Monday, May 7, 2012

On a Week That Matters (For Now)

Let's face it. Ten games into the season you said: 'The Dodgers are winning because they're playing lousy teams. Seven games against the Padres. Three against the Pirates. No wonder they're 9-1.' I said it. Since then, they've gone 9-9. 

But there was something else you said. I know, because I said the same thing: 'Wait until they play the Giants. Then we'll know where they stand.' You/I/we were confident, but the first Giants/Dodgers series was still a few weeks away. Now it's here, followed with a three game encore against the Diamondbacks. We shouldn't be looking at the standings this early, but we're going to do it anyway:
Dodgers 18-10
Giants 14-14
Diamondbacks 14-15
Rockies 12-15
Padres 9-20
To say that we'll know where the Dodgers stand after they play the Giants is a double-edged sword. We might also learn a lot more about soul-crushing defeats. Lessons in how not to chip away at being four games back. Those kind of things. What we learned last August and September (though not quite in that Boston Red Sox kind of way). Of course, it's not August or September yet--though we've got a rival to defeat.

I figured that in the best-case scenario, the Giants would come away from the series with the Brewers at .500. What should we expect from the next week? I'd like to think that the Giants can win both series 2-1. It's not going to be easy, but it's not impossible. The main point is to close the gap with the Dodgers and open it up against the Diamondbacks.

One look at the probable pitchers could deflate these expectations: tonight it's Zito v. Ted Lilly (LHP), tomorrow Vogelsong v. Clayton Kershaw (LHP), and Wednesday Lincecum v. Chad Billingsley (RHP). I'd give you the stats, but all you need to know is in the LHP part. It means we'll probably have to deal with the platoon lineups, which means more Ryan Theriot (.208/.235/.229). Offensively speaking (that might be a pun), he's filling the spot that would have been taken by Eli Whiteside or Chris Stewart--although he probably won't match Chris Stewart's .556/.556/1.444 career slash line versus Kershaw. Did I mention that Blanco (.348 OBP) and Belt (.381 OBP) will more than likely be the casualties of the platoon?

The Giants may catch a break, however. Matt Kemp sat out most of yesterday's game against the Cubs (he pinch hit), and he's talking about sitting out a game or two to avoid exacerbating a hamstring injury. Kemp and Andre Ethier are pretty much the Dodgers' offense. Carl Steward writes:
The Dodgers’ offense consists of two guys: Kemp and Andre Either. They’ve combined to hit 18 of the team’s 24 home runs. They have 55 of the team’s 109 RBIs. Juan Uribe? Homerless so far in 2012. James Loney is at .202 with one homer and six RBIs in 27 games. Dee Gordon? Fast but flawed as a leadoff man and shortstop. A.J. Ellis looks like a comer, but he’s primarily a walk machine at this point. We like Mark Ellis, but he’s nothing more than steady Eddie at second.
Maybe I'm underestimating the Dodgers, but if Kemp sits, then it's up to the Giants not to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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