Apr 30

Like Tony Gwynn Jr., I’m saving the best for last

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Apr 27

Ethier’s heroics complete Dodgers’ comeback, 5-4

Jeffrey M. Boan/APAndre Ethier, congratulated by Matt Kemp, leads the majors with 38 hits. His pace is 237 for the season.

For the second time in the past five days, the Dodgers rallied from a four-run deficit — but unlike in Chicago, this time they hung on for a 5-4, 10-inning victory over Florida today.

Andre Ethier, who extended his hitting streak to 24 games with a fourth-inning single, hit a leadoff homer in the top of the 10th inning off the Marlins’ eighth pitcher, Brian Sanches — who had been unscored upon in 13 2/3 innings this season.

Chad Billingsley allowed five hits in six innings, but unfortunately, all five came in a four-run second inning (capped by a three-run double by Chris Coghlan, who had 12 total bases in the three-game series). But Rod Barajas hit a three-run homer, his fifth of the year, after singles by Ethier and James Loney in the fourth inning. The Dodgers tied the game in the seventh on an RBI double by pinch hitter Juan Uribe.

The Dodgers had a chance to win in regulation time after loading the bases on walks with one out, but Ivan De Jesus Jr. hit into a double play. And they had a chance to lose it when two hits off Matt Guerrier, one courtesy of an Aaron Miles misplay, helped the Marlins get to second and third with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Guerrier then retired Scott Cousins and John Buck.

Marlins starter Anibal Sanchez, who took a no-hitter into the ninth inning in his last start, left after five innings and only 74 pitches today.

Vicente Padilla, who had been warming up in the bullpen with the score tied after nine innings when Ethier homered, entered the game anyway for the bottom of the 10th and closed it out on three groundouts.

Ethier, who moved ahead of Matt Kemp (1-for-3 with two walks) as the team’s batting-average leader, .380 to .378, is now tied with John Shelby and Zack Wheat on the Dodgers’ all-time hitting streak list. Kemp still leads Ethier in on-base percentage (.460 to .451) and slugging percentage (.612 to .560).

Apr 26

Two cheers for the Dodgers, but they needed three

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Hooray for James Loney and Andre Ethier. Loney had a “Thanks, I needed that” game, going 4 for 4, while Andre Ethier’s first-inning double gave him the MLB April hitting streak record with 23 games in a row. But Clayton Kershaw, despite displaying his defensive prowess yet again, couldn’t hold 1-0 and 2-1 leads, ultimately getting knocked out in the sixth inning of a 4-2 loss to Florida tonight. The Dodgers barely get 14 hours to think about it before heading back out for a game Wednesday at 9:10 Pacific.

Apr 25

The whole Jonathan Broxton saga in one depressing inning

As I feared when he entered the game as a relief catcher in the seventh inning, Dioner Navarro couldn’t close out the three-inning save.

Here’s what happened in the final inning:

1) With a 4-3 lead, Jonathan Broxton is within one strike of a perfect ninth and a save.
2) Broxton walks Emilio Bonifacio.
3) Broxton gives up a single to pinch-hitter Hanley Ramirez to put the tying run at third.
4) Scott Cousins up. A called strike, then a slow roller. Jamey Carroll charges, sticks down his glove and comes up completely empty. Bonifacio scores the tying run.
5) Cousins takes second base on defensive indifference.
6) Chris Coughlan, who homered twice off Jon Garland, is walked intentionally.
7) Omar Infante, who bailed Vicente Padilla out of the eighth inning by getting thrown out by Matt Kemp at third base, lines a catchable but hard-hit shot past Jerry Sands for a game-winning single. Dodgers lose to Florida, 5-4.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesJonathan Broxton

And that’s really what the Broxton slide has been about – a loss of dominance (since mid-2010), punctuated by recurrences of really bad timing.

When Padilla gave up an RBI single to Gaby Sanchez the inning before to cut the Dodgers’ lead to one run, I commented, “The way that the Dodger bullpen has been this season, how does anyone have any anger left by the time Broxton gets into a game?” Of course, I know the answer.

