Dodgers Report: Cameron Maybin

Dodgers aren't moving, but the clock is

September, 5, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- The problem with calling these next three games -- or five games or 10 games -- "must-win" is that it sort of makes everything that precedes them seem optional. When you're playing Colorado, Arizona or San Diego, it's not as if the league views those games as friendlies.

The Dodgers have added a note of desperation to their season by going 6-10 in a relatively light portion of their schedule. Now, with the most talented, polished teams in the National League looming on the schedule, their margin for error is approaching microscopic.

It's not as if they don't know these things. They've been living with the results and they're perfectly capable of reading a schedule.

"Every series is a must-win in September," Matt Kemp said. "No excuses. We've got to go out there and play every game like it's our last game because you don't ever know what can happen."

Actually, we do know what can happen.

If the Dodgers don't play well in the next 10 days, against the very teams they're chasing, at some point they'll join the still-tiny list of teams with an "X" in front of its name in the standings. "X," of course, stands for eliminated.

If that happens, this team probably will be in for some changes. They're operating under new owners, after all, and those owners just spent $260 million to land a winner, so their patience for underperforming figures to have fairly tight limits.

But maybe we're getting ahead of ourselves. The Dodgers are, after all, still in reach of the San Francisco Giants in the NL West (4 1/2 back with six head-to-head games left) and in the thick of the expanded wild-card race (just 1 1/2 games back). They haven't really slipped so much as failed to gain traction.

The most worrisome thing is they're offering scant signs that they're about to become a dynamic September force. They just wrapped up a six-game homestand during which they averaged 3.3 runs per game.

It's been a drab atmosphere in the clubhouse lately and it was a bit quiet in the dugout after San Diego's brilliant center fielder, Cameron Maybin, leaped at the wall to take a two-run home run away from Kemp in the seventh inning. If Maybin had missed that ball or Kemp had hit it four inches farther, the Dodgers would have won and everything would feel different. But that's what makes this time of year special ... and, at times, especially frustrating.

"We were a bit down, but I think at that point, we've still got outs left," manager Don Mattingly said.

That's why you keep trudging forward at this time of year, even when you can barely score, your pitchers give up early leads and your chemistry is questionable. The team or teams you're chasing might collapse, as a couple of them did last season. You might get a key hit and finally catch fire, as Kemp obviously needs. Virtually anything can happen as the pressure mounts with the arrival of cooler weather.

Or, as Mattingly put it, the Dodgers still have outs left.

3 up, 3 down: Dodgers 6, Padres 1

April, 14, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers continued their sizzling start, their best in more than three decades, with a 6-1 victory over the San Diego Padres on Saturday night at Dodger Stadium. With that, the Dodgers improved the best record in baseball to 8-1 and gave themselves a chance, if they can complete a three-game sweep of the Padres on Sunday and a season-opening, 6-0 homestand, to match the 9-1 start of the 1981 Dodgers, who went on to win that year's World Series.

The Dodgers scored all of their runs in the first two innings before cruising to victory behind a strong performance from veteran lefty Ted Lilly in his first start of the season.

The Good

Worth the wait. Lilly, who began the season on the 15-day disabled list because a stiff neck late in spring training put him behind schedule and who was roughed up for seven runs and eight hits in his only rehabilitation start Sunday for advanced Class A Rancho Cucamonga, was spectacular in his return to the Dodgers. He retired 10 batters in a row during one stretch from the first inning through the fifth. He wound up going seven innings on a remarkably efficient 79 pitches, giving up only an unearned run and two hits, one of which was an infield single.

Power trip. Matt Kemp hit two-run homers in each of the first two innings, his fourth and fifth of the season, to increase his RBI total to a team-leading 15. Kemp and Andre Ethier, who is right behind Kemp with 14 RBIs, actually hit back-to-back homers in the first inning off Padres rookie Joe Wieland, who was making his major league debut. It was the first time since April 16, 2010 -- two days shy of two years -- that Kemp and Ethier had hit consecutive homers. Kemp went 3-for-4 on the night and now is hitting .457 (16-for-35).

People, and lots of them. For the first time since their home opener on Tuesday, the Dodgers actually drew a crowd. Was it 46,549, which is what was announced? Not likely. But both pavilions were full and even the reserved level was full except for a few sections down in each corner.

The Bad

Throwing it all away. The Dodgers had committed just two errors all season, both of them in the team's only loss Sunday at San Diego, and had gone 39 consecutive error-free innings when shortstop Dee Gordon fielded Cameron Maybin's grounder to begin the game and threw it into the Padres' dugout, allowing Maybin to reach second and score an unearned run later in the inning to give the Padres a shortlived, 1-0 lead.

Sacrificing logic. It took Wieland seven batters into his big league career to actually record an out that the Dodgers didn't voluntarily give him. So why did they voluntarily give him the first one? After Gordon drew a leadoff walk in the first inning, Tony Gwynn Jr., starting in left field for the second night in a row, got the bunt sign and sacrificed Gordon to second. This is the same Gordon, mind you, who might be the fastest runner in the National League and who already is 5-for-8 on stolen-base attempts this season. Sure, the Dodgers went on to score four runs in the inning. Would they have scored five, or maybe even more, if Gwynn had been allowed to swing the bat? We'll never know. Gordon, by the way, subsequently scored on a two-run homer by Kemp, something he would have done regardless of whether he had been bunted into scoring position.

