Dodgers Report: Adam Kennedy

Adam Kennedy is out for the season

September, 11, 2012
9/11/12
9:26
PM PT
The Dodgers put infielder Adam Kennedy on the 60-day disabled list with a strained right groin, ending Kennedy’s 2012 season and – possibly -- his career.

For the full story, click here.

For Dodgers, a painful time of year

September, 10, 2012
9/10/12
11:13
AM PT
Less than 48 hours before the Dodgers scratched Clayton Kershaw from his scheduled start in San Francisco because of a hip injury, the team's best pitcher sounded optimistic one minute. The next, he sounded realistic.

"Yeah, I feel great physically, 100 percent," Kershaw said. "I mean, obviously I'm probably not 100 percent, like anybody at this point, but you've got to trick yourself."

The final three weeks of this Dodgers season could well come down to how well this team, particularly Kershaw and Matt Kemp, can deceive itself. September is a tricky time for contending baseball teams. The games are at their most exciting, the finish line beckons, but the players' bodies are at their most defeated.

An accumulation of maximum-effort throws tends to stretch a pitcher's muscles and ligaments. Diving attempts in the field and slides on the bases bruise position players' bodies. Welts from being hit by baseballs -- either from the pitcher's hand or fouled off the bat -- can linger for weeks. Extra swings in the batting cage tend to tweak muscles and tendons.

After six months of relentless pounding -- including spring training -- just running out to the field can be a painful experience.

"We have a great life. We’re well taken care of, but it is a rough road," said veteran Adam Kennedy. "It’s a long season and your body does get beaten up."

While with the Seattle Mariners, Kennedy tore the plantar fascia in his foot shortly after the All-Star break last season. He kept it to himself and batted .190 after the All-Star break. Kemp was in a miserable hitting funk before he finally approached manager Don Mattingly and said it was time to get his shoulder looked at. It's a delicate balancing act for players. Are they helping the team or hurting the team by playing in pain?

"You feel a huge responsibility to the team first," Kennedy said, "and you don’t want to miss out on being part of something."

After 141 games, nobody in the Dodgers' clubhouse feels fresh. But the wild-card race could hinge on the health of Kemp and Kershaw. The Dodgers' chances are teetering after a rough series in San Francisco. They could come crashing down if neither Kemp nor Kershaw can go on Tuesday in Arizona.

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3 up, 3 down: Giants 5, Dodgers 2

September, 7, 2012
9/07/12
10:34
PM PT


SAN FRANCISCO -- It felt an awful lot like a playoff game.

Cool night air, tense moments, raucous crowd, hostile chants.

And, frankly, it might be the closest thing to a playoff game these Los Angeles Dodgers are going to get. They continued to fumble their way through the early part of this pennant race, losing 5-2 to the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on Friday night to slip 5 1/2 games back in the National League West.

The Good:

Vintage Beckett ... for a while. For six innings, Josh Beckett looked like that guy from all those masterful playoff and World Series games, rising to an occasion. He cruised early and pitched out of some trouble in the middle, but generally kept the Dodgers poised to pull out a narrow victory, the only kind they can seem to manage these days. It's not that Beckett has pitched poorly for the Dodgers. You just wonder whether they're putting too much faith in him with Chad Billingsley down. Maybe the question is, what choice do they have? It unraveled late, but he at least gave glimpses that he could be a stable No. 2 starter.

Cape Kennedy. Don Mattingly benched Luis Cruz in favor of Adam Kennedy for a few reasons: Kennedy's good numbers against Tim Lincecum, Cruz's 0-for-2 against Lincecum and ... a hunch. After all, this isn't Kennedy's first rodeo. Meaningful baseball seems to bring out his power. He shocked the crowd and broke a 1-all tie in the sixth inning by launching a home run narrowly over the right-field wall. Kennedy has added life to the lineup lately when he plays, batting .343 since July 21.

The Ellises. It's really the role players, rather than the stars, who have been carrying the offense most nights. Mark Ellis and A.J. Ellis have been having the most consistently good at-bats on the team. Mark Ellis has adjusted to the leadoff spot after hitting second much of the season. He was on base three times, scored the Dodgers' first run and played his usual solid defense. A.J. Ellis wears down pitchers with his relentless patience. He was on base four times.

The Bad:

Too much faith? It's a measure of how much the Dodgers are counting on Beckett that Mattingly went to the mound and left him in the game in the seventh inning, even after he had loaded the bases. Are they forgetting about the guy with the 5-plus ERA in Boston? It wasn't long before Mattingly made the trip again, after Marco Scutaro blooped a two-run single to right field. Beckett seemed to be wearing down at that point, but he pitched six strong innings before that. Mattingly probably shouldn't have listened to Beckett's lobbying at that point.

Gone-zo. Mattingly stuck with Adrian Gonzalez at first base despite Gonzalez's woeful numbers against Lincecum (8-for-39). They're even more woeful now. The Dodgers' No. 3 hitter just can't get it going. He grounded out in three of his four at-bats. Other than a couple of dramatic moments, his first few weeks as a Dodger have been eminently forgettable, and it's imperiling the team's season.

Kemp. Who cares whether Matt Kemp is hurt or healthy? At this point, it's about production. He's playing, which means he and the Dodgers think he's better, even banged up, than anybody else they could throw out there. The results aren't so convincing lately. Kemp's slump has created a major void in the middle of the order, especially tied to Gonzalez's soft hitting. Since he hit the wall in Colorado, Kemp's average has hit the wall: 3-for-29 (.103).

Are they closer to being a team?

