So, how's it going?
Seems like a long time ago, we started the season off against the Dodgers in those two games at Sydney Cricket Ground, but it's actually less than three weeks. Since then, the Diamondbacks have wobbled their way to the worst start in franchise history, but showed some signs of having turned the corner by taking the last series on the road in San Francisco. How have things gone for the Dodgers? Well, a bit up and down, to be honest, as they've gone 4-4. They started well, taking two of three against the Padres on the road, but then dropped two of three at home to those same Giants, and split a quick two-game interleague set against the Tigers.
They still have to see team ace and reigning Cy Young champion, Clayton Kershaw, on American soil, because he has been on the DL for the first time in his career with a back issue. There haven't been many specific updates of late; the last real news was on the first, when the team said, "Kershaw will be placed on a rehab that includes a submaximal throwing program for the next 2-3 weeks before being reevaluated again." [A "submaximal throwing program" is "long toss" to you and me.] So we needn't worry about facing him, nor seeing catcher A.J. Ellis, who is out for a month or more, having had knee surgery earlier in the week.
We will also be spared the even more irritating Brian Wilson, who is currently on a rehab assignment with what was originally called an elbow issue, but he's now saying is simply extended spring training to get his arm strength up to full throttle. Yeah, like everything else that happens to the Dodgers, it's all Australia's fault. "I can't speculate what Australia did," he said. "Something you need to consider is that when you go into October and then you cut down spring training, you don't have that long of an off-season. Then you have a shorter spring training. That's not something that anybody's dealt with."
Squeal like a Puig
There is also the ongoing strange case of the Puig, who continues, inexplicably, to have a slavish army of devotees (he's "everything great about baseball," according to Deadspin, continuing their long, post-Will Leitch freefall). He showed up late for the Dodgers' home opener, and failed fundamental baseball 1.0.1, injuring his thumb on a headfirst slide into first-base. Piggy was luckier than Josh Hamilton, but he still missed two games and only appeared last night in a pinch-hitting capacity. With any luck, he'll make a wrong turn on the I-10, and be stuck circling the 101 all weekend.
Who's hot? Who's not?
Over the eight games played by Los Angeles on American soil, Hanley Ramirez leads the offense, with a .966 OPS, ahead of Juan Uribe and, surpisingly, Dee Gordon. Uribe is there almost entirely as the result of a .522 BABIP, so here's to some heavy regression in that department this series. They got Matt Kemp back, and he has an .841 OPS, despite a .167 BA; this happens when you go 3-for-18 with two homers. At the other end of the spectrum, Andre Ethier has put up only a .670 OPS, and Adrian Gonzalez has underperformed severely as well, hitting .188 with an OPS thus far of .681.
On pitching, we'll get to the scheduled starters this series in a bit. The Dodger bullpen has been pretty solid this season, with a 2.54 ERA on the year. Four of the 11 runs they have allowed, came in the ninth inning of the second Sydney contest, so they have clearly been doing pretty well. In particular, Chris Withrow, left-hander J.P. Howell, Chris Perez and Brandon League have yet to allow a run in 20 combined appearances, covering 19.2 innings. If there's a weak link, it might seem closer Kenley Jansen, who has allowed ten hits and three walks in 5.2 innings. However, he has also struck out 10, and a BABIP of .571 is no more sustainable than Uribe's.
Game 1, Friday 6:40 PM - Hyu-Jin Ryu (1-1, 3.86 ERA) vs. Brandon McCarthy (0-1, 7.82 ERA)
The pattern has been the same for McCarthy in each start this season - he has looked very good in the early going, then fallen apart. Through the first three innings, he has a 1.50 ERA, and held opposing hitters to a .150 average, with no walks or extra-base hits. But from the fourth on, batters have gone 10-for-30 with four home-runs, leading to ten earned runs in 6.2 innings for a 13.50 ERA. After blanking us and the Padres, Ryu had a rough third start, lasting only two innings as the Giants roughed him up for eight hits and six earned runs. So both pitchers will be looking to improve this evening.
Game 2, Satuday 5:10pm - Zack Greinke (2-0, 3.27 ERA) vs. Wade Miley (2-1, 4.05 ERA)
Miley stepped in to fill the Opening Day void caused by the loss of Patrick Corbin and has pitched better than his ERA might suggest - or maybe, it just seems better, in comparison to the gurgling vortex which has been the rest of our rotation. Most recently, he allowed two runs over eight innings at Coors, a worthy performance by any mark and one of only two quality starts in 12 attempts by Arizona. Greinke skipped the Australia trip, but has won both his starts here, allowing two runs each time, in five and six innings respectively, so this one is probably the best pitching match-up of the series.
Game 3, Sunday 1:10pm - Dan Haren (1-0, 0.75 ERA) vs. Trevor Cahill (0-3, 7.90 ERA)
This one is uncertain: MLB.com says the Dodgers' starter is to be announced. It'll be a battle of former A's here, though they never played alongside each other there (they have had some common team-mates, both playing with Mark Trumbo, Conor Jackson and Edgar Gonzalez at some point). Haren has proven a stellar pick-up for Los Angeles to date, allowing one earned run in 12 innings against the Padres and Tigers. Cahill... not so much, though perhaps the pressure on him has lessened after last night's early hook of Randall Delgado. Or maybe the signing of Randy Wolf means otherwise.
The last time the Dodgers visited Chase Field, it ended with them frolicking in the outfield pool like overpaid porpoises. The last time we played them didn't go too well either. So the Diamondbacks have a lot of payback on their mind, and certainly played better over the last couple of games in San Francisco. Having won our first series there, we shouldn't feel obligated to sweep Los Angeles - nice though that'd be - and I'd be more than happy to continue our progression back toward .500, taking two of three. Whether we do, largely depends on our starting pitching being a good deal better than it has been.