I hope their dreams last long because in the real world the next 10 games are going to make or break the Dodgers. At least for now.
Going into today's game against the Phillies, saying I was frustrated with their performance as of late would be an understatement. With the growing pains of Kershaw clearly showing on Tuesday, then add the great 13 inning game which turned into a painful loss on Mother's day, (which I saw in person) I could barely watch the game today as we were struggling against Jamie Moyer in the first 3 innings, even when he was coming off of his worst start in 4 years. But we came back in the 4th inning exploding for 5 runs. Started off by Furcal who would later score on an Orlando Hudson double. Then Loney hit his first homer of the season on a 3-run shot into right field. After the 4th it never seemed like the Phils were going to get back into this game. They have been batting terrible as of late and we absolutely had to take advantage of that in this game, not because of Cole Hamels but for the fact that we need to win to keep our player's morale up.
Randy Wolf turned in a magnificent performance out on the mound today. Wolf pitched 6 inning and allowed 3 hits with 8 strikeouts. The only run allowed by Randy came off of a bad pitch that was promptly laid into the left field seats by former MVP Jimmy Rollins. This is truely what Randy Wolf can do when he hits his spots and keeps control of the hitters. His left handed dominance this season is what really sealed this game for him when the Phils had 4 left handed batters in the lineup as always. He did not allow a hit to any lefties in this game and has given up 1 run or less in each of his last 4 starts.
I will admit, going 1-4 without Manny was as painful to watch as American Idol (After the first couple of shows when all the bad singers are eliminated). But we play 162 games in this league for a reason, you can't win them all - it's just about which team can stay the hottest, for the longest amount of time, the most times within the season.
If you are into excuses then there were many of which to pick from to explain the overall bad baseball we played since Manny's positive hCG test was released. You could say we were doing bad because of the media not willing to give this story a rest, or you could point out that we played 33 games with only 2 days of rest. But I am not one for excuses, the fact is when you are out on the field playing ball, that is exactly what you should be thinking about, playing ball . I mean, you get paid to do just that right?
I can also understand the void Manny left, not his "juiced" batting stats, but the clubhouse personality he took with him. I heard Ethier say recently that he is glad no one is trying to "act up" so to speak, in order to try to fill Manny's shoes. He also went on to add that Manny makes "his own show" and that no one could duplicate it. Leaving me to believe that Manny was not only a big part of the Dodgers success out on the field, but in the clubhouse as well.
But how sorry is Manny? Ned Colleti and Joe Torre insist that he is feeling very embarrassed, but he still has yet to address the team as a whole, and does not seem to be all that much interested in working out and traveling with the team. In my mind if you are really sorry then you will apologize to your team as a whole and continue to apologize to your fans and go out there and support your team to the fullest! Maybe it is his "shy" personality, what his biography tries to portray him as, but he needs to hone up to what he has done. Yes, he probably will never get into the Hall Of Fame now, he is a cheater, and will be heckled whenever he strays away from Dodgers stadium but you have to move on in your life sooner or later.
As for the next 10 games, we face Cole Hamels in Philly tomorrow, then we head down to Florida for a 3 game stint. On May 18th we come back home to host the Mets for 3 games, have a day off, then face the recently hot Angels in the famed Freeway Series. These games in my mind will make or break the Dodgers in the sense that if we win the majority of the games then we will have more confidence than any other team in the league. When you give our young guys confidence then they do scary, scary things out on the diamond. But even if we pull .500 ball then we have done our job for now, as I've said before still plenty of games left to be played and plenty of roleplayers yet to emerge in this young season.
Speaking of Roleplayers lets talk about Juan Pierre. I heard on the Dodgers Boards we should try to trade him early in the season but I always disagreed with that idea, he is the same man that stole 64 bases for us just 2 years ago and is tearing it up so far batting .404, earning the leadoff position on this team. He has been as about as on fire as one can get without actually being on fire, it is clear that without him and Casey Blake's homeruns this season that we would be a far worse team than we are now. Speaking of Casey, he bats in the 8th spot like it's clean up. He's batting only around .250 but has hit 7 homeruns this year. I would trade batting average any day for the most homeruns on our team out of the 8th spot.
Russell Martin bumped his average to .271 after some people in L.A. were becoming worried. As Vin Scully kept pointing out early in the season, no other catcher was doing much better than .150 at the time and we are seeing Martin really catch his stride now. Perhaps his late mother gave him some inspiration because after Mother's Day started getting closer on the calendar he seems to really be locked in on the ball more.
Ethier is in a bad slump right now, since the departure of Manny he really does not seem focused out there. Before I would see him constantly making adjustments but as of late, he has been swinging at balls out of the zone, which before wasn't the case for him. Matt Kemp and Orlando Hudson have been doing what they do, amazing plays on the defensive side of the ball, while staying consistent with their play on the offensive side. Kemp still strikes out but he is still 5th among players all time in the category of batting average of balls in play (min. 1,000 at bats), which is a good place to start , but lets see a little less strikeouts out there Matt. Orlando Hudson is the real deal, he continues to swing a hot bat even with the exile of Manny Ramirez. He is currently 2nd in the NL in hits and shows no signs of slowing down.
The Dodgers are #1 for now but still many nights left of sleep, and many days left of baseball. "Only time will tell".