NL West Rundown: The Division is Heating up as Injuries Take Toll

The Dodgers division lead has completely evaporated along with their offense as they are now tied for first with the San Francisco Giants.

A nine-game road trip started with the Dodgers getting swept by the Oakland Athletics, then proceeded as they lost two of three against the Angels, and then ended yesterday with the team getting swept by the Giants in three games.

Everybody was happy when interleague play ended because of a subpar 6-9 record against competition from the American League. However, it doesn’t matter if they’re playing against the AL or NL when they have failed to score a single run in their last 30 innings.

With the Dodgers and Giants now tied for first in the West, let the season begin. The Dodgers return back to Dodger Stadium tonight for a four-game series against the New York Mets.

San Francisco Giants – 43-33
The Giants are feeling more confident than ever right now, especially as they come off of a sweep against their rivals. It made them feel even better when the struggling Tim Lincecum finished the feat by going seven innings, allowing no runs on four hits, with eight strikeouts.

The Giants offense continues to shock me, as they’re ranked fifth in the National league with a .262 team batting average. They will take on the Cincinnati Reds tonight, beginning a four game series at home over the weekend.

2012 Interleague record: 7-8

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): They just swept the Dodgers and didn’t allow any runs to cross home plate in those three games. (If you’re not worried over this, I’m worried for you)

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): I will continue to let this Giants offense prove me wrong, because I honestly don’t think they can hit this well all season long.

Biggest contributor: Buster Posey, hitting .300 with a team leading 10 home runs and 40 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Aubrey Huff, (on the 15-day DL) is hitting .155 with one home run and five RBIs in just 32 games.

Biggest surprise: Melky Cabrera, hitting .351 with seven home runs and 38 RBIs.

Arizona Diamondbacks – 37-37
The Dodgers’ struggles have also put the Diamondbacks back in the division race, who are now only 5.0 games back in the division. They just got starting shortstop Stephen Drew back from the DL, but lost starting pitcher Daniel Hudson on the same day, possibly for the rest of the season, with a torn UCL in his right elbow. This team has been hit hard with injuries all season long, yet they still find themselves battling to defend their National League West title. They will send their 1st round draft pick in 2011 (3rd pick overall) Trevor Bauer (out of UCLA) to the mound tonight against the Atlanta Braves, for his major league debut.

2012 Interleague record: 9-6

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): Their offense is ranked seventh in all of baseball with a .264 team batting average.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): Injuries continue to pile up for this team, especially on a pitching staff that has struggled this season with a 4.04 team ERA, which is ranked in the bottom half in all of baseball.

Biggest contributor: Jason Kubel, hitting .293 with a team leading 11 home runs and 47 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Chris Young, hitting .225 with six home runs and 17 RBIs.

Biggest surprise: Aaron Hill, hitting .297 with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs.

Colorado Rockies – 28-46
The Rockies are 14.0 games back in the division and have struggled all season long. They are still without their star Troy Tulowitzki (on the 15-day DL), who is the face of the entire franchise. The main issue has been the pitching staff though, which the Rockies have decided to go to a four man starting rotation. If this team got any help at all from their pitching staff, they could easily be in the division race right now. The Rockies will finish a four game series with the Washington Nationals today, and then play host the San Diego Padres in a three game series over the weekend.

2012 Interleague record: 2-13 (Now 6-9 doesn’t sound that bad right?)

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): Even without Tulowitzki at the moment, this offense is scary. They are ranked second in the National league with a .269 team batting average. This offense also ranks first in the National League with 91 home runs.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): The Rockies pitching staff has been an absolute disaster, as they’re currently ranked last in all of baseball with a terrifying 5.43 team ERA. Serious question, could the writers at Dodgers Nation combine for a better ERA? (Only half joking here)

Biggest contributor: Carlos Gonzalez, hitting .333 with a team leading 17 home runs and 54 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Their entire pitching staff, seriously. Every pitcher with 10 starts or more does not have an ERA below 5.00.

