Dodgers @ Astros Aug. 23, 2015: As Clayton Kershaw starts, so does A.J. Ellis

This weekend has been pretty awful for the Dodgers. They were no-hit and Scott Kazmir outdueled Zack Greinke (the latter not nearly as bad as the former). But the Astros are also a good baseball team, so losing isn’t all that surprising. The same can’t be said about today, though.

Dodgers
Astros
11:10 a.m.
Houston
SS
Rollins
2B
Altuve
2B
Utley
CF
Gomez
3B
Turner
SS
Correa
1B
Gonzalez
3B
Lowrie
LF
Ethier
DH
Gattis
RF
Puig
LF
Gonzalez
DH
Crawford
1B
Carter
C
Ellis
RF
Marisnick
CF
Hernandez
C
Castro

Clayton Kershaw gets the call as he tries to put an end to the Dodgers’ 4-game losing streak — their second this month after having none in 2014. It should be a banner day for Kershaw, as he leads National League in strikeouts with 212. The Astros end up striking out a lot — 23.8 percent, good for second-highest in baseball behind the Cubs. But they also hit a lot of home runs (168, most in baseball) and Kershaw has a career-worst 11.8 percent home run-to-fly ball rate. But, in his last nine games (arbitrary endpoints!), he has allowed just one home run in 69 (nice) innings.

After getting off to a slow start, Kershaw is showing the stuff that makes him the best pitcher on the planet. He leads MLB in pitching fWAR (5.7), FIP (2.19), xFIP (2.14), FIP- (58), xFIP- (56), SIERA (2.27) and is second in a lot of other categories (K%, K%-BB%, K/9) … you get the point.

The Dodgers need a win today, and there’s no better pitcher on the mound to try to get it for them. Now, if that sluggish offense could give him some run support, that’d be just fine. They have just seven hits and one run in the first two games of the series. The lineup isn’t as strong as it normally is against a right-hander because Yasmani Grandal is out in favor of A.J. Ellis and Joc Pederson gets to watch in favor of Enrique Hernandez and/or Carl Crawford.

Oh no, not this again.

It’s the same line used when Andre Ethier started ahead of Yasiel Puig in Game 4 of the NLDS last year. I know Pederson is struggling (by some accounts), but he should absolutely be in the starting lineup against all right-handed pitchers. A day off here and there against a left-hander isn’t the end of the world (also because Hernandez crushes lefties). Like everything with this team, baseball, life, there’s probably more than what’s on the surface.

As for Ellis, well, he’s healthy. He hasn’t started since Tuesday in Oakland, and he put on quite a show. He went 1-for-1 with a 3-run home run and four (!) walks. It was the best game of his career by win probability added by a wide margin.

Date WPA
Aug. 18, 2015 .716
July 10, 2013 .429
Sept. 9, 2013 .380
July 7, 2013 .367
Aug. 8, 2013 .339

It was quite a performance. And if you’re wondering, his game in Game 1 of the 2014 National League Division Series  checked in at a measly .186. So much for “showing up in the playoffs” and all that narrative garbage. A healthy Ellis is a good Ellis to have.

If you want to find any good in the last couple of games, the Dodgers’ bullpen has logged just three innings from three different relievers — and they’ve been a perfect 9-for-9 in retiring hitters. They shouldn’t need to do a whole lot today.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.