Los Angeles Dodgers Weekly: Ethier Mashes, Blake Flashes, Manny Dashes
A weekly installment that recaps the Dodgers past seven days; for the week of July 24-30
Comedian Tom Green might be all smiles, but this past week has been anything but happy times for fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Last Thursday the Dodgers were riding a five-game winning streak and taking a day off to begin the final three games of a nine-game stint at Dodger Stadium.
They piled up the first three-game losing streak of the season amidst an ugly 10-0 loss against the Cards, a game that saw infielder Mark Loretta record one-third of an inning on the mound. Additionally, Chad Billingsley was tagged for six runs in the sixth inning of that loss.
Going on to lose the next night, the story of the week unfolded to be the Dodgers inability to drive runners in.
On the plus side, Andre Ethier earned NL Player of the Week honors for his efforts during the week of July 20-26.
Casey Blake blooped a walk-off single last Saturday to down the Marlins, 4-3, and break out of a post All-Star game slump.
The start of the series with Florida marked the first of 20 consecutive games Los Angeles will play without a day off. The club will have to show some resiliency and make it through this difficult stretch of the schedule to avoid shrinking their lead in the NL West.
Click on any "W" or "L" within a series to view full game recap (if applicable)
The Marlins 25-year old righty Josh Johnson put an end to the Dodgers five-game winning streak by tossing seven innings and allowing three runs.
Los Angeles southpaw Clayton Kershaw gave up a season-high nine base hits but did not factor in the decision. The bullpen took the honors of earning the loss, as James McDonald suffered his second defeat of the season. It was the first time the bullpen lost a game since July 4.
Ethier went 3-for-4 with two RBI and Blake tripled and scored a run, but the team collected just six hits on the night.
McDonald gave up a pinch-hit RBI single to Jeremy Hermida that put the Marlins on top for good en route to a 6-3 win.
On Saturday night, the Dodgers managed their lone victory of the series, 4-3, behind a Blake walk-off single. The third baseman popped a Texas-league single into shallow right-center field to score Rafael Furcal for the winning run. Furcal started the ninth-inning rally by placing a perfect bunt single in between the pitcher and first baseman.
Hiroki Kuroda went six innings and struck out nine batters while walking just one but was unable to earn the win. Orlando Hudson went 3-for-5 and Ethier continued his dominance with a 3-for-3 performance. However, it began a disturbing trend for the lineup, as they racked up 13 hits but only pushed across four runs.
In the series finale, the Dodgers fell behind 8-0 and couldn’t claw all the way back in what eventually became an 8-6 loss in the rubber match of the series. Jason Schmidt went just three innings and gave up five runs, which rose his ERA in two starts to an alarming 7.88. Schmidt was hit hard as the Marlins squared up and teed-off on his mediocre fastball.
Russell Martin homered and the offense racked up 13 hits, two more than the Marlins, but still lost the game.
Things got a bit confrontational when a Jeff Weaver pitch plunked Hanley Ramirez. Both benches were issued a warning. Later in the game, Burke Badenhop was ejected along with his manager Fredi Gonzalez when he drilled Hudson, but nothing further transpired between the clubs.
NL West race: 1. Los Angeles (62-38)
2. Colorado (54-44) 8 GB
3. San Francisco (52-46) 10 GB
Los Angeles lost 6-1 but notched just as many hits as the Redbirds (11) in the defeat. Every starting position player for the Dodgers recorded a hit but they scored just the one run and left 11 men on base.
The lone run of the game came on a Furcal sacrifice fly that scored Matt Kemp. Kemp had a dreadfully quiet week after torching pitchers for the past month and a half. Furcal went 3-for-4 on the night.
Randy Wolf gave up just two runs in six innings but still took a loss and evened his record at 5-5. The Dodgers were never in this game and never gathered any sort of momentum to put pressure on the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter.
One piece of positive news from Monday night was the return of Hong Chi-Kuo after missing two months with elbow soreness. He worked a 1-2-3 inning and threw 10 pitches while experiencing no discomfort in the arm.
The following night saw an hour and 38-minute rain delay at the start of the game, but then it was more of the same as the Dodgers once again out-hit their opponents but lost the game, this time being shut out 10-0.
The Cardinals scored six runs in the sixth and four in the eighth in an embarrassing loss for the visitors from Hollywood.
Billingsley walked six on the night and was accountable for all six runs in the sixth and it was the second time in three outings he has allowed six runs.
Ryan Ludwick and Yadier Molina each delivered two-RBI singles in the sixth and Mark DeRosa slammed a three-run home run in the eighth to highlight the beat down.
The pitching staff issued nine walks as a unit on the night and the offense left nine more runners stranded on the base paths. To add insult to injury, Joe Torre called on infielder Mark Loretta to record the final out of the eighth inning.
