A Q&A with Brian Kamenetzky, a Dodgers blogger for the Los Angeles Times.
Q: Down 0-2, Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda is facing a must-win situation for LA. Is he up to the task?
A: For a lot of the year, Kuroda was like LA’s more effective version of Brett Myers, without the gut. Capable of pitching very well, but also a risk to combust like a Spinal Tap drummer. In June, for example, he sandwiched a brilliant complete game, 11 K shutout of the Cubs between two starts in which he gave up six runs and didn’t escape the third inning. Fans tried to cheer him on, but it’s hard to clap and hold a canister of Tums at the same time.
Since August 1, though, Kuroda has been very solid and extremely consistent. In 12 starts since then, including Game 3 of the NLDS, Kuroda has allowed three runs or fewer nine times, including seven outings where he surrendered one run or shut out the opposition. He’s also been a better pitcher at Dodger Stadium than on the road. All in all, the Dodgers could certainly do worse than putting their eggs in his basket.
Q: Dodger fans have an “arrive late, leave early” rep. Does LA really have a home field advantage?
A: The Dodgers were 15 games over .500 at home, 11 under on the road during the regular season. Down the stretch, they dominated at Chavez Ravine, going 18-7 in August and September, including a four game sweep of the Phils from August 11-14. They’re definitely more comfortable at home. As for the fans, they can be as loud as any in the country, especially now that Manny has arrived. Fair to say the locals have taken a shine to him. Dodger fans, like the Dodgers themselves, haven’t packed it in on the series quite yet, and also haven’t had a chance to see the second round of the playoffs in 20 years.
On the other hand, while they’re enthusiastic, Dodger fans aren’t stupid, either. They know history isn’t on the side of teams coming home down 2-0. If the Phillies can get out to an early lead, it could take some of the juice out of the building. But expect the place to be full at the first pitch, and full when it’s over.
Q: So Nomar is going to play Sunday. Is that a good idea?
A: Against the Cubs, the Blue benefitted from big hits by guys not named “Manny” or “Ramirez.” So far, that hasn’t happened enough for them in the NLCS. Joe Torre is looking to jumpstart the offense, and Nomar has a history of success against Jamie Moyer. Can’t hurt, I guess (though judging by how the game ended Friday night, I doubt Brad Lidge is intimidated by Garciaparra). It really depends on who he replaces in the lineup. If it’s James Loney, who has hit the ball well early in the series, it mitigates any offensive bump for the Dodgers. I’d rather see slumping Casey Blake sit, though if it’s possible to keep Blake’s beard on the field, that would be excellent. It really is a great beard.
The problem is defense. Nomar, as you may have heard, is a little brittle and hasn’t played much in the field of late. The thinking is that first base would be an easier place for him to step in. Either way, if I’m Shane Victorino (or anyone else) I’m practicing my drag bunts to both corners.
Brian Kamenetzky and his brother Andrew host the Blue Notes blog at latimes.com.