Friday, August 8, 2014

When the Dodgers are clicking, they're hard to beat

I'm not sure many people saw this coming, especially after getting smacked around by the Angels on Monday.  And after Clayton Kershaw suffered through a rough start to Tuesday's game.

Then the Dodgers decided to flick that switch, and when they did, they proved why they have the best record in the National League.

The latest example was Thursday night, as Hyun-Jin Ryu absolutely took over, holding the Angels scoreless in seven innings, giving up only two hits.  The offense stepped up, the defense was fantastic, and the result was an easy 7-0 win in Anaheim.

I made this comment during the Cubs' series, which was pretty much a disaster: "You never know which Dodger team will show up."  They swept the Giants, swept the Braves, then dropped two of three to the lowly Cubs.  Then they followed that up by taking three of four in the Freeway Series.  Go figure.

So what was the big difference between this series and the last one?  Energy, pitching, defense, and timely hitting.  Pretty much your recipe for any win, but all of that stuff was a notch better against the crosstown rivals.

The Dodgers had their big three pitchers going, but it was actually Dan Haren who may have shined the brightest.  Here's a breakdown of each pitcher's performance the last four games:

Greinke: 7 IP, 3 ER, 5 K
Kershaw: 7 IP, 3 ER, 7 K
Haren: 7 1/3 IP, 1 ER, 4 K
Ryu: 7 IP, 0 ER, 4 K
Total: 28 1/3 IP, 7 ER, 20 K

There's also the defense, which was flawless the last three games (all wins).  The only errors the Dodgers committed were on Monday, when Hanley Ramirez decided to throw the ball all over the place.  He was the DH last night, and Miguel Rojas put on a great display with his glove at short, with an assist to some slick grabs at first by Adrian Gonzalez.

Yasiel Puig again showed why he's fit for center field, as the only real threat the Angels put together was in the sixth.  With Mike Trout and Albert Pujols on, Josh Hamilton lifted a long fly to center that Puig caught ranging to his right against the wall.  Nothing against Matt Kemp, but it's hard to imagine he'd make the same play.  It was a great catch.

And let's not ignore the fact that the Dodgers got a hit with the bases loaded!  Yes, I did just type that.  It almost didn't happen, as Puig struck out in the seventh to make it two down, but A-Gon stroked a two-run single to left, really breaking the game open at 6-0.  With that hit, the Dodgers are now hitting .171 with the bases juiced... still dead last in the majors.  But hey, that can only go up, right?

The Dodgers certainly still have their question marks, as they lack power, good bullpen depth, and who knows if Haren can keep this up and if Roberto Hernandez is the answer at the back end of the rotation.  But, if they can play with this type of energy and spirit, they're able to overcome all of that.  This is a team that truly needs contributions from so many different parts, and in the Freeway Series, that's what they got.

The next 10 games will be just as tough, as they face the Brewers away for three, the Braves away for four, and the Brewers back home for three.  The Brew Crew are holding off the Cardinals by a game in the NL Central, and the Braves are 4 1/2 in back of the Nationals in the East.  In other words, these are big games for everyone.

New friend Hernandez gets the call in Milwaukee.  It looks like he'll be sticking around the rotation for awhile, as Josh Beckett could be gone for quite awhile with his hip problems.

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