Dodgers' Gameday: First Place Showdown in Texas

Bleacher ReportSenior Analyst IJune 12, 2009

SAN DIEGO - APRIL 06:  Hiroki Kuroda #18 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws a pitch against the San Diego Padres on April 6, 2009 at Petco Park in San Diego, California.  The Dodgers won 4-1.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Friday night the Los Angeles Dodgers will kick off their nine-game interleague road trip with a stop in Arlington, TX.

The three-game series will be the first meeting for the two teams sine 2001. The Dodgers took two out of three in Los Angeles that season.

Both teams remain atop their respective divisions. The Rangers (34-25), although slumping a bit in the last ten days, still lead the Angels by four and a half games in the AL West.

The Dodgers (40-21) still have the majors’ best record and are a comfortable eight games ahead of San Francisco.

Here are a few things to keep an eye on for Friday night’s game:

Hello, Former Friends and Foes

Andruw Jones will face his former team for the first time since his less-than-stellar stay in LA. Jones hit just .158 in 75 games with the Dodgers, and managed only three home runs and 14 RBI.

In 20 games with the Rangers in ’09, he is hitting .258, but already has hit five home runs and drove in 15 runs-more than his entire time in LA. Jones most likely won’t start against the right-handed Kuroda on Friday, but will certainly be in the lineup Sat. against Randy Wolf.

Welcome Back, Vicente!

Vicente Padilla (4-3, 5.22 ERA) will return home for the first time since being placed on waivers last Wednesday. He was dinged up in a 12-3 loss against the Yankees to trigger the move.

Fortunately for Texas, Padilla changed his attitude after the incident and is coming off a quality win in Fenway Park last Sunday. He pitched seven innings and gave up just two earned runs against the potent Red Sox lineup.

Padilla, known for his aggressive inside pitching, will have to avoid losing his temper against a patient Los Angeles club.

Kuroda Hits the Road

Since coming off the disabled list Jun. 2, Kuroda has surrendered just two earned runs in 11 innings. Friday will be the first time he pitches on the road in ’09.

He will have to focus on keeping the ball low in the zone against the powerful Rangers. The key will be getting good sideways and down rotation on his slider.

Sometimes Kuroda loses his feel for this pitch and when this happens, it flattens out and stays up in the zone.

Power vs. Contact

Despite breaking out for four solo home runs on Tuesday evening, the Dodgers rank 27th in the majors with 44 home runs. The hometown Rangers have slugged 89 long balls, which has been good enough for second in the majors behind the Bronx Bombers.

The Dodgers, however, hold the second best batting average in the majors (.281).

‘Pierre-don’ The Interruption

After stealing the hearts of Mannywood in the month of May, Juan Pierre has finally slowed down.

Pierre, who hit .369 last month, is hitting just .263 nine games into June. Even more concerning: He has scored just three runs in those nine games.

Here’s a quick glimpse at the road ahead for the Dodgers:

Probable Starters:

Sat.- LA: Randy Wolf       (3-2, 3.62)                        TX: Scott Feldman (5-1, 4.01)

Sun.- LA: Chad Billingsley (8-3, 2.73)                        TX: Doug Mathis (0-1, 6.00)

Next Week:

After a cozy nine-game, ten-day home stand, the Dodgers set off on a travel-filled two weeks.

On Tuesday, they will take their things back to the Golden State for a square off with the Oakland A’s for three games.

Next weekend the Boys in Blue play the Angels in a “road game at home” down the I-5 in Anaheim. The interleague run continues in the Windy City against Ozzie Guillen and the White Sox, before they finally return to Chavez Ravine for a six-game stay.


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