Dodgers' Greatly Exaggerated Loney's Death

First baseman James Loney, the subject of derision by nearly every one of the numerous Dodgers blogs floating around the internet and rumored to become non-tendered by the Dodgers as was catcher Russell Martin a the end of the season, has seemingly resurrected his career with a late-season surge that back in the day would have been called a "salary drive."

Over nearly the first 100 games of the season he struggled, some feel after being urged to display more power, although he denies that. He didn't get his average above .250 until June 12, when he had three hits including a home run at Colorado but since Aug. 21, he is batting .356 with six homers and 24 RBIs and has raised his average from .267 to a season-high .283.

His numbers entering the 97th game of the season were, at best, tepid: .263, 13 doubles, four home runs and 31 runs batted in. His on-base percentage was .310.

However the next 53 games has seen him boost his average to an even .300 with a dozen doubles, six homers and 21 runs batted in, He has fanned only 22 times while working 17 walks to post a .363 on base-percentage.

"I just think my timing mechanism has been better" he old Tony Jackson of ESPNLA. "The main thing is being ready to hit and recognizing the pitches better. I just feel more in control and my confidence is a lot better. During the course of the year, you're supposed to hit certain pitches in certain areas, and I wasn't doing that early on. At times maybe I was trying too hard and swinging too hard."

Loney rapped out hits in his first five trips to the plate against the Pirates on Sunday, his first five-hit game of his career, and on his sixth at-bat he slugged a drive that was caught on the warning track, denying him a rare sixth safety.

Chad Billingsley (11-10), who snapped a streak of four consecutive no-decisions to pick up his first win since Aug. 5, was working with an 11-0 lead in the third inning and cruised to his 11th win against 10 losses. It is the fourth straight season the right-hander has posted double-figure wins.

"I've been struggling with my arm slot and my mechanics a lot this year and haven't been able to find a good rhythm," Billingsley said. "I had better off-speed stuff today, so I'm just going to keep going with it."

Rookie Jerry Sands posted his first four-hit game, adding a home run and knocking in four. Matt Kemp, Juan Rivera and Dee Gordon had three hits each and Rivera added four runs batted in. Former Dodgers Xavier Paul knocked in the Pittsburgh run doubled in the only Pirates run.

Gordon established a new career-long hitting streak at six games and is batting .373 (28-for-75) since coming off the disabled list on Sept. 1. Sands extended his career-long hitting streak to seven games and is batting .390 (16-for-41) since his recall on Sept. 6.

The Dodgers' season attendance total to hit 2,832,719 with three home dates left. The last time the club failed to reach that figure in a non-strike season was 1982. Dodger Stadium has a seating capacity of 56,000, the largest in the majors.

Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum will hook up again in Tuesday night's game, with the Dodgers lefty looking for his 20th win of the season. Also Kershaw will attempt to become the first Dodgers pitcher to go 5-0 against the Giants in the same year since LHP Vic Lombardi did it in 1946.

Kemp Don't Want a Day Off
A few days ago, Don Mattingly actually asked Matt Kemp if he'd like a day off. Kemp just laughed. Mattingly told his Most Valuable Player candidate that he could start a game and leave early, or come off the bench, and still keep his games-played streak alive. Kemp wasn't having any of it.

"He wants to finish what he started," Mattingly said. "He wants to go. I'm just assuming he's tired. I mean, he's been out there every day. But at this point, the fact that he's played every game, there is a sense of pride. I played 162 (games) once. That is an accomplishment, getting yourself ready, and it's not something I want to take away from him, even though it would probably be good for him. Off days feel pretty good. I promise you, 10 days into the offseason, he'll be one sore guy."

Kemp played in his 354th consecutive game Sunday, hitting a first-inning home run in the Dodgers' lopsided win over the Pirates. It was Kemp's 34th home run. He stole his 40th base Saturday night.

In fact, that stolen base came shortly after Kemp fouled a ball off his foot and appeared in significant pain. He remained in the game, singled to center, wasted no time stealing second, and he advanced to third base on the catcher's throwing error.

"It started stiffening up later," Kemp said after Saturday's game. "I don't know if I could have stolen that base later in the game. I need to put some ice on it so I can play in this game (Sunday)."

Indeed, he played Sunday, and missed a cycle by a triple -- all in five innings. Mattingly took him out to save a few innings on his legs, giving him a basketball-style curtain call after he'd taken the field and the inning was about to start. His teammates threw cups of water on him as he reached the dugout.

The home run, a towering blast to center field, kept alive his slim chances of a 40-homer, 40-steal season. Kemp needs six home runs in his last nine games -- which he's done twice in his career -- for a 40-40 year.

"That was one of my goals," Kemp said. "I told everybody. We still have some games left. I still have a lot to add on. Hopefully, I can reach that 40 plateau in home runs, too." Is he trying to hit home runs?

