During the game last night The Nats Blog and True Blue LA exchanged thoughts on our respective teams. To see what I said about the Nationals head over to True Blue LA and check it out. Here is what Phil from True Blue LA had to say:
The Nats Blog: Do the Dodgers have the pitching to repeat what they did last year?
True Blue LA: Not at the moment but I hope it will start to jell now that Kuo and Belisario have re-joined the bullpen. We have had a hard time getting the lead from the starters to Broxton. Our bullpen has been awful but that should start to change as we remove some dead weight and put others in spots they should have been in, in the first place. Kuroda is actually our most consistent pitcher when he's healthy. Kershaw can be dominant at home, still needs to find consistency on the road. We don't quite know if he's ready to step up and be our ace yet but I'll address that further down. Chad Billingsley is maddening right now. Our blog is a huge defender of Chad but he's letting us down. For this team to repeat we can live with someone like Haeger as the fifth starter but Chad Billingsley has to step up and be the all-star pitcher he was last year in the first half.
TNB: When it's all said and done who do you believe will have the bigger offensive impact this season, Kemp? Ethier? or Ramriez?
True Blue LA: Tough call between Matt and Andre. It is a joy to watch both of them as they hit their prime years. One thing about Kemp that could change his ceiling is that all of his home runs have gone to RC or RF this year. He is just going with the pitch and driving the shit out of it. If you had asked me this question in the spring I would have said Andre, but after watching Kemp modify his approach this year I'll go with him.
Fish Stripes takes a look at one of the most underrated hitters in baseball, Marlins third baseman Jorge Cantu.
Cantu has been one of the most intriguing players in baseball since his arrival to Florida. Whether it be the small market he plays in, or being overshadowed by the rise of Hanley Ramirez, Cantu has quietly put together some impressive numbers and is a threat to reach 25 home runs and over 100 RBIs in any given season. Having been given up on by the Devil Rays and Reds, Cantu has seemingly found a home in Florida where he and his fellow infield sluggers, Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla are a fun and exciting team to watch as they swing for the fences at every at bat.
The Good Phight dug up some interesting numbers following Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, and Jamie Moyer's dominating performances in Atlanta.
What a sigh of relief if you're a Phillies fan. In 23 innings pitched, the three starters gave up zero earned runs and allowed only 13 hits, giving the much depleted Phillie bullpen a rest. Phili will need more impressive starts like this from their rotation, especially now that J.A. Happ will be unavailable for a few weeks. Former Met Nelson Figueroa will take Happs spot in the rotation as he makes his first start in a Phillie uniform Saturday in Arizona. If the Figueroa experiment fails manager Charlie Manuel can then possibly turn to reliever Jose Contreras, who has struggled mightily with his role in the bullpen but has plenty of experience as a starter.
Despite having a respectable 8-7 record with some impressive wins, Braves Blast is concerned with the sputtering part of the Braves lineup.
The Washington Nationals (8-8) will welcome the Los Angeles Dodgers (7-8) to Nationals Park to finish up the final leg of a 10 game home stand. The Nationals look to improve upon their .500 record before going on a six game road trip after taking two-of-four from Colorado and two-of-three from Milwaukee.
The Nationals have been extremely consistent with the bat in the first sixteen games of the season but need to find the same consistency with their pitching staff if they hope to be successful against the Los Angeles Dodgers who lead the majors in batting average. This inconsistency is evident when you consider the Nationals have scored at least four or more runs in 13 out of 16 games this season yet only have eight wins. With poor starting pitching the Nationals have allowed over 10 run in a game four times, going 0-4 in those games.
The Dodgers, one of the leagues best hitting teams, will look to take advantage of Washington's inability to get consistent efforts from their starters. Behind the likes of Manny Ramirez (.415/.500/.659), Matt Kemp (.333/.405/.730), and Russell Martin (.333/.446/.444), the Dodgers look to bash their way through this series and jump start a season that is filled with high expectations. To do it though, they too will need help from their starting pitching, and must find an answer for a Nationals line-up that have found a way to score runs all season long.
Update: Manny Ramirez will likely miss the series vs. the Nationals with a calf injury.
DODGERS LAST SERIES
The Dodgers are coming off a disappointing three game series in Cincinnati where they dropped two games to the Reds. Los Angeles fell behind early in the first game after allowing a six run second inning to the 6-8 Reds. Despite a four run eighth, the Dodgers couldn't make up the difference and lost 9-11. The next game saw the Dodgers bats explode for 14 runs and 18 hits. The Dodgers scored a run in every inning but the fourth in the 14-6 win. Los Angeles dropped the finale 5-8 after the bullpen surrendered a 3-2 lead in the sixth and seventh innings.
Rafael Furcal: 6/15, 3 SB, 5 R, 6 RBI
Andre Ethier: 5/13, 2 HR, 4 RBI
Russell Martin: 6/14, 4 R
Chad Billingsley: 3 IP, 4 ER, 2 K
Charlie Haeger (0-1 7.20 ERA) vs. Luis Atilano (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Clayton Kershaw (1-0, 3.18 ERA) vs. Craig Stammen (1-0, 8.16 ERA)
Chad Billingsley (1-0, 7.07 ERA) vs. Scott Olsen (0-1, 11.74)
MOMMA THERE GOES THAT MAN
Mr. Age-gate Rafael Furcal is on fire. The "32-year-old" has hits in 12 of the Dodgers 15 games this season, including seven multi-hit games. The result? Furcal is batting .344/.417/.453 on the season after a very disappointing 2009. What makes it even more of a headache for the Nationals is he's hitting that well in front of one of the likes of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Manny Ramirez, James Loney and Russell Martin. It could be a very very long weekend.
