Tuesday, April 12th, 2005
11:49 pm - I'm Getting Too Old for This...  
Regarding the Dodgers' home opener today, wow. Just... Wow.

Jeff Weaver started for LA. In his last outing he shut out the Giants for eight innings, the best performance by a Dodger starter so far this year. Today those very same Giants got their revenge, shelling him for five runs before there were even two outs in the first inning. I was listening to the game at work, and had the MLB Gameday window open. Gameday indicates run-scoring plays with bold type, and for awhile that's all that was scrolling up the window. It was sort of mesmerizing. I left work after the third inning, and before I was halfway home they'd pounded out three more runs with no outs in the fourth, and Jim Tracy had finally pulled the plug on Weaver. Weaver's line was just plain ugly: 3+ innings, 8 runs (all earned), 11 hits, 1 homer.

Meanwhile, Kirk Rueter wasn't exactly fooling anyone, either, and the Dodgers began to chip away at the lead. The bullpen managed to hold the Giants scoreless the rest of the way, and the LA had come back to 8-5 going into the bottom of the ninth. The Giants brought in Armando Benitez to finish things off, and it looked grim for the Blue.

Benitez has had a bit of a checkered career. He is blessed with a great arm and a terrific fast ball, and last year he was, at least statistically, the best closer in the league, but he's often been prone to lapses in concentration. He gave up hits to Ricky Ledee and Cesar Izturis, then with two outs he walked JD Drew to load the bases, bringing up Jeff Kent. Kent has been Superman over the first week, hitting over .400 with 9 RBI. In the seventh, he'd come to the plate with the bases loaded and one out, but had hit into a 5-5-3 double play. Now he was getting another chance to be a hero. The watch & post folks at Dodger Thoughts were all eagerly praying for Kent's redemption. Benitez walked him, too, driving in a run the easy way.

Up stepped Milton Bradley. Bradley has, with Kent, become one of the leaders of the team. Saturday night he saved the game with a diving catch in the bottom of the ninth. Today he came through again, lacing a single to left that probably would've just tied the game, except that the Giants' left fielder let the ball go under his glove. While the ball rolled all the way to the fence, Kent chugged all the way home from first with the game-winning run.

This is the third time in the last four games the Dodgers have won the game by scoring four runs in their final at bat. I'm not sure I can do this for another 155 games. It's just too stressful. Still, it beats losing.

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Of course, the fact that they keep having to overcome big deficits is definitely *not* a positive trend. LA has been very fortunate. They could easily have been 1-6 instead of 5-2. They've scored the most runs in the majors so far, but then they've needed to. The bullpen has been a gang of arsonists (until today), and the starters have been all over the map. Weaver was brilliant last week. Today he stunk like yesterday's fish. Dodger pitchers are last in the league in striking batters out. That can't be good.

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The amazing wonder phenom, Jason Repko, got his second dinger today, and continues to be a spark plug. Jayson Werth has got to be worried about getting his job back, because the platoon of Repko and Ledee has been terrific in his absence. Werth had an MRI done on his wrist today. It still hasn't healed since it was broken by a pitch in the first spring training game.

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I desperately want to see some video of Nori Nakamura hitting. By all accounts, his swing is unique. The photos I've seen remind me of Sadaharu Oh, with his one-legged Karate Kid stance. Nakamura was a huge star in Japan, where he won both some home run titles and some gold gloves at third. He was the last player cut this spring, and was only sent down because Tracy wanted to carry twelve pitchers. Nori tore up AAA, hitting .500, and was recalled when Antonio Perez went on the DL. He got a pinch single Sunday, and started at third today, hitting a double and scoring a run.

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Tracy now has platoons at three positions. Repko, Olmedo Saenz, and Nakamura start at left, first, and third against lefties, with Ledee, Hee Seop Choi, and Jose Valentin going against righties. The only weakness so far is Choi, who hasn't hit at all yet, although he did take one for the team today. Choi is a better fielder than Saenz, and he's made some nice plays so far.

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Drew ($55M) wasn't hitting either, going 0 for 25 before finally getting a couple of hits Sunday. Today he was 1-3, so maybe he's off the schneid.

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DLowe says his arm is feeling a lot better, thanks to the fact that the Dodgers' trainer strapped a miniature freezer to his arm for Lowe's flight to Boston. Six hours of airborne ice therapy later, all the swelling was gone.

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Speaking of nice plays above, Jose Reyes of the Mets made a tremendous one the other day when he plucked a ball out of the air with his bare hand as it took a bad hop back across his body. Comparisons to Ozzie Smith were made, although it wasn't quite that spectacular. (I'll also note that it reminded me a lot of a similar ball that I once tried to grab as it took a sideways hop in front of me. I missed it with my hand, but managed to snag it in the crook of my elbow as it went by. I'd rather be lucky than good any day.)
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Hecubothecubot on April 13th, 2005 - 10:54 am
Gah! Nothing's worse than your new closer coughing up a fat lead in the bottom of the 9th to your hated rivals. Feh. Apparently Benetiz's heater was merely lukewarm - hitting 92-93, instead of the 95mph he needs to be successful.

I do think the Dodgers have been a bit lucky, and will need to shore up their bullpen. Still, as you note, luck is a precious commodity in baseball.

I still like the Giants to compete this year, though.

My friend Anita is a big Dodgers fan and she doesn't like the team that DePo has assembled. She says even if they win, she's not feeling much affection for them. Are you having any of that?
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DXMachinadxmachina on April 13th, 2005 - 12:23 pm
There was some of that the first games. I think there's a lot of that going around right now simply because of the massive turnover in players over the last 14 months. Almost everyone is new to the team, so there's no history with a lot of the players. It really surprised me to see how many posters over at Dodger Thoughts expressed having misgivings about rooting for Kent because he's an ex-Giant, sort of like when Sal Maglie was traded to Brooklyn late in his career. (He does seem to have won them over, porn star mustache and all.)

Some of DePo's moves haven't helped. The Lo Duca trade has been a disaster, and the fans are reminded of it every time Choi flails at strike three. The only way that'll ever get better is if Brad Penny turns into the second coming of Don Sutton. Plus, Mota's leaving seems like it set of a line of dominoes in the bullpen, so now instead of it being the team's strength, there are four guys coming into big spots with less than 30 games of major league experience among them. Then DePo failed to re-sign Beltre. Didn't help at all.
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