Jun 04

Majestic Bison and the Bisonettes rescue Dodgers, 11-8

Al Behrman/APFly away, ball. Fly away.

Al Behrman/APClayton Kershaw struck out nine of the first 15 batters he faced, but then the game got crazy.

Clayton Kershaw worked the Reds over for the first five innings today like Ali worked the ring. The fifth inning in particular was just athletic poetry, Kershaw striking out the side, and I was in thrall.

Leading 1-0, Kershaw had faced the minimum number of batters in taking a one-hitter heading into the sixth inning, and then things just went haywire. Ramon Hernandez singled, and two outs later, Drew Stubbs walked. Brandon Phillips then fisted a 1-1 pitch to right field, just over the head of second baseman Aaron Miles, a them’s-the-breaks hit to tie the game.

And then Joey Votto blasted a three-run home run.

And before he was out of the game in the seventh, Kershaw had given up six runs, and Mike MacDougal had allowed another, and I was bereft.

So of course, you know what happened next. No, not that. No, not that either. No, keep going down the list.

First, Matt Kemp went bananas. Bananas, I say! A solo homer and a grand slam in back-to-back innings to tie the game at 7.

The slam followed an out-of-the-blue rally started with one out in the top of the eighth on a pinch-hit single by Tony Gwynn, Jr., his first hit to the outfield in a full month. Jamey Carroll and Aaron Miles followed with singles to make the score 7-3, and then Andre Ethier (who threw a runner out at home minutes before) drew a walk off Reds lefty reliever Bill Bray. The Bison came up, and on a 1-0 pitch from Logan Ondrusek, who had allowed two homers in 32 innings this season, sent one over the left-center-field fence to tie the game.

The home runs, Kemp’s 14th and 15th of the season, gave him more home runs than steals for the first time this year and put him on a pace for 41 homers and 38 steals this season. According to the Dodgers, he is the team’s first player to hit 15 homers in his first 59 games since Shawn Green in 2001. Green finished that season with a club-record 49.

That put the Dodgers in position for quite an event. According to Fox, the Dodgers’ last win after trailing by 5+ in the eighth inning was May 9, 1994, and Los Angeles has won only three such games since 1958. (Of course, Reds manager Dusty Baker has seen a five-run lead disappear painfully in the past.)

But there was still the matter of pushing across the winning run. Scott Elbert held off the Reds with a 1-2-3 eighth, and Matt Guerrier pitched a shutout ninth. Javy Guerra retired Scott Rolen and Jay Bruce with two on to survive the 10th.

Finally, in the 11th, the Dodgers busted through with Scrub-ball, scoring two runs on singles by … Juan Castro … Gwynn … Carroll (4 for 5) … and Miles (3 for 5, 3 RBI). Reds pitcher Carlos Fisher, the losing pitcher in Cincinnati’s 19-inning epic against the Phillies on May 25, then threw away an Ethier double-play grounder, opening the door for the Dodgers to score two more runs, Kemp getting his sixth RBI of the game on a fielder’s choice.

In only 27 of their previous 58 games had the Dodgers scored more runs than they scored in today’s 11th inning.

Guerra, who last pitched two innings May 4 in Chattanooga, was left to start the bottom of the 11th despite his hard-working 23 pitches in the 10th. (He actually walked in his first major-league plate appearance.) He gave up a leadoff single to Ryan Hanigan and one out later was replaced by Ramon Troncoso. A groundout by Paul Janish drove in a run charged to Guerra (his first since May 22), but the Dodgers were one out away.

Then, Chris Heisey singled. Then, Stubbs singled. That meant that the Reds would in fact get the tying run to the plate in Phillips, with Votto on deck and Rolen in the hole.

Strike. Ball. Strike. Ball.

Just as he did to drive in the first run against Kershaw hours before, Phillips went to right field. It looked very much like a potential hit off his bat. But this one went a little deeper, and Ethier was able to come in and catch it.

Dodgers 11, Reds 8. Wow, and whew.

