The Los Angeles Dodgers are still looking towards 2012, but a recent hot streak now has the club wondering if things could have gone differently this season.
Seeking to extend a season high-tying five-game winning streak this evening, the Dodgers try to secure their second series victory of the year over the wild card-leading Atlanta Braves.
Los Angeles rallied from an early five-run deficit to win last night's opener of this three-game series by an 8-6 margin. Despite winning for the 10th time in 11 games, the Dodgers are still 10 1/2 games back of first place in the National League West.
James Loney highlighted a five-run seventh inning with a double that chased home three runs, while Juan Rivera posted three RBI in the victory. Andre Ethier added a two-run single as Los Angeles attacked Atlanta's bullpen after Braves starter Brandon Beachy exited the game.
"Beachy pitched a really good game, we just stayed on him," Matt Kemp said. "We drew walks and got timely hitting. That's what you have to do to inch your way back into games and we came out with the win."
Beachy was charged with three runs on four hits and three walks over six innings as Atlanta blew a 5-0 lead after three innings and lost for the fourth time in seven games. It dipped 8 1/2 games behind first-place Philadelphia in the NL East but still leads the NL Wild Card by the same margin over St. Louis and San Francisco.
"We're looking to finish strong down the stretch," Beachy said. "Unfortunately this one got away from us tonight, but we're going to come back out tomorrow and go right back at them."
Given the task of slowing down the Dodgers tonight, Mike Minor will be making his first start since Aug. 23 due to poor weather that plagued the Braves last weekend. Minor, though, won his third straight start in that last outing, besting the Cubs in Chicago.
The 23-year-old lefty was charged with four runs -- three earned -- on six hits over five innings, striking out six. Minor improved to 4-2 with a 4.37 earned run average in 10 starts this year.
Minor faces the Dodgers for the first time in his career.
The Dodgers are expected to get one last look at Nathan Eovaldi in a starter's role this evening before sending the 21-year-old to the bullpen in order to limit his innings. Eovaldi is 0-2 in four starts since winning his major league debut on Aug. 6 after logging 103 innings with Double-A Chattanooga.
"This scenario allows us to keep getting him out in competition," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told his club's website. "He'll continue to work through his bullpens and all that, but also really put no undue wear and tear [on his arm], in terms of the arm and the number of innings."
The right-hander, who faces the Braves for the first time, pitched to a 2.05 ERA over his first four starts before getting rocked for five first-inning runs over a four-frame outing in a loss to the Rockies on Sunday. The defeat pushed his ERA to 3.46 on the season.
"Nothing was wrong with Nathan today," said Mattingly. "We just didn't get a break in the first inning."
The Dodgers won three of four games versus Atlanta at Chavez Ravine from April 18-21.