As is the case nearly every fifth day, Sunday's blueprint for Dodger victory was presented by Clayton Kershaw. Eight innings of three-hit one-run ball, with an extremely-clutch ninth inning bases-clearing double from A.J. Ellis, was good enough for the individual W, and a series win for Los Angeles.
And as is his custom, the Dodgers' ace humbled the Giants yet again in San Francisco. With the win yesterday, Kershaw improved his record at AT&T Park to 6-2, with an almost non-existent 0.78 earned run average. In his six-year career, Kersh's overall mark against the Giants stands at 11-4 and 1.32. With a minimum 75 innings pitched, the 1.32 ERA against the Giants is the lowest in history, going all the way back to the beginning of the franchise's existence as the New York Gothams in 1883.
With the two victories in the Bay Area over the weekend, L.A. won its fifth straight series, four of which have come at the expense of division rivals, and have won 12 out of 15 games. And as is happening with increasing frequency lately, there is some sort of positive takeaway apparent even on days when the team does not triumph. When they lost 9-5 to the Rockies on the Fourth of July, for example, the Dodgers could still point to an Adrian Gonzalez four-hit performance and a Matt Kemp home run as bright spots, and headed to San Francisco after a loss satisfied with the series win in Colorado.
Though the Dodgers were handcuffed by San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner Saturday afternoon, losing 4-2, the game featured a booming two-run homer by Tim Federowicz to make it close, and a rather amusing Giants' batting-out-of-order embarrassment, which looked like something straight out of Little League.
More importantly, general manager Ned Colletti engineered a trade Saturday, acquiring starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco and the remaining $5.5 million on his 2013 contract from the Marlins for three minor leaguers. While I had my eye on a better quality of arms, some of whom may eventually end up with the competition, Chad Moryama and Mike Petriello have shown me the light, and given the relative cost of prospects going Miami's way, the international slot money coming to L.A., and the notion that the Dodgers may yet bring in another starter should one in the fold falter or fall, I'm going to support the deal. Nolasco is scheduled to make his Dodgers debut tomorrow night in Arizona, with Chris Capuano having already been moved to the bullpen.
Friday's series opener was a 10-2 laugher at the expense of erstwhile San Francisco ace, Matt Cain, who the Dodgers pounded for eight runs in just 2 1/3 innings of work. Former-Giant Juan Uribe led the way with a triple, a homer and seven RBIs, Hyun-Jin Ryu improved to 7-3 with the victory, and even struggling Brandon League contributed a scoreless ninth inning.
Kemp gave the team a scare, however, wincing in pain after a swing and miss in the second inning Friday, and was later replaced by Carl Crawford, just activated from the disabled list. The Dodgers' center fielder was diagnosed with an irritation of the A/C joint of the left shoulder, about which the proverbial "it wasn't in the area that was operated on" comment was sure to follow (and did), and he's expected to play perhaps as soon as tonight.
Yasiel Puig, who continues to be the center of attention around the team and the league, followed his four-strikeout day Saturday with a two-hit game yesterday, including a rocket single to the left center to open the game-winning rally in the ninth and a spectacular diving catch an inning earlier.
With a hand from the fans who participate in MLB's Final Vote election, Puig may join Kershaw as his team's representatives in the All-Star Game, to be played July 16 at Citi Field in New York. Vote for one National Leaguer and one American by clicking on the link above.
Now it's onto Arizona to face the first-place Diamondbacks, and the final three road games of the season's first half. Zack Greinke versus Randall Delgado tonight at 6:40 p.m., Nolasco and Ian Kennedy Tuesday at 6:40 p.m. and Ryu vs. Tyler Skaggs Wednesday at 6:40 p.m.
It's a huge series. The second-place Dodgers, 4.5 games back, are surging, confident and mostly healthy, while the Dbacks, after a recent slump in which they lost eight out of nine contests, have turned it around to win five straight.
With the teams having brawled in June, and with feelings lingering from as far back as 2011, we should expect anything but a friendly get together during the three games. Look for key combatants to include Arizona's Ian Kennedy and Gerardo Parra and Dodgers Greinke, Kemp, Puig, and whoever else can make it out of the dugout before cooler heads prevail. Let's hope that the managers and coaches act as peacemakers, leading by example this time around.
Interesting stuff from "ESPN 30 for 30" director Adam Kurland and Roopstigo.com. A 17-minute web documentary on Morganna Roberts, famously known as baseball's "The Kissing Bandit" of the 1970s.
Click here for the complete All-Star Game rosters, courtesy of MLB.com.
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And thanks to the Hager sisters for braving the Giants' faithful Saturday afternoon in San Francisco. That's Meghan (left) and Jen (right), posing by the statue of Willie Mays at AT&T Park.