The last four nights have been exhausting. The Dodgers dropped 3 of 4 to the rival Giants, falling to 3 games back in the NL West division race and blowing back-to-back 9th inning leads in the process. It was a historic series in its twists and turns, as the Dodgers preceded the twin collapses with a comeback win of their own on Tuesday night’s Will Smith walk-off home run.
Last night’s affair was particularly painful – even despite Dave Roberts’ poor decision making, Kenley Jansen’s lack of velocity or control (stemming from Dave Roberts’ poor decision making), and continued poor defense, the Dodgers very clearly should have earned a win after Darin Ruf swung at strike three with two outs in the 9th. Instead, first base umpire Ed Hickox badly missed the call and ruled that Ruf hadn’t swung, resulting in the tying run being walked in to score.
Dave Roberts was understandably ejected moments later, and the Dodgers dugout was engulfed in rage.
In a continued show of managerial incompetence, Bob Geren left Kenley in the game despite having nothing left in the tank (at that point, he’d thrown 57 pitches in two days) and got the deserved result when the Giants immediately took a 5-3 lead, the eventual final score.
If nothing else, the series highlighted the Dodgers’ relatively desperate need for additional pitching, both in the rotation and in the bullpen. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how those needs are addressed with now only one week remaining before the Trade Deadline.
This weekend, the Dodgers stay home for a three-game set with lowly Colorado, from whom they took 2 of 3 last weekend at Coors Field. Given the trip to San Francisco looming next week, it would be an easy series to overlook for a ballclub that wants nothing more than to beat San Francisco on their home field, but the Dodgers cannot afford to do so. The Dodgers would certainly prefer a sweep this time around against the Rockies while their division rivals take on bottom feeders as well (Giants vs. Pirates, Padres @ Marlins), but it isn’t going to come easy.
Let’s take a quick look at each matchup.
Friday, July 23
7:10 pm PT
Chi Chi Gonzalez (3-6, 5.99 ERA) vs David Price (4-0, 3.12 ERA)
Both Chi Chi Gonzalez and David Price made their last starts against the same foe they’ll see Friday night in last weekend’s series at Coors Field. For David Price, his return to the rotation was a success despite pitching at altitude as he pitched 4 innings, allowing one run on 2 hits and a walk. He threw 66 pitches, a solid output that should hopefully allow him to push closer to 80 tonight as he works his way fully into the rotation. The Dodgers’ bullpen is relatively fresh after two excellent (albeit wasted) pitching performances by Julio Urias and Walker Buehler the past two nights, so they’ll have plenty in the tank to back David Price up should he only complete 4 or 5 innings of work.
The Dodgers ought to be licking their chops at the idea of facing Chi Chi Gonzalez again, a pitcher they battered for 5 first inning runs one week ago at Coors Field en route to a 10-4 win. Chi Chi Gonzalez’s Baseball Savant metrics were already terrible – after last week, he’s now fallen into the bottom 2% of Major League pitchers in 6 of its 15 measured statistical categories. Even without Max Muncy (paternity), Mookie Betts (hip), Gavin Lux, or Corey Seager, failing to beat Chi Chi Gonzalez on Friday night would be a major disappointment. After last night, the Dodgers ought to be playing angry – what better spot to take out their frustration than this one?
Saturday, July 24
6:10 pm PT
Kyle Freeland (1-4, 5.36 ERA) vs Tony Gonsolin (1-1, 2.83 ERA)
Saturday night against Colorado presents another opportunity for the Dodgers to beat the same pitcher twice within a week. Freeland was pretty solid last Saturday at Coors, managing to battle through 6 innings while allowing 3 earned runs. Most troubling for the Dodgers heading into Saturday is that the two players responsible for all three of their runs (Muncy, Betts) against Freeland last time out will not be available this weekend. Considering the Dodgers general struggles against left-handed pitching this season (15th in OPS, 24th in AVG), they’ll need a well-thought-out approach to make Freeland uncomfortable and push his pitch count early.
Tony Gonsolin takes the ball on Saturday for LA, fresh off his first loss of the season against San Francisco on Monday night. Gonsolin wasn’t sharp at all – not only did he allow two home runs over 3.1 innings, he also walked 4 batters and averaged 24 pitches per inning. The Rockies offense certainly hasn’t produced runs like San Francisco’s has this season, but Gonsolin will need to be a lot better on Saturday night if he wants to complete 5 innings and have a shot at the win. Gonsolin has a 2.40 career ERA over 15 innings against Colorado, so he’ll look to lean on past matchup success in an attempt to get back on track.
Sunday, July 25
1:10 pm PT
Jon Gray (6-6, 3.68 ERA) vs Josiah Gray (0-0, 9.00 ERA)
It’ll be all Gray on the pitcher’s mound despite what figures to be a mostly sunny day in the low 80s in Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon. For Jon Gray, every start he makes this month feels like it could be his last in a Rockies uniform as he’s become an increasingly valuable trade piece with July 30 approaching quickly. He absolutely looked the part last Sunday, tossing 7 excellent innings while allowing 2 runs to the Dodgers, a game the Rockies would eventually walk off with a win in the 10th inning.
Despite an up and down career, Jon Gray has put up a very solid 2021 campaign so far. 6-6 with a 3.68 ERA isn’t going to win anyone a Cy Young, but they’re numbers that look a lot better when it’s considered that he makes half his starts at Coors Field. He’s only allowed more than 3 runs in a start once since May 18 and has a 3.38 ERA against the Dodgers this season over 16 innings of work. Considering the Dodgers’ hobbled lineup as of now, he figures to be a difficult matchup on Sunday afternoon.
Josiah Gray will finally get his opportunity to start on Sunday for Los Angeles after being used in an awkward role, entering the game already trailing in the 3rd inning on Tuesday night against San Francisco. I did not like at all the way the Dodgers handled his first career outing, forcing him into the unusual role of warming up in-game and bringing him in with a deficit already against him. Hopefully, starting in a more traditional sense will allow him to settle into the outing quickly and put up some zeroes. His stuff certainly popped in his debut, showcasing the elite fastball/slider combination that made him the top pitching prospect in LA’s farm system. The shortcoming for the righthander at this point in his career is commanding his pitches in the strike zone – while he hasn’t had trouble throwing strikes, the Giants punished Gray when he left multiple pitches over the middle of the plate for 3 home runs in 4 innings of work.
All things considered, Sunday looks like the toughest game of the weekend for the Dodgers to win. At this point, any series with Colorado is a crucial opportunity to rack up a few wins and the Dodgers will likely need them in order to keep pace. With Muncy, Betts, and Seager all likely missing the whole series, they’ll need the rest of the offense to find a groove to pick up the slack in the meantime.