As the Dodgers try to fight themselves out of their current five-game losing streak, it’s hard to say exactly what it might take to get back in the winning column. It could be an offensive explosion, or it may be a stellar start from a member of their starting rotation. Or, it might even take a flawless multi-inning effort from a highly-criticized bullpen.
Maybe Los Angeles will need all three of the above to secure a victory.
Heading into Saturday evening’s game against the Brewers, lefty Caleb Ferguson gets the start after many fans guessed the team would dip down into the minor league ranks to fill a rotation slot, mainly because the bullpen has been overused greatly recently. Regardless, one might guess that Ferguson will go four innings at the most. It could be one of those nights when all aspects of the team need to be clicking on all cylinders to grind out a win.
The Dodgers will be in a similar situation on Sunday when Ross Stripling takes the bump in the series finale. Stripling is certainly stretched out a bit more than Ferguson, but the thin air in a day game at Dodger Stadium always has a propensity to carry the baseball into the seats, resulting in a potential slugfest.
Nevertheless, one of the most intriguing junctures of the season will come on Monday when ace Clayton Kershaw makes his first start of the year against the Reds.
Kershaw, whose shoulder problems began surfacing in early spring training, has been fairly effective during both of his minor league rehab starts. Altogether, Kersh yielded four runs on nine hits and a pair of walks with 12 strikeouts over 10-1/3 innings for Triple-A OKC and Double-A Tulsa.
Most of the reports from those games had Kershaw’s four-seam sitting in the 88-90 range, with his fastest speed topping out at 92. While he’s been criticized for his lack of velocity in recent years, it’s hard to say if he was focusing on one specific aspect of his delivery during these rehab outings or if he was indeed letting the ball fly 100%.
Some fans feel that Kershaw’s return to the rotation could provide a spark of mental adrenaline and get the team back on track. However, after going 8-2 during their first 10 games of the year, it isn’t hard to see that the main reason for the squad’s early success was because of the poor quality of play by the opposition. Both the Diamondbacks and Giants have losing records, and the Rockies, who the Dodgers swept last weekend in Denver, are sitting at the bottom of the NL West with a 3-11 mark.
Whatever the case may be, Los Angeles may be closer to full firepower, as Rich Hill is near a rehab start and Hyun-Jin Ryu‘s groin injury isn’t as bad as some folks initially perceived. If right-handers Walker Buehler and Kenta Maeda can throw anywhere near their potential, the rotation certainly has the capability to be among the best in the National League.
Looking ahead to the next few weeks, the Dodgers will have 12 games to develop a strategy against their counterparts in the NL Central. The Reds are in town for three games, followed by a quick road trip with stops in Milwaukee and Chicago. Heading into the final days of April,, the Dodgers will come back home for a three-game set against the Pirates before dipping back into a stretch against NL West opposition on the road