Tonight, the Dodgers can clinch a playoff spot, with a little help from their friends in Arizona and New York. However, of more pressing concern is what they do when they get to the playoffs. A big part of their success could rest in the fate of tonight's starting pitcher, Chad Billingsley. The pressing question on seemingly everyone's mind is what is wrong with Billingsley. Joe Torre insists its a mechanical flaw, but who knows exactly what the problem is?
What's more important is that Billingsley corrects whatever is wrong, because the Dodgers need him. Since starting the year 9-3 with a 2.72 ERA, Billingsley is 3-7 with a 5.40 ERA. Not all of those 16 starts have been bad -- half of them are quality starts -- but Billingsley is clearly not the same pitcher he was or can be. He has two, maybe three starts left in the regular season to build some momentum for the postseason. A healthy and productive Billingsley gives the Dodgers a much better shot in the playoffs than giving the ball to known mediocrities Jon Garland or Vicente Padilla. Tonight is step one in Billingsley's recovery, returning to the starting rotation after skipping a turn last week.
Starting for the Nationals is Ross Detwiler, who is still seeking his first major league win after 11 starts. Detwiler is 0-6 with a 5.80 ERA and a 4.72 x-FIP. He is coming off one of his best starts, as he allowed just one run over five innings at Philadelphia last Thursday.
Last night the Dodgers won again on KCAL Tuesday, exploding for 14 runs in yet another Tuesday triumph. The Dodgers are 17-5 in Tuesday games on KCAL, with one more remaining next week. The Dodgers have outscored opponents by eight or more runs in 14 different games this season, and five of those have been on good old channel 9.
In three games against the Nationals this season, the Dodgers have scored 33 runs.
Geoff Young, proprietor of the great Padres' blog Ducksnorts, wrote an interesting article for The Hardball Times about empty .300 batting averages. It includes this line about our own Juan Pierre:
...at least we'll all be able to say that we saw the man with the emptiest .300 batting average ever ply his craft during our lifetime. Not everyone can make that claim.
The Dodgers have fared better offensively against lefthanded pitchers than righthanded pitchers. Of the ten regulars (including Ronnie Belliard & Juan Pierre), eight have higher OPS versus southpaws than righties. Ethier's struggles against LHP have been well-documented, but I thought it was interesting that the large difference in his OPS is offset by Kemp's difference the other way. Kemp's 1.116 OPS against lefties is the eighth highest in baseball.
|vs LHP||vs RHP|
|*Belliard's splits with Washington are included in his totals only|
Also, happy 25th birthday to The Bison, Matt Kemp, who is riding a 13-game hitting streak. That is the third longest hitting streak for the Dodgers this season, behind Orlando Hudson's 17-game streak in May (remember him?) and Kemp's own 14-gamer to start the season.
Check out Xeifrank's simulation of today's game here.
Don't forget to RSVP for True Blue LA Day at Dodger Stadium, on the next-to-last day of the regular season, October 3 against the Rockies.
Get your guesses in for our today's "One, Two, Three Strikes, You're Out," here.
Game Time: 4:05pm
TV: Prime Ticket