2013 MLB Playoffs: Los Angeles Shouldn’t Look Past Three-Man Rotation

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The Los Angeles Dodgers announced that they’re going with the four-man rotation in the National League Division Series, against the Atlanta Braves. “Pitching wins in the postseason,” is a phrase that you’ll frequently hear every October, which has been true for the most part.

The four-man rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Ricky Nolasco is arguably the best of the bunch headed into the 2013 postseason. Any rotation featuring Kershaw and Greinke would be tough to beat in any series. The Dodgers don’t plan on using a three-man rotation, even if they were to go down 2-1 in this best of five series.

Nolasco ended the regular season on a horrendous note, after going 5-0 with a 1.64 ERA in August. In the month of September, he finished with a 2-2 record and 6.66 ERA. It’s unclear which Nolasco will show up in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t afford to find that out the hard way.

Kershaw has never pitched on three days’ rest in his career, but that’s true for all pitchers until they end up doing it.

The Dodgers 25-year-old southpaw is invaluable and is arguably the best pitcher on the planet. Kershaw just captured his third consecutive ERA title (1.83), punched out 200-plus batters for the fourth consecutive season, and is the favorite to win his second CY Young Award in three years. You can’t convince anyone that any other pitcher belongs on the mound in an elimination game. (Kanye West is even capable of making the right decision on this one).

The three-man rotation should also be considered in Game 4 even if the Dodgers hold a 2-1 series lead over Atlanta. The Braves finished the 2013 regular season with the best home record in all of baseball; 56-25. So, Los Angeles should want to avoid going back to Atlanta for a decisive Game 5 of the series.

Throwing Kershaw on three days’ rest makes sense here, too. A win would avoid the long trip from Los Angeles to Atlanta to play that elimination game and would save Greinke for Game 1 of the next series. A loss would still have Greinke pitching in that elimination game in Atlanta, but would push both aces back in the championship series.

The postseason isn’t guaranteed every year, just ask the Washington Nationals. The Dodgers have two of the top pitchers in baseball and shouldn’t hesitate to use them. Pitching on three days’ rest was never a topic of discussion decades ago, it was just expected. Nowadays, it’s a rare feat. However, it’s still done when winning is the priority; Curt Schilling did it twice during the Arizona Diamondbacks 2001 World Series; Josh Beckett did it during the 2003 Florida Marlins World Series; and CC Sabathia hasn’t been afraid to take the ball when needed over the last couple of years.

If the Dodgers stick with the four-man rotation in this series, so be it, but Kershaw and Greinke are there for a reason.

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Dodgers vs Padres Pre-Game: Former Dodger opposes Kershaw tonight

In baseball there is nothing better than when your team provides for some sort of walk-off hit to end a game, resulting in a win.

For the second day in a row, the Dodgers got a walk-off hit, this time to defeat the Padres 4-3 in extra innings last night, becoming an even bigger win since the first place Giants had already won earlier during the day, keeping the Dodgers 4.5 games back in the race for the NL West.

These walk off wins could wake up a talented team involved in an intense pennant race going into the final stretch of the season.

It gets better for the Dodgers, who tonight send Clayton Kershaw to the mound in Game Two of this three-game series.

The 2011 Cy Young award winner has shown his dominance throughout this season, and while his 12-8 record with a 2.85 ERA doesn’t compare to last year’s stellar 21-5 record with a 2.28 ERA, he has still been one of the league’s best.

In his last start against the Diamondbacks he took the loss, pitching 6.0 innings, allowing nine hits, two runs, three walks, with nine strikeouts.

It isn’t the first time this has happened though, as Clayton has been involved in a couple of those games where the Dodgers offense decides not to show up.

In fact, he has a 1-2 record with a 2.45 ERA in his last three starts. Tonight, Kershaw will face a Padres team that he never gets tired of facing, against whom he proudly owns a career record of 8-3 and a 2.35 ERA against them.

The Padres will counter with a lefty of their own, Eric Stults.

Many Dodgers fans might be familiar with the name, as he was up and down in the Dodgers organization from 2006-2009. After a brief stint in Japan, Stults has returned to the Major Leagues as a starter, and has made the best of this opportunity.

In 15 games and 10 starts with the Padres this season he has a 5-2 record with an impressive 2.43 ERA. Stults has won his last two outings against the Braves and Diamondbacks without allowing a run in either of those starts. This will be the first time that Stults gets to face off against his old team, so emotions will be running high in this one, again.