September, 1, 2012
9/01/12
10:47
PM PT
Josh BeckettStephen Dunn/Getty ImagesNewcomer Josh Beckett stepped up to give the Dodgers a key effort when they needed it.

LOS ANGELES -- One scout called it "Rotisserie Baseball." Another said, "I don't see much thought put in about how these guys were going to be as teammates."

Even if nobody was copping to it, you could see the Los Angeles Dodgers were dealing with some of the growing pains that come from lopping off one-third of your roster and grafting in its place a quarter-of-a-billion dollars worth of mercenary talent. They kept telling us how good they were, but they couldn't come up with any evidence.

How do we know it wasn't working, aside from the 2-5 record since the mega-trade with the Boston Red Sox? Well, the (at least) three closed-door meetings in the last few days seem to be a pretty good clue.

Manager Don Mattingly got his whole team together after Thursday night's game to get some things off his chest. The following day, according to MLB.com, Mattingly and general manager Ned Colletti met with the newcomers in Mattingly's office. And, according to a source, the Dodgers also convened for a meeting before Saturday's game.

You wonder whether, at some point, every player had to say his name and tell the group a story from sixth-grade camp.

At some point the Dodgers need to become a team rather than assemblage of expensive parts, or it's doubtful anyone is going to be paying much attention to them in a couple of weeks, other than to pick over the wreckage. Maybe 90 percent of baseball is the sum of individual battles, but there's that 10 percent -- the subtleties of when to run, the relationship between a pitcher and catcher, the feel between double-play partners -- in which chemistry counts for something.

Maybe Saturday's 2-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks was a turning point in building this thing back into a coherent unit. It sort of felt like it.

A new guy, Josh Beckett, pitched stalwartly into the seventh inning. A member of the old guard, Andre Ethier, had the key hit. A new guy, Brandon League, got the save while the old-guard closer, Kenley Jansen, is down. A semi-new guy, Hanley Ramirez, had the other meaningful hit.

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3 up, 3 down: D-backs 4, Dodgers 3 (11)

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
11:14
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- At some point, the Los Angeles Dodgers are going to run out of opportunities this plump and ripe for the picking.

They lost for the 10th time in 15 games -- this time 4-3 to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 11 innings Friday night -- and the door closed another inch. Every team ahead of the Dodgers in either the division or wild-card standings lost Friday.

They remain 4 1/2 games behind the San Francisco Giants and 1 1/2 out in the wild-card race, a jumble of four teams.

Jason Kubel hit the decisive home run off Dodgers reliever Matt Guerrier, and the game ended with Dodgers at first and third when catcher A.J. Ellis popped out to left.

The Good:

Mis-matchup. Andre Ethier was batting .216 against lefties, so it's not surprising Kirk Gibson brought in reliever Mike Zagurski to face him with a runner at third and two outs in the sixth inning. Ethier didn't exactly crush the ball, but he made good enough contact to bloop it over lunging shortstop Jake Elmore to tie the score at 3. It was a redemptive moment for Ethier, who had lost a ball in the twilight in the second inning to let Arizona's first run score.

Bouncing back. You can learn more about a reliever off a bad outing than a good one. Shawn Tolleson probably will have sleepless hours thinking about his previous outing at Coors Field -- four runs allowed without recording an out -- for weeks. But at an important moment for the Dodgers, the young reliever flipped the script. Tolleson pitched two scoreless innings Friday, allowing the Dodgers to build a rally off Trevor Cahill.

Doubling up. The Dodgers, frankly, were more than a bit lucky. Arizona hit plenty of balls hard in key situations that landed in the Dodgers' gloves, and four of them turned into crucial double plays. It was a season high in double plays for the Dodgers. Luck is a big part of them, but the players still have to turn them. Luis Cruz made a diving stop on Chris Johnson's hard shot in the ninth inning, threw to second from his knees and started a key double play.

The Bad:

Softening up. Adrian Gonzalez's Dodgers career started with a loud noise -- his three-run home run in his first at-bat. It's the at-bats since then that have been strangely quiet. Gonzalez is 5-for-28 (.179) with just three RBIs since that swing. It's a small sample size, but then again, so is the amount of time the Dodgers have with Gonzalez in their lineup this year.

Power shortage. Matt Kemp looked a little frustrated striking out in the eighth inning, when he slammed his bat to the turf. It's not so much that he has been struggling -- when he's healthy -- but he hasn't been driving the ball consistently. Kemp is batting .271 since Aug. 8, but since then, he has struck out 19 times, hasn't homered and has 10 RBIs in 19 games. The Dodgers need Kemp on the field, but they also need him a bit more productive.

Nothing in reserve. Has there ever been a team with a less impressive bench? Don Mattingly had Juan Uribe (.186), Matt Treanor (.176), Nick Punto (2-for-13 as a pinch hitter), Juan Rivera (.240) and Adam Kennedy (one home run) at his disposal Friday night. The Dodgers looked long and hard at pitchers before Friday night's waiver deadline -- an attempt that proved unsuccessful -- but maybe they should have been trying to sniff out some bench help.

3 up, 3 down: Giants 4, Dodgers 1

August, 21, 2012
8/21/12
10:10
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- The one thing you can't afford to do in a big series is get swept, and the Los Angeles Dodgers have backed themselves into a corner by losing the first two games of their most important series yet.

They lost to the San Francisco Giants 4-1 Tuesday night, and they need to win Wednesday's series finale -- against Matt Cain -- to avoid getting swept at home again and falling 2 1/2 games back in the NL West.

