Game 5- 2009 NLCS. Phillies win, 10-4; Win series 4-1

Much of the last week, the story has been the same: the Phillies
offense is too great for the hand-me-down rummage sale pitching
rotation the Dodgers have. On Wednesday night, nothing had changed.

Andre Ethier jump started the Dodgers and quieted Citizens Bank Park,
with a Home Run in the first inning, after a beautiful 7 pitch at bat.

Vicente Padilla, the Dodgers junkyard discovery turned postseason ace…
Well, looked more like a junkyard find. After retiring the first two
batters, he walked Chase Utley, than walked Ryan Howard. He went 3-0
to the next batter, ex- Dodger Jayson Werth. With the count full,
Werth drove a pitch into the right field seats to get the Phillies an
early two run lead.

Despite Homers by Loney and pinch-hitter Orlando Hudson, the Phillies
still went on to smash the Dodgers and close out the series.

The Dodgers pitching staff served up four home runs. The Phil’s scored
in 6 of 8 innings. Clearly, there was a championship- quality team on
the field, and it wasn’t the Dodgers.

After all is said and done, it is hard to call this season a success.
The Dodgers did everything right in the regular season, finishing with
the best record in the National League. In the post-season? It was the
same story as last year: a sweep in the LDS, and an un-inspiring,
rather heartbreaking 5 game loss to the Phillies in the LCS.

What went wrong?

In the Dodgers case, it was the move they didn’t make that hurt more
than on field actions.

One name- Cliff Lee.

For whatever reason, be it we didn’t want to give up certain prospects,
or the McCourts were too cheap to pony up the money, getting outbid by
the Phillies was a blow the Dodgers suffered before the playoffs even
started.

Yes, they acquired George Sherill, and that was the final piece to the
bullpen, but the lack of a clear front line- starter was so evident in
this series. The Dodgers starters went 0-3 in the series. The
worst part?- Cliff Lee has a team option for 2010- for only 7 million
dollars. Juan Pierre will make 10 million next year.

At one point, the rotation seemed to be ok. But than Arizona’s Rusty
Ryle lined a pitch- right off of Hiroki Kuroda’s head. He hasn’t been
the same since. At the time of the injury, the Dodgers had won each of
Kuroda’s last 5 starts.

Than, Chad Billingsley, who early in the season was cosidered to be in
the running for the NL Cy Young, forgot how to pitch. There is a giant
question mark over his head now. Don’t be surprised if his role is
dramatically- changed next year, if he is still with the club. The
right hander was one of the pitchers the Blue Jays wanted in return of a potential deal for  Toronto- Ace Roy
Halliday. The Dodgers wanted to stick with Billingsley.

There are other holes to fill. Both Ronnie Belliard and Orlando Hudson
are free agents this year, so the search for a second baseman is on
for the 2nd straight year- unless the Dodgers decide to promote Blake
DeWitt.

Veterens Mark Loretta, Brad Ausmus, and Jim Thome are also gone. We
need a power lefty off the bench, a backup catcher, and a backup
corner infielder.

Perhaps the biggest problem facing the organization is Manny Ramirez.
The left-fielder put up numbers that were not-so-similar to the run he
gave the team in 2008. Not only did he get suspended for a third of
the season, but he hit under-.300 and didn’t even hit 20 home runs.
Fans are (finally) growing impatient with him, and it looks as if they
may be stuck with him. Manny has a player option for 2010 worth $20
million. He won’t be able to find that kind of money on the market, so
its more than likely that Manny will be Manny for one more year in Dodger
Blue.
Ned Coletti has a few decions to make. They need add at least one
power bat, and they need to get an opening day starter. All while under the stress of the McCourts suddenly bitter divorce.

As for the World Series- I’ll surely be rooting for the American
League team. I can’t watch the Phillies win another title.

The offseason is here and that means its time to
work on bringing a ring to LA next year….. It could be Torre’s last and also…. Vin Scully.

Think Blue.

Phillies stab Dodgers in the 9th, win 5-4…..This one will hurt for a long time.

For a guy his size, Jonathan Broxton sure does get bullied easily. Thats just one of the reasons this loss will sting for a long time.

Last night, in the 9th inning, Broxton needed just 3 outs to secure a victory. It was a hard-earned victory, which included four  2-out runs, A clutch single, a HR to over the head of Shane Victorino, and once again capitalizing on an error by the other team.

Raul Ibanez ledoff and grounded out. One out.

Than came Matt Stairs. The same Stairs, that came into Dodger Stadium, and crushed any momentum the Dodgers were gaining with a 2-run HR in the 9th, off the same Jonathan Broxton. First pitch: Fastball inside. (ok) Second pitch: Fastball outside. (Comon Brox! Throw a strike!).. Third: Fastball low and outside.(BROX!) Fouth-Ball four, outside. Take your base, Stairs. It was as if Broxton was admitting that Stairs owned him.

