Coming into the series, the Dodgers had scored 68 runs in 20 games. In three games in Chicago? 27 runs, or nearly a third of their season total to that point. It sure helps when you can get off to a first inning like this against Carlos Zambrano:
Yes, that’s Aaron Miles getting things started with a triple, two of the three hits he had today after I dedicated an entire post to pointing out how much he sucks this morning. I take back nothing I said – come on, even after today’s game, he’s still only at .255/.271/.319 – but I’ll admit that the hits weren’t cheap and that, if only for today, he contributed. The Dodger television broadcast actually shed some light on my question of why Don Mattingly likes Miles hitting first with Jamey Carroll 8th; it’s because he likes having a stronger batter hitting 8th, so that the #8 guy is less likely to make the third out and ruin the next inning by having the pitcher leading off. In theory, that makes sense, but that’s not a situation that comes up all that often, while needing to have men on base for the middle of your order is something that happens daily. Right?
Hiroki Kuroda survived a tough first inning of his own by striking out seven over 6.2 innings, without issuing a walk. That’s the thirteenth time he’s pitched that long without issuing a free pass in his three-plus years as a Dodger. Oddly, he struck out the first five Cubs he retired, though it took nine Cubs to get that far as he allowed two singles and a double, along with a Carroll error, in the first. Mike MacDougal, Blake Hawksworth, and Jonathan Broxton followed with 2.1 scoreless innings, allowing just a hit (by Hawksworth) and a walk (by Broxton).
Also of note, Jerry Sands had a nice game, getting on base twice with a walk and an RBI double, and nailing Aramis Ramirez rounding second with a nice throw from left field. While it’s good to see him contributing, that’s not what interests me most right now. Yes, his .154/.233/.269 line is underwhelming at best, but the more important number is 25. That’s the amount of pitches Sands saw today, tied with Cubs catcher Geovany Soto for the most on both teams.
That’s significant because as Twitter pal EephusBlue pointed out to me early in the game, it seems like Sands has done a great job of showing patience at the plate, and forcing more pitches out of each at-bat. I looked it up, and it’s true. Entering the day, the MLB leader in pitches per plate appearance, among those with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, is Daric Barton of Oakland, who sees 4.83 pitches per appearance. (Juan Uribe somehow sees negative two pitches each time he comes up. I’m not sure how he does it either.) Sands, after today’s game and if he had enough PA to qualify, would be at 4.44 – second in all of baseball. While the results haven’t been there yet, the approach absolutely is, and it’s why he deserves more than 34 PA to prove himself in the bigs. We’d heard plenty about Sands’ advanced approach when he was first called up, and so far, that looks to be accurate. Very impressive from a young player.
Hey, I don’t want to pile on James Loney any more than I really need to, especially after taking two of three and because he’s been a big target a lot lately. So consider this more an issue with Steve Lyons, who raved about Loney on the air today. Loney went 1-5, but that could have very easily been 0-5 because his one hit was a broken bat duck that barely eluded the shortstop and went to left field. 90% of the time, that’s a play which goes basically unnoticed other than that it saves Loney from an oh-fer. Fortunately for Loney, Kemp was already on second base after a double and with two outs, was running on the play and scored easily. So basically, four things had to happen for Loney to come away with an RBI there. 1, his weak hit had to land in just the right spot. 2, there had to be a runner in scoring position. 3, that runner had to have been fast (Rod Barajas, for example, surely doesn’t move like Kemp). And 4, there had to have been two outs, or else Kemp isn’t running on contact and may stop at third.
Now since all four of those conditions were met, Loney gets credited with an RBI; it was his second of the day, because his groundout with Sands on second and Kemp on third in the first – the only one of the first six batters to fail to reach – got him an RBI as well. Now, my disdain for the RBI stat is well-known, and indeed Loney is the only Dodger who got two, despite at least four other batters (if not more) contributing more.
Yet Lyons, after the RBI single, goes on and on and on about Loney’s advanced hitting style, particularly how he goes the other way, simply because he’s “driving in runs”. Lyons even went so far as to point out to parents that they should have their children imitate Loney’s approach, which I suppose makes sense if you really want your child to rock a line of .167/.191/.211, as Loney has. (Lyons had a career line of .252/.301/.340, so maybe there’s something to that.)
As for Loney, well, it was pointed out to me several times today that Trayvon Robinson hit his 4th homer today to extend his hitting streak to 11; he was at .353/.431/.627 entering the day, numbers which are sure to go up when today’s game is over. I’m already hearing people wondering when Robinson gets his chance, pushing Sands to first, and while I think it’s too soon for that (particularly while Sands is hitting .154), Loney needs to start hearing the footsteps.
Dioner Navarro, currently on a rehab stint while rehabbing his pulled oblique, could be back as soon as tomorrow, reports Ken Gurnick. I think I’ve been pretty clear that I prefer A.J. Ellis to Navarro, but Ellis has options and the Dodgers don’t have a ton of catching depth, so I suppose it is what it is.