A Rough Stretch

Good evening all, last time I spoke to you guys, the Dodgers were about to embark on a 3-game series with the Chicago White Sox, they took two-of the-three games, winning the finale of that series in thrilling fashion with a walk-off hit by Dee Gordon in the 10th inning.  My, how the Dodgers fortunes have changed since then.  The Dodgers went up to Oakland only to find themselves swept, scoring only 2 runs in 3 games, the final blow of that series being a walk-off 3-run homer by A’s rookie Yoenis Coespedes.  The Dodgers would come down to Anaheim to finish up the Freeway Series with the Angels, again dropping 2 of 3.   The Dodgers put themselves in a great position to win the series opener, staking Chad Billingsley to a 5-0 lead after the first two innings, however, by the 4th inning, he had already relinquished the lead, the decisive blow being a solo-shot from Angels’ rookie sensation Mike Trout, that gave the Angels a 6-5 lead, that would hold in an 8-5 loss.  The Dodgers would win the 2nd game of the series 3-1 behind another strong performance from Chris Capuano who was snubbed out of the All-Star game despite a 9-3 record and 2.69 ERA.  The Dodgers bullpen would fall short again in the series finale as newly-minted All-star Mark Trumbo would drive in the go-ahead run in the 7th off of Josh Lindblom.  The Angels have won the season series against the Dodgers six years in a row now.  As if things weren’t interesting enough, with the Dodgers having lost 5 of 6 games, the San Francisco Giants have been slowly gaining ground all season, now with only a 3 game lead, the Dodgers would head back north to AT&T Park.  The result would not be pretty.  Three consecutive shutouts by the Giants.  The Dodgers would be shutout for all 27 innings in San Francisco and including the preceding and proceeding series with the Angels and the New York Mets, the Dodgers endured a total of 33 scoreless innings.  To repeat a common phrase, adding insult to injury, Andre Ethier strained his oblique muscle in his first at-bat of the series finale against the Giants.  He has been out since.  The Dodgers are now without their two best position players fielding a lineup that is currently consisting of Bobby Abreu batting 3rd, which would have been great back in 2005, Juan Rivera batting cleanup and Adam Kennedy batting fifth.  Juan Uribe has been slowed considerably by injuries and is now unreliable batting a measly .200 with a homer and 12 RBI in 42 games.  James Loney also appears to have fallen out of favor finding himself on the bench more often than not.  Loney, who was once considered to be part of the core of the future along with Ethier and Matt Kemp continues his nearly two-year struggle at the plate hitting only .242 with 2 homers and 23 RBI in 76 games this season.  According to many outlets, the Dodgers had a trade in place for aging Astros slugger Carlos Lee, who would have replaced Loney in the starting lineup.  Lee, who has a no-trade clause, declined the trade to the Dodgers, as he is an avid cattle rancher in Texas.  The Dodgers week got no better as they lost 3 of 4 games to the Mets, again, breaking a scoreless streak and a seven-game losing streak on Sunday by winning 8-3.  Despite scoring for the first time in more than 3 games on Thursday, Chris Young matched Chris Capuano pitch-for-pitch and the Mets came away with a 3-2 victory in the series opener behind a go-ahead home run from David Wright, who was snubbed by all-star voters for Giants 3B Pablo Sandoval.  Wright sports a .354 avg with 9 HR and 50 RBI, Sandoval has a .300 avg, but only 6 homers and 25 RBI, Wright has also scored twice as many runs as Sandoval, you make the call.  On Friday night, the Dodgers faced the man who has been arguably the best pitcher in the National League this year, with a breakout year at age 37, knuckleballer RA Dickey.  Dickey reiterated his case to start the All-Star Game shutting down the Dodgers for 8 innings, striking out 10,  and improving his record to 12-1.   Dickey hasn’t lost in 10 straight decisions dating back to April 18.  The wheels would completely fall off in this one as the Dodgers would commit 2 errors and be shut out 9-0.  Things wouldn’t get any better Saturday night against Johan Santana, who threw a no-hitter back on June 1.  Santana threw another 8 shutout innings and Nathan Eovaldi had his worts start of the year surrendering 5 runs in 5 1/3 innings.  Over his last two starts Eovaldi has seen his ERA balloon from 2.35 to 4.61.  The Dodgers would finish the month of June with an 11-18 record, one game back in the standings of the San Francisco Giants.  July would finally bring relief.  Clayton Kershaw, named to his second straight All-Star Game would keep the Mets in check for 7 innings, as the Dodgers finally broke out and scored some runs after.  The Dodgers had to overcome a 3-1 deficit, and two-throwing errors from Dee Gordon to take a 4-3 lead, and eventually score some unearned runs of their own, ultimately winning the game 8-3.  Kershaw struck out Mets and didn’t allow a baserunner after the 5th inning.  Gordon heard boos from the crowd his next at-bat after the back-to-back errors which gave the Mets a 3-1 lead.  However, Gordon’s 3 stolen bases helped spark the Dodgers rally.  The Dodgers broke their 63 inning scoreless streak, a season-high (or low) seven-game losing streak, and even James Loney broke out of an 0-25 slump with a 2-RBI double.  So, would the Dodgers turn the corner in July, it almost looked that way, as the Dodgers jumped out to an early 2-0 lead last night against the NL-Central leading Cincinnati Reds.  Chad Billingsley pitched a solid 6 innings, striking out 8, and surrendering only 3 earned runs.  The Dodgers would be unable to stage a rally as the bullpen imploded with Todd Coffey surrendering 2 runs in the 8th, and Jamey Wright 3 unearned runs in the 9th, good for an 8-3 Cincinnati victory.  Tonight’s game will feature two of the bigger all-star snubs as Chris Capuano takes the hill for the Boys in Blue, against the Reds’ Johnny Cueto.  Capuano boast a 9-3 record with a 2.69 ERA, Cueto sports a 9-4 record with a paltry 2.26 ERA.  Matt Kemp and Mark Ellis have both begun rehab assignments, and Andre Ethier is taking batting practice, if the Dodgers can survive the final week before the All-Star break, they should have reinforcements waiting for them.

