The LA Dodgers host the Boston Red Sox in a 3-day series at Dodgers Stadium Friday-Sunday. Phil Vassallo gives you his free pick for Friday's game. Also, we ask what if the Dodgers' brain trust had never pulled off that big trade at the end of August, 2012.

Red Sox Dodgers Big Trade
Let’s make a deal – every time Adrian Gonzalez or Carl Crawford or even Nick
Punto step up to the plate during the Dodgers’ three-game series with the Red
Sox, we think about to about this time a year and wonder: What if?

If the Dodgers’ brain trust wasn’t savvy and wealthy enough to pull off that
waiver-wire deadline deal at the end of August, 2012 and take on all that extra
payroll – including pitcher Josh Beckett – while giving up first baseman James
Loney, infielder Ivan DeJesus Jr., right-handed pitching prospects Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa and outfielder Jerry Sands, where would they be today? 

Maybe the move saved the Red Sox some $270 million in contracts spread out over
2018, but it saved the Dodgers some face. While Beckett has been on the DL most
of this year, Gonzalez, Crawford and Punto have been key ingredients in their
latest surge to the NL West lead. So how’d the Red Sox fare in all this?

The 24-year-old hot shot De La Rosa has finally worked his way onto the roster
recently, but not into the starting rotation – a place the Dodgers were comfortable
in placing him during the 2010 season before he blew out his arm. He remains on
a pitch count as they’re handling him with care two years removed from Tommy
John surgery. Webster remains at Triple-A Pawtucket (5-4, 4.13 ERA after a brief
callup in April, going 1-2 with a 9.57 ERA). Sands and DeJesus were traded to the
Pirates for ineffective reliever Joel Hanrahan, and are still wallowing away at Triple-A
Indianapolis. And, of course, Looney left to join Tampa Bay as a free agent.

Surely, all of this will give the national broadcast teams something to talk on
and on about as the series progresses. If only Manny Ramirez was still part of the
conversation. (You know, he is now available to either team).

Where to watch the series:
Friday 7:10 p.m., Prime
Saturday, 1:10 p.m., Channel FOX 11
Sunday, 5:05 p.m., ESPN


Matt Kemp returned to the lineup with a home run and a double in the same inning Sunday, and the Los Angeles Dodgers completed a sweep of the Washington Nationals with a 9-2 win that moved them into a tie for first place - at least temporarily - in the NL West.

PictureMatt Kemp returns and scores HR and Double in same inning on 7/21/13
Activated from the 15-day disabled list before the game, Kemp led off the
second with a homer that bounced among the cherry trees beyond the left-field stands. He then doubled home Andre Ethier in a seven-run inning against Jordan Zimmermann (12-5), quickly turning a much-anticipated matchup of All-Star aces
into a rout.

Clayton Kershaw (9-6) allowed two runs and two hits over seven innings with nine strikeouts and no walks, putting his major league-best ERA at 2.01.

The Dodgers were 9½ games out of first on the morning of June 22, but they've
since gone on a 20-5 splurge. Sunday's win pulled them even with the Arizona
Diamondbacks, who played the San Francisco Giants later in the day.

While the Dodgers are brimming with confidence and improved health — Sunday
marked the first time all season that Kemp, Hanley Ramirez and Carl Crawford
were all in the lineup together — the series was a nadir for the Nationals, who
have dropped eight of 10 and lost all semblance of the "Natitude" that produced
the best record in the majors a year ago.

After losing close games Friday and Saturday because of a collapse in clutch hitting
— 2 for 21 with runners in scoring position — the Nationals on Sunday looked like a
once-promising TV series that has finally jumped the shark. They hit only six balls
out of the infield in Kershaw's seven innings, including two mostly meaningless homers
by Jayson Werth after the game was well out of reach.

Manager Davey Johnson experimented again with Bryce Harper batting leadoff;
Harper went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. Adam LaRoche returned after missing
two games with the flu and went 0 for 3. Scott Hairston started in place of
Denard Span and went 0 for 3. Zimmermann, who has been battling a sore neck,
lasted just two innings, the shortest outing of his career.

Meanwhile, everybody in the Dodgers' starting lineup except Kershaw scored at
least one run, and even he had an RBI groundout. Kemp added another hit, an RBI
single in the fourth. Ramirez lifted his average to .393 with a three-run homer
and a single, and Crawford had three hits and a walk.

One player missing out on the fun was rookie Yasiel Puig, who played a major
role in starting the Dodgers' surge. Puig didn't start after going 4 for 25 in
his last six games — including 0 for 9 with five strikeouts against the

Manager Don Mattingly said Puig needs to "catch his wind and clear his head a
little bit."

"He seemed a little lost to me the last couple of days, just kind of
confused at the plate," Mattingly said.

