When Good Knuckleballs Go Bad

Tim Lincecum and the Giants bullpen completely cooled off the Dodgers' hot bats (they came into the game hitting .320) and collected an easy 9-0 win. No manager wants to get thumped 9-0, but in private they might admit that when you don't pitch well and don't hit well, it sets lighter on your stomach than if you lose 1-0 or 10-9.

Los Angeles managed eight hits, seven of them singles, but left 10 on base. Jamey Carroll, giving Rafael Furcal a day of rest, singled twice as did AJ Ellis, who singled and doubled in place of catcher Russell Martin. Casey Blake sat out in favor of Ron Belliard and Garret Anderson played left in place of Manny Ramirez.

The Giants tagged knuckleballer Charlie Hager for seven early runs and by the fourth inning it was pretty well over.

The Dodgers had plans to wait two-time reigning Cy Young Award Winner out and had Haeger, who had struck out 12 Marlins in six innings over his first start in Florida, on the mound. But a knuckleball is a fickle thing and no matter how you throw it, it has a mind of it's own and goes it's own way.

This afternoon, it had no intention of fluttering over the plate where the Giants with their big bats could pound it. Instead it dipped and danced, missing the plate and, for the most part, missing some of the bats also.

Haeger threw 94 pitches and only 48 of them found their way into the strike zone. One eluded Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis for a passed ball and another one hit Giants catcher Bengie Molina.

Haeger put 13 men on base and seven of them scored, although errors by Ellis and shortstop Jamey Carroll resulted in two unearned runs. He left in the fourth inning with two on and none out.

Lincecum handled the Dodgers with ease. He has had mixed success at Dodger Stadium, where he was 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in four outings.

But not this afternoon. He worked six innings, allowed four singles, walked a pair and struck out seven, running his record to 3-0 and dropping his ERA to 0.90.

In fact, Lincecum was a one-man wrecking crew. He knocked in a run in the second inning with a bunt single, rapped a single to right field to drive in two more in the third. He added a third single in a scoreless fifth inning. At that point, he had more hits (3), than the Dodgers as a team (2). Los Angeles finally passed him when Kemp beat out an infield hit in the sixth, extending his hitting streak to seven games.

Into the breach came rookie Carlos Monasterios to replace Haeger, trailing 5-0 with two runners on base. A Rule V purchase from the Mets who drafted him from Philadelphia, the right-hander had never pitched above Class AA until he put on a Dodgers' uniform.

The 24-year-old Venezuelan gave up an RBI single off right fielder Andre Ethier's glove and a sac fly and then settled in to end the inning with no further damage. He also worked a scoreless fifth. dropping his ERA to 4.15, before leaving for a pinch-hitter.

The Dodgers staged a brief threat in the third inning when Carroll and James Loney singles with one out. And in the fifth, Blake DeWitt singled to lead off, becoming the first batter to lead off with a hit off Lincecum this season, and Ellis walked to open the inning but nothing came of it.

Ramon Ortiz, who recorded an 0.96 earned run average during spring training, took over in the sixth inning. With both Hong-Chih Kuo and Ron Belliard nearly ready to make their 2010 debut, a couple of roster slots will have to be cleared and Monasterios and Ramon Ortiz, plus Russ Ortiz who followed, were probably under the close scrutiny.

Ortiz worked a snappy 1-2-3 sixth, then allowed a pair of runs in the seventh on a walk, a double, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly. He left with a 7.71 ERA. Russ Ortiz allowed a leadoff single, then retired three in a row in his only inning.

Former Dodger Guillermo Mota took over Lincecum's 9-0 lead in the last of the seventh. He allowed singles to Ellis and Carroll, hits #5 & 6, putting a Dodgers runner on third base for the first time in the game.

George Sherrill took over in the top of the ninth and retired all three Giants he faced.

Los Angeles staged a mini-rally with two out in the ninth when Ellis bounced a ground rule double into the left-field stands for his first major league extra-base hit and pinch-hitter Russell Martin singled him to third but Carroll flew to left to end the rally and the game.

The Dodgers were last shut out on Sept. 30, 2009 at San Diego and their last home shutout also came at the hands of the Padres on Sept. 4, 2009.

Pitching Probables
Tomorrow: LHP Barry Zito (2-0, 2.25) vs. LHP Clayton Kershaw (1-0, 4.50)
Tuesday at Cincinnati: RHP Chad Billingsley (1-0, 5.73) vs. RHP Homer Bailey (0-1, 6.97)
Wednesday at Cincinnati: Hiroki Kuroda (1-0, 1.20) vs. RHP Aaron Harang (0-2, 7.88)
Thursday, April 22 at Cincinnati: RHP Vicente Padilla (1-1, 8.04) vs. RHP Mike Leake (0-0, 2.63)

Dodger Blue Notes --After today's game (Sunday), the Dodgers will not play San Francisco until June 28, a span of 70 days. However, the two clubs will meet for five games in July and six in September. Last year the Dodgers were 11-7 against the Giants, including 6-3 at Dodger Stadium. Los Angeles has not had a losing record in a season series with San Francisco since going 9-10 in 2005. ...Ethier's two-homer game was already the ninth of Ethier's career, which ties him with Mike Marshall for 11th in L.A. Dodger history, behind Mike Piazza (19), Shawn Green (18), Eric Karros (17), Gary Sheffield (14), Raul Mondesi (14), Steve Garvey (12), Ron Cey (11) and Adrian Beltré (11). ...Dodger reliever Hong-Chih Kuo fired a perfect inning of relief for Single-A San Bernardino on Thursday night and is scheduled to throw another inning for the 66ers Sunday afternoon. Right-handed reliever Ronald Belisario, who is on the restricted list, worked 2.0 innings and threw 25 pitches Friday during a game at extended Spring Training. Left fielder Manny Ramirez left last night's game with tightness in his right calf that he felt while running to first on a groundout. ...      

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