Dodgers Nats NLDS Game One
By Alex Campos
Finally, the Dodgers will once again play a game that matters.
After how stressful both Wild Card games were, can we take a minute to appreciate the Dodgers winning the division and not having to put us all through that?
Eight teams remain, and the Dodgers and Nationals open up their series later on today. The Dodgers won five of six games against Washington during the season, but limped to the finish line, losing five of six games after clinching the West. The Nats went 4-3 in their final week, securing home field advantage in the process.
The Dodgers swept the Nats at Dodger Stadium, but took two of three in Washington. That’s not super relevant as most of those games featured players not on the postseason roster. It’s still a nice thing to think about, as the Dodgers will have to win at least one game in Washington to advance.
Clayton Kershaw gets the start in game one. He had a relatively rough end to the season, as he allowed three runs (two earned) to the Giants. He finished the season with a 1.69 ERA and 1.80 FIP, striking out 179 batters and walking 11. Kershaw was well on pace to have his best season ever, but missed two months to likely disqualify himself from the Cy Young.
In five post-injury starts, Kershaw allowed six earned runs and struck out 27 batters while walking two. Two of the eight homers he allowed this season came on those starts, but Kershaw started looking like vintage Kershaw after a couple tuneup starts.
Kershaw faced the Nationals on June 20th back at Dodger Stadium. He was dealing through six, allowing three hits through the first six. He started to falter in the seventh, as he allowed three singles to plate a run. A wild pitch put two runners in scoring position, but Kershaw got old friend Chris Heisey to fly out to finish his outing.
Kershaw has six career outings in Washington. His first three were before he was the undisputed best pitcher alive, but in his last three he’s absolutely dominated. He’s allowed two earned runs in his last 22 innings in D.C., going at least seven innings in each of his last three starts there.
Max Scherzer will oppose Kershaw today. He finished with a 2.96 ERA/3.24 FIP which isn’t mindblowing, but some of his other stats are. Among qualified starters, he held the lowest WHIP (.968) and best strikeout/walk rate (5.07). Of course, if Kershaw qualified he would have smoked Scherzer (.725 and 15.64!!), but he didn’t.
Scherzer led the NL in innings pitched and strikeouts as well. He’s my non-Kershaw pick for the Cy Young. He failed to go six innings in only four of his 34 starts this year and was about as consistent as it gets. Scherzer got touched up in a few starts, but was phenomenal for most of the season.
His best start came in May. He threw a complete game and allowed two runs, but struck out 20 Tigers. He struck out double-digit batters in 13 starts, which is sort of absurd. Kershaw did so in nine of his 21 starts.
Scherzer has pitched in 10 games against the Dodgers, eight of which were starts. He’s only 2-4 in those outings, but a lot of that came before he was Scherzer. He didn’t start against the Dodgers this season, but in 2014-2015 he allowed four runs in 20 innings.
No surprises here after it was announced that Andrew Toles would get the start. I think I’d like to see Chase Utley hit eighth and Toles gets some run in the leadoff spot, but Utley will more-than-likely put together a good at bat.
Andre Ethier is the only current Dodger with a homer in the past off Scherzer. Adrian Gonzalez only has five hits in 26 at bats, but Josh Reddick and Howie Kendrick have both had success against him in the past.
A couple Nats have had success in the past against Kershaw. Jayson Werth has 10 hits in 35 at bats, Ryan Zimmerman has seven hits in 22 at bats, Daniel Murphy has six hits in 19 at bats, and Anthony Rendon has five hits in 16 at bats.
The key for Kershaw will be keeping Trea Turner off the basepaths. He’s an exceptional player, and while it’s nice that the Dodgers don’t have to see him in San Diego 18 times a year, he’s going to be a hassle in the DS.
The only surprise in the lineup is Pedro Severino, who starts behind the plate instead of Jose Lobaton. Lobaton isn’t healthy, much like many of the Nats.
Bryce Harper has a thumb thing that’s possibly been hurting his bat all season. Murphy has been dealing with a buttocks injury and is starting his first game since September 17th. Murphy and Harper are both left-handed, so they’re split up by Werth, who has crushed lefty pitching historically. It’ll be tough for the Dodgers to use a LOOGY in those situations with Werth in between them, but Grant Dayton and Luis Avilan have both done well against righties.
First pitch is scheduled for 2:38 PST and will be shown on Fox Sports 1.