Saturday, July 17, 2010
Doldrums continue in St. Louis
By Tony Jackson ESPNLosAngeles.com
ST. LOUIS -- The Los Angeles Dodgers got an outstanding performance from right-hander Hiroki Kuroda on Saturday, in a game when Kuroda had to be at least that good. But in the end, all the Dodgers got was what they almost always get whenever they visit the Gateway City.
That would be another loss, this time 2-0 to the St. Louis Cardinals before a sellout crowd of 43,667 at Busch Stadium.
The Dodgers are 4-14 all time, postseason included, in the five-year history of the new ballpark here. In the past seven seasons, they are 5-22, postseason included, on their various visits to this often-sweltering city by the Mississippi River that was made famous by the 1904 World's Fair, a 1944 musical starring Judy Garland and 10 World Series titles.
That almost every seat in the ballpark and every shirt worn by the paying customers is of a certain color isn't the only reason the Dodgers often leave this town seeing red.
Hiroki Kuroda pitched well in St. Louis, but the Dodgers' bats did not give him any help.
This time, the Dodgers were done in by a punchless lineup that went hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position, including two double-play grounders with runners on the corners and one out. Mostly, though, they were done in by Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright, who dominated them for six innings on a day when the Dodgers were shut out for the ninth time this season.
The Dodgers (49-42) sent four players to this week's All-Star Game. Tellingly, not one of them was a starting pitcher. The Cardinals, meanwhile, sent two All-Stars to the mound against the Dodgers in the first three games of the second half, wedged a rookie who came in with the league's second-best ERA in between them and won all three.
Along the way, the Dodgers got another reminder that their rotation still lacks the type of ace starting pitcher the Cardinals have two of in Wainwright and Chris Carpenter.
"Once I go out to the mound, it's my job to win the game," Kuroda said through interpreter Kenji Nimura. "So it is a little bit frustrating, considering how well I pitched."
Kuroda (7-8) gave up a double to Felipe Lopez on the first pitch he threw, but was more or less outstanding from that point. He struck out the next three batters -- Colby Rasmus, Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday, no less -- and didn't give up another hit until Holliday's leadoff single in the fourth.
Jon Jay followed Holliday's hit with a hard grounder to second. Blake DeWitt dished it to shortstop Rafael Furcal, who after getting the force took two steps to his left to elude the oncoming Holliday. But as Furcal fired to first, Holliday still came after him, and replays showed that it was at least questionable whether Holliday was close enough to the bag as he slid into Furcal that he could have touched it with his hand.
But Holliday wasn't called for interference, Furcal's throw was a fraction of a second too late to get Jay at first, and Jay wound up scoring later in the inning on a double by Skip Schumaker that just got past a diving James Loney at first base.
That was enough for the Cardinals. Against the Dodgers, just being at home is usually enough for them.
Kuroda went six innings, giving up only that run and four hits. He struck out eight batters and walked only one. And he was tagged with a loss.
The Dodgers have one more chance, on what is expected to be a hot, humid Sunday afternoon, to avoid a humiliating four-game sweep by the Cardinals, and they have a favorable pitching matchup with which to try to do it. But the Dodgers haven't won more than one game in any visit to St. Louis since sweeping a three-game series in 2003. And no matter what happens in Sunday's finale, that isn't going to change for at least another year.
Loney appeared to be in agonizing pain after popping up for the first out in the ninth against Cardinals reliever Trever Miller. Loney's left leg seemed to collapse under him on the follow through of his swing, and Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina had to hold Loney up until Dodgers manager Joe Torre and assistant trainer Todd Tomczyk could get to the plate.
Loney had to be helped off the field and was unable to bend his left knee. But he was diagnosed with nothing more than a hamstring cramp -- probably the result of dehydration in the suffocating heat -- and is expected to be in the lineup Sunday.
"Todd was laughing at the fact this is the last guy you would expect that to happen to because James eats all kinds of bananas and does a lot of different things to try to ward off this stuff," Torre said.
With Juan Castro having been released by the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday, it would stand to reason the Dodgers will attempt to bring the veteran utility man back into the organization, even if all they can offer him initially is a minor league deal with an out clause if he isn't promoted by a specific date.
Castro, 38, spent his first five major league seasons with the Dodgers, was traded to Cincinnati in 2000, then returned last year to hit .277 in limited action. He also is viewed as a strong, positive presence in the clubhouse.
The Dodgers had some interest in re-signing Castro but weren't going to offer him anything like the $750,000 guarantee the Phillies did, so Castro headed East.
The Dodgers' game at San Francisco on Aug. 1 has been switched to 5:09 p.m. from its originally scheduled start time of 1:05 p.m. after being picked up by ESPN for its weekly Sunday night telecast. This will mark the Dodgers' fourth appearance on ESPN "Sunday Night Baseball" this season, all four of which will have come in a seven-week span.
Quote of the day
"It looks like bloggers know more than I know." -- Dodgers reliever George Sherrill, who was put on outright waivers earlier this week but still doesn't know his fate.
Although news that Sherrill had been put on the usually top-secret waiver wire broke late Wednesday, there are strong indications the move wasn't made until late that day, which means Sherrill won't clear waivers until the end of business Monday.
Even if Sherrill does clear without being claimed by another team, the Dodgers don't have to make a move with him. They could simply keep him on their active roster, although at that point, waivers would have been secured, allowing the club to outright or release Sherrill at any point without having to pass him through waivers again until the current waiver period expires July 31.
More on the Dodgers
For more news, notes and analysis of the Dodgers, check out ESPNLA's Dodgers Report. Blog
Right-hander Vicente Padilla (3-2, 4.72), who in his last start at Busch Stadium pitched seven shutout innings for the Dodgers to help them clinch last year's National League Division Series, is the only thing standing between the Dodgers and a four-game sweep by the Cardinals.
Veteran right-hander Jeff Suppan (0-5, 6.55), who grew up in the San Fernando Valley and owns a sports bar/restaurant there, will start for the Cardinals. His once-solid career has fallen on hard times since he signed a four-year, $42 million contract with the Milwaukee Brewers before the 2007 season. Suppan is 29-39 with a 5.08 ERA over the life of that contract and was released by the Brewers on June 7.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.