28 July 2009

Going for 11-0 in Stopper Games

When the Dodgers are coming off two consecutive losses, their record is 10-0. Following is a brief summary of every stopper win the Dodgers have had this season.

April 11

The Dodgers were 2-3. Opening day starter Hiroki Kuroda was lost to injury. The Dodgers had just lost the series opener to the Snakes, who at the time were their presumptive division rivals. No one yet knew how good the Dodgers would become. This game wasn't about not losing three in a row. It was just about getting back to 0.500. Erik Stults got the fill-in start and pitched effectively, while the Dodger offense trampled the Snake 'pen. The Dodgers won going away, 11-2.

April 23

The Dodgers were 10-5, but had just dropped their first two games in Houston. The Dodger offense had scored 10 runs in the first two games, but Kershaw and Wolf had been pushed around. But the Dodgers had early season ace Chad Billingsley going in the final game of the series, and he combined with Broxton for a shutout as the Dodgers salvaged the final game 2-0.

April 28

After losing the series finale in Colorado and the series opener in San Francisco, the Dodgers faced a 3-3 tie going in the ninth inning of game two in San Francisco. This time the heroics belonged to the Dodger outfield. Manny doubled, Ethier doubled, and Kemp tripled to give the Dodgers a 5-3 win. Billingsley started the game and kept the Dodgers close enough to win it.

May 9

Eric Stults was again a streak stopper, pitching a four hit shutout in game three of the Manny suspension. The Juans ( Pierre and Castro ) combined for 5 runs batted in as the Dodgers toppled the Giants 8-0.

May 13

After Stults' unlikely shutout, the Dodgers lost their next two games, so that through the first 5 games of the Manny suspension the Dodgers were 1-4. The Dodgers were not only attempting to prove they could win without Manny and prevent their first three game losing streak; they were attempting to simply win a game in Philadelphia, after losing four in the 2008 regular season, two in the 2008 playoffs, and the series opener. The fates seemed lined up against the Dodgers, but the Philly hex was finally broken as James Loney hit a three run home run and Wolf pitched a gem, sending the Dodgers to an easy 9-2 victory.

May 31

Yet again the Dodgers turned to a fifth starter to avoid a third straight loss. The Dodgers had lost games two and three of a home series to the Cubs, and Eric Milton was scheduled for the finale. He pitched effectively, but more important were the five runs the Dodgers piled up in the first inning. The Dodgers cruised to an 8-2 victory.

June 13

Going into the seventh inning of game two of their series in Texas, the Dodgers had scored just two runs in their previous 24 innings against the Rangers and the Padres. Tied 1-1 and facing an ongoing run shortage, Matt Kemp came up to the plate and belted a two run home run to end the drought and deliver a 3-1 victory. Wolf started and had a short but effective outing.

June 26

The Dodgers had given up 16 runs to drop the final two games of their series against the White Sox in Chicago. The Dodgers opened their home series against the Mariners needing a strong pitching performance, and they got it from Clayton Kershaw, who gave up 2 runs through 6 innings. They also got three home runs from Andre Ethier, and won easily 8-2.

June 29

The Dodgers dropped the final two against the Mariners, giving them their second 1-4 stretch this season. The Rockies came in to Dodger Stadium on fire, having won 20 of 23. The Dodgers would have no easy victory this time. Wolf had yet another stopper start, and he pitched well again, but a Spilborghs home run in the top of the fifth put the Dodgers down 2-0. What Wolf gave he took right back in the bottom of the fifth inning, as he singled in two, and those were the only runs anyone would score for 12 innings. Andre Ethier finally settled matters with a walk off home run in the bottom of the 13th inning to give the Dodgers a 4-2 win.

July 18

The Dodgers began their post-All-Star schedule with a four game home series against the Astros. The Astros won the first two of the series, but the Dodgers sent rising ace Clayton Kershaw to the mound for game three and he pitched seven shutout innings. The Dodgers won a fairly comfortable game 5-2.

July 28

The story of tonight's game has yet to be written. Billingsley will be the starter, which is probably a good thing, though his recent struggles are a concern. But if Billingsley does poorly he will be the first, since no Dodger pitcher has yet turned in a poor start when the Dodgers face a third loss in a row. The Dodgers have gone to Wolf three times, Billingsley twice, Stults twice, Kershaw twice, and Milton once and never faltered. In all 10 games the Dodgers have given up a total of 16 runs. Never more than three. More than two only once. Can they hold Pujols and the Cards in check tonight?

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