Jun 21

Kemp has 20-20 vision, Kuo looks perfect in Dodgers’ third-straight win

Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireIn his first at-bat since returning to Los Angeles, A.J. Ellis drives in the Dodgers’ first run.

The third feel-good three-game winning streak for the Dodgers is here, with these highlights coming from a 6-1 victory over Detroit:

  • Hong-Chih Kuo returning to action for the first time since May 9 and throwing a nine-pitch perfect inning.
  • Matt Kemp stealing two bases to reach 20 homers and 20 steals in his 75th game this season.
  • A Dodger offense that gave Detroit starter Max Scherzer fits, with six runs on 11 baserunners in six innings.
  • A.J. Ellis reaching base twice in his first start since April, raising his season on-base percentage to .435.
  • Two times on base each as well for James Loney, Aaron Miles, Juan Uribe and Tony Gwynn Jr.
  • Andre Ethier hitting his seventh home run of the year, on a 3-0 pitch.
  • Back-to-back RBI doubles by Trent Oeltjen and Dee Gordon.
  • Chad Billingsley allowing one run in his first five innings, before running into trouble in the sixth.
  • Mike MacDougal overcoming us cynics by inducing a double play with the bases loaded in relief of Billingsley.
  • The Dodgers’ ERA this week: 0.33 so far, with one run, 12 hits and six walks against 28 strikeouts in 27 innings.
  • For the second night in a row, a Dodger pitcher (Blake Hawksworth) struck out the side in the ninth.
  • Up in San Francisco, the Giants giving up eight runs before getting their second out of the game in a 9-2 loss to Minnesota.

The Dodgers will go for their first three-game sweep of a series and four-game winning streak of the season Wednesday afternoon.

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 19

Lose on Sunday? Never

Alex Gallardo/APWinning streak: Javy Guerra celebrates the Dodgers fourth consecutive Sunday win.

Hiroki Kuroda – seven shutout innings, lowering his ERA to a team-best 3.07. Yep.

Dioner Navarro, game-winning homer in the bottom of the eighth inning … huh?

Some might not call it a rout, but all I know is the Dodgers scored infinitely more runs than Houston today. How much more one-sided can things get?

If you can believe it, the Dodgers have gained 1 1/2 games on first-place San Francisco in the National League West standings in the past four days. Strange journey.

Jun 18

Rubby deserved better, but don’t we all

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireRod Barajas had a rough night.

Rubby De La Rosa cruised through the first four innings on 45 pitches, then threw 40 pitches in the fifth inning and still didn’t make it out (though he came within one pitch). The defense behind him didn’t help De La Rosa, who was ultimately charged with five runs in a 7-0 Dodger loss to Houston that also included a sprained ankle for Rod Barajas. So maybe A.J. Ellis will soon join the party, if you can call it that.

According to the Fox broadcast, tonight marked the first home shutout in nine innings for the Dodgers with at least 10 hits in 40 years. The Dodgers have averaged 2.2 runs while allowing 6.0 during their 0-5 homestand.

Jun 18

A low down dirty shame

One thing I noticed about the sixth-inning-gone-wrong in the Dodgers’ 7-3 loss to Houston on Friday was how the hitters who did the most damage to Ted Lilly were diving for pitches.

Carlos Lee went down and away to loop a 200-foot single to drive in the run that broke a 1-1 tie. The first-pitch breaking ball was not in the strike zone. Then, with the bases loaded, Clint Barmes hit a 1-0 slider over the plate but down at his knees, slicing a two-run double just inside the right-field line about 250 feet down.

The topper came on a two out, 3-2 fastball to Jason Bourgeois – first seen here in my 2002 article on Single-A ball in Savannah, right around the time I started Dodger Thoughts – that was over the center of the plate, but all Bourgeois did with that was hit a grounder up the middle that Aaron Miles flagged, only to miss on the throw to second, allowing two runs to score.

In the meantime, Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com can tell you about the Dodgers’ lack-of-patience woes at the plate.

Not the Dodgers’ night, or their week, or their month, or their year.

