It is important to take a look at the big picture, especially during a season that involves 162 games. Accordingly, Dodger fans shouldn’t assume that the sky is falling after getting handed the broom by our freeway foes. However, a crucial stretch of road games (12 out of the next 15 on the road) begins against the 1st place Reds on Tuesday and the Dodgers, half a game back of the Padres in the NL West, will hand the ball to sizzling Hiroki Kuroda against the 1st place Reds.
The series against Cincinnati is a big opportunity for the Dodgers to rediscover their swagger and perhaps, their hitting stroke. The Big Three of Kershaw, Kuroda, and Billingsley will toe the rubber and the onus will be on the hitters to provide ample offense in support.
Matt Kemp has faded badly with zero hits in his last 16 ABs, Dodgers 1st-half MVP Andre Ethier managed to go hitless against the Halos, and Casey Blake also provided an 0-fer in his 12 ABs since returning from back problems. Yet, panic is the worst thing that could happen to the team. Hot streaks and slumps are a part of baseball and the ability to maintain a even-keeled attitude is something the young stars must learn to develop. Kemp and Ethier have to realize that it is not their job to carry the team at all times. When they are scuffling, they should focus on simply putting together solid at-bats and not worry about bringing home the mail everyday. If the home runs and doubles are not showing up, it is their job to grind pitchers down early and give their teammates a chance to perform. And there are signs that the rest of the team is starting to wake up.
James Loney, Manny Ramirez, Rafael Furcal, and even Blake DeWitt have caught fire in June. Considering their wild-card nature (in terms of what to expect from them), their June prowess is a very promising sign for the Blue Crew. If this quartet can build upon a hot start and consistently provide production, the Dodgers could be looking at a powerhouse of a lineup once Kemp and Ethier awake from their recent slumbers.
The pitching has already proven to be stellar and should be further bolstered by the return of Vicente Padilla. Given its dominance and the sudden rise of the aforementioned quartet offensively, the Dodgers have a chance to make a statement in Cincinnati.
I’ll go out on a limb and predict that the Dodgers come together and sweep the 1st-place Reds in Cincinnati.