Jun 03

‘You Can Look But You Better Not Touch: The Rafael Furcal Story’

In his 10th game since returning from the disabled list and 17th game of the season, Rafael Furcal went kablooey again, leaving tonight’s 2-1 Dodger loss to Cincinnati in the top of the third inning with an injury to his left side. He is day-to-day, although keep in mind that Furcal’s body measures days based on Mercury time.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers’ offensive surge of earlier this week proved itself to be the fluke we all assumed it would be. Los Angeles has scored one run in its past 21 innings, despite playing today’s nine in one of the healthier hitting environments in the National League. Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp had six of the Dodgers nine times on base, with Kemp erasing one of his successes by being doubled off second after Ethier scored the team’s only run via James Loney’s sacrifice fly.

Hiroki Kuroda pitched six innings, several of them rough ones, but escaped unscathed (thanks in part to Jay Bruce being thrown out on the bases in the second inning – the play that might have caused Furcal’s injury) until the bottom of the fifth, when Scott Rolen drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single. The Dodger bullpen pitched two shutout innings, highlighted by Scott Elbert relieving Mike MacDougal with a runner on second and one out in the seventh and retiring Joey Votto and Bruce. But pinch-hitter Rod Barajas flied out with Kemp and Ethier on base to end the Dodgers’ last threat in the eighth.

The Dodgers put the ball in play tonight, striking out only four times in 31 at-bats, but they just could not make anything happen outside of the trainer’s room. Aaron Miles, slated to be the 25th man on the roster, remains on pace to combine with backup infielder Jamey Carroll for 1,000 plate appearances this year.

Jun 01

Despite loss, kids continue to carry Dodger bullpen

Icon SMI/US PresswireRubby De La Rosa and Scott Elbert brought relief from the minors.

The kids have come to the rescue of the Dodger bullpen, and not nearly enough has been said about it.

Jonathan Broxton went on the disabled list May 6, followed within 10 days by Hong-Chih Kuo, Vicente Padilla and Blake Hawksworth. To replace them, the Dodgers brought up Kenley Jansen (who had temporarily gone down to Chattanooga), Scott Elbert, Javy Guerra and Ramon Troncoso.

Another week later, the Dodgers dispatched mop-up man Lance Cormier and replaced him with Rubby De La Rosa. Then in the past week, Jansen went on the disabled list and was replaced by Josh Lindblom, who made his major-league debut with an inning in the finale of the Colorado series Wednesday.

Of the replacements, Troncoso was the veteran with all of 177 1/3 career innings. The combined career experience of Jansen, Elbert, Guerra, De La Rosa and Lindblom was 39 2/3 innings. Their average age: 23 1/2. Think about it – more than half of the bullpen handed over to runts.

Here’s how they’ve done, including the 3-0 Dodger loss to Colorado, in which the bullpen followed Jon Garland’s six-inning, three-run start with shutout ball:

  • Jansen: 7 2/3 innings, 13 baserunners, four earned runs (4.69 ERA), 13 strikeouts, 0 of 5 inherited runners scored
  • Troncoso: six innings, six baserunners, no earned runs (0.00 ERA), two strikeouts, 2 of 5 inherited runners scored
  • Guerra: seven innings, nine baserunners, two earned runs (2.57 ERA), five strikeouts, 0 of 0 inherited runners scored
  • De La Rosa: five innings, four baserunners, one earned run (1.80 ERA), five strikeouts, 0 of 0 inherited runners scored
  • Elbert: 4 2/3 innings, six baserunners, no earned runs (0.00 ERA), seven strikeouts, 1 of 6 inherited runners scored
  • Lindblom: one inning, two baserunners, no earned runs (0.00 ERA), no strikeouts, 0 of 0 inherited runners scored

Total: 31 1/3 innings, 40 baserunners, seven earned runs, 32 strikeouts, 2.01 ERA, 3 of 16 inherited runners scored

That’s remarkable, especially considering we can assume that we can possibly attribute three of the seven runs allowed to the shoulder inflammation that sent Jansen to the disabled list.

The news that Padilla is expected to return to active duty Friday will, barring injury, start pushing the runts back to the minor leagues, but each has made the case to stay with the big club. Considered a weakness less than a month ago, the Dodger bullpen will in less than 48 hours have eight effective relievers to choose from, with more to come as Broxton, Kuo, Hawksworth and Jansen get back on their feet.