The Good:

Progress report. Matt Kemp had some of his healthiest at-bats in a week. He hit two balls hard to right field, a good sign, and a one-hopper to the third baseman. Then the futility ended in the ninth, with Kemp's line drive to left snapping an 0-for-21 slump. Kemp drove in the Dodgers' only run with a sacrifice fly. As his frustration mounted, so did the Dodgers', but Tuesday looked to be a step forward.

Holding it down. A rally was there for the taking for a second straight night, in part due to good relief. Dodgers relievers confined the damage to what Joe Blanton had caused with 3 1/3 scoreless innings. Especially with hard thrower Rubby De La Rosa back, the Dodgers seem to be in good shape in their bullpen.

Return engagement. Adam Kennedy, at age 36, isn't really a guy you think of as an impact player. He has one home run this season and came into Tuesday batting .255. But Kennedy has some traits that could be appealing to the Dodgers as they engage in this pennant race. He has a history of producing in big games and plays solidly at three positions. Kennedy made his first start since coming off the disabled list and was the only Dodger with more than one hit.

The Bad:

Blah-ton. In 21 innings with the Dodgers, Blanton is 0-3, has a 7.71 ERA and has allowed 28 hits and nine walks. It's too early to pronounce the waiver trade that brought him here from Philadelphia a bust, but considering the Dodgers are paying him more than $2 million to do these things, you certainly can't call it an immediate success. Most telling might be the walks. He had just 18 in 133 1/3 innings with the Phillies. Maybe he knows his stuff isn't good enough to get guys out, so he's afraid to throw it over the plate.

Discomforts of home. The Dodgers seem to play with more edge on the road. They're 14-6 in their past 20 road games and 5-11 in their past 16 home games. That's not only strange, it's discouraging since they play their final six games in Los Angeles. The offense is the main culprit. The Dodgers have scored one or no runs in three of their past four games at Dodger Stadium. Maybe they should stay in a hotel when they're in town.

A reach. The game pivoted on the Dodgers' sixth inning. Tim Lincecum was losing it fast, with the Dodgers' first four batters getting on base. But third-base coach Tim Wallach waved catcher A.J. Ellis around third on Shane Victorino's single up the middle and Angel Pagan easily threw him out at the plate. Considering the Dodgers had gotten nothing going up to that point, Wallach probably was just trying to force the action. But with nobody out and the Dodgers' big bats soon to come up, it seemed a tad aggressive.

3 up, 3 down: Padres 7, Dodgers 6

July, 14, 2012
7/14/12
10:05
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Well, if it's any comfort for Dodgers fans, if the Blue are going to lose, at least let defeat come with serious points for originality. I mean, any closer (in this case, Kenley Jansen) can simply blow a save opportunity.

But to blow a save on a sequence where Everth Cabrera scores the tying run by stealing home, followed by Will Venable scoring the winning run off Jansen’s bad throw to the dish for a 7-6 Padres victory? I mean, c’mon, people. You haven’t seen that before.

Obviously, it would have been more fun if the “you gotta be kidding me!” factor were upped by a pair of unicorns scoring those final runs for San Diego, but we can only do so much here at ESPN LA.

The Good:

Blue batters 1-3. The top of the order (Bobby Abreu, Mark Ellis, Matt Kemp) combined to go 5-for-11 at the plate, with Abreu drawing a pair of walks. They also scored four of the team’s runs and always seemed to be in the mix to serve as spark plugs for a rally. It went without saying the Dodgers have missed the presences of Ellis and Kemp during DL stints, and tonight was pleasant reminder of the plainly obvious.

Blue batter 4. The Dodgers’ first run served as a sign Andre Ethier was in for a good night. His bloop “single” to shallow left was both fortuitous in the way it propelled Ellis across the plate and generous in the way it was scored. (From where I was sitting, it looked like Carlos Quentin and Alexi Amarista couldn’t decide who had it, which left Quentin to whiff a playable ball.) Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Ethier extended his good fortune with another RBI in the third, then a two-out, two-run dinger smoked into right field. The home run broke a 4-4 tie, and added another notch on a belt marked by oodles of clutch moments by the right fielder.

Aaron Harrang. For some reason, the games I’m assigned to cover always coincide with a Harang start. And unfortunately, I’ve typically been Kryptonite for the big lug in person. The righty tends to (at best) scuffle or (at worst) get drilled, whether at the Ravine or even The Big A. Thus, I was concerned a tough first inning with a run surrendered (albeit unearned), a few hard hit balls, and an uneconomic 26 pitches dealt meant I remained a jinx. Well, perhaps our partnership (of sorts) has taken a turn for the better. Harang’s night wasn’t brilliant, but a few of his innings were quite efficient and he only surrendered four hits over seven innings. Granted, two left the yard. And in the case of Chase Headley’s two-run, sixth inning bomb, Harang was actually ahead in the count 0-2. Still, he recovered well enough after the first homer to retire three straight batters. He also managed to convert an out after knocking down a scorcher comeback from Amarista with his bare hand. Given our track record together, that his hand wasn’t broken is worthy of celebration.

The Bad:

Rally killing. In the third inning, with the bags full and nobody out, Adam Kennedy, A.J. Ellis and Luis Cruz combined forces to produce zero runs. That’s really uninspiring, even for the bottom of the order.

Juan Rivera’s err-a. Say what you will about James Loney’s weaknesses with the bat (and most of y’all have by now), but the dude is still pretty slick with the leather. The drop off defensively with Rivera can be palpable, as demonstrated when he let a routine first inning grounder from Headley by him. The error allowed Logan Forsythe to reach third, where he eventually scored. Had the play been converted, the frame likely would have ended with a zero for the Padres. In a 7-6 loss, that matters.

