May 25

Dempster’s Revenge: Cubs shut out Dodgers (again)


Charles Rex Arbogast/AP
In his past 15 innings against the Dodgers, Ryan Dempster has allowed four runners to reach second base and none to score.

Ryan Dempster would rather have the first game of the 2008 National League Division Series back, but he’s doing well with consolation prizes.

Since giving up the NLDS-changing grand slam in October 2008, Dempster has pitched twice for the Cubs against the Dodgers – May 30 last year and tonight – and done nothing less than throw 15 consecutive scoreless innings against the Dodgers, who lost their second straight game after winning 12 of 13, 3-0.

Dempster went eight innings this time around, allowing three hits and walking one while striking out seven. Russell Martin (single), Manny Ramirez (single and walk) and Casey Blake (single) were the only baserunners for the Dodgers, whose final 16 hitters were retired by Dempster and Cubs closer Carlos Marmol.

Rafael Furcal had a miserable return from the disabled list, going 0 for 4 with two errors, each of which led to an unearned run. The first was a failed backhand pickup on a Ryan Theriot grounder leading off the bottom of the sixth, with Theriot coming around to score on a Derrek Lee single to break a scoreless duel between Dempster and Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw lowered his ERA for the season to 2.90 with six innings of four-hit, two-walk, four-strikeout ball, but was charged with the loss.

Furcal then threw in the dirt after fielding a Starlin Castro grounder starting the bottom of the eighth, and Lee (3 for 3 with a walk) homered off reliever Ramon Troncoso – who told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com hours before that he had figured out the flaw in his delivery that caused him to give up three other homers last week – to give the Cubs breathing room.

In his past four starts covering 28 1/3 innings, Kershaw’s ERA is 0.64.

Update: Rafael Furcal wasn’t the only one who goofed Tuesday. I managed to miss another start Ryan Dempster made against the Dodgers last year – August 23. Thanks to commenter DodgerKramer for alerting me. Dempster allowed no earned runs in seven innings that outing, meaning that his streak of innings without allowing an earned run against the Dodgers is actually 22.

May 25

Kershaw LXI: Kershawrms and the Man


Christopher Hanewinckel/US Presswire
Clayton Kershaw is averaging 105 pitches per game in nine starts this season. Chad Billingsley averaged 110 in his first nine starts of 2009.

Clayton Kershaw, 22, threw 3,020 pitches last season and, with 942 under his belt in 2010, is on pace for approximately 3,600 this season. In fact, he has an extremely viable chance of throwing the most pitches of anyone in the majors age 23 or under since 2000.

The top 10 names on the list are Felix Hernandez, Scott Kazmir, Matt Cain, Ryan Dempster (tonight’s Cubs starter), Dontrelle Willis, Barry Zito, Randy Wolf, Ben Sheets, Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano. Mark Prior is 13th on the list, and Chad Billingsley’s 2008 season is 17th.

It doesn’t necessarily mean anything, because trouble comes to pitchers with all kinds of histories. But FYI …

Name Pitches Year Trouble?
Hernandez 3633 2009  
Kazmir 3608 2007 2009
Cain 3606 2008  
Dempster 3606 2000 2001
Willis 3555 2005 2007
Zito 3538 2001 2004 or 2007?
Wolf 3528 2000 mid-2004
Sheets 3510 2002 mid-2003
Buehrle 3510 2002  
Zambrano 3471 2004 2010

* * *

Watch what happens when Dempster throws a changeup tonight. Opponents are 1 for 27 against his changeup this season, but the Dodgers are batting .305 against them, according to John Fisher of ESPN Stats and Information.

Including his 2008 playoff grand slam, James Loney has hit five consecutive fly balls off Dempster. The other four were caught. Loney’s last regular-season hit off Dempster was in 2007.

* * *

Kyle Russell has been on a tear for Class A Inland Empire, with six homers in his past six games. For the season, the 6-foot-5 outfielder has an on-base percentage of .431 and slugging percentage of .652. Writes Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus: “Drafted as a college senior, he turns 24 in June so it’s time to move him up, and scouts still aren’t convinced that he can hit enough at the upper levels, as evidenced by his 53 whiffs in 164 at-bats. One way or another, it’s time to find out.” A move could be tied into a promotion for the endlessly hot Jerry Sands, who is at .457/.758 for Low A Great Lakes.

