As the Pittsburgh Pirates leave town to continue their hapless exploration of America with no pillaging to be had any time soon, the Dodgers welcome the New York Mets to Los Angeles for a 4-game series that continues through Sunday. The Pirates series came with expectations of a sweep, and the Dodgers would meet those expectations while only allowing 4 runs over 3 games.
Monday’s win was great given the circumstances – after landing in Los Angeles in the wee hours of the morning after Sunday Night Baseball, the team was as sluggish as expected in a 2-1 snoozefest that saw Andre Jackson pitch 4 scoreless innings in his Major League debut. Tuesday was a bit shakier – Dave Roberts seemingly forgot the Cardinal Rule of Kenley once again, turning to Jansen to close out the game despite the fact that he’d pitched on Monday night.
Jansen’s inability to pitch on back-to-back nights with success is nothing new – his ERA of 5.68 when pitching on back-to-back days is glaring when compared to how effective he is with even one full day’s rest (2.16 ERA). Luckily for the Dodgers, Tuesday saw Kenley wiggle out of trouble against a terrible lineup, securing the 4-3 victory.
Wednesday was a breakout performance for the offense, chasing JT Brubaker early behind a pair of home runs by Max Muncy, who continues to destroy the baseball this week (5 HR, 10 RBI over the past 4 games). Mitch White made a convincing argument for his inclusion to the pitching rotation, hurling 7.1 scoreless frames and setting the Dodgers up at full strength heading into Thursday’s bullpen game. Between the outings from Andre Jackson and Mitch White this week, the Dodgers seem to have a few more starting pitching options than even they imagine. While they wait for Urias’ return from “injury” along with Clayton Kershaw, they ought to lean on their young arms rather than tax the bullpen with irregular work.
Thursday, August 19
7:10 pm PT
TBA (Johnny Wholestaff) vs Taijuan Walker (7-7, 3.75 ERA)
On paper, Thursday night looks like the biggest uphill battle of the weekend for the Dodgers. Taijuan Walker was masterful last Saturday, taking a no-hitter into the 7th inning against Los Angeles before Will Smith’s solo home run tied the game. It was a much-needed start for Walker, who has struggled mightily over the past two months for the Mets. As I outlined a week ago, Walker’s Baseball Savant page does not foretell positive results – aside from fastball velocity, he falls in the bottom half of MLB pitchers in every other category they measure. The Dodgers will need to lean on their recent familiarity with the righty and make adjustments to provide run support to the bevy of arms we’ll be seeing Dave Roberts turn to as the night goes along.
Friday, August 20
7:10 pm PT
Walker Buehler (12-2, 2.09 ERA) vs Carlos Carrasco (0-1, 10.32 ERA)
By any measure, Carlos Carrasco just can’t seem to find it in 2021. The Dodgers touched him up for 6 runs over 2 innings on Sunday Night Baseball, and the right-hander has now allowed 10 earned runs over his last 3 innings of work dating back to August 10. Given Carrasco’s career success (88-74, 3.83), logic follows that he’ll figure out a solution as he continues to get back into a rhythm of pitching every fifth day. The Dodgers ought not to assume he’ll be easy to push around again on Friday night.
Walker Buehler continued what very well may be a Cy Young campaign with a dominant pitching performance on Saturday night, hurling 7 strong innings while allowing only a single run and striking out 10. Buehler now owns a 1.17 ERA over his past 7 starts, and has pitched at least 6 full innings in an astounding 23 of 24 starts this season. The start represents Buehler’s 4th time this season facing the same team in back-to-back starts, a spot in which he’s performed well (20 innings pitched, 3 earned runs).
If the Dodgers enter the game with the focus they did last Sunday night against Carrasco, there’s no reason they can’t give the bullpen a break by hanging a crooked number on the board and letting Walker Buehler keep dealing.
Saturday, August 21
1:05 pm PT
Max Scherzer (10-4, 2.69 ERA) vs Rich Hill (6-4, 4.08 ERA)
The first of two weekend matinees, Saturday will be a homecoming of sorts for beloved former Dodger Rich Hill. Hill has been a bit of a journeyman since leaving LA after 2019, now pitching for the Mets after stints in Minnesota and Tampa Bay. His results have remained relatively steady, and the effort and intensity that made him a fan favorite in LA are still there in full force. He has made three starts in August, but only amassed 11.2 innings over that span. He only threw 68 pitches on Monday in San Francisco, so it’s likely he’ll be on a pitch count Saturday afternoon. Regardless of how he performs, Dodgers fans will surely give D. Mountain a strong ovation, and I’ll personally be rooting for a few baserunning opportunities for the 41-year old.
He’ll be opposed by Max Scherzer, who has pretty much been Max Scherzer since being traded to Los Angeles. He continued his career-long domination of the Mets on Sunday night (now 13-5, 2.71 ERA) en route to a 14-4 win for LA.
The Dodgers will look to push their good friend Rich Hill out of the game early and feast on the Mets’ relievers. If they succeed, Max Scherzer will have a great opportunity at his 11th win of the season.
Sunday, August 22
1:10 pm PT
David Price (4-1, 3.62 ERA) vs Marcus Stroman (8-12, 2.84 ERA)
In the final game of the series on Sunday afternoon, the Dodgers will send David Price to the mound against my former college teammate Marcus Stroman. While we were at Duke, Trea Turner had a knack for lighting up Stroman like a Christmas tree when we faced NC State. Put simply, I’ll be looking for that and more as the Dodgers try to hang a 13th loss on Stroman this season.
Stroman relies on a high chase rate and low walk rates for success. If the Dodgers continue to do well what they usually do, they’ll lay off his sliders and cutters off the plate and force him into the zone, where he’s been hit hard this season. Stroman doesn’t strike very many hitters out, and hitters’ xBA (expected batting average against) puts him in the bottom 25% of pitchers, per Baseball Savant. If the Dodgers stay within their normal approach, Stroman’s style should fit their eye plenty well.
David Price will take the mound for Los Angeles, looking to continue a streak of fine work since joining the starting rotation full time. After sending Walker Buehler and Max Scherzer to the rubber on Friday and Saturday, the Dodgers are hoping not to need more than 4-5 innings from Price on Sunday before turning to a well-rested bullpen. Price has pitched much better at home than on the road this season as well (3.06 ERA vs 4.28 ERA), a trend he’ll look to continue on Sunday afternoon.
With the Giants off on Thursday, the Dodgers have the opportunity to enter the weekend with only a 2.5 game deficit. The Giants, meanwhile, head across the bay to Oakland to take on a very solid A’s team with plenty to play for. With any luck, the Dodgers may finally have some help from a Giants’ opponent and an opportunity to really tighten the NL West race. As always, the task for the Dodgers is simple – controlling what they can control, day in and day out. This weekend, that means continuing their success against a floundering Mets team.