Another tough loss for Dodger nation. Granted, any time I see the Oakland Athletics play the Dodgers, only happy thoughts come to mind. But the results today brought anything but a smile to my face as Oakland spanked the Dodgers, 9-2.
For starters, Chad Billingsley had his second straight rough day for the boys in blue. He gave up four earned runs in 3.1 innings to a split-squad Oakland team. Four hits plus four walks and a balk is not exactly a reason to celebrate, especially with Jon Garland and Vincente Padilla on the disabled list. Billingsley is going to need to get off to a good start if the Dodgers are going to avoid a slow start.
Thankfully Blake Hawksworth came in during the fourth inning and slammed the door shut. Hawksworth then pitched a scoreless fifth, allowing only one batter to reach, as he plunked Willingham. Hawksworth continues to be impressive, providing evidence that trading for him was worth it.
Kenley Jansen was also effective in relief. Unfortunately Javy Guerra was not so effective, giving up a homer to the first batter, masher Coco Crisp, he faced. Guerra’s struggles only got worse from there. The total damage done was four runs, effectively eliminating any hopes of a comeback. Juan Rincon did nothing to help his cause for a spot in the pen. Not only did he allow inherited runners score in the seventh, he allowed another run in eighth inning. There might not be much left in the old man’s arm.
The offense didn’t give Dodger fans much reason to stand up and cheer either. Tony Gwynn Jr. continued his hot hitting, most likely solidifying a spot on the roster in what is an already crowded outfield. Gwynn is a valuable asset to skipper Don Mattingly as he has speed, can play all three outfield positions, and could bat lead-off. With an increased emphasis on being aggressive, Gwynn could be a big contributor to a team lacking in offense.
Aaron Miles also continues to make a case for staying with the team when they fly north in a few weeks. Miles broke up the shutout in the fifth inning, going deep off starter Gio Gonzalez, his second of the Spring. Miles is another veteran who can play multiple positions in the infield, giving Mattingly even more versatility off the bench.
Up until the fifth inning, the Dodgers made A’s starter Gio Gonzalez look like Sandy Koufax. While James Loney, Rafael Furcal, Juan Uribe, and Casey Blake had the day off, other starters such as Jay Gibbons and Andre Ethier failed to deliver. Ethier has to have productive at-bats against lefties.
Gibbons may be playing himself off the team with his extremely slow start going 0 for 3 with two strikeouts and grounding into a double play. Perhaps we are looking at a platoon of Thames and Gwynn instead of Gibbons. This could open the door for keeping Jerry Sands or Xavier Paul on the roster.
Matt Kemp continues to pick up steam, upping his average to .375 by going 2-3 with a home run. His comeback season is looking more and more promising by the at-bat. Kemp is an MVP candidate if he plays up to his immense potential. There are few centerfielders in the game today who have the tools to be as complete a player as Kemp can be. Here is hoping that the new season, new coaching staff will help make that a reality.
Making this a total team effort, the defense contributed their sloppy play, adding three errors to the losing effort. Surely the team will do better tomorrow. They can’t do much worse.