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Beat LA? No Problem There!

 

Josh Barfield and the Padres are all smiles when LA comes to town

Since the end of July, there has been no team in baseball better than the LA Dodgers.  After a major run-scoring slump in mid-July, the Dodgers stormed back at the plate, and the pitching got better as the Dodgers’ hot streak went on.  In August, the Dodgers had a 16-3 record through 20 days, and looked unstoppable.  That is, until they came to San Diego on August 21st. 

Coming off a 3-game sweep of the Giants this weekend, the Dodgers went into San Diego with hopes of extending their hot streak, and building on their 4-game NL West lead.  The other goal of this week’s series at Petco Park, for the Dodgers, was to end the Padres success against them; LA carried a dismal 3-8 record against San Diego into the 3-game set.  Through 2 games, the Dodger Blue are feeling very blue.

The first game of the series was a matchup of two rookie starting pitchers; Chad Billingsley for the Dodgers, against Tim Stauffer for the Padres.  Billingsley is considered the better prospect of the two, so the Dodgers were favored to win game 1.  Billingsly and Stauffer matched each other’s success, putting up nothing but goose-eggs through 3 innings.  In the 4th however, LA got to Stauffer for 2, on Jeff Kent’s 2-run single.  The Friars countered with one in the bottom of the inning off Billingsley, and the Dodgers led 2-1 through 4 frames.  In the 5th, the Padres added another run to tie the game at 2, and the inning would be Chad Billingsley’s last, because he had thrown 95 pitches.  The Padres scored one more run in each of the 6th and 7th innings, taking advantage of mistakes made by LA relievers Elmer Dessens and Joe Beimel, to lead 4-2.  And the score would remain unchanged, as the Dodgers couldn’t counter against Padres’ relievers Alan Embree, Cla Meredith, Scott Linebrink, and Trevor Hoffman.  So, despite a slight edge on the mound in game 1, the Dodgers were again beaten by the Padres, 4-2. 

In Game 2, the Dodgers sent Mark Hendrickson to the mound to take on Padres’ ace Jake Peavy.  No one could have predicted that this game would be a pitcher’s duel, since both Peavy and Hendrickson have ERA’s over 4.00, but that’s exactly what it turned out to be.  And the Friars couldn’t be happier, since they had their ace on the mound, taking on a guy who has lost 13 times this season.  Peavy turned in a magnificent performance, allowing 3 hits and a walk, no runs, while striking-out 7, over 7 innings of work.  Mark Hendrickson also pitched well, but he allowed one run in 6 innings, on an RBI single by Mike Piazza.  That run turned out to be the difference, as LA couldn’t score against Friars’ relievers Scott Linebrink and Trevor Hoffman, losing again, by the slimmest of margins, 1-0.

Now 3-10 against the Padres, the Dodgers will look to prevent the brooms from coming out at Petco Park, by taking the final game of the series, which pins LA ace Brad Penny against Padres’ veteran Woody Williams.  Their NL West lead down to 2 games, the Dodgers need to take the series finale, to prevent the Padres from taking the momentum of a sweep into the stretch run.  The problem for LA is, however, that they still have 4 more games against San Diego this season, so the sub-par play against the Friars must end, if the Dodgers are to hold on and win the NL West title. 

You can be certain that Bruce Bochy and the Padres will come in to their September series against LA with tons of confidence, if the Dodgers don’t come away with a win tonight.  The NL West will once again be one of the tightest races in baseball, and the 4-game set at Chavez Ravine may determine the winner. 

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