After losing outfielder Matt Kemp for the postseason and having Andre Ethier limited to pinch-hitting duties, the Dodgers crowded outfield suddenly became thin.
It looks as if the Dodgers will call on veteran Skip Schumaker to man center field and provide any boost he can to the lineup. For Game 1 of the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves, Schumaker looks to be the Dodgers X-Factor in hopes of taking a 1-0 series lead.
Schumaker will not be looked upon to hit multiple home runs or drive in runs in the middle of the order; however, he will be counted on to provide solid defense and timely hitting.
Against the Game 1 starter Kris Medlen, Schumaker is 4-9 with a double and zero strikeouts. Besides Hanley Ramirez, those are the best numbers against the Braves starter among Dodger starters.
Schumaker did very well against the whole Braves pitching staff this season. In seven games against them, the Dodgers left-hander hit .467 while scoring twice and driving in two. Duplicating those numbers at the bottom of the lineup for the Dodgers will more than do the job.
On the season, Schumaker hit .263 with 16 doubles and scored 31 runs. He filled in at second base and in the outfield when called upon. In the playoffs, Schumaker has a .278 batting average while driving in six runs in 22 games, all with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Also, as a center fielder this season, Schumaker hit .282 and drove in six runs in 29 games.
If the game is close and gets into the later innings, Schumaker also has the best numbers on the team by far against Braves closer Craig Kimbrel. In seven at-bats, the Dodgers outfielder has three hits, more than all the Dodgers combined against Kimbrel.
In the outfield, Schumaker will be looked upon to control rookie Yasiel Puig to make sure he is in the right position. In center field this season, Schumaker made two errors; however he did have one assist. Schumaker will not make any spectacular catches in center, but also, he will make all the necessary plays to get the job done.
With a lineup full of household names, Schumaker could be the most important one tonight.
In case you missed it, here’s the latest on Andre Ethier’s injured ankle.