* * *

Kenley Jansen, one of three injured Dodger relievers coming off the disabled list in the short term, returns to the active roster today. The trio of returnees will create some tough cuts in the Dodger bullpen, starting with Josh Lindblom, who is being sent to Double-A for the time being.

Note where Lindblom ranks on the following lists …

Opponents’ OPS in 2011 for recently active Dodger relievers
.624 Josh Lindblom
.629 Matt Guerrier
.637 Blake Hawksworth
.686 Scott Elbert
.749 Mike MacDougal
.777 Javy Guerra
.996 Ramon Troncoso

Opponents’ OPS in past 28 days for recently active Dodger relievers
.588 Blake Hawksworth
.624 Josh Lindblom
.686 Matt Guerrier
.840 Scott Elbert
.851 Mike MacDougal
.863 Ramon Troncoso
.868 Javy Guerra

Jun 15

Slumping Billingsley adds to Dodger woes

Mark J. Terrill/APChad Billingsley allowed seven runs on nine hits and four walks in four innings today.

Chad Billingsley through the end of May: 75 1/3 innings, 71 strikeouts, 100 baserunners, 3.46 ERA.

Chad Billingsley in June, including today’s game: 13 2/3 innings, nine strikeouts, 43 baserunners, 11.19 ERA.

Update: Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more on Billingsley, who is frustrating Don Mattingly, in part because Billingsley was even or ahead in counts when he gave up all nine of his hits allowed today.

… “Honestly, it’s still the same stuff,” Mattingly said. “You still see the ball coming out the same way. But you can’t just throw the ball by people, because if you’re going to catch too much of the plate, you’re going to get hit. It’s as simple as that. (The Reds) are too good a team, and really, everybody you face, you have to throw the ball where you want it. If you can’t (do that), you’re going to be in trouble.”

Billingsley was at a loss to explain the way he has pitched of late.

“I definitely didn’t get the job done,” he said. “I was throwing strikes and getting ahead of hitters, but I couldn’t put them away. I’m just not executing pitches in certain situations. It just wasn’t very good today. I just have to come back out and get better, just keep working hard and figure it out.”

Billingsley said there really was no difference in this start and his previous two, one of which he won despite giving up four runs on eight hits over five innings against the Reds in Cincinnati on June 5.

“It’s the same problem,”‘ he said.

Dodgers catcher Rod Barajas said that besides not being able to spot his fastball, Billingsley (5-6) also didn’t have the usual sharpness to his curveball against the Reds, something that only exacerbated his struggle.

“He is one of our horses,” Barajas said. “When he goes out there, we expect him to go seven and give us a chance to win. The last few times out, it just hasn’t been there. It’s frustrating, not only for him but for everybody in this clubhouse. It’s just a matter of getting behind him and encouraging him to get back to where he needs to be.”

Jun 13

Doors open and shut for Dodgers in defeat

Gus Ruelas/APDee Gordon slides home in the bottom of the eighth.

For the first time, I sat in the Dugout Club seats, which offered some interesting sights. I saw Joey Votto tell Steve Schirripa from the on-deck circle how much he liked “The Sopranos.” I held the men’s room door open for Joe Torre, whose arm was in a sling. (I would have asked why, but the extra brain exertion would have affected my door-holding performance.) I saw the special “Dugout Club Insider” magazine, with a story on Chad Billingsley test-driving a Mercedes. I saw tons of food everywhere, for free (notwithstanding the cost of the ticket that my hosts provided).

And I saw Dee Gordon, practically life-size. Oh wait – that was life-size.

Mini-Dee was central to the Dodgers’ game tonight, mostly for good but unfortunately for them, also for bad. He was diving here, throwing guys out there, flying around the bases everywhere, driving in a run with a triple and scoring one on a sacrifice fly that was hit about 27 feet. But almost literally at the moment that I was holding the door for ol’ Joe, Gordon was muffing a ground ball to open the seventh inning. Aaron Miles made another error soon after, and suddenly another door was open – this time for the Reds, who got a three-run home run from Votto off Matt Guerrier on their way to a 6-4 victory.

