Dodgers vs Padres Pre-Game: Can Harang Awaken the Dodgers?

The Dodgers lost last night’s game to the San Diego Padres, 2-1. It was a loss that probably spoiled the Dodgers 2012 postseason plans. There are just eight games remaining this season and the Dodgers trail the St. Louis Cardinals by 4.5 games for the second and final wild-card spot. If the Dodgers have any slight chance of getting to the playoffs they will need to be perfect from here on out.

Today’s pitching match-up will feature Aaron Harang against Clayton Richard.

Richard has been one of the bright spots for the Padres this season, posting a 14-12 record with a 3.81 ERA. It has been quite a while since he lost his last game, which was back on August 14 against the Atlanta Braves. Richard has won five out of his last six starts since that day, with a no decision coming against the Dodgers. Overall Richard is 6-2 with a 2.82 ERA against the Dodgers in his career.

Harang has basically been the complete opposite of Richard as of late, winning his last game on August 18 against the Atlanta Braves. On the season Harang owns a 9-10 record with 3.80 ERA. He has lost his last two starts on the road, facing the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Washington Nationals. It will be important for Harang to end the season at .500 and get to double-digit victories.

In his career against San Diego he has a 4-5 record with a 3.97 ERA.

Los Angeles Dodgers (79-75) at San Diego Padres (74-80)
Aaron Harang (9-10, 3.80) vs Clayton Richard (14-12, 3.81)
Petco Park, San Diego, Calif.
7:05 p.m. PST, September 26, 2012
TV: Prime Ticket
Radio: 570 AM (English), 1020 AM (Spanish)
Game-Time Weather: 74 degrees, Mostly Sunny

Padres’ Projected Starters:
P: Clayton Richard
C: Yasmani Grandal
1B: Yonder Alonso
2B: Logan Forsythe
SS: Everth Cabrera
3B: Chase Headley
LF: Jesus Guzman
CF: Cameron Maybin
RF: Will Venable

Key Bench Players: 2B Alexi Amarista, OF Chris Denorfia

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Dodgers vs Nationals Pre-Game: Let’s play two

The Dodgers will have to play Game Two of this series at least thirty minutes after finishing Game One of the double-header today. This could benefit the Dodgers in a way, playing the best team in baseball in two games back-to-back, which could tire them out for this second game. It could also do the same to the Dodgers, who have looked tired over the last couple of weeks. If the Dodgers can take both of these games it would be a huge boost in the wild-card standings, but let’s look at the starters for Game Two.

The pitching match-up in Game Two of the double-header will be Josh Beckett against John Lannan.

Lannan has been extremely impressive in his short stint this season with the Nationals, posting a 3-0 record in three starts with a 2.41 ERA. It has been tough for Lannan spending most of his time this year in the minors, but has made the best of his opportunities. He adds to an already dominant pitching staff, even without Stephen Strasburg.

Unfortunately, Lannan has dominated the Dodgers in his career, with a 4-1 record and a 2.64 ERA lifetime against them.

The Dodgers send Beckett to the mound, hoping to get a big game out of him. He has pitched well for the most part as a member of the Dodgers, posting a 1-2 record with a 3.38 ERA. The run support just hasn’t been there for any Dodgers pitcher as of late.

In his last three outings, Beckett is 1-1 with a 2.95 ERA. It should be a good pitching match-up tonight, considering Beckett has dominated the Nationals, with a 7-2 record and a 2.37 ERA against them in his career.

Who will continue their dominance tonight?