May 24

Chin-Lung Hu has broken nose

Albuquerque infielder Chin-Lung Hu went on the AAA disabled list over the weekend with a broken nose, according to the Isotopes. (I was tipped to this by New Mexico Fan via Sons of Steve Garvey.)

No immediate word on how long Hu, who was OPSing .815 in May, will be out. This could conceivably affect the Dodgers’ roster decisions with regard to Nick Green, though I don’t expect it will.

Other notes from Albuquerque:

  • Tonight’s Reno-Albuquerque matchup pits former Dodger teammates Brett Butler and Tim Wallach against each other as opposing managers.
  • Jamie Hoffmann needed a 10th inning Sunday to extend his hitting streak to 17 games. He’s batting .417 during the streak.
  • John Lindsey went 4 for 5 to raise his batting average to .434.
May 24

Dodger Cogs and Dogs: Edition 5

One of the keys to understanding Dodger Cogs and Dogs is that workload matters. That’s why Jonathan Broxton has trouble staying in the top 10 despite All-Star caliber performance, why Rafael Furcal has fallen behind Jamey Carroll, and why Ramon Troncoso outranks Jeff Weaver despite a poorer ERA. Now, I’m not exactly applying this in an analytical way – as always, this feature intentionally is meant to have a big subjective element. But in determining which Dodgers have been more valuable over the course of the entire season, I have to give some consideration to the guys who are carrying more playing time.

This was an interesting set of rankings, as the four main Dodger starting pitchers now have above-average 2010 performance for the first time this season. The pendulum of the season that was so far on the side of offense has been swinging back – without the offense really being in that much of a decline.

5/24 . 5/13 . 5/3 . 4/19 . 4/12 . Player Comment
1 1 1 2 11 Andre Ethier Eagerly waiting to see if he can pick up where he left off.
2 2 2 3 1 Hiroki Kuroda Three runs in six innings constitutes a bad start in ’10.
3 5 6 10 20 Clayton Kershaw Could be his last time behind Kuroda in the rankings.
4 4 3 1 5 Matt Kemp On pace for 33 homers despite missing on his 10th Sunday; defense still inconsistent.
5 3 4 4 9 Manny Ramirez Sub-.700 OPS since coming off the DL.
6 7 10 5 2 Russell Martin Might be ranked too high, but subjective points for appearance of being team backbone again.
7 8 26 NR NR John Ely Nice to see him survive adversity Saturday.
8 11 12 12 10 Chad Billingsley Combined with Ely, his rebound made this a team with pitching again.
9 16 11 7 6 Casey Blake Just when he finally was looking his age at the plate, a resurgence. Too many errors, though.
10 6 8 9 24 James Loney Doesn’t make headlines, doesn’t hit enough for his position, but still valuable.
11 10 5 6 13 Jonathan Broxton 18 2/3 innings, 18 baserunners, 29 strikeouts
12 12 15 14 14 Blake DeWitt Seems to be steadily improving. Three triples last week – more power a matter of time?
13 17 18 21 18 Jamey Carroll Our own little pesky Eckstein – who’d have thunk?
14 9 7 8 4 Rafael Furcal Gonna have to start out well to avoid “Bring Back Carroll” chants from the “What have you done for me lately” crowd.
15 19 19 NR NR Xavier Paul Very quietly just hitting, and hitting, and hitting. Is he the outfield’s Ely?
16 18 NR NR NR Hong-Chih Kuo Kuo is just the man. Do I need to say more?
17 15 9 11 12 Ramon Troncoso Victim of his own success – Cogs & Dogs trying not to overpunish him for being overused.
18 14 16 18 21 Carlos Monasterios One apperance since May 11, but we’re still fans.
19 13 14 13 7 Ronnie Belliard Declining factor compared with April.
20 20 17 20 8 Reed Johnson Uh, did you know he went 8 for 12 last week? Most of the Dodger bench has been pretty grand.
21 22 21 17 15 Jeff Weaver Is it kinda strange how he keeps getting the job done?
22 23 20 15 25 Vicente Padilla Hey, he could be a great No. 5 starter next month.
23 25 22 19 19 A.J. Ellis No automatic out – if he plays.
24 26 24 23 23 Brad Ausmus Yeah, you know he’s moving up in the rankings! Oh wait – maybe that’s not good.
25 24 NR NR NR Ronald Belisario Still like him, but this season he’s at 14 1/3 innings, 10 runs.
26 21 23 24 17 Ramon Ortiz He’s just not gonna fool enough of the people enough of the time.
27 27 NR NR NR Nick Green Made a couple of loud outs in his first start.
28 28 27 26 26 George Sherrill Last Dodger pitcher to go from this great to this awful: Hideo Nomo?
29 29 28 25 NR Jon Link Not the key to the Juan Pierre trade, it turns out.
30 30 29 27 22 Russ Ortiz Sherrill still hasn’t put Ortiz completely out of rear-view mirror.
31 31 25 16 3 Charlie Haeger Reportedly has solved mechanical trouble, says Tony Jackson.
32 32 30 22 16 Garret Anderson Three hits in past eight at-bats, but hasn’t risen above painful stage.
May 23

