Postgame: Rockies 3, Dodgers 0

The Rockies beat the Dodgers 3-0 tonight at Dodger Stadium. For a full recap and boxscore click here

THE BARE ESSENTIALS:

With Orlando Hudson and Russell Martin both getting a much needed day off, the Dodgers went meekly into the night, managing a season-low two hits against Jason Marquis.

Marquis needed just 86 pitches to finish off a complete-game shutout. He threw 66 strikes.

James Loney and Juan Castro had the only hits for the Dodgers on a pair of singles.

On any other night, Chad Billingsley would have been in line for a win after giving up just three runs on five hits while notching a season-high 11 strikeouts over a season-high 7.2 innings. But with Marquis dealing a gem, Billingsley was the hard-luck loser.

Continuing with the Marquis theme, he added a two-run single with two outs in the seventh to effectively put the game away. Brad Hawpe hit a solo home run in the fourth inning.

ETC…ETC:

The Dodgers were shutout for the fourth time this season and have lost three of their last four games and five of their last seven.

At 14-12, the Dodgers posted their first winning record in June since 2003, when they went 14-11.

On the flip side, they scored 93 runs in 26 games in June, an average of 3.6 per game, after scoring 56 runs in 29 games in May, an average of 5.4 per game. In other words, you can come back anytime now, Manny.

Marquis became the National League’s first 10-game winner and joins Zach Greinke, Roy Halladay, Kevin Slowey, and Tim Wakefield for the Major League lead.

ON DECK:

The Dodgers host the Rockies in the series finale at 12:10 p.m. Wednesday, sending LHP Clayton Kershaw (5-5, 3.70) vs. RHP Jason Hammel (5-3, 4.21).

Vote: Dodgers MVP so far

Joe Torre touched on a number of subjects during his pregame chat with reporters, but eventually the conversation circled around to who he thought the Dodgers’ MVP was so far.

Without hesitation, Torre said it was the bullpen, explaining it was the one area he was unsettled about coming out of spring training, yet it’s been a consistent asset all year long.

Coming on the heels of Monday night’s bullpen masterpiece – seven different relievers threw shutout innings to enable the Dodgers to pull out a dramatic 13th inning win on Andre Ethier’s two-run home run – Torre’s comments made sense.

But it’s more than just Monday’s performance. After getting 7.0 scoreless innings from their bullpen last night, the Dodgers lead the National League with a bullpen ERA of 3.31 and trails just Boston (2.89), Seattle (3.16), and Tampa Bay (3.22) for the Major-League lead. The bullpen has a big league best 21 wins with workhorses Ronald Belisario (40 games) and Ramon Troncoso (35) combining to go 2-2 with a 1.98 ERA (21 ER/95.2 IP), with 73 strikeouts and just 36 walks. Opponents are hitting just .219 against the duo.

If you’re looking for reasons why the Dodgers are so good in close games, the bullpen is a great place to start.

But we put the vote to you:


Pregame

Tonight’s lineup, folks.

Rockies

Smith LF

Barmes 2B

Helton 1B

Hawpe RF

Tulowitzki SS

Stewart 3B

Gonzalez CF

Iannetta C

Marquis RHP

Dodgers

Pierre LF

Furcal SS

Ethier RF

Blake 3B

Loney 1B

Kemp CF

Castro 2B

Ellis C

Billingsley RHP

Dodgers manager Joe Torre said he’s been thinking about giving Orlando Hudson a day off for more than a week – and he’s now finally getting around to it. Russell Martin will get tonight and tomorrow off in front of Thursday’s off day, more of a mental break than anything else. “He’s been fighting himself (at the plate)” Torre said.

Note: Ethier living well and thriving late in games

In a 4-2 win over the Rockies last night, Andre Ethier hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the 13th inning to win it for the Dodgers.

It was Ethier’s fourth walk-off hit of the season, and he now has the last three of the Dodgers nine walk-off hits this year. Dating back to the beginning of last year, Ethier has seven walk-off hits.

