By taking three of four from the San Diego Padres in the first series of the season, the Dodgers lived up to the expectations most baseball “experts” had for them. The question is whether that is good or bad.
First, the offense pretty much came down to the two players everyone said it would – outfielders Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. The two drove in 16 of the 21 runs the Dodgers scored. Kemp batted .412 with two home runs. Ethier had four hits, all for extra bases, including a triple and a home run.
Meanwhile, the pitching followed the same pattern. The top two starters, Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley (1-0), combined for 11.1 scoreless innings and 14 strikeouts. Billingsley looked thoroughly dominant Friday night pitching 8.1 innings and striking out 11. The hope is Billingsley can bounce back from a disappointing 2011 in which he went just 11-11. He entered spring with a new found attitude. “I can attack with my fastball; the curve is my out pitch and the change-up I can throw in any count and have a lot of confidence in that right now,” Billingsley said.
The problem was how the Dodgers weaknesses also stood out proudly. The back end of the rotation, Chris Capuano and Aaron Hurang, were a combined 0-1 with a 7.87 ERA. They gave up ten walks and neither got past the fifth inning. And how much offensive help Kemp and Ethier will get remained a question mark as well.
Infielder Juan Uribe appears to be working hard towards proving he is a bust-he went 1 for 14 and struck out four times. First baseman James Loney went zip for 12. The number one and two hitters in the line-up, shortstop Dee Gordon and second baseman Mark Ellis, finished the series batting .222 and .200, respectively. On the upside was watching Gordon display the potential many say will make him one of the most exciting players to watch this year. In Saturday’s 6-5 extra inning win, Gordon went 3 for 4 with three stolen bases and had the game winning RBI.
Looking ahead, it appears the schedule makers have done their best to make the month of April a key month for the Dodgers to overcome what ails them. Of their 23 April games, the Dodgers play only six against teams that posted winning records in 2011. And those six are versus the Brewers and Braves who are a combined 1-5 after the first weekend.
The Dodgers have an off-day Monday and begin a three game series at home against the Pirates on April 10th. That day is sure to be filled with plenty of pomp and circumstance as it marks the 50th anniversary of Dodger Stadium. Several members of the 1962 Dodgers are expected to attend. Now that is one expectation we are all looking forward to.