The other noteworthy thing is that with all the injuries, Dodger manager Don Mattingly has basically been forced to throw the idea of a designated closer out the window, instead bringing in pitchers simply based on the situation rather than their title or status. Unshackled from a pecking order, the Dodger kids haven’t suffered – they’ve thrived. Jansen, Guerra and De La Rosa have all finished close games, while Elbert and now even Lindblom have pitched in situations where giving up a single run could be a killer. De La Rosa, whose destiny remains starting pitcher, could be a circa-1992 Pedro Martinez-like smokejumper, giving you a couple innings at a time as long as there’s sufficient rest in between.

Message to Mattingly: Do yourself a favor. As the veterans return to the pen, don’t get caught up in who your closer is. Just keep doing what you’re doing. Manage according to the situation, not according to resume.

May 31

Darkness and light

In the middle of Memorial Day, my wife and I punished my two oldest children. We love them more than life itself and have the highest hopes for them, but of course that doesn’t eliminate the paths to frustration with them.

In particular, they have developed some sort of simultaneous mental block to saying hello to people they know. They resist a friendly greeting like some sort of evil bacteria. I understand shyness – I was the shyest one in my family as a kid and it still crops up from time to time today. But these kids got to the point Monday where their grandparents, who have been very good to them, said hello and the kids didn’t so much as look up. It wasn’t shy – it was dismissive.

That ain’t right. It’s damn vexing, and it only seems to be getting worse. To be sure, my wife and I are wondering what we’ve done wrong to cause this and what we should or shouldn’t do to solve it. But in the meantime, taking away some of the kids’ Nintendo DS privileges seemed a logical stopover en route to the next parenting solution station.

Over the next couple of hours, the kids hardly snapped out of their funk.

At the end of the afternoon, we went to see my 101-year-old grandmother, who is deteriorating rapidly now in a manner that is difficult to take, especially for my father. It was not an easy place for any of us, including single-digit age children who, for the first time in their lives, are face to face with someone whose mind and body are failing.

But when we had all but given up hope on the kids salvaging the day, they came alive. They were not only friendly, but they went and put their piano lessons to tremendous use, playing an impromptu mini-concert for Grandma Sue and a few others at the assisted living home, something so wonderful that thinking about it now does something to my head that I can’t find the words to describe. They did something for this woman, who whom they essentially can no longer communicate with through words because of her hearing and speech decline, that I could never do.

I hope I’ll never forget that moment. I know I won’t forget, at least until my mind goes, the look on my grandmother’s face as we were leaving, a look of direct melancholy but also of one that had been engaged in the world at least one more time.

Anyway, I started writing this tonight after the Dodgers took a 5-1 lead against Colorado and reached this final paragraph with the scorer 8-2, on the way to what hopefully for them and their fans will be their third straight authoritative victory, with the plan of drawing a connection of how quickly simmering frustration can turn to elation. That seems a bit forced now that I’ve gotten to this point, so all I’ll say now is that I’ll never cease to be surprised by how often I can be surprised, much less blown away.

May 30

Good times find Dodgers, 7-1

Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesMatt Kemp’s throw to Rod Barajas nailed Carlos Gonzalez at home in the first inning.

The Dodgers were up by six when it happened, so it wasn’t the biggest moment in the game (see above for the answer). But …

Chad Billingsley had already thrown 99 pitches and scattered a career-high 11 hits, including allowing the leadoff man for Colorado to reach base in six consecutive innings, when he followed a visit to the mound from pitching coach Rick Honeycutt by walking Carlos Gonzalez to load the bases with one out in the top of the seventh. I’m one of Billingsley’s biggest fans, but with Troy Tulowitzki coming to bat, I was almost sure it was time to go to a Dodger bullpen that was rested from Clayton Kershaw’s complete game Sunday. Despite the loss of five relievers to the disabled list and a sixth to the restricted list, it seemed obvious that Don Mattingly should go for a fresh arm to protect the 7-1 lead and protect Billingsley’s eight-strikeout outing.

Billingsley stayed in, and four pitches later, Tulowitzki grounded into an easy Rafael Furcal-to-James Loney double play. I love when feeling wrong feels so right.

