Though we didn't know it at the time, Russ Mitchell saved the Dodgers from getting swept over the weekend. The 26-year old little-used corner infielder and occasional outfielder batted with two outs in the ninth inning Friday night, with the Dodgers down 3-2 to the White Sox, facing Sergio Santos, who hadn't yet allowed a run in 20 innings this season. Mitchell, though he had two home runs to his credit during his September cup of coffee last season, was just 7-for-56 in his major league career to that point.
Mitchell got a hold of a fastball over the inner-half of the plate and drove it over the left field wall, breathing new life into the Dodgers, who managed to score three more runs in the 10th inning and pull out a 6-4 win. However, Friday night is just about all that is going right for the Dodgers right now.
The team lost Saturday and Sunday to the White Sox, continuing their tradition of losing a series in an American League park. Since the beginning of 2005, the Dodgers have lost 14 of 17 series played with a designated hitter, and are 12-39 in those games. Overall this season, the Dodgers have lost four of their last five, seven of their last nine, and 14 of their last 21. The team is now seven games behind the Giants in the National League West.
The Dodgers are averaging a measly 3.46 runs per game this season, the lowest figure in the NL. Only the Twins have scored runs with less frequency than the Dodgers this season. Injuries have definitely played a part in the Dodgers' poor play, as the team has had 12 different players take 15 trips to the disabled list this season. On Sunday, the Dodgers welcomed back shortstop Rafael Furcal, who missed 37 games after breaking his left thumb, but placed fellow starter Juan Uribe on the DL to make room.
The Dodgers went into the season with a planned starting infield of James Loney, Uribe, Furcal, and Casey Blake. Through 48 games, those four have started just two games together. In fact, the Dodgers have had at least three of those four start together just 14 times this season. Things have gotten so bad that losing Aaron Miles, the king of the empty batting average, who hasn't been placed on the disabled list but has missed four straight games with a sore ribcage, is actually hurting the club.
Things haven't been all bad for the Dodgers. Among the disabled are Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo and Vicente Padilla, all expected contributors to the back end of the bullpen, but the fill-ins, like Scott Elbert and Javy Guerra, have contributed, and Kenley Jansen and Matt Guerrier have helped solidify the late innings of late. Rookie outfielder Jerry Sands got off to a slow start, but his his first major league home run on Saturday and added a four-hit game on Sunday, showing some of the promise of a bright future.
The starting pitching, though not evident on Saturday and Sunday in Chicago, has performed well. The Dodgers have had their top five starters -- Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Ted Lilly, and Jon Garland -- make 47 of 48 starts this season, and only Philadelphia has more quality starts than the 30 by the Dodgers. The problem is again back to the offense, which has provided little to no margin for error from the pitching staff.
The Dodgers got more bad injury news on Sunday, as both Andre Ethier and Rod Barajas were injured in the fourth inning in Chicago. Ethier ran into the right field wall, suffered contusions to his right elbow and lower right back, as well as a sprained left big toe. Barajas sprained his right wrist trying to make a tag on Juan Pierre at the plate. The x-rays on both players were negative, and it is unknown how much, if any, time they will miss.
Heading into this season, if everything broke right for the Dodgers, they were probably a team that could win 85-89 games. They also had to hope the Giants and Rockies wouldn't pull away in the NL West. Here we stand on Monday, May 23, a lot has not broken right for the Dodgers, who are a season-low six games under .500 at 21-27, a full seven games behind streaking San Francisco.
There are two teams in the National League with a worse record than the Dodgers: San Diego and Houston. The Dodgers are in Houston today, for the start of a three-game series against the Astros. I don't want to declare a season over with 114 games remaining, but if there were ever a time for the Dodgers to start winning, this is it.