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Dodgers earn first sweep since June

August 28, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — No Manny? No problem for the Dodgers.

With Manny Ramirez rumored to be the subject of trade discusions, the Dodgers showed Thursday they could put up plenty of offense without him and shut down their opponents’ bats as the 12-time All-Star took a scheduled off-day for the day game after a night game.

With a 7-1 victory Thursday over the Brewers at Miller Park, the Dodgers completed the sweep, giving them three straight wins for the first time since Aug. 7-10, when the Dodgers won their last two against the Nationals and the series opener in Philadelphia.

The sweep is the Dodgers’ first since they took all three games from the Giants in San Francisco on June 28-30.

“We haven’t done this for a while,” said Dodgers manager Joe Torre. “We certainly need more than this, but you can’t go win five in a row unless you win three in a row. I thought we played these three games very well and we had some key outs that we got out of the bullpen and some key two-out hits. We did a lot of things well this week.

“Hopefully we can build on this.”

While the six-run margin of victory looks like an easy win in the box score, the way the Dodgers got there was anything but. After taking a 1-0 lead in the first and letting the Brewers tie it back up in the fourth on a Prince Fielder home run, things got interesting in the middle innings.

With a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth, Torre used three pitchers for three outs for a second consecutive game. Starter Carlos Monasterios seemed to lose his command in the inning, walking Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo and hitting Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart.

“I don’t think I lost that much control,” Monasterios said through an interpreter. “But since I hit that hitter, I lost a little bit of rhythm and that’s what happened.”

Torre, who said he thought Monasterios tried to rush through the fifth inning to put himself in line for the win, brought in Ronald Belisario with the bases loaded. Belisario (2-1) retired Ryan Braun for the third straight game, needing just four pitches — all fastballs — to strike out Braun and earn his second win of the season.

George Sherrill then entered to face Fielder, who grounded into a forceout to get the Dodgers out of the jam.

With Belisario matching up against Braun and Sherrill against Fielder, the fifth inning resembled the ninth inning of Wednesday night’s 5-4 win, when Torre used Belisario, Sherrill and Octavio Dotel to close out the game.

“That’s why they’re a good team,” Fielder said. “It’s a good move, bringing tough guys out of the bullpen to kind of shut it down.”

The move did appear to shut the Brewers down. Over the final four innings, the Dodgers’ bullpen allowed just one baserunner — catcher Jonathan Lucroy walked to lead off the seventh. For the game, the Dodgers gave up just two hits, which matched a Milwaukee season.

Reliever Kenley Jansen had a lot to do with that, as he was impressive over the sixth and seventh innings, retiring six of seven batters faced. He did not allow a hit while striking out four batters and walking one.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Andre Ethier was called out on strikes to lead off the inning and was later ejected by home-plate umpire Adrian Johnson following a Matt Kemp strikeout.

“It was just a bad call, I thought it was a bad call,” Ethier said. “The pitch was repeated to the next batter, same exact pitch, I thought even a better pitch, and he called it a ball that time. So I was asking him from the dugout, ‘Are you sure about that?’

“He didn’t like it too much. Neither did I. One of us has the power to kick the other one out.”

Two batters later, Casey Blake blasted a two-run homer that gave the Dodgers some breathing room.

Finally, in the seventh, a walk followed by three straight singles and a fielding error by Lucroy resulted in three Dodgers runs, putting the game out of reach. Jansen got things started with a one out walk in his first career plate appearance and later scored his first career run on Ryan Theriot’s single.

“The seventh inning was not pretty,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “We didn’t back up home. We had a wild pitch. A ball got through Luc’s legs. That stuff happens from time to time, but you hope it would be at a minimum.”

When he wasn’t being asked about Ramirez this week, Torre talked a few times about the need for his players to ignore the standings, focus on themselves and string together a handful of wins as they look to get back in the playoff race.

