The Nickel: 5-3, The Season: 20-20
The Developing Theme:
Resurgence. The Dodgers hit well and pitched well during this stretch, and should have gone 6-2 for the first time this year. The nickels (5% stretches of the schedule) have gone 4-4, 3-5, 5-3, 3-5, 5-3. This latest stretch shows signs that this team can finally break out of a season-long holding pattern around the .500 mark. Team OPS was, for the nickel (.898), what J.D. Drew's is for the season (.896). And the WHIP for the team was 1.16, which rates about a Derek Lowe (1.20 for the season).
With that 1.16 WHIP, somebody had to be doing their job. The somebody who stood out the most was Takashi Saito, who allowed only one hit (a homer) in 6 1/3 innings over 5 games and, for what it's worth, notched his first save. I'm not big on the whole notion of the closer role to begin with, so having my best relief pitcher unburdened by the constraints that closers face is nice. Speaking of closers, I'm sure Danys Baez would like to forget this little stretch, particularly the fiasco in Frisco. However, he hasn't lost his ability to strike guys out (two of the four outs he recorded were K's), and that bodes well for him. The veteran starters Brett Tomko and Aaron Sele both pitched well for three combined starts. Tomko even struck a few (6) guys out, crediting his now even slower slowball for the results. The only pitcher besides Baez to have a rough go of it was Franquelis Osoria, who was rewarded with being sent down in favor of Lance Carter. Ouch.
As mentioned at the top, the team as a whole hit very well. That's what happens when the heart of the order hits a hot stretch. The long-awaited emergence of Jeff Kent finally arrived, to the tune of .357/.455/1.000. He homered in 5 of the 8 games, and threw in a triple-double (three two-baggers in one night) to boot. Not to be outdone, Nomar (we can call him that now, right?) hit three home runs and four doubles for the nickel, putting up a .419/.500/.839. J.D. Drew pitched in as well (.911 OPS), and so did Rafael Furcal (.870 OPS). Kenny Lofton (.678 OPS) and Russell Martin (.685 OPS) were the only starters who struggled at all, and I'll take "cold" streaks like those any day. Olmedo Saenz had some trouble, playing in 6 games with 2 starts. The fact that both starts were against right-handed pitchers probably contributed to the .091/.083/.091 line he put up. Yes, that's right, his OBP is actually lower than his batting average, the byproduct of zero walks and one sacrifice fly. Bill Mueller struggled, too (.258 OPS), but he was playing hurt. Otherwise, everyone hit well, even Willy Aybar, who came up and OPSed 1.175. I'd like to see more of him in replacement of Mueller. We need to know if he's for real.