The Dodgers haven’t lost a series since June, and they are looking to sweep the Tampa Bay Rays with a win in game three on Sunday afternoon. This incredible run is something we can always remember as Dodger fans as one of the great moments within the history of the historic franchise. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the Dodgers somehow pulled it together, got healthy, and went on a rampage like we have never seen. From last place and 12 games under .500, they are now 6 1/2 games ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks and 16 games above .500. In fact the Dodgers now have the same record as the St. Louis Cardinals, and they only have one more loss than the Rays. This amazing run of 2013 is a story of tenacity and hope. You should never give up no matter how dark the days get.
Speaking of dark days, Tampa Bay is in the midst of a four-game losing streak. They sit three games back of Boston in the American League East. Their morale must be low after squandering a six-run lead in game one versus the Dodgers and then being shut out 5-0 in game three. The Rays will try to salvage one game of the series, but they will have their work cut out for them as they go up against Dodger ace Clayton Kershaw. This was the Rays first visit to Dodger Stadium, and I’m sure they are not finding it too welcoming. Perhaps the Revenge of Loney is in actuality a curse which Dodger Stadium has cast upon the former Dodger. Dodger fans sure didn’t feel like they missed him too much as Adrian Gonzalez was launching a two-run homerun into the stands on Saturday afternoon.
James Loney returns to Dodger Stadium but in a different shade of blue. Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Excellent pitching has really set the Dodgers apart from the rest of their division. Dodger starters are 10-1 with a 1.73 ERA in their last 15 games. The Dodgers are third in the league in ERA (3.36), third in strikeouts (905), third in wins (66), and have held the opposition to a .247 batting average. The Dodger relievers are also third in the N.L. with 34 saves. Clayton Kershaw has been completely dominant this season, and he leads the Majors with a miniscule 1.91 ERA. He’s second in the league in strikeouts (166), and second in WHIP (0.88). He’s held batters to a ridiculously low .188 batting average over his 24 starts. Kersh has pitched 3 complete games and 2 shutouts this season. Kershaw garnered the honor of Pitcher of the Month for July. Unfortunately the Dodgers have not given Kersh hardly any run support. Last time out in St. Louis, Kershaw suffered the only loss of the series after allowing just 2 runs on 6 hits with 5 strikeouts and 2 walks over 6 innings of work. This will be Kershaw’s first career start versus Tampa Bay. He has faced a few of the Rays players in the past, and Kelly Johnson has hit a homerun against the southpaw. Can the Dodgers please score some runs for Kersh?
Jeremy Hellickson will also be vying for his 11th win on the season like Kershaw. The right-hander will be trying to stave off the sweep as he goes up against Los Angeles for the first time in his career. He’ll have to worry about Adrian Gonzalez who has faced Hellickson when he played in the American League. The Dodger first baseman has hit two homeruns against him in the past. Hellickson lost to Arizona in his last start after allowing 5 runs on 5 hits with 1 strikeout and 3 walks in just 4 2/3 innings. Hellickson has been victim of the long ball, and he has already allowed 18 homeruns so far this season.
Can Jeremy Hellickson stave off the sweep for the Rays? Photo: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The Dodgers will have a well-rested Kenley Jansen available in their bullpen as well. As long as the Dodgers can get the ball to Kenley with a lead, the win will be almost guaranteed. Jansen has been virtually unhittable. The 25-year old converted catcher has a Kersh-like 2.01 ERA with 17 saves and 84 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings. His SO/9 is 13.0 and his SO/BB is 9.33. He has already pitched in 57 games for the Dodgers this season. Last year he appeared in 65.
Hanley Ramirez will take some grounders on Sunday, but it could still be a couple days before the shortstop is ready to start. He felt some discomfort in his shoulder while playing catch on Friday. It’s better that the Dodgers are extra careful with Hanley. The last thing we want is to lose Hanley for any extended amount of time.
What’s remarkable is that the Dodgers are 10-6 in Interleague Play. They have usually not fared well against their American League counterparts.
The 5:05 p.m. game will be televised on ESPN. We want to know who your favorite Dodger is this season. Let us know in the comments!