Dodgers Now

Steve Dilbeck and The Times' Dodgers reporters
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Category: A.J. Ellis

Matt Kemp, a man alone, leads Dodgers to 9-5 win over Arizona

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Matt Kemp is an island.  On a Dodgers team hurting for offense, he is a great, big, beautiful island in an empty sea.

It’s a wonder anyone ever pitches to him. Not that he’s obtained Barry Bonds stature, but he has so little else around him in the lineup that’s truly threatening.

Kemp continued his memorable season Friday night against the Diamondbacks, driving in five runs to lead the Dodgers to 9-5 victory before an announced Dodger Stadium crowd of 35,169.

Kemp hit a three-run homer in the third and added a two-run single in the fourth.

That left Kemp with a team-leading 25 home runs and 80 RBIs. Second best on the team in both categories is Andre Ethier at 10 and 48.

Kemp became the fifth fastest player in National League history to reach 25 home runs and 25 stolen bases. Only Eric Davis, Howard Johnson, Alfonso Soriano and Bonds have gotten there faster.

The nine runs were the most the Dodgers have scored in a single game since June 27, when they stomped the Twins 15-0. Also known as the day Frank McCourt declared the Dodgers bankrupt.

The beneficiary of the offensive outburst was left-hander Ted Lilly, who came in on all the wrong kind of momentum. In his last seven starts, he was 2-5 with a 7.47 ERA.

He wasn’t exactly brilliant Friday -- he gave up two more home runs, both solo shots, to give him 23 on the season -- but was effective enough. He went five innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on three hits and two walks, bringing his record to 7-10.

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-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp (27) is congratulated by right fielder Andre Ethier (16) and third baseman Aaron Miles (left) after hitting a three-run home run against the Diamondbacks on Friday night. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Stop the presses! Dioner Navarro slips ahead of Rod Barajas

Navarro
Here’s some news that’s sure to make your day: Dioner Navarro has moved ahead of Rod Barajas as the Dodgers’ primary catcher.

Anyway, in that sort-of-maybe-not-really way of manager Don Mattingly’s.

Navarro started again Monday, meaning he’s started four of the past five games. Meanwhile, Barajas is in a 1-for-24 slump, the hit coming in his most recent at-bat.

Asked if Navarro was now is main catcher, Mattingly went on and on about matchups and lefties vs. righties and some other nonsense, finishing with:

"Rod’s going to play some."

Such a vote of confidence.

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Ted Lilly struggles again as Dodgers fall 6-4 to Twins and drop 10½ games back

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The Dodgers are experiencing a Ted Lilly problem.

The last three times he’s started, he’s been hammered. Which is not only a problem, but a potentially serious one, given that he’s 35 and in the first year of a three-year, $33-million contract.

Lilly was knocked around yet again Tuesday, the Twins jumping on him early and often, on the way to a 6-4 victory that left the Dodgers a season-high 10½ back at the midpoint of the season.

It was Lilly’s third consecutive loss, and not so coincidentally, the third consecutive start where he’s allowed at least five earned runs (10.43 ERA).

It’s not that he’s walking people, but he’s giving up plenty of hits -- 23 in the 14 2/3 innings of those last three starts. And if he’s not giving up home runs, he’s allowing stolen bases.

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Angels own this town (continued): Dodgers lose, 6-1

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Turns out Arte Moreno was right. Los Angeles is the Angels’ town. Particularly, it seems, that part the Dodgers call home.

The Angels beat the Dodgers again Saturday, which as news rates with another wave laps shore.

This time the Angels knocked off the Dodgers 6-1, the lifeless Boys in Blue managing only five hits against rookie right-hander Tyler Chatwood and company before an announced crowd of 41,108.

The Angels have now beaten the Dodgers in 18 of their last 26 meetings, and in seven of their last eight at Dodger Stadium.

Alas, losing is something with which the Dodgers are becoming uncomfortably familiar. The Dodgers have lost eight of 11 games on their current homestand. They have fallen to 34-44, matching their season-worst of 10 games under .500.

As the story continues to go for the Dodgers, they also received strong starting pitching Saturday, just not strong enough.

The Angels managed only six hits themselves, but two were the kind that landed over the fence.

Rookie Mark Trumbo hit his 13th home run of the season off Hiroki Kuroda in the fourth, a solo shot that gave the Angels a 2-0 lead.

After a bases-loaded walk to A.J. Ellis gave the Dodgers a run in the fifth, Don Mattingly used Casey Blake as a pinch-hitter for Kuroda, and he lined into a double play to end the threat

It remained a 2-1 game until the Angels put it away with a four-run eighth.

Unfortunately for the Dodgers, three came on a Vernon Wells home run off Hong-Chih Kuo.

Kuo was pitching on back-to-back days for the first time since he came off the disabled list with an anxiety disorder June 19.

Kuroda’s outing was also sadly familiar. He again pitched well in his five innings, but was left with a record of 5-9 and an ERA of 3.10.

Another strong outing, another loss. Kuroda has now lost a career-high six consecutive decisions.

Matt Kemp also left after the fifth, albeit after being ejected for arguing balls and strikes. It was his second ejection of the year.

Chatwood (5-4) went seven innings for the Angels, holding the Dodgers to four hits, all singles.

