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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pickoff Moves

Manny, Dodgers Bludgeon Padres, Extend NL West Lead: Dodgers 7, Padres 2

Manny homered twice in this one, the first a solo shot in the fifth, and the second a two-run homer in the ninth that just cleared the high fence in front of the sandbox in right-center. But the Dodgers didn't even need those; they had already secured the game earlier on the strength of a three-run third, keyed by James Loney's homer; it was his first since August 27 in a losing effort against the Nats. Needless to say, Shawn Estes was Shawn Estes, and provided the Dodgers with a suitable batting practice feed.

Jon toasted Manny's productivity yesterday, noting that he's now two home runs away from Matt Kemp's season total. To put that into some perspective, Manny has smashed the franchise single-season at-bats per home run rate with 9.57 HR/AB, had he enough at-bats to qualify; the previous leader was Gary Sheffield in 2000, with 11.7. He would also top the single-season OPS+ list: his 221 would easily lap Mike Piazza's 185 in 2001. Manny is just hitting out of his mind, even by his own high standards.

The lone piece of bad news — and this isn't even really bad when you think about it — was Brad Penny entering the game in the seventh and failing to record a single out. Better to know about that now rather than in the postseason, but his control was just plain missing; it's unlikely he'll see action again, even as a mopup pitcher. Penny admitted yesterday that he misread his situation earlier in the season:

"The one thing that bothers me is that I should've said something," Penny said of the shoulder problems that he claims hindered him for most of the season.

Penny said he kept quiet because he felt he had to continue pitching to secure a contract for next season. He has a $9.25-million option for 2009 that the Dodgers can buy out for $2 million.

"That's why I was out there trying to push myself -- because I didn't have a guaranteed job next year," he said. "I went about the whole situation wrong. If I had to do it over again, I would've just shut myself down."

Penny said that General Manager Ned Colletti has been non-committal in the conversations he's had about his future. "It just tells me they were never sold on me, which is fine," Penny said.

That's not a surprise, frankly. I don't expect to see Penny back in a Dodger uniform next year, which is fine.

Yahoo boxDodgers recap

Roster Notes

More On Yesterday's Angels Clinch

Arte Moreno's getting bolder in his talk about rings, and I have to confess I don't blame him. That's the whole point; yesterday's clinch seemed anticlimactic, as though another calendar page had fallen and oh, look, here's the Angels winning the division again. Mark Teixeira doesn't think the Angels will cruise the rest of the way:
"I knew this team was so good that all we had to do was keep playing well. I'm not surprised that it's so early," Teixeira said after the Angels won the division in their 145th game, the earliest they have ever secured a playoff berth.

"This is a great team. We have everything we need. This team is built for a full-season run and that's what we're going to focus on."


"You know you have the best team and you know it's going to happen," Torii Hunter said, "but when it happens, it lets you know all the hard work you've done during the season, everything you went through, the ups and downs, when you get it done and finally got that clinched, I got chills up and down my body.

"It never gets old. I don't care how many times you do it. This is the best feeling in the world."

Yesterday's win came without a number of key players, Chone Figgins (still smarting from a hit-by-pitch on the elbow) and Mark Teixeira because he had an infection and a fever. They might get away with that for one or two games, but not consistently down the stretch. The Angels need to stay focused on home field advantage, on playing well, and on keeping their key players as well-rested as they can with those two priorities intact.

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