It’s do or die time in the City of Angels. The Los Angeles Dodgers are a loss away from seeing their season end disappointingly for the fourth playoff appearance in a row. The starting pitching can’t hold up for five innings and the bats have reverted back to first half form. L.A. must defeat the Washington Nationals twice in a row to keep its season alive.
Manager Dave Roberts hasn’t announced the game four starter as of this post. Clayton Kershaw declined comment to reporters after game three, but Corey Seager hinted he would roll with the ace over rookie Julio Urias. On a personal note, I would start Urias. The idea of starting a 20-year-old against Max Scherzer on the road in a one-game playoff isn’t optimal. In game four, Urias is pitching in a comfortable environment with the fans behind him. On the flip side, L.A. might not see a game five and perhaps the best way to assure one occurs is by sending Kershaw on the mound. But I’d trust Urias and thrust Kershaw into the final game. Of course, I’m not the manager.
That’s just one aspect of today’s game. If the Dodgers are going to move on to Chicago, they have a couple obvious, but critical, improvements to make.
- Find offense from somewhere…anywhere
The Dodgers’ offensive performance in this series has been dreadful. The team is slashing .220/.304/.360 in three games. Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez once again reminded the world of L.A.’s struggles versus left-handers. That’s a glaring issue that will have to be addressed this winter.
Hitting with runners in scoring position has eluded seemingly everyone on the roster. The team is now 1-for-18 in the series with runners in scoring position. Let that sink in. No team is coming close to a pennant playing like that. It has to change.
It is worth praising Seager, however, who has two homers and a RBI-double in each of the first innings. Justin Turner has shown why he should be re-signed. Carlos Ruiz had a huge home run, but the bright spots are limited. The Dodgers scored four runs in the opening game, but two in each since. That isn’t good enough.
Meanwhile, Washington is getting opportune home runs. Jose Lobaton’s dinger won game two. In game three, Anthony Rendon hit a two-run jack to extend the lead to 4-2 before Washington eventually had an offensive eruption.
Los Angeles doesn’t just need clutch hitting, it needs hitting period. It can’t string together multiple hits and hasn’t shown any semblance of a big inning. The Dodgers’ season is on life-support. It’s time to have some of these flashy young cornerstones or expensive veteran additions make plays. Look around this postseason: The Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago Cubs are getting timely hits again and again. Someone needs to become the Dodgers’ hero. Legends are made in October and Los Angeles needs one asap.
- The starting pitching needs to produce
L.A. isn’t likely winning this series – and certainly not one over the Cubs – with the way the starters have performed. Kershaw’s game 1 showing was gutsy, but he lasted just five innings on 101 pitches. Rich Hill went 4 1/3 innings in game two. Kenta Maeda struggled in only three innings the following matchup. Aside from starters, Kenley Jansen collapsed in his game three appearance during the Nationals’ four-run seventh. His status for game four is uncertain, which puts the bullpen up in the air, leaving even more stress on the starter.
There will be enormous pressure on Urias if he goes. In fact, he hasn’t logged five innings pitched in a start since Sept. 7. Then there will be astronomical pressure the next time Kershaw throws. But regardless of who it is, the starters need to go deeper into games. L.A. is being forced to dig into its bullpen too much and too early, which could severely hurt the team if it were to advance. The Dodgers need their starting pitcher(s) to step up and deliver. To this point, even with Kershaw in some aspects, that hasn’t happened.
Pitching, batting; the team needs an individual – more than one, probably – to have a Kirk Gibson, Magglio Ordonez, Reggie Jackson, Madison Bumgarner moment. Right now, the Dodgers are down for the count and need difference makers to pull them out of the hole before it’s too late.