April 25, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp (27) looks to the sky after he hit a solo home run in the 6th inning against the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Dodgers Face their Biggest Test Yet


“All year long they have looked to him to light the fire”

That is how the Dodgers feel about their early season MVP candidate and triple crown threat Matt Kemp. All season long the Dodgers have looked to Matt Kemp to light their fire, and now the rest of the team will have to light that fire and pick Matt up until he returns from the disabled list at the end of the month.

The Dodgers may face their biggest test yet. Last night after their 3-1 victory over the Arizona Dbacks, the Dodgers put MVP candidate Matt Kemp on the 15 day DL with a strained left hamstring. The Dodgers have suddenly run into a rash of injuries that have caused manager Don Mattingly to do some roster shuffling. Left fielder Juan Rivera is out with a ruptured hamstring and surgery is required.  Who knows how long he will be out, which could possibly be for two months or longer. Jerry Hairston fell victim to the same pesky hamstring injury and is disabled as well. All three are victims to cold weather games played on the last road trip in Colorado, and Chicago. Juan Uribe was the next to go down with the same wrist injury that has been plaguing him since April.

The Dodgers have had to dip into the farm system to offset the injuries. Elian Herrera was called up to replace Juan Uribe, and outfielder Trent Oeltjen was DFA’d. Inconsistent rookie slugger Jerry Sands was called up to replace Matt Kemp. Rookie Scott Van Slyke was already recalled earlier in the week, when Rivera was placed on the DL. Tony Gwynn Jr, stands ready to take over in Center field until Bison’s return. Meanwhile the lineup will be altered to try and squeeze as much offense as they can. Bobby Abreu will move up to bat third, and A.J. Ellis will be moved up into the fifth spot.

All the injuries have left the Dodgers with Andre Ethier, A.J. Ellis, and the B team to survive through May 29, which is the day that Matt Kemp is eligible to come off of the DL. His injury is not serious, and he should be back around June 1. Even so, they have already been playing without Kemp since the beginning of May anyways. Since May 1, Kemp was only hitting .212 and had not homered since April 30. Obviously the sore hamstring was affecting his swing, and not allowing him to be able to run at full speed. We saw that the other night when Bison crushed two balls deep, but both died at the warning track. We all know that with a healthy Bison, both of those balls go out for home runs.

The Dodgers are doing the right thing. As much as I hate seeing Kemp go on the DL, and believe me it is going to be a struggle for the Dodgers to score runs with Bison on the DL, it is better to get this taken care of now, than have it turn into something worse, and then we lose Bison for longer. Obviously we can’t afford to lose Bison for any length of time. The Dodgers feel that with a six game lead in the division, they can survive without him for a couple of weeks, and then once he is healthy, he can rejoin the Dodgers on June 1, just in time for a ten game three city road trip.

Can the Dodgers survive without him? They are going to have to. Fortunately for the Dodgers a heavy home schedule continues throughout the month, with ten home games out of fifteen remaining May games.

Kemp is batting .359, with 12 home runs and 28 RBIs. He has a .446 OBP and an OPS of 1.173. Bison broke the record for most home runs by a Dodger in the month of April with his 12 home runs. Can the Dodgers survive two weeks without him? The Dodgers have hit 30 home runs this season, and 20 of them have been from Kemp and Ethier. Of the Dodgers 149 RBIs, 61 of them have been from Kemp and Ethier.

The Dodgers have started the season with their hottest start in 30 years. Riding a top ranked pitching staff, air tight defense, and the bats of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, to coincide with a new ownership group with deep pockets, and an injection of new hope. The Dodgers have the best record in Baseball, (24-11), and the biggest divisional lead, with a six game lead over the second place Giants. The Dodgers have the best home record in Baseball (16-3), and have won 8 of 12 games already in May, with a slumping injured Kemp. The Dodgers already have four three game sweeps, and we haven’t reached Memorial Day. If the Dodgers win tonight, they will finish the home stand 7-1.

These next two weeks won’t be easy for the Dodgers. They face their biggest test of the season yet. The Dodgers will be looking for their sixth win in a row tonight. Matt Kemp will again be watching from the dugout, an unfamiliar sight for Bison, and an unfamiliar sight for us. After all this is only the second time ever that Kemp has had to go on the DL. The last time was in early 2007 when he hurt his shoulder crashing into the Dodger Stadium outfield wall while making a catch. Matt Kemp’s consecutive games played streak came to an end at 399. The new leader is now Prince Fielder who was at 215.

The Dodgers are doing the right thing, but it doesn’t shake this bad feeling in my stomach I get when I think of two weeks without our best hitter. The Dodgers are flush at the moment, and I think we will be alright, I mean it is only two weeks, but this won’t be easy. Can the Boys in Blue survive without the Bison? This could be the Dodgers biggest challenge yet.

Tags: A.J. Ellis Andre Ethier Bobby Abreu Dodgers Don Mattingly Elian Herrera Featured Jerry Hairston Jr. Jerry Sands Juan Rivera Juan Uribe Matt Kemp Popular Scott Van Slyke Tony Gwynn Jr.