That PSA about texting and driving. They debuted it on the big board in left field in the middle of the sixth inning. It featured Ethier driving, with Dodgers broadcaster Charley Steiner sitting in the back seat, microphone in hand, calling play by play of Ethier receiving a text message on his cell phone and refusing to read it because, as Steiner said, he was "keeping his eyes on the road." The message was a good, if rather obvious, one. The delivery was, in a word, cheesey.

3 up, 3 down: Dodgers 6, Padres 0

April, 6, 2012
SAN DIEGO -- After using five relievers on Opening Day, the Dodgers needed a strong outing from starter Chad Billingsley against the Padres on Friday night.

The right-hander delivered in dominant fashion, helping the Dodgers spare their taxed bullpen. Billingsley struck out 11 in 8 1/3 innings in the Dodgers’ 6-0 victory over the Padres at Petco Park. He allowed three hits and a walk.

Billingsley exited after allowing a one-out single to Cameron Maybin in the ninth. He threw 108 pitches, 70 for strikes. Jamey Wright got the final two outs.

On offense, the Dodgers chased left-hander Cory Luebke from the game in the fifth inning. Luebke allowed six runs (five earned) and nine hits in 4 2/3 innings.

Andre Ethier smacked a two-run double and a two-run triple.

The good

Starting pitching. Illness limited ace Clayton Kershaw to just three innings Thursday. Friday, Billingsley was dominant from the beginning. He started strong by striking out all three batters he faced in the first inning. He also struck out the side in the third inning. He gave up leadoff doubles in both the second and fourth innings but escaped trouble. Friday was the ninth game Billingsley has struck out at least 10 in his career.

Attack early. The Dodgers jumped on Luebke early, scoring two runs and three hits in the first inning. After Mark Ellis and Juan Rivera each singled, Ethier drove a two-run double to right center for a 2-0 lead. Earlier, Matt Kemp narrowly missed his second home run in as many days. Right fielder Will Venable caught his deep fly ball against the scoreboard.

Capitalizing. The Dodgers took advantage of the Padres’ miscues, scoring two runs when the Padres committed two errors in the third inning. Ellis started things with a one-out double. Kemp reached on an infield single, and Ellis scored after first baseman Yonder Alonso threw wildly to the plate for the first error. Kemp then took third on Luebke’s errant throw to second base on a pickoff attempt and scored on Rivera’s single over shortstop Jason Bartlett. In the fifth inning, Ethier smashed a two-run triple after Luebke allowed a single and walk.

The bad

Ks. It’s nitpicking on a good offensive day, but the Dodgers struck out quite a bit, nine times total. They fanned six times against Luebke.

Against the bullpen. After scoring six runs off Luebke, the Dodgers were shutout by the Padres bullpen. Reliever Micah Owings allowed a single and a walk in 3 1/3 shutout innings. Andrew Cashner allowed a walk in the ninth.

Bottom third of the lineup. The Dodgers’ 7-8-9 hitters -- Juan Uribe, A.J. Ellis and Billingsley -- were 0-for-10 with four strikeouts and a walk.

3 up, 3 down: Dodgers 5, Padres 3

April, 5, 2012

SAN DIEGO -- Despite losing Clayton Kershaw to a stomach flu after the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner gamely battled through three shutout innings, the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen was just good enough hold the San Diego Padres at bay in a 5-3, season-opening victory for the Dodgers before a sellout crowd of 42,941 at Petco Park.

The Dodgers went ahead to stay on a pair of bases-loaded walks in the fourth inning by James Loney and A.J. Ellis, then put the game to bed on Matt Kemp's two-run homer in the top of the eighth. Javy Guerra, who as a rookie saved 21 games for the Dodgers last season, notched his first one of 2012 by pitching the ninth inning.

Kershaw's early departure forced the Dodgers to go deep into their bullpen in their first game of the season, as he was followed by a parade of five relievers. But manager Don Mattingly didn't call on long reliever Jamey Wright, meaning the Dodgers probably are OK for Friday night's game without calling up additional bullpen help from the minors.

The good

Beast mode. Any concerns about Kemp's high strikeout rate in spring training quickly dissipated as the Dodgers center fielder went 2-for-4 with two runs scored, three RBIs and his first home run of the season, a two-run shot off Padres reliever Brad Brach in the eighth inning that landed atop the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center.

Glove Swag. Dee Gordon might have been robbed of his first triple of the year by a tough official scorer, who ruled three-base error on a ball that ticked off the glove of Padres center fielder Cameron Maybin. But nothing could take away the defensive play Gordon made to end the fourth inning, a diving stop behind the bag and on the edge of the outfield grass. Gordon got to his feet quickly and fired a bullet to first, taking what would have been a clean single to center away from Yonder Alonso.

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Dan Haren
3 2.16 20 25
BAD. Gordon .367
HRA. Gonzalez 5
RBIA. Gonzalez 17
RA. Gonzalez 14
OPSA. Gonzalez .969
ERAH. Ryu 1.93
SOZ. Greinke 29