Oh, right: even with Matt Kemp & Andre Ethier, this was a team that was still expected to struggle offensively. I think in our rush to celebrate their return, we may have overlooked that small fact. That’s a problem which manifested itself once against tonight against San Diego starter Clayton Richard and reliever Dale Thayer, as the Dodgers managed just five hits and not a single walk the entire night. (Yes, five. That’s not a typo. I know the scorecard says that Juan Uribe doubled. I also know that it was a grounder up the middle that probably should have been an out. Man, I hate Juan Uribe.)
Yet while the lack of offense may have been enough to doom this club to certain defeat over the last six weeks or so, it really felt like the magic was starting to come back tonight. Mark Ellis, making his fourth start since returning from injury, smashed a two-run homer in the sixth inning for the only two runs the Dodgers would need. Kemp doubled and singled in his four plate appearances. Ethier… well, he didn’t hurt himself. Clayton Kershaw forced his way through six innings that weren’t always pretty – not at all helped by a tight strike zone – but were more than effective, holding the Padres to just the one run. And the meat of the Dodger bullpen – Javy Guerra, Ronald Belisario, & Kenley Jansen – continued their excellent work by backing Kershaw with three clean, nearly perfect innings. Hell, even the much maligned Juan Rivera made a nice play to end the game on a ball down the line that could potentially have tied it had it gone past him.
They don’t all have to be masterpieces, because in the standings they all count the same. With San Francisco winning, the Dodgers maintain their half-game lead. No one got hurt, and they’re still in first place; can’t ask for a better way to kick off the second half.