And despite my misgivings about this team – and keep in mind, even with this 7-1 Dodgers victory tonight, Los Angeles is only 8-10 since I voiced my big fear that this is the worst Dodger team since 1992 – this whiff of hope that has come from the past two games is a tasty amuse bouche of crow.

If nothing else, thank goodness for the respite from negativity that the last two games have provided. A day after Kershaw’s two-hit shutout, the Dodgers gave up 14 knocks – and still allowed only one run. Los Angeles went 4 for 4 with runners in scoring position; Colorado went 1 for 12. Rafael Furcal has entered the Rafael Furcal Zone, going 2 for 4 to reach 7 for 13 over his past three games. Andre Ethier is 9 for 15 with five walks (that’s a .700 on-base percentage, friends) since he banged into the wall in Chicago and got four days of rest from regular play.

And are you ready for a hot, or semi-hot, James Loney? Two homers in his past four games, including a two-run shot tonight, and 26 for 84 with seven walks and only four strikeouts since May 3 – a .370 on-base percentage and .440 slugging percentage. It’s not Gil Hodges, but a .810 OPS for this offense will cure some amount of ills.

Those who wanted to start the rebuild on Juneday, the National League West and the Dodgers’ recent show of extreme competence have conspired against them. Say hi to the hottest 25-30 team in baseball.

* * *

  • Tommy Lasorda, 83, is resting at home in recovery from a bacterial infection that sent him to the hospital for four days last week.
  • There was a second, smaller fire this morning in the same spot of Dodger Stadium as the bigger fire during Saturday’s game.
May 29

Whooosh – there it is: Kershaw, Dodgers blow out Marlins

Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesClayton Kershaw

So that’s what a breeze feels like.

Sailing into a storm most of the season, the Dodgers enjoyed a day with the wind entirely at their backs, with Clayton Kershaw in near no-hit form and the offense practically an arcade, leading to an 8-0 breeze over the Marlins.

The Dodgers took two of three from Florida for their first series victory since April 22-24 in Chicago. If you’re any kind of believer – and praise be onto you if you are – this is where it starts, all the ifs and buts transforming into actual results.

Whether they can extend this one-game winning streak, matching their longest since May 13 (yes, that’s right), is of course up in the air, but if in fact it’s a blip on the losing radar, it was a blip to be savored.

Kershaw’s marquee game in my mind remains his showdown victory over Ubaldo Jimenez of Colorado 12 1/2 months ago, but as Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness points out, today was Kershaw’s finest statistical outing ever – a Kershawnal Best, if you will – allowing two hits and one walk while striking out 10 in his second career shutout. The second hit off Kershaw was a ball that Jay Gibbons lost in a battle with the sun and an unusually ferocious wind, which would have been exceedingly painful for fans had Omar Infante not singled softly to left in the third inning.

In any case, Kershaw, who lowered his ERA to 2.62 and now leads the major leagues with 87 strikeouts, was in complete control.

“He was hitting both sides of the plate and throwing inside on lefties, which you don’t see that much from a lefty,” Florida’s Wes Helms told The Associated Press. “Kershaw just commanded all of his pitches today, and he had above-average stuff. He knows how to bury his curveball and his slider. He’s not going to leave it over the middle of the plate. I mean, you get geared up for that heater, and his slider’s hard enough that you can’t hold up when it’s in the dirt.”

It was a Hershiseresque day all around for Kershaw, who had as many hits at the plate as he allowed. The 23-year-old, who was 10 for 132 entering this season, is 6 for 25 in 2011. His two hits were only 13 percent of the Dodgers’ 15 off Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco, who was forced to stick it out for five innings after Florida blew out its bullpen Saturday. The total tied a Los Angeles record for the most off a single starting pitcher (Mario Soto of Cincinnati was the last victim, in 1982).

Gibbons, Andre Ethier and Rafael Furcal each had three, including Furcal’s first homer of the year, a two-run shot to the right-field bullpen that gave the Dodgers their initial lead after Kershaw led off the bottom of the third with a single. Ethier reached base in all five plate appearances, while Dioner Navarro went 2 for 4 to complete a 7-for-18 week.

Dodger life is good today, for the second time in three days.

