Thursday, August 21, 2014

Wednesday sums up the state of the Dodgers right now

And what exactly is the state of the Dodgers?  Not so good.

With news early in the day that Zack Greinke's elbow is not 100%, but he'll make a start on Saturday anyway, to the lifeless performance against the Padres at night, it was not a day to remember.  The early 3-0 hole was not overcome this time, as the Padres rolled to an easy win 4-1.

Let's start with Greinke, who provided either good news or bad news, depending on your view.  In case you missed it, he will avoid a trip to the DL, which on this team is obviously some good news.  The flip side is that he admitted to pitching with elbow discomfort for about a month, and in his own words, "can't guarantee I'll be good from here on out."  Not exactly the most comforting words from an ace.

I wrote about this yesterday, so I'll reiterate how much the words "elbow issues" and "pitcher" make me concerned.  Greinke was brought in to pair with Clayton Kershaw as the league's best Game 1 and 2 starters in any playoff series.  But the playoffs are well over a month away, and even though the Dodgers are in first place now, there's no guarantee that they'll even be in the postseason if they keep playing like they have been lately.

Maybe Greinke will go out on Saturday, throw a gem, then report that his elbow feels great and he's ready to roll with it.  Or he'll get hit around and provide even more concern.  I guess we'll all just have to wait until Saturday against the Mets to see.

As for the game on Wednesday, there wasn't a whole lot to feel good about.  For the second straight night, the Padres got up 3-0 in the early going.  It was a combination of three soft singles, two walks, and a horrible bobble by Scott Van Slyke in left.  Oh ya, and Eric Stults had an RBI single with the bases loaded.  It was bad.

How did the Dodgers do at the plate?  Well, they had six hits and one run against a guy who came into the game at 5-13 with a 4.64 ERA.  So that should sum up how sorry the Dodgers looked.  Only Adrian Gonzalez had an extra base hit with a double, and Van Slyke was the only guy with two hits.  Basically, it was a whole lot of nothing going on.  With runners in scoring position, they were 0-for-5, including another blown opportunity with the bases loaded.

And by the way, the defense committed three errors.  It looked like a flashback to April.  Ugh.

A lot has been made about the Dodgers "easy" schedule down the stretch, at least in terms of winning percentage compared to other contenders.  So far, the Padres aren't rolling over, and the Mets come in next, and they took it to Jeff Samardzija and the A's yesterday.  In other words, I don't care what the records say, these teams are not going to roll over and play dead.

At least the Dodgers can turn to Clayton Kershaw tonight.  Then again, his last start he went the distance, gave up three runs... and still lost to the Brewers 3-2.  And with Tyson Ross on the mound for the Padres, who's one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball, winning will be tough once again.  Let's see how the Dodgers respond.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

More injury issues as Greinke has a "tender elbow"

The Dodgers stopped their slide on Tuesday night, fighting back from an early 3-0 hole to beat the Padres 8-6.  Carl Crawford came alive by going 3-for-3 with a two-run homer, Justin Turner added two doubles, and a great defensive play at third ended the game.

That's the good news.

The bad news?  Zack Greinke will most likely miss his next start on Thursday due to what is being called a "tender elbow."  The club doesn't seem too concerned with it right now, as he has been able to throw off flat ground at least.

Still, any time a pitcher is dealing with any sort of elbow problems, it has the potential to be a huge worry.  Especially when that pitcher is a former Cy Young Award winner and current All-Star.

There's no doubt that Greinke has not been his normal self over his last three starts.  He certainly hasn't been pounded, but did walk five Brewers his last start, surrender four runs on eight hits to the Brewers the start before, and three earned run in seven innings against the Angels the start before.  They've all been Dodger loses, though that's certainly not all his fault.

Right now the Dodgers' depth is seriously being put to the test, as Hyun-Jin Ryu, Juan Uribe, and Hanley Ramirez are all sitting on the DL, to name a few.  Their numbers are very hard to replace, obviously.  So if Greinke gets added to that list, or is forced to miss a start or two, it will be even harder to win.  There's no other way about it.

It's a good thing Ned Colletti added a couple of arms in Roberto Hernandez and Kevin Correia recently.  Yes, I know they're not the greatest pitchers on Earth, but they are veteran starters who can take the ball at any time.  And that time is now.

Let's all hope Greinke is just fine, and some extra rest will do the trick as the Dodgers try to regain some momentum.  If he is hurt worse than we think... then that's a huge blow for this team.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Dodgers hit a lull, so what's the problem?

For anyone who thought the Dodgers might be able to run away with not only the NL West, but the National League as a whole, think again.

The Brewers came into Dodger Stadium and showed why they're a legit contender with a three-game sweep, finishing off the Dodgers with a 7-2 shellacking on Sunday.  Couple that with last weekend, and the Brew Crew have to feel good about taking five of six from LA.  And that's with both Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke starting four of the six games.