Gordon’s offensive efforts helped the Dodgers cut a 6-2 deficit down to two runs, in the eighth, and Matt Kemp walked to open the ninth, his third time on base in four trips. But James Loney, who had two hits earlier in the game behind Kemp, struck out, as did pinch-hitter Rod Barajas, as did catcher Dioner Navarro.

The Dodgers, who average 3.93 runs per game, scored exactly four runs for the first time in exactly one month – but lost.

It was a rough way to end what seemed like it might be another Dodger comeback – the team, for all its faults, does have a way of making you hope. But even while they’re losing, Mneep Mneep keeps it entertaining – at least from my vantage point.

* * *

Jun 12

Dodgers, Rockies help fight prostate cancer with power display

The Prostate Cancer Foundation’s Home Run Challenge pledged $15,000 per home run at the Dodgers-Rockies game today.  Well, how does $105,000 grab you?

Seven homers flew out of Coors Field today, including Matt Kemp’s 20th of the season and James Loney’s gamechanging grand slam in the third inning off Ubaldo Jimenez, and by the time it was over, Los Angeles had hung on for a 10-8 victory.

The maligned Loney, Juan Uribe and Rod Barajas and the unmaligned Jamey Carroll each had three hits in support of Rubby De La Rosa, who allowed a tolerable three runs in five innings before leaving with a cramp. Loney snared a hard grounder to end the game with the tying run at the place, allowing Scott Elbert to get his first major-league save.

Kemp homered for the seventh time in nine games; Toronto’s Jose Bautista hit his 21st today to stay one ahead for the major-league lead in 2011.

Jun 10

It just doesn’t Matt-er … it just doesn’t Matt-er

As the ninth inning began, with the Dodgers outscored 6-0 and outhit 17-3, this was going to be my entire game summary.

And then Matt Kemp pinch-hit, worked Matt Belisle for 10 pitches, fouling one off his foot (ugh), and then drove the 11th pitch out of the time zone. Unreal. It went over the left-field seats, into the concourse and, according to Steve Lyons, bounced into a parking lot.  Is that possible?

And then four more Dodgers scored, each of them coming home on a two-strike hit, and the tying run was on base, and the go-ahead run was at the plate, and ….

Ohhhhhh ….

Rockies 6, Dodgers 5, final.

I will add this.  Dee Gordon (2 for 4, .412 batting average, .412 on-base percentage, .412 slugging percentage) not only has speed, he has hops. He leaped dunk-high to spear an eighth-inning live drive with two out, and it actually almost meant something.

Jun 09

Dodgers give one back on Kemp’s glorious night

Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesMatt Kemp watches his fourth-inning home run leave Coors Field.

More than once tonight, Vin Scully wondered why any team would pitch to Matt Kemp. He even wondered it when there were runners on first and second base.

We were wondering the same thing.

While the Dodgers struggle to find a No. 5 hitter who can swing the bat – they had a woeful .278 on-base percentage and .333 slugging percentage in that spot of the batting order entering the game, and slumping Juan Uribe batting there tonight – Kemp has just been unstoppable. Tonight, he homered, tripled in two runs and doubled as the Dodgers took a 7-3 into the seventh inning in Colorado.

But a not-so-funny thing happened as we mused about Kemp’s supremacy: In tit-for-tat fashion, the Dodgers gave back their rousing comeback victory in Cincinnati from five days ago, blowing the four-run lead and losing to the Rockies, 9-7. The defeat sent the Dodgers into last place in the National League West.

For his second start in a row, Clayton Kershaw was absolutely cruising through five innings, working on a shutout before getting knocked around in the sixth. And this time, the Dodgers couldn’t pick up the pieces.

It didn’t help that, with one out and one on in the sixth, Rockies infielder Chris Nelson hit a one-hop shot hard off Kershaw’s leg. Kershaw walked the next batter, Todd Nelson, before giving up a bases-loaded double to Troy Tulowitzki and then an RBI groundout to Ty Wigginton.

