After another disappointing 2-1 defeat Tuesday night in San Diego, the Dodgers that everyone have been waiting for finally showed up. The Dodgers put 8 runs on the board in consecutive victories over the Padres Wednesday and Thursday, picked up a game on the idle St. Louis Cardinals, and remain 3 games back of the final wild card spot with 6 games to play.
The Dodgers picked up some much needed momentum, will return home for some home cooking, and have their ace on the hill for two of the final six games. The approach the Dodgers must take is simple, win every single game, and hope for some help from the baseball gods.
Adrian Gonzalez is finally starting to look like the run machine the Dodgers thought they acquired from Boston. Hanley Ramirez and Luis Cruz each continued their strong hitting, A.J. Ellis appears to have finally awoken from his slumber, and even Nick Punto made strong contributions filling in for Mark Ellis at second base. Gonzalez was red-hot in the series, Adrian was 6-13 in the series with 3 RBI and a run scored. Gonzalez was lining the ball into the gaps, and appeared energized in his return to San Diego. Gonzalez has hit safely in 9 straight games, the last four have been multi-hit games. Adrian went 14-37 (.378) on the road trip. Hanley Ramirez had a strong series going 4-13 with a RBI and run scored. Luis Cruz also continued his red-hot play going 6-13 with a pair of RBI and a run scored in the series. Cruz went 14-36 (.389) on the road trip. A.J. Ellis finally broke through going 3-9 with 3 RBI in two games in the series. A.J. drove in the lone run on Tuesday night to put the Dodgers on the board. After getting a day off Wednesday, A.J. carried it over to Thursday and drove in another two runs. Ellis has a modest 3-game hitting streak after he was hitless from Sept. 11-22. A.J.’s batting average dropped from .280 to .263 in that span. Either way, good things have happened for the Dodgers when A.J. Ellis has hit well. Nick Punto filled in for Mark Ellis at second base in the final two games of the series going 5-10 with four runs scored in Wednesday’s offensive outburst. Punto also made a diving catch to get Chris Capuano out of a jam on Thursday. Punto has been called upon to give Mark Ellis regular rest, more performances like this, and second base is rock solid for the Dodgers.
There was a Beast Mode sighting this week in San Diego. After an 0-4 night Tuesday, Matt Kemp unleashed on the Padres. Kemp would go 6-10 over the next two games with a home run, 5 RBI, 3 doubles, and four runs scored. Wow, that’s what’s been missing from the Dodgers lineup lately. The homer, Kemp’s 20th of the year, was his first since Sept. 19 against Washington, and only his third in the month of September. Kemp’s season has been derailed by injuries, first hamstring issues in June and July, then crashing into the outfield wall in Colorado in August. For most of the season, Kemp has been unable to find his offensive groove. However, if Kemp’s shoulder is feeling better and he can carry over the momentum from this series, Kemp can carry the Dodgers on his back. When Kemp is playing his usual electric brand of baseball it energizes his teammates and makes everyone better. The Dodgers scored 16 runs in two games, and Kemp was at the heart of it. Andre Ethier came down to Earth a bit, he was only 1-9 in the series. After receiving a day off Wednesday, Ethier went 0-5 Thursday to end a four-game hit streak. Shane Victorino went 2-7 in the series. He also received a day off Wednesday, he responded the next day going 1-4 with a double, and a pair of runs scored. Juan Rivera filled in in right field for Andre on Wednesday, Rivera was 2-4 with a solo home run, his first since August 24.
STARTING PITCHING: B
The Dodgers got solid starting pitching from Josh Beckett, Aaron Harang, and Chris Capuano. Although Beckett did not receive any run support, Harang and Capuano finally got some runs behind them and each recorded wins, something that has been very elusive for both pitchers. As has been typical, no starter made it through the 6th inning. Beckett went 5-2/3 innings, striking out seven, and giving up two runs (one earned). Despite a 3.16 ERA in six starts since coming over from the Boston Red Sox, Beckett is only 1-3. Outside of a 7-6 game in Washington that the bullpen blew a lead, the Dodgers have not scored more than 2 runs in any of Beckett’s starts. Aaron Harang had a triumphant return to his hometown throwing 5-1/3 scoreless innings on Wednesday, and picking up his 10th win of the year. Harang hadn’t won a game since August 18 against the Atlanta Braves. Harang even got in on the hit parade with a double. Chris Capuano didn’t have his best stuff Thursday, but he bore down and held the Padres to a run over 5-1/3 innings. Capuano collected his 12th win of the year, his first since August 12 against Miami. Capuano also surpassed his win total from last year. The Dodgers will need Capuano and Harang to deliver in the last week of the season and solidify the back-end of the rotation.
Outside of a couple of minor hiccups from Shawn Tolleson and Ronald Belisario, the Dodgers bullpen continued to be lights out! The Dodgers got 2-1/3 scoreless innings from Paco Rodriguez, Belisario, and Kenley Jansen on Tuesday night. Shawn Tolleson would give up a pair of runs to the Padres on Wednesday, but staked to an 8-0 lead, that didn’t mean too much. Randy Choate, Matt Guerrier, and Jamey Wright would close out the game with 2-1/3 scoreless innings as well. Belisario had a disastrous 8th inning Thursday, imploding for three runs, but, again, with a 7-0 lead, it wouldn’t mean too much. L.A. received 2-2/3 scoreless innings from Rodriguez, Wright, Jansen, and Brandon League.
The Dodgers won 11 of the 18 games against the Padres this season. The only team in the division they had a winning record against. The Dodgers will have the opportunity to change that against the Colorado Rockies this weekend, and get even sweeter revenge on San Francisco next week. The Rockies are buried in last place in the NL West, and only the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs have a worse record overall. The Dodgers have all the momentum in the world and will need to show they’re stuff and handle business against a last place team. Can the Dodgers run the table to October? We’ll find out over the next six days.