Los Angeles Dodgers (76-71) at Washington Nationals (89-57)
Josh Beckett (6-13, 4.94) vs John Lannan (3-0, 2.41)
Nationals Park, Washington, DC
30 minutes after Game One finishes, or 4:05 p.m. PST*, September 19, 2012
TV: KCAL
Radio: 570 AM (English), 1020 AM (Spanish)
*denotes whichever is later

Nationals’ Projected Starters:
P: John Lannan
C: Kurt Suzuki
1B: Adam LaRoche
2B: Danny Espinosa
SS: Ian Desmond
3B: Ryan Zimmerman
LF: Michael Morse
CF: Bryce Harper
RF: Jayson Werth

Key Bench Players: UT Steve Lombardozzi, OF Roger Bernadina

Keys to a Dodger Victory
Grind it out
The Dodgers need to find a way to win this second game, regardless of what happens in Game One. They can’t hang their heads after a loss and can’t be content with a win. They have to grind it out for 18 innings or more no matter what. If they can grind out two victories against the best team in baseball on the same day their confidence could skyrocket going forward.

Around the NL West: Shifting focus as the season nears an end

The Los Angeles Dodgers (76-71) might have shifted their focus over to the Wildcard race, now trailing the San Francisco Giants by 8.0 games in National League West division, with just 15 games remaining. This past weekend the Dodgers split a four-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals (77-70), who currently lead the second wild card spot by 1.0 game.

It was Dodgers journeyman Luis Cruz who quite possibly saved their season over the weekend with some crucial late game clutch hitting. However, the next six games for the Dodgers will determine their fate this season. They start a three game series on Tuesday with the Washington Nationals (89-57), which is the team that holds the best record in all of baseball. After that they will travel to Ohio to play the Cincinnati Reds (88-59), another first place team. This is without a doubt the toughest six games of the season so far, which could determine their 2012 playoff hopes.

San Francisco Giants – 84-63
The Giants are now 21 games over .500 and sit comfortably with a 8.0 game lead in the division. They basically buried the Dodgers a couple of weekends ago, winning two out of three games in a pivotal series at home.

Now, the Giants will play the rest of National League West division to finish off the season, with the last three games against the Dodgers. It shouldn’t be a problem for the Giants to wrap up the division before that final series against the Dodgers, considering all of the other teams they play have records below .500 and they play 10 of their last 16 games at home.

The Giants will start a four game series tonight at home against the Colorado Rockies.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): The Dodgers might have missed their opportunity; it will be extremely difficult to fight off a 8.0 game deficit with just 15 games left in the season.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): If the Giants wrap up the division before the final series of the season against the Dodgers they might be resting their starters in a series that could be very important for a Dodgers team fighting for a final wild card spot.

Biggest contributor: Buster Posey, hitting .333 with 22 home runs and 93 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Can I just put Melky Cabrera in this spot for the remainder of the season?

Biggest surprise: Marco Scutaro, hitting .346 with two home runs and 31 RBIs in 47 games with the Giants.

Arizona Diamondbacks – 72-74
The Diamondbacks have been out of the division race for a while now, but they could be considered a long shot for the second Wildcard spot, trailing the Cardinals by 4.5 games. They will finish off their season playing 13 of their last 16 games against National League West teams, except the Dodgers. The Diamondbacks may already be looking ahead to the 2013 season because that Wildcard spot might be unrealistic with five teams ahead of them at the moment. The Diamondbacks will kick-off a three game series at home on Tuesday against the San Diego Padres.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): It’s hard to imagine the Diamondbacks being any kind of threat to the Dodgers for the rest of the 2012 season.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): The Diamondbacks can’t play spoiler in any way against the Dodgers for the rest of the season.

Biggest contributor: Jason Kubel, hitting .255 with 29 home runs and 86 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Chris Young, hitting .227 with 14 home runs and 39 RBIs in 94 games this season.

Biggest surprise: Wade Miley, in 26 starts has a 15-10 record with a 3.10 ERA.

San Diego Padres – 71-76
It would be pretty amazing if the Padres could finish at third place in the division after being one of the worst teams during the first half of the season. The Padres have been one of the toughest teams in baseball since the All-Star break, literally refusing to lose against the contenders. This team has become the ultimate spoiler and now no team wants to face them.

