LOS ANGELES – Even as the Dodgers try desperately to keep from slipping too far behind the first-place San Francisco Giants this week, there will be a fascinating sideshow on display at Dodger Stadium. It will be a tour de force of Cuban baseball.
The spotlight will be on Yasiel Puig, coming off one of the great months in Dodgers history, and his former teammate Jose Abreu, the Chicago White Sox rookie who has mashed 15 home runs and returns from the disabled list tonight. But another Cuban player, slick-fielding shortstop Alexei Ramirez, is having a career year, batting .329.
In fact, if you go by WAR, Ramirez has been Chicago’s best player this season.
Puig and Abreu were teammates on the Cuban professional team Cienfuegos. Dodgers shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena also played on that team.
These teams haven’t played each other since 2012, when the Dodgers took two of three games at home.
Abreu’s return comes at an opportune time for the White Sox, who were a different team before he got hurt. They still rank fifth in the American League in runs scored, but they are averaging just 3.4 runs per game in the 13 Abreu has missed. He’s also another big right-handed bat to stack the lineup against Clayton Kershaw, who has struggled uncharacteristically against right-handed batters.
Probably in part because of his issues with the breaking ball, Kershaw is allowing right-handed batters to hit .283 against him this season. Kershaw has given up 15 extra-base hits this season, 14 of them to right-handed hitters. For his career, Kershaw has been difficult for all kinds of hitters, with righties hitting .219 and lefties .186. Sensing an opportunity, teams have been loading their lineups with right-handed hitters when he pitches this season.
Kershaw’s numbers are skewed by the one disastrous outing in Arizona, in which he allowed seven runs in 1 2/3 innings. In the two starts since, he has a 2.08 ERA and opponents are hitting .188 against him.
Chris Sale was originally scheduled to start Monday, which would have given baseball fans a head-to-head look not only of the two right-handed Cuban sluggers, but the two best young left-handed starting pitchers in the game. Sale instead dominated the San Diego Padres Sunday and the Dodgers will face another young lefty, Jose Quintana, who has eight quality starts in 11 trips to the mound.