Interleague Recap

After a fantastic four-game sweep of the Phillies in Philadelphia, thier first of that type in nearly 50 years, the Dodgers embarked on interleague play.  The Blue Crew went way up north for a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners.  On Friday night, the Dodgers were the victims of a combined no-hitter.  Six Seattle pitchers specifically combined to shut down the Dodgers, Kevin Millwood, Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League, and Tom Wilhelmsen.  Wilhelmsen was the only pitcher other than Millwood to pitch a full inning.  Millwood was forced to leave while warming in the top 7th, due to an apparent groin strain.  The Dodgers had opportunities in the 7th and 8th innings.  In the 7th Elian Herrera reached 2nd on a throwing error by Furbush, but both Andre Ethier and Juan Rivera struck out.  In the 8th Bobby Abreu and Jerry Hairston, Jr. walked and got into scoring position, but League got A.J. Ellis to line out and Tony Gwynn, Jr. to strike out.  Despite being shut down Friday night, the Dodgers bounced back with consecutive 8-run outbursts Saturday and Sunday.  In Saturday’s 8-3 victory Hairston drove in a career-high 5 runs, and Clayton Kershaw struck out a season high 12.  The next day the Dodgers opened the floodgates early scoring six runs in the second inning, highlighted by a grand slam from Ethier.  Chad Billingsley finished the job from there, pitching 7 innings of 1-run ball, striking out 8.  The Dodgers enjoyed a 7-3 road trip, bouncing back from a 13-3 drubbing to open the trip and the Seattle no-hitter.  Welcoming back the Dodgers to Dodger Stadium to open the week was the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  The Dodgers dropped 2 of 3 to the Angels, on the losing end of two tough one-run games.  Kenley Jansen took the loss in both of them.  The Dodgers got out to a quick 2 run lead in the first inning, but the Angels chipped away tying the game in the 6th off Josh Lindblom.  In the top 9th Jansen entered the game, as they say, walks come back to hurt you.  After walking Mike Trout, the Angels took advantage of Jansen’s weakness, his inability to hold runners on, and Trout stole second, after striking out Torii Hunter, Albert Pujols came to the plate, with first base open.  The Dodgers opted to pitch to Pujols and Jansen didn’t want to give him anything.  Finally, on a 3-1 count after 3 balls way outside, Jansen sent a fastball high and up the middle that Pujols blooped into shallow left, scoring Trout with the winning run.  Jansen proceed to strike out Mark Trumbo in unceremonious fashion.  Again, the Dodgers had an opportunity in the 9th, A.J. Ellis walked, and Juan Uribe was hit by a pitch from Angels’ closer Ernesto Frieri.  This brought up Dee Gordon with two outs, he hit the ball sharply, but right to Trumbo in left field.  It was announced on Tuesday that the Dodgers and Andre Ethier had agreed to terms on 5-year, $85 million dollar extension.  This assures the Dodgers will have both Ethier and Matt Kemp in the middle of their lineup for years to come, and two fantastic hitters.  The Dodgers turned the tables on the Angels Tuesday, coming back from a 2-1 deficit in the 8th.  With starter Jerome Williams for the Angels still in it in the 8th, Williams walked Elian Herrera and A.J. Ellis, Mike Scioscia allowed Williams to pitch to Ethier and Ethier drilled a line drive to right to tie the game 2-2.  Williams would face Juan Rivera next, and Rivera would deposit the ball into the left field stands.  Jansen would seal the deal in the 9th for a 5-2 win.  The Angels got unlikely power from Alberto Callaspo and Erick Aybar tonight, as their two solo shots were the difference in a 2-1 game.  Nathan Eovaldi again proved his worth, by matching the Angels’ C.J. Wilson pitch-for-pitch with 6 innings of 1 run ball.  Despite a 1.82 ERA in 4 starts this year, Eovaldi remains winless.  