Dodgers play smashball but lose, 6-2

It wasn’t for lack of hitting the ball hard. Three times the Dodgers smashed Whac-a-mole shots at Tigers starting pitcher Rick Porcello, and all they got for their trouble was an infield single and three outs.

So even though the Dodgers always seemed on the verge of rallying to overcome the three runs Hiroki Kuroda allowed in the first inning Sunday, eventually things all fell apart in a 6-2 loss to Detroit.

For the third consecutive day, a different Dodger starting pitcher held the Tigers scoreless after the first inning. But unfortunately for Kuroda (six innings, six hits, one walk, five strikeouts), the Dodger offense did not have much luck on its side.

  • With Russell Martin on second base in the bottom of the first inning, Porcello snared Matt Kemp’s liner and turned it into a double play.
  • With runners on first and second base in the bottom of the fourth inning, Porcello flagged James Loney’s hot shot and turned it into an out that helped him exit the inning without allowing a run.
  • There was another shot off Porcello that went for an infield hit, and the Dodgers scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth on Xavier Paul’s single to left. But with two on and two out, Kemp rocketed one to center – deep, but not deep enough.

After that, virtually nothing went the Dodgers way. Manny Ramirez grounded out as a pinch-hitter with the bases loaded in the sixth, and Magglio Ordonez homered off Ronald Belisario in the eighth to give Detroit an insurance run. The Dodgers got their 10th hit and third walk in the bottom of the eighth inning, but pinch-hitter Ronnie Belliard hit into the team’s third double play. The Tigers added two more runs in the ninth, and Martin made it four double plays to end the game.

Martin, Paul, Garret Anderson, Blake DeWitt and Jamey Carroll each reached base twice, but it just wasn’t the Dodgers’ day.

May 23

Remembering Jose Lima: Time ticks away so fast


Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers
Jose Lima received an ovation from Dodger Stadium fans at Friday’s game.

One of the things I’ll remember most about Jose Lima is his unspoken farewell to the Dodgers.

That shutout he pitched against St. Louis in the 2004 playoffs, that unbelievable, electric night, was also the last game Lima pitched for the Dodgers. Lima had come to the Dodgers with a contract of one year and expectations of about zero. The year before, he had pitched 73 1/3 innings for Kansas City with a 4.91 ERA and all of 32 strikeouts. The year before that, with Detroit, Lima’s ERA was 7.77.

Lima only found his way onto the Dodger roster the way fringe players often do, thanks in part to the misfortune of others. If Paul Shuey hadn’t ruptured a tendon in his thumb at the end of March 2004, Dodger fans might never have heard of “Lima Time.”

It was almost as much of a miracle that Lima stayed on the roster. His ERA on May 9, after nine appearances, was 7.91.  Whatever people feel today about Ramon Ortiz (who is only six months younger than Lima), that’s about what they felt about Lima six years ago this month.

But then Lima began having those “Lima Time” moments. He didn’t allow an earned run for a month, including 5 2/3 innings of shutout ball in relief against the Cubs and eight innings of in a start against Arizona. And although bad outings would crop up here and there, he became something of an unlikely hero. His personality – which alienated some of us when he pitched for other teams – became something you couldn’t get enough of.  You just looked forward to seeing him on the mound, even if the results were unpredictable.

