Clinching the Division During Series With Giants Would Be Extra Sweet
After a strange up and down road trip, the Dodgers return home to Dodger Stadium with a 4 1/2 game lead over the Giants in the N.L. West and a *Magic Number of 3*. The bullpen game was a success on Sunday in Chicago thanks to the hot bat of Matt Kemp who went 4-for-5 with 4 RBIs. With Hanley Ramirez battling a myriad of injuries this season, Matt Kemp has comeback from two years of injuries himself to regain his 2011 form. Earlier in the season there were plenty of Kemp haters calling for the Dodgers to trade the franchise player, but now that he has blasted 22 homeruns and smacked in 80 RBIs over 144 games he has reminded us all that he is still the same Kemp we loved to watch two years ago. Patience is not everyone’s strongest virtue, but I’m so glad that the Dodgers gave Matt the opportunity to work back from the brink. Kemp has been an integral part of this playoff bound Dodger team. Like I have said before, I can’t imagine the Dodgers winning a World Championship without The Bison.
Dan Haren (13-11, 4.14) vs. Jake Peavy (6-4, 2.16)
Adrian Gonzalez has two more homeruns than Kemp, but he has driven in a league-leading 112 RBIs. Some may dismiss the RBI stat, but Gonzo is still one of the most consistent and productive hitters in the league. Even though he bats after one of the other best hitters in the league (Yasiel Puig), you would not get that type of production from almost anybody else batting in his spot. He’s undeniably the Dodger who has been the most reliably productive at the plate, and he has played in the most games (153) of any Dodger this year. Even though he had a rough May and June, he turned things around to have a solid second half helping to propel the Dodgers into October along with Kemp, Puig, Uribe, Hanley, and Gordon offensively.
Dan Haren’s most important start for the Dodgers will be against the Giants on Monday night. Photo: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
The Dodgers are in a great position with just six games remaining on their schedule. They could potentially clinch the N.L. West as early as Tuesday with two more wins against the Giants. Nothing would be sweeter than watching the Dodgers celebrate with champagne bubbles instead of soap bubbles during the series against the rival Giants at home. The first hurdle is of course beating Jake Peavy on Monday.
Jake Peavy has a history of success against the Dodgers and at Dodger Stadium. He is 14-3 with a 2.28 ERA in 26 career games against the Dodgers. At Dodger Stadium, Peavy is 7-1 with a 2.85 ERA in 13 starts. Sure, the veteran has a history of accomplishment against the Dodgers, but that all happened a long time ago before he was ever with San Francisco. This season, he is 0-1 against the Dodgers with a 4.50 ERA in 1 start. He lost to the Dodgers back on July 27th in his first start with San Francisco after being traded from Boston. He allowed 4 runs on 6 hits over 6 innings at AT&T Park. Peavy is in the middle of a four-game winning streak. Last time out against Arizona he allowed just 1 run on 5 hits through 7 2/3 innings. Adrian Gonzalez has hit 2 homeruns off Peavy in the past, yet Hanley Ramirez has struggled to hit the right-hander with just 3 hits in 20 at-bats (.150 BA).
Dan Haren’s start got pushed back by Don Mattingly, and the veteran will be looked to for his experience in the series opener. With Hyun-jin Ryu still working his way back to the rotation with a shoulder injury, the Dodgers need Haren to give them a solid start on Monday.
The Dodgers may not be the only ones clinching during the series. Dan Haren is close to honing in on his 2015 option.
Dan Haren 2015 Vesting Option Standings:
|●174 innings pitched|
|●Needs 6 more innings for $10 million 2015 option to kick in.|
While it has been an up and down season for the veteran right-hander, if Haren can give the Dodgers solid outings during the final days of the season and into October, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to reward Dan with another year in Blue.
Last time out, Haren lost in Colorado after allowing 5 runs on 4 hits through 5 innings of work, but prior to that loss Haren had only allowed 2 earned runs over 4 starts. He has not faced San Francisco this season. He is 6-6 with a 3.49 ERA against the Giants over 17 career games. This year at Dodger Stadium, Haren is 7-4 with a 3.47 ERA in 14 starts. He is 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA in September so far which is the best month he’s had since his great 3-0 start March/April. Surprisingly, Hunter Pence has had a lot of trouble against Haren. The awkward outfielder is hitting just 0.63 with 1 hit in 17 plate appearances against Haren. The Dodgers also like the fact that Haren has postseason pitching experience, and he even pitched against the Dodgers in the 2004 NLDS. He pitched two innings and garnered the win.
Prediction: Yasiel Puig flips his bat in order to peeve Peavy after a big homerun.
Call to the Pen
Before we can even discuss Dan Haren pitching in the postseason, the Dodgers need to wrap up this season and defend their N.L. West crown. Anything can happen, and the Dodgers should try to pop those tops on the bubbly sooner rather than later. They don’t want to give any sort of momentum shift to the Giants. Let’s smash those pumpkins Tuesday night, shall we boys?
Angel Pagan most likely won’t play in the series at Dodger Stadium. Pagan has an inflamed nerve in his lower back. Michael Morse (who has the most serious practice swing I have ever seen) is also out with a strained left oblique.
The Dodgers and Giants both have won eight games each during the season series so far.