Hiroki Kuroda Was Awful, and That’s The Least Of Our Problems

At this point, if it weren’t so sad, it’d be funny.

Through three and a half innings, this was just another nondescript game in what’s quickly turning into a very forgettable season. The Dodgers were down 4-0, thanks to Hiroki Kuroda allowing first-inning homers to Alexei Ramirez and A.J. Pierzynski on his way to giving up nine hits and six runs (four earned) in 5.2 innings. (It should be noted that most of the last two innings fall under the category of “taking one for the team”, as mopup guys Lance Cormier and Ramon Troncoso each threw multiple innings yesterday.) With one out, the White Sox were threatening to add to the lead, having Gordon Beckham on first thanks to a Rafael Furcal error.

Pierre came up, and took a Kuroda meatball deep to right field. (The simple fact that Pierre was able to do that should tell you all you need to know about how ineffective Kuroda was today.) Andre Ethier went hard to the wall trying to come up with the ball, but was unable to, allowing Pierre to reach second. It was immediate from the moment it happened that Ether had injured himself, though while it initially appeared he’d hurt his shoulder, we later learned that it was a “right elbow contusion, lower right back contusion and sprained left big toe”. That’s three injuries for the price of one, apparently. Ethier stayed in for one more batter, a run-scoring single to right by Ramirez that Ethier clearly was hindered in getting to, before being replaced mid-inning by Tony Gwynn.

Pierre wasn’t done yet, however, apparently having decided he hadn’t caused enough damage to the Dodgers in his three years with the team. Having advanced to third on the Ramirez hit and standing firm while Adam Dunn walked, he took off for home on a Paul Konerko sacrifice fly to center. 95% of the time, Pierre scores on that ball without breaking a sweat, but Matt Kemp‘s laser throw made it a tight play. Kemp’s throw was just ever so slightly to the first base side, so Rod Barajas shifted to grab the ball and dove back to the plate to try and tag Pierre. He was unable to do so in time, but came away with a fun parting gift – Pierre’s spikes in his right wrist. Barajas stayed in for Pierzynski to strike out, and was hit for by Dioner Navarro in the next inning; while x-rays came back negative, he has a sprained right wrist and is “day to day”.

This was a day that had actually started with some optimism, as Furcal had returned and Casey Blake & Blake Hawksworth are each expected to within the next week. The Dodgers were one game away from finally winning a series in an AL park. Now? Now, they were just a Russ Mitchell last-second homer away from being swept, and have to quickly make some roster decisions. They’ve been playing shorthanded all weekend, with the combination of the extra hitter in the lineup at DH and the “active but unavailable” status of Aaron Miles & Juan Uribe before today meaning that the team had only two healthy bench players for the first two games of the series. That became three today when Furcal took Uribe’s spot, but while you can get away with that when you’re in the AL and not hitting for your pitchers, that’s not going to fly when they head back to the NL with a series in Houston tomorrow.

Uribe’s trip to the DL was the 15th disabling injury the Dodgers have had this season in less than two months, and it’s hard to believe that we won’t see at least one more in the next 24 hours, between the uncertain statuses of Miles, Ethier, and Barajas. Since the 40-man roster is pretty sparse at this point, the AAA call-ups would seem pretty straight forward: Ivan DeJesus for Miles, Jamie Hoffmann for Ethier, and A.J. Ellis for Barajas. My total speculative guess? Ethier and Barajas go to the DL, Miles does not. Barajas probably gets less leeway than Ethier does, because if he is unavailable for even a few days, you either have to call up Ellis or be comfortable with Mitchell as your backup catcher.

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Let’s not totally ignore some bright spots: As I joked on Twitter, James Loney is slowly moving into “not our biggest problem” territory, after reaching base three times today. That doesn’t mean that he’s suddenly become all that good or that I’ve changed my overall opinion on him, but he has doubled in three straight games and hit in 8 of 9 & 15 of 18, raising his line from an unbelievably bad .167/.191/.211 on April 23 to a more realistically poor line of .240/.283/.292 after today. With the rest of the injury and production issues mounting, and Loney still contributing his usual solid defense, he’s no longer the biggest concern. That said, he can’t afford any mental mistakes, like the one he made today by being doubled off of first on a Barajas pop-up caught by the second baseman in short right field.

In addition, Jerry Sands followed up his first career homer on Saturday with his first career four-hit game today. His OBP is now up to .330, which is far from great, yet still miles better than anyone on this team not named Kemp, Ethier, or Carroll. In May alone, his line is .289/.407/.467, which is a great sign. Like the Saturday homer, the first three hits were pulled to left field, which could be a sign that he’s becoming more comfortable. It’s also a good sign that the first two of those hits came against righty Edwin Jackson, as recent comments from Don Mattingly had me worried that Sands would be in a strict lefty/righty platoon with Jay Gibbons.

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Yes, Furcal went 0-5 with three strikeouts and an error, far from the spark we’d all hoped for. Still, it reminded me that we’ve seen this before. Last season, he missed nearly a month starting in April due to injury, returning in late May. In his first game back on May 25, the Dodgers went into Chicago and lost 3-0 to the Cubs. Furcal went 0-4 with two strikeouts and two errors that day in his return to the lineup.

Sound familiar at all? The good news is that after that day, Furcal hit .319/.381/.518 through May, June, and July, before being injured again in early August. He’ll need to have another run like that if this team is going to stay afloat.

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Bullet dodged: Ken Rosenthal reminds us that it could still be worse, passing along the news that Scott Podsednik signed a minor-league deal with the Phillies today. Frankly, I was shocked that Ned Colletti didn’t jump on him as soon as he was cut by Toronto a few weeks ago, and the timing here is key, particularly if Ethier is out for any significant period of time. Hey, remember when Podsednik turned down his half of a team option this winter? Yeah, me neither.

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(Update) I meant to add this originally, but there was good news from Albuquerque today as well.  John Ely throw a complete game three-hitter today, needing 107 pitches to beat Reno. He struck out seven and walked just one. Christopher Jackson has the full story.

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