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-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick watches his throw to first as he leaps over a sliding Jamey Carroll of the Dodgers during a double play on a grounder hit by Andre Ethier in the fourth inning Saturday at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Gus Ruelas / Associated Press

The king of comebacks: Hong-Chih Kuo makes a successful start to his latest return

Kuo3 How do you not feel great for Hong-Chih Kuo?

If ever there was a player that teammates, management, fans and even the media were pulling for, it’s Kuo.

Four elbow operations, including two Tommy Johns, and he kept battling, kept coming back. All the way back last season to an All-Star.

Yet he was felled again this spring, and for the second time, with an anxiety disorder. An unfortunately unavoidably public bout.

And he battled again. Battled through rehab assignments, through counselors, until after not pitching for over six weeks he returned Tuesday night in the eighth against the Tigers.

He pitched a perfect inning, getting a strikeout and a pair of fly-ball outs.

"I’m just happy to be back,’’ Kuo said.

Kuo faced the middle of the Detroit lineup in his return.

"He comes in in a tough part of their lineup, gets three outs and makes it uneventful for us,’’ said manager Don Mattingly.

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Don't look now, but Dodgers have won three straight; Andre Ethier, Chad Billingsley lead 6-1 win over Tigers

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Meanwhile, back at the yard, a strange occurrence.

The Dodgers won again, won with the kind of pitching they were built around, won without Matt Kemp having to do a single heroic thing, won for the third time in as many games.

The Dodgers fairly knocked the Detroit Tigers around, winning 6-1 Tuesday as Andre Ethier crushed a two-run homer and right-hander Chad Billingsley started to get back on track.

The little three-game winning streak matched their season high, something they’ve accomplished three other times this season. If they scratch out a fourth consecutive victory Wednesday afternoon, it will also mark their first series sweep.

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Dodgers' injury carousel continues: Rod Barajas to DL, Hong-Chih Kuo activated, A.J. Ellis up and Ramon Troncoso down

Ln0w0unc One’s up, one’s down.

Is it progress when you’re no longer going backward?

The Dodgers placed catcher Rod Barajas on the 15-day disabled list prior to Sunday’s game and called up A.J. Ellis from triple-A Albuquerque.

They also activated reliever Hong-Chih Kuo from the DL and optioned Ramon Troncoso back to Albuquerque.

The Dodgers have now placed 14 different players on the disabled list this season, a total of 19 different times. Entering Sunday, they had missed a total of 449 games. And it’s only June 19.

Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said Barajas’ ankle injury did not appear to be as serious as originally feared, and it was hoped he could be activated at the end of his 15-day period on the DL.

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Dodgers drop fifth consecutive game; Rod Barajas leaves game with sprained ankle

Barajas_600 The Dodgers lost again.

And in other news, the Pacific is wet.

The losing continued Saturday, which looked remarkably like the past five days, which further pulled them into their sinkhole of a season.

The lifeless Dodgers were pushed around for the second consecutive night by the worst team in baseball, the Houston Astros mauling them for a 7-0 victory before a crowd that was announced at 37,124 but might have been half that.

It marked their fifth consecutive loss, matching their season high (low?) and dropped them to 31-41 on the season. It’s the first time they’ve been 10 games under .500 this year.

Making matters worse, catcher Rod Barajas left the game in the fifth inning with a sprained right ankle he injured chasing a wild pitch. Barajas is hitting just .220 but is second on the team with eight home runs. And backup catcher Dioner Navarro is hitting .158.

The Astros had lost 11 of their last 13 before venturing into that haven for visiting teams, Dodger Stadium, the previous night. The Dodgers are 15-21 at home this season.

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The vast nothingness in the Dodgers lineup that is the catcher's spot

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There’s a catch to this, but with the Dodgers these days, isn’t there always?

You have your list of what’s wrong with the Dodgers, I have mine, Ned Colletti has his, and who knows, Frank McCourt may even have one.

Nowhere near the top of any list is what’s going on, or not going on, at catcher, though it is certainly on the list.

And this is not to say Rod Barajas and Dioner Navarro aren’t an improvement defensively over what Russell Martin was giving the Dodgers last season.

But they do have to hit a little, don’t they?

Both are in the deep end, and it’s not looking good. Both are slumping, and that’s following a fairly mediocre start.

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Get excited: Dodgers activate Dioner Navarro, option A.J. Elllis to triple-A

Lidtc6nc The Great Dioner Navarro Experiment is about to officially get underway.

Make some attempt to contain your enthusiasm.

The Dodgers activated Navarro prior to Monday’s game in Florida, optioning A.J. Ellis back to triple-A Albuquerque.

The Dodgers are of the conviction that Navarro is an upgrade over Ellis, something I remain skeptical of.

It’s not that anyone thinks Ellis is the second coming of Johnny Bench, but he’s solid to very good behind the plate. He’s never going to hit for power, and he was understandably having trouble keeping up his hot September (.417 last 16 games), but he was still hitting a decent .267 -- which is 74 points higher than Navarro hit last season (.194).

Still, it was obvious from the moment the Dodgers signed Navarro what the pecking order was. Manager Don Mattingly even said in January that Navarro would compete with Rod Barajas for starting time, so you knew where Ellis stood.

Navarro, however, injured his oblique at the end of spring training and has spent the first three weeks of the season on the disabled list. He had been rehabbing the injury at the Dodgers’ Arizona camp.

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