Kenley Jansen. A pair of hard-hit singles opened the closer’s inning with men on the corners and no outs. This is a tough position to prevent a run from scoring, and unfortunately, this proved the predictable case, the bizarre path towards inevitability acknowledged.

3 up, 3 down: Dodgers 8, Mets 3

July, 1, 2012
7/01/12
8:52
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- This wasn't the Dodgers prettiest win of the year. This wasn't even a win they'll want to remember. But after seven consecutive losses, including shutouts in five of their last six games, a win's a win and the Dodgers will gladly take their 8-3 victory over the New York Mets on Sunday night.

Mirroring his season and progression as a young player, shortstop Dee Gordon showed both why the Dodgers have to think seriously about sending him back to the minor leagues with another two throwing errors -- bringing his major-league leading total to 17 -- and why the Dodgers might not be able to bring themselves to do it after his brilliant offensive game.

Gordon had two hits, tied a career high with three stolen bases, scored a run and generally wreaked havoc on a suspect Mets defense Sunday night as the Dodgers got off what was turning into a historically wretched funk.

Three Mets errors helped grease the wheels a bit, but considering the Dodgers had gone scoreless in five of their previous six games, eight runs amounts to an offensive explosion.

The Good:

Dee Gordon the leadoff batter. Gordon responded to his two third-inning errors with a sharp single to right field in the bottom of the inning and generally couldn't be stopped after that. His three stolen bases tied a career high.

Starting pitching. Clayton Kershaw picked up his sixth win of the year with another solid, almost spectacular performance. The reigning Cy Young award winner gave up three runs (one earned) on five hits and struck out nine in seven innings.

Middle of the lineup. Seldom-used Adam Kennedy went 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI. Juan Rivera went 1-for-3, scored two runs and had an RBI double in the first inning, while James Loney even broke out of an 0-for-28 skid with an RBI double in the seventh.

The Bad:

Dee Gordon the shortstop. The Dodgers have committed 56 errors this season. With two more errors Sunday night, Dee Gordon has made 17 of them. Let that sink in a bit. It's natural for a shortstop to lead the team in errors; they generally get the most balls and are involved in some of the toughest plays. But it's still a staggering number (most in the majors) and it's definitely something the Dodgers need to deal with going forward.

Abreu struggling. Bobby Abreu is now in an 0-for-15 slide after going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts on Sunday. Abreu had been among the Dodgers most consistent hitters since being acquired at the beginning of May, so it's not surprising that Dodgers manager Don Mattingly penciled him into the No. 3 hole. But the Dodgers need more out of Abreu, who hit just .200 in June.

People who like defense. Gordon essentially gave the Mets two runs in the top of the third with his two throwing errors. But the Mets gave them right back with some ugly defense of their own.

3 up, 3 down: Angels 8, Dodgers 5

June, 22, 2012
6/22/12
10:54
PM PT


ANAHEIM -- Asked before the game about his team’s struggles with interleague play this year -- the Dodgers entered Friday’s tilt in against the Angels with a 5-7 mark after going 6-9 a year ago -- manager Don Mattingly deflected concern. Toss out the three-game sweep up in Oakland, he said, and it’s really not that bad. (In that spirit, he should toss out the other four losses and then the LAD’s mark would look outstanding!)

After the first of this weekend’s set against the Angels, if form holds Mattingly might have two series to toss out. The opening inning and a half came with promise before, after which the Dodgers were overwhelmed by their hosts, losing 8-5. Mike Trout homered and scored twice for the Angels, who had multiple hit games from Torii Hunter, Kendrys Morales, Alberto Callaspo, and Erick Aybar.

Chad Billingsley, staked to a five-run lead, couldn’t hold on and took the loss, falling to 4-6.

The Good:

Fast start. The Dodgers just finished a series in Oakland in which they scored two runs in three games ... and shock of all shocks lost each one. Friday, it took four batters for them to best that output against Dan Haren. After Dee Gordon bounced out pitcher–to-first leading off the game, Jerry Hairston followed with a line-drive single past Aybar at short, then Andre Ethier laced a single to right. Former Angel Bobby Abreu re-introduced himself to the Orange County crowd with a bomb into the stands in right, so obviously gone from the crack of the bat Hunter barely moved.

The Blue missed a chance to do more damage when after walks to James Loney and Adam Kennedy, A.J. Ellis popped out ending the inning. Still, they’d coaxed 25 pitches out of Haren and the three-run outburst felt like 30 given their struggles of late.

Ethier. He was 1-for-Oakland, and entered the game hitting only .171 in June (12-for-70), but Friday Ethier was rock solid at the plate. Three singles in four at bats, plus a run scored. He also drew a ninth inning walk against Ernesto Frieri, giving the Dodgers a little ray of hope at the end. Defensively, he ended the fifth with a spectacular play against the right-field wall, hauling in a rocket off the bat of Howie Kendrick likely saving two runs and keeping the Dodgers within spitting distance. Juan Rivera also had three hits.

Little things. Despite Tony Gwynn Jr. started the second with a walk, then stole second. Gordon then pulled an 0-2 splitter from Haren to Albert Pujols at first, moving Gwynn to third. Against a pulled-in infield, Hairston went inside-out and shoved a ball past Pujols at first to score Gwynn. If Gordon doesn’t advance Gwynn, Hairston’s ball is likely a putout at first, giving the Dodgers two outs and likely ending the inning before Rivera could drive Hairston home with a single past a diving Callaspo at third. Kennedy made a great play in the first, barehanding a bunt from Trout and getting the ultra-fast Angel at first. In the sixth, Kennedy kicked in with another strong defensive play, blocking third base from Aybar after the Angels shortstop led off with a double and tried to advance on a sacrifice attempt by catcher Bobby Wilson.

