Probable Pitching Matchups
Casey Coleman vs. Chad Billingsley
Billingsley didn’t get the win, but he proved to be the stopper Sunday with eight shutout innings as the Dodgers’ losing streak ended at five. Billingsley fanned 11 with only two hits allowed and showed he can be dominant with an expanded repertoire. Coleman picked up the win in his last start Saturday at Colorado. He held the red-hot Rockies to one run on four hits over 5 2/3 innings. Manager Mike Quade didn’t want to cut Coleman at the end of Spring Training, and the righty is showing why.
Ryan Dempster vs. Ted Lilly
Lilly turned it around for his first win of the year with seven scoreless innings against the Braves. The game against Atlanta was the first in which he looked like the crafty lefty the Dodgers thought they were getting with a three-year contract. Dempster hasn’t looked sharp in his four starts this year and has given up at least four runs in each. He’s also been hurt by one big inning, and in his last start vs. the Rox, it was the first. Says Dempster: “I’m a better pitcher than that.”
Carlos Zambrano vs. Hiroki Kuroda
Zambrano is riding a 10-game winning streak, dating back to last year. He didn’t get a decision in his last start but deserved a “W” as he held the Padres to three hits over eight scoreless innings. He is winless in two starts at home. Kuroda bounced back with a solid effort Tuesday against the Braves. Kuroda started the game with five shutout innings, but he gave up solo home runs in the sixth and seven en route to his second loss.
Eric Steven’s Scouting Report on the Dodgers
Who’s Hot – Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp are red-hot right now, carrying the Dodgers offense. Ethier has a 17-game hitting streak, the longest in MLB this season, during which he is hitting .415/.472/.600. Ethier was hitting a ton of singles and only had two extra-base hits in his first 14 games, but he has five doubles and a home run in his last five games. Kemp has been on fire all season, and is hitting .426/.500/.632 so far. Dodger starting pitchers have been great of late as well, allowing just three runs in 30 1/3 innings over their last four games.
Who’s Not – The bulk of the offense outside of Kemp and Ethier are in the “Who’s Not” list. Regulars James Loney, Juan Uribe, and Rod Barajas are flirting with the Mendoza Line, with Loney hitting .204/.267/.310 in 92 games since the 2010 All-Star break, with five home runs and 33 RBI. Also, the bullpen has been horrendous so far, dead last in the NL in several categories. Dodger relief pitchers have thrown a first-pitch strike just 53.0% of the time (NL average: 59.3%). Hong-Chih Kuo is on the disabled list, and pretty much outside of Matt Guerrier and Blake Hawsworth the healthy relievers have struggled. Vicente Padilla, however, will be activated for this series (he had surgery to free an entrapped nerve in his forearm in February), so expect to see him in a multitude of late-inning roles.
News & Notes – The Dodgers called up outfielder / first baseman Jerry Sands, their organizational player of the year in 2010. He hit 35 home runs last season between Class A and Double A, and hit five more home runs in 10 games in Triple A this season. Sands will play most days, mostly in left with the occasional start at first base against lefties. Backup catcher Dioner Navarro is currently on a rehab assignment with Double A Chattanooga, and is expected to join the Dodgers on this road trip, although he likely won’t join the club until Monday in Florida. Until then, A.J. Ellis backs up Barajas at backstop.
Prediction for the Series – If the Dodgers’ starters (Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly — in his triumphant return to Chicago! — and Hiroki Kuroda in this series) can continue pitching like they have been, I like the Dodgers’ chances at Wrigley Field. However, the Dodger offense has been the worst in the league so far, at 3.3 runs per contest, so they will have their work cut out for them. If forced to make a pick, I’ll guess Padilla brings a bit of stability to the bullpen and the Dodgers manage to take two of three this weekend.