After getting the lead in the NL West up to over six games, the lead over the Giants has dropped to 3 1/2.  Washington and Milwaukee are now ahead of the Dodgers in the race for #1 seed in the NL.

Simply put, like the headline says, the Dodgers are in a lull, dropping three straight and four of five.  So what's the deal?  Here's the deal:

* In those four loses, the offense has scored nine runs, averaging 2.3 per.  Even with great starting pitching, it's hard to win many games like that.

* Hyun-Jin Ryu was placed on the DL with a sore glute muscle.  Kevin Correia will fill in, and while he had a great opening act, isn't the caliber of Ryu over the long haul.

* Juan Uribe was placed on the DL with a strained hamstring.  Justin Turner will see action at third, but his glove has been shaky to say the least of late.

* Greinke hasn't been as sharp in August.  In three starts, he's 0-2 with a 3.50 ERA.  He walked five in only five innings his last start, running his pitch count way up to 99.

* The bullpen completely imploded on Friday night, as Jamey Wright and Brandon League combined to give up five runs in the eighth.  The eighth inning, as I recently wrote about, has been a huge disappointment.

* Even Kershaw was off his normal dominant self, giving up a couple of home runs in losing on Saturday.  Of course, he still went the distance and only surrendered three runs, but his offense gave him nothing.

* Dee Gordon still has his big games, but has seen his numbers dip a bit after the break, and one has to wonder if he's slowing down a bit just from the grind of the long season.

* Matt Kemp was red hot in July, but in August he's back down to hitting .219.  He's actually hit safely in 12 of 17 games, but most of those are 1-for-4 or 1-for-5.

* The defense is much-improved since the start of the season, but is still middle of the pack in fielding %.  Losing Uribe at third does nothing to help, either.

* All the good vibes Dan Haren had coming into Sunday may have come to screeching halt, as the Brewers smacked him around.

Brian Kamenetzky of ESPNLosAngeles.com wrote a good article about how this is not a time to panic, and to instead "keep the faith."  It makes a lot of sense, as every team is bound to go through peaks and valleys over the course of a 162-game season.

But, for the many reasons listed above, it's also realistic that the Dodgers need to figure things out in order to keep that first place standing in the NL West.  When one of their key starting pitchers and starting third baseman get hurt, then they get swept at home, there's reasons to be a little nervous.

There is some good news, as Hanley Ramirez looks like he'll be ready to go when he comes off the DL next Sunday.  As a bonus, it looks like he might play some third, something he did in his Marlins' days when they acquired Jose Reyes.  That will get his bat back in the lineup, and keep the better fielding Miguel Rojas at short.

That's still a week away, and in the meantime the Dodgers will welcome the Padres and Mets into town starting Tuesday.  Even though they both stink, with the way the Dodgers play at home, they can't afford to overlook anyone.  If they do, they might find themselves in second in no time.

We'll see what the Dodgers' depth can do, as they will go deep into their 25-man roster to stay afloat.  It would be great if guys like Kemp, Gordon, and Adrian Gonzalez have a big week, and the Dodgers can get rolling again.  They are the stars, so now they need to step up and play like it.

Oh ya, and not blowing more leads in the eighth inning would help too.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

8th inning could be the Dodgers downfall

Remember last season when Brian Wilson was signed, and the Dodgers had the ultimate 1-2 punch with Kenley Jansen down the stretch and in the postseason?

Well, it sure was fun while it lasted.

The combination of Jamey Wright and Brandon League were the latest to not get the job done in the setup role, as they turned a 2-0 lead into a 5-2 deficit, and the Dodgers dropped one to the Brewers 6-3.  At least the Phillies had a comeback of their own in beating the Giants, so the lead in the NL West remains 5 1/2.

To say the eighth inning was ugly would be an understatement.  Here's the final tally: nine batters, four hits, five runs, one walk, one strikeout.  Most of that damage was done against Wright, who gave up four of those hits and one intentional walk.  Even his one out was a hard lineout by Jonathan Lucroy leading off.  Every ball hit against him was hard.

League was put in a tough situation of the bases loaded and one out, but he did get Rickie Weeks swinging for two down.  But, as has been the case over his three-year deal worth $22.5 million, he couldn't get a second big out, as Lyle Overbay's double cleared the bases and any hope of the Dodgers winning.  It was pathetic.

There's no doubt in my mind that the biggest issue the Dodgers face right now is bridging the gap to Jansen.  There certainly isn't a Wilson circa 2013 Don Mattingly can turn to.  Wilson, by the way, had an 0.66 ERA in 18 appearances last season.  Little did we realize just how much we'd miss that version of Wilson.

