Riding a three-game winning streak, the Dodgers kick off a three-game series with Milwaukee tonight at Dodger Stadium. This will be a good step up in competition for the Dodgers after making the Pirates the Jenna Jameson to their Tito Ortiz. The Brewers’ lineup possesses one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball in gargantuan first baseman Prince Fielder and “The Hebrew Hammer”, left fielder Ryan Braun. The Brewers are 1st in the NL in on-base percentage, 4th in home runs and RBIs and third in slugging. That means a suspect rotation, coming off a fine performance the last three games against Pittsburgh, are going to have to come up huge if the Dodgers are going to get out of the NL West basement.
Clayton Kershaw will lead things off on the mound tonight, and he will do battle with virtual unknown Chris Narveson. Narveson has been mainly used in relief and has a 6.60 ERA on the season. Kershaw has fared a little better this season, going 1-1 with a 3.07 ERA. The key for Kershaw will be controlling the walks. Kershaw’s given up 22 free passes in 5 starts(which averages out to a little more than 4 a game, for you math majors) to go along with 33 strikeouts. Against bottom dwellers like Pittsburgh and Washington, those walks may not kill you but against a team that rakes like the Brewers and with the Dodgers’ lineup still missing the big bat of Manny Ramirez, those control issues will kill you.
After Kershaw comes innings-eater Chad Billingsley(Yes, that was sarcasm). Billingsley has kept up his trademark inconsistency all season. He was solid against the Pirates last week(keywords being “against the Pirates”) and even in a loss to Washington before that, but got knocked around pretty good against Cincinnati a few weeks ago. Speaking of getting knocked around, Brewers pitcher Doug Davis, who will oppose Billingsley, has been taking more hits than Shane Mosley this season. Davis is 0-3 with a 8.87 ERA so far this season and would seem like the perfect mark for slumping center fielder Matt Kemp to break out of his snide.
In the series finale, John Ely will go up against Dave Bush. Ely’s first start was a bit rough, giving up five runs to the Mets in a 7-3 loss. Bush, on the other hand, seems to have a lights-out performance in him once every month. Back on April 20, Bush went seven scoreless against the Pirates(you may be sensing a theme here) for his first win of the season. Of course, Bush followed that up by giving up a combined 10 runs in his next two starts(both losses).
In the “hits just keep on coming” section, the Dodgers placed never-durable shortstop Rafael Furcal on the 15-day DL with a hamstring injury. Furcal, the team’s main source of speed and most dangerous lead-off threat, is eligible to return on May 13.
With Furcal and Manny out, the onus falls on young outfielders Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier to pick up the slack. Ethier stole the show in the Pirates series, homering in all three wins and taking the National League lead in RBIs and batting average. Kemp, meanwhile, has had his head in the clouds over the last few weeks. After carrying the team in Manny’s absence last year, Kemp has struggled withMan-Ram out of the lineup. He failed to drive a runner in in the Pirates series and, at times, looked aloof both on the bases and in the outfield. That can’t continue to happen, especially if the Dodgers’ shaky pitching can’t stop the levies from breaking against a hard-hitting Brewers squad. L.A. might only be 4.5 games out of first, but the chance to make a statement starts tonight by being able to topple a legit playoff contender in Milwaukee.
About the Author
Written by Dave Leonardis
Born and raised in New Jersey, I've been writing since I was 10 and blogging since I was 18. I'm a huge sports nerd, following football, baseball and basketball in particular in close detail. My style is very upfront. I don't pull punches and I'm not shy about criticizing anything I feel deserves a proper tongue-lashing. If you're looking for someone who says what he wants, when he wants, then look no further than this guy right here.