All this led to the pinnacle of his time in a Dodger uniform, that October night against the Cardinals, the crowd mad with delight, Lima genuflecting after the final out.

The Dodger offseason began about 24 hours later, after the team lost the third of four playoff games to St. Louis. Not surprisingly, the popular feeling in town was that the Dodgers had to bring Lima back – how could they not?  But if you looked closely at the situation, you sadly realized that it was almost inevitable that Lima would not return. Based on the rules that existed at the time, the Dodgers were actually operating at a disadvantage compared with the other 29 teams in baseball in that they had to offer him salary arbitration or forfeit the right to negotiate with him on the open market. Essentially, the system at the time required the Dodgers pay Lima more than any other team had to. And given that Lima’s performance was so fluky, it just didn’t make sense for them to do so.

Lima signed a $2.5 million contract with Kansas City at Christmas, and the following year, his ERA soared to 6.99. After four more appearances with the Mets in 2006, Lima was out of the majors for good, at age 33.

It’s heartbreaking that a man with so much life left this world, just as he left the majors, so quickly. And it’s heartbreaking that it happened just as Los Angeles was about to spend more time with him – Lima, according to the Dodgers, had just become a member of the Dodger Alumni Association and was preparing make community appearances as well as open a youth baseball academy this summer in Los Angeles.

Our time to enjoy Jose Lima, from the start, was fleeting. Fundamentally so. There were few better to remind us to appreciate the moment while we can. For me, Jose Lima will always be one of the most important Dodgers in that respect – an infinite reminder of the finite, a beacon for savoring the precious.

* * *

Others remembrances of Lima:

May 23

Jose Lima dies of heart attack at 37


Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Jose Lima at the start of a memorable night: October 9, 2004.

Shocking news: Former Dodger Jose Lima has passed away from a heart attack at the age of 37, according to his wife. The news was first reported by ESPNdeportes.com (link via Bob Timmermann).

Lima was a 1999 All-Star with Houston and enjoyed one of his most magical seasons with the 2004 Dodgers, for whom he had a 4.07 ERA and delivered a shutout in the National League Division Series, the Dodgers’ first playoff win in 16 years. His “Lima Time” enthusiasm for the game won’t be forgotten.

From Dodger Thoughts, October 9, 2004: “Prima Lima – He’s a Dreama”

May 23

Lakers trainer Gary Vitti comes to Andre Ethier’s aid


Matt Kartozian/US Presswire
Andre Ethier has fallen out of the National League home run lead while on the disabled list.

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com writes that Dodger trainer Stan Conte asked his Lakers counterpart Gary Vitti for guidance about Andre Ethier’s pinkie fracture, and Vitti recommended a special splint that appears to have accelerated Ethier’s timetable for returning to the playing field.

… Conte put in a call to Vitti because he knew some of the Lakers players had dealt with similar injuries.

“This was the day before their playoff game,” Conte said. “But he called right back and couldn’t have been nicer.”

Vitti recommended a special splint that immobilizes the first knuckle but leaves the second knuckle flexible. What that does is allow Ethier to swing a bat more-or-less unfettered, which he has been doing in the indoor batting cages. Conte said Ethier already has progressed from hitting off a tee to hitting soft-toss pitches and even catching a ball because the split also allows him to squeeze his glove.

The knuckle that is broken has to be immobilized in order to heal. However, because of the splint, that knuckle can be immobilized without immobilizing the entire finger. That means the fracture doesn’t have to heal completely in order for Ethier to get back on the field. Conte said that when Ethier does return, he will play while wearing the splint, which he will wear constantly until the fracture heals.

This is a major step forward that conceivably could allow Ethier to return from the disabled list as soon as he becomes eligible to do so May 30 at Colorado. And while Conte wouldn’t go so far as to predict that, he did concede that the process is moving much more quickly than it would have without the splint.

* * *

  • Dodger starters have allowed three home runs in their past 99 2/3 innings, notes David Pinto of Baseball Musings. John Ely hasn’t allowed a homer in 31 2/3 innings, and Clayton Kershaw hasn’t given one up in 22 1/3 innings since May 4.
  • Blue Heaven posts a vintage snapshot of a young Bill Russell.
  • Not sure I’ll be in front of the computer if activation news about Rafael Furcal comes later this morning, but despite the reports of the past 24 hours that Blake DeWitt might be sent down to make room, I find that almost impossible to believe. You don’t send down the starting second baseman in order to keep a guy like Nick Green at the back of your bench.
May 22

Ely glides and Dodgers finish the ride, 6-4


Harry How/Getty Images
John Ely allowed five baserunners in his final five innings today.

