The Los Angeles Dodgers may be without Yaisel Puig on Thursday night. But they might be just fine sans their Cuban phenom if Hanley Ramirez can continue his recent production.
Ramirez and the Dodgers encounter one of baseball's hottest pitchers as they look for their first road sweep of the season against Jhoulys Chacin and the Colorado Rockies.Puig is day-to-day with a bruised left hip suffered in the Dodgers' 10-8 win Wednesday. He left the game an inning after running into the right-field wall to track down Nolan Arenado's flyball in the fifth. A precautionary X-ray was negative."He just plays like that," manager Don Mattingly said. "They kind of warned us coming up he plays like that and he's going to get hurt."The 22-year-old Puig, named NL player and rookie of the month for June, was 1 for 3 with an RBI before exiting. He's hitting .440 with an OPS of 1.209 in 28 games.But Ramirez served as the star Wednesday, going 4 for 5, scoring three runs and finishing a triple short of the cycle to extend his hitting streak to 14 games. During the streak, he's 27 for 54 with 16 RBIs while posting a 1.460 OPS."Hanley's just a beast," Mattingly said. "He seems to be on a mission this year. He had a rough start to the year being hurt, but he's been focused all year."Ramirez isn't the only hot bat for the Dodgers (40-43), whose 10th win in 11 games pulled them into a tie with Colorado (41-44) for second in the NL West and kept them 2 1/2 games back of Arizona.Adrian Gonzalez, who homered for the second straight game Wednesday, has four homers over his last 11 games while slugging .628. While A.J. Ellis is 7 for 16 in his last four games, Matt Kemp has driven in a run in three straight and homered Wednesday for the first time since returning from a strained hamstring June 25.Los Angeles tagged Chacin (7-3, 3.59 ERA) for five runs and nine hits over six innings in a 7-6, 10-inning loss June 1. But Chacin has been much less vulnerable recently, winning four straight starts while posting a 1.26 ERA in 28 2/3 innings. The right-hander hasn't surrendered a home run during that stretch and has held opponents scoreless over his last 15 innings.A more aggressive approach seems to be behind Chacin's improvement. He averaged 15.5 pitches per inning through his first 12 outings, throwing seven innings twice and never going any deeper. In Chacin's last three starts, he's gone 8 2-3, seven, and eight innings, respectively, while needing 11.6 pitches per inning."I've just been trying to throw strikes. I've been trying to attack the hitter and make them swing," said Chacin, who is 6-5 with a 3.50 ERA against the Dodgers. "That's what I've been doing the last three or four starts. Everything has been working out and my fastball has been strong."Los Angeles scheduled starter Chris Capuano (2-5, 4.72) had not allowed a run in back-to-back starts before getting ripped for seven in 3 2/3 innings of a 16-1 loss to Philadelphia on Friday.The left-hander now looks to reverse his fortune against Colorado. He was 4-2 with a 1.70 ERA in his first six career outings versus the Rockies, but in eight starts since he's 1-6 with a 6.11 ERA.Carlos Gonzalez, who went 2 for 4 on Wednesday with his NL-leading 23rd home run, is 3 for 13 off Capuano.Ellis is 6 for 12 off Chacin while Gonzalez is 3 for 4, but Kemp is 5 for 28 with nine strikeouts and Ramirez is 0 for 3.