May 12, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Dan Haren (14) throws in the first inning of the game against the Miami Marlins at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Dodgers Love to Play the Bucs at Home


May is quickly coming to a close, and it was a month filled with injuries, drama, and a no-hitter. So, it was pretty much a typical month for the Dodgers. The Dodgers are stocked full of talent in their rotation, although the consistency from the five-guy set is coming from those not named Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw has still pitched great this year when he has been healthy, but it seems evident that his unwanted disability stint has put a fire within him to bounce back and dominate once again. There’s been some bumps in the road for Kershaw this season, but the competitiveness within him is so fierce, he will not let anything stand in his way. Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu have pitched like aces in their own right, and Josh Beckett has reinvented himself during his comeback season. Dan Haren, essentially the Dodgers’ fifth starter now, has pitched admirably. He was one of the better pick-ups this offseason for Ned Colletti.

Dan Haren (5-3, 3.16) vs. Gerrit Cole (4-3, 3.76)

Lineup: 

Gordon 2B

Ethier CF

Puig RF

Ramirez SS

Gonzalez 1B

Kemp LF

Turner 3B

Federowicz C

Haren P

Although Haren was battling some back stiffness a couple of starts back, he hasn’t missed any time this season which is really important to the hobbled team. Haren has lost his last two games, but in his last start against Philadelphia, he allowed just 2 earned runs on 6 hits with 7 strikeouts and 2 walks in 6 innings. Haren has almost made it until at least the sixth inning in all 10 of his previous starts except for one game back at Chase Field in April when he only lasted 5 2/3 innings. The 33-year old So Cal native is 3-2 in his career against Pittsburgh with a 4.98 ERA in 8 starts. Andrew McCutchen has hit Haren the best in the past, and the outfielder has a .444 batting average versus Haren with 4 hits including a double,  2 homeruns, and 4 RBIs in 10 plate appearances against Dan.

Gerrit Cole is also a big right-hander and also born in Southern California (Newport Beach). Last season he won 10 games for the Bucs, and the young pitcher has already raked up 60 strikeouts on the season (he struck out 100 in 2013). Last time out against Washington, Cole allowed 2 runs on 5 hits with 7 strikeouts in 6 innings. It was a very similar line as Haren’s last start. He has only made one start against the Dodgers in his career, and he won. He allowed 3 runs on 7 hits in 5 2/3 innings back in June of 2013 in Pittsburgh. That was Cole’s second career start, and he began his rookie season winning his first four starts for the Bucs. Yasiel Puig has 3 hits in 3 at-bats versus Gerrit Cole. Andre Ethier has 2 hits, and Adrian Gonzalez has 1. No other Dodger has a hit versus Cole. Most of the team has never faced the righty.

The Dodgers are still looking for their 30th win of the season. Even though they are 5 games above .500, the season seems to be a bit disappointing so far with the team currently in second place behind the rejuvenated San Francisco Giants who are 5 1/2 games ahead in the NL West.

With injuries to Juan Uribe, Carl Crawford, Clayton Kershaw, Hanley Ramirez, A.J. Ellis, Brian Wilson, Hyun-jin Ryu, and Chris

Chris Withrow as a torn UCL and needs Tommy John surgery. Photo: H.Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports

Withrow who has a torn UCL, the Dodgers will need all hands on deck. Tommy John has been recommended to Withrow who will seek a second opinion. Obviously this is a huge hit to the Dodgers who have had a very shaky bullpen this season. Withrow emerged last season as a dominant late-inning reliever. This season he has had some command issues and had no record with a 2.95 ERA with 28 strikeouts and 18 walks over 20 games (21 1/3 innings). 

The Dodgers have not won more than 3 games in a row this season so far, and they are still looking for that shift of momentum to go in their favor.

Matt Kemp‘s shift to left field didn’t come without drama. The saga even seeped into the glorious Josh Beckett no-hitter coverage. Matt Kemp’s defense is the issue, and even if he still can hit that is not enough. Obviously Matt Kemp is not happy about the public transition which has resulted in much unnecessary bashing on Matt Kemp especially on the internet. Perhaps Don Mattingly could have handled the situation better, but I think Mattingly had just seen enough and wanted to make the change relatively quickly. Matt Kemp wasn’t having that of course. Although it is sad to see the once M.V.P. caliber player to be told he can’t field his position well anymore, Kemp needs to embrace any role the Dodgers need from him and move on for the betterment of the team. There still is no reason to badmouth Kemp who has been  long-time team leader for the Dodgers. I hope Kemp can succeed both at the plate and in left field, but to me it seems like Kemp isn’t the same player we all once awed.

The Dodgers need to use this series against the Bucs as a launching point for a winning streak. The Dodgers dominate the Bucs at Dodger Stadium historically, and the Bucs are not the underdog achievers like last season. The Pirates sit 7 1/2 games out of first place in the NL Central and currently are in fourth place. The Pirates are on a West coast tour, and the Pirate ship will sail on to San Diego after the Los Angeles series.

Jordy Mercer, the Pirates’ shortstop, is 0-for-his last 20. Barmes is only hitting .213, so the Pirates are getting absolutely no production from shortstop. Neil Walker is hitting well, and he is riding a 9-game hitting streak into Thursdays game. Walker leads all NL second baseman with 10 homeruns.

Brandon League continues to have himself a good season, and he hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last 15 appearances. It’s quite shocking, but perhaps Rick Honeycutt was able to perform some of his magic on League? Or was it his offseason LASIK procedure which sharpened League’s eyesight?

Prediction: Yasiel Puig has another multi-hit game.

By unlocking Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez’s offense, the Dodgers could start a new winning streak and gain ground in the West. Join us back here after tonight’s game for the recap.

Go Blue!

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