The Washington Nationals proved that they are formidable foes in the 6-4 series opener win against the Dodgers on Labor Day. The Nats slugged four homeruns against battered Band-Aid starter Roberto Hernandez who was picked up in order to fill the missing spot of injured Josh Beckett. The Dodgers’ rotation, at one point one of the best in baseball, has shown major cracks withthe losses of Josh Beckett and Paul Maholm paired with the continued struggles of Dan Haren and temporary disability of Hyun-jin Ryu.
Ned Colletti acquired Roberto Hernandez and Kevin Correia in order to provide some rest to the main three starters going down the stretch and to try to mend the scar left behind from the season losses of many of the Dodgers’ starting pitchers including Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett (barring a miraculous late-season comeback), Stephen Fife, Chris Withrow, Paul Maholm, and Onelki Garcia. The Dodgers dealt with a plethora of injuries in 2013 including a time during the beginning of the season when they used almost every starter on the roster. This season the injury list has really affected their pitching strength going into September and beyond.
The Dodgers have been anchored by M.V.P. contender and Cy Young Award winner shoe-in for 2014 Clayton Kershaw. They could go all the way with Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu, but like we saw last season, they will need some pitching depth in order to make a long and strenuous playoff run. That holds true especially if they aren’t able to secure the division crown and have to play in the extra Wild Card round.
The Giants are winning again. They suddenly have the third-best record in the N.L. behind the Dodgers and Nationals. Their pitching has really come through of late while the Dodgers’ pitching has faltered at times. The Giants will continue their series with Colorado on Tuesday, and you have to believe they won’t let the Dodgers run away with the division without a fight.
It’s all about the pitching.
The Nationals lead the league with a pitching staff ERA of 3.13 over the course of 136 games. The Dodgers are fourth with a 3.32
ERA, and the Giants are just behind the Dodgers in fifth with a 3.41 ERA. The Dodgers have the most strikeouts in the league with 1,157. Interestingly, the Dodgers edge out the Nationals in starting pitching ERA (3.16). Dodger starters lead the league in wins (65), strikeouts (784) and WHIP (1.15). Even with Roberto Hernandez, Kevin Correia and Dan Haren, the Dodgers’ starting pitching has been excellent this year.
The starters may be getting their job done, but the bullpen remains shaky. The Dodger bullpen is 9th in ERA (3.67),and they’ve given up the second-most walks (176). The bullpen, offense and defense will all need to be more consistent in order to compete with the Nats and Brewers especially in the postseason.
Dan Haren is almost the Anti-Kersh, so Kershaw’s spectacular pitching almost completely erases Haren’s hasty starts. Almost.
Kershaw is really good. The super ace leads the league in ERA (1.73), is fourth in strikeouts (194), is tied with Johnny Cueto with a .195 opposing batter average, and he’s first in WHIP (0.84). Kershaw will be looked to again to help the Dodgers defeat a really tough first-place team in order to fend off the well-playing Giants. Kershaw will be vying for a league-best 17 wins on Tuesday night.
Kershaw beat the Nationals earlier in the season in D.C. He allowed no runs on 9 hits with 9 strikeouts in 7 innings. Overall, Kersh is 6-2 with a 2.79 ERA against Washington in 10 games. He’ll have to pitch carefully to Jayson Werth who has hit two homeruns against Clayton in the past.
The Nationals will send the 30-year old right-hander Doug Fister to the mound in Game 2. Fister has allowed 10 homeruns on the road this year. This will be Fister’s first career start against the Dodgers and his first start at Dodger Stadium. Most of the current Dodgers have not faced Fister, but Adrian Gonzalez has three hits against him.
Prediction: Clayton Kershaw strikes out 8 Nats.
Don Mattingly knows that his star players will need to step up their games and rise to the high level of play in these last games down the stretch. The Dodgers could easily collapse in September and miss the playoffs altogether. It’s possible. Or, the Dodgers could hang on to clinch the division for the second year in a row and go straight to the NLDS. OR, the Dodgers could falter late in the season, and barely squeak into the postseason by nabbing a Wild Card.
It would be very disappointing if the Dodgers weren’t able to clinch the division this season after having such a huge year from Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw won his 16th game last time out against the D-backs at Chase field. He only allowed one unearned run on 6 hits through 8 innings while striking out 10.
A Glimpse into the Future:
●Joc Pederson made his MLB debut on Monday night in the ninth inning with two outs and the tying runs on base. Pederson
struck out, but he had a great battle against Rafael Soriano. Pederson hit a hard foul ball on a 2-0 fastball which gave us a glimpse of his power. Soriano went 3-2 against Joc before ringing him up on a called strike on the outside corner.
●Right-hander Yimi Garcia also made his MLB debut on Monday. The 24-year old pitched two innings of scoreless ball in relief.
●Alex Guerrero struck out in his second Major League at bat.
The Dodgers also need Yasiel Puig‘s spark back in the lineup in order to finish the season strong. Puig struggled in August and only hit .216 in the month. Mattingly dropped Puig to sixth in the batting order on Monday, and he hopes he’ll relax a bit. Without Puig, Hanley, Gonzo, Kemp, and Gordon all synching together to play their best, the Dodgers will have to try to keep pace with the Giants until the very last day of the season.