Wednesday night saw LA squander two separate one-run leads, one in the ninth and one in the 11th, and the Cardinals used an Albert Pujols walk-off hit in the 15th to win 3-2.
Weaver went after Pujols with a 3-2 fastball. The question lingers: with runners on first and second, leaving third base open, why pitch to him? Yes, Holliday is waiting on-deck, but you’re much better taking your chances with him than baseball’s most dangerous hitter.
Earlier in the inning Torre elected to pitch around Julio Lugo in an attempt to squander any ideas of a squeeze play. Torre even threw a pitch out on the first offering to Lugo. Coming from the American League, Torre knows that Lugo is likely to be called on to drop one down in that situation.
That begs the question again: if you avoid the squeeze from Lugo, why allow Pujols a chance to beat you? And on a fastball, nonetheless, just makes it inexcusable to let their best player torch you; it’s like letting Kobe Bryant take an open jumper to beat you at the buzzer, it just makes no sense.
It was the first time the Dodgers lost a game when taking a lead into the ninth inning; they were 49-0 previously.
Things finally took a turn for the positive in the series finale, when the Dodgers notched a 5-3 victory in 10 innings. Kemp lined a two-out, two-RBI single into left field for the go-ahead and eventual winning runs.
The young center fielder went 3-for-5 with three RBI and the veteran Blake added a 4-for-5 night at the plate.
Kuroda once again put in an excellent effort but came out empty-handed in the win column. He tossed six innings and gave up only two runs on four hits.
An encouraging sign in the win was Broxton’s performance to earn the save. Although he walked the leadoff batter, no doubt leaving Torre reaching for the Pepto Bismol, Broxton came back to retire the next three hitters. The last out came when Pujols hit a slow tapper back to the mound for an easy out.
NL West race: 1. Los Angeles (63-39)
2. San Francisco (56-46) 8 GB
3. Colorado (55-47) 9 GB
The Road Ahead
It was a wild week for the National League and a time to slump for their leaders in Los Angeles.
The World Champion Philadelphia Phillies added reigning AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee to bolster their pitching staff with an extremely talented southpaw.
The Dodgers added George Sherrill, a solid late-inning reliever and a desperately needed arm to bolster a pitching staff that has been on the decline as of late. I noted in my trade deadline review last week that the team had been scouting him for a while and trying to evaluate a plan to acquire him for a reasonable cost.
Sherrill will provide the extra arm the team has been in search of since the injury to Ronald Belisario. Since Belisario last pitched the club has gone just 11-9. Kuo was a welcome return to the bullpen arsenal but he can’t be expected to throw very much considering his prior injuries.
Sherrill might quietly be the huge addition they needed when you think about the state of Broxton. Big Jonathan blew his third save of the season on Wednesday night, but the bigger concern was the lack of movement on his slider and his diminished fastball. It’s becoming more and more clear that his toe is more of an issue than the team is leading on about; Broxton has given up six earned runs in just 10 IP (5.40 ERA) in July, compared to just nine earned runs in 36.2 IP (2.21 ERA) in April through June.
If Broxton’s toe prevents him at some point from taking the field, Sherrill would be a respectable fill-in for the normally dependable closer.
As for the Dodgers, they also vastly underperformed in a pivotal series against NL power St. Louis. The team was hitting the ball decently but did a terrible job of executing with men on base. Continuing to strand men on base will doom an offensively potent team that has fallen on hard times recently trying to score runs.
Entering the Florida series, LA was 51-6 when gaining more hits than their opponent. They dropped two such games this week and are now 52-9 in such situations, losing Sunday to the Marlins and Tuesday/Wednesday to the Cardinals when racking up more hits.
Despite the brutal series in the Midwest, things aren’t completely falling apart for the Boys in Blue. Yes, they lost a lot of games this past week. But they still have a sizeable lead in the NL West. They still can’t be content to coast into the playoffs; the Rockies showed in ’07 that no lead is safe and Los Angeles needs to pick things up before they breathe life into either the Rox or Giants. Two weeks from now they will play the Black and Orange in a three-game set in the Bay Area, which could be a tide-turner in the division.
This next week leading up to that series is going to dictate the importance of it when they get there. If they head to San Francisco up just four or five games, it could be potentially devastating to lose up there. However, if they can gain a couple of games back during an upcoming seven-game home stand, the pressure will shift to San Fran to come out on top and get closer in the race.
Los Angeles now sits seven games in front of the Giants, having lost two games on their cushion within the division.
If history is any indication, the Dodgers should bounce back strong after breaking this five-game skid. They lost a season-high eight games in a row at the end of August last season, but bounced back to win the next eight in a row.
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