Like the space shuttle in its glory days, John Ely came back to Earth in the first inning today – then took off again for the skies.

Ely gave up three hits and his first base on balls after 89 walkless batters to let Detroit score two runs in the top of the first, but like Chad Billingsley the night before, put up only zeroes after that, and the Dodgers rode out a 6-4 victory over the Tigers.

The Dodgers steadily worked Tigers starter Armando Gallaraga and knocked him out in the fifth inning. Casey Blake (11 for 23 with three homers and a walk on the homestand) had a homer and two singles, Matt Kemp had a homer and a double, Blake DeWitt’s third triple of the homestand drove in two runs, and Xavier Paul and James Loney added two hits each. (Paul also walked.) Russell Martin walked in the first inning but went 0 for 3, ending his 15-game hitting streak but extending his on-base streak to 17.

Ely went six innings plus one batter, allowing eight hits and the one walk while striking out three and lowering his ERA to 3.41. Joe Torre had a quick hook for Ely, who had thrown only 83 pitches when he came out of the game following a leadoff single in the seventh by Austin Jackson, and the main men of the Dodger bullpen made the move seem even more questionable by delivering one of their roughest collective outings in some time.

Hong-Chih Kuo, who warmed up Friday but didn’t pitch, first gave the Tigers a look at the game by walking Magglio Ordonez after Ramon Santiago reached on Blake’s two-out error. But with the bases loaded, Kuo made a nice play on Detroit cleanup hitter Miguel Cabrera’s slow grounder to no man’s land between the pitcher’s mound and the foul line, fielding and firing to James Loney for the third out.

In the next inning, Ramon Troncoso, who allowed three runs without getting an out Wednesday in his third consecutive night of work, came back after two days off and gave up a solo homer to Santa Monica native Brennan Boesch. Troncoso followed by walking Brandon Inge, getting a double-play grounder from Gerald Laird and then beaning Austin Jackson (don’t expect him in the starting lineup Sunday). Jeff Weaver came in to bail Troncoso out by inducing Ryan Raburn to fly out to end the eighth.

Jonathan Broxton, pitching in his third consecutive ninth inning, allowed leadoff singles to Johnny Damon and Ramon Santiago. Alex Avila struck out, and Blake made a diving stop of a Cabrera grounder to create a force out at second base. Boesch ripped a first-pitch liner to right for a ground-rule double that brought the Tigers within two runs and put the tying runs at second base.

But after falling behind 2-1 to Inge, Broxton got a swinging strike on a 97-mph fastball, then a called third strike to end the game.

Twelve wins in 13 games for the Dodgers, who moved a half-game ahead of San Diego in the National League West pending the outcome of the Padres’ game at Seattle tonight. The Dodgers will try to keep it going Sunday behind Hiroki Kuroda, though it’s doubtful they’ll have Broxton or Kuo available. But those worries can wait, as the Dodgers celebrate another successful flight of Spaceship John Ely.

May 22

Can John Ely keep it going?


Jeff Gross/ALLSPORT
Luke Prokopec is fifth all time in major-league innings pitched by an Australian native.

Nine years ago, at the age of 23, Luke Prokopec began the 2001 season with the following three starts:

Date IP H R ER BB SO ERA
4/6 7.67 4 1 1 0 7 1.17
4/21 6.00 6 2 2 0 5 3.00
4/27 7.00 6 3 3 0 5 3.86
Total 20.67 16 6 6 0 17 2.61

Prokopec was a sight for sore eyes in a starting rotation that at the start of 2001, except for Kevin Brown, was a mixed bag, with Eric Gagne and Darren Dreifort each posting April ERAs of around 5.00.

However, Prokopec, who walked the leadoff batter in start No. 4 after having faced 78 batters in a row without a free pass, didn’t last the year in the rotation, finishing the season with a 4.61 ERA in 22 starts. That December, newly installed Dodger general manager Dan Evans made the rather prescient decision to trade Prokopec and minor leaguer Chad Ricketts to Toronto for Cesar Izturis and Paul Quantrill.