Again Jansen would drop the ball in the 9th, serving up a lead-off homerun to Aybar.  The Dodgers again threatened in the ninth.  A.J. Ellis drew a leadoff walk, and James Loney singled him over to third.  Juan Uribe came up and hit the ball sharply, but right at Aybar who threw out Ellis at home.  However, Loney and Uribe were able to move up to 2nd and 3rd.  Unfortunately, Gwynn would be struck out by Frieri again, and Bobby Abreu pinch-hit for Dee Gordon, but grounded out to end the game.  It was a thrilling series with the Angels, and the Dodgers will see them again next weekend.  Next up is a three-game interleague set with the Chicago White Sox, who sit atop the AL Central, and actually have a better record on the road, than at home.  Despite dropping 2 of 3, the Dodgers remain an NL-best 40-24.

Reversing the Streak

After an ugly week that saw the Dodgers lose 6 of 7 games, most recently dropping 2 of 3 over the weekend in Colorado, the Dodgers have gotten back on the winning track.  The Blue Crew has won the first three games of a four game series against the Philadelphia Phillies.  Behind strong pitching from Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, and Kenley Jansen, and some clutch hits from Elian Herrera, the Dodgers have won every game of the series by one run.  Kershaw pitched 7 innings Monday night, giving up 3 runs, and striking out 5 with no walks.  Phillies starter, and Cal State Long Beach alum, Vance Worley lasted only 4 innings, giving up 3 runs in his first start off the disabled list.  After Dee Gordon tripled off Jonathan Papelbon in the 9th, Herrera singled to drive in Gordon, giving the Dodgers a 4-3 lead and ultimately, the win.  Papelbon had words for home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn, who is a minor leauge relief umpire, after the inning.  Papelbon wasn’t the only one who had an issue with Reyburn’s strike zone as both Don Mattingly and bench coach Trey Hillman got ejected from the game for arguing Reyburn’s strike zone.  Herrera’s heroics continued the next night.  After Chad Billingsley kept up with Cliff Lee, who struck out 12 Dodgers, for 7 innings, Herrera struck again in the 8th inning.  With two runners on, Herrera doubled to deep-left on a two-strike count, to drive in both runners.  Josh Lindblom and Kenley Jansen pitched scoreless innings to preserve the 2-1 win.  Despite his 2.92 ERA and sparkling 6-to-1 K:BB ratio, Lee remains winless for the year.  Despite a rough start from Chris Capuano, and homers from Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins, the Dodgers managed a 6-5 win earlier tonight.  Phillies’ starter Kyle Kendrick’s 5 walks came back to haunt him, staked to a 4-2 lead, he walked Jerry Hariston, Jr. to cut the Philly lead to 4-3.  Dee Gordon, the Dodgers new hottest hitter, singled to right, driving in the go-ahead  runs.  The Dodgers got an insurance run in the 9th when James Loney drew a bases-loaded walk.  Kenley Jansen, going for his third consecutive save, had to work, but got the job done.  Jansen hit Carlos Ruiz after Ruiz fouled off multiple pitches, Ty Wigginton doubled to score Ruiz, cutting the Dodger lead to one run.   No matter, Jansen struck out pinch-hitter, and former Dodger, Jim Thome, and got Brian Schneider to pop out to end the game.  The Dodgers are once again starting to get run-production from unlikely sources, A.J. Ellis, Herrera, and Gordon, as of late.  If the pitching can hold up over the next month, the Dodgers can maintain the best record in MLB without Matt Kemp.  Despite being out the past 3 weeks, Kemp leads the National League in All-Star balloting.  The Dodgers will go for the sweep of the Phillies tomorrow afternoon before heading back to the West Coast for an interleague matchup with the Seattle Mariners.  Aaron Harang will take the hill for the Dodgers against Cole Hamels who is the NL co-leader in wins with 8.

