Two weeks into the 2014 Major League Baseball season, the Los Angeles Dodgers find themselves cruising nicely out of the gates.
Don Mattingly's bunch rebounded after getting knocked around by the San Francisco Giants during the first two games at Dodger Stadium last weekend, winning five out of the following six including a complete dismantling of the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.
The Dodgers will have a chance to avenge those two losses to the Giants this week as the rivals kick off a three-game series in the Bay Area.
Most baseball analysts predicted success for Los Angeles this season, and the Boys in Blue have lived up to the hype so far. Still, there have been a few surprises in the early going. Some have been positive while others may be cause for concern.
The stellar play of newly converted second baseman Dee Gordon has been one of the pleasant surprises for Los Angeles as the team heads into the third week of the season.
His four stolen bases on Sunday against Arizona gave him nine on the year, good for tops in the majors.
But everyone already knew Gordon could run. His pitfall in recent years was his inability to get on base in the first place.
So far this season, his hitting hasn't been a problem.
The lanky infielder is batting a cool .400 and has already hit a home run off last year's American League Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer. The Dodgers aren't going to be relying on Gordon for power, but the 13 pounds of bulk he added in the offseason may already be paying off.
Whether or not he keeps up the sizzling start will be a legitimate question for Dodgers fans and coaches who witnessed a similar outburst from Gordon when he made his debut in 2011. He began the 2012 season as the Opening Day shortstop only to be quickly cast aside when pitchers around the league started to figure him out and the Dodgers acquired Hanley Ramirez.
For now, Gordon's career is in revival mode and his status on the team appears intact considering the Dodgers are in no rush to bring along Alex Guerrero.
The good news for Matt Kemp is that he already has three home runs this year. The bad news is that he only has four hits this year.
Although the power is encouraging, the Dodgers have to be disappointed with their center fielder's .154 batting average.
Kemp has missed most of the last two seasons due to various injuries but still maintains that he is "not a fourth outfielder."
The problem with that declaration is that starters are expected to perform consistently, not just every once in a while when they happen to square up a pitch. Kemp has struck out 11 times in 26 at-bats.
Of course, the Dodgers are going to give him every chance to find his groove at the plate after essentially making him their franchise player with the lucrative eight-year deal in 2012.
Kemp may never reach the MVP-type numbers he put up three seasons ago, but Los Angeles should be expecting a lot more than what he has provided so far.
Don’t look now, but Dan Haren is 2-0 with a 2.04 ERA in three starts this season.
Los Angeles really couldn't have asked for much better than that from the 33-year-old to begin his Dodgers tenure.
Haren's 2.04 ERA is currently the lowest in the Dodgers rotation among hurlers with more than one start under their belt.
In 2013, Haren turned in an unassuming 10-14 record for the Washington Nationals. Those numbers don't stand out, but he did put together a solid 3.29 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in his final 87 innings pitched after coming back from midseason shoulder inflammation.
The Dodgers signed Haren based off that impressive second half, and the veteran righty hasn’t disappointed so far. Although his velocity is noticeably down, Haren is still capable of missing bats, compiling 15 strikeouts in his three starts—all Dodger wins.
The only outing in which Haren didn't finish with a victory came in a duel with the Detroit Tigers' Max Scherzer. Still, the 11-year veteran limited one of the best offensive teams in baseball to three hits over six frames and the Dodgers eventually won in extra innings after a blown save in the ninth.
Speaking of blown saves...
Despite being the proud owner of a devastating cutter that Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs is labeling the most dominant pitch in baseball, the Dodgers' young closer has been rather disappointing in the early going.
He blemished his ERA right away by surrendering a home run during a non-save situation in Australia and then gave up two hits in his first domestic appearance in San Diego.
Things got slightly better for the Dodgers’ closer when he struck out Miguel Cabrera in an epic face-off at Dodger Stadium last week. However, that punch-out was only the second out of the ninth inning and Jansen eventually surrendered the game-tying single to Victor Martinez one batter later.
Although Los Angeles won that game in the 10th inning following the blown save, Jansen's hiccups continued.
The next night, Martinez burned the hard-throwing right-hander again by smacking a go-ahead home run leading off the 10th inning after the Dodgers had rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth.
Jansen took the loss and the he has now allowed three earned runs in just seven innings of work this season.
The converted catcher has still been able to rack up four saves including a perfect ninth inning Sunday in Arizona, but it's a bit disconcerting that Jansen has allowed at least one hit in six of his nine appearances.
All stats courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.
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