This feels a bit better now, doesn't it? Buried in last place, 12 games under .500 and 9.5 out of first place just four days ago, L.A.'s Dodgers have won four straight to improve to 34-42 and seven games back.
Most importantly, they've won within the division, beating the Padres in San Diego Saturday and Sunday, following up with consecutive victories over San Francisco at home the last two nights.
Stephen Fife earned his second win with 6 2/3 innings of effective starting pitching, red-hot Hanley Ramirez nearly knocked the left field foul into the parking lot with a two-run smash in the sixth inning, and Mark Ellis got Los Angeles started with a two-run homer in the third.
Matt Kemp came back after a month on the disabled list with a strained hamstring to contribute a single in four at bats, a run scored, and a game-saving over-the-shoulder falling-down catch of a Marco Scutaro drive to end it. He punctuated the feeling of the win — and his participation in it — with a big-time palm-slap of the center field wall, which thankfully, is well-padded.
Whether or not Kemp is 100% healthy in shoulder, hammy or swing, he certainly is in spirit, and the Dodgers can use every last ouch of energy they can get. And as we discussed Monday, the team needs more than a modest three, four or five game streak. Series wins are paramount, and with last night's 6-5 final, L.A. has series victories back-to-back. They go for the sweep of the Giants tonight at 7:10 p.m. Clayton Kershaw versus Tim Lincecum.
We talked about the guys actually taking care of the baseball the other day too, and don't look now, but the Dodgers have played errorless ball during their little win streak. Hardly a coincidence. Clutch hitting is key as well, and while it's just one game, the Dodgers were 4-13 (.307) with runners in scoring position last night.
Speaking of which, with Kenley Jansen resting after going the previous three ninths, fill-in closer Brandon League was again unable to do his job Tuesday, putting San Francisco runners in scoring position quickly, allowing two runs on three hits, and nearly single-handedly blowing the game for his mates. It took Paco Rodriguez's clutch three-out save and Kemp's great catch to bail out League, the Dodgers, and perhaps most importantly, Don Mattingly.
I don't want to join the pile on with League, and I can't fault the manager for giving his former closer the ball there, so I won't belabor the point. With better starting pitching and longer outings, bullpens often self-correct to a substantial degree, and I can see that happening with the Dodgers. And I still think League can be of use to the club. But he simply can't be used in that type of situation again until he's squared away in whatever manner it takes to get him there.
The boys in blue are a third of the way to bettering the 11-game winning streak which most everyone is citing as an lesson # 1 in “How To Save A Season,” by the Toronto Blue Jays.” It's not a best seller, but 25 copies (plus one for the skipper) are all the Dodgers require.
While all the world is talking about Yasiel Puig in recent days, and rightly so, Steve Dilbeck and Mark Saxon have pieces on the important contributions of Hanley Ramirez in the Los Angeles Times and ESPNLA.com respectively.
An eight-clap and hearty congratulations to the Sons of Westwood, the UCLA Bruins, first-time winners of the College World Series.