About the only reliable guy in the 'pen before Jansen is J.P. Howell, but he's not your prototypical setup man.  He relies on the soft stuff, and is very effective at it.  In 39 1/3 innings, he has a 1.37 ERA.  I think Mattingly should just ignore the lefty-righty stuff and pitch him more in the eighth regardless.  It certainly can't hurt.

But other than Howell... yikes.  It's just a whole lot of nothing to turn to.  Here's my breakdown of the other choices, and why they're.... well, not good choices:

Wilson - 5.26 ERA, and can't seem to pitch a clean eighth
League - Much better ERA at 2.32, but the bigger the pressure, the worse he gets
Wright - Had a chance to make a positive impression, and showed why he's much more suited to pitching earlier in the game
Chris Perez - Currently on the DL, and when he's back, has absolutely no business taking the mound in any inning
Pedro Baez and Carlos Frias - Too young and inexperienced to pitch in a big situation.  But then again, it's not like they can do any worse, so why not try them?

So like I said, there just aren't any solid options to turn to.  I actually liked it on Friday night when Donny gave Wright a chance to do the job.  It definitely backfired, but the other options are so bad, it was worth a shot.

This is definitely a big concern heading into the postseason.  The only positive is that the Dodgers have really good starting pitching in Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu (who hopefully can rest his sore butt!).  They can pitch deep into games, which would then limit the amount of relievers needed.  We hope.

If I'm Jansen, I'm making sure my arm is plenty rested and ready to go in October.  I absolutely think Donny will call upon him in the eighth for more than the traditional three-out save.  Donny really has no choice.  Might as well skip all the other bums and go with the Big Dog.

Will someone actually step up and finally claim that setup role over the final month-and-a-half?  That will be the major question facing the Dodgers the rest of the season.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Dodgers sure like to hit the road

Everyone likes a little home cookin'. 

The Dodgers apparently prefer to do their eating away from home.

And so it went on Thursday afternoon, as the Dodgers continued to play some really good baseball on the road in a 6-4 win over the Braves.  They also like to pound on the Braves, taking six of seven games from them this season.

Today's win marked the 40th away from home this season, as they're the first in the majors to do so.  It also increased their lead over the Giants in the NL West to 5 1/2 games.

How are the Dodgers getting it done on the road so well?  Take a look at their rankings in all of baseball:

They're first in... hits, triples, and OBP.

They're second in... runs, RBI, and pitching shutouts and strikeouts.

They're third in... total bases, AVG, and OPS.

Not bad.

Seriously, those are all very impressive and encouraging numbers for a team that looks destined for the playoffs.  Considering that went 1-4 on the road last postseason, including a horrendous loss in St. Louis to end the season, this year's squad looks like it can win anywhere.

If you're a big follower of the team like me, then you'll notice how they just look so much more relaxed on the road.  And that leads to more timely hitting to support their excellent starting pitching.  Heck, they're hitting .265 on the road and .252 at home, which is a pretty big difference at this point of the season.

Every team wants to have home field advantage in the playoffs for as long as possible.  Right now, the Dodgers are two up on the Nationals for the #1 seed, with the Brewers lurking right behind at 2 1/2 back.  Oh by the way, the Brew Crew visits LA for three this weekend.  That should be fun.

While the Dodgers would gladly take all those home games, it's good to know that they're the most dangerous road team in baseball right now.  That means if there's a big closeout game or elimination game they're facing on the road, they're more than capable of playing well to win.

The Dodgers have 15 games remaining on the road against the Diamondbacks (2), Padres (3), Giants (3), Rockies (3), and Cubs (4).  In other words, not many big challenges.  I fully expect that road record to stay hot, if not improve.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Kershaw's ready for a pitch-off!

Here's a cool little story involving my favorite pitcher and yours, Clayton Kershaw.

If you're a follower of the Little League World Series like I am, then you've heard about young Mo'ne Davis, who pitched Philadelphia all the way to Williamsport with a blazing fastball and nasty breaking ball (sound familiar, Dodger fans?).  Pretty cool right?

Oh by the way, Mo'ne is a girl.

That's right, Mo'ne is the Big Dog of Little League right now, and has a chance to rule the world based on her performance these next couple of weeks in Williamsport.  What a great story that is.

Mo'ne is feeling so good, in fact, that she's openly challenged Kershaw to what she described as a "pitch-off."

Check out Kershaw's response to her.  I don't care what it takes, the Dodgers need to make this thing happen!

Good luck to Mo'ne and all the other participants in Williamsport.  And good luck to Kershaw, who's going to need it against her!

In the early going, Colletti's small trades have paid off

Let me start off by saying that each of the three players Ned Colletti has traded for have only started one game for the Dodgers.  So let's not get too carried away about what we see.

But hey, Roberto Hernandez, Kevin Correia, and Darwin Barney have all played great and the Dodgers are six games up in the NL West.  So why shouldn't we be excited?