San Diego Padres (62-74) at Los Angeles Dodgers (73-63)
Eric Stults (5-2, 2.43) vs. Clayton Kershaw (12-8, 2.85)
Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California
7:10 p.m. PST, September 5, 2012
TV: KCAL, ESPN
Radio: 570 AM (English), 1020 AM (S0panish)
Game-Time Weather: 80 degrees, Mostly Sunny

Padres’ Projected Starters:
P: Eric Stults
C: Yasmani Grandal
1B: Yonder Alonso
2B: Logan Forsythe
SS: Everth Cabrera
3B: Chase Headley
LF: Carlos Quentin
CF: Cameron Maybin
RF: Will Venable

Key Bench Players: IF Alexi Amarista, OF Chris Denorfia

Key to a Dodger Victory:
Put together some offense
When Clayton Kershaw is on the mound the offense usually doesn’t have to score five or more runs to win. Although it would be nice for the Dodgers offense to go out and score them, they really don’t have to when Kershaw pitches. Kershaw has dominated the Padres throughout his career and tonight shouldn’t be any different, so if the Dodgers score just two or three runs they could come out with a win in this one.

Dodgers vs Cardinals Pre-Game: Win Streak Dependent on Kershaw

The Dodgers will go for their sixth straight win today in St Louis and try to keep a perfect record during this 10-game road trip, by improving to 5-0. Last night the Dodgers beat the Cardinals 5-3 in the first game of this four-game series. It was the offense that showed up again to keep the Dodgers rolling, while the Giants still hold 1.5 game lead in the division race.

Today’s pitching match-up will be watched by many around the baseball world, as Clayton Kershaw goes up against Adam Wainwright. If you want to see two of the best curve balls in baseball and enjoy a great pitcher’s duel, then this is a must-watch for you. However, opposing hitters probably feel the complete opposite because no one likes getting fooled by the old Uncle Charlie.

Wainwright, the big lengthy right-hander for the Cardinals isn’t having an ideal year that people would usually expect from him. He missed all of the 2011 World Championship season due to reconstructive surgery on his right elbow. This season he has shown flashes of dominance from the past, but the numbers say 7-10 record with a 4.42 ERA.

One of those flashes of dominance came in his last start against the Brewers on July 18th, where Wainwright went 7.0 innings, allowing five hits, one run, with nine strikeouts, only to end up with the loss. The stuff is clearly still there on occasion, especially the curve ball that defines what the 12-6 curve is all about. Wainwright will try to put an end to the Dodgers winning streak, he has a 3-3 record with a 3.10 ERA overall against them.

The Dodgers will have the 2011 Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw on the mound in this one. So far this season Kershaw has a 7-5 record with a 2.74 ERA, which has already tied the total amount of losses that he had all of last year. It seems like he has made a lot more mistakes with pitches in games this season than he did last year, but the ERA says otherwise.

In his last start on July 18th against the Phillies, it was a pitcher’s duel between him and Cliff Lee. He went 8.0 innings, allowing five hits, one run, with seven strikeouts. It ended up being a no decision for Kershaw with the Dodgers winning the game in extra innings and that’s when the winning streak began. So the Dodgers ace will try to keep the streak alive for another day and win the battle for the filthiest 12-6 curve in baseball.

Los Angeles Dodgers (53-44) at St. Louis Cardinals (50-46)
Clayton Kershaw (7-5, 2.74) vs. Adam Wainwright (7-10, 4.42)
Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri
5:15 p.m. PST, July 24, 2012
TV: KCAL, MLB Network
Radio: 570 AM (English), 1020 AM (Spanish)
Game-Time Weather: 99 degrees, Mostly Cloudy

For more on the Cardinals, check out our pre-series article.

Key to a Dodger Victory:
Keep on rolling: The Dodgers offense has managed to score five or more runs in every game during this five game winning streak. They must stay hot in order to keep this streak alive against the Cardinals Adam Wainwright. A couple of Dodgers have actually gone deep off of him, which include Andre Ethier, Jerry Hairston Jr., and wait for it… James Loney! We could be in for a Loney home run sighting! I might be a little too excited, but forgive me he has a .400 batting average against Wainwright in 20 at-bats.

Matchup to watch: Allen Craig vs. Clayton Kershaw, .500 BA, 4 for 8, 1 HR, 5 RBIs.

