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Series Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers

Can the Rays regain their momentum while halting the Dodgers? The key will be containing Yasiel Puig who has put up video game numbers since his arrival to the big leagues.

Sup Tampa Bay...ready for me?
Sup Tampa Bay...ready for me?
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

On June 21st the Dodgers were a season worst 12 games under .500 and manager Don Mattingly was on the hot - seat especially after blasting the desire of his own team in May. Since that time the Dodgers have been on a tear posting an absurd record of 34-8 (.810) and doing most of their damage on the road posting a 17-1 record over their last 18.

This is the best 42 game stretch for the Dodgers since the 1953 season and over the span of the streak they lead the league in ERA and batting average at .283. The Rays just had their streak of series victories snapped in Arizona but the Dodgers streak continues as they haven't lost a series since June 14-16 against the Pirates at PNC Park (lost 2 of 3). Their record in series since then is 10-0-4. They are not only beating teams soundly but also have 10 straight 1-run victories dating back to June 25.

The pitching matchups over the weekend will be David Price (6-5, 3.36 ERA) vs Chris Capuano (4-6, 4.16 ERA) on Friday at 10:10 p.m., Roberto Hernandez (6-11, 4.75 ERA) vs. Zack Greinke (9-3, 3.40 ERA) on Saturday at 4:10 p.m., and Jeremy Hellickson (10-5, 4.77 ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw (10-7, 1.91 ERA) on Sunday at 8:05 p.m. The Sunday night game will be televised nationally on ESPN.

Bullpen: Kenley Jansen (CL), Ronald Belisario, Paco Rodriguez (LHGP, Chirs Withrow, J.P. Howell (LHP), Carlos Marmol, Brandon League

Since the All-Start break the Dodgers bullpen leads the National League in holding the opposition to a .176 batting average and are second in the league with a 2.04 ERA.

Kenley Jansen has been on a role since assuming the closers role from Brandon League. He has successfully converted 10 saves in a row and since July 3rd owns a 1.10 ERA (2ER/16.1IP) while limited the opposition to a batting average of .109 (6 for 55). Over that span he has struck out 23 and overall leads all relievers with 82 strikeouts.

The Rays will see old friend J.P. Howell this weekend. He has pitched quite well recording a scoreless outing in 17 of his last 18 appearances. He also ranks 11th among all National League relievers with a 2.11 ERA.

The Dodgers bullpen since the All-Star Break:

Kenley Jansen 47.5% 2.5% 0.077 0.33 75.00% 0.75 0.13 0.53
Chris Withrow 33.3% 3.7% 0.154 0.68 80.00% 1.23 1.00 1.87
J.P. Howell 14.3% 10.7% 0.160 0.95 85.70% 1.23 3.18 4.21
Paco Rodriguez 24.2% 3.0% 0.129 0.56 87.00% 1.00 3.38 2.62
Ronald Belisario 14.3% 14.3% 0.207 1.43 75.00% 2.35 4.09 4.01
Brandon League 14.3% 8.6% 0.188 1.00 96.80% 3.00 5.83 3.65
Carlos Marmol 12.0% 16.0% 0.333 2.20 72.90% 7.20 6.85 5.70

Dodgers Offense:

The Dodgers offense is led by Yaiel Puig who in just 57 games in the big leagues is proving to be one of the games best. His slash line is video game like .377/.437/.600 with 11 home runs in just 245 plate appearances. He also has a cannon for an arm and has thrown out several runners trying to advance.

If their is one limitation to his game thus far it is his aggressiveness on the bases where he has stolen 7 bases but been caught 5 times. His desire to run extends to the unhealthy side as he was upset and let veteran teammate Adrian Gonzalez know about it when he felt Gonzalez should have scored on a double. The two ended up having an animated exchange regarding the matter. Puig is the spark plug of the offense and keeping him in check will be a key to winning the series.

The Rays will meet up with Carl Crawford who is back and healthy in 2013. Overall he is hitting .295/.344/.425 while proving that he can perform in the leadoff spot. He has played in 76 games and has 11 stolen bases while only getting nabbed 4 times.