All three men were brought in for depth, and they had great debuts.  Encouraging enough for the Dodgers to feel pretty darn good about who they have going forward.

Let's take a look at them:

Robert Hernandez.  He got the start last week in Milwaukee in what turned out to be a 9-3 loss.  That was more because Justin Turner had a meltdown at short, and the floodgates opened.  Hernandez overcame two runs and three hits in the first inning so throw five perfect innings after that.  Can't beat that.

How effective was Hernandez during that game?  He retired the final 17 batters in a row he faced.  The offense gave him a 3-2 lead in the seventh, but like I said before, it was all downhill from there.  Still, he looks like a legit option for the fifth starter, and has definitely earned more starts going forward.

Kevin Correia.  Hernandez had pretty good numbers coming in from Philly... but Correia definitely did not in Minnesota.  His ERA hovered around five on a team going nowhere.  So when he got the start against the Braves on Monday, it would've been hard to be optimistic.

The result?  Six innings of one-run ball, guiding the Dodgers to a 6-2 win.  He just looked rejuvenated, mixing his pitches and looking sharp all night.  He probably could've kept going at only 82 pitches, but it was probably a smart move by Don Mattingly to yank him on a high note.  I would think that's only a spot start and he'll eventually fill the long relief role vacated by Paul Maholm.  But if Monday was any indication, he looks like he can fill either role just fine.

Darwin Barney.  With Dee Gordon slowing down a bit as he's playing deeper in a season than he's ever been used to, the Barney acquisition looked really good on Tuesday.  Getting his first start at second, he went 1-for-4 with an RBI single and run scored.

But, his real value didn't really show up in the box score.  He showed his legs in the ninth when he reached on an error at short and hustled to second.  After going to third on a groundout, he perfectly read a passed ball and scampered home to go up 4-2.  With Kenley Jansen going for his 33rd save, he ranged behind him to catch a popup in short center.  Not a bad first start to say the least.

Overall, all three have at least given Mattingly confidence to rest some regulars and put them in again.  What also helps tremendously is that the Giants are in another free fall, and the rest of the NL West flat out sucks.  Why not sprinkle in some bench players to keep everyone fresh in the stretch run?  Makes sense to me.

If you throw in Dan Haren's last two starts, which have been great, then there's a lot to like about the back end of the 25-man roster.  It's not like I expect all of them to keep dominating, as there were plenty of reasons why they had subpar numbers in the first place.  But, I do think something has to be said about joining a winning team.

It makes everyone feel better about themselves and how they play.  Now keep it going!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Clayton Kershaw, MVP frontrunner?


Clayton Kershaw continues to set the bar even higher for himself.  Sunday afternoon in Milwaukee, he put the Dodgers on his back with a marvelous performance, holding the Brew Crew down for one run in eight innings, striking out six.  And that was on a day where he probably didn't even have his best stuff.

Oh by the way, he also added an RBI single, took a walk, and was hit by a pitch.  But the true highlight of the day came on a diving catch of Jean Segura's suicide squeeze attempt in the fifth, which he then tossed to third for a double play, preserving the one-run lead.

Oh by the way (again), he's won 11 straight decisions for a 1.16 ERA, and hasn't lost since May.

He's already won the Cy Young Award twice, and certainly appears to be well on his way to a third in four years.  So what can he possibly do next?

How about the MVP of the National League.

On the Sunday night SportsCenter, a case was made that a combination of Kershaw's dominance and the lack of a true great hitter in the NL makes him the favorite.  And you know what?  It's probably true.

I want to present to you the case for Kershaw:

* Start with the overall numbers: 14-2, 1.78 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 163 K's in 136 1/3 IP.  Wow.

* He's currently leading the NL in wins, ERA, WHIP, Winning % (.875), and Complete Games (5).

* In you're a believer in WAR (Wins Above Replacement), he's leading that as well at 5.9.  The next closest is Troy Tulowitzki at 5.6.  Tulo is a great player, but he's also on the 15-day DL right now and plays for a horrible team.

* The Dodgers have the best record in the NL.

* All things considered, Kershaw is now viewed as the best pitcher in baseball, ala Justin Verlander when he won the MVP in 2011.  That season, Verlander was 24-8 with a 2.40 ERA and 0.92 WHIP.  Kershaw probably won't get that many wins, but he can definitely best the other numbers.

One factor that will definitely be huge is how the Kershaw and the Dodgers finish up the season.  If he remains at the top of his game and the Dodgers keep the #1 seed in the NL, then there will be strong consideration for him winning the MVP.  If both slip, then that will be fresh in the voters' minds, and he might not get it.

