Notes: Dodger pregame notes

A SAN FRANCISCO SWEEP? – The Dodgers today play the finale of their three-game series at San Francisco, continuing their six-game road trip that also includes a stop in Arizona over the weekend after an offday tomorrow. Los Angeles returns home on Monday to open a seven-game stay with the first of three vs. St. Louis.

The Dodgers today conclude a stretch of playing 20 days in a row, which began July 24 vs. Florida. Los Angeles is 8-11 thus far during the stretch.

Los Angeles has won two straight games for the first time since July 30 at St. Louis and July 31 at Atlanta. A win today would give the Dodgers their first winning streak of at least three games since a five-game streak from July 18-22. A victory today would also be the 70th for the Dodgers. The club last year got win No. 70 in their 140th game on September 3, a 6-4 triumph vs. San Diego.

ROSTER NEWS – Prior to yesterday’s game, the Dodgers purchased the contract of right-handed knuckleballer Charlie Haeger from Triple-A Albuquerque and optioned left-handed pitcher Eric Stults to Albuquerque. There were 39 players on the 40-man roster prior to the transaction, so no 40-man roster move was necessary.

Right-hander Chad Billingsley on Monday was scratched from starting today’s series finale with a mild left hamstring strain. Right-hander Jeff Weaver takes the mound in his place. Weaver is making his sixth start for the Dodgers, his first since July 11 at Milwaukee. The 32-year-old is 2-0 with a 3.47 ERA (9 ER/23.1 IP) in his five starts.

SIMPLY THE BEST – The Dodgers have the best record in the National League at 69-45, as well as the largest division lead of any first-place Major League team, 6.5 games better than West rival Colorado (62-51). The Dodgers are 1.5 games behind the Yankees (70-43) for the best record in the Majors.

The Dodgers are off to their best 114-game start since 1985, when they were an identical 69-45 after a 5-2 loss at San Francisco on August 17. A win tonight would give the Dodgers their best 115-game start since 1974, when they were 75-40 after a 3-1 win at St. Louis on August 11. Cardinals first baseman Joe Torre that day went 0-for-4.

HOME ON THE ROAD – The Dodgers have won three straight road games and five of their last six road contests, and are 33-23 overall away from Dodger Stadium. The 33 road wins are tied for the Major League lead with the Phillies (33-19). The Dodgers have won two straight against the team with the best home record in the NL (38-20).

At 33-23 on the road, the Dodgers are 10 games above .500 away from Dodger Stadium for the first time since ending the 2002 regular season 11 games up at 46-35.

Since giving up 10 runs in 8.0 innings in a 10-0 loss July 28 at St. Louis, the Dodgers pitching staff has posted a 1.70 ERA (13 ER/68.2 IP) in its last seven road games. The Los Angeles pitching staff ranks third in the Majors with a 3.86 road ERA (214 ER/499.1 IP) overall, trailing Colorado (3.73) and Arizona (3.76).

The Dodgers’ offense is batting .304 (207-for-682) in its last 18 road games beginning July 3, recording at least 10 hits in 10 of those contests.

The Dodgers have hit exactly half of their home runs on the road, slugging 47 of their 94 homers away from Dodger Stadium. Los Angeles has hit 30 homers in its last 26 road games after belting only 17 in its first 30 road contests.

START ME UP – With victories by Hiroki Kuroda and Randy Wolf in the last two games, Dodgers starting pitchers have posted back-to-back wins for the first time since July 20-22, when Jason Schmidt, Wolf, and Chad Billingsley won three in a row in a sweep of the Cincinnati Reds at Dodger Stadium.

LET’S DO IT – Los Angeles had lost three series in a row at AT&T Park until winning the first two games of this series and assuring itself of a series victory. The Dodgers today go for their first sweep at AT&T Park since July 13-15, 2007. The three wins in that series were the final three victories of an 11-game winning streak in San Francisco that began on August 19, 2006.

The Dodgers are 16-13 against the Giants since the start of the 2008 season, when Joe Torre became manager.

Unlike going three months between series like this last time, the Dodgers and Giants will next meet in only one month, a three-game series from September 11-13 at AT&T Park. The two teams then close out their season series with a three-game set at Dodger Stadium from September 18-20.

