- Mark Saxon, ESPNLosAngeles.com
- 0 Shares
The Los Angeles Dodgers made a lot of noise around the trade deadline, but they didn't change the identity of this team. It's still about Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, one elite slugger, one elite pitcher.
When the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants meet, it's usually about pitching, primarily because that's what these teams do. This is an intense rivalry, but a quieter rivalry, most nights, than its Midwest and East Coast counterparts.
And that meant Kershaw was under the spotlight Monday as he tried vainly to pitch as well as the Giants' Madison Bumgarner. Kershaw ought to know better than anybody how tough the Giants' pitching is. He has a 1.74 ERA against San Francisco this season and he's 1-3.
"We've got eight more games with these guys and, hopefully, it's not 2-1 every night and we can blow them out a couple times, but that's what we've got to be prepared for," Kershaw said.
If nothing else, Kershaw hit better than Bumgarner on Monday, but his two singles were 40 percent of the Dodgers' output. Kemp has been the centerpiece of this offense, when he's healthy, for the past year and a half, but he is in his worst slump since 2010.
He's working to get out of it -- showing up shortly after noon on Monday to take extra batting practice -- but sometimes it takes a little while to get results. Kemp is 0 for his past 19, striking out in the sixth inning to waste the Dodgers' best scoring chance until Hanley Ramirez's two-out home run in the ninth inning.
After that strikeout, Kemp started to chuck the bat, then thought better of it and held on. He started to break it over his knee, then thought better of that. Those might have been his best decisions with a bat in his hand in the past five days.
"I think he's been a little impatient, swinging at the ball out of the strike zone a little bit," manager Don Mattingly said. "They kind of pounded him a little in Pittsburgh and he kind of got a little conscious and that gets you in trouble.
"He needs to stay with what he does and that's pretty much it. You start looking for a ball in and you're in trouble."
Monday night felt like the beginning of the end of what could be a memorable pennant race between these teams. Nobody figures to have a bigger say on its outcome than the Dodgers' best pitcher and the Dodgers' best hitter.