Martin Muscles Up
It wasn’t quite his bobblehead night, but Russell Martin did his best Manny Ramirez impression with a sixth-inning grand slam to break a 2-2 tie last night.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were desperately in need of a win, with the Colorado Rockies already winning earlier in the evening and creeping to within three-games in the NL West.
Behind Martin’s slam, the Dodgers secured a 7-2 win over the visiting Chicago Cubs and it seems as though the big hit took a monkey off his back.
"I've been waiting a while to do something in front of the home fans," he said. "I've been squaring a lot of pitches lately. I don't know what it looks like in the stats, but I feel every time I'm going to square it, and I haven't had that feeling in a while."
Martin, although he got off to an incredibly slow start, hit .317 in the month of July and maintained a solid on-base percentage of .391.
Entering last night’s game, he had regressed to hitting just. 246 in August with a .295 OBP, but he put an excellent stroke on the home run ball.
One of the main reasons Los Angeles has seen their lead in the division dwindle is because a lack of run production, and Martin was public enemy No. 1 in that department.
Martin was hitting just .233 (27-for-116) with runners in scoring position before launching a shot over the left-center field wall last night, and just .256 (46-for-180) with men on base.
Even worse, he’s hitting only .196 (11-for-56) with two outs and runners in scoring position.
Here’s to hoping the Canada-native finds some much needed confidence with last night’s performance.
Big Time Bullpen Performance
Ronald Belisario earned the victory by recording the last two outs of the sixth before the Dodgers went ahead in the bottom of the frame on Martin’s blast.
Entering with a runner at second, Belisario got a groundout to Blake at third and then issued a walk to Koyie Hill. He settled down and got pinch-hitter Aaron Miles to groundout on the second pitch and end the inning, stranding the runner in scoring position.
It was encouraging to see Ramon Troncoso take the mound and pitch with confidence. As of late, he hasn’t seemed to be in command of the game when he enters.
Last night, he threw first pitch strikes to the first three batters he faced.
Despite having a pitch count of 18, with only nine finding the strike zone, he looked much better than in recent outings.
In the month of August, Troncoso had notched two losses with an ERA of 10.50 before tossing a shutout frame last night; from April through July he went 4-0 with a 2.02 ERA, making it quite clear that the youngster has been running out of gas as of late.
He has now appeared in nine games in August and thrown seven innings, allowing seven runs. Considering that he pitched 62.1 innings the rest of the season prior to this month and surrendered only 14 earned runs, the Dodgers need him to return to mid-season form to solidify the late-innings relief.
Guillermo Mota came on to work the final two innings to seal the deal and preserve the victory.
He shut out the Cubbies and allowed two harmless singles, but just like Troncoso, Mota had struggled until this outing.
Mota gave up only two earned runs in 31.1 IP in June and July (0.57 ERA), but in August had allowed six earned runs in only 7.2 IP (7.02 ERA).
The outings for both pitchers provided a touch of positive energy to a bullpen that has been the ugly stepchild as of late, mainly because of Jonathan Broxton’s inability to save games, but also because of Mota and Troncoso’s ineffectiveness.
Wolf Looks to Howl
Randy Wolf has been chewing up innings lately for a beat up Dodgers rotation.
"I think I'm on the best pace of my career, as far as innings," he said.
"The only thing that I think about is being consistent, and I feel that for the most part I've done that this year. I don't think I've been consistently great, but I think I've been consistently good. And I'll take that."
Perhaps it’s the motivation of $500,000 dangling in front of him; Wolf is set to earn that amount as a bonus once he reaches 170 innings this season.
He has thrown 162.2 innings thus far, so seven-and-one-third put into tonight’s effort would secure him another half a million dollars in his pocket.
Wolf has tossed three-straight games of seven or more innings, now taking the team lead in innings pitched.
Since the injury to Hiroki Kuroda, Wolf has stepped up like the veteran he is and made solid starts in each appearance.
Surrounded by young arms like Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw, Wolf has demonstrated yeoman-like work ethic that is sure to rub-off on the young men in a time when their valuable arms have to carry a little extra load.
PJ Ross is a Featured Columnist for the Los Angeles Dodgers