ON THE VERGE? – Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp are tied for the team lead with 75 RBI, with James Loney close behind with 69 RBI and Casey Blake right there with 65 RBI. Those players are vying to become to the first Dodger to record at least 100 RBI in a season since J.D. Drew drove in exactly 100 runs in 2006. Los Angeles last had a pair of teammates with 100 or more RBI in 2001, when Shawn Green (125) and Gary Sheffield (100) accomplished the feat.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have never had three players with at least 100 RBI in a season. The franchise last had a troika of 100-RBI players in 1955, when Brooklyn’s Duke Snider (136), Roy Campanella (107), and Gil Hodges (102) turned the trick en route to winning the World Series.

ON THE OFFENSIVE – The Dodgers lead the National League in hitting with a .278 average, ten points higher than the next closest team, the Houston Astros (.268). Los Angeles also leads the NL with a .353 on-base percentage. The Dodgers are tied for second in the NL with Colorado with 565 runs scored, trailing only Philadelphia (573).

The Dodgers rank 26th in the Majors with 94 home runs and are tied for 17th with a .414 slugging percentage.

THIS DATE IN DODGERS HISTORY – On August 12, 1995, thanks to an odd play the Dodgers defeat the Pirates 11-10 in 11 innings at Dodger Stadium. With one out in the 11th and the potential winning run at third base, Mitch Webster swings at a pitch in the dirt. When Pittsburgh rookie catcher Angelo Encarnacion casually picks up the ball with his mask Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda appeals citing the rule which awards a runner two bases if a fielder uses his mask to touch a thrown ball. The umpires agree and allow the winning run to score. Encarnacion is given an error.

TODAY ON THE TUBE – PRIME TICKET

TODAY ON THE DIAL – KABC 790 AM (English)

KHJ 930 AM (Spanish)

UPCOMING PITCHING PROBABLES (All times Pacific)

Date Time Opponent Scheduled Pitchers TV

Friday, August 14 6:40 p.m. at ARI LHP Clayton Kershaw (8-6, 2.73) vs. RHP Dan Haren (11-7, 2.57) KCAL

Saturday, August 15 5:10 p.m. at ARI RHP Hiroki Kuroda (5-5, 4.21) vs. LHP Doug Davis (7-10, 3.62) KCAL

Sunday, August 16 1:10 p.m. at ARI LHP Randy Wolf (6-6, 3.43) vs. RHP Yusmeiro Petit (2-6, 5.87) KCAL

Postgame: Dodgers 9, Giants 1

The Dodgers beat the Giants 9-1 tonight in San Francisco. For a full recap and boxscore click here.

THE BARE ESSENTIALS:

Randy Wolf was dominant in eight innings of work, allowing just one run on three hits and a walk. He got his sixth win of the year and lowered his ERA to 3.43.

Manny Ramirez was truly a formidable force in the Dodger lineup, going 2-for-3 with a double, a homer, and 3 RBI, as well as two intentional walks. No. 3 hitter Andre Ethier went 3-for-5.

The runs for the Dodgers came in bunches — four in the fifth and five in the seventh. Ethier led off the scoring with a fifth-inning two-run double, and Matt Kemp capped it with a three-run homer in the seventh.

ETC…ETC:

Juan Castro made the start for the injured Orlando Hudson. Hudson’s likely to miss tomorrow’s series capper but is listed as day-to-day.

Jeff Weaver was announced as the starter for tomorrow’s game, replacing ace Chad Billingsley, who’s out with a hamstring strain. Weaver has posted a 2-1 record and 3.47 ERA in five starts so far this season while working primarily out of the bullpen.

The Giants had only one hit after the fifth inning, a single by Pablo Sandoval in the ninth. James McDonald retired the side in the ninth on just seven pitches by then getting Juan Uribe to ground into a double play and Ryan Garko to foul out.

ON DECK:

Jeff Weaver (5-4, 3.90) faces Tim Lincecum (12-3, 2.20) as the Dodgers try to sweep San Francisco.

Postgame: Dodgers 4, Giants 2

The Dodgers beat the Giants 4-2 tonight in the first of three games in San Francisco. For a full recap and boxscore click here.