Than things got ugly. The next pitch hit Carlos Ruiz to put the tying run on base.

Gregg Dobbs pinch hitting. He hits a liner to the left side!- CAUGHT by Blake. 2 outs. Thats it, lets go! MLB.COM had already put up the “Dodgers edge Phillies, series tied 2-2″ up.

Jimmy Rollins wouldn’t have it. 3 straight fastballs and he had seen enough. He launched a pitch the the gap in right-center. Stairs pinch runner- Bruntlett scores, Greg Dobbs Scores. Dodgers lose. Phillies take a 3-1 edge in the series.

Oh, and our hearts a torn, shredded. It gave you that “I’m not sure if I am gonna cry or puke, but I feel like I really need to” look. I very literally had nightmares of the Dodgers all night, and I felt like I had lost someone very dear to me.

The loss is so nauseating that you forget Randy Wolf pitched a great game, the bullpen didn’t give up a hit, or even that there is more left to play in the series. It just kind of gives you a sense of “it’s over”.

But we can’t act like that. We can’t through in the towel.

These guys are young and need to learn to always believe in themselves, even if their backs are to the wall. What kind of team would they be if they just gave up? Yes, this lead is seemingly insurmountable, but don’t forget that they just need one. One is all it takes to send it to Dodger Stadium. Who knows where it can go from there. I’m not saying this is probable, but its all we’ve got left.

They have to go out on Wednesday and show they can fight. I can’t imagine after a year like the one this team has had, that they would simply go quietly.

Only 11 teams have ever come back from a 3-1 deficit. The last team to do it was the Boston Red Sox, who came back against the Cleveland Indians in 2007 and the New York Yankees in 2004. Both were in the LCS.

Manny Ramirez played for both of those Red Sox teams. Casey Blake was on the 2007 Indians.

RHP Vicente Padilla vs LHP Cole Hamels. Who knew a month ago that this would be our go-to guy with the season on the line?

Think Blue

11-0 Not as bad off as you think!

Sometimes, a game like this is not as bad as it seems. Sometimes, loosing 11-0, is not as harmful as loosing 3-2, stranding the tying run on 2nd.

On Saturday, the Dodgers didn’t get an extra base hit, and were retired 2 batters over the minimum en route to a 3-hit shutout.

Meanwhile, their starter pitched for the first time since mid-September and lost the game, securing a loss by the 4th batter of the game.

But in the grand scheme of things, there is a positive outlook after today. When it all comes down to it, our #1 goal is to steal back the game the Phillies took from us at home. 2 wins in Philly  would be nice, but the minimum requirements for this road trip is to send the series back to LA, and take back home field advantage. We have 3 chances. This one was an almost guaranteed loss, going up against a great pitcher that has taken his game to a new level for the postseason. Not to make it worse, but this Dodgers lineup had never seen him before.

So why, if you know it’s virtually impossible to outpitch Clif Lee, would you waste a good effort by a starter?

Why would you pitch Vicente Padilla or Randy Wolf or Clayton Kershaw, who will generally all find a way to keep you in any other ballgame?

Hiroki Kuroda was the right choice. We haven’t seen him since he has been on the DL, and we sure didn’t know what to expect. All we knew is that it would be nice to have him back. This was the right game to test that. There was no downside to starting him. We were going to lose this game no matter who pitched. Nobody on our staff can out do a 3-hit shutout against the Phillies, so it was either a big surprise or no news at all.

The Verdict: Hiroki Kuroda won’t be pitching game 7. It’s good we know that now. Time to move on.

The  Dodgers went quickly and quietly but still watched carefully, if nothing else getting experience facing their potential game 7.

In the eyes of a ballplayer (yes, clearly I can speak for one…). Shaking off a loss like the Cardinals had to (1 out away from tying the series) Is much harder than shaking off tonights beating. No second guessing any moves. We just got beat all around. Go to sleep and wake up with a clean slate, because tomorrow is another day.

Joe Blanton vs Randy Wolf.

Randy Wolf is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA and 17 strikeouts in two starts as a visitor in Philly. He pitched the first game in the history of Citizens Bank Ballpark earlier this decade. He also has something to prove after his last start in the NLDS.

Blanton did pick up the win in the series-ending game 5 last year, but he has been hit hard vs Matt Kemp and the offensive hero against Lee.

Both pitchers are the type to get a no-decision. Look to the bullpens to possibly be the key in the game.

In 1988, the Dodgers lost game 1 to the Mets, at Home. They won game 2, than lost game 3 in NY. They came back to take an improbable 2 of 3 on the road, and closed it out in game 7 at home.

