Dodgers undefeated without Kemp

It’s happened: Matt Kemp is on the disabled list. Moments after his 399-game consecutive playing streak ended with the final out of the Dodgers’ 3-1 victory over Arizona tonight, Kemp was officially sidelined for two more weeks. Jerry Sands will replace him on the active roster, giving the Dodgers an outfield of Andre Ethier, Tony Gwynn Jr., Bobby Abreu, Scott Van Slyke and Sands.

Three Opening Day starters (Kemp, Juan Rivera and Juan Uribe) and top reserve Jerry Hairston Jr. are on the Dodger disabled list now. Obviously, the big one is Kemp. The Dodgers are a major-league best 24-11 right now, with a bigger lead over the second-place Giants than the National League Central and East leaders have over the last-place teams in their divisions, but I think most Dodger fans would be thrilled if Los Angeles can play even .500 ball for the next 14 games, or however long Kemp is out.

If they can do that, or better, it will probably be through large doses of defense, pitching and Andre Ethier.

* * *

In December 2010, shortly after Gwynn signed with the Dodgers, I suggested that they might be better off moving Kemp to a corner outfield slot and starting Gwynn in center field to maximize his principal defining skill – his defense. That didn’t happen, but with Kemp hobbled, we’ve really seen what Gwynn can offer. A day after making a flung-out catch in center, Gwynn made a tremendous throw – against his body – to nail A.J. Pollock at home in the third inning.

The Dodgers are putting on defensive shows almost on a game-by-game basis. Just in the final three innings tonight, there were four outstanding plays. James Loney backhanded a sharp grounder by Pollock in the seventh. Mark Ellis ranged to the shortstop side of second base to flag a Willie Bloomquist grounder in the eighth.

And in the ninth, on consecutive batters, Loney leaned over the railing to backhand a pop fly by Paul Goldschmidt (who almost popped out for the cycle tonight), and then Justin Sellers tumbled into the stands after making a full-bore catch of a foul by Miguel Montero. (Watch the great reactions by Gwynn and Ethier to Sellers’ catch on the replay.) Kenley Jansen then drew a third pop fly from Ryan Roberts to close out the game.

It so happens that Loney has been on a bit of a hitting upswing, with a 1.092 OPS in his past six games, but even when he isn’t hitting, his defense is so strong that I find it easier to rationalize his place in the lineup.

* * *

Ridiculous statement of the night: Clayton Kershaw was not at his sharpest as he threw seven innings of shutout ball. I should be struck by lightning for saying anything of the sort, but it’s really an example of how good Kershaw could be that I notice, for example, when he’s 78 pitches in to the game and he’s thrown only 44 strikes.

Putting aside his retaliatory brushback pitch against Diamondbacks starter Ian Kennedy, Kershaw didn’t seem to have complete command for much of the game, but aside from the Gwynn play, he didn’t allow a runner to reach third base until two out in the seventh. Kershaw then struck out Cody Ransom, the man who sent Kershaw to his shocking final loss of 2011, and left with a 3-0 lead, having allowed four singles and three walks in 108 pitches while striking out six.

His ERA is 2.22. Man, just wait until Kershaw gets his act together …

* * *

So, is this Andre Ethier’s team now? With Kemp out, Ethier is the lone remaining established threat in the Dodger lineup.

One year ago today, against Arizona, Ethier reached base for the 37th consecutive game. His streak ended the following day. Could it be that on this anniversary, he is poised for an even more significant achievement – keeping the Dodgers above water while Kemp is out?

Tonight, Ethier was up to the challenge. He came just short of a three-run home run in the third inning, then gave the Dodgers some breathing room, doubling their one-run lead, with a no-doubter solo blast that nearly one-hopped its way out of the bleachers in the sixth.

In the shadow of Kemp, Ethier has quietly put together a .368 on-base percentage, .592 slugging percentage and .960 OPS in 2012. Long gone are the days when it was believed Ethier needed Manny Ramirez behind him to succeed.

* * *

The game was sparsely attended, but it was a lovely night at the ballpark.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    “Albuquerque is now down to 22 players on its active roster. No moves were made to replace Herrera, Sands or Oeltjen on Monday and it seems unlikely reinforcements will arrive in time for Tuesday’s early game. The Isotopes will have only nine position players active, which will leave them with no one on the bench unless they decline to use a designated hitter.”

    http://www.examiner.com/article/bees-squeeze-past-isotopes

    • Anonymous

      Dodgers, if they wish, can get player(s) from Camelback to Salt Lake City in time for the AAA game; but 9 against the world is a wonderful story.

