The Dodgers had become stale by the end of April, as if they were a bag of chips left open too long. The team strength of pitching had failed them in the last 9 games of April, as they never allowed fewer than 3 runs during those games. The burden of winning was placed on the offense, which was only good enough to take 3 of the 9.
Everything has changed with the new month. The Dodgers have allowed a mere one run in each of their first two games of May. The team has zest again, at least in my perception. The Dodgers in May are a freshly opened bag of chips. I extend this strained analogy because mentally, as a fan, I want a fresh restart. Even though the Dodgers were 15-11 in April, the end of the month was rough, capped by the disaster of April 30 that I saw in person. The end of April sapped my faith in the team. The last nine games of April seemed to confirm those nagging whispers that the Dodgers weren't really very good, that they were getting some unsustainably good pitching performances, that the offense was fueled by lucky clutch hitting. Those concerns are still there, to be sure: Penny has a sub-2 ERA with more walks than strikeouts, while the Dodgers are hitting 0.274 with runners in scoring position, 0.259 overall. But for now, I've resolved to not worry about these things. The Dodgers are a good team, a team with average offense and very good, perhaps great pitching. Good teams are meant to be enjoyed; being optimistic about a good team's future is not a vice.
With May also comes a fresh restart for Juan Pierre. After attending the miserable April 30 game, in which Pierre was putrid at the plate and in the field, I was ready to turn on him completely. But I've decided to give him another chance. I'll never be happy with the contract he was given, but maybe I can be occasionally happy that he is a Dodger. He's already had one awkward fielding play in the first game of this month, but he is 3-7 so far in May, with a crucial RBI in the most recent game. I'm rooting for you again, Juan. It's a good restart; keep it up.
As recently as a week ago I still thought of Hendrickson as an unworthy starter. I planned on writing about a Tomko v Hendrickson battle for the fifth starter spot among possible future Dodger pitcher battles, though in truth I wanted Kuo and Billingsly to bump both of them. Sometime during yesterday's game, as he kept piling up strikeouts and scoreless innings, I realized he deserved better than this, at least for now. Hendrickson's incredible start to the season finally sunk in. If Pierre's April is to be burned and forgotten, Hendrickson's should be framed and displayed proudly. He's earned a spot in the starting rotation, at least for the next month or so. Pierre is getting his chance at a turnaround now, while Hendrickson has already seized his chance at one brilliantly. Isn't this part of the greatness of baseball, the chance to turn things around?
Jon Weisman at Dodger Thoughts wrote in depth about Hendrickson's turnaround; he salutes him for what he's accomplished while remaining skeptical that he can really be this good. And I agree with that. But I'm going to put my skepticism to the side, for Hendrickson, for Pierre, for everyone on the Dodgers. I will hope for a May just like his April from Hendrickson while at the same time hoping for a May completely unlike his April from Pierre. They're both off to good early starts on that hope, as unlikely as it is that they fulfill it. Yet even unlikely things may happen: that's the great thing about May, and baseball.