Nationals 11, Dodgers 4

Yhency Brazoban, who left after facing three batters and failing to retire any of them, will have an MRI tomorrow to determine the cause of pain in the back of his right shoulder. The good news is, it isn’t his elbow. The bad news is, it still doesn’t look good. And neither does the rest of the Dodgers’ bullpen, which got hammered tonight. The interesting thing was that the only relievers who didn’t get into the game were Takashi Saito, who would never be used in a game like this anyway, and Chad Billingsley. Could that mean Billingsley is the guy for the fifth spot? Quite possibly, because now, the Dodgers might need to add a 12th pitcher just to bolster the pen after tonight’s game. That wouldn’t be Hong-Chih Kuo, because he is starting at Las Vegas. Dodgers fall to 31-22. Arizona was off, so the D-back pull even. San Diego scored two in the ninth to tie the Pirates. If the Pods win, it will be a three-way tie for first.

The cure for what ails the Nats

It took Mark Hendrickson exactly three batters to become the first Dodgers starting pitcher to give up a run since, well, Mark Hendrickson on Saturday night against the Cubs. He gave up two of them , in fact, on a two-run homer by Ryan Zimmerman with one out, and Hendrickson was lucky he didn’t give up more because the Nats left runners on the corners. Dodgers went quickly in the top of the inning against Micah Bowie. Nationals 2, Dodgers 0, top 2

Tomorrow’s notebook

Another slow news day. Here’s what I came up with for tomorrow’s paper

By Tony Jackson
Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — It has gone virtually unnoticed in the shadow of the 15-game hitting streak that Rafael Furcal brought into Thursday night’s game at Washington and the never-ending exploits of catcher Russell Martin, but Dodgers left fielder Luis Gonzalez has sizzled of late.
Sizzled to the tune of an eight-game hitting streak of his own, during which he was batting .414 (12 for 29).
“I made some minor adjustments,” Gonzalez said. “I worked a little bit with (hitting coach) Eddie (Murray), just trying to shorten some stuff up a little bit. It’s just part of the game. You’re always tinkering with things.”
The surge has raised Gonzalez’s average almost 30 points to .286. In the first two games of the series here, he went 4 for 8 with a double and a three-run homer.
Gonzalez said his adjustment has been strictly mechanical and that he hasn’t changed his approach at the plate at all. Instead, he and Murray worked to simplify Gonzalez’s swing and reduce the amount of bodily movement it involved.
“We just generally played around with it until Eddie said, `Hey, let’s try this,”’ Gonzalez said. “I’m seeing the ball good and just going from there. When you have played this game as long as I have, you know when you’re in a zone and feeling good. But for the most part, you try not to get too high. You just ride it out and have good at-bats.
“Two weeks from now, I might be (adjusting) something else.”

Second thoughts: One day after he all but confirmed that left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo will be recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas to fill the vacant fifth spot in the Dodgers’ starting rotation beginning on Saturday night, manager Grady Little seemed to backtrack slightly.
“The only thing I’m leaning toward right now is that I’m not going to make an announcement on the guy yet,” Little said.
Little said his reticence comes from the fact another player — probably a position player, but not necessarily — will have to be sent to the minors to clear a roster spot if Kuo is called up. Kuo would give the Dodgers a 12-man staff if another pitcher isnt sent out, but Little said club officials haven’t decided on that yet.

Also: Although reliever Chin-hui Tsao becomes eligible to return from the 15-day DL on Monday night at Pittsburgh, it doesn’t appear that he will. Tsao played catch on Wednesday for the second time since going on the shelf with a right shoulder strain on May 23, and he continued to feel pain. He will throw again today.
“He is still a ways away,” Little said. “We won’t let him throw off a mound until he is completely free of any kind of tightess or soreness.”

Escape clause: Veteran outfielder Larry Bigbie, who is hitting .349 at Las Vegas, has another escape clause in his minor-league contract, and that clause kicks in today.
Bigbie also tried to find a major-league job when his last “out” clause went into effect at the end of spring training, only to find no takers. But that came at a point when most clubs had largely set their rosters for opening day and before Bigbie had proven he was all the way back from the hernia that sidelined him most of last season.
Considering his numbers, there may be a lot of interest in him this time.

Tonight’s lineup: LaRoche’s turn

Furcal leads off again against Micah Bowie, a left-hander

SS Furcal
CF Pierre
1B Nomar
2B Kent
LF Gonzo
C Martin
3B LaRoche
RF Ethier
LH Hendrickson

By the way, I asked Grady a couple of days ago about the determining factor for whether Ethier hits seventh or eighth. He basically said that he doesn’t want a power hitter getting pitched around because he bats ahead of the pitcher, which is why Ethier hits seventh when Tony Abreu is at 3B. But, at least in theory, both LaRoche and Wilson Betemit have sufficient power that Grady doesn’t want them hitting in front of the pitcher, either, and someone has to. So when one of them is in the lineup, that someone is Ethier. … This is the Dodgers’ last game ever at RFK (woohoo!!!!) — and don’t you DARE suggest that the Dodgers could still play the Nats in the playoffs, because they aren’t gonna. What a colossal dump — not to mention the fact it’s in one of the worst areas of DC. And not to mention the fact it literally stinks. You can smell something rotting the minute you walk into the place. Good riddance, I say. Next time the Dodgers come here, they will be playing in a brand new, $600 million-plus park on the Anacostia River.