      • Anonymous

        Gwynn will get most of the starts in center. MSTI quotes Donnie saying Ethier may get the remaining starts there, but also notes that Herrera has played there too.

    • Adam Luther

      Ahh…the joys of being a fan of AAA baseball in the modern game when players are shuffled up and down and all around like a deck of cards during the season in the modern game.

  • Anonymous

    It will certainly be an interesting 2 weeks in Dodger land

  • Anonymous

    I’m envious you were there tonight. Thanks for this great recap. Tonight was the first Kershaw home start I’ve missed this season, and it was quite a game.

  • http://twitter.com/Cadtalfryn Kyle MacGregor

    Spent the better part of the game making this. Hope you guys enjoy! 
    https://p.twimg.com/As6Lk38CEAExzgN.jpg

  • Anonymous

    I’m surprised the Dodgers DFA’ed Oeltjen, risking losing him, rather than putting Silverio on the 60-day DL.

    • Anonymous

      Seemed to me to be the logical choice too, but perhaps he asked for his release.
       
      Did anyone ever answer you yesterday regarding whether players not on the 25 man could be moved to the 60 day DL to create a space? 

      • Anonymous

        On MSTI, Mike indicated that inactive players could be moved to the 60-day, but it would indeed involve earning the MLB minimum and gaining credit for MLB playing time.

    • Anonymous

      Couldn’t Oeltjen have been a viable call up?

      • Anonymous

        They could have called up Oeltjen instead of Sands, although I think Sands was the better move, especially since his improvement in May.
        .
        Note that the need for the DFA wasn’t generated by calling up an outfielder, but rather, by the need for a space on the 40-man to accommodate the callup of Elian Herrera.  Because this resulted from Uribe going on the DL, they needed to call up an infielder.  They could have avoided the DFA by calling up Ivan DeJesus Jr. or Alex Castellanos instead of Herrera, but they didn’t.  Either of those could have been another viable way of avoiding the DFA.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe new ownership should step to the plate and find some players??

    • Anonymous

      For the Isotopes?

    • Anonymous

      It’s too bad teams can’t loan/borrow players like they do in the beautiful game of football.

  • Anonymous

    Saw Ethier’s reaction to the Seller’s catch in the video.  Seems to have put on some weight.

  • Anonymous

    I would actually be disappointed if the best the Dodgers can do without Kemp is .500 ball.  I fully recognize that he is the leader on the field and in the clubhouse, but this team is fully capable of winning in his absense.  With a staff ERA of 3.15, good things should and will happen.  Solid defense and pitching with just enough offense.

    • Anonymous

      I dunno.  If I were pitching against the Dodgers now, I’d see Ethier and yes, AJ Ellis, as the only guys to pitch around.  If you walk either A(J)E you can get 3 outs before you reach other A(J)E.  They really need Abreu to keep hitting like it’s 1999, and for some of the callups to produce. 

      The rest of May brings 3 against Ari and SD this week, then StL comes in.  After StL, it’s 3 more against Ari, 3 vs Houston, and then, finally, 4 against Milwaukee.  So overall, 9 games against lousy teams and 7 against good teams if we think that Milwaukee is actually much better than their last-place record.  13 and 3, respectively if we believe that Milwaukee really is bad.   If Kemp is back by June 1, I guess you’re right that a .500+ record is conceivable. 

  • Adam Luther

    The Sellers play, an all out sprint-and-grab as he bee lined toward the third base box seats, catching the ball over the more difficult left shoulder (glove side), was about as Jeter-esque as it gets.  Sold on Sellers.

    • Anonymous

      I wonder how sore he is this morning…or that poor fan?

  • Anonymous

    An outfield of SVS, Ethier, and Sands sounds interesting…somewhat interesting…hopefully it isn’t a disaster.

    • Adam Luther

      Artie, I’m with you but that’s just too much rawness in those positions.  With Kemp out, Abreu (what a foreshadowed insurance policy pick-up he was), Gwynn (stellar in CF), and Ethier just makes more sense.  We don’t need Ethier going down.  Platoon SVS/Sands if you must.  

      • Anonymous

        While my heart is with Artie, my head says Adam is right.  Altough I wouldn’t mind seeing Sands at 1B and SVS in left against a left handed starter once or twice.  Abreu has been a solid pick up, but he needs more rest than Rivera did and it seems that the Dodgers will need him down the stretch.