The Bad:

Billingsley. Just when you think the wheels on the bus are going round and round again, they come completely off the axels. After a tremendously awful May in which he went 0-3 and opponents hit a robust .328 against him, Billingsley kicked off June allowing only two earned runs in his first 14 innings. But there was slippage in his last start (4 ER in 6 IP June 16 vs. Chicago White Sox), and Friday the Angels batted him around like a piñata. 10 hits over five innings, six runs and a walk. Only Either’s snag on Kendrick kept the damage from being worse.

Slow finish. Five runs is five runs, and by Dodgers standards might be considered an eruption. Still, they all came in the first two innings, after which the Blue couldn’t scratch out another. The final seven innings saw the Dodgers hit into a pair of double plays, including one from the super speedy Gordon. Only twice they advanced a runner as far as second base, one coming in the ninth when Ethier took second on defensive indifference after his ninth inning walk. When indifference becomes an integral part of a team’s attack, things aren’t going well.

Bottoming out. Hairston, Ethier, Abreu, and Rivera pulled their collective weight, but below them the Dodgers had little support, a major reason they couldn’t produce after the second. The 6-9 spots in the lineup combined for three hits in 13 at bats, and only one -- a blooper from Elian Herrera pinch hitting for Loney in the seventh -- came after the third inning. All but five of the Dodgers’ 18 LOB’s came from the combination of players in those spots, and then Gordon at the top of the lineup.

Big swings; some good, some bad

June, 15, 2012
6/15/12
10:33
AM PT
We take a look back at the Dodgers’ week from June 8-14, with many thanks to Baseball-Reference, ESPN Stats & Information, and the Elias Sports Bureau.

DODGERS NO-HIT BY SIX MARINERS

Six Mariners pitchers combined to throw a no-hitter Friday night against the Dodgers. It was the first time the Dodgers had been no-hit since the Braves’ Kent Mercker did it in 1994. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it’s also the first time that the team with MLB’s best record (at least 50 games into the season) had been no-hit since Nolan Ryan did it to the Athletics on June 11, 1990. It was the third no-hitter in Mariners history; the Dodgers have 20, most of any team all time.

ZERO HITS, THEN 14 HITS

The Dodgers rebounded Saturday to beat the Mariners, collecting 14 hits the day after the no-hitter. Elias points out that the Dodgers’ 14 hits were the most by a team the game after being no-hit since 1998, when the Twins had 15 hits against the Tigers one day after the Yankees’ David Wells threw a perfect game against them.

PERFECT ON SATURDAY

The Dodgers’ win improved them to 10-0 on Saturdays, keeping them as the only team undefeated this season on any particular day of the week. It’s the Dodgers’ longest single-season winning streak on any day since the 1985 team won its final 14 games on Tuesdays.



KERSHAW’S FASTBALL AT ITS BEST

Clayton Kershaw struck out a season-high 12 hitters in Saturday’s win. Five of the strikeouts were with his fastball, his most in the last two seasons. His fastball averaged 94.2 MPH, his highest this season and second highest in the last two seasons.

With his fastball working so well, Kershaw’s curveball was also effective. Mariners hitters struck out four times against Kershaw’s curveball and didn’t put any of his curveballs in play.

MAKING THEIR STEALS COUNT

In Saturday’s game, the Dodgers stole four bases, and all four baserunners ended up scoring in the inning. A league-leading 24 Dodgers base stealers have come around to score after their steals, even though the Dodgers do not rank in the top 10 in stolen bases.

ETHIER HITS DODGERS' FIRST GRAND SLAM OF 2012

Sunday’s win over the Mariners featured a six-run second inning that was capped by an Andre Ethier grand slam, the Dodgers’ first grand slam of the season. Ethier has four grand slams since the start of 2010, tied for the third most in the league. It was the latest date for the Dodgers’ first grand slam of the season since 2004, when Paul Lo Duca hit the team’s first on July 11. The Dodgers went on to hit a franchise-record 10 grand slams that year.

BILLINGSLEY PUTS DODGERS IN HOLE AGAIN

The Dodgers trailed 1-0 entering the second inning of Sunday’s game after Chad Billingsley allowed a first-inning home run. The Elias Sports Bureau reports that it was the 11th time in Billingsley's 13 starts this season that he allowed the first run of a game, the most such starts for any major-league pitcher.

LOSING BY ONLY A RUN

The Dodgers are 8-4 in their last 12 games, with all four losses coming by one run. The Dodgers hadn’t had four straight losses come by one run since April 2003.

KENNEDY AND GWYNN ARE LUCKY CHARMS

Adam Kennedy started two games on the week, both at second base, and the Dodgers won each game. LA is 18-4 this season when Kennedy starts, including 6-0 when he starts at second base. When Kennedy drives in a run, as he did Sunday, the Dodgers are 8-0. The team is 12-0 when Tony Gwynn drives in a run; all 17 of his RBI have come in Dodger victories.


COMING UP BIG LATE

Tuesday the Dodgers overcame a 2-1 deficit after seven innings by scoring four in the eighth for a 5-2 win over the Angels. The win improved the Dodgers to 2-18 on the season when trailing after seven innings. With two outs, Andre Ethier tied the game with a single before Juan Rivera won it with a three-run homer. It was the first time since Sept. 8, 2009, that the Dodgers had consecutive game-tying and go-ahead hits with two outs in the eighth inning or later.

FIRST TO 40

With their win Tuesday night, the Dodgers became the first major league team to 40 wins this season. According to Elias, it's the sixth time since the team moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958 that the Dodgers were the first major league team to 40 wins. They also did it in 1965, 1974, 1977, 1983 and 2009.