After winning three in a row, the Dodgers cut their National League Wild Card deficit from eight games — following Sunday’s loss — to five games as of the end of Thursday’s win, with the Phillies having lost earlier and the Giants yet to play.

“We talked about winning series, and we didn’t do that for about a week and a half,” said catcher Brad Ausmus, who recorded his first three-hit game since July 27, 2008. “You’re talking about not only winning series, but mixing in a few series where you manage to sweep the team that you’re playing.

“We’re fortunate to come out of Milwaukee having done that.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Dodgers beat 8/26

August 28, 2010 Comments off

Bullpen gives Torre matchup luxury

MILWAUKEE — When presented with his options for closing out the ninth inning in Wednesday’s 5-4 win over the Brewers, the most intriguing option for Dodgers manager Joe Torre came with the most risk.

Torre went with it anyway, matching up right-hander Ronald Belisario, lefty George Sherrill and right-hander Octavio Dotel with Brewers sluggers Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee.

“What really caused that, and why we had the idea to do it, was based on the fact that Prince Fielder was in the middle of it,” Torre said. “When you’re in a one-run game, you just have to figure out how to navigate your way through it.

With that plan, each of the three pitchers got their respective jobs done, retiring one batter. Dotel, in fact, needed just two pitches to get McGehee out for the save. It’s a plan that worked well, but one that could have spelled disaster for the Dodgers.

If any one of the three were unable to complete their assigned task, the Dodgers could have been headed for extra innings with a thin bullpen. The plan beyond McGehee, Torre said, was to keep Dotel in the game. If it had not been for Fielder batting between Braun and McGehee, the inning would have been Dotel’s with the Brewers’ right-handed heavy lineup.

“It worked out for us,” Torre said. “We just felt we needed to do that based on the fact that you can’t ignore what Fielder is capable of doing.”

The decision may have been easier for Torre considering the pedigree of the pitchers in his bullpen. As pointed out by Brewers manager Ken Macha after Wednesday’s game, nearly every guy in the Dodgers’ bullpen has closing experience.

Lefty Hong-Chih Kuo closed Tuesday’s series-opening victory. Jonathan Broxton, who pitched a clean eighth inning on Wednesday, had been the Dodgers’ closer until recently. Sherrill closed games in Baltimore before coming to Los Angeles. Dotel, in his 12th Major League season, has closed games for a number of other teams, including the Astros, Athletics and Pirates.

“We have nice pieces down there at the end of the game, there’s no question,” Torre said. “We get a [close game] situation in the last couple innings, we’ve got a lot of choices, especially now with George, you’ve got a left-handed choice aside from Kuo.

“Hopefully we’re in a position in a lot of games to have that mean something.”

Broxton impresses in eighth-inning role

MILWAUKEE — With the Dodgers’ current situation, manager Joe Torre is more concerned with winning games than assigning specific roles to his relief pitchers.

That being the case, he admitted there was a chance for Jonathan Broxton to find himself with a ninth-inning save opportunity in the near future. But that doesn’t mean he’s ready to change whom he calls his closer.

“I wouldn’t be afraid, after what I saw tonight, to put him out there,” Torre said after Wednesday’s game. “[Hong-Chih] Kuo is still our guy in that situation. But if Prince [Fielder] is coming up the inning before, you’re going to send Kuo out there against him.

“I think the situation will dictate it, but I was very comfortable watching Brox. After the 3-0, once he started throwing strikes, I thought he was very consistent with it.”

Broxton impressed in the eighth, retiring three straight batters with 13 total pitches. After opening the count 3-0 against pinch-hitter Chris Dickerson, nine of Broxton’s final 10 pitches were strikes as he got Dickerson to ground out, Rickie Weeks to fly out and struck out Corey Hart swinging.

“That’s the Brox that we’ll send out there in the ninth inning, that guy we saw [Wednesday night],” Torre said. “That’s liable to be in the next couple of days because that certainly was a good one for him.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.