This trade was personally memorable for me because it was the first time I had ever recognized that it might be a good idea to trade a pitcher who had promise but didn’t have great strikeout totals – Prokopec was at 5.9 per nine innings. If I recall correctly, there were those who felt the Dodgers should have traded Gagne, who was 25 with a 4.75 ERA.

As it turned out, the following season was miserable for Prokopec, who had a 6.78 ERA and battled serious arm trouble. He made his last major-league appearance August 23 of that year.

So yeah, I went there. I’m telling the cautionary tale, that just because a young pitcher rips off three starts without walking anyone and looks like he can make the baseball do his bidding, doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed a bright future.

Having gotten that out of the way, let me just say that I couldn’t be more excited about John Ely’s next start, coming today in the Dodger Stadium shadows before a Fox audience. I hope in a matter of hours, the whole nation is catching Elymania.

* * *

Rafael Furcal had a good day in an extended Spring Training game today, Joe Torre told reporters, and is on track to be activated Sunday or Tuesday.

Torre added that Andre Ethier has begun hitting off a tee and is progressing.

The Dodgers don’t need to start their fifth starter again until Saturday, but might do so Friday to give Hiroki Kuroda an extra day off. Monday’s off day is the Dodgers’ last before a stretch of 17 games in a row heading into June 10.

May 22

Manny Ramirez: Still never a dull moment


Lori Shepler/AP
The Manny Ramirez ballet

Sore-toed Manny Ramirez trod gingerly in the outfield Friday, allowing two fly balls to fall for half of the four hits Chad Billingsley allowed. And he hasn’t homered in his past 56 plate appearances, since his game-winning pinch-hit shot against San Francisco on April 18. Since coming off the disabled list, he’s on-basing .419 but slugging .324.

But he still hits the ball real hard, as John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press writes:

Brandon Inge said it was the hardest ball ever to hit him at third base.

“And Larry Bowa (the Dodgers third-base coach) told me that it in his 40-plus years of professional baseball, he’d never seen a ball hit that hard to third base,” Inge said. …

This moment, perhaps as much as any stat or rave that Ramirez has been able to garner, advertised his abilities at the plate.

The ball caromed behind Inge at an angle past deep shortstop and into short centerfield. It might have gone farther after it hit Inge than before it hit him.

You know how Don Kelly has started at both third base and centerfield for the Tigers this season? Ramirez singled to third base and centerfield on the same play.

After the game, Inge pointed to the baseball-sized red welt on his right shin. It was his souvenir of the play. …

* * *

  • Houston Astros ace Roy Oswalt has requested a trade. I’m not expecting the Dodgers to be in on it, but Eric Stephen explores how they could theoretically afford him at True Blue L.A.
  • When I listen to classical music, it’s basically either pretty or not pretty. I’m wondering what it would be like to actually be this analytical about it, and whether I’d agree or disagree with the review.
  • Tweet o’ the Night, from @reflectnsofblue:
  • “After 9 1/2 years with my lady, I’m finally(!) getting married tomorrow. Now I know how AJ Ellis felt tonight.”

May 21

Billingsley, Dodgers in tip-top condition, 4-1


Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Chad Billingsley has allowed two runs or less in six of nine starts this season.

Boy, how rewarding is it to see Chad Billingsley be on such a roll. And of course, how rewarding must it feel for him.

Oh – and I suppose the Dodgers are enjoying being in first place, too.

Billingsley continued his roll in pitching the Dodgers to a 4-1 interleague victory over Detroit tonight, the team’s 11th win in their past 12 games. With San Diego and San Francisco both getting pummeled tonight, the Dodgers were poised to find themselves atop the National League West (tied with the Padres but ahead in head-to-head competition), a mere 13 days after their 8-0 loss to Colorado had them six games off the pace and in last place.

Billingsley threw 105 pitches over seven innings, allowing two singles, two doubles and two walks while striking out five. (Both doubles were arguably catchable balls that Manny Ramirez couldn’t haul in.) Billingsley now has a 3.66 ERA on the season, 2.39 in his past six starts covering 37 2/3 innings.

His toughest challenge came right at the start, when Tigers leadoff hitter Austin Jackson doubled at the end of a 10-pitch at-bat. Jackson came around to score on two productive outs, and that was it for Detroit. Twice they got runners on first and second with two out, in the third and fourth innings, but Billingsley got the next batter each time. He retired 10 of the last 11 batters he faced in the game.

