Remember that supposedly over-loaded eight-man starting staff the Dodgers were sporting all winter? Well, it's down to four, and by most accounts five are required.
Aaron Harang — didn't want to be here, wasn't wanted anyway — traded. Zack Greinke, TKO. Chris Capuano, ineffective and injured quickly; Ted Lilly injured and ineffective slowly.
Capuano's left calf, hurt while covering first base in last night's 9-2 loss to San Diego, will be MRI'd today, and for all we know might be healed by the time the Dodgers need a fifth starter in seven days. If not, perhaps it'll be a Ted Lilly-cross-your-fingers game, and stranger things have happened; he might strike out 20. Or maybe Stephen Fife will catch the Southwest Airlines shuttle from Albuquerque to make a start.
Or maybe just maybe we'll see 21-year-old Zach Lee come up from Chattanooga to make his major league debut. Yeah, yeah, yeah; small size, I get it. But Lee's made three Southern League starts, won two of them, and walked four in 17 innings while striking out 15. His ERA stands at 1.06, the WHIP at 1.059. It could happen.
I'm not second-guessing a thing here. Ned Colletti was right to jettison Harang, Greinke's brawl injury couldn't have been foreseen and Lilly hasn't shown Los Angeles a thing. At least, nothing worth watching.
And hold your breath, people. The Padres' best player, Chase Headley, coming back from a broken thumb, makes his first appearance of the season tonight. The Dodgers haven't sought revenge for Carlos Quentin's going ape-wire on Greinke last week; not yet, and while there's been talk of waiting for the right time, they're beyond frustrated generally now.
So tonight could be the night. Clayton Kershaw's on the mound for L.A. — 7:10 p.m. opposite Tyson Ross — and he's not shy about protecting his players. Headley might be in line to hit the dirt, or worse.
On the other hand, the notion that the Dodgers, inspired by Quentin's actions, would rally with a string of victories — well, it's been anything but, so another fight might be more ill-advised than ever. They've lost three in a row, four out of five and have been embarrassed by the last place Pads the last two nights.
The club's hitting with runners in scoring position, or lack thereof, has been well-chronicled, as has the sub-par production from the left side of the infield. And Matt Kemp's struggles at the plate have every scribe and his brother professing a knowledge of either labrum science or number-three-man hitting mechanics, or both.
I say it's a batting slump. S-L-U-M-P. Dodger fans are concerned, Kemp's concerned, but he'll be fine. Eventually.
It's just that with starting pitchers falling down all over the place, the surprisingly wild and easy-to-score-upon relief corps helping little, and the quiet bats, the team looks very much like the fourth-place team they are this afternoon. Seven wins and seven losses makes complete sense.
So push your personal panic button if you like, or get yourself a Dodger Blue blindfold on eBay like I have. The baseball term “stopper” applies to situations exactly like this. Kershaw is your stopper. He goes out there and does his thing tonight — escapes injury or ejection on account of beaning — and we'll all feel better in the morning.
Off day tomorrow, followed by an interleague series in Baltimore. And 147 to play.
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