Friday, September 28, 2012
3 up, 3 down: Dodgers 8, Rockies 0
By Mark Saxon
LOS ANGELES -- The idea at this time of year is to play meaningful games until they run out on you. With five games left, the Dodgers still have something to play for.
They beat the Colorado Rockies 8-0 Friday night at Dodger Stadium to stay within three games of the St. Louis Cardinals for the last wild-card spot. Time, obviously, is running out, but the Dodgers are, at least, playing some of their best baseball in more than a month. They have scored 24 runs in their last three games and won all three.
Tough effort. If the Dodgers somehow can make it to Wednesday with their postseason hopes alive, they will have the right guy on the mound in the decisive game. A week ago, the question was whether Clayton Kershaw's troublesome hip would allow him to pitch the rest of the season and whether it would affect 2013. After two strong starts -- and with Kershaw professing no pain coming into Friday -- it looks as if the Dodgers have their ace back. This time, manager Don Mattingly gave him a little more rope and Kershaw cruised through eight innings. His 10 strikeouts leave him one shy of R.A. Dickey (with 222) for the National League lead.
Late life. With Carl Crawford likely to return next April or May, it appears as if Shane Victorino's career as a Dodger will be both short-lived and forgettable. Victorino has spent most of his two months with the team in a pretty deep slump. Going into Friday, he was batting .227 with just 23 runs and one home run in his 48 games with the Dodgers. But like a lot of the Dodgers hitters, he looks like he's starting to emerge from his rut. Victorino ripped a three-run home run to center field and lined a single to center. It's the same story with all these guys: Where was that when the team still had a realistic shot of contending?
Platoon this. There has been a fair amount of scrutiny lately on whether the Dodgers will consider platooning Andre Ethier with another right fielder next season, given his struggles against left-handed pitching. It seems like an absurd thing to focus on considering Ethier is having a strong season (.285, 19 home runs, 87 RBIs) and has batted a respectable .236 against lefties in his career. He quieted some of that talk with two hits off lefty Jeff Francis, including an RBI bloop double. Barring the occasional bad matchup or major slump, Ethier is the kind of guy you just leave out there.
Still slumping. Hanley Ramirez sent a ball soaring to right-center field with two men on in the fifth inning. Matt McBride caught it while slamming into the wall. That might have been Ramirez's hardest-hit ball in a week and it's a good sign that he's driving it to the opposite field. But the Dodgers' No. 5 hitter is still mired in a deep slump, batting .155 in his last 13 games. The Dodgers are starting to catch fire and, who knows, maybe Ramirez isn't far behind.
Vision quest. The Dodgers scored a run on Kershaw's fourth-inning double play groundout, so it wasn't the biggest deal in a world, but first-base umpire Brian Gorman made a brutal call on the play. In real time, Kershaw clearly beat it out and the replay confirmed that he had it by a half-step. Players have to be at their best in pennant races or they risk being exposed and the same can be said of umpires.
Streak-prone. Matt Kemp has been all over the map lately. He followed an 0-for-12 stretch by getting six hits in his last 10 at-bats entering Friday, then he went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. One thing Kemp clearly has done this month is expand his strike zone. Kemp tends to be an aggressive hitter, but when he's going good, he shows better discipline. Going into Friday, Kemp had walked just three times in 93 plate appearances this month. He did walk in the fifth inning, so maybe that's a good sign.