May 31, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Ivan De Jesus (13) reacts after striking out against the Milwaukee Brewers at Dodger Stadium. The Brewers defeated the Dodgers 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

Slumping Dodgers Embark on Ten Game Roadtrip

Dodger Lineup vs. Colorado

Tony Gwynn 8
Ivan DeJesus Jr. 5
Andre Ethier 9
Jerry Hairston Jr. 4
Scott Van Slyke 3
Alex Castellanos 7
Matt Treanor 2
Dee Gordon 6
Chris Capuano 1

 

Chris Capuano-7-1 vs. Josh Outman-0-1

 

Everything was just going swimmingly for the Dodgers. They had just won two of three from Houston, and they were an MLB best 32-15 and in first place by seven and a half games. They had just survived a two week period without their perennial MVP candidate and franchise player Matt Kemp, who had been placed on the disabled list for two weeks with a strained left hamstring. The Dodgers went 9-5 without Bison and had won six in a row at one point. They were getting contributions from everyone, and it seemed like we had gotten through it. After Bison played on Tuesday in his return, he went 1 for 4 as the Dodgers dropped the second of a four game series with the Brewers.

Then in the third game of the series, in the first inning, Bison walked. Andre Ethier doubles, and Bison, while rounding third base and scoring, reinjured his hamstring. Bison broke a bat in the dugout in frustration. The Dodgers would have to place Bison back on the DL with the same exact injury, a strained left hamstring. The Dodgers would go on to lose that game, and the following night for their fourth loss in a row. This was the Dodger’s first four game home sweep since Colorado swept the Dodgers back in 1993.

The MRI on Bison’s hamstring told us only what we already know. He has a grade one strain, but in a different place then the original strain. He will be out at least three weeks and possibly a month. The Dodgers were forced to call up their last good farmhand hitting prospect. Outfielder/second baseman Alex Castellanos was called up to replace Kemp, and he made his MLB debut last night. Castellanos was hit by a pitch, and he had a stolen base taken away on a catcher’s interference call when Scott Van Slyke’s back-swing hit the catcher while he was throwing.

I know the Dodgers aren’t going to play .700 ball all year, and they were bound to have their first real slump of the season sooner or later, but this team is in a big offensive funk right now, and it is frustrating and concerning.

The Dodgers are besieged with injuries. Four pitchers are on the DL. Prospect Rubby De La Rosa is still recovering from Tommy John surgery and won’t be back until September. Middle relievers Matt Guerrier and Blake Hawksworth are shelved until July with a sore shoulder, and recovery from off-season elbow surgery. Starter Ted Lilly who is 5-1 with a 3.14 ERA will miss at least two starts with a rusty shoulder.

One of the biggest hits to the Dodger’s middle infield defense is the loss of second baseman Mark Ellis. After having to be hospitalized and nearly losing his leg, he might be back by August. As a result balls that were normally double plays are becoming force outs, thanks to Elian Herrera and Ivan Dejesus’s bumbling glove work. Neither of those two are as sure-handed as Ellis.

Juan Uribe is still out with an arthritic wrist, but it is said to be improving. Backup shortstop Justin Sellers is out for a while with a back injury, and Juan Rivera was supposed to rejoin the team today In Denver, but reported feeling “tentative” after playing a rehab game. He is recovering from you guessed it, a strained left hamstring.

The problem is the team has stopped hitting. Last night they scored only two runs despite 12 hits, but all were singles. The team isn’t drawing walks like they used, and only scored eight runs during the four game series against Milwaukee. The Dodgers left 11 men stranded on base, and were 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position. That is the biggest problem. They have stopped getting the clutch hits. Timely hits were a big part of the Dodger’s early season success, but all of a sudden the big hits have dried up, like my living room shades on a hot summer’s day. Last night every single time the Dodgers had a rally going they would hit into a double play and the rally was ruined. They grounded into four, yes four double plays last night. It seems the entire team, except for Ethier and A.J., have contracted the Jerry Sands disease of hitting. That means to stand there and take the good pitches right down the pipe while swinging at bad pitches five feet off the plate. Of course it also includes the bewildering looks of Bum-ness on their faces like when Sands whiffs.

Despite all the offensive woes, the Dodgers now must embark on a 10 game three-city road trip without their best hitter. What can the Dodgers do? A few things come to mind. I think Don Mattingly will continue to mix and match with the lefty/righty match-ups, and that is mostly ok, but he needs to stop playing the automatic outs.

The Dodgers have some flexibility because most of their players can play multiple positions. Here is the thing, If Rivera comes back, and he is supposed to be back with the team today, Juan Rivera and Bobby Abreu should make for a productive lefty/righty platoon in left. Tony Gwynn should always be playing in center field until Bison returns. He has been productive with the bat, and his defense is superior to anyone else at this point. IDJ and Alex Castellanos can platoon at second base. Although I don’t know how good Castellano’s defense is. Outfield is his natural position though. He was hitting .379  for the Isotopes, and he was 7 for 16 since returning from a DL trip with a ….ughhh yeah you know, a STRAINED LEFT HAMSTRING (I swear I hate hamstrings more than bunting).

Of the four other minor league position players that have seen time with the big club over the course of the past four weeks: Jerry Sands, Scott Van Slyke, Ivan DeJesus Jr., and Elian Herrera, three are still with the team. Sands and Van Slyke are useless. Sands has already been farmed out thank god, and if Rivera returns, Van Slyke should be next on the farm train. No offense to these guys, but Sands was 4 for 20 (.200), and Van Slyke was 4 for 26 (.154) with a home run. Other than that one home run, Van Slyke has been terrible, and he should be sent down when Rivera returns. Herrera has been a pretty good top of the order guy, and IDJ has been decent. We should see Herrera shift to a bench role, which is fine, but there is no reason to not play IDJ and Castellanos right now.

