Major League Baseball is officially one week deep into its’ six month season and the Los Angeles Dodgers are 5-3 so far after facing the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants. After a rough Opening Day loss, the Dodgers were able to pick up the next two wins in San Diego as they prepared for their home opener against the San Francisco Giants. The Dodgers avoided being swept by San Francisco partly thanks to Matt Kemp’s two home run game on Sunday.
Dodgers grade of the week: C
The good: As if having Kemp back wasn’t good enough, the center fielder went yard not once but twice in Sunday’s game. The 29-year-old already has 4 RBI in three games thus far. He is a huge addition to the batting order, especially amidst a struggling heart of the order. Although he made a costly fielding error in his first play back, Kemp has put the early mistakes behind him and is well adjusted to being back with the team.
Despite some big losses this week, the Dodgers have had adequate run support in these games. Yasiel Puig came up with a big home run in Tuesday’s game, and Hanley Ramirez also rose out of a early season slump after giving the Dodgers the early lead in Wednesday’s game, driving in two runs with a double in the first inning. Before that at-bat, the shortstop was batting an unimpressive .067 on the week. Dee Gordon is also showing some maturity at the plate as the speedy infielder is batting .348 in 23 at bats, which is already a promising improvement from last season.
On the defensive side of things, Greinke has done a solid job in his two starts so far. He has two wins and 11 innings under his belt with 14 strikeouts allowing four runs. Haren also had a good comeback on the mound after a tumultuous start in his final tune up spring game against the Angels two weeks ago. The 33-year-old right-hander pitched six solid innings allowing only 4 hits and no earned runs in a win against the Padres.
The not-so-good: The Dodger deficiencies this week stem from a struggling pitching staff. They really struggled in the first two games of their series against the Giants. Let’s begin with the disastrous first inning of the home opener. With two outs, a huge rally from the Giants ensued. The Giants were up 6-0 after an arduous inning from Ryu, and the Korean starter was taken out of the game after the second inning after giving up another two runs.
Although a series of fielding errors are partly to blame, Ryu’s tough outing was his third start of the very short season so far on Friday and he even left his previous start against the Padres a little early after admitting that he was feeling tired. With Clayton Kershaw out and Josh Beckett not a definite starter yet for this Wednesday’s game, this four-man pitching rotation has benefitted from all the days off early in the season. Although Greinke and Haren pitched extremely well in the Dodgers three wins this week, they cannot pitch every game. Additionally, Paul Maholm struggled with the Giants on Saturday after allowing five runs in just 4.1 innings.
With certain starters struggling, this is putting added pressure on the bullpen. After Maholm’s start, Jose Dominguez immediately gave up a home run, and Paco Rodriguez also gave up a run following Dominguez’s outing. An absurd total of seven pitchers were used on Saturday’s game which in turn means the Dodgers went into Sunday’s game with six of their eight relievers tired from pitching the previous game. The cycle seems never ending. These problems can all begin to be solved once the Dodgers can add another healthy starter to the rotation.
Also on a behavioral note, Puig being benched for the home opener because he was late to the stadium was a huge blow to the young right fielder’s pursuit of being a more mature player this season. To put icing on the cake, Puig strained his thumb in Saturday’s game after a poorly executed head-first dive into first base which kept him from playing in Sunday’s game. In the meantime, Don Mattingly lets out a sigh of relief that he has the security in carrying four high-caliber outfielders.
Overall: The team is definitely hurting in the pitching department. When the Dodgers can add another healthy pitcher in the rotation, Ryu will be able to take an extra day off and the team will have a full five-man rotation. The team’s offense on the other hand is not a liability and has been improving as the games continue, but pitching is what has cost the team their games this week.
Dodgers update: Matt Kemp ready to play, Puig gets advice from Cano and Pujols