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.”