For the Dodgers, July must seem like forever ago. Sure, they've got the NL West in the bag and the No. 1 seed in the NL is still in sight thanks to their 42-8 run that stretched into August and led them to a 13.5-game lead at one point -- but the feeling around Chavez Ravine is certainly more subdued these days as the injury bug keeps biting LA's suddenly slumping team.
Outfielder Yasiel Puig was the latest to hit the shelf Sunday. The rookie phenom was held out of the lineup after sustaining a hip injury while making a diving catch in Saturday's blowout loss to the Giants (San Francisco set a Dodger Stadium record for runs scored by an opponent in the 19-3 drubbing).
LA manager Don Mattingly shed what little light he had on the situation to reporters before Sunday's game, a 4-3 loss to the Giants; the Dodgers' eighth loss in their last 11 games.
"Puigers has got some kind of hip thing. Not quite sure, I'm thinking somewhere between seven and ten days for him, hopefully. Maybe two weeks or three, I don't know. Could be tomorrow even," Mattingly said. "Somewhere between a day and two weeks."
So Puig is "expected" back sometime between Monday and the start of the playoffs -- they hope. Not exactly the kind of news a contender wants to hear heading into the final stretch run before the postseason. With a magic number down to four, the Dodgers should still wrap up the division with plenty of time to set up their pitching rotation. But the rest of the lineup, particularly the outfield, is far from settled. Along with Puig, the Dodgers are dealing with:
- Carl Crawford, LF: Also left Saturday night's game against the Giants with a sore back, which he has apparently dealt with throughout the season. Crawford also missed all but one game in June with a hamstring injury and has appeared in only 108 games this season.
- Andre Ethier, CF/RF: Left Friday night's game with a sore ankle after pulling up into second on a double, and was at Dodger Stadium on Saturday in a walking boot. Mattingly compared the condition to shin splints.
- Matt Kemp, CF: The Dodgers' everyday center fielder when things are routine has had anything but a routine season thus far. After offseason shoulder surgery, Kemp struggled mightily to begin the season before going on the DL with a hamstring strain in May. He returned in late June for 10 games, but went back on the DL with another shoulder injury. He returned after an 11-game absence with a three-hit game against Washington (which included a homer in his first at-bat). That game also included an ankle injury while running the bases, which resulted in another trip to the DL (which Kemp is still on). But the Dodgers think Kemp could actually be back in the lineup on Monday.
That's right -- Matt Kemp may be the healthiest outfielder the Dodgers have right now.
Oh, and let's not forget shortstop Hanley Ramirez, the club's best all-around hitter this season. He left Thursday night's game with what appeared to be a hamstring injury and has been out since. This is his second issue this summer, as he played only once in a 10-day stretch in August due to injury. The official word from the Dodgers this time is an irritated nerve in Ramirez's back, and that he is expected to play this coming week after receiving a cortisone injection over the weekend. A back injury landed Ramirez on the DL in 2011.
Ultimately, if the Dodgers' worst fears are avoided and the severities & timetables above are correct, this could be nothing more than a late-season scare. But you can excuse the fans in LA if they've got the fireplace lit, ready to send that Hollywood-ending script up in smoke.
But when it comes to outfielders dealing with injuries in the postseason, at least history is on LA's side.