JC's Dodger Line Drives | April 17-19: Sweeping Away Rockies and Rubble

J.C. AyvaziSenior Analyst IApril 20, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 19:  Matt Kemp #27 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates his grand slam home run with Manny Ramirez #99, James Loney #7 and Russell Martin #55 against the Colorado Rockies during the fifth inning at Dodger Stadium on April 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Dodgers swept the Colorado Rockies to finish off a perfect homestand to begin their home schedule. Excellent pitching, timely hitting and slick fielding were all on display by the homestanding Dodgers.

Meanwhile, the surprising Padres finally took a misstep on Sunday, which allows the Dodgers to hit the road as the sole occupant of first place in the NL West.

Friday—Dodgers 4 Rockies 3

The first inning started off in shaky fashion for Dodger starter Randy Wolf, who surrendered three runs, keyed by the first home run of the season by Brad Hawpe. Wolf settled down after the opening frame and allowed no further runs. He struck out nine batters in his six innings of work.

Rockie starter Jorge De La Rosa threw a stylish five-and-one-third innings; allowing five hits, four walks, while striking out five. He did not allow the Dodgers to score.

That changed in the seventh, when Matt Belisle entered the game and allowed a leadoff single to Rafael Furcal, then walked Orlando Hudson. Manny Ramirez then grounded a ball into right to cash in Furcal.

Alan Embree replaced Belisle and got Matt Kemp to tap into a run-scoring force out before surrendering a double to Andre Ethier to bring in Kemp. Jason Grille entered and struck out Russell Martin, then was burned by a bloop single by Mark Loretta for the eventual game-winning run.

All these runs were for the benefit of Guillermo Mota, who gave way to Hong-Chik Kuo in the eighth. Kuo gave up a double, then made a nice play on a comebacker. After walking the next two batters, manager Joe Torre called in Jonathan Broxton for a five-out save, which he did in style, striking out four of the five hitters he faced to earn his fourth save of the season.

Saturday—Dodgers 9 Rockies 5

The Fox Network decided to pickup this game as one of their telecasts, having Dick Stockton on play-by-play and Eric Karros providing commentary. The larger spotlight must have been what Dodger slugger Manny Ramirez needed to get his home run swing out of mothballs as he cranked two solo drives off Rockies starter Aaron Cook.

Andre Ethier also dialed long distance twice, as Chad Billingsley picked up his third win in three chances. After five shutout innings, Bills tired in the sixth, conceding three runs. For the game, he allowed four hits and three walks, while striking out six.

Dodger bats came back with four runs in the seventh to put the game on ice, including a run scoring single by reliver Will Ohman, who was using one of Manny's bats.

The Dodgers also rested three regulars in this game, starting Blake DeWitt at third, Brad Ausmus behind the plate, and Juan Castro at short. Each delivered a hit and Castro also drove home the final Dodger run with a sacrifice fly.

Listening to the game was a bit of a chore, as is any Dodger game without Vin Scully behind the mic. However, the excuse machine with legs that is Eric Karros is particularly annoying.

Oh, the game is so difficult, the sun makes it hard, ground balls get lost in the shirts of the fans. On and on. Get over yourself, Eric: These are major league players who are being very well compensated. They are also human and make mistakes, but don't whine and carry on like a little wuss whose favorite toy is broken.

Sunday—Dodgers 14 Rockies 2

The day started with Dodger fans and brass wondering what they would get from James McDonald in his second start of the year. By the time the game ended, all were rejoicing in a blowout victory that sealed the sweep of the series as well as the homestand.

While McDonald did not allow a run in the four-and-one-third innings he worked, this can not be considered a good game on his part. His pitching was very uneven, plagued by an inconsistent delivery which saw him deliver 96 pitches, surrendering four hits and three runs while striking out two.

Pressing Rockies hitters can be considered the reason why McDonald was untouched for runs.

McDonald's effort showed he has a great deal of talent but still needs further refining, which will best be accomplished in the minors where he can start every fifth day. Better off in the minors than in the Dodger bullpen, where he will have limited game opportunities as a long man.

Since he left before qualifying for the victory, even with an early four-run lead, the recently recalled Scott Elbert was able to come in and pick up the victory with two-and-two-thirds innings of relief. He also helped himself with the bat, driving a double to the gap in left-center, scoring Casey Blake in the fifth inning.

This was also done with Manny's bat, which leads one to wonder about the nature of the magic it contains. Elbert tired in the sixth, allowing homers to Brad Hawpe and Chris Iannetta.

Home runs were also in the Dodger portfolio, as centerfielder Matt Kemp cranked two out, including a grand slam in the seven-run fifth. Kemp followed up on yesterday's effort from his two outfield partners, Ramirez and Ethier, each of whom went long twice the previous game.

This game also featured two hits by Russell Martin and Casey Blake, the two starters who have struggled the most at the plate. An encouraging sign, as the top of the lineup has been very effective.

JC's Comments and Observations

The Dodger lineup has potent bats hitting from leadoff through the eight hole, giving rise to my proposition that the nickname from the late 70's of "Big Blue Wrecking Crew" should be reinstated to describe the devastation this collection of hitters can unleash.

This collection of hitters in Dodger Blue leads the major leagues with a .302 batting average and an on-base percentage of .393 while tied in RBI with Toronto at 81. Their 82 runs scored and 134 hits lead the National League, while their 15 home runs are tied for second. They also lead the NL with 12 steals.

Granted, these are extremely early returns, but Dodger fans have every reason to believe the quality of this collection of hitters will provide an abundance of runs to aide the pitching staff.

These hurlers, disparaged throughout the media before the season began, has been quite effective so far. Chad Billingsley has looked confident in stepping into the "ace" role, as has new closer Jonathan Broxton in finishing out Dodger victories.

The Dodgers lead the National League with an ERA of 3.16, which is third in all of the majors. The 102 strikeouts is tied for second in the NL. A stat many feel is the most accurate in determining the effectiveness of pitching is the WHIP, which tracks runs and hits allowed per inning. The Dodgers lead the major leagues with a WHIP of 1.10, the Mets 1.24 is the closest NL team.

If the Los Angeles tradition of pitching excellence is maintained, supplemented with the budding jugernaut of their offense, Dodger fans may have the opportunity to see their team contend for the pennant and a long-awaited addition to the team's world championship total.

Up Next

The Dodgers have Monday off, then travel to Houston to open a three-game series. Tuesday features Clayton Kershaw and Russ Ortiz; Randy Wolf faces Houston ace Roy Oswalt on Wednesday; and Thursday sees Chad Billingsley matchup against Waddy Rodriguez. All games at Minute Maid Park are set to begin at 5:05 PM Pacific.


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