Wednesday, September 26, 2012
3 Up, 3 Down: Dodgers 8, Padres 2
By Mark Saxon
It appears to be a little too little and a lot too late, but the Los Angeles Dodgers broke out of their hitting slump with an 8-2 road win over the San Diego Padres on Wednesday afternoon.
Main man. It's amazing how closely the Dodgers' fortunes seem to mirror those of Matt Kemp. At the very least, Wednesday was a reprieve from a brutal month for Kemp. Or perhaps it was more than that. Nobody else on this roster is capable of carrying the Dodgers like Kemp can, and maybe it was the start of a hot streak that can give this team at least a semblance of hope. Kemp drove in four runs and homered for just the third time this month. The only thing you wonder is whether he simply snapped out of it too late.
Hometown discount. A bunch of the Dodgers had homecomings this week, including pitcher Aaron Harang, who grew up in San Diego and played for the Padres. If you're not named Clayton Kershaw (or maybe Josh Beckett), Don Mattingly probably isn't going to let you pitch very deep into a game these days. But Harang got the ball into the sixth inning and held the Padres to just four hits. His signing wasn't ballyhooed, but he has given the Dodgers a better-than-solid season even if his record doesn't suggest it.
Seized opportunity. You wouldn't have expected the phrase " Nick Punto went 3-for-5" to apply to any games during a pennant race. For one thing, Punto has barely been playing -- unless the Dodgers need to get down a bunt late in the game -- and for another thing, he has had an awful season. It helps to get surprising contributions, and Punto's production Wednesday certainly falls into that category. Trying to spark some kind of action, Mattingly dropped him into the No. 2 spot in the order, and Punto rewarded the move by scoring four runs.
Nicks and cuts. For a team playing in late September, the Dodgers don't have all that many players dealing with serious injuries. What they do have is a crowded trainers room, filled with players battling nagging injuries. Mark Ellis missed the game because he is ill. Shane Victorino has been dealing with a wrist issue and was a late scratch. Kemp has had knee and shoulder issues to go with hamstring problems from earlier this year. Kershaw has had the hip. They're playing, but you wonder how much of an issue it is.
Backup blues. On Sept. 19, backup catcher Matt Treanor picked up two hits -- weak singles to right field -- in a rare start. That is the only game since July 26 during which Treanor has had even one hit. Does he not play because he doesn't hit, or does he not hit because he doesn't play? It’s probably a little of both. But there's a reason A.J. Ellis was in an 0-for-30 slump earlier this month, and it probably involves fatigue. The Dodgers might need to upgrade at backup catcher next year.
Squandered chance. Elian Herrera does some things that could help the Dodgers. He runs well and plays multiple positions. But going 0-for-5 isn't going to earn you a lot of repeat playing time, and Wednesday qualifies as a missed chance for Herrera -- who got the start in place of Victorino in left field.