I think if 1) Cousins had delivered a hit instead of what should have been a game-ending ground out, tonight might have marked the end of Broxton’s run as a Dodger closer if 2) there were any alternative doing better. But there isn’t.

There’s no way around the fact that the Dodger bullpen is underperforming as a unit, and all fans can do is wait for someone to get it together, or look for Ned Colletti to make a desperation move (approved by his new overlord, profiled here by Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com) that somehow makes a difference. Broxton is the last bit of air out of the leaky balloon that is the relief crew.

For the visitors, it was a grind-it-out game virtually the whole way. The Dodgers fell behind 2-1 on the two Coughlan homers, but came back thanks to Rod Barajas reaching first base after striking out on a wild pitch, Ivan De Jesus getting his second hit of the game (and third of his career), Jon Garland laying down a sacrifice bunt, Aaron Miles driving in a run with a groundout and then Carroll, looking like a hero, delivering an RBI single for a 3-2 lead.

The Dodgers’ fourth run came from its most downtrodden hitter, James Loney, pushing a single to center past a drawn-in infield.

It was that close to a night of well-earned celebration for the Dodgers, who saw Sands get three hits and Andre Ethier break baseball’s all-time April hitting streak record with a first-inning single that extended his skein to 22 games. But for the second time in three games, the bullpen couldn’t finish.

Apr 24

Dodgers end Sands’ first week on winning note

Charles Cherney/APCasey Blake wrist-fives Jerry Sands after the rookie outfielder threw out Aramis Ramirez in the sixth inning.

Jerry Sands has the most relaxed batting stance. His bat is slung low on his shoulder like a hobo’s knapsack, projecting the calm of a traveler with little to his name but untold adventures ahead.

Sands has finished his first week in the big leagues, and like any vagabond’s journey, it’s had its highs and lows. There was his crowd-pleasing debut double, but soon after, an 0-for-16 skid with but a bases-loaded walk as a highlight.

Sands may yet end up back in the minor leagues before his career takes full flight – the same happened to predecessors like Matt Kemp, who continued to key the Dodger offense in today’s 7-3 victory over the Cubs. Even after an RBI double in today’s five-run first inning (not to mention an outfield assist in the sixth), Sands still only has a .502 OPS and has struck out in more than 30 percent of his at-bats. I’m not one for seriously reading tea leaves or batting stances, so I don’t know if he has the bearing of a winner, a loser or something in between.

But I can tell you what I like to think. What I like to think is that Sands’ travelin’ man stance is a harbinger of his being in this for the long haul. I’d also like to think the same about his team.

* * *

So yes, the Dodgers jumped all over Carlos Zambrano today, with their first five batters reaching base and scoring, ignited by a leadoff triple by Aaron Miles (3 for 5 and yes, I’m aware of the timing).

Charles Cherney/APIt was a duck-and-cover day in Chicago.

Casey Blake was hit by a pitch, though apparently having nothing to do with the little stolen-base dustup from Friday. Andre Ethier extended his hitting streak to 21 games with an infield single to drive in the first run, Kemp (like Ethier, 2 for 5) singled in Blake, Sands doubled in Ethier, and James Loney and Rod Barajas followed with RBIs to give the Dodgers 25 runs in their past 17 innings.

It appeared that Hiroki Kuroda might give it all back in the bottom of the first. Thanks to three hits and a Jamey Carroll error, two runs scored and Alfonso Soriano came to bat as the tying run. But Kuroda struck him out, just as he struck out two other batters in the first inning and seven overall in the first three innings. Kuroda ended up completing 6 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs and nine hits while walking nobody.

In contrast to Saturday’s eighth-inning collapse, Dodger relievers shut down the Cubs today, with Mike MacDougal, Blake Hawksworth and Jonathan Broxton combining for 2 1/3 innings and allowing two baserunners.

The Dodgers gained a game on Colorado and San Francisco, taking sole possession of second place in the National League West, three games behind the Rockies.

Apr 23

Dodgers out-rallied in 10-8 loss to Cubs

Nam Y. Huh/APMatt Kemp was ivy bait in the early going, before the seeds were planted for a Dodger comeback.

This looked like one of those balance-the-scales games – everything that went right for the Dodgers on Friday would go wrong today.

