The Dodgers head to Arizona for a Monday night game against the Diamondbacks. What will it take the City of Angels to be successful in the Valley in the Sun? Here are the five keys to the Dodgers success Monday in their efforts to end the series in Arizona 3-0.
The Pitching Contradiction
The National League Division Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks began on Wednesday, October 4, 2017, in Arizona against the Colorado Rockies. In that game, the Diamondbacks were forced to use Zack Greinke, their number one, Robbie Ray, their number two, and a host of relievers and specialists to beat the Rockies 11-8 for the opportunity to play the Dodgers in the Division series. The usage of pitchers had a direct effect on Taijuan Walker, the Diamondbacks backend starter, forced into duty to start game one. He lasted one inning and again the Diamondbacks were forced to use a host of relievers and specialists to lose to the Dodgers by a score of 9-5.
In paradox, the Dodgers won the West Division and had the luxury of time-off and a fully rested pitching staff. More specifically, because Dodger’s starters Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill in contrast combined to throw 10.3 innings pitched through the first two games compared to the Diamondbacks combined 5.1 innings pitched, the team heads to the Valley of the Sun with four pitchers in their bullpen and/or bench that have not yet pitched at all in this series (Pedro Baez, Yu Darvish, Ross Stripling, and Alex Wood). Stripling is a starter/reliever and Wood is a starter so the advantage is enormous here if Darvish has trouble early. Also, Cingrani has only pitched a third of an inning. To put it lightly, the Dodgers have placed themselves in a terrific position to win game three.
Yu Darvish Pitching Like Yu Darvish
Yu Darvish was acquired by Dodgers for this moment. He has two games of postseason experience. In 2012 against the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Wild Card game, he took a tough loss after pitching 6.2 innings, giving up two earned runs, no walks, and seven strikeouts. In 2016, he gave up five runs in five innings and pitched for a loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. If Darvish can find his groove early by establishing his fastball and then his breaking pitches as the game goes on, his lively 95+ MPH fastball will do him well in Arizona. Darvish has shown that he can range his fastball from 91-97 with ease and in contrast flip a curve at 69 MPH. That nearly 30 MPH difference between pitches can be devastating to hitters when Yu Darvish is pitching like Yu Darvish.
The Dodgers have shown serious success when scoring early, with a knack for coming back to win games when down a few runs. The Dodgers would do well for themselves if they can score a few runs early to give Darvish some freedom to work and challenge hitters without fear. Scoring a few runs early will also break some of Zach Greinke’s confidence (Monday’s starter opposite Darvish) and Arizona’s home crowd excitement. Getting to Greinke early will also force Diamondbacks manager Tony Lovullo to utilize his already taxed bullpen.
Avoiding The Home Run Ball
The Dodgers have been out-homered 6-1 in this series. That is generally a recipe for a 0-2 series deficit as Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager rightly told a reporter after Saturday night’s game. However, double plays have killed the Diamondbacks rallies along with stellar pitching from the Dodgers well-rested bullpen for a 2-0 series lead. The Dodgers with 221 home runs this season (a team record) can rake with any team, but they would be wise to avoid that dance in the desert with Chase Field’s hitter and homer friendly confines. The Dodgers pitching staff needs to keep J.D. Martinez and Paul Goldschmidt in check as a big game from them could push this series to a fourth game Tuesday with Alex Wood pitching.
Effects On Kenley Jansen’s Usage
Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen has 2.1 innings pitched in two games, and with one day of rest (Sunday) is likely to see action in a close game where the Dodgers have the lead on Monday. Will Jansen respond well to pitching in multiple innings as needed to close this series out? Good thing for Jansen is that he has only thrown 34 pitches total in those 2.1 innings pitched.
BONUS KEY: Another one of Rich Hill’s illegal rally signs from the dugout!
The crowd in Arizona will be loud. The Dodgers will need to establish some strength early and often. With the above keys to success, the Dodgers will be putting their best feet forward.