If there were ever a loss to shrug off, it’s this one. We have 2 more chances to just steal back home field. Forget about it.

and Think Blue

Series Tied, 1-1

Two games in, and the Dodgers have themselves a 1-1 series. It’s hard to make sense of how to feel about it.

On one hand they lost game one. The game-1 starter forgot how to pitch in the middle of an inning (5 ER, 3 walks, 3 base hits and 3 wild pitches – tying the LCS record),

The manager forgot to manage, leaving Kershaw in a batter too long, leading to a 2-run double by Ryan Howard that proved to be the difference in the ballgame.

The bullpen gave up a 3 run home run in the 8th after the Dodgers had come within one.

The middle of the order failed to cash in on a leadoff double by Andre Ethier.

They lost home-field advantage.

On the other hand, their offense fought and fought hard. After the 5- run 5th inning, The Dodgers came right back to score 3 of their own. After the home run off Sherrill in the 8th, they came right back to score 2 more. They scored 6 runs, their postseason high. Loney contributed 3 hits and 2 runs scored and a RBI. Belliard had 2 hits. Even Russell Martin went 2-4, with an RBI and a base-hit that led to a rally.

Than they won game two. They made 37 year old Pedro Martinez look like a 24 year old Pedro Martinez. They managed 2 hits through 7 innings, and when Charlie Manuel made the mistake of pinch- hitting for him after just 87 pitches, the Dodgers pounced. They won by taking advantage of opportunities. They took advantage of the bullpen, they took advantage of a misplayed bunt, and they took advantage of a Chase Utley error to score the tying run. Clearly understanding that today was nobody’s day to hit, Andre Either drew a bases- loaded walk to force in a run putting the Dodgers up 2-1. Jonathan Broxton goes 1-2-3 in the 9th. and were heading back to Philadelphia.

Just another Andre Etheir Game-Winning RBI.

Oh, and Vicenta Padilla pitched just as well as Pedro Martinez… minus one pitch. This guy has something to prove (and a contract to earn).

True, we have to face Clif Lee for game 3. The same Cliff Lee that has gone 2 starts, 16.1 IP, 1.1 ERA, and only 3 walks… something the Dodgers love to capitalize on. But wait, take a look at the starting pitchers we have gotten around recently: Jorge De La Rosa, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Joel Pinero, and Pedro Martinez as good as in his prime.

This team goes out and fights. They really truly play until the other team beats them.

I think after seeing how much the Dodgers believe in themselves, I have no choice but to fee; good about this split series at Dodger Stadium. Last year, after 2 games, we were down 0-2, which is a much bigger deficit than 1-1. It comes down to a 5 game series now…

And this team is 6-0 in a 5 game series situation.

Think Blue

Dodgers take NLDS with Style

The Dodgers, no,- THE DODGERS! Have just beat the St Louis Cardinals and will play for the National League title for the second straight year. It’s the first time they have done that since ’77 and ’78. It is also the second straight year that they swept in the NLDS. Remember this time last year? Remember Manny’s HR from the toes and Loney’s grand slam and Broxton striking out Alfonso Soriano to end the series?

Times were great, in fact they were better than ever. This was a team that at the deadline that didn’t look very promising. They needed a spark, an inspiration. This was a young group of players that needed a veteran to show them what it was really all about. They got Manny Ramirez and Casey Blake, and went from a team that wasn’t sure if it would make the playoffs to winning the NLDS.

Than they stopped growing.

They had already reached their goals for the season, and didn’t bring their game to the table against Philadelphia. Just going to the NLCS was way more than they expected, and the season was considered a success.

This year is different.

This year, they sound older. They sound like they are back, and they are hungry. “We’re not here just to make it to the second round,” catcher Russell Martin said, after a convincing 5-1 victory in St Louis. “We want to make it all the way through. I think everyone has the World Series on the back of their minds.”

Kemp ran out a ball in the 1st inning, and Manny Ramirez came out swinging with 2 out, lining a pitch to left to double in Kemp.

Furcal singled with 2 out in the 3rd and Ethier jumped on a 3-1 fastball and knocked it way over the right field fence.

Ramirez singled with 2 on and 2 out in 7th, going 3-5 (finally) with 2 rbi’s and giving the Dodgers their 5th run of the day.

Ethier ended up going 3-5, with 3 extra base hits, 2 RBI’s and 2 runs scored- he was previously 0-8 against Pinero.

The Dodgers scored all 5 runs with 2 out, and all this while someone else’s disaster turned into  LA’s goldmine. Vicente Padilla (7 Innings, 0 Runs, 4 strikeouts, 1 walk), proved that he deserved to be trusted on a ballclub and has been a wonderful success story. Obtained to be used as a band-aid, LA won 6 of the 7 games he started, and is apparently fitting in perfectly in this clubhouse.

