With Game Two in the books and the Phillies taking care of business at home in both games, there are a lot of questions the Dodgers need to answer... fast.
For example, who is going to start Game Four now in L.A.? Maddux or Lowe? My hunch is that Joe Torre will start Derek Lowe and as soon as he dips in any kind of trouble he will use the Maddux/Kershaw combination next. Despite the Dodgers giving up eight runs this evening, the bullpen was actually very solid and if anything positive can be taken from this game, that would be it.
The rookie right-hander James Mcdonald was especially impressive and may have earned himself some more quality pitching time this series. However, the bullpen was the only bright spot for L.A. in Game Two. The starting pitcher Chad Billingsley began solid then suddenly in the third inning he lost it all... real fast.
Possibly the most shocking stat of the entire game is the fact that the Phillies scored eight runs in two innings and never once hit a home run. No, that is not a misprint, the team that has relied on the long ball all season and post season long, never once hit a homer.
The Phillies have won and earned both of these games but the Dodgers have certainly helped them with poor selection at the plate. Nomar Garciaparra looked disgraceful in his last at-bat against Brad Lidge, especially because he swung at three straight sliders two feet off the plate.
As I did after Game One, I took some notes on the real problems with the Dodgers and how they can possibly resolve them as soon as possible.
First off, do not panic. The Phillies did what they were supposed to do, they won at home. Now it is the Dodger's turn to eat some home-cooking and win at least two games in L.A.
Secondly, quit watching first and second pitch fastballs right down the middle of the plate. The Phillies pitchers rely heavily on their "out" pitch, which is typically a ball in the dirt and a foot outside. If you are aggressive early in the count and hit fastballs then you won't have to see those sliders and curve balls in the dirt.
Thirdly, what has happened to Casey Blake? I know he had a single and put a great swing on 400 foot fly out, but he has been in a huge slump for about a month now. It doesn't matter where Torre has him in the lineup, he seems to either strikeout or hit a lazy fly to the outfield every time.
Fourth point, where has Russell Martin gone? Is he still playing for the Dodgers? He has been no factor at all so far and some of his bats are merely pathetic. He is watching fastballs zoom by and he is swinging at breaking balls that would graze his shoe tops. Martin has got to realize when he hits ahead of Manny he is going to get fastballs to start the at-bat because they don't want to walk him. The Dodgers' best results at the plate have come early in the count, wake up Russell.
Fifth, Matt Kemp's lack of urgency and strikeout clinic is getting old. Hey kids if you want to know how to look foolish in every at bat and whiff on breaking balls like Pedro Cerrano from the movie Major League, then watch Kemp. He is called the "next Dave Winfield" and according to many scouts his potential has no ceiling. If that's the case, he isn't even a few inches off the floor yet. He is young yes, but there are many young players out there that are achieving much more than him, look at Evan Longoria for example. I don't want to be too hard on him but seriously Matt, stop trying to hit every ball out of the park... making contact helps first.
That leads me to my sixth point, why are all of the Dodgers trying to hit like the Phillies? The Phillies beat you tonight by playing Dodgers' baseball and you lost by trying to play Phillies' baseball. Other than Manny, the Dodgers do not have a consistent enough power hitter to constantly swing for the fences. Perfect example came in the 8th inning when Rafael Furcal (who I will discuss shortly in further detail), had two strikes on him and a 94 MPH fastball right down broadway and he wasn't even close to hitting it. Do what you did in Chicago, make contact and see what happens...
Seventh point, as Furcal goes, so do the Dodgers. Hence the reason they are struggling. Furcal is 1 for 8 in the series with no stolen bases or sacrifices. His only hit is an infield single. It is obvious he is not 100 percent by how he is playing but if the Dodgers want to come back in this series they need him to get on base. Without Furcal the series could be a short one.
Point eight, I am not going to bash Lowe too much because he only gave up two earned runs in an ineffective outing, but Chad Billingsley was just awful. How do you honestly allow Carlos Ruiz a pathetic and minor league like hitter and a pitcher with four hits all year to beat you? Brett Myers went 3 for 3 and drove in three runs... are you kidding me? In a playoff series that cannot happen and if you allow it to happen you don't deserve to win. Obviously the Phillies are smart enough to make their pitchers take some swings in the cage before games. I can't stand Myers because he is an exceptionally overrated pitcher and a loud-mouthed player but this evening he put the dagger into the Dodgers backs and deserved the win... for his offense, not his pitching.
Ninth and final point, something that has always drove me insane about a lot of National League teams is the lack of emphasis on a pitcher's hitting skills. Brett Myers is certainly not a good hitter by any stretch of the imagination but tonight he proved out critical the pitcher's spot can be in the lineup. Pitchers only throw every four or five days, so why not work with them on their hitting and bunting skills when they aren't concentrating on their pitching workouts? It is sort of like when the infielders take their infield practice and then go spend a couple hours in the cage. Most pitchers in the MLB are good athletes because in high school and college, often times the best hitters are also the pitchers. The Dodgers have embarrassing at bats from their pitchers all of the time, no matter the starter, no matter the situation, the Dodgers' pitchers can simply not hit. I find it a bit ironic that both the Cubs and Phillies' pitchers in the postseason have had some positive production from the ninth spot while the Dodgers have seen none.
I have not lost all hope as a Dodgers' fan but it is sure dwindling away at a rapid amount. It is not the fact that they lost in Philly, it is how they have been trying to play... like a team they are not.
No more predictions for any of the games. I am hoping the Dodgers will come out on Sunday night fired up and use their home field and crowd to their advantage. If they don't win game three, they won't win game four... and that's the only prediction I am sure of.