* * *

  • Bob Timmermann has a great essay at L.A. Observed’s Native Intelligence about a simpler time, a simpler time when all we had to do was be mad at Tom Niedenfuer and Jack Clark.
  • Zach Lee gave up six runs in one-third of an inning of his return to active duty with Great Lakes today. He allowed three hits, two walks and two hit batters, writes Hugh Bernreuter of the Saginaw News, who also had a nice piece on Ramon Martinez earlier this week.
  • Josh Lindblom officially arrived today, with Kenley Jansen going on the 15-day disabled list and Travis Schlichting being designated for assignment. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details. That makes five top relievers on the Dodger disabled list: Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Vicente Padilla, Blake Hawksworth and Jansen.
  • Gary Carter’s diagnosis is grim, but no one is giving up, writes Ian Begley for ESPNNewYork.com.
  • Stadium Journey reviews the Chattanooga Lookouts ballpark.
May 28

Smoke ’em if you got ’em

Mark J. Terrill/APRejected “Lost” scripts: Smoke-monster attacks Chavez Ravine.

We should all be relieved that no one appears to have been harmed by the storage-area fire in the vicinity of the Dodger Stadium right field reserved level, but all the jokes people were able to make – “Something’s on fire, but it isn’t Dodger bats,” “McCourt’s burning the place down for the insurance money,” “Sure won’t be a problem finding empty seats for the fans to move to” – just tended to depress me. There’s too much to make fun of. The feckless 6-1 loss to the Marlins didn’t help.

May 28

Spirits in the night: Dodgers 3, Marlins 2

Mark J. Terrill/APDioner Navarro doesn’t mind this collision at home.

At the end, it was less a victory than an exorcism.

The anti-homer curse against James Loney – gone. Andre Ethier’s near-month-long power outage – gone.

And the electrified way the Dodgers poured out of the dugout after Dioner Navarro’s game-winning pinch-hit single in the bottom of the ninth gave them a 3-2 victory over Florida, the way Matt Kemp came over not just to praise Navarro but to bury him in his arms as well, showed a group of players keen and desperate to get about a thousand monkeys off their backs.

The easy argument is that the Dodgers have stopped caring, in the wake of their obvious flaws, ceaseless injuries and exhausting off-the-field drama. None of those issues have gone away, but if they didn’t care about winning, they wouldn’t have been so over the moon about a victory that only raised their record to 23-29.

They have been fighting – other teams as well as themselves. There were the two rallies against San Francisco last week, followed by the shocking, Russ Mitchell-led comeback against the White Sox. They were one strike away from victory against Houston on Monday, then lost in the bottom of the ninth, then did so again Wednesday.

They haven’t won a game by more than two runs since May 17. They haven’t won a game by more than three runs since May 10. They’ve still only won nine games in a month that has been uphill since it started with a 7-0 loss to San Diego.

They can’t even claim the most exhilarating win in the National League West on Friday – finishing third behind Arizona rallying from a 6-0 deficit against the Astros and the Giants riding a grand slam from a player in his first major-league game to a comeback victory over Milwaukee.

They just suit up with the understanding that every game counts.

When Ethier’s pinch-hit single gave the Dodgers a short-lived lead in Houston on Monday, Clayton Kershaw roared in elation. When Ethier hit his home run in the sixth inning, Aaron Miles lifted Jamey Carroll so high, he nearly threw him over the dugout. When Navarro delivered what was only the seventh hit all year by the Dodgers with the bases loaded, you’d have thought they’d broken the bank in Vegas.

They care as much as you do, if not more. This is a team dying to make something happen, if only it can.

May 25

Dodgers score one, allow two – that’s bad, isn’t it?

David J. Phillip/APDioner Navarro dove just in time to tag J.R. Towles and rescue a later defeat from the jaws of an earlier defeat.

There were some bright spots today. And most days this year with the Dodgers, isn’t that all we can look for?

Matt Kemp singled, doubled and homered. Dioner Navarro went 2 for 4 and made a run-saving tag at the plate on a potential wild pitch. Javy Guerra came right back from his Tuesday save with a shutout inning.

But even though the sun occasionally peeks through, just for a moment here and there, the fog won’t lift on this Dodger team, which fell to 22-29 with a 2-1 loss in the bottom of the ninth.

J.R. Towles, who had the game-winning hit and went 3 for 4, had been in an 0-for-32 slump entering the game.

