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April 22, 2013
What You Need to Know
Same Old Song
The Weekend Takeaway
The most salient stories out of Camelback Ranch at the time surrounded Clayton Kershaw’s extension talks, Aaron Harang’s possible ticket out of town, and Chris Capuano’s potential conversion into a swingman. Weeks earlier, some questioned whether Hyun-jin Ryu, in whom general manager Ned Colletti had invested $36 million over six years, was in good enough shape to merit a spot in the crowded starting five.
Kershaw’s long-term contract situation went unresolved, but Harang was exported to Colorado (and then to Seattle), Capuano made his first two appearances out of the bullpen, and Ryu not only secured a rotation slot but made his major-league debut in Zack Greinke’s stead as Mattingly’s number-two starter.
Then, Carlos Quentin knocked Greinke out of commission for six to eight weeks. Enter Capuano.
Then, Capuano left his first start of the year with a calf injury one batter into the third inning. Enter Ted Lilly, who will get the ball on Wednesday.
Then, early on Sunday morning, Chad Billingsley was scratched from Sunday’s lineup with pain in his right elbow—an especially worrisome development because the 28-year-old needed two separate disabled-list stints in 2012 to nurse inflammation in his flexor tendon and a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament.
Suddenly, the team that three weeks ago had three starters too many only had three—Kershaw, Ryu, and Josh Beckett—healthy ones left. Enter Stephen Fife, who made five starts for the Dodgers last summer, but had been buried on the depth chart by their off-season splurge.
On Sunday, Fife—who gave up four runs on seven hits and a walk in 4 2/3 innings—became the seventh starting pitcher that Mattingly has written into his lineup card through 18 games. On Wednesday, in the 20th contest on the Dodgers’ regular-season schedule, Lilly, who is coming off of surgery to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, will become the eighth.
Yesterday’s 7-4 victory at Camden Yards, in which Jake Arrieta’s wildness helped the Dodgers to overcome Fife’s shaky effort, snapped a six-game losing streak that began three days after Greinke suffered a broken collarbone. Despite their 8-10 start, the Dodgers remain the National League West favorites and have a two-in-three chance of reaching the postseason.
Moreover, for all of the injuries and the resulting revolving door in the back three spots of Mattingly’s starting staff, the Dodgers’ 3.56 rotation ERA is, to this point in the season, the best in the West. It now appears that the newest team to lend credence to the adage “you can never have too much pitching” may have assembled just enough of it to withstand the early-season storm.
Matchup of the Day
Holland has seldom been able to go three consecutive starts without surrendering a homer, and his most recent such streak came nearly a year ago, between April 29 and May 10, 2012. To extend it tonight, he’ll need to buck a poor track record against the Halos, who have touched ‘em all 16 times over the 14 games in which Holland has faced them.
And in order to do that, Holland must prepare to slow down a red-hot Mike Trout. The runner-up in the 2012 American League Most Valuable Player race, Trout started slowly this year, sporting a .227/.277/.341 triple-slash line through April 12. Since then, however, Trout has rediscovered his swing, collecting two hits in six of the Angels’ last seven games. That stretch includes four doubles and a home run, and it has helped Mike Scioscia’s squad to win five of seven after a dismal 2-8 start.
Holland and Trout have locked horns on 21 occasions in the latter’s young career, and the 21-year-old outfielder has done ample damage, going 6-for-17 with a double, two homers, four walks, and three strikeouts. Both big flies came on location mistakes by the Rangers southpaw—a poorly placed fastball and an even-more-poorly-placed changeup—and in their most recent meeting, Holland learned that his plus slider isn’t a safe bet, either.
When Trout, who grounded out in his first at-bat against Holland on April 5, dug in for his second turn, he saw a mix of high fastballs and back-foot sliders, as well as one changeup, which, like the aforementioned gopher ball, stayed up in the zone. Down and in is Holland’s preferred breaking-ball target against opposite-handed hitters, but after whiffing Trout with that approach, he paid the price with a two-bagger in their very next encounter.
Now the ball is back in Holland’s court, with the onus on the lefty to figure out a way to cool Trout’s bat. He has thrown a first-pitch fastball or sinker in 16 of their 21 head-to-head showdowns, a 76.2 percent clip that modestly exceeds Holland’s 70 percent overall fastball-first rate versus right-handed hitters, and since none of those 21 trips were resolved on the opening offering, he figures to stick with it. Where Holland turns in deeper counts could determine the fate of his home-run streak and the Rangers’ ability to prevail in the opener (10:05 p.m. ET).
What to Watch for on Monday