Mark Loretta said he was “Pounding the strike zone all night”, and if you were watching what is perhaps TBS only good feature, the virtual K-Zone, Padilla was indeed, hitting the zone all night long.

You can tell, this Ballclub is meshing. They are having fun and getting along, and picking each other up. If someone can leave a team because they are a clubhouse nightmare, and do a 180 in another one, clearly that means it’s a strong environment. This ballclub is having fun together, and they are loose.

Not only that, they are ready to win. They understand that this is only the beginning.

Ethier was interviewed after the game and said he was “Holding on to that feeling (of loosing in Philly), A year wiser, we’ll take our chances again this year”. He was asked  if he was upset falling a single short of the cycle, and he seemed dumbfounded that he would be asked that, as he replied that it was obviously about the team, not about individual accomplishments.

This team showed up when it counted. They understood how important it was to get those early runs. Ethier said “We weren’t going to roll over, just because we were in their place”

Fans in Busch Stadium on Saturday had few opportunities to pick up their team.

Joe Torre started off the first meeting of the year in spring training by stating “This year, our goal is to Win the World Series”. half a year later, they still seem intent on that being the goal, rather than winning the NLDS”. Torre summed it all up by stating”We feel good about ourselves, but knowing how much work is ahead of us, This ballclub has worked, they learned a lot last year. They really care for each other, that’s necessary in a team that goes this far”.

Times were great last year, indeed, but if they can hold this vibe over the 5 day break before the NLCS, This October you will see a lot more Blue.

Upcoming vs. Cubs

Tonight, the Dodgers open a four game set in historic Wrigley Field. There will be 2 night games, and 2 day games. 3 of the games will be nationally televised: Thursday night @ 5:05 (on MLB Network), Friday day game @11:20 (Prime ticket), Saturday Day game @ 1:10 (FOX), and Sunday night @ 5:05 (ESPN). 

This series is another statement series. The Dodgers are 1-2 against the NL central this year, and that was against an under- .500 Houston Astros team. It’s time to show the league why we beat them in the NLDS in 2008. The Dodgers are 18 games above .500, with a 33-15 mark, and that is the best record in all of baseball! It always hurts though, coming off a series with the Rockies. Our bullpen is tired, especially Jonathan Broxton. He threw 38 pitches yesterday in an effort to secure… a 5 run lead. He worries me sometimes. I don’t think big Jon has the right swag about being a closer. When runners get on base, he tenses up, he misses his spots, and he can’t power through it. He needs to believe his 100 mph fastball is the best in the league and nobody is gonna hit it. 

On a brighter note, Juan Castro is going to be key down the stretch. Rafael Furcal had to take another day off yesterday due to “Tightness in the buttox”. Raffie and his fragile body. Last year, it really hurt the Dodgers that he spent so much time on the DL. This year, he doesn’t have to feel obligated to push himself and play every day. Castro has been able to fill in for him, and is hitting .385 in 17 games! (Also, he just recently played in his 1000th career game)

How about San Diego?? The Padres have gone through some incredible stretches, and are the streakiest team I have ever seen. It must be an emotional roller-coaster for that team. After starting hot and almost matching the Dodgers with a 9-4 record, they than lost 18 of their next 22 games, and everyone lost hope. All of a sudden, they got hot and have won 10 of their last 11. They were written off before the season even began, especially since they lost 99 games last season. I do not think they will be a big threat this year, but some of their younger core players are going to step up big in years to come, and may even become valuable trade pieces. 

Probably Pitchers 

Thursday- LA -Randy Wolf (LHP, 2-1, 3.02) vs. CHC-Randy Wells (RHP 0-1, 1.50)

Randy wells is making his 4th career start. Last time up, he allowed 3 runs- the first 3 of his career. He started off the season by throwing 20 consecutive shutout innings.

Friday- LA- Chad Billingsley (RHP 6-2, 2.82) vs. CHC-Ted Lily (LHP 5-4, 3.77)

Saturday- LA- Eric Stults (LHP 4-1, 4.29) vs. CHC- Ryan Dempster (RHP 3-3, 4.99)

Sunday- LA- Eric Milton (LHP 1-0, 3.00) vs. CHC- Sean Marshall (LHP, 3-3, 3.70)

6 Lefties in this series. 

 

Think Blue

-E

First Post

Hey,

My name is Ethan Shapiro and I love the Dodgers. They make me crazy, but I can’t get enough of them. This is my first blog, and I figured this would be a great place to jot down my thoughts as the season goes on.

 

Think Blue

-E



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