Stan Conte said it’s just an effort to get over that final hurdle that is preventing him from coming back. Everyone has been pleased with Kuroda’s recent bullpen, but there is still that last bit of discomfort that he is feeling in his left oblique muscle, and the belief is that this will get rid of it. He’s still probably a couple of weeks from coming back, because he won’t throw until this weekend and he’ll still probably need a rehab start. … It is COLD here tonight, even colder, I think, than it was in Denver yesterday, and the wind is blown HARD. Judging by the flags, it’s going right to left.
Well, it’s not the WHOLE secret, but it’s at least a part of it. It has to do with how he is hitting against left-handed pitchers, which is supposed to be a weakness for LH hitters. Ethier entered this season hitting .305 for his career against RHPs, .281 against LHPs. Last year, the difference was stark: .326 vs. RHPs, .243 vs. LHPs. Well, so far this year, he is hitting slightly HIGHER against LHPs (.316) than against RHPs (.314). He also has hit three of his five HRs and has seven of his 20 RBI against LHPs, and to put those numbers in perspective, he has 19 ABs and 21 PAs against LHPs as opposed to 51 ABs and 66 PAs against righties. He also has a ridiculous .842 slugging percentage against lefties (second in the majors) as opposed to just .510 against righties. He does have a higher OBP (.455) against righties than lefties (.381).
Here is tonight’s lineup. Many of you have been clamoring to see Matt Kemp in the cleanup spot, and you are getting your wish tonight. But don’t get used to it. My guess is the only reason he is there is because James Loney is sitting. Loney is 1 for 20 lifetime, albeit with six walks and no strikeouts, against Barry Zito. Kemp is 14 for 27 (.519) against him, with seven walks and only three Ks.
Well, the boys weren’t going to win EVERY game against the Rockies this season. They do play 18 times, after all. This one got away when Clayton Kershaw, who had dominated through the first two innings, walked Chris Iannetta to lead off the third and then gave up a first-pitch homer to Clint Barmes. Rox went on to score four in that inning and five more (all charged to Kershaw) in the fifth, and that was pretty much all she wrote.
In his past two starts, Kershaw has allowed 15 earned runs in exactly nine innings, which for the mathematically challenged is a 15.00 ERA. He was asked after the game if his mechanics are right.
“I think so,” he said. “It’s frustrating to give up runs like that, but there is no excuse for falling behind and giving up hits. That isn’t a mechanical thing. It’s just pitching poorly.”
Big day for James Loney, who went 3 for 5 with two doubles and three RBI. Bad day for the rest of the Dodgers. They had to settle for two out of three here, and they are now 3-3 on the trip. Dodgers fall to 13-6 overall. At the Giants tomorrow night at 7:15. Couple of veteran lefties going in Randy Wolf and Barry Zito.
James McDonald is scheduled for now to be the guy again on Thursday night against the Pods. But we asked Joe Torre this morning about McDonald’s tendency to lose focus. Joe mentioned that it seems to happen a lot against the opposing team’s pitcher after McDonald has pretty much mowed through the rest of the lineup.
“The thing that was a little baffling for me was that he got (No. 8 hitter Yorvit) Torrealba out on two pitches, and then he walks to the pitcher,” Torre said of McDonald’s third-inning letdown last night. “Then he walks the leadoff hitter, and all of a sudden, you are holding on, and losing focus is the only way you can really describe it. … The different thing about this league as opposed to the American League is that you get to face the pitcher. But you have to continue to pitch. you can’t concern yourself with just throwing strikes (to the pitcher), because (when you do that), you aren’t letting it go the same way. And then, when you try to get it back, a certain panic sets in.”
As I mentioned last night, Joe does like the thought of having McDonald in the bullpen. Jeff Weaver pitched decently for ABQ last night, and Eric Milton is pitching for ABQ today after throwing six shutout innings in his previous start. And keep in mind, Milton’s contract allows him to leave and become a free agent at any time, and he told club officials when he agreed to begin the season at ABQ that he would go for about a month and see what happened.
“We have no plan yet,” Torre said. “Until we get a plan, (McDonald) will still be (the fifth starter). I have no anticipation of changing that, but if something does change, obviously, that will change. We haven’t really talked a lot about any changes right now. I think we’ll wait until Cory (Wade) comes back and see where we are, because he certainly will help our bullpen.”
One interesting point about Orlando Hudson’s hitting streak, which is now at a career high-tying 11 games, is that the fact he hits in front of Manny HAS to be a big part of it. Today, he is hitting in front of Andre Ethier, who is even hotter than Manny, so the O-Dog shouldn’t miss a beat. … Todd Helton is also sitting today, not only because he needs a rest but also because Clint Hurdle wanted to get Jeff Baker into the lineup. he is 4 for 6 with a home run against Clayton Kershaw. He’ll play 3B, with Garrett Atkins moving to 1B.