Then it looked like a testament to the Dodgers’ resiliency over a tumultuous week.

In the end, it turned out to be one of those “Who knows, anything goes” contests we’ve seen time and again from the blue boys. The Dodgers stormed back from a 5-1 deficit to an 8-5 lead today in Chicago, before previously unscored-upon reliever Matt Guerrier allowed five smackers in the bottom of the eighth for a 10-8 Dodger loss.

Despite starting pitcher Ted Lilly allowing 11 hits to 23 batters, despite Jerry Sands losing a fly ball in the sun, despite two outfield misplays by Matt Kemp, despite the Dodgers picking off two runners in the fourth inning and throwing out neither, Los Angeles looked like it would roll to a four-game winning streak after rallying for seven unanswered runs from the fifth inning to the seventh.

Homers by Casey Blake (2 for 3, two walks, .962 OPS this season) and Kemp off Chicago’s Ryan Dempster accounted for three runs in the top of the fifth inning, cutting the Cubs’ lead to one. Then came a noteworthy decision by Cubs manager Mike Quade.

Lilly exited after allowing a one-out single in the bottom of the fifth, and Mike MacDougal walked two of the next three batters to load the bases. That brought up Dempster, who was coming off his rough top of the fifth and was already in the neighborhood of 90 pitches. Quade let Dempster bat, and though he nearly got away with it when MacDougal’s wildness sent the count to 2-0 and 3-2, Dempster struck out swinging.

Dempster’s next batter, Rod Barajas, homered to tie the game to start the sixth.

Perhaps the most dramatic moment came later in the inning. After Tony Gwynn Jr.’s pinch-triple and Casey Blake’s two-out walk, Quade finally pulled Dempster in favor of lefty reliever Sean Marshall. Marshall faced Andre Ethier, who was 5 for 23 against left-handers this season. With his 19-game hitting streak was on the line. On a 1-2 pitch, Ethier lined a double to right field, scoring both runners and giving the Dodgers the lead.

Sands later helped manufacture the Dodgers’ eighth run when he singled, stole second, went to third on a throwing error and scored on a Barajas groundout even though the infield was in.

Jemaine Clement
-lookalike Vicente Padilla protected the lead in his season debut, retiring all three batters he faced in the sixth, and Guerrier sailed through the bottom of the seventh. But the Cubs pummeled Guerrier in the eighth.

Starlin Castro, the 21-year-old who went 4 for 5 to raise his season OPS to .947, drove in two, and then an RBI forceout by Darwin Barney tied the game. A bloop single by Aramis Ramirez extended the inning and knocked Guerrier out. Blake Hawkworth relieved, and gave up a two-run double to Baker to complete the eighth-inning disaster.

James Loney tried to tie the game in the ninth with a fly ball after Sands walked, but like his 2011 season, it fell far short. Carlos Marmol struck out Barajas, and the game was over.

Loney went 0 for 5, his on-base percentage falling to .191 and his slugging percentage to .212.

The Cubs continued their unprecedented run of early season .500 baseball. They have been 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6, 7-7, 8-8, 9-9 and now 10-10 this year. The Dodgers, meanwhile, fell to 11-11.

* * *

In case you weren’t sure, Hector Gimenez’s knee injury is legit. Gimenez, who was placed on the disabled list April 10 to (conveniently, it seemed) make room for the callup of John Ely, will have arthroscopic surgery next week. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details in a story that also heralds a minor-league rehab assignment for Hong-Chih Kuo and tells us about leg-soreness for Juan Uribe.

* * *

Here’s Jackson’s update from Don Mattingly on the controversial A.J. Ellis steal attempt from Friday:

… Mattingly, in his first year as Dodgers manager, confirmed it was a mix-up but defended a running play in that situation.

“Long story short, we missed the sign,” Mattingly said. “We weren’t trying to run there. Definitely weren’t going to run A.J. We weren’t doing it but it is Wrigley and the other day we did give up eight runs in the ninth. We’re trying to win a game, but we weren’t running there.” …

With what happened today, I suggested Quade issue a retroactive approval of the steal attempt.

