Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 4/16/12

The Dodgers are currently the talk of baseball thanks to their 9-1 start.  Now they get a chance to walk the talk.

Former Dodger greats Tommie Davis (left) and pitcher Don Newcombe were on hand April 15th to take part in baseball's salute to Jackie Robinson. (LA Times)

 Some have questioned how good the Dodgers really are since their 2012 opposition has been limited to the Padres and Pirates.  The team will fly for the first time this season and land in Milwaukee for a three game series versus the defending NL Central champion Brewers beginning Tuesday.

The Dodgers were 2-4 against the Brewers in 2011, including losing three of four at County Stadium (or Miller Park for those of you who can actually let go of the past). This road trip, which also includes three games at the Astrodome, I mean Enron Field, wait, I mean Minute Maid Park, versus the Astros, somewhat represents the first time the Dodgers can prove they are not pretenders but contenders.    And speaking of pretenders, a sub-plot of the series might be the Brewers Ryan Braun versus Matt Kemp match-up.

Braun narrowly edged out Kemp for the 2011 MVP award due to, as most writers used for an excuse, the Brewers playing in “meaningful” games down the stretch. Of course, Braun was later found to have steroids in his system calling for many to believe he should have been stripped of the award. Kemp handled the controversy as politically correct as possible. Shortly after Braun won his protest against the test results, Kemp said he was “happy” there was no 50 game suspension.  Braun, meanwhile, set men back 50 years with the way he handled the situation.

Baseball players are expected to be reflections of “real men” who display courage and leadership. Braun handled the situation like the cowering lion in “The Wizard of Oz.” He was rightly criticized for taking a cheap shot at the man who collected the urine specimen.

“There were a lot of things that we learned about the collector, about the collection process, about the way that the entire thing worked,” Braun said, “that made us very concerned and very suspicious about what could have actually happened.”

Okay, Ryan, so next time you address those little league kids, be sure to say “accountability is not a trait you need to possess in order to live out your dreams.”

Kemp has started the season on what can only be described as an indescribable tear.  He currently leads the majors in home runs (6), RBI (16), average (.487), hits (19) and runs scored (13).  Can this continue?

“[Kemp's] pretty hot — we’ve pretty much seen this from him most of the year,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.  “He’s not going to be able to keep up this pace, I’ll say that. But it’s legit. You don’t just do some of the things that he’s been doing.”

Braun is keeping the doubters at bay….at least for now.  He is currently hitting .343 with four doubles and a home run. The rest of the team has picked up the power slack. The Brewers are second in the NL with 14 home runs.

The pitching match-up in game one pits the Dodgers Chad Billingsley (2-0, 0.63 ERA in 2012, 2-1 lifetime versus the Brewers) versus Yovani Gallardo (1-1, 5.91 ERA, 0-3 lifetime versus the Dodgers).

This series may come down to the “little things” the Dodgers have been doing. One those is not allowing opponents many chances to get on base for the wrong reasons.

The defense has made only four errors in ten games. Billingsley has shown himself to be a master of control this season.  He has walked only one in 14.1 innings while striking out 15.  Dodgers pitchers have struck out a total of 93 opponents, second only to the Nationals 97.

Finally, although statistician extraordinaire Bill James has proven stolen bases don’t add much to a team’s ability to register wins, the Dodgers seem to be getting an offensive adrenaline rush from shortstop Dee Gordon. He leads the league with 7 steals in 8 attempts.

Other Dodgers Notes:

  • The Dodgers executed a triple play in Sunday’s 5-4 win over the Padres.  Except you won’t find it in the box score.

                 DP – Uribe-Ellis-Loney, Uribe-Loney
                E – Dee Gordon (3, Misplayed grounder)

  • Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw was charged with three earned runs on Sunday.  That marks the first time in his last 12 starts, dating back to August of 2011, Kershaw has given up more than two earned runs.
  • Legendary announcer Vin Scully returned to the broadcast booth Sunday after missing the previous five games with a bad cold.   Unfortunately, fans will lose him again for the next six games.  Scully, 84, no longer travels with the team when they go east of Arizona.
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