This season has been a rollercoaster ride from the very beginning. This Dodger club has gone from looking like the greatest team in the past 100 years to the worst in franchise history. Whatever the reason may be for the drastic turnaround these past two and a half weeks, I’m saying it now. This catastrophic slump will end tonight.
The Dodgers are throwing Clayton Kershaw tonight in the second game against the rival Giants. Kershaw is just making his third start since coming back from the DL and will need a dominant effort to forget his horrendous last start against the Rockies, where he gave up four runs in 3 2/3 innings pitched in 86 pitches.
Tonight Kershaw doesn’t face a potent z like the Rockies. Tonight Kershaw faces perhaps the worst team in the league and a team that is vying for the first overall pick in next year’s MLB draft.
Kershaw facing the Giants in his career is 20-9 with a 1.62 ERA. That record only gets better at AT&T park as Kershaw is 12-4 with a 1.29 ERA in 20 games (19 starts) in his ten year MLB tenure. This season, Kershaw is 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA in 20 innings (3 starts) against the Giants. His two wins both came at AT&T Park where he’s pitched 14 innings and has allowed one run while holding hitters to a .180 batting average. What all this bodes down to be is not only is Kershaw dominant, but he dominates the Giants.
Through this 16 game stretch, Kershaw has been the Dodger that has been the most displeased with the current state of the team. I’m sure all the players are frustrated and looking to make adjustments, but none of them have shown the visual frustration with their performance like Kershaw did after his last start.
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It’s understandable why Kershaw will feel frustrated after a poor performance in his last start as he’s often the guy the team goes to when they need a win. Afterall the last time the Dodgers won was when Kershaw made his returning start from the DL on September 1st against the Padres.
The one concern that I have is whether Kershaw is 100 percent healthy. As he works his way back from a back injury that kept him out a little over a month, he’s been gradually increasing his pitch count. I noticed, however, in his first two starts that his velocity dipped by an average of 1 MPH. His last start against the Rockies his fastball was sitting around 91-91 MPH. I’m not reading too much into that, yet. But for a pitcher coming back from a back injury, it’s worth monitoring if it continues to trend downwards.
The Dodgers are 20-3 when Kershaw starts this season, and I expect tonight to follow that season trend. As I mentioned earlier, Kershaw is the biggest competitor on this team, and he’s looked at as the leader of the club. With a team that is so young and inexperienced, it’s the players like Kershaw that will break them out of the slump.
Tonight Dave Roberts doesn’t tinker with the lineup as we’ve seen him do throughout this 16 game stretch. Kershaw will have just about the daily starters behind him on defense and go to bat for him on offense. After losing a frustrating game this morning/last night, Roberts is putting all of his chips in to end this franchise worst losing streak.
After tonight’s game, the Dodgers will close out the series with Yu Darvish. He’s struggled this season both with the Rangers and the Dodgers but facing the Giants in a pitchers park are positive indicators that we should be able to come away with our first series victory in over five series.
After that, I expect this team to find their mojo. No player ever likes to say that they use series as measuring sticks for the team, but they do. It’s only natural. After the Dodgers win this series with the Giants, they will be prepared for the challenge that the NL East Champions National will bring this upcoming weekend. This slump ends tonight.