Apr 23

Dodgers give Cubs walking pneumonia in 12-2 victory

With two out in the eighth inning, Dodger second baseman Juan Uribe worked the count to 3-2, and Friday’s game reached the height of suspense. With one more ball, Uribe could become the ninth and final member of the Dodger starting lineup to draw a walk.

Alas, Uribe swung and grounded to short.  But hold on – there was still one more inning, a ninth inning that saw the Dodgers send eight men to the plate.  Matt Kemp stood at the plate with Uribe on deck, swinging his walking stick.

Alas, Kemp flied to right on the Cubs’ 230th pitch of the game, and Uribe was left bereft.

Despite this failing, there was a bright side to Friday’s game.  The Dodgers drew 10 walks in all and slung out 14 hits in a 12-2 romp over the Cubs, doubling the Dodgers’ previous biggest margin of victory of the season. Over a three-day period, the Dodgers have outscored their opponents 23-6, moving into a virtual tie with the Giants for second place in the National League West, three games behind Colorado.

Uribe’s week-long surge has been a big part of that. Since Sunday, the slow-starting import from San Francisco has gone 10 for 23 with two homers and nine RBI.  Betting on him to walk is still a slim proposition – he’s done so once against seven strikeouts this week – but it’s made a big difference to have someone below the cleanup spot hitting the ball, even if more hope had been placed in Jerry Sands.

Sands was the only Dodger starter to go hitless Friday, though he did walk with the bases loaded in the Dodgers’ six-run third inning. The rookie is hitless in his past 13 plate appearances, which looks bad, although Uribe could certainly tell him things could be worse. (Uribe, by the way, is not in today’s starting lineup for the Dodgers.)

Kemp, Jamey Carroll, Casey Blake, Andre Ethier and A.J. Ellis all reached base three times Friday, while Uribe, James Loney and Chad Billingsley did so twice. Blake, Ethier, Kemp and Ellis all have on-base percentages about .400.  Marcus Thames added his second pinch-hit homer of the season.

Meanwhile, in his second consecutive nice start, Billingsley did not allow an earned run until the seventh inning. He has struck out 27 in 28 1/3 innings. Also bouncing back were Kenley Jansen (four strikeouts in 1 2/3 perfect innings) and Lance Cormier (a shutout ninth).

Ellis allowed a passed ball in the fourth inning that cost Billingsley a chance at a shutout; Carroll and Blake later made errors.

Apr 22

The thin line between ebb and flow: Dodgers 5, Braves 3

I was prepared to write a pretty quick take on Thursday’s game, along the lines of how weird it is that Juan Uribe only seems to hit well when Matt Kemp doesn’t.

And then Kemp, who had struck out three times earlier in the game, went and hit … very, very well. 

Kemp’s two-run home run in the bottom of the 12th inning was his second walkoff shot in five days, beating the Braves, 5-3, and helping the Dodgers reach a split of their first 20 games this season despite being outscored 94-68 in the process.

Los Angeles will try for the fifth time this year for its first three-game winning streak of the year today in Chicago.

Kemp’s blast was his fourth of 2011, putting him on pace for 30-plus homers this season (along with 60-odd steals). It also helped him stay ahead in the team OPS lead ahead of Andre Ethier, who extended his hitting streak to 18 games with two hits, including a double ahead of Kemp’s home run.

Few could understand why the Braves didn’t walk Kemp intentionally in the 12th to face Uribe. Considering that Kemp’s run was meaningless, the only possible explanation was a flimsy one – that based on the previous 3 1/2 days, Atlanta thought Uribe was the most dangerous hitter. After starting the season 8 for 52, Uribe was 7 for 16 against the Braves, including his first home run of the season to tie Thursday’s game 1-1 in the sixth inning.

To each manager his own …

Casey Blake’s solo shot in the next inning put the Dodgers ahead and seemed to give Clayton Kershaw all he needed for the victory. Kershaw, who retired his first 10 batters and took a three-hitter into the ninth (in addition to a career-high two hits at the plate), came within one out of breezing to the finish line before he loaded the bases on two singles and a walk. 

