The Dodgers play their first game since clinching a postseason spot as they open a series in San Diego tonight.
Despite all the injuries, streaky play and all the times manager Dave Roberts lost the clubhouse, the Dodgers are the NL West champions. Last year, the Dodgers won the division for the third consecutive year for the first time in team history. Obviously, this is the first time they’ve won it four straight years. It’s also the first time the Los Angeles Dodgers have won 90+ games in four straight years (Brooklyn did it from 1951-1956).
I know all most people care about is a championship. But baseball, more than any other major sport, has a random postseason. One week of poor play shouldn’t discredit six months proof of being one of the best teams in baseball, but this season will undoubtably be seen as a failure if they don’t win it all. That’s dumb and I don’t agree with it, but there’s a huge rings-or-bust mentality in sports that I could write thousands of words about.
ANYWAYS, the Dodgers are the division champs, and their remaining games will dictate whether they open up the postseason in LA or in Washington DC. The final three games could also keep the Giants from even-yearing their way from wild card to World Series, so those games are somewhat important.
It starts tonight in San Diego, which is where they opened the season.
Kenta Maeda gets the ball tonight. In a year without a few rookie shortstops, Maeda would likely be in the running for Rookie of the Year. This will be Maeda’s 31st start, which has value in itself as no other Dodger has made more than 26 starts. His contract was incentive-heavy to protect against a not-perfect physical, so it’s ironic that he’s been the most durable piece of the rotation.
Maeda hasn’t quite dominated, but he’s been a low-end number two and a very good number three option in the rotation. His 3.20 ERA is the 17th-lowest in baseball among qualified starters, just behind Chris Sale‘s 3.19 and ahead of Cole Hamels‘ 3.30. Yeah, they both pitch in the AL, but I still don’t think anyone saw that coming.
This will be Maeda’s fourth start against the Padres. In 18 innings, he’s allowed five runs and 11 hits against them in the past. Four of those runs came in one start back in May, but the Dodgers haven’t lost against San Diego with Maeda on the mound this year. This is a new-look Padres team as they’ve recently called up a number of promising prospects, but Maeda should still find success as he tunes up for the postseason.
Paul Clemens will make his 11th start and 15th appearance for the Padres this year. He was picked up off Miami’s waivers in June and has been a passable rotation arm in San Diego.
His 4.11 ERA/5.06 FIP won’t leave hitters shaking at the plate, but he’s shown some flashes. Most notably (and the only reason I knew his name before today), he threw five innings of shutout ball in San Francisco earlier this month to help the Dodgers distance themselves from the Giants.
Clemens made two appearances against the Dodgers in July, both of them coming out of the bullpen. He finished off the Dodgers in a 6-0 Padre win on July 7th, and allowed an unearned run on the 8th in a Dodger win.
The Dodgers used their off day as their hangover day, so the lineup is pretty much normal. Andrew Toles gets another start in left field, but other than that everyone is where they’re supposed to be.
Now that we don’t have to pay attention to the Giants, it’s time to focus on the Nationals. They currently have a one-game lead in the home field advantage race, but have been getting bitten by the injury bug. Wilson Ramos, who is possibly the only catcher having a better season offensively than Yasmani Grandal, tore his ACL. Stephen Strasburg isn’t expected back for the NLDS, Daniel Murphy has a butt injury and Bryce Harper‘s thumb is hurting.
This is interesting, as Julio Urias will get another start before season’s end. That could put him in the conversation for the fourth starter spot in the postseason. He’s at 119 innings pitched, so while it’s unlikely he gets many more innings, this could be something to look our for.
The Dodgers won’t begin the postseason until October 7th, so the order of Hill/Kershaw/Maeda doesn’t necessarily mean they will pitch in that order during the postseason.
First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PST and will be shown on SNLA (NO KTLA until the weekend).