The Dodgers have won 11 in a row at home to start the season (one of those annoying mostly pointless streaks that media like to throw out there, as if somehow home field advantage is a really significant factor at Dodger Stadium).
The good news is that the Nationals are also undefeated at Dodger Stadium this year. Ha! Torre didn't think of that did he! One of these streaks will be snapped tonight (unless we once again can't quite finish the game for some reason, perhaps because of an earthquake of swine flu).
Here's my take on the L.A. hitters, bullpen, and game one starter and prediction.
When the Dodgers Are Up
--Off to a .348 / .491 / .640 start, I guess Manny was worth the wait.
--Patient, powerful lefty Andre Ethier is having a break-out year. He's not much with the glove, but he hit .274 / .448 / .649 over the last two months last season and isn't far off that pace this year.
--Bargain-basement free agent Orlando Hudson has been tearing up the league with a .419 wOBA. He sat out last night with a wrist problem, and wrists are terrible things to injure for a hitter. He's an overrated fielder and figures to regress soon, as his offensive numbers prior to this year were greatly inflated by Chase Field.
--Rafael Furcal has played like he misses Atlanta. His Ks are up, walks are down, and he's made 5 errors. I wonder about his health.
--The Dodgers other talented young outfielder Matt Kemp is showing more patience this year. He kills lefties, has great natural power, and enormous upside.
--Casey Blake is a vanilla guy who cost way too much to acquire from Cleveland, but if he provides stability and the Dodgers win it all, no one will complain anymore.
--Russell Martin is a wonderful young catcher, but overwork has led him to fade each of the last two years. Torre has pledged to keep him fresh this year, but Martin is off to a dreadful .222 / .327 / .267 start and just isn't showing any pop. He's already struck out 22 times, more than 25% of the way to his 2008 total.
--Left-handed first-baseman James Loney has never been the prototypical bopper at first, but this year he's become a slappy middle-infielder. He has just 7 extra-base hits, all doubles, and has cut his K-rate in half to an almost Guzman-esqe 7%. He has good on-base skills, but he needs to slug more than he is. He also struggles with lefties.
On the Mound
Clayton Kershaw: The 21-year-old lefty top prospect has been better than his 5.46 ERA would suggest. He's striking out 9.32 per 9 innings this season and has had some bad luck with a 62.5% strand rate. His best pitch is a deadly curveball, but he also has a plus-fastball that can touch 97. His change up is his third pitch.
If he struggles, it'll be command problems. But the Nationals need to let him work his way into trouble because they won't string together hits.
The Dodgers have the second-best bullpen ERA (3.03) and win probability added (+1.14) in the NL. They've allowed just 24% of inherited runners to score, third in the league. They are good.
Their closer is Jonathan Broxton, a 290-pound fireballer who is tearing through the league with his fastball-slider combo to the tune of a 16.07 K/9 rate and a 0.64 ERA. He might be the best in the game right now, and he's only 25.
Cory Wade is a command guy with flyball tendencies and sets up. Ramon Troncoso is a sinkerballing righty who is earning higher leverage innings this year. James McDonald is a talented rookie who has flopped as a starter and can't find the strike-zone. With Hong-Chih Kuo out with a potentially very bad elbow problem, free agent Will Ohman is the lefty. So far he's been a bad Ohman with a 5.00 ERA despite a .190 BABIP.
Season Record: 15-9
Kershaw hasn't been dominant, but D-Cab against the patient Dodgers is an ugly proposition. Cabrera hits 90 pitches before the end of the 4th inning, and the Dodgers win going away, 9-4.