Van Slyke LF
After winning two of three against the lowly D-backs, the Dodgers will finally be able to face a different team. The Dodgers have played Arizona 8 times in their first 19 games, and they have only played three others (San Diego, Detroit and San Francisco). Philadelphia comes into town for a four-game set, and the Dodgers look to finally unravel the problem which is Cliff Lee. The Dodgers sit in first place in the National League West one game ahead of rival San Francisco while the Phillies are mired in last place in the Eastern division. With Atlanta and Washington in their division, the Phillies will have an uphill battle to wage this season in order to attempt to break through and play come October.
The Dodgers will need to shore up their defense and increase their offense output in order to defend their Western crown this season. The Dodgers only have a team batting average of .240 going into Monday’s game which ranks 10th in the NL. Philadelphia is a bit better with a team BA of .256. The real issue is the Dodgers’ defense which ranks second to last in the league (.974 fielding %) and worst in the league in errors (20). Tim Federowicz committed two errors himself in the last series with Arizona after he was called twice for catcher’s interference.
Not only will the Dodgers need to brush up on defense this series, but they will also have to deal with long-time nemesis Cliff Lee. Lee suffered an unusual loss in his last start against the Braves. He pitched a complete game while only allowing one run and striking out 13. Do you remember the game when Chad Billingsley only allowed one hit but still lost? The 35-year old lefty has always been a thorn in the Dodgers’ cleats, and is 2-2 with a 1.70 ERA against the Dodgers in his career over 7 starts. He is 1-0 at Dodger Stadium with an excellent 1.48 ERA in just over 30 innings of work. With the Dodger offense in a holding pattern right now, their at-bats will need to be thought out tonight against Lee otherwise he may end up striking out another dozen or so. Juan Uribe and Hanley Ramirez have had some success against Lee in the past. Uribe has 15 hits against Lee with 2 doubles, a triple and 2 homeruns. Hanley has hit 3 doubles and 3 homeruns against Cliff.
The Dodgers look to Paul Maholm again while Clayton Kershaw is on the mend. Kershaw’s rehab is going well, and he pitched in a
simulated game with A.J. Ellis catching on Sunday. It’s a great sign that the ultra important battery will be back soon. In the meantime, Maholm will need to give the Dodgers a solid start on Monday. The 31-year old left pitched decent enough in his last start against the Giants going 6 innings and allowing 1 run on 5 hits. Maholm has a career record of 5-3 with an ERA of 4.63 against the Phillies in 12 starts. Maholm is familiar with Philadelphia when he pitched against them as a Pirate. Jimmy Rollins has the most hits against Maholm with 10 in 30 at-bats. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley have a homerun each against Paul.
The Dodgers and Phillies have quite the history, and none of us can forget the heart ache of the 2008 and 2009 NLCS. Matt Stairs in now in the broadcast booth for Philadelphia, but luckily I will be listening to Vinny instead. The Phillies are a much different team now, and their success in the previous decade has all but dissipated. Of course the Dodger fans still enjoy watching the Boys in Blue defeat the Phillies, and Cliff Lee still remains a formidable foe. The Phillies also have defensive worries, and losses in close games have highlighted this weakness. The Dodgers would love to win this series against the Phils before the hot hitting Rockies come to L.A. this weekend.
Old friend alert: Tony Gwynn Jr. has played in 14 games for the Phillies this season and is hitting .292 with 7 hits in 24 at-bats.
Prediction: Adrian Gonzalez extends his hitting streak to 16 games.
Tune into SportsNet LA or CSN in Philly for the 7:10 p.m. PT game. Can the Dodgers figure out Lee? Check back with us after the game to find out.
Don’t miss out on the action and be sure to get your tickets when the Dodgers host the Philadelphia Phillies.