After a deflating three-game sweep at the hands of the Atlanta Braves, the Brewers return to Miller Park for a three-game set against the white-hot Los Angeles Dodgers.
Following a walk off victory on Sunday, the Dodgers are sitting atop the National League West with an MLB-best record of 9-1. If you haven’t noticed because of the “West Coast factor”, it might be time to take note of the boys in blue. Matt Kemp is off to another phenomenal start, leading the league with six home runs, their pitching has been outstanding, and….well, I’ll let Jeremy Dorn of fellow MLB Fansided network site Lasorda’s Lair take it from here.
Reviewing the Brew: (Pending the outcome of the current game), the Dodgers are an MLB-best 8-1. What have been the early keys for the Dodgers’ hot start?
Lasorda’s Lair: A lot of people will point to the schedule so far as a major factor for the hot start. It doesn’t hurt to play the Padres and Pirates in the first ten games, but I’m confident the Dodgers would be off to a good start against any competition. Dee Gordon is hitting just north of .150, but when he gets on base he’s impossible to stop. The formula has been simple: Gordon gets on, steals 2nd, Mark Ellis moves him to 3rd, Kemp or Ethier brings him in. So, the Dodgers have gone up early in almost every win. Our starters have been locating well and getting ahead of hitters. And of course, the man, the myth, the legend, Matt Kemp, is absolutely on fire.
RtB: In your opinion, can the Dodgers keep this up and make a run in October?
LL: They can’t keep THIS pace up, but yes, they can make a run. At the start of the season, I thought a Wild Card spot was being optimistic, but now I’ve got my sights set on a run at the N.L. West title. Chad Billingsley, Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang and Ted Lilly have started hot and if we can get good production out of them, this team is much tougher than people expected. I’ve been saying all along though, that the lineup is underrated. People still claim Kemp is the only threat. Well tell that to the catchers who have had to try and throw out Dee Gordon, or the pitchers who have been raked by Andre Ethier and Juan Rivera. I think they’ll challenge for the division, and be competitive in the playoffs.
RtB: Matt Kemp always has a tendency to crush the Brew Crew (.301, 5 HR, 20 RBI) and already has 6 homers this season. Outside of him, which players in Dodgers blue should we watch out for?
LL: I mentioned it briefly above, but you’ve got to keep an eye on a few guys. Obviously Gordon at the top will wreak havoc if he gets on base, and he likes to swing early in the count. Throw him junk, and you’ve avoided one huge problem. Andre Ethier is also on fire and a legitimate MVP candidate when healthy. He does have a little trouble against lefties, though. And maybe one dark horse guy is James Loney. He’s only got a couple hits this season, but that’s exactly why the Brewers should be keeping an eye on him. He’s due, and he’s been hitting the ball hard, just right at people. When Loney gets hot, he gets REAL hot and can go a couple weeks hitting over .400.
RtB: The Brewers caught a break in missing Clayton Kershaw in this series, but Chad Billingsley has been spot-on in his first two starts.
What’s the key to his success?
LL: Location, location, location. Bills has always had good stuff and tons of potential. He reminds me of a Matt Cain-type of pitcher if he would just put it all together. And so far, this season, he has. His fastball explodes and his breaking ball is sharp. But in seasons past, he would struggle to locate and tend to overthrow. For some reason, he’s corrected these problems and has been hitting the target like nobody’s business. If Billingsley finally lives up to his potential, the Dodgers have a great 1-2 punch.
RtB: Carlos Gomez or Dee Gordon: who’s faster?
LL: Dee Gordon definitely. Obviously Gomez, Gordon and Peter Bourjos (the other comparison that seems to come up) are all exceptionally fast, but maybe we should leave this answer to A.J. Ellis and Jonathan Lucroy…
RtB: The biggest news the Dodgers have made this calendar year was the purchase of the team by a group led by Magic Johnson. Can he change the dynamic of the organization and are you excited about the new ownership?
LL: I’m incredibly excited about the new ownership! It was like a sickness for the past couple years among Dodgers fans with the McDivorce drama hanging over our heads. I love that it finally gives the organization some financial flexibility and a group of people that actually want to return the team to prominence. There is no better new face of the ownership than Magic Johnson. He’ll definitely be changing the dynamic of the Dodgers – more with his wallet than anything. I’d love to see them go out and make a play for Cole Hamels if he’s still a free agent after the 2012 season.
RtB: These two teams are headed in opposite directions to open the season, so I’m going to try to give Brewers faithful some positive thought: How can Milwaukee come away with a series victory?
LL: They can’t. Just kidding, just kidding. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but getting Dee Gordon out would be a huge step towards winning games and the series. Matt Kemp can be walked, but not if there’s already runners on base. Brewers hitters also have to jump on our pitchers early. They’ve been very good at getting ahead of opposing batters.
RtB: Who is the best player on the Dodgers that the average fan might not yet know about?
LL: Javy Guerra, no doubt. He still isn’t a household name because of his service time thus far, but he is as calm and cool a closer you’ll find. He’s converted all but two save opportunities since taking over in the middle of 2011. Guerra is not your typical closer; he throws a few different pitches and doesn’t have overpowering stuff. But he’s got a great head on his shoulders and knows how to work batters.
RtB: I’d like to get a viewpoint on the subject from the standpoint of a Dodgers fan, especially after this off-season. Did Matt Kemp deserve the MVP over Braun? And if Braun had been suspended 50 games, should he have returned the MVP award?
LL: I was hoping you would ask about this! I’ll answer the second part first. And, no. If anything, the award should have been vacated. And Matt Kemp agreed with that when asked after the Braun news broke. As for deserving the MVP, yes. I just don’t believe that a guy who had the 3rd-highest vote getter for MVP hitting behind him all season can really be the most valuable player in the league. I understand that Milwaukee made the playoffs while the Dodgers were only three games over .500, but Kemp’s WAR was 10.0, far and away the best in baseball. Without him, the Dodgers easily lose 90 games. Without Braun, the Brewers are still in Wild Card contention (though they probably miss the playoffs). I’ll stop there, but I could talk about this for hours!
RtB: Thanks for your time!
LL: No problem! Looking forward to this series!