After losing their first two series post All-Star Break, the Dodgers turned around their road trip and ended up going 5-4 after sweeping the Giants in San Francisco. Now back in first place in the NL West and two games up of the reeling Giants who have dropped five games in a row, the Dodgers return to Dodger Stadium to open an eight-game homestand beginning with a three-game set against the Atlanta Braves. The Braves, whom the Dodgers knocked out of the playoffs last season in the NLDS, are currently one game behind the Washington Nationals in the NL East.
The Dodgers’ road trip wrapped up on a winning and sweeping note thanks to their excellent pitching and three prime performances from Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-jin Ryu. The Dodger offense also stepped up their game and knocked around the Giants pitching corps over the three games up at AT&T Park. The bullpen was also able to hold on to the leads, and this was especially important in Sunday’s one-run game which saw solid outings from J.P. Howell, Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen. The Dodgers also took full advantage of the Giants’ desperation signings Dan Uggla and Jake Peavy. Uggla committed two errors in Sunday’s finale, and Peavy was peeved after a flustery fifth inning which was full of dropped third strikes leading to the Dodgers plating the winning run on the heels of Dee Gordon.
Old friend Aaron Harang will return to Dodger Stadium where he once struck out nine consecutive batters for a L.A. Dodger record
in 2012. Let’s hope he doesn’t repeat the feat against the Dodgers on Tuesday evening. The San Diego native spent time with the Mariners, Mets, and now the Braves since leaving Los Angeles. Harang has been pitching great with the Braves who lost Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen during Spring Training when they succumbed to Tommy John surgery. His current 3.31 ERA is almost a full point lower than his career marks (4.22). Against the Dodgers, the right-hander is 4-6 with a 4.26 ERA in 11 career starts. At Dodger Stadium, he is 3-7 with a 3.80 ERA in 18 starts. In his last start against Miami, Harang went 7 innings and allowed 2 runs on 7 hits. Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez have clobbered Harang. HanRam has hit 5 homeruns against him, and Gonzo has smashed 3 long balls versus Harang.
Josh Beckett will continue to pitch through his hip injury, and he will try to bounce back from a disastrous start last time out against Pittsburgh. Beckett only lasted 3 2/3 innings and allowed 4 runs on 6 hits after allowing three homeruns in the Dodger loss. Beckett is 8-7 with a 2.07 ERA against the Braves over 17 career starts against them, but he hasn’t pitched against Atlanta since 2009. Not many of the current Braves have faced Beckett. B.J. Upton has the most plate appearances against the veteran (44), and he is hitting .220 against him with 2 homeruns. With Dan Haren struggling and being skipped in the rotation this time around, the Dodgers will look to Beckett to return to his early season form when he was vying for Comeback Player of the Year.
Prediction: Hanley Ramirez hits one out at Dodger Stadium to ring in the homestand.
With the trade deadline looming, the Dodgers have been linked to multiple frontline starters including Cole Hamels and Jon Lester. With Beckett’s torn hip labrum and Dan Haren’s general awfulness, it is no question that the Dodgers need to bolster their rotation down the stretch in order to make a playoff push. Whether a trade actually goes down remains to be seen, but Beckett will need to give the Dodgers some confidence considering his regression and injury.
The Dodgers also traded the Chicago Cubs for sharp infielder Darwin Barney in exchange for cash considerations or a player to be named later. Barney is a great pickup in order to further strengthen the middle infield depth and back up Hanley Ramirez when needed.
Yasiel Puig will likely make his debut in center field in front of a hometown crowd. My 2014 Yasiel for Center Campaign has produced promising results. The Wild Horse is patrolling his larger pasture, and he has yet to steam roll another outfielder out there yet.