Sunday, September 30, 2012

With 4 games left, Dodgers are 2 in back of the Cards

As the Cardinals overcame a 4-0 deficit only to lose in 10 innings to the Nationals, Matt Kemp made sure the Dodgers pounced all over the opportunity.

Kemp's two homers, one of which was a 461-foot bomb, gave the Dodgers all the offense they'd need behind Joe Blanton in downing the Rockies, 3-0.  Four games remain in the regular season, so the Dodgers still have to find a way to close the two-game gap on the Cardinals.

The scoring didn't get started until the fourth.  That's when Kemp stepped up first and absolutely unloaded on a missile out to deep left, which landed only a few rows away from the top for the 1-0 lead.  He looked free and easy on the swing, maybe a sign that he finally is healthy after scuffling away for weeks as the whole offense slumped.

With one out, Hanley Ramirez collected one of his three hits, a single.  He followed that up by stealing second, and Shane Victorino walked.  Luis Cruz struck out, but A.J. Ellis picked him up with an RBI single, and it was 2-0.

The score remained as is until the eighth, when the Dodgers tacked on another.  Who was responsible for it?  That's right, that Kemp guy again.  Once again he led off, and once again he lifted a big fly to make it 3-0, this time out to right center.  That gave him 22 on the season, along with three in the last four games to go along with seven RBIs.

Brandon League got a 1-2-3 save in the ninth, striking out Chris Nelson to end it.  It's his sixth with the Dodgers.

While Kemp was the star, it was Blanton who put together a gem on the mound.  He went six innings for seven hits, no runs, no walks, and six strikeouts.  He also earned his 10th win of the season.  While his Dodger tenure didn't start off so hot, he's only given up one run in his last two starts, and has a 3.38 ERA in September.  I'd say that's slightly better than his 6.67 ERA last month.  Yup, just a bit.

Going forward, it's also a great sign if the Dodgers somehow do sneak into the playoffs.  Clayton Kershaw is back and doing his thing, Josh Beckett has been very effective with the Dodgers, and now Blanton has seemingly figured things out.  As the Cardinals showed last year, it's huge when your guys are peaking at the right time.

The bullpen was also big in this one, as Ronald Belisario, Kenley Jansen, and League threw a perfect final three innings.  I can't imagine that's a good feeling for the opposing team to see those three guys lined up ready to go.  Jansen and League are both proven closers, and Belisario is more proven to be a setup man.  Nine up, and nine down.

The Cardinals will send Lance Lynn to the mound today against the Nationals' Ross Detwiler.  They then stay home to face the Reds, who have already wrapped up the NL Central, and are pretty much only playing for the top record.  I'm not sure if that's a huge priority for them, so expect them to not exactly play all their regulars.

As of now, the Reds are planning on pitching their regulars, so here's the what the matchups look like: Bronson Arroyo vs. Jaime Garcia, Mat Latos vs. Chris Carpenter, and Homer Bailey vs. Adam Wainwright.  As you can see, it's pretty much flip a coin in any of those.

Regardless of what the Cardinals are doing, the Dodgers know they still have to take care of their own business to even have a chance.  They have the last few games, and look like a completely different team than even a week ago.  Of course, actually hitting the ball and scoring some runs makes a world of difference.

The Dodgers will go for the sweep on Sunday by sending Beckett to the mound against Jorge De La Rosa.  The Giants will then come to town, and much like the Reds, they are only playing for more home-field advantage.  The pitching matchups will be Matt Cain vs. Aaron Harang, Barry Zito vs. Chris Capuano, and Ryan Vogelsong vs. Kershaw.  We'll see how it all plays out.

No comments: