Review and Preview Number 7

Yesterday, the Dodgers held onto a 3-1 lead to beat lost 4-3 to the Houston Astros.  In a game that looked to be an easy Dodger win behind the arm of Clayton Kershaw and the bats of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, the Bullpen (specifically Kenley Jansen) blew the lead and ruined all the good feelings.  Kershaw only pitched 6 innings, and allowed only 1 run, with 6 strikeouts and 2 walks (he only threw 84 pitches, so he could have gone longer, more on that in a minute) in a typical Kerhsaw game.  The one run was a result of a Bill Hall double that would have been caught by any Right Fielder not named Jay Gibbons, and a Humberto Quintero Single that followed.  The Dodgers scored 1 run because of Kemp’s Home Run, and two runs because of an Andre Ethier single.

Here’s how it worked: In the top of the 7th, Houston starter retired Jay Gibbons and Jerry Sands to start the inning.  After that, Dioner Navarro hit a Ground-Rule Double, and Russ Mitchell was intentionally walked.  This put runners on 1st and 2nd with Clayton Kershaw up to bat.  Kershaw had been pitching a fabulous game up to that point (he struck out the last two batters he faced), but Don Mattingly decided to pull him for a pinch hitter.  This time though, instead of using one of the worst hitters in MLB history (Juan Castro) he decided to use the 2nd best hitter on the Dodgers (Andre Ethier, who sat out of the lineup this game due to his injuries in Chicago).  Ethier hit a ground-ball single up the middle that scored Navarro, and Houston CF Michael Bourn let the ball roll under his glove, which allowed Mitchell to score from first.

Given that the bullpen outside of Lance Cormier has been strong in the past couple of weeks, this was a fairly reasonable move by Mattingly.  In hindsight, the Dodgers didn’t wind up scoring any more runs anyway, so that was his only chance to tack on some runs for the pitching staff.  And given how well he’s pitched, Jansen’s meltdown didn’t seem predictable.  But that seems to be the story with Jansen this year.  When he’s had his stuff, he’s guaranteed to go at least 1 scoreless inning for you.  But he’s always had control issues, and they’ve never been more apparent than last night.  Walking one batter and hitting another in the same inning, not to mention having 4 three ball counts out of 7 hitters faced demonstrates this well.  Although it should have been clear to both Mattingly and Pitching Coach Rick Honeycutt that Jansen didn’t have his best stuff after walking Angel Sanchez.  By then, someone should have been warming up in the ‘pen ready to be brought in (Scott Elbert, for instance, as Guerrier and MacDougal had already pitched scoreless innings).  Hindsight is always 20/20, but it should have been clear early on that Jansen was having issues.  And he absolutely should not have thrown 38 pitches.  Didn’t Mattingly and Honeycutt already see the effect a high-pitch meltdown like that had on Jonathon Broxton?

I would like to go back to Kemp though.  Kemp hit his 100th Home Run, as I said, and he also stole a base.  That leaves him with 11 HR and 13 SB so far.  He’s on pace to have about 36 HR and about 43 SB this year.  While I don’t think he’ll hit that many Home Runs, he could very easily steal that many bases.  Kemp has been one of the lone bright spots on this year’s team, and with that Home Run, he became the 25th Dodger (16th LA Dodger) to join the 100 Home Run club, and the sixth Dodger ever to join the 100-100 club (100 HR, 100 SB), and it gives him 13 games with both a HR and SB, tying him with Raul Mondesi for 3rd on the list of such games.  Basically, he’s been awesome this year, and should the Dodgers farm system take a big step forward this year, he’ll be the foundation of a new crop of Dodger Batters.  But I’m getting ahead of myself…

As for tonights game, the Dodger send Chad Billingsley against J.A. Happ (aka, the main piece in the Roy Oswalt trade) in game 2 of the series.  It should be obvious by now that I’m way too confident in the pitching staff this year, so I’ll peg Bills for 7 IP and 2 ER, and Happ (who really isn’t that good) for 5 IP and 4 ER.  The big thing here for me is that Jerry Sands is batting 5th in the lineup tonight.   In his last 10 plate appearances, he’s reached base 9 times.  He had 4 hits two days ago, and three walks last night.  He’s got a .346 OBP this year, even after his rough stretch earlier in the year.  That’s a good OBP on any team, and on this one, that’s top-tier.  Hopefully he continues to hit.

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