RUN PREVENTION

The Dodgers allowed three runs or fewer in each of their six games on the week and have a streak of seven such games dating back to the final game of the sweep against the Phillies. It’s the Dodgers’ longest such streak of the season and the longest active streak in the league.

NO SUCCESS AGAINST THE WHITE SOX

Over the weekend, the Dodgers will host the White Sox, a team against whom LA has not fared well since the Dodgers beat them in the 1959 World Series. Since interleague play began in 1997, the Dodgers have a worse record against the White Sox (4-11, .267 win percentage) than against any other American League team. Interleague play hasn’t been especially kind to the Dodgers on the whole, as they have a winning record against just four of the 14 AL teams: the Rangers, Tigers, Indians and Orioles.

3 up, 3 down: Dodgers 6, Cardinals 0

May, 19, 2012
5/19/12
9:58
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- Reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw pitched a six-hit shutout, his first complete game this season, and the Los Angeles Dodgers continued their early-season surge despite a slew of injuries, pounding the St. Louis Cardinals 6-0 before 39,383 on Saturday night at Dodger Stadium.

Kershaw ran his shutout streak to 22 innings over his past three starts. He threw a season-high 116 pitches in his fourth career shutout and seventh career complete game.

Kershaw wasn't completely dominating. The Cardinals hit several balls hard in the early innings, including a couple of fly balls to the warning track, and he struck out just four batters for the game. But in typical fashion, he repeatedly made big pitches when he needed them, stranding runners in scoring position in the second and third innings in a game that stayed tight until the Dodgers put it away with a four-run seventh.

The Dodgers fielded a lineup that was less than threatening on a night when second baseman Mark Ellis became the fifth regular position player to land on the current disabled list and shortstop Dee Gordon was benched for a lack of offensive production. But the Dodgers managed far more offense than they would need with Kershaw on the mound, running baseball's best record to 27-13 and maintaining their six-game lead over the San Francisco Giants in the National League West.

The Good

Streaking. A.J. Ellis ran his streak of reaching base to 28 consecutive games by poking a double into the rightfield corner off Jake Westbrook with two outs in the second inning. That is the longest active streak in the majors. Ellis actually has reached base in 31 of his 32 games this season, the only exception being April 10 when he went 0-for-3 against Pittsburgh.

Opposite extremes. The Dodgers broke on top in the bottom of the fourth inning with a rally that was alternately built around patience and agressiveness, Bobby Abreu leading off by working Westbrook for a classic Abreu-like, nine-pitch walk in which he fouled off three 3-2 pitches, Andre Ethier following with a groundrule double on Westbrook's first pitch, and then Adam Kennedy adding seven more to Westbrook's pitch count before lining a ball off the glove of first baseman Matt Carpenter that wound up in right field as both Abreu and Ethier crossed the plate, giving the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.

Redemption. Justin Sellers made up for an earlier gaffe (see below) by making a spectacular, lunging, back-to-the-infield catch of a blooper off the bat of Tyler Greene at the start of the fifth inning, robbing Greene of at least a single. Sellers later put the cherry on top with his second career home run, a solo shot just over the wall in left off Westbrook, to give the Dodgers a 3-0 lead.

The Bad

Tradeoff. It didn't take long for the Dodgers to feel the absence of Gordon, their offensively struggling leadoff man who has been benched for the next few days. With one out in the top of the first, Carlos Beltran hit a high pop to shallow left. Sellers, starting at shortstop in place of the defensively gifted Gordon, ran out while left fielder Abreu ran in. Sellers, who has some speed but nothing on a par with Gordon's, peeled off at the last second, and an apparently stunned Abreu initially made a basket catch, but it didn't stay in his glove long enough for the out to be recorded before it popped out and fell to the grass. Beltran was safe at first and Abreu was charged with his first error of the season for either the Dodgers or the Angels, but no harm, no foul, as Beltran never advanced beyond that.

Turnabout. One night after going 4-for-4 with a double, a walk and an RBI against one of his many former teams, Kennedy went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and got himself picked off first base. He may have been robbed of a two-run single, though, not by any of the Cardinals defenders but by the official scorer. Kennedy absolutely smoked the aforementioned ball off Carpenter's glove, but the scorer charged Carpenter with an error. Kennedy thus got credit for driving in the first run, but not the second.

Opportunity knocks. The Dodgers went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position (again, with help from the official scorer), or the beating might have been worse.

3 up, 3 down: Dodgers 6, Cardinals 5

May, 18, 2012
5/18/12
10:46
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- Kenley Jansen blew his second save in five chances this season -- his first since being named the Los Angeles Dodgers' full-time closer -- by giving up a two-out, pinch-hit, game-tying home run to the St. Louis Cardinals' Lance Berkman in the top of the ninth inning. But A.J. Ellis drew a four-pitch bases-loaded walk from Cardinals reliever Fernando Salas in the bottom of the inning to give the Dodgers a 6-5 victory before 40,906 on Friday night at Dodger Stadium.

The winning rally began when Elian Herrera, the rookie utility man the Dodgers promoted from Triple-A Albuquerque for the first time earlier this week, led off the bottom of the ninth by working Salas for an eight-pitch walk, fouling off a pair of 3-2 pitches in the process. The Cardinals walked James Loney intentionally to load the bases with one out for Ellis and set up a potential double play.

The blown save ruined veteran left-hander Ted Lilly's chance to run his record to 6-0 to begin the season. Lilly scattered four hits over seven strong innings and didn't allow an earned run, although the Cardinals did tag him for four unearned runs in the third inning.

