Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hanley's blast is all Nolasco needs

In a sparkling pitching duel between Ricky Nolasco and John Lackey, the game was decided on one swing from a Red Sox' original.

Hanley Ramirez's two-run homer to center proved to be the game-winning hit, as the Dodgers beat the Red Sox, 2-0.  It was the first meeting between the teams responsible for one of the biggest trades in baseball history about a year ago.  The win puts the Dodgers a whopping 10 1/2 games up in the NL West.

Yes, it was a good night.

The Dodgers had to wish they were able to run Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke out to the mound against their mighty American League counterparts.  But after those two combined to throw 16 innings of one-run ball against the Marlins, they'll have to wait until next week against the Cubs to pitch again.

Instead, Nolasco, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Chris Capuano all the got the calls to start instead.  Nolasco has certainly pitched well since coming over from the Marlins in early July, but I'm not sure people expected him to be as dominant as he was on Friday.

Good for the Dodgers, he was.  Led by a great fastball and a sharp breaking ball, he went eight innings for two hits, no runs, no walks, and six strikeouts, making him 5-1 with a 2.53 ERA and 1.14 WHIP with the Dodgers.  And that's just awesome.

Lackey was every bit as good, save for the big blow by Ramirez in the fourth.  Carl Crawford, who definitely has not hid his bitter feelings about his old team, singled leading off after Lackey retired the first nine in order.  Yasiel Puig popped up and Adrian Gonzalez flew out for two down.

Ramirez got the day off on Thursday, as Don Mattingly made a slick call in resting his star while Kershaw was on the mound.  It turned out to be the right thing to do, as Ramirez cranked a two-run shot just out of the reach of Shane Victorino in center, and it was 2-0.

The best chance for the Red Sox to score was in the fifth.  It started with one out as Daniel Nava was beaned on the foot.  Stephen Drew followed with a single.  Will Middlebrooks hit a hard grounder to third, but Juan Uribe fielded it cleanly, threw to second from his knee for one out, and Mark Ellis completed the double play.

Nolasco was flawless the next three innings, as he ended up retiring the final 10 batters faced.  In the ninth, Kenley Jansen got Mike Carp and Jacoby Ellsbury swinging, and Victorino popped to Ramirez at short for the last out, as Dodger Stadium was rocking.  It was Jansen's 22nd save.

I mentioned after Thursday's win how much fun it is to describe this recent run.  And guess what?  I'm about to do it again!  With the win, the Dodgers are now on a 46-10 run, 29-5 since the All-Star break, and 19-3 in August.  The team ERA this month is a ridiculous 1.86.  It's hard to imagine doing any better than that.

And now with the lead of 10 1/2 games in the NL West, the Dodgers have their first double-digit lead in the division since 1977 over the Reds.  Wow!

At some point (maybe now), the Dodgers can shift their attention away from the division and focus on home-field advantage.  In taking a look at that, the Braves hold a slim one-game lead over the Dodgers and Pirates for tops in the NL.  The Dodgers would get home field over the Pirates if the playoffs started today thanks to a 4-2 season series advantage.

There's still plenty of games to go, and the Dodgers will look to take another series with a win on Saturday.  Ryu will get the call against Jon Lester.  It's a FOX game, which means I have to suffer through the Mets and Tigers.  Ugh!  Vin Scully and Charlie Steiner on XM Radio, here I come.

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