James Loney was riding a stationary bike a few feet away when a small group of reporters made a half-circle around Ramon Troncoso’s locker, all of us keeping a respectful distance until he finished getting dressed.
“So what, you’re going to talk to him now that he pitched four shutout innings?” Loney said, and everyone had a good laugh.
But seriously, folks, the rest of the clubhouse couldn’t stop gushing over the way this guy saved the day for the Dodgers, who were desperate for someone to give them length on a night when their bullpen was shot. Troncoso not only gave them length, he gave them quality, preserving a one-run lead with four dazzling innings in which he allowed only one baserunner, that on a groundball that Rafael Furcal double-clutched, allowing Seth Smith to just beat it out for a single.
Troncoso barely made this club out of spring training, but he isn’t fighting for his major-league survival anymore.
“I told him after the game he never has to prove himself in that situation again,” Joe Torre said.
Troncoso not only nailed down his first career save, he also put the finishing touches on James McDonald’s first career win. McDonald gutted his way through five innings, and Torre said after the game that he’ll be back out there in five days, in the homestand opener against the Pods on Thursday night. But once again, McDonald cruised along thorugh two strong innings and completely lost his control in the third, a fact he himself later said was due to a tendency to lose focus in the middle innings.
Jeff Weaver made his first start for ABQ at New Orleans tonight, threw 60 pitches in 3 1/3 and allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits with four Ks and no walks. He probably needs one more start before he is ready to come up and take the fifth spot if that’s what Torre/Colletti decide to do, plus Torre really likes the idea of having McDonald in the bullpen. So McDonald might be pitching to stay in the rotation the next time out.
Big night for Russell Martin, who had been slumping but broke out in a big way, tying his career high with four RBI on a pair of two-run singles. It was his sixth career four-RBI game, first of the season.
Dodgers go to 13-5 and move 2 1/2 up on the Pods. Dodgers now share the best record in baseball with the Cardinals.
Clayton Kershaw against Jason Marquis tomorrow at 12:10 LaLa time. I believe I already mentioned that Furcal and Blake are sitting tomorrow. After the game, Joe told us that Manny will sit tomorrow, as well, the first time that will have happened all year. He went 0 for 5 with three Ks tonight and was uncharacteristically but clearly overswinging at times. Pierre will play LF, Castro SS and DeWitt 3B.
He experienced more tightness in his left oblique after his most recent bullpen session on Thursday. Stan Conte stressed that it isn’t a “setback,” as oblique injuries are notoriously slow to heal anyway, but the fact there was little to be accomplished by Kuroda going to San Francisco with the team led to the decision for him to go back and see team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache. At any rate, it doesn’t appear Kuroda’s return is imminent. … In other injury news, Cory Wade will pitch an inning in relief, behind Jason Schmidt, for high Single-A Inland Empire on Tuesday against High Desert, then (assuming that goes well) be activated when the team gets home. He will NOT be joining the team in San Francisco.
Said he has been hitting off a tee a lot, with the focus on shortening his stride because he has been jumping at the ball a little bit. He also said that he feels like he has been having some decent at-bats, even though he admitted he has been fighting through them, and he did find a positive in the fact that he has been seeing a lot of pitches and working opposing pitchers. The night off couldn’t have hurt, either.
Also asked the O-Dog about his current hitting tear — he has a 10-game hitting streak, but more importantly, he is hitting .382 overall and .475 (19 for 40) during the streak — but he didn’t want to talk about it.
“I don’t talk about numbers,” he said. “I’m not being a (jerk), but I don’t talk about numbers. You guys can see it.”
Once again, I can’t really figure out what this is about. Loney is hitting .222 (4 for 18) against Ubaldo Jimenez, Martin is hitting .385 (5 for 13) against him, and this once again puts the two lefties back to back in the order.
Sorry about the lack of early blog posting tonight. I promise there was a good reason, but it’s too late and too detailed for me to go into it. As for the game, it was typical Coors Field craziness, but it was a great night for the Dodgers’ bench, specifically Brad Ausmus and Mark Loretta, both of whom came up big in the eighth and ninth innings. But the one story that will probably fall through the cracks after this game was the return of Hong-Chih Kuo, who hadn’t pitched in a week. While his boxscore line is ugly — he coughed up a two-run lead by giving up a two-run homer to Clint Barmes — his stuff was electric according to both Joe Torre and Brad Ausmus. His problems appear to be behind him.
“Great stuff,” Ausmus said. “That was the type of stuff where you’re kind of bewildered tha they scored two runs off him. … If he pitches like that the rest of the year, we will be in good shape in the eighth inning.”
Dodgers go to 12-5 and stay 1 1/2 up on the Pods. James McDonald against Ubaldo Jimenez tomorrow at 5:10 Pacific time.