  • Adam Luther

    The Gwynn play was perfection.  Sure, hesitation on the part of the base runner but Gwynn was ready to throw regardless.  He had to be to be able to field the ball and make a perfect one hop throw to the plate.  A.J. fielded the ball (not in front of the plate giving a corner but rather behind the third base line adjacent to the plate) similarly to the bungled Kemp throw earlier this season.  Perhaps this is intentional in hopes to avoid a Scioscia-esque bowl over.

  • Adam Luther

    After a month and a half, Kershaw’s 2.22 ERA is realistic, considering he’s just won his first of many major awards, and the ensuing pressure to perform that comes along with winning a CYA seems to have worn off.  He’s also pitched a few more innings than the league leaders and also has one more start.

    • Anonymous

      Did it seem to anyone else that he was more “on his game” after the Kennedy brush back?  Looked like his pace quickened and he was sharper.

      • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

         I thought Kennedy was really on his game after Kershaw brushed him back, until Ethier’s HR.

        • Anonymous

          I thought Kennedy was on his game all night.  The Ethier home run looked like he just missed his spot.  After the home run, he looked deflated; like he knew his team couldn’t get back two runs.

  • Adam Luther

    The Dodgers not surprisingly, have three pitchers (Capuano, Kershaw, and Lilly) in the top ten of the NL in opponent batting average against: http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/pitching/_/league/nl/sort/opponentAvg/type/opponent-batting/order/false

    Have a great day!

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    Broxton having an odd season – 1.32 ERA, 5.9 K/9.  

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    Preseason NL West favorite Arizona is 9 1/2 GB. Biggest deficit last year was 6 1/2, before winning by 8. Began ’11 and ’12 w/ 15-21 record.

  • Anonymous

    Gwynn has just been special to watch the last few days.  What a great 4th outfielder.  I would use him even to replace either of our gold glovers on defense.

    • Anonymous

      Yep, with his platinum glove.

    • Anonymous

      What a player he would be if he could just hit more.  Wouldn’t even have to be for power, just similar to Juan Pierre.

      • Anonymous

        He would be special if he could hit, but then again Pierre would be special if he could play defense and had an arm like Gwynn.  Or imagine Matty with Gwynn’s defense?

        • Anonymous

          For some reason this makes me recall as a youth being told by Dick Stuart that he would be in the HoF if he could only catch the ball.  The aptly-named Dr. Strangeglove was subsequently used by Dick James as the pinup boy for just how useless traditional offensive stats could be in evaluating the value of a player.  

        • Anonymous

          I disagree.  If Pierre could play good defense (in CF) he would be worthy of a starting job.  He wouldn’t be special.  He is barely serviceable hitter.  If he could take a walk, and crank that OBP up about 30-40 pts, then you might have something.

          • Anonymous

            >> He is barely serviceable hitter.  If he could take a walk, and crank that OBP up about 30-40 pts, then you might have something.
            .
            Huh?  His current OBP of .387 is in the top third of MLB centerfielders.

          • Anonymous

            That won’t last.  His career OBP is .346, and his career SLG is.363.  Career OPS+ of 85.  This year he’s at 108, buoyed by a completely unsustainable .337 BA and a .367 BABIP.  It’s a small-sample mirage. 

          • Anonymous

            You’re welcome to your opinion.  I think he’s an okay hitter, and the only real problem with his time with the Dodgers was his outlandish salary.  Nowadays if there’s one thing I don’t really care about, it’s how well Juan Pierre is doing.

  • Anonymous

    The Nats (not the Gnats) broadcasters are saying that no Padre has ever hit for the cycle. In the fourth inning, Max Venable is a HR short against Strasburg.

    • Adam Luther

      The fact that he’s getting hits off Strasburg is a feat in itself, interesting San Diego connection as well.  Just needs a HR? At least that’s “easier” than needing a triple I suppose.  Maybe he’ll hit it in the gap and stretch the double into a homer.

    • Anonymous

      Plans to just go ahead and put Strasburg in the HoF encountering glitch at the hands of heaving-hitting Pads.

    • Anonymous

      I assume you’re referring to the guy from Princeton.  His first name is Will, short for William.  Max is his father, who played in MLB 1979-1991.

      • Anonymous

         You’re correct, thanks.

  • Anonymous

    Following their afternoon game in Washington, the Padres fly to San Diego and play the Dodgers tomorrow afternoon, then a night game on Thursday. Are their schedule makers sadists?

