Dexter Fowler begins the game with a single up the middle against Kenta Maeda.
With the old rival St. Louis Cardinals finishing a series here and the new rival Chicago Cubs coming to town for the weekend, I figure it is a good time to remind everyone the Dodgers really aren’t that … crack!
Jedd Gyorko hits a two-run double into the left-field corner.
Seriously, the Dodgers had three more wins than last season at this time, and they were a game closer to first place, and … crack!
Yadier Molina knocks a broken-bat single to center field to score another run.
C’mon, when the day began the Dodgers were in third place in the standings, but led the league in pitching and led all of baseball in run differential and … boo!
The top of the first inning ends with the Dodgers in a 3-0 hole and the fans in a grumbling mood and, truth be told, this is going to be a harder column than expected.
The idea was to tell everyone to chill out and trust this crazy system that last year moved them to within two wins of the World Series. But it’s difficult with the Dodgers continually sending up ominous warning signs as fat as some of those early Maeda pitches.
Before the game, manager Dave Roberts showed up nearly an hour late for his dugout news conference because he had been involved in meetings that included the Hyun-Jin Ryu situation.
It’s a situation, because the dude wants to stay in the rotation, but he wound up last night pitching four scoreless innings in his first career relief appearance.
A day earlier, starter Rich Hill got blistered — sorry — while looking creaky after an eight-day layoff that has many hoping the Dodgers stick to their promise to return to a five-man rotation.
Three days earlier, Julio Urias was sent back to triple A after two lousy starts, a move that raised eyebrows among those who think management is misusing the 20-year-old by bouncing him back and forth.
Last season, these things didn’t happen. There were no extended disagreements about bullpen and rotation. There were no fears about demotions and recalls. The Dodgers burned through a franchise-record 55 players and 15 starting pitchers, yet nobody whined and nobody demanded because everybody bought in.
Roberts characterized Thursday’s Ryu discussions as “delicate.” In a 2016 summer that careened from daring to resilient, it never stopped on “delicate.”
In that way, and other ways, this season seems different, perhaps more troublesome, perhaps … crack!
Hold everything. It’s the second inning, and Chase Utley has just lofted a ball into the right-field pavilion for his first homer of the season, closing the gap to 3-1.
Still, last year, the Dodgers beat up on the perennial National League West patsies Colorado and Arizona with 24 wins in 38 games. This season both teams are vastly improved, and the Dodgers have so far won only seven of 16 games against them and … crack!
It’s the fourth inning, and Yasiel Puig grounds an RBI single into right field, then Maeda improbably knocks in two runs with a soft liner down the left-field line and suddenly the Dodgers take a 4-3 lead they never lose.
Suddenly, the hopes at the beginning of this column have endured an early bruising to find their way to the end of this column, which is pretty much how the season has evolved.
One minute you’re going to love the Dodgers. The next minute they’re going to scare you silly. Some nights both emotions will hit you during the same game. On this night, with an eventual 7-3 victory that gave the Dodgers two out of three games in this series, hope eventually wins.
The Dodgers aren’t great yet, but they’re still within 21/2 games of the hot Rockies and they’ve hung on despite injuries to their first, second and third baseman and two-thirds of their outfield.
They’re 28-20 despite zero home runs from Adrian Gonzalez, average output from Puig, and the requirement Thursday that Chris Taylor play only his second career game in center field, during which he made a diving catch.
They need another starting pitcher. They need a right-handed-hitting left fielder. But they have a couple of months and a ton of money to figure that out.
“I think every year people are worried about the Dodgers, that’s a common theme,” Roberts said. “For us, we’re not too concerned about any team, we just want to play good baseball.”
He added, “I know we haven’t played our best baseball, we had similiar conversations last year and we fared OK. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but in our clubhouse, we’re not too concerned.”
Bring on the Cubs. Come early. Stay late. Buckle up.