L.A. turns to No. 5 starter Paul Maholm for Saturday's Game 2 of their series with Colorado. The Dodgers opened as -135 favorites on MLB odds with a total of 7.5 runs at sportsbooks.
Still The Favorites?
Obviously April does not a season make. The Dodgers were 13-13 at the end of April last season and fourth in the NL West, a division they would run away with over the summer. Despite a so-so start to this season, L.A. remains the -250 NL West favorite at sportsbooks, although that number continues to rise as the Giants (+250) hang around. The Rockies are +1800. The Dodgers also are still NL pennant favorites, although now at +240 barely ahead of St. Louis (+300), and World Series favorites at +500.
Are there any reasons to think the Dodgers can't win their first World Series since 1988? It's fair to say the offense has underachieved thus far, ranking 17th in the majors in runs and 20th in batting average entering the weekend. Hanley Ramirez, Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp are all off to disappointing starts. Catcher A.J. Ellis has been out since undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus April 8. He could be back in a few weeks. The guys who have been performing are second baseman Dee Gordon (team-leading .357 average), third baseman Juan Uribe (.330) and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (.302, six HRs, 18 RBIs). The Dodgers didn't even want Gordon to be their second baseman but $28 million Cuban signing Alex Guerrero wasn't ready for the majors yet. The team didn't exactly sprint to Uribe's agent to bring him back this year. Because Gordon and Uribe are playing so well, there's really nowhere the Dodgers can upgrade offensively via trade. They have too many outfielders as it is but none have big value right now other than Puig, who won't be dealt.
The rotation has been good as expected even though ace Clayton Kershaw, the overwhelming Cy Young favorite to start the season, has made just one start because of a strained muscle in his upper back. He was set to make his first minor-league rehab start Friday and will make at least one more before the team decides whether to activate him. Kershaw will have plenty of work to do to win a third Cy Young as teammate Zack Greinke is off to a tremendous start. It's probably not wise to judge the Dodgers as a whole until Kershaw and Ellis are back.
The odd-man out whenever Kershaw returns is likely to be the lefty Maholm (0-2, 5.60) barring another injury. The team will keep him in the bullpen as injury insurance because Maholm has been a good pitcher in the past. He wasn't very good in his last start, allowing five runs and eight hits over five innings in a home loss to the Phillies. Maholm is 0-2 with a 7.84 ERA in 10.1 home innings this season compared to a 2.45 ERA in 7.1 road innings. Right-handed hitters smash the guy as they are batting .320 with two home runs off him this year.
Maholm didn't face the Rockies last year -- he is 1-8 against them in his career -- while he was a member of the Atlanta Braves. Rockies star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez is scuffling a bit entering this series but his eyes are likely to get big facing Maholm. CarGo is 6-for-14 with two doubles, two home runs and five RBIs in his career off the southpaw. Troy Tulowitzki is raking as usual this season, and he owns Maholm, batting .455 with four doubles and two home runs in 22 at-bats.
Colorado starts right-hander Juan Nicasio (2-0, 4.30). He appears due for a quality start because he has alternated good starts with bad ones in his four this season. Last time out was a lousy one as he allowed five runs and seven hits -- two home runs -- over five innings in a home loss to Philadelphia. Nicasio was brilliant at Dodger Stadium last year, going 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA in three starts. He allowed only 11 hits in 16.1 innings and struck out 16. Kemp is 4-for-13 career off him with two home runs. Ethier is 8-for-14 with a home run. Maybe those two and Puig play while Crawford, who has never faced Nicasio, gets Saturday off.
MLB Free Picks: Colorado +126 and the under 7.5 runs (-110) at sportsbooks. The Rockies are 4-0 in their past four Saturday games. The under is 5-1 in Nicasio's past six starts against the Dodgers.