Ethier leads the Dodgers with 15 home runs – three of which came against Seattle last Friday – and 52 RBIs.

After the game, Ethier talked about his success in late-game situations.

“It’s just about having fun and enjoying the moment,” Ethier said. “In a situation like that, it’s just about emotion and excitement. You can see the energy going into the situation and one swing can end the game. I’ve just been trying to learn to balance that energy.”

It’s weird, but I was in the clubhouse before Monday’s game and it just seems like Ethier is oozing confidence right now. The way he carries himself, the way he interacts with teammates, reporters and club employees, he just looks like a player ready to take his game to another level.

Granted, his batting average and OBP are down from last year, but he’s well on his way to exceeding his career highs in home runs and RBIs. At this point he seems a lock to make the National League All-Star team.

Considering all the turmoil going on with Milton Bradley in Chicago, it’s pretty obvious now the Dodgers stole Ethier from Oakland for Bradley and Antonio Perez prior to the 2006 season. As I recall, Dodgers’ G.M. Ned Colletti was basically ordered to trade Bradley soon after taking over as G.M., but with all of Bradley’s baggage finding a trade partner was difficult. In fact, only one serious offer emerged – and that was Billy Beane offering Ethier, who was coming off a breakout season in Double-A after entering the season as the A’s 16th best prospect.

Colletti, pressed to make a deal, agreed. The rest is history.

It isn’t often another G.M. gets the best of Beane, but in this case Colletti was the clear-cut winner.

POSTGAME: DODGERS 4, ROCKIES 2

The Dodgers beat the Rockies 4-2 tonight at Dodger Stadium in a tight, well played 13 innings. For a full recap and boxscore click here

THE BARE ESSENTIALS:

On and on they played, deep into the night, until finally, thankfully, Andre Ethier ended things with a two-run home run in the bottom of the 13th inning to win it for the Dodgers.

Tip of the cap to the Dodgers’ bullpen, which delivered seven innings of shutout ball by seven different relievers. A special shout out to Jeff Weaver, who struck out the side in the top of the 10th after the Rockies put runners on third and first with none out.

Dodger starter Randy Wolf pitched decently, but he made a mistake pitch to Ryan Spilborghs in the fifth inning that Spilborghs smacked into the left field pavilion for a two-run home run.

The Dodgers answered right back in the bottom of the fifth, getting a two-run single from Wolf to tie the game.

ETC…ETC:

The Dodgers notched their ninth walk-off win and their 14th win in their final at bat.

Ethier now has four walk-off hits this year – including the last three – and has seven total since the start of the 2008 season. It was his second walk-off home run of the season.

Ethier leads the Dodgers with 15 home runs, 14 of which have come at Dodger Stadium He is tied with Albert Pujols for the Major League lead for the most home runs at home.

The Dodgers are 7-2 in extra inning games this year, including 6-1 at Dodger Stadium.

In an oddity, Juan Pierre got on base four times on three hits and a walk…and didn’t score a run. Pierre stole three bases in a game for the first time since the 2007 season.

The Dodgers have yet to lose three straight games this season.

The Dodgers bullpen has allowed only two runs in 23.1 innings in its last five games, an 0.77 ERA in that span.

GAME BALL:

Goes to Ethier and the Dodgers’ bullpen.

ON DECK:

The Dodgers send RHP Chad Billingsley (9-3, 3.10) to the mound against RHP Jason Marquis (9-5, 4.22) in Game 2 of the three-game series at 7:10 p.m.

Anticipation: Many thoughts on Manny

Manny Ramirez was a popular topic of discussion during Joe Torre’s pregame chat with reporters before Monday night’s game against the Colorado Rockies.

That’s understandable considering Manny’s return to the Dodgers is a mere four days away.

As much as the team would like to downplay his arrival, there is no getting around the fact the Dodgers are about to add one of the game’s top three right-handed bats.

And just in the nick of time.

The Dodgers limped into Monday’s game losing four of their last six games for the first time this season, and after dropping two straight series for the first time this season.

