Happy Labor Day! Regularly Scheduled Articles Will Resume on Tuesday, September 2.
May 7, 2013
What You Need to Know
Raking in the Gold
The Monday Takeaway
Capuano—who strained his calf in his first start of the season back on April 17 and was making his first appearance since coming off of the disabled list—had a chance last night to impress manager Don Mattingly and begin building a case for a long-term spot in what eventually will once again be a crowded Dodgers rotation. Unfortunately, his nemesis, lefty-masher Paul Goldschmidt, was in the number-three hole of the opposing lineup.
Goldschmidt entered Monday’s game 9-for-12 against Capuano with three doubles and two home runs, a string of success rivaled only by his 9-for-17 line versus Giants righty Tim Lincecum, whom he has taken deep five times. The 34-year-old southpaw had tried every which way to retire the 25-year-old first baseman, varying his first pitches and sequences, working in and away, up and down, and failed virtually every time. Goldschmidt fanned twice in his first four meetings with Capuano, but in nine plate appearances since then, he had been retired only once.
Then, Monday came—and, well, you can make that 12, raise Goldschmidt’s overall line to 12-for-15, and add another round-tripper to his collection of six extra-base hits off of Capuano. Cody Ross followed that two-run shot with a blast of his own, chasing Capuano from the game with six runs (five earned) across and only 12 outs recorded. Goldschmidt’s other hits, a two-out single in the first and a leadoff single in the third, proved harmless. But that was little consolation to Capuano, who, in the eyes of visiting manager Kirk Gibson, was at a loss even before Goldschmidt thumped a dead-center fastball 415 feet—the textbook definition of “ownage is ownage.”
As Capuano’s frustration grew on the mound, his teammates’ struggles continued at the plate, where the Dodgers went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, bringing their team average in those situations down to .216, the second-worst clip in the National League. Carl Crawford smacked his club-best fifth home run in the game, but while the left fielder’s pop has been a pleasant surprise, the outage that has swept across the rest of the roster, on which the next-highest total is three (Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier), has been a recipe for disaster when combined with the RISP woes. Hanley Ramirez’s short-lived return to health, which ended with a strained hamstring over the weekend, was merely a tease, and the question mark at shortstop, now in the hands of Dee Gordon, looms as large as ever.
The 9-2 defeat was Los Angeles’ fifth in a row, and it dropped Mattingly’s squad into the division cellar for the first time since August 21, 2011. The Dodgers, who withstood a six-game skid in the middle of April, are no longer the National League West favorites, and their odds of reaching the postseason, down by some 20 percent over the past week, are no longer above even.
The good news is that, with the Dodgers’ on-base percentage (.334) still firmly in the top third of the league, the runs will come once their RISP performance evens out. Moreover, reinforcements, from Zack Greinke to Ramirez, are on the mend. The bad news is that, with the Nationals and Cardinals visiting later this month and a trip to Turner Field booked for next weekend, plenty of challenges lie on the horizon. And, as PECOTA indicates, if the Diamondbacks, Giants, and Rockies all linger in the race, the Dodgers can’t afford to fall much further behind.
Matchup of the Day
Kuroda, who is scheduled to get the game-one start for the Yankees, has been as reliable as ever this year, balancing out an uptick in walks (from 5.7 percent to 7.5 percent) by striking out a career-high 20.6 percent of the batters that he has faced. A low-ball pitcher with a 49.6 percent career ground-ball clip, which has hiked up to 52.3 percent since the beginning of last season, Kuroda didn’t fare particularly well at Coors Field during his time with the Dodgers, posting a 6.85 ERA over four starts. But home runs were not the culprit, as he allowed only two of them in 22 1/3 innings.
Against Kuroda, Fowler is just 4-for-19 lifetime with a triple, no walks, and two strikeouts, which comes out to a .211/.211/.316 triple-slash line for the switch-hitter, who will bat from the left side tonight. As you can see on the afore-linked matchup page, Kuroda has typically used his fastball and sinker to open his showdowns with Fowler, more so than he has against other lefties, but his splitter is an even more critical pitch.
The data on Kuroda’s Brooks Baseball card suggest that left-handed hitters that fall behind in the count against him must account for the splitter at all times, because the righty loves to use it as his put-away offering. It has been as effective as ever this year, inducing whiffs on 44.64 percent of the swings taken against it, up from his career clip of 37.26 percent. The splitter is relatively dangerous to use when Fowler is in the box, because the Atlanta native feasts on pitches in the lower third of the zone, but he has a soft spot in the low-and-away corner that Kuroda could look to exploit.
Both of Kuroda’s strikeouts versus Fowler have come on sliders, one in the zone and one darting toward the hitter’s back foot, and in each case, it was set up with hard stuff either up or in the outer portion of the zone. If Kuroda is to sustain his ownage on Fowler, that tandem—heaters at the letters, spin at the shins—might be his ideal recipe.
What to Watch for on Tuesday