Don Mattingly went to the mound to talk to Kershaw, who had now thrown 119 pitches. Instead of going to Jonathan Broxton, Mattingly stayed with Kershaw. Given how Broxton has pitched lately, I know there was lots of support for this decision. I’m not sure I would have done differently while standing face-to-face with the pitcher, but from afar, the walk to load the bases might have been as far as I would have let Kershaw go. Mattingly had already tried letting Kershaw bail himself out of his own jam with a high pitch count in his last start, and Kershaw gave up a deep fly by David Freese and a three-run homer by Mr. Allen Craig of St. Louis.

My other concern is that Kershaw has now set a career high in pitches in two of his past three starts, throwing 340 pitches in 11 days.  

Kershaw got ahead in the count 0-2, then gave up a two-run single to former Dodger David Ross, but Jamey Carroll and Blake (3 for 6) bailed the pitcher out in the bottom of the ninth. Carroll walked, took second on a wild pitch and scored on Blake’s single.

Broxton, who relieved Kershaw after Ross’ hit, retired four of five batters he faced, and then Matt Guerrier pitched two shutout innings, surviving two two-out singles in the 11th before a 1-2-3 12th.

At which point, the game flowed back to Kemp …

* * *

Cubs at Dodgers, 11:20 a.m.

Apr 20

Dodger bullpen just sad

The 2011 Dodger bullpen to date:

Jonathan Broxton: 7 1/3 innings, 13 baserunners, five strikeouts
Hong-Chih Kuo (disabled list): 2 2/3 innings, five baserunners, four strikeouts
Matt Guerrier: 8 2/3 innings, six baserunners, five strikeouts
Kenley Jansen: 8 2/3 innings, 19 baserunners, 13 strikeouts
Blake Hawksworth: 9 2/3 innings, 13 baserunners, six strikeouts
Mike MacDougal: 7 1/3 innings, nine baserunners, four strikeouts
Lance Cormier: seven innings, 16 baserunners, two strikeouts
Ramon Troncoso: 2 2/3 innings, 12 baserunners, zero strikeouts
Total: 54 innings, 93 baserunners, 39 strikeouts

Hmm …

At least Vicente Padilla might be back soon. He struck out three in 1 1/3 innings Tuesday in his second minor-league rehab outing. He could replace Troncoso.

Will Rubby De La Rosa get a rapid promotion like Jerry Sands? It doesn’t seem impossible, though I think the Dodgers would like the inexperienced minor-leaguer to get more starting-pitcher innings under his belt.

Jansen’s performance has been shocking, but I would keep him on the major-league roster for now.

* * *

Not that I’m expecting Ivan De Jesus Jr. to be a savior for the moribund offense, but with journeyman Aaron Miles offering seven singles, a double, an HBP, a sacrifice and no walks in 37 plate appearances, maybe Don Mattingly could throw some at-bats to the kid.

About that offense, here’s Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

… When you really examine it, though, it isn’t that hard to figure out. Juan Uribe, as he has done for most of his career, continues to flail at just about anything that is thrown within a mile of the strike zone. James Loney has brought his second-half nosedive of 2010 into 2011. And how about that pinch-hitting appearance by the still-gimpy Marcus Thames in the seventh inning, when he whiffed on three consecutive pitches from Braves reliever Jonny Venters with the tying run on third and one out?

And speaking of key situations, the Dodgers (8-10) — who fell into a third-place tie with the San Diego Padres in the National League West and still trail the division-leading Colorado Rockies by 4 1/2 games — are now hitting .184 (28 for 152) for the season with runners in scoring position, with 35 strikeouts.

And after Casey Blake grounded out to leave the bases loaded in the seventh, at a point when the Dodgers trailed by one run, the Dodgers were hitless in eight at-bats this year with the bases jammed. Not sure which is worse, the fact they have gone 18 games without getting a hit with the bases loaded, or the fact they have had the bases loaded for just eight at-bats. …

Even more simply, the Dodger offense has a .306 on-base percentage and a .344 slugging percentage. Not far from what was predicted, not enough to get the job done, especially with the pitching staff’s disappointing 4.87 ERA.

