Know who the Dodgers’ hottest hitter is?
It’s not Matt Kemp (1-for-18, seven strikeouts). And I’m not even going to check on this one, but wild guess, it’s not Juan Uribe (OK, he’s batting .094 in his last 21 games).
The Dodgers’ hottest hitter is … Luis Cruz.
That’s Luis Cruz, a 28-year-old career minor leaguer, a non-roster spring invitee, who in small parts of three previous major-league seasons hit .221. Who gave zero indication he could be a starting shortstop in the bigs, let alone a contender.
Only right now, the Dodgers should ride him out and continue to play Hanley Ramirez at third.
Maybe, probably, Cruz fizzles at some point like Elian Herrera. And then again, possibly not. Maybe he at least hits a reasonable .250 and plays a solid and reliable shortstop.
Mattingly said he wanted to play Ramirez at short until Dee Gordoncomes off the disabled list. But because he’s been playing third all season for Miami, he postponed that move while he gets practice time at short. Supposedly after taking enough infield at short, he’ll then move him there.
But the Dodgers would be better served to continue to start Cruz at shortstop and Ramirez at third. Even when Gordon returns from his thumb injury in a few weeks, I’d rather gamble on him approaching his potential than count on Uribe suddenly finding his stroke after 1½ frustrating seasons.
Cruz currently has hit in 10 consecutive games, and although he’s hitting a modest .262 in that stretch, he’s also has 10 RBI. That matches Kemp for the Dodgers’ longest hitting streak of the year. And although he may not be a spectacular shortstop, he’s dependable and makes the routine plays.
Which is more than can be said for the erratic Gordon, whose 17 errors are still more than twice any other Dodger. If Cruz can continue to be reliable and productive, I wouldn’t even start Gordon when he returns.
Ramirez’s ability to play either third or short provides Mattingly with valuable flexibility. The Dodgers are in position to win their division, and at this point, you send out the lineup that puts you in the best position to win right now. Worry about Gordon’s development or Uribe’s ego another day.
For now, keep going with Ramirez at third and Cruz at short. Ride this puppy.