Yes, the Dodgers are 2-4 coming out of the All-Star break, and yes, the back of their rotation makes for viewing scarier than The Purge, but don’t buy into whatever “they can’t beat the good teams” chatter you may be hearing. Elementary as this may sound, the Dodgers can beat the good clubs when they’re playing well, and they can lose to the bad ones when they’re not.
More importantly, Los Angeles is about more than its fourth and fifth starters. A lot more. With Josh Beckett and Dan Haren watching after their ugly losses Tuesday and Wednesday night respectively, the Dodgers will be in San Francisco for the weekend sporting their Sunday best. Their Friday and Saturday best too.
With the National League West lead on the line, it’s the 56-47 Dodgers and the 57-45 Giants. Zack Greinke versus Tim Lincecum tonight at 7:15 p.m., Clayton Kershaw opposite Ryan Vogelsong Saturday at 6:05 p.m., and Hyun-Jin Ryu vs. Yusmeiro Petit at 5 p.m. on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball (and that's actual TV, with no blackout in L.A.).
If Don Mattingly and Rick Honeycutt semi-sacrificed the just-lost Pirates series to set up the Bay Area showdown with their big three, fine. Let’s get it on. The Giants chose differently, going with top starters Madison Bumgarner and Tim Hudson this week, beating the lowly Phillies three out of four. And because of two short starter outings and a 14-inning game Tuesday, San Francisco was forced to use its bullpen for 20 innings in the series.
But while they’re playing without Brandon Belt, Matt Cain and Dodger-killer Angel Pagan, the Giants often find a way to get it done in spite of their challenges. Maybe that’s because the dugout matchup of Bruce Bochy vs. Mattingly isn’t a fair fight. There’s a reason Bochy has guided his Padres and Giants to three National League pennants and two World Championships during a 15-year period, and Mattingly almost lost his job on at least one occasion in 2013.
But OK. Los Angeles is expected to have Yasiel Puig back following four missed starts thanks to a hit by pitch to the hand in St. Louis last weekend, and may see the return of Hanley Ramirez, who was nicked not once, not twice, but three times by Cardinals pitchers in Missouri.
General Manager Ned Colletti is contemplating all kinds of moves in anticipation of the non-waiver trade deadline July 31, and there is a chance (though slight) that the team could have reinforcements available during the weekend. More likely, however, is a blockbuster deal (or set of deals) involving an outgoing extraneous outfielder and incoming pitching. Probably a reliever (and maybe two) and definitely a starter. And maybe two.
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As I said in my second half preview, the Dodgers must fare well in their head-to-head games with the Giants. The seven losses to San Francisco from April to June cannot be repeated in the nine remaining contests from July through September. Not if L.A. wants to win the West, anyway. And L.A. wants the West.
If for some reason Puig and Ramirez can’t play, the injury excuse simply will not fly. Not this year. San Francisco wins with guys on the shelf – regularly, in fact – and Los Angeles can too. The Giants are a good team, a really good team. The Dodgers can beat the good teams. They really can. They just have to go out and do it.
And remember, glove conquers all.