Good day for outfielders in a win

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
9:52
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Ever since right fielder Yasiel Puig busted onto the scene and took this place by storm, the question has been what do the Los Angeles Dodgers do when all four of their star outfielders are healthy?

That time finally arrived April 4 when Matt Kemp came off the disabled list, and since then, manager Don Mattingly has sent all four players through a revolving starting lineup card.

While he gets the occasional stink eye from the odd man out, the real problem has been that none of the four outfielders, who are combining to make $58.5 million this season, has produced enough offensively to force their way into the everyday lineup. Entering Saturday's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, none of the four were hitting above Yasiel Puig's .235, and Kemp, the most visually displeased when he sits, was the low man at .179.

[+] EnlargeAndre Ethier
Gary Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsAndre Ethier's three-run homer was the spark the Dodgers needed Saturday, but Matt Kemp (and Carl Crawford, too) also contributed to the win.
"They just aren't swinging the bats as good as they can yet," Mattingly said before the Dodgers' 8-6 victory Saturday.

Clearly Mattingly was stating a fact there, but three of those four outfielders -- it was Puig's turn to sit Saturday -- were big reasons for this latest win.

Kemp: 2-for-4, two RBIs, run scored, stolen base.

Andre Ethier: Three-run home run.

Carl Crawford: Single, run scored.


Saturday aside, the four outfielders -- though each have had some memorable moments in the first month of the season -- have been disappointing in a year when they were supposed to be one of the team's greatest strengths. Their woes have been somewhat masked in the lineup by hot starts from Juan Uribe and Dee Gordon.

Crawford, Kemp and Ethier combined to go 0-for-3 in their first at-bats Saturday. But it was Kemp's single in his second trip that set the table for Ethier's three-run home run, cutting into Arizona's four-run lead in the fourth inning.

Crawford got going the next inning with a single. One batter later, Diamondbacks starter Mike Bolsinger was lifted.

"The second time through we were able to see him and make adjustments," Ethier said, downplaying his home run and the feat of 600 RBIs with the franchise, the sixth Dodger to reach that milestone.

Mattingly was worried he'd have to scratch Ethier from the lineup because he was feeling sick. Ethier took an IV before the game and ended up delivering the big hit.

"That home run was huge," Mattingly said. "It kind of changes the game right there, gets momentum going."

The Diamondbacks brought in left-hander Oliver Perez after Bolsinger. The idea was that Perez could face at least three hitters: Adrian Gonzalez, Kemp and Ethier, with Gonzalez and Ethier being left-handed hitters.

Two seasons ago, this would have never been considered by any manager in the league, allowing Kemp to bat against a lefty in a big spot, but entering this game Kemp was was 1-for-15 against left-handed pitching this season.

"I usually do pretty good against left-handed pitching," Kemp said. "But lately I haven't been doing well against any pitching. It doesn't matter who is on the mound."

The strategy backfired on Arizona manager Kirk Gibson. Kemp stroked a 92-mph fastball from Perez into center field, scoring two more runs that ended up being the winning margin.

The outfield wasn't without issues. Kemp struck out twice, both looking, and casually played a routine single by Chris Owings into a double. Crawford also struck out looking and managed a couple of weak grounders wrapped around his single. Either also struck out once.

Mattingly was asked if the outfielders getting an occasional day off was hindering their chances to get into an offensive groove. He quickly dismissed that theory and reminded that the sample size is still small enough for a hot streak to drastically change how the numbers appear on paper.

"Everybody is still pretty regular," Mattingly said. "I don't feel it's because four guys are sharing three spots in the outfield.

"Obviously there have been very few at-bats. That can change quickly."

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Yasiel Puig
BA HR RBI R
.296 16 69 92
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Gonzalez 27
RBIA. Gonzalez 116
RY. Puig 92
OPSY. Puig .863
WC. Kershaw 21
ERAC. Kershaw 1.77
SOC. Kershaw 239