Braves 8, Dodgers 5: Have a Day, Scott Van Slyke

May 17, 2013 at 10:29 pm | Posted in Scott Van Slyke | Leave a comment

vanslyke_atlanta_atbat_2013-05-17Let’s see… should we talk about Scott Van Slyke, who made a great diving catch in the fifth, then hit homers in both the sixth and the eighth?

Or should we talk about the grand slam Justin Upton hit off of Paco Rodriguez that still hasn’t landed, and the mess of fielding miscues by Luis Cruz, Dee Gordon, & Carl Crawford? Or the 0-5 Matt Kemp took, ending his hitting streak? Or that no one seems to want to talk about the fact that Gordon is now hitting just .200/.280/.311, because he’s, you know, not a great baseball player?

Right, I didn’t think so. The impressive Van Slyke becomes the first Dodger rookie with a multihomer game since 2006, when Matt Kemp, James Loney, Andre Ethier, & Cody Ross all managed the feat, and he’s certainly staking a claim to stick around here for a while. There’s no question that there’s a role for him; we’ve been dying for a righty 1B/OF option with power for literally years — no hyperbole at all — and Juan Rivera was never the man we were looking for. On a team with three lefty starters at first and the outfield corners who all tend to get banged up in some way, how can you not need a guy like that over yet another utility infielder?

Now, whether Van Slyke is that man remains to be seen. Not to drive the point into the ground, but it’s difficult to forget that even the Astros & Marlins wouldn’t touch him for free this winter. But I’m open to the idea that a player can improve if there’s real evidence behind it other than just “derrr, he’s got potential”, and Van Slyke clearly showed a commitment to both his conditioning and his mechanics since last season. That’s to his credit, of course, but it’s also a matter of survival; if even the bottom feeders don’t want you, then what you’re doing isn’t working.

I won’t go so far as to say that Van Slyke’s role is set in concrete, because it’s not. But I also can’t come up with a single legitimate reason why it would be him and not Cruz or Ramon Hernandez who leaves town when Mark Ellis is ready to return to the team, perhaps as soon as early next week. I’ll give Van Slyke this, at least: he was going to have to impress early, as unfairly as that is, and that’s what he’s done so far, on both sides of the ball.

Lost in the late inning fireworks on both sides was a mediocre outing from Hyun-jin Ryu, who failed to get more than 15 outs for the first time this season. Ryu’s usually pinpoint control wasn’t quite there today, as he walked five in five innings and never really looked comfortable, but good on him for managing to get through five with only two runs allowed despite clearly not having his best stuff.

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