Get slapped in the face enough times, it can even make you laugh …

May 24

Rookies shine in Dodgers’ 5-4 victory

Brett Davis/US PresswireWith the third inning extended by a Houston error, Jerry Sands hit a no-doubter blast to center field for his first career grand slam. Rubby De La Rosa struck out two of three batters in a perfect eighth-inning major league debut, and fellow rookie Javy Guerra weathered a long foul ball by Bill Hall to close in the ninth for his first career save and a 5-4 Dodger victory.
May 23

Your seat cushion may be used as a floatation device …

David J. Phillip/APRuss Mitchell scores in the seventh to give the Dodgers the lead … not for good.

I imagine a lot of Dodger hearts sank when, with the score 1-1 against Houston and two out in the top of the seventh inning, the Astros intentionally doubled Dioner Navarro and then intentionally walked Russ Mitchell.

Well, maybe the ground-rule double allowed to Navarro (his fourth hit of the season) wasn’t intentional, but it certainly could have been part of a clever gambit, because after the two baserunners reached, Dodger manager Don Mattingly was compelled to pinch-hit for Clayton Kershaw after the lovely lefty had thrown only 84 pitches.

Instead of Juan Castro coming off the bench, however, it was Andre Ethier, held in reserve to rest him from his Sunday injuries. And all those beaten down by this 2011 Dodger team were pleasantly surprised for the second time in four games, as Ethier singled up the middle to drive in the go-ahead run – with an error by center fielder Michael Bourn allowing an insurance run to score – as the Dodgers held on for …

Oh, wait.

The front of the Dodger bullpen has actually been reasonably effective this month, but the bad times returned tonight. Kenley Jansen gave up three runs in the bottom of the ninth – all three coming across the plate with two out – and the Dodgers lost, 4-3.

Jansen struck out two of the first three batters, but then troubles and his pitch count mounted. Bourn doubled in the tying runs on a 3-2 pitch, and then after a hit batter, Hunter Pence singled in the game-winner on Jansen’s 38th pitch of the inning.

And the descent continued …

Kershaw allowed six baserunners and struck out seven, his ERA dropping to 2.96 thanks to his allowing only the single run, on a leadoff double by Bill Hall in the fourth inning (that a better outfielder than Jay Gibbons would have caught) and an RBI single by Humberto Quintero. Though he did face a couple of two-on situations, no other baserunner passed second base against Kershaw.

Mike MacDougal and Matt Guerrier each pitched a shutout inning of relief before Jansen entered the game, though Guerrier himself put two baserunners on before getting out of his jam.

Matt Kemp’s fourth homer in the past seven games, leading off the second inning, gave him 100 for his career. Kemp also stole second base, giving him 13 steals to go with his 11 home runs this season.

Jerry Sands walked three times – a lone strikeout interrupting what otherwise would be 10 straight times on base. Sands, who was already tied for the team lead in doubles, has now tied Jamey Carroll for third place on the squad in walks with 15, despite having barely half as many plate appearances. Sands has drawn a walk every 6.9 plate appearances, the best rate on the team for anyone with more than 75 plate appearances this season. You take what you can get …

May 21

Dodgers lose some, lose some

To get the formalities out of the way, Jon Garland got pounded for 11 hits in 3 2/3 innings of a 9-2 Dodger loss to the White Sox, a game that found Garland and catcher Rod Barajas not on the same page, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. The bright side of the game was the first major-league home run for Jerry Sands.

And now, to the speculation: The Dodgers might get Rafael Furcal back as soon as Sunday, but it doesn’t appear that the team has ruled out placing Juan Uribe or Aaron Miles on the disabled list, if not both. If both of them go, that could mean Juan Castro and Russ Mitchell sharing time at third base until Casey Blake is ready to return.

May 20

Dodgers keep knocking, White Sox let them in

Jerry Lai/US PresswireRuss Mitchell

Banging against the door.

White Sox 3, Dodgers 2. None out, top of the eighth, bases loaded.

Banging against the door, like they were down 5-2 in the eighth Wednesday.

Banging against the door, like they were down 3-1 in the ninth Thursday.

Banging against the door, and no one will let them in.

Wednesday, tie the game then lose.

Thursday, hit a line drive with the bases loaded and lose.

