The Dodgers and Angels split the four games of the Freeway Series this year.  The home team won each game and other than Tuesday’s 3-0 Dodger victory, every game was decided by one run.

This was a pivotal series for the Dodgers, so we’ll take a little different look at it than our usual report card format.  Don Mattingly had urged his team to fight and show some resiliency and it finally happened.  After this series there hasn’t been so much chatter about Mattingly’s job being on the line.

Despite the positives, the Dodgers continued to be dogged by injuries.  Matt Kemp was placed on the DL on Thursday with a strained hamstring  and A.J. Ellis is also a candidate to go on the DL with a strained oblique muscle.

Here’s what to take from the Freeway Series

MONDAY’S COMEBACK

The Angels had won eight straight coming into the game and Mike Trout has been killing it in May (.337 Avg/.412 OBP/1.1.04 OPS with eight homers and 21 RBI).  Going into the stadium I was confident that Zack Greinke would outpitch C.J. Wilson and I knew Adrian Gonzalez would deliver.  I was wrong about Greinke.

Greinke certainly didn’t have his best stuff, but it wasn’t all his fault.  After striking out Mark Trumbo for what would have been the second out of the inning, Ramon Hernandez lost the ball, muffed the throw to first, and Trout and Albert Pujols had come around to score.  Oh yeah, Pujols was on base because Matt Kemp misplayed a ball that should have been an out.  It was a running catch and Kemp caught it over his shoulder, but it hit his glove, and he didn’t squeeze it.  Dodgers down 2-0.

Even Gonzalez and Mark Ellis botched defensive plays in the second, but Greinke pitched through it.  It was the fourth inning where Greinke got hit hard for three runs, and the Angels were up 6-1.  The crowd was quiet.  Fast forward to the bottom of the fifth, almost like a movie, it started to happen. Luis Cruz, a microcosm for the Dodgers’ offensive struggles all season came up.

Heading into the game Cruz was hitting .096.  Already 0-1, Cruz lined a single to left field.  Juan Uribe, a pleasant surprise so far this season, got a pinch-hit single.  After a Nick Punto groundout to advance Cruz, Mark Ellis came to the plate.

Punto had worked C.J. Wilson in the previous at-bat and Ellis did the same. Mark ended up doubling off Wilson to score Cruz and Punto, 6-4 Angels.

Adrian Gonzalez singled sharply up the middle to score Ellis, 6-5 Angels.  Scott Van Slyke, starting in place of Andre Ethier, hit his second double of the day to score Adrian and the game was tied!  The Dodgers would take the lead in the next inning on an A.J. Ellis single. The crowd was now into the game.

However, Javy Guerra would relinquish the lead in his second inning of work and the game was tied at 7.  Adrian Gonzalez started the rally in the seventh, and Jerry Hairston, fresh off the DL, would come up with the big hit to score Gonzalez and give the Dodgers an 8-7 lead that would stand.

The Dodgers showed the heart, fight, and resiliency that Don Mattingly and the fans have been wanting all season.  Like Gonzalez said after the game, if ever there was a momentum builder, this was it. Kemp, sadly, was showered with boos from the crowd, as he was the only Dodger unable to produce going 0-5 with four strikeouts.

RYU’S SHUTOUT

Hyun-Jin Ryu took center stage Tuesday night hurling a two-hit complete game shutout.  Ryu was simply magnificent, striking out seven without any walks.  Ryu now leads the Dodgers in wins, as he’s 6-2 with a 2.89 ERA on the year.   Check out the clip of Ryu getting Mike Trout on a groundout to end the game Tuesday night.

Luis Cruz hit his first homer of the season to the give the Dodgers an early 2-0 lead, and Cruz looks like he might have turned the corner.  Matt Kemp drew roars from the crowd when he legged out a double in the bottom sixth, he would come around to score on A.J. Ellis’s RBI single.

LATE INNING RALLY IN ANAHEIM

Jered Weaver’s return to the mound was the story of the game.  Weaver has been out since the beginning of April with a broken elbow. Weaver held the Dodgers to one run over six innings of work, striking out seven without a walk.

Chris Capuano didn’t have his best stuff, but he pitched well enough to keep the Dodgers in the game, working into the sixth inning.  Capuano was done in by four walks and a 2-run blast he surrendered to Mark Trumbo in the 5th inning to give the Angels a 3-1 lead.

Weaver was untouchable, but the Angels bullpen has been anything but (4.19 ERA, 12th in the AL).  Adrian Gonzalez led off the top of the ninth with a solo homer off of Angels’ closer Ernesto Frieri to make it 4-2 Angels.  Scott Van Slyke added another solo shot off of Frieri and it was 4-3 Angels.  Skip Schumaker came to the plate with two outs, but he flew out to end the game.

Again, the Dodgers, led by Adrian Gonzalez showed heart and fought to the end.  However, Matt Kemp had to leave the game with a hamstring strain.  J.P. Howell pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 2.45.

VARGAS OUTLASTS LILLY, KEMP TO DL

The Angels took the series finale 3-2 behind seven innings of two-run ball from their other Long Beach Sate alum, Jason Vargas.  Ted Lilly pitched well enough, allowing three runs over 5 2/3 innings.  Lilly struck out three and walked three.

Lilly fell to 0-2 on the year, but he lowered his ERA to 4.26 and he looks healed from whatever was ailing him.  Not the case for Matt Kemp who was placed on the DL and A.J. Ellis who sat for the second time in four days.  Ramon Hernandez hit his second home run of the season as the DH, and the Dodgers could need his bat, as Ellis is dealing with a sore oblique muscle.

If Ellis is forced to the DL, Hernandez and Tim Federowicz will have to step up.  As far as replacements for Kemp, Skip Schumaker and Jerry  Hairston would figure to be the most viable replacements on the club right now.  The buzz among fans is for the team to call up top prospect Joc Pederson, who is tearing it up at AA-Chattanooga.

Pederson has a line of .313/.393/.908 with eight homers, 22 RBI and 15 stolen bases in 51 games for the Lookouts.  Fans have clamored all season for Yasiel Puig, but he doesn’t seem like a natural center fielder and the Dodgers seem determined not to impede his development at the minor league level.  Although Puig is hitting .309/.386/.976 with eight homers and 36 RBI.  Kemp’s defensive presence will also be missed.

The Dodgers should be feeling good about themselves as they head to Denver for three games with the Colorado Rockies.  The Rockies just lost three of four games to the lowly Houston Astros in two-and-two home-and-away series.  Before that they lost two of three to the San Francisco Giants.  Clayton Kershaw will take the hill Friday evening against former Dodger Jon Garland.

 

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