The Dodgers arrive today hot as that ubiquitous dancing bobcat, winning 12 of their last 15 games and averaging 6.8 runs a game in the process. They were shut out only once and scored three or less only five times. Even though they are a sub-500 team at 66-70 they have a strong MVP candidate in Matt Kemp – .321 (4th)/.395/.568, 31homers (tied 2nd) and 102 RBI (3rd) – and a Cy Young challenger in Clayton Kershaw – 17-5 (2nd) , 2.45 ERA (2nd), 1.107 WHIP (2nd), 9.6 K/9 (1st). You get the idea, this series is not going to be an easy one.
The opening game matches Brandon Beachy (7-2, 3.31 ERA) against Chad Billingsley (10-10, 4.08). Because of Hurricane Irene, Beachy goes on double rest. He last pitched eight days ago beating the Cubs 8-3. He needs to shake off any rust before the first inning tonight as this lineup led by Kemp has been killing the ball the last two weeks – .282/.353/.455, 16 homers and 72 runs scored.
Inconsistency plagues Billingsley in spite of his good stuff. Like Jair Jurrjens, he had a good first half that makes his numbers look much better than his performances have been lately. Since the ASG he’s 2-3 in eight starts with 4.59 ERA surrendering 30 runs – 25 earned – on 49 hits including five home runs and 21 walks in 49 innings; throw in a hit batter and you find a WHIP of 1.429. We missed him during the west coast swing in April when the Braves lost three of four to the Dodgers. For his career, Billingsley is 1-3 in eight starts, his last win coming in 2009.
On Saturday Mike Minor (4-2, 4.37) squares off against Nathan Eovaldi (1-2, 3.46). Minor was superb in his last outing and seems to gain confidence every start. The 21 year old Eovaldi like Minor is one of the Dodger’s rising stars. The 6’3”, 195 lb righty is “Nathan” , never “Nate”. The last name is E-VAL-DI, the “o” is silent and he hails from Alvin Texas home of Nolan Ryan. Like Ryan he brings Texas heat in the form of 93-95 mph fastball along with a curve that can be a slurve at times and a change up that’s still maturing to his starts. Dodger scouts say he reminds them a bit of Kershaw; he doesn’t panic and goes right after hitters. If that’s true he has a great future. I hope we don’t see anything like that this year.
Jurrjens knee issues mean Randall Delgado (0-1, 3.60 ERA) goes against the aforementioned Clayton Kershaw on Sunday. What can I say about Kershaw? He’s a beast. He may be the best pitcher in the NL you haven’t heard a lot about back east and he’s threatening to take the Cy Young away from it’s preordained owner Roy Halladay in spite of pitching for club mired in controversy and carrying a losing record. Whenever he takes the mound you could see a shutout, he’s thrown shutout ball 8 times this year and allowed 5 or more runs only 4 times. He went 8 2/3 against us during our April visit to LA, allowing three runs on five hits. If Kershaw is in form and Delgado is on his game, Sunday’s matchup could be a real pitching lovers delight. I hope Kershaw doesn’t sleep well Saturday night ; is that wrong of me?
In news you already know the Braves told Julio Lugo his services were no longer needed and activated Jack Wilson from the disabled list. Lugo leaves having been signed for reasons no one can explain and with his most memorable achievement being the run scored in that endless game against the Pirates. Goodbye Julio, you didn’t screw up too much while you were here.
David O’Brien of the AJC reports via twitter that Tommy Hanson “felt good today when he played catch, thinks he just pushed it too hard last time to get back. He’s in good spirits now.” Here’s hoping that’s correct as I along with others don’t expect to see Jurrjens start again this year.
It’s about game time. Let’s go Braves!