The Los Angeles Dodgers are in first place in the National League West with a record of 12-4. It’s a bit of a surprise because nobody thought the Dodgers could win so many games with just Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier powering the offense and with Clayton Kershaw taking the mound only once every five games.
Turns out we were wrong because Matt Kemp is Matt Kemp is Matt Kemp. Also, Matt Kemp. The Dodgers center fielder is batting over .400 and slugging over 1.000 in his first sixteen games. That can win you a lot of games when your opponents are the Pirates, Padres and Astros, whom the Dodgers played thirteen of their first sixteen games.
Things got a bit tricky for the Dodgers last week when they played three games against the Milwaukee Brewers, the defending National League Central champions. Unlike the Pirates, Padres and Astros, the Brewers have good starting pitching and a fairly well-balanced offense.
Plus, Kershaw pitched last Sunday, April 15, against the Padres, and thus wasn’t available to pitch against the Brewers in Miller Park in last week. The Brewers took the first two games of the series in walk-off fashion. In Tuesday’s game, Dodgers closer Javy Guerra took the mound in the bottom of the ninth with a 4-to-3 lead and gave up a single, a stolen base, a walk and a double that scored the game-tying and game-winning runs. The next night Matt Guerrier was on the hill in the bottom of the tenth inning with the score tied at 2. He gave up two walks, two stolen bases and a sacrifice fly that scored the winning run.
Thursday’s game was again a close contest. The Brewers took an early 2-to-1 lead in the second inning when Dodgers starter Aaron Harang gave up two singles, a double and a sacrifice fly. But Los Angeles came right back in the top of the third when — who else — Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier ignited a rally that plated two runs. Two innings later, Kemp hit a solo home run (his seventh at the time) to give the Dodgers a two-run lead and some breathing room. The Brewers answered with one run in the sixth, sending the game to the seventh inning with the Dodgers leading by the score of 4-to-3. Two nights in a row, the Dodgers bullpen had been shaky, and the Brewers had cashed in with late-inning rallies. But Thursday’s game was different.
On came Jamey Wright to pitch the bottom of the seventh for the Dodgers. Yes. That Jamey Wright.
The pitcher who was a starter for the Colorado Rockies and a bunch of other teams in the 1990s and 2000s. The pitcher with the 85-121 career record and the lifetime 1.562 WHIP. The pitcher who converted from starting to relieving in mid-2007 with the Texas Rangers. The pitcher who added velocity to his fastball as he got older. The pitcher who still throws a cutter, a curve ball and a change up, in addition to his 91+ mph fastball. The pitcher who made the Dodgers bullpen out of spring training as a non-roster invitee, having done the same with other teams the previous six seasons.
Over the course of two innings, 37-year-old Jamey Wright struck out Rickie Weeks, Nyjer Morgan, reigning National League MVP Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart. He walked Brewers catcher George Kottaras but then induced an easy ground out from Alex Gonzalez to end the eighth inning with the Dodgers one-run lead still intact. Javy Guerra pitched a scoreless ninth and the Dodgers escaped Brew-town with one victory in three games.
Jamey Wright. Veteran right-handed pitcher. Journeyman. Converted reliever. He’s our Impact Index player of the week.