Monday, October 1, 2012

5 straight wins keeps the pressure on

Say what you want about the Dodgers and their late surge, but this much is true: they're at least making the Cardinals sweat a little.

Not too long after the Cardinals slapped around the Nationals 10-4, the Dodgers went right out and won again, blowing past the Rockies, 7-1.  And with that, the Dodgers remain two games in back of the Cardinals for the final Wild Card spot, eliminating the Brewers in the process.

The Rockies and their 97 losses at least made the game interesting through 3 1/2 innings.  Both Jorge De La Rosa and Josh Beckett put some runners on, but nothing came across early.  Becket was especially helped out by a fantastic double play to end the third, as Mark Ellis ranged to his left to nab Jordan Pacheco's grounder to start it.  If that goes through, who knows if the Rockies put a big rally together.

Leading off the fourth, Andrew Brown took one out to left for a solo shot go to up 1-0.  That would mark the first run of this pitiful series for the Rockies, as they had been outscored 11-0 up to that point.

The fun for them would be short-lived, however, as the Dodgers immediately went to work in the bottom half.  Shane Victorino was in the #2 spot for this game, and he singled leading off.  Matt Kemp then stepped in and hit another home run, a two-run shot to right that just found it's way over to the wall for the 2-1 edge.  It's his third in the last two games, as he's clearly found his stroke again.

Adrian Gonzalez kept things going with a single before Hanley Ramirez flew out.  Luis Cruuuuuuuuz out-Kemped Kemp with a two-run laser out to left, making it 4-1. 

The Rockies did put two on to start the fifth, as Cruz threw away a grounder from Josh Rutledge, and Rafael Ortega successfully bunted.  Nothing came of it, though, as a strikeout, pop up, and fielder's choice ended that threat.

Another run was added in the fifth for the Dodgers.  With two outs, Victorino and Kemp singled, and Gonzo walked.  Ramirez ripped an RBI single to left to go up 5-1, but Kemp was thrown out at home trying to get more.  It was a good throw out in left by Chase Blackmon, so it was worth a shot.

The third two-run homer of the game ended the scoring in the seventh.  Andre Ethier drew a one-out walk, which led to a big fly from A.J. Ellis, his 12th of the season, to make it 7-1.

Over the final three innings, the Rockies put five men on base, including loading the bases in the seventh, but could never get that big hit.  It was very much like watching the Dodgers from earlier in September.  The Rockies were that miserable in scoring opportunities.  No wonder why they stink.  Really, really stink.

The guy who once again led the way was Kemp.  His 23rd tater of the season only shows how much better the Dodgers are when this guy's right.  He started September with a .331 average, only to watch it nosedive down to .298 on 25th.  In the five games since then, he's 11-for-20 (.550) with four homers and nine RBIs.  I'm not sure if he's simply healthy now or just seeing the ball better, but whatever the reason, he is on fire.

And no surprise, as Kemp is hitting, the Dodgers as a whole are hitting, and the wins have piled in.  They've won by scores of 8-2, 8-4, 8-0, 3-0, and 7-1.  Add it all up, and they've outscored the Padres and Rockies 34-7.  Hey, that's about what the Raiders lost to the Broncos by on Sunday.  Sorry, but as a Raider fan, not all is rosy in the sports world.

Anyway, it's clear the Dodgers feed off of Kemp's energy, and as he goes, so goes the offense.  I know the Padres and Rockies aren't the world's greatest baseball teams, but the Dodgers looked bad against everybody not long ago, even teams like them.  To see them finally score like they're capable of is refreshing.

Beckett gave a good lift as well, going six innings for six hits, one run, three walks, and five strikeouts.  I remember Curt Schilling saying how Beckett would be the big winner in the Boston trade, and although I'm no Schilling fan by any stretch, I have to say he is correct.  Forget the 2-3 record, his 2.93 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in seven starts show how effective he's been.

The magic number for the Cardinals is two, so despite the much-improved play of the Dodgers over the past week, it could all be over after Monday.  Simply put, if the Cardinals win and the Dodgers lose, then it's back to the golf course starting Thursday.  Of course, if the opposite happens and the Dodgers are only a game back, then Tuesday and Wednesday become so much more interesting.

For now, the Dodgers have to focus on the hated Giants, who just enjoyed an awesome September.  Aaron Harang will need to step up and deliver one of his best starts of the season, as he'll go against Matt Cain. 

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