The Padres are 8-2 in their last 10 games and helped the Dodgers out a bit last week when they swept the Cardinals. They will play their final 12 out of 15 games against National League West teams, with three of those games next week against the Dodgers. The Padres will start a three game series on the road against the Diamondbacks on Tuesday.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): That series against the Dodgers next week will be on the Padres radar, hoping to spoil one of their rivals chances at a postseason opportunity.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): On paper the Dodgers line up is much better than the Padres, but they will have to prove it during that three game series in San Diego next week.

Biggest contributor: Chase Headley, hitting .284 with 28 home runs and 104 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Cameron Maybin, hitting .248 with seven home runs and 43 RBIs.

Biggest surprise: Logan Forsythe, hitting .297 with five home runs and 23 RBIs in 79 games.

Colorado Rockies – 58-88
If it wasn’t for the Houston Astros (48-99) the Rockies would be in a battle for the worst record in baseball. This team is filled with talent, but injuries have definitely played a role during this atrocious season. When you lose a player of Troy Tulowitzki’s caliber, it’s hard to come back from that. That doesn’t put aside the horrid 5.15 team ERA that they have posted this season.

The Rockies will play 14 of their final 17 games against the National League West, three of those games coming on Sept. 28-30 at Dodger Stadium. The Rockies will start a four game series tonight against the Giants on the road.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): The later into the season you get, the more important these games become. So Sept. 28-30 should be crucial for the Dodgers. That series could end up being the highlight of the Rockies season if they can knock the Dodgers out of the wild card race.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): That 5.15 team ERA is the worst in all of baseball.

Biggest contributor: Carlos Gonzalez, hitting .308 with 22 home runs and 85 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: You should know that team ERA by now right?

Biggest surprise: Eric Young Jr., hitting .316 with four home runs and 15 RBIs in 98 games.

Dodgers vs Cardinals Pre-Game: Capuano of old could end slide

The Dodgers lost Game One of a very important four-game series last night against the Cardinals, 2-1.

This is a series for the Dodgers that could move them into the second Wildcard spot, which after last night’s loss has them currently trailing the Cardinals by two games.

There are so many questions surrounding this Dodgers team as they make a final push for the postseason. Why are the Dodgers struggling? Is Matt Kemp playing hurt? Does this team lack good chemistry? When will they turn things around?

Everyone has been trying to get an answer to why this team has been struggling. The Dodgers have 18 games left to turn things around and put those questions to rest. These next three games could make or break this team, who’s on the verge of either digging a deeper a hole for themselves or becoming a team that can make a deep run in October.

Tonight’s pitching match-up will be Joe Kelly against Chris Capuano.

Kelly, the 24-year-old right-hander from Anaheim, Calif. has made 15 starts this season for the Cardinals, posting a 5-6 record with a 3.51 ERA.

In his last three starts he’s 1-1 with a 4.58 ERA, with his last win coming on Sept. 3 against the New York Mets.

In his career against the Dodgers, Kelly has a 0-1 record with a 3.00 ERA, picking up that loss in his only start against them on July 23 in St. Louis earlier this season. He went 6.0 innings, allowing four hits, two runs, with just one strike out in that game.

The Dodgers are still looking to find the Capuano that was winning games consistently during the first half of the season.

It has been the complete opposite during the second half for Capuano, who has now been more consistent at losing games, with just two wins total since the All-Star break, posting an 11-10 record with a 3.59 ERA in 29 starts this season, with his last win coming over a month ago on Aug. 12 against the Miami Marlins.

He has a 0-1 record with a 5.50 ERA in his last three starts.

Capuano’s career record against the Cardinals is 5-6 with a 5.70 ERA.

