For pretty much the last couple months, commenters, tweeters, and others have been calling Dodger games “must win games”. The Dodgers haven’t played in a must-win game this season. There have been a TON of games they should win, and a bunch that they probably should win just to put everyone’s minds at ease, but none of them have been a must win game.
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Tonight is a must win game. If the Dodgers do not win, there is no tomorrow for them (in terms of baseball, not life). After a complete horrorshow of a game last night, the Dodgers are trailing the series 2-1 and need to rally off two straight wins to move on to the NLCS.
Brett Anderson and Alex Wood were both bad, and the Mets scored 13 runs. That sums up the game for the most part. Matt Harvey was far from impressive, but the Dodger bats bailed him out more than they should have and he got through five allowing three runs. They got late homers from Adrian Gonzalez and Howie Kendrick, but all that did was make the final score a slightly less-laughable 13-7.
So the 2015 season rests on the left arm of Clayton Kershaw. As I was so kindly reminded last night, this was also the case last year. Still, there is no pitcher in baseball I would take in a must-win game over Kershaw. Kershaw is clearly the best pitcher in baseball. He has been for the last four years. The Dodgers have lost his last five playoff games because playoff games are completely void of logic, but the Dodgers need a win and they have the right guy on the mound to do it. Then they need another win, and they’ll have another pretty good guy on the mound to do it,
Oct 12, 2015; New York City, NY, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (23) hits a solo home run during the seventh inning against the New York Mets in game three of the NLDS at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports
Kershaw has started two playoff games on three days’ rest. In 2013, Kershaw pitched six shutout innings against the Braves in a win that propelled the Dodgers to the NLCS. Last year, Kershaw had a two-hit shutout after six innings, but allowed two singles (both of them probably should have been outs) and gave up a bomb to Matt Adams before recording an out in the seventh. His final line was still solid, three runs in six innings isn’t too shabby. But the damage was done and the Dodgers were eliminated.
If Kershaw throws another dominant six innings, turn to the bullpen. Even if he has a perfect game going, let him do his job for six and turn to the bullpen. The bullpen melted down last night, but the important bullpen pitchers fared well. Yimi Garcia, J.P. Howell and Luis Avilan, who are my choices for seventh inning reliever, allowed one hit and struck out five in three combined innings in last night’s game. Chris Hatcher and Kenley Jansen obviously didn’t pitch yesterday, but they should be able to hold a lead late. If you don’t trust the first three, give Hatcher the seventh and give Kenley the eighth and ninth. Just don’t let Kershaw lose it in the seventh and feed the narrative.
Kershaw has started four career games at Citi Field. He allowed two runs in one start, one run in one start, and no runs in the other two. This is a completely different Mets team than he faced in either of those starts, but Kershaw has the ability to shut down anyone.
Steven Matz starts for the Mets over short-rest deGrom. Matz was very good in his six starts this season, never allowing more than three runs in a game. His only scoreless start came at Dodger Stadium, where he allowed two hits and struck out eight in six innings.
Yasmani Grandal had the bases loaded double+error to give the Dodgers a 3-0 lead yesterday, but his shoulders looked dead towards the end of the game. With a lefty on the mound (and Kershaw on the mound), this game was probably going to be A.J. Ellis‘ anyways
First pitch is scheduled for 5:07 PST and will be shown on TBS. Win the game, Dodgers. I don’t want this to be the last game preview I write until April.