Category: Dailies

There’s No Place Like Home

After a disastrous 2-7 road trip to end April, the Dodgers are back on track.  They returned home last week to take three of four from the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Andre Ethier has four homeruns in the last three games, and James Loney has 6 RBI in those three games, as well. 
ethier homerun.jpgThe pitching staff allowed only 8 runs in the four games (after giving up 21 in three games in New York), the Dodgers saw continued improvement from the bullpen, Carlos Monasterios made his first start, and Xavier Paul has also broken out scoring 4 runs in 2 starts leading off in place of Rafael Furcal.  In really the only bad news for the Dodgers, Furcal has been put on the disabled list with a strained hamstring.  Jamey Carroll has been filling in at short.  The Dodgers continue the homestand this week with the Milwaukee Brewers today through Thursday, and the Colorado Rockies over the weekend.  The Brewers have struggled out of the gate to a 10-15 record.  They lost 3 of 4 over the weekend in San Diego, getting shutout three times.  The Brewers also lost 2of 3 at home to the Pirates, prior to that getting swept by the Chicago Cubs at home.  The Brewers were outscored in that series 25-4.  So the Brewers are reeling right now.   The Rockies have the Cy Young winner for the month of April, Ubaldo Jimenez who went 5-0 with a 0.79 ERA for April.  He has 6 wins overall, but that’s almost half of the Rockies 13 wins as a team.  The Dodgers are 1 1/2 games back of the Rockies for the 3rd spot in the division.  Will the Dodgers streak continue? 
ubaldo jimenez.jpg Clayton Kershaw will take the mound tonight looking for his 2nd win of the season.  He took the loss in the first game of the Pittsburgh series despite giving up only 2 runs in 6 1/3.  He’s given up only 5 runs overall in his last 19 1/3, but has an 0-1 record during that span.  But the Dodgers bats have come to life, and with some run support Kershaw should be just fine.  
 

Down and Out on the Road…Again

The Dodgers struggles on the road have continued over the past week.  They dropped 2 of 3 to the Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals, lost the first-game of a doubleheader against the Mets today, Manny Ramirez, Vicente Padilla, and Jeff Weaver have been placed on the disabled list, and the Dodgers’ offense has gone into a slump, as evidenced by back-to-back shutouts, 1-0 in Washington on Sunday, and 4-0 earlier today in New York. 

run scoring on martin.jpg But once again, there are positives to build on in the trip.  Chad Billingsley appeared to have found himself (at least for one game) in Sunday’s loss to Washington.  Carlos Monasterios had a breakout performance in Saturday’s extra-inning victory over the Nationals.  And George Sherrill continues to get batters out as well.  In the 3-game series against the Reds, the Dodgers offense, was there, it was their pitching that let them down.  The Dodgers scored 30 runs in that series, but somehow managed to lose two of the games.  The offense went dormant in DC scoring only 5 runs in the three games.  A rainout yesterday forced today’s double-header, the Dodgers were held scoreless in the first game, losing 4-0, despite a strong effort from Hiroki Kuroda.  They are currently tied 3-3 in the second game.  The Dodgers will play their third game in 24 hours tomorrow at 10am West Coast Time.  After that, the Dodgers will finally return home for four games with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The Dodgers offensive woes will end soon enough, the lineup is too deep to struggle for long.  Hong-Chih Kuo and Ronald Bellisario have returned to the bullpen, and both struggled in Washington, but their mere presence is a big help to the overworked bullpen.
bellisario sweating.jpg  The other question facing the Dodgers is who will start in place of Vicente Padilla.  It sounds as though recently called-up and demoted Jon Link will most likely get the start.  Despite all of this, at this early point in the season, the Dodgers remain only three games back of the first place San Diego Padres.  