Dodgers 5, Nationals 0

This is the first time the Dodgers have won two consecutive games by shutout since May 29-30 (the exact, same dates), 2004 against Arizona. Derek Lowe pitched tonight, giving up three hits over seven innings. The last two times through the rotation, Lowe, Brad Penny and Randy Wolf are a combined 4-0 with two no-decisions and an 0.69 ERA (that’s 39 1/3 innings, three runs). Meanwhile, the Nats had won 12 of 17 before the Dodgers came to town, but that doesn’t change the fact that they aren’t very good. In the first two games of this series, not only have they not scored, but they have gotten just one runner as far as third base. That came in the eighth inning last night, when they already trailed 10-0. Another quality club put together by Jim Bowden. But they go well with the utter stench of their ballpark, which, thankfully, I never have to set foot in again after tomorrow night. Dodgers go to 31-21, their first time to 10 over this season, but Arizona (half-game back) and San Diego (one back) also won.

Schmidt note

Here’s the notebook top I just filed for tomorrow’s paper on Schmidt’s outing today No action so far in the game. Dodgers have gone four up, four down after scoring 10 runs on 16 hits last night. Dodgers 0, Nats 0, top 2

WASHINGTON — Jason Schmidt blew away the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes for six innings on Wednesday, including rehabbing Angels outfielder Garret Anderson twice. Along the way, the right-hander blew away expectations in the first start of his own minor-league rehabilitation assignment with the Dodgers’ Single-A Inland Empire affiliate, taking a giant leap toward returning to the big club.
The only question is whether he is ready to return now.
“I think there is some possibility, but it’s too premature for us to say that strongly,” said Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, who was at the game in San Bernardino along with trainer Stan Conte. “But I wouldn’t rule it out, either.”
Schmidt pitched six shoutout innings, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out seven. But his velocity, which was noticeably down even before he went onto the disabled list April 17 with bursitis in his shoulder, still wasn’t where it historically has been. His 71 pitches consistently fell between 88-91 mph and topped out at 92.
Not that anyone is terribly alarmed by that.
“You can pitch and be successful at 88-91,” Colletti said. “He can command four pitches. He might have to change the eye level and change the bat speed. But it’s not like he has always been a power pitcher who lives and dies with one pitch.”
Schmidt will throw a side session on Friday, probably with the major-league team in Pittsburgh, after which there should be a much clearer picture of what happens next. He could make another start for Inland Empire, or he could make another start with a higher Dodgers affiliate, or he could return to the Dodgers’ starting rotation sometime in the next week.
Manager Grady Little seemed to dismiss that notion.
“I think he’ll have to build up to a certain point before he takes the rubber for us,” Little said. “That is just my personal opinion, but we’ll talk about it.”

Meet the new lineup, same as the old lineup

Except that Furcal, as Grady promised, is back in the leadoff spot against Nats lefty Mike Bacsik. Other than that, no reason to change after scoring 10 runs on 16 hits last night. That means Abreu is back in at third.

SS Furcal — 14gm hitting streak
CF Pierre
1B Nomar — hitting .442 w/RISP
2B Kent
LF Gonzo — 7gm hitting streak, 10-25
C Martin — hitting .426 w/RISP
RF Ethier
3B Abreu — hitting .313 in six ML games
RH Lowe

Hotter than blazes here in the District. Throw in the humidity, and it’s like a sauna every time you walk out of your hotel here — although this wretched press box at RFK is like a meat locker. I always forget how much people who live in humid climates LOVE air conditioning. Several of the Dodgers players visited wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Medical Center today, and a group is going to tour the Pentagon tomorrow.

Dodgers 10, Nats 0

Juan Pierre went 4 for 5 with a triple and three doubles. If you’re counting, that’s nine total bases. It marked the first time in his career he has had four extra-base hits in a game. Penny pitched another masterpiece, 6 1/3 shutout innings, although the Dodgers’ six-run seventh, in which Penny doubled and actually had to run the bases, appeared to gas him a little. He lasted just three hitters into the bottom of that inning. Furcal doubled in the eighth, his final at-bat, to extend his hitting streak to 14 games. Dodgers go to 30-21. The Pods lose, so the Dodgers are back in first place alone, a game ahead of San Diego. But Arizona is leading Philly by six in the ninth, so the Snakes will stay just a half-game back in second. … A couple of us went to the upper deck and sat in a section that was almost empty — which makes it all the more curious why a group of drunk, obnoxious and apparently underaged fans couldn’t find anyplace better to sit than two rows directly behind us for about seven innings. Is this what the ticket-buying public normally deals with at the ballpark? We never complained (except to each other, under our breath), but security still visited them at least twice. Not sure why. Oh, well, they probably won’t be there tomorrow (we hope).

Limited in-game blogging tonight

This place is so bad that you can’t even see the game from the second row of the press box. Thus, I always watch the games here from the sparsely populated upper deck, where I’m about to head at the end of the first inning, so I won’t be posting in-game updates the way I usually do because my computer will be here at my seat in the press box, and I won’t be. I’ll try to post afer the game at some point. … OK, here’s one: Juan Pierre led off with a triple that barely missed bouncing over the wall for a groundrule double, and he might not have scored from second on Nomar Garciaparra’s one-out single. But he was on third, so he did score. Nomar and Kent combined to make Jason Simontacchi throw two pitches. Kent followed Nomar’s first-pitch single with a first-pitch GIDP to end the inning. Dodgers 1, Nationals 0, bottom 1