Payback was the order of the weekend as the Los Angeles Dodgers traveled to Anaheim to face the last team to win a series from them, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim—who feel the need to carry the LA brand, even though they aren't in the same county, much less city.
The Dodgers won the last two games of the series after blowing a 4-1 lead in the opener, to level the 2009 Freeway Series at three games apiece. That will be the final total for this season, unless the teams were to meet again in the Fall Classic.
Los Angeles (the real ones) pushed their record to 46-24, a season high 22 games above .500, retain their three and one-half game advantage over Boston for the best record in the Majors, and eight game advantage over second place San Francisco in the National League West.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles/Anaheim (the artificial ones) saw their record dip to 36-31 and remain one-half game behind Texas for the American League Western lead.
A small measure of payback was also applied on behalf of the Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who has been tortured by the Angels and their manager, long time Dodger catcher Mike Scioscia, who's Anaheim-based club was the only one to hold an advantage over the Torre era Yankee teams.
In a series where the first game was decided by a single run and the balance were decided by two runs each, coming through in the clutch is key. The Dodgers were 8-for-30 with runners in scoring position and stranded 28 runners. Meanwhile, the Angels went 6-for-29 and left 23 runners over the weekend.
The Dodgers racked up a total of 33 hits, 12 each in the last two games. Power-wise, they cracked four homers, two by James Loney to double his season total, one by Rafael Furcal, and Russell Martin finally opened his account for the season by hitting his first. Orlando Hudson and Juan Pierre each stroked two doubles in one game—Hudson on Friday and Pierre on Sunday—and Andre Ethier belted his first triple of the season on Saturday.
The Angels collected 24 hits, eight each game of the series. They drilled three home runs, Juan Rivera's game winner on Friday while Kendry Morales and Gary Matthews Jr. both went deep on Saturday. Morales, Chone Figgins, and Torii Hunter each collected a double over the weekend while Figgins tripled for the fourth time this season Saturday.
Dodger hitters struck out 21 times while garnering 14 walks, the Angels were punched out 22 times and drew 15 passes. Defensively, the Dodgers committed one error in each game while the Angels went the whole weekend without a fielding miscue.
Friday June 19 - Angels 5 Dodgers 4
Dodger ace Chad Billingsley faced the Angels Joe Saunders in the opening tilt. The Blue Crew were able to take a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning before the Halos came back to tie the game on a bases-loaded single by Maicer Izturis and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Mike Napoli.
The Dodgers opened the scoring when Casey Blake drew a bases loaded walk in the third inning. After the Angels had tied the contest in the bottom of the third on a Vlad Guerrero single cashing in Figgins, Loney drilled a homer to right in the fourth to give the Blue Crew the lead right back.
Furcal pulled a change up into the seats by the left field foul pole to expand the Dodger lead in the fifth, a blast that picked up Pierre along the way.
Rivera drilled his 10th homer of the season to provide the Angels with their winning tally, a drive off Guillermo Mota in the eighth inning. It was the first run surrendered by Mota in his last 12.1 innings, a span of 11 games.
The Angel bullpen held the Dodgers scoreless, despite LA loading the bases in the eighth and getting two more runners on in the ninth. Brian Fuentes struck out Matt Kemp to collect his 19th save on the year.
Saturday June 20 - Dodgers 6 Angels 4
The Dodgers Jeff Weaver faced off against his younger brother Jered in this game, the eighth set of brothers to have started a Major League game against each other, 21 times in total.
The Niekro's, Phil and Joe, have squared off the most—nine times. Greg and Mike Maddux faced each other twice. The balance have been one-time affairs, save back in the 20's when Jess and Virgil Barnes matched up five times in three years.
The last time brothers clashed on the mound was in 2002, when Andy Benes got the better of his younger brother Alan as the St. Louis Cardinals thumped the Chicago Cubs 11-2. Prior to that, the Dodgers Ramon Martinez edged his younger brother Pedro and his Expos 2-1 in 1996.
The home team jumped out to an early lead, scoring a run in each of the first two innings. Bobby Abreu singled home Figgins in the first and Morales took Jeff Weaver deep to right in the second.
The visitors tied it in the third with the first home run of the season by Martin, who collected three hits on the day, and a sacrifice fly from Hudson that chased home Pierre. The Blue Crew took the lead for good in the fifth, with the aid of a Casey Blake single for one and Ethier's triple for two more.
The Halo's Kevin Jepsen gifted the Dodgers one more run in the sixth on a wild pitch and almost a second, with Kemp being nipped at home after another pitch got away from catcher Jeff Mathis, but not quite far enough as his throw to Jepsen was just in time to get Kemp.
Anaheim's locals scratched back on the power of a pinch-hit two-run homer off the bat of Matthews, but Jonathan Broxton was able to seal the victory by retiring Erick Aybar on a bouncer to Hudson.
With Jeff taking the victory over Jered in the battle of the Weaver's, older brothers have defeated their younger siblings 12 out of 21 times.
Sunday June 21 - Dodgers 5 Angels 3
Father's Day in Anaheim with the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball crew televising the contest, what an excellent opportunity for the Dodgers to make another statement to the baseball nation as to the quality of their ballclub.
This was the third time this season the Dodgers have appeared on ESPN's Sunday Night edition, winning 8-2 against the Cubs in Chicago on May 31st and falling at home to the Phillies 7-2 the following week.
With this victory, the Dodgers were able to level their record on Father's Day for the decade at 5-5, and 2-2 against the Angels during that time frame.
Torre sent young Texas bred lefty Clayton Kershaw to the mound against the Angels ace righty John Lackey, who also carries a Texas brand though from a vintage 10 years earlier. Kershaw was able to earn his first win in four starts while Lackey has been saddled with three losses in his last five outings.