    • Anonymous

      Tomorrow’s game time is 3:35 local time.
      .
      When the Dodgers play in San Diego, does the team plane fly them down there, or do the players drive on their own, or something else (limo-like bus)?

      • KT

        they usually take a chartered bus from LA

      • Anonymous

         I’m certain they don’t fly, as that would be more time consuming at both ends. Whether the players can drive their own cars is another matter, given that they come back to LA immediately after. However, if I finished a game in San Diego around 11 p.m., I wouldn’t want to drive back if someone else could handle the bus.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/M43RQUOKRIFBFM3DK5T2TERQ6U Old Bear

    I also thought it is odd that tomorrow’s game in San Diego is a day game.  There are scheduling anomalies every season.  Consider that this year the Dodgers will have made two trips to Colorado and Arizona and will have completed their entire interleague schedule before making their first visit to San Francisco.

  • Anonymous

    Adios, Carlos Fuentes, a los 83 años.

    • Anonymous

      Que lastima.

    • Anonymous

      Se fue uno de los grandes!

  • Anonymous

    My spidey senses are telling me that these minor league moves — bringing Sands and Herrera up — smack of a little pre-trade evaluation. 

    Of course, that same spidey sense told me I’d still be happily married to my college sweetheart and a billionaire. So, I mean, take that for what it’s worth.

    • Anonymous

      Congratulations on the first billion.  Who’s the lucky lady?

      Oh, sorry. 

    • Anonymous

      “I’d still be happily married to my college sweetheart and a billionaire”

      Wouldn’t that be bigamy?

      • Terry Austin

        His sweetheart could be Mark Zuckerberg.

        • Anonymous

          Not in North Carolina.  Sorry if this is a rule violation. 

  • Anonymous

    I too was at the game last night, courtesy of free tickets handed out to those who stuck it out in the cold on the previous homestand.  For fans of pitching and defense, it was a clinic.  I thought Gwynn’s throw was going to be the highlight of the night until Sellers’ catch.  

    Especially with Kemp out of the lineup, Gwynn needs to play every day, and hit leadoff.  And I’d like to see Sands start at 1B against lefthanders.  

    I was a little surprised to see Kershaw lifted after 7–he was pitching a shutout, after all, and had thrown just 104 pitches.  But I agree that while he looked strong, he didn’t look dominant.  He wasn’t blowing batters away, just disposing of them calmly.  And he had some great leather behind him.  Take away the Gwynn throw, and that game is tied in the third.  

    Then again, that was the only inning in which Arizona had more than one baserunner (well, unless you count the crazy play when Loney purposely dropped Upton’s popup in hopes of turning 2.

    The brushback stuff was stupid.  Hopefully it’s settled. 

  • Anonymous
    • Anonymous

       Good luck with that, Cubbies.

    • Anonymous

      It’s a minor-league deal.

      • Anonymous

        Yes.  I should have been more specific.

      • Anonymous

        Of course, a lot of people think ANY deal with the Cubs is a minor-league deal…  :)

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/MW2R2Q72LP22HKPEXB2ZZPHSZM dud dew

    First, thanks, Jon, for going against the tide, and keeping the conversations listed
    from beginning to end.
    Second: a rash of hamstring injuries begs questions about training/taping methods.
    Could be sheer coincidence, could be something preventable.
    Third: the roster is filled with Hobson’s choices, and Donnie has fallen into the typical
    “speed” trap at the top of the order, but with Matt out, how long can they go with 
    the awful OBP there?.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

       There’s an option at the start of the comments that allows you to decide the order they are displayed in.

  • Anonymous

    Old friend Octavio Dotel scuffling in Chicago.

    • Anonymous

      Er, make that “survives in Chicago.”

    • Anonymous

       Dotel will never be an old friend.

      • Anonymous

        Old friend Vicente Padilla is warming in Boston… Yeah?

        • Anonymous

           I’m fine with Padilla as an “old friend.”

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    ” Kenley Jansen
    recorded his fourth save of the season last night with a 1-2-3 ninth
    inning and crossed the 100.0-career inning plateau in the process (100.1
    IP). Jansen’s 167 strikeouts through the first 100.0 innings of his
    career are the second-most all-time behind only Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel,
    who had 170 Ks at the time he reached the 100.0-inning mark in April
    (Source: Elias Sports Bureau).”

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    Tonight’slineup has Van Slyke in RF batting third, Ethier in CF batting fourth, A.J. batting fifth, Sands in LF batting sixth, Sellers at 3B batting eighth.

    The other positions are as expected.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    NPUT