THE BARE ESSENTIALS:

Timely hitting gave the Dodgers the victory tonight, even though they went just 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position. All four runs came in the fourth on a Matt Kemp three-run double and Mark Loretta RBI single.

Hiroki Kuroda turned in a solid start, giving up just one run on six hits in 6 1/3 innings. It was also his longest outing since June and gave him wins in consecutive starts for the first time this season.

Joe Torre used his bullpen by the book. Hong-Chih Kuo faced one batter after replacing Kuroda, Ronald Belisario came in to set up a righty-righty matchup, and George Sherrill and Jonathan Broxton pitched the eighth and ninth innings. Kuo, Belisario, and Sherrill all got holds. You hear a lot of criticism of the Dodger pen, but there are quite a few solid arms.

ETC…ETC:

Broxton gave up a solo jack to Bengie Molina and a single to Randy Winn with one out in the ninth, but he got Fred Lewis to ground into a force out and Juan Castro made a nice play on a Ryan Garko grounder to end the game.

Chad Billingsley won’t make his Wednesday start with the hamstring injury, so the Dodgers will have to bring up another Triple-A starter or use Jeff Weaver, barring a waiver wire pickup. Knuckleballer Charlie Haeger has a 3.55 ERA in 22 starts with Albuquerque, and he averages nearly seven innings a start.

The Dodgers victory puts them 6.5 games in front of the Giants in the NL West, but the Rockies — on the strength of a cycle by Troy Tulowitzki — stayed 5.5 back.

ON DECK:

Randy Wolf (5-6, 3.55) and Joe Martinez (2-0, 5.87) take to the mound in the second game of the series.

Report: Arroyo, Harang clear waivers

Fox Sports is reporting that Reds pitchers Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang have cleared waivers

As a result, each player is free to be traded by the Reds to any team.

Harang defeated the San Francisco Giants on Sunday for his first victory since May 25. He is 6-13 with a 4.43 ERA but has recorded an out in the seventh inning in four of his past five starts.

Arroyo has an ERA above 5.00 this season but is 2-3 with a 3.02 ERA over his last six starts.

On one hand, I’m surprised the Dodgers didn’t put a claim in on either of these pitchers, considering the state of their rotation. On the other, I get the sense the Dodgers aren’t too keen on adding payroll, and each is owed the remaining amount of this year’s contract plus their contracts for next year.

Harang is under contract for next season at $12.5 million, Arroyo at $11 million.

Still, I woulnd’t be surprised if the Dodgers try to swing a deal for either pitcher with the understanding the Reds assume some salary.

Postgame: Braves 8, Dodgers 2

The Braves beat the Dodgers 8-2 today to win the series 3-1. For a full recap and boxscore click here.

THE BARE ESSENTIALS:

Not a good day for the Dodgers. Eric Stults kept the game close in a spot start, but the bullpen couldn’t keep the team in the game. Manny Ramirez went 3-for-4 but the team went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

Javier Vasquez was really dealing for the Braves. His stuff looked great throughout, and he shut the Dodgers down to the tune of eight innings of one-run baseball. The Blue had only two extra-base hits in the game, doubles by Manny Ramirez and Orlando Hudson.

Matt Diaz homered in the second, but the Braves didn’t really put together any significant on offense until the ninth, where five hits and a walk, capped by a two-run single by Martin Prado, made the score 8-1.

ETC…ETC:

The Dodgers put together a brief rally in the ninth but Mark Loretta, starting for James Loney at first, flew out to end the game.

Stults, recalled earlier today to replace Tony Abreu on the active roster, certainly did what we asked. He pitched five innings, giving up three runs while on just two days’ rest after a Triple-A start Thursday.

There’s definitely cause to be worried about Ramon Troncoso. Since pitching back-to-back-to-back games July 18-20, his ERA has been a not-so-hot 13.50 in six innings of work. He’s given up 15 hits and struck out just four in that time and was shelled in today’s ninth inning.

Don’t look now, but both the Giants and Rockies are tied for the NL Wild Card lead 61-50 and are just 5.5 games back of the Dodgers in the West. The Rockies are a simply incredible 43-22 since Jim Tracy took over as manager on May 29.