The First Two Weeks

 It’s two weeks into the season and the Dodgers are sitting at .500 with a 6-6 record.  Of course they lost four of six on the road in Pittsburgh and Florida.  Two of the losses in Florida painfully tough one-run losses.  The Dodgers turned around to win four of six in their first homestand, thanks in no small part to some late inning heroics from Andre Ethier and Manny Ramirez.  The biggest problem of the season thus far has been the ineffectiveness of the bullpen.  The Dodgers have the second worst bullpen ERA in the National League at 5.93.  A large part of that has been George Sherrill who checks in today with an 11.57 ERA in seven appearances.   
Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for kershaw.jpgHe has shown improvement, though, with 1 1/3 inning scoreless in his last two games.  The next biggest culprit was Spring Training re-tread Russ Ortiz, who had a 10.29 ERA in 6 appearances.  He has been designated for assignment, so he will either be sent to the minors or retire.  The Dodgers have called up Jon Link in the meantime, but he should only be on the roster temporarily as Hong-Chih Kuo is set to be activated from the disabled list and Ronald Bellisario should be called up from his extended spring training.  Kuo and Bellisario were key components of last year’s bullpen and their arrival should greatly benefit the team. 
The other major problem facing the Dodgers is the inability of the starters to pitch late into games.  However, Clayton Kershaw and Vicente Padilla each pitched seven strong innings in their last starts.  Hiroki Kuroda has pitched seven and eight innings respectively in his two starts this season.  Kershaw and Chad Billingsley have had the most trouble keeping their pitch count low and not walking batters.  While Billingsley has struck out 12 batters in 11 innnings, he has walked seven.  Kershaw has 20 strikeouts in 17 innings, but has an astounding 15 walks as well.  That is the most in all of baseball.  That being said, there are still 156 games to go in this major league season. and if the Dodgers can solve those two main issues.  There are plenty of positives to build on. 

rmartin.jpgThe Dodgers are hitting .303 as a team which is the best in baseball, and they’ve scored the third most runs in all of baseball.  Jonathan Broxton has been lights out, allowing only two baserunners in six appearances while striking out nine!  The Dodgers head to Cincinnati, Washington, and New York on this road trip, they have a great opportunity to improve on that 2-4 road record.

Season Preview

Good day all!  It’s been a while since we last saw each other, we’re less than a week away from the start of the new baseball season, and I’m planning on writing as much as I can about it.  As the Dodgers wind up spring training, what do we have to look forward to?
  
manny sliding.jpgThe National League West is going to be a competitive division for sure this year, the Dodgers are the defending division champs, and many expect them to repeat that feat this year.  The Colorado Rockies are a strong, young team on the rise that should hang with the Dodgers all year long.  Many are also picking the Rockies to win the division. The San Francisco Giants with their vaunted pitching staff should also contend in the division.  The Arizona Diamondbacks are another young team making strides, that improved in the off-season.  The only team in the division that doesn’t figure to be competitive is the San Diego Padres.  There have been many questions about the Dodgers starting rotation and their lack of an “ace” pitcher.  Many feel that will prevent them from taking the next step and moving on to the World Series.  While the Dodgers do lack a dominant, #1 starter.  They are deep and solid one-through-four, and have several strong candidates to fill the #5 hole.  While watching ESPN over the past few days as they’ve been previewing the upcoming season, one notices how many teams don’t even have pitching spots #3 and #4 wrapped up!!  How many teams have a great #1 and possibly #2 guy, and from there on out, they’re using the bullpen from the 4th inning on. 
lincecum.jpgThe Dodgers have guys who can go out and give six strong innings everyday, and then hand it over to their lights-out bullpen.  Hitting-wise the Dodgers don’t really have any question-marks, the strong and consistent lineup from last year is back and virtually unchanged.  The only departure on offense being Orlando Hudson at second base who will be replaced by either Blake DeWitt, who fits in perfectly with the core group of guys, or Ronnie Belliard, who also slides into the Dodgers packed lineup very nicely.  So what about the other teams in the division.  The biggest threat to the Dodgers would have to be the Colorado Rockies who also have a loaded everyday lineup, and have the starting pitching and bullpen to carry them through the season.  Much like the Dodgers, the Rockies do not have an “ace” #1 starter, and their closer Huston Street is experiencing shoulder problems right now, so I feel it would be premature to dethrone the Dodgers in favor of the Rockies.  The Giants certainly have the most dominant starting pitching the division with defending Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.  The Giants are also solid one-through-four, but are you really telling me you’d take Barry Zito over any of the Dodgers starters.  And the Giants struggle to score runs, and I don’t think adding Mark DeRosa to the mix is going to put them over the top.  The Diamondbacks also have a young, potent offense, and have made improvements to the pitching staff, but not enough to overtake the other three teams in the division.  The Padres are fielding what would appear to be a minor-leauge team for a second straight year, and their opening day starter is Jon Garland…enough said.  As far as the rest of the National League, it looks to be the usual suspects.  The St. Louis Cardinals are still the team to beat in the Central. 
blake fielding.jpgThe Cubs and Brewers should contend, but St. Louis has dominant pitching.  The defending National League champion Phillies should finish atop the East.  The Mets have made improvements, but they’re on of those teams that after their #1 “ace” starter, they’re not very deep.  The Braves also should contend, but not enough improvements to dethrone the Phillies.  All things being equal, the Dodgers stand a great chance to advance to the postseason for the third straight year.  Opening Day is just around the corner, how will the Dodgers do?  I’ll be watching all season long, hope you will be too!

