Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dodgers of April and May reappear

Poor relief pitching.  Sloppy defense.  Bad baserunning.  Very little clutch hitting.

Those were the ingredients of a mediocre Dodger team through the first couple months of the season.  After dropping two straight to the Indians at home, falling back to second place in the NL West in the process, those bad habits made their return to Dodger Stadium.

Yes, the Dodgers were a couple of innings away from taking two of three, and coupled with Adam Wainwright completely shutting down the Giants at night, would've been back in first place.  But that's the thing with the Dodgers - the margin of error really isn't that big.  That's why a one-run lead in the eighth quickly turned into a two-run deficit.  A ninth inning solo shot by Scott Van Slyke wasn't enough in a 5-4 loss.

Here's a look at each of the four categories I covered above, and how they led to a bad couple of days for the Dodgers.

* Poor relief pitching.  Brian Wilson came into this game with a 4.66 ERA, but he was actually very good in June with a 0.87 ERA in 12 appearances.  It didn't matter in this one, though.  He walked Michael Brantley leading off (who then stole second), walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Yan Gomes. 

That momentum was short-lived, though, as David Murphy's RBI single to left tied it at three, and a botched throw into third (more on that in a second) advanced both runners.  After Lonnie Chisenhall was given the intentional pass, a two-run single by Mike Aviles made it 5-3.  That was all for Wilson, whose ERA ballooned up to 5.52.

Now, hopefully, Don Mattingly will stop making him the automatic setup guy.  Simply put, hitters aren't nearly as scared of him as they once were.  There's no reason to be, as his fastball velocity continues to drop.  Ned Colletti will definitely be active in the trade market after watching this performance.  Enough is enough.

* Sloppy defense.  Ugh.  Three errors, and all of them could've easily been avoided.  Miguel Rojas made a couple of great plays at third, but dropped a grounder.  He gets a pass, because his glove has actually been really good.

Someone who does not get a pass, however, is Carlos Triunfel.  Boy did this guys stink up the joint.  He dropped an easy grounder early in the game.  Then he couldn't handle a perfect throw by A.J. Ellis to nail a runner stealing second.  Then in the infamous eighth inning, as Murphy tied the game on his single, Matt Kemp threw to third so both runners wouldn't advance.  For reasons only known to Triunfel, he wasn't even looking, the ball bounced away, both runners advanced, and then scored on Aviles' ensuing single.  It was just pathetic.

Please, Donny, don't start this guy anymore!  Maybe his .154 AVG will also convince you not to play him.  I hope.

* Bad baserunning.  That wasn't so much a problem in this game, but it sure was the night before.  Let's not forget they ran themselves into a triple play when Dee Gordon and Yasiel Puig got way too overaggressive.  Speed may kill, but it can also lead to bad decisions.  On Tuesday night, it the latter.

* Very little clutch hitting.  The Dodgers went 0-for-6 with five strikeouts with the bases loaded on Tuesday, leaving 10 men on base.  That's pretty hard to do.

Then on Wednesday, nine more men were left on base, as they went 1-for-5 with RISP.  In the ninth, they got a little rally going when Hanley Ramirez pinch-hit and walked, followed by a double from Andre Ethier (who played very well with two hits and two RBIs).  Kemp had a chance to be a hero, especially on a day where the lineup looked like it was fresh out of Triple-A with more regulars resting, but flew out meekly to center to end it.  It was another reminder that the Kemp of 2011 has long since disappeared.

So what's the good news?  The NL West is really, really bad.  The Giants are having a horrific time scoring runs, and there's talk of Bruce Bochy drastically changing the look of his lineup, which he should.  The Dodgers don't have much to worry about when it comes to the teams behind them catching up.

Coming up next is four games in Colorado.  The good news is that Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw are lined up to go the next two days.  The bad news is that, well... it's Coors Field.  Anything can happen in that damn place, including inflated ERA's.  The Giants finish up with a Thursday afternoon tilt against the Cards before heading to San Diego for three.

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