St. Louis Cardinals (76-68) at Los Angeles Dodgers (74-70)
Joe Kelly (5-6, 3.51) vs. Chris Capuano (11-10, 3.59)
Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California
7:10 p.m. PST, September 14, 2012
TV: Prime Ticket
Radio: 570 AM (English), 1020 AM (Spanish)
Game-Time Weather: 83 degrees, Mostly Sunny

Cardinals’ Projected Starters:
P: Joe Kelly
C: Yadier Molina
1B: Allen Craig
2B: Skip Schumaker
SS: Daniel Descalso
3B: David Freese
LF: Matt Holliday
CF: Jon Jay
RF: Carlos Beltran

Key Bench Players: 1B Matt Carpenter

Key to a Dodger Victory
Capuano of old
The Dodgers need to get the Chris Capuano of the first half of season back, the one that was looked upon by some as an All-Star snub. He was 9-4 before the All-Star break and was the starter behind Clayton Kershaw in the rotation that the Dodgers could rely on. He is capable of dominating opposing offenses. In his last win on Aug. 12 against the Miami Marlins, he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, finishing with just two hits in eight shutout innings. If the Dodgers plan to win this important series or get into the postseason, they will need the Capuano of old to return to form.

Dodgers vs D’Backs Pre-Game: One Special Request

The Dodgers lost Game One of a short two-game series last night to the Arizona Diamondbacks, 1-0, which featured a pitcher’s duel between Ian Kennedy and Clayton Kershaw, but resulted in the Dodgers’ offense failing to come through once again.

The Dodgers have now lost five of their last six games, falling six games back in the division behind the first place San Francisco Giants.

Tonight’s pitching match-up is a rematch between Aaron Harang and Trevor Cahill, who faced each other a couple of weeks ago on Aug. 31 at Dodger Stadium, resulting in a no decision for both, but with the Diamondbacks going on to win that game 4-3.

Cahill is coming off of a win in his last start against the Giants, where he went 6.1 innings, allowing two hits, two runs, and striking out five. In 28 starts on the season, Cahill has a 10-11 record with a 3.98 ERA. The former All-Star from 2010 has enjoyed facing the Dodgers so far in his career, posting a 3-0 record and a 2.40 ERA against them.

On the other hand, Harang hasn’t won a game since August 18th against the Atlanta Braves. In his last two starts he hasn’t managed to pitch more than 5.0 innings in each of them. In three starts since his last victory, he is 0-1 with a 4.70 ERA. It hasn’t been easy for any Dodgers pitcher as of late, with the offense struggling to score runs on a nightly basis.

Harang is 9-8 with a 3.75 ERA in 27 starts this season. Throughout his 11 year career, the big right-hander is 3-7 with a 3.10 ERA against the Diamondbacks.

So who will come out with the victory in tonight’s rematch?

Los Angeles Dodgers (74-68) at Arizona Diamondbacks (70-72)
Aaron Harang (9-8, 3.75) vs. Trevor Cahill (10-11, 3.98)
Chase Field, Phoenix, Arizona
6:40 p.m. PST, September 12, 2012
TV: Prime Ticket
Radio: 570 AM (English), 1020 AM (Spanish)
Game-Time Weather: 90 degrees, Mostly Sunny

Diamondbacks’ Projected Starters:
P: Trevor Cahill
C: Miguel Montero
1B: Paul Goldschmidt
2B: Aaron Hill
SS: John McDonald
3B: Chris Johnson
LF: Jason Kubel
CF: Adam Eaton
RF: Justin Upton

Key Bench Players: IF Jake Elmore, OF Gerardo Parra

Keys to a Dodger Victory:
SCORE SOME RUNS PLEASE. That’s all.

Dodgers vs Giants Pre-Game: Capuano strives to change course

The Dodgers dropped Game One last night, 5-2 against the San Francisco Giants.

It was a loss that stings a little bit more than most, now trailing the Giants by 5.5 games in the National League West. If the Dodgers can take the next two games in San Francisco, this division will be far from over, but they face a tough task tonight.

The Dodgers will send left-hander Chris Capuano to the mound for Game Two.

Capuano has been dominant at times during this long season, except during the second half, where he has struggled to find that dominance. On the season Capuano is 11-10 with a 3.63 ERA, only two of those wins coming after the All-Star break.

