The Dodgers picked up a big W today, with a 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium. The Braves were, no doubt, the hottest team in baseball over the last month or so. Atlanta went 20-8 in the month of May, swept the defending NL champion Philadelphia Phillies to take over first place in the NL East, and came into tonight’s game riding a 9-game winning streak.
Los Angeles made them pump the brakes today. The Dodgers jumped out to a 4-0 lead against Atlanta punching bag Kenshin Kawakami(Side rant: Kawakami’s 0-8 on the season. He has an ERA of 4.91. I’m not trying to take anything away from the Dodgers’ win today, but I’m almost 100% the name “Kenshin Kawakami” is some form of Japanese for “losing pitcher”. No other first place team would still have this guy in their starting rotation. Just saying.) in the first two innings. Starter Clayton Kershaw went 6 2/3 innings and struck out eight but continues to have control issues as he also walked five batters. Kershaw leads the league in walks with 40. That’s not exactly what you want out of your ace. Kershaw also coughed up four runs, allowing Atlanta to tie it in the 7th thanks to a Yunel Escobar double. Dodgers first baseman James Loney, however, drove in the go-ahead run later in the 7th and reliever Hong-Chih Kuo kept things steady before closer Jonathan Broxton shut the door for his 14th save.
The win, coupled with a Padres loss to Philadelphia, pushes the Dodgers up to just a half a game back of San Diego in the NL West. The remaining slate in the Braves series won’t be easy though. Chad Billingsley(6-2, 3.74 ERA), coming off a season-high 11 strikeout performance against Arizona, will take the mound against Braves pitching phenom Tommy Hanson(5-3, 3.78 ERA). Hanson’s won his last two starts but has shown the mark of a young pitcher by walking eight combined in those two games. In the finale, Rookie of the Year dark horse John Ely(3-2, 2.54 ERA) will face off against red-hot Tim Hudson(6-1, 2.30 ERA). In his first full season back since shoulder surgery a couple years ago, Hudson hasn’t lost since April 21st.
Even if Los Angeles manages to get the best of Hanson and Hudson, things don’t get any easier. After Atlanta, the Dodgers get a three-game series with St. Louis in which they will go up against last year’s Cy Young runner-ups Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. That’s just the start to a June that will see the Dodgers travel to Fenway to play the Red Sox in a couple weeks and then host manager Joe Torre’s old team, the New York Yankees, towards the end of the month. June will be the toughest test for a Dodgers team that had a shaky April and a solid May. If the Dodgers can go through June like the Braves did in May, they will finally prove that they are a legit contender.
The first step, though, comes this weekend by continuing to throw ice on a smoking hot Braves squad.
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.