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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
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Notes on the Undercard
2003-05-22 08:47
by Jon Weisman

Lots of tidbits to report from Wednesday night's game. Let's get right to it:

1) My brother and I agree. Daryle Ward should not start in left field over Mike Kinkade, lefty-righty be damned.

2) I'm like in a Zen mode, man. Ishii is walking people, throwing 49 pitches in the first two innings, and I'm cool as a cucumber because of my newfound insight into his low Slugging Percentage Allowed. (See my May 19 entry.)

My skeptcism about whether this dreamstate can continue is justified when Ishii gives up a second-inning home run to Jose Hernandez. But it's a bases-empty shot, as is the fifth inning double Ishii allows to Chris Stynes. I'm breathing easy.

I never dreamed the wild man could be so peaceful.

3) So, when you're facing the wild man, and he's passed the 50-pitch mark with no outs in the top of the third by walking Stynes, and he then goes to 3-1 to your next batter, Ronnie Belliard, with Todd Helton on deck, what do you think? Send the runner?

Uh, not in a million years.

One busted hit-and-run later, Belliard has swung and missed, and Lo Duca has thrown out Stynes at second by a kilometer. One more pitch, and Belliard walks.

That's using your noodle.

4) Bottom of the third inning, 1-1 tie, Shawn Green on third with a triple, one out, Fred McGriff up. The Rockies play their infield in. Either they've decided that they can't score three runs in this game, or they are confident McGriff won't hit the ball hard. Neither makes sense to me.

Well, they walk McGriff, making the point moot, I guess, but still leaving me wondering. Brian Jordan comes up next and doubles, scoring a run and putting runners at second and third again, still no outs.

The infield comes in again for Ward, and he pops out to left.

5) Jordan's double nearly became his first home run since April 3, but it hits the wall. Not much later in the game, for the second night in a row, Adrian Beltre just misses hitting a home run. This team has won six games in a row and hit a total of three home runs in the process, seemingly voiding one of my major assertions of the season - that they can't win with such a low home run pace. But I'll stick to it, and still contend that this is more a case of fortunate timing.

If you'd like to keep track, the Dodgers have not homered since Saturday - 26 2/3 innings.

6) Paul Lo Duca bunts for a base hit in the bottom of the fourth inning. A cotton-candy salesman picks that moment to block my brother's view of the field. Not to worry - here comes the replay on the scoreboard. It shows Lo Duca taking some practice swings. Then he steps out of the box, maybe wiggles his neck a little. Then he steps back into the box, takes another practice swing.

That's it. Cut to Shawn Green, live, standing sedately near the batter's box.

Noodle-users everywhere.

7) It occurs to me, on the night of the national championship, that the Fox-owned Dodgers have never once promoted Fox-owned American Idol. Is this because?

--They know baseball fans don't want to see any of that American Idol stuff. They just want to see commercials on the stadium scoreboards for The Matrix Reloaded.

--They know fans have taped the show and don't want to spoil the ending for them.

--With a sale of the team on tap, Fox doesn't want people making the connection that the Dodgers and the network are connected.

--Fox isn't smart enough to realize a great cross-promotional opportunity when it sees one.

Gotta be the last one, right?

8) Another assertion of mine is violated with abandon in the top of the fifth. The Rockies walk the No. 8 hitter intentionally (Cesar Izturis) with two out in the bottom of the fifth. Again, if you can't get out one of the worst OPS men in baseball, what business do you have on the field? The move gets you out of the inning but allows the Dodgers to get Ishii's bat out of the inning.

But it pays off. The Dodgers don't score again. Rockies starter Jason Jennings allows 15 baserunners in eight innings - the Dodger team OPS for the game is .945 - but only three runners score.

9) In the top of the sixth inning, McGriff successfully digs out a throw from Izturis to retire Preston Wilson. After something of a slow start in April, the Dodger fielding has returned to its fine form of 2002 - even with McGriff anchoring the infield at first. The starting infielders have made 15 errors in 46 games.

In fact, the Dodgers have made 35 errors total - not bad. On this pace, they will finish with 123 errors on the season - although Lo Duca, who has nine already, will end up with 35 all by himself.

Of course, errors rarely tell the entire story. In the eighth inning, McGriff couldn't come up with a tough catch on a throw that might have completed a double play - critical in a one-run game. The Dodgers settled for a fielder's choice. No further harm done in the inning.

10) I'm tracking the Angel and Mariner games on the American League scoreboard in left field. Both games unfold similarly - the Angels fall far behind lowly Baltimore early, the Mariners do the same with fading Kansas City. Both teams pull within a run at the same time. And then, to my surprise, both teams lose.

The Angel starting pitching is startlingly absent - a 5.39 ERA this season from the rotation.

11) Bottom of the seventh: Posted on the big board in left is perhaps the most astonishing statistic I've ever seen there. Izturis, it says, leads the league with a .436 average (24 for 55) in at-bats after six innings.

You were expecting maybe Tony Womack?

Seconds later, Izturis singles to center.

I don't know where you find this list - but I did find on that in "close and late" situations (defined as results in the 7th inning or later with the batting team either ahead by one run, tied or with the potential tying run at least on deck), Izturis is 16 for 34 with an OPS of 1.015.

Do you believe in clutch hitters, or do you believe in utter randomness?

12) Eric Gagne enters in the ninth inning with a streak of eight straight strikeouts. He then gets the inning's leadoff batter, Mark Sweeney, down 0-2. The next pitch is a huge mistake - a fastball that Sweeney turns on and blasts to right field, looking like it will tie the game.

But it curves foul, and the Gagne fairy tale continues unspoiled. Sweeney strikes out, Larry Walker strikes out, Gagne survives the comebacker off of Greg Norton, the world survives a scary field-crasher, and Stynes strikes out to end the game.

Gagne has been in exactly 100 games since the start of 2002. He has saved 69 of those games, pitching 106 1/3 innings, striking out 157 batters, allowing 66 hits and walking 21.


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