It was on August 12th against the Miami Marlins when Capuano last picked up a win, which was arguably his best start of the season. He went 8.0 innings, allowing two hits, no runs, and struck out 10 in that game.

However, it hasn’t been all that great when Capuano faces the Giants, with a 1-6 record and 5.58 ERA in his career against San Francisco.

The Giants will counter and send one of the National League’s best pitchers to the mound, Matt Cain.

Cain has now been labeled as the Giants ace with Tim Lincecum having a not-so-good year, well when he isn’t pitching against the Dodgers.

It was earlier this season when Cain put the entire baseball world on notice, pitching a perfect game on June 14 against the Houston Astros, one of the most dominant performances that baseball fans had seen in quite some time, finishing the game with 14 strikeouts.

Cain has a 13-5 record with a 2.98 ERA on the season.

Fortunately, the Dodgers have found ways to beat this big right-hander, who has a 4-8 record and 3.45 ERA in his career against them. Although Cain did win the last time he faced the Dodgers on August 22 at Dodger Stadium. He went 7.0 innings, allowing seven hits, one run, while striking out five in that one.

Los Angeles Dodgers (73-66) at San Francisco Giants (78-60)
Chris Capuano (11-10, 3.63) vs. Matt Cain (13-5, 2.98)
AT&T Park, San Francisco, California
1:05 p.m. PST, September 8, 2012
TV: FOX
Radio: 570 AM (English), 1020 AM (S0panish)
Game-Time Weather: 63 degrees, Mostly Cloudy

Giants’ Projected Starters:
P: Matt Cain
C: Buster Posey
1B: Brandon Belt
2B: Marco Scutaro
SS: Brandon Crawford
3B: Pablo Sandoval
LF: Gregor Blanco
CF: Angel Pagan
RF: Hunter Pence

Key Bench Players: IF Joaquin Arias, IF Ryan Theriot

Keys to a Dodgers Victory
Get to the Bullpen
The Dodgers need to make Matt Cain throw a lot of pitches and force the Giants to use their bullpen early on. In Cain’s last start against the Chicago Cubs, he only managed to make it through 5.0 innings after allowing five runs. If the Cubs can knock the Giants ace out of the game that early then the Dodgers certainly can. It will be crucial for this to happen if the Dodgers want to win, because if Cain is going seven or eight innings it’s not a good sign for the boys in blue.

Around the West: Playoff race shaping up; one team is pivotal

It’s September, and the pennant races are heating up all around baseball, especially in the National League West, where the Giants (77-59) currently hold a 4.5 game lead over the Dodgers (73-64), while the rest of the division sits back and looks forward to the 2013 season.

There are six games remaining between the two teams, with three to be played this weekend in San Francisco.

Unfortunately, the Dodgers haven’t been able to gain any ground on the Giants these last couple of weeks due to their inconsistency on offense, making for an even bigger match-up up North over the weekend.

The remaining schedule definitely favors the Giants over the Dodgers. Other than the six games against the Dodgers, San Francisco plays the other three National League West teams for the remainder of the season. On the other hand the Dodgers play two first place teams in the Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds three times each. They also play four games against the St. Louis Cardinals, who currently hold one of the National League wild card spots.

This last month is going to come down to how the Dodgers play in games against the top teams around the league, and of course the six remaining games against the Giants.

San Francisco Giants – 77-60
The Giants seem to lose when the Dodgers lose and win when the Dodgers win, keeping a 4.5 game lead going into this weekend’s big match-up.

They just lost two out of three games to the Diamondbacks at home, while the Dodgers did the same against the Padres.

This weekend the Giants will send Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Barry Zito to the mound against Los Angeles.

If the Giants can take two out of three games against the Dodgers that can extend their lead to 5.5 games and dig a deeper hole for the Dodgers to get out of. This is going to be the biggest series in baseball over the weekend.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): This pitching staff that keeps me up at night…
•Matt Cain: 13-5, 2.98 ERA
•Madison Bumgarner: 14-10, 3.15 ERA
•Ryan Vogelsong: 12-7, 3.29 ERA
•Tim Lincecum: 8-14, 5.21 ERA

Despite Lincecum’s numbers he should still scare the heck out of Dodger fans everywhere. He has struggled for this long but I believe he can start pitching like an ace again at any given time. (Oh I forgot to mention Barry Zito! Well unless it’s 2002 again, I’m not worried.)

