The Dodgers have won six of seven, but now head to Wrigley for their toughest test of the season.
The Dodgers got a big series win in New York, and they were a walk-off away from sweeping the Mets. They also could have lost the series, as a Dave Roberts managing error robbed Clayton Kershaw of a win and forced the Dodgers to win in the ninth. A win’s a win, but Roberts has definitely made his share of strategic mistakes. He would actually be better if he was a puppet for the front office, who surely would send their best reliever out rather than a guy that’s been up and down in the minors. They got the win, which was important because they head off to play arguably the best team in baseball and won’t have Clayton Kershaw in any of their four games.
Game one pits Alex Wood against Jason Hammel. Scheduling Gods have it out for the Dodgers here, as their game ended at roughly 11:15 PM in New York. They were rewarded for their win by hopping on a flight overnight and arriving in Chicago for a 4:05 PM local time game. As if the bats weren’t dormant enough, that quick turnaround time should do them no favors.
Wood starts today after being scratched from his scheduled start Friday, which forced Julio Urias up. His triceps scare seems to be minor enough for him to get the ball today, but the bigger issue may be his start coming away from Dodger Stadium. Wood’s road/home splits have been well documented, but his last start came on the road and he was excellent, posting a career high 13 strikeouts and allowing two runs and four hits against the Padres.
Unfortunately for Wood, the Cubs might be the exact opposite of the Padres. A majorly home grown team, years of futility boosted them and smart drafting and a couple lopsided trades have made the Cubs an absolute force this season, and they should continue to be a force for the near future. The Cubs’ 34 wins are the most in the majors, and their +131 run differential blows every other teams’ out of the water (the Red Sox have the second-highest run differential, at +71. The Dodgers are +33, seventh-highest).
Hammel has been excellent so far this season, as he owns an 8-1 record and a 2.17 ERA/3.37 FIP combo. A bit of luck there, but on average the Cubs have given him 6.92 runs/game of support. Probably easy to pitch like that. Hammel has only surrendered three homers in his 54 innings this season, so while his strikeout and walk numbers aren’t overly impressive, he’s been able to put together great outings more often than not. He’s only allowed three runs or more twice this season and has gone at least six innings in seven of his nine starts.
Trayce Thompson remains out of the lineup after tweaking his back at the plate on Saturday. Carl Crawford will start in left for the first time since May 19th, although he played nine innings in the 17 inning San Diego game. Other than that, the lineup looks pretty normal.
In minor league news, Frankie Montas joins Scott Van Slyke in OKC for rehab assignments. The two of them could be close to joining the Dodgers, as SVS would provide a solid option at first and a great option against lefties and Montas could be a difference maker out of the bullpen. Alex Guerrero‘s decision day is today, meaning the Dodgers will either have to add him to the major league roster or find a new home for him. He could accept a minor league assignment, but he has the right to say no to it and it’s not likely he would accept it. Hopefully, today is the final day of the Alex Guerrero era, but crazier things have happened.
First pitch is scheduled for 2:05 PST and will be shown on Sportsnet LA.