In contrast, Dontrelle Willis had allowed only one hit and no walks among the first 12 batters he faced, but was in trouble the rest of the way and didn’t make it through six innings. The first jam for Willis began with two out in the bottom of the fourth, when he gave up a single and two walks before hitting Nick Green with a bases-loaded pitch that tied the game.

The next batter, A.J. Ellis, making his first start since April 27, hit the ball on a line but right to second baseman Danny Worth for the third out. But in the fifth, Willis gave up two more runs, and then Ellis got his revenge in the sixth with an RBI single. (Ellis got robbed of two more RBI in the eighth – potential insurance runs – when his liner to right was speared by Miguel Cabrera.)

Reed Johnson had a perfect night for the Dodgers with a walk, a single and two doubles, and Jonathan Broxton struck out the side on 14 pitches for the save.

* * *

James McDonald allowed four runs over seven innings tonight in Albuquerque’s 10-4 victory over Las Vegas. He gave up nine hits and no walks while striking out eight. Las Vegas scored two in the fifth and two in the sixth.

Chin Lung Hu went 2 for 4 with his first homer of the season, and is now OPSing .815 in May after a terrible April.

* * *

The Dodgers will skip the No. 5 slot in their rotation and start Clayton Kershaw in Chicago on Tuesday, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. The Dodgers will next need a fifth starter May 29 in unfriendly Colorado.

May 21

Dodgers face a Detroit medley


Christine Cotter/AP
Miguel Cabrera is slugging at a career-best .603 rate.

It’s always a test when the Dodgers face an American League team. That won’t change tonight, though it’s an uneven Detroit Tigers team the Dodgers will face.

Five members of the Detroit offense are hitting the ball very hard. Miguel Cabrera (1.030 OPS/175 OPS+) is moidering the ball, while Brennan Boesch (.987/161), Magglio Ordonez (.878/137), Johnny Damon (.840/127), and Austin Jackson (.825/122) are no slouches. Carlos Guillen (.834/125) is on the disabled list.

The Tiger offense is weak at catcher (Gerald Laird/Alex Avila), third base (Brandon Inge), shortstop (Adam Everett/Ramon Santiago) and second base (starter Scott Sizemore was demoted to the minors last weekend). Because its outfielder/first base/DH types don’t play those other positions, it looks as though the Tigers are stuck with four great bats and four lesser ones when they take the field tonight.

Rain on Monday pushed Tigers ace Justin Verlander’s most recent start ahead a day and his next one to next week, meaning the Dodgers will avoid him. Verlander has been the only above-average pitcher in the Tiger starting rotation this season. Tonight, the Dodgers get the enigmatic Dontrelle Willis (4.68 ERA), who pitched six shutout innings against Minnesota April 29 but has allowed seven runs in his past 8 2/3 innings (over two starts).

Detroit has won seven of its past 10, while the Dodgers have won 10 of their past 11.

* * *

  • Introducing Jamie Enterprises (via 6-4-2). I have to apologize but I had a laugh when I got to the part in her bio about her being “an avid swimmer.” Indeed.
  • At Dodger Divorce, Josh Fisher outlines the concern that I had before the McCourts bought the Dodgers. “Anyone Else” is not always the better option.
  • The “In Beard We Trust” T-shirts from The Left Field Pavilion are becoming a phenomenon.
  • The Dodgers released Josh Towers from Albuquerque and moved Seth Etherton into the Isotopes starting rotation, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Trying to make a comeback into the big leagues, Towers had an 8.05 ERA.
  • Blue Heaven passes along the news that Dotttie Kamenshek, the inspiration for Geena Davis’ character in “A League of Their Own,” passed away this week.

Update: Joe Sheehan writes for SI.com on how interleague play affects the National League West: “The Dodgers’ interleague schedule is brutal. As always they play the Angels twice, plus they see the Red Sox, Yankees and Tigers. Only the last-place Diamondbacks also get the Red Sox and Yankees. The Padres and Giants get both the Jays and Orioles, while playing just one of the top three AL East teams each. That’s a huge schedule edge, especially for the Padres, who get six games against the Mariners to boot.”