Dodgers need to capitalize in games against D-backs
PHOENIX -- The D-backs have had a tendency to roll over for the Dodgers the past two seasons, and nobody is more aware of that than first-year Arizona manager Chip Hale.
"They're a very good ballclub, you have to tip your caps to them," Hale said prior to Friday night's clash between the teams at Chase Field. "I don't know if it's necessarily the pitching matchups, but we have to do a better job against them."
And then they played the game.
The D-backs had the pitching matchup they wanted and busted out against left-hander Alex Wood with four runs in the first inning and another six in the second. Welington Castillo, Paul Goldschmidt and Nick Ahmed all hit homers in the 12-4 blowout win.
They had a game plan against Wood. "And the guys stuck to it," Hale said. "We just came out and swung the bats good."
The Dodgers were 15-4 against the D-backs last season, and they are now 9-4 against them in 2015. There are six games remaining between the two teams -- two here this weekend and a four-game series at Dodger Stadium on Sept. 21-24. The way the Dodgers' pitching rotation is aligned, the D-backs will miss Clayton Kershaw this time around, but they will have to face Zack Greinke (16-3, 1.68 ERA) on Sunday.
They'll get Mike Bolsinger on Saturday.
"We have to beat their other guys, not just their top two," Hale said. "If we beat the other guys, maybe that will force them to juggle their rotation so [Greinke and Kershaw] will face us."
So far so good.
Consider that the Dodgers won the National League West over the Giants by six games last year and lead them by 7 1/2 right now. Thus, their play against the D-backs continues to have a profound affect on the division race.
The D-backs are 4-3 at home against the Dodgers, but they're 0-6 at Los Angeles. Last year, Arizona was 2-7 against the Dodgers on the road.
"We have not played very well against them over there in their stadium," Hale said. "We're going to have to get over that the next time we go there. I think we've been competitive. We've had some tough games where we've lost late. We just have to be a better team."
The opportunity is right there. The Dodgers have lost two in a row for the first time since a five-game mid-August skid through Oakland and Houston.
The Dodgers have gone 13-4 since then, and it should be noted that when the Giants whipped the Padres, 9-1, in San Francisco on Friday night, it was the first time Los Angeles had lost a game in the standings to San Francisco since Aug 21.
The days are growing short, but history can attest that with a little more than three weeks to go in the season, seemingly commanding leads can precipitously shrink. Closing the deal is the hardest thing.
The Dodgers have 22 games left, and four of them are against the Giants from Sept. 28 to Oct. 1 at AT&T Park. The Giants flew out of Phoenix on Wednesday night after losing two of their three games against the D-backs, and San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said he's "still hoping for a miracle."
At this point, the Giants would just like to crawl close enough so that their four-game set against the Dodgers is meaningful. They've been the World Series champs three times since 2010, and know how to win big games.
The Dodgers haven't won the World Series since 1988. And believe it or not, they have never made the playoffs three consecutive years during their long and glorious history in Brooklyn and Los Angeles. They haven't even been to a Fall Classic since '88, but a first-place finish would give them an unprecedented three consecutive division titles.
Nor has Don Mattingly ever been to the World Series in his long career as a player, coach or manager. Certainly, he has no desire for a crucial confrontation against the Giants later this month.
"That's the last thing we want," Mattingly said.
The D-backs are just trying to finish the season on a high note, and they are well-aware that they can still be a significant factor in the division race. They also have three games left against the Giants next weekend in San Francisco, where, oddly enough, the D-backs are 6-1 against them this season. They finished 3-6 against the Giants at home.
Hale is getting a good look this week at both the Dodgers and Giants as the games are dwindling down to a precious few.
"Obviously the Giants were beat up pretty good," Hale said. "The Dodgers are starting to get healthier. ... They have a lot of guys over there. So they're going to get better and better."
Actually, both the Giants and Dodgers are pretty beat up. Howie Kendrick and Yasiel Puig are nowhere near returning, Mattingly said Friday night. Yasmani Grandal and Jimmy Rollins are both still beset by nagging injuries.
Wood and Matt Latos, the two pitchers obtained at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline to fill out the back end of the rotation, are a combined 3-6 with a 5.37 ERA in 13 starts.
Yet, if the Dodgers perform against the D-backs the way the usually do, there should be no problem, right?
"I don't really think we have any edge over them," Mattingly said. "Sometimes it's just a matter that we're playing good when we face them. We've had some good teams, that's for sure, and some good players, so that always helps. I don't look at it like it's any magic formula when we're playing those games."
Magic or not, the Dodgers have rolled over the D-backs for the better part of the past two seasons. This is no time for fortunes to change.