The Dodgers certainly have talent on their team, but there's no doubt Kershaw is the top dog.  Even though he plays in only one out of every five games, his impact is bigger than that.  Need a stopper after a two-game skid?  Kershaw is the guy.  Need a guy to give the bullpen a rest?  Call on Kershaw.  Need a guy to win a big game, no matter the situation?  Of course, it's Kershaw.

Depending on how Don Mattingly toggles his rotation, Kershaw has about 8-10 starts left in the regular season.  Many of those starts are against NL West opponents, and judging by the way they swing the bats, his numbers can get even better.  Things are definitely looking good.

So good, in fact, that a 2014 MVP trophy could go right next to his third Cy Young Award on his mantel.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Dodgers get Correia from the Twins

Ned Colletti stated that he wasn't done acquiring pitching help after trading for Roberto Hernandez.  Apparently he meant it by trading for Kevin Correia from the Twins for a player to be named or cash.  Sort of like the Hernandez deal.

This season has not exactly gone well for the Correia, as he's 5-13 with a 4.94 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in 26 starts.  Yikes.  Opponents are also hitting .297 against him.  Yikes again.

So, what exactly does Colletti see in Correia?  If anything, it's a low-risk investment to provide depth, whether that be as a spot starter or in long relief.  Paul Maholm is out for the season with a torn ACL, and Josh Beckett probably will be as well with a bad hip.  Dan Haren was very good against the Angels on Wednesday, but before that was atrocious.  Maybe Correia provides a boost in his spot.

If you're looking for a silver lining, then perhaps it's that Correia is more of a National League pitcher.  He was an All-Star in 2011 with the Pirates when he went 11-7 with a 4.01 ERA in the first half of the season.  Then again, he completely tanked in the second half, raising his ERA to 4.79, but I digress.

He certainly knows the NL West well, as he was a member of the Giants for many years before pitching two seasons for the Padres.  None of his stats really stand out from that time.

The bottom line is that this won't be the move that propels the Dodgers to World Series champions by any means.  All they can hope for is some solid innings from the veteran.  I can't imagine he could do a whole lot worse than Maholm did, so maybe that long relief role will fit him well.

Left field has become the Black Hole of production

Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier.

Yuck and yuck.

That's exactly what I think of them as this season has worn on, as time and time again, these two have not gotten it done at the plate.  Somehow the Dodgers are about middle of the pack in terms of AVG, OPS, and runs scored in the National League from that position.  But you wouldn't know it from watching lately.

Crawford looks completely washed up.  He's being paid $21 million this year to hit .234 with four homers, 23 RBIs, and 14 stolen bases.  His defense is just OK, but his arm is about as weak as can be.  There's very little reason to play him, especially since he's hitting .172 this month after hitting .163 in July.

Ethier might be the better of the two options, but that's barely saying anything.  He's earning $15.5 million, and is hitting .247 with four homers, 39 RBIs, and one steal.  His bat continues to show little to no life in it, not unlike Crawford.  He hit .221 in June, .239 in July, and .250 this month.  Hardly numbers worthy of what he's making.

For those of you clamoring for Scott Van Slyke, well, he's only hitting .247, and has clearly struggled since the end of June.  So it's not like he's a much better option for an everyday starter.  He should play more, but I'm not sure that's really solving the problem at all.

The most frustrating thing is that Yasiel Puig is an All-Star this season, and Matt Kemp has turned things around both at the plate and in finding a comfort spot in right field.  And then there's left field featuring two guys making over a combined $35 million this season giving the team absolutely nothing.

In a perfect world, Ned Colletti would designate one or two of them for assignment, call up Joc Pederson, and give him plenty of time to get adjusted for the playoffs.  But, those ridiculous contracts just handcuff everyone so much.  Getting rid of them without getting anything in return would be admitting a huge mistake, and because they still have the name value, that's not going to happen.

About all the Dodgers can do now is hope one of them gets hot like Kemp did and at least somewhat justify all of the playing time they receive.  Do I think that will happen?  Hell no.  But then again, I don't think anyone saw Kemp figuring things out, so at least it's possible.

The Dodgers may have the best record in the NL still, but they still have an inconsistent offense.  Getting something... ANYTHING, out of left field will only help them going forward.

Hey, I can dream at least, right?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Defense unravels late as Dodgers fall in Milwaukee

The Dodgers had to be at least somewhat tired coming into Friday night's game in Milwaukee.  Just the night before they took care of the Angels, then had to fly halfway across the country.  So it was understandable that the team might look a little sluggish.

Well, they may have been sluggish at first as they were down 2-0 after one.  But some timely hitting and a very solid start by newcomer Roberto Hernandez handed them a 3-2 lead in the seventh.

And then the Dodgers decided to play defense about as well as the Lakers did last season.  Which is to say, not at all.

If you blinked, then you missed the Brewers putting up a four-spot in the seventh thanks to two (should have been three) errors from shortstop Justin Turner.  Toss in a three-run bomb by Rickie Weeks in the eighth, and the Dodgers ended up getting creamed 9-3.

