Well, July 3rd is finally here. That means Manny Ramirez's 50 game suspension is over and we can finally watch The Dreadlocked One smash the ball all over the park again. The Dodger offense wasn't quite the same without Manny, losing over a run per game of scoring (5.55 runs per game with Manny, 4.40 runs per game without him).
But what about the Padres? The Padres come into the series struglling a bit, having lost 3 of their last four and 6 of their last 9 games. In the month of June the Padres only managed to go 9-16 The Dodgers have won 6 of their nine games against them this season. Their only series at Petco was the first four games of the season and the Dodgers split the series. But one important difference this time around is that the Dodgers don't have to face either of the Padres best two pitchers, Jake Peavy and Chris Young. The Padres best player, Adrian Gonzalez, has also slowed down from his torrid pace at the start of the season. Gonzalez has 24 home runs on the season but only 2 in the past month.
The first game of the series is tonight with Hiroki Kuroda facing off against Chad Gaudin. Kuroda is coming off a loss in his last start against the Mariners, although iin his start before that he was one out away from a complete game shutout against the White Sox. He is 1-4 since his return from the DL and his only other win on the season was against the Padres on Opening Day. Gaudin is coming off three straight superb starts. Over his last three starts he's gone 21 innings while allowing only 5 runs and 11 hits with 5 walks and 28 strikeouts. The Dodgers will hopefully end this streak.
On Saturday, Randy Wolf will go for another no-decision against Josh Geer. Seriously, Wolf has only three wins so far this year despite his superb pitching. Although he might be able to get one against Geer, who isn't very good. Geer has earned his 5.68 ERA this year (5.70 FIP). He is a control artist who forces the opposing team to put the ball in play. Unfortunately, he hasn't been very successful doing that this year, allowing over 2 home runs per 9 innings. That number should regress but ultimately he's just not a very skilled pitcher, his fastball averages less than 86 MPH.
The series finale will pit Dodger ace Chad Billingsley against 26 year-old right hander Josh Banks. Banks was called up a couple weeks ago putting up a 2.47 ERA in 14 appearances, including eight starts, for Triple-A Portland. Banks is not a great player but he is quite interesting to watch. Banks has a 8 pitch reportoire! He throws a four-seam fastball, a sinker (two-seam fastball), slider, 2 different changeups, splitter, cutter, and even a knuckleball. Here's his ridiculous movement chart:
The catcher doesn't even have enough fingers to call all of Bank's pitches, so he has to improvise. Banks said about his reportoire, "If they got a hit on a certain pitch, I try to throw something that looks like that, but at a different speed. Or I'll try to think of a pitch that I haven't thrown 'em. ... The days that I'm throwing well and able to throw 'em all for strikes, you don't really think about, 'This pitch might be the best pitch,' because if you're throwing 'em all over for strikes, it's kind of hard to guess what pitches are coming." So this should be a really interesting game to watch, with the righty going against our even younger ace.
This is a very winnable series for the Dodgers. They are going against some fairly marginal starting pitchers with the Dodgers' three best arms on the hill. With Manny back to help out the offense I fully expect that the Dodgers will win two or even all three games this series.
Friday: Hiroki Kuroda (2-4, 3.77 ERA) vs. Chad Gaudin (4-6, 4.97 ERA)
Saturday: Randy Wolf (3-3, 3.61 ERA) vs. Josh Geer (1-3, 5.68 ERA)
Sunday: Chad Billingsley (9-4, 3.12 ERA) vs. Josh Banks (1-0, 3.38 ERA)