Apr 13

Unlikely homer sinks Dodgers, 4-3

It wasn’t as jaw-dropping as Ozzie Smith against Tom Niedenfuer, but in a six-year, 457-game career, Giants infielder Mike Fontenot had hit only one career homer against a left-handed pitcher before he broke a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the sixth inning with a home run off Ted Lilly, giving the Giants a 4-3 victory.

The Associated Press noted it was Fontenot’s first home run against any major-league pitcher since May 7.

Lilly, who had fallen behind 2-0 after two innings before the Dodgers came back with a two-run homer by Rod Barajas (his third of the year) and an RBI double by Aaron Miles (3 for 4), had one out earlier given up a game-tying homer to Pablo Sandoval.

The score stayed the same, but the Dodgers had a somewhat discouraging outing from Hong-Chih Kuo, who struck out two but also walked two and threw only seven strikes in 22 pitches before being relieved by Matt Guerrier. Kuo has walked four of the 13 batters he’s faced this year.

Matt Kemp’s hitting spree hit a speed bump with an 0-for-4 night.

Apr 12

Giants take the low road to 5-4 victory

Eric Risberg/APTim Lincecum averaged more than 20 pitches per inning tonight.

It was hard to watch the Dodgers build a 3-0 lead against Tim Lincecum and then fail to hold it in a 5-4 loss, but I’m not going to throw Chad Billingsley under the bus for this one.

Billingsley was superb through the first three innings and kept making good pitches in the fourth, but the Giants hurt him anyway. Buster Posey’s RBI single was on a pitch no higher than his knees, and Pablo Sandoval’s RBI double came on one even lower.

Aaron Rowand’s game-tying RBI single in the fifth was little different – a fastball down in the zone, a good challenge pitch that Rowand drove to left.

Obviously, Billingsley wasn’t perfect. Posey’s second RBI hit, giving the Giants a 4-3 lead, was a fastball up, leading to the last of the nine baserunners Billingsley allowed in five innings.  But the Dodger righty looked better on the field then he does in the boxscore – in fact, he looked better than Lincecum, who lasted only 5 1/3 innings himself while throwing 115 pitches.

The Dodgers came back to tie the game on Marcus Thames’ pinch-hit homer in the seventh, but reliever Blake Hawksworth gave the lead back almost immediately on a Rowand triple and a wild pitch.

Giants closer Brian Wilson struck out Xavier Paul, Tony Gwynn Jr. (0 for 5) and Jamey Carroll in the ninth inning, thereby avoiding Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp. Ethier was 2 for 4 and robbed of a third hit when Lincecum dove at a ball that was hit off of him and threw Ethier out. Kemp was 2 for 2 with two walks (one intentional), raising his season on-base percentage to an astonishing .578. In at-bats, he is 17 for 36, one hit shy of batting .500.

Kemp was caught stealing for the first time this season.

* * *

Jerry Sands homered for the fourth straight game and doubled in Albuquerque’s 18-3 victory over Iowa tonight. Dee Gordon had four hits, four runs and a steal.

Apr 11

Dodgers 6, Giants 1: Matt Kemp is the center of the universe

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesMatt Kemp and his helmet exult after stealing second base despite a pickoff.

Matt Kemp steals second base despite picking picked off first.

Matt Kemp scores from second on a James Loney line drive off the glove of the second baseman.

Matt Kemp walks for a second time after being down in the count 0-2.

Matt Kemp lines an RBI single that turns left fielder Pat Burrell into a jumping bean, with the ball skipping past him.

Matt Kemp is thrown out at third.

That last one was just to remind us that as long as you’re pushing for Kemp to be aggressive, you’re going to pay the price now and then. Nonetheless, 2011 has returned that Matt Kemp that everyone loves, and his role in the Dodgers’ 6-1 victory Monday over San Francisco was the latest example.

You’ve heard of the eye in the middle of the hurricane? Matt Kemp is the hurricane that surrounds the eye.

Kemp, who went 1 for 2 with two walks, is boasting a .537 on-base percentage and .647 slugging percentage, not to mention a 1.000 stealing percentage on seven tries.

The stolen base was remarkable because the Giants did so much right and so little wrong. San Francisco pitcher Madison Bumgarner threw to first base as Kemp broke for second. First baseman Brandon Belt immediately turned and threw down to short. Miguel Tejada got the ball and put down the tag. And Kemp was just plain ol’ safe.

