Inside baseball: Confident Dodgers running hard out of gate - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Inside baseball: Confident Dodgers running hard out of gate

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Posted: Sunday, April 24, 2005 7:07 am | Updated: 7:21 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Los Angeles must have forgotten it was supposed to start slowly, with Cy Youngcaliber closer Eric Gagne on the opening day disabled list along with key components Brad Penny and Jayson Werth.

After an eight-game winning streak that was finally halted Thursday, the Dodgers had won 12 of their first 14 games, their best start since 1955, when they won a World Series in Brooklyn.

They have six come-frombehind victories, two the first week of the season at Bank One Ballpark, when they rallied from a 7-4 deficit with four runs in the ninth inning April 8 and then from a 7-3 deficit after five innings the next night for a 12-10 victory in 11 innings.

Milton Bradley had a game-winning home run in the 10th inning when the Dodgers rallied from a 6-0 hole for an 8-6 victory on Tuesday at Milwaukee, and Jose Valentin hit a 10thinning triple to beat the Padres on Wednesday.

"The way we’re playing and the way we’re hitting right now, we just never feel like we’re going to lose the game,’’ Valentin said.

The Dodgers are getting help from all sides. Fill-in left fielder Jason Repko has three homers. Yhency Brazoban has three saves, and his 97 mph fastball will deepen the bullpen even further when Gagne gets back from a sprained ligament in his right elbow, although that might not be for another three weeks.

Penny, returning from a nerve injury, made a final rehab start Monday and is expected to start against Colorado today, although the Dodgers have said they might bump him back to face the D-Backs on Monday in Los Angeles if the weather is too cold.

"Confidence is so big for us right now. We just always feel like sooner or later, our time is going to come,’’ Valentin said.

ON THE OTHER HAND . . .

Traditionally quick out of the gate, Randy Johnson won only one of his first four starts after losing to Tampa Bay last week, when his ERA zoomed to 5.13.

The New York Yankees ace gave up five home runs in his previous two starts entering today’s outing against Texas, and on Monday the Devil Rays became only the fifth team to win three straight starts against Johnson (the last time was by San Francisco last season).

Johnson has given up at least four earned runs in his three most recent starts, the first time that has happened in 11 years, since April 30-May 15, 1994, when he was with Seattle.

"I haven’t pitched well since I’ve been a Yankee," Johnson said. "I’m disappointed, without a doubt. That should go without being said. There’s nothing I can do about it except go out and try and pitch better.

"Losing is losing. I didn’t enjoy it when I was young and in the minors, and I don’t enjoy it now. It’s not what I expect to do.’’

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Baltimore 5-foot-9 second baseman Brian Roberts just keeps playing like a giant. He hit his career-high sixth homer Tuesday (he had five last season) and was leading the AL in hitting after going 7-for-12 with a homer last weekend when the Orioles posted their first series sweep of the Yankees since 2000.

"This weekend is probably the most fun I had in three years being here, with the fans, the way we played,’’ he said.

Roberts also had four RBIs, four runs, a triple, two stolen bases and three walks against the Yanks. He calls his home run binge a fluke.

"That’s just how this game is," he said. "You get locked in, and you could get unlocked real quick."

OVERHEARD

• "My swing is not where it needs to be. And it’s been a chain reaction. My swing is not there, so my head is not there, and then my confidence is not there." — St. Louis’ Larry Walker, after his batting average dropped to .209

• I didn’t want to start my car up last night. I was afraid." — Baltimore reliever Steve Kline, back home after creating some controversy after comments in a St. Louis newspaper suggested he regretted signing with the Orioles

• "I’m never going to be from the Henry Kissinger school of diplomacy.’’ — ESPN analyst Steve Stone, who has been pointed in his criticism of Cubs starter Kerry Wood

UNDERSTOOD

• Carlos Delgado apparently has softened his silent protest of the singing of "God Bless America,’’ done in major league parks the seventh inning as a response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Delgado stood on the first base bag and faced the American flag on the scoreboard in New York last week. For the past two seasons, he would either sit or ignore the song because of his stance against the war in Iraq.

• White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen is not giving up on Shingo Takatsu as his closer, even though Takatsu gave up four home runs in a stretch of 3 2 /3 innings while both Damaso Marte and Dustin Hermanson converted save opportunities.

• After a pinch-hitting appearance Monday at RFK Stadium, Florida’s Jeff Conine has played in 44 different major league parks.

• Yankees owner George Steinbrenner owns the early Kentucky Derby favorite, Bellamy Road.

• Florida’s Dontrelle Willis extended his streak of scoreless innings to 24 before giving up a run this season at Washington.

WHO’S HOT

• Mark Prior: Despite missing most of spring training with elbow pain, the Cubs’ ace gave up one earned run in his first two starts, striking out 12 in 13 innings.

• Roy Halladay: Toronto pitcher returned from a right shoulder injury last season to open 3-0.

• Shea Hillenbrand: Toronto third baseman was 12-for-19 in a four-game stretch last week.

WHO’S NOT

• Eric Chavez: Oakland third baseman was 0-for-16 with runners in scoring position through Friday.

• Oliver Perez: Pittsburgh pitcher, a 12-game winner in 2004, gave up six homers and walked 16 in his first 19 innings.

• Charles Thomas: Oakland outfielder was hitless in his first 21 at-bats in the AL after being acquired in the Tim Hudson trade with Atlanta.

- This report includes information from league sources, wire services and writers around the country.

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