5-hole

After maintaining the best record in MLB throughout the month of May, the Dodgers are finally facing some adversity.  The Dodgers are mired in a five-game losing streak after getting swept by the Milwaukee Brewers four-straight at Dodger Stadium.  The first time the Dodgers had been swept at home in a four-game series since 1993, coincidentally the last and only time the L.A. Kings played in the Stanley Cup Finals.  In addition, Matt Kemp reaggravated his hamstring injury in his first game back from the DL.  He is projected to miss a month.  With the injuries mounting, the Dodgers have struggled to score runs, a grand total of 11 over the 5 games.   The pitching staff has struggled as well.  All 5 starting pitchers took the loss during the streak.  Things went from bad to worse last night in Denver as the Dodgers got rocked 13-3 by the Rockies.  Don Mattingly called it the Dodgers’ “sloppiest game” as the Blue Crew committed four errors leading to four unearned runs, three charged to Chris Capuano.  The Rockies have been hot themselves lately, as last night was their fifth win.  Carlos Gonzalez had overtaken Andre Ethier for the National League lead in RBI, but Ethier drove in the first run of today’s game to pull even with Gonzalez.  The Dodgers are up 3-1 in only the 2nd inning at a blustery day at Coors Field.  Elian Herrera drove in two after Dee Gordon and Tony Gwynn, Jr. each had respective steals.  Rockies starter Juan Nicasio was forced to leave the game after he twisted his left knee following a comebacker up the middle.  Aaron Harang is on the hill for the Dodgers, he pitched a solid 5 innings his last time out against the Brewers, but the offense backed him up with only 2 runs.  He already has one more to work with, perhaps Harang can end the streak.

