Friday, May 2, 2014

If Kemp and Hanley don't hit, then forget it

The road weary Dodgers dropped the first game in Miami on Friday night 6-3.  It was only a 2-0 game heading into the bottom of the seventh when the Marlins scored four.  The Dodgers somewhat woke up with a few late runs, but it wasn't enough.

I'm not surprised about this result, as you can understand the Dodgers being tired from their long day in Minnesota on Thursday.  At least that resulted in two wins.

Regardless, even with the lack of sleep, one thing became more than obvious to me in watching this: the Dodgers are heading nowhere if Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez don't hit.  They can still win games, but you can forget about a World Series run.  That's how valuable they are.

Last season the Dodgers came withing two games of playing for a championship, and that was with Kemp on crutches and Ramirez practically useless from being beaned in the ribs during Game 1 of the NLCS.  So, the talent is obviously there from the guys around them to at least compete.

But, "compete" and "contend" are two different things.  In order to contend, these two guys should be right in the heart of the order doing damage.  Tonight Ramirez went 0-for-4, lowering his average 10 points to .261.  He's actually hit safely in 8 of his last 10 games, but is in a 3-for-18 slide after peaking at .280.

Kemp didn't start, but did pinch-hit against the left-handed Mike Dunn, who entered this game with a 6.17 ERA.  The result?  Kemp struck out with a runner on to end the eighth.  He now has 28 strikeouts in 24 games and is hitting .205.

Nearly a month ago, both of these guys hit two home runs in the same game on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball to beat the Giants.  It sure looked like at the time they were ready to go on a run.  That just hasn't happened.

So why hasn't it happened?  There could be a couple of reasons in particular.  You always have to start with the injury factor with these two.  Ramirez was beaned in the hand two weeks ago, and clearly hasn't been the same since then.  Kemp has an injured... everything, at least at some point or another.  I don't think either one will ever by 100% again, but maybe they're hurt worse than they're letting on right now.

The second issue, fair or not, is the contract situations.  Kemp has his, but ever since he extended a couple years back, it's been more time sitting and watching than playing MVP-type baseball.  Ramirez wants his, but the early lack of pop in his bat combined with mediocre defense at short leaves even the cash happy Dodgers a little leery of giving a huge extension.  Any player in his contract year feels the pressure, and Ramirez maybe even more so.

Perhaps the Dodgers only need one of these two to get hot, as they showed last season that winning the division and in the playoffs can be done that way.  However, just the mere thought of having two big bats in the lineup makes this team so much deadlier.  They've done it before, now we need to see if they can do it again.

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