Hey, remember that guy Yasiel Puig? He came up for the Dodgers earlier this month? Seems like a lifetime ago, or at least a couple news cycles and Aaron Hernandez murder links ago.
Puig came up big for the Dodgers again Thursday, driving in the winning runs against the Phillies with a two-single in the seventh. It gave the Dodgers a 6-4 victory for their sixth straight win. Even with the victory, Los Angeles is still in last place at 36-42 and six games back of Arizona in the National League West.
That said, is their hope for the underachieving team with the highest-payroll ($216 million) in the National League? Or at least some hope that this Dodgers season will be remembered more than only for its bench-clearing brawls? (Actually, that brawl was epic and deserves to be recalled around campfires so that future generations can learn about it.)
Furthering the good news, Los Angeles did get Matt Kemp back from the disabled list this week. He’s had a woeful season thus far, with an OPS south of .700. Still, if he’s healthy Kemp is one of the most dynamic players in baseball. Even with him back in the lineup, the Dodgers roster still feels a lot like somebody who did their first auction draft spending big bucks on guys like Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez but were left to fill out the rest of the team on $1 fliers like Skip Schumaker and Nick Punto.
This might go double for the Dodgers’ staff which has perenial Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw (6-5, 2.08) at the top followed by a strong rookie season from Korean Hyun-Jin Ryu (6-3, 2.85). Zack Greinke, back from his broken collarbone, isn’t exactly living up to his big-money contract in the offseason, with only 48 strikeouts in 64 innings along with a 1.36 WHIP and a .287 BAA. The back end of the Dodgers’ staff has been an injury-riddled mess and part of the reason they’re looking so hard at a mediocre starter like Ricky Nolasco.
Perhaps the key to the Dodgers is keeping Hanley Ramirez healthy and on the field. Ramirez was held out of the starting lineup on Thursday as a precaution due to his nagging hamstring injury. Ramirez only has 64 at bats in 2013, but boasts a nice .375/.423/.688 line. Keep Ramirez on the field along with Puig, Gonzalez, Kemp and Carl Crawford (.301/.358/.470) and there’s really no excuse for this team to be languishing in last place in a division, albeit a very competitive one.
If the Dodgers are going to actually end up contenders and in the division race the first two weeks of July will be telling. After they finish up this weekend set with the Phillies, the Dodgers travel to play against the Rockies, Giants and Diamondbacks on a nine-game road trip. That’ll likely show if this high-priced collection of players are in it for the long haul or if they’ll remain underachievers.
However it shakes out, at least they have Puig. Oh right, the Cuban sensation is up to 89 big league at bats and is still batting .417 and slugging over .700. Expect that should he be an All-Star talk to heat up any second now.