Memorial Day Weekend

After taking two out of three from the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Dodgers returned home for a three-game series with the Houston Astros, and a current four game set with the Milwaukee Brewers.  The weekend saw some amazing highlights from the Blue Crew and they continued their hot play.  I was lucky enough to attend the Dodgers 5-1 win over the Astros on Sunday.  Clayton Kershaw pitched a solid 7 innings on Friday night, but the Dodgers lost 3-1.  Astros rookie Lucas Harrell threw 7-plus solid innings, matching Kershaw pitch for pitch.  The Dodgers threatened in the eighth, but were unable to break through.  Saturday night’s matchup saw another close game.  Chad Billingsley and Bud Norris matched each other pitch for pitch in two shaky, but still effective starts.  With the game tied 3-3 in the 9th, Houston lefty Wesley Wright hit Andre Ethier on an 0-2 count, certainly not intentional.  Scott Van Slyke proceeded to lay down a picture perfect bunt to move Ethier over.  The Astros intentionally walked James Loney to set up the force play, bringing up A.J. Ellis, one of the Dodgers’ brightest surprises this season.  Ellis drilled a fastball from Wilton Lopez deep into left field for a three-run blast, leaving no doubt about it with a little bat flip.  The 31-year old lifetime farmhand, had his biggest hit of his big league career, and blew up Twitter in the meantime as well.  Sunday’s game, which I was lucky enough to attend, was a lefty-on-lefty pitchers duel.  Chris Capuano threw a dominant 7 innings, giving up only 1 run on 2 hits, and striking out 8.  Houston’s J.A. Happ matched Capuano for six-plus, striking out 10!  Again in the absence of Matt Kemp, the Dodgers continued to get run production from unlikely sources, including a 5-for-5 day for Jerry Hariston, Jr. and  a home run from Matt Treanor, that barely squeezed out of the glove of Houston centerfielder Justin Maxwell on a leaping play at the warning track.  The Dodgers started a four-game series with Milwaukee today, dropping the opener 3-2.  Milwaukee’s Shawn Marcum improved his lifetime record against the Dodgers to 4-1 pitching 7 solid innings giving up only 1 run and striking out 9.  Jonathan Axford struck out Elian Herrera with a runner on 2nd to end the game.  Although the Dodgers lost the series opener, they can look forward to the return of Matt Kemp tomorrow.  Although many players have stepped up in Kemp’s absence, one can only imagine he is chomping at the bit to get back out there and play.  The Dodgers currently sit at 32-16 tops in the Major Leagues, including a league best 21-6 at Dodger Stadium.  The Dodgers embark on a major road trip after the Milwaukee series, including trips to Philadelphia and Colorado, and an interleague matchup in Seattle.  Ted Lilly was also placed on the 15-day DL with shoulder inflammation, the Dodgers will miss his 5-1 record.  Nathan Eovaldi will start in Lilly’s place.

Dodgers First Month and a Half Review

Hello Dodger fans, it’s good to be back on here talking about the league leading boys in blue!  The Dodgers currently stand at 29-13 tops in MLB after roughly a month and half’s worth of play.  Matt Kemp has picked up where he left off last year as a true MVP candidate, and making good on his promise to let Beast Mode off its’ leash.  Kemp was National League Player of the Month for April with a .417 average accompanied by 12 homeruns (a Dodger record) and 25 RBI.  However, Kemp has been dealing with a troublesome hamstring in May, consequently forcing him to the 15-day DL.  However, aside from Kemp’s MVP effort, the Dodgers have also been carried by another star.  Andre Ethier, appearing to be fully recovered from an injured knee last year, is leading the league in RBI.  Carrying over from last year is the Dodgers’ strong starting pitching.  Four of the five starters have more wins than losses, including 11-1 between Ted Lilly and surprising acquisition Chris Capuano.  The Dodgers trail only the Washington Nationals in team ERA, so pitching is clearly a strength.  Both C A.J. Ellis and 2B Mark Ellis are among the league leaders in OBP and runs scored, respectively.  And the biggest difference from last year to this, the Dodgers are finding a way to manufacture runs.  The scored 6 runs a game in their weekend sweep of the defending World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals.  All without Matt Kemp in the lineup.  The Dodgers have also been without Juan Rivera, however, the acquisition of Bobby Abreu has certainly offset that.  Most recently Mark Ellis sustained a leg injury that will force him to miss the next 6 weeks.  Ellis is an outstanding defensive second baseman, and has been instrumental in moving runners over and setting the table for Kemp and Ethier.  The team will look to offset that with the callups of Elian Herrera and Scott Van Slyke, who hit the go-ahead 3-run homerun last night for his first big-league blast.  The other noticeable difference has been in the attendance at the stadium,  the fans have returned to Dodger Stadium.  Frank McCourt is finally out as the owner after selling the team for a remarkable $2 billion, a record for any pro-franchise.  The group fronted by Lakers great Magic Johnson and and backed by money from a Chicago investment firm are now in place as the owners.  One of the first moves of the new ownership group was to drop the price of parking from $15 to $10.  Certainly, a popular move.  The Dodgers continued their hot play in Arizona scoring another six-runs behind homers from Andre Ethier, James Loney, and Matt Treanor!  Chris Capuano, continued to dominate on the mound giving up a run in 6 innings, and to further augment the Dodgers strong pitching, Clayton Kershaw was named NL player of the week.  Matt Kemp is eligible to return from the DL a week from today.  The sky could be the limit for the Dodgers this season.

