As the regular season draws to a close, the Dodgers regulars played one of their final tuneup games and mostly looked pretty good doing it, beating the Rockies by a score of 5-3. One exception to this was Clayton Kershaw, who was less than sharp in his final playoff tuneup, pitching four innings and allowing three runs on seven hits. He struck out two batters and walked none. With that line it should be noted that Kershaw was not removed for pitch count reasons (57 through four), but rather for pre-playoff rest. The entirety of the damage against Kershaw occurred in the second inning. Carlos Gonzalez led off the inning with a homer on a belt-high slider. Ian Desmond hit a bloop single, Jonathan Lucroy smashed a double on a hung curve, and Charlie Blackmon finished the scoring with a line-drive single past a drawn-in Chase Utley. Kershaw allowed a lot of hard contact and wasn’t missing many bats, but it’s hard to separate that from Coors Field being Coors Field. Luckily, if the Dodgers do face the Rockies in the postseason, Kershaw will be pitching at Dodger Stadium.
There were a few positives to be taken from today’s outing, however. There have been some quiet questions about Kershaw’s velocity since his return and tonight it looked normal. Also, one of the best fun facts in baseball will stay alive. Kershaw has lowered his career ERA in every season he’s pitched so far in his career. He has finished the 2017 season with a 2.31 in 175 innings pitched after starting the year with a 2.37 career mark. The streak lives on, despite the early appearance that it was in jeopardy. Kershaw has the lowest ERA in the National League for the fifth time in his career, and finishes with the lowest park-adjusted number as well.
Other Dodger relievers did very well today too, combining for five scoreless innings after Kershaw’s exit. The Rockies pulled most of their starters early in this game, presumably to celebrate their clinching of the second Wild Card spot, so it wasn’t like they were facing the best the Rockies have to offer. Still, it’s better than the alternative.
In a move with potential playoff roster implications, Pedro Baez was put into a relatively high leverage situation, the first since his epic meltdown two weeks ago. Entering the eighth inning with a 4-3 lead, Baez struck out both batters he faced before Kenley Jansen was brought in for a four-out save. This seemed like a playoff test that Baez passed, though I really don’t think the Dodgers should put much stock into Baez striking out Mike Tauchman and Ryan McMahon. Jansen entering for a four-out save in an otherwise meaningless game is also interesting, though this is probably just an attempt to build his stamina for longer outings in the postseason.
On offense, the most important thing is that everybody looked healthy, though not necessarily for lack of trying: the Rockies hit three batters with pitches and Austin Barnes took a foul tip off his crotch. Chris Taylor looked very good in his return from the scary knee injury earlier in the week, hitting several balls hard and running well. Yasiel Puig reached base four times and scored four runs, including a game-tying two run dinger (which MLBAM doesn’t have an embed code for because reasons). Tim Locastro even notched his first career stolen base in his last-second postseason audition. Unlike the pitchers, the Dodger batters faced presumed playoff pitchers for the entire game, plating three runs off starter German Marquez, one off Tyler Chatwood, and one off Greg Holland.
The Dodgers move to 103-58 with the win, and have now clinched home field advantage throughout the postseason. The Dodgers have not yet announced a starter for tomorrow’s bullpen game, and unless the Rockies change plans after their clinch, they will use Tyler Anderson in the finale. The game will begin at 3:10EDT/12:10PDT/Whatever Time That Is In HDT. The Dodgers will have nothing to play for, other than health and trivia.