Tuesday, July 31, 2012
3 up, 3 down: D-backs 8, Dodgers 2
By Mark Saxon
LOS ANGELES -- It's hard to hit home runs at Dodger Stadium, but apparently it's not that hard.
The Arizona Diamondbacks -- and, especially, their 6-foot-3, 230-pound first baseman, Paul Goldschmidt -- have managed to find their way out of this ballpark just fine the past couple of nights.
Goldschmidt again got Arizona off to a running start with a first-inning home run and Arizona rolled 8-2 Tuesday night in a stinging defeat for the Dodgers, who slipped a game behind the first-place San Francisco Giants in the NL West. They're just holding off surging Arizona for second place, only 2 1/2 games up.
Hot Kemp. When Matt Kemp feels good at the plate, the Dodgers usually feel good about their chances. He has been seeing the ball quite well, judging from his three multi-hit games in the last four starts. Kemp had a monster day Saturday in San Francisco and he is 5-for-8 thus far on this homestand. As the Dodgers try to steady themselves offensively, Kemp, as usual, will be the pillar they stand on.
Flash of power. Mark Ellis doesn't put up staggering numbers, but he's the type of guy who tends to help teams win. Ellis is batting .288 in 29 games against NL West teams this season and the Dodgers are nine games over .500 when he starts. His time to shine, typically, is against left-handed pitchers. All four of Ellis' home runs have come against lefties. He launched one down the left-field line off Wade Miley in the first inning to give the Dodgers' struggling offense its only life.
Stop gap. Luis Cruz may not be the solution at shortstop for long, but he's doing a fine job holding the spot for Dee Gordon or Hanley Ramirez at the moment. Cruz lined a double into right-center in the second inning -- 11 of his 23 hits for the Dodgers have gone for extra bases -- and he made a nice play in the ninth inning or it would have been uglier. Cruz dove for Paul Goldschmidt's grounder up the middle and flipped to Ellis to force out Jason Kubel at second.
Combustion. Things were quieted for a while, Chris Capuano having settled into a nice groove through the middle innings, but they got loud quickly. The Diamondbacks bunched four straight hits in the sixth inning, with the crowning shot being Miguel Montero's three-run home run. The weird part about Tuesday was Capuano's sometimes-iffy command. He walked a batter before Goldschmit's first-inning home run and his three walks were the most he had given up since June 11. Had he pitched better, Capuano would have been in line for his 11th win, his total from all of last season.
Misfiring. As slump-prone as the Dodgers offense has been, one or two bad nights can send this fan base into a panic. Tuesday was one of those nights. The Dodgers managed just five hits and, aside from Ellis' first-inning home run, they were so widely scattered as to amount to almost nothing. On the plus side, they haven't been shut out since June 30, which was the fifth time in six games they didn't score a single run.
No-role players. A couple of veterans appear to have dubious roles after the Dodgers' trade-deadline makeover. Juan Uribe barely plays as it is and could be in danger of losing his roster spot now that Ramirez is holding down third base. Bobby Abreu has been a moderately useful left-handed bat off the bench, but that's less appealing now that Shane Victorino, a switch hitter, is on his way. They've both enjoyed their share of glory in the game, but those days appear to be over.