Notable injuries on their offense include Matt Kemp who is on the disabled list with an ankle injury and Hanley Ramirez who has missed the last several games with a shoulder injury and is listed as day-to-day with the DL still a looming possibility.

Dodgers offense 2nd half:

Yasiel Puig 84 3 14.3% 26.2% 0.348 0.464 0.565 0.444 193 1.1
Hanley Ramirez 67 3 4.5% 29.9% 0.313 0.343 0.547 0.384 151 0.8
Andre Ethier 86 2 14.0% 18.6% 0.278 0.384 0.486 0.375 144 0.8
Carl Crawford 79 0 3.8% 10.1% 0.355 0.380 0.434 0.354 130 0.7
A.J. Ellis 61 2 4.9% 4.9% 0.250 0.311 0.357 0.301 93 0.3
Mark Ellis 69 1 4.3% 13.0% 0.313 0.338 0.406 0.326 111 0.3
Tim Federowicz 28 0 7.1% 32.1% 0.360 0.407 0.440 0.363 136 0.3
Nick Punto 30 0 16.7% 26.7% 0.250 0.367 0.333 0.318 105 0.1
Adrian Gonzalez 88 1 8.0% 14.8% 0.275 0.330 0.338 0.299 92 0.1
Skip Schumaker 45 2 8.9% 28.9% 0.256 0.326 0.462 0.344 123 0
Juan Uribe 63 1 3.2% 20.6% 0.190 0.226 0.276 0.223 39 0
Jerry Hairston 30 1 6.7% 13.3% 0.222 0.300 0.333 0.287 84 -0.1

The Pitchers:

Chris Capuano

Overall left hander Chris Capuano is 4-6 with a 4.16 ERA. He has made 14 starts out of 16 appearances. He has a strikeout rate of 7.0 K/9 while keeping the walks at a minimum with a 2 BB/9 rate.

His season has been interrupted by two stints on the disabled list. Like many of the Dodgers he seems to be finding his groove of late.

He has not allowed a run in 3 of his last 4 starts going 2-0 witha 1.90 ERA (5 ER/23.2 IP) dating back to July 11. He has allowed 1 or fewer runs in 7 of his 14 starts this year.

He has faced the Rays only once in his career and this came way back on June 13, 2005 when the team was still known as the Devil Rays and he pitched for the Breweres. He allowed four runs on 12 hits in 7 innings as the Brewers defeated the Rays 5-3 at Tropicana Field.

Zack Greinke:

The hard throwing right hander has posted a record 9-3 with a 3.40 ERA on the year. He missed part of the season after breaking his collarbone after brawling with Carlos Quentin of the San Diego Padres.

He is 2-1 over his last 5 starts posting an ERA of 2.29 (9ER/35.1IP). He has held the opposition to a .220 batting average against while striking out 27 and walking 6.

Lifetime his is 2-6 vs the Rays with a 3.70 in 11 career starts (14 appearances). He last faced the Rays as a member of the LA Angels last August 19 and allowed 6R/ER on 7 hits striking out 8 and walking 4 as the Rays beat the Angels 8-4.

Clayton Kershaw:

Kershaw is the front runner for the NL Cy Young and possibly the MVP award as well. He has been as dominant as any pitcher in baseball posting a record of 10-7 with a league leading 1.91 ERA. He leads the league in hits per nine innings at just 6 and doesn't walk a lot of hitters as evidenced by his walk rate of 1.9BB/9. He strikes a lot of hitters out and has a strike out rate of 8.6 K/9. When you don't give up hits, don't walk guys, and strike batters out it's not hard to see why he is the best pitcher in baseball.

He is much like the National League version of Chris Sale as when he pitches he seldom gets run support. Over his last 5 outings he has a record of just 2-2 but a sparkling ERA of 2.00. He has worked 36 innings and allowed just 25 hits. He has struck out 37 batters and only issued 3 walks.

This will be his first career appearance against the Rays.