Dodgers-Astros LiveBlog: Joe Torre Birthday Episode
Timely hits, sweating bullets and strange plays all came together to help give Dodger manager Joe Torre a 5-2 win on his 69th birthday.
Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw surrendered only two hits and a walk in his seven inning shutout of the Houston Astros. In fact Kershaw is 5-0 in his last seven starts with a 0.63 ERA giving up only three earned runs in that span.
"He's using the off pitches a lot better," Torre said of Kershaw's improvement. "Now that he's getting ahead in the count it makes hitting off him a little less secure."
"I haven't changed a whole lot," Kershaw said of his recent success. "To pitch for a first place team, you've got to have confidence."
However that new found confidence hasn't given him a cocky disposition. When asked how he felt he performed Kershaw responded, "I don't know how good I was honestly. I just got fastballs over early in the count and didn't walk too many people tonight. It worked itself out tonight."
The Dodgers pounced on Houston with two runs to start the game when Rafael Furcal singled then scored on an Orlando Hudson triple who scored when Matt Kemp singled to left.
While Astro's starter Mike Hampton would quiet the Dodgers down for the next four innings, the Dodgers erupted again in the sixth inning when they had the bases loaded with one out after Casey Blake was intentionally walked. Matt Kemp would hit into a fielder's choice that would score on run while advancing Blake to second.
Then the weirdness happened. Mark Loretta would hit a single that would score Blake. After the play was presumed dead, Hampton would overthrow the ball to himself when trying to get the ball to his golve. However the play was still live which would score Kemp and send Loretta to second.
"As far as the ball getting away, that's an error and we were able to keep running and score," Torre said.
Now for the bullets.
After Torre got out of the eighth inning unscathed despite having to use three relievers, Jonathan Broxton was sent to close the game. He promptly walked Miguel Tejada and gave up a single to Carlos Lee. After striking out Hunter Pence and Chris Coste, he walked pinch hitter Lance Berkman. Finally with Ivan Rodriguez pinch hitting with the bases loaded Broxton got him to strike out swinging.
"I felt good out there, a little rusty and yanking some pitched," Broxton said of his performance. "I dug myself a hole but got out of it."
The Dodgers remain the only team in baseball to not have lost three consecutive games and improve to 23 games over .500.
Top of the 9th
Broxton got Pudge Rodriguez to strike out swinging to end the game and leave the bases loaded. The Dodgers win!
And Houston brings in Wandy Rodriguez, a starting pitcher, to pinch run for Berkman.
Broxton walks Berkman. Maybe he should have turned around to look at the stats.
Lance Berkman is in to pinch hit. He's a lifetime .093 pinch hitter.
Broxton got Pence to strike out on a slider. But the fastest pitch he threw was 95 mph to Pence.
Broxton's velocity is down. I think that toe is still bothering him.
Manny's leaving the game forcing Pierre to left, Kemp to center and Ethier to enter the game in right. And Jonathan Broxton is in. Let's see how he does.
Bottom of the 8thSo for Casey Blake tonight he was intentionally walked twice and struck out swinging twice.
And he flies out to center.
Manny's eye is so good. I don't know how he backs off of certain pitches.
Top of the 8thAnd a close play at first gets Cecil Cooper ejected. Good night Cecil.
Erstad left the game with a left hamstring strain.
By the way, Torre wanted to use McDonald for long relief tonight. No outs on two batters is not long relief.
Third pitcher of the inning for the Dodgers is Ramon Troncoso.
Geoff Blum exchanged some words with home plate umpire DiMuro. No ejections though.
I'm telling you, strange things are going to happen tonight. Two wild pitches in one inning by two pitchers. Kershaw pitching seven innings by only making 103 pitches. That very strange error made by Hampton in the sixth inning. Strange.
Error on Juan Pierre that allowed Michaels to score. And something is wrong with Erstad
Instead of entering the Green Monster during a pitching change, Manny just went into the bullpen.
Just as Lee Klein was bitching about how middle relief shouldn't exist, McDonald gives up the single to Jason Michaels that scores Chris Coste.
Bottom of the 7thAnd the damned wave is going on.
Home plate umpire Mike DiMuro's strike signs are very hard to read. They've screwed up my scorecard beyond belief. Asshole.
DeWitt is in pinch hitting for Kershaw. I wonder how many frequent flyer miles he has from going to and from Albuquerque?
Top of the 7thMan Kershaw ripped a nasty curve ball to get Pence out swinging. Amazing.
That's the second time in a row that Carlos Lee lined to Blake.
Ok. This is ridiculous. Are the Astros really aiming for the press box? It really seems like they are.
This is the first time I've seen a foul ball come into the press box much less two. It is a strange night.
James Loney is in the game for the Dodgers at first base. Could things get weirder tonight?
Bottom of the 6thWell something did very well indeed happen.
That was a strange play that I don't think I can recap. The only thing that matters is two runs scored, Mark Loretta is credited with an RBI single and gets second base on the error by Hampton. Kemp scores from third on that error also. Very very strange.
Well at least a fielder's choice brought in a run. Much better than a double play which is what it looked like for a second.
Bases loaded with one out for the Dodgers. They need to get something going. Good thing Ethier isn't there. He would surely ground into a double play.
A sliding double to left for Manny. With first base open the Astros will intentionally walk Blake again.
Hudson singles up the middle. Hampton had retired 12 consecutive Dodgers.
Furcal really hit one deep to center. Too bad Michaels tracked it down right at the wall.
Top of the 6thAnd eight pitches for Kershaw. I guess both teams have some plans afterwards. I wonder if I can crash.