Biggest surprise: Dexter Fowler, hitting .286 with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs.

San Diego Padres – 27-49
The Padres at 27 wins on the season are in a race of their own, with the Chicago Cubs to see who finishes with the worst record in baseball. I doubt that’s what they’re thinking, but the number 1 pick in the 2013 MLB Draft could definitely be on their mind. This is a team in rebuilding mode and has struggled to score runs all season. They will finish off a four game series with the Houston Astros tonight, and then travel to Colorado to take on the Rockies in a three game series over the weekend.

2012 Interleague record: 8-7

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): The only way I’d maybe have an answer to this question is if Tony Gwynn, Steve Garvey, and Dave Winfield were coming out of retirement to play this season.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): This offense is ranked last in the National league with a .231 team batting average.

Biggest contributor: Chase Headley, hitting .267 with a team leading seven home runs and 37 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Cameron Maybin, hitting .198 with three home runs and 22 RBIs.

Biggest surprise: Houston Street has a 1-0 record with a 1.50 ERA, and is 11 for 11 in save opportunities in 18.0 innings pitched.

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Dodgers vs Angels Pre-Game: Capuano Tries to End Slide

The Dodgers will look to bounce back tonight against the Angels after blowing a 5-0 lead in Game One of the series last night. The Dodgers are also looking to put an end to their four-game losing streak, which has moved the San Francisco Giants to just three games behind them in the division standings.

Fortunately, the Dodgers will have left-hander Chris Capuano on the bump tonight, who has been the most consistent pitcher in the rotation so far this season. The numbers don’t lie, as he has an 8-2 record with a 2.71 ERA in 14 starts. In his last start against the Chicago White Sox, he had arguably his best start as a Dodger, going eight innings, allowing six hits, one run, and tying his season-high with 12 strikeouts.

However, on June 11 against the Angels at Dodger Stadium, Capuano went only five innings, allowing eight hits, two runs, and walked four in a 3-2 loss. So revenge will certainly be on the mind of Chris Capuano when he takes the mound tonight, at Angel Stadium.

The Angels will send their right-hander Ervin Santana to the mound to face the inconsistent Dodgers offense. Santana is coming off of his best start of the season against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The baseball world quickly took notice of his last start, when he took a perfect game into the seventh inning. Call me a jinx, because right as I tuned in to watch the game, bam, base hit to center field. Still, it was an impressive start as he pitched a complete game and allowed only that one hit.

That Santana doesn’t always show up though, on the season he is 4-7 with a 5.16 ERA in 14 starts. Those numbers won’t mean a thing though if Santana is pitching anything like he did against the Diamondbacks because then it will be a very long night for the Dodgers offense.

Los Angeles Dodgers (42-29) at Anaheim Angels (39-32)
Chris Capuano (8-2, 2.71) vs. Ervin Santana (4-7, 5.16)
Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Anaheim, California
4:15 p.m. PST, June 23, 2012
TV: FOX
Radio: 570 AM (English), 1020 AM (Spanish)
Game-Time Weather: 73 degrees, Mostly Sunny

Angels Projected Starters:
P: Ervin Santana
C: Bobby Wilson
1B: Albert Pujols
2B: Howie Kendrick
SS: Erick Aybar
3B: Alberto Callaspo
LF: Mark Trumbo
CF: Mike Trout
RF: Torii Hunter
DH: Kendrys Morales
Key Bench Players: IF Maicer Izturis, OF Peter Bourjos
For more information on the Angels, check out our pre-series report.
Dodgers Last 10: (3-7): L @ ANA, L @ OAK, L @ OAK, L @ OAK, W vs CHW, L vs CHW, W vs CHW, L vs ANA, W vs ANA, L vs ANA.
Angels Last 10: (7-3): W vs LA, W vs SF, W vs SF, L vs SF, W vs ARI, W vs ARI, L vs ARI, W @ LA, L @ LA, W @ LA

Key to a Dodger Victory:

If the Dodgers can get off to a quick 5-0 lead like they did last night that would be huge. This time Capuano will be pitching, so you shouldn’t expect those five runs to go to waste. Also, this offense needs to show signs of consistency with another five runs or more because before last night this offense looked dead in Oakland. If Santana isn’t throwing his ace-type-stuff tonight expect the Dodgers to hit the long ball a few times, as Santana is tied for third in the major leagues with 18 home runs allowed already this season.

