3 Up, 3 Down: Dodgers 6, Braves 2
August, 18, 2012
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
The Dodgers are at their best when their offense is efficient, and you can't maximize productivity much more than they did Saturday in Atlanta.
The Dodgers had only four hits, but they were all home runs in their 6-2 win over the Braves. The Dodgers hit three consecutive solo home runs in the second inning off Ben Sheets and got a solid pitching performance from Aaron Harang to win their sixth game in this 10-game road trip with one game remaining on Sunday.
Battering Ram. Ever since the Dodgers acquired Hanley Ramirez a week before the trade deadline, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has compared his new shortstop to Matt Kemp. That's how much talent the Dodgers think Ramirez has and, so far, he's done nothing to prove them wrong. His home runs even looked like Kemp's Saturday. He hit two of them, one a moon shot to right-center and another low liner to left. He has been remarkably productive for the Dodgers, with 27 RBIs in 23 games.
Deeper pitching. The way things were going for Aaron Harang in the first inning, it looked like the Dodgers might be buried early. But he struck out David Ross with the bases loaded and was able to minimize the damage to one run. After that, he got into a nice groove and pitched into the seventh inning, striking out eight Braves. Like Chad Billingsley and Chris Capuano, Harang is having a strong August and it's making the Dodgers as competitive as they've been since early May.
Unexpected pop. James Loney has hit four home runs all year, but two in the past three games. Luis Cruz, a 28-year-old longtime minor leaguer, wasn't exactly a Triple Crown threat before this season, but he has been driving in runs at a surprising rate since his call-up from Triple-A Albuquerque. The Dodgers thought they added depth to their lineup by adding Shane Victorino and Ramirez at the deadline -- and they have -- but some of this offensive renaissance is explained by production from surprising sources.
Out of sorts? It's probably a coincidence, but Kemp hasn't gotten a hit since Thursday's ejection. Kemp did walk, steal a base and score a run, but he hasn't been quite as locked-in lately, without a hit in his last three games. Ramirez is doing a nice fill-in job for Kemp's missing production, but the Dodgers need their best player to get going again in this crucial stretch.
Sniping. Ozzie Guillen is fun to be around and it's refreshing to see someone in baseball speak his mind so freely, but did he really have to take a shot at a former player -- especially one who is helping another team claw back into the playoff picture? Guillen told reporters this week that, if Ramirez "hit a home run down by 30 runs, he would pimp it. That's the way he is." It's one thing for a pitcher to take offense at Ramirez's antics -- as A.J. Burnett clearly did Thursday -- but why does another manager have to weigh in from hundreds of miles away?
Ethier or... The Dodgers still haven't seen Andre Ethier truly hot since May. He has gotten his share of hits this month, but they're virtually all singles. Ethier has one double and one home run in August. This offense probably will never be feared, but if the Dodgers can get Ramirez, Kemp and Ethier going at the same time, it would at least be worthy of an opponent's respect.