Off Base
So Much for the Stars Being Aligned

August 10, 2009, 5:20 p.m.

Made some travel plans for October, did ya? Midwestern cities like, oh, say, St. Louis and Chicago? With stops in Boston or New York for the third week of the month, perhaps? Well, hold your horses, sports fans. We'd hate to see you lose those deposits, or incur any unnecessary cancellation fees.

So yeah, that was an awful, awful series at the Ravine over the weekend. Thoroughly painful to watch. But your pennant hopes aren't dashed just yet, necessarily.

Look, all good teams go through bad stretches during a season. Bad teams do too, obviously, as do teams who started out good before transitioning to bad or mediocre, but almost all clubs left standing at the end do pass through these stages on the way to a set of rings.

And more often than not, they're better off for the experience. The Dodgers needed a challenge, and they're getting it now.

Dodger fans have been through a lot these last 21 years. We've survived uninspired seasons, others with hideous play wire-to-wire, seriously under-qualified managers and general managers, three ownership groups, earthquakes, riots, and gut-wrenching pennant race collapses. This just doesn't feel like one of those times.

It's been a stretch of about three weeks of pedestrian play. BFD. So the Dodgers finish with 95 wins instead of 105. That's still good enough for the division and home field in the National League. Exactly 50 games to play starting tonight at China Basin. You don't think the Dodgers can go 28-22 and finish 95-67 without too much heavy lifting? C'mon. I'm predicting 30-20 the rest of the way and a 97-65 mark.

One reason to be optimistic is the notion that a score of Dodger teams, including last year's first-in-a-generation Championship Series participating unit, have played with almost uncountable ways to lose. The 2009 version has been losing essentially three ways - with the lack of a clutch hit, some weak relief pitching from good relief pitchers (primarily), and the lack of iron-men starting pitching, especially in veteran ace form.

The 2009 Dodgers almost never lose with bad defense, and it's no small thing. In fact, fielding is their saving grace most of the time, and will continue to be. Previous this-decade L.A. clubs were always good for an error or series of errors in monumental spots. That simply won't happen with this Dodger team, and it very well might with the competition.

The 2009 Dodgers have too much experience to let a 20-game stretch be anything more than a speed bump. Fine, a mine field maybe, but a mine field with a map to the other side. Rafael Furcal has been through the ringer almost yearly during his career, having played in eight postseason series. Manny Ramirez even more so, with 21 October series under his belt.

Brad Ausmus has played in eight postseason series, Doug Mientkiewicz has played in seven (and his left-handed bat off the bench will be especially handy in October), and Jeff Weaver six. Casey Blake and Juan Pierre have been to the playoffs twice each, and most of the rest of the team was there last year. There's been more than enough history written about John Smoltz too. Just fyi.

And whatever you think of the Dodgers hitting, it's more than a wee bit stronger than San Francisco's. I'm confident Joe Torre's men will be up for the series. Maybe even invigorated, if not by the cool weather, than perhaps by the hostile crowd. They won't be facing Matt Cain, who pitched Sunday, during the series, which certainly helps. Call it a break.

Why all cookies and sunshine this afternoon, especially here, of all places? I don't know exactly. It's just a gut feeling, nothing scientific (duh). Like you, I recoiled into the fetal position minutes after Sunday's loss, saying over and over till slumber came, "I'm so depressed. Ohhh, I'm sooooo depressed."

Perhaps unlike you, I woke up refreshed, rejuvenated, believing the Dodgers had been through the worst of their season, ready to snap out of it, none the worse for wear. And I just think the Giants will be accommodating. Talk to me on Thursday and we'll compare notes.

In the meantime, look for Ned Colletti to bring in a starting pitcher who will surprise you. I'm thinking Bronson Arroyo, who can start Wednesday to spell Chad Billingsley, or Aaron Harang, who can pitch Friday in Arizona. I'm holding out hope for Zach Duke, and possibly a bigger name (Javier Vazquez even) later in the month, but I'm confident help is on the way. For the bullpen too.

You might also consider the current state of another club or two. Check out these disconcerting Philadelphia numbers, for example: Cole Hamels, 7-7, with a 4.77 ERA; Joe Blanton, 7-6 and 4.02; Jamie Moyer, 5.47; and Brad Lidge, 7.24. 7.24!

The Rockies are without ace Aaron Cook, the Cubs just lost Carlos Zambrano, LAA of A just disabled Joe Saunders, and the Boston Red Sox just got bitch-slapped by the New York Yankees four straight, with old second-half reliable Brad Penny going tonight. And you think Los Angeles has problems?

The Dodgers will be fine. Rip me a new one if I'm wrong…

Talkback: Your comments are always encouraged…

Media Savvy: Los Angeles Times columnist Chris Erskine is a fun read, weekly in the Saturday Home section, with an occasional foray into Sports. As just one example, check out this piece from August 8

Who Goofed: Rotoworld had the following posted on its website a full 90 minutes after Andre Ethier's walkoff home run Thursday night: "Derek Lowe held the Dodgers to two runs over 6 1/3 innings in a 4-2 Braves victory on Thursday night. It was his second straight start against the Dodgers, and he was a little better this time around. Lowe did his thing, inducing 14 ground ball outs and working around eight hits and two walks to put together a quality start and earn his 12th victory. He's got a favorable match-up against the Giants on the docket."

Keep Coming Back: Here's what I said about Josh Hamilton, and more specifically, about the publicity he was getting at the time, All-Star week, last year:

"Josh Hamilton is a nice story, but those in the media glorifying the Texas outfielder's comeback from substance abuse aren't doing the man any favors.

Contrary to the gushing commentary, Hamilton has not "kicked" or "beaten" anything. What he has is a daily reprieve, and I'm guessing he'll be the first person to lay it out for you. At least, I hope so. It's a day at time. A day at a time, OK? One day at a time. Easy does it, everyone."

Statue for Sandy: The Koufax in bronze campaign continues. Please Vote “Yes on 32.” And tell a friend…

Remember, glove conquers all….







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