Wednesday, September 5, 2012
3 up, 3 down: Padres 4, Dodgers 3
By Mark Saxon
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers lost no ground in either playoff race, but they could be headed for a perilous drop.
The Dodgers lost 4-3 to the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night. Since Aug. 22, the last time they played the San Francisco Giants -- this weekend's opponent -- they have lost two games in the standings despite playing nothing but teams with losing records.
The Dodgers are 6-10 since the Giants dropped by Dodger Stadium on Aug. 20.
Now, the grass gets a little thicker. In their next 15 games, the Dodgers play nothing but the best teams in their league: all three division leaders and the team ahead of them in the wild-card standings, the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Dodgers trail the Giants by 4 1/2 games and the Cardinals by a game-and-a-half.
Mini motor. Shane Victorino's game is based on creating action, but he has been stuck on neutral for the Dodgers. He came into Wednesday batting .238 with just one home run since the trade. It seemed like a shaky acquisition, considering he's a free agent in a couple months and it cost the Dodgers a decent reliever, Josh Lindblom, and a borderline prospect, Ethan Martin (5-0 with 3.18 ERA since the trade). But if Victorino helps get the Dodgers to the playoffs, it might prove a worthwhile gamble. Wednesday was a start. He went 3-for-4, was on base four times, and scored a run.
When it counts. Adrian Gonzalez is not having the greatest year, at least by his standards. His power is down and, since being traded from Boston Red Sox, he was hitting .239. But he has excelled at one particular skill this year: driving people home. Gonzalez picked up an RBI single in the third inning and is batting .403 with runners in scoring position. That's why he has 95 RBIs on just 16 home runs.
Pace makers. Three of the most productive hitters in the game all drove in runs, as they've been doing so frequently lately. The Padres' Chase Headley has more RBIs than any player in the majors since July 25 (44). Next are Gonzalez (38) and Hanley Ramirez, who drove in his 37th run in that time period (which coincides with his arrival in Los Angeles) with a fifth-inning single. Ramirez and Andre Ethier have been keeping the Dodgers afloat, waiting for Matt Kemp to join the effort.
Early blahs. Even Clayton Kershaw has the ailment lately. Dodgers pitchers have been putting their team in a hole even before they come to bat. That can amp up the pressure on a struggling team. Aaron Harang had a rough first inning. The first three Padres reached base, including Headley on a double that cracked into the center-field wall. Harang pitched better the next four innings, but the Dodgers were battling all night after falling behind 3-0 right away. Harang also bunted into a double play; you don't see that often.
Not the same. Cameron Maybin made the pivotal play, robbing Kemp of a two-run home run in the seventh inning. It wasn't a spectacular catch, but Maybin timed his leap perfectly and kept the ball in the stadium by a narrow margin. It couldn't have come at a worse time for the Dodgers, trying to stay in the race and get their superstar going. Kemp is 3-for-25 (.120) with just one RBI on this homestand. Maybe Thursday's day off will help get Kemp going. Or, maybe the atmosphere in San Francisco will do the trick. If he doesn't break out of this slump soon, the Dodgers won't have the menacing lineup they envisioned.
Out west. The Dodgers have a winning record against two of the three National League divisions. The only problem is the one they have a losing record against is their own. The Dodgers are now 27-31 against AL West teams and that is troublesome because, as usual, they finish the season with nine straight games against teams in their division. At this rate, those final three against San Francisco may not matter. The Padres or Colorado Rockies could knock them out first.