22 Games to Go: Dodgers Ready for Western Showdown
After a disappointing series loss to the first-place Washington Nationals, the Dodgers needed to regroup and refocus on capturing the N.L. West crown for the second consecutive season. With only 22 games remaining on the regular schedule, the Dodgers will play all their remaining games against their division except for a four-game series against the Chicago Cubs September 18-21. With six more games against the second-place Giants, the division standings and title winner could be determined in the last few games of September.
Dan Haren (11-10, 4.27) vs. Vidal Nuno (0-4, 3.23)
Van Slyke LF
The Dodgers will face the slithery Arizona Diamondbacks for the final time this season when they begin a three-game set against the Snakes at Dodger Stadium on Friday night. With the pool incident still fresh in Kirk Gibson‘s mind, the D-backs would love nothing more than to play spoiler to the Dodgers. Let’s just hope that there aren’t any inside pitches which hit any important Dodgers during the series.
Dan Haren, who has had a tumultuous first-year with the Dodgers, will be making his 28th start of the season.
Dan Haren 2015 Vesting Option Standings:
●156 innings pitched
●Needs 24 more innings for $10 million 2015 option to kick in
This season Haren is 3-1 with a 4.26 ERA against the D-backs in 4 starts. He’s allowed 4 homeruns to the Snakes and 25 long balls overall this season. Last time out against the Padres, Haren pitched well but wasn’t involved in the decision. He allowed 2 runs (both unearned) on 5 hits through 6 innings of work. Overall, Haren is 5-2 with a 3.70 ERA against the D-backs in 7 career games against them (6 starts). Chris Owings absolutely owns Haren in a 12 plate appearance sample size. He has 9 hits including 2 doubles in 11 at-bats.
Dan Haren hasn’t pitched
bad of late, but the Dodgers’ inconsistent offense makes winning behind Haren difficult. Photo: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
The Dodgers will have to face a left-hander whom they’ve never seen before. The 27-year old Vidal Nuno was acquired by Arizona after a July 6th trade which sent Brandon McCarthy and cash to the Yankees. Nuno has yet to win a game with Arizona after making 10 starts for them since being traded. Last time out against the Rockies, Vidal only allowed 1 run on 2 hits through 8 innings. The D-backs still managed to lose the game 9-2 to Colorado. The only current Dodgers who have ever faced Nuno are Justin Turner and Roberto Hernandez. Turner has 1 hit against him.
The Dodgers have really struggled against left-handed pitching this year. They are 28th in the Majors with a .238 batting average against left-handed pitching.
Dan Haren got some extra rest after Carlos Frias made the spot start for the Wednesday day game at Dodger Stadium in which the Dodgers lost 8-5 in 14 innings to the Nationals. Haren and the Dodgers know that every game is so important at this point in the season. An extra loss could mean the difference between playing in the NLDS and fighting to see another day in the one-game Wild Card round.
Prediction: Justin Turner has another multi-hit game.
Wednesday’s five and a half hour loss was one of the worst games of the year for the Dodgers. They had to exhaust their bullpen, and Don Mattingly made some poor choices which ultimately led to them stranding a dozen runners in the game. The Dodgers have struggled with the bases loaded this season, and part of the problem is that Don Mattingly’s use of the bunt has given away precious outs. Asking Joc Pederson to bunt during Wednesday’s game took the bat right out of Matt Kemp‘s hand. Mattingly cannot make bad decisions like that in the postseason when every move is so critical, and the stakes are much higher.
Arizona fires General Manager Kevin Towers. The D-backs announced the dismissal of Towers Friday morning.
"“Over the past three months, I have had the opportunity to evaluate all aspects of our baseball operations and have decided to restructure our staff in order to improve our decision-making process,” chief baseball officer Tony La Russa said. “I have the utmost respect for Kevin and a friendship with him that dates back many years, which has allowed me to appreciate his talents and experience."
Kirk Gibson’s future will depend on the new GM when he or she is hired. The D-backs definitely need to revamp their management, and Towers’ firing became the first move in that process.
Black and Blue Injury Update:
Josh Beckett is most likely done for the season. The veteran right-hander, who pitched a no-hitter on May 25th in Philadelphia, may need surgery on his torn hip labrum. Beckett tried to pitch through the injury, which of course is never a good idea. He has thrown the ball around, but with the season winding down, time is running out for him to be able to return. If Beckett is done, he went 6-6 with a 2.88 ERA in 20 starts for the Dodgers this year.
Paco Rodriguez may be able to return sometime this month. Rehabbing a Teres Major strain, Paco threw a bullpen session on Tuesday. Having Paco on the postseason roster could really add to Mattingly’s left-handed choices for relief rather than relying on the sole lefty J.P. Howell.
The Dodgers are dead last in the Majors with a .172 batting average with the bases loaded. They have yet to hit a grand slam this season. They are 25th in homeruns (103), but they are second in stolen bases (123), and third in triples (36).
Call to the Pen
Even with their glaring weaknesses (base running blunders, bases loaded failures, bullpen meltdowns, starting rotation bumps, outfield conundrums, shortstop injuries and issues, zero production from either catcher, and all the bunting) the Dodgers can still clinch their division and head straight to the NLDS if they don’t mess these last 22 games up. Now is the time when champions rise to the challenge. It may sound corny, but it’s true. The Dodgers have to defend what is rightfully theirs: the N.L. West crown.