Ely knocked around in final start of season
Closer Kuo nearing all-time franchise ERA record
LOS ANGELES -- Joe Torre let Brad Ausmus manage Friday night. Trailing by two runs in the eighth inning, Ausmus brought in closer Hong-Chih Kuo.
But it wasn't a rookie mistake.
After striking out the side with a scoreless inning in a 7-5 loss to the D-backs -- guaranteeing the Dodgers' first losing record since 2005 -- Kuo needs one more scoreless inning to finish the season with a 1.20 ERA, which would set an all-time franchise record for a minimum of 50 innings. And the Dodgers want him to get it, having mapped out the unusual usage of Kuo before the game.
Kuo said he wasn't aware of the record, but he perked up when told who holds the current mark: Eric Gagne, at 1.202.
"He's my idol," said Kuo, who was counseled often by former teammate Gagne when Kuo considered retirement after two Tommy John elbow operations. "He taught me a lot. I'll try. Why not?"
Kuo leads all Major League relievers with a 1.22 ERA, allowing only one run in 30 innings at home and one run in 26 2/3 innings within the division. Left-handers are hitting under .100 against him.
Ausmus said Kuo will get that last chance for the record Sunday in Torre's farewell as Dodgers manager. Ausmus said he used Kuo in the eighth and not the ninth (which went to Ronald Belisario) because had the Dodgers tied the game, Belisario would have also pitched the 10th. The Dodgers didn't want Kuo in that position, so he pitched the eighth.
Had the game gone extra innings, Ausmus said he would have become a player-manager and taken over behind the plate if A.J. Ellis had reached base, requiring a pinch-runner, having already used Rod Barajas as a pinch-hitter.
Ausmus worked with bench coach Jamey Carroll, pitching coach Mike Borzello (Rick Honeycutt left the team to attend to a family situation), hitting coach Russell Martin and bullpen coach Jeff Weaver, while Torre and his remaining staff observed.
They saw another ineffective start by John Ely (4-10) and a soft performance by the offense against Zach Kroenke, a Rule 5 Draft pick with a 21.60 ERA who recorded his first Major League win. Despite the five runs, the Dodgers had only four hits, including Matt Kemp's 26th home run, his third in as many games to tie last year's career high.
But the bullpen pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings, including a 1-2-3 inning from George Sherrill, who expects to be non-tendered but could re-sign as a situational left-hander.
Ausmus had to go get Ely after Adam LaRoche's two-run homer with two outs in the fifth inning. Ely got the start when Clayton Kershaw was shut down.
"They jumped on him early [two runs in the first inning, three in the third] and he settled down after that," said Ausmus. "Quite frankly, the two-run homer by LaRoche was the big blow."
After winning three of his first four decisions following a surprise callup at the end of April, Ely has lost nine of his last 10 decisions. He started his career with four walks in his first five starts, but has walked 14 in his last three starts, including three in this one and each scored. His ERA, 3.62 after his last win, is up to 5.40.
"Two of the walks were back to back in one inning, but the rest of the game, I was aggressive in the zone," said Ely. "I left the pitch up to LaRoche. Other than that, I'm actually happy with the outing compared to the last one.
"Obviously it's frustrating to end the season like this, but I have something to build on. I'll go home to Chicago for the first half of the winter, then come back here for the development camp in January and be in Phoenix early preparing for next year. It's one I'll be ready for."
For Saturday night, Ausmus and Carroll switch roles, with Carroll managing and Ausmus the bench coach. Borzello will again be the pitching coach, Jonathan Broxton will be the bullpen coach and Carroll still hadn't decided on a hitting coach.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.