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NL West: Heroes today, gone tomorrow
The past week in the NL West saw the departure of a minor folk hero, a dispiriting losing streak by one team, a matchup of two of the NL's best starters and two outstanding efforts by young pitchers who hope to become two of the NL's best starters in time.
On Friday the Los Angeles Dodgers designated Marlon Anderson for assignment to make room for relief pitcher Chin-Hui Tsao. Anderson was acquired by the Dodgers last season on Aug. 31 from Washington and surprisingly became the team's best hitter during its drive to capture the NL wild card. In 25 games and 64 at-bats, Anderson batted .375 and slugged .813 with seven home runs, including the fourth in a series of four consecutive home runs hit off of Padres pitching in the ninth inning to tie a game at 9-9. The Dodgers would go on to win 11-10 over San Diego in 10 innings back on Sept. 18, 2006, a game which has almost achieved mythic proportions.
But in 2007, Anderson missed much of spring training recovering from right elbow surgery and when he was activated he was still not healthy and needed another operation on the elbow. The emergence of younger players such as James Loney, Matt Kemp and Tony Abreu made it hard for the Dodgers to find any playing time for a guy who still is prominently featured in several different highlight montages on the Dodger Stadium video board. And so, Anderson is now waiting for a call from another team looking for a left-handed hitting utilityman.
Anderson joins a list of former Dodgers who had one brief period of glory in a year the Dodgers made it to the postseason and then exited from the stage.
1959 -- Chuck Essegian was a trade deadline acquisition (back when it was on June 15) from the Cardinals and batted .304 in 24 games. In the World Series against the White Sox, Essegian hit two pinch-hit home runs. Essegian stuck with the Dodgers for the entire 1960 season but played in just 52 games and batted .215. The Dodgers sold him to Baltimore in the offseason.
1963 -- Dick Nen was a September call-up and got into his first game on Sept. 18 with the Dodgers' lead in the NL over the Cardinals down to just three games. St. Louis led 5-4 in the top of the ninth when Nen homered off of Ron Taylor to tie the game, which the Dodgers ended up winning 6-5 in 13 innings. Nen spent 1964 in the minors and was traded to Washington in the offseason as part of a seven-player trade, with Frank Howard and Claude Osteen being the principal players in the deal.
1977 -- Mike Garman came to the Dodgers from the Cubs along with Rick Monday in exchange for Bill Buckner, Ivan DeJesus and a minor leaguer. Garman appeared in 49 games with a 2.37 ERA and had 12 saves and also picked up a save in the Dodgers' improbable comeback win over the Phillies in Game 3 of the NLCS. The next year, Garman pitched in just 16 1/3 innings for the Dodgers before he was dealt to Montreal for Larry Landreth and Gerry Hannahs. Arm problems ended his career after the 1979 season.
1988 -- Brian Holton turned in an outstanding year out of the bullpen, going 7-3 with a 1.70 ERA as a long man. However, with closer Jay Howell suspended for two games of the NLCS after having pine tar found on his glove, Holton was moved into the closer's role in Game 5 and picked up a save. After the season ended, Holton was traded along with Juan Bell to Baltimore for Eddie Murray.
2004 -- Steve Finley was acquired in a trade deadline deal from Arizona and hit a game-winning, division-clinching grand slam against the Giants capping off a comeback from a 3-0 deficit in the ninth inning in Game 161 of the season. Finley left as a free agent to sign with the Angels when the season ended.
All of this is just a reminder of how baseball's heroes are often people who are just passing through and happen to be in the right place at the right time.
After sweeping the New York Yankees at home from June 19-21, the Colorado Rockies went on the road just 3 1/2 games out of first, although in fourth place. Colorado then proceeded to lose eight straight to the Blue Jays, Cubs, and Astros. And four of the losses were blown saves by Brian Fuentes. And three of those blown saves had come after Troy Tulowitzki had hit a home run that had given the Rockies a lead in the final inning. Bad Altitude's Mark T. R. Donohue seemed to take the losing streak in stride, then he started to worry, then he got angry, and then he finally decided to give up.
The Rockies appeared to get back on track with a 5-0 win on Saturday in Houston, but lost again on Sunday, 12-0, with Fuentes giving up two runs in mopup duty in the eighth. Fuentes may be looking at a new role when the team returns home to face the Mets and Phillies. Fuentes did make the NL All-Star team, along with teammate Matt Holliday. The Rockies are still in fourth place, but are now eight games out.
The Rockies eight-game slide matches the Giants for the longest losing streak in the NL West this season. The Giants lost eight straight from June 13-22.
Prior to facing each other Saturday night at Dodger Stadium, Brad Penny and Jake Peavy had remarkably similar pitching lines. Penny had thrown 2/3 more innings than Peavy (105 2/3 to 105), given up just nine more hits (91 to 82), given up one more home run (2 to 1), and surrendered one fewer earned run (24 to 25) and two fewer walks (28 to 30). Penny entered the game with an ERA of 2.04 and Peavy was at 2.14. The only major difference was in strikeouts where Peavy had 113 to Penny's 70.
Both pitchers went seven innings and both gave up one earned run. Peavy allowed his second homer of the year to match Penny's total. Penny struck out seven, while Peavy struck out six. Penny finished the game with an ERA of 2.00 and Peavy at 2.09. The Padres won the game 3-1 in 12 innings. Tony La Russa should have both pitchers available to choose from as an All-Star Game starter for the NL as both are scheduled to pitch again on Thursday and should be rested for next Tuesday's All-Star Game in San Francisco. The Dodgers are 14-3 in games that Penny starts and the Padres are 13-4 in games started by Peavy.
And Peavy's teammate Chris Young is not far behind Penny and Peavy. Young has an ERA of 2.14 and has given up just three home runs with 90 strikeouts and just 36 walks. And Young didn't even make the NL All-Star team, but is one of the candidates in the "Final Vote" election.
Two much heralded young pitchers turned in outstanding performances on Sunday. Giants rookie Tim Lincecum threw seven shutout innings against Arizona, striking out 12 and giving up three hits with no walks. The Giants won the game 13-0. The loss left Jim McLennan of AZ Snakepit concerned about the Diamondbacks' recent offensive woes.
Down in Los Angeles, second year pitcher Chad Billingsley had the best start of his brief career, throwing seven shutout innings against the Padres as the Dodgers avoided a sweep with a 5-0 win. Billingsley struck out nine, walked none, and gave up just three hits.
Labels: NL West
posted by SI.com | View comments |
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