So Kemp is back to outrunning his occasional mistake rather than eliminating them entirely, but I think we’ll take that trade, especially with the way he looks at the plate. His seventh-inning strikeout was only his fourth in 41 plate appearances this season.

Kemp and Clayton Kershaw fought for the spotlight on Opening Day: Kershaw shone brightest then, and he just as easily could have tonight. He wasn’t untouchable, allowing six hits and two walks in 6 2/3 innings, but he always had the right pitch when he needed it. Only one San Francisco baserunner made it past second base – Aubrey Huff with two out in the bottom of the fourth inning – at which point Kershaw annihilated Belt with three fastballs for strikes, the last two swinging.

Kershaw, whose seven strikeouts gave him 24 in 19 2/3 innings this season, faced 11 batters with runners on base tonight. Three of them hit the ball out of the infield: two singles, one flyout. He lowered his 2011 ERA to 1.37 and has now pitched 23 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings against the Giants. (His 117 pitches tonight were one shy of his career high.)

A third hero tonight was second baseman Jamey Carroll, who figures to play more shortstop soon with Rafael Furcal injuring his thumb while stealing third base in the Dodgers’ four-run fifth inning and leaving the game an inning later. Carroll went 3 for 5, raising his on-base percentage for the season to .452. Andre Ethier’s two hits put him at .442, while Rod Barajas hit what at the start of the fifth inning seemed a huge home run, giving the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.

And the slumping Uribe even contributed, going 1 for 4 but also making two nice defensive plays to support Dodger reliever Matt Guerrier in the eighth inning. Mike MacDougal gave up a homer to Burrell in the ninth – Burrell’s third blast in five games against the Dodgers this year.

Colorado rallied for a 7-6 victory against the Mets, so the Dodgers remain in second place, 1 1/2 games back.

* * *

One might say it’s a bit nervy, but then again, what hasn’t been nervy in the McCourt divorce saga? The law firm that drafted the disputed agreement at the center of the court battle between Frank and Jamie McCourt is suing Frank, “asking a Massachusetts court to declare that the firm met its obligations and caused him no loss when it drafted a marital property agreement with his ex-wife.”

As Josh Fisher of Dodger Divorce and Bill Shaikin of the Times note, there’s more to it than that. Shaikin:

… Bingham McCutchen, the Boston-based firm responsible for the since-invalidated agreement that would have granted McCourt sole ownership of the Dodgers, essentially asked a Massachusetts court to deprive McCourt of the chance to sue the firm for malpractice should he lose control of the team.

“Any injury, loss or expense he has sustained or will sustain were caused not by Bingham’s conduct, but by his own widely publicized financial problems, huge withdrawals of cash from the Dodgers, and strained relations with Major League Baseball,” the suit alleges. “None of this is attributable to Bingham’s work.”

The suit also claims McCourt owes Bingham “hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid legal fees.” …

… In a statement, McCourt spokesman Steve Sugerman blamed Bingham for preparing an agreement that did not stand up in court.

“Mr. McCourt is disappointed that the Bingham firm is unwilling to accept responsibility for its actions and is instead now trying to defend conduct that is indefensible,” the statement read. …

Apr 10

Ely can’t get one last strike, Dodgers can’t avoid blowout

Lenny Ignelzi/APJamey Carroll caught Rod Barajas’ throw on the short-hop and made a tremendous tag of Will Venable trying to steal in the second inning.

John Ely had thrown 5 2/3 innings and allowed two runs. He had struck out his last two batters, giving him five on the day. He had a three-ball, two-strike count on Padres left fielder Ryan Ludwick.

Ludwick fouled off three more pitches. An out on any one of those, and Ely can walk tall off the mound.

The next two pitches: ball four, home run.

Nick Hundley’s shot to center with Ludwick aboard gave the Padres a 4-1 lead, on their way to a 7-2 victory over the Dodgers.

Ely’s line ends up looking ugly: four runs and nine baserunners in 5 2/3 innings, but he really did mostly pitch a good game.