Dodgers vs White Sox Pre-Game: LA Tries to Keep Humber at Ease

The battle of the two first place teams continues tonight between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago White Sox. The Dodgers have a record of 4-3 so far this season during interleague play, while the White Sox are 5-5.

Both of these teams are led by two of the top hitters in the game at the moment. The White Sox have Paul Konerko, who leads the entire MLB with a .362 batting average, while the Dodgers have the RBI leader in the National League, Andre Ethier, who has 55 on the year.

The pitching matchup isn’t as a good on paper as last night’s matchup, but it has the potential to be a good one. It will be Chad Billingsley up against Philip Humber, who made his way into the baseball history book earlier this season when he threw the 21st perfect game in MLB history on April 21 against the Seattle Mariners. That was certainly the highlight of his season, as he has an overall record of 2-4 with a 5.92 ERA. In his last start the White Sox lost the game 11-9 to the Houston Astros, when he allowed three home runs and five earned runs.

Billingsley on the other hand, is the guy that you never know what you’re going to get. It seems like he could be a dominant pitcher in this league, but only if he can skip the first two innings, which is where he always struggles.

On the year Billingsley is 4-4 with a 3.57 ERA, so what Billingsley will we get tonight? Everyone likes the guy who can strike out 10 batters and cruise through seven innings, however, I feel like I have seen more of the guy who gives up four runs in the first two innings, and puts pressure on the offense. In Billingsley’s last outing, he went seven innings allowing only two hits, one run, and striking out eight.

Chicago White Sox (34-30) at Los Angeles Dodgers (41-24) Philip Humber (2-4, 5.92) vs. Chad Billingsley (4-4, 3.57) Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California 7:10 p.m. PST, June 16, 2012 TV: KCAL, MLB Network Radio: 570 AM (English), 1020 AM (Spanish) Game-Time Weather: 66 degrees, Mostly Sunny

White Sox Projected Starters: P: Philip Humber C: A.J. Pierzynski 1B: Paul Konerko 2B: Gordon Beckham SS: Alexei Ramirez 3B: Orlando Hudson LF: Dayan Viciedo CF: Alejandro De Aza RF: Alex Rios Key Bench Players: 1B Adam Dunn, OF Brent Lillibridge

Dodgers Last 10: (7-3): W vs CHW, L vs ANA, W vs ANA, L vs ANA, W @ SEA, W @ SEA, L @ SEA, W @ PHI, W @ PHI, W @ PHI. White Sox Last 10: (3-7): L @ LA, L @ STL, L @ STL, W @ STL, L vs HOU, W vs HOU, L vs HOU, W vs TOR, L vs TOR, L vs TOR.

Key to a Dodger Victory: The Dodgers must jump on Humber early to give Billingsley an early lead, and bump up that already horrid 5.92 ERA. It will also be crucial for Billingsley to get through the first two innings quickly, with no damage done. This way he can get to the third inning, with no runs allowed, which becomes cruise mode for him after that.

Best-case: Dodgers 5, White Sox 1 Worst-case: White Sox 6, Dodgers 2

NL WEST Rundown: Giants Fighting to Unseat Dodgers

The Dodgers are the first team in the MLB to get to the 40 win mark this year. They are currently 40-24 on the season (best record in baseball) and sit atop the National League West by four games. The team went 7-3 last week during their longest road trip of year so far, which included a four game sweep over the Philadelphia Phillies. In the Freeway Series against the Angels this week, they lost two out of three at home. The Dodgers have one team in their division that is waiting for their opportunity to take over, so they have to continue to play good baseball. Interleague play will continue this weekend as the Chicago White Sox will make an appearance at Dodger Stadium for a three game series.

