The Los Angeles Dodgers hope Kazuhisa Ishii can continue his impressive pitching as they look to complete a sweep of the punchless Detroit Tigers in the teams’ three-game interleague series at Comerica Park.
The Japanese left-hander has pitched well after a line drive off the bat of Houston’s Brian Hunter hit him on the forehead and ended his rookie season on Sept. 8 last year.
Since the spring, Ishii has repeatedly said his physical or mental recovery from the injury hasn’t been a problem, and is more concerned with avoiding a repeat of last year’s second-half slump.
After winning 10 of his first 11 decisions, Ishii finished up 14-10 with a 4.27 ERA before the injury ended his season.
“When you redline your effort from day one without any sense of where the finish line is, you’re eventually going to peter out,” said Dodgers pitching coach Jim Colborn, as the team broke camp in late March. “Certainly that was the case with Ishii. He’s got it now, I bet you. You watch.”
Ishii is coming off a solid effort in his last outing, allowing just one run, four hits and striking out a season-high nine batters in seven innings of a 2-1 win over the White Sox on Friday night.
Since allowing five earned runs in his first start of the year on April 3, he has yet to allow more than three earned run in any of his 11 starts since.
Ishii still walks too many hitters—his 45 walks in 68 2-3 innings are two short of the NL’s pace for most walks allowed—but is working harder to curtail his control problems.
“I see a more consistent pitcher from the windup,” Los Angeles manager Jim Tracy said. ”(Our staff) has made an adjustment with his lead foot to try to improve his balance. I have observed a very big difference, a very positive difference.”
The Dodgers took the middle game of the series with the Tigers, 3-1 on Wednesday night, and have now won 16 of their last 24 games, and 18 of their last 27 interleague games.
Detroit lost its sixth straight, and has scored just two runs in the two games. The Tigers have the majors’ worst record and are the only team to have scored fewer than 200 runs.
STANDINGS: Dodgers - 2nd place, 4 GB, NL West. Tigers - 5th place, 19 1/2 GB, AL Central.
DODGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Ishii (5-2, 3.01 ERA). Ishii is 2-2 with a 4.05 ERA in five road starts this season.
TIGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Jeremy Bonderman (2-8, 5.51 ERA). The rookie right-hander is winless in his last six starts, despite allowing more than three earned ones only twice during that span. In his last outing, he allowed four runs—three earned—and six hits over six innings of a 5-3 loss at San Francisco on Friday night. He is making his first start against the Dodgers.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Dodgers - Paul Lo Duca, .330 avg.; Fred McGriff, 10 HRs and 34 RBIs; Shawn Green, 30 runs; Dave Roberts, 21 SBs. Tigers - Dmitri Young, .275 avg., 12 HRs and 39 RBIs; Bobby Higginson, 31 runs; Alex Sanchez, 11 SBs.
INTERLEAGUE RECORDS: Dodgers - 4-1; Tigers - 2-6.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Dodgers - Left-handed batters are hitting just .158 against LHP Ishii this season. … 1B McGriff knocked in his 1,537th career RBI in Wednesday’s win, tying him with Joe DiMaggio for 36th place on the all-time RBI list. … RHP Eric Gagne pitched a perfect ninth in Wednesday’s win for his 23rd save in as many opportunities. He has saved 31 straight dating back to last season, the longest streak in the majors. Tigers - RHP Bonderman is 1-4 with a 7.22 ERA in seven starts at Comerica Park this season. … OF Young was scratched from the lineup just before Wednesday’s game with a sinus infection. His status for Thursday is unknown. … Detroit has an AL-worst 23 home losses.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Dodgers - 16-14 on the road; Tigers - 5-23 at home.
INJURIES: Dodgers - C Todd Hundley (back), 15-day DL; OF Daryle Ward (wrist), 15-day DL; LHP Troy Brohawn (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Darren Dreifort (knee), 15-day DL; LHP Derek Thompson (elbow), 60-day DL. Tigers - INF Carlos Pena (hamstring), 15-day DL; INF Dean Palmer (shoulder, neck), 60-day DL; RHP Danny Patterson (elbow), 60-day DL.