We all know where today’s focus is going to be, right? After the much-publicized benching, alleviated only by Manny’s hamstring injury, Matt Kemp came back today to get three hits, including a homer (plus a walk), drive in three, and make a few running catches in center field.
Clearly, Joe Torre’s benching/punishment/time out worked wonders, right?
That’s what the stories will say, anyway. As for me, I think it’s BS. Remember, Kemp got on base three times in his previous start, on June 26th against the Yankees. To act as though he was on an 0-40 streak headed into the benching, and that somehow Torre’s action snapped him into shape, just ignores the facts. Which is exactly why that’s how you’ll read it in Bill Plaschke’s column tomorrow.
But let’s not let this whole unfortunate situation overpower two performances which were just as important today. Vicente Padilla showed just how effective he can be when he’s right, allowing just three hits and a run over seven innings. Remember, his ERA has been misleading all season. After his first two lousy outings, in which he allowed eleven earned runs while not making it out of the fifth inning either time, Padilla’s allowed three, two, (DL stint), four, two, and one earned runs in the five starts since. It’s not ace-quality, but it is more than acceptable from your #4/5 starter, and better than what the majority of MLB teams are getting from that spot.
Suddenly, the Dodgers have five reliable starters again, and no wondering about which Haeger/Monasterios/Ortiz is going to have to be stuffed into a spot start. (Speaking of which, via Dodger Thoughts, Haeger will be joining the Isotopes. Glad he’s staying in the organization; I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him.) It’s a nice feeling to have.
Secondly, Rafael Furcal put up four more hits today. In his last five games, he’s got fourteen hits (and three walks), and he’s got his season average up to .333/.382/.488. He’s really playing some of the best baseball of his career, and the Dodger lineup just looks markedly different when he’s playing well and getting on base so often for the big guys.
Still, as if this hasn’t been a bad enough week for Torre, only he could spoil an 8-2 sweep-capping victory over your biggest rivals. Kemp situation aside, you almost think this team is winning in spite of Torre sometimes. First, he hits Jamey Carroll (.397 OBP) 8th, while putting Garret Anderson (.197 OBP, and more on that in a second) 6th, above Reed Johnson and Carroll – both superior players.
However, that’s nothing compared to the bullpen usage. After Padilla went seven effective innings – and he’d thrown just 98 pitches, so I have no idea why he couldn’t have just stayed in – Ramon Troncoso came in for the 8th. I’m seeing others complain about that, but Troncoso hadn’t pitched since the Yankee disaster on Sunday, and it’s not the worst idea to let him go in a low-pressure situation, so fine.
Here’s what killed me, though. In the 9th, George Sherrill came in. He got Aubrey Huff to ground out, and then allowed singles to Pat Burrell and Pablo Sandoval (on a side note, note that this means he got the lefty out and let two righties reach base. Why does that sound familiar?) Remember, this is a seven-run lead. Rather than, you know, letting your struggling reliever try to work out of the situation against the likes of Juan Uribe and Eli Whiteside, here comes Torre with the hook, to bring in Justin Miller. I know there’s a day off tomorrow, but I also know that with a lead like that, you can give Sherrill the tiniest bit of rope. Or, as Chad from MOKM perfectly noted:
It’s like Joe Torre reads everybody’s blog and Twitter and just starts wasting the bullpen to troll us.
Still, none of that is the best part. When Miller entered the game, none other than Hong-Chih Kuo started warming. Yes, in the 9th inning of a seven-run game, by all means get your fragile superstar lefty up. Why not?
Finally, Anderson went hitless in five at-bats today, striking out four times and popping out to first. I’m just completely out of things to add to this situation. I hate to bag on a guy on his birthday (he’s 38 now), but to say that he’s a waste of a roster spot is about the kindest way I can think of to describe it. He’s now hitting .180/.197/.287. What do we have to do to finally end this already?
Xavier Paul’s hitting .345/.402/.633 with 12 HR in AAA, by the way, and three of those homers have come in his last ten games. But no, I’m sure he’s not a better fit for this defensively-challenged, injury-prone outfield, right?