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Todd Hundley, Hero
2003-04-18 09:04
by Jon Weisman

What can you say? Boy, did we need that one.

For whatever reason, Hundley has been to the plate 19 times this year and only been retired nine of those times.

Thursday night's game was the first the Dodgers really stole this year. It's their third come-from-behind victory of the season, but in their previous two, their biggest deficit had been one run.

Down three with two out in the eighth inning - that's a real deal steal.

What's interesting is that the Dodgers have been a dominant team in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings of a ballgame this season.

Here is the year-to-date score-by-innings:

Opponents ..... 463 988 320 203 0 - 48
Dodgers.......... 657 227 6(11)6 100 1 - 54

Thanks mainly to the bullpen (against Eric Gagne, batters are hitting .065 with an OPS of .207!), and despite their pinch-hitting woes, the Dodgers have outscored opponents in the seventh, eighth and ninth, 23-5.

The Dodgers' problem has been in the middle innings - innings usually pitched by the Dodger starters. The Dodgers have been outscored, 25-11, which means they are allowing more than 0.5 runs per inning in the middle of the game. Out of 48 possible middle innings, opponents have pushed across runs on 16 different occaisons - twice as often as the Dodgers.

I actually had told myself last night that I wasn't going to talk about the starting pitching again today, much less make any complaints when by and large, it has been very good. So this is not a complaint - just a point of emphasis.

If I'm a pitching coach with the Dodgers, I want to pay special attention to my pitchers as they pass into the middle innings. You don't want to strain the bullpen, but you don't want to get in the habit of leaving the starters in for one hitter too long.

See, you can complain all you want about the poor offense, but it's a reality. The Dodgers haven't won a game this season when they've allowed more than three runs. So just because allowing three runs in six innings may be considered a quality start by the rest of baseball, that standard simply doesn't apply to the Dodgers. They need to hold the opposition to less. They need to hold the opposition to three runs over nine innings - and you can't expect the bullpen to pitch shutout ball the entire season.

The Dodgers have made a point of stockpiling pitching - both in quality and in quantity (12 on the roster as we speak). The pitchers must carry the load. Just like in the 1960s, if need be.

Maybe it's just the contrarian in me, that has to talk about pitching when all the sane people are talking about hitting. But at the risk of hammering this point ad nauseum, all I'm saying is, set a high standard. Just because we are need to squeeze out a lot more offense doesn't necessarily mean that our pitching is as good as it can be.

I tend to doubt that we can continue relying on Todd Hundley to save the day.

It sure would be nice if the Dodgers could get some hitting, though. Hundley's home run was the Dodgers' first in 39 innings.

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