In the top of the seventh inning, Kershaw singled for the second time in the game, raising his season batting average to .276 as he competes with Chad Billingsley for Silver Slugger honors. (Billingsley is still tops.) Kershaw then scored all the way from first on a SpeeDee Gordonzalez bunt single that was thrown away by Rockies catcher Jose Morales. RBIs by Casey Blake and Andre Ethier (3 for 4) built the Dodger lead back to 7-3.

But Kershaw again couldn’t survive the bottom of the seventh, loading the bases with none out on two hits and a walk, leaving the game with six strikeouts against 10 baserunners – seven of which came in his final inning-plus. And the bullpen, which really has been so good lately (the current group of seven had an ERA of 2.00 in 49 1/3 innings over the past month), collapsed.  Ultimately, it took four pitchers (Kershaw, Scott Elbert, Mike MacDougal, Blake Hawksworth) and 48 pitches for the Dodgers to get three outs, and not before the Rockies scored five runs to go ahead, 8-7.

Elbert let three inherited runners score and was charged with his first two runs of the season. MacDougal was on the mound when Elbert’s runs scored – and as Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles pointed out, the veteran righty has allowed 11 of his past 24 inherited runners to score.

Some wanted to blame Dodger manager Don Mattingly for leaving Kershaw in too long, but even if that’s so, the bullpen should have been able to protect the lead.

Josh Lindblom gave up a single, double and sacrifice fly in the eighth to double the Dodger deficit, though the rookie did well to induce pop outs from Tulowitzki and Wiggington to minimize the damage.

Then came the ninth inning, with Blake, Ethier and Kemp representing the Dodgers’ shot at another comeback. After Tulowitzki made a great play on Blake’s grounder for the first out, Ethier doubled off the wall in right field, meaning that Kemp not only could hit for the cycle with a single, he could tie the game with a homer. And the question came again: Do you pitch to him?

Rockies manager Jim Tracy had Huston Street challenge Kemp, and this time, he struck out.

The final batter of the game was Rod Barajas, who pinch-hit for Uribe because Barajas was 6 for 9 with a double and a home run against Street in his career. But Barajas flied harmlessly to right.

To mask the bitter taste of defeat, Dodger fans were left with only the joy of Kemp, who took over the National League lead in home runs with 18. If that isn’t impressive enough, he has 23 home runs in his past 69 games – exactly one every three games, or for you mathletes out there, a pace for 54 homers per 162 games.

I said this in the Dodger Thoughts comments earlier this week, but I remember how impressed I was when Toronto’s Jose Bautista hit his 20th home run on May 28. At the time, Kemp had 12.  Now, the score is 20-18.

He is flat out on fire, and the only concern here is that he’ll remember how much he enjoys the better hitting environments outside of California when free agency eventually arrives for him. In the meantime, cheering for Kemp remains the consolation prize.

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 07

Be wary, be excited, be both

Howard Smith/US PresswireRubby De La Rosa was oh-so-wild but managed to hold the Phillies to 1-for-8 hitting with runners in scoring position.

Matt Slocum/APDee Gordon forces Chase Utley out at second base.

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com captures the end-of-game reaction to the debuts of Dee Gordon and Rubby De La Rosa, coming at the end of a 6-2 Dodger victory over a surprisingly inept Phillies team.

There were other surprises – the way that Gordon got hits in his first three at-bats, the way that De La Rosa recovered from a nervewracking start that seemed destined to send him or us to an asylum by retiring his final six batters.

But for those who fear change, there was the comforting sight of Matt Kemp knocking a double and then a home run, tying him for the league lead in that category.

One look at Jerry Sands, who went 0 for 4 to fall to 3 for 35 since his May 24 grand slam in Houston, reminds us that growing pains are practically inevitable, no matter how hot your start. But why do we love new, young players so much?  Because who can resist the possibility that the glimpse of greatness we see might grow?

Jun 06

Dodger momentum stalls against Lee, Phillies

Drew Hallowell/Getty ImagesGosh, looks easy enough to hit from here …

Outside of seeing Dee Gordon fly from first base to third as a pinch-runner in the ninth inning tonight, there weren’t a lot of thrills for the Dodgers tonight in Philadelphia.