ON DECK:

Hiroki Kuroda (4-5, 4.44) and Jonathan Sanchez (5-9, 4.49 and of no-hitter fame) match up in the first game of a crucial three-game set in San Francisco. The Dodgers won’t have to face Matt Cain but Tim Lincecum is set to take the ball Wednesday.

Postgame: Braves 2, Dodgers 1

The Braves beat the Dodgers 2-1 in 10 innings tonight. For a full recap and boxscore click here.

THE BARE ESSENTIALS:

For the second consecutive night, the Braves won it in extras — this time in the tenth on a Kelly Johnson two-run homer off Guillermo Mota. Andre Ethier hit an RBI double but Matt Kemp grounded out with runners on second and first to end the game.

The game had been scoreless until the tenth, as both Clayton Kershaw (7 innings, 2 hits, 10 strikeouts) and Kenshin Kawakami (7 innings, 4 hits) shut down the opposition. The Braves’ Kris Medlen got the win by pitching two scoreless innings in relief.

The Braves had three hits in the game. No typo. A double by Ryan Church to lead off the game, a Garrett Anderson single in the fourth inning, and Johnson’s homer.

ETC…ETC:

Ronald Belisario made a surprising early return from the disabled list and was effective in pitching part of the eighth. He walked one but got two outs before being removed for George Sherrill.

Manny Ramirez went 0-for-4 to lower his average to .302. Tony Abreu, making his first start in the big leagues since 2007, went 1-for-3 with a walk.

Tomorrow’s starter still hasn’t been announced — but it’s likely to be Jeff Weaver. Weaver last pitched on Monday against the Brewers. He’s made five starts this season.

The Dodgers have won just six of their last 16 games. They’re currently 1 1/2 games back of the Yankees for the best record in baseball.

ON DECK:

The Dodgers will attempt to salvage a 2-2 series split with the Braves tomorrow, with Javier Vasquez (9-7, 2.99) facing a TBD starter for the Blue at 1:10 p.m.

Postgame: Braves 9, Dodgers 5 (12 innings)

The Braves beat the Dodgers 9-5 in 12 innings late last night. For a full recap and boxscore click here.

THE BARE ESSENTIALS:

The Braves won it in the 12th on an RBI base hit that unlocked the 5-5 tie, then broke it open with a three-run homer by Ryan Church. Jonathan Broxton, who entered the game with a 5-4 lead in the ninth, blew the save.

The loss went to Ramon Troncoso, who simply wasn’t effective beginning the 12th inning. Scott Elbert, the Sunday starter (as announced today), then entered in relief and gave up the bomb to Church.

Chad Billingsley pitched six strong innings but again exited early due to injury, this time with a left hamstring strain termed mild. Sunday he left early with a right hamstring strain. He allowed four hits and three walks in his six innings of work.

Only two Dodgers had multiple-hit performances, as Casey Blake went 3-for-6 with a home run and Russell Martin went 3-for-5 to raise his average to .271.

ETC…ETC:

Only James McDonald shined out of the bullpen tonight, as he pitched two perfect innings. Hong-Chih Kuo had his first bad outing since his return from the disabled list, getting only one of three batters out. George Sherrill wasn’t charged with any runs but gave up three hits in 1 2/3 innings.

It could be speculated that Broxton blew the save in part due to a fan that ran onto the field in the top of the ninth. From that point, he walked Nate McLouth and wasn’t in control.

Manny Ramirez went 0-for-3 with a walk before leaving in a double switch to start the ninth. Andre Ethier went 0-for-2 with, count ‘em, four walks.

ON DECK:

The Dodgers send LHP Clayton Kershaw (8-6, 2.89) against Braves RHP Kenshin Kawakami (5-9, 4.38).

Update: Billingsley’s leg not feeling good

Joe Torre suggested the injury that ended pitcher Chad Billingsley’s night in the sixth inning against the Braves Friday didn’t appear serious, at least after an initial evaluation.

Billingsley suffered a mild strain in his left hamstring legging out a single, and was pulled from the game to start the top of the seventh.

Billingsley will be re-evaluated Saturday, and while he didn’t dispute what Torre said, he sounded slightly less convincing about the severity of the injury.

When asked how he felt, he resounded: “Not good at all.”

Billingsley added he didn’t think the injury was serious, but he was in obvious discomfort by the time reporters spoke to him after the game.