As Don Mattingly said after the game, it was the defense that did the biggest damage, as Turner had a night he'd like to completely forget.  He was actually the third shortstop used, as Hanley Ramirez had to exit after one inning with tightness in his right side.  Miguel Rojas entered after that, but as usual couldn't hit (.207), so he was lifted for pinch-hitter Andre Ethier in the seventh, who responded with an RBI infield single for the 3-2 lead.

The funny thing about the seventh is that Turner actually started off the inning with a fantastic diving catch ranging to his right.  Then it all fell apart.  He botched a double play ball from Mark Reynolds, which inexplicably was ruled a hit.  Then Brandon League tried to flip a ball home from his glove, which didn't work and led to a run.  Then Turner committed two errors on a bobble and bad throw to first.

The 3-2 lead morphed into a 6-3 deficit.  Uh, not good.

So now Mattingly has to face the dilemma of whom to play at shortstop if Hanley is out for awhile.  Rojas has a good glove, but that boy absolutely cannot hit.  The funniest sight of this game was him hitting in the cleanup spot.  He might be the worst cleanup hitter any team has used this season.  Turner certainly has a better glove than what he showed, but he's no doubt more comfortable at third.

So what can be done?  My guess is Rojas gets the call, simply because of his glove, and he'll be the automatic #8 hitter.  Turner might get some time there, but he now has a lot to prove as far as handling it defensively.  We'll see how that goes.

Other thoughts from the game:

* The Dodgers have to be very happy with what they saw from Hernandez, who overcame a shaky first to post a very respectable line of six innings, three hits, two runs, no walks, and five strikeouts.  He certainly settled down as the game progressed.  He did his part, I just wish the guys behind him did theirs.

* Adrian Gonzalez has hit very well the last couple of nights, as his solo homer in the sixth got the Dodgers on the board.  He's been as streaky as can be this year, as he has five hits in the last two games, but went 0-for-4 in each of the previous three games.  He's still second in the NL with 76 RBIs, so he's getting it done.

* One of the funniest moments of the night was when Matt Kemp got very irritated calling for a fly ball early in the game.  Close ups showed him yelling "I got it," which then turned into "I GOT IT!!!" when Yasiel Puig was lurking.  I wouldn't want to be around Kemp when he gets pissed like that.

* A final thought on Hanley.  While I can appreciate his desire to play, honesty should've taken over so the Dodgers didn't have to waste a bench spot so early in the game, and subjugated themselves to Rojas hitting cleanup.  It was obvious something was up during his only at-bat, so he must have felt something before the game.  An early scratch would have helped the team much more.

The Dodgers still have an excellent road record, and they send their two studs to the mound this weekend in Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw.  You'd like to think they'd win at least one of those games.

Friday, August 8, 2014

When the Dodgers are clicking, they're hard to beat

I'm not sure many people saw this coming, especially after getting smacked around by the Angels on Monday.  And after Clayton Kershaw suffered through a rough start to Tuesday's game.

Then the Dodgers decided to flick that switch, and when they did, they proved why they have the best record in the National League.

The latest example was Thursday night, as Hyun-Jin Ryu absolutely took over, holding the Angels scoreless in seven innings, giving up only two hits.  The offense stepped up, the defense was fantastic, and the result was an easy 7-0 win in Anaheim.

I made this comment during the Cubs' series, which was pretty much a disaster: "You never know which Dodger team will show up."  They swept the Giants, swept the Braves, then dropped two of three to the lowly Cubs.  Then they followed that up by taking three of four in the Freeway Series.  Go figure.

So what was the big difference between this series and the last one?  Energy, pitching, defense, and timely hitting.  Pretty much your recipe for any win, but all of that stuff was a notch better against the crosstown rivals.

The Dodgers had their big three pitchers going, but it was actually Dan Haren who may have shined the brightest.  Here's a breakdown of each pitcher's performance the last four games:

Greinke: 7 IP, 3 ER, 5 K
Kershaw: 7 IP, 3 ER, 7 K
Haren: 7 1/3 IP, 1 ER, 4 K
Ryu: 7 IP, 0 ER, 4 K
Total: 28 1/3 IP, 7 ER, 20 K

There's also the defense, which was flawless the last three games (all wins).  The only errors the Dodgers committed were on Monday, when Hanley Ramirez decided to throw the ball all over the place.  He was the DH last night, and Miguel Rojas put on a great display with his glove at short, with an assist to some slick grabs at first by Adrian Gonzalez.

Yasiel Puig again showed why he's fit for center field, as the only real threat the Angels put together was in the sixth.  With Mike Trout and Albert Pujols on, Josh Hamilton lifted a long fly to center that Puig caught ranging to his right against the wall.  Nothing against Matt Kemp, but it's hard to imagine he'd make the same play.  It was a great catch.