The problem is James Loney is becoming unplayable, and Adam Kennedy is a complete waste of a roster spot. First of all, there is never any reason to play Adam Kennedy, and I don’t care what righty/lefty reason you give. Loney is in such decline already, he only plays against righties anyways now. Have you seen Loney’s splits? They are horrendous. Loney is batting .250 with a below average .324 OBP. He has two home runs, 15 RBI, and is hitting .190 against lefties and .175 on the road. Loney is bringing literally no value on offense, as his signature ground outs and lazy pops ups continue unchecked. Dee Gordon hasn’t been much help either, still sporting a .226 average and .268 OBP. He can’t hit lefties either, only .160 against southpaws. The Dodgers are going to have to pay Hairston at third, and anyone else at first base. Loney and Gordon have to be benched against lefties at least, and Adam Kennedy needs to be Designated for Assignment.

Despite all of this, the Dodgers still have the best record in Baseball at 32-19, but their lead in the division is starting to shrink a little. The Dodgers are five games in front of San Francisco, who will be playing the Cubs and 10.5 in front of Colorado. Speaking of Colorado, the Dodgers will begin a ten game road trip, with three in Denver Friday-Sunday. After this series, the Dodgers play four in Philadelphia and then end the trip with three games in Seattle.

The Dodgers will give the ball to lefty Chris Capuano. The economics degree Duke graduate has been the real ace of the staff this year since Kershaw has been a little up and down. Cappy is 7-1 with a 2.14 ERA. Cappy has an 8.3 whiff per nine rate during his 63 innings of work, and has been excellent. His last start was another win against Houston. He held Houston to just two hits through seven innings in the win. Although this is Coors Field, where sanity goes by by.

In his career against Colorado, Cappy is 5-5 with a 3.40 ERA. However, check out this, in six games, Cappy has the third lowest ERA at Coors Field for a pitcher with at least five games at 2.94. So maybe we can see a win tonight? Looking at the numbers, Cappy has success against this current group of Rockies. Collectivly, the Rockies are only hitting ,242 off of Cappy. Dexter Fowler is red hot, and is 3 for 9 against Cappy. Fowler has ten hits in his last six games. The age-less Todd Helton is 8 for 32 (.250), and Michael Cuddyer is 3 for 11 (.273), with the only home run and two RBIs. Cargo is only 1 for 9 (.111). However we have to be careful with him. Cargo is blazing hot, he has hit four home runs in the last two games, so we need to not be pitching to him at all.

I spoke with Michelle Hoag of roxpile.com about the Rockies season and the upcoming series. You can listen to that here Dishing Up the Dodgers LasordasLair Podcast or click on the link in the sidebar. You can also check out all of our podcasts under the podcast link at the top of the front page.

I want to thank Michelle again, she was very gracious and provided us with some good information. She told us that Mullet Man is on the DL with a strained groin, and the starting pitching has really been a disaster. Of course we all heard the news of Colorado releasing 49-year old pitcher Jamie Moyer. Michelle had a lot to say about that of course. Colorado has been playing better of late, and just swept a series from the Astros. We all know how the Dodgers have sucked at Coors last time losing two of three in April.

Colorado will counter with 27-year old journeyman lefty Josh Outman. The St. Louis native used to be a spot starter for Oakland from 2008-2011. As a starter he is 8-7, and this will be his first start for Colorado. He is 0-1 on the season with a 9.64 ERA. In 4.2 innings of relief work, he has allowed five runs, but whiffed nine batters. He did pick up a win against the Dodgers in relief, so he is 1-0, but he has hardly faced the Dodgers at all. Only four Dodgers have ever seen him. Collectively, Bobby Abreu, Tony Gwynn, James Loney, and Matt Treanor are 2 for 8 against Outman. Let’s hope he does not live up to his name. If we can’t hit a journeyman starter with a 9.64 ERA, who won’t be making more than 50 or 60 pitches today, then we have some big problems. I’m just saying.

The Dodgers need to snap out of this funk. I expect to see a better lineup today. The Dodgers still had a winning month of May with a 16-12 record. The good news is that it is not time to panic yet. There is a lot of Baseball left, and the Dodgers still have a comfortable lead. However if they don’t start hitting then this lead could dwindle fast. The problem is, the Dodgers are not scoring first like they normally do. Generally when the teams scores early, and gets out in front, they win. The last four games they have been allowing runs in the first inning and falling behind early. It will be real important for the Dodgers to score first today. I think this could go either way today. If they can score first, and Cappy has a good game, then we can stop this stupid losing streak dead in the tracks. Otherwise we might be in for another long night. We’ll see how it goes. The good news is we are done with Milwaukee, and we won’t see them again this year.

Game time is at 5:40PM today on Prime Ticket. Please tune in, and let’s get a win tonight. Check in with us for our nightly Dodger recap. Please save us Cappy! Go Blue

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Tags: Adam Kennedy Alex Castellanos Andre Ethier Bobby Abreu Chris Capuano Clayton Kershaw Dee Gordon Dodgers Don Mattingly Elian Herrera Ivan Dejesus Jr James Loney Jerry Hairston Jr. Jerry Sands Juan Rivera Juan Uribe Matt Kemp Scott Van Slyke Ted Lilly Tony Gwynn Jr.

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