Nationals @ Dodgers October 11, 2016: NLDS Game 4

2:00 PM PST, FS1
Los Angeles
Espinosa Grandal
 Ross (R)
 Kershaw (L)

The Dodgers will try to live another day and not be eliminated on Tuesday afternoon as they take on the Washington Nationals in Game 4 of the NLDS.

It all has come full circle. Clayton Kershaw (12-4, 1.69 ERA, 1.80 FIP) started the season for the Dodgers back in April in San Diego, and now the Dodgers’ season is contingent on one final Kershaw start. The ace southpaw had to sit back and watch his teammates play without him for nearly 2 1/2 months when he was on the disabled list with a herniated disc in his back, but he is once again their go-to in their bid for a shot at a long awaited World Series berth.

While I agree with Dustin’s argument that Julio Urias should be starting Game 4, allowing them to use Kershaw in a potential Game 5, it’s not shocking that Dave Roberts will instead opt to hand the ball to Kershaw on Tuesday in a must-win game.

Kershaw threw 101 pitches and allowed three runs over five innings in the Dodgers’ Game 1 win on Sunday. He will be pitching on three-days rest for Game 4, a familiar situation for him. Last year he allowed one run over seven innings against the New York Mets in Game 4 of the NLDS. Despite the nagging narratives regarding his inability to succeed in the postseason, he has a very Kersh-like 1.89 ERA in his three postseason starts on short rest.

Kershaw isn’t the only one who needs to step up and perform in order to stave off elimination and force a Game 5 in Washington D.C. There’s a lot of blame to go around after the Dodgers dug themselves into a 2-1 series hole.

The Dodgers’ offense is hitting .220/.304/.360/.664 compared to Washington’s team slash of .267/.356/.416/.772 through the first three games of the series. Justin Turner is the only Dodger that has more than three hits.

Soon-to-be-dubbed Rookie Of The Year Corey Seager has three hits, including two first-inning home runs and a first-inning double. Adrian Gonzalez, the so-called butter and egg man, is hitting .154 with just two hits in the series. Yasiel Puig and Charlie Culberson are hitless, and the team as a whole is hitting .111 with two hits, none of the extra-base variety, with runners in scoring position. Washington, on the other hand, is hitting .308 (8-for-26) with runners in scoring position.

On the pitching side, the Dodgers have been subpar as well with an overall 5.54 ERA. The Nationals are hitting .267 off Dodger pitching so far in the series and have collected 11 walks. The starting pitching has been extremely problematic, as Dodger starters (Kershaw, Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda) have an abysmal combined 8.03 ERA so far in the series. The bullpen, the Dodgers’ backbone this season, has been effective (3.29 ERA, 18 K, 6 BB) despite an uncharacteristic hiccup from Kenley Jansen in the Game 3 loss. Washington’s bullpen has yet to allow a run in 12 1/3 innings pitched, and the Dodgers are hitting a paltry .140 against them.

23-year old right-hander Joe Ross (7-5, 3.43 ERA, 3.49 FIP) will make his first postseason start of his young career. He is 0-1 with a 5.73 ERA against the Dodgers in two starts (11 innings), both at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers saw him on June 22 when they defeated the Nats 4-3. Ross wasn’t involved in the decision and allowed two runs on seven hits with five strikeouts and a walk through 6 1/3 innings.

Seager has a hit, including a home run, in each of his three at-bats against Ross. Puig has three hits including a triple and a home run in six at-bats vs. Ross, but he’s not in the starting lineup. Josh Reddick, who has never faced Ross, is in right field and batting fifth. Andrew Toles, who has one hit in the series, gets another start in left field and bats eighth.

Albeit it’s only a small six at-bat sample size, but let me defend Puig one final time. It saddens me to think about the possibility it could very well be the final game Puig plays with the Dodgers if they opt to move him during the off-season. Puig has the better career platoon splits over Reddick versus right-handed pitching, plus better defense.

Puig – .289/.358/.470/.828

Reddick – .270/.330/.457/.787

Puig is still hitting .282 vs. RHP even if you discount his 2013 season.

This is the point where I say that the Dodgers have a solid chance of winning this game with the best pitcher on the planet on the mound. The offense also can’t possibly continue to be so lackluster. They hit right-handers to a tune of .264 during the regular season, second-best in the NL. Then again, the playoffs have been a painful exercise for Dodger fans the last 28 years. The unpredictability of the playoffs adds to this pain. After all, the two backup catchers Jose Lobaton and Carlos Ruiz have the two biggest hits of the series, because baseball.

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About Stacie Wheeler

Stacie Wheeler
Stacie Wheeler, born and raised in So Cal, has been writing about the Dodgers since 2010. She wrote daily as the co-editor of Lasorda's Lair for five long years, and she has also written for Dodgers Nation, Dodger Blue 1958 and The Hardball Times. She currently contributes to True Blue LA. Stacie graduated from the University Of Southern California with a bachelor's degree in Cinema-Television. You can also watch her videos on her YouTube channel, DishingUpTheDodgers.