San Francisco Giants – 36-28
The Giants are coming off of one of the best games in their Franchise’s history. As their two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum continues to struggle, starting pitcher Matt Cain threw a Perfect game on Wednesday night against the Houston Astros, with 14 strikeouts. This team is 9-4 in the month of June, as they are making a legit case to take over the National League West. The Giants will travel to Seattle over the weekend to take on the Mariners, for a three game series in interleague play.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): The Dodgers continue to play well, but this team is just waiting for any slip up to take over the National League West.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): This team relies heavily on their pitching staff, but their lineup will have to score runs consistently throughout the season, which doesn’t have lots of power in it.

Biggest contributor: Buster Posey, hitting .294 with seven home runs and 33 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Tim Lincecum, in 13 starts is 2-7 with a 7.00 ERA.

Biggest surprise: Angel Pagan, hitting .314 with five home runs and 22 RBIs.

Arizona Diamondbacks – 30-32
The Diamondbacks are currently nine games out in the National League West, but have gone 7-3 in their last 10 games. Although today they are on the verge of being swept by the Texas Rangers. It won’t get any easier for them as they take on the Angels over the weekend, on the road for a three game series.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): This team has tons of talent all around and if they could put it all together, they could be a threat to defend their National League West title. Also this team doesn’t give any teams extra outs, as they rank first in the NL in fielding percentage (.987).

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): Their star player Justin Upton continues to struggle, hitting just .250 with five home runs and 22 RBIs.

Biggest contributor: Jason Kubel, hitting .287 with six home runs and 36 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Chris Young, who was off to one of the best starts of his career before an injury early on in the season, is now hitting .264 with five home runs and 16 RBIs.

Biggest surprise: Wade Miley, in 13 starts is 7-3 with a 2.39 ERA.

Colorado Rockies – 24-38

The Rockies have now dropped eight games in a row and haven’t liked interleague play at all. They were swept at home last weekend against the Angels, and today the Oakland A’s finished off a swept against them at Coors Field as well. This team is without Troy Tulowitzki, who is the leader of the team. They will go on the road over the weekend to take on the Detroit Tigers to try to improve their interleague play record.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): The Rockies do have an offense that scores runs, leading the National League in runs with 316.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): Their pitching is last in the entire major leagues with a 5.42 team ERA.

Biggest contributor: Carlos Gonzalez, hitting .322 with a team leading 16 home runs and 48 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Todd Helton, hitting .240 with seven home runs and 25 RBIs.

Biggest surprise: Marco Scutaro, hitting .279 with four home runs and 17 RBIs.

San Diego Padres – 22-41
The Padres are currently 17.5 games out of the National League West and would need a complete turnaround to have a shot this season. They are going for the sweep against the Seattle Mariners at the moment. This is just a young team in rebuilding mode, after trading away their star Adrian Gonzalez a few years ago. This weekend they will take on the Oakland A’s at home, to continue interleague matchups around baseball.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): This team has nothing to lose and is actually playing better than Colorado at the moment. Also Carlos Quentin is now healthy and hitting very well, in 12 games he is hitting .421 with five home runs and 10 RBIs.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): Their ranked second to last in the National League with a .230 team batting average. They have 22 wins, which is right behind the Cubs 21 wins for least amount in the major leagues.

Biggest contributor: Chase Headley, hitting .272 with seven home runs and 31 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Cameron Maybin, hitting .214 with three home runs and 21 RBIs.

Biggest surprise: Jason Marquis, who they just picked up after he was released by the Minnesota Twins, in two starts is 1-1 with a 1.46 ERA.

Around the West: Still on top, But for How Long?