The scary part is that while Furcal is batting .344 his BABIP (.379) isn't THAT high above his carer average (.316). A high BABIP tends to indicate a batter is getting lucky, but what has really helped the Dodgers shortstop is his reduced strikeout rate (9.4% down from 14.5%) and his increased line drive percentage (26.3% up from 19.0%).
ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE YOU TO:
The Dodgers may have one of the best line-ups in the National League, but few know the batters names. While everyone knows Manny Ramirez, let me help you get familiar with:
Andre Ethier: The number three hitter in the Dodgers line up, Ethier is batting .388/.455/.714 through the teams first 15 games. At the age of 28, the corner-outfielder is entering his fifth full season in the majors, and coming off a career best 31 homers and 106 RBI in 2009. In his career Ethier has averaged .293/.365/.495 and has posted a career WAR of 10.7.
Matt Kemp: You know you've arrived when you're dating Rihanna. The 25-year-old Kemp is entering his fourth full MLB season after having a breakout 2009 where he hit .297/.352/.490 with 26 homers, 101 RBI, and 34 stolen bases. Combining extreme strength and speed, Kemp will likely threaten the 30-30 plateau this season while hitting for a good average and still getting on base. With seven homers and 20 RBI on the season he currently leads the National League in both categories.
Rusell Martin: Martin followed a stellar start of his career by gaining massive amounts of weight in 2009 and falling off the map. Martin put an emphasis on getting fit this offseason and the bat is showing a lot of improvement. The catcher has batted .333/.446/.444 to start the season and the Dodgers are hoping he can return to being one of the top five catchers in the league.
Entering last night's game Livan Hernandez had not allowed a run in 16 innings and Ubaldo Jimenez had not allowed a hit in nine. Neither streak lasted very long, but both pitchers battled late into the game giving fans an exciting pitchers duel that found the Rockies on top 2-0.
The Nationals got their first hit out of the way with Willie Harris's double in the first inning, ending Jimenez's hit streak, but Washington couldn't convert it into a run. The Rockies answered back breaking Hernandez's streak in the top of the second as red-hot Miguel Olivo hit a two-out solo home run to give the Rockies a 1-0 lead.
With a late-inning rally the Nationals were able to pull past the Rockies last night to win 6-4 and improve their season record to 8-7.
The Nationals dug themselves an early hole as starting pitcher John Lannan struggled early. The Rockies led off the game with two hits before getting a sacrifice fly from Jason Giambi (.000 WPA) to make it 1-0. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki then grounded into a fielders choice to drive in another run (.017 WPA). Brad Hawpe decided to add insult to injury in the third with a one-out solo home run (0.86) to bring the score to 3-0 and give the Nationals a game low 22.9 win expectancy.
Then the top of the Nationals order got their second chance. With Morgan and Zimmerman on base, Adam Dunn doubled (.175 WPA) to right to score them both. The next at bat, Josh Willingham drove in Dunn on a single (.095 WPA) tying the game at 3- no comments
Braves Blast worries that Chipper Jones' left-handed swing is fading fast, and after dissecting his splits it is hard to disagree.
Chipper Jones is the only switch hitter in the history of the game to have a career average above .300 and over 300 career home runs. With those type of numbers he has to be included in the discussion for being one of the top five switch hitters of all time, a group that includes names like Mickey Mantle, Eddie Murray, and Pete Rose. Jones' struggles batting lefty certainly do not make him a liability in the Braves lineup, with one of the sweetest swings in baseball from the left side, he is still always a threat to make an impact. As a natural righty, it comes as no surprise that his left side was the first to go, and with more attention being drawn to his age and injuries, one has to wonder if Chipper will join manager Bobby Cox in walking away from the game.
Phillies Nation recaps Kyle Kendricks impressive bounce back start against the Braves in Atlanta.
Kendrick was phenomenal in his most recent outing tossing 8 innings of shutout ball. Unfortionatly for him, a miracle 9th and 10th innings by the Braves gave Atlanta the win and Kendrick a no decision. If this game proves anything, it's that
Adam Kilgore tweeted today that an MRI revealed that Nationals starting pitcher Jason Marquis has loose bodies in his throwing elbow. While he will get a second opinion tomorrow, it is likely that he will miss time. The local beat reporters have suggested that Luis Atilano will earn the start in Marquis place on Friday. Atliano is 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA in two starts this season with Syracuse.
This injury comes as no surprise to readers of The Nats Blog as we predicted that Marquis was likely hurt on Sunday:
"For the clubs biggest winter investment, something has to be wrong. Marquis threw 28 pitches this afternoon, reaching a maximum speed of only 89.2 MPH. His bread-and-butter pitch, his sinker, was only averaging 87.95 MPH on the day, and his fastball was only averaging 85.9 MPH. It appears his release point has slightly raised while his velocity has dropped. The result? Clearly Marquis is having trouble getting batters out...But still at the age of 31 his sudden poor play isn't likely do to an early decline, however it leaves some to speculate, does Jason Marquis have some sort of lurking arm injury?"
The second opinion tomorrow will reveal how bad this injury is, but it's very possible when it's all said and done this could be a huge setback for the right-hander and for the franchise.