Dodgers Lineup: vs. NationalsM.Ellis 4 Ethier 9 Kemp 8 Gonzalez 3 Ramirez 6 Victorino 7 Cruz 5 Ellis 2 Harang 1
After a disappointing split series with the St. Louis Cardinals at Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers embark on their final road trip of the 2012 season. The difficult late season trip will include three games in Washington D.C. as they take on the first-place Nationals, three games at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati to take on the first place Reds, and then finally back to Southern California for their final three games against the Padres in San Diego. While the Dodgers are still only one game back of the Cards for that second Wild Card spot and 5 games over .500 overall for the season, the Washington Nationals are a Major League best 32 games over .500. They are cruising to their NL East Division crown and 5 games ahead of the Atlanta Braves in the standings even after the tomahawk choppers swept them in three games this past weekend. The Nationals could possibly clinch their playoff spot during this series with the Dodgers. Even though the Nats have shut down their young ace Stephen Strasburg for the year, their rotation is still arguably the strongest in the league and perhaps in all of baseball. While on the other hand, the Dodgers have indefinitely lost their ace Clayton Kershaw to a hip injury. Clayton had an appointment today in New York to seek a second opinion about a reported tear in his right hip labrum. If Kershaw needs surgery, he could be lost until the middle part of May of next year. We will keep you updated on any reports about Kershaw as we hear them. With that huge blow to the team, it makes us worry not only for the slim hope for a playoff berth this season but also the health of Kershaw for the 2013 season.
Aaron Harang will take the mound at Nationals Park for game one today. Harang has an even .500 record at 9-9, and he will be looking to notch that desired tenth victory for the year in his first season as a Dodgers. Harang hasn’t won a game since August 18th against Atlanta. In his career against the Nats, Harang is 1-2 with a 3.89 ERA. Mark DeRosa, Adam LaRoche, and Jayson Werth have all gone deep against the right-hander in the past. In his last outing versus Arizona, Harang took the loss after allowing 3 runs on 4 hits over 5 2/3 innings. The Big Show hasn’t made it past the sixth inning since that game in Atlanta, and he has been averaging about five to six innings per start. Luckily the Dodger bullpen has been very good of late, and we will see the return of Kenley Jansen today as well. Jansen has been on blood thinners, but he has since been okayed to return to the mound after being treated for an irregular heartbeat.
The Nationals will counter with Jordan Zimmermann, a righty as well. Last time out against the Mets, Zimmermann wasn’t involved in the decision
after allowing 2 runs on 6 hits over 5 innings of work. Zimmermann has only pitched six innings against the Dodgers in his career, and he doesn’t have a record against them with a 9.00 ERA. Hanley Ramirez has had the most at-bats against Jordan, and he is hitting .300 against him. Matt Kemp has hit a homerun against Zimmermann. Zimmerman has had some struggles in the last month or so, and in his last seven starts he is 2-2 with a 5.06 ERA. He cited that his fastball location was an issue for him in his last start, and that if he is unable to throw it for a strike right away then he usually has trouble from the get go. We will be watching for his fastball location in the first inning today.
Remember, the last time we played the Nationals was back in September when we swept the three-game series at Dodger Stadium. Bryce Harper, the young controversial phenom rookie, made his debut during the series. Since then Harper has made waves in the baseball world. Whether you love him or hate him, he always gets fans talking which is a good thing for the game. The Dodgers will have to be on the lookout for his sneaky and often rebellious ways. The 19-year old has hit 19 homeruns for the year, and he now has the second most homeruns in a season for a teenager in the Major Leagues behind Tony Conigliaro who hit 24 homeruns for the Boston Red Sox as a 19-year-old rookie back in 1964.
The game will begin at 4:05 pm, and it will be televised on KCAL. Check back here for our detailed recap and analysis as we continue to document the entire 2012 Dodger season.