LA Dodgers: Hurry Back Matt Kemp and Ted Lilly or Say Goodbye to Dodgers Lead

Richard LeivenbergContributor IIIJune 26, 2012

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 21:  Matt Kemp #27 of the Los Angeles Dodgers on the disable list, sits and looks on from the dugout in the seventh inning against the Oakland Athletics in t at Coliseum on June 21, 2012 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

By the fifth inning of the first game between the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday, the score was 8-0 in favor of the Giants, and the Dodgers looked nothing like the NL West's leading team.

Pitcher Nathan Eovaldi was smacked around the yard quickly and easily by the fearless Giants batters. Everyone it seemed was 2-for-2 with an RBI, and whatever he was throwing, it sure wasn't a major league fastball.

Eovaldi needed to evolve.

Meanwhile, the Dodger lineup continued its anemic hitting, a frightening trend that has melted their once-dominant lead in the NL West.

Just a year out of the minors, Eovaldi replaced Ted Lilly in the rotation when Lilly went on the DL with shoulder inflammation (h/t At the time, the veteran lefty was a key reason for the Dodgers success with a 5-1 record and a 3.14 ERA.

Lilly, who had been with five other teams before joining the Dodgers in 2010, is one of those wily vets who pitches with guile and guts, and he provided the necessary stability that aided the Dodgers early run.  His injury was a bit of a surprise for a guy who barely hits 90 mph on the gun.

Meanwhile, the best player on the team and perhaps the best player in the league, Matt Kemp, remains on the DL with a hamstring injury.  This is a serious matter for a guy who races around the bases and roams free in center field making diving catches. 

With the Dodgers potential 40-40 man on the bench, it was only a matter of time before his absence would be felt.

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 18: Ted Lilly #29 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning at Dodger Stadium on May 18, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

It is hard to know how the Dodgers have filled in offensively with Kemp gone.

It has been primarily up to Andre Ethier to be the meat of the order, and he has been lagging on the power end of things the last month. Once the leader in RBI in the National League, he hasn't had a home run or an RBI in more than 10 games.

The team cannot make it with the likes of Adam Kennedy, Juan Rivera, James Loney and Juan Uribe. These are guys you let go; they are not guys who make you go.

Using a remarkable 56 lineups in 73 games, manager Don Mattingly has somehow manipulated his team into winners.  That will undoubtedly put him at the top of the list as Manager of the Year should the Dodgers hold onto their first-place status.

But that doesn't look likely with the way they are currently playing.

They lost the series over the weekend to the Los Angeles Angels, granted a very, very good team that may soon have a first-place spot of its own.

Before that, however, they made the cardinal mistake of dropping three straight to one of the least effective teams in the American League, the Oakland Athletics.

Eovaldi has been anything but stellar with a 1-3 record and a fastball that is all too hittable.

Then there has been chatter about the Dodgers getting Cole Hamels to shore up the rotation, but you can't count on chatter.

Kemp will probably not return until after the All-Star game, and even though he is the leading vote-getter, he probably won't play in the midseason contest (h/t Dylan Hernandez, the Los Angeles Times).

With the Giants feeling like winners again, the Dodgers need to regain their strength and that will only come when Kemp and Lilly return.

And that cannot come soon enough.