The Dodgers improved baseball's best record to 26-13.

The Good

Risky business. With Loney running off second and one out in the second, Ellis pulled a single through the left side. Although the ball was hit sharply and Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday was charging, Dodgers third-base coach Tim Wallach never hesitated in enthusiastically waving Loney home. Holliday's throw beat Loney, but was just off-line enough that Loney was able to run to the infield side of the plate and barely avoid catcher Yadier Molina's tag, slapping the plate with his right hand as he slid in. Ellis went to second on the throw and subsequently scored on Tony Gwynn's triple, making it 3-0 early.

Hit 'em where they ain't. With Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal shading him well toward the second-base bag, left-handed-hitting Adam Kennedy poked a game-tying single in the third right through the spot where Furcal would've been standing in a straight-up defensive alignment, bringing Mark Ellis home from third. The .186 batting average Kennedy sported coming into this game led many to wonder if his long career was nearing its end. Not yet, apparently. Batting fifth for the Dodgers, Kennedy went 3-for-3 with a double, a walk, a run scored and an RBI, and he also speared two smoking-hit liners hit right at him at third base. He also committed an error in the seventh, but it turned out to be harmless.

Bouncing back. After giving up a two-run homer to Holliday to cap a four-run Cardinals third, Lilly retired 13 of the next 15 batters, giving up only one hit with another hitter reaching on Kennedy's error. Only two balls were hit out of the infield during that stretch, which kept the game tied through the seventh inning and saved the Dodgers bullpen on a night when Lilly got into early trouble and could have been headed for an early exit.

The Bad

About face. No sooner had the Dodgers taken a 3-0 lead in the second than the Cardinals came back with four in a wild-and-wooly third that included an errant pickoff throw by catcher A.J. Ellis that rendered all four runs unearned; a momentary failure by Ellis to locate a pitch in the dirt on which Shane Robinson struck out, allowing Robinson to reach; and an ejection of manager Don Mattingly for arguing from the dugout when the Dodgers didn't get the call on what would have been an inning-ending third strike to Matt Carpenter that would have preserved a two-run lead.

Wasted chances. The Dodgers stranded nine baserunners through the first eight innings, seven of them in scoring position and three of them at third base, all three of whom had gotten to third base with less than two outs.

The unset table. Dee Gordon's maddening struggles in the leadoff spot continued, the Dodgers shortstop going 0-for-5 without hitting a ball out of the infield.

3 up, 3 down: Dodgers 6, Giants 2

May, 9, 2012
5/09/12
10:39
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers got five shutout innings from their bullpen following an abbreviated start by Chad Billingsley and ran out the clock on a 6-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants before 33,993 on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium, taking two of three in the series.

Veteran right-hander Jamey Wright took over for Billingsley to begin the fifth and pitched two perfect innings, striking out three while not allowing a ball to be hit out of the infield. Ronald Belisario followed that with a shaky but ultimately scoreless seventh, and Josh Lindblom struck out the first two batters he faced in a scoreless eighth.

Kenley Jansen, who still hasn't faced a save situation since being anointed the team's closer-of-the-moment on Monday, finished it off as the Dodgers (20-11) pushed their lead over the second-place Giants in the National League West back to five games, matching their biggest margin of the season.

The Good

Timely defense. Matt Kemp saved a run with his arm and his savvy in the top of the third. With runners on first and second and two outs, Joaquin Arias grounded a single through the middle. But with Brandon Belt rounding third and about to score easily, Nate Schierholtz took too big a turn at second, and Kemp fired a bullet to Adam Kennedy, who tagged Schierholtz diving back in before Belt could cross the plate, ending the inning and negating the run.

More timely defense. Shortstop Dee Gordon saved another run in the fourth, ranging behind the bag with the runners in motion to take what surely would have been an RBI single away from Melky Cabrera, Gordon firing a bullet to first to get Cabrera by a step and end the inning. And then, Gordon probably saved another run in the eighth with a sliding catch, in shallow left field and with his back to the infield, to take a bloop single away from Aubrey Huff and end the inning.

Timely offense. With runners on second and third, one out and the Dodgers trailing by a run in the fourth, A.J. Ellis worked Tim Lincecum for a seven-pitch walk, during which he twice laid off the two-strike slider in the dirt Lincecum already had used to get several of his seven strikeouts to that point. Tony Gwynn, pinch hitting for Billingsley, followed that with a three-run triple to put the Dodgers ahead.

The Bad

Unofficial error. With Giants runners on first and third and two outs in the second, Lincecum hit a bouncer into the hole at short. Gordon scooped it up in plenty of time to throw out Lincecum at first and end the inning, but Gordon didn't get the throw off in time. Instead, he double-clutched, Lincecum was safe, and Arias crossed the plate with the game's first run. Gordon wasn't charged with an error, meaning Billingsley was charged with an earned run, but the Dodgers might not have been in that situation if Billingsley hadn't already thrown 28 pitches in the inning to that point and 45 for the game.

And speaking of ... . Billingsley continued his career-long battle against throwing too many pitches outside the strike zone and too many pitches period. By the time Billingsley had just issued his fourth walk and fallen behind in the count to another hitter with two outs in the fourth inning, Wright already was warming up in the Dodgers bullpen. Billingsley was lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of that inning. By that time, he had thrown 85 pitches.

Offensive struggles. Gordon, who actually came in with an eight-game hitting streak, continued what has been a season-long struggle at the plate. He struck out in his first at-bat, grounded into a rare double play in the third inning and, with a runner on third and less than two outs in the fourth, hit a pop fly to shallow right that even the speedy Gwynn had no chance to score on -- this after starting the at-bat by trying to bunt for a base hit against a drawn-in Giants infield. Fortunately, Gordon fouled off that pitch.

