3 up, 3 down: Dodgers 6, Rockies 4
August, 8, 2012
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers are in hold-on-tight mode and Wednesday's 6-4 win over the last-place Colorado Rockies might have kept them from slipping to an uncomfortable place.
A loss would have given the Dodgers their second series sweep in this nine-game homestand and sent them off on a tough road trip with a 2 1/2-game deficit in the NL West.
Aloha Airlines. You don't often see a player score from first base on a single, but Shane Victorino is the kind of guy who would do it because of his speed and relentless energy. He was running on Mark Ellis's single to right-center in the sixth inning and just kept going, urged on by third-base coach Tim Wallach. He has been sparking the offense for three straight games, but Wednesday was the first time it took. Victorino was in the middle of everything, singling three times and scoring three runs.
Hanging Chad. Chad Billingsley was shaky early, giving up two first-inning runs, but he did what you want your starter to do. When the Dodgers started scoring, Billingsley held the other team down. He cruised from the fourth through seventh innings, retiring eight straight batters to give the Dodgers' offense a chance to snap out of its deep funk. Billingsley is finally giving the Dodgers what they hoped he would, a solid No. 2 starter. He is riding a four-game winning streak, having gone at least six innings in all of them.
Quick bang. When a team is in a funk, it's time for the guy who gets the cover stories to wake everybody up. Matt Kemp did that, loudly yanking a Jeff Francis pitch into the third row of left-field bleachers in the first inning for a three-run home run, tripling the Dodgers' scoring output from the previous two nights with one swing. Andre Ethier isn't hitting with power, Hanley Ramirez hasn't quite settled in. It's Kemp's team to begin with, but never more than right now.
Not the Juan. In a way, the Dodgers are lucky. Their two biggest offensive holes are in left field and first base, the two easiest spots to stuff a big bat into. Whatever they do this winter, they simply can't continue to stick with a Juan Rivera-James Loney platoon at first base. Rivera used to have decent pop, but that seems to have abandoned him and his lack of speed often makes him an easy out. Dodgers first baseman ranked No. 28 in the majors in OPS coming into Wednesday and Rivera didn't help that with an 0-for-4 evening. Hitting into double plays is kind of his thing.
Third dimension. Now that we're on the topic, the Dodgers don't exactly get a lot of thunder from the other infield corner either. Jerry Hairston Jr. might be their best offensive option there right now and that kind of says it all. He's a scrappy utility guy who does a lot of things well, but he's hardly a force of nature in the batter's box. Other than the pop-up that DJ LeMahieu simply dropped, Hairston couldn't get his way on base. Add third base to the off-season to-do list.
A stretch. Ethier was out easily trying to stretch a third-inning single for an extra base. Maybe he was just desperate to get past first, because his bat hasn't been getting him there lately. Ethier had a couple of singles, but he hasn't homered in nearly a month -- since July 14 -- and he has just one extra-base hit since July 29. When he's right, he's a doubles machine so apparently he's not right.