Sunday, April 6, 2014

Maholm provides depth, but no intimidation

Paul Maholm's first start as a Dodger started off decently, as the Giants had a slight 2-1 edge going into the fifth.

And then reality set in, and Maholm's soft tossing ways got him smacked around.  Pablo Sandoval's three-run homer, an inning after Michael Morse's 427-foot bomb, gave the Giants the lead for good as they cruised for the second straight day 7-2.

For the Dodgers, it was the uncommon sight of a starting pitcher being taken out of the game early.  In Friday's home opener, Hyun-Jin Ryu was chased after two innings and eight runs (six earned), and on Saturday it was Maholm lasting 4 1/3 innings for five runs.

Perhaps most alarming was only one strikeout of the 21 batters he faced.  The reason?  He might have some good off speed stuff, but I can't imagine any reason for a batter to be intimidated by him.  When a starting pitcher fails to reach 90 MPH, and he's not named Greg Maddux, then it's going to be hard to get big outs.

Saturday's start was the perfect example of a pitcher like Maholm being effective for only so long until the opposing hitters settle in.  He got a double play from Hunter Pence in the first, and nearly got another from Brandon Crawford the next inning, but had to settle for one out and one run.  The third saw a double from Pence, but he was stranded.

From there, it was batting practice time.  Morse unloaded on his solo bomb to start the fourth, and after the Dodgers' offense wasted Adrian Gonzalez's leadoff double with three straight strikeouts, Madison Bumgarner and Angel Pagan's singles in the fifth led to Sandoval's three-run tater.  That was all she wrote for Maholm.

If you recall, Maholm was brought in right at the end of Spring Training, and it was a good thing considering Clayton Kershaw, Josh Beckett, and Chad Billingsley are unavailable right now.  The problem is that if you're an opposing hitter, not only are you happy not to see those three names on the mound (especially the first one), but you can definitely stay patient and figure out Maholm because he won't blow you away.

Who knows how many more starts Maholm will get, but with reports of Beckett and Billingsley being near, maybe it will be none.  I thought Jamey Wright would play the long relief role, but so far Don Mattingly hasn't used him like that, so maybe that will be Maholm's spot instead.

Other thoughts from the game:

* Yasiel Puig was back in the leadoff role, and like usual, it was an adventure.  He bruised his thumb diving into first, got picked off of first, and flew out with the bases loaded late in the game.  Hey, at least he was there and hustling, so let's run with it.

* Matt Kemp obviously will have to be patient as he regains his timing.  He was 0-for-4 with a couple of punchouts.  Then again, strikeouts have always been a problem, but it might be awhile before we see big hits thrown in there, too.

* No Dodger had a multi-hit game, something that three Giants accomplished.  Hanley Ramirez is hitting .192, and A-Gon .167.  That will obviously change, but until it doesn't, don't expect to see many runs scored.

* Good to see Scott Van Slyke's name back in the starting lineup, as he got on twice and scored both times.

* Justin Turner hitting starting at second and hitting in the #2 spot?  I didn't like it, especially since Dee Gordon is hitting .421 and is clearly a more exciting player.  Let's see Gordon getting more consistent playing time.

Sunday will be a nationally televised game on ESPN 2, as it's a good matchup between Zack Greinke and Matt Cain.  So far the Dodgers look like they've settled in a little too much to being at home and have gotten slapped around by the rivals.  A big start by Greinke and some hits from the heart of the order can at least get one back before the Tigers and Max Scherzer come to town on Tuesday.

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