3 up, 3 down: Dodgers 6, Padres 5

April, 7, 2012
4/07/12
9:46
PM PT


SAN DIEGO -- The Dodgers have a chance to sweep their opening series of the season Sunday afternoon against the Padres.

They reached this point by winning a long, ugly game Saturday night.

Dee Gordon drove in the winning run on a two-out single in the 11th inning in the 6-5 victory over the Padres on Saturday at Petco Park.

A.J. Ellis scored after he led off the inning with a single and advanced on a sacrifice bunt. Closer Javy Guerra earned the save, striking out one and walking one in the bottom of the 11th.

The Dodgers had squandered a 5-0 lead, as the Padres tied the score with five runs in the fifth inning. The Padres drew three consecutive walks with the bases loaded in the inning.

Dodgers starting pitcher Chris Capuano threw four scoreless innings before running into trouble in the fifth innings. He was charged with four runs in 4 2/3 innings. He struck out four but walked five.

The Dodgers scored all five of their runs in the first four innings against right-hander Dustin Moseley.

Juan Uribe and Juan Rivera had the day off from the starting lineup but came in off the bench. Manager Don Mattingly said he wanted to rest them and have them in the lineup Sunday in the series finale against left-hander Clayton Richard. Adam Kennedy started at third base in place of Uribe, and Tony Gwynn Jr. started in left field in place of Rivera.

The Good

More from the leadoff spot. After he went 1-for-10 in the first two games, Gordon was 3-for-4 with a double, two walks and three stolen bases Saturday. The three stolen bases tied a career high. He led off with a single and stole his first base of the season in the first inning. He advanced to third on a groundout and scored on Matt Kemp’s sacrifice fly. In the third inning, Gordon drew a walk, stole second and scored on Kemp’s single.

The usual suspects. Kemp extended his hitting streak to 15 games (dating to last season) with an RBI single in the third inning. Gordon and Mark Ellis both drew two-out walks before Kemp singled for a 2-0 lead. Andre Ethier then hit a two-run double for a 4-0 lead.
Kemp also had a double in the seventh.

Some power. A.J. Ellis hit his first home run of the season, a solo shot off Moseley for a 5-0 lead in the fourth inning. It was the third home run of Ellis’ major-league career. He hit two home runs in 31 games with the Dodgers last season.

The Bad

Meltdown in the fifth inning. The Padres scored five runs in the fifth inning to tie the game with five walks, a wild pitch and two hits. Capuano issued a walk with the bases loaded for the first run, and Jamey Wright issued two walks with the bases loaded for two more runs. Then Scott Elbert’s wild pitch allowed a fourth run to score. After hitting Yonder Alonso, Elbert gave up an RBI single to Orlando Hudson that tied the score 5-5 before the inning ended when Nick Hundley was thrown out trying to score.

Another short start. Capuano lasted just 4 2/3 innings. Walks were a big factor -- he issued five. The Dodgers used seven relievers, weighing heavily on the bullpen for the second time this series. Opening Day starter Clayton Kershaw also threw a short outing Thursday, when illness limited him to three innings. On Friday, Chad Billingsley saved the bullpen by throwing 8 1/3 innings.

Wright not right. Wright replaced Capuano in the fifth inning and threw eight pitches -- and none of them were for strikes. He issued two walks with the bases loaded, allowing two runs to score before Elbert replaced him. Saturday was Wright’s second appearance of the season after he pitched a scoreless 2/3 of an inning Friday.

Kershaw struggles to the finish line

March, 31, 2012
3/31/12
5:19
PM PT


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It might mean nothing, but the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner will leave spring training Sunday afternoon with a bad taste in his mouth.

Whether that carries over to Thursday, when Clayton Kershaw will take the mound for the Los Angeles Dodgers' season opener at San Diego, remains to be seen. But the usually dominating left-hander was anything but in his final Cactus League start Saturday -- which the Dodgers won 9-3 over the Arizona Diamondbacks before a sellout crowd of 12,799, the largest in the two-year history of Talking Stick -- and he wasn't happy about afterward.

"It wasn't very good," Kershaw said. "I gave up runs, and I gave up hits. That usually makes for a bad outing."

Because it was his final spring-training tuneup, Kershaw's prescribed pitch count already was going to be tapered back regardless of the result. Manager Don Mattingly came to get him just after Kershaw struck out Paul Goldschmidt for the second out of the fourth inning, a point at which Kershaw had given up three earned runs and six hits, including a bomb of a two-run homer by Jason Kubel in the first inning.

Kershaw said he was missing his spots and that his slider, which he had struggled with in his previous start six days earlier, still wasn't quite right. But when asked if the slider was a concern now that the regular season is upon him, Kershaw said it isn't.

"It can't be," he said. "April 5 is coming up pretty fast. You have to be ready to go."

Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt says he continues to see good sliders from Kershaw intermittently, but that the inconsistency could be the result of Kershaw trying to force the pitch, especially in light desert air where breaking balls tend not to break as much and where simply getting a proper grip on the ball can be tough.

"But he isn't going to make that excuse, and I'm not going to make it for him," Honeycutt said. "As long as he is healthy, that is the main thing. [The slider] isn't something I'm worried about. He is going to continue to work on it until he feels comfortable with it."

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Yasiel Puig
BA HR RBI R
.296 16 69 92
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Gonzalez 27
RBIA. Gonzalez 116
RY. Puig 92
OPSY. Puig .863
WC. Kershaw 21
ERAC. Kershaw 1.77
SOC. Kershaw 239