Rox can validate their presence in division race

The Rockies could be in first place in the NL West Thursday.  Let that sink in a bit.  Technically, they would be tied with Los Angeles (and the Dodgers hold the tiebreaker), but that's still an incomprehensible achievement.

Remember that Colorado made up exactly zero games in the fifty that Manny Ramirez was suspended.  Nada.  Since the day Ma'amRam came back (which was the first game after the teams last played almost two months ago), the Rox have gone 30-17, making up 5.5 games on the Dodgers, who helped by going a modest 24-22.

Can the Rockies pull off the comeback by Thursday?  Probably not.  Sure, the Dodgers' offense has failed to get more than 3 runs in 8 of the past 11 games.  Clayton Kershaw looks human and has been beaten up at Coors in the past.  Vicente Padilla is making his first start in over three weeks and the Rockies are on an emotional high.  But the pitching matchups are not kind to the Rockies, and a series victory will be hard enough to come by.  

The rotation's top two starters are skipped for the series including the only Rockies starter the Dodgers have lost to (Marquis, twice).  Instead, Jim Tracy will send out two men that failed to make a rotation out of Spring Training.  You might be worried about the bullpen fatigue going into two games started by men who could get blown up in a hurry, especially after a late night 14-inning affair.  However, the pen is more rested than you'd think.  The number of pitches thrown from the pen in the last week:

Pitcher Tues. Wed. Thu. Fri. Sat. Sun. Mon.
Street 16 10 13 - 8 14 11
Betancourt - 9 17 - 1 - 10
Beimel - - - 11 - - 5
Morales - 15 - - 10 - 5
Daley - - - - 26 - 27
Eaton - - - 42 - - 55
Herges - - - - 10 - -
Fogg - - - 45 - - -

Street has been used frequently, but his pitch count has been down in every appearance.  Thanks to Ubaldo Jimenez (see Tuesday and Sunday), only Matt Daley and Adam Eaton will be unavailable tonight.

Keep in mind that a series sweep isn't the only way to stay in the race.  With these pitching matchups, winning the series will pull Colorado within two games, effectively giving the Rockies control of their own destiny.   

TrueBlueLA feels the heat the Rockies are putting on, and Eric Stephen also noted the Climb of the Rockies this morning, as I linked in the Rockpile.

Be sure to hang out with the fans at True Blue LA.  It's a good crowd and a far better place to be than McCovey Chronicles.


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Los Angeles Dodgers (74-51, L1, 1st, 3.0 Gm Lead) 

Tuesday-Thursday: 3-game series at Coors Field


The Bats: B

Manny Ramirez is not producing as expected.  However, he's still among the elite hitters talent-wise, and his season wOBA is better than any Rockie.  The Dodgers are third in the NL in runs and 3rd in wOBA.  So this is the best offense we'll face outside of Philadelphia in the NL.

LINEUP Avg HR RBI OBP SLG wOBA
Rafael Furcal - SS .256 6 35 .323 .347 .298
Matt Kemp - CF .312 18 77 .371 .501 .381
Andre Ethier - RF .282 25 83 .369 .526 .378
Manny Ramirez - LF .303 13 45 .417 .546 .401
Casey Blake - 3B .280 15 69 .356 .470 .349
James Loney - 1B .277 7 71 .350 .381 .322
Russell Martin - C .258 4 38 .362 .327 .312
Orlando Hudson - 2B .291 8 57 .358 .425 .347

The lineup construction makes much more sense after Matt Kemp was moved up from the 8-hole.  Furcal is still a hole in the leadoff spot, and Torre has shuffled the bottom half of his lineup around recently, as well as the 2-hole.   By wOBA metrics, the lineup features one superstar (Ramirez), two strong All-Star caliber players (Kemp and Ethier), two solidly above average hitters (Hudson and Blake), two below average hitters (Loney and Martin) and one flat out bad hitter (Furcal).

Joe Torre's sparsely used and very weak bench includes IF's Juan Castro (.304, 1, 9), Mark Loretta (.224, 0, 22) and Tony Abreu (2-for-8), C Brad Ausmus (.304, 1, 8), and OF Juan Pierre (.319/.376/.403). 

The Arms: A-

Clayton Kershaw has been stout all season, and Randy Wolf is having a career year.  Vicente Padilla got the pleasure of joining a division-leading rotation that is 3rd best in ERA in MLB.  The bullpen has been pitching well, with only Belisario and Mota having ERA's over 3.50 in August.  After being scored upon in 3 of 4 outings mid-August, Jonathan Broxton has tossed five straight scoreless outings, allowing only two hits, though he did get his first loss 8/19 without allowing a hit.