Fred Willard got an applause. And white people throwing gang signs is funny. Especially antiquated gang signs.
Bottom of the 5th12 pitches for Hampton. The Dodgers have really let up after the first inning. I hope they are not expecting the two runs to hold up.
They're trying to start the wave out in the left field pavilions. Meanwhile I think 500 beach balls have landed on the field.
Top of the 5thNine pitches for Kershaw that ended in a 5-4-3 double play. This game is going by fast. Oops. I might have jinxed it.
Why is the Kiss Cam so entertaining? They showed a girl who was holding a sign that read, "Kiss Me Loney." James Loney made as if he would bolt from the dugout to actually do it. Ah instant Kiss Cam classic.
Bottom of the 4thHampton made only eight pitches. What can I say?
Top of the 4thAnd Hunter Pence goes down swinging.
The Astros media are still a bit shellshocked about any foul balls that head our way. I don't blame them.
Ah Manny diving to try and make that catch. That was quite an attempt that basically responded to Plaschke.
Tejada hit a foul ball back to the press box. Someone who travels with the Astros ended up getting it. Although it missed hitting someone by inches.
Ah Miguel Tejada the ageless one. Really. How old is he? Beh. I don't like going into the visitor's clubhouse. We'll just never know I guess.
Bottom of the 3rdEasy 1-2-3 inning for Hampton there.
Calista Flockhart is here at the game sans Harrison Ford. She wasn't booed, but she wasn't applauded either.
Top of the 3rdKershaw strikes out Matsui who gave him a lot of problems to open up the game. Very impressive. Only 15 pitches in that inning for Kershaw.
Kershaw just overpowered Hampton with three straight fastballs. That was almost unfair.
Bottom of the 2ndAnd Pierre grounds into a double play. That was underwhelming.
It's amazing to hear the ovation that Pierre gets. It's actually quite heartwarming although it probably would have sickened me last season.
Kershaw needs to work on his bunting. That's two attempts that have gone foul.
Martin just lined a single to left field. His at-bats are getting better. He got out of an 0-2 count to make it 2-2.
Top of the 2ndSo Kershaw has made 34 pitches through two innings. The pitch count is just a smidgen too high, but he's done worse.
And Coste put Kershaw through an eight pitch at-bat before lining out to Kemp in right field.
Well here's Chris Coste. He was just gobbled up by the Astros after being put on waivers by the Phillies.
Bottom of the 1st
Oof. Strike em out, throw em out. The Dodgers just bailed Hampton out of a big inning.
Mike Hampton doesn't look comfortable at all. The Dodgers are just having their way with him right now.
Well Kemp made the Astros pay for intentionally walking Blake by hitting a single to left to score Hudson.
The left side of the infield is playing up with on out.
Carlos Lee fell down trying to field Hudson's triple. That was the funniest thing I've seen in a while.
Top of the 1stWell that was an easy inning for Kershaw. Relatively speaking. He only threw 16 pitches. Not bad.
Miguel Tejada's bat just exploded when he fouled out to Loretta.
Okay. It's been a while since I've done this. It's been almost a month.
Joe Torre, the birthday boy! AP Photo/Tom Mihalek
In the Dodgers clubhouse before the game, you wouldn't have noticed the Dodgers have been spanked by the Astros this season. In five games the Dodgers have only won once and that was eons ago.
But things were upbeat in the clubhouse. The Angels-Athletics game playing on one television and the Mets-Braves game on the other. Casey Blake was singing away proclaiming that Matt Kemp would keep the Dodgers in the game.
When meeting in the dugout with manager Joe Torre before the game, it suddenly became clear. Today is Torre's 69th birthday. But in his presser before the game it was his turn to surprise everyone.
Ken Levine of AM 790 KABC's "Dodger Talk" asked Torre who was going to start Monday's game. After a coquettish moment Torre simply said, "Jason Schmidt," eliciting a stunned reaction by all of us hacks.
"We're going to see what we have," Torre explained. "Velocity-wise we all know that he's not what he once was, but it seems that he's been able to pitch within his ability. His experience in knowing how to pitch is something he's going to have to rely on."
Despite not pitching for the Dodgers since June 16, 2007 Torre doesn't expect to have a leash on Schmidt.
"He's been throwing 100 pitches every time he's gone out there," Torre said. "I don't expect any kind of limitation on him."
As for the last couple of games it was just outright dismal.
"We certainly haven't been playing up to what are standards are," Torre said of the last two nights against the Astros. "But you still have to give a good portion of the credit to the way they pitched. [Wandy Rodriguez and Roy Oswalt] gave us fits in Houston, too, so let's see what happens tonight."
"Hopefully we can get [Clayton] Kershaw a few runs of support. We're a better offensive club than what we've shown in the past couple of days."
In hopes to kick start the offense, Torre is doing the Tony LaRussa again. Juan Pierre will be batting ninth with Kershaw batting eighth.
"Pierre hitting eighth just limits him in what he can do," Torre noted.
So with that here are the line ups for the game:
- Kazuo Matsui, 2B
- Jeff Keppinger, 3B
- Miguel Tejada, SS
- Carlos Lee, LF
- Hunter Pence, RF
- Chris Coste, 1B
- Jason Michaels, CF
- Humberto Quintero, C
- Mike Hampton, P
- Rafael Furcal, SS
- Orlando Hudson, 2B
- Manny Ramirez, LF
- Casey Blake, 3B
- Matt Kemp, RF
- Mark Loretta, 1B
- Russell Martin, C
- Clayton Kershaw, P
- Juan Pierre, CF