And let's not ignore the fact that the Dodgers got a hit with the bases loaded!  Yes, I did just type that.  It almost didn't happen, as Puig struck out in the seventh to make it two down, but A-Gon stroked a two-run single to left, really breaking the game open at 6-0.  With that hit, the Dodgers are now hitting .171 with the bases juiced... still dead last in the majors.  But hey, that can only go up, right?

The Dodgers certainly still have their question marks, as they lack power, good bullpen depth, and who knows if Haren can keep this up and if Roberto Hernandez is the answer at the back end of the rotation.  But, if they can play with this type of energy and spirit, they're able to overcome all of that.  This is a team that truly needs contributions from so many different parts, and in the Freeway Series, that's what they got.

The next 10 games will be just as tough, as they face the Brewers away for three, the Braves away for four, and the Brewers back home for three.  The Brew Crew are holding off the Cardinals by a game in the NL Central, and the Braves are 4 1/2 in back of the Nationals in the East.  In other words, these are big games for everyone.

New friend Hernandez gets the call in Milwaukee.  It looks like he'll be sticking around the rotation for awhile, as Josh Beckett could be gone for quite awhile with his hip problems.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Dodgers acquire Roberto Fausto Carmona Hernandez

*** UPDATE ***

It looks like Hernandez will take the place of Beckett in the rotation.  Uh oh... not a good sign for Beckett, who's obviously hurt worse than we all thought.  What a shame.

***

Ned Colletti traded for some pitching reinforcement today, picking up Roberto "Don't Call Me Fausto Carmona" Hernandez from the Phillies for a couple of players or cash.  Hernandez was lined up to start for the Phillies tonight against the Astros, but that's obviously not going to happen.

This season, Hernandez is 6-8 with a 3.87 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, and 75 K's in 121 IP.  Decent numbers, but nothing spectacular.  What is very encouraging is his work since the All-Star break, as he's 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA and 0.87 WHIP.  He's cut down big time on his walks, which has led to much better numbers.

It's unclear right now how the Dodgers will use him, as a starter or in the 'pen.  The rotation has issues at the bottom, as Josh Beckett is battling a bad hip, and Dan Haren has been hit hard before last night's start, where he dominated the Angels.  Maybe giving Hernandez a start in one of their spots is an idea, or to give everyone else an extra day of rest in a spot start.

The bullpen could certainly use him as well.  Take away Kenley Jansen and J.P. Howell, and the other options are slim and none for big outs late in games.  Jamey Wright is having a pretty good year, but he's being used more for outs earlier in the game.  Perhaps Hernandez gets a crack at pitching in setup.

Whatever the case, based on his recent success, this appears like a good move without giving up much.  It's not like the Dodgers can't afford to give away cash, and anytime there's players to be named later, it means low-end prospects.  In other words, not much being lost.

It will be interesting to see if Colletti is done here, which I doubt.  I would think he's still looking for more help in the pitching department.  We shall see what else he has in store.

Haren finally finds his groove

It's been awhile (a LONG while), but Dan Haren turned back the clock to April on Wednesday night in Anaheim.  And after Kenley Jansen struck out Josh Hamilton to end the game, the Dodgers had one of their biggest wins of the season.

Haren pitched very well into the eighth inning, including setting down the first 16 batters of the game, as the Dodgers beat the Angels for the second straight night, 2-1.  The Giants ran away from the Brewers, so the lead in the NL West remains at 2 1/2 games.

I'm not sure it's possible to say just how good and effective Haren was, as he completely baffled the mighty Angels' hitters all night long.  In fact, when he was yanked in the eighth, he was only at 87 pitches, and the bullpen of J.P. Howell and Brandon League came dangerously close to handing the lead right back.  Thankfully only one run was surrendered.

Coming into this start, Haren was as bad as bad could be.  With numbers that said 0-5 and a 10.03 ERA in his last five starts, there was no way in the world even the biggest Dodger fans could be confident about this start.  Heck, even Haren admitted after the game that he "tried almost everything" in this start, pretty much saying that he was willing to do anything to shake out of his slump.

It worked.

With a mixture of a sharp breaking ball and great fastball location, he ended up tossing 7 1/3 innings for three hits, one run, no walks, and four strikeouts.  This one start alone lowered his ERA from 4.76 to 4.57.  And more importantly for him, earned him more starts going forward.

Who would've thought that Haren would overshadow Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw the last three days?  That's how unlikely this start was.  Heck, I hope he keeps having unlikely starts going forward.  The Dodgers could sure use more quality starts from the end of the rotation going forward.