Will he or won’t he?

The season is over, the Phillies have won it all, and now every free agent in the league is free to field offers from every interested team.  That means Manny Ramirez will be doing some visiting in the next few weeks.  I don’t think anybody should be surprised that Manny is fielding offers from other teams, there’s no way the Dodgers were going to put down an initial offer and Manny was going to immediately accept and decline listening to anybody else.  Who is really interested in Manny’s services is the other question.  One of the factors that should help Manny in returning to L.A. is the fact that only a handful of teams can afford him.  Manny’s not about to go to the Kansas City Royals or Minnesota Twins.  Who can afford him other than the Dodgers.  Boston can, he’s not going back there.  The Yankees are an interesting choice, but they need pitching desperately and even the Yankees can’t afford A-Rod, Manny, and CC or other high-priced starter of their liking.  The Mets could also potentially go after him, but the direction that team is heading, Manny doesn’t really seem to fit what they’re doing.  Would the World Champion Phillies go after Manny, from what I’ve heard, they’re not really interested, same goes for San Francisco (and AT&T is a left-handed hitters park anyway).  The Cubs, too many big long-term deals already in place.  The White Sox, kind of like the Mets I think, I just don’t see Manny really fitting their scheme there.  And what about the Angels, they could pony up the money, but I don’t see Manny staying in Southern California all to move down the road and play for a team that didn’t do as well as the Dodgers in the playoffs.  That seems to make the most logical choice for Manny, the Dodgers.
manny hands up.jpg I’m not trying to sound like a homer here, but the entire country saw the difference Manny made for the Dodgers.  With him in the lineup, they’re pretty much the best team in the National League, without him, they’re just kind of average.  This is going to be a huge off-season for talent moving across the league, not only through signings, but via trades, as well.  Colorado has already shipped Matt Holliday off to Oakland.  I’ll certainly miss seeing a player of Holliday’s caliber in the division, but it’ll definitely make it easier to beat the Rockies too.  Who lands where remains to be seen, but I’ll be keeping an eye on some key moves over the off season.  And, of course, we’ll all be waiting to see what Manny does.

So, what happens next?

