7:00 PM EST, ESPN – Money Line: Dodgers -113, Run Line: 8.5
A pair of teams traveling in opposite directions meet tonight, as the red-hot Los Angeles Dodgers collide with the flailing St. Louis Cardinals in the second game of their four-game set from Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. Winners of ten of their last twelve contests, including each of their last five, the Dodgers (32-20, 2nd in NL West) look to continue their charge of the ladder in the National League west Division, trailing the surprising Colorado Rockies by just one game. Monday’s 5-1 drubbing of St. Louis in the Series Opener served as reminder as to the considerable potential this side possesses, as Dave Roberts’ charges were effective both offensively AND defensively, which has rarely been the case in the past. At the Plate, the visitors received a trifecta of Solo Home Runs from Chase Utley (.222 BA, 3 2B, 2 HR, 13 RBI), Cody Bellinger (.272 BA, 5 2B, 10 HR, 28 RBI), and Logan Forsythe (.237 BA, 3 2B, 4 RBI), with five different batters tallying an RBI. While the Dodgers can be found in the middle of the of the National League in most offensive categories, make no mistake about it, they have no problem getting runners on base; Los Angeles ranks first in the National League in both Doubles (106) and Walks (198), while settling in at second in On Base Percentage (.340). From the bump it was a case of things going far more swimmingly the second time around for Rich Hill (2-2, 4.09 ERA), who in his second start against the Cardinals in less than a week shut them down; when they met last Wednesday, Hill was tagged for five earned runs on four hits with seven walks before getting yanked after four innings, only to turn things around on Memorial Day yielding one lone run on a pair of hits in five strong innings of action. It seemed as if the lingering blister issues that the 37-year old has dealt with have subsided for the time being, as Lefthander held the Cards hitless until the Fifth frame. Taking the mound tonight for the Dodgers is Kenta Maeda (4-2, 5.08 ERA), who despite the bloated Earned Run Average, has rounded into solid form of late, taking three victories in his last four starts. The Japanese International has yielded just eight runs over his last four appearances, which represents a stark contrast to the seventeen permitted in the previous four. It appears that Roberts may have another quality arm to add to the Rotation, for if the 29-year old’s performance in May has been any indication, then the likes of Clayton Kershaw will be receiving some sorely-needed support. In the month of May, Maeda has given up fifteen hits over the course of 18.1 innings, while striking out seventeen batters in comparison to just five walks, all the while racking up a solid 2.95 ERA. The last time that we saw the Righthander, it was last Thursday in the front half of a Home and Home series with the Cardinals, where he settled down nicely after serving up all three of the opponent’s runs in the First Inning, rendering St. Louis scoreless over the following four innings, striking out four and walking a pair in the process. However, perhaps his greatest contribution to the 7-3 victory came from the Plate, where he produced a Two-Run Single with two outs in the Bottom of the Fourth. Maeda has had success against St. Louis in the past, owning a 2-0 record with a 4.22 ERA in two career meetings.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals (24-24, 2nd in NL Central) have fallen on hard times of late, dropping ten of their last fifteen games, including four out of their last five with Monday’s 5-1 loss at home to the Dodgers further prolonging their misery. This season is shaping up to be one of peaks and valleys for Mike Matheny and Co., who began the season mired in a 3-9 slump, only to follow that up with a stellar 18-6 stretch before their recent slide. Indeed, St. Louis must have felt good about their chances of righting the ship this past Memorial Day, particularly with Mike Leake (5-2, 2.24 ERA) on the mound; the Righthander has been their most effective Pitcher this season, leading the Majors with a miniscule 1.91 ERA, or at least he was heading into the showdown with Los Angeles. The 29-year old yielded four runs on six hits in 6.2 innings, along with a pair of Home Runs and a walk, despite striking out six Dodgers. Kevin Siegrist relieved him later in the stanza, but served up a pair of hits and a Homer in just two-thirds of an inning. At the Plate, the hosts just couldn’t seem to solve the riddle that is Rich Hill, as the wily veteran rendered them without a hit until the Fifth Inning, with Batters one through five combining for just two hits in seventeen at bats. On the bright side, promising prospect Paul DeJong made an impact in the first start of his career, as the 23-year old totaled a pair of hits in four at bats. Michael Wacha (2-2, 3.66 ERA) will be heading to the bump for the Cardinals, in search of his first victory since, April 19th. Fate has not been kind to the 25-year old or the Cardinals for the matter of late, as Matheny’s charges have won just once in his last five starts. Honestly though, the Righthander’s shortcomings have had a lot to do with the frequent collapse the Bullpen; in a stretch of four straight starts, Wacha yielded eight runs in a grand total of twenty-four innings, only for his compatriots squander his good work afterward. Furthermore, those four outings were decided by a cumulative six runs. Simply put, this is an issue that Matheny and his Staff had better corrected, for St. Louis has been betrayed by this unit far too many times thus far; the Bullpen has accounted for nine losses already, with five of their number currently sporting an Earned Run Average of 5.00 or greater. With that said, the youngster had nobody to blame but himself for his latest offering, a 7-3 loss to the Dodgers last Thursday, in which he failed to last longer than four innings for the first time this season. He was hammered for six runs on seven hits, including a Home Run and a pair of walks despite striking out nine batters.