but even if you thought he was overrated as the team’s spiritual MVP, he was useful and sometimes heroic. Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp were blossoming. James Loney was still promising. Casey Blake was one of the better third basemen in the NL. Rafael Furcal managed to stay healthy for 150 games. Cycle-hitter Orlando Hudson sparkled until he was overtaken by the red-hot Ronnie Belliard. Other than handwringing over Ramirez’s suspension, there was little more to gripe over than Kemp batting eighth nearly a couple dozen times.

The starting rotation wasn’t spectacular, but it was capable, with 21-year-old Clayton Kershaw posting a 2.79 ERA and Jon Garland and Vicente Padilla providing late season assistance after Chad Billingsley hit a rough spot. Jonathan Broxton, Ramon Troncoso and Ronald Belisario, none older than 26, led a dominant bullpen that went into overdrive when midseason pickup George Sherrill allowed only two earned runs in 27 2/3 innings.

It is Broxton, of course, who is considered the poison in this tale. He began the 2009 playoffs with five consecutive games of doing his job. In the sixth, Game 4 of the 2009 NLCS, he brought on infamy. And it’s understandable that fans today might be even more bitter toward the reliever, who spoiled a great team’s chance to even up the NLCS at 2-2 and catapult toward that long-awaited World Series title.

Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesJuan Uribe and Eugenio Velez, two of your 2011 Dodgers, look for some cheer before the game.

But whether you credit Broxton, who in the regular season had 36 saves in 42 opportunities and 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings, for helping the Dodgers get in position to win a championship, or whether you hold him accountable for the failure to achieve the dream, it’s remarkable to think of where the Dodgers and their fans were two years ago. Out of our minds with elation at the rebounding hero Ramirez. Somersaulting over the Game 2 NLDS bottom-of-the-ninth comeback win over St. Louis. On seats’ edge as Broxton threw that 1-1 pitch to Jimmy Rollins, one out away from the latest, biggest victory.

I am someone who asks what might have been. There isn’t a year that goes by that I don’t question decisions I made a decade or two ago. I’ve made mistakes as bad as the fastball Broxton threw to Rollins and wondered “what if?” But I can’t look back at 2009 now without instinctively feeling good about it, recalling so many wonderful times. And thinking that even with its short-circuited ending, how gladly would I take it back. And thinking how far away it seems.

Jul 06

Home Run Derby and Matt Kemp’s swing

I’m pretty sure that someone did a study about whether it was fact or fiction that Home Run Derby participation ruins a player’s swing, but I can’t seem to find it right now.  So instead, here’s what Two Guys From ESPN, Nomar Garciaparra and John Kruk, had to say on the subject during a conference call:

Q. Nomar, Matt Kemp is doing this for the first time. Maybe he’s not your traditional slugger type body type. He might be more your body type. So speaking from experience, how does this kind of event mess around with your swing or is that kind of an overrated thing that gets talked about too much?

Garciaparra: Well, first of all, I wish I had his body type. I don’t think we’re the same body type. Are you kidding me? Wow. I don’t think it will mess with his swing. I think the hardest thing and the important thing is you’ve got to be big and strong for this event.

It is totally different when you’re in batting practice you can kind of get into rhythm. The pitcher’s throwing the ball and you’re going. In batting practice they say don’t look at the ball. You’re supposed to just hit. You can kind of get in that rhythm.

Here it’s swing, watch, tend to sit back in the box and let’s swing as hard as you can again. Step out, get back in the box. That is difficult to do as a hitter. That takes a lot of sheer strength body wise all through the body.

When I look at the way Matt Kemp is built, he has that. So I think he’ll be all right. The difficult thing is to get away from all the emotion that’s surrounding it. Get away from the anxiety, because that is all going to be a part of it.

You realize there are thousands and thousands of people in the stands. All they’re doing is focused on you and watching. All eyes are on you in this one swing and every one you do. I know it’s like that during the season, but this is a totally different way to do it. There are nerves, anxiety, adrenaline, and you have to combat all of that, especially for your first time. But I think he has the body and strength to do it.

Q. Is the talk about how swings get messed up from doing this overrated?

Garciaparra: I think so. I think the All Star’s just a unique thing. When you do that, you go out there and swing and swing hard. At this level to be successful if you’re an All Star, you know what you have to do to get back on track.