The Dodgers’ season is over.  They lost to the Phillies 5-1 last night, ending the NLCS, and ending 2008 for the Dodgers.  The Phillies will wait for the winner of the Boston-Tampa Bay series, and the Dodgers will start their vacations. 
I’m not going to say anything more about the series.  The Dodgers lost to a better team, the young guys inexperience showed, and the Phillies have been there before and were just a little hungrier, I guess.  That’s Ok, though.  I feel the future will be bright for the Dodgers.
Thumbnail image for nomar goodbye.jpg
Provided the team brings Manny Ramirez back, they’re already assured of being one of, if not the best team in the National League last year.  It appears the team also wants to bring back Rafael Furcal.  Furcal has been very oft-injured during his three years here, but when he’s healthy, Furcal is one of the most dynamic players in the league, with his game-changing speed and aggressiveness with the bat.  Most importantly, though, the young core of the team, Russell Martin, Andre Ethier, James Loney, Matt Kemp, and Blake DeWitt should all be back, with a full-year more of experience under their belts and a wealth more of knowledge.  And the club will be stable too with Joe Torre and his staff also returning.  The main questions in the offseason for the Dodgers will be the pitching staff.  The only two starters assured of returning are Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda.  The team may or may not exercise its option on Brad Penny, who was pretty much of a non-factor this year, but has also been an all-star the past two years, as well.  Derek Lowe’s four years with the Dodgers is probably up as he will most likely depart for free agency, and probably return to the East Coast or his hometown Detroit Tigers.  Lowe was always reliable and effective during his tenure here, but never got the run support to put up the near Cy Young numbers he had in Boston.  His high-mark in wins in L.A. was 16 when the Dodgers won the wildcard in ’06.  But, before we can have some free agent moves, there’s a World Series to play.  For the first time in their history, the Tampa Bay Rays will be in the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.  Tampa has the momentum, as the Phils have been off for about a week now after dropping the Dodgers 4-1.  Despite being one of baseball’s original teams, the Phillies have only one World Series win, in 1980.  We’ve seen first hand how quickly the Phillies high powered offense can score.  But, Tampa Bay’s pitchers pretty much shut down the vaunted Boston Red Sox offense other than one game.  However, the whole country got to see that Boston is not a better team without Manny Ramirez.  Will the cinderella Rays taste glory for the first time, or will the Phillies bring a championship to a city that’s gone 100 combined years without a major sports victory.  Game 1 is tonight. 
charlie manuel.jpg   

Heartbreak vs. Embarassment

Things are looking pretty bleak for the Dodgers right now.  They let the game slip away last night with only 5 outs left to even up the series.  Many in town are questioning some of Joe Torre’s decisions last night, but the fact is, the bullpen has been one of the Dodgers strengths all year long.  They had been flawless in the playoffs up until last night.  Apparently, something had to give.  Chan Ho Park couldn’t get the job done, Cory Wade couldn’t get the job done, and then Jonathan Broxton couldn’t get the job done.  There’s not really much else to say about last night.
despondent.jpg  For the second time in four games the Dodgers had a lead and let it slip away in heartbreaking fashion.  The Dodgers can win the last game at Dodger Stadium.  So long as Chad Billingsley has his stuff together, there’s no reason the Dodgers can’t win tomorrow.  As far as winning in Philadelphia, this blogger’s just taking it one day at a time.  For some type of solace, I look to the Boston-Tampa Bay series and try to lessen the sting of the Dodgers losing.  The Dodgers won the first game at home, and played a tight game up until the 8th inning last night.  The Boston Red Sox on the other hand, have been getting embarassed the past two nights at home by the Tampa Bay Rays.  They lost 9-1 on Monday night, and got drubbed again tonight 13-4.  What is happening to the Red Sox is inexlpicable.  Their ace, Jon Lester, who was 11-1 this year at Fenway Park, got hit hard by the Rays last night, giving up four runs in only 5 2/3 innings last night.  Tim Wakefield suffered a similar fate tonight giving up five runs in only 2 2/3 innings.  So I ask, which is worse, playing a tight game, and letting it slip away at the end like the Dodgers, or getting spanked at home like the Red Sox?  This is now a tale of two cities,  because I’m sure most people wer hoping for a Dodgers-Red Sox World Series.  That may not come to be, of course anything is possible.  Both teams need to win their remaining three games to stay alive.  Things look better for the Dodgers who will most likely be in a low scoring game tomorrow.  Botson has been outscored 22-5 so far, so anything would be good for them.  Will the Dodgers October ride continue?  Chad Billingsley will be leading the charge tomorrow.  Let’s go Dodgers.
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