Tonight, strand the bases loaded and …win?

Lose another starter, Juan Uribe, to injury and … win?

Two out, bottom of the ninth, bases empty and …  win?

Russ Mitchell, 1 for 14 on the season, 7 for 56 in his career and … win?

Sergio Santos, 20 2/3 innings pitched on the season, 0.00 ERA and … win?

Bang that door down.

Mitchell, whose seven career hits included two home runs, drove a 2-1 fastball just inside the left-field foul pole to tie the game at 3.

Then in the 10th, after Jamey Carroll’s fourth hit of the game and Matt Kemp’s second, Juan Castro, who had wasted bases-loaded opportunities in his two previous at-bats this week, looped one over a leaping Paul Konerko for a 150-foot single, driving in Carroll. James Loney, who had been 0 for 4, doubled to right for a 5-3 lead. Then, after an intentional walk to Dioner Navarro (you got me), Jay Gibbons singled home the third run of the extra inning.

Was that enough? It would have to be, after Mitchell grounded into a double play. It would have to be, even as Matt Guerrier gave up leadoff singles to 77-year-old Omar Juan Vizquel Pierre.

Mitchell’s heroics weren’t done, as it turned out. The third baseman dove to his left to corral Alexei Ramirez’s grounder for the first out of the inning.

Then Don Mattingly started playing percentages. He brought in Scott Elbert – who head-butted all kinds of doors last year – to retire Adam Dunn on a groundout to Loney for a meaningless RBI. And then Mattingly brought in Mike MacDougal, who faced Konerko.

Konerko hit it to Castro, who bobbled it but had plenty of time to pick it up and throw the final batter out.

And so finally, the script had changed.  A first-inning home run by Kemp wouldn’t go to waste. A three-run second inning off Ted Lilly wouldn’t spell doom. The sight of Jerry Sands in center field next to Jay Gibbons in left in the late-night fog wouldn’t lead to a comedy of errors. A final-inning rally would actually succeed.

On to the next door …

* * *

To recap the last five Dodger victories:

May 20: Dodgers 6, White Sox 4 (10) – Juan Uribe left hip flexor
May 17 – Dodgers 3, Brewers 0 – Vicente Padilla unavailable
May 13 – Dodgers 4, Diamondbacks 3 – Zach Lee MRI revealed
May 11 – Dodgers 2, Pirates 0 – Hong-Chih Kuo to the disabled list
May 10 – Dodgers 10, Pirates 3 – Blake Hawksworth hurts groin

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has a length update on all the injured Dodgers.

May 17

Hiroki Kuroda’s Master Class

Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireHiroki Kuroda has allowed two earned runs or fewer in six of nine starts this season.

It’s hard to feel too low when you’ve got Hiroki Kuroda on your side. Lovely and amazing.

The 36-year-old turned in his second straight outing of shutout ball, going 7 2/3 innings in the Dodgers’ 3-0 victory over Milwaukee, and now has an ERA of 2.80 that is 10th in the National League, a hair behind Clayton Kershaw’s 2.75.

Kuroda gave up eight baserunners – six of them reaching scoring position, thanks in part to his first career balk – but he got himself out of every jam in the first seven innings, thanks in part to two big catches by Matt Kemp.

Kemp also hit a two-run homer in the first inning after a walk to Andre Ethier, and the score held until an RBI double for an insurance run in the eighth by Jerry Sands, driving in Juan Uribe, who went 2 for 3 with a walk.

Kenley Jansen scared the pants off the faithful by entering the game in the top of the eighth with a runner on and throwing seven straight balls, but Casey McGehee fouled out. Matt Guerrier then pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his first save as a Dodger. Why was Guerrier closing the ninth instead of Vicente Padilla? The answer, my friends, is blowin’ in the office of Dodger trainer Stan Conte.

To recap the last four Dodger victories:

May 17 – Dodgers 3, Brewers 0 – Vicente Padilla unavailable
May 13 – Dodgers 4, Diamondbacks 3 – Zach Lee MRI revealed
May 11 – Dodgers 2, Pirates 0 – Hong-Chih Kuo to the disabled list
May 10 – Dodgers 10, Pirates 3 – Blake Hawksworth hurts groin