Kruk: I agree with Nomar. I think every player that’s ever played from a guy that hits two home runs a year to a guy that hits 50 home runs a year, they have a point in batting practice where they’re trying to hit home runs.

Tony Gwynn every once in a while would try to do it too, and he used to hit .380 every year. Didn’t do too much to his swing. Everyone does it, so it doesn’t mess up your swing.

Jul 06

Remember Jamey Carroll?

Aaron Miles’ bruised right elbow, which could sideline him for a brief time, gives Jamey Carroll a chance to get back into a Dodger lineup that had suddenly become hard for him to crack.

Carroll, who has consistently been one of the Dodgers’ top players this season, has only two starts and 11 plate appearances (2 for 10 with a walk) in the Dodgers’ past eight games. Carroll had played 74 of the Dodgers’ first 79 games this season, starting 63 of them.

With the hot-hitting Miles’ increased playing time, one can understand how Carroll’s workload lessened, but at the same time, it seems that a struggling team might want to take advantage of an effective player while it still can. Carroll’s .365 on-base percentage remains third on the Dodgers, behind Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.

Besides Miles, it’s mainly Juan Uribe who has kept Carroll out of the Dodger lineup. Uribe strengthens the Dodger defense when he plays third base, but at the plate, he’s been giving a lot of that back. With Uribe signed to a three-year deal, the Dodgers have little choice but to hope that he regains what offensive form he had, but it’s been hard to see one of the team’s better bats in Carroll sidelined in the process.

Jul 05

Is lefty Lilly all right?

Ted Lilly’s start tonight for the Dodgers could be considered a critical one, for reasons that have nothing to do with the team’s place in the standings.

Lilly has been battling left elbow tenderness, as Ken Gurnick of MLB.com notes. He was given an extra day of rest before making his latest start, after having to skip several between-starts bullpen sessions. This has been going on while Lilly has allowed 17 earned runs over 14 2/3 innings in his past three outings.

Any further struggles could (or perhaps the word is “should”) force Lilly to the disabled list, which would mean the callup of John Ely, the only minor-league starting pitcher on the 40-man roster, or someone else who isn’t on the 40-man, such as Triple-A All-Star Dana Eveland. Jon Garland is out for the season, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

* * *

  • Andre Ethier is out of today’s starting lineup because of the flu, but he did what I presume was MLB-prescribed promotion for his candidacy for the MLB All-Star final vote.
  • Matt Kemp has been invited to the Home Run Derby during the All-Star Break.
  • Baseball America published a list of the youngest ballplayers in each professional league.
  • The Dodgers continue to offer major discounts even on giveaway nights. $5 reserved seats for an Andre Ethier bobblehead promotion Thursday.
  • Longtime Holman Stadium public address announcer Dick Crago passed away Friday at the age of 85, the Dodgers announced. He worked the Vero Beach stadium from 1969-2008.
Jul 05

Obscure but memorable No. 3 hitters for the Dodgers

In honor of Aaron Miles batting third for Los Angeles tonight, here’s a link to all those who have started No. 3 in the batting order for the Dodgers since the end of the 1988 World Series.

The list includes Bill Bean (career OPS .574), who went 3 for 4 on October 1, 1989. That’s the time of year you’d expect to find someone of Bean’s ilk batting third in the lineup.

Then there’s Orel Hershiser, who officially started at third base on September 15, 1993 so that Dave Hansen could bat for him in the first inning in pursuit of a pinch-hitting record. Pedro Martinez did the same thing five days later.

There’s Mike Kinkade, Mark Sweeney, Delwyn Young, Tom Goodwin (!), Antonio Perez. … Oscar Robles hit third 11 times for Jim Tracy’s 2005 Dodgers.

Aw, sweet memories.

Jul 05

Gordon gets his stolen-base trifecta

From the Dodgers’ press notes:

Following a lengthy debate, official scorer Ed Munson has changed a seventh-inning fielder’s choice from last Friday night’s game in Anaheim to a stolen base for Dee Gordon. The scoring change gives Gordon nine steals on the season and makes him the first Dodger since Harvey Hendrick on June 12, 1928 to steal second, third and home in the same inning. The last Major Leaguer to accomplish the feat was Jayson Werth, who did so on May 12, 2009 vs. the Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park.

Did Bob Timmermann’s tweet play a role?