Offense struggles as Dodgers lose series finale

Tony Gwynn Jr has been on fire! (Jon SooHoo/Dodgers)

The Dodgers came into San Diego having lost two straight games to the Colorado Rockies.  Perhaps an omen for the rest of the season as the team began their three game series Friday night, something odd happened.  It rained.  And it rained A LOT!  So much so that the game was suspended in the top of the ninth, forcing the conclusion to be played Saturday.  We may have a strange season in store for the Boys in Blue.

The Dodgers did win the game 4-2 in 11 innings, with Tony Gwynn Jr. playing the hero, beating his former team as he singled in the eventuall winning run, Juan Uribe.  After a brief break in the action, the Dodgers once again took the field and once again emerged victorious, blanking the Padres riding a masterful performance from Hiroki Kuroda to a 4-0 win.  The team completed the series yesterday with a whimper, collecting only four singles to lose 7-2.  Not exactly a good day for the Dodger hitters.  Starting pitcher John Ely, filling in for the soon-to-return Jon Garland, was equally unimpressive, giving up 6 hits, 2 of which were home runs, 4 earned runs, and 3 walks in 5.2 innings.   The bullpen matched his performance of futility.  So what have we learned from this series?

Starting pitching:  Ted Lilly’s performance is kind of hard to gauge with all the rain delays.  He was not great, giving up 7 hits in less than 5 full innings, but he was not awful either.  It looks like he is still rounding into form.  Nothing to worry about yet but the next start needs to be better. 

Hiroki Kuroda was just plain outstanding.  He came oh so close to getting the complete game shutout but ran out of gas.  6 hits over 8.2 innings, while walking only 2 batters was an impressive day.  Kuroda looks like he should be able to carry his own weight when he takes the mound, keeping the Dodgers in the game while giving a rest to the bullpen.

John Ely is most likely headed back to AAA.   His performance was not good against an underwhelming opponent.  Six hits in 5.2 innings, incluing TWO home runs, in the spacious ballpark of the Padres no less, is not a good sign.  If Garland is slow in returning, or if another injury takes place, I think the Dodgers will consider alternative options before giving Ely a chance.

My overall grade for the rotation for this series is a B -.  It would have been worse except for the brillance of Kuroda.

Bullpen: Let’s start by looking at the most important man in the bullpen, Jonathan Broxton.  Broxton came in and saved both victories for the Dodgers, giving him five saves for the season.  In case you are not good at math, like me, this means that Broxton has saved every win for the Dodgers so far this season.  He has no blown saves.  So we should be rejoicing, right?  Not so fast my friends!  In five appearances this season, Broxton has pitched 4.1 innings, given up 4 hits, 2 earned runs (both solo homers), 2 walks, and only 1 strikeout.  Not exactly impressive numbers.  His ERA is still a scary 4.15.  Where is the heater?  Has Broxton lost confidence in his fastball or is it just not there anymore?  While it is a good sign that Broxton continues to be effective, it feels like it is just a matter of time before this implodes once again.  Here is hoping Broxton can continue to gain some confidence and return to the dominating force at the end of the game that the Dodgers will need with an anemic offense.

The rest of the bullpen had mixed results.  The first game saw outstanding work from Mike MacDougal, Kenley Jansen, Matt Guerrier, Hong-Chih Kuo, and Blake Hawksworth.  No runs, 1  hit, 3 walks, in 7.2 innings of work.  Not bad at all.  But the results were less than acceptable on Sunday.  Jansen gave up 2 hits, 1 home run, in 1.1 innings.  He looked very ordinary.  Lance Cormier, the man who was able to bully his way onto the staff by refusing to go to the minors, gave up 2 hits, 1 walk, and 2 earned runs in his only inning of work.  Hardly the type of performance that will endear him to the Dodger coaching staff. 

My overall grade for the bullpen for this series is a solid B+.  No blown saves and no runs in two out of three games is not a bad series.

Offense: The offense for the Dodgers continues to struggle.  Overall, there are three guys who are raking but the rest of the lineup continues to struggle to drive the ball and get on base.  Matt Kemp is flat out on fire!  He went a blistering 9-13, with 2 runs scored, 1 walk, 1 RBI, and 5 stolen bases.  10 times Kemp got on base in this series, but only 2 runs scored and 1 RBI.  This shows that people are not getting on in front of him and not hitting behind him.  Kemp is currently hitting a ridiculous .438 for the season.  He is even producing in the field, gunning down former Dodger Orlando Hudson at second base.  Start the MVP campaign.  Now.

Andre Ethier is also swinging a hot stick for the Dodgers.  He went 5-13, with 1 home run, 3 RBI, and 1 run scored.  His average in currently at .353, not bad at all.  The other Dodger hitter off to a fast start is Tony Gwynn Jr.  Gwynn was the hero in game one of the series and went 5-10, 1 RBI, 3 runs scored, and 3 stolen bases.  Not bad for a guy who is supposed to be a platoon player.  Gwynn is now hitting .350 for the year. 

The rest of the lineup is not doing much.  James Loney, Juan Uribe, Aaron Miles, and Marcus Thames are all hitting below .200.  Rafael Furcal and Rod Barajas are hitting a tad better at .208 and .222 respectively.  Loney and Barajas each have a homer, the Dodgers have a total of 4 in nine games.  Not good.  Not good at all.   Uribe and Loney need to pick up their production significantly if this offense is ever going to get on track.  Casey Blake has provided some offense since his return from injury, going 4-11 with 2 RBI and 1 stolen base. 

The Dodgers do have 11 stolen bases in 9 games, a sign that they are being more aggressive.  This is good because this lineup is going to have to manufacture runs to win games.

My overall grade for the offense for this series is a C -.  The Dodgers need to get some more extra-base hits, or at the very least string some singles together. 

The Dodgers are done with the Rockies and moving to the Bay area to rekindle their rivalry with the Giants.  Security is beefed up after the last series led to violence in the parking lot.  Hey Dodger fans, let’s show that we are not a bunch of thugs and act with the class that has always been a part of the Dodger tradition.  To quote the great Ron Burgundy, “You stay classy!”

Topics: Aaron Miles, Andre Ethier, Hiroki Kuroda, James Loney, John Ely, Jonathan Broxton, Juan Uribe, Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers, Matt Guerrier, Matt Kemp, Rod Barajas, Ted Lilly, Tony Gwynn Jr.

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