Each pitcher struck out five and walked four. The difference being Kershaw did not allow any runs in his seven innings of work, an outing that tied his career high for innings pitched, while Lackey was touched for four runs in eight innings.
The Blue Crew opened the scoring in the top of the fifth inning, as Pierre pulled a fastball into the right field corner to plate Kemp.
In the bottom of the frame, Kershaw displayed a great Houdini impersonation, getting out of a bases loaded, no out jam by inducing Abreu to tap back to him, starting a home to first double play. Hunter popped up to Furcal ending their chance to score.
The Dodgers doubled their lead in the seventh as Pierre doubled again to drive in Kemp, this time on a fly ball over the head of left fielder Rivera. Pierre was nabbed at third in an unsuccessful attempt to stretch the hit into a triple.
LA came back with two more runs in the eighth frame, on the power of Loney's fourth homer of the season. The play was subjected to review by instant replay, given the absurd way Anaheim has their right field wall—a 18 foot barrier with an electronic scoreboard face.
The top of the wall does not have a yellow stripe, just a metallic top up against unpainted concrete and a dark green railing. It is as if they are intentionally trying to create controversy and make the umpires job more difficult.
If the commissioner would actually properly administer the game instead of glad-handing every dollar possible, he would direct the Angels to correct this situation, either with a distinctive yellow stripe or the installation of a basket along the lines of what was put into Wrigley Field.
Broxton was summoned by Torre in the eighth inning to quell an Angel uprising, with one run in, the tying run at the plate, and rally monkeys hopping all over the joint. After walking Matthews on a full count, Broxton smoked Aybar on five fastballs on the outside half then punched his ticket on a foul tip off an inside slider.
Blake singled in the top of the ninth to cash in Pierre, a run that was useful as Broxton surrendered two runs on three hits in the bottom of the ninth before inducing a grounder from Napoli to end the game, cage the rally monkeys, and collect his 17th save on the season.
Manny Ramirez is scheduled to report to the Dodgers Triple-A farm team on Tuesday to begin his 10 game maximum stint, gearing up to return to the Dodgers after his 50-game suspension has concluded.
The plan is for him to play at Albuquerque for a few days, while they host Nashville from Tuesday through Friday. Manny will then go to San Bernardino and join the Single-A Inland Empire 66ers for a few games before rejoining the Dodgers.
Of course, Manny is Manny and this is subject to change, so caution is urged before buying tickets in expectation of seeing him in either minor league park.
Hurray for Hollywood
Saturday marked the one year anniversary of the Los Angeles Dodgers receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The star is located in front of the Kodak Theater at 6801 Hollywood Blvd, near Highland.
Playing Catch with Dad
The Dodgers opened up the stadium playing field to anyone who wanted to come out and toss a ball around on Sunday. This is the sixth time they have invited families to come and enjoy themselves playing catch on the most magnificent piece of real estate in Southern California.
Gates opened at 10 A.M. and the event lasted three hours. Former Dodger players such as Tommy Davis, "Sweet Lou" Johnson, and Bobby Castillo were on hand for autographs.
Unfazed Blue Crew
The Dodgers were leading Major League Baseball with a 20-7 record when the team was shaken to it's core by the news of Manny Ramirez's suspension on May 7. Behind the veteran leadership of Pierre, Hudson and Blake, the Blue Crew have continued their winning ways after the loss of Manny's services.
Since the time of the suspension, the Dodgers are 25-16, which ties them with the Boston Red Sox for the best mark in the Majors since May 7.
Kershaw Shackles Batters
Coming into Sunday's game, the league was hitting only .217 against Clayton Kershaw, which was good for third best in the National League. He was able to lower that average to .213 after allowing only four hits while facing 29 batters against the Angels.
With Loney's blast in the seventh inning on Sunday, the Dodgers have hit 51 home runs on the season while surrendering 48. While the Dodgers homer total is only 13th in the National League and 27th overall in the Majors, their batting average of .279 leads the NL and is second over all, trailing only the .280 clip of the Angels.
As far as taters surrendered, the Dodgers have the second fewest in both the National League and the Majors, behind the Atlanta Braves who have allowed 45 long balls. However, the Dodger team ERA of 3.56 leads all of baseball.
Thus the current formula reads: best ERA plus 2nd best batting average equals the most wins in baseball.
One Champ Sizing Up Some Contenders
In the front row behind the Dodger dugout Sunday was the freshly minted NBA playoff MVP of the 15 time NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant.
ESPN made sure to provide their audience plenty of shots of Nike's pride and joy, sans that hideous puppet paw shirt he wore during the parade to the Coliseum on Wednesday.
After a day off Monday, the Dodgers fly to Chicago and head to the South Side to face the White Sox for a three game set. This will be the second time the Dodgers visit the Sox in interleague play, with the Dodger record standing at 0-3 at U.S. Cellular Field. LA is 2-4 against the White Sox at Dodger Stadium.
Tuesday, the Dodgers will send Hiroki Kuroda (1-3, 3.86) out to face John Danks (5-5, 4.48) with a game time of 5:11 P.M. in Los Angeles carried on KCAL Channel 9.
Wednesday will see Randy Wolf (3-2, 3.29) going against Gavin Floyd (4-5, 4.65) with the same start time, shown in LA on Prime Ticket.
The series concludes Thursday afternoon when Chad Billingsley (9-3, 2.83) faces Clayton Richard (2-1, 4.03) at 11:05 A.M also on Prime Ticket.
Vin Scully will enjoy almost a week off, returning to the airwaves Friday when the Seattle Mariners visit Dodger Stadium. Eric Collins and Steve Lyons will be at the mic for the series in Chicago.
Hopefully there will not be another episode where they blatantly stomp on baseball tradition by continually saying the words "no-hitter" while one is in process.