by Adam Goudchaux, Contributing Writer and Loyal Dodgers Fan
How does that Dinah Washington song go? “What a difference a Kemp makes…twenty four little hours…” Ok, Matt Kemp wasn’t even born when that song came out, furthermore he’s been back with the Dodgers for more than twenty four hours. But I’ll be damned in h-e-double hockey sticks if his presence hasn’t been felt from Downtown Los Angeles all the way to Camarillo… spanning the entire valley kids!!
While father Kemp was away the mice played…erratically. The Dodgers went 24-29 in his absence. 53 games in total. The first 25 of those games it seemed that the mice enjoyed full access to all that cheese. They went 14-11 with a nice 7 out of 10 stretch in there for good measure. Not bad after losing the greatest all-around player in the game today. The last 28 games? Different story. The mice got all gluttonous and when they ran out of cheese went straight for the rat poison. 10-18. Ouch.
Ok, maybe it wasn’t rat poison… maybe it was Juan Uribe at 3rd carrying that .190 batting avg. of his. Or James Loney at 1st who always seemed to be up when a hit was needed to extend a rally, but the ole’ GIDP seems to be creeping around Loney like gnats on a sticky Chavez Ravine summer night. He’s hit into a whopping 13 double plays this season.
Then there was the really, bad pitching, though the numbers would suggest otherwise. The Dodgers currently are 2nd in ERA, 2nd in Quality Starts and 3rd in BAA. Yes, I’m as shocked as you are, but numbers don’t always tell the story. In Kemp’s absence all you had to do was watch the games to see that Dodger pitchers were not getting the big K or big GIDP when they needed it.
Not scoring runs in support of your pitchers makes the need to pitch out of jams that much more frequent. More frequency = more failure.
Injuries to Andre Ethier, Mark Ellis, Javy Guerra and Dee Gordon who dislocated his thumb stealing his 30th base of the year, didn’t help matters either, though the Gordon DL stay may be a blessing in disguise as he can use the time to watch the likes of Bobby Abreu, who is now in the leadoff spot, work a freakin’ count.
Abreu who is batting a mere .244 is making up for that with his .345 on-base percentage. That’s what leadoff hitters do. They get on base by hook or by crook. It’s a thing of beauty to watch that guy at the plate. It’s one of the few times in recent memory that the Dodgers picked up a retread that is actually helping the team.
But nothing has helped more than Kemp’s return to the lineup. Matty has turned the Dodgers back into a major league club, because I could swear the one they were fielding in his absence was ‘Straight Outta San Bernardino.’ Amazing, his mere presence in the lineup makes the 1-2 and 4-5 spots dangerous again. Opposing pitchers have to reevaluate how they pitch to the 2 hitter especially if the 1 hitter gets on, because they know big Matt is standing in the on-deck circle.
The Dodgers are off to a humdinger of a start on their current 10 game road trip. They swept the New York Mets in New York for the first time since 2002. They followed that up with a win in the first of three against the Cardinals last night, behind a gritty performance from much maligned pitcher Chad Billingsley and a 3-run jack by surprisingly effective minor league call up Luis Cruz. Cruz, who has replaced Dee Gordon at short has a knack for getting the big hit when you need it. His .241 average belies that fact, but he’s hitting .333 with runners in scoring position: 6-18 with 9 RBI and a home run.
The Dodgers are on a 5 game win streak, but the Giants aren’t going to make this once destined NL West championship easy. They are currently keeping pace with the Dodgers who have shaved 2 games off of the Giants once 3 ½ game lead to a tantalizing 1 ½ … so Gigantes? Do me a favor and drop 7 of the next 10…thankssssss. Is that too much to ask?
Speaking of the Gigantes, guess who the Dodgers are playing at the end of this roadie… three against the hated ones on the mean streets of San Francisco. It’s the Blue’s chance to make a statement and recapture their mojo in the West. But as it stands, top to bottom, I concede that the position players for the Giants make a better overall team than do the Dodgers’.
This new ownership, which was nice enough to send all their fans a state-of-the-union letter at the all-star break, saying it wants to win now, has the deep pockets to make that happen. So Dodgers brass… go ahead and do everything you can to complete trades for Armais Ramirez and Matt Garza at starting pitcher. The Giants will be “a distant ship out on the horizon” (thanks Floyd) if you do. Again thankssssss.
You have to fill one or the other. The bigger need is at 3rd so concentrate on that. If you don’t make a move now, the holes at 1st and 3rd will haunt us into the off-season. We will either miss the playoffs altogether or make it in by the skin of our teeth. Skin of our teeth would entail a play-in wild card game in which we would have to burn Clayton Kershaw. That would screw up the rotation in the first round of the playoffs effectively leading to an early post-season demise. Not acceptable. Win the division. Bring the culture of winning back to Chavez Ravine right out of the box. Hell even Frank McCourt won the division his first year as owner. And for F’s sake lower concession prices already!!
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