San Diego Split: Dodgers 3, Padres 1. Hanley, A-Gon Homer. Dodgers Finish Trip 4-5

In an up-and-down season, the Dodgers continued a trend over the course of a 4-5 road trip.

They won four games, mostly in the sort of fashion they’ve been expected to play all season.

The bullpen blew a couple of games.

They lost a few games they appeared to completely lose focus in.

The final game of the four game weekend series in San Diego brings the team back to Dodger Stadium with some positive momentum, however, and signs that the spring thaw the team was looking for may be coming with the change of the seasons into summer.

Then Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez hit back-to-back homers in the top of the ninth to make up the margin.  Chris Capuano, pitching on 3 days rest, hurled six shut-out innings before Peter Moylan spoiled Capuano’s chance at picking up a well-earned victory by giving up a game-tying homer into the lower level of the Western Metal Supply Building balconies in the bottom of the seventh.  Then Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez hit back-to-back homers in the top of the ninth to make up the final margin.  Kenley Jansen pitched the ninth to record the save.

Hanley Ramirez is seeing the ball well since coming off the disabled list, hitting homers the last two games of the road trip. Ramirez, who led the National League with a .342 batting average in 2009, is hitting .358 so far this season. (Image Source: Palm Beach Post at http://media.cmgdigital.com/shared/lt/lt_cache/thumbnail/960/img/photos/2012/08/12/fd/be/hanleyLA-fla0812.JPG)

The win Sunday was typical of the sorts of games that the Dodgers have been hoping to grind out against National League West opponents, especially in the pitcher-friendly parks in San Diego and San Francisco.  Hard-fought-victories won with late-inning heroics from their veteran power bats and quality pitching performances.

The Dodgers return home 8 1/2 games out of first place in a stretch where they play 17 out of 21 games against division rivals leading into the All Star Break.  This could be a make-or-break point for the team.  While it is not unheard of for teams to make up deficits of ten or more games halfway through a season, each loss makes the playoffs seem more and more far-fetched and brings the level of stress that the fan base feels up another level.

Post-game social media analysis reveals that manager Don Mattingly, who just received a “vote of confidence” from general manager Ned Colletti to remain in the manager’s post for the remainder of the season.

Embattled manager Don Mattingly received a vote of confidence from the front office, but has no guaranteed contract beyond the end of this season. Can Donnie Baseball help turn this season around? (Image source ESPN at http://a.espncdn.com/photo/2013/0520/la_g_mattingly_576.jpg)

Questions come up now.  Will the Dodgers be able to take the momentum of their last two games and finally put together the ever-elusive three game winning streak?  The last time the Dodgers won three straight was against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Dodger Stadium the second series they played this season.  2 1/2 months later, the Dodgers have failed to win more than two in a row while putting together losing streaks of up to eight games.  Many fans remain optimistic, but while Mattingly is sticking around, word from Magic Johnson’s Twitter Account that the public relations face of the Dodgers is taking a month-long European vacation with his wife Cookie just as the weather and fan tempers start to get hot in Los Angeles.  Coincidentally, Magic’s announcement came a mere 3 1/2 hours after this blog called for him to speak up about what is going on with the team’s finances and ownership situation.  Could the on-and-off field heat be getting to Johnson, and could his sudden trip cause him to miss the team have a start-of-summer surge back into the divisional race?

3 1/2 hours after this blog posed questions about why Magic Johnson got into a deal that kept Frank McCourt (also pictured) involved financially with the land surrounding Dodger Stadium, Magic posted on Twitter that he was heading out on a month-long European vacation. Why is Magic leaving the Dodgers for a month in the middle of the season as questions surround the team’s on- and off-field activities swirl? (Image source: http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/1045326/magic-johnson-frank-mccourt-opening-day-2012.jpg)

Some help is on the way.  Scott Van Slyke and Matt Kemp are on rehab assignments and are expected to rejoin the club shortly.  Chris Capuano appears to be healthy for the first time this season and looked brilliant on short rest against the Padres.  Zack Greinke is looking sharper after showing some inconsistency in the aftermath of his run-in with Carlos Quentin that resulted in a broken collar bone.

The team has a chance to get some redemption in its next series on Monday night at Dodger Stadium as the San Francisco Giants come to town for three games.  Hyun-Jin Ryu will open the three game set on the mound for the Dodgers against Madison Bumgarner, a 7:10 p.m. start.  For those who are looking ahead, Clayton Kershaw will take the mount on Wednesday night against Tim Lincecum in a battle of past Cy Young Award winners.  We’ll have coverage on the Giants series and more right here on The Blog.

While Matt Kemp has struggled this season with a lack of power and questions about his health, a few moments like this walk-off homer against the Washington Nationals from April 2012 would help bolster fan confidence and the Dodgers’ divisional standing. (Image source: http://cdn.rsvlts.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Matt-Kemp-walk-off-4.jpeg)

 

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