What's going on with the Dodgers?
If you haven't noticed, the Dodgers are on a little bit of a roll right now. They're 20-3 in the second half so far with a schedule that has included series with the Cardinals, Reds, and Rays. Los Angeles now has a 7.5-game lead over the Diamondbacks in the National League West and appears to be cruising to a division title.
A lot of that success has been because of starting pitching. Clayton Kershaw has been a monster all season long and is a top candidate for the Cy Young and MVP Awards in the NL. Zack Greinke, on the other hand, was either injured or playing below expectations for the first three months of the season. Since July, he's started pitching like the player the Dodgers thought they were investing millions of dollars in, and it's made a big difference in Los Angeles's rotation.
The Mets are lucky enough to dodge (sorry!) both Kershaw and Greinke during their three-game series in Chavez Ravine, but New York will still have plenty of obstacles to overcome, especially if Hanley Ramirez returns to the lineup. Ramirez has missed a week with a minor shoulder injury, but the fact that he's not on the disabled list suggests that he could come back any day now. The Miami cast-off has been a force to be reckoned with when healthy, and he could give the Dodgers' lineup a big boost if he returns this week.
Who are these guys?
Dee Gordon is a guy that lots of fantasy baseball players are familiar with because of his ability to steal a ton of bases when he is in the lineup. Gordon is also a player who lots of Dodgers fans are familiar with because of his frustrating inability to hit the ball and his struggles to stay in the lineup. He's started a few games recently because of the injury to Ramirez, but his ridiculous three errors last night probably point to a Nick Punto start tonight. At age 25, Gordon is nearing a make-it-or-break-it point in his career, and it's important to note that he's boosted his walk rate to 12.5 percent in 376 Triple-A at-bats this season. If he could just get his .307/.398/.407 line there to work in the majors, Gordon would be quite the dangerous player.
Chris Withrow is a flamethrower who can touch 97 MPH on the radar gun, but has had problems throughout his professional career with controlling his pitches. In 470 minor league innings, Withrow has struck out more than one batter per inning, but he's also walked a batter every other inning, and that's not going to fly in the majors. Withrow was on a similar pace at Triple-A this season with 32 strikeouts and 12 walks in 25 relief innings, but since his MLB debut he's had a bit more control with just six walks in 18 innings to go with 21 strikeouts. He should be a fun guy to watch if he's brought out of the bullpen against the Mets.
Who's on the mound?
Monday: Ricky Nolasco vs. Jenrry Mejia
At 30 years old, Nolasco was a little old to be hanging around Miami with a rebuilding Marlins team, so it was no surprise to see the veteran dealt to Los Angeles for a trio of younger arms. With Miami this season, Nolasco had an ERA below 4.00 for the first time since 2008 and was working with his normally splendid strikeout-to-walk ratio (above three, like it's always been). Nolasco has been just fine since being acquired by the Dodgers, but he's run his pitch count up too often and has failed to finish six innings in his last five starts. Nolaso last faced the Mets back on April 6 and allowed three runs in 5⅓ innings.
Tuesday: Hyun-Jin Ryu vs. Matt Harvey
It's easy to forget about the Korean sensation when the Dodgers have Kershaw and Greinke at the top of the rotation, but Ryu has been just as important to Los Angeles's success. Working as a 26-year-old rookie, Ryu has struck out 118 batters in 141 innings this season while maintaining a ground ball rate of 51 percent. That's allowed him to keep the ball in the park, and Ryu continues to look like he'll be a solid MLB pitcher for years to come. His start against the Mets was one of his best, as he allowed one run in 7⅓ innings with three walks and eight strikeouts.
Wednesday: Chris Capuano vs. Dillon Gee
Mets fans might have scoffed when the Dodgers signed Chris Capuano to a two-year deal after the 2011 season, but he's been quite adequate for Los Angeles as a back-of-the-rotation starter. The 2012 version of Capuano was nearly identical to the 2011 version that played in Queens, but Los Angeles worked its BABIP magic and allowed the veteran lefty to post the lowest ERA (3.72) of his career. This season, Capuano is having a very strange campaign. It seems that he's either brilliant or crappy each time out, with no third option apparently available. In nine starts dating back to mid-June, Capuano has allowed zero runs in five of them. That's awesome, but in the starts in which he has allowed runs, he's allowed five runs or more in each.
What about some GIFs?
Ryu has a slider that he likes to use against lefties, and he had no problem disposing of Ike Davis while the first baseman was struggling at the start of the season. Tuesday would be a good day for a Josh Satin start.
Hey it's Yasiel Puig! The magnificent rookie is red hot again after cooling off for a bit in July (in which he "only" hit .287/.352/.436). He can also play defense, as illustrated by this play at Wrigley Field which was not ruled a catch but can still stand as a testament to Puig's awesomeness.
The Mets are 1-2 against the Dodgers this season. The win came on April 24 and was capped off by a Jordany Valdespin grand slam. The Mets will have to find another way to beat the Dodgers this time around, as neither a walk-off nor Jordany Valespin will be possible.