Los Angeles had nine hits – all singles – but were shut out until the ninth inning of a 3-1 loss to Cliff Lee and the Phillies.

Lee allowed game-opening singles to Jamey Carroll (3 for 4) and Aaron Miles (2 for 4), but as soon as Marcus Thames hit into a double play, Lee had the Dodgers under his thumb. He struck out 10 over seven innings before turning the game to his bullpen with a 2-0 lead, thanks to what otherwise would be a forgivable moment of weakness in the third inning by Ted Lilly (six innings, seven baserunners, four strikeouts).

Mike MacDougal gave up a third run in the bottom of the eighth, making the Dodgers’ attempt at a rally that much more difficult in the ninth. Juan Uribe (2 for 4) and James Loney singled, bringing up pinch-hitter Andre Ethier as the tying run, but Ethier grounded into a force play (scoring Gordon in his first major-league game), and then Rod Barajas and pinch-hitter Dioner Navarro whiffed.

Jun 05

Sluggin’ Billingsley powers Dodgers, 9-6

David Kohl/APAaron Miles congratulates Chad Billingsley on hitting his second home run since Miles last hit one.

Chad Billingsley couldn’t bring it today on the mound, but he sure brought it at the plate.

Billingsley somehow managed to overshadow Matt Kemp’s third home run in two days by going deep himself in the second inning, walking with the bases loaded in the third and doubling in a run in the fifth inning, helping the Dodgers to a 9-6 victory.

Billingsley, who entered the game OPS-ing a career-high .638 (5 for 21 with two doubles), surged to .950, which is second in the major leagues among pitchers to J.A. Happ’s .959. (Today’s double wasn’t cheap, either – it landed on the warning track and one-hopped against the wall.) His efforts, combined with Kemp’s prodigious two-run home run in the first inning and a total of 13 hits and 10 walks from the Dodger offense, boosted the Dodgers to 20 runs over the past two days, 17 of them coming in a eight-inning span.

Kemp was 2 for 3 with three walks, Andre Ethier 2 for 4 with a walk, Jamey Carroll 1 for 4 with two walks, James Loney (batting eighth) 1 for 2 with three walks, Aaron Miles 2 for 6. Rod Barajas added a significant two-run double. Ethier and Kemp (who reached base five times for the third time in his career) each lifted their 2011 on-base percentages back over .400.

Sobering for the Dodgers was this: This wasn’t the first time Billingsley homered and doubled in the same game, and things went more than a little rough when it happened before. On July 5, 2009, Billingsley did the same in San Diego while holding the Padres to one run over the first eight innings, only to have the Dodgers blow a 6-1 in the ninth inning in a game that, following the 2008 playoffs, helped make Jonathan Broxton very unpopular among many Dodger fans. (The Dodgers ultimately won, 7-6.)

So what would happen today? Los Angeles ultimately removed Billingsley after five innings, four runs, 12 baserunners and 106 pitches. John Ely, called up to support the injury-depleted pitching staff, had an opportunity for a four-inning save. He started a little shaky, giving up four baserunners and a run in his first two innings, but had a nice eighth inning in which he retired Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce in order. It was the first time in the game either team had a 1-2-3 inning.

Ely came out for the ninth, but lost his save opportunity when he walked Ryan Hanigan and Don Mattingly replaced him with Josh Lindblom, who started out by walking Miguel “33 homers in 1,359 games” Cairo and, looking really wild, hitting Ramon Hernandez in the shoulder to load the bases. Tying run up at the plate, nobody out.

As Ramon Troncoso began warming up in the bullpen, Paul Janish, who was 3 for 3 at that point, fouled out to Barajas. Pinch-hitter Chris Heisey flied deep to right for a “we’ll take it” sacrifice fly.

Facing Drew Stubbs, who had a chance to follow his leadoff homer in the first inning with a game-tying homer in the ninth, Lindblom fell behind in the count, 2-1. But then it all came together for Lindblom. The next two pitches were nasty fastballs at the knees, and Stubbs whiffed at both … and the Dodgers had held on.

Weird note: The Dodgers average 3.7 runs per game, but haven’t finished a game with exactly four runs since May 13.