"You don't want to think about it," Kemp said. "You just let things happen."

Last year, Kemp homered in each of his final five games, driving in 12 runs. He won't have the easiest ballparks to do it this year. The Dodgers host the Giants for three games this week, then play at San Diego and at Arizona to end the year.

Kemp is the 13th player with 30 or more homers and 40 or more steals in a season.

Broxton to Undergo Elbow Surgery
Jonathan Broxton, who hasn't pitched since May 3 because of a bone bruise in his right elbow, will undergo arthroscopic surgery today to remove a bone spur and some chips.

Broxton's bone bruise had improved dramatically, but the Dodgers medical director Stan Conte said the spur and loose bodies were the cause of repeated setbacks Broxton suffered in his effort to return, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly saying earlier this week that club officials no longer expected Broxton to pitch this season.

Broxton underwent what Conte said were "three or four" MRIs on the elbow during the season, but Conte said the chips were revealed only after Broxton underwent a CT scan, which was ordered when he experienced mild discomfort earlier this week during his first bullpen session in several weeks.

Broxton is expected to need four to eight weeks to recover before he can begin throwing again. However, with free agency pending, it is possible Broxton has pitched his final game for the Dodgers, who already have replaced him in the closer's role with rookie Javy Guerra and might balk at re-signing Broxton this winter to a major league contract.

Outfielder Tony Gwynn underwent an MRI on his left shoulder, which he has jammed repeatedly in recent days and did so again on a slide into home Wednesday night. He will be completely shut down for at least a couple of days.

Gwynn originally hurt his shoulder on a headfirst slide into second base during last week's series in Washington, and although the injury wasn't severe at that time, he aggravated it on Wednesday night against Arizona. Conte said that as of Friday afternoon, ElAttrache hadn't yet examined Gwynn's MRI results.

NOTES, QUOTES
--LHP Ted Lilly earned his 10th win Saturday, joining CC Sabathia and Mark Buehrle as the only lefties to reach double-digit victories in each of the past nine seasons. After a shaky few months, Lilly has a 2.67 ERA and a .173 opponents' batting average in his last 10 starts. He hasn't allowed a home run in four starts.

--SS Dee Gordon had his fourth straight multi-hit game. Gordon has 28 hits in September, which is the most in the majors.

--The Dodgers scored early and often, tying a season high with 15 runs (also June 27 at Minnesota), and evened their record at 76-76 with a 15-1 win over the Pirates. All nine Dodgers in the starting lineup had at least one hit with five Dodgers having multi-hit games. The club's 23 hits were its most since its 25-hit effort on June 27. It was the most runs the Dodgers have scored at home since Aug. 4, 2009 against the Brewers, when they scored 17 in a 17-4 win.  

--The Dodgers scored three runs on five hits in the first inning and followed it up by batting around during a six-run second inning. All of the Dodgers' second-inning runs were scored with two outs. It was the Dodgers' sixth inning of the season with six or more runs (last: eight runs in the second inning on Aug. 30 vs. San Diego) as the club batted around in an inning for the 20th time this year.  

--Twins outfielder Jason Repko, a former Dodger, had to leave the game Sunday after being hit in the head by a pitch.

--Hall of Fame Manager and Special Advisor to the Chairman Tommy Lasorda will join Manager Don Mattingly in the dugout as an honorary coach this Thursday, September 22 as the Dodgers take on the San Francisco Giants, the Dodgers announced today. The invitation was extended by Mattingly on behalf of the organization to help celebrate Lasorda's 84th birthday.

--RF Andre Ethier (sore right knee) was shut down for the season Sept. 8. He underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Sept. 14, and he figures to need about six to eight weeks of rehab. He is expected to be ready for spring training.

--With the Dodgers back at .500 (76-76) after a long hard climb, featuring a 35-21 record since July 20, eight series victories in their last nine, and a somewhat inspirational turnaround in all-around play, might Don Mattingly, be a possible Manager of the Year candidate?

BY THE NUMBERS: 15.72 -- Strikeouts per nine innings this year for RHP Kenley Jansen, who whiffed both batters he faced Saturday night. That's the highest total in the majors this season. The all-time record for strikeouts per nine innings is 15.99, set last year by the Cubs' Carlos Marmol, a total of 138 in 77 2/3 innings. If Jansen pitches five more innings this year, he would need 11 strikeouts to break Marmol's record.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Mo [Mariano Rivera] does have 601 saves. Maybe it's unfair to put Kenley Jansen in that category. But 15 strikeouts per nine innings, that's a pretty good indicator. Obviously, his strikeouts have been dominant. He had a rocky road coming out of camp, and he was a guy we were counting on going in and he didn't seem to be that guy early on. But the experience of dealing with failure helps you grow up and become better. Now he seems confident. It's been a nice experience for him and for us, a guy we can count on." -- Manager Don Mattingly, on the comparisons between Jansen and Rivera.

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