In fact, the recent play prompted Torre to talk to his players before Monday’s game about not falling into the trap of relaxing until Manny gets back.

Torre isn’t sure the Dodgers have throttled down a notch the last two series in anticipation of Manny, but just to be on the safe side he addressed it with the team.

“I don’t know, but I’ll certainly mention it (to the Dodgers) today.” Torre said. “With all the conversations about it…maybe. For me, I don’t think any of that would have anything to do with the pitching. Pitchers get their one opportunity every five or six days whether he’s here or not. They’re a different breed. So I don’t think so.”

Of more immediate concern is Manny’s physical status when he reports back Friday against San Diego. Bottom line, his first week or so back will be glorified spring training, only the games count and Manny will be getting in baseball shape on the fly.

“You can do all the stuff in the weight room you want to do but you still have to go out there and use muscles you’re not used to using,” Torre said.

That being said, there is no downside to adding Manny.

“Hopefully he can give us more consistent offense,” Torre said. “We’ve been very fortunate. We’ve won a lot of close games and we’ve made the most out of the runs we’ve scored, especially here at home. I think Manny’s presence in the lineup, besides the ability he brings; it’s sort of a security blanket. The difference as opposed to last year, when we sort of waited around for him to do something, is that this year we’re a more formidable group. But I think he still adds a little more credibility.”

Estes not happy with Dodgers parting

In the Summer of Manny, this isn’t going to get a lot of attention, but it’s an interesting read. In contrast to reports that he had retired, pitcher Shawn Estes talked to the Reno Gazette-Journal last week and didn’t have the kindest of words for the Dodgers and Ned Colletti.

Estes said, in part, “When I attempted to get my release, it was denied. He was not going to let me walk; he wanted something in return for me. If I signed somewhere else and pitched well for another team, it might make him look bad.”

Q&A: Estes ‘not retired,’ still wants to play in bigs

Three months in: Best and worst free agents

Jon Heyman at SI.com lists the best and worst free agent pick ups from last winter.

Predictably, the Dodgers’ get high marks for Orlando Hudson and Randy Wolf, although Heyman does list Manny Ramirez among the worst signings.

Hey, I get it, Manny put himself in this position by getting suspended 50 games for violating MLB’s drug policy, but it will be interesting to see where Heyman lists Manny by the end of the season.

In other words, beginning July 3 the ball is in Manny’s court.

Postgame: Mariners 4, Dodgers 2

The Mariners defeated the Dodgers 4-2 today at Dodger Stadium. For a full reacp and box score click here

BARE ESSENTIALS

With the Dodgers’ bats struggling for the second straight game, the Mariners used a three-run third inning to essentially put the game away. The big blow came on a two-run double by Jose Lopez that, predictably, immediately followed a botched pick-off throw by pitcher Hiroki Kuroda.

The Dodgers managed just five hits against five Mariner pitchers.

Matt Kemp hit his 10th home run of the season in the fifth inning off Seattle starter Garrett Olson.

Russell Martin doubled off Olson, one of only two extra base hits for the Dodgers.

ETC…ETC.

Obviously this is no time to panic, but the Dodgers dropped their second straight series after winning their previous eight series. It’s the first time they’ve lost back-to-back series all year. Los Angeles last lost consecutive series August 22-28, 2008, getting swept at Philadelphia and at Washington.

Kuroda’s throwing error in the top of the third inning ended the Dodgers’ season-high streak of 50.2 consecutive errorless innings.

Ronald Belisario extended his consecutive scoreless innings streak to 10.2 over his last 10 games.

The Dodgers have lost four of their last five games, and have only once previously had four losses in any five-game stretch: May 7-12.

The Dodgers host the Colorado Rockies for three games before starting a long road road trip that takes them through San Diego, New York and Milwaukee, and the good news is they’ll have Manny Ramirez back by the end of the week .

ON DECK

The Dodgers begin a three-game series against Colorado Monday, sending LHP Randy Wolf (3-3, 3.64) against RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (6-7, 3.83).