Late Dodger Comeback Falls Short as Andre Ethier Story Dominates the Day


Last week
, I praised the solid performance of rookie Nathan Eovaldi, while in the same breath pointing out that his low strikeout rate and unsustainably low BABIP meant that regression was likely coming. We didn’t have to wait long to see it: payback from the BABIP gods came in the first inning today, as the balls that had previously found their way into gloves for Eovaldi instead found open grass amid some questionable outfield defense, allowing Colorado to put up five before the Dodgers even came to bat.

To Eovaldi’s credit, he did manage to retire nine of the next eleven before being lifted after four, but the damage was done; despite the Dodgers scoring single runs in the first and third on hits by Justin Sellers and James Loney – yes, him again – the margin returned to five as the Rockies plated two more against Blake Hawksworth in the fifth inning, even as Los Angeles chased noted Dodger-killer Jhoulys Chacin with eleven baserunners in five innings. The Dodgers scored two in the seventh despite not having a hit (Chacin walked the bases loaded, followed by Eugenio Velez hitting into a fielder’s choice – that’s an RBI, not a hit – and Tony Gwynn adding a sacrifice fly. Two more scored in the eighth on hits by Aaron Miles and Trent Oeltjen, setting the stage for a nearly identical situation as Saturday: Colorado closer Rafael Betancourt looking to protect a one-run lead against Miles, Loney, and Kemp. (The batting order was slightly different, but each game had the same three hitters).

Unfortunately for the Dodgers, neither Kemp nor Loney could recreate their Saturday heroics – and as much fun as it might have been to see Loney tie the game on another homer, I’m not sure I could have lived in the world that would have ensued, where black is white, north is east, and up is west – and Miles flew out to left to end the game, ending the Dodger five game winning streak.

The big story, of course, is the fallout from T.J. Simers’ story about Andre Ethier‘s knee. Ethier was not in the lineup today, having met with team doctors for a further examination, and Don Mattingly had some choice quotes for Tony Jackson of ESPNLA:

“I got kind of blindsided by that (column),” Mattingly said. “To me, the way I read it was that Dre has been telling us he couldn’t play and we said play anyway. That definitely isn’t the case. For me, that is taking a shot at my integrity. Not just mine, but the organization, the training staff and Ned.

“His knee has been banged up, there is no denying that. But with that, we check with him. ‘Are you OK today?’ There have been times when I will get him in the weight room after a game and say, ‘I’m giving you the day off tomorrow,’ and then he’ll come into my office and say he wants to (play).”

Ned Colletti didn’t take the story well, either:

“I talked to Andre three weeks ago, one on one,” Colletti said. “We talked about the season, talked about the future and talked about the team. (The knee) wasn’t a topic.”

Colletti said he then received a call from Ethier’s agent, Nez Balelo, while the Dodgers were in Milwaukee two weeks ago informing him that Ethier was experiencing knee problems, that he might need a minor surgical procedure at some point to correct them and that they were affecting his offensive performance, which has been disappointing this season, especially since the All-Star break. “I said, ‘Can he play?”’ Colletti said. “(The answer was) yeah. I had a conversation with Nez again before the game (Saturday). We talked about a lot of different topics related to Andre and related to the knee. My impression was that it was something that would have to be looked at, but it wasn’t something that had to be taken care of right now.”

As we’d thought, the Dodgers were not simply shaking off the truth and forcing Ethier to play; in addition to the firestorm that’d bring from the player’s union, it also makes no sense at all. What’s most interesting, as noted by Vin Scully during the game and printed by Steve Dilbeck of the LA Times, is that Ethier never claimed that Simers misquoted him, (which may be a first for Simers), just that the story didn’t come out the way he’d wanted it to. It’s also worth noting that his knee is apparently such a problem that he considered surgery last winter, has felt “cracking and crunching” in the knee just when walking, and required three injections of synthetic fluid in the knee a few weeks ago. All of which seems to suggest that not only is the knee largely responsible for his lousy season, it’s something that isn’t going to get better unless he goes under the knife – and if that’s the case, I’m wondering what the point is in delaying it until after the season while trying to continue to play and potentially making it worse.

******

Remember John Lindsey, last year’s heartwarming story? 2011 hasn’t gone quite as well, as he’s missed nearly two months with a variety of leg injuries and is all but certainly not going to receive a call-up next week. At 35 in January and with that big-league callup under his belt, you might think he’d be ready to move on, but Christopher Jackson of the Albuquerque Baseball Examiner shares with us that Lindsey has other ideas:

Lindsey has been limited to serving as a designated hitter, moving slowly and carefully out of the batting box any time he does connect with the baseball. Sometimes fans who are clearly unaware of his physical condition have given him an earful from the stands.

“It’s funny, I hear it but I don’t,” Lindsey said. “My teammates come in and tell me, ‘Hey, have they been to a game this year? Don’t they know you’re hanging on there by a thread?’ (But) it doesn’t affect me.”

Lindsey said he will return to his home in Hattiesburg, Miss., to rest and rehab his leg with the hope of being healthy enough to play in a winter league in Latin America later in the offseason.

“I’m just trying to stay positive, going into this offseason, working with the trainer and hoping I can erase father time a little bit,” Lindsey said. “It’s kind of strange how this hit me all of a sudden this year. But I feel if I can get myself in good shape, go to winter ball and show teams that I can play, then hopefully next season I can get another job and do what I can do.”

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  1. [...] that Ethier is done for the season. The funny thing is, since this whole knee business broke on August 28, Ethier’s been red-hot, hitting .400/.464/.600 in 28 plate appearances over eight games (six [...]

  2. [...] between the lines, and – other than Andre Ethier‘s annual and completely expected outburst about his contract – we rarely if ever became aware of issues within the clubhouse or with the media. For a team [...]

  3. [...] began to see that course correction in his next start, when he allowed six hits and five runs over four innings to the Rockies, in the fact that he [...]

  4. [...] I realize he had a balky knee that led to an entirely humorous back-and-forth with the staff and management. That knee doesn’t take away from the fact that Ethier has [...]

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