For the second time this season, Chad Billingsley has gone to the disabled list with right elbow issues. Josh Beckett will enter the rotation and start Monday. Also, Alex Castellanos was optioned to Albuquerque, with Nick Punto taking his roster spot.
A pure “Wow!” moment.
Adrian Gonzalez, piled to the sky with expectations as big as the Louisiana Purchase, set up for glory when the Dodgers started their first inning Saturday with three consecutive hits, pulverized a Josh Johnson fastball down the right-field line at Dodger Stadium for an era-opening three-run home run.
The blast gave the Dodgers a lead and a headline they would never relinquish on their way to an 8-2 victory that cut their deficit in the National League West to two games, though Andre Ethier has done his best to steal the show.
Going 4 for 4 for the second night in a row (with two singles, a double and a homer), Ethier has broken the 35-year-old Los Angeles Dodger record held by Ron Cey and tied the 93-year-old franchise mark of Ed Konetchy with hits in 10 consecutive at-bats. Ethier, left in the on-deck circle when the Dodgers made their final out of the night, had a bloop single to center for the milestone hit – and his home run, it should be noted, came off Marlins lefty Wade LeBlanc. Ethier, who is within two of the major-league record, has credited his streak with choking up on the bat slightly and shortening his swing, in response to the blister he has on his palm.
Johnson withered under the Dodgers’ revamped offense (even without Shane Victorino, who was a late scratch with back pain). He threw 46 pitches in the first inning, only escaping further damage when a borderline 3-2 pitch to Clayton Kershaw was called for strike three, and exited the game after a mammoth 89 pitches in only three innings.
The Dodgers had 10 hits off Johnson, 16 in all, including three by Mark Ellis and Matt Kemp and two apiece for Luis Cruz and A.J. Ellis. Ethier and Mark Ellis each came within a triple of the cycle. Gonzalez ended up 1 for 5.
In the records kept by Baseball-Reference.com, Johnson is only the third starting pitcher to have thrown at least 89 pitches against Los Angeles in a start of three innings or less. Over the past two nights, Johnson and Nathan Eovaldi have combined to throw 165 pitches in only six innings, while allowing 12 runs (including five homers) on 20 baserunners.
Amid all this, Kershaw quietly shut down the Marlins over eight innings. After allowing a leadoff double that came around to score on two groundouts in the first inning, and a Giancarlo Stanton special for another run in the second inning, Kershaw held Miami hitless save for an infield single that replays (and my naked eye, for that matter) concluded should have been an out. Kershaw struck out eight, walked two and threw only five more pitches than Johnson.
The Dodgers have as many homers in the past 26 hours, six, as they had in all of June. The atmosphere at Dodger Stadium … jovial, to say the least.