Monday, August 18, 2014

Dodgers hit a lull, so what's the problem?

For anyone who thought the Dodgers might be able to run away with not only the NL West, but the National League as a whole, think again.

The Brewers came into Dodger Stadium and showed why they're a legit contender with a three-game sweep, finishing off the Dodgers with a 7-2 shellacking on Sunday.  Couple that with last weekend, and the Brew Crew have to feel good about taking five of six from LA.  And that's with both Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke starting four of the six games.

After getting the lead in the NL West up to over six games, the lead over the Giants has dropped to 3 1/2.  Washington and Milwaukee are now ahead of the Dodgers in the race for #1 seed in the NL.

Simply put, like the headline says, the Dodgers are in a lull, dropping three straight and four of five.  So what's the deal?  Here's the deal:

* In those four loses, the offense has scored nine runs, averaging 2.3 per.  Even with great starting pitching, it's hard to win many games like that.

* Hyun-Jin Ryu was placed on the DL with a sore glute muscle.  Kevin Correia will fill in, and while he had a great opening act, isn't the caliber of Ryu over the long haul.

* Juan Uribe was placed on the DL with a strained hamstring.  Justin Turner will see action at third, but his glove has been shaky to say the least of late.

* Greinke hasn't been as sharp in August.  In three starts, he's 0-2 with a 3.50 ERA.  He walked five in only five innings his last start, running his pitch count way up to 99.

* The bullpen completely imploded on Friday night, as Jamey Wright and Brandon League combined to give up five runs in the eighth.  The eighth inning, as I recently wrote about, has been a huge disappointment.

* Even Kershaw was off his normal dominant self, giving up a couple of home runs in losing on Saturday.  Of course, he still went the distance and only surrendered three runs, but his offense gave him nothing.

* Dee Gordon still has his big games, but has seen his numbers dip a bit after the break, and one has to wonder if he's slowing down a bit just from the grind of the long season.

* Matt Kemp was red hot in July, but in August he's back down to hitting .219.  He's actually hit safely in 12 of 17 games, but most of those are 1-for-4 or 1-for-5.

* The defense is much-improved since the start of the season, but is still middle of the pack in fielding %.  Losing Uribe at third does nothing to help, either.

* All the good vibes Dan Haren had coming into Sunday may have come to screeching halt, as the Brewers smacked him around.

Brian Kamenetzky of wrote a good article about how this is not a time to panic, and to instead "keep the faith."  It makes a lot of sense, as every team is bound to go through peaks and valleys over the course of a 162-game season.

But, for the many reasons listed above, it's also realistic that the Dodgers need to figure things out in order to keep that first place standing in the NL West.  When one of their key starting pitchers and starting third baseman get hurt, then they get swept at home, there's reasons to be a little nervous.

There is some good news, as Hanley Ramirez looks like he'll be ready to go when he comes off the DL next Sunday.  As a bonus, it looks like he might play some third, something he did in his Marlins' days when they acquired Jose Reyes.  That will get his bat back in the lineup, and keep the better fielding Miguel Rojas at short.

That's still a week away, and in the meantime the Dodgers will welcome the Padres and Mets into town starting Tuesday.  Even though they both stink, with the way the Dodgers play at home, they can't afford to overlook anyone.  If they do, they might find themselves in second in no time.

We'll see what the Dodgers' depth can do, as they will go deep into their 25-man roster to stay afloat.  It would be great if guys like Kemp, Gordon, and Adrian Gonzalez have a big week, and the Dodgers can get rolling again.  They are the stars, so now they need to step up and play like it.

Oh ya, and not blowing more leads in the eighth inning would help too.

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