This was one of the worst weeks of the season for the Los Angeles Dodgers, despite still holding the best record in baseball at 33-21. It was supposed to be a big week for fans because of the return of Matt Kemp from the DL. Unfortunately, Kemp only played 10 innings before re-injuring his hamstring and is now back on the DL for a minimum of four weeks.

The Dodgers were then swept in a four-game series at home against the Milwaukee Brewers. It got worse this past weekend when they dropped two-of-three games in Colorado against the Rockies. Still, they sit atop the National League West at the moment but the San Francisco Giants are now just three games back in the division.

San Francisco Giants – 30-24 The Giants couldn’t have picked a better time to start playing the best baseball of their season, all while the Dodgers struggle. They started the month of June by sweeping the Chicago Cubs over the weekend. The biggest reason for the Giants success has to go to Melky Cabrera who they acquired in the offseason. The entire city of San Francisco has gone bananas over this guy, creating Melky Mania.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger Fan): They’re playing the best baseball of the season at the moment while the Dodgers are playing the complete opposite. Also the Giants pitching is ranked third in all of baseball in team ERA, (3.27).

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger Fan): It’s hard to believe the Giants offense will be hitting this well for the majority of the season.

Biggest contributor: Buster Posey, hitting .295 with a team leading six home runs and 29 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Brandon Belt, hitting .230 with zero home runs and 14 RBIs.

Biggest surprise: Melky Cabrera, hitting a team leading .371 with four home runs and 27 RBIs.

Arizona Diamondbacks – 25-29 The Diamondbacks haven’t been able to put anything together, the way they did last season when they won this division. They took two of three games from the San Diego Padres over the weekend. Manager Kirk Gibson had a closed-door meeting on Saturday with star player Justin Upton to give him the day off. Upton has been the main reason for the Diamondbacks struggles, hitting just .249 with five home runs and 20 RBIs.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger Fan): If Justin Upton returns to his 2011 form, when he hit .289 with 31 home runs and 88 RBIs, the defending National League Champions will be right back in the division race.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger Fan): If they continue to play how they’ve played so far this season, they could fall out of this division quickly.

Biggest contributor: Jason Kubel, hitting .285 with four home runs and is tied for the team lead with 24 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Ian Kennedy, 21 game winner last year, has a 4-5 record with a 4.26 ERA.

Biggest surprise: Wade Miley has a 6-2 record with a 2.72 ERA.

Colorado Rockies – 23-30 The Rockies just beat the Dodgers twice in a three-game series over the weekend. The Rockies are without their superstar Troy Tulowitzki, who is on the 15-day DL with a left groin strain. While he hasn’t been healthy all year, their other star, Carlos Gonzalez has been playing at a very high level throughout the season.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger Fan): Carlos Gonzalez has beaten the Dodgers on his own this year a few times, just thinking about a healthy Troy Tulowitzki and this Carlos Gonzalez scares me.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger Fan): Rockies pitching is ranked last in the National League in team ERA, (5.07).

Biggest contributor: Carlos Gonzalez, hitting .345 with a team leading 14 home runs and 45 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Ramon Hernandez, hitting .215 with four home runs and 15 RBIs. ‘ Biggest surprise: Rafael Betancourt, in 20.0 innings pitched, he has 10 saves in 11 opportunities with a 1-1 record and 2.25 ERA.

San Diego Padres – 18-37 The Padres have the worst record in all of baseball with 37 losses on the season. They recently lost two of three games from the Diamondbacks over the weekend. The last time this team won a series was against the Colorado Rockies in the second week of May. Things don’t look like they are going to get much better for the Padres anytime soon. Although they did get a little bit of a boost with Carlos Quentin coming off of the DL to play for the first time this season.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger Fan): Really? Can someone please help me out with this one?

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): They have the third worst team batting average in baseball, (.224).

Biggest contributor: Chase Headley, hitting .253 with seven home runs and 25 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Cameron Maybin, hitting .223 with one home run and 16 RBIs.

Biggest surprise: Carlos Quentin in just 5 games is hitting .474 with three home runs and seven RBIs.