Dodgers @ Nationals May 20, 2018: For the sweep?!

(Via)

The Dodgers enter play today seeking a series sweep of the Washington Nationals. Can you imagine how improbable that sentence would have sounded 22 hours ago? Including this set, the Dodgers have won three series all season, and two of them have been against the reigning NL East champions. They don’t seem like quite the team they used to be, mostly due to a large pile of injuries, but they’re still closer to contention than the Dodgers are.

Dodgers
Nationals
10:35 a.m.
Washington D.C.
1B
Muncy
SS
Turner
CF
Bellinger
RF
Harper
3B
Turner
3B
Rendon
C
Grandal
1B
Reynolds
LF
Kemp
LF
Adams
RF
Puig
CF
Taylor
2B
Forsythe C Severino
SS
Hernández
P
Strasburg (R)
P
Wood (L)
2B
Difo

Speaking of unlikely, Max Muncy is slated to bat leadoff against Stephen Strasburg today. Muncy has been on quite a roll of late, culminating with last night’s home run off of Max Scherzer. After yesterday’s homer and double, Muncy now has a 133 wRC+ and an OPS over .860. He has a .343 OBP against right-handed pitchers so far this season, so suddenly the lineup spot doesn’t seem like that bad of an idea. Imagine saying that three weeks ago, too.

Muncy will lead the charge against Strasburg, who has had a home run problem this season. Strasburg’s K%-BB% is basically identical to where it has been for the last three seasons, but he has allowed 8 homers in 60 innings. Strasburg allowed 13 in last year’s 175 innings and 15 in the previous seasons’ 150. Baseball Prospectus‘ DRA- is unsold on the home run problem being much more than luck, assigning Strasburg a value of 54, one of the better marks in baseball among starting pitchers. In his last three starts, Strasburg has been leaning much less heavily on his fastball (about 40%, down from 50-60% earlier in the season), depending instead on sliders and curves to get batters out.

The Dodgers will counter Strasburg with Alex Wood, who has probably been their best starter this season. Despite not having a win (he can thank some terrible run support), Wood’s ERA is well above-average and some of his peripherals are among the best in the league. I explored why at The Athletic earlier this week and the reason came down to improved command. All of Wood’s pitches rank among the best in the league when it comes to command, and that has helped him recover results despite not recovering velocity.

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Unfortunately, it seems like Rich Hill is going to be out for awhile:

The Dodgers recalled Pat Venditte to take Hill’s spot on the roster. They optioned Venditte before the second game yesterday, but since Hill hit the disabled list the Dodgers were not required to wait 10 days to recall him. The Dodgers also optioned Yimi Garcia before the game, as he served as the 26th man for the double-header. Brock Stewart will likely temporarily fill Hill’s place in the rotation, though one has to wonder why he was not recalled as the 26th man yesterday over Garcia, since the Dodgers had to have known that Hill not making it through his start was a possibility. The effects of the bullpen pitching 12 innings in one day are probably going to last for a while; Kenley Jansen is likely unavailable today, for example.

——

Clayton Kershaw‘s road to recovery hit an important milestone today:

It sounds like Kershaw’s remaining DL stint is going to be measured in weeks, not months. This is the first real insight into a timetable we’ve had, and thankfully it is good news.

About Daniel Brim

Daniel Brim
Daniel Brim grew up in the Los Angeles area but doesn't live there anymore. He still watches the Dodgers and writes about them sometimes.