Prediction: Dodgers 5, Cardinals 1

Unexpected Start


The 2012 Dodgers season is off to a shocking 9-1 start, best since the 1981 World Series Champion Dodgers. I’m not crazy; I know it’s only been 10 games into this 162 game season, but no one expected this kind of start. The Dodgers are playing with no pressure on them right now, if you look at any baseball magazine predictions, they were picked to finished in 3rd place or below in just about all of them. It’s a lot easier to play when you don’t have the pressure of the Angels, Yankees, or Red Sox which is to win the World Series RIGHT NOW. The Dodgers have only played the San Diego Padres and Pittsburg Pirates which aren’t your best big league competition, but the Dodgers have been playing at a level that could last awhile
The Dodgers had a 6 game home stand last week after taking their first 3 out of 4 games against the Padres at Petco Park. The Pirates were the first team to come to Dodger Stadium this year, but left with a bad taste in their mouth after being swept in the 3 game series. Clayton Kershaw pitched the home opener against Pittsburg, finishing with 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 7 SO. Those are your typical Kershaw numbers. The Dodgers went on to win that game 2-1 thanks to an 8th inning go ahead homer by Andre Ethier, is “Captain Clutch” back? The Padres were the next team to come to Dodger Stadium over the weekend for a 3 game series, which is always a good time. On Friday night Aaron Harang took the mound for the Dodgers, who lost his first start to the Padres on the previous Sunday. Harang started the game with 9 consecutive strikeouts! That is a new Los Angeles Dodgers record, and probably the most unexpected thing we will see all year. It was a wild game with the Dodgers winning 9-8 on a walk off walk in the 9th, by no other than Andre Ethier. This series also ended in a 3 game sweep, with Matt Kemp hitting home runs in all 3 games and 4 overall for the series, and now Kobe Bryant isn’t the only one getting MVP chants in Los Angeles anymore.
I’m not saying this 9-1 start means that the Dodgers will win the World Series this year, but I’m also not saying that they won’t win it. Everything is going right for this team right now, although the bullpen could use a little bit of help. Dee Gordon has been stealing bases as often as the Kardashians are on TV, Matt Kemp is playing like he is worth $260 million, Andre Ethier is playing like he actually wants to play, and after Kershaw the starting pitching has been better than expected. Even Mark Ellis, AJ Ellis, and Juan Rivera are doing their part, and James Loney and Juan Uribe are starting to HIT!! That actually probably deserves more than two exclamation points, I’m almost happier than when I got my first car. The Dodgers start should be credited to the great baseball they’ve been playing, but also to all of the baseball magazines that counted this team out before the season started.

The 1-2 Punch

In the game of baseball it’s a valuable weapon to have a 1-2 punch in your lineup or on your pitching staff. If you look at the teams that are constantly in contention for a World Series, they have this weapon. The Philadelphia Phillies have both, with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley in their lineup, except this year due to injuries. When it comes to their pitching they really have a 1-2-3 punch with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels. This is why they’re in the hunt, every single year. In the American League you have 1-2 punches in lineups everywhere like Miguel Cabrera/Prince Fielder in Detroit, Alex Rodriguez/Mark Teixeira in New York, Adrian Gonzalez/David Ortiz in Boston, and Josh Hamilton/Adrian Beltre in Texas. As long as these teams can have a productive 1-2 punch, they will always be in contention. A 1-2 punch in your pitching staff with a lack of offense can even take you a long way in the MLB, just look at the 2010 San Francisco Giants.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, who are being overlooked by everyone, might have both weapons this season. They already have Matt Kemp who is coming off of what should have been an MVP season, and Clayton Kershaw who won the NL CY Young award last year. So who will be the two players to complete the Dodgers 1-2 punch? In the Dodgers lineup look for Andre Ethier to be the guy to fill that spot. In last night’s game against the San Diego Padres he went 2-4 with 4 RBIs, against left hander Cory Luebke. I mentioned that it was off of a lefty because that will be the big test for him this year, can he hit left-handed pitching? It was just one game, but for me that question was answered last night when he tripled off the wall. When the Dodgers went to back to back NLCS appearances in 2008 and 2009, they had one of the deadliest 1-2 punches in baseball with Andre Ethier and Manny Ramirez. So if Ethier can get back to his All Star form and hit left-handed pitching consistently, a Matt Kemp/Andre Ethier 1-2 punch could take this team a long way.

The pitcher that needs to step up and complete the Dodgers pitching 1-2 punch will be Chad Billingsley. He has the stuff to be a dominate pitcher in this league, but the consistency hasn’t been there for him. He once won 16 games in 2008 and was named a National League All Star in 2009. The All Star Chad Billingsley made an appearance last night against the San Diego Padres when he went 8 1/3 innings with 11 K’s, 1 BB, 0 R, and 4 H. Now I know with his consistency he could do the complete opposite in his next start, but let’s be optimistic. If he can pitch anything close to those numbers consistently, the Dodgers will have a dominate 1-2 punch. We already know what Kershaw can do; he threw 3 innings of shutout ball with the flu on Thursday afternoon! So if the All Star Chad Billingsley decides to show up on a consistent basis this year, the Dodgers will have their pitching 1-2 punch. The key word here is CONSISTENT, if Ethier and Billingsley can be that, and Kemp and Kershaw do anything remotely close to last season, the Dodgers 1-2 punches could take them deep into October.