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): The Giants offense has been hitting the ball well lately, which is a surprise since they lost Melky Cabrera. However, the long ball is something they shouldn’t be able to beat you with, as they rank last in all of baseball in home runs with 82.

Biggest contributor: Buster Posey, hitting .326 with 19 home runs and 85 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Hunter Pence, hitting .234 with two home runs and 25 RBIs in 34 games with the Giants.

Biggest surprise: Marco Scutaro, hitting .325 with two home runs and 24 RBIs in 38 games with the Giants.

Arizona Diamondbacks – 68-70
The Diamondbacks find themselves 9.5 games out the division and just about out of a chance to return to the postseason.

Last month the D-Backs looked like they had one last run in them but couldn’t find a way to get it done. Now its baseball, so I’m not saying this team is completely out of it yet, crazier things have happen.

They have been a pain for the teams fighting for a postseason berth, splitting a four-game series against the Dodgers and taking two out three games from the Giants. I can guarantee you that Manager Kirk Gibson will have this team playing with the same fire that he had as a player, until the very end.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): The Diamondbacks have given the Dodgers a hard time this season, with a 10-6 overall record against Los Angeles.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): Luckily for the Dodgers, they only see the D-Backs two more times this season, next week. The Giants have to play this scrappy D-Backs team six more times on the year.

Biggest contributor: Jason Kubel, hitting .262 with 27 home runs and 82 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Justin Upton, hitting .271 with 12 home runs and 55 RBIs., a huge drop off from his 2011 season: .289 BA, 31 HR, 88 RBIs.

Biggest surprise: Wade Miley, 14-9 record with a 2.90 ERA in 24 starts on the season.

San Diego Padres – 64-74
I guess you can say the All-Star break did the Padres well, as they have been the hottest team in baseball since then. As of right now, no team in baseball wants to play the Padres.

They just took two out of three games against the Dodgers, which kept Los Angeles at 4.5 games back in the division instead of 2.5 games. This team is truly playing spoiler and are having fun while doing it. A complete turnaround from the first half of the season has their future looking very bright all of a sudden in sunny San Diego.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): The Padres are one of the hottest teams since the All-Star break and are taking pride in playing spoiler from here on out.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): Despite the huge improvement the Padres are still ranked in the bottom half of the National League with .244 team batting average.

Biggest contributor: Chase Headley, hitting .285 with 24 home runs and 94 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Cameron Maybin, hitting .240 with six home runs and 39 RBIs.

Biggest surprise: Chris Denorfia, hitting .290 with six home runs and 30 RBIs.

Colorado Rockies – 56-79
The Rockies have been playing a lot better baseball as of late then they were the last couple of months. They will try for a four-game series split today against the Wildcard-leading Atlanta Braves.

A win could actually benefit the Dodgers, who are just 1.5 games out of the wild card. The pitching problem for Colorado has never been solved and next year they announced will be again a four man rotation. It’s been miserable for the Rockies pitching staff this season, labeled as the worst in all of baseball. If this team wants to play spoiler they can take that role with some big games coming up against the Dodgers and Giants.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): The Rockies can completely ruin the Dodgers playoff chances when they play three big games at Dodger Stadium on September 28-30.

Reason to be optimistic: They continue to hold the title for the worst team ERA in all of baseball, 5.14 ERA on the season.

Biggest contributor: Carlos Gonzalez, hitting .310 with 22 home runs and 83 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Drew Pomeranz, 1-8 record with a 4.93 ERA in 17 starts.

Biggest surprise: Josh Rutledge, hitting .329 with seven home runs and 27 RBIs in 46 games.