Bug Hunt: First-Place but Slumping Dodgers Look to Squash the D-Backs
|D-Backs ace Dan Haren will try to throw a minor monkeywrench into the Dodgers' postseason plans tonight.|
Way back on April 10, we reluctantly -- because it was a distasteful task -- called the National League West for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Of course, it's not a done deal yet. The Boys in Blue are giving folks in L.A. the night sweats, 'cause the Dodgers can't seem to shake those pesky fleas called the Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants. But you've gotta figure that the Dodgers, despite their recent slump, have it locked barring a giant meteor taking out Chavez Ravine.
Naturally, we desert dwellers view the story of the 2009 NL West through sand-colored shades: the Diamondbacks' embarrassing demise, which helped to open the door for Dodger domination. It's not. It's the Dodgers' shocking return to form, which seems startlingly similar to that of their brethren the Lakers.
On one crucial level, the Dodger rebirth is not shocking at all. L.A. has deep pockets and a veteran manager (Joe Torre) who, despite his myriad naysayers, can actually coach a bit; slump or no, the Dodgers own the best record in the NL, and only Torre's former team, the Yankees, has more wins in the majors to this point than Joe's Dodgers.
Can the Dodgers shock the world and give the City of Angels its second major world title in less than six months?
Doubtful, but what's surprising about this Dodgers crew, which is not so very different in makeup from the trainwreck of a squad it was at this time last year, is that it's been playing like a true team (granted, not of late).
Furcal. Hudson. Ethier. Kemp. Loney. Blake. Martin. No superstars here, but collectively a solid group -- and one that got on quite nicely while the franchise's one true megastar, Manny Ramirez, took a little unpaid R&R in the early part of the summer.
The problem, as ever for this particular era of Dodgers, is pitching. Their starters are either hobbled (Chad Billingsley, Jason Schmidt) or snakebit (Clayton Kershaw, Randy Wolf). This has led Torre to seriously overutilize his bullpen arms, which bodes ill for postseason hopes. The Dodgers' solution? Simple. Do as they've done all year and squash the NL West competition like bugs. Including Wednesday's loss to the Giants, the Dodgers are 32-13 against division opponents. Twenty-seven of their last 47? Against the weak-sister West.
It pains us to say it, but based on that factor alone, the bullpen should get a nice, long breather in August and September, and the Dodgers will be hard-pressed to fail. They'll start the last leg of their journey right here at Chase Field today through Sunday against their preseason divisional co-favorites, the D-Backs.
Here's hoping the home-bugs can at least mess up that pretty blue windshield a little bit.
The scheduled pitching match-ups look like this:
Tonight, 6:40: Dan Haren (11-7, 2.57 ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw (8-6, 2.73).
Saturday, 5:10 p.m.: Doug Davis (7-10, 3.62) vs. Hiroki Kuroda (5-5, 4.21).
Sunday, 1:10 p.m.: Yusmeiro Petit (2-6, 5.87) vs. Randy Wolf (6-6, 3.43).
TV: Fox Sports Arizona. Radio: KTAR-AM 620, KSUN-AM 1400 (Spanish). More info: www.dbacks.com.