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Jonathan Broxton 7-1 55 0 0 0 27 5 58.0 32 20 19 4 24 87 2.95 .97

Joe Torre's hard-ridden bullpen has been anchored by closer Jonathan Broxton), with righties Ramon Troncoso and Ronald Belisario as setup men.  Hong-Chih Kuo is back in the pen from the left side, and George Sherrill was the Dodgers' big deadline acquisition.  Guillermo Mota, Jeff Weaver, and James McDonald are the pitchers we want to force Joe Torre to use.  Still, only Weaver has been below average as a reliever per StatCorner.


The D: B-

Only three teams have committed fewer errors than Los Angeles, and their UZR/150 is 13th in MLB.   Fangraphs rates them 12th in in the league, though notch em down for having Manny in left field for the series.  Ethier is also rated as a very poor fielder by FG - in Brad Hawpe territory.


Probable Pitchers:

Tonight, 6:40 pm MDT

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Clayton Kershaw 8-7 25 25 0 0 0 0 139.2 100 47 46 5 80 147 2.96 1.29
W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Jason Hammel 8-7 25 22 1 0 0 0 125.0 157 71 63 11 31 87 4.54 1.50
Kershaw has been a force to be reckoned with this season, though he's currently in the biggest lull since April.  Still, 9 runs allowed in 4 starts qualifies as a lull, that's saying something.  Notably though, Kershaw has failed to finish the fifth inning in 3 of 4 starts and is coming off of a bout with the flu.  No one has beaten Kershaw up as consistently as the Rockies this season - he's given up 12 ER in 10.1 IP at Coors this year, and hte Dodgers have lost his last six starts.  Jason Hammel has given up no more than 3 ER in four straight starts and 6 of 7.  Home Hammel does exist (7.02 ERA) but he's kept the Rockies in games, which is all you can ask for.  Colorado has won 6 of his last 7 starts at Coors Field with his only loss coming against Matt Cain.  Favors: DODGERS moderately.

Wednesday, August 26, 6:40 pm MDT

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Randy Wolf 8-6 28 27 0 0 0 0 169.2 144 67 63 19 45 128 3.34 1.11
W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Josh Fogg 0-1 20 0 0 0 0 0 40.0 26 11 10 4 14 22 2.25 1.00
I don't understand where this Randy Wolf came from.  According to Fangraphs, he has MLB's best fastball, which just seems ludicrous.  Location location location.  Hopefully, he talked to Lincecum Sunday night.  In his last three starts, he is 3-0 with a 1.98 ERA, 0.397 WHIP, 6.00 K/BB and 7.15 K/9.  Plus he leads MLB in RBI by pitchers.  Josh Fogg has done fine this season, but he's a contact pitcher.  Matt Herges is set to relieve him, as long as Hammel doesn't implode tonight, in which case a roster move would need to be made.  There's not reason to believe the Rockies can win this game.  If they do, they win the series.  Favors:  DODGERS ridiculously heavily

Thursday, August 27, 1:10 MDT

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Vicente Padilla 8-6 18 18 0 0 0 0 108.0 120 61 59 12 42 59 4.92 1.50
W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Jorge De La Rosa 12-8 25 24 0 0 0 0 141.2 140 79 75 18 58 145 4.76 1.40
Padilla will be making his first start in a Dodger uniform.  Coors Field is a nice place for a pitcher to debut.  Vicente allowed 2 ER in 5 IP in a warmup start in AAA Aug 22, his first time on the mound since Aug 5.  He will be on an MLB mound for the first time in over three weeks, and he allowed 5+ runs in 3 of his last 5 starts in Texas.  According to Fangraphs, he's throwing a splitter for the first time in his career this year in addition to a fastball, change, curve, slider and cutter.  Only that 92mph fastball has been very effective this season.  Jorge de la Rosa has appeared to be more volatile this month after a fantastic July.  Still, he has shown much more poise than we're used to, and has won 10 of his last 11 starts.  He is 7-5 with a 5.29 ERA at Coors.  Favors:  ROCKIES moderately

33_15_10---fire-flame-texture_web_mediumAndre Ethier is pushing .350 in August with 4 HR and Matt Kemp is hitting .301 in August with five dingers.  Randy Wolf is in the midst of a strong 3-game stretch.  Only Kershaw, Mota and Troncoso have ERAs over 3.50 this month.  The pitching staff has allowed 3 or less runs in 8 straight games and 4 or less in 14 straight.


IceRafael Furcal is hitting .211 with just two XBH this  month.  James Loney and Russell Martin are also hitting under .230 this month.  The offense scored only 5 runs in the last 3 games vs. Chicago despite winning two, and have scored 2 or less in 5 of 7 games.


Bandaid_mediumDoug Mientkiewicz (shoulder - 4/17) and Xavier Paul (ankle - 5/21) are on the 60-day DL.  Hiroki Kuroda (concussion - 8/16), Jason Schmidt (shoulder - 8/6), and Will Ohman (shoulder - 5/28) are on the 15-day.  James Loney has the flu and may be unable to play tonight, but should be able to pinch hit and start tomorrow.  Mark Loretta would be the likely replacement at first.

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