The return of Manny Ramirez ignited a return of the Dodger offense, and after treading water in June, the Dodgers reasserted their spot atop the division with a 15-10 July, holding the best record for the month in the NL West.
All the starters got into the act on offense, putting up a combined line of .304/.383/.474. The lowest OPS among starters was Orlando Hudson's .759 mark; not bad at all.
The amazing Clayton Kershaw led the pitching staff with his second straight wonderful month, and was complemented by another solid month by Randy Wolf, as well as the continued resurgence of Guillermo Mota. The return of Jason Schmidt and Hong-Chih Kuo from injuries also provided bright spots for the month.
Dodger Batter of the Month: The entire outfield was awesome in July; all three starters had a .900 OPS or above. This month's award goes to Matt Kemp, who hit a robust .344/.423/.500 while leading the club in RBI (18) and steals (3). Besides the outfield, honorable mention goes to Rafael Furcal, who quietly hit .344/.395/.500 in July, leading the club with 20 runs scored.
Dodger Pitcher of the Month: Clayton Kershaw improved greatly on his outstanding June to have an unreal July. Kershaw gave up four runs in six starts, and was 3-0 with an MLB-best 0.71 ERA. Kershaw had his best game of the year -- or perhaps one of the best -- in his final start of the month, allowing no runs in a career-high eight innings in a no-decision on July 29.
July Record: 15-10 (.600)
124 runs scored (4.96 per game)
106 runs allowed (4.24 per game)
.578 pythagorean winning percentage
|July NL West Standings|
Overall Record: 64-39 (.621)
504 runs scored (4.89 per game)
403 runs allowed (3.91 per game)
.610 pythagorean winning percentage
|NL West Standings (thru July 31)
Favorite Game of the Month: This was a close one. The Bobbleslam Game produced one of the most memorable moments of the season, but for the whole game I'm going with the comeback in Milwaukee on July 10. Not only did the Dodgers tie the game in the ninth off all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman, but they added six runs in the tenth, punctuated by a Matt Kemp grand slam on the day he learned he lost out on an All-Star spot to Jayson Werth of the Phillies.
Best Game of the Month: I don't think there was any question Wednesday's 15-inning loss to the Cardinals was the best game of the month, but there was no way I was going to pick that as my favorite. Clayton Kershaw pitched eight shutout innings for the first time, there were some great defensive plays by both sides all game, a play at the plate, and some awesome matchups. Jeff Weaver ended up taking the loss, but his back-to-back strikeouts of Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday in the 13th inning left an indelible memory. Even though the Dodgers lost, this game was to be appreciated.
Once A Week: Overall, the Dodger bench players struggled in July, but not Brad Ausmus. Ausmus, who has almost become the Sunday starter behind the plate, backing up Russell Martin, started only four games all month. He collected a hit in each game, including multi-hit games in three of the four games, hitting .500/.533/.857 for the month.
Pinch-Outing: After beginning the season with eight hits in his first 13 pinch-hit at-bats, Mark Loretta has really fallen off a cliff. Loretta was 0 for 12 in July as a pinch-hitter, is 0 for his last 14 at-bats in that situation, and from May 13 to present has just one hit in 29 pinch-hit at-bats (plus three walks).
New Man on the Mound: Loretta did have some brief success on the mound, however. Down 10-0 in St. Louis on Tuesday, Loretta was called in to get the last out, which he did, albeit after hitting Matt Holliday. Loretta is the first Dodger position player to pitch in a game since Robin Ventura, who threw a scoreless inning against the Angels in a 13-0 defeat in 2004. In all, 14 different Dodgers made a relief appearance in July.
Welcome Back: After a long two-year layoff, including countless hours spent on rehabilitation, Jason Schmidt made his return to the major leagues. Despite a fastball struggling to reach the 87-88 mph range, and a changeup only 3-4 mph slower, Schmidt somehow won two of his three starts, including an amazing six shutout innings on the month's final day.
Ready, Set, Guo: Hong-Chih Kuo -- or HongZhi Guo, if you prefer -- came back from the disabled list this week, pitching for the first time since April 29. Kuo faced ten batters, and retired eight of them, three by strikeout. The other two batters he faced provided one of the cooler moments of the month. With two outs and a runner on third base in the seventh inning, Joe Torre pulled out his "Major League 2" playbook and had Kuo intentionally walk both Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. Kuo was left to face Rick Ankiel, who homered in his previous at-bat, and he simply blew him away with three consecutive fastballs. Even the game was in St. Louis, I could feel the electricity watching on TV some 1,750 miles away.
Upcoming Month: After finishing this weekend series in Atlanta, the Dodgers come home to face Milwaukee then Atlanta again, so the Dodgers should be familiar with the Braves by next weekend. Home series with the Cardinals and Cubs are mixed in with road series with divisional foes San Francisco, Arizona, and Colorado. There are only two off days the entire month -- August 13 & 24 -- and a total of 15 home games and 14 road games.