Other thoughts from the game:

* Two other guys who've been slumping (a lot) are Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford, and they each had two hits to contribute to the win.  Ethier's RBI double scored Crawford in the second for the 2-0 lead.  Throw in Justin Turner getting on base three times, and the bottom part of the order had a big game.

* The other run came from a Matt Kemp solo home run to continue his recent run.  He's slowed down a bit in August by hitting .217, but he still has three homers to up his total to 14 on the season.  On a team that sorely lacks power, I think the Dodgers will sacrifice his average for the power.

* Jansen faced a rocky road in the ninth, as Kole Calhoun led off with a single to center, then soon stole second with nobody out.  But, Jansen got Mike Trout swinging, Albert Pujols to fly to center, and Hamilton swinging to end the game.  That could have easily gone the other way, and all the work the Dodgers did to lead the entire game would've gone up in smoke.  Instead, Jansen threw smoke to earn his 32nd save.  That's tied for third in the majors with Craig Kimbrel and Greg Holland, some pretty impressive company.

* Yasiel Puig doubled and walked, but his biggest contribution was gunning down Hank Conger at third in the sixth.  It looked like Conger had it made going to third, but Puig once again showed the world why his arm strength is on another level.  Kudos to Turner for the slick catch and tag as well.  That was awesome.

This didn't seem possible after Monday's game, and after Kershaw was hit around to start the next game, but the Dodgers have a chance to take three of four in the Freeway Series.  Hyun-Jin Ryu will be the man on the mound Thursday, as he takes on C.J. Wilson.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Dodgers need Uribe more than ever

The Dodgers are in the midst of a rough stretch, with a very tough schedule against good teams and injuries on the pitching staff mounting.  Even the great Clayton Kershaw was roughed up a bit on Tuesday night against the Angels.

That's where Juan Uribe stepped in and stepped up, as his three-run homer in the second soon led to a single and game-winning run in the ninth, giving the Dodgers a 5-4 walk-off win over the Angels.

Then it became obvious to me - if the Dodgers want to survive this hard stretch in the schedule in which the next 12 games are against contending teams, they need someone like Uribe to play well.  And by "play well," I mean have nights where he's the hero just like Tuesday.

We all know the Dodgers' troubles - poor back end of the rotation, lack of good options in the bullpen, inconsistent offense.  So when you look at the box score and see Uribe's line of 2-for-4 with two runs, three RBIs, and a home run, you know they have a chance of winning anyway.  Take away his night, and it's another easy win for the Halos.

Uribe is capable of breaking out and having big nights.  Remember last season on July 5 when he hit a double, triple, and homer against the Giants for seven RBIs?  That was a big win that gave the Dodgers a two-game lead over their rivals.  Of course, we can't forget his game-winning homer to clinch the NLDS against the Braves.

Through it all, on good nights at the plate or bad, he's always bringing it at the hot corner with the glove.  I still feel that he was robbed of a Gold Glove last year, so maybe this year he gets his just due.  You never know with the voting on that damn award, so we'll see.

Tuesday night definitely made me appreciate what Uribe brings each game even more.  I'm not sure many people realize he's hitting .300, as he's hitting .313 since the All-Star break.  Those are numbers the Dodgers need, as it would be great to count on his consistency on a team surrounded by so much uncertainty.

Other thoughts from the game:

* Things didn't look so hot at first, but it was a tale of two Kershaws as the game progressed.  Fortunately for the Dodgers, he was unhittable in innings 4-7, making up for giving up three runs and being hit hard through three.  Overall, he finished at seven innings, seven hits, three runs, two walks, and seven strikeouts.  He'll take that.

* Then there's Brian Wilson, who might be among the game's worst setup men.  Albert Pujols tied the game in the eighth with a towering solo shot.  Granted, Pujols has done that to a lot of people, but it was predictable nonetheless.  Wilson's ERA is up to 5.05, and there's really no reason to keep running him out there in the setup role.  Enough already!

* Dee Gordon bounced back from a tough night at the plate on Monday by getting two hits, including a double.  He also made a fantastic play at second, scooping a low throw from Kershaw and flipping to first from his knees for a double play in the first.  His defense at second continues to be excellent.

* Let's also show some love to Matt Kemp, who made the most of his one single in the sixth.  He then stole second, beat out Mike Trout's throw to third on the overthrow, and came home on Scott Van Slyke's sac-fly RBI.  I don't think we're used to seeing him make noise with his legs anymore, so that was a great sign.

* Also was great to see Van Slyke in left, and not Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier.  Anyone is better than those two bums.

* Yes, I know Ethier was at the plate when Uribe scored the winning run, but his little dribbler to third pretty much summed out how little he has left to give at the plate.  It's kind of sad to watch.

Dan Haren gets the start tonight, as the series shifts to Anaheim for two.  It's probably a good thing the Dodgers were able to find a way to win this one, as Haren's stock has just plummeted.  This might not be pretty...