While Puig might be lost, Kemp certainly seems to have found himself. He had
been hindered by inflammation in his left shoulder after offseason surgery and
was hitting .254 with four home runs in 61 games before going on the disabled

A possible concern: Kemp limped off the field after a sliding into the catcher on a
force play in the top of the ninth. Puig took Kemp's spot in right field for the bottom half.

Ramirez and Crawford have also spent time on the DL, and the only time the
trio had appeared in the same boxscore was on April 29 — but that was when
Ramirez entered as a pinch-hitter after Crawford had left the game. This was the
first time they were all starting, all playing together.

"First time? Really? Huh," Mattingly said before the game. "Well, here we go.
We'll see what it looks like."

Historical Notes
: It was the first road sweep for Los Angeles against the Nationals franchise in
the U.S. The Dodgers went to Canada to take three from the Montreal Expos from
May 24-26, 1996. ... The Dodgers optioned OF-1B Scott Van Slyke to the minors to
make room for Kemp.

Article by: Joseph White
Follow Joseph White on Twitter:


Dodgers' fire boy Zack Greinke squares off against "The Motown Kid" Gio Gonzalez and the Washington Nationals in what is sure to be a pitching exhibition. Who are you betting on?

PictureLos Angeles Dodgers vs. Washington Nationals 7/20/2013
Looking up at Atlanta and Philadelphia in the National League East, Washington understands that its current 11-game homestand comes at a pivotal
point in the season.

With a 27-19 record at home this year, the Nationals know this is the time to
make up some ground.

The Nats will hope to do just that on Saturday night against the Dodgers at
Nationals Park. Washington took a 3-2 loss on Friday after closer Rafael Soriano
surrendered a solo home run to Andre Ethier in the top of the ninth inning.

"If you're doing the things I know you're capable of doing, it doesn't matter
to me whether we're at home or on the road," Nationals manager Davey Johnson
said. "We need to win ballgames. And that's the challenge we've got in front of
us. We've got 11 games here, so we need to play good here and we need to play
good all the way, not just this coming homestand."

Gio Gonzalez gets the nod for the Nationals, while Zack Greinke takes the
hill for the Dodgers. Both pitchers have been unbeatable in the last month, with
Gonzalez going 4-0 with a 2.00 ERA in his last four starts, and Greinke going
5-0 with a 2.50 ERA in his past five starts.

Resembling the pitcher that won 20 games for Washington last season, Gonzalez
(7-3, 3.03 ERA) has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 11 of his last 13
starts. He also has a 2.18 ERA since May 1.

Meanwhile, Greinke (8-2, 3.49 ERA) is coming off one of his best
performances, tossing his fourth career shutout against the Rockies on Saturday
in a 1-0 win.

"I stayed good all the way through. I haven't done that in a while," Greinke
said after the game. "I felt good out there. It was a fun game."

With just one loss in his last 10 starts, the right-hander has been a huge
reason for the Dodgers' recent surge in the NL West.

"From where we were, I think 12 games under [.500], and the way we were able
to finish up, we kind of bounced together and put ourselves in a position to be
in the race," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "So to get ourselves back in
it coming up to the break, that's a small accomplishment in itself. But I want
to keep that in context -- and we've talked about it as a team -- because we
haven't accomplished anything yet besides getting ourselves back in the race and
putting ourselves in position. Hopefully from here we can continue to play well
and stay healthy and see what we can do."

Dodgers: Kemp eyes Sunday return
• Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp hit against live pitching before Friday's game
against the Nationals, saying he feels ready to return on Sunday, which is the first
day he is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list.

Kemp, who is out with an irritated AC joint in his left shoulder, does not
believe he will need to go on a Minor League rehabilitation assignment.

"He's probably had enough of [rehab assignments]," Mattingly said. "There's a
lot of guys who think they don't necessarily need them. Nobody wants them."

 • The Dodgers got three regulars back in their starting lineup for Friday
night's series opener. Left fielder Carl Crawford (stiff lower back), right
fielder Yasiel Puig (sore left hip) and second baseman Mark Ellis (left knee)
all were back in the lineup after missing some time with minor injuries late in
the first half.

Nationals: Detwiler unlikely for next start
• Johnson said on Friday that it is unlikely that Ross Detwiler will be able to come off the
15-day disabled list and make his scheduled start on Tuesday.

"For me, he would have to throw today or tomorrow, and do a side [session]
and then get out and pitch in a game. And I don't think we're going to do it by
[next weekend]," Johnson said. "But I'm going to put that question to our great
medical staff, see if they can't get him ready to go."

Detwiler has been on the disabled list since July 4 with a lingering back
strain. He played catch on flat ground on Thursday, but still had soreness in
his back after throwing.

Worth noting
• Nats outfielder Jayson Werth is hitting .326 (44-for-135) with seven doubles,
six home runs, 23 RBIs, 21 runs and 19 walks in 38 games since returning from the DL.

 • Dodgers left-hander Ted Lilly threw a simulated game before Friday's
contest. Dealing with a neck injury, Lilly threw about 20 pitches and used his
entire repertoire.