With all that in mind, Padres starter Aaron Harang nearly handed the Dodgers the lead in the sixth and seventh innings. He walked Ely and gave up a single to Tony Gwynn Jr. to start the sixth, but Ely got picked off second base during a missed bunt attempt by Aaron Miles.

Then in the seventh, Harang had a play to throw out Matt Kemp at third on a comebacker by James Loney, but threw the ball away, allowing Kemp to score. However, after reliever Luke Gregeron hit Juan Uribe with a pitch, Rod Barajas grounded into a double play.

Harang ended up allowing one earned run over six innings. Dodger relievers Kenley Jansen and Lance Cormier combined to give up three runs in the final two innings.

The Dodger offense consisted only of Gwynn (1 for 3 with a walk and stolen base), Kemp (2 for 4 with a steal) and Ethier (1 for 4). The remaining position players went 0 for 16. The team’s only earned run came on a first-inning walk to Gwynn, a steal, a sacrifice and a groundout.

This season, Uribe has a .172 on-base percentage, and nearly half of that has come from being hit by pitches. He has two HBPs, two singles, a double and no walks in 29 plate appearances.

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In his rehabilitation start, Jon Garland went 4 2/3 innings for Rancho Cucamonga, allowing four runs on six hits and no walks while striking out three.

Apr 09

Kuroda glides as Dodgers win nightcap

Lenny Ignelzi/APAn elbow salute to Andre Ethier’s first homer of the year.

The smoothest Dodger victory of the season, 4-0 over the Padres, had a rough-and-tumble ending.

On a night that the Dodgers were concerned enough about their bullpen to hold Chad Billingsley in reserve, Hiroki Kuroda, a good man and true, took a one-hitter into the seventh inning (last year, you’ll recall, he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Phillies) and came within one out of a shutout. He threw 117 pitches, the most by a National League pitcher in this young season.

Kuroda gave up his fifth and sixth hits with two out in the ninth, and Jonathan Broxton came in to try to save his second game of the day and fifth of five Dodger victories this season. Broxton had Chris Denorfia down 1-2 in the count before walking him, bringing up the tying run in Cameron Maybin.

Maybin hit a slow roller inside of third base. As he went for the ball, Casey Blake and Chase Headley collided, sending both players tumbling. Umpire Ed Hickox called interference, and just like that, the game was over. Blake would have had a tough play to get Maybin at first base.

Tonight’s twin victories didn’t do all that much to alleviate concerns about the Dodger offense, but they have done wonders for some Dodger batting averages and on-base percentages. Check out these numbers from tonight’s starting lineup:

.484/.568 Matt Kemp
.400/.478 Jamey Carroll
.357/.500 Casey Blake
.353/.436 Andre Ethier
.353/.353 Tony Gwynn Jr.
.250/.500 A.J. Ellis
.147/.189 James Loney
.107/.138 Juan Uribe
.143/.143 Hiroki Kuroda

Like I said – some.

Kemp, Carroll and Ethier (who hit his first home run of 2011) each had three hits; Gwynn added two. Kemp and Gwynn also combined to steal five bases, and Kemp had an outfield assist. Kuroda, who started last season 0 for 45, got his first hit of this season in his second game.

Loney did walk twice, and he continues to shine on defense. Uribe, meanwhile, is off to a 3 for 28 start with no walks.

Apr 09

Tony Gwynn Jr. lifts Dodgers to opening victory in San Diego

Tony Gwynn Jr. didn’t make his first appearance as a Dodger in the city that made his dad famous until the bottom of the ninth, but he was central to the Dodgers’ 11-inning 4-2 victory, completed almost exactly 24 hours after the first pitch.

After singling but being stranded in the 10th inning, Gwynn had the game-winning RBI on a single with two out in the top of the 11th, driving in Juan Uribe.

The Dodgers added an insurance run, and then Jonathan Broxton used a double-play grounder to help him get through a one-hit, one-walk save.

Blake Hawksworth retired six of seven batters he faced in the ninth and 10th innings to get the win.

Los Angeles triumphed despite San Diego stealing six bases in six tries.

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Rafael Furcal is nursing a sore wrist, writes Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. He’s expected to play Sunday, but Furcal injuries bring out the cynic in me.