With the Dodgers losing game 4 of the National League Division Series to the Nationals they face a do-or-die game 5 at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday. Fortunately, we already know who the starting pitcher will be, Walker Buehler. At a minimum, he gives the Dodgers a nice chance to win the game. Of course, the Nationals will counter with Stephen Strasburg, who dominated the Dodgers in game 2. For baseball fans it is a great matchup.
All the outsiders say the #Dodgers should be worried about facing Strasburg.
How about the #Nationals facing Buehler?
— Frank Martinez (@FrankTalkLA) October 8, 2019
Given that this is an elimination game the Dodgers need to put the best lineup on the field to start the game. There truly is “no tomorrow” and this game will help determine the legacy of the 2019 Dodgers. If we are being honest, losing the NLDS would be a major failure for the team that won a franchise record 106 games. There is no doubt in my mind that the Dodgers (players and management) will have a sense of urgency and I expect the lineup to project that urgency.
The Dodgers Against Strasburg
The statistics of the Dodgers against Strasburg are not very promising. These are all small sample sizes and some of the statistics are surprising. One of the questions the Dodgers management team needs to ask themselves is do they go with historical numbers, pure platoons or who’s hot or who’s not? My hope is they look at who’s hot and who’s not.
A Quick Look At Each Player
As the Dodgers build the lineup they will look at quite a few factors. There are some players that are going to be in the lineup for sure: Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, Corey Seager and Justin Turner. Considering that Strasburg is a right hander we know Joc Pederson will also be in the starting lineup. We’ll look at the rest.
Matt Beaty – He puts together good at bats but I wonder what he was doing swinging at a 3-0 pitch against Max Scherzer. Beaty did have a hit against Strasburg in game 2 so that must be a factor.
David Freese – In a must win game, there really should not be any doubt that Freese should be in the starting lineup. He doesn’t have much success against Strasburg but he should play the whole game.
Kiké Hernandez – Kiké has a couple of home runs against Strasburg so that is a consideration. He has been in a slump but his double against Patrick Corbin in game 3 was great to see.
Russell Martin – Martin was the star of game 3 so he has to be a strong consideration for the starting lineup.
A.J. Pollock – He has some of the best numbers against Strasburg but is cold as can be. He has struck out 10 times in this NLDS and I don’t see him as a candidate to start game 5.
Will Smith – Smith has done an excellent job behind that plate, with no passed balls. With him behind the plate there has been only one wild pitch. He does have only one hit but he has been getting a few bases on balls.
Chris Taylor – CT3 has had little success against Strasburg and only has one hit in the series.
Gavin Lux – At times Lux has looked overmatched against Scherzer and Strasburg. He will get better but is now the time to hope for that?
Let’s Make A Lineup
As we look at the lineup possibilities I want to keep in mind what the Dodgers have done most of the year, so the first five will be:
- Pederson – RF
- Muncy – 1B or 2B
- Turner – 3B
- Bellinger – CF
- Seager – SS
This leaves the three spots for the rest of the players. Here’s what I’m thinking:
I think Will Smith has been quite good for the Dodgers and he hasn’t done anything to warrant not playing. However, I believe Russell Martin, possibly playing in his last season and games, earned the game 5 starting spot. His game 3 heroics showed he might have a hot hand and has good numbers against Strasburg (very small sample size).
There is no doubt in my mind that Freese needs to be in the lineup. He would start at first base with Max Muncy sliding over to second base. It would weaken the defense but it does get the better bat in the lineup. This isn’t just about “veteran presence”, it is about a guy that still has proven he can hit.
One Outfield Spot
The last outfield position does come down to Chris Taylor, Matt Beaty and Kiké Hernandez. Kiké’s two home runs against Strasburg make him a very tempting option. Beaty’s approaches at the plate, in general have been pretty good. Taylor can be good at times but he provides neither a hot bat nor any good history against Strasburg. You may have noticed I didn’t include Pollock. He has been playing horribly and this is not the time to try and get him rolling again.
- Pederson – RF
- Muncy – 2B
- Turner – 3B
- Bellinger – CF
- Seager – SS
- Freese – 1B
- Beaty – LF
- Martin – C
- Buehler – P
I took Beaty over Kiké because of the need for a left handed bat near the bottom of the order. In general this lineup is more veteran heavy than normally would have been in. There is no doubt that if this were a regular season game that both Lux and Smith would be in the lineup.
This is most likely the last season for both David Freese and Russell Martin. There are no players I trust more than these two guys to help lead the Dodgers to win game 5. If the Dodgers advance I’d like to see David Freese start in every game. At catcher Martin should start at least 3-4 games per series. For the last outfield spot, the platoon advantage should take precedence.
None of this is a criticism of the rookies. They have gained some excellent experience so far and will be easy calls to be fixtures in the lineup next season.
This upcoming series deciding game will go a long way in defining the legacy of this team. So many of these players have yet to make a long-lasting mark in their post-season history. Many of them have been underwhelming in the playoffs. Now is the time to begin changing that legacy.