The Los Angeles Dodgers salvaged a win on Thursday in a 10-2 affair over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Ronnie Belliard had a big day, filling in at third base for Casey Blake. He collected four RBI's while falling a single short of the cycle.
Chad Billingsley looked sharped, going nearly six innings allowing just one run and striking out seven.
While the Dodgers' starting pitching and offense finally looked sharp, it comes a little late in a series L.A. needed to win. Everyone knows momentum can be everything for a team early in the season. The Dodgers were predicted to be off to a good start, facing a Pirates team that has a lot of young prospects making the bulk of their line-up.
However, the pitching looked ineffective and rusty, the offense struggling to produce, and an error by second baseman Blake DeWitt in game two raised concerns about his abilities in the field going forward.
Now add to the concerns an injured right fielder. Andre Ethier was out of the line-up on Thursday with a sore left ankle. X-Rays were negative and his return is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, but this injury has terrible timing for a team needing to find its rhythm.
Reed Johnson's signing becomes all the more important as soon as an injury happens to the Dodger's starting outfield. He had a decent Spring but will need to prove why he is an established outfielder.
Things aren't looking up for the Dodgers' pitching either. Hiroki Kuroda was smacked around in the spring and will be the starter against the Marlins at Sun Life Stadium on Friday.
The keys to success will be the strengthening of the bullpen (insert all the cliches here). After series one, there is much left to be desired.
Some alarming stats:
In 17 plus innings of work, the Dodgers have surrendered 13 walks, which has led to allowing a combined 17 runs in three games; that's 5.7 runs per game. Despite a terrible average with runners in scoring position, the Dodgers did provide some offense, but 5.7 is a hard number to chase day in and day out.
As the great John Madden would say, "you can't win games if you don't score more than the other team." Plain and simple, the Dodgers will need to sharpen their pitching, which was the main concern going in to Opening Day, and still remains.
There isn't much more insight to provide thus far, except George Sherrill needs to be a staple in the pen in a hurry, and hopefully teams don't have an updated scouting report on Vicente Padilla quite yet.