It's hard to draw much of a conclusion from four games, let alone one, but in Friday night's win over the Pirates the Dodgers showed some semblance of life on offense. After pitcher Clayton Kershaw got the only run-scoring hit in the first three games against the Giants, each of the big three contributed on Friday night, with Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, and Adrian Gonzalez providing run-scoring extra-base hits.
Ethier's home run against Bucs' starter Jonathan Sanchez was his third extra-base hit against a left-handed pitcher this season, in just seven at-bats. What makes it weird is that Ethier, one of the best righty mashers in the league, is just 1-for-8 so far against right-handers.
It's hard to establish a pattern, but Ethier's home run came on a 91-mph fastball, and his two doubles have come against a 79-mph curve ball (Madison Bumgarner, Tuesday) and an 85-mph fastball (Javier Lopez, Wednesday). What is important is that Ethier has put in the work, trying to improve on his career .239/.297/.358 mark against southpaws.
"I know he's worked a lot with (hitting coach Mark McGwire). He's done a lot of work during spring on hitting the breaking ball, on staying on guys," manager Don Mattingly said. "Just the fact that he's put the time in on seeing more left-handed stuff."
Kemp, whose RBI double in the sixth inning ended an 0-for-12 slump, likes what he sees from Ethier so far this season.
"He was working hard in spring training to do that. He's locked in. When 'Dre's going really good, it's hard for anybody to get him out," Kemp said. "You've got to keep him there the whole year, we'll be good."
Of course, keeping Ethier at this level against lefties all season would be magnificent, and unexpected. Ethier started off strong against southpaws in 2012 too. His third extra-base hit came in his 17th plate appearance against lefties last year, at which time he was hitting .400/.471/.667 against them.
Even through May 31 last year, Ethier was hitting .329/.386/.544 with 10 extra-base hits in 88 plate appearances against lefties. But for the last four months of the season Ethier hit just .174/.222/.255 with eight extra-base hits in 158 plate appearances against southpaws. So take these early numbers in 2013 with a healthy dose of salt, though it is nice to see results and if Ethier's hard work pays off, more power to him.
There was more power to Kemp and to Gonzalez Friday night as well. Each doubled in the sixth inning, bumping a one-run lead into a 3-0 advantage. Gonzalez had two hits on the night after starting 1-for-9, and Kemp's hit was his first.
"It's baseball. You have your ups and your downs. For me I wasn't worried about me getting hits. It's just frustrating when you don't get hits sometimes. You're not helping your team win. That's what I was mostly frustrated about," Kemp said. "But it's a new series, a new outcome. We got a win. I'm just happy about that."