Ah, it’s April, Vin Scully‘s voice is in the background, and it’s time for Dodgers baseball!
The Los Angeles Dodgers defeated their Western Division rivals the San Francisco Giants10-8 at Dodger Stadium on April 16th behind 2 home runs by Matt Kemp and another from Andre Ethier. The game was a perfect example of what we might expect from the Dodgers this year. At the start of the game, the first seven hitters in the Dodger lineup were batting over .300, with Matt Kemp leading the National League in home runs and RBI’s. Before the fans could settle in their seats in the first inning, Kemp hit a home run immediately followed by an Ethier homer, to almost the exact same spot in the right field bleachers. In the next inning, Ethier hit a grand slam, the first of his career. Before long the Dodgers had cruised to a 9-2 lead, with starting pitcher Vincente Padilla only giving up those two runs over the first five innings. In fact, the only real question in this game was Aaron Rowand going to be ok after being drilled in the side of his batting helmet by a Padilla fastball, the impact being so load it could clearly be heard up in the press box. He was taken to the hospital for tests and diagnosed with a mild concussion.
Rock guitarist Slash (pictured below) performed a passionate but tasteful version of "America the Beautiful" at the 7th inning stretch. Game over, right?
Well, not so fast. After Padilla’s departure in the 5th, the Giants rocked the Dodgers middle relief pitchers for 6 runs, closing the gap to 10-8 by the 9th inning. The Dodgers hung on for the victory. Our question is “are the Dodgers going to have to score 10 runs every game to have a chance for success this year? Dodger fans can only hope somehow, some way, their team returns to the Dodger tradition of great pitching. The Giants best player is 3rd baseman Pablo Sandoval who hit a mammoth home run off Padilla in the 6th inning. San Franciso had a big chance in the 5th inning loading the bases but Eugenio Velez (who was pinch running for Rowand made a bad running mistake and got doubled off on a line drive by Renteria) which would have brought up Sandoval with the bags loaded. Velez later hit a 3 run home run and Juan Uribe added 2 hits and 3 rbi’s but the visitors still fell short.
What makes this game, and this year’s club, so intriguing is that the team’s offense has evolved into a potential powerhouse, unlike past traditional Dodger teams which relied more on pitching and defense. As of this writing, the Dodgers lead the majors in batting average and runs scored, as opposed to last year’s team, which led the National League in ERA. In fact, the Dodgers have a chance this year to do something only one other major league baseball team has ever done- send their entire starting outfield to the All Star game as starters with Kemp, Ethier and Manny Ramirez who is also off to a good start.
But there is some not so good news here. The Dodgers failed to acquire any of the top free agent pitchers available this winter, possibly as a result of team owners Frank and Jamie McCourt’s massively expensive divorce proceedings. The team has no real ace and has a lot of injuries to the middle relief pitching corps. As a result, the Dodgers have only been playing .500 baseball this spring. Fortunately, they play in the Western Division, the place where no team seems to ever want to pull away from anybody else, so they’ll probably have a fighting chance despite their pitching woes. All players were wearing #42 in honor of Jackie Robinson.
It should be an interesting season. The Dodger line-up could potentially be the strongest the team has since moving to L.A. in 1958. But this team will only go as far as their pitching takes them. More info/schedule and tickets at www.dodgers.com