Dodgers Offseason Moves

Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said he would go into this offseason looking to fill the Dodgers basic needs.  He has largely followed the same formula he has in previous offseasons, staying away from the elite, top-tier free agents, but doing a fantastic job of snatching up the next best available players.  Above all else, Colletti took care of the Dodgers most pressing offseason issue, signing Matt Kemp to a multi-year extension.  Kemp, who finished 2nd in NL MVP voting,  inked an 8-year, $160 million contract back on November 19.  Other than Cardinals 1B Albert Pujols and Brewers 1B Prince Fielder, this year’s free agent class is not the most loaded.  And even the perennial big spenders, the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies, won’t be bidding on Pujols and Fielder because they are already committed long-term to their respective 1B.  Thus, locking up Kemp long-term was the best possible move the Dodgers could have made.  Kemp plays a premium position, and is a true, five-tool player.  Not only that, Kemp has the makeup and personality to be a true superstar here in L.A.  Kemp is only 27, and if the Dodgers didn’t pay him this year, all 29 other teams would have been lining up to pay him after next year.  The first signing of the offseason Colletti made was to resign LF Juan Rivera.  The Dodgers became a different team after Rivera arrived last August.  Not only did he fill the glaring void in left field, he finally gave the Dodgers some right-handed protection in the lineup.  With James Loney slumping for most of the year and Andre Ethier battling knee issues, it was easy enough for opposing teams to pitch around Kemp, that changed with Rivera in the lineup.  With Kemp, Ethier, Rivera, and Loney, the Dodgers have a solid and consistent middle of the order that will drive in runs next year.  Next, Colletti shored up the infield defense by signing, veteran 2B Mark Ellis to a 2-year deal.  Ellis is a solid, versatile defender, who can get on base and move runners over.  Ellis essentially replaces Jamey Carroll, who departed to join the Minnesota Twins, and gain the playing time he deserves.  Veteran C Rod Barajas left for Pittsburgh, so the Dodgers will roll with long-time farmhand A.J. Ellis behind the plate, but Colletti signed veteran C Matt Treanor as a capable backup and mentor for Ellis.  Neither has the pop that Barajas has, but at the end of the day, Rod Barajas is 36 and is a career .238 hitter.  The Dodgers also signed utilityman, and SoCal native and Cal State Northridge alum Adam Kennedy to shore up the bench.  Although it appears unlikely the Dodgers will re-sign Hiroki Kuroda, they will continue to have one of the deeper starting rotations in all of baseball.  Clayton Kershaw is coming off a Cy Young season, and shows absolutely no signs of letting up.  Kershaw is under club control for the next two years, so he will probably get a big money extension following next season.  Colletti inked former Mets lefty Chris Capuano to a 2 year, $10 million deal, and former Padre Aaron Harang to a similar 2-year $12 million dearl.   Although losing Kuroda would hurt, the additions of Capuano and Harang will certainly help to offset that.  Throw Ted Lilly and Chad Billingsley in there, and the Dodgers have one of the most solid rotations around.  One would assume Colletti will look to add to the bullpen at this point.  However, the way the Dodgers are set up, they appear poised to build on the turnaround of the last two months of the season that saw them go from 15-games under .500, to finishing the season above .500.  The NL West continues to be a winnable division.  Arizona will return to defend their crown.  They have added former Oakland A’s pitcher Trevor Cahill to their rotation, coming off a rough year that saw him post a 4.16 ERA.  The Giants continue to be built around pitching, but their lineup does not match the Dodgers.  The Padres will continue to do the same, building on pitching, but fielding a lineup that will struggle to score runs.  The Rockies have some promising pitching prospects, but they do not appear to be ready to make an impact at the major league level yet.