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Sellers Makes Kuroda's Game a Dream

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The Dodgers reported that they had at least 5,000 walkups for Sunday’s game. Perhaps those 5,000 knew something I didn’t or had some faith in this Dodger team. But what went down at Dodger Stadium in the Dodgers’ 7-0 victory over the Houston Astros almost turned this heathen atheist into a full-fledged Messiah-loving believer.

Well maybe not.

But here’s a kid who grew up in Huntington Beach a Dodger fan while watching The Sandlot. The kid gets drafted by the Oakland Athletics in 2005, traded to the Cubs before the 2009 season and traded to his hometown Dodgers two months later.

And after debuting for the Dodgers on Friday, getting his first Major League hit on Saturday, here was shortstop Justin Sellers in the sixth inning belting his first home run in the seats just to the left of the Dodger bullpen.

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“I knew I got it,” Sellers said grinning a mile long and remnants of a shaving cream pie courtesy of catcher Dioner Navarro framing his face. With his brother, fiancée Steffani and daughter Summer in attendance perhaps the true miracle was that Sellers’ feet were touching the ground.

“You dream of something like that. Just running around the bases was the most incredible feeling I’ve ever had.”

He tried to take us through his trip around the bags, but was too overcome. “I got the chills talking about it right now. You can only imagine. I dreamed of it as a child, and for it to happen with my family here like this in my hometown, I feel so blessed.”

Sellers’ homer marked the second for a Dodger shortstop this season and gave Dodgers’ starter Hiroki Kuroda a seven-run cushion. Yes, miracle of miracles and praise be the Baby Jesus. A pitcher who got only 2.7 runs of support per game this season, the second worst in the National League, got seven runs of support.

“I’m not really used to having all of these runs,” Kuroda said through interpreter Kenji Nimura.

Despite the unfamiliarity, Kuroda maintained his dogged consistency pitching a seven-inning, five-hit shutout. After he was staked a two-run lead when Navarro homered in the second inning, Kuroda responded by striking out two and grabbing a line drive by J.B. Shuck to end the inning.

“That’s the beauty of Hiro,” Manager Don Mattingly remarked. “It’s day in and day out. He stays on his plan and continues to do what he is doing. He has been that guy you can rely on every fifth day.”

Another beauty of Kuroda is his unwillingness to bask in the spotlight. When asked what worked for him in the game, Kuroda deflected, “I’ll give all the credit to Navarro. He called a great game.”

Navarro shot right back to Kuroda.

“He made it fun for me,” Navarro said. “Definitely he made it easy. He had all of his pitches working, and he was working ahead of the count through most of the game.”

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And just to top everything off, Matt Kemp’s solo homer in the third inning tied a career-high 28 homers for him this season. He also notched his 31st stolen base in the sixth inning. He just needs 12 homers and nine stolen bases to reach the 40/40 club. Tony Gwynn, Jr. stole his 18th base of the season in the first inning setting a career high.

Before everyone gets too excited over the Dodgers’ second sweep of the season, it was against the 38-83 Houston Astros whose starting lineup was filled with players just making their Major League debuts in the past few weeks. The Dodgers now go on a beer bust road trip, as Charley Steiner joked, to Miller Park (Milwaukee), Coors Field (Colorado) and Busch Stadium (St. Louis).

Toronto Blue Jays defeat LA Angels 5-4 (10). The Angels have some problems they have to deal with. It’s bad enough their offensively challenged to put it delicately. But when the pitching gives out, making it to October is a nearly impossible proposition.

On this Sunday Canadian afternoon the offense wasn’t the issue for the Angels. The Angels gave Dan Haren plenty of run support. Torii Hunter hit a two-run dinger in the first inning giving him a hit in all 12 games this month. Peter Bourjos pitched in with the rest scoring in the third inning on Alberto Callaspo’s sacrifice fly after hitting a triple and knocking in a run on a double in the fifth inning. Usually that would be enough for Angels pitching.

While Haren wasn’t spectacular, he still left the game a winner giving up back-to-back homers in the fourth inning to Eric Thames and Jose Bautista and an RBI double to Thames in the sixth. But the bullpen just plain collapsed. Scott Downs pitched a scoreless eighth although he was walking a high wire act giving up two singles. That should have been an omen.

Closer Jordan Walden gave up back-to-back doubles to Colby Rasmus and Brett Lawrie giving up the tying run and notching his eighth blown save of the season. And just to put the cherry on top, Fernando Rodney gave up two walks in the tenth before being pulled out. Hisanori Takahashi then gave up the winning single to Edwin Encarnacion giving Rodney his fifth loss of the season.

The Angels now host a four-game series against the Texas Rangers. Trailing the Rangers by four games, the Angels seriously need to address the back end of their bullpen. If they have any shot to win the AL West and make a dent in the playoffs with the offense they have, their pitching needs to suck the air out of the other team and shut them down.

And making the start for the Angels on Monday is rookie Garrett Richards, his second in the Bigs.


LA Dodgers at Milwaukee Brewers. 5:10 p.m. FS Prime Ticket, AM 790 KABC.

Texas Rangers at LA Angels. 7:05 p.m. KCOP, AM 830 KLAA.