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:
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.
(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.
|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.
|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.
Tonight, 6:40 pm MDT
|2009 - Clayton Kershaw||8-7||25||25||0||0||0||0||139.2||100||47||46||5||80||147||2.96||1.29|
|2009 - Jason Hammel||8-7||25||22||1||0||0||0||125.0||157||71||63||11||31||87||4.54||1.50|
Wednesday, August 26, 6:40 pm MDT
|2009 - Randy Wolf||8-6||28||27||0||0||0||0||169.2||144||67||63||19||45||128||3.34||1.11|
|2009 - Josh Fogg||0-1||20||0||0||0||0||0||40.0||26||11||10||4||14||22||2.25||1.00|
Thursday, August 27, 1:10 MDT
|2009 - Vicente Padilla